Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm a Slave to the Sale

I have this problem. I tend to obsess about stupid things. I buy most of the kids’ clothing at The Children’s Place because they have sales that kick some serious pa-tooty. At the end of the winter, I bought 3-in-1 coats for the kids. They cost eight dollars. The best part is- if they don’t fit when the little fluffy white stuff starts falling from the sky, I just find the receipts and take them back, as long as they still have the tags attached. You can’t beat that with a big ugly stick made out of a California Redwood.

So, what, you may ask, is the problem here? The problem is that I bought shorts and flip-flops that were on sale for the little guy today. I’m so completely enamored of the store’s clearance prices that purchasing something that is only on sale makes me insane. I am absolutely convinced that within the next two weeks, the items I just purchased will be marked down to a ridiculously low price, and that makes my head reel. My brain is fighting amongst itself: “you should have waited for the better sale” right hook to the jaw “if you wait they won’t have his size” karate kick to the chest. (It would seem that I don’t have a little angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other- I have a boxing champion and a black belt in karate.)

This scenario rather debilitates me because I feel as though I cannot exercise my own free will and purchase anything from the store save for those few times during the year when a bright-red clearance sign heralds the good news. Unfortunately, my son registered about a seven on the my-kid-needs-shorts-real-bad scale; that fact, coupled with the possession of a coupon, is what led me to my erratic behavior.

I sometimes think that coupons are a common-sense killer. Instead of waiting just a bit longer for that sale that may, or may not be, around the corner, a person clutches the coupon that promises a discount and watches the days tick down until the date it absolutely must be redeemed or it will expire, at which point the person must use it or lament its loss. Whoever thought up the idea to actually put the power of the make-your-own-sale mentality into the actual hand of the consumer was a genius. It’s taunting, tempting, and titillating.

I realize that my irrational panic at missing a good sale is absurd. I once heard bargain hunting referred to as the female equivalent of “the thrill of the hunt”, and I believe that I have a bad case of bargain-hunting-induced-adrenalin-rush addiction. I do find it quite thrilling when I can buy my kiddos five well-made t-shirts for ten bucks.

Still, I have a problem. Instead of seeking the help of a qualified therapist I decided to confess my consumerism sins to the world, and hope that the release of sharing such asinine conduct will help me to overcome this deficiency in my character and enable me to become a better person. A person who can look a bright-red “extra 50% off already reduced prices” sign in the eye and say… well, I don’t know what I’d say. I may need another blogging session. I’m not cured yet.

Friday, June 27, 2008

"Please Don't Do Anything Foolish"

My husband is off to spend the weekend in the woods, hiking and camping with a group of his friends. The forecast: hot and wet. It will be a time to grunt, slap backs, and hack down mighty oaks for firewood with a pocketknife. There will be lots of smacking at insects as they buzz in and out of the ear canal and tickle the back of the neck. Sunscreen will not be worn and the men will come home moaning for aloe and Solarcaine. When they do get back they’ll be stinking to high heaven because during their time of seclusion they will not change underwear or shower; that way, if anyone gets separated from the group they will be easy to locate using only the olfactory senses. Water will be boiled over a fire to make coffee. When someone realizes that a can-opener was not on the “to-bring” list, a machete will be brought forth to open the cans of ground beef hash and baked beans. The privacy of a bathroom door has been exchanged for a wide tree trunk, and a patch of uneven ground dotted with rocks in just the right places so as to poke an annoying finger into the spine has taken the place of freshly laundered sheets and a comfortable bed. I just hope that the forecast is wrong: it will be hard to enjoy my extended sleeping quarters if the thunder is crashing madly about me, and images of lightening strikes are flashing before my eyes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Conquered the Haystack

I try to stay organized so that when I am looking for something I can easily find it. In an attempt to find a particular picture frame that I had stored away before we moved last year, I kept stealing a few minutes here and there to sneak up into the attic and look for it. This went on all morning and it was well into the afternoon before I finally found it.

During my searches I found some fun and interesting stuff that I had forgotten about completely. I found my super-compact spy binoculars from when I was a kid. (Yes, I wanted to be a spy. Being a super-resourceful smart person has always appealed to me.) I also found a cool tool for blowing really huge bubbles. I’m not sure how it works and I’m afraid that my toddler will inhale a large amount of soap instead of blowing the bubbles out of the proper end of the tube. He’d probably be belching bubbles for a week. Maybe I should put that item back where I found it for now.

Most of the boxes and totes are labeled, because if everything was just packed into nondescript boxes and then the boxes stacked haphazardly here and there it would be impossible to locate anything. I went through some of the totes three or four times; I looked through boxes that couldn’t possibly contain picture frames. I tried to determine how long it had been since I’d seen the frame- was it possible that I had gotten rid of it?

I finally found it. In the tote marked “photos”, of all places. Imagine that. In a shoe box where I usually keep packets of loose pictures. Oh well. I was just glad that I didn’t have to run up and down the attic stairs anymore, or sift through boxes while the merciless sun beat upon the roof of the house, cooking me alive.

During my hunt I happily realized that I have a lot more stuff up there to get rid of then I thought, so that means we’ll have a lot more room in which to put all of the stuff that we will acquire over the next couple of years. Acquire/store, use/don’t use, recycle/throw away. It’s a vicious cycle.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Destructo Baby

Let's dismantle the table's centerpiece and smash Mommy's glasses.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Danger! Danger!

It is time to get a new gas range. The stove was here when we bought the house, and it has never worked well. As a matter of fact the stovetop didn’t light at all when we first moved in. After some major scouring three out of the four burners worked relatively well, but that fourth one still won’t light. It can be complicated to fry fish, heat a spicy white sauce, cook rice and steam vegetables all at the same time; actually, I can’t do all of those things on the stove tops simultaneously- something always ends up in the microwave.

The front left burner used to emit a semi-large fireball while igniting if another burner was already lit. My husband used to crouch down so that he could look the burner directly in the eye, like he was trying to give it the I’m-the-boss-of-you stare and frighten it into submission, but all it would do was continue to click, click, click. Many a time did I advise him to move his eyebrows out of the way of the fireball that was to come if he didn’t want to smell of burnt hair for the rest of the week. Or perhaps he would like to turn the knob off and stop the gas from leaking into the entire house. The burner works fine now, but my husband still doesn’t know how to operate the range.

It is the oven’s manner of operation that has sealed the fate of the entire range. When it ignites, it initially omits a rather ominous stench of gas, and the whoosh of ignition is a little too intense. I thought the smell was possibly a bit stronger than the oven in our previous apartment, but it dissipates almost instantly so I wasn’t really bothered a whole lot by it. However, my mom was here last night and having never had a gas range she was surprised at the odor. The more I thought about it and talked with other family members who have gas ranges, I realized that the oven is taking too long to light (hence the reek of gas and the caliber of the whooshing), just like the stove burner used to. As I am not interested in manufacturing an explosion worthy of director Michael Bay, I intend to purchase a new oven as soon as possible.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who Decided Outside is a Fun Place to Go?

Ever since the episode two weeks ago, I’m a little leery to take the kids outside, especially without another set of eyes. As it is, my eyes are constantly roving across the lawn, looking for tall mushrooms, short mushrooms, fat ones and little ones, ones that grow under rocks. Little Sister is always on the go, go, go, so it can be a bit of a challenge to keep Big Brother out of trouble. The poor boy wanders around from toy to toy; the only thing that keeps his interest almost indefinitely is his Matchbox cars, and he doesn’t take them outside.

So, there’s good old Mom, being led around the yard by the baby who is learning to walk. If Mommy lets go of one of the baby’s hands to scratch her face or push the glasses back up onto her nose, the baby’s beautiful face contorts into a scream and she throws herself down into the dirt and despairs of ever being able to learn how to walk on her own. What is a child to do with a mother who has to take a break just to scratch herself? Up and down they go; back and forth, and around the yard.

Meanwhile the toddler has gotten tired of putting sand from the box onto the top of his head and has moved on to the garbage cans. After prying off the lid and looking into each one he settles for splashing around in the water that collected on the top of the can after the last rain storm; while doing this he notices a piece of his fingernail that he missed on his last gnawing and decides to take a break from the garbage and put his hands in his mouth.

What was that noise? Probably just Mom telling me to get my fingers out of my mouth… something about them being dirty… whatever.

Oh, look! A piece of old wood from the gate that Daddy is fixing with some sharp rusty nails sticking out of it. That’s new and exciting!

There’s Mom again… I hear her talking but I’ll just pretend I don’t understand what she’s saying.

I’m bored. It seems to get Mom’s attention when the baby picks stuff up off of the ground and puts it in her mouth…I wonder what grass tastes like?

Now, mind you, the child won’t drink juice. He won’t eat anything I cook for dinner unless it’s spaghetti. But he’ll put grass in his mouth? Grass? I mean, really, there is only so much a mother can take. On this particular day the outside fun lasted for about forty-five minutes. Then Mom was done. No more foraging. No more garbage picking. No more hissy fits. We’re going inside where it’s safe. Or safer. I’m learning that kids can get into trouble no matter where they are; lock them up in a padded room and they will find the stub of a crayon under the padding in the back left corner that was left there by the last looney, and after a period of indecision they will decide either to eat it or use it to color all over the walls.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Clutter Monster Threw Up in My House

Our house is relatively organized, as far as houses go. We do have That Room, though. You know, the room that catches everything, including stuff you didn’t even know you had? In our house, That Room is called The Office. It can be really hard to work in The Office sometimes if you happen to be a person who is distracted by clutter. And dust.

Considering the fact that we have only lived in this house for sixteen months we have accumulated an awful lot of things that have been relegated to the attic or the basement. Most of that stuff is things that “we might need someday” or “if we get rid of it, we’ll suddenly need it.”

In one spot of the attic are the baby clothes, “in case we have more.” In another are the baby toys, “in case we have more.” There are the books, books, and books. Here are the home décor items that are not currently in use. And that whole section over there is the Box Section, where all the boxes are stored to ship possible future Ebay listings. Craft bin, craft bin, desk full of craft stuff. Oh, and there are more baby items, “in case we have more.”

The basement is full of tools. Lots and lots of tools. Somehow my husband still does not have all of the tools he needs to complete certain projects. In the wintertime the larger outdoor toys and the air conditioning units are stored down there as well, next to the washer and dryer. Also sitting in boxes full of bubble wrap and old newspapers are the serving bowls and other kitchen-type things that cannot be kept where they should be because of the lack of cabinet space.

Where did all this stuff come from? Sure, we’ve helped other people downsize by agreeing to take things off of their hands, but that was mostly furniture items that, even though we may not be able to use right now, we will be glad for down the road. (Right?) A twin bed, a dresser, a bookshelf… bring it on over! We won’t have money to buy that sort of stuff any time soon, and the kids can only stay in a crib/toddler bed for so long.

I plan on organizing a major Reduction of Clutter Day(s). This will consist of me filling multiple garbage bags: some labeled for the trash and others for Goodwill. It will also be my task to convince my husband that he does not need to keep the minuscule wooden cow he found at the park when he was little, or the amazing ball of lint that magically appeared in his favorite pair of pants the day he turned fifteen. And the things we only look at when we are in the midst of cleaning out- bye-bye!

The fact must be stated that I sense the real challenge will be in maybe, possibly, thinning out the kids’ clothes and toys. I feel as though getting rid of any of that stuff will be like somehow parting with a piece of my child. It feels sacrilegious. That may sound a bit extreme, but I’m not sure if I’m ready for that yet!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vacation Highlights

One of the highlights of our vacation time last week had to be our return trip to the zoo for Father’s Day. This time around we went shortly after the zoo opened and we got to see some pretty neat stuff. We saw the three Arctic Wolves up close while one of the keepers tossed in some snack food (small rodents, I think); the three puppies know the sound of the keeper’s keys jingling, so when they heard that they came running!

We also watched as the otters devoured dead baby chicks, feet and all; apparently river otters have some pretty sharp teeth. I thought about taking pictures, but I was fairly confident that not too many people would be interested in witnessing what happens to the leftover Easter chicks. Poor things.

Our son’s favorite animals on this trip were the goats. He had a splendid time brushing them and we had to go back to the pen several times.

The other item of interest to our babies was the purchase of a brand new standing sandbox. We had to search high and low to find one. It would seem that once Memorial Day passes, certain outdoor toys are difficult to locate. The sandbox is lots of fun and makes quite a mess. I love finding sand in my couch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Vacation is OVER

Last week the husband/daddy was home on vacation. It was nice to have an equal child-parent ratio: they seemed so much easier to manage. We went out frequently, mostly to the hardware store/garden center, but also to the park to play on slides and go for walks on the trail.

During this time I discovered that my previous aversion to gardening was somehow mistaken. For most of the week, I rose earlier than everyone else and enjoyed the birdsong of early morning and the quiet from the city, and worked in the garden, planting my new acquisitions. It was so relaxing and calming that I have decided to continue to rise early and spend sometime out of doors by myself as often as possible.

The week flew by so quickly and we didn’t get as many projects done around the house as we had hoped. We purchased most of the supplies we need, however, and the pile of project paraphernalia awaiting use in the basement is beginning to grow out of control. At any rate, the garden is practically done (for this year anyway), the porch is sanded, the picnic table painted, the gate repair started, and the pavers laid in the front of the house.

Getting back to the grind of everyday life yesterday was a little tough. I’m outnumbered again and the kids really made the most of their numerical strength. It was a day of near breakdowns, a few flip-outs, and general weariness. But I’m sure we’ll all be back in the groove soon enough.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Messrs. Smarty-Pants

Daddy has taught my little boy lots of life skills- lessons that help every child grown up into a person that can navigate life and come away smiling; an adult that can look a challenge in the eye and say, “Hey, I know how to handle this!”

Okay, well, not exactly. Actually, the knowledge that he has been passing on is more along the lines of “pull my finger.” I really don’t know who decided this sort of thing should be funny. I’d be willing to bet that it wasn’t a woman.

My son now knows that farts are funny, that it is cool to play with the food on one’s plate, and that underwear makes a great hat. He is proficient at sniffing another person’s feet and then fake-gagging until he falls over, clutching at his throat in pretend revulsion. Feigning an episode of vomit that produces unlikely effects, such as toy cars and bath duckies, generates much hysterical laughter.

I am afraid that all of this education has harmed the boy’s brain a smidge. The other day he came out of the bathroom with the soft potty seat on his head. He then proceeded to pull it down around his neck where it became very, very stuck and I was fearful that either the thing would need to be cut off or his ears surgically removed in order to get it off again.

Daddy did try to teach him some useful skills as well. Like spitting out toothpaste while brushing one’s teeth. This backfired unfortunately, and I am getting pretty tired of reprimanding the child for spitting at the grocery store, in the bathtub, wherever. Daddy taught his small protégé how to leap and tried to start training the boy to swim.

I do have to give my husbands props, however, for helping our two-and-a-half year old memorize 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. The boy knows how to spell his first and last name, and he can also inform people that he is “two” while showing them his rabbit-ear index and middle fingers. Daddy has also taught the young man how to count to ten in Latin. I didn’t even know how to do that. I just wish he wouldn’t pick his nose while working his way from one to ten.

Monday, June 9, 2008

It's Only June...

...and the toddler's sandals already have holes in them.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's My Birthday and I'll Eat What I Want To

My baby girl tried to do every fun thing that she could think of to celebrate her first birthday. She climbed onto the chair and trapped herself under the table many, many times. She put her face in the path of her brother’s back swing and was consequently hit in the face by his plastic golf iron. An attempt was made to tip over the garbage can, and she tried to eat some mulch while out in the backyard. She insisted on crawling on the sidewalk instead of in the grass, even though she didn’t have shoes on, and she scraped one of her toes all up. Tops on the list, however, was the inquisitive sampling of a piece of fungus found outside.

Every day I am more convinced that I am going to die of stress: and I am quite sure that this child is going to be the death of me. During the minute it took for me to address whatever request it was that her brother made that caused me to turn my back, she plucked a mushroom out of the ground and as I again turned in her direction she took a bite.

It is rather unfortunate that I have, as of yet, not been given the chance to purchase, steal or otherwise gain any super-powers through skill, osmosis, or freak-accident. The longer that I am a mother, the more I realize that being able to fly or have laser vision wouldn’t be the wisest choice: having stretchy elastic arms would be, that way one’s child would always be within arms reach.

Needless to say, I called my friends at Poison Control. The other two times I found myself in need of their expertise, I was instructed to give milk to the child so I thought it would be a good place to start. The baby wasn’t interested in drinking milk; she wanted to go back outside and forage some more. I spoke to a very reassuring nurse, named Mimi, who informed me that since mushrooms are so hard to identify they treat them all as poisonous, just to be on the safe side.

Since the child had enough sense to spit out the fungi, Mimi didn’t think that she needed emergency care. (If a child actually ingests a mushroom found elsewhere than the refrigerator or the produce section of the grocery store, they need to be taken to the emergency room and given activated charcoal.) Instead, she cautioned me to be on the lookout for the usual signs: nausea, vomiting, abnormal behavior. Since fungal poisoning can manifest itself in many different ways, depending on the type of mushroom, she couldn’t be any more specific. She also informed me that Poison Control would be in touch over the next twenty-four hours to help monitor the birthday girl.

I’m sure that I do not need to expound upon the tension and anxiety that plagued me over the next few hours. Every time the baby cried or fussed, a great hand clenched and twisted all the organs in my chest. It didn’t help that the picture I found on the Internet that most resembled the slimy fungal antagonist had the label poisonous underneath it. When Mimi called during the afternoon she calmed my fears and told me not to let the incident ruin the birthday: “Write it down in her baby book,” she said, “it’s just going to be a birthday to remember.” Business as usual.


We read some books.

I killed a freaky looking cricket (or something) in the kitchen.

Both of the kids fought over toys and grabbed and screamed.

The toddler commandeered the baby’s birthday present.

We ate; I cleaned; we slept.

The twenty-four hour mark has passed now, and the baby is no worse for wear. Poison control has placed their last phone call to check up on her. Another day, another disaster averted. Thank God for that. Now, on to year number two for the little monkey. I am quite sure that it would be foolish of me to hope that it’s not too exciting.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I Want to Hold Your Hand

People passing by my friend, our kids, and me at the mall would have seen a brown haired two-and-a-half year old little boy happily holding hands with a curly blond haired little girl of three years. The little boy wore a plush monkey backpack (with the leash detached), and the little girl clutched a soft stuffed puppy to her chest.

As they bounded along like two little adults on a window-shopping trip, the little boy pointed out the different sights to his friend. In the pet store he showed her the lizards and the snakes. They sat together in the coin-operated ice cream truck and the compact blue racecar.

While their mommies shopped, the little kids sang into the atomizer bulbs of perfume bottles (because they look like microphones); they played in the racks of hanging clothes (because it’s fun); and they giggled shrilly for no reason at all (because…well, why not?).

The blue-eyed friends tried to listen to their mommies, but they were having so much fun that they sometimes forgot. When it was time to go they shared a very grownup hug, where no arms got tangled or confused as to where they should go. And always, they were holding hands. Because if the little girl let go, the little boy got mad.

Popcorn Tastes Better in a BIG Bowl

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Coffee is Supposed to be Hot?

Mommies eat last. That’s just the nature of the job. Everyone else gets fed first, and then, if no one is screaming, bleeding or otherwise needing anything, we eat. And usually we have to eat fast, if we want to finish our food while it is hot or cold or whatever temperature it should be for optimal enjoyment.

Sometimes it may appear that we actually eat first: that is only because our lunch is so late that it tends to correlate with everyone else’s dinner. I’m not really sure what hot coffee tastes like anymore. I pour it, hot and steaming, into my mug, add a couple grains of sugar, a dollop of cream and then off I go to rescue a screaming infant from the perch she has found herself unable to climb down from. On my way back to the caffeine I so desperately need, I find the toddler crouched in a corner valiantly trying not to pee in his pants.

After many minutes spent coercing him away from the line of matchbox cars he is meticulously parking I take him to the bathroom. During that time, the baby has found her way atop one of the dining room chairs again and is trapped beneath the table. After liberating her, someone usually decides that a snack is in order; by the time the snack is prepared the baby is once again screeching from her roost beneath the table. At this point my coffee is only lukewarm.

I remembered that there was some rhubarb in the refrigerator, patiently awaiting my culinary prowess. In my folly, I thought I would try and end its chilly stay in the crisper by whipping up something yummy. I called my mother, the person usually responsible for cooking all things rhubarb, and got the recipe she generally uses to make rhubarb crumb.

During the short call I had to juggle a paring knife and continuously cut strawberries to feed the baby, so that she would forget that she was pinned in the highchair, while simultaneously jotting down instructions that I only heard the half of. My son employed his knowledge of the answering machine to record a new message. Instead of the comprehensible voice of my husband singing the state capitals or telling callers they have reached the city morgue or something else along those lines, callers will now be greeted by my son’s toddler voice making a single incomprehensible sound before the familiar beep.

After all of that, I decided to use a recipe from the cookbook instead. I cut a few rhubarb stalks, broke up a fight, cut a few more, told my son to stop forcing his sister to play peek-a-boo, mixed flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon, removed the baby from her brother’s stunt diving zone, beat an egg and some milk, stopped the baby from mounting the dining room table, etc.

Other than the fact that God is so totally awesome, I also believe in miracles because I was able to get the cobbler into the oven before any serious you-need-to-stop-playing-chef-and-be-mommy-right-now crying started. As if that happening alone didn’t denote that there is indeed a God, the baby took a nap and slept for over two hours instead of her customary thirty minutes! As someone somewhere in the history of the world once said, “a mother must have some compensations”.

Monday, June 2, 2008

And the Cat Came Back

My eyesight isn’t all that bad. It wasn’t until after I could no longer watch black and white movies (because everything melted into a murky gray color and looked like a rippling muddy puddle) at age eighteen or nineteen that I decided to invest in a pair of glasses.

We are the rather chagrined owners of two cats. These kitties were our “children” until our actual babies came along. They were loved, petted, played with; now they have become more of a menace, leaving their fur lying around the house and tracking litter into the kids’ bedroom.

I don’t generally wear my glasses to bed because it just isn’t comfortable and I don’t think it is good for the frames. Very often, late at night or in the morning they are sitting on my dresser while I plod around the house. Many have been the times that I have come across a fluff of fur or a tiny wad of cat hair that seems to be placed just so as to give it the illusion of being something other than hair.

The other morning I stumbled into the bathroom and drew back from the toilet repulsed by what looked to be a small black spider on its back in the throes of death. Knowing my propensity for thinking every speck to be some sort of bug on its way to market, I squinted and peered more closely at it. Definitely not an arachnid; just a bit of kitty fur.

Sometimes the fluffs masquerade as stink bugs. I always very gingerly check for possible bugness before I pluck the hair off of the floor and throw it in the garbage can. Except for the one time it actually was a dead stink bug peacefully stretched out on the carpet; that time I bravely steeled myself and declared that I would not be silly and treat cat fur as something to be feared and would simply pick it up and toss it without checking it for legs first. Needless to say, I’ll never do that again.

For the most part my toddler has learned that cat food and cat fur are not good for eating. I can’t remember that last time he put something that belongs to the cats in his mouth. Ironically, as I was typing this he came to me with his mouth open because a wad of cat fur and fuzz had wound itself around some of his teeth and he had ground it into his molars.

Notwithstanding all of this, the beasts have wormed their way into our hearts and to some degree they feel like part of the family. I find this really annoying, because as much as I would like to pack them up and give them to some other family I can’t quite bring myself to do it. Yet.