Monday, February 28, 2005

Miracles DO Happen!

(Ed. Note: This post was written for last week, but as you can see by the previous post, I've been a bit preoccupied)

My friends, I am doing a happy dance unlike any I have done in recent years. If you could see me, you'd think we won the lottery or something. This past weekend a miracle occurred. MY SON CUT HIS HAIR!! Woo Hoo! You see, I learned long ago to pick my battles. When the hair thing started with #1 Son I kept my mouth shut. I knew that if I complained, it would only get worse. Besides, hair is not permanent like tattoos or nose rings, right?

Back when he was a baby he had the cutest curly blond hair I had ever seen. My father decided he was starting to look like a girl, so he talked me into taking him for his first hair cut. I was broken-hearted and we haven't seen curls since. As he grew, he never really cared much about his hair, so I always kept it neatly cut short.

That all changed when he hit the "tween" years. First there was the complete shave. He looked like a Marine fresh out of boot camp. There were contours and lumps on his head that I had never noticed before. It was interesting, but at least it was neat. The shave was followed by the spikes. Still short on the sides, the spikes on top were almost shellacked. If the kid tripped and fell into you, you could be impaled. I realized the extent of it when my hair gel started to mysteriously disappear. I finally solved that problem by buying him something called "Hair Cement." That stuff was lethal and a bit expensive, but it achieved the proper "spikage."

I have to admit, I liked the spikes. He went through a phase where he wanted blond tips. You see by this time, his hair had turned a dirty blond color. I had no problem with dyed tips, but I was NOT going to pay $60+ to get it done. No child's hair processing should cost more than mine. I was afraid to do it myself, as I would probably make him look like a skunk, thus causing him undue therapy bills in the future. My MIL offered to do it (she's pretty fearless), but by the time I bought the kit, #1 Son had moved on to a new hairstyle.

Let us call the most recent style "The Greasy Rats Nest." You see, he hit that magic age (13) and decided not only to let it grow, but to only wash it every few days. I blame that Ashton Kutcher moron. I finally badgered him into at least washing it daily (where did all the grease come from? Damned hormones). As far as the mop on his head, well I kept repeating, "Don't sweat the small stuff" over and over to myself. "Don't sweat it" - when the bangs covered the eyes; "Don't sweat it" - when the sides cascaded to his chin; "Don't sweat it" - when the back passed his collar. *sigh* When the hair got so long that I could grab the kid by his feet and mop the floor with him, I started to get annoyed. Still, I was in the habit of gritting my teeth. His father, my ex, on the other hand took to making comments - almost constantly. This would work to my advantage.

This past weekend, #1 went to visit his Dad. He brought my son back to us at The Little One's soccer tournament on Sunday. I almost didn't recognize my own oldest child when he walked into the gym. Who WAS this handsome child? He looked human! His hair is short now and looks nice either spiked (with yet another new brand of hair gel *sigh*) or not. The best part – it wasn't ME who nagged him this time. His Dad is the "bad guy." Every once in a while life hands you a small victory. You need to grab onto it with all your might.

I'm reinforcing this wonderful new look with LOTS of compliments. He's only slightly embarrassed. I keep telling him how wonderful it is to actually see his face again. But then, there's the cloud around the silver lining – I can actually see the teenage scowl now instead of just feeling it. Take the good with the bad, my friends.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Seen and Heard Yesterday

HEARD – "YIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiii!" Followed by what sounded like a herd of bowling balls rolling down the stairs. Screams and crying at the bottom of the stairs.

SAW – The Little One in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs holding her right ankle. Swelling and bruising, lots of tears – 40 minutes worth from a kid that is usually tough as nails. C. rushing into the ER looking like he had seen a ghost but calming down and joking to keep from scaring the kid.

HEARDFrom C.: "I knew you didn't want to clean your room, but you didn't have to throw yourself down the stairs to get out of it!" From the Little One: laughter like I had not heard all day.

SAW – One good looking ER doc who had a great way with kids – no wedding ring. (Thought – what single friends do I have that might want to meet a good looking ER doc?) The Little One wince in major pain when the doc examined her. (Wished it was me instead)

HEARD - From the ER Doc: "Well, it's not broken and I think the tendon is intact. Let's get some x-rays." From The Little One: "Oh my gosh Mom, it hurts SO bad!" (Wished it was me again)

SAW – X-Rays of a foot and ankle, but had no idea what I was looking at.

HEARD From cute ER doc: "It's definitely not broken and the growth plates look undamaged, but it's badly sprained. She'll need to stay off it at least a week." From The Little One: "I am SO still playing my double-header this weekend." Asked cute ER doc to explain why she cannot play soccer this weekend and what could happen if she does. From cute ER doc (with a wink - I think my heart fluttered but it was probably the stress of the day): the horrors of a continued injury and possible surgery. From The Little One: "Bummer."

SAW – A male nurse who looked like a Muppet teaching my kid how to use crutches. The Muppet fitting her for an ankle brace. The kid wince in pain again as the brace was tightened. (Wished it was me for the 20th time that day)

READ – The discharge orders written by the Muppet who obviously heard C. and I joking with The Little One: "Do NOT hit your brother with your crutches!"

SAW – The Little One and #1 Son sword fighting with her crutches 15 minutes after we got back home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Super Nanny Part Two

Today I give you part two of my child rearing "wisdom." Take it with a grain of salt. Yes, these are true methods that worked for me, but I am a 39-year-old woman with a facial tic who is starting to notice more and more gray hair. Oh yeah, and I drink.

Time Out – It works, but you have to use it consistently and YOU have to work at it. Get off your butt and sit over them until they have "served their time." Sorry, you might miss the end of Oprah, but it will be worth it in the end. Until they get the idea that "time out" is not play time you have to be present. I learned this lesson one afternoon when I put #1 Son in a two minute time out in a comfortable chair in the den. As I looked in on him, he was flipped around upside down playing with his feet.

Distraction is your friend. Playing with the buttons on your electronic equipment is not going to end with a simple "no, no Sweetheart, don't do that." Nor does it end with slapping their hands. In fact what that usually gets you is a defiant and angry toddler. Those are scary. They have more willpower than you. Trust me. Instead, take them out of the room by turning their attention to something they are allowed to play with. The key here is that you actually have to participate because when it all comes down to it, they really want your attention. Parking them in front of an Elmo video so you can watch Dr. Phil to learn how to deal with them defeats the purpose. Sitting on the floor playing blocks with them or banging their own toys together will make them forget all about that thousand-dollar TV.

Sending them to their room should not resemble a trip to Disney. If your kid has the entire Electronics Boutique lineup in their room disable the fun stuff. We have been known to remove Playstation controllers, power cords and other essential components. Twice C. has carried a television into our room. I kind of like having the option to watch two different programs at once. If you are too lazy to move the crap out, you'll have to stand guard duty at their door.

Door slamming – This one is actually rather amusing for you. You should probably try not to laugh where they can see you, though. We came up with this solution when the Little One was small. She was a drama queen remember? Stick a washcloth at the top of the door where they can't reach. Nothing frustrates a kid more than NOT hearing that satisfying slam. After a few tries, they give up. That washcloth stayed on top of her door for 6 months, but it finally broke her of the habit.

Does your kid lock himself in his room? Remove the doorknob. Simple. We've gone a couple of years without doorknobs on the rooms of small children. I've talked to other parents who worry about their child's right to "privacy." I'm sorry, if you live in this house, are under the age of 10 and don't have a job, you don't have a right to much of anything, much less a right to lock me out of your room. We're a bit more lenient with this one now that they are older. Locking their sibling out of their room is quite different than barring access to a parent. They do know, however, that they are to immediately open their door if C. or I knock.

Anything they fight over belongs to you. Simple. I used to give them some time to work it out amongst themselves. Conflict resolution is an important skill in adulthood. If they can't come up with a solution, the item is mine. I once brought a set of Legos into my office at work. It kept my coworkers and I occupied for a couple of months. Sure, you can give the stuff back...later. They have to get the message. Also, if they refuse to pick their toys up from the common areas of the house, take them. Put them in a garbage bag and hide them. The added bonus is that when you finally give them back, it's like Christmas all over again and you're a hero.

You know, looking back on it my kids were really good when they were younger. What happened? They say that everyone has a twin and I believe it. We get comments from other adults and teachers all the time: "Your kid is so sweet, kind, polite, empathetic, etc. etc." Huh? You mean THESE kids? I'm left wondering, why does the evil twin live at my house?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Super Nanny

What the heck is wrong with parents today? I watched a show last evening called "Super Nanny." I only lasted the first 5 minutes. It was the stupidest show I have ever seen. The featured family had 2 brats, maybe more? It was hard to tell with all the screaming. Mom and Dad are apparently at wits end. Well, DUH. They've done it to themselves. All being a good parent takes is a major dose of common sense, a bit of intelligence and a sense of humor. These parents (and so many parents today) try to be their children's "friend." Forget that. My kids have enough friends. They need guidance from PARENTS. Besides, it's not like I'd actually choose these people to be my friends on purpose. My friends don't pick their noses, wear diapers, drool all over themselves and babble incoherently. Well, OK some of them do, but that's only after a night at the Pub and hey I didn't actually give birth to any of those people.

The parents on the show were trying to deal with tantrums. Hey, here's some rocket science for you – You CANNOT reason with a toddler. It is impossible. About the best you can do is ride it out until it is over and THEN deal with the problem. The more you give in, the worse the tantrums get – louder, longer, until you want to hide from them in the garage.

As a service, I figured I'd give you some of my tips for getting through the early years. Perhaps in the interest of space (and the fact that I am up to my neck in THREE research projects for school – one of which is my Master's Thesis) I'll make it a 2 part series this week. Today I give you "Dealing With Tantrums" or as I like to call it "How Catt Made it This Far Without Hiding in the Pantry Drinking All the Cooking Wine." Enjoy.

Tantrums at Home – Ignore them. Seriously. I can count on one hand the number of knock down drag out tantrums my son threw as a toddler. He'd throw himself on the floor screaming, and I'd just step over him and go on about my business. Every single time he'd eventually stop, look around, regain his composure and come find me saying, "Mommy?" I’d answer him with, "Are you ready to talk like a big kid now?" It really throws off their plan. My daughter was a bit more of a challenge, because she's a drama queen. I admit there were a couple of times I did the dishes with her climbing my leg screaming, but eventually even she got the message.

Tantrums in Public – Leave. Seriously. Yes, this is inconvenient the first couple of times, but it works. If my kids started throwing a fit over some toy or candy in a store I’d say "No." Once. If it turned into a tantrum we'd leave. Period. I don't know about you, but I cannot shop for anything with a screaming kid. If you give in and buy that toy or candy, just once, to shut the kid up you've bought yourself WAY more than a few minutes of peace. You've bought yourself a bigger and nastier tantrum down the road, probably in the next aisle.

Use your head and plan accordingly. If it's dinnertime, or close to bedtime and you drag the kid out, you're asking for it. I remember one holiday shopping season when #1 Son had just turned two. It was hot in the mall and about a half an hour past his bedtime. When the tantrum started I knew it was because he was overtired, "overmommy" and just plain hot. As I was wrestling with him on the floor near the exit trying to force him into his snowsuit, I looked up into the horrified faces of a young man and his pregnant wife. I could tell from their look that they were thinking "MY child will never act like that!" I did what any desperate overtired Mom would do. I yelled, "OH YEAH?! Well I thought that, TOO! Just you WAIT!" They quickly walked away.

I wonder what that Super Nanny chick gets paid. I might apply for the job.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Teenager Test

Regular readers will remember that I recently posted a list of weird searches that somehow found this blog. If you missed it, you can read it HERE. I plan to do another post like that again soon, but there is one desperate searcher I felt the need to address immediately. The search was "teenager test." Obviously this poor confused soul is so overwhelmed that they are not sure if there is a teenager living in their vicinity. My goal is to be of service, so I give you "The Teenager Test." Please answer YES or NO to the following questions:

1) Does your refrigerator mysteriously empty faster than you can refill it?

2) Are your cupboards starting to resemble those in Mother Hubbard's shoe?

3) Is there now a closed and locked door in your home where you could swear a bedroom used to be?

4) Are there loud rhythmic thumping noises that might loosely be described as "music" coming from that door at all hours?

5) Is the "In Use" light constantly illuminated on your phone?

6) Do you have to continually cleanse your family computer of pop-ups, plug-ins and every other annoying marketing ploy imaginable because someone insists on trying to "catch the monkey to win a free I-pod?"

7) Do you catch fleeting glimpses of some hooded figure occasionally out of the corner of your eye?

8) Does this figure communicate only in grunts, groans and shoulder shrugs if you try to have a conversation with it?

9) Has your water bill doubled because someone insists on taking two showers a day?

10) Is your access to the television always blocked by a lump on the couch? (Ed. Note: Do not answer YES if that lump is your husband or significant other)

11) When you are actually able to take control of your television, is the channel tuned to MTV every time? (Ed. Note: If the channel is always turned to ESPN or something similar, it's probably not a teenager, but again your husband or significant other)

12) When you return to your home, do you lock yourself in your office or room out of fear of the other occupants of the house?

If you answered YES to two or more of these questions, in all probability you are living with a teenager. I cannot give you much advice to survive this trying period in your life, as I myself am just beginning to learn how to deal with this phenomenon. All I can offer you are my sympathies and the hope that if we parents of teens band together, maybe some of us will survive until the kid hits twenty.

United we stand, my friends. God bless us one and all.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Open Letter to My Beloved Family

My Dear Beloved Family:

On this artificial Hallmark Holiday, I am writing to let you know how much I appreciate you. Please know that I love you with all of my heart.

I love the little gifts you leave for me around the house. The stray shoes, crumpled socks, and damp towels on the floor are left out of love. I know this. I realize that you leave these treasures for me so that I will feel like my life has purpose.

Thank you for the sink full of dirty dishes that I frequently find when I come home late at night after a class. I greatly appreciate that you do not wish to upset me by possibly cleaning them and putting them in the wrong cabinet. As you know, having to look an extra two seconds for a bowl might make me angry. Thank you for being concerned about my blood pressure and stress level.

I greatly appreciate that when you occasionally wash a load of clothes you do not wash anything of mine. I must admit that it is sometimes maddening when I do not have any clean underwear or socks, especially when I know you have just done two loads of laundry. Of course, then I realize that you did not throw anything of mine in the load because you did not want to ruin my clothing with shoddy laundry practices. For this I am truly grateful.

Thank you for bringing me the phone when I am sitting on the toilet. You obviously understand that this is my favorite place to talk. I am a busy woman and I appreciate the fact that you do not want me to miss any potentially important call, even if the caller ID says "Out Of Area."

When I am stressed out and writing a paper for school, I feel no greater love than when you come to talk to me. You understand that I get lonely. I appreciate the effort it must take to think of something to ask me...every three minutes.

Thank you for allowing me to do all the grocery shopping. As you know, this is one of my favorite tasks. You have been known to run to the store and bring home bags of chips and candy along with that one tube of toothpaste. I love that you are aware that I would only eat all that junk food myself and become obese. Thank you for saving me from myself.

Finally, thank you for your spontaneity. If you were selfish, you would plan your outfits, gather all your homework and important papers, find your keys, and write out 16 Valentine's Day cards for your class, etc. the night before. Instead, thinking only of my happiness, you know that I live to run around at the last minute searching desperately for things. Thank you for making me feel so needed.

Most of all, thank you for loving me even when I an suffering from a nasty bout of PMS.

All My Love,


Friday, February 11, 2005

Valentine's Day Gifts That Won't Get You Killed

Not my planned post, but for Trashman who has been asking, I give you gifts that won't get you killed.

Flowers – You can never go wrong with flowers, but be original. Roses are boring. NOTE: If your significant other works in an office setting filled with catty women, you MUST send flowers of some kind. You'll know if they are "catty coworkers" if she complains about backstabbing, office gossip, etc. on a regular basis. You can bet that her coworkers are going to get flowers (even if they send them to themselves) and they will flaunt them in her face.

Jewelry – This is a no-brainer in almost all cases. BE CAREFUL, though. If you are not yet married and there is any chance she is expecting an engagement ring, do NOT get any piece of jewelry that comes in a small ring-like box. No matter how gorgeous the earrings are or how cute that little $99 created ruby heart ring is, she will be disappointed because it is not "The" ring.

Spa Gift Certificates – Most women, especially those with kids, don't pamper themselves much. Do it for her. Gather up your courage and enter that frightening place where she gets her hair cut to get a gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure. Perhaps a facial or massage is something she would enjoy. Many of those places have package deals. Get her something she would not normally splurge on for herself.

Maid Gift Certificate – I'm serious. Appeal to her inner Martha Stuart, the one she would be if you and the kids weren't messing up the house all the time. Give her a day or two off and hire a cleaning service for a one-time gig, or more. If your house looks like mine does, assure her that you and the kids will clean it (and DO IT) before the cleaning service gets there so she won't fear outsiders actually knowing you live this way. Some of us are worried that we will become fodder for jokes around the cleaning service water cooler.

Hotel Certificate – A bed and breakfast weekend is fabulous, but not all of us are capable of printing money on our home computers. Look into a hotel that is close to you. Many have package deals for a night of romance in a suite. Avoid Motel 6. Get an overnight babysitter – children are NOT romantic. Do not schedule it for Valentine's Day. Remember, you are being creative. Schedule it for next weekend.

Special Night at Home – If you are on a tight budget, all is not lost. Buy a movie that you would never in a million years watch with your buddies (or admit you ever watched). If things blow up, it contains gallons of blood or slashing, skip it. Think more Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in "Ghost." Ditch the kids if you have them. Perhaps you can trade off babysitting with another friend who wants to similarly treat his wife – no need to tell him your movie choice. Moms work out this babysitting trade all the time. Gather your courage. You CAN do it, too. Buy a nice bottle of wine, a loaf of French bread and some cheese (not American processed cheese product – ask in your grocery store for help), some expensive chocolates and watch your movie with her. Light a few candles, too. They never hurt.

Make Her a CD – This is a no-brainer if you have a CD burner on your computer. Make her a CD to go along with ANY other gift you choose. The CD should include "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel, "All I Want Is You" by U2 and "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green. Yes, this is a bit smarmy, but carries benefits for you in the long run. After a crappy day she can plug in the disk and think dreamily of how romantic you are. If you are lucky, she will relax and won't take her crappy day out on you. When you do something stupid, I mean if you and she get into an argument, you can pop in the disk and defuse the tension. She will calm down and maybe even laugh it off. That is of course, unless she reads this blog. In that case, you're screwed.

You have 3 days left. Good luck.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Clarification and Addendum to VD Post Below

OK gang. I titled the post "VD is Imminent" purposefully. VD = Valentine's Day = Venereal Disease: potato = potatoe. Same thing. Chalk it up to my sick and twisted sense of humor.

Here are a couple of do NOT buy gifts to add to the list below. I meant to put them in the last post, but hey...I'm forgetful.

Adult Novelties - Stay away from these unless they are something you and your significant other have used and/or shopped for before. A huge toy accompanied by a leering grin might not be her idea of romantic if you've never discussed it.

Lingerie - If you have no idea what size she wears, buy something at least a size or two (or three) smaller than you THINK she MIGHT wear. Save the receipt. Better for her to think YOU think she's skinny than to buy a size 28. You will thank me later. This goes for any article of clothing.

Convenience Store Items - Under no circumstances should you haphazardly grab the first thing you see in the line at your local 7-11 while picking up your 12 pack of brewskies. She runs in there too, and she will know exactly where the last minute "thong rolled up to look like a rose" came from.

Monday, February 07, 2005

VD is Imminent

Back when I was a single mother, I spent a few years as a bartender for a restaurant in the mall. The tips were fantastic, and I really enjoyed working with people all day. One of the best times of the year for tips was during the first two weeks of February. I believe this phenomenon was because of my advice to male bar patrons who stopped in for beer(s) before facing that treacherous minefield known as Valentine's Day gift shopping. I'd like to impart my wisdom, garnered from my previous experience, to you.

Kitchen Appliances – Regardless of the fact that your mate may have commented in passing that she thought (insert name of kitchen appliance here) was cool, she will not appreciate the fact that this is the one time you actually heard her. While the bread machine and waffle iron were really cool, I can honestly say that I never once made that man waffles or homemade bread. I am capable of holding a grudge for years.

Housework Helpers – Unless the vacuum comes with a maid or the dryer includes a laundress, skip it. Valentine's Day is not the time to be practical.

Computer Games – This is especially true if your significant other does not play computer games. She will see through your rationale that it will be something you can "do together," especially if the game is one you've been dying to play.

Home Cooking – Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to save some cash by making a gourmet meal for your significant other if you cannot cook. This is not the time to learn. That recipe for Beef Wellington may look easy, but trust me it is not. When pregnant with my son, the flash fire from the kitchen startled me so badly that I almost went into premature labor.

Chocolate – If you have any inkling at all that your significant other is on any sort of diet, do NOT buy a monster box of chocolates. You will be accused of sabotaging her, because not only will she be so upset that she eats the entire box, but she will chase it with a carton of ice cream.

Exercise Equipment – Conversely, no matter how much she has said she needs a treadmill, Nordic Trak, Thigh Master, etc. actually purchasing one as a Valentine's Day gift could get you killed. She will say that you think she is fat and you will pay for your indiscretion for years. Interestingly, I eventually learned that the Nordic Trak is a great place to hang clothing. By then, however, the marriage was over.

Gentleman, there are 6 shopping days left until Valentine’s Day. Good Luck.

Name: Cattiva
Location: Virginia, United States

About Me: I'm the mom of three: #1 Son (20), The Princess of Wails (17) and their baby brother - The Baby (6). I was a grad-student working on an MA in history until we were surprised - I mean blessed - with The Baby. I'll get back to it...someday (the thesis, not the kid - I have no choice concerning the kid). I am one of only a few people I went to school with who is actually using their history degree in my career (and to think my Father called it Basket-weaving!). I live a very hectic life amongst massive clutter. I call it a good day if we have managed to get home at night without losing one of the kids (no matter how hard I try!). Friends say I have a humorous take on life's happenings. The sad part is that what I write about is true. I laugh to keep from crying.

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