Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why I’m a terrible mother. Otherwise known as why they might never find a cure for cancer.

In my defense, it sounded ludicrous. "Mommy, Mommy, we’re going to have a bake sale to cure cancer." Really? We’re one cookie away from a cure? Who knew?

In my defense, I had very short notice. "Can you just bake everything in this book that has a sticky note? We’ll do it on Sunday." In two days? Two days in which you have a figure skating competition, a basketball game, an end-of-season pizza party and an awards show? Oh, yeah, and Jack and Daddy and I have lives, too.

In my defense, I didn’t think they’d have much success. "How cold will it be? Really? So maybe we sell hot chocolate instead of lemonade?" No, Caroline, the hot chocolate will freeze upon exposure to the elements. Stick to vodka for the parents. It never freezes, and they’ll mix it with the lemonade.

In my defense, my daughter’s philanthropic sales always mean a lot of work for me, a playdate for her and limited financial success for the organization. "Remember how I saved the sea turtles last summer?" Yes. Your $9 donation to the conservancy ended the plight of sea turtles everywhere.

So I gave a very dramatic, unsupportive sigh and said, "Fine. I’ll make something. But I have to already have all the ingredients in my kitchen. Because I’m too busy running you from activity to activity to go by the store." (Fine, I didn’t say that last sentence, but I thought it, and it sounded meaner than that in my head.)

And so, because I’m passive aggressive and because I didn’t know what these were doing lurking in my dry food closet, I unleashed the worst punishment I could think of: I used boxed cake mixes. (Oh, stop it. It’s just a thing I have. I like to bake from scratch. I do eat fish sticks, so see? I’m normal. Insofar as eating fish sticks makes me normal.)

So I came home from the post-basketball party Saturday night and baked up a storm with all my boxed mixes. I was still chanting, "Waste of time, waste of time, waste of time" in my head, but at least I was producing.

Sunday morning, we did our church and Sunday school thing. I was still annoyed about the bake sale, primarily because I was hearing, "And can you get the card table? And can I have money to make change? And do you have napkins and maybe a basket and perhaps some bags and ribbons for the cookies and maybe can we run by the store and get cookies if it looks like there aren’t any because, after all, the signs do say 'cookies for cancer' so we need cookies, right?"

Then I saw something posted on the neighborhood listserv, by my similarly-imposed-upon friend – the mother of Caroline’s cohort.

"Two industrious 4th graders will be selling lemonade, hot chocolate and yummy baked goods today with all proceeds going to cancer research, and a local young mother battling stage 4 breast and brain cancer." (PR. And she spent an entire day baking. She's just a better mother than I am, though not significantly less sarsactic.)

Then Caroline asked me if she could donate some of the money to Kyle.

Then I got it. This wasn’t about me being put out. This wasn’t about Caroline sabotaging our weekend. This was about two little girls who know people with cancer, and who thought they could help, in the only way little girls can.

And I felt terrible. Which is how I usually feel when I think I’ve underestimated my kids.

So I got the card table and bought extra cookies and packaged them with pink and green ribbon and drove Jack over with a wad of cash and asked my neighbors to stop by.

And those little girls made $160 in two hours. And I just pledged a chunk of it to a fundraiser in which Kyle is going to shave his head for kids with cancer, which just gives me chills, and tears, thinking of the years in which a bald head wasn’t his choice.

Sometimes my kids remind me that I still have a lot to learn.

(And, truth be told, sometimes they remind me they have vast earning potential if I can come up with a worthy cause.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yet another reason Mommy drinks

My adorable, innocent first grade son usually comes home from school and tells me something interesting he learned.

Usually it’s about continents or dinosaurs or multiplication.

Tonight, however, this was our dinner table conversation:

Jack: Hey, Mommy, I learned a new word today.

Me, thinking it will be evidence of advanced verbal intelligence: Really, honey? What is it?

Jack, proudly: Fuckerdoodle!

Me, horrified: Jack, no. You can’t ever say that word. There’s a very bad word in there.

Jack: Yeah. I know. Fuck. Eddie taught me that one, too.

And in a split second, I reversed my decision and chose to give up chocolate for Lent instead of wine.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To Lent or to relent...that's the question

Oh, man, Lent starts tomorrow. You’ll either a) completely understand this post and empathize with me, or b) not understand it and mutter “Damn crazy religious lunatic” under your breath. But that’s okay.

For me, since I was a little girl, I have known about Lent. Lent means, in a non-religious nutshell, giving something up from now until Easter (and yes, I get the religious significance of it, too, but that’s not what’s important right now.)

Since I was a little girl, I’ve crunched my eyes shut and thought and thought about what I could, realistically, give up for 40 days. It’s run the gamut, from bubble gum to television to sarcasm (yeah, so, that one didn’t really stick).

As I’ve gotten older, and since I’ve had children, two main vices have emerged in my life: wine and chocolate. One of them gets put on the chopping block for 40 spring days. Every year.

Coincidentally, it’s kind of right when I’m ready to shed a few pounds.

And so Lent has become my annual, God-mandated diet.

And so I. Cannot. Screw. It. Up.

Because on some level, I am sure that if a Godiva chocolate or ’97 cabernet passes my lips, Heaven is just going to be off the table for me.

The stakes are high.

It’s gotta be one of them.

(But not both of them at once, because come on….even God doesn’t want me to be a total bitch.)

So I have a decision to make.

So then I start this process of looking at my calendar and previewing the next 40 days, to decide which one will be the lesser evil. Would I rather not have Caroline’s chocolate birthday cake or skip a glass of wine with my husband as we celebrate the same day? When we go away for spring break, will I be okay going out to dinner and drinking water or would it be better to skip the brownie fudge sundae?

And no, I’m not an alcoholic or a chocoholic, it’s just that we’re talking a looooong time from the chilly days of February to a sun-soaked Easter brunch in April. And I want to set myself up for success.

So I could give up something that’s already a struggle for me, like being patient. That would totally set me up for success, but I wouldn’t lose any weight AND it just wouldn’t get me the same celestial credit as giving up wine or chocolate.


And then, if I tell you, the pressure’s really on.

Sigh again.

I'll just go have a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies and a couple dozen glasses of wine and think this over.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The best gift of all

In the almost-year since I started this blog, I’ve made a blogger friend. Her name is Rachel and she blogs at Hands Free Mama...her mission is to get all of us, as parents, away from our iPhones and Blackberries and to-do lists long enough to really be present with our children. Since I have a pretty frenetic life, sometimes her posts are hard for me to read. However, she does make me think. So, Rachel, this one is for you.

Yesterday was a DAY. It began at 6:00 a.m., when Caroline was ready to package the cookies she I had made for her valentines. She wanted heart shaped cookies with a window-pane center, which was a melted hard candy. Quite unfortunately, she had taken pre-orders from about 45 kids, so she knew their preferred Jolly Rancher flavor. So at the crack of dawn (literally), she’s screaming down the assembly line (made up of me and Jack), “I need a blue raspberry over here! No, the watermelon goes in that bag. Green apple? I didn’t ask for green apple! People, WORK with me!” (Thankfully, she later put her drama to a more appreciated use in the class play.)

My whole day was spent running balloon and cupcake and cookie errands and then at the school, running from one class party to the other, ferrying treats back and forth, taking pictures, videotaping, serving kids, cleaning up...in general, it was chaos. After school remained just as crazy. Finally, twelve hours after my day began, I’d had enough. The kids were strung out. We were all completely exhausted.

Whit was out of town, so it was just me and Jack and Caroline.

We ordered pizza and put on our pajamas.

And sat on the family room floor and ate pizza straight out of the box and watched Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

And cuddled.

And laughed.

And, my friend Rachel, I thought of you. Because as I sat there with those kids next to me, and as I laughed with them (and yes, as I warned them not to spill milk on the rug and reminded them to eat their carrots, because I am, after all, still me), I realized that, without a doubt, it was my very favorite part of Valentine’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong; I loved the treats and the parties and the play and the excitement. But I didn’t want that movie to end.

So, kids, when you’re older and you find this blog, despite all my attempts to hide it from you, I just want you to know that you really were my Valentine's Day present yesterday.

And Jack, you’re right.

Love doesn’t take much work at all.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Hallmark Holiday

My husband thinks Valentine’s Day is a made-up waste of money. I tell him it’s a good day to show love.

He replies that he shows love when he brings me perfectly prepared coffee in bed every morning. He replies that he shows love when he builds Legos with Jack or works on a puzzle with Caroline. He replies that he shows love all day, every day, and he doesn’t need a holiday to prove it.

My children think Valentine’s Day rocks. I tell them it’s not, in fact, a major holiday.

They reply that we need to decorate the house. They reply that they hope I will do what I do every year, which is leave a heart-shaped box of chocolates and some other wrapped treats on the breakfast table for each of them. They reply, “Mommy, can we pleeeeease host the Girl Scouts Valentine’s Day party?” They reply that Jack must have Fun Dips to attach to his valentines (easy to buy) and Caroline must have window-pane heart cookies to attach to hers (pain in the ass to make). They reply that we have to go out to dinner and can they have heart-shaped pancakes and oh oh oh chocolate-dipped strawberries for one class party and funky little chocolate/pretzel/m&m treats for another class party and “Mom! You signed up to bring goldfish AND juice boxes, don’t forget” and “Mommy, get the balloons at 10 am and then the cupcakes at 11 am and don’t forget I’m Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and can you videotape it on my iTouch and your camera too?” and can I cut out 100 hearts to help with a project and when I have cheese and crackers for the Girl Scouts can the cheese be heart shaped..and..and...and...

I have to WORK to show love. It’s required by these little people.

Which explains why, as Whit and Caroline were gone all day yesterday skiing, I enlisted Jack to help me get ready for tomorrow. We baked. We dipped. We cut hearts and affixed stickers and sorted Fun Dips. We got a lot done. It took a while.

Last night, he unrolled a looooooong sheet of butcher paper and started drawing. He drew sea creatures and aliens and snails and then wrote in huge bubble letters, “Welcome Home Daddy and Caroline.”

I glanced at him.

“Seriously, Jack? They’ve been gone one day. Not even overnight.”

“Yeah, but I missed them. Staying home with you is boring. We didn’t do anything.”

“Well, kind of, you guys had a lot of requests for Valentine’s Day, and we worked really hard to get things ready.”

“That’s not fun. Being with Daddy is fun.”

“But buddy, I’m doing all this work because I love you and Caroline!”

He snorted indignantly.

“Mommy, love isn’t supposed to take work. You need to relax a little bit.”

I stared at him.

I’m going to die young.

I can just tell.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A bird in the hand…should stay in the hand and get out of the bush

Three times.

Three different times, three different streets.

Three different ROASTED CHICKENS my dog has found in the bushes of my suburban neighborhood.

He stops dead in his tracks, he sniffs the air, his ears perk up, and then he dashes into the landscaped front yard of someone’s home.

And comes out with a fully cooked, untouched roasted chicken in his mouth.

(Did I mention this has happened three times?)

At which point I:

1. Wrestle him to the ground and try to pry his iron-clad jaws open while not dropping the poop bag I’ve been carrying for the last mile, and

2. Try logic: “You will choke on those bones. Don’t you understand? And a whole chicken is too much chicken. You’ll barf. Aren’t you listening to me?” and


It’s been insane.

And this is not a joke. Or exaggerated. It has truly happened three times.

My husband, who is very accustomed to hearing bizarre stories from me, listened impassively. He didn’t laugh. He didn’t look incredulous. He just said,

“If you had done a better job training him, he’d also find mashed potatoes, string beans and a bottle of wine. Then you wouldn’t have to cook dinner.”