Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This either makes me a really stellar Mom or one of the worst Moms in history. You be the judge.

Today is Foster's 6th birthday. He had YMCA Superhero camp all day, today, so I jumped out of bed at 6:30am and ran out to get the traditional Birthday Donuts (the way we begin every birthday in our little family), so he'd have that before going to camp for the day. Hubby and I had put up decorations last night, and we let him open one present this morning, before he left. We also bought enough cookies to feed the entire camp, so Fos would be able to share something special with his fellow campers and camp counselors. We were really looking forward to doing the big celebration, when he and Spence got home.

Another family tradition is "The Birthday Code." This particular tradition involves hiding presents in various locations around the house, and the birthday kiddo decoding special messages to find them. I worked on the coded messages last night, so all I had to do was hide the presents in their assigned secret spots. Fos loves figuring out the coded messages, so I knew he'd be excited.

John left to pick the boys up for camp, while I hid the presents, brought out the camera, got the cake ready (adding sprinkles, because, frankly, the cake was a bit lame, considering what we paid for it), and popped a pizza in the oven. I could hardly wait to see Foster and to celebrate his special day with our family!

Then, John walked in. One look at his face, and I knew it hadn't been a good day at camp. Nope. Not good at all. BOTH boys were written up at camp, today. Spence, for uttering, in frustration, a certain expression he picked up from a fellow First Grader this Spring: "Son-of-a-b-----!"  (Now, there is one expletive that I am fully guilty of uttering from time-to-time, especially when Lucy digs up my vegetables, so I'd be willing to accept responsibility, if that's what he had said. But, it wasn't. Therefore, not my fault. Not this time. I can blame it on a kid, instead. Someone else's kid, even. Whew!) Fos, my challenging, impulsive little Fos, was written up for being mean to a girl camper and for being disrespectful to his camp counselors. On. His. Birthday. Great.

So, what are you supposed to do in this situation? Here's your little boy. Love of your life. Just turned 6 years old, and you want to lavish him with love and attention and the presents you picked out especially for him, just to celebrate his very existence and to show him how lucky you feel to have him in your life. But, how is that possible, when he just got formally written up for being rotten all day??? He violated our family rules and the camp rules, and we're going to give him cake and ice cream? How does that make sense, or teach him any responsibility for his actions???

But, how do you take away your kid's birthday? I mean, seriously, how do you do that?

I'll tell you how, and I'm starting to cry again, right here at the computer, just thinking about it:

Step One: Have an emergency parent meeting in the kitchen. In urgent whispers, try to come to some kind of consensus about the right thing to do.

Step Two: Start to cry, when you realize that you and your hubby are about to take away your kid's birthday celebration.

Step Three: Pull yourself together, and have a family meeting in the living room, during which you talk about the behaviors that were not appropriate, let your children know that you love them very much, but that you do not love the choices they have made, and then ask, "Do you think that you deserve a birthday celebration after the choices you made today?" (Crossing your fingers, knowing the answer could go either way.) When the birthday boy looks up at you with big, sad, blue eyes and says, "No, I don't.", you quickly walk into the kitchen, again, so that he won't see the tears welling up in your eyes.

Step Four: You realize that there is no friggin' way you are going to be able to pull yourself together, so you look up at your husband with your own big, sad, weepy eyes, silently begging him to take over from here. He recognizes that you are losing it, so he takes charge of the kids, while you quickly put away the birthday cake, and then throw yourself onto your bed, where you sob uncontrollably at the very thought of NOT celebrating your baby's birthday with him today.

Step Five:  The phone rings. It's Grandma and Grampy, calling to sing "Happy Birthday" to their grandson. Instead, they get to listen to their adult daughter having an emotional meltdown for 10 full minutes. Not quite what they were expecting...

Step Six: Hubby leaves for his soccer game. You take birthday boy into his room to tuck him in. Before you can help yourself, you are sobbing again. Then, he falls apart. Thinking he is upset about his presents and cake, you ask him why he is sad. His reply? "Because I made you cry, Mommy. Please don't cry anymore."  Ouch. Physical pain to the heart.

Step Seven: You and birthday boy cling to each other, bawling your eyes out for a few minutes. Then, you grab the kleenex so you can both blow your noses. You tell him, again, that you love him very much, and that he will have the chance to make tomorrow a "do-over day." He clings to you once more, then looks up at you with those eyes, those eyes that can break your heart, and says, "You are the best Mommy in the universe." Which, of course, makes you start to cry all over again. Because you are the very same Mommy who took away his birthday celebration. And, he still thinks you're the best Mommy in the universe.

What. A. Day.

God, being a parent is tough. 

So, did I do the right thing? I guess that time will tell...


Friday, July 22, 2011


OK, my husband can officially no longer be called “unromantic”. He planned a wonderful, surprise 10th Anniversary trip for us. Yes, it was a family trip, but, given that we don’t have any relatives that can take the boys for us (All of you Moms who are lucky enough to have relatives who'll take the kids for a weekend, or a night, or even a couple of hours in the afternoon -- you have NO idea how fortunate you are! Hug those relatives. Hug them hard.), he managed to make it romantic as well as full of family fun. We drove as far as Ellensburg Sunday afternoon and stayed the night there at just a regular Quality Inn. Then, got up early the next morning and drove to Coeur D’Alene, ID, arriving at lunchtime, where we checked in to the Coeur D’Alene resort (a place I have ALWAYS wanted to stay) into THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ROOM I HAVE EVER SEEN! We were on the 17th floor, with a view of the entire Coeur D’Alene lake. We had our own fireplace, mirrors that reflected light all over the place, so that it felt like we were in some sort of tropical paradise, a separate living room area with a daybed, and have I mentioned the view??? John and I spent most of our free time wrapped in our super-soft white hotel robes, sitting out on our balcony, watching the boats coming and going, people walking along the marina, drinking wine, and just talking. (We brought 3 bottles of Hot to Trot with us on our trip, as well as a few Coronas for daytime.) I’m telling you, this is how the OTHER HALF LIVES. This is the kind of place those people benefitting from all the Bush tax cuts go to stay, not regular folks like us. Way out of our league, and I don’t even want to know what it cost, but it was so wonderful!!! I appreciated every single little thing about it, from the nightly mints accompanying our next day weather forecast on our pillows, to the awesome massaging shower head in the bathroom.
Rich folks who do this sort of thing all the time, probably don't notice the details anymore. Not me. I noticed EVERYTHING!

We hung out in our incredibly gorgeous room for a while, had a couple of beers on our balcony, then went out to lunch and headed to Silverwood Theme Park, where we spent the entire afternoon having a total blast. The boys got to go on their very first rollercoaster (a wooden one called “Tremors” that traumatized Spencer: “I didn’t like that one. Nope. Didn’t like it. Let’s not do that one again, OK?”, scared the hell out of me, thrilled John, and semi-terrified Foster. As he put it, “There were parts of that ride that were really fun and parts that were NOT!”), we got soaked on the family water ride, we got pink and freckly in the sunshine, the boys noshed on theme park food, and we all just had a great time. Spencer decided that he would try a different rollercoaster that corkscrewed around, so he and I went on that one together, while John took Foster to play a few games. Spence loved it, and I re-discovered (after at least a decade away from rollercoasters) that motion sickness and corkscrew rollercoasters don’t mix very well. Luckily, it was an extremely short ride. After that, I stuck to non-spinning rides. John wanted to go on a crazy loop-de-loop coaster where the people ride with their feet hanging free. Neither of the boys were big enough to go on it, so I was off the hook as well. I took the boys on the log flume ride, instead, and the three of us had so much fun. There were grins, giggles, and lots of hugs and kisses, followed by exclamations such as: "This is the best family vacation EVER!", "You are the best Mommy and Daddy in the entire universe!", "This is totally awesome!!!" None of us wanted to leave when the day was over...

We picked up Chinese food on the way home and took it back to our room...For some reason, it felt extra decadent to be noshing on Chinese food from cardboard boxes in that gorgeous, luxury room! Then it was time to hit the hotel pool & hot tubs for a while. We came back and let the kids watch the Disney channel until they fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, while John and I sat out on the balcony drinking our wine and enjoying the view. We stayed up way too late, just talking and reminiscing and reconnecting and fantasizing about vacations we’d love to take some day if we ever hit the was lovely.
Next morning: Breakfast at one of the hotel restaurants. BEST BELGIAN WAFFLE I HAVE EVER EATEN. No joke. It was like a party in my mouth. A really great party, with lots of celebrities and cool music and fancy beverages with umbrellas. Fantastic! Foster said the same thing about his pancakes. He kept saying, “These pancakes are GREAT! They’re the GREATEST, Mom. Really! GREAT!” He even thanked the waitress for “making me the greatest pancakes I’ve ever had.” So cute.
Then, we just spent the whole day playing around the hotel and the harbor. We walked all around the pier, played on the beach, played in Coeur D’Alene park, did more swimming and frolicking in the pools, lounged on our balcony, wandered around the shops, etc. Dinner back at the same restaurant where we had breakfast...amazing, again. Topped it off with more lounging, wine drinking, and soaking in the view from the balcony that night, while the boys slept. A perfect mix of relaxing and action. We even invented a word that summed it up: “Relaxtion”. Wonderful day.
Slept in the next day (even the boys) and then hit the road around noon. The drive home was nice, though. We took lots of time, stopped at viewpoints and anywhere else we felt like it along the way, did Mad Libs with the kids, sang "Dynamite" and "Raise Your Glass" about 75 times, and still got home around 8:00. 
Last night, we topped it off by getting a babysitter and heading out for a real “date”. Dinner and a movie, just like the old days.
Great 10 year Anniversary! Thank you, sweetie, for making it one I will never forget.

Here’s to the next decade. May it bring good health, a bit more wealth (or at least financial security, for a change), and continued laughter and love!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Education Schmeducation!

Spoiler Alert: As a mom, as an educator, and as a very disillusioned and frustrated U.S. citizen, I'm hopping mad about what the Republican party is doing right now, and I'm about to express that. Forcefully.

This week, the Republican controlled House of Representatives voted to increase the military's budget by double-digits. (That's billions, by the way. Double digit billions.) This is at the same time they are supposedly fighting to decrease our nation's debt. Actually, they're holding raising the debt ceiling hostage in order to get more of what their special interest groups want, rather than what our country actually needs in order to grow, to prosper, and to compete in our global economy. What do the Republicans want? Major cuts to all social services intended to help the poor, the elderly, and children, of course. Who cares about the poor? I mean, come ON. They should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps like everybody else, right? And, children? Who needs 'em? Let 'em take care of themselves!
Along with that, our Republican representatives want to make sure that we don't invest in our country's future by:

1) Investing in the development of renewable energy resources. After all, why should we worry about, or take any responsibility for, global warming and other threats to our environment, right? Let's just leave that to places like Norway to figure out. And, why should we actually attempt to be innovative and creative and come up with new ideas that we can then export to other countries, when we can just sit back and wait for OTHER countries to invent things that we can then buy from them?

2) Improving our country's falling-apart infrastructure. A major job creator, by the way. Hmmmm...

3) And, have I mentioned investing in educating America's youth, so that our entire country can benefit? Republicans don't seem to see anything wrong with continuing to cut and cut and cut education funding, pretty much guaranteeing that the United States will continue to fall behind countries that actually consider the education of their children to be one of the most important ways a country can invest in itself and sustain growth and innovation and competitiveness around the globe.

So, let's continue to ramp up military spending, keep open tax loopholes that allow the very rich to escape the same tax burdens faced by the middle class, keep cutting education funding to ensure that millions of children are kept ignorant, so that they will grow up and vote for idiocy and stagnation, rather than becoming the kind of critical thinkers that will question their government and vote for innovation and progress, let the poor suffer the consequences of their poverty without support or programs to help them climb out of the hole in which they find themselves, allow sick children of poor and middle class families to suffer without adequate health insurance, while the rich enjoy the benefits of the best healthcare their money can buy (after all, they've got all that extra income from the Bush tax loopholes), suppress acceptance of diversity by continuing to deny marriage rights to loving gay couples and to insist that church dogma has any valid place in politics, make sure that no woman has the right to choose (again, ensuring that the cycle of poverty and ignorance continues, thereby providing the Republican party with more future voters), and do whatever we can to make sure that every single household has both a bible and a gun!

'Cuz that's an America in which I want my two little boys to grow up!


And, for anyone who is saying that Republicans are as open to across-the-board reforms as Democrats, here's a quote I saw on MSNBC this week:

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass, scoffed at the suggestion that "everything is on the table" in budget negotiations between the Obama administration and congressional leaders.
"The military budget is not on the table," he said. "The military is at the table, and it is eating everybody else's lunch."

I'm going to go hug my boys, now. I hope they get to grow up in a country that models acceptance and tolerance, that recognizes that the Constitution was designed to be a set of living guidelines that are adapted as our country grows, and that invests in education and innovation and the health and happiness of its citizens. But, I admit that I'm feeling pretty discouraged right now...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What a GAS!

OK, I admit it...

I'm a little embarrassed about it, though...

I'm having a hard time actually typing the words...

Here goes...

Whoopee Cushions are hilarious! Seriously. Hilarious.

I had no idea just how hilarious Whoopee Cushions can be, until my boys each received one as a birthday gift from their wonderful surrogate grandparents this morning. (We love you, Laureta and Joe!) They'd never seen one before, so I explained the concept, all while mentally cringing inside at what this gift was about to unleash in my living room.

As it turns was side-splittingly funny watching my little boys blowing up the Whoopee Cushions, finding all sorts of creative ways to sit on them (over the pillow, under the pillow, on the ottoman, on the couch, on the floor, the flying leap-sit, the slow-motion rolling sit, etc., etc...) and then laughing hysterically each time they heard the gaseous result.

So,  I had to take a break from deck demolition (Sigh. A topic for another time...) to document the addition of Whoopee Cushions into our lives. And, I sign off now, as the music of loud farting floats through my house, accompanied by the giggles and guffaws of two little boys, who are in Whoopee Cushion Heaven.