The Countdown (and up) Begins

Christmas-tree-decorations-by-specialist-giftsIt’s just one week away from the big day – CHRISTMAS! Or, if you’re counting in advent calendar chocolates like my kids are – just seven more candies.

We’re nearing Christmas day and I’ve not yet finished my shopping. I have a few things – but not everything, by any means. And, don’t my kids know it! I made the mistake of wrapping some gifts when the kids weren’t around this past weekend and putting them under the tree. Here I thought I was being proactive. Nope. Now I remember why I don’t do this. The kids immediately began counting how many presents each one of them had and who’s present was the biggest. Ugh.

This year, my kids will spend Christmas morning with their Dad. We get them back at 10am, so they can have special time opening the presents at our house, too. And, if this week’s counting is any indication, they will be tearing through the presents – mentally calculating who got what.

Some years, we have followed the three-gift rule. It was good enough for Jesus. I think it teaches kids to not be greedy and to put the focus back on what the season is really about. Having said that, I DO want to get them something they really want. However, my daughter sent her letter to Santa without letting me see it. When I ask her what she asked for, she only rattles off expensive electronics that I have no intention of buying her. My first grader wants a BB machine gun. This is also not happening. And my soon-to-be-three-year-old wants a “Wee-wee.” That means car, by the way. Or truck. He doesn’t differentiate. But it has to be orange.

What are you looking forward to in these last few days of Christmas? Oh, and what are YOU wishing for? I’ve asked for socks. Yep, I’m a mom.

A Very Griswold Christmas…

Clark-GriswoldRaise your hand if you’ve seen the “National Lampoon Vacation” movies. Okay, put your hand down – people are staring at you.

If you’ve seen those movies, you know Clark Griswold is notorious for setting these ridiculously high expectations of family events and then failing miserably at meeting them. For instance, the Christmas lights scene: he and his son, Rusty, set up a million or so lights all over the roof… and they don’t work. It’s those kind of expectations that I seem to model in what I like to call my “Brilliant Mom Ideas.” These are ideas that seem great at first and that I later regret.

As I mentioned a while back, my minivan is on its last leg. So, I’ve been doing a lot of Craigslisting in search of a new vehicle. I found one this weekend. It completely matched what I was looking for, but… (yes, there’s always a but) the owner and the vehicle were 251 miles north of me. Like a good Alaska girl, I didn’t let a simple thing like distance stop me. I decided to make the most of it. Enter my latest Brilliant Mom Idea.

Deciding to make a 251 mile – wait, make that 502 mile (round trip) – trek with your three kids requires a lot of thought/energy/planning/stupidity/prayer. But, why stop at 502 miles? Because, just another 126 miles and you’d be in North Pole, Alaska. And you know what’s in North Pole? SANTA! So, we decided to keep going and make our 502 mile trek into a 754 mile trip.

We waited until we’d packed up the kids in the car to tell them where we were headed. We hit “record” on the camera and broke the big news. I expected “You Tube” quality reactions – maybe screaming, jumping up and down or even tears. Nope. Nada. They were like, “Oh, that’s cool.” This should have been my first red flag.

After driving the first 251 miles, test driving the truck and continuing on north, we spent the night in Fairbanks and woke the next morning, primed to see Santa. We psyched the kids up to see him, asking them repeatedly what they were going to ask him for. We drove to North Pole, pulling up outside Santa Claus’s House. The kids took a moment to say hi to his reindeer, before running-full-speed inside. We ran through the very crisp and cold air and opened the doors to his workshop. The children tore through the store in search of Santa and his big chair. I turned the corner and stared – at an empty chair. “Oh, where’s Santa?” I said aloud, and then read the sign: 257606_10151299024252722_1996882062_o

Did I fail to mention this was MONDAY?

At least the kids did not come apart at the seams. I, however, felt like Clark Griswold when they drove cross-country, only to discover that Wally World was closed for maintenance. Yeah…

Two days in the car with three kids… and no Santa. Well, at least it’s a family memory we won’t soon forget.

Tell me – please – have you created any Brilliant Mom Ideas this Christmas?

Attack of Murphy’s Law

murphys-lawWhen I was a kid, I had a calendar of Murphy’s Law – you know, the things that will inevitably happen… anything that can go wrong, will. That’s kind of been a mantra throughout different stages of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly blessed. But, just ask any of my friends and family and they’ll tell you, I win what I refer to as “the sh!t lottery,” a lot.

I’ve been drinking these green shakes – Shakeology – to try to get healthier and lose some weight. It’s been working. So, even though our month-long challenge finished yesterday, I decided, “What the heck?” and chose to give it one more day. I tossed all the ingredients – green powder, frozen fruit, some water and ice – into our Black & Decker blender at work. I put the lid firmly on and hit the button.  Can you guess – considering the above comments about Murphy’s Law – what happened next? If you guessed the blender malfunctioning and green stuff spraying everywhere, you’d be right.

That lovely crud that’s been going around has been finding a new home in me. I’ve been pretty good at keeping it at bay, but today I started getting the tell-tale body aches. I texted my husband mid-day asking him to make supper so we could expedite the bedtime process with the kids. He did. BUT… Murphy’s Law strikes again and my ten-year old daughter failed to mention she had a project due in school tomorrow. Of course, it’s tomorrow and she’s never mentioned it before tonight. My, “Calgon, take me away,” moment has been replaced with a past-bed-time-homework-marathon. 

My many Murphy’s Law experiences have taught me one thing in life:  look for the funny. So, I leave you with this. While reading my children a bedtime story tonight, “Santa Kid,” by James Patterson, my first grade son caught me off guard when the villain in the book was being particularly naughty. He said – and I quote – “If I saw that guy, I’d kick him in the balls.”

What kind of Murphy’s Law experiences do you have as a mom?

Because He’s Two

My youngest baby turns three in a couple of months. He’s really giving two a run for its money.

Today, he came home with a note from his preschool teacher that said the following:

Today I ate fairly good.

2hr nap.

Back to saying No.

Oh, and above that were the words, “Today I felt:” with corresponding mood selections: happy, frustrated, sick, scared, angry, sad and, the last one, with no corresponding picture, mischievous. Can you guess which one my toddler was today?

As any parent of a … well… I was going to try to narrow that age range down, but basically, any one who has ever had a child over the age of, lets say, 10 months knows… “Back to saying no,” is somewhat to be expected. He does say no. AND, his newest thing? He’s started giving people the stink eye. He downright glared at another toddler who dared walk by him in the produce section of the grocery store the other day. She swerved away and back to the safety of mom and dad.

Of course, we do the whole talking to him business, the occasional timeout and all that jazz. But, this is my third child. And I know this game. Sometimes, like when your dog swallows a chunk of play dough, you just have to wait for things to take their colorful course.

So, when I’m at my wit’s end and trying to figure out why my precious little boy is driving his teacher bonkers, pummeling his brother, then hugging him two seconds later or flailing on the ground because I refused to give him another glass of egg nog, I just recite the mother of toddlers mantra: ‘Because he’s two.”

What are your coping techniques for dealing with this lovely phase of childhood?

Giving Thanks

I’ve been watching as many of my friends have posted daily what they are thankful for, leading up to Thanksgiving.

Here’s my twist on that: What are you thankful for regarding your children? Your response can be sweet, sappy, sick or silly. Just give thanks for something!

I’ll start…
I’m thankful that, no matter what, my kids make me smile at least once a day.


Your turn!

Working Out… With Kids

My husband and I ordered one of those P90X style workout videos. It’s called Rev Abs and it’s made by the same Beachbody company that does P90X, Insanity and all those other workouts that make you sweat ’til you bleed. Last week was our first week in to the 90 day program. We were doing really well about getting up at the crack of dawn to workout. Until Friday. I slept in, so I had to workout Friday night. In front of my kids. Yeah.

My two youngest kids watched me as I worked out. They both stripped off their little boy shirts and tried to workout along with me. The skinny little arms of my seven and two year old boys flung around like wild. About three minutes in, they gave up and were sitting behind me on the couch. This is a bad angle to be viewed while working out. Because, this leads to questions and statements – statements and questions that are especially harsh when coming from the mouths of children.

My seven-year old son’s first question, “Mom! Why is your butt jiggling?”

Statement number two from the same child: “They’re doing jumping jacks wrong. Here, let me show you. Your hands are supposed to clap at the top. Don’t they know how to do a jumping jack?!”

And, a tie for my favorite (my favorite, of course, being the question regarding my jiggly butt): “Wow, mom and I were really watering during that workout! We watered A LOT!” Watering = sweating.

I think I’ll be doing today’s workout after the kids go to bed. It’s safer that way.

Coal for Christmas

My first grader told me today he hoped he wouldn’t be getting coal for Christmas. I asked him why he thought he would be. There were some mumblings and then he said something about the unfairness of getting coal in the first place. He said he thought it would be unlike Santa to actually give coal. I asked why. He said:

“Santa’s a pretty nice guy. It doesn’t sound like something he would do – give coal to kids. That’s just mean.”

“But,” I retorted,” What if those kids are on his naughty list? What should he do then?”

“Well, I think Santa should give them a letter or a card. Something like, ‘You’ve been bad and you need to be better, but I’m giving you a toy anyway.'” My son explained.

He then went on to explain the merits of coal and,  “how cool it actually would be if you’d get coal and it could transform into a car and stuff.” Yeah – he’s seven.

If anyone’s getting coal in my house, it’ll probably be me. Especially after last night.

My mother and I (Hi, Mom!) got into a heated discussion over the difference between, “expired” and “best if used by.” I managed to slip into a 15-year-old version of myself, just shy of screaming at the top of my lungs, “I hate you!” and slamming my bedroom door to crank up my stereo to the sounds of “Whoomp there it is” or some other mid ’90s jock jam. My kids were sitting at the dinner table during this debate. As I was getting to my pinnacle of frustration, my two oldest children totally called me out:

“MOM! You are being incredibly disrespectful to your mother! Honor thy father and mother!” They reminded me.

So, I took my butt downstairs and tried not to think about the fact that my kids just busted me for not setting a good example.

Santa, I understand if my stocking is the heavy one, full of coal. At least my son will have fun trying to make it transform…

Emotional Warfare and Other Soda-Related Evils

Let me start by saying – this all started with a soda.

My ten-year old daughter has a big report due tomorrow. Knowing I didn’t have time to cook, help her and tend to the other two kids – I decided to buy a pizza for dinner. I decided to treat the kids with a soda. I bought one 20 ounce Sierra Mist. My toddler was the only child with me when I made the purchase. He proceeded to scream the entire way home, demanding soda, “RIGHT NOW!” I explained he needed to stop whining or he wouldn’t get any soda… at all. He managed to survive the ride home.

When we got home, my seven-year old son, realizing I’d only purchased one 20 ounce bottle, hollered, “WHAT? Only one SMALL one?!” I told him he should be grateful for what he was being given and that soda was a treat – a treat he would not get if he didn’t behave.

I poured all three children a small cup of soda and went downstairs to set down my coat and purse. In the seconds it took me to accomplish that task, the two oldest children had already begun fighting. My ten-year old daughter was crying, saying something about her seven-year old brother saying he hated her. He claimed she did something to him, yada yada… he said, she said. I walked to the table, picked up both their glasses and dumped them out in the sink.

This small act on my part was met with the child-size equivalent of civil war. My son tore his glasses off his face, crumpling his homework in a ball. My daughter stormed off to her room. My toddler guzzled his cup of soda – the only one not taken away.  

Minutes later, as my first grader and I were having a long talk about acceptable behavior, my daughter appeared with a piece of paper. She threw it down in a huff and returned, dramatically, to her room. This is what she left for me.

Let me again say, this entire event began over a single, 20 ounce bottle of soda.

She returned a few minutes later with another piece of paper. This one asked me to “check yes or no” if I hated her. She left it in the same dramatic fashion. When there was no response on my part within her designated amount of time – she came back again. This time she asked if I had read her letters. I said, “Yes. I don’t respond to emotional blackmail.” She said, “Oh, okay then.” She then completely changed course, told me she loved me and sat at the table like the most pleasant fourth grader you’ve ever met. WHAT THE… ???

I’ve learned a few important things tonight:

Soda will not return to my home.

My kids really need a refresher course on what is acceptable behavior.

If this is what the tween years hold… I should start preparing now for life with a teenager.

The Minivan…. No Turning Back

When I bought my minivan, it was a conscious decision to delve into the title some refer to as, “Soccer Mom.” My friends all snickered about my purchase. Now, six years later, many of them also have minivans or at least big SUVs, having figured out for themselves the perks of driving a minivan. More on that in a moment.

I am sad to say, my minivan is on its last leg. I have had a ’02 Honda Odyssey for over half a decade. It has been a good little soldier. It’s had the occasional problem, but mostly, it’s been a great car. That was until last week. It began hesitating and lurching forward and all the tell-tale signs of transmission trouble. After some research, it appears it’s about a $4,000 fix. On a minivan with nearly 200,000 miles on it…. not sure that’s a good investment.

Anyway…. this post is an ode to my minivan. I have no idea how much longer we have together, but I’ll take it. I’d love some input on what should be my next car – used, of course. Once you’ve gone minivan, there’s really no turning back. But, I’m willing to hear you all out.

Reasons I love my minivan

  1. What other vehicle can accommodate two adults, three kids, three dogs and all your stuff?
  2. It’s like a giant purse.
  3. Tinted windows – great for changing your children’s clothes in the backseat. (Or your own.)
  4. The acceptance of the general public that this is essentially a cattle-carrier for kids – certain smells and messes are to be expected.
  5. The built-in DVD player. This feature is only allowed in trips longer than 45 minutes. Of course, my kids still ask every time they get in…
  6. The back row folds down so your purse minivan can fit even more stuff.
  7. You can be the “Field Trip Mom,” taking a herd of kids in your car at once.
  8. Extra seats for friends who want to come over a play at your house or for brave coworkers willing to take a chance riding in your mom-mobile.
  9. Automatic sliding doors that open at the push of a button on your key ring.
  10. The sisterhood of traveling moms – the camaraderie of other moms knowing we’re all on the same mission.

The Old Parent Teacher Conference

It’s that time of year again. It’s cold. Kids are getting out their snow pants (yes, if you live here in Alaska, you know they are) and deciding on their Halloween costumes. Parents are shuffling their schedules to attend parent teacher conferences.

We had both kids’ conferences yesterday. My ten-year-old daughter’s conference was first. She played outside with her brothers while we (her dad, step-dad and myself) heard from her teacher. Up until now, these conferences have always left us worried for our girl. She is eager to please, a delight in class, but struggles with reading. She’s had some extra help these last couple of years and the school she goes to is just awesome with doing everything they can to make sure she excels. All that hard work really paid off! Our fourth grader had her best ever report card this year! The teacher gave us samples of her work and it was just great to hear her teacher compliment her on her writing. They say fourth grade is a really crucial year for kids. I’m praying she’ll keep working as hard as she has this first quarter.

When we went to our first grade son’s classroom, he and his little brother followed us in. Our two-year old had rosy cheeks and a little Rudolph nose going. He was done playing outside, so we let him stay in the class, while we sent out seven-year old out to play. Our first grader also had a great report. His teacher had a rather interesting insight I had to share with you moms of boys. Apparently, when your precious sons are looking into your eyes when you’re talking to them – THEY ARE NOT LISTENING. She said she read a book about the differences between little boys and girls. When girls listen, they make eye contact. When boys are really listening, they are often busy doing something else – playing with something on their desks, etc. His teacher had sent a note home a while back asking if she could give our son gum in class. Odd, I thought, but I agreed – thinking it was for motivation. Turns out, having boys chew a piece of gum is often enough to distract them into truly listening and learning. Who knew?

While we were listening to our son’s teacher, I held my two-year old in my lap. He is very much into the not-listening, even if I gave him gum, phase. He was sitting there – trying to chat it up with me. I kept telling him he needed to be quiet and play with his tractor. He was quiet… for a minute. Then, out of the blue, while our older son’s first grade teacher was talking about what we could be doing at home with him, my toddler made a sound – a sound most parents would describe simply as, “A blow out.” Now – having heard, and felt, this occurring on my lap, I was concerned – mostly, because our two-year old is potty trained and no longer in diapers. Much like when encountering a bear in the woods, I chose the tactic of staying completely still. The sound continued. I, in embarrassment and fear, began to giggle. My husband, ex-husband and son’s teacher all looked at me. Apparently, they hadn’t heard the sound. I said, “he totally ripped one!” To which my toddler – in the way only a two-year old can – mimicked, “I ripped one!” I know you’re not supposed to draw attention to it… but I couldn’t stop myself if I tried. I laughed until I cried. The odd thing? His teacher looked completely unfazed. There must have been a chapter on that in her book.

How’d your conferences go?

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