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Friday, September 19, 2014

Five On Friday: Best Fan Feedback

 Why do I blog? At first I really wasn't sure, so many people encouraged me to do start one I just thought I'd give it a go. Now I use it as a platform for discussing so much that's important to me and also get to share with the world (well, five hundred and something of you anyway) all the great, funny and poignant things my kids do.

Once in awhile I really wonder why I keep at it and then I get a message from a follower that makes me feel good about my writing. Here are my favorites:

1. This is hard for me--but I wanted to thank you for being one of the strong ones.
2.  I was a kid . . . and I can't talk about this shit. But I heal through your words, because you are being the adult I needed. And every time you talk about that stuff, I heal more.

3. I love reading everything you write. You are now on my mind frequently! And I so enjoy your helpful creative mom stuff.

4. I just had to write and say that I have no children but I find myself everyday laughing at your page. You make me smile and I look forward to your posts......this kinda sounds creepy but I mean it genuinely. I appreciate your talent of writing....yup sounds creepy....anyway, look forward to your five on friday next week!

5.  I LOVE your blog! I just love it. It's so funny. Every day when I see there's something new, I'm so happy because it always makes me laugh. Your kids are just so funny. I mean, I have my kids, but you know, they're not as crazy as yours.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sixteen Things THIS SAHM Actually Wants You to Know

I usually don’t open those sort of links so I don’t know what it was about “Sixteen Things Only Stay at Home Moms Will Understand!” last weekend that prompted me to open it. For some reason, I operated under the delusion that it was going to be honest and insightful. Instead it was full of all sorts of clichés like we’re really good at multitasking, the pay is terrible but the benefits are great, we like wine, we wouldn’t trade it for any other job in the world!

Did I really just waste thirty seconds of my life reading that? Doesn’t all of that apply to any mom—any PARENT—that’s involved in their kids’ lives? Implying that only SAHMs know about multitasking and breaking up kid fights only furthers the divide amongst the Working Moms* and the Stay at Home Moms (not to mention between Moms and Dads). Also furthering the divide are the stereotypes that for some reason still exist about each of these groups of people. So for my own list, here are Sixteen things that THIS Stay at Home Mom (since, you know, I can only really speak for myself) would like you to know:

1. *First of all, I’m not really comfortable with the term “Working Mom” to refer to one that goes out to a job or works from home.  To me, all Moms are working Moms. It’s just that some of them also get paid for some of their work. I know it’s just a matter of semantics but I don’t like the implication that I don’t work because I’m not sure what else to call what I do from sun up to sun down everyday. So I like to think of it as Stay at Home Moms (SAHMs) and Working for Money Moms (WFMMs)

2. Second of all, all of this WFMM vs. SAHM nonsense should have gone out with the women’s business suits paired with high top sneakers look.

Now, on to debunking the stereotypes:

3. SAHMs aren’t feminists. Girl, please. I was raised by feminists and I’m raising feminists. I’m a person who since age four had one clear and consistent career goal in mind: being a Mom, preferably one that stayed home with the kids. Was anyone ever permitted to tell me that that was all I’d be allowed to be? Hell no. Am I incredibly lucky my dream came true? Hell yes.

4. SAHMs watch soaps and eat bon bons all day. People still think that? Really? I don’t watch any daytime TV and I’m not really sure what a bon-bon is. A little ice cream bite? Like a little bit of vanilla ice cream drenched in rich milk chocolate? Is that what it is? Hold up, I might be rethinking the bon-bon part of this stereotype. Adding “bon-bons” to the shopping list now.

5. SAHMs are either rich, skinny and coifed or poor, fat and slovenly. I’ll take “Somewhere In The Middle” for $200, please, Alex.

6. SAHMs are uneducated. I certainly didn’t go for the most challenging or cerebral major in college but I did earn my degree (and no it was not my MRS, I actually first met my husband in high school, thank you very much.)

7. (or) SAHMs are wasting their education. Sharing my knowledge with growing minds isn’t wasteful. Also, there’s going to be a lot more life left for me once these kids are grown. Who knows what I might do next?

8. SAHMs have no idea what’s going on in the world and can only talk about their kids.  It’s true I take media breaks sometimes, too worn down by all of the bad news out in the world but I do try to at least have some idea of what’s happening. I can talk a blue streak about my kids or almost anything else. Try me.

9. SAHMs are at your beck and call. I love when the stars align and I can help pick up someone’s kid or drop something off to school for them. But I do also have a schedule and a routine and sometimes I just can’t help out at the drop of a hat. Sorry.

10. SAHMs take it for granted that they can get in to the kids' school. Sometimes I just don't feel like running a party game for a classroom full of six year olds but I do because I feel fortunate that I can and I know my kids get a kick out of it. When school functions are at impossible times for WFMMs (Halloween parade at 2pm anyone?) I cringe for my friends who can't make it and offer to take lots of pictures for them.

11. SAHMs are “ladies who lunch.” Okay, you got me there. I do, in fact, eat lunch every single day. And, yes, oftentimes it’s out (on a park bench) and with a friend (she’s four).

12. SAHMs don’t have any options for any other kind of work or are not making sacrifices to be at home. Funny, when a man stays home with the kids nobody seems to assume that as much. (Well of course unless he falls prey to the other SAHD stereotype—which also needs to be debunked—that he’s just lazy.)

13. SAHMs are helicopter Moms. You’ve obviously never heard my theory on not watching their crazy antics and instead just waiting to hear if there’s any crying.

14. SAHMs have an easy, mindless job. That’s why anybody who’s ever done it talks about how hard it is.

15. SAHMs have the patience of saints. If that’s what you want to think of me, who am I to argue? (Realistically, we’re all human. We all have good and bad days. Ask my kids if how much I never yell at them.)

16. SAHMs judge WFMMs Oh for the love of the elusive affordable zero-waste locally sourced healthy organic self-packing lunch, does anyone do this? Seriously, are there SAHMs out there that do this? If so, give it a rest already. All the stereotyping of WFMMs as power-hungry corporate-ladder climbers that don't care about their kids or SAHDs as either self-sacrificing amazing Fathers (regardless of how well he does with the kids) or lazy slob terrible Fathers (ditto) are just as bad as other people believing any of the above about you! Knock it off already! 

Clearly in any category of people there are going to be deadbeats. But from what I can see when I look around at each of the very, very many families I know: nearly 100% of them are assessing their own unique family's situations and putting their kids first. They all have good days and bad days, they all love their kids so much and they all work hard every single day. 

And I'm glad they're all a part of my village. Because I don't know about any other SAHMs, but this Stay at Home Mom really needs a village sometimes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five On Friday: Tips for Having Kids Pack Their Own Lunches

1. Pack the night before so the morning goes more smoothly. I like to do it when the kitchen is still dirty from making dinner. I'll walk one or two kids at a time through the packing process.

2. Packing the night before poses a few problems though: certain sandwiches tend to get soggy overnight. But if you--for example, lightly spread the peanut butter or cream cheese on BOTH slices of bread and then add a little jelly in the middle, you can avoid the sogginess. What about hot meals? We actually do those a lot (leftovers, soup, macaroni and cheese) so I have the kids leave their thermos on the counter and pack everything else they need the night before (spoon or fork, water bottle, napkin, side dishes).

3. Have pre-cut fruits and veggies ready for them. I found my kids kept going for the snack sized apple sauce packages as their fruit which I didn't really want them to do every day. I'd rather save those (more expensive/wasteful) snacks for when there was no fresh fruit left in the house. I realized they weren’t choosing the applesauce because they like it better, they were choosing it because they are lazy. If I do the cutting, they take the fresh stuff.

4. What about pre-cut apples turning brown (and becoming unappetizing)? Two solutions that work for us: either sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on the cut slices to mask the browning or throw in an orange slice (or few drops of orange juice) so the orange's acidity can counteract the effects of oxidizing.

5. Throw them a bone once in awhile...my kids have packed lunch every night for the first ten days of school. They're tired. I'm proud of them. Happy Friday,  kids. First one to complain about what I packed for them gets no more lunch-packing breaks.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Five on Friday: School Memories

Things I remember about each of the grades my kids are currently in, starting with the oldest:

1. Eighth Grade: Big year for lots of peer-pressure style firsts.  Hooray, now I have a kid in that grade! Here's  hoping she emerges from her own mistake-making as unscathed as I did.

2. Seventh Grade: I had Scarlet Fever at the end of the summer (Yes, Scarlet Fever in 1986, not 1886) and couldn’t go to school until I got cleared by the doctor. My appointment (at which had my first urine test "I have to pee into what??") was on the first day of school, so I missed it that year. Who does that?

3. Third Grade: One of my favorite, most influential teachers. Learning was so creative and fun with her. She even invited us to her house for a party at the end of the year and she had a zipline off of her deck that was AWESOME.

4. First Grade: For every page in our Phonics books that we got correct our teacher would let us pick one dry roasted peanut or one M & M.  (Who does THAT?)Apparently Phonics was really my forte as I'd go up to her desk to get my workbook corrected and come back with cupped hands filled with food.

5. Preschool: We did a project in which we traced the letters of our names in the world’s most delicious paste and then stuck Froot Loops  to it. My Mother would never buy that "sugar cereal" so at night I'd pick them off from where it was hanging up near my bed and I'd stealthily eat them.

First day of Preschool (circa 1978?)


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sappy Anniversary!

Today we celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary.

Well . . . celebrate might be too strong of a word. Maybe we’ll pass in the driveway during the five-kid shuffle between soccer practice and Back-To-School Night and remember to give each other a high-five. I consider it a victory that we even remembered in advance—because for the first several years of married life, it was a struggle to remember what the date was that we got married on. We blame it on the fact that we eloped: we didn’t choose a date with any significance to us. We didn’t have “save the date” announcements made. We didn’t call photographers, florists and caterers to see if that particular date was free.

Instead we grabbed my best friend and her boyfriend (Daddy O’s best friend and his girlfriend had other plans that Labor Day weekend), several rolls of quarters and got on a plane for Las Vegas. We told our family and neighbors we were headed down the shore for the holiday.

A few weeks before we went, I wrote to the Tourism Board and convinced someone to mail me fifty postcards (for free!). We wrote out messages to family and friends letting them know we were eloping and would celebrate with them at a later date. We dropped the postcards off directly at the Post Office on our way to the airport. Apparently they caused quite the commotion while we were away: people were stopping each other at the supermarket and gas station asking, “Did you get a postcard? Is it true??”

Our first day in Vegas was spent walking around The Strip, taking in the sights and deciding on which of the chapels was right for us. I was surprised at how many boasted pictures of very traditional-looking weddings with full bridal parties and white gowns with long trains. If I wanted that kind of wedding, I would have stayed in New Jersey. Finally we found the kitschy little Silver Bell chapel with its flashing neon wedding bells and knew it was the right one for us.

The next day we stood in line for a marriage license, sandwiched between a happy looking very old couple and a nervous looking very young one. The line moved quickly and when we got to the front I realized why: the process consisted of them asking a few quick questions, like “Are you married in any other state? Are you siblings or cousins? No and no? All set!”

We took our papers and headed to the chapel for the pre-gastric bypass surgery Al Roker lookalike to marry us. (The bride wore a sparkly silver tank top with a twirly tulle skirt. She wanted to turn the vintage wedding cake topper she found at a yard sale into a headpiece but the groom said he would not marry her if she wore that thing on her head so she turned it into a bouquet instead. The groom wore a pair of the bride’s silver vinyl pants and his “Young Love: YUK!” tee shirt.)  

Could have been on my head
Al? Is that you?

Really? We don't have a clear picture of the shirt?

We didn’t pay any attention to what the date was. The ceremony was short, sweet and didn’t seem at all legit. But apparently that was all it took to get on his health insurance.*

Weeks later we hosted a big party at a rinky-dink amusement park at which we gave our parents shirts we had printed that said, "My kid got married in Vegas and all I got was this lousy tee shirt." It was the first of many outrageous parties we’d host together. Our shindigs have run the gamut from the giant first birthdays at the playground to the chocolate-fondue-eating-Willie-Wonka-watching soirees to the “Seven Year Itch” party with wooden back scratcher party favors to the adoption parties with the brick oven pizza truck in our yard to our yearly Short Film Fest at which we project videos made by family and friends onto a screen hung on the outhouse in our yard.

One of our good friends’ sons once told his parents that he thought we were rich because we were always having parties. By most of our neighbors' standards, we are just average. By many people of the world's standards, we are rich: we own a home, property and vehicles. We are educated, we eat well, we vacation, we go to the doctor. To me, I factor our financial stability in with the amount of love, harmony and fun we have. And I come up with the same conclusion as our young friend: we're absolutely loaded.

Here’s to the next several decades of parties and adventures. Thanks for all you do to make our lives rich. Happy Anniversary, Daddy O.

 *Quite frankly, that was one of my top motivators in getting married. We already owned a home together. We were together as a couple for a few years and were friends for a decade . . . neither one of us was going anywhere. When we were just friends in high school we joked that one day when we were “old and desperate” we would elope to Las Vegas together. So when we were twenty-five, we did.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Five On Friday: My Wishes for This School Year

 Hey kids. Make your Mama happy. Here’s what I’d like from you this school year:
1.    No forging of my signature.
2.    If you must commit forgery, spell my name correctly, for Pete’s sake.
3.    No contact from the Principal unless he’s telling me how great you are.
4.    When I go to the middle school, I’d like to be able to look down the hallway and not immediately know which locker belongs to you, G,  by seeing the papers spilling out so much that the door won’t shut properly.
5.    No crying at preschool drop-off.

And here are my promises to you:

1.    If I happen to be driving past the school on a day you’ve forgotten your gym clothes or social studies book, I will drop them off for you.
2.    If I am not driving that way, I am not going to go out of my way and you’re going to figure out how to deal with it. I know that doesn’t sound much like I’m doing you a favor but actually I am.
3.    Yes I want you to pack your own lunches this year (see also: “doesn’t sound like I'm doing you a favor but I am”) but I promise to try my very best to keep the house well-stocked with yummy and healthy options for you to choose from.
4.    I will volunteer in your classes even when it’s a pain to find childcare for your younger sister. They only really ask for classroom volunteers for the younger kids and they're the ones that get a kick out of seeing a parent at school. I am going to take advantage of that.
5.    No crying when you get on the bus and leave me. (Or at least while you can still see me.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Took Five Kids Tent Camping. And I'll do it Again.

Otherwise entitled: Why Camping With Kids is Sort of Like Giving Birth.

It wasn't our most pleasant vacation experience. The packing and preparation for camping is much more complicated and time consuming than for any other kind of getaway. On our first family camping trip three years ago, my husband wondered why we’d need to bring so much more stuff than we go to the fully furnished and equipped beach cottage we normally go to. “Um, we need to bring OUR ACTUAL HOUSE (the tent) with us. And all of our bedding, cooking supplies, eating utensils, food, cooler . . .” The light bulb went off and he called his friend at the car rental agency so we could rent a bigger car for the week.

This time we were only going away for two days so we made it all fit in my clown car (fits exactly the seven of us and has very little trunk space) with only one of the large car top canvas bags being used.

Our campsite was rocky. We could move some loose ones but there were plenty of big ones sticking out from deep in the ground that wouldn't budge so we got free all night “massages”. It rained just enough to make everything slightly damp--including the firewood (even though we purchased it inside the general store) and the towels we brought (that we were hoping to not only use as towels but to cushion our rocky beds with).

It was just chilly enough that I ended up wearing the same campfire-stinky sweater 24/7. On the second night someone in the campground was playing music. It wasn't just loud, it was excessively loud. It was ground-shaking, bass-pumping, pretty-sure-there-was-a-campground-sanctioned-Rave*-we-weren't-invited-to LOUD. Luckily the kids slept through it but Dadddy-O and I both laid in the dark, trying to sleep and quietly wishing the National Park Rangers would show up to “strictly enforce” that ten o’clock curfew as they said they would. As far as we can tell, they never did. The music stopped sometime after midnight.

I forgot to pack potholders. I did, however, pack the propane grill instead of the propane  stove and it was not exactly the same thing (and took up more room in the car). One of the kids had an accident in their sleeping bag in the middle of the night. A lot of campers brought dogs with them and a lot of the dogs were fond of barking frequently at the other dogs.

I wouldn’t say I was miserable, but I certainly could have had a better time. And through it all, do you know what I was thinking about? I WAS THINKING ABOUT GOING CAMPING WITH THE KIDS AGAIN! Because in spite of the noise and the rocks (oh, those rocks), the rain, the chill and the urine-soaked sleeping bag . . . we had a really great time. When taken from the comforts of home, books, toys and electronic screens, five children figured out how to play very nicely together. On the campground’s volleyball court they made up a game called “bad-valleyball” and also did some Sumo wrestling (I don’t question, I just enjoy the sibling harmony). They met some other kids and started a massive game of Manhunt. They hiked  five and a half miles together and found over 130 lizards that they named "yellow-bellied fire spitters." They laughed together as they sang their new camp-related verses to the Diarrhea song. They fetched kindling and jugs of water. They sat around the campfire, united in their desire for “just one more marshmallow!” They took turns sleeping next to one another in the tent. My six-year-old laid his head on his thirteen-year-old sister’s lap near the campfire as she caressed his face and hair and carried on about how beautiful he is. And he let her.

Way back when I was giving birth to my oldest daughter and labor was starting to get really hard, I remember thinking to myself, “Women do this TWICE??” Hours later as I held my sweet baby in my arms and stared at her adoringly, one of my well-wishers asked me how the labor was. “Not too bad!” I answered brightly. My husband laughed at my immediate-onset labor amnesia. (And the labor and deliver nurses laughed to see me back for more a mere seventeen months later.)

Love for your children makes you do that.

And when you see five children ages 4, 6, 8, 12 and 13 play together without toys or screens, you forget all about the rocks you’ve been sleeping on. When the hugging and giggling surpass the bickering and punching, it doesn’t matter how badly you slept. You forget the discomfort and start planning to do it again.


*Do they even have Raves anymore or am I completely dating myself?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five on Friday: Getting Ready for School

I'm going to leave the getting the kids up earlier for a week in anticipation of school time up to the other parents. Here's how we start to prep the kids for school after summer vacation at Chez Serendip:

1. Z: You need to learn how to tie shoes because you are NOT wearing those velcro sneakers held together with duct tape to First Grade. Sorry, dude.

2. E: "What the crap" doesn't even make sense and you need to stop saying it before it's a habit and you say it in Third Grade and get in trouble.

3. While I'm at it, Seventh and Eight Graders B and G: time to start to laying off the "damn its" and "what the hells" okay?

4. Enjoy sleeping until 10 am, B, because that's going back to being a weekend-only luxury soon.

5. Hey guys! Look who's packing their own lunches this year! Study this list.