Archive | September, 2011

Happy Anniversary To Me

26 Sep

“Dear husband,” I said, “it’s been a year.”

“No!” he answered. “Really?”

“Yes. A whole year at the end of this month,” I said.

“But what about that time our daughter had a sleep over and our son didn’t come out of his cave for hours?”

“Oh. My. God,” I said. “It hasn’t been a year for THAT! And don’t tell me it feels like it!”

“Well, then I’m at a loss,” he said.

Normally, I’m the one who forgets anniversaries, particularly my wedding anniversary. I got married on either the 16th or 17th of October. Never can remember which. So, whenever anyone asks me when I got married, I say, “Saturday. It was a Saturday.” My husband has the PhD in History. He remembers the date and rolls his eyes when I don’t.

It has been a year since I started writing and publishing Snide Reply. At the risk of sounding like a Holiday Letter, I thought I’d go through some of my old posts and update you on some of the more popular. For those who jumped on the Snide wagon later in its run, I’m including links to the original posts.

I started running just a couple of months before I started blogging. At that time, I could run about 3 miles. I am writing this having run 9 miles this afternoon. Of course, I can barely get out of my chair to hobble to the kitchen and refill my teacup.

I still don’t have an attractive website. I have a really cool domain name and I have a website. The two shall not meet in my lifetime. See, the website is totally lame. I built it myself when I had no idea where my life was going. That happens when you make plans and life does that mice and men thing with them.

I have a better idea where my life is going these days so maybe it’s time to re-tackle the website. To my endless stupefaction and glee, I am now a parent columnist. Me! The self-admitted queen of parental immaturity. Ok, so it’s only been a couple of weeks, but a girl has to start somewhere. Look at Jenny McCarthy! Her parenting qualifications are . . .what?  Oh, yeah, she posed naked and had a baby. Do you think T. Berry Brazelton ever posed naked?

The worst I’ve done is go commando thought the pharmacist who knows has moved on to Wal-Mart. Actually, I may be going commando again soon. And my husband had to skip the briefs at least once. Laundry used to be his responsibility and lawn mowing was mine. We tried to get our son to do the lawn-mowing thing because he hated doing the litter box thing. He wanted nothing to do with the lawn because it was, as he said, “outside.”

“Look,” I said. “you either mow the lawn or you do the laundry.” Ha! I thought, now I have him.

“Cool!” he said. “I love laundry! Laundry smells awesome!”

So, now my husband mows the lawn and my son does the laundry. We have realized, though, that having a teenage boy with ADHD responsible for keeping us in clean undies was probably not our best parenting move. Many is the time a load made it into the washer and stayed there . . .and stayed there . . .and stayed there. Our son has learned that laundry only smells awesome if it makes it from the washer to the dryer in fewer than 24 hours.

The portal to hell is still outside our front door. The dog is still insane. The cat is on a diet. So far, so good. He hasn’t broken anything out of spite. He may have taken a nibble or two out of the fish, though, which is looking rather ragged of late. The end is likely near, as evidenced by his tendency to swim sideways. I predict he’ll go to the great toilet bowl in the sky before the end of the year.

I’m still a pretty bad Buddhist, according to my kids. My son pointed out to me just a few days ago that a good Buddhist probably wouldn’t call the driver who cut her off a “freaking idiot.” I’m better about the cyclists who fly past me on the prairie trail. I no longer mumble obscenities at them. I am saving my obscenities for the people who are treating the prairie as their personal cutting garden these days. My daughter suggested I try out a nearby trail that runs through an equestrian center. I’m pretty sure even Buddha couldn’t keep his cool running behind horses, but then again, it would definitely keep me mindful and aware.

As my episodes on the prairie illustrate, I still have anger issues. I still hate liver, read crap and get jealous, too. But, I haven’t taken a serious trip to Funky Town in a while. My son is ok with “Spithead” and no one has puked around here lately. My kids are still pikers when it comes to sibling rivalry.

I am overjoyed to report that the shed never went up. The cosmos aligned in a gigantic “I told you so,” when my neighbor hired someone to survey the property line. I left the hot pink flagging tape which proved the line did, indeed, fall exactly where I said it did as long as possible. We found, in fact, that we have a lot more property than we thought we did. My neighbor and I have entered a sort of cold war, though. He no longer speaks to me and his children run like rabbits whenever I come out of the house. I’m thinking it just needs a little more time and a lot more of me being the nicest, most cheerful person I know how to be. Stop laughing; I can be very cheerful.

I’ve made lots of people laugh in the past year. I think I’ve made some cry. I know I’ve hurt feelings, unintentionally of course. Still, I’m more careful about what I write and how I phrase things. There are certain things I’ll never write, at least not here and not as non-fiction. But I’ll keep writing and I hope you’ll keep reading.

Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for a truly wonderful year.

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My Kids Always Love Dad Best

19 Sep

I keep coming home from work to find my family in a great mood. The kids are getting along wonderfully. Maybe everyone is playing Monopoly. Maybe they are all in the kitchen doing homework together. Regardless, everyone is smiling and interacting beautifully.

It’s really starting to tick me off.

Not too long ago, we had dinner together every night. Studies showed that kids who ate nightly family dinners were less likely to drink, do drugs, smoke, get depressed, have eating disorders and begin reading sooner. If studies showed it, I was all for it.

So, I made sure we had dinner together every night. When we first started family dinners, I had visions of me in the kitchen, rattling the pots and pans, with the kids around the table, peacefully completing their homework. As dad entered our charming abode, the kids would put their homework away and promptly start setting the table.

I was delusional. What I get on the nights I’m home for dinner is my son popping down from his cave around 5 to ask what’s for dinner. News of the night’s meal is met with “Awesome!” or “You’re freaking kidding me!” Fried chicken? “Awesome!” Grilled salmon with a butter dill sauce? “You’re freaking kidding me!” He has learned to replace “You’re freaking kidding me!” with “I’ll make myself a pot pie.”

My daughter is usually either playing at her friend’s house, or, on a day when she needs a break, watching TV and scattering five million Littlest Pet Shop figurines around the family room.

Sometime between 6 and 6:30, I start dinner. I call my daughter to do her homework. I bang on the ceiling for my son to come unload the dishwasher.

Silence. I remain alone in the kitchen.

I call to my daughter again. I bang on the ceiling again.

Eventually, my son bounds down the stairs, growling, “What!?” if it’s a “you’re freaking kidding me” dinner or “Is dinner ready?” if it’s an awesome! dinner night.

“Have you done your homework?” I say.

“I’ll do it later,” he says.

“Then you can unload the dishwasher,” I say.

“Later. I have to do my homework.” And he’s off to the cave.

“It’s time to do your homework,” I say to my daughter.

“I don’t have any,” she says, plopping on the couch.

“I need you to clean up your Littlest Pet Shop things so we don’t have to look at the messy family room during dinner,” I say. Ok, I probably actually say something like, “I need you to pick up all of your things in the family room. I’m sick of living in a pig mess.” I give myself Good Mom points for saying “I need” instead of just going straight for “Pick those toys up before I throw them all away.”

At this point, we have a meltdown. My daughter begins crying that I am mean. I don’t particularly care if she calls me mean. With me, it’s all about tone of voice and my daughter has a tone somewhere between a car alarm and a banshee’s wail.

“Fine!” I yell. “Don’t clean up the toys, but I’m going to throw away these things you’ve left on the kitchen table if you don’t come get them right now.”

She doesn’t move; she doesn’t flinch. Eyes glued to the TV she says, “Ok.”

By the time my husband gets home, I have generally had two fights with my daughter over toys and homework. My son, being 16, is far less predictable. We may be laughing and joking when dad comes home, or I may have left the house, mumbling something like, “I bet Mexico’s nice this time of year.” I pretend I am so eager to see my husband that I had to come meet him at his bus stop. I’m sure he has an inkling that I’m eager to see him, but maybe not for the reason he’d prefer.

So, when I come home from work and find that dinner has been made and eaten with no fuss and the entire brood is happily doing homework, playing cards or just hanging together, I want to strangle someone.

I am convinced that my kids love Dad best and it’s not just the difference in dinnertime that provides my evidence.

Take, for example, how our son treats each of us. My husband is affectionately known as “Daddy Poo-pookins.” He gets head rubs. He gets hugs.

I am known as “Big Dumb Mom” and it is said in a voice something like the Hulk’s. I get woken at 6:15 a.m. every morning and told, “I’m leaving.” This is code for “Come downstairs and say ‘goodbye to me’ .” I do, giving my son a hug that he accepts standing completely still. When I kiss him, he turns his head so that the kiss lands not on his cheek, but somewhere between his neck and his chin. I tried not giving the hug, and just saying “goodbye” once. My son glowered at me, refusing to budge until I gave him the unreturned hug.

My husband wakes at 5 every morning and doesn’t get home until 7:15 at night. On the weekends, we let him sleep. This means that he stays in bed until 10 a.m. The children tiptoe past the bedroom door. When I tell them to “get your father out of bed,” they balk.

Recently, while I was taking a nap after getting about four hours of sleep the night prior, my daughter came skipping in the room, jumped on me and said, “Mom, you only have ten more minutes to nap.” Then she left.

Another recent incident gave me a window of opportunity into why Daddy Poo-pookins gets away with parenting murder while Big Dumb Mom gets the shaft. At the grocery store, my son snarls when I suggest a store-brand alternative to his favorite cereal. “It will taste like (insert disgusting noun modified by equally disgusting adjective).” Son and husband came home from the grocery store last night with store-brand frosted wheats. I snarled at my son.

When my son explained that Daddy Poo-pookins would get mad, I said, Big Dumb Mom gets mad. “But he really means it,” my son said, “you’ll change your mind.” And he’s right. I will change my mind, given a good enough argument. Throwing away generic frosted cereal has taught me that some things are worth a little flexibility. By the way, I’m looking forward to saying, “I told you so” about the cereal.

What To Really Expect

12 Sep

When I was pregnant with my son, I read that “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book. It did a very thorough job of informing me about what I might expect, month by month, as my pregnancy progressed. I, of course, zeroed in on the things that could go wrong in any given month and spent the entire pregnancy wondering when disaster would strike. I came to think of the book as “What Terrible Thing To Expect When You’re Expecting” but had a hard time keeping away from it nonetheless.

My son was born and no terrible things happened. So, I immediately purchased “What To Expect The First Year.” I have since renamed the book “What Your Baby Should Be Doing This Month That Every Other Baby But Yours Is Already Doing.” I subtitled it, “All The Exotic Diseases Your Child Probably Won’t Get But It Couldn’t Hurt To Worry About Anyway.”

Still, very soon into parenthood, I realized things were happening that no one had warned might happen. It began with the nurse placing my son in my arms and I felt . . .confused. When I first saw my son, I thought, “Wow, his head is cone-shaped on one side and block-shaped on the other.” Oh, I’d heard that babies weren’t particularly cute when they first come out, but block-and-cone headed? Nope. I’d also heard that childbirth was beautiful. Sunsets? Those are beautiful. The prairie on a crisp, fall day? Yup. Childbirth? Not so much.

Many people in my life happen to have babies either coming soon or already in their arms. I have gathered together the things I learned the hard way; things I wish I’d known before the babies hit the fan. You can thank me later.

You will be covered in truly grotesque substances on a regular basis. You probably have cute little fantasies of changing the diaper of a smiling, gurgling cutie. But if you have a boy, prepare yourself for projectile urination. Keep that little firehose covered or you’ll wind up the subject of ridicule for years to come. My son still gets a kick out of having peed all over his aunt when he was just five days old.

While we’re in the diaper region, I should mention that poop from breast-fed babies doesn’t really smell all that bad. Kind of like old buttered popcorn. Poop from bottle-fed babies is another story. Think standing downwind of a thousand camels.

The other end of your child is dangerous, too. I know of a dad who held his six-month old above his head so he could see her darling face smiling down at him. She had just been fed. She spit up just as he opened his mouth to smile back.

Your child will hurt you. My dad is a Republican. His child (me) grew up to become a Democrat. But that is not the kind of hurt I am talking about.

Your child will quite literally hurt you. When she was about 13-months old, my niece was standing on her changing table facing her mother, who was dressing the little darling. My sister says that my niece started shaking excitedly then dove into my sister’s shoulder and took a gigantic bite. Because my sister is sensible, she screamed then said, “That hurts Mommy.” My niece pulled back, started shaking again and dove for the shoulder again, probably thinking, “I can make Mommy scream!”

My son made Mommy scream when he was about two. Toddler hands are generally covered with a toxic mix of germs and sticky things. On top of that, they tend to be sweaty in the summer. My son grabbed a handful of my hair one day and wouldn’t let go. I screamed. I said, “That hurts Mommy.” He kept pulling. I screamed, “You’re hurting Mommy.” Maybe he was thinking, “I can make Mommy scream!” or maybe his sticky, sweaty hands were glued to my hair. He did not let go. I screamed, “Let go of my hair! Now!” He did not. This lead to . . .

You will hurt your child, once. I smacked his sticky, sweaty toxin-covered hand. He let go. He cried. This lead to . . .

You will feel like the worst parent in the world. I have felt like the worst mother in the world many times since the hair-pulling incident, but have never smacked my children since. I know other parents who have smacked their children once; they felt like the worst parents in the world.

You will feel like the worst parent in the world, even when you are being the best parent in the world. When I worked at a full-time, permanent position in Chicago—otherwise known as a real job—I got to talking about disciplining children with some of the African American women I worked with. They told me that white parents are wimps. One of them even mimicked a white parent, saying, “ ‘Now, Timmy, don’t touch the crystal vase again’.” “You know,” she said, “that Timmy is going to touch that vase again.”

I vowed that I would not be a pansy parent. So, when I was in a store with my son one day and I told him that we would be leaving the store if he did a particular thing again, we left the store when he did the thing. My son did not go gently. He screamed. He kicked. He threw punches. I didn’t even try to make him walk; I dragged him by one arm out the door. People stared at us. People thought I was a terrible parent. I felt like a terrible parent. But soon, I was able to take my child to the store and have him behave appropriately.

Maybe someday, I’ll gather all the wonderful things to expect with your wee—and not so wee—ones. I’m pretty sure you’re ready for those, though. But there was one truly wonderful, absolutely amazing, totally unexpected thing no one told me about.

You will fall completely in love with your child. I don’t mean that you will love your baby; you will. I mean that you will hold your child and wish you could inhale her. You will touch your baby again and again just to feel his warm fuzzy head. You will be fascinated by toes, cheeks, hands. You will tip toe into the nursery just to get another peek at the little person who has changed your life forever.

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