Friday, August 26, 2016

Five on Friday: Best Quotes from Family Vacation

I'm going to milk one more Five on Friday list out of our recent family road trip (Shared two vacation-related lists already) . . . but apparently when you put our family of seven together in close quarters for a week, hilarity ensues.

It was challenging to narrow it down to five, maybe I'll have to share a FOURTH vacation-related list next week. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Daddy O: "I would tell you to Google 'horse penises' but . . . don't do that."

2. 14-year-old G: "We're creating a new society in the van. Our currency is bottle caps and paperclips."

3.  6-year-old A: "Kids' brains is better than grown up brains. Siri told me."

4. 8-year-old Z: "Dad. If you give me a dollar, I won't bug you . . for like . . TWO DAYS." (pause) "About candy."

5. 15-year-old B: "I thought that guy was wearing go go boots but he just had socks on. Life is less interesting than I want it to be."

Friday, August 19, 2016

Five on Friday: Kid Car Entertainment Hits & Misses

We're big on the road trip (see also: recent purchase of gigantic vehicle). Each year I try to figure out what will entertain my kids on long stretches of road. Of course they just want to play on electronics and they do that, too, but not for hours at a time.

We've got some rules. We try to avoid giving them anything to play with or read for the first hour of any ride. I mean, we drive an hour to get places pretty regularly without any toys, so they can do absolutely do it.

I also keep some toys hidden and wait until later in the trip to break them out. Here are this year's hits and misses for keeping them happy in the car, luckily they were mostly hits:

1. Smarty pants flashcards. Yeah, yeah, I know, boring. But sometimes they like this sort of stuff! Not this time. MISS.

2. Pipe cleaners. I saved these until one of the last days of the trip. They were adequately bored enough to all try, even my 8-year-old who initially gave them a huge eyeroll. Half an hour later he was decked out in all sorts of pipe cleaner crowns and jewelry, announcing that he wants pipe cleaners for Christmas. HIT!

3. Activity books, Mad libs, notebooks and pens: most of the kids have outgrown this sort of stuff. Mad Libs were too hard in our new giant van we couldn't hear each other (seriously. Holy crap.) Plain paper was good for some kids but not all and was particularly good for my 10-year-old who began writing down all the different states he saw represented on license plates. HIT and MISS!

4.Water weenies. Not exactly a great car toy (or even a great toy, really, I mean, what are you supposed to do with them?) but they were super cheap so I picked them up before the trip. I saved these until one of the last days, too, and the novelty was enough to keep them entertained for a bit. Not as long as I'd have liked, but the weenie jokes alone made them worth it, because we're immature like that. HIT!

5. Okay I'm sort of cheating here, this wasn't for the car but worked out so well I have to share. I picked these up because they were super cheap and thought the kids would have fun with them. These were great to travel with because when you're small and in a strange room, a little hand held night light is wonderful. Also one of the rooms they stayed in was pretty hot, so a handheld fan was helpful. Best of all though? My younger kids held these and watched the lighted up fan blades spin around until they mesmerized themselves right to sleep. HIT!!!

Five on Friday: Funiculi, Funicula!

I suggest cuing up this opera song for reading this post. Like me, you've probably heard this one before, it's one of those songs that's been used in commercials for Italian food and in cartoons.  And maybe like me, you'll not have realized that they are singing about FUNICULARS, which are a growing obsession of mine.

What is a funicular? Also known by a more boring name (an inclined plane) it's sort of a sideways elevator that goes up and down a steep hill. I encountered my first on a trip to Puerto Rico a decade ago. We were staying at a hotel that was on a hill top while the beach was at the bottom.  We were told to take the funicular down and had no idea what that meant. We saw it for ourselves and began calling it a Wonka-vator.

I hadn't been on another one until last year in Quebec, but on this year's road trip we got to go on THREE! It's become sort of a challenge now, to go on as many as I can.

So for today's late Five on Friday list, I present to you each of the five funiculars I've been on.

1. The Wonka-vator. Nothing particularly charming about it but as my first, it will always be special.

2. Quebec. Charming because it's in French and all.

3. Pittsburgh, on the way up: all the charm of an antique railroad car (because it sort of is. Just . . . sideways.) Look at that lantern hanging from the ceiling! Squeal!

4. Pittsburgh, on the way down: this car was divided into three sections. I didn't get a good picture to explain what I mean, so here's a random picture from the Internet:

5. Lastly, one I was really excited about: a VEHICULAR one in Johnstown, PA. Naturally I prefer the word "funicular" in all cases, but when it's a vehicular one, it really should be called a funicular, right? A vehicular funicular? Oh well. Our brand new mega-van, Overkill Jones, seemed like it would fit but they didn't want to take the chance on its weight. We understood and just stood for the ride up and down. They called the little room on the right the "chicken room" for anyone not brave enough to stand by the gate and watch. My oldest son started out there but then even he realized it wasn't that scary and joined the rest of us by the gate.

We're already scheming for next year's road trip in Overkill Jones and hitting another funicular. I'll be singing opera until then . . .

Friday, August 5, 2016

Five On Friday: Bad Moms

It's not just a movie title anymore. It's a legit feeling that some people (ahem) are struggling with at this point in the summer.

I don't like it and am trying hard to turn it around. It's one child in particular, with whom 75% of interactions with throughout the day (and also when child wakes me overnight) involve intense negotiations. It is mentally and physically exhausting. So am I really a bad Mom? I hope not. I'm trying not to be. Today's Five on Friday list is a bit of a double feature . . . five thoughts I've had and my responses to try to turn it around.

1. I just don't like this kid. Turned around with: I need to spend more time and try to reconnect with this kid. More bedtime reading and snuggles. More playing.

2. I am starting to feel like I hate summer and I hate hating summer. Turned around with: So enjoy it. Stop trying to maintain a clean house and getting angry at kids messing it up. Go take a hike.

3. GAH! I'm such a jerk that just says "No" to all of them all of the time! Turned around with: Say yes. Say yes when you don't feel like it. Say yes because it's summer and you can. Save the nos for the non-negotiables.

4. All they do is fight! Turned around with: remember all those great plans for getting them to entertain themselves when you can't do it? Like setting out the play dough or flubber and cookie cutters? Or water and sponges on the hot deck? Or just taking out the science experiment book and leaving on the table? Do that.

5. Now I'm that Mom that can't wait for school to start again. Turned around with . . . well. So be it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Five On Friday: I Swear I'm Outlawing These Things

No, really. I am completely over them and am on the verge of banning them from this house indefinitely:

1. Band-Aids: Not only do the two youngest kids here use them for every real and imagined scrape they can find on their bodies (leaving none left when Mom is actually BLEEDING), they leave the wrappers all over the place and then I find used ones everywhere. Recently my teen found a dirty Band-Aid in her room and then the next day FOUND ANOTHER ONE IN THE SAME SPOT.  "The struggle is real," she conceded. I'm glad I have her in my corner.

2. Ice Cubes: When they get ice from the fridge dispenser, they always get way too many so they end up all over the floor creating tiny cold puddles to accidentally step in. Then they leave those cups out and the condensation from all that ice makes other tiny puddles on the table and counter.

3. I Dropped My Dolly in the Dirt: A friend gave my kids an electronic keyboard last week and they've been having fun learning little tunes. However I'm starting to regret teaching them this one.

4. Library Tchotchkes: The kids love the bookmarks and the summer reading program prizes. I'm not as enamored.

5. Presidential Election Coverage: It's going to be a long season. I don't know how much more I can take. Already.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Five on Friday: Entertaining Themselves

When we're not running around taking advantage of other people's pools and all of the great things to do around here, I'm catching up on housework and ignoring the children.

If they try to claim boredom, I give them a task. So it works out pretty well, they find tons of interesting ways to keep themselves occupied. Like:

1. Not sure what this was about and not sure I care (that's doll hair, not human, so all good):

2. That yellow blur is a toy motorcycle riding a homemade ramp out onto the deck.

3. The stadium formerly known as my living room:

4. He's ready for a bike ride, can't you tell?

5. I just walk away and wait to hear if there's any crying. That's my survival tactic.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Five On Friday: When Words Won't Suffice . . .

An emotionally heavy week followed by . . . another emotionally heavy week. 

A friend of mine, one of my online Mama friends that I've never met but have known for close to a decade, has had a terrible year. A cancer diagnosis, treatment and remission and the loss of her mother during it all from the same awful disease. And then last weekend, the truly unbearable: the loss of her beloved toddler in a terrible accident.

While watching community rally to take care of costs and practical needs while showering her family with love has been the slightest bit comforting, the pain remains overwhelmingly devastating.

Nothing feels right for this week's list. Just as I had trouble finding any hope to share for my  speech at last week's Peace Vigil, I again feel at a loss for words.

So instead I turn to pictures. Five favorites from this summer to impart some love, magic, comfort, peace and hope (I hope).

1. Love found by these two little girls through their shared appreciation of running around while live music was playing.

2. Magic found in these amazing trails and waterfalls not far from our home (but we only just discovered!)

3. Comfort found on the lap of a favorite uncle when the fireworks are amazing but the noise is a little scary.

4. Peace found in solitude with nature.

5. Hope found in a seedling that nobody planted and probably doesn't have enough soil there to last but is insisting on growing there anyway.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sixteen Stereotypes This SAHM Wants to Dispel

Me in SAHM mode, rocking the stained shirt and kid-made necklace

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.

*Originally published at Sammiches & Psych Meds