Friday, August 27, 2010

A Busy Week of Birthdays

It's a well known fact that I'm more than a little bit Type A/anal retentive when it comes to things like dust in the house, drawer organization, the cleanliness of my car and pretty much anything else that I can get my hands on. What I never would have predicted, though, is how much control I was able to have regarding my kids' due dates. For example, when I wished that Zoe would arrive sometime toward the end of the school year, she arrived on June 2. Before that, when I said that I would love it if my first two kids were about two years apart, Charlie arrived three days after Zach turned two. Too bad this whole "do exactly as mom wants" theme didn't last very long.

But even though there are so many similarities between my boys - they have similar birthdays, they both have brown hair, they both play piano, they both display smart ass tendencies - their arrivals and homecomings couldn't have been more different.
  • Kid #1 required over two hours of pushing, but Kid #2 was out in about 20 minutes.
  • Doug took about a week off from work when Kid #1 was born, but after Kid #2 came home on a Sunday, Doug was back at work on Monday.
  • Kid #1 came home from the hospital to a quiet house and a relaxing week without many visitors. Kid #2 came home and within three hours, I was hosting a BBQ for my family so that we could celebrate Zach's second birthday and then, right after that, we hosted a 12-team fantasy football draft.
  • Kid #1 had a closet full of new clothes. Kid #2 had a closet full of hand-me-downs.
  • Kid #1 didn't have his first babysitter until he was about five months old. Kid #2 had his first babysitter when he was five days old, so that I could mow the lawn.
  • Kid #1 had a huge birthday party when he turned one, with tons of food, a keg and dozens of gifts. Kid #2 also had a huge party for his first birthday, at which we also celebrated Kid #1's third birthday. In fact, Kid #2 has yet to have a birthday party that isn't shared.
  • Kid #1 was welcomed into the world by a mom, a dad and two dogs. Kid #2 was also welcomed by a mom, a dad and the same two dogs but, in addition, was also welcomed by a great big brother that never had to be told "don't pet the baby so hard, don't touch his eyes, no you can't carry the baby" and "don't feed the baby Goldfish."
Over the years, the boys have chosen to participate in a lot of the same activities, but they have also developed their own personalities and friendships. They no longer share a bedroom, they have different strengths in school and even their tennis games are completely different. One thing that they both were able to enjoy together, though, was welcoming Zoe into our family and becoming big brothers. And even though they play with her differently and one has more patience than the other, they both love her.

So Charlie, I can't believe you're going to be a dozen years old tomorrow. I hope you have a great day and if you're lucky, your little sister will sing to you, refrain from being demanding, and maybe even go an entire day without hitting you in the peanut butter gut.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Birthday Boy

Fourteen years ago today, I officially left the world of being The Mean Chick Without Kids and became The Mean Mom. On August 25, at about 3 in the morning, weighing in at a whopping five pounds, three ounces, Zach entered the world. Silently. No crying, wailing, fussing, screaming, whimpering, how-ya-doin-ing -- nothing. He didn't make a peep.

I had noticed a slight decrease in his activity level towards the end of the pregnancy, but I thought this decrease was normal since he was probably running out of room to move. As it turned out, though, this was not the case. It was because, for what was probably a few weeks, he had been under distress, caused by a tear in the placenta, which slowly bled, which robbed him of pretty much every nutrient he was entitled to, which made his hemoglobin drop to barely measurable levels, which made him tired. Really, really tired. And really, really pale. Pale like he was a 100% caucasian baby and didn't even any Asian in his genetics.

The good news is that since this was our first baby, we didn't know to be freaked out. We thought that a perfectly silent, pale newborn being whisked away to the NICU was just a precaution. Yeah, he was kind of small and a little on the quiet side, but he did pee all over a nurse while he was being weighed, so we figured the whisking was just a precaution. That is, until my doctor looked at Doug and said "Follow them to the NICU" and when he didn't take a step toward the door within .4 seconds, she yelled "NOW! Go with them them NOW!"

That freaked us out a little bit.

And now, instead of being cliche and sharing some bad news after the good news, I'll just share more good news: he only spent one day in the NICU, was never on anything other than a standard monitor that measured heart rate and body temperature, nursed like a pro (despite his lethargy) and came home on time. His hemoglobin levels recovered over the next couple weeks and ever since then, he has had plenty of energy.

I sometimes wonder why it is that we were so fortunate and why we were given such a happy ending to our fetal distress story. And then I look at my kid that is now taller than me and think: We were fortunate because he is an exceptional person.
  • Once, in elementary school, he memorized the first 100 digits of pi. For the fun of it.
  • He has created animated, interactive games using nothing but Powerpoint. For the fun of it.
  • He doesn't ask for name brand clothes, and only wears them because I make him.
  • He freaks out a little bit if he goes a full day without eating fruit.
  • I'm pretty sure he would freak out a lot bit if he got anything other than an A in school, but I don't know this for sure since that hasn't happened yet.
  • One time, in second grade, there was a boy named John. John annoyed Zach more than any other boy in class. Sure enough, Zach had to spend one month having his desk right next to John's. During one particularly annoying moment, Zach said something sarcastic to John, knowing that it would go right over his head and sure enough, John gave Zach a look of bewilderment. Zach simply said "Yeah, that's what I thought." The teacher, however, had been watching the whole ordeal and, as she later told me, had to bury her face in her Diet Coke can in order to keep the kids from seeing her laugh.
  • He mutters an occasional swear word, but I really don't mind since he always uses it in the correct context and never swears in front of his sister.
  • He has a freakishly sensitive sense of smell and hates the smell of cigarette smoke so much that I know I will never have to worry about him wasting his money on cartons of Marlboro's. Not even menthols.
  • He is a kind, generous, patient, empathetic and proud big brother 73% of the time. No, not 100% of the time, or even 85%. But 73% is a hell of a lot better than 25%.
  • He is kind of, um, how should I put this...thin. Like, people have asked me if I am worried about him thin. But he is never self-conscious about it, loves his skinny arms and is always willing to pull on swimtrunks and jump in the pool. He does, however, double-check that the drawstring is tied in a tight knot.
  • He rarely complains about dinner, as long as I remember not to make it too cheesy, saucy, gooey or slimy. In other words, he's not a big fan of cheese, but does happily embrace the phrase "on the side."
  • He knows when he screws up and after his initial defensive reaction, always appears later and apologizes. Which, after ten additional minutes of lecturing and pointing out why he was wrong and I was right, I happily accept.
  • He loves board games and will happily teach, play and even occasionally lose to his little sister.
A few nights ago Doug and I were headed home from the bar and from the moment I got in the car I had been thinking about the piece of pizza I was going to inhale the second I walked in the house because I knew there would be leftovers in the fridge, but unfortunately Zach picked that night to have a brain fart and failed to put the leftover pizza in the refrigerator. So even though all I found was a few rotting, orangeish, stinky, grease-soaked slices that had been sitting on the counter for six hours, I still think my oldest kid is pretty okay.

And I hope he has a great 14th birthday.

But holy shit did I want that piece of pizza.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back-to-(Hooker) School Clothes

In case you were wondering, our cabin vacation up north was great. We had ideal weather (after the cyclone-level winds finally died down), I actually managed to relax (as long as I use a generous description for the word relax, I really did), drank just enough beer to prevent feeling deprived (and maybe more than my fair share of vodka), slept more than six hours a night (but don't even get me started on the pathetic pillows) and put fewer than 800 miles on my car (the bar was only about six miles away from the cabin). But now that we are home, that relaxed state of mine already seems like a faint memory.

Since it's the end of August, I made sure to get a few back-to-school requirements off of my to-do list while simultaneously completing my vacation to-do list (Pack beer - check!): the school supplies have been purchased, organized and labeled, I found time for a trip to the barber, orthodontist appointments are scheduled and the school calendars have been entered into the computer. One thing that I didn't do, though, is shop for back-to-school clothes.

Because I'd rather just hurl my body out of a ten-story window with nothing but a wrought iron fence to block my fall than shop for school clothes.

Maybe it's because I have boys that could care less about what they wear to school. They would be content wearing a pair of random shorts and a t-shirt that they got from a tennis tournament every single day if it weren't for the fact that I occasionally force them wear something that's not meant to wick large amounts of sweat.

I vividly remember the nightmare of dragging Zach through Aeropostale and Hollister a couple years ago, before he started junior high, forcing t-shirts into his hands while he rolled his eyes and complained: "I'm not going to wear some stupid shirt with a giant logo on the front! I don't even care about this store and I'll look like a moron! Plus, this shirt smells! Like perfume!" Just imagine how ecstatic I was when, after I finally persuaded him to let me buy a few shirts, I got the damn things home and discovered that the bozo salesperson at Hollister forgot to remove one of the anti-theft devices. I went back to the store to have the thing removed, only to be told by the same bozo that "Sorry, but you need your receipt. How do we know that you didn't just grab it off the shelf and are trying to steal it?" Of course my receipt was at home, so I was like "Listen you ratty-haired piece of shit. My kid doesn't even want this shirt, so I can pretty much guarantee that his lack of desire to own it wouldn't motivate me to go through the pain in the ass of walking into your stinky store and stealing it." He must have then sensed that I was about to go insane over a $20 t-shirt, so he grabbed the shirt out of my hands and removed the plastic device.

So, since I've been completely spoiled with boys that don't care about what they wear, the fact that Zoe loves to buy t-shirts and shoes has forced me to make some adjustments. There have been so many times when we are running into Target for three non-clothing items but can barely get by the girl's department without her whining "Will you buy me a shirt, puleeeeeeaaaaase?" And if she would just find one quickly that is under $7 and chuck it into the cart, I would gladly say yes, but that's so not the case.

This one is too pink. This one has a weird bow on the front. This one says "Pink, Punky and Precious" which is just stupid. This one feels scratchy. This one has sparkles, which is pretty, but it has a bug on it, which is weird. Oh I like this one, but it's too yellow. I like this orange one, oh wait, it's a dress. Why does this one have this fringe junk on it? I don't like fringe. I don't want puffy sleeves. The buttons are too big. And on. And on. And on and on it goes.

After a few minutes of frustration she gives up, but not before she's completely crabby, my forehead has developed a thickish layer of sweat, the Target team members are walkie-talkie-ing each other and eyeing me suspiciously like I'm going to become violent, and I make a mental note to let her start shopping online.

Now that she is starting first grade, though, I should probably make sure that she has a few new things to wear. Outfits that say "I'm not in kindergarten, but I can still dress like a little girl" or "I'm going to be a first grader so therefore I don't wear shirts that scream 'look at where my cleavage will be someday' and miniskirts that reveal glimpses of my Tinkerbell underpants." And while this sounds like an easy enough task, believe me when I say IT'S NOT, OKAY!? I WOULD RATHER LICK BATTERIES FOR THE ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY POKING NEEDLES UNDER MY TOE NAILS THAN SHOP FOR GIRL CLOTHES!

Some people just hop on and click clickety click their way to shopping success. But since I have a daughter that is shaped like a very short No. 2 pencil, everything meant to be worn on the lower half of the body falls off of her no matter how far that EZ Waist is cinched in. And could Gap please make a shirt that doesn't say "GAP" on the front? Gap Baseball, Gap Girl, Gap Athletics, we get it already! You shopped at The Gap!

I could shop at abercrombie, but the last time I checked, I haven't won the lottery.

At some point I'll eventually end up ordering a few things from Mini Boden, but only after their stuff goes on sale and I can get free shipping, which won't happen until after school starts.

I know I could go to other stores, like JCPenney, WalMart, Kohl's and Sears, but being in any of these bowels of retail hell gives me anxiety and as a result my vision becomes blurry and I can never find anything that doesn't have a kitten, a bouquet of flowers or a licensed character on it. Or maybe it's that these stores don't sell anything that doesn't have a kitten, a bouquet of flowers or a licensed character on it.

So to get through the first few weeks of school, I considered just going to Target and actually looking at what they are offering for the shortest students this fall. After all, their inventory changes by the hour so chances are I should be able to find something cute, trendy and age appropriate, right!? WRONG! I checked out the first rack of clothes, directly inside the door, prominently displayed, and found this season's hottest offering: apparently Target is saying no to childhood and has decided to put their efforts into dressing all of the local suburban girls for hooker school:

I sure hope Zoe won't mind going to school in a pair of random shorts and a free t-shirt that one of her brothers got from a tennis tournament.

Friday, August 20, 2010

It's A Big Day

It's hard for me to imagine, but 43 years ago yesterday, my parents got married. Since that day, they've raised three kids (some of us turned out better than others), moved a few times, displayed endless generosity, helped out numerous neighbors, made hundreds of friends, taken great vacations, become grandparents, and have never slowed down. They've supported each other, worked through disagreements, traveled independently and have always looked forward to seeing each other at the end of the day. They don't expect perfection from each other, but they do expect honesty, compassion and most of all, a sense of humor.

In addition to it being their anniversary, yesterday also marks the anniversary of the day that they drove to Chicago to welcome me into the family. I've heard stories about the long drive from central Minnesota to O'Hare, my dad's broken pants zipper that he fixed with a diaper pin, the night they had to spend in the airport after my flight from Korea was delayed and most of all, the condition I was in when they first saw me.

I smelled like I had a chronic case of diarrhea (because I did), my scalp was covered with a thick layer of cradle cap, my hair stuck straight up and according to my brothers, I looked like a toad. The Korean woman that escorted me from the orphanage must have sensed that my appearance might encourage my adoptive parents to run the other away after taking one look at me, so she mastered one English phrase: "Very nice baby." Yeah, right.

To this day, I am forever grateful to my parents for voluntarily choosing me, coming to pick me up, looking past my cradle cap and always making sure that I knew who my family really was. And they did all of this on their anniversary.

I love you, and happy anniversary mom and dad. Now let's go celebrate with bratwurst and beer at the baseball game!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Roughing It

(Although I am still responsible for dishes, laundry, a little bit of cooking and three consistently hungry things called children, I am on vacation this week. So today's post is courtesy of my husband, Doug Adkins, aka Married to The Mean Mom.)

As a theoretical concept, camping seems like something my kids would love. It involves s'mores, fire, flashlights, tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses, those strange dots of light in the sky that are otherwise known as stars, and whispering late into the night until dad gets really mad. So I have, on occasion, actually considered throwing a tent and some Dinty Moore Stew in the car and driving to a place so remote that their iPhones don't even work. Well, they work but you can't download any apps, so, yeah, we're talking totally cut off from civilization.

I have no doubt that my kids would have a blast. For the first twenty minutes. And then one of them will need to go to the bathroom and all holy freaking hell will break loose.

Ah, latrine. Such a beautiful, lyrical word, like the title of a French poem. A poem about a shallow hole filled with rotting shit. How would I even begin to explain this to my children? Okay, see, you have to sit there in the woods, your ass playing the part of the white whale, the mosquitos playing the part of a billion little Captain Ahabs, and try to take care of business as quickly as possible even while the stress of the situation makes your sphincter retract up into your colon. Oh, and make sure you take a peek into the hole of rotting shit before you sit down because sometimes a raccoon will climb in for a little snack. Have fun!

(Fascinating thought that just occurred to me: Think about what it must be like for a mosquito in the middle of nowhere to suddenly stumble upon a bare human buttocks. They've spent their entire lives trying in vain to find one small vulnerable spot on grizzly bears and porcupines and armadillos and suddenly the sky is filled with ass mana from heaven. It would be like an Ethiopian child stumbling upon a Monster Thickburger from Hardees.)

But the moving of bowels would only be the beginning of our troubles.

In 2008 professional magician/weirdo David Blaine held his breath for a world record 17 minutes and 4 seconds. To prepare for this he went through six months of intensive training, depriving his body of oxygen for long periods every day. My children would have to undergo similar preparation in order to survive for several days without video games. And the shock to their systems still might kill them. Then there's the bug problem which I've already touched on but I should also mention the bugs and also the bugs, because the bugs are going to be an issue. As will things like water falling from the sky, temperatures that deviate from 72 degrees and the fact that laundry baskets do not often occur naturally in the wild -- without them, my kids might stand for hours with dirty clothes in hand, uncertain how to proceed.

Or I could be completely misjudging them. Maybe we could drop our children into the Amazon jungle with nothing but a Bowie knife and we'd find them weeks later singing "The Bare Necessities" with all the animals.

To test this theory, we decided to take a half-step -- okay, a 1/200th step -- by staying in a hotel that wasn't quite up to the kids' usual standards.

What followed was not encouraging:

According to my children, the arrangements were squalid: There were but two bedrooms and four beds and yet there were five of us, thus creating an unsolvable mathematical conundrum. The bathroom floors were cold and no amount of switch throwing would cause them to heat up. The mini-fridge was at least four degrees too warm and, while there was ice in it, the cubes were locked into some confounding metal tray contraption. There were two objects which might be televisions except that they were oddly rotund and had fewer than 50 channels, two of which were in Spanish. The key to the room was not in the form of a plastic card -- it was in the form of a key. The "paintings" on the walls were prints, not originals, and what was with that matting, anyway? The pillows were all mint-less. And the room was infested. With a small spider. Outside a window.

I sat on a sofa that Charlie would later swear folded out into a medieval torture device, listening to my children complain about the conditions, wondering how they had become as spoiled as a glass of milk left in a sauna for a week. My first thought was that it was probably Jody's fault, and my second thought was: Speaking of a sauna, why isn't the spa open 24 hours? What kind of Turkish prison have we checked ourselves into?

Admittedly, I may have had a hand in the curdling of the dairy products.

I wasn't always so Real Housewives of Orange County-ish. Growing up my family didn't stay at hotels that featured extravagances like indoor plumbing. That's because we sojourned in these things called tents and ate food burned briefly in a fire. And it was awesome. But then I grew up -- okay, became older -- and began to wonder what it would be like to, say, bathe oneself in leech-free water. At some point it occurred to me that I now had a choice as to where I vacationed. So I asked myself some tough questions, such as: Do I want to continue to wipe my ass with leaves that inevitably turn out to be poison ivy or do I want to stand rapturously over a bidet? After much soul searching, my asshole and I decided that we had indeed had quite enough of roughing it.

Now all my vacations involve bathrooms with multiple shower heads and bars that you can swim up to. I'm like that Amish kid that we all knew growing up that was never allowed to touch a drop of alcohol and then went away to college and discovered the joys of waking up somewhere in Nebraska in the back of some stranger's pickup truck, covered in vomit, some of it his own. I too was denied alcohol for far too long, except my alcohol is turndown service and bathroom telephones and slippers on demand. And alcohol. In a chilled glass.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Camp at (Someone Else's) Home

I love summer vacation. And the only thing better than summer vacation is being able to take a week-long vacation at the beginning of the summer vacation. And the only thing better than taking a vacation at the beginning is being able to take another vacation at the end of summer vacation. In other words, I pretty much live for the word "vacation."

Due to the fact that the last couple months have consisted of nothing but tennis, swimming, more tennis, more swimming, a couple tennis tournaments, a few piano lessons and a whole lot of ham sandwiches and fruit, my boys never went away to camp. But maybe I should be more honest: even if our summer consisted of nothing but sitting on our asses, grilling burgers, playing video games and going to movies, I still wouldn't have sent my boys to camp. They have less than no desire to go live in a stinky cabin with a bunch of strangers for a week, fight mosquitoes, eat weird food, leave cell phones behind and miss their friends. And in addition to me not wanting to deal with them after they've spent a week eating weird food and putting up with strange children, my husband and I have no desire to pay for it.

But since I'm not one to ever deprive my kids of anything, I started wondering if maybe the reason they didn't go to camp was because of me and my lack of motivation to pay, pack, drop-off, pick-up and do laundry. They might actually enjoy a week in the woods, exploring nature and swimming in a lake. Maybe I should create a "camp at home" for them, just to give them a little bit of the experience without the homesickness, bugs, smells, discomfort and most of all, outpouring of cash.

As if on cue, friends of ours, who are on an extended vacation out of the country, offered us the use of their northern Minnesota lake home for a week. In addition to being given the perfect setting, I then came across some ideas for creating a camp in the comfort of your own home. Now I just need to figure out a way to incorporate these ideas:

Pick a theme: This is easy. Our theme is relaxation. Not international day, outdoor enthusiast, or Hawaiian luau -- it's relaxation. I will not be sneaking in any educational activities other than saying "Please order something that's less than $10" when we go out to dinner and "Try to get out of bed before noon." After all, they should be brushing up on their math and time-telling skills before school starts.

Try new cuisine: If one kid orders tacos, another kid orders spaghetti and the other one orders a burger, they can all taste each others' food.

Check your stress at the door: We are staying at someone else's house, so needless to say I might be a little bit extra anal about shoes coming off, coasters being used and bathrooms staying clean. That is, until I've had my third vodka tonic. At that point, I might not even be using a coaster.

Try role playing: I'm hoping that this tip means "let the kid be the parent for a short time," and if it does, I can pretty much guarantee that it's not going to happen. Otherwise, I suppose it will depend on where all the bedrooms are located and how soundproof the walls are.

Make a T-shirt: Maybe I'll get some puffy paint and let each kid decorate one shirt that they can wear the entire week and throw away at the end, therefore cutting down on the amount of laundry I have to do. On mine, I'll write "Welcome to Camp-I'm-Feeling-Drinky."

Have circle time: According to the article, "circle time will help get your day started and should include reading or singing time." Um, no. Just no. The only way that I will incorporate circle time is by staring at the top of my coffee cup -- which is a circle, while staring at the lake, which is circle-ish.

Create a craft: Since I don't do crafts at home, I'm sure as hell not going to haul craft supplies on vacation. Unless I can't find a paring knife. In that case, an X-acto knife might come in handy for hacking up a lime.

Play some sports: I will be an active participant in the sport of putting my feet up, placing a drink in my hand, focusing my eyes on a magazine and eventually -- napping. Hopefully my kids won't then participate in a sport called drowning.

Sleep outdoors: No.

Stage a talent show: Again, no. Unless there's whiskey involved.

Go on a field trip: This one I can do. There is a bar nearby that has tons of cool stuff on the walls, a deck facing the lake where you can see fish jump and a ping pong table in the lower level bar. I may even make a questionnaire for the kids to fill in after we leave, like "What kind of beer did dad order?" and "How many times did mom accidentally swear?" and "How long did it take before Zoe said 'It's my turn to play ping pong'?"

Have fun at home: Well, duh. Isn't that the whole point of going to camp? I mean, even without setting up an obstacle course, playing the harmonica, going on a scavenger hunt or having international cooking day, I would hope that a week away from work and our frustratingly-hectic schedule of the summer would be fun! After all, I CAN BE FUN! I'LL SHOW YOU THAT I CAN BE FUN!

And just like that, I'm actually looking forward to hosting this camp at home. Or in this case, someone else's home.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It Wasn't Me

With three kids living under our roof, you'd think that things would be destroyed, broken, decimated, pulverized and cremated on a regular basis. But surprisingly enough, this is not the case. Maybe it's because there is: (A) a noticeable absence of Hummel figurines and Orrefors vases, (B) not much that could be categorized as decorative clutter, (C) the kids are pretty coordinated and therefore, unlike me, don't careen into walls and tables very often, and (D) I tend to kind of spaz out when shit gets broken.

My mom, however, was not so lucky while I was growing up. Between my brothers and I, we pretty much kept her in suspense and in the process, learned how to accept a little physical punishment. I'm sure that every time she left us home alone, her drive home included thoughts of "Crap, I wonder what they broke this time." Here are just a few:

The Clog Incident:
Even though I wasn't a very girly seven-year-old, there was a short time when I was obsessed with an ugly ass pair of blue plastic clogs. Maybe it's because I always wore sneakers and softball cleats, or maybe it's because I was as fashionably clueless then as I am now, but I insisted on jamming my feet into these hideous bricks of blue plastic and clompity clomp clomping my way around the house. And man did it ever annoy the hell out of people, especially my mom.

One evening, after going through the effort to make massive root beer floats in fancy glass glasses, she asked me to bring two of them downstairs to my brothers. I said of course I would, and clomped into the kitchen, thinking that the shoes made me look like a cocktail waitress -- a moronic, uncoordinated, super annoying cocktail waitress. She told me to take them off, take them off now. I said no I'm fine, I have been wearing them a lot and am really good at walking in them. She said if you fall down and spill those root beer floats I'm going to be a little bit upset and might even hurt you (or something like this, I don't remember exactly) and I said who me? You think I'm going to fall down? Yeah right.

I took a couple steps out of the kitchen (carefully navigating my way through the swinging saloon-type doors that are oh so hideous but were oh so popular in the 1970's), and then instantly got my right clog twisted up in a throw rug and flew forward onto the floor, launching the root beer floats into the air. And even though I landed on my face faster than I ever thought anyone could ever fall, I remember looking up and seeing the glasses of root beer and ice cream, slowly flipping over and over, sailing through the air until the glasses careened off of the black wrought iron railing (which was also popular in the 70's), and then breaking.

I thought well, that was a nice life. All seven years of it.

I frantically tried to pick up the pieces of broken glass scattered amidst the root beer soaked gold shag carpeting (again, 70's), and my mom went to get the vacuum cleaner while her eyes bulged out of her face and veins popped out of her forehead. While picking up the broken glass, I jabbed a piece of it into the palm of my hand, which made me bleed, which seemed to make my mom sort of smirk with joy. I'm not sure if she actually said "Good, I hope it hurts," but that seems like something I would say to my own kid.

After the mess was cleaned up (except for the root beer stain that remained for a couple months), more floats were made, a Band-Aid was put on my hand, and the clogs were chucked into the garbage.

Maybe this is why I hate root beer so much.

Bumper Coasters:
Something tells me that the coaster incident happened about the same time as the clog disaster, but to not make myself seem like a complete seven-year-old hellion, I'm thinking that this destruction occurred when I was five. Yeah, five sounds about right.

Shortly after moving to Forest Lake from the even smaller town of Wadena, MN, my mom was lucky enough to be able to buy new furniture. Not a houseful of furniture, but at least she got new end tables, a coffee table, a chair and a funky storage table that we called The Octagon even though it was actually shaped like a hexagon.

Since the tables were new and she wanted them to remain watermark free for at least a couple weeks, she also picked up some coasters. And since she had just spent a bunch of money on tables, she decided to save some money by picking up some cheap, plastic, lightweight coasters that didn't have any felt backing on them. I instantly discovered that since they were so light and didn't have any felt on them, they made a really cool sound when I slid them around on the top of the shiny new coffee table, and sounded even cooler when I made them crash into each other like bumper cars.

For at least fifteen minutes, I was obsessed with making these five coasters slide all over the coffee table in big circular patterns, zig zagging back and forth, smashing into each other in dramatic fashion. And then my mom walked in.

She watched me play my bumper car game for two seconds before she grabbed the back of my hair and made me look really close to the damage I had just done to her brand new table. Damage in the form of hundreds of scratches criss-crossing each other, erasing any traces of shine and newness that the table was lucky enough to possess for a couple days.

I think she said things like "I will never own anything nice as long as you kids are living here!" and "Why do I even bother cleaning and trying to make things look good since it all gets destroyed by you kids!?" and "I can hardly wait until you have kids of your own so that they can drive you crazy like you kids drive me crazy!"

So basically, my current situation -- it's all her fault.

Jade Birds Can Fly:
When I was 13, I began a long friendship with an orthopedic surgeon because I had a knack for repeatedly spraining my ankles in gymnastics. I was really hoping for a different talent, like "grace" or "balance," but no -- I got ankle spraining.

After putting up with me during the first two casts on my right ankle, my brothers ran out of sympathy when the third one went on. If we were all walking around somewhere, they would sprint ahead and laugh as I hopped along behind them, trying to keep up. If they were driving me to a store, they would never find a parking spot close to the door. And when my parents were gone, they loved to test my balance, or lack thereof.

My mom has never been a fan of accumulating knick-knacks, but she did hold onto things that had emotional value. One of these things was a bird carved out of a hunk of jade that was about 10" tall and had been given to her by her dad. I didn't really like the thing that much because it was impossible to dust, but whatever.

One afternoon when my parents were both gone, I was doing my dusting chore and attempting to clean the damn bird when my brother Jeff thought it would be really funny to come over and start pushing me around. I said knock it off, he said "Whoa, whoa watch out clutso! You're going to fall on your ass!" so of course I swung my casted leg at him, but then he dodged my leg, so then my leg hit that jade bird like it was a fastball.

As we both started fabricating stories in our head as to what "really" happened and why the other person was at fault, we looked down to find the jade bird broken in two. Shit. Or maybe not shit. It was broken in such a way that it could probably be glued back together! We quickly scrounged up some Super Glue from the junk drawer and the bird seemed good as new. No one would notice. We wouldn't have to confess a thing!

A couple months later my dad was sitting in his chair, which was located next to the table that held the jade bird, reading the newspaper. He needed some better light so he swung his reading lamp over, but the light tipped over a little too far and Jeff and I watched as it knocked the jade bird over. It, of course, broke in two. Ha ha sucker! You're going to take the blame for breaking the bird!

Or not.

He said uh oh, so sorry, my bad, maybe we can fix it if we just...hey. What's this? Why is there already glue residue where the break is? This bird has been broken before! JODY!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Basic Math

As you know, there are a few things that irritate me. No, really, there are. One thing that I haven't mentioned, though, is scratches on my car or, to be more honest, my minivan. And the only thing more irritating than scratches left by strangers that are incapable of leaving a "Sorry about the gouge in your door, ma'am" (because obviously it would be addressed to ma'am -- it's a minivan, but I don't know for sure since I have yet to encounter a person kind enough to leave a note), is gouges caused by my kids. Let's label these gouges "A".

When I finally pull into the garage after spending a day at tennis and whatever else I may have found time to do, there is always a shit load of stuff to haul out of the car. In addition to three tennis bags, a bag of swimming stuff, my gym bag and a cooler, there's usually a couple bags from an errand I miraculously managed to run between lessons, maybe a bag of dog food, an additional cooler containing non-rotting groceries or, on really good days, a case of beer. Let's label all of this crap "B".

Since I'm not a pack mule (or at least I wasn't the last time I checked), it usually takes me at least two trips to get all of this crap into the house, which means that the back door of my minivan gets left open. Let's label the open door "C".

Due to the fact that we kind of loathe a couple people in our cul de sac, we usually hit the button and close the garage door within seconds after getting out of the car. It's our little way of saying "Yes, you saw us come home but no, we don't want to talk to you because you're an annoying prick who insists on using his leaf blower at 9:30 at night." Even if these neighbors aren't home when we get home, it's become a habit to hit the button. Let's label this door shutting habit "D".

My minivan is dark blue. Let's label my minivan "E".

Even though Zach hears what is coming out of my mouth, like "Zach don't shut the garage door because the back door is still open", he doesn't always comprehend what it is that I'm saying. For example, instead of "don't shut the door," he hears me saying "Yes, of course I want you to shut the garage door, drop everything in the laundry room and then disappear to the basement and grab an Xbox controller." Let's label this inability to understand your mom even though she's speaking English "F".

I like vodka, which I will label "V".

So, basically this is what happened: C on E + D + F = Several lines of A on C caused by the metal on the garage door dragging down half of C. I yelled "NO!", Zach yelled "HOLY FREAK OUT I'M SORRY ALREADY GEEZ!" and then, because I really don't like having scratches on my minivan, I promptly reached for V. Or, in other words, having kids = V.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sorry, I Don't Speak A Foreign Language Called Sympathy

I, like most other people (including my husband), had braces on my teeth when I was a teenager. But unlike most of my friends, I didn't get to participate in the usual consultation/impressions/two years of metal mouth/retainer routine. Since I was lucky enough to possess a jaw sized for a smallish person that contained teeth sized for a lumberjack, I started my orthodontic treatment in 2nd grade with the extraction of four permanent teeth and then the most dreaded contraption of all -- the headgear. For four aching years. Then braces for the next two years. And in addition to all of this orthodontia, I was cursed with bad enamel, which meant that no matter how much I brushed or how little candy I ate, I always ended up with cavities, which meant that in addition to the orthodontist's office, I also spent a lot of time with a drill in my mouth.

So if you're wondering, the answer is yes. Yes, I hate the fucking dentist. The smell of the office, the sounds of scrape scrape scrape-ity scrape, the sight of the appointment written on my calendar, the sound that the chair makes when I sit in it, the blinding light. I hate all of it.

And although I was spared the humiliation of having to wear the headgear/torture device to school or anywhere else in public, having to wear it at home and at night and endure the teasing from my brothers was bad enough. The damn thing made me snore, it left gouges in my cheeks that lasted until almost lunch time, and every time the piece of shit got adjusted, it made me sore from the top of my head to somewhere around my belly button. Were my brothers sympathetic? Well, yeah, of course they were -- if sympathetic is defined as "let's eat popcorn, granola bars, licorice, pizza, gummy bears, and everything else that Jody loves to eat in front of Jody because right now Jody can't eat it and it makes Jody mad." Gotta love big brothers.

When I finally got to throw the headgear into a bonfire and had my braces put on, they quit teasing me about the snoring, but then started in on accusing me of blinding them with the light reflecting off my metal mouth, having the worst breath imaginable because little bits of food tended to get stuck in the infinite crevices, suddenly sucking at playing the flute because the shape of my mouth had completely changed, and pretty much just looking weird in general.

What I remember even more than the teasing, though, is the pain. At that point in orthodontic history, I had to go in for monthly adjustments, which meant that for a few days each month, I couldn't eat anything harder than JellO (which, conveniently, I loathe), went through enough wax to make a dozen candles, and took aspirin until my nose bled (apparently Advil didn't exist in those days). So, you'd think that all of this suffering from pain and emotional trauma would make me a really sympathetic person for the day when my own kids got their braces, right?

Wrong. Oh, so very, very wrong.

Charlie got his braces on Tuesday and I'm pretty sure that they made a mistake and actually glued a bunch of barbed wire to his teeth. From what I understand, his pain is worse than any pain endured in the history of braces, his tongue is nothing but a useless, bloody mass just taking up space in his mouth, it hurts to swallow, it hurts to breathe, it hurts to drink from a glass, it hurts to close his mouth, it hurts to suck on things, and in general, it really, really hurts. OH MY GOD THE PAIN!

Of course I attempted to prepare for his inevitable discomfort and stocked up on smoothie ingredients, applesauce, JellO (ick ick ick), Gogurt and vodka (for me, duh), but there's one thing that I forgot to get: pain tolerance for my kid.

I keep reminding him that a lot of his friends have braces -- friends that are obviously higher on the wuss chart than even Charlie is. I am trying to keep him optimistic, telling him that the pain won't last forever and he'll be able to eat something besides mush in a few days. I remind him that although he may lose a pound or two, no one has actually died from getting their braces on, unless of course, their mother's killed them after listening to them moan and groan and complain for seven hours in a row.

And now is where the story gets even more interesting.

Because I'm a slightly selfish person (and apparently don't like to possess large amounts of cash), I put off getting braces for Zach until Charlie was ready to get his too. To simplify the appointment process, I picked an orthodontist that has an office within walking distance of the junior high so that they could walk to their appointments together. I thought I was being so smart, thinking that since I already had to tolerate one kid in pain and complaining, I might as well have both of them complaining at the same time.

I am a stupid, stupid girl.

Right now, Zach has spacers in his teeth and he gets his braces and palate expander stuck in his face in one week. Needless to say, I am obviously going to have to start drinking more or Zoe may end up being an only child after all.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

During Labor, Why Doesn't Anyone Offer the Dad Drugs?

Yay! It's Guest Blogger, aka Doug Adkins, aka my husband.

During their first pregnancy many dads are convinced that they'll be able to give birth naturally, without any drugs or other pain-killing nectar from the pharmaceutical gods. Ah, to be naive and clueless again. Let me tell you, by the time you're dilated to a four you'll be screaming for someone to stab a needle full of heroin directly into your heart. And you'll be cursing your wife for tricking your sperm into colliding with her ovary.

I know, I know, dads aren't actually the ones who are having the contractions or trying to pass the musk melons through their urethras, but that doesn't mean we don't have to deal with plenty of our own pain during the delivery. For starters, let's not forget that when your wife is suffering through those contractions she's also crushing all the bones in your hand into a fine powder. Women complain about how giving birth forever changes their bodies but each hand-pulping labor has further eroded my Ms. Pac-Man skills. Then there's the "sleeper" sofa found in all delivery rooms. These devices are cleverly designed to drum up more business for their spinal surgeons. And what about catching glimpses of old people in those backless hospital gowns? Does the sight of those sad, sagging raising not permanently scar the psyche? Do those images ever fade?

But the greatest pain of all is simply having to stand by helplessly while your wife suffers, unable to do anything to help her, utterly powerless in every way. Were it possible, I would, in a heartbeat, change places with her and give birth to the baby myself.

Wait, what were the choices again? Oh, no, sorry, I was confused; I prefer standing by helplessly. Chivalry may not be dead but I did beat the hell out of it with a croquet mallet and leave it to bleed to death in a shallow grave.

But before you judge me a wuss, I would inform you of a medical fact: Every human being is born hard-wired with a different sensitivity to pain. So when some people get stung by a bee, for example, they think, "Ouch, I've been stung by a bee" while other, more pain-sensitive people like me think that the bee is a javelin that was heated to 1000 degrees and thrown by an Olympic decathlete from four feet away. Again, this is a medical fact that has been proven by medical people who prove such things. On a pain scale of 1 to 10 my pain goes to 11 while Jody's goes to 1.4. It's true: Jody could accidentally blend her hand while making a margarita and she'd just pick out the fingers and keep right on drinking. I, on the other hand, was once so debilitated by a small hemorrhoid that Jody started looking into hospices. And now that you know the medical facts about pain you understand that my struggle to overcome the hemorrhoid is one of bravery, if not heroism. Also you'll forgive me for not wanting to give birth to any children.

Many dads share my pain disability, so I advise you to play it safe and dispense with the "all-natural childbirth" crap and go ahead and take all the latest pain-killing drugs that are available. These won't be offered to you, of course, but it's pretty easy to steal them -- you're in a hospital, after all. Just don't take too many of those large blue hexagonal pills -- at least not with scotch. Everything will start to look like a Rush concert and you'll think your baby is Ed Asner.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Natural Childbirth = Hahahaha

Now that my oldest kid is old enough (and occasionally responsible enough) to care for his brother and sister while I am at the bar, I don't have to deal with the oftentimes stressful ordeal of finding babysitters. I try really hard not to abuse the privilege of having my sitter living under the same roof, so instead of just telling him face-to-face that he needs to babysit for me on Friday night, I usually call his cell phone and inform him that "Hey, Zach, you're going to babysit on Friday."

But before this luxury came along, we, like other families, had to deal with some interesting scenarios involving babysitters: a phone left outside in the rain, entire bags of potato chips disappearing, cigarette butts found in a flower pot and the ballsiest move of all -- fruit snacks being served at 10:30 to a kid that doesn't want to go to bed. It was after the fruit snacks incident that I thought "The next decade of my life will be absent of any social life and I am never again going to have the luxury of a kidless night of drunken glee." And then I met Mandi.

Mandi wasn't just any babysitter; she was the babysitter. She didn't smoke, drink, talk on the phone, eat my food, invite boys over or cancel at the last minute. She lived six houses away, loved my boys, took care of the dog and cleaned up the kitchen. Because she was so great she was also in high demand, so of course we hogged her all to ourselves and used her virtually every Saturday night for several years, until she had the audacity to graduate from high school and head off to college. For the next couple years though, she still babysat when she was home for weekends and holidays and not only was I fine with this schedule, but I hoped it would continue, well, forever. But then the unimaginable happened: she got married and started a family of her own.

A couple weeks ago, Mandi and her husband welcomed their second boy. And by "welcome," I don't mean it in the same terms as I "welcomed" our kids. For me, it involved labor starting a couple weeks before my due date, being driven to the hospital, pain managed with drugs and eventually an epidural, and then shoving out either a five or six pound kid with the aid of that little vacuum suction thingamajig. Piece of cake, actually, especially the taking drugs part.

Mandi, on the other hand, carried that baby a full 40+ weeks, chose to have her babies at home rather than drive to the hospital and her newest arrival took his first breath of air weighing 11 pounds. Yes, that's correct. No typo involved. In the double digits, almost a dozen pounds. And she shoved this Thanksgiving turkey-sized infant out of her hoo-haw without drugs. Not even a Tylenol. I mean, I guess I can sort of comprehend what she experienced, if I had shoved two of my kids through my vagina, at the same time, without yelling "Give me the goddamn Nubane you slow pieces of shit and where in fuck's sake is my epidural!? Stab me in the back already! And you, over there. Quit staring already!"

I wasn't always so pro-dope-me-up. When I was pregnant with our first kid I was so sure that, with my high pain tolerance, I would be able to give birth without drugs. But now after having experienced labor a few times, I can safely say that if hell were to freeze over and I found out that I was pregnant again, I would make damn sure that an epidural was already ordered before I so much as timed my first contraction.

I realize that I'm leaving out an important piece of the labor story: my husband. After all, he's half the reason I had to wear a hideous gown and then spend several hours huffing and puffing and swearing and wincing. And I know that when he made that face of pain while he held my hand he wasn't really in pain at all -- he was just trying to make me feel extra strong and powerful so that I would have the confidence to shove our future hellions out of my crotch and into this world. I know he was kidding because how could a tightly squeezed hand even compare to the pain of having a watermelon up your ass? Doug, please tell me you were faking it. You weren't really in pain, right?

Recently, as I watched my first and second born kids gingerly chew on a cookie, it made me wonder. They both recently had spacers put in at the orthodontist in preparation for their braces and I am receiving pain updates no less than once every 2.4 minutes. This tooth is sore, it hurts to bite this way, I can't chew the crust on this bread, this other tooth aches, ow, ow, owie and ow.

And that's when the reality of the situation is confirmed: Men are kind of wussy.