You know you're in the Mother-Hood when...

You Know You're in the MotherHood When...

You've sniffed a spot on your shirt and been able to determine the origin of said spot with CSI efficiency.

You let someone see you basically naked because he said he was an anesthesiologist.

It's a good day if you actually had time to shower, without interruptions or an audience of any kind.

Your meal plan has consisted of eating whatever mac and cheese is left in the pot after you've served it to the kids.

A drawing of you with a head the size of a watermelon is the prettiest picture you've ever seen.

Everyone but you being asleep counts as "alone time."

You feel a sense of accomplishment if you read an entire article in People magazine in one sitting.

You can name 3 out of 5 Backyardigans - you know you can.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'll Tackle the Health Care Reform - Right After I Make the Play-Doh

I am a college graduate. In fact, I double majored and got two undergrad degrees in four years.
I distinctly remember two very interesting assignments I tackled in college. In Non-Verbal Communication I decoded the "real" meaning of a president's words just by evaluating his gestures and eye movement (little did I know I could've gotten a job on cable news doing that for a living!) Another assignment had me assume the role of company PR spokesman, writing a press release for my fictitious airline employer in the wake of a horrific crash. Aced those. No sweat.

After college, I bounced around in a couple of short but horrible jobs that I had no prior training in, but managed to think on my feet and get things done. Including a stint as an assistant to a Financial Adviser, and anyone who knows me knows that me working with numbers or money is a dangerous endeavor. Those took me to my education career, which I started by teaching full time, finishing my certification at night and on the weekends AND I was pregnant with my first child at the time.

My reason for this barrage of background information is to grasp what shards of dignity I can manage given my disastrous failure this week.

Being the very willing-to-help stay-at-home-mom that I currently am; I am not only trying to use as many hyphens in one sentence as possible, but I am hoping to make myself as useful as possible to my children's teachers as I always appreciated when parents offered to help me out when I was teaching. Although, that didn't happen too often, as I taught 5th graders and most adults avoid loud, hormonally imbalanced preteens, even their own.

So I have signed up to volunteer in my daughter's class once a week, helping kids with reading and finishing any work they are behind on. I think I qualify for that.
The school's library also has a bit of my attention, as checking in and shelving books in a nice, quiet library is actually quite therapeutic. The job starts, finishes, and when you're done, an entire stack of books has been returned to the shelves. It's kind of the same, temporary high you get after you stand back and gaze upon a freshly cleaned room in your home. The trick is, I leave the library before the next group of kids stampedes through, so I can imagine that the pristine condition I left it in remains (and then I go home and look at the aftermath of my own, personal stampede that my children left for me.)

This leaves the vacant volunteer slots hovering on the sign up sheet at my two year old's nursery school. I resisted the urge fill the void left next to "room mom" as I knew that would be biting off more than I wanted to chew. However, there WAS room to autograph next to "making play-doh." They use a new batch every month that is whatever the color for that month is, and the recipe was right there with just a handful of ingredients necessary so...
How hard could it be? Double major. Fifth grade teacher. Piece of cake.

I should have sensed impending doom when I had to send my husband to the store twice for supplies. The first time was for flour, which I knew I was out of, and Cream of Tartar, which I knew I didn't have. I am assuming this is the secret ingredient of the dough to make it play-worthy as there's not anything real special about flour, salt, water, oil or food coloring. The salt was the second run. I was 1/4 cup short of one batch worth, and I was attempting to make two batches.

I'm no Ace of Cakes, but I've done some recreational baking and I have to say that mixing dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another was less than challenging, elementary even.
The next step in this process was to combine the ingredients in a large pot over low heat and stir. Got it. So I combined. And I stirred. And stirred. And stirred.
The directions stated that I was to stir until thickened, and then a bit longer.
Remember when President Clinton pointed out that it depended on "what your definition of IS, is?" I felt the same way about "a bit longer." What was a bit longer? Ten minutes, half an hour? I lost track of time and eventually took the pot off the heat to let the blue dough concoction, which looked like the soup Bridget Jones made (you know, the leek soup that turned blue because she used blue yarn to tie the leeks together?) sit and magically become dough.

A bit later, pun totally intended, my husband decided that the dough needed to be kneaded. It was needy dough, but turns out, not real kneadable. He called his mother, who used to make her own all the time, and she assured me that hers was always a bit sticky until it was kneaded. I held out hope that my efforts were not in vain and the aqua blue sludge in the bowl was just in the tadpole stage of development. Yes, it was aqua, because no matter how much food coloring I put in, the albino flour/salt/Tartar mixture lightened it up to aqua. (but these kids are just learning their colors, and I figured it was in the blue family, so good enough, right?)

Several hours later, after lumping the sticky mess into large balls and resting them on parchment paper (hoping that being on actual baking material might encourage them to embrace their inner doughy-ness) I decided that leaving them out overnight would be the essential component in completing this process.

Um, yeah. By morning, a thin, lighter aqua/white crusty edge had developed but no real improvement. Remember when ET, at the end of the movie, gets sick and gets all pale and gross? Yeah, like that, but the color of a 1984 prom dress.

With hopes still high that my son's teacher knew some magic trick to make this stuff usable, I dumped each gooey ball into a ziploc and took it to school. I apologized for the consistency problem and, as sweetly as you can imagine a preschool teacher being, I was thank you'd but no thank you'd - this dough wouldn't work. Maybe if I put it back on the stove for awhile longer? His teacher told me she leaves it on there for a long time, long enough to make it hard to stir it's so thickened. Her "a bit longer" was a lot longer than my "a bit longer." Oops.

So I left school, baggies of aqua blue in hand and headed, after two good friends assured me it didn't make me less of a helpful mom, to WalMart. I was in search of blue Play-Doh. Already made, in the container, not the least bit aqua, blue.
My slow filling ego balloon began to spring a small leak when I stood in the arts and crafts aisle, only to gaze upon everything EXCEPT single containers of Play-doh. Packages of 12 colors, 24 colors, neon colors, but no single containers. Shot down yet again, I was walking out when, at the end of the aisle, I spied a wire rack of, you guessed it, single containers of DOH!
Redemption! Salvation!
Or not.
No blue. No dark blue, no light blue, not even any aqua blue. There were a few containers of yellow, white and black. Apparently, I was not the only person who needed Play-doh this week, I was just the only person who tried to make it at home while everyone else was buying it for eighty-seven cents a pop. Sadly, the cost of my sanity was less than a dollar.

With a glimmer of hope that what I needed was out there in the universe, I steered toward Target and with great confidence strode right towards the toy aisle, maneuvered into arts and crafts and saw, yet again, everything BUT single jars of Play-doh. I would NOT let the "Doh" get the better of me. So I grabbed two generic four packs containing blue, white, red and green. They could use the blue and then they have extras for when those colors and their corresponding months came around.

A bit embarrassed, I picked up my son and dropped off the play doh. I explained that I tried to get single jars, that I went to two stores and I could get more if they needed it. Again, as sweet as you imagine nursery school teachers can be, they thanked me and told me I shouldn't have gone to so much trouble. Honestly, trying to make the stupid stuff was way more trouble than driving to two stores. But I just smiled, told them they were more than welcome.
And then, like the dumb ass I am, I offered to try again later in the year when a different color rolls around.
Better hope Wally world restocks that stuff, because I am buying it in BULK!

Monday, August 17, 2009

It Could Be Worse

You want to know why restaurants don't play the sound of a toddler crying nearly incoherently for a cookie as background music while you're eating? Because it's not fun to listen to a toddler crying nearly incoherently for a cookie while you're eating. Trust me, I tried it at lunch today. It will, however, force you to finish your food and clean up quickly, doing everything you can to avoid caving in and giving that baby a cookie.
Turns out, he was exhausted. As was I by the time he finally gave it up, succumbed to the drama and fell asleep; without lunch, but sleep trumps lunch when you can have a snack later.
It could be worse.

Every time I find myself thinking that the day is just not what I had planned it to be, that I was not going to have any chance of getting everything I wanted done; I begin to feel the slightest tug. After the seconds pass and I realize that tug is not the elastic giving out on my Victoria Secret's, I realize my memory is trying to recall something important, something buried deep in the folds of gray matter. Somewhere amidst my mother's secret for getting grout clean (no, REALLY clean), my childhood phone number and the name of the really good pedicure place is a fuzzy anecdote just waiting to be recalled. The little morsel of information that I seem to keep stored for days just like today, when the best laid plans get blown to smithereens.
As with most juicy morsels of information, this one came to me via the Oprah show. I was either very pregnant or I had just had a baby, which is where I lay the blame for my brain storing this info away. Those damn hormones are potent little suckers.
I don't remember the theme of the show that day, but I do remember seeing a woman who had contracted some horrible disease in the hospital after giving birth to her second child. In order to save her life, they had to amputate her legs. Now, I think I am remembering this correctly; remember I saw the show when I had serious baby brain. I just remember watching her do everyday tasks that I have on my list, but for her they were painstaking - for me, I dismissed them as pretty easy, just a pain. Watching that made me realize that I was (am) so lucky to be able bodied to brush my daughter's hair or even reach the counter tops to wipe them off.
As much as I occasionally (alright, frequently) loathe mundane household chores, I find myself remembering that woman, and marveling in how much she can get done, with much larger hurdles that I have.
It could be worse.

By some wonderful twist of fate, I have managed to dupe many people into not only becoming my friend, but due to my mediocre ability to crack an opportunistic joke, and that I often offer to drive when carpooling (and, I hope, a few other hidden talents) I have roped several of these poor souls into an ongoing friendship with yours truly.
My circle of friends is as diverse. But I can tell you without a doubt, I am not friends with many people who don't have a good sense of humor. This is for two very selfish reasons.
1. I have very little tolerance for those who take themselves too seriously.
2. I like when people laugh at my jokes.
See, I told you it was selfish. At least I'm honest!
I tell you this not purely to make you jealous of my fabulous friends (but you can be if you want to, they are pretty great) but I feel it necessary for you to know that the fabrics of my friendships are woven with some tough ass material.

Next time you don't feel up to a challenge, consider this.
Earlier this year, a friend of mine went to the doctor for what seemed like the millionth time for unexplained aches, pains, and minor illnesses he'd been plagued with for months. He left that doctor's office and was checked into the oncology floor of the hospital with bone cancer. In an instant, he went from thinking about deadlines at work and paying the cable bill to learning more than he ever wanted to know about cell counts, CAT scans, and how no matter how many doctors are on your team - none of them are as good looking as the cast of Grey's Anatomy.
It could be worse.

Next time your spouse does that thing you can't stand and you want just want to pull your hair out, consider this.
One of my girlfriends kissed her husband goodbye for work and the next conversation she had with him was in the ICU after his horrible motorcycle accident. Days later I talked to her, at his funeral. Two years later, she is raising their three beautiful children and showing me, and everyone who has the privilege of knowing her, that truly remarkable people are out there. Of course, she'd be the first one to tell you she's a wreck most of the time and politely deflects accolades bestowed upon her; but that's just another reason she is so remarkable.
So your husband left a water ring on the coffee table you just refinished.
It could be worse.

As your tiny world seems to be falling down around you, just take a moment to sit back and think about those people who have a virtual avalanche around them. Who aren't whining.
Laundry could be piling up, your AmEx bill could be twice as much as you thought it was, the dessert you try and make for the neighborhood potluck may be a total disaster. You might be bickering with your sister, disappointing your mother; hell, you could even be contemplating whether or not to get divorced...
It could be worse.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cheers, Tears, & Back to School Fears

If you are a parent, chances are you've seen the movie "Finding Nemo."
Chances are you've seen it so many times, that you've contemplated filleting a few cast members and serving them with drawn butter and a nice chardonnay, but I digress.
There's a scene before Nemo gets lost, when he wakes up exhilarated at the prospect of going to school.
"First day of school! First day of school! Let's go, let's go, let's go!"
His father, Marlin, reluctantly drops him off to venture out on his own and, in true Disney fashion, an incredible adventure ensues. After dueling sharks, riding the EAC with surfer turtles and mass transit via a pelican's mouth, Marlin is reunited with his son and learns the value of letting your children out into the world to experience life on their own.

Talk to (almost) any parent mid-August and you'll find they've not so secretly started a countdown to the first day of school. They can't wait to get their kids back on a schedule, and if they are stay at home-ers, they are envisioning all the projects they started over the summer that they can now actually finish. Or, more realistically, at least catch up on the laundry.
All those days when I was pulling my hair out, tripping over toys, praying that those Playhouse Disney songs would somehow find their way out of my head; all I could think about was how much I was going to get done once my daughter was back at school. Plus, I had the added bonus of my toddler starting nursery school, which meant two days a week, for two a and a half hours, I was on my own. All moms know that two and a half hours child free is like 10 hours to most people!

First day of school and I don't know who's more excited. Me or the kids.
Outfits picked out, lunch box packed, and I send my newly minted first grader on her way.
I think she waved goodbye before virtually sprinting toward the school bus. I guess the fact that she was dressed and ready almost two hours before the bus came was a good indicator of her excitement level. I know she's going to love everything about school, so the pulls on my heartstrings are limited and overshadowed by my pride in having such an independent, self assured little girl.
Then there's my son.
He's almost two and desperately in need of some peer group time not to mention time away from mom. When we get around to finishing our basement, I want it to be enjoyed by all, not the future home of my 40 year old son who lives down there and hosts Dungeons and Dragons tournaments. It's time to start slightly severing those ties that have become knotted as he's been at home with me for two years.
He's met his teachers, seen his classroom, which is a virtual wonderland for those three feet and under. I drive there Monday morning, confident that this is going to be so good for him, that he'll become more like his independent sister and his emotional and cognitive development have nothing to lose and everything to gain from this.
Two whole hours on my own! The possibilities were endless!
I could plan more elaborate meals using those dusty cookbooks.
I could finish (okay start & finish) some scrapbooks that I have been putting off for, well, ever.
I could be all Martha and reorganize my closets by color or season or at least what fits!
I could hit the elliptical and be Angelina's stunt double by next month! (then more would fit!)

As I pulled into the nursery school parking lot, I was giddy with the prospects of all my accomplishments that were just waiting to be achieved.
My son was excited to be there, literally ran to the door, his tiny personalized back pack the only thing slowing him down.
This is great! This will be a piece of cake!
He ran into his new classroom overwhelmed with the choices. Let's face it, it's hard to decide between the plastic kitchen, puzzles, and sit and scoot toys - just ask some past presidents.
I stood back by the door, so proud of him and ready to walk away feeling nothing but sheer joy (both for him and me and my coveted alone time.)
Then, of course, the inevitable. I literally see the realization cross over his face that I was, in fact, LEAVING him there.
So yes, there were tears and lots of cries for "Mama!"
But still, I left - not wanting to be one those mothers that stays, and stays and stays.
I left, knowing that, just like with babysitters, he'd be fine seconds after I left, probably knee deep in play-doh and happiness.

So, imagine my surprise, when I got into the car and felt the tiny stings of tears behind by sunglasses. What? You're going home to sit on the deck and soak up the sun, oh yeah, right after the hour long elliptical set. What's with the waterworks? This is the same toddler terrorist who bursts into the bathroom, interrupts every shower, takes EVERYTHING out of your make up drawer EVERYDAY, violently swipes magnets off the fridge in a rage over snack rationing... so what's the deal?

Here's the deal. As cool and collected and ready for some "me" time as I appeared to be. I couldn't help but feel the slightest bit, oh, ship adrift on the empty house ocean. As elated as I was that both my kids were going to make new friends and be learning things other than what I have been teaching them (like when I nearly broke my toe on the coffee table and taught them a whole list of words NOT to say at school); I had a bit of a mushy, Hallmark moment.
I remember hearing someone say that having kids was like having your heart walking around outside your body. I realized that as excited as I was for them, part of me would really miss them while they were gone.

Well, I'd miss the sweet, snuggly, freshly bathed kids that squeezed my neck and told me they loved me so much.
Those dirty, cranky, "Can't I have just ONE more cookie" kids can stay at school as long as they want.
To all you mom's who have released your Nemos back into the world, or who are still counting down the days; I say to you, go ahead, shed a tear or two and remember when they were just your tiny babies.
Then wipe those frickin' tears away, make a pedicure appointment and eat the rest of the raw cookie dough for lunch. That bus will be back before you know it!