Friday, May 29, 2009

Pre-school graduation? Huh?

I had no idea that pre-schoolers had a "graduation." Never even occurred to me, until I got the invitation to my own 4-year-old's graduation celebration. I was genuinely surprised. I was even more suprised when a fellow Mom mentioned to me that she's already taken her daughter shopping for a brand-new graduation day outfit, and that her relatives are all coming in from out-of-town to come to the celebration. This prompted another Mom to excitedly tell us that her relatives were coming as well, and that she bought her little boy a big graduation day gift. (It honestly didn't even occur to me to ask my parents to drive 6 hours to come!) So, I mentioned to a girlfriend of mine that the graduation was tonight (she's a level-headed girl, and I thought she'd chuckle along with me, y'nkow?). But, she immediately started bombarding me with excited, high-pitched questions like: "Is everybody coming in from out-of-town?" "Are you going to have a pre-graduation party at the house?" "What did you get him for graduation?" "What is he going to wear?" "Aren't you excited?"and so on and so on... The truth is, I didn't even know there was a pre-school graduation, let alone that I was supposed to get all riled up about it. I think I missed the part in the Mommy books that talks about this being a really big deal. (This is making me sound like a cold, disinterested, uninvolved Mom, isn't it? Well, you should have seen how crazy with excitement I got when he rode his bike without training wheels for the first time. Now, that's an accomplishment! We went out to dinner AND ice cream for that one.) Anyway, of course I'm proud of my little guy, and I'm looking forward to the next stage (with a bit of melancholy, but mostly with optimism and excitement), but graduation doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. They all graduate, y'know? Nobody flunks pre-school. Basically, he just had to show up, be a good boy most of the time, learn a little bit, and mission accomplished! Ah well.... I have made my giant pot of macaroni and cheese for the party. I took a shower and even put on a skirt. And, in just a few minutes, I'll be taking my little guy to his pre-school graduation. But, I didn't buy him a special graduation day present, and he won't be wearing a new outfit. I'll just shower him with hugs and kisses, take lots of photos for the relatives, and remind him that every day I get to spend with him is cause for celebration.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


frum'-pi-fi-ca'-tion: noun. The process by which a formerly sassy, independent, reasonably fashionable, moderately fit woman transforms into a completely frazzled, overworked, moderately overweight mother-of-two, who can seldom muster up the energy to brush her teeth, let alone take a shower, put on make-up, and dress in anything other than her "Mommy Uniform" of sweatpants and an old t-shirt.

OK, it's not really a word. But it should be, don't you think?...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The first step is admitting you have a problem...

I just went through internet detox, and I lived to tell the tale. Yes, a week ago, I returned home from work to hear my husband utter the dreaded words, "Something's wrong with our internet connection. Oh, and they can't come until next Tuesday to fix it." My heart began to race. Seriously?!! They can't come for 7 days? Turns out they had an appointment available 5 days sooner, but the earliest I can get home after leaving work and picking up the little guys from preschool -- even traveling at mach speed -- is 1:00pm. And they insist that you are available from 12 - 5:00. No exceptions. Apparently, a full 4 hour commitment to stay home, doing nothing but waiting for "the guy", just isn't quite enough time for them. It's gotta be 5 full hours or no deal. Now, that's what I call customer service! SIGH. So, there you have it. No internet for 7 days. My first thought: "Omigod, how am I going to talk to anybody? They're not going to know what happened to me! They're going to think I'm blowing them off." As if the friends and family I stay in touch with primarily through email or Facebook couldn't possibly live without a message from me for a week. Second thought: "Damn! I was going to list all that toddler stuff on Craigslist tomorrow. Now, it's going to have to sit around on our bedroom floor for another week, and I'm going to keep on tripping over it." Third thought: "I CAN'T BLOG! What if I get some thought I'm dying to share? What will I do?" I actually felt a little bit of genuine panic at the thought. So, I took action steps. I immediately re-recorded the answering machine message on our phone to say, "Hi. You've reached us, but we can't come to the phone right now. You can't reach us on the computer either, because our internet is down for a week." I then called several friends to let them know they couldn't reach me by computer for a week and asked them to please spread the word. (Again, as if I am such a crucial part of their lives that they'd go into withdrawal without a Facebook response. I know, it's pathetic, isn't it?) After that, I settled into a week with no email, no Facebook, no surfing the internet, no blogging, and -- blessedly -- no computer games for the hubby. That part, I did not mind at all. And, what do you know? I replaced all the time I usually spend dinking around on the computer with some old loves -- like getting lost in reading a good book, actually writing a couple of letters (by hand!) to old friends, and spending nights playing Scrabble (or, let's face it, watching more TV shows) with my honey, instead of taking turns using the computer. I really never realized how much time I spend glued to this machine, even when I'm just squeezing it in around the kids or hopping online after they're tucked in for the night. My husband realized how dependent he'd become on the computer as well. He wanted to take me out to dinner and a movie for my birthday (Yes, ladies, he came through with some romance this year -- good man!) , but he didn't know the movie times. After all, you can't Fandango without the internet, right? So, he called one of our friends and asked her to look up the movie times on her computer. He said it just didn't even occur to him that he could call the theater. Remember phones? Oh, yeah.

So, I've recaptured a bit of life before the age of computers, I've realized how much time I've spent being plugged into the machine, but not plugged into the rest of my life, and I am pledging to cut down on my computer time. I know, I know, we'll see if it's actually possible. But, I have made a start. I forced myself to wait almost 24 hours to get back online after we were up and running. That's pretty good, right? Also, I quit Facebook, because it was way too addictive following all the threads of conversation and seeing what everybody's been up to. Finally, I am about to log off and go snuggle on the couch with my sweetie. (If he asks me if I'm all done on the computer and leaps up to play computer games, I will physically hurt him!)

But, I'm not going to stop blogging! Some things just feel too good to give up. Cheers!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Terrible Twos? Are you kidding me?

I am absolutely convinced that the person who invented the term "Terrible Two's" just hadn't experienced age three yet, or they might have called it something completely different, like "The year when your child starts to get really independent and sometimes throws fits but isn't anywhere near as bad as he's going to get when he's three and a lot more verbal and much better at finding deliberate ways to push your buttons!" It's a long name, I know. Not nearly as easy to say as "Terrible Two's", but it's a lot more accurate. Seriously. I have yet to meet a fellow Mom who has a three-year-old (or who has been through the trials of having a three-year-old) and thinks that age two was especially challenging. I'm not saying that it doesn't feel challenging when you're in it. After all, every stage has it's own unique challenges, frustrations, and joys, right? (Oh yes, it wasn't that long ago that I remember pacing the living room with a screaming, absolutely inconsolable, newborn baby, thinking "Why did I do this to myself? What was I thinking? I can't be a Mom! I stink at this! I must be crazy!".....) But, trust me, age three can be bad. Really, really bad. I think it's because during the third year, kids genuinely learn how to manipulate. Before that time, they're just starting to figure things out through trial and error: "Hmmmm......if I throw a huge, screaming tantrum at home, I sometimes get what I want."OR: "Hmmmmm......when I poke my brother in the eye, he cries really loud. Fun!" That's your typical two-year-old, right? Well, three-year-olds take it to a whole new level: "When I throw a huge, screaming tantrum at home, I don't usually get what I want. BUT, if I throw a huge, screaming tantrum in the grocery store when Mommy's waiting to pay for the groceries and there are tons of people in line behind us -- I might just get what I want." Oh, yes. They are learning and learning fast. I think the hardest part about this age is that kids learn that words can hurt others, and they use it to their advantage. Here's my favorite: "I don't love you anymore." Ouch! Or this one that happens frequently in my house when a certain three-year-old doesn't get what he wants: "I love Daddy more than you." Double ouch! And it's very hard not to take it personally. Case in point....I have a couple of girlfriends over for somewhat regular playdates. Last week, one of my friends -- a truly lovely Mom with a three-year-old boy, came in, put down her stuff, steered her son towards the playroom, and then immediately dissolved into tears. She looked at us through big, sad eyes, and sobbed, "I don't even LIKE my son right now. I love him, but I can hardly stand him most of the time!" My other girlfriend jumped in immediately with, "Oh, I know, I know. Age three is the worst stage of all. They can be so mean. Just hang in there." (Thankfully, her boys made it through this stage and are now lovely young lads, most of the time. I remind myself of that fact every single day!) We then began to share war stories from age three. (The age I now refer to as "The Thunderous Threes" because of how tempestuous and unpredictable it is.) I am convinced, after talking, laughing, and crying with these wonderful, exhausted, capable Moms, that the key to surviving this age is sharing stories, leaning on your friends, and reminding yourself that, "This too shall pass." And, finally, while there's nothing so painful and frustrating as hearing your beloved little one shout "I HATE YOU!" at the top of his lungs in the middle of Fred Meyer because you dared to say "No, honey, you can't have a matchbox car", there's also nothing more lovely and joyful than when that same little three-year-old throws his arms around your neck and says, "I love you more than anybody else in the whole world."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You are now entering a romantic dead zone...

I am about to enter a romantic Dead Zone. Why, you may ask? Well, two major celebrations occur within days of each other every May -- Mother's Day and my birthday -- and I am married to someone who is well-known for being, shall we say, romantically impaired when it comes to recognizing these events. I'm not joking. I literally have girlfriends and family members calling me the week before to say, "Hang in there. You know he loves you, even though he's probably going to forget, or try to throw something together so last-minute that it's all going to fall apart. He loves you very much. Just remember that." They tell their own partners cautionary tales, like the time he took me to a sports bar for our anniversary, trying hard to watch my face instead of the soccer game, and not succeeding. He would fixate on my eyes, and I could see him trying really, really hard to focus on what I was saying. But, he just couldn't keep his eyes from darting off to the side to check the score. Mmmmm....Romantic.......Now, it is important at this time to stress that I do not doubt, for a second, that my husband loves me and values me and would be devastated if I ever left. (I feel the very same way about him, by the way. I am, in fact, an extremely lucky woman. My man is intelligent, funny, sexy, and a great Dad to our two little boys. But, romance and acknowledgement? Not his greatest strengths!) Anyway, every year I feel cautiously optimistic that my darling will not forget these dates, and may, in fact, put a little bit of thought, foresight, and actual planning into acknowledging them. You know, maybe arrange a babysitter and take me out for Thai food and a movie??? Unfortunately, history has shown that my husband is one of those men who sneaks out of bed the morning of the event, because he has just realized that he has forgotten it again, runs to the grocery store to buy a card, and signs it at the kitchen table two minutes before handing it to me. SIGH. I insist that I am not a high-maintenance woman (although my dear husband would most likely disagree strongly to that sentiment), but I do think it's important that people are made to feel valued, appreciated, and special on these particular days. (I do a bang-up job on Father's Day and my hubby's birthday every year, so this is not just empty whining here...) Some would argue that holidays are manipulative, stupid days invented by greeting card companies and florists, and that we should be striving to acknowledge our loved ones in small ways every day, instead of lavishing them with love, attention, and gifts on specific days on the calendar. Yeah, well, you know what? If it was that easy, everybody would be doing it, and we wouldn't need holidays. Me? Call me selfish, but I'd like to have a little extra love, attention, and maybe even a romantic date a couple of times a year just to keep me sane! I mean, let's face it ladies, how many times have you heard, "Oh honey, thanks so much for feeding the kids, feeding the dogs, emptying the dishwasher, pulling the meat out of the freezer to thaw for dinner, getting the kids to daycare, going to work, picking up the kids from daycare, letting the dogs out and picking up their poop, paying the bills, putting the wet clothes I left in the washer into the dryer, making a well-balanced meal for all of us, remembering to call to wish my mother a happy birthday, cleaning up the meal we all just ate, tucking the kids into bed, folding the laundry you washed earlier, asking me about my day at work, and not falling asleep from total exhaustion while I told you all about it. You're awesome, and here are some flowers and a gift certificate for a massage for everything you did today." Yeah, right! Yes, we should strive to appreciate our partners on a daily basis. No doubt about it. But, until hell freezes over and people all over the world begin to do so, we need holidays. At least I do. So, the dates are circled on the calendar in bright orange pen, we've actually talked about the fact that these two days are coming up (and there was no sporting event on as a distraction during that conversation), and I find myself feeling cautiously optimistic once more...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reflections from a highway rest stop.

Highway rest stops are interesting places, aren't they? I mean, they're specifically designed for people on their way somewhere, to take care of their business, and then continue on their way. Rest stops are for everybody, and this makes for some really interesting people-watching, if you have the chance. If you have time to really take a look around at a rest stop, you're bound to see some interesting, ridiculous, possibly disgusting, and maybe even touching things. This was my experience yesterday. To be honest, I don't find myself in rest stops very often, because I seldom go anywhere anymore. With a really exhausting job, two little kids, and a husband with an insanely unpredictable work schedule, I'm the queen of the "stay-cation." (Doing sidewalk chalk in the back yard with my kids while sipping a margarita is about as close to a real vacation as it typically gets around here...) Or, when I do find myself at a rest stop, I'm peeling into a spot, leaping out of the car, and flying into the bathroom with one kid on my shoulders and another one hanging onto my wrist for dear life, feet flapping in the air behind him, because one or the other is literally seconds away from having an accident. These little guys have a hard time grasping the idea of letting me know they have to pee more than 30 seconds before they are absolutely desperate to go. Seriously, I imagine the thought process in their little heads as we drive along going something like this; "Hmmmmm, nice red truck. Wish I had a red truck. Oooohhhh, a bulldozer. Wish I had a bulldozer. My butt itches. I think I'll hit my brother and see if he gets mad. Oh yeah. He got mad. Heh, heh, heh. I'm gonna hit him again. Heh, heh, heh. Mommy looks funny when she's yelling at me and driving. Her face is really red. Oooooh, another bulldozer. Taxi! A taxi just went by! Cooooool. OH-NO-I-HAVE-TO-PEE-RIGHT-NOW!!!!!" This stream of consciousness is inevitably followed by the ear-piercing cry, "Moooooommmmmmmyyyyyyyyyy....I have to go potty!""Can you hold it, sweetie?" "No, no, it's an emergency!" So, needless to say, my trips to the rest stop are usually conducted at mach speed, and don't afford the opportunity for too much people-watching. With that said, I actually found myself pulling into a rest stop all alone yesterday, on my way back from a few hours spent hanging out with a great girlfriend, laughing, talking, watching a ridiculously unbelievable romantic comedy full of ridiculously good-looking people, eating too much thai food (hence, the need for the rest stop), and briefly remembering what life was like before marriage and motherhood. And, for the first time in a long time, I found myself paying attention to my surroundings. An interesting experience, indeed. So, here are a few observations from that little experience:

Troubling: A huge, immaculate, burgundy-colored Hummer with a "Protect Our Planet" bumpersticker. Ahhhh, the irony.

Irritating: A fifty-something man, wearing those pants that somehow manage to stay up while perched just below his impressively large gut, smoking a cigar, and alternating between scratching his armpit and his butt (I am not making this up!) is joined by a young woman coming out of the restroom. She is slim, attractive, with a to-die-for body. I assumed she was his daughter, until she wrapped her arms around him and gave him the kind of kiss that daughters do not give their fathers. I couldn't help thinking about the double-standard in male-female relationships. It would be highly unlikely to see the same scenario with the genders reversed, eh? He probably owned the Hummer...

Disgusting: Do the same people who think it's OK to poop all over a restroom seat do that at home too? Do they just poop all over their own toilet and walk away? Seriously!

Pathetic: Young couple, oblivious to the fact that there were at least 15 other people within earshot, standing on either side of their car, screaming obscenities at each other. All I could really make out were numerous words I won't repeat here, and "Dairy Queen." I can't imagine what could have transpired in a Dairy Queen that would result in such a litany of cursing and yelling, but maybe they'd been trapped in their car together for too long with far too much sugar in their systems. A recipe for disaster...

Humorous: The little kid from the stall next to me who broke free from his Mom and took off out of the restroom wearing only a t-shirt and tennis shoes and laughing hysterically while she chased after him holding his pants and hollering that he was half-naked! Believe me, that little guy knew darn well he was half-naked, and he was fully enjoying himself.

Touching: An elderly couple sitting on the bumper of their car, holding hands and sharing a banana.

So, it was really fascinating to slow down and take a look around. I highly recommend it. Oh, and one more thing.... When you pull up at a rest stop blaring the soundtrack to Mamma Mia and hop out of your car, you should probably stop singing. I'd like to say that this is something I observed someone else doing. However, it was me happily singing "Dancing Queen" as I walked towards the restroom. It wasn't until I noticed a cute little old lady smoking a cigarette and smiling at me with an odd expression that I realized I was still singing. Out loud. Like a lunatic. Yes, folks, you find all kinds at a rest stop! Including nutty women just like me.