Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thanksgiving for the Non-Traditional Family

"What three favorite family traditions have you passed or will pass on to your children?" It's an intriguing question that came my way via email, http://www.twittermoms.com/forum/topics/win-a-50-target-gift-card-in, this morning. Which got me thinking.

It's pretty easy to forget that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away; the malls have conveniently skipped this Fall tradition, instead festooning every lamppost and chandelier with mistletoe and ivy sometime around October 15. A quick trip into Borders the night before last found me serenaded by Bing Crosby as I searched for my daughter's latest installment of her favorite Anime series. And when I open up my hotmail account, Land's End has already launched it's "St. Nick Specials". So to say that "Thanksgiving" isn't up there on my radar is an understatement.

Until I smelled gingerbread. You read that right. Gingerbread.

I grew up in a very non-traditional home. An only child living with a broken family 2,500 miles from any relatives, we didn't have big, festive Thanksgivings. We had the three of us. My mother was not going to baste a bird for three people. Occasionally we would drive up to see my stepsister, who at the time lived a very bohemian lifestyle; we once celebrated Easter at her commune.

So when I had a family of my own, I changed things up a bit. Frankly, there was nowhere to go but up. And so I have created new family traditions, that might seem a bit odd to other families, but for me, they're as "traditional" as I can get.

First, it all begins with the Macy's Day Parade. I have watched this parade since I was four. Now, I have my children to huddle on the sofa with, waiting for each float, balloon and band. When I was younger, I was all about the floats. As I have gotten older, I am all about the bands. And the Rockettes. But the best is always the arrival of Santa—to a point that there is screeching from all corners of the house (especially if I happen to be basting the bird), "SANTA AFTER THE BREAK!!!" I've found, from my own experience, that the more old-fashioned Santa appears, the worse the economy. This year, if he comes out looking super skinny, with long flowing robes, you know we're doomed!

After the parade, it's time for my second tradition: the making of the gingerbread houses. Yeah, I KNOW, go figure. But that's what I do. Now, when the kids were little, I made ONE house and then let the kids decorate (read: slap on whatever candies they hadn't already consumed) onto the house. This vision of artistic and culinary expertise then becomes my holiday centerpiece up through New Year's. However, as the kids have gotten older, they're not as fond of a collaborative effort, and prefer to express their individual talents with their own houses. Which means I am making three (four if I'm feeling the need to decorate one). Three gingerbread houses, complete with three batches of Royal icing, takes a LOT of time. And it's a good thing I have a very long dining room table, because I now have to put a runner down the center and stagger the houses between the candlesticks. Fills up the table, but it's fun and festive. And I love asking guests to guess who's is whose. The kids LOVE that.

My final tradition is at Thanksgiving dinner itself. By that time I'm ready for a bubble bath and a nap, but that's probably par for the course for all of us. We take turns going around the table and telling everyone what we are most thankful for. In the past, the kids have usually said some toy or game or their cat. But economic conditions have changed; they've watched their father get laid off and watch his daily efforts to find a new position. They've seen their friends move away as those parents seek employment in other parts of the country. They are more aware of what we do for them, and express their appreciation. They are thankful for the time they have with us.

I've had to create my own Thanksgiving traditions, but I'm pretty confident that they'll be passed along through my children. There will be gingerbread houses and Macy's Day Parades and, most of all, there will be going around the table and remembering why we are all together as a family.

But enough reminiscing; I've got to make my list and head to Target to get stocked up for the Gingerbread House Extravaganza. Thank goodness Target has the prices to keep this tradition alive!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Be Well. Be Happy. Find Joy.

I received a call this week. It was one I was not expecting, but was always expecting. You'll know what I mean as you read this. A very dear friend of mine has breast cancer. What was going to be a simple lumpectomy has become something much more invasive. Immediately, I am concerned. Worried. Scared. Usually conversation comes easily to me. Here, I do not know what to say. What do I ask? I can already imagine what's going through her mind. 2,500 miles away, I can't bring a casserole. I can't take over her carpool duties. I can't run some laundry or clean up her kitchen.

I can worry, but really, what help is that? I can call with support. I can hope. I can reach out. But I cannot solve this. For a "fixer" that's really a problem.

As many of you know, I am an ardent supporter of healthcare reform. I am believer in the power of electronic health records. I am shocked by the disinformation spread by the Republican party (hello, death panels? Sarah Palin go home) to defeat potential reforms that would ensure that individuals who are diagnosed with serious illnesses do not go bankrupt nor are they ever classified as "pre-existing conditions."

I know my friend will receive exceptional care. Of that, I have no worries. I cannot say that for other women who are experiencing this same diagnosis right now. I cannot say the same for even myself, who, as a self-employed individual pays ridiculous premiums that continue to rise to a point that I wonder how long I can keep it going.

So my point, as I write this, I guess is this. If anyone can help me find the words I need for my friend, please share. And if any of you were wondering about healthcare reform, please look into it further and do not listen to the amazing inaccuracies being spread thanks in part to large volumes of cash from insurance company lobbyists that are finding their way into the coffers of many elected officials (Democrats included). But know that whatever you decide is fine by me.

And, finally, I truly wish for health and happiness for all of us, and that we all enjoy long, productive lives filled with laughter and joy.

Be well and be happy and be joyful.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Celebrating the End of Summer

As school begins anew tomorrow, I have to reflect on the past 10 (yes, I HAVE been counting) weeks. It's been a long summer. Between myself and my husband (and actually mostly my husband) we have attempted to work while also entertaining our three kids. No day camps, no special outings, no vacations. My husband's position was re-engineered (I don't care what you call it, it means the same thing) and he is job-hunting. So this was a no-frills summer break. As a result, my family learned a few things (perhaps you have encountered the same thing):
• Teenagers are moody, BUT they sleep in late. Thus, you save money on breakfast, which they miss entirely, and lunch, which they miss frequently, but they make up for it in snacks, iTunes and sleepover feasts.
• Teenagers do not require a great deal of supervision, unless there is nail polish and/or sleepovers involved.
• Teenagers do not enjoy babysitting younger siblings, and will complain vociferously if requested to do so.
• 11-year-old boys are very active. Like from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. active. They also are very very hungry. Always.
• 11-year-old boys do not stay on task for more than 45 minutes. Break that across an 18-hour day and it's no wonder my husband was surly by the time it was 5 p.m.
• 8-year-0ld little brothers do whatever their big brothers do, even if it results in them being grounded or put in timeout.
• 8-year-olds eat only slightly less than their older brothers, and even more if sugar is a main ingredient.
• Guitar Hero will keep a group of five or more boys busy for more than two hours, but there will be at least three full-blown arguments over who plays which instrument.
• Little brothers will cry unless they get to play drums.
• Otter Pops are the best invention ever. Better than Popsicles. Better than Fudgsicles. Almost as good as water balloons. Almost. And thank you, Albertsons, for always having the big box on sale.
• Water balloons are a great event. For about 15 minutes. These innocuous little latex fun bags also require a heap of dry towels and five threats about cleaning up the aftermath.
• The pool is the best place to spend a summer night. Just pack up dinner and head for the pool. Three hours go by in a flash, and it gives the house time to cool down.
• Ceiling fans. What did we ever do without them?
• Scooters. What did we ever do without those?
• Backyard overnights in the REI tent: Genius. All you need is a tent, a flashlight, snacks and a couple of little boys. Easiest overnight EVER.
• Yahtzee is a good family game. And nobody can cheat. Can't say the same about Monopoly.
• Microwave popcorn is the greatest invention of the 2oth century.
• Homemade cupcakes are more delicious than anything found in any bakery. Same with brownies.
• Watching Paul Blart Mall Cop with your kids kills brain cells, but you make up for it in laughter.
• Colored pencils + paper = I have more artwork than my walls can handle. BUT my daughter perfected her Simba in the process.
• Target is the perfect resource for...just about everything.
• It would have been great to have been able to get out and get away, but instead the kids learned that summer is long, frequently hot and often boring. They also learned that they like to draw; they can ride their bikes further than ever before; that CVS has the best selection of cheap candy; that staying up late is fun; and that their parents love them very, very much.

So, basically, they learned all the things we already knew. Because we've all done the same exact thing.

Back to school!! YAY!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Inspirational Young Lady

There is a young girl in my neighborhood who has been diagnosed with Stage 3 Neuroblastoma. You can follow her story here. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/katiehawley

A brave girl who is an inspiration to all of us; I wanted to share. Let's all say a prayer and keep her in our thoughts. 

It's "Back to Swine Flu" Season

I don't  know about you guys, but I left Swine Flu back in May somewhere. I remember I was flying to Seattle and the media was on fire about Swine Flu, but nobody in the terminal seemed to be paying attention. Armed with one painting mask (don't judge) and trial sizes of sanitizer, I was ready to tackle the air. Only thing is, nobody showed up to join me in the battle. So I went commando, as it were; no mask, no sanitizer, just my usual Diet Coke in hand. As I am posting today, it's clear I survived.

So here we are, getting the back to school gear together and hearing about the massive Swine Flu epidemic that awaits on the horizon, like a bad storm. Is it going to blow in, or is it going to dissipate, or maybe just hit hard somewhere else? Given that Congress is on vacation, this is the media's darling. I've also stayed abreast on the status of a Swine Flu vaccine. Currently in trial, it's difficult to tell if it will hit the market in time, if it will be effective, and if it has serious side effects. Today I read that there are projections that the Swine Flu will be in full swing by mid-October, well sooner than anyone could build up antibodies from a vaccine. And that it could infect up to 50% of the population.

So here's my question to you. What do you think? Is this media hype? Are you scared? What do you think of a rushed vaccine? Are you more scared of the vaccine or of the flu? And, if given the option, will you get the shot? Or take your chances?

I'm curious. Because I am pondering all of that. Here's my take, if it's worth anything: Yes, there is a significant amount of hype; yes, I am scared, I am not fond of the word "pandemic"; I don't like rushed vaccines; I am more terrified of long-term effects of the shot at this point; and at this point, I'd opt out and not do the shot. But I don't like making mistakes. 

So, fellow moms, what say you. I really really want your opinion.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shopping for Jeans Is Not in My DNA

Recently, I had the impossibly rare experience of HAVING to shop for new jeans. Yes, this is documentable proof that it does happen. Your old jeans may literally fall off your butt, leaving you exposed and wanting for new denim. Fashionable denim. Hot denim. Because if your jeans are falling off your ass, your ass is now smaller. And this, trust, is something the world absolutely must know. And it must know it right now. In fact, if your local TV station had an ongoing fashion crawl, mine would have read: Lori Wildrick loses two jeans' sizes. Really. You can see it live right now at Mission Viejo Mall.

But I digress. So, armed with my wallet, a water and a rather obnoxious smile, I drove to the Depot of all things Denim: The Mall. Because, over the course of my lifetime, women have evolved from girdle-wearing Barbie dolls who wore full pantyhose, silk slips OVER a full bra, a colorful skirt/jacket combination and matching shoes/hat/purse/gloves to a uniform of jeans and flip flops and/or heels combos. We can talk about the death of fashion another day. I have to stay on topic here.

Okay, so how hard could this be? First stop: J. Crew. No, it's not logical. But I have a $50 gift card and that's like free money, so, thus, this is my first stop. Their jeans are not sized; they are numbered. Where I factor in the 24 - 29 spectrum baffles me. Luckily a salesperson steps in, sizes me up, so to speak, and hands me a 25 and a 26. And a stack of fresh denim. Oh boy. Finding two pairs that fit AND that almost screamed "hey her butt's not fat" I gave myself a good once-0ver. Can a mom in her 40's really get away with severely distressed jeans? The pair that fit best had a fine four-inch rip across the left knee and numerous "distressed" areas. In fact, they looked like my eight-year-old had worn them for half a year (had he been my size, of course). Disappointed that they fit, but convinced that I would look like one of the Desperate Moms (I'd need the bedazzled t-shirt to finish off that look), I shelved the J. Crew project and kept moving.

Next stop: White House/Black Market or whatever. You and I know it as 'the place that sells things that are either black or white'. Here, they have sizes. This I understand. And no, I do not understand what a Size 0 is. I'm not a math major, but if you are a zero (which I have continuously admonished my kids NEVER to be; a "zero" that is), that would tell me that you do not exist. So why start there? But, that's the way it is, and I'll say that zero must be the new 1. I remember that size. It was for Juniors. Anyway, nothing too exciting that made me run to the register. So I kept moving. Through the entire mall. 

At then end of the mall, having now tried on a minimum of 25 pairs of denim products, I wandered, dazed, into Nordstrom. Into their fashion denim section, actually, where an impossibly tiny salesgirl (hello, Miss Size Zero!) happily flitted from rack to rack like a busy little denim hummingbird. Then she herded me into the Nordstrom fitting room, piled high with 12 pairs of perfectly presentable jeans and chirped "Mynameislindsayletmeknowifyouneedanothersize...." 

Hopeful for the best, I attacked the stack. Most fit. Many looked okay. A few looked great. This is when I noticed two things: 1: The price must be based on the designs on the pockets. And 2, fashion denim is really, really pricey. For example, a very nice pair of 7 For All Mankind jeans, $155 (yeah, I'll be cool and leave off the exclamation point that went off in my head) had very embellished pockets. BUT the True Religions were extra embellished and they cost even more. However, the subdued Hudsons were slightly less. So it leads me to believe that if you are going to drop a Costco-sized chunk of change for one pair of jeans, your backside absolutely MUST look like there's a party going on back there. And the more you spend, the bigger the party. And, follow me here, but I am guessing that only the chicks with impossibly tiny butts would buy these, because, to me, a "big party" on a big butt would not have big appeal. 

Frankly, I have neither an impossibly tiny rear or a party budget. So I left Lindsay and her perky size zero self to reshelve my rejects and sauntered into American Eagle Outfitters. I had avoided this particular store; it's a teenager store. I'm not a teenager. And I had low expectations, I might add, when the impossibly happy salesgirl came up to me and asked me if I needed any help. I was waiting for her to finish that off with "finding some jeans for your daughter." But she didn't. And she showed me all of her favorites, pulled sizes and again, armed with a dozen pairs of denim, I dragged myself to the fitting room. I was not the empowered, confident woman who had entered the mall hours earlier. Denim had defeated me. Boggled as to whether I should try on "the Artist" (sounds creative) or "the best boyfriend jean" or the simply titled "straight leg", I started all over again. 

You know what I learned? Don't be afraid of the teenager stores. And that you can find jeans for under $40 bucks that look damned good and fit fine. And that teenagers will help you, even if you're old enough to be their mom. And that dropping two jeans sizes is fun, but the shopping sucks.

And, finally, that the best part of that day was the oatmeal raisin cookie I scarfed down on my way out of the mall. Sweet. And that will be two extra sets of squats tomorrow. Because, after going through this to buy new jeans, I am NOT going back up in size, lol.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Going on Record About Digital Health Records

I cut my finger last night. Sliced, really. Well, since the sight of blood makes me queasy, I think I could say that I could have given any good slasher film a run for its money. I was showing my littlest how to use a Swiss Army knife. As my husband has so kindly pointed out, apparently I wanted to demonstrate exactly what NOT to do. Which is it flip the blade closed and have your finger in the way.

The damage was immediate and profound. Blood everywhere. Like Carrie, without the prom dress. My husband, the calm one (and, luckily someone who is not at all afraid of seeing blood or a gaping wound) comes over. "Get your hand over your head!" he barks. "Put some pressure on it!" An hour later, this thing is still giving up the fully Freddy Krueger. Not one to give up on staying home, he starts calling around for an open Urgent Care. At 10:30 p.m., none answer. Now he calls the E.R. "What's your wait like?" he inquires. "It's a typical Saturday night," responds the nurse. "So a cut finger would be low on the list?" he offers. All he gets is giggling and a quick "yes." 

Knowing that my digit was not going to be repaired any time soon, Dr. Husband props me up in bed, clamps a brace I used when I slammed my finger in a door around it and says, "Get comfortable. You're sleeping with your hand over your head." I do not need to offer that I had a really sleepless night.

This morning, we surveyed the damage. At least it wasn't still splurting. Nasty, deep and angry looking, Dr. Husband doctored it up like a pro. Then I called my insurance company's 24-hour nurse line. "So when's the last time you had a Tetanus shot?" she asks. I have no idea. I've been compiling all of my family's medical information into our HealthVault account, and since the kids and my husband had a lot more stuff to enter, I was on the bottom of the list. I was the cobbler, as it were, and I had no shoes. "Well, if you can't remember, you probably need one. Get it within 24 hours, though, okay?" And then she very kindly helped me find three Urgent Cares that were in my plan. (Thank you, btw, Blue Shield). 

What bummed me out is that I had already picked my Urgent Care. Apparently not in my plan, this one, across from the hospital, had convenient office hours AND, the perky phone message offered: Electronic Health Records! I could get a copy of my visit and drop it into my HealthVault account. Some day I might forget about this bloody mess, but my electronic health record would remind me. But the thought of a high deductible and higher co-pay sent me to an in-plan Urgent Care. 

Nice they were, but as I arrived, finger bundled and bored eight-year-old in tow, I was not happy at the prospect of filling out SEVEN pages of paperwork. Stuff I don't need to remember and, as an Urgent Care, stuff they prob don't need to know. Like the date of my last pap smear. Uh, that has NO bearing on my finger. Or the date of my last mammogram. Or whether my mother is diabetic. Had there been an electronic health record, all of that would have been available, I might have been seen sooner and I would not have felt stupid giving absolutely incomplete and inaccurate information (I am not getting into who has asthma and who has high blood pressure and why; I just want my finger sutured).

Luckily for me, the Urgent Care was not too busy and I was out of there in an hour. A fresh shot, a bunch of Steri Strips glued in and an admonishment from the doc (via my husband) to take it easy in the gym for a few days (We wouldn't want this to pop open again. (No, we would not))and I was good to go.

While I was trying to look unconcerned  as the nurse prepped my shot, I asked him how he felt about electronic health records. "I like them. This group doesn't use them, but I can see how they would help." I told him that I am a big proponent for them, and am closely following the health care reform progress. "How's it going out there?" he asked, too busy at the Urgent Care to see all of the town hall coverage. "There's a lot of fear," I offered. "That's too bad," he added, handing me some bandages.

He's right. Slicing open your finger on a weekend and knowing that you'd be in the E.R. for 7 hours is a LOT scarier. As is making important decisions about your health based on your insurance coverage, or lack thereof. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fighting the Flu (Vaccine)

Alright, straight up, I'm going to admit it: I am having a hard time with the H1N1 "vaccine". First of all, I've noted that we've gone from "Swine Flu" to "H1N1." I believe that the latter is more accurate. Or it is more sinister. Possibly both.

Now, I've been following this one closely. I've traveled during times when I expected half the airport to be wearing masks (nobody was) or, based on media air time, when we absolutely should have been in lock down (we weren't). I tried, diligently, to comprehend the concern, balanced with the numbers. Yes, 176 deaths in Mexico City is 176 more than I'd like, but that's still lower than the number of deaths for any influenza over the same timeframe. And still, I trusted. There must be more to this story, I kept telling myself. And I looked for more.

Now, there are conversations revolving in the mediasphere as well as the blogosphere that the powers that be are fast-tracking a vaccine. This concerns me. Especially when I read tonight that this same group is determining who needs it most: those under 2, pregnant women, and school-aged children. To me, this is our most fragile group. Fragile in terms of vaccine reactions.

I've never been scared of vaccines. All of my children are vaccinated. Yes, I did insist on getting the MMR vaccines broken out (and made my pediatrician crazy for it). Yes, I did insist on all dead Polio vaccine (no live virus). And yes, I was not convinced that the Varivax vaccine was a good idea, and prob would end up requiring a booster (and it did). And I figure it might have just been better for the kids to get chicken pox.

But this year I got worried. I got worried when a pediatrician I trusted strongly recommended Gardasil for my 12-year-old and I allowed the first vaccination without checking it out. (and then I consequently flipped out when I did the research later after my child was running a high fever. No additional Gardasil for us for now). And I will still worry that one. Forever.

And today I worry about the H1N1 vaccine. I don't like fast-tracked vaccines. I am still looking for numbers that bear out the urgency with which this is being forced.  I am just plain worried.

As a parent, I cannot say that I will allow my children to get this vaccine. I could be foolish. But something just isn't adding up yet. And if anyone has any amount of insight, I would love to hear it. Seriously. I want to hear what you think. It's important. 

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's Time to Fight for Healthcare

I received an urgent email today from Kristin at MomsRising.org (if you haven't visited their site, please do so). The coming weeks for the healthcare reform fight are going to be critical.

I've been watching President Obama, and I do appreciate his dedication to the cause. I was hopeful that he would be able to get Congress interested in reform before the recess, but I was not surprised to see that a vote would not transpire. I believe that we need change, and change means we keep moving forward, not stalling out.

As I write, there are families who are going without basic medical care, skipping preventive check-ups and lifesaving tests because they don't have insurance. There are patients who are having to forego treatments because they cannot afford them. There are families that are going bankrupt because the cost of a child's cancer treatment has depleted all of their resources. What price is a child's life? Any parent would tell you the same: I'll do anything for my child, even take on financial ruin. Does it have to be that way? 

This issue affects me personally. My mother has been swapped from a medication that was working great (and helping her feel awesome) after being diagnosed with hypertension, to a different medication that is making her feel exhausted. Why? Because the newer drug isn't covered by her insurance, and she does not want to pay the monthly fee for it.

My example pales in comparison to many families, possibly even yours, who are experiencing more difficult issues. But if you want healthcare reform, visit the MomsRising.org site and see what they are up to. We must get moms talking so that Congress hears our voices.

No fun puns today. Just serious business. Let's get talking.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lessons Learned at Summer Camp

My son just returned from a full week at Camp Whitsett. Camp Whitsett is six full days of everything a boy (or, more accurately, a boy scout) could want: camping under the stars, hiking, swimming in the lake, earning merit badges and eating bad food. And, without parental supervision, it has other benefits, including never brushing one's teeth, barely taking a shower, spending your daily allowance on chewy candies your mom would never allow, and perfecting the issuance of inappropriate body noises on demand. On paper, this is a boy's perfect week. 

So when I sent my son off with his duffle bag, fishing rod and three pre-stamped postcards, I gave him a big hug, confident that he was going to have the best week ever. Said child, already mortified by the PDA (no hugs in public! he hisses), had quickly skampered off to the waiting minivan, already taking in the adventure.

Since this was an electronics-free event, I did not hear from him all week. In his absence, I cleaned his room, sorted his socks, changed his bed, and petted his cat, who sat stoicly on his bed for the entire week, waiting for his boy to return. The house was quiet. The other kids barely fought, and it felt as if three kids had gone to camp, not one. It was a lovely, but short vacation.

We got the call on Saturday, right after I got the one and only postcard I would receive. The postcard read simply: I got my fire chit, I got my whittle chit, I am having fun. Love James. Given that he usually signs off with his first and last name (I guess he is usually concerned that we might get confused as to which James was writing to us), I took it that he might have missed us just a tad. The caller I barely recognized. The voice indicated that it was my son, and that he would be in the Target parking lot for pick-up between 4:00 and 4:30 and that he couldn't talk more, he had to give the phone to someone else. I did not recognize the voice. Void of energy, revealing a depth of exhaustion I've never heard in my boy's tone, I figured it was a bad connection.

I also did not recognize the child that was waiting for me. This was a listless, sunburned, underweight kid who could barely pick up his backpack, much less his over-stuffed dufflebag. This was a kid who literally crawled into the backseat of my SUV, resting his head on the cool leather. Camp Whitsett did it. Camp Whitsett conquered my kid.

Now, I can't set up a tent full of bugs, release an army of raccoons, chipmunks and the occasional bear, force him to put all of his belongings in a bear bag, and make him hike between 5 and 10 miles daily. Nor can I replicate the lake swimming test, the brown food served at the mess tent (well, I might have some luck with that), or make him drink out of a mountain stream. Too bad, because the combination of all of these things totally wore out my son.

In the end, he earned three merit badges and the Beaver Award, a distinction that three of 300 campers achieved. He also mastered his lake swimming requirement, learned that it's hard to fish, discovered that chipmunks like Nutter Butters and insists that bears were in the campground. 

And three days later, he is still exhausted, lying on my tile floor watching Sponge Bob and asking for another Popsicle. And I have sent my husband out to REI to buy a tent.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Becoming a mom of few words

I used to try to explain in great detail the reason(s) why I was hyperventilating over any given scenario. For example, "James! You absolutely should not burn up ants with that magnifying glass and a flashlight. First, it's mean. Second, it's fire season. Third, wait, did I already mention that it's mean?"

I'm pretty confident that after the word "James!" said child had completely tuned me out and was on to his next adventure, at least mentally. That, too, was the beauty of the "time out." It gave said punished child up to five minutes not to rethink what he/she had done wrong, but to give greater thought to what he/she could do next.

So as my kids transition into teenagers, I find explaining my philosophies, thoughts, or random observations rendered useless. They use fewer words, and, so, too, must I. 

This shorthand communication is quite effective, I must say. Now, "James. Laundry." at least inspires a grunt of acknowledgement and sometimes, on a banner day, a response like "Yeah, in a minute, as soon as my (interchange electronic devices) iPod, DS, Xbox game/movie/video/whatever) is over." Wow. A complete sentence. From just two words. Amazing.

Additionally, I've found that I often speak in my own language, sort of the mom version of Urban Dictionary. ParentsConnect.com recently posted an article about "momfinitions" (check it out here: http://www.parentsconnect.com/articles/mom-definitions.jhtml) which made me think about the words that I often use. I'm sure you've got your own, but here are a few of mine:

Iposuction (eye-poh-suhkshun): What happens when your tweenager wears her Ipod headphones to bed. Example: Katie, perform some Iposuction stat, it's time for bed!!

Carpoolepsy (carpoolehpsie): The result of sitting in the school's carpool line for more than 45 minutes without a good book and/or a restless pet. Example: "Hey mom, maybe we should swing through the drive thru for a Diet Coke, 'cause you look like you've got a wicked case of carpoolepsy."

Damper (damper): My hamper in the summer, filled with a random array of wet towels, bathing suits, and, occasionally, a cat. Example: "Mom, why did you put my JEANS in the bottom of the DAMPER???? Now they're all wet!!!"

Housepeeking (howspeeking): The act of checking out your friend's, neighbor's, play date's house to compare cleaning skills. (Oh, and don't say that you don't do this!!) Example: "I was at Jane's doing a little housepeeking, and it was so depressing. How can a woman with five kids have more than one room that was absolutely spotless? It's not fair."

Shug (shug): A tweenager hug. This involves the very slightest of motions—as quickly as possible. Example: "James, you're going to be at camp for a whole week, do I at least get a shug??"

Becoming a mom of few words has it's benefits. It's given me time to perfect my "you are so not going to do that again!" stare. My head tilt/hand on hip "cut it out pose" could earn me Olympic gold. And, most of all, it's given me the opportunity to tune in to what my kids say, when they do talk. And that is scary. I mean, enlightening.

And, while you're perfecting your own parenting shorthand, check out some other fun momfinitions at http://www.parentsconnect.com/articles/mom-definitions.jhtml. 

                          

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Plaid Nation 2009 Tour Has Arrived!

Well, the Tee, for sure. 

As I mentioned in a prior post, the very very cool folks from the Plaid Nation 2009 Tour are about to get their tour rolling, pun very much intended, through some major cities East of the Rockies. I believe they load up the Ford Flex in 10 days, to be exact.

Well, much as I would love to meet them and talk social media, I'm going to have to enjoy the live feed while wearing my new T-shirt. That is, if I can wrench it away from the Tweenager, who, watching me open my bag o' schwag, squealed "ooooooooohhhh, it's orange!!! Can I have it????" And, me, happy to see her in something not black, quickly obliged.

And if you are ready to see some cool social media mavericks in action, check out their feed—and read all about them—at www.PlaidNation.com. And, if you live in the Midwest, check the tour dates and get on out there. You'll be glad you did.

Now I've got "Orange You Glad You're Plaid?" stuck in my head. Bad pun on a bad loop.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New Hair = New Woman. Well, Almost

For a majority of us, (and you know who you are), we wake up, we deal with life for 16-plus hours and we go to bed, sorta. And, when we look in the mirror, we say "you know, girlfriend, you don't look half-bad considering you were up at 4:00 a.m. dealing with a nightmare, 5:30 a.m. dealing with cat puke, and 6:30 a.m. getting to the gym (you go, you dedicated girl!). 

Here's the reality: It's been 12-plus weeks since a colorist saw your hair and 18 (or more) since anyone took scissors to it (not counting that embroidery scissors moment so that you could find your eyes, which does NOT count). The mirror isn't telling the whole story.

This I witnessed first-hand today. On myself. Because, after experiencing the weird and totally creepy experience called the "caught my eye in a cosmetics counter mirror and said to myself 'what in the hell is my mother doing in Macy's at 2:30 in the afternoon??? moment' " I made an appointment, stat, for some salon love.

Two hours later (yeah, it takes some of us longer than others), with newly naturally blonde hair I walked out. Happier and more confident. Clearly hair matters. And time away for a little "me" time totally does a body (and a face) good.

So, when I came home, I did expect some "Wow, mom!" moments. Or at least a "Hey, babe!" mention. Here's what I got:
1. From the Tweenager: You look great! Nice top.
2. From the eight-year-old: Where have YOU been???
3. From the 11-year-old: I scraped my knee in Timmy's pool. Where are the band-aids??
4. And from the spouse: How did your meetings go??

I am so glad that my daughter, the Tweenager, witnessed this. Because later, and in a conspiratorial tone, she asked "Dad didn't notice the hair???" "Nope," I replied. "Dork," she muttered. "I know," I added. "Looks great, though, 'bout time, too." She adds. "Thanks." I offer. 

Now she knows. It's not about them. It's about you. Go do something for yourself and enjoy it. You'll feel better. Honest. Just ask my Tweenager. 

Now to schedule the facelift. LOL.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I am Not a Car Painter Mom

There are things you just don't learn until you have kids.

One of them is whether or not you are a car painter. And trust me, you either are, or you are not. There is no in between.

It says a lot about you, this car painting thing. If you are a car painter, your mini van or SUV is regularly adorned with multiple colored lines that tell the world that your kid is in a baseball or soccer playoff; your kid just turned 6, 7, or 13 or simply that mommy loves her new star athlete or honor roll student. Better still, these mommies have excellent handwriting and punctuate their "i"s with little hearts. 

If you are not a car painter mom, nobody in the neighborhood knows what sport your kid plays, or even if your kid plays a sport; what age he or she is; or if you have excellent hand writing skills. You are the unknowns (or from my fave book Queen Bees and Wannabes, you are the "invisibles."). Now, I'm all about flying under the radar. But kids, well, I always assumed they liked the attention.

So, yesterday, after another brightly colored SUV flew past me in traffic, I looked over at my tweenager and calmly asked the Big Question (no, not THAT question, but almost as big): Are you sorry that I was never a car painter mom?

Said child actually turned down her iPod (signalling serious talk). "No, mom, thank you, it's the one thing I think you did right. I don't want my name on the car. Besides, James would find the markers and write something really gross." With that, said child turns her iPod back up and tunes me back out. 

Cool. Well. At least one invisible spawned another. 

But I have to admit that I wish I had cool, legible handwriting to pull it off. 

Oh, and James? Yeah. He totally would have ambushed the car. And a part of me laughs and thinks, well, that is totally my family.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

High Fashion and Plaid Nation Tour 2009

It's only been one week since school officially let out, (well one week and three days, the tweenager huffs) and yet all I see is the "school uniform." If you have a tweenager, you may be familiar with the look: T-shirt (usually black), jeans, (usually above the ankle somewhere because said child continues on a steady climb), uncombed hair and Vans. Now, it's around 98 degrees today, so you MIGHT think, well, shorts? tank top? bathing suit? Nope. Apparently she's going to spend the summer "sweatin' to the oldies" in last year's middle school high- fashion rags. This is not going to be pretty. 

I could remind her about how I used to dress her in lovely smocked frocks, but that would cause her to sigh loudly, turn up her iPod and run (well, move faster than usual) to her room and lock the door. Given that I am trying to keep the lines of communication open, I just offer suggestions like "That looks hot, but in a sweaty way, sure you don't want to change??" Which, actually, gets the same response I just described. Oh well. Communication fail.

So let's talk about a communication win that's both pretty AND cool. If you like a retro-painted Ford Flex (complete with flames across the hood) like I do, well then you're gonna love the Plaid Nation 2009 tour. Unfortunately, we'll all be enjoying it from afar, because these social media mavericks aren't crossing the Rockies to hang with the truly hip out West. 

Still and all, this is a pretty cool tour and, if you're into social media (uh, you're reading my blog, right?) then this group is our people. The tour, identified as (hey, I'm copying because some fab copywriter sweated this out to make it eloquent): "a rolling celebration of creativity and a demonstration of social media in action." What does that mean? They're driving around the country (with sponsors! note the Ford Flex mention?) meeting with creative, brand and internet workers and celebrating their innovations. And while they're at it, they're sharing, showing the latest social media tools in action. For those of us on the coast, we'll have to settle with watching the tour on www.plaidnation.com. 

So, where CAN you see these guys live and in person? Detroit (lived there, sorry, can't go back), Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, Branson (say 'hi' to Andy Williams for me), Jackson and New Orleans. And a few stops in between. 

Why do I care? Because social marketing is a large component of what I do with my advertising agency. And these guys are cool. And, seriously, because everyone needs a laugh, I get my morning chuckle from one of their blogs, makethelogobigger@earthlink.net. Subscribe. Laugh. (okay, note to writer, I did NOT laugh at today's Derek Jeter ad. But it did make me annoyed. Sorry Gillette, not buying).

And best of all, I might just get a T-shirt for my blogging efforts. Which, I figure, will augment my tweenager's summer uniform. Now, all I need to get my hands on is the ICANHASCHEEZBURGER T-shirt from the Seattle Mariners, and I believe she will be ready to rock out eighth grade in style.

Good luck with your tour, guys. I'll be watching you!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hot Times in the Ice Rink

Having spent most of my lifetime in Southern California, it seemed only natural to me that when my kids were old enough to participate in youth sports programs, they'd select sports that were natural to their environment. To encourage adoption of what I assumed would be obvious choices, I enrolled all three in a local swim team. As my daughter would say, "Sports Fail."

You see, swim team meets early in the morning, a time when it's kinda cold (until you get into the water). And, with most of the meets in June (So. Cal. residents are familiar with 'June Gloom') there were meets at which I kept two sets of towels: one to keep them warm as they stood in the pea soup fog and one to dry them off in the pea soup fog). Not surprisingly, nobody warmed up, so to speak, to competitive swimming.

From there I tried Junior Lifeguard Camp. My version of bootcamp for pre-teens, to me this was the coolest thing ever. I would march the kids down to the beach at 7:00 a.m., armed with mini-coolers filled with Gatorade, water and snacks. I would pick them up at 3:00 p.m., so exhausted they fell asleep in the car on the ride home. In between, they enjoyed buoy swims, running on the beach, beach games and an assortment of beach activities. Again, to me, nirvana. Again, to my kids: Sand Fail.

Since then I've tried gymnastics, diving, basketball, ballet and flag football. All great sports. None stuck.

Katie found her sport on her own (I gave up on her after paying for 12 ballet lessons only to have her spend most of the time ignoring the teacher and posing for herself in the mirror, well, she was only five). Jumping. On a horse.

James, an excellent diver and fairly adept swimmer also found his own sport: ice hockey. Yeah. Ice hockey. In Southern California. Where rink time is so limited that there are leagues that compete in the middle of the night. Given that these are kids, they don't do that to the parents. They set us up for practices at 5:45 a.m. —on Saturday. Or, if it's an especially low-interest weekend (like Fourth of July weekend), Saturday AND Sunday. Oh, and Monday. 

Now, having been born in the midwest, I totally get ice hockey. We used to play it on our pond. The pond that didn't have a Zamboni. With skates that were not professionally sharpened. And with equipment that we created ourselves, not that our parents spent hundreds on at the Ice Hockey Warehouse O' Competitive Crap (my name, not theirs, for the Superstore of all things Ice Hockey found in Anaheim). My son loves this game and the fact that it requires amazing refrigeration, a 45-minute-drive and a LOT of expensive equipment (did I mention "expensive"?) does not deter him in the least. The 45-minute drive (for a 5:45 a.m. game) deters me, but that's not important. My July, and his, will be spent at Anaheim Ice, where he will eventually score his first goal, land more assists, and become (at least in his pretty humble head) the Teemu Selanne of his Squirt team. Not because he is a natural. Because in his heart, it is all he wants. And he has a coach that is supportive and encouraging. Not the best skater, not the best shooter, not the "best" of anything that could be labelled, he has received excellent coaching from someone who has encouraged him to go ahead and believe. And believing, as I have witnessed, does amazing things. Suddenly, the skater who isn't the fastest pushes harder. The kid who's a little clumsy with the puck gets determined. The kid who wants the assist gets it. 

No, he doesn't have his goal yet. And I still grumble at the 4:45 a.m. alarms. But after the game, when he talks about the "I almost..." and smiles, somehow that makes it worth it. Is he going to be Teemu Selanne? Probably not. Is he my family's Teemu Selanne? Absolutely. And I have to give a big hats off to the coaches at Anaheim Ice who have helped us along. Inspiring my child and every other child on these teams to do their best, push their hardest and see how believing in themselves can make a difference. 

Parents make a difference by trying to find a good youth sports program for their child. The coaches who give of themselves to make every kid on the team the best he or she can be complete the picture. Teaching our kids to create goals, learn from failure and find out what they are really made of is what every parent strives to accomplish. Youth sports programs and the coaches that encourage that process ensure that these life skills are experienced. 

Whether your kid is playing soccer (hats off to you, I see those all-day meets), baseball, football, basketball or Lacrosse, we're all in these programs. Be sure to thank the coaches at the end of the day. And, if anyone is interested in getting some great tips on how you can be a supportive parent, or how to be that inspiring coach, visit  ResponsibleSports.com.

As for me, I'm thinking about inventing a skate-lacer, because I swear my husband nor I will ever get those skates laced tight enough. As for William, our youngest, his goal is to be a Nascar driver. I have no idea how we're going to find a program for that...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Random Thoughts From a Weird Week

It's the first week since school let out, so, as a veteran, I knew that this week would have its share of trials and tribulations as the kids get used to their 10-week "freedom from schedules" break. It is also the week in which O'Neill Park in the canyon is transformed into Cub Scout Coven, with boys ranging from 6 to 11 participating in activities that truly delight boys: archery, hitting each other, wood crafts, poking each other, obstacle courses, spitting on each other, dissecting owl scat, kicking each other, and the best of all is saved for last: the mud fight. This year, my two oldest are "orange shirts," aka "helpers," so for one more week, my house is quiet from 1:30 until 9:00 p.m. I have tried my best to savor the silence, but work keeps intruding. Which leads me to my random thoughts for this wacked out week:

• Why did Michael Jackson turn up on my Google Alerts for "children's health records" (I'm writing a piece on those). There are jokes that could be made, but today, I'm not feeling snarky enough to do it.
• Is Ryan O'Neal for real or fame-whoring it a bit? I really can't tell.
• Why aren't there any fast food restaurants that sell really healthy food? Last night, at about 10 p.m. driving home, I could have used a drive through that offered a grilled salmon with salad, or tofu and salad, or something...(well, on top of the salad). 
• Why do I continue to attempt wear white, when my kids are walking stain magnets?
• Who invented flipflops, and WHY?
• Why does the cat insist on puking on the carpet, when the tile is just a scant 3 inches further?
• Why do squats work? 
• I am not convinced crunches work. 
And finally, if you have one deadline for each day of the week, it is inevitable that they will all converge and become due on the same day, within hours of each other. 

Can't wait to find out what wackiness awaits me tomorrow!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Survivor: Seattle

For anyone else in my family, my current trip would be the urban equivalent of Survivor. Two days (and counting) without one second of televised content. Who knew it could be done? Clearly no one from my household.

It's not me. I hate TV. Mostly. I like the occasional program and a movie or two, but I do not live and breathe to touch the remote. And mostly, I find myself turning the damned thing OFF because everyone leaves it on. 24/7. Probably to specifically annoy me.

So, for this trip, where I have enjoyed two nights' worth of room service and peace and quiet, I can happily say I haven't even looked for the remote. Each evening I've diligently completed within six hours what would take me at home about 12 (maybe 14 given Squirrel's recent proclivity to projectile puke across my office) and I've even made decent progress through "Atlas Shrugged." (Anyone familiar with that tome knows that it's not a light or fast read).

With sadness, I know my time is coming to its end and tomorrow evening I must return home, where the biggest battles are waged over "remote possession," and I will once again become point person for finding/cleaning/distributing all things essential and non-essential.

But until then, I am going to savor my last night in Survivor: Seattle. Quiet is the ultimate elixir. Well, that and a good book. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

business travel, u r doing it wrong

I'll admit that I am out of practice with the business travel. Before I had kids, I had mad packing skills that enabled me to load a suitcase with precisely everything I needed, including a good book for the flight, in less than 30 minutes. Maybe it's the interruptions. Maybe it's the cat puking on the floor. Maybe it's just because all of my stuff is now scattered across a larger footprint. But this time around packing was a chore rivaled only by sorting whites and darks in my laundry room. 

Being the "expert" traveler that I am, I dutifully searched weather.com to determine what would be the best array of attire. And, having remembered the days back when I had time to read Glamour or any other magazine, now that I come to think about it, I pulled out of my memory that clever girls traveled with color-coordinated gear so that one skirt, a scarf, a blouse and two pairs of shoes could get her through an entire week PLUS a formal dinner. Which is why I found myself in Payless today, seeking a flirty pair of flats to replace the ones that Fred the Cat had gnawed on so that I could travel with my three-item ensemble. Why spend $80 on nice skimmers when $15 wouldn't make me nearly half as heartbroken should Fred set his fangs upon a new pair, I thought. And the whole gig would have gone off without a hitch had not another woman in what appeared to be a similar predicament want the exact same pair of shoes that I had under my arm. Now, I'm all for helping out a friend in need, but that extended no further than helping this poor soul searching the racks, ask the counter person to run the style code and then, taking a "I'm so sorry" tone, rushing off with my shoes. Because clever girls need their flirty shoes, especially when they have a flight to catch in 1 1/2 hours.

Had I known that these same "comfortable" flats would have me walking like I had trekked the Sierra Madre barefoot later that same day, I might have just handed them off, taken my sneakers and told everyone in Seattle that the sneakers + skirt look is all the rage in the OC. Instead, rather than striding with confidence through the SEATAC airport, I slogged along wincing with each step, wishing I had some arch supports handy. This would also explain the side-eye I inadvertently slung at the one-legged lady who was exiting the bathroom through the entrance. I was on a roll, and on a mission, and my expectations were not to encounter anyone coming out through the in. I'll berate myself later for thinking any negative thoughts about anyone who clearly is overcoming greater odds than falling arches. 

In fact, come to think about it, I found it rather impressive that she also was talking on her cell. Now there's a feat, pun intended, I could not have pulled off.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Frog is Dead.

Admittedly, I took a break. A long one. Not from work. Not by a long shot. Just from thinking. So a lot of time has passed. In four short weeks I have been to Seattle (which was working fun, but still fun), Las Vegas (which was working fun, but not nearly as much as Seattle) and to so many "end of the year" functions I feel like I'm running an "end of the year" marathon. And in the midst of all of this work and running and getting ready for the "end of the year," the frog died.

Froggy arrived at our doorstep as a tadpole; the coolest part of the neighbor's camping adventure down in the canyon. He arrived with three siblings, as it were. He alone survived the sweat shop that is my boys' bathroom. Having transformed the surf frog habitat where once Discovery Science Center spawn had attempted to thrive into a new nursery, Froggy and his friends splashed about in mostly complete peace. The only exception was when Fred, the frog killing cat, was lurking.

Froggy's siblings died a bizarre and sudden death one evening. But Froggy kept on going. And Froggy became Froggy. Transfered to a new and luxurious home downstairs, Froggy adapted well, even to the piercing blue eyes that gazed upon him like he was the greatest delicacy known to cat-kind. But as the weeks progressed, the only two humans still curious about Froggy were mom and dad, who made sure that he had a ready supply of fruit flies and ample water. 

That is, until William's birthday weekend. And, for two long days, absorbed in details and running between boy scouts, neighbor's houses and ice hockey, as well as William's Disneyland birthday extravaganza, nobody checked on Froggy. And in that 48-hour span of time, Froggy died. 

William, devastated to find his little friend lifeless and shriveled, is a mixture of perplexed and distraught. When pets die it opens up a window to have valuable discussions with our children about the fragility of life and how to live in the "now" (which kids do in spades, anyway). But having your reptilian buddy die over your birthday is never ideal. And no amount of cuddles and rationalizations can ever adequately explain what transpired.

So we will bury Froggy somberly with the assorted hamsters and mice who have shared their lives with us; the furry friends lasted much much longer, but all have had their special time with us. And the only downside to this backyard memorial is that as I garden, I secretly hope I don't displace a burial spot I may have forgotten.

And now Fred has absolutely nothing to terrorize. To which I suggest, you know, the boys really want a dog...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day, which explains exactly what I am doing: cleaning. If you're a mother, you know that life rarely resembles the :30 commercials you see on TV. You know the ones where mom is being hugged, gifted, breakfasted-in-bed, flowered and generally pampered? Yeah. That mom is living in a parallel universe. The people look familiar, but they don't live in my world.

I woke up to a load of damp laundry living in my dryer, a stinky cat box and a seven-year-old rummaging through the pantry for cookies. I dried and folded the clothes, cleaned the cat box and gave the kid fudge Pop Tarts (not like that's much of an improvement over cookies, when you think about it). I was then gifted with a card from the cat. And a request from my 11-year-old to make Ramen Noodles. For breakfast.

Since then, I have washed the car, straightened the living room, fed the kids again, and saved the cat from a rolicking game of "get the kitty". Right now, the kids are re-soaking my car with a frantic game of "hose each other until we are supremely wet." And I am looking through my email, finishing up on multiple frantic projects.

I'm not writing to say it wasn't a great Mother's Day. It was. It was my great Mother's Day. Because it reflects my life, and that's not a bad thing. The only thing it needed was chocolate.

I hope that your Mother's Day was equally special. Happy Mother's Day! Now, go wash the car.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

State of the State Report, Round Deux

I think I mentioned that I detest the fifth grade project tour de force known as The State Report. I still do.

Weeks into this mind-numbing experience, it is time for the delivery of the epic piece known as The Brochure. This, in essence, a condensed version of the actual State Report (for which my husband and I received a 14 out of 15, silent high five), is now the bane of our collective existence. I'm not sure that we, I mean he, will finish 12 panels tonight. Even if it IS due tomorrow. Although I may enjoy the lingering scent of Spray Mount, but I digress.

Because even after this Dementor of a project is turned in, there remains a poster AND a shoe box diarama. And I remember making a waterfall for my daughter's diarama out of toothpaste that I molded between Saran Wrap. And I remember going to bed at 3 a.m. 

No. I still love the state of Virginia. But I am completely at odds with the State Report.

I hope youngest son is artistic because after two tries, he is on his own. Sorry little dude. I'm in a bad state.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

When Did It Become the End of the School Year???

I know that I am getting older because, in my world, days, weeks and months fly by like the animation in old black and white movies where the director wanted to depict the passage of months by blowing off calendar pages in quick succession. Yesterday was December 22nd. Today is May 2. I blinked and lost six months.

With this ridiculous time-speed continuum comes the letter I have been dreading: Hi! It's your Room Mom just letting you know about Teacher Appreciation Week, and oh, by the way, it's almost the end of the school year. Seriously?

Teacher Appreciation Week is one thing. It is five dread-filled days in which I pray that I remember what gift to send with what child on what day. Because if you forget or get it wrong, you'll hear all about it in the car at pick-up. "Mom!" the injured party will exclaim. "TOMORROW is 'bring a flower to school day.' I was totally embarrassed because I was the only one who brought in a flower and John laughed at me because it was pink and also because it was from our yard and that's really lame he says." 

So next week will be a real nail-biter, and for all of the wrong reasons.

But the "end of the school year" thing has me looking for a defibrillator. I honestly swear that I JUST finished a very LONG summer, enjoyed the annual trek to Target for new school supplies and got them started. How did we get to the END? I am not ready for 10 weeks of continuous entertainment, endless bickering, ongoing wet pool towels in the dryer, all while trying to work. Nor have I even begun to research potential camps to keep any one of them entertained for any length of time. 

Maybe, just maybe, if I blink it will all be a dream and the school year will have begun all over again. Or the school district will consider year-round school. I can hope.

Is anyone else experiencing this? If so, I'd love to hear how you are handling it. I am sure you are doing it better than me.

Dads Don't Understand Tooth Fairy Protocol

While I was on a business trip this week, my 7-year-old lost a tooth. Thankfully, it's one of his upper canines, and the loss of it may help ensure that at least one of his missing two front teeth might possibly emerge. It's been a year. We're still hopeful.

But the bigger issue for this was the drama surrounding the "leaving of the money." If I had been home, it would have been a relatively easy situation to resolve. Tooth Fairy protocol (at our house, anyway): 1. Stay up longer than said child; 2. Sneak in 3. Swap the tooth with a dollar; 4.  Call it good. But this time, Dad was the Tooth Fairy. And he wasn't sure how it worked.

He called me at 10:30 p.m., winded. "I can't find anything to put under William's pillow," he finally heaves. "Uh, got a dollar?" I query. He ignores me. "What about the Disneyland pin on your shelf," he suggests. The pin in question is indeed quite cute and is exactly something William would want. It depicts Chip and Dale playing with an acorn or something to that effect. It would look great on William's lanyard. Only problem is that William was with me when I bought it. He was supposed to be earning it. Note to self: remember what he was supposed to be doing to earn it.

"No," I tell my husband. "If you put the pin under his pillow, I'll be busted as the Tooth Fairy."  The wind effectively sucked out of his Tooth Fairy sails, said husband decides to go with the dollar angle. 

I could have saved him 30 minutes...

Do your husbands understand the Tooth Fairy rules? What kind of Tooth Fairy fun has your family experienced? I'd love to know.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Physical

My 12-year-old had a physical today. It went a lot differently than the one she had four years ago, before she was leaving for her first-ever overnight camp. This time, she's as tall as I am, and I would guess, is not done at 5'6". When she sits on the table in the pediatrician's exam room, she looks perfectly ridiculous, an adult in a room filled with child-sized furniture. She has come a long way in 12 years.

Today, the doctor doesn't talk about chicken pox or whooping cough or how washing your hands often will prevent you from getting sick. We talk about cervical cancer and menstrual cycles and body image. My little girl has grown up.

While the content may have changed, the ending, sadly did not. Only this time, as she sat waiting to receive five shots, I didn't have to bribe her, hold her still or wipe away any tears. I just had to buy her Coke. I guess that's a bribe. But this time I was honest (instead of saying, oh honey, these won't hurt). I told the truth. That Tetanus shot? You're gonna feel it tomorrow.

Just when I was getting used to the little kid physicals, my little girl had to get all grown up. But I like the new getting a Coke part.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not All ATwitter

As a marketing professional, I try to stay on top of the trends. I listen to what movies people are seeing, what programs they're talking about, what books are interesting. I read the papers (yes, the paper kind) and I read the blogs. I follow the latest in electronics and the newest in games. But I am a bit of a loss on Twitter.

It's not that I don't like it; my Tweet Deck is on right now. I just don't quite get it. It may be my lifestyle. Who wants to read a Tweet from me standing in line at Albertsons? Or running a lost lunch to school? Or filling up--again--at the Shell station. I am, simply put, not interesting. Even when I'm working, I am not interesting. Who wants to read "I just finished a really cool sentence for this new Website..."? Exactly.

I mentioned this to my friend, Jackie, this morning. She and I are happily (for us) and sadly (for Twitter) living the same life. As she puts it "I'm not a celebrity." This is true. And it is also true that perhaps people are enjoying following celebrities because they get a peak into their lives and get to see that they also go to the Shell station and stand in line at Albertsons. But somehow it is much more exciting that it's Ashton Kutcher or John Mayer performing these mundane tasks than a self-employed mom. Go figure.

I saw a great campaign yesterday that worked amazingly well with Twitter. It was free ice cream day at Ben & Jerry's. When you're giving away ice cream, people Tweet. Even me. And I am positive it generated a lot of great buzz for them. For this initiative, I can see how Twitter was a handy communications platform. 

So the next time I am giving out Otter Pops in the front yard, I'll know I've got more options than having my seven-year-old run up and down the street yelling, HEY MOM'S GOT OTTER POPS!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tween Hang Ups

My Tweenager lost her cel phone last night. By the sound of it, you would have thought that:
- someone had shaved her head
- she had an enormous zit on her nose and it was the night of the Prom
- her cat had died
- all of her blue jeans and black t-shirts had been stolen

It was quite a commotion. And a loud, and obnoxious, end to what had been a very lovely, quiet and largely uneventful night. Suddenly, a small electronic gadget is at the center of my daughter's small, but evolving, world. Apparently it holds the secret to her social universe. And here I just use it as a random communications device. What do I know?

Now, it's unfortunate when things get lost. And it's fair to get upset. But to run up and down the halls, screeching? To slam your bedroom door so that the hall reverberates like we've been hit with a 6.5 earthquake? To hit your brother and call him a stupidface because he is snickering at the drama? All but the last one (mostly) take it a bit over the top. At least in my "lost a few things in my lifetime" book.

Like when my laptop went to blue screen in the middle of a massive deadline. Besides the  heart failure, immediate onset of dread, and instant activation of the nagging little voice repeating "see! should have backed up!!!" I managed it as well as one can when a massive project just zapped itself from your existence, never to be seen again. No running up and down the halls. No door slamming. No screeching. No hair pulling (hey, that stuff costs too much to keep highlighted, that's a precious commodity). 

And the whole event has me wondering what's on her phone. But knowing my Tweenager, it was just a drama thing, the like of which would have made Scarlet O'Hara proud. If only it was an effective way to return lost items. 

What she doesn't know is that the ice rink called today and some nice person turned it in. But since my personal hang up is that I'm tired of seeing her fingers texting at Olympic rates, I think I'm going to sit on that little piece of information for awhile. Maybe she'll try my favorite communications device: conversation. 

I know. Yeah right.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Overscheduled Much?

According to the calendar, it is Monday. And, according to my project list, by 3:00 p.m. I will be exactly 10 hours behind schedule. Even if I pulled an "all-nighter," there is no way I can regain what was lost before my week started.

If being busy is good news, I am on the right side of the equation. But, happy moment that it is, it also adds another layer of stress. And I just noticed that my son has a hockey clinic tonight, for which I had best head to the garage and ensure that he has his bag packed. It is going to be a busy day, and it's going to roll over tomorrow.

As I scan my week, complete with school Open Houses and concludes with eight 11-year-old boys convening for a sleepover, I can see that I might as well give up, put the coffee pot on and get ready to push through it.

Because, as I sit here fretting, I have now added another 16 minutes to my 10 hours' lost...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mom Can't Always Have Your Back

We start out, all of us dedicated moms, trying to protect our children from all of life's miseries. We fix skinned knees with the non-stinging antispectic and colorful bandaids; we intervene when another child in the sandbox smacks yours on the head with a shovel; we counsel our kindergartners on how best to keep their hands to themselves; and we are continuously advising them that kind words are just as easy to say as the hurtful ones.

And then, sometime between third and fifth grade, it all unravels and your child is left to use all of the "tools" you've provided them--in their own words. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not. And when it doesn't, I'm not sure who feels worse, you or your child. 

This weekend, my newly 11-year-old on learned some difficult lessons. Lessons that we all learn eventually. But he had to get his in quick succession in three days. First, on his birthday, I brought him a special lunch only to find him totally "shut down" and fairly non-responsive. A group of boys were continuing to taunt him. It has, apparently, escalated. He has not told me; he doesn't want me to worry. Or, probably more to the point, get involved. As he stared down at the lunch, I watched the four boys giggle, whisper and point, and say something low enough that only my son could hear. So much for a happy birthday lunch. 

After school we packed him up for his first two-day campout with his new boy scout troop. From a parental perspective, it looked like Treasure Island, complete with tents, a fishing dock, rock climbing walls, camp fires and hikes. As the tents sprouted up, I left excited. Surely this will be a most memorable experience! And when we picked him up, we could clearly see that it was, and for all of the wrong reasons. Excluded in some instances; intentionally sidelined by the 13-year-old tasked with being the "leader" in others, it wasn't what he had hoped for. As a result, he may drop out.

It is hard to watch your child suffer, whether it is from illness, scholastic issues or peer trouble. And unfortunately, there is no non-stinging antiseptic and colorful band aid that can clean it up, patch it up and instantly make it better. If only.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I blinked, and there went eleven years

It is my son's 11th birthday, and he is beside himself with happiness. I watch him from across the table, and I marvel at how he has grown and how we both have changed. Because this birthday is unlike any other, and more likely how this day will unfold for years to come. 

There will be no birthday cake slaved over for hours just to get the frosting just right. There will be no house filled with small children shrieking, or a visit from the Creature Teacher with some exotic little primate stuck in the tree in my front yard. There will be no night-before frantic filling of extra gift bags to accommodate the last-minute RSVPs that came in. There will be no fretting about the "perfect" present, or a special birthday picture. That's all chronicled in his baby albums. That is not now.

Today, he will go to school like any other day. Then he will pack up and go with his boy scout troop for a weekend campout. He doesn't want any "perfect" present, just cash, so he can save it for a video game or an iPod. He doesn't like cake. And singing "Happy Birthday" causes him to get extremely shy and pretend he doesn't know us. After which he always says "Seriously Mom!"

Everyone says that you should enjoy your children while you can, because it goes by so quickly. And when you're in the midst of diapers, potty training, sippy cups, mounds of laundry, the terrible twos, etc., you mostly think it doesn't go by fast enough. But now, today, as his duffle bag sits in the hall and the birthday cards sit on his desk, I think about how much fun he and I had. 

Today he will remember jogging around the school track for the PTA fundraiser, making s'mores with his friends and trying to sleep in a tent for his first outdoor camping trip. And while he is making new birthday memories with his friends, I'll be remembering the 10 birthdays prior and hoping that someday, he'll think about them, too.

Everything is just as it should be, but the birthday cake flavor, had I baked one, would have been bittersweet. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Empty Nest Syndrome

I'm quickly approaching an occurrence so unusual that I think I can confirm only three previous documentable episodes. It is the oft-talked about, but rarely (for me, anyway) experienced situation known to some as Empty Nest Syndrome. To my husband this is known as "Yeah, It's About Time" day.

The stars must have magically aligned to create this phenomenon, but all three children will be enjoying themselves elsewhere, leaving myself and my husband to figure out what to do with ourselves for 24 straight hours. I'm thinking, wow! I can catch up on my books, get a few thank you's written, go to the gym, redraft a story idea I had...my mind reels with possibilities. My husband's eyes are rolling into the back of his head. None of these options was on his 24-hour "bucket list."

I'm also fairly confident that: mowing the lawn, organizing the garage, taking the car for an oil change, fixing the shower door, recaulking the tub or any of the other items on my growing "around the house" list is on that bucket list--or any other list, for that matter.

Something tells me that he may even pass up the opportunity to catch a movie without having to pay three times the ticket cost for a babysitter. Instead, he is inquiring about the status of my favorite coconut bubble bath...Hey, wait! Maybe he IS considering recaulking the tub!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Check Your Horrorscope

Lately my tweenager has been grabbing for the Life section of the newspaper before she grabs her breakfast. It's not because she wants to read the Society column, find a new recipe, or read about something interesting in the community. It is because she wants to read her horoscope.
I understand. I've been there. But I discovered an interesting phenomenon: was the writer of these horoscopes absolutely psychic, or was it something else? Was it that, having read "your day will be difficult; have patience" I was convinced that this would be the outcome, and thus made it transpire? Given that the horoscope writer for my town seemed to have a hate complex that was focused predominately on Virgos, thus giving us a preponderance of two-star days filled with words like "complicated," "disorganized," "boring," "good  day to clean the closet," and "your lover doesn't understand you," I decided to quit reading my Horrorscope, as I came to call the daily missive, and take my chances on my own. 
Now it's my daughter's turn. Given that she's excited to read it, my guess is that either the writer I came to know has retired and the new writer is more balanced and more positive OR she's hoping that the next day is better than the last. I mention this to her. "You know," I say, trying to sound casual, "it might be better just to let the day unfold and then read today's horoscope tomorrow and see if it was right."
This causes her to look at me in the same astounded way she does when I wear something other than blue jeans and a sweatshirt. "Why would I do that?" she asks as she tears through the pages. Horoscope addiction. What's next.
"Here, I'll read yours!" she exclaims. Yay. "Work from home this week. Your partner will be difficult. Take time to read."
Excellent. It would appear that my original writer has not retired. That, or Virgos are just prone to lackluster futures. Now, if I didn't work for myself, I might take that first part as an ominous message that could be a clue to a layoff or a firing. But, in my case, I take that as a "don't go to a bunch of meetings because you'll be backlogged with work." That is not a psychic moment; that's a reality. The second part doesn't surprise me, taxes are due on Wednesday. And the last part, that's just good common sense. But because of the two other sentences, that's just plain old wishful thinking.
Now that I've analyzed this, I think to myself, have I created my backlogged, busy, difficult week because of these words or were they doomed to transpire in any event? 
I don't know. I'm too busy to worry about it.  

Monday, April 13, 2009

state of the State Report

I hate fifth grade. I hated it when I was in fifth grade, during which time Mrs. Grant made my life perfectly miserable with her "waterfall r's" that I simply could not replicate, causing me to spend the entire nine months I was entrusted into her evil care to be called "Lou". "LOU?" she'd query, as she peered around the room with one paper left in her decaying clutches, "I didn't know we had a LOU in class!!!" Leaving me no choice but to make the slinking walk of shame to the front of the classroom to retrieve my paper, to the snickers of the rest of the class. (Oh, and did I mention that I was also the NEW KID, making this insult the one-two punch of "youaresonotcool"). This transpired daily, to the point that I considered changing my name to "Lou." Unfortunately, I didn't take to the name and so I just became "thatnewgirlthathasbadhandwriting." There's a moniker you want.

So I have no good memories of fifth grade. I have no good memories of Katie's fifth grade, either. She had the most miserable year, mostly at the hands of another young lady who was quite a bit more clever and absolutely masterful at starting things and not getting caught. 

And now my son also is having a lousy fifth grade. Is it just fifth grade? Or is it being 11-going-on-40? Is it my bad handwriting gene? Or my "I don't have any patience for stupid" gene? Or are all of us doomed to have the teacher from hell in fifth grade. For my son, hell is called "the State Report." His personal Hell? Virginia. 

For most of us, Virginia is a lovely and attractive state, filled with trees, birds, picturesque Williamsburg, historic Jamestown, a cool Spring Break locale and all sorts of rolling landscape. For my son, Virginia is an Epic Fail, filled with geography, climate, history, famous people, and something else but he can't put his finger on it because he can't find his notecards. In addition to a multi-page report, he has to make a poster, a float and something else (he can't remember, he can't find his notecards). And, having read through his report, he is doomed to a fate worse than Mrs. Grant. He leads off his geography page with: "Virginia is a small state that has a lot of geography." I couldn't really read past this; I was stopped cold on so many levels.

So tonight, the night before the rough draft is due, he brings his pages to me to edit. Eleven in all. Eleven filled with sentences like "Virginia is a small state that has a lot of geography." And I am trying to decide: Do I help him fix this and dive into it or let him learn a lesson about not waiting to the last minute? I'm thinking...mostly about Mrs. Grant....

Hey, Mrs. Grant! My lack of ability with waterfall r's has not deterred my ability as a human being nor has it prevented me from promotion in my career. Imagine that!!!

Now I have to go figure out what "Virginia has a lot of geography" really means...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Basket Case

Easter is one of those "no-sleep" holidays. Which automatically makes me add a level of dread to the whole event. Since I have to get up at the crack of dawn daily to get the tweenager to zero period, weekends and holidays are sacred; I'd like to sleep in until 8 a.m. if at all possible. 

Easter Eve also has the added stress of having to stay up long enough to ensure that all children are assuredly asleep, so that  I can play Easter Bunny without getting caught. The no-sleep element makes it all that much harder to deal with the sugar-induced added bickery that is sprinkled atop the usual sibling bickery. I am told that one day I will miss all of this. I need more convincing.

This year is especially fun because I'm still stuffy, my son is still sick and my husband has locked himself in the office, desperately attempting to finish up the taxes. I think that's code for "I'm busy until your mother goes home" but I'll take the high road and figure that he just doesn't want to file an extension.

And the only basket the Easter Bunny had in store for me this year was a basket case. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?

Lately I find myself talking in lyrics. Somehow my generation lucked out and we grew up with musicians who are entirely quotable for every situation. Who knew that I would sound profound and wise as I whisper "YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT...BUT YOU'LL FIND SOMETIME YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED!" to my tantrum-throwing son as I step over his flailing body in the toy aisle at Target. Thank you for that, Mick Jagger.

And today, as I once again endure the endless bickering that is produced by three stubborn and cranky children, my mind wandered over to my favorite Elvis Costello song "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding." I ask this of my annoying brood, who look back at me with the "trick question, right?" look. As I fumble for my iPod, all bodies bail out of the SUV. Nobody wants to listen to mom rock out. Or, apparently, learn anything.

Perhaps I should have played "Watching The Detectives" instead. Perhaps it would instill some fear. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Starting Out Where I Left Off

In my column in Simply Smart, I left off with the engine running, and a nice puddle of water pooling beneath the car, thanks to the A/C. It's been a while.

In the meantime, the magazine went through two "tests;" focus groups declared their love for it and the elated editorial staff moved forward with the editorial calendar. Then the economy started to slide and higher ups decided that rather than spend money on a rack magazine they'd use it to shore up other divisions. And so, quick as it appeared, there went a really cool idea. 

Since then, I've created two companies, restructured one, written more than 15 websites, 25 articles, and created numerous marketing materials. Yep, it's back to marketing maven as it were, but my lead role is still as mom. And as such, right now, I'm unfortunately not the woman I once was. Literally.

My daughter started this. She told me about how "everyone" was "sick as dogs" at school. It almost affected the girls attending the weekend's state FHA finals in Fresno. Luckily, everyone was well enough to attend. So just as I was patting myself on the back for making it through the winter illness season with not even a sniffle, the very worst happened. That's right: Mom got sick.

Now, I know all about how to keep illness to myself, having survived millions (it feels like, anyway) bouts of flu, stomach bugs, rashes, etc. over the course of the kids' preschool and elementary years. And I did what we all do: soldiered on, while we all know we need to be in bed with someone bringing US some chicken soup (yeah, we can still dream). And once again, just as I thought, hey, this is working, it didn't. My littlest started coughing. Here we go.

But now I'm working as half the woman I once was. You see, whatever this is, I can't smell and I can't taste. Suddenly, I can't tell if the milk is off. I can't determine whether the boys' bathroom has hit the "get the Lysol STAT" moment. I can't conduct the "did you brush your teeth??" test at the door as the kids head to school. (at least not with any conviction). I can't tell you if the cat box needs emptying or if the tadpole is stinky. I can't say, with conviction, that the hamster cage needs cleaning and I can't open the chicken and be assured that it's fresh. 

Of all my senses, I always thought my sight and hearing were the two that I used day in and day out. Now I'll admit, my sense of smell has overcome both and probably leads my day. Without it, I am not nearly the force I used to be.  

Hopefully, whatever this is will pass and once again I will be able to smell all of the wondrous smells that I once declared "I wish never to smell again!!!" If you see some lady sobbing as she sorts her laundry, it's not because she's angry, overwhelmed, or mad that clothing that has been only worn once is in the basket. She's crying because she can once again smell the stinky socks of her unappreciative tweenager. Ah, a day to look forward to!

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