Archive | May, 2011

Dear Whine and Cheese

23 May

Whine: Ever since the Great Hail Debacle of ’95, when softball-sized hail came hurtling through our kitchen window (and also the windshield of my  brown 1983 Ford Fairmont), I have been just a teensy weensy bit scared of spring storms here in Texas. And also I hate getting my hair wet.

Cheese: Between the T-Storm/Large Hail warning on the radio and the peals of thunder overhead, I was very motivated to make my trip to Target quite brief. Who knew mortal danger could be such a money saver?

Dear Whine and Cheese,

I know as a family we are supposed to be spending lots of quality time together, but I’m not sure what to do. Got any suggestions?

Sincerely,

What Do I Do With All These Children

Dear What To Do,

I want to give you credit for desiring more Quality Time with your family. We all know that without enough Quality Time each and every day, all of your kids will grow up to either disown you or live in your garage indefinitely, so I think it’s important to do what you can while they are young. The good news is that Quality Time can come in many different forms:

Taking advantage of free activities in your community is one easy way to spend time together. Arriving two minutes late for the town Easter Egg hunt will allow you to park far enough away so that not only do you miss the actual egg hunt, you will also be able to push your emotionally exhausted 5 1/2 year old in a stroller while carrying your fussy toddler on your hip while your spouse carries your middle child on his shoulders, which is excellent for your cardiovascular conditioning. You will then have the opportunity to go to a local discount store to spend money on your own eggs and candy in order to recreate the hunt at home later that day in lieu of the free hunt you missed.

Doing arts and crafts is another way to stretch your children’s creativity and your patience simultaneously. Painting, gluing, eating thumbtacks and dropping loaded paintbrushes on your hair are all great ways to build fine-motor skills and digestive tolerance. Not to mention the gift-giving potential of a nice homemade gift, because who wouldn’t be touched to receive a repurposed juice bottle filled with tiny pom-poms and covered in streamers? It’s eco-friendly too!

Letting your family assist you in the kitchen also builds strong communal ties. There is something primal about letting your child mix the chicken salad and then wail unintelligibly as you wrap it in lettuce to make cute little chicken salad boats because (you discover much later) the boat lettuce was not cut at the correct angle. Baking cookies and cupcakes is also fun, as your family will develop a keen sense of when it is time to appear (when there are tastes to be had) and to disappear (when there are counters full of sticky dishes to be done).  Perhaps the disappearing act will someday transfer to the time while you are trying to shower or use the bathroom.

In the end, anything you can do to kill time enjoy each other can be considered Quality Time. Just remember, even the Von Trapps didn’t sing all the time. Sometimes they made clothes from curtains or escaped evil political regimes.  So just keep that in mind when planning your next family ordeal outing.

Sincerely,

Whine and Cheese

Dear Whine and Cheese,

How do I know if the time we’re spending together is Quality Time or if it’s just Regular Time?

Sincerely,

Does TV Count

Dear TV,

Determining the nature of your time together can be tricky business, so I have devised a Quality Time checklist for your convenience. Score one point for each item, unless otherwise noted.  If you score a ‘3’ or higher, you’ll know you have achieved Quality Time.

1. Forced participation of family members (1 point for each unwilling person)

2. A preparation/clean-up time to actual time spent ratio of at least 5-to-1 (i.e., At least 5 minutes of prep for each minute of actual enjoyment.)

3. Misunderstanding/miscommunication resulting in total meltdown. (1 point for each door slam, frustrated head banged on wall, or tantrum; 2 points if tantrum is in public or  full-out, flat on floor screaming fit.)

4. Arguments regarding trivial details

(Examples: type of sandwich for picnic, seating arrangement in vehicle, choice of dvd for road trip, color of game marker in Candy Land)

5. Exorbitant and unexpected cost (1 point for each unplanned $25 spent)

6. Pictures that make it look like you actually had fun. Pictures assist in creating the Magic Memory Filter all children need in order to look back on their childhoods with that happy, rosy glow. (And yes, pictures from the ER totally count.)

I hope this checklist can be of assistance in your quest for Quality Time.

Sincerely,

Whine and Cheese

Dear Whine and Cheese,

A really good friend of mine just published her 100th blog post and I’m very happy for her (even though it took her 2 1/2 years to do it and her posts mostly revolve around getting stuck in windows and the clean up of bodily fluids). What should I do to congratulate her?

Sincerely,

Loyal Reader

Dear Loyal,

Your friend obviously sounds like a delightful (although perhaps slightly disturbed) person. After showering her with lavish gifts and diet coke, I recommend spending some Quality Time commenting on her 100th post and reading through some of her old stories. I hear her take on potty training is informative as well as her handy tips on procrastinating and grocery shopping. I was in the mood for a good laugh-cry, so I read this and this.

And I’m sure, being the delightful person she is, she would want you to know how grateful she is to have a reader friend like you. I would hazard a guess that she really enjoys getting to tell her stories and feel so accepted and encouraged both in parenting and in writing for such a nice person as you.

With Much Love and Gratitude,

Whine and Cheese

Recovered, part III

19 May

Whine: It’s official. Brother Bear is walking. And with each small step he breaks a little piece of my heart and (probably soon) my china.

Cheese: He may have also finally called me Mama today, although it may have been an accident since he reverted to calling me Dada five minutes later. That’s ok, I’ll take it.

Once last summer, desperate for some new, air-conditioned haunts, Mr. Dad and I hauled all three kids to the downtown library. The library itself is a wonder to behold–one of the few attractively-designed libraries in our fair city (the rest seemed to have been initially designed as brick fortresses and/or prisons). We wandered around and looked at books, shushed Brother Bear (who was a wee, tiny thing at the time) and utilized the arts and crafts table (all-you-can-squeeze glue!!).

At some point Mr. Dad and I went our separate ways and when we regrouped and did a quick head count we realized that Lil’ Sis had gone AWOL. There was a brief round of “I-thought-you-had-her” tag, with no clear winner and off we ran, calling her name and straining our necks around each set of shelves to no avail. We got the librarians involved, much to my humiliation. (Was this before or after I’d had to call them to clean up someone’s potty accident? I can’t remember.) Eventually we found our little red-haired runaway closed in one of the study rooms. We scooped her up and kissed her and told her to always stay with her Mommy and Daddy.

Little did I know this was going become A Thing. Lil’ Sis, while terrified of thunder and automatic toilets, has no fear of being lost. And also, once she’s lost, she tends to totally and completely lose her common sense.

So then a few weeks ago, I was frantically running around trying to get some dinner made so I could take it over to a friend who needed a meal and I was totally in that Mommy zone where you no longer register outside information. Lil’ Sis had been bugging me all day to go to her cousin LizzieBear’s house and I’d been putting her off. I told her we couldn’t go right now and that settled that, or so I thought. (Hint: Foreshadowing)

So as I made dinner, I was running inside and out because I was Being All Healthy and using the grill (which, incidentally, I am not afraid of anymore. Yay, Me!). And Lil’ Sis was going back and forth between outside and inside as well, so I knew that she was possibly outside.  The next time I went out, I looked in the playhouse for her and she wasn’t there. So I checked to make sure she hadn’t buckled herself into the baby swing and gotten stuck. No luck. I figured she had snuck next door onto the neighbors trampoline, but my neighbor Dora was outside and said she wasn’t there.

My heart rate started to pick up and I’ll be honest, I said some words to myself that were less than lovely. I ran back in the house and starting opening and slamming doors in search for her. Brother Bear started hollering (probably related to the door slamming) Mr. Dad stared at me bleary-eyed from his nap (he’d worked a late shift the night before) when I told him I couldn’t find her. We ran around in and outside yelling her name.

Panic set in. We live four houses away from a major interstate. My mind was flipping through it’s catalog of Horrible Things I’ve Seen on After-School Specials. I thought I might vomit. Instead I prayed. Hard.

Mr. Dad grabbed screaming Brother Bear and started walking down the street while I headed the other way with Dora. Finally, she pointed me in the direction of Mr. Dad and I saw the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life: Mr. Dad walking up the street with Brother Bear in one arm and Lil’ Sis in the other. I tell you, Martin Scorcese couldn’t have set up a more poignant shot.

I ran to my sweet, crying little angel and squeezed the oxygen right out of her. Our other neighbors had been driving home from work and spotted her in a yard some TEN houses down, just standing there crying. The  had driven on, seen Mr. Dad and pointed him in the right direction. I was so thankful, I ambushed those construction workers in a hug that only a Mama Bear can give.

Once we all settled down, we got the full story. Since I had denied her request, Lil’ Sis had decided to walk to LizzieBear’s house alone. Granted, they only live about six blocks away and she WAS headed in the right direction. . .  But Mr. Dad and Lil’ Sis went into the other room and had a long talk. I poked my head in a few minutes later and she was fast asleep–worn completely out by her misadventures.

I love my little middle-child, and sometimes she gets overlooked or lost in the shuffle. Those terrifying ten minutes have taught me a lesson I won’t soon forget: Beware of the quiet ones, they’re usually up to something.

Precious


Recovered, part II

5 May

Whine: It’s May 5th in Texas–Cinco de Mayo– so that means it’s FIESTA time. Unfortunately, Brother Bear misunderstood. He thinks today is Stinko de Mayo. (Rimshot, please.)

Cheese: I’ve already got my fajita meat marinating to throw on the grill, it’s a perfect 79 degrees and it’s Thursday. I love Tejas.

Since I promised pictures in my last post, I’m not going to waste a lot of time writing words, etc, since it will take every last ounce of my brain power to post pictures without doing something dumb and blowing up my computer.

The following pictures are brought to you by  CNET who reviewed the photo-rescue software and decided it wouldn’t eat my hard drive, and by the kind folks at Easeus who offered said not-hard-drive-eating software for free.

Hard at work.

I love this picture of Big Sis writing Valentines in footie pajamas. She was getting discouraged about halfway through, as handwriting is her nemesis. But once I reminded her of the smiling friends who’d receive these, she got excited and powered on through the rest. Her tender heart makes me ooze happy feelings.

I cannot stand the handsomeness.

Mr. Dad and Brother Bear got extra-gussied one Sunday (very unusual for them). There were some serious double-takes as they walked through church. But once people regained their power of speech, they mostly made a lot of doppleganger-type comments.

I'm astounded they didn't get Royal Wedding invites.

After having attended their fair share of Princess Parties, the girls now assume that every party requires elegance and panache of the highest order. They wore these outfits to a birthday party, then came home and shoveled some dirt.

The red-haired pigtails kill me.

I brought cookies to Lil Sis and her preschool class. She lit up like Aurora Borealis when she saw the Hello Kitty balloon. It’s good to know that the little things like showing up with a balloon and some lame grocery store cookies can still make her day.

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair. . ."

The cousins (Big Sis, Lil’ Sis, Aves and LizzyRabbit) at Lil’ Sis and Aves’ Rapunzel birthday party. The cake pictures I recovered were too damaged to use (sad face), so here’s one I managed to snap with my phone.

Rapunzel's Tower Cake

There was quite a lot of engineering involved with this cake. Basically, Mr. Dad drilled a giant hole into the base of the cake (and also my plate), then stuck a dowel rod through the middle. We stuck the tower (rice krispie treats and fondant) around the dowel rod. It worked pretty well until the rice krispie treats starting migrating south and left a solid 2″ of dowel rod showing. Mr. Dad tried unsuccessfully to refrain from saying “I told you so.” Mostly I think he was mad he didn’t get to use his circular saw and blowtorch on the thing.

I'll eat you up I love you so.

In case you don’t recognize it, this is a Max and Wild Things cake from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. For some reason, the Max cake is one of my favorites of all time. I think it’s because it is one of the only cakes that when I finished I wouldn’t change a thing. There was a separate Wild Thing cake for Brother Bear to destroy, but it’s not worth posting until the After shot.

The After Shot

There are lots more pictures of this cuteness, including when cousin CharChar got in on the action and the inevitable bath that followed. If you really need more in-depth coverage of the event, you’ll have to wait until the album hits my Facebook page.

Ear Infection: 1, Aaron: 0

You might think this last picture would be after the cake extravaganza, but it’s not. Poor Brother Bear has bad baby ears and can’t seem to stop filling them with swamp water. When he cries a bunch and falls asleep on the floor, that’s my cue to go see the Dr.

Thanks for sticking around through the whole post, unless you skipped to the end. In which case I don’t blame you. I’m pretty glad we got our pictures back. And tune in next week, for the riveting third installment of the “Recovered” series. You won’t believe what I lost this time. (Unless you’ve already heard this story, and you probably have.)

Recovered, part I

2 May

Whine: Big Sis has decided the (pre)school year should end in April. What started with a simple case of I-forgot-to-give-Mommy-a-goodbye-kiss tears last week in class has blossomed into a full scale meltdown. Her crying jag this morning started before she even got out of bed.

Cheese: She actually likes school. So as much as it causes me physical pain to drop her off with those red, puffy eyes dolefully stabbing tiny daggers into my heart, I know that as soon as I round the corner out of sight, she’ll be ok. Her sweet teachers will give her as many hugs as it takes. Her friends will wave excitedly and draft her into the playground battle against the Evil Boys. Plus, I’ve got an ace up my sleeve–I put chocolate pudding in her lunch. It’s hard to be melancholy while eating chocolate pudding (trust me.)

You know those people who are at significant family events and just as the action is getting good and the camera lenses start snapping, they are in the corner furiously making room on their memory cards and missing the actual event?

Those people drive me crazy.

But a few weeks ago I was one of  Those People. I blame my new computer, it’s photo storage-thing-a-ma-bobby is very confusing and so I had not been erasing pictures as I went along. And for our family, March is birthday season, so there were cakes, cakes, cakes and parties and presents and whatnot to photograph. I’m a little bit of a Memory Hoarder, which means that I had approximately 1, 374 pictures of Brother Bear eating his first bites of chocolate birthday cake. (So sweet, yet so disgusting.) Finally, I decided to get it over with and unload my pictures/memory card.

Well, due to a very scientific process called User Error, I managed to swipe that card clean. Except that the pictures I had swiped off hadn’t actually been moved to the computer yet, and therefore no longer existed in the history of the world. Which means that none of it ever happened. Lil’ Sis had never had a Rapunzel party and turned three. Brother Bear certainly hadn’t turned one. Because without the pictures, there’s no proof. No memory.

My stomach lurched, and I started spewing incoherent epithets at the evil trolls who live in my computer waiting for me do dumb stuff (it’s not a long wait). Big Sis was hovering nearby and trying to distract me by pecking me to death with questions and requests. I can honestly say that I regarded her with calm composure as I told her to GIVE MOMMY A MINUTE PLEASE BECAUSE I AM THE STUPIDEST PERSON ON EARTH SO PLEASE STOP ASKING FOR CHOCOLATE MILK RIGHT NOW. (SOB)

In that moment, I did the smartest thing I could do. I put the camera away. Didn’t touch it, didn’t use it. But banished it to the top bookshelf so it could think about what it had done.

I spent the day berating myself (and the  evil trolls, of course), but managed to come back to my senses by day’s end. The thought of never getting to revisit those precious birthday faces (and the cakes, oh, the cakes!) made me sad, but I realized that mourning over memories to the exclusion of the actual, living people in the pictures was somehow ironic. And kinda stupid.

So I moved on.

But then, a few weeks later, I had an idea. (Cue lightbulb.) Call it denial, call it genius, it doesn’t matter. I googled my little fingers off and discovered that there are really briliant, benevolent people in the world who expect people like me to do really dumb stuff, and they have designed good trolls, who can go root around and find your lost/erased/destroyed pictures and bring them back. Oh how I love benevolent geeks.

I got my precious pictures back. And what kills me with gratitude is that I didn’t just get the big moments back. The chocolate-smeared hair, the twinkly princess festivities. I got back the ones I didn’t even remember were there. Like Big Sis’ first (successful) ride on her bike. And Mr. Dad giving Valentine’s roses to his girls amidst an avalanche of smooches.

When I had kids, everybody warned me how fast they grow up, and this is true. But what no one prepared me for was the forgetting.

As my little sweeties jump at warp-speed to the next stage, I barely remember the one we just left. It’s hard to focus my minds-eye on what they looked like then, what little things they did to crack us up, how much they’ve changed. And I think that’s why I hold so tightly to my pictures (as poorly-focused and full of accidental thumbs as they are) and to this blog, because as young as my kids still are, I’ve already forgotten so much.

But I comfort myself in the idea that even the memories that seem ‘forgotten’ have woven themselves into the patchwork of our family story. That most of the memories are good ones. And when my kids and I look back, we’ll see ourselves, albeit through a somewhat-fuzzy lens, as a family that loved. So I guess if there’s a sequel to this movie (Evil Trolls II: Revenge of the Hungry Trolls) and I lose all my pictures (and heaven forbid, blog posts) I can grieve my losses and move on. Right after I kick some serious troll booty.

I will post two of the recovered pictures today. But come back on Thursday for the follow-up picture post. (Hint: there will be pictures of cake! And chocolate-covered baby!)

Every thorn has its rose(s).

Brother Bear's Get Out of Jail Free Card. Because who can resist a baby in a tie?