Monday, April 30, 2012

Postcards from mommyland

My show wrapped up yesterday, which means a) I have more time in the evenings for writing and actually, you know, giving my kids real dinner and b) I have to get back on the exercise bandwagon, as I am no longer going to be dancing tap-intensive numbers several hours a day, several days a week. Couch to 5k resumes again tomorrow. I completed the program once, but if I could get all the way from "Run? Am I being mugged?" to "I can run three miles!" in under three months, I imagine a two month hiatus has brought me right back to "I must be being chased."

In celebration of the warmer months, I ordered an arm band for my phone/music player, because my warm weather running shirt has a tiny pocket for such things, and the only time I ran with it I got half a block away before I watched in horror as said phone worked its way around the shoddy zipper and went flying onto the asphalt. Otterbox, we thank thee for the protection thou hast provided my insanely overpriced fourth child...

But as usual I digress. Today I visited a preschool with Mary, as she just misses the kindergarten cutoff in our state for next year and I want her in something that's full day, at least a couple of days a week. The school we're looking at is bright, cheery and a lot of learning is play-based, which I like, because hey, she's only four. There's plenty of time for worksheets and homework. Mary is a smart kid and I'm glad she's going to be in school a little more in the fall, though I keep looking over my shoulder and wondering how the heck five years went by so fast.

So yes. I have bright kids. At least I think I do...

Dear Anna:

I know you like to go outside. When Mommy goes out to get the mail or get something out of the car, I know you enjoy standing at the screen door and watching. But baby, for me, could you please stop licking the screen? The neighbors are starting to stare. 

Dear Lily,
I know you think the world is made of food. I know you like to try and feed yourself and that's something I'm happy to encourage, since I'm with you, purees are kind of funny looking. But when I put a tiny bowl of chopped-up-whatever-we're-eating on your tray and you gleefully dump the bowl over and start chewing on the rim, I start to think you're not quite as ready as you think you are.

Dear Mary and Anna,

You have a room full of developmentally appropriate toys. You have a swing set in the yard. You have blocks and a little train set and all kinds of wonderful things. So why is your favorite game shoving your feet in the other sister's face, so the other sister will scream in delight "Ew, stinky feet!!!"? I need to know. Also, the day I went down the hall to get dressed and heard you screaming "stinky butt!!!"? Yeah, I can only imagine, but I don't want to. 

General announcements:
The cat is not a ride on toy.

Bowls are not hats.
If you shove toilet paper down the sink, Mommy's happy face goes away.

If you smear food on your shirt, I am going to clean it. You do not get to complain about this.

Oh yeah.

Once more.

Dear Ingrates, 

If you refuse to eat dinner for whatever reason (the sky is blue, you suddenly hate tacos, your sister complained so you feel you must as well), we are not getting ice cream. We are especially never getting ice cream from the creepy truck that drives through every. damn. day. right at dinner hour and sometimes plays Christmas carols. Call it an executive decision.


"Mean mommy! Mean mommy!"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The best laid plans and all that

Today I took Mary for her four year pictures. She celebrated her birthday with lunch at American Girl with Mommy...back in October, when it was her, you know, birthday. My goal for next year is to get them done in January or February and then slowly edge back to October by the time she's seven or so. Because I'm great like that.

My in laws came along to help me baby wrangle and to watch the spectacular, and I have to say, Mary did great. She smiled for the camera, didn't get stubborn about poses, and generally had fun. We concluded with lunch at the food court, since our restaurant of choice wouldn't open for another half an hour, and really, I wasn't going to push my luck with Miss Lily's contentedness for that long.

The older girls settled in to burgers and fries, and then Mary noticed the various mechanical ride-on vehicles in the center of the food court.

"Mommy, after lunch can we ride on those cars?"

"No, hon, they cost money and Mommy doesn't have any quarters." (When do I ever have quarters? I imagine in the near future even the mechanical horses and boats of the world will take credit cards.)

"Okay, Mommy."

She and Anna wrapped it up with lightning speed and minimal ketchup spillage, and Sue and I were still eating. Paul had meandered off to purchase golf balls, and Lily was finishing up a course of applesauce with gusto.

"Mommy, can we sit on the cars?" The cars, it should be noted, were barely 10 feet away and the food court was empty.

"Sure, I guess," I  answered. "But remember, I don't have quarters, so don't ask. You can pretend to ride them, but when it's time to leave, you need to come back."

"YAAAAAAY!" They were off like a shot. They pretended to drive a boat, serve ice cream  from the truck, race a car. Mary found herself sitting in some kind of kiddie roller coaster simulator when one of the mall's custodians came by.

"HI!" (The world is Mary's best friend. Stranger danger? What's that?)

"Hello," the woman said. She was somewhere between my age and my mother in law's, and didn't seem perturbed by an overly friendly preschooler keeping her from work.

"We are riding on these cars," Mary continued in a conversational tone. "But Mommy doesn't have any money so we are just pretending!" And then, to my horror, I see the woman reaching into her pocket and pulling out some dollar bills.

"Oh, no, that's okay!" Sue and I call over. "She's fine!"

"No, I want to," the lady said, and now I'm feeling bad, because a custodian job can't pay that much, and we just bought pictures, and here's my kid saying we're broke as a joke.

"It's really okay," I said, walking over. "Thank you so much, but she's fine."

"No, no," the kind stranger insisted, and slipped a dollar bill into the roller coaster simulator. Mary grinned.

"That's really very kind," I said. "Thank you."

And nothing happened.

We pressed the start button. Nothing.

We pressed the money return button. Nothing.

We pressed start again.

Are you noticing a pattern?

"That was so nice of you," I said. "Thank you anyway. Mary, thank the really nice lady."

"Thank you anyway!" Mary chirped. I went back to my chair, in time to notice another custodian come by and the lady stop him. Now there were two people trying to make the simulator work, I am blushing and wanting to crawl in a hole, and Mary has wandered off to drive the ice cream truck again. At this point I saw my father in law, explained the situation and he got some quarters and started the ice cream truck up.

The two custodians gave up on the simulator (and hopes of retrieving the lost dollar) and walked away. Mary and Anna pretended to serve ice cream and laughed up a storm, their giggles echoing around the still nearly empty food court.

I hope that lady wins the Lottery or something.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crazy Mom Typing

You know how you're supposed to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night? Yeah, I think over the last two or three nights I've maybe totaled that, and I am teetering close to Mombie status. The reason is that Lily is teething and sleeping like crap, and when Lily sleeps poorly, so do I. Unlike my husband, who I swear could sleep through the zombie apocalypse, I hear everything.

Sunday night I came home from the play and crashed for about an hour, which was a big mistake, as I was then wide awake until about 1 a.m. ... at which point Lily started up for the night. Got her back to bed about 2 or 3, and the older girls woke up at 5 or 6 for the day. It was quite similar last night, minus the nap but adding more wake ups from Miss Lily.

I tell you all this not to garner sympathy but to provide you some context for my absolutely stupid behavior this morning.

Around 7:30 I remembered that Mary is supposed to bring six or seven pictures of herself, from baby until now, for a "growing up" book they're working on. Like most of today's parents, I own very few hard copies of photos. So I selected a few files, went to the local chain drug store's web site, placed a print order for same day pick up and called it good. Got the e-mail they were ready, and planned to pick them up on the way to school.

Between 7:30 and 9:30 Lily decided she was overtired but was certainly not going to nap, was hungry but was certainly not going to nurse, but was decidedly going to let me (and the entire neighborhood) know just how livid she was about the whole thing. I was stressed, overtired, and near hysterical (as my poor husband and mother in law can attest, as they got stuck with me on the phone) as I put the kids in the car. I was also feeling like a failure, as the letter of the day was "O" and I could think of nothing to send with Mary for show and tell. I tried to cut out an octagon and failed. Halfway to school I realized that oval also starts with O and is a heck of a lot easier to draw on the fly. Oh well.

"It's okay, Mommy," Mary said. "My teacher always brings extra show and tells for the kids who forget."

"Glad to hear it, Mary, because today you're that kid," I said.

Get to the drugstore, the clerk seems confused about my print order but finds it by the register. Seven prints, a buck and change, and I herd all three kids back into the car, explaining on the way how we are not there to buy jelly beans, junky toys or nail polish. Get into the car, realize only four prints were in there, and none of them are of newborn baby Mary, just toddler Mary. Which kind of defeats the purpose.

Back into the store. The clerk seems confused again.

"I paid for seven prints," I said. "There are four in here." The clerk slowly (did I mention we're running late) counts the prints.

"Oh," she said. I count to ten. Slowly.

"Right," I said. "And it's for a project and I need the other ones." Clerk tries to say only four printed. I show her the slip that says seven printed. I ask for the prints. She looks around. Slowly. She goes to the kiosks and tries to bring up my order. Slowly.

She turns to look at me (slowly). She starts to head back to the kiosks. At this point I've determined that someone has probably taken the other pictures. (Hello, crazy.)

"I'm running late," I say, and I feel tears springing to my eyes, which pisses me off even more, because I hate crying and I hate crying in public the most. My best friends have maybe seen me cry once or twice in all the years I've known them because I don't do that. Call it a personal hangup.

"Oh," she said. "That's too-"

"AND SO SOME CREEPER PROBABLY HAS THREE PICTURES OF MY BABY," I snap far too loudly for 10 a.m., run out of the store without my refund, and immediately burst into tears. The clerk and the manger watch me leave. Slowly.

Get to school, realize picture due date is Thursday. When Mary won't be there anyway because she has an appointment to - HAHA - get her pictures taken.

Sorry, Tim, it looks like until we move north, you're going to have to pick up all of our prescriptions, because you married a psycho.

I'll be waiting for my Mother of the Year award any time now.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The unstoppable force

I don't exactly believe in karma, but I've seen the old home movies of my childhood and it seems fitting that what went around is coming right back in the form of my eldest daughter, because we are exactly the same (which amuses the hell out of my mother sometimes). She's cheerful, and fun, and interesting (and I am having a hard time writing about her great qualities, not because she doesn't have them but because I just said she's just like me and wow, conceited much)...and stubborn as all get out and has the same elephantine memory her mother has, and when we go toe to toe, it's something.

I try to pick my battles. I think any parent does. And, like any parent, some days are better than others.

Anyway. Some days Mary naps, other times she does not. Today I walked in to find she had been having "quiet time" instead - fine - and had taken a bunch of clothes out of her drawers and changed outfits - not fine. I know it seems like a small thing, but she makes an incredible mess when she does it and also, I think Homegirl thinks she's Britney Spears because if it were up to her she'd undergo several hundred "costume changes" a day, and sorry, I hate laundry enough without having to fish last spring's tutu out from behind the couch so I can wash it alongside the Christmas shirt that wound up disgustingly close to the cat box.

"Mary," I said. She looked up. She knew.

"I wanted to wear this," she said, indicating a thick cotton knit dress with long sleeves - did I mention it's about 70 degrees today? - and glancing around at the other clothes littering the floor.

"You know you're not supposed to go into your drawers like this," I said. "You can maybe wear that tomorrow, but right now I want you to pick up these other clothes and get back into the outfit you had on before naptime."

I'll spare you the details, but she dug her heels in and I wasn't giving up on this one because she knows, darn it, and she wasn't giving up because, well, she's four, darn it, and she announced she was not going to change, she was not going to come out of her room, and that was that. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth commenced - this time not from me. At some point I went in and literally took the knit dress off of her.

"Now," I said. "You can have this dress back tomorrow. But you can't wear it today. Put that skirt and shirt on or when it's time to get Daddy at the train station I will put you in your car in your panties and you can look silly all afternoon."


Need I mention the outfit was a lovely pink t-shirt and floral print skirt, and, more to the point, she had picked it out herself not a week prior when we had gone shopping for warm weather clothes?

At some point I wound up on the phone with my mother in law, who was treated to the dulcet tones of my preschooler running screaming through the house demanding her dress back.

"She's really mad," Sue observed.

"Yeah, she's pretty pissed about this one," I agreed. "Mary! Put your clothes on so we can go outside. It's too nice to be in here all day!"


Kid, really? Are you new here?

"Yes, I'm so motivated to do that right now," I said, more to Sue than to Mary. We laughed.

"Let me talk to her," Sue said.

"Mary, Mim wants to talk to you!"


"Mary, that is rude. You can't be rude to people. Come talk to your grandmother."

"I! AM! BUSY!"


That's funny, because the last time I looked down the hall, Mary was "busy" sitting in her stuffed animal bucket, wearing a Little Mermaid tiara and glaring at me.

"You're busy?" At this point I can barely keep from laughing. It's not that it was cute or funny. It wasn't. Sassy kids piss me off. It was just so flipping absurd I didn't know what else to do. "What, pray tell, are you busy with?"


At this point Anna, who had been observing the tennis match, glanced over.

"I wanna talk to Mim."

And so she did.

And a few minutes later I went down the hall, ignored my daughter, and cleaned the winter clothes out of her drawers, which was what I had been planning on doing anyway. Mary asked what I was doing, and I told her. Then I told her to put her clothes on.

And so she did.

And I am fearing what this may look like in 10 years.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


...soon to become a semi regular feature on here, also known as "the things kids say/do that keep you humble as hell."

Today we went to a christening at a church we don't normally attend. A very kind woman offered to show Mary and Anna the children's room. Mary wanted to go, Anna didn't, so I dropped one off and returned to the which point Anna whispered "wanna go with Mary" and back we went.

I opened the door to see my daughter dancing around, singing. Hymns? Of course not.

"Weeeeee're in the money, in the money, WE GOT A LOTTA WHAT IT TAKES TO GET A LONG!"

"Hi Mary," I said. The nursery workers were steadfastly pretending the show wasn't going on, and I decided to play along.

"This is Anna, she's going to give it another try," I said.

"Hi, Anna," the nursery woman said brightly.


"Anna," I said, more for everyone else's benefit, "I know we just went potty but if you have to go let your teacher know and she'll come get mommy."

"Okay," she said. The teacher smiled. She tried to start talking to me about potty training. We were largely unsuccessful.



"Mary, what about singing a church song?"


At that point it was argue with a preschooler and miss the rest of the message or remind myself we were never going to see these people again and slink out of the nursery door. I chose option B and let my four year old regale the childcare workers with the song stylings of Al Dubin and Harry Warren.

Sorry, volunteers at United Methodist. I wish I could say something in my defense, but all I'm coming up with is "at least it wasn't 'Pumped Up Kicks' or the Glee version of 'Bust Your Windows'."

Go in peace.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Milkman's on his way

Mary, having been enrolled in a ballet/tap class for almost a year now, and having watched many hours of Angelina Ballerina before I banned the whiny little rat from the airwaves, considers herself something of an expert on dance performance. And since she has been watching me head out to rehearsal after dinner several times a week since January, she was more than intrigued and desperate to see what Mommy had been working on in her spare time.

"I want to go see you dance on the stage," she said repeatedly. I was nervous, however. Not that I didn't think she could handle the show's subject matter (It's 42nd Street, which in the world of performing arts is a freaking sugar cookie), but because I didn't know if she could handle two plus hours of sitting still and not talking and I was scared to try that out in a house full of paying audience members. My director came to the rescue and allowed her to attend the final dress rehearsal, in the company of my friend Meg.

There's nothing like getting a four year old's perspective on your months of hard work (and let me tell you, turning my sorry self into a tap dancer of any class was hard work).

The first time I stepped on the stage I heard a joyous "Mama!" from center house. That was an ego boost (and also affirmed my suspicions that, like her "mama," Mary is apt to comment her way through any performance. My mother hates to watch many films with my father and me for this reason. We're horrible). Then, apparently, she got annoyed whenever I left the stage. She would ask Meg where I'd gone. Apparently Mary felt I deserved constant stage time (that's my girl!).

Then there were the parts of the show she probably didn't get. People tripping over phone cords. People thrilled about finding a dime in a trash can (I'm not even 100 percent sure if, in this world of debit and credit, Mary could identify a dime on her own power). She wanted to know why people were so cranky (for those unfamiliar with the show, the main actress Dorothy is something of a...force to be reckoned with. And by that, I mean mean alcoholic. Maybe the subject matter is somewhat mature for a preschooler). And when the act one finale hit, from the audience, there was a loud "IS THE SHOW OVER NOW?"

So maybe we wait a few more years before bringing her to Broadway. But she was thrilled to go and wants to go back. I remember being eight or so and seeing some second cousin in a production of "Carousel." That's when I realized I wanted to be on stage, too. I wonder if Mary's got the acting bug herself now.

After hearing Mary and Anna fight over a napkin this afternoon, resulting in much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I took it away (literally, a napkin from Subway, and they were tugging it back and forth, about to go all Solomon on the thing), they certainly already have a flair for the dramatic.

I guess we'll see at the dance recital in June.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Twas the night before Easter

...and all through the house, a Slacker Mom's slacking, and starting to grouse.

Fortunately I decided to buy the kids' Easter stuff last Friday (payday, ahoy!) because on Tuesday I woke up with the plague again. Cue another beautiful week with my kids bouncing off the walls of what started to feel like a far too small ranch home while I huddled on the couch wearing three sweaters and with the heat jacked up, popping Tylenol like it was candy. (If I need a liver transplant after all this, do I have any volunteers?) I'm finally functional again today, so I was able to go out and get the holiday grocery shopping done, but I am feeling way behind on the whole "making the holiday special for my family" thing.

Oh yeah, and the house looks like a bomb went off in it, but Tim is helping take care of that.

Mary caught me walking in with the bag from Target, which included two huge bubble wands sticking out of the top ($1.99, and they love them, can't beat that).

"What's that blue and that pink thing?" she asked.

"They're for poor kids," I said.


"For Easter.," I said, already regretting the decision to lie to a kid who is probably smarter than I am.

"Oh," she said, looking completely confused.

So later that evening I came clean about the Easter Bunny, because really? While I can play into Santa, the bunny thing is a little too far-reaching even for my tastes. Frankly, I had no idea she even knew what the Easter Bunny was, but sure enough, she had a vague idea about a rabbit and some candy.

"It's a fun game," I said. "We give candy - Mommy and Daddy buy it for you and Anna and Lily gets a little toy - and it's a fun way to help celebrate Easter. And now you know and you can play the game, too. But you can't tell the other kids at school."

"Okay," she said very seriously.

"Besides, for us, that's not what Easter is all about. You know what Easter is all about."

"I don't," she said. Okay, Protestant Mommy Fail. I swear we've talked about this before. Last year she told her Sunday School teacher all about Palm Sunday and she wasn't even four then. But somehow, I realized, she had no idea what we were celebrating, and thought tomorrow was just about a nice dress and candy and a bubble wand (although maybe she still thinks those are for the "poor kids").

"Is it all about Big Jesus?" she asked, and I cracked up.

"Yes, it's about grown up Jesus," I said. "He was very kind, and loved everyone, and helped people. He made people who were sick better, and he loved children, and he told people all about his father, God. And a lot of people loved him, but some people were angry and scared about what he said. And they arrested Jesus." I paused, not wanting to get too graphic, but wanting to get the general idea across. "And they killed him, but he didn't stay dead. He came back!"

"Oh," Mary said, as if I were a very simple person. "That sounds a lot like the Last Supper."

Uh huh.

"That's right, you're very smart," I said. "And the reason we all get to go to Heaven one day is because Jesus died and came back to life."

"When Jacket died, it was because he got hit by a car," Mary said. (Jack, aka Jacket, is the cat who died well before Mary turned three. Mary freaks me out sometimes.) "But when Jesus died he died different."

"Well, yes, he died on a cross. But that's not why we celebrate Easter. We celebrate because that wasn't the end of the story. He came back to life!"

I thought maybe I had gone too far with her but Mary got a big smile on her face.

A little later she asked if she could have jelly beans for breakfast.

I'd worry it didn't sink in, but next year she'll probably be trying to explain transubstantiation to me.

The Last Supper indeed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Well, who doesn't love purple?

My husband started a new job at a university this week. This is wonderful because it's in a field he really enjoys, but last week it was a total pain because we had to find some place that would sell a very specific train ticket and somehow that necessitated all five of us driving through Providence at rush hour. And then the phone rang, and it was our friend Roxy.

Roxy, like me, runs kids' birthday parties, but she works for a company that sends "princesses" to little kids' houses to add that star power to any preschooler's party. She was in the area, heading to her brother's for dinner, and mentioned she was dressed as The Little Mermaid, and would Mary and Anna like to meet Ariel?

"Mary," I said, as we waited in the parking lot that is downtown Providence after 5 p.m., "how would you like Ariel to come visit our house?"

Mary started positively shaking in her car seat. "Yes! Oh yes! Ariel is my favorite!" (Mary once told me Ariel is her favorite because "she wears bras and her bra is purple," for background information. That's my kid, four going on fourteen.)

So we battled traffic, got home, gave the girls a little dinner, and before you could say "under the sea," Roxy came up the walk in a fabulous red wig, complete with sea-themed hair decoration, a purple clamshell bra and skirt that looked like a very convincing fin. She greeted the girls and even had the voice down pat, and Mary was entranced.

Anna dropped the shyness long enough to start pontificating about "dat movie you're in," and mentioned several times that "dere's a shark in dat movie, and he wanned to eat you UP!"

"Yes, but Flounder and I got away," "Ariel" trilled.

"There was a shark in your movie," Anna repeated.

"Yes..." Ariel said. "I can't stay too much longer, I have to go to my mermaid sisters' for dinner!" (Side note: we are also friends with Roxy's older brother, I mean, mermaid sister.)

"Your sisters?" Mary asked. "What are their names?"

And without a moment's hesitation, Roxy named them all. Lady knew her stuff! She talked about Scuttle, and Prince Erik, and all kinds of movie trivia and Mary was totally buying it, and Anna wasn't hiding, but our time was drawing to a close and I could tell I needed to wrap things up.

"Mary, Anna," I said. "Ariel has to go back to the sea and have dinner. What do you say to her?"

Mary beamed.

"Thank you!" she said.

"You're welcome," Ariel replied.

Anna stared.

"I like your boobs."

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be in a room and have all the oxygen sucked out of it? Ariel blushed. Tim tried unsuccessfully to turn a snort into a cough. I attempted to become one with the chair cushions. It didn't work.

"I...think she means your bra," I said, offering all of us a life preserver. (It was a pretty nice costume.)

"I'm sure that's it," Roxy said, gathering her things.

"Yeah!" Mary yelled. "MOMMY DOESN'T WEAR BRAS!"

Like that, I wanted to exclaim. Mommy doesn't wear purple bras that look like damned seashells. But somehow, the moment had already passed us by.

Frigging mermaids.