On Death and Dying (and Pouring Drinks)

IMG_2985From the moment they are born, kids start screaming for something to drink and as far as I can tell they don’t ever stop. On average, I pour my kids about 26,000 drinks a day. I am not exaggerating. There are so many drinks I have to pour I can barely do anything else with my life, and as you can imagine I’ve become very resentful.

I’ve realized that what goes on with me psychologically after I hear the question, “Mom, Can I Have a Drink?” is similar to what Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified as the five stages of grief 45 years ago in her groundbreaking book, “On Death and Dying”:

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Denial: There is no way he is asking me that question. It’s not even lunchtime yet and he’s already had chocolate milk, lemonade, and a juice box. I am just going to sit here and pretend to be deaf. If I’m lucky, he’ll go away.

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Anger: I don’t believe this. I just sat down for f**k’s sake. “No! You cannot have a drink. You can’t. You don’t need a drink right now. You aren’t even thirsty! There’s NO WAY! You JUST HAD a giant glass of lemonade, and you stole a juice box from the outside fridge right before that. You simply don’t like to see me sitting down. GOD FORBID I ever sit down. Do you ever ask yourself why you don’t like to see me sitting down? Because I’d really like to know your reasoning. Did you know that when a Mom sits down, she still loves her children very much? Did you know that? WHERE IS YOUR FATHER????”

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Bargaining: “Ok, look, if I give you a drink NOW you can’t have any drinks LATER, do you understand? I will give you a drink now if you PROMISE not to hound me for any more drinks today. OK? One more drink today, and that’s it. Got it? And if you are good and you don’t drink anything else for the rest of the day, I will give you an extra special drink tomorrow! OK? Do we have a deal?”

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Depression: Oh my God, what happened to me? I used to eat at restaurants owned by Bobby Flay. I used to travel to exotic lands and meet exotic people. I can’t do this anymore. I need a nanny. But then I would need a job. Who on earth would hire me? I haven’t worked in 11 years. My brain functions at a third grade level on a good day, and I have lost all tolerance for bullshit. Maybe I can be the lunch lady at school. But then I would be getting drinks for the entire student body! I can’t win! 

“Mom, can I have a drink?”

Acceptance:  “Ok, here. Here is your drink. Now don’t spill it.”

Fuzzy

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My second child, a boy, turned eight in April and decided that he wanted to grow his hair long, except his is really curly and growing it is going to be more complicated than he realizes. I should know because I too have really curly hair.

This is a very sensitive topic for me. Throughout the entire fourth grade, my “friends” called me Fuzzy. They thought my hair was HILARIOUS, and in all honesty, it was. Bullying isn’t right, but my hair was wrong. My mother would struggle to get a comb through my frizzy curls, telling anyone who would listen that my hair didn’t grow DOWN, but OUT. I’m a grown woman now and with the help of a talented stylist, hours of research on the Internet, and a late-night infomercial genius by the name of Chaz Dean, my hair looks much better now. Unless of course it rains.

I wish I could take everything I have learned in this area and teach it to my children who have inherited my frizz, but I can’t. As you may have figured out by now, my kids will not be told what to do. My son proudly walks around like Albert Einstein had a scuffle with Don King in the middle of an electrical storm, and my daughter will not let me flat iron her hair while we talk and bond about One Direction and their upcoming album (OMG, I can’t wait! Niall said it was going to be more edgy this time around). She just doesn’t have the patience, but she has no idea how GORGEOUS her hair could be.

This morning, after I begged him to do SOMETHING with his hair, my son indulged me by spraying his hair with a little water and running the palm of his hand down one side of his head. The other side was left completely untouched. He desperately needed more spritzing, some finger combing and a spray gel, but he wouldn’t let me near him. I felt so helpless. Why can’t my kid put his trust in me? I wanted to write his teacher a note apologizing for the distraction his wild hair would cause in the classroom today, but I didn’t have time because my daughter was having her own crisis trying to use this stupid donut thing while her buddies were ringing the doorbell. If only she would let me do what I want, WHAT I KNOW, she wouldn’t need the damn donut!

It’s hard, because on the one hand, despite everything I have written on this blog to the contrary, they are perfect just the way they are and I don’t want to give them something silly to worry about. On the other hand (the one that keeps it real), good personal hygiene is important, which means that teeth need to be brushed, clothes need to be clean, and uncontrollable hair must be controlled. It’s a fact that neat and clean wins the race, and it’s a lesson best learned early. Plus I really don’t want anyone to call them Fuzzy. It totally sucked.

How to Embarrass Your Tween

I sank to a new low last week. My first, an 11 year old girl no longer in elementary school, left for junior high the earliest she had yet, allowing her to walk at a relaxed pace that does not cause sweating and casually chat with friends before the daily grind of science, orchestra and social studies. It was a great way to start the day and I was so glad I didn’t have to nag her about getting out the door on time.

The boys got up, I prepared their breakfast, and then I saw it – the audition form. My daughter was trying out for the musical after school and I had very carefully filled out all of her acting experience, knowing full well that none of it really mattered because she was going to get ensemble anyway. I had put the important (not really) form in my daughter’s backpack the night before, but remembered at the last minute that she had to sign it, so I took it out and neither one of us bothered to put it back.

I glanced at the clock. I had 10 minutes before the first bell. Plenty of time. I accepted the challenge. I called her on her cell. She answered.

“You forgot your form!”

“What??”

“You forgot your audition form!”

“Oh!”

“Where are you?”

“In front.”

“OK, I will meet you in front…WAIT!…there’s not enough time. Go to the back.”

“OK, I’ll meet you in the parking lot. But leave now!”

“Yes, I’m already in the car.”

During our conversation, I grabbed and put on the closest pair of shoes I could find: my black rubber rain boots. It wasn’t raining. I got in the car with the cordless, not the cell, and peeled out of the driveway. In my pajamas.

I turned the corner and then it hit me, they won’t let me in the parking lot. Good God Almighty. They are not going to let me.

I stopped at the intersection and let a car go by.

Maybe they will let me just this once? Surely there is a grace period that will slowly wean helicopter elementary school Moms from babying their children who are now old enough to remember their own things.

I rolled up to the entrance of the parking lot and quickly realized that there was no grace period. There were like armed guards blocking the entrance who eat Moms like me for breakfast. I could see my daughter in the distance but I could not communicate with her because the cordless was now out of range.

Oh my God, I am going to have to get out of the car. I am wearing rubber rain boots with no rain and pajama bottoms and my hair looks like a Unicorn Zombie Apocalypse.

It is amazing how many things your brain can process in three to five seconds but it won’t remember to put an important (not really) form back into a backpack. I considered just sitting there to see if she would come to me, but then she would be late. I considered leaving and maybe faxing the form from home but what if she came to me and I wasn’t even there?

There was no choice, I had to get out of the car.

I got out of the car and starting running in my rubber rain boots with no rain and pajama bottoms which I could now see were tucked into the boots like Aladdin. When I finally got to her, I tried to apologize, but I was laughing too hard. And she tried to be embarrassed but she was laughing too hard, too.

Cereal Wars

The following are all the meals that everyone in my house will eat for dinner without complaining:

Penne with meatballs.  The end.

So since my kids don’t really eat what I cook for dinner, they are not surprisingly hungry before bed, and while most Moms would take a hard line and as a result actually make some progress in this area over time, I am weak and sabotage myself night after night by offering a small and simple snack like fat-free saltines, string cheese, or toasted wheat bread with jelly. They always refuse though; a big bowl of cereal with milk is the only thing they will consider. “Now off with you into the kitchen, woman, and hurry. We haven’t all night.”

I argue with them every time as if it’s the first time. “Cereal with milk is not a snack. It is a meal. It has a bowl and a spoon that I will have to clean, and I’ve already closed the kitchen. Dry cereal without milk is a snack, you can have that.”

“Not acceptable, get us the milk.”

I am not kidding, this is what goes on in my house every single night. Some nights I just don’t have it in me to fight, but other nights when I’m feeling particularly audacious, it’s a full-on war. I will declare, “On this day, let it be known far and wide that cereal with milk at bedtime is forever banned from this house! This shall be the last time you will cause me such suffering.”

They took me seriously once and I didn’t have to serve any cereal with milk or clean any additional dishes at bedtime for a few weeks, and it was great! I think maybe it was because I introduced those buttery club crackers in the green box from Keebler, or “night crackers” as we now call them. That excitement ran its course, however, and we are sadly back to square one.

Parenthood is full of these battles, I knew that. I feel like I am prepared for some of the bigger ones. Like in the event I ever catch any of them doing drugs, I myself am going to do drugs and then make them take care of me while I hallucinate a game of Monopoly with the members of One Direction. Or, I am going to simply set myself on fire in protest like a Buddhist monk. But the smaller battles have thrown me for a loop and have seriously worn me down. And let me tell you something, it’s not by accident, either. It’s a proven strategy of war to keep your opponent focused on the minutiae so that you can ambush them in a big way sometime down the road. They are smart, these kids, but we have to be smarter. Which is why I have created the following plan:

Introduce animal crackers as a replacement for cereal with milk.

They won’t be able to resist! I’m also considering a visual like yellow caution tape to help them understand the concept of a closed kitchen. Now, be honest, what, if anything, do you offer at bedtime?

Salsa and Tofutti

The inventory manager in my house (me) sucks and should be fired. This is never more true than during the summer when I am channeling Julie McCoy from the Love Boat, scheduling all kinds of activities for my kids to avoid boredom which really just means me sitting on my butt at our local pool chatting with the other Moms and continually asking my kids if we could leave so that I can go food shopping already. They never want to leave, of course, and so the hours tick by until I am forced to order take out, leaving food shopping for another day every day.

My husband, who works from home all the time and thus eats from home all the time, is usually pretty understanding and is good about cutting me slack, but recently he opened the fridge and remarked that the only things to eat were salsa and Tofutti cream cheese. This struck him as odd, but to me it made perfect sense. The only constants in my life right now, besides chaos, are salsa and Tofutti. Salsa is just so damn versatile and Tofutti cream cheese basically keeps my second child alive. When he was a baby, my second had a dairy intolerance. He has long since grown out of it physically but mentally he still can’t put anything else on his bagel. And since bagels are essentially the only things he will eat, I panic when I get low.

Most Moms I know go food shopping once — maybe twice — a week. A few really ambitious ones go shopping once every two weeks and have to attach a rented U-Haul trailer to the backs of their cars. Not me. I Stop and Shop every day. More often than not, I Stop and Shop two or three times a day, because I am only given clarity with regard to our inventory in the car on the way home. I’d like to blame my kids for distracting me but because my husband works from home all the time, my kids are usually not with me at the grocery store. And it’s not like I don’t have a list, I most certainly do, I just leave it at home.

As a last resort, I’ve created an Evernote account that allows me to make a grocery list on my laptop that will also appear on my phone. It’s definitely helping, but what I really need is a high-tech fridge and pantry system that uses sophisticated algorithms to analyze our inventory and purchase our necessities on its own, taking me out of the equation entirely. I’m sure there’s an app for that, but they must be working on the bugs still because I haven’t heard of it. Until then, I’ll be Googling healthy and low-fat recipes that use both salsa and Tofutti.

20 Questions

I’ve been blogging for two weeks now, and I’m so grateful to my friend, Jennifer Gorevitz Gregory and long-time blogger at The Runaway Mama for showing me the ropes and interviewing me for her newest post, “From One Mama to Another: 20 Questions.” I am a HUGE fan of Jen’s – her blog is amazing. It’s funny, real, and warm – just like her! I only wished she lived closer – we’d be texting each other all the time! Check it out here:  http://therunawaymama.com/2014/09/12/from-one-mama-to-another-20-questions-for-gina-randall/

A three-inch what?

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Every summer after vacation is over I take the kids shopping for school supplies, but it’s not like they can have fun and pick out whatever they want. There are lists we have to follow very carefully. The items are very specific: ultra-fine point permanent markers in assorted colors (not fine point and not black), gray erasers (not white, because those are the ones that smudge), and wide-ruled black and white composition books, not college-ruled and not any other color. I usually don’t complain too much about how specific these lists are. It can’t be easy for teachers, what with my children and 20 others in their care all day long. The least I can do is get them what they want.

But this year was a little different. First, my daughter is in the 6th grade and it’s a whole new ballgame at the junior school. Her list was much longer and more expensive than I anticipated. I spent $85 on her list alone, and that doesn’t even include this super cute shag rug for the bottom of her locker. Or this very practical locker chandelier.

One item on her list in particular had me aghast: the index cards. She needed no less than 800. Yes, I said 800, or 200 away from 1,000. I can only speculate as to why she needs all these cards. Will they be used for building a Guinness Book replica of the Washington Monument in history class? Or maybe they will all be glued together to make some kind of giant index card quilt in art that will be shellacked and preserved for generations on the wall of the cafeteria?

The other thing that had my underwear all twisted up in knots was the list that came home from the elementary Spanish teacher well after I thought the joy of school supply shopping was over. I initially ignored this list, tossing it aside because I just could not believe it. Once I summoned the courage to look at it, I saw that I had to buy more pencils, more index cards — and a three-inch binder. Now, I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but three inches is enormous when you’re talking binders. I don’t know much, but I know my third grader doesn’t need a three-inch binder. Orthopedic surgeons don’t need three-inch binders. Just what this Spanish teacher plans to put in a binder that big is anyone’s guess.

Within a few hours of the Spanish list going public, there was nothing else in town to talk about. “Did you see that Spanish list? Are you kidding me? Judas Priest, how much is that going to cost me?” Facebook was en fuego. Parents were going rogue, shoving two-inch binders into backpacks and sending their kids off with notes explaining that three-inch binders were against their religion. Homeroom teachers were fielding questions they were not prepared to answer. It got ugly.

The next day, a clarification note was sent home via student folders. Señora backed off and said a two-inch binder would be sufficient. Hooray! It was a victory for the parents, and we danced a salsa right there on the playground at pick-up.

Lunch Dessert

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Of all the benefits I receive from my kids returning to school, the one that ranks highest is the control I regain over what they eat since I can pack them whatever I want and they have to choose between eating it or going hungry. Every minute of every day, my kids and I are engaged in a delicate dance an exhausting tug-of-war over nutrition. On my side are lean proteins, complex carbohydrates derived from whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. On their side are sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and FD&C Blue No. 2.

I feel strongly that one of my most important jobs is to introduce, develop and reinforce healthy habits early so that my kids aren’t playing catch up in adulthood and have to attend Weight Watchers meetings in the stressful weeks leading up to their weddings. With more than a decade’s worth of parenting to back me up, I have found this to be completely impossible.

All of the cards are stacked against me. Kids are born hard-wired for candy, ice cream, chocolate cookies, and flavor-blasted triple X cheddar goldfish crackers, and are driven to obtain them by any means necessary. As a Mom, I get to be the one to fight this powerful innate desire on a daily basis, strangling it and depriving it of oxygen until it surrenders and admits that steamed lemon garlic broccoli is pretty darn good. Most of the time, though, I am the one lying on the ground listless and gasping for breath.

Over the summer, I joined our local pool so that my children could swim. Swimming is cardiovascular exercise disguised as fun, so I thought it would be a win-win. On most days, they would swim for a few minutes, hop out, dry off and promptly ask me for $3 so they could buy a soft serve chocolate ice cream from the snack bar. Being no witch and needing them to just leave me alone already, I would give them the $3 but would watch in disbelief as my last and youngest child – not five minutes after finishing his ice cream – would skip out the front entrance of the pool to the predatory ice cream truck waiting outside for his daily allotment of crybaby gumballs the man inside the truck gives away FOR FREE. How on earth am I to compete with that?

Last night, my kids wouldn’t eat their dinner advertised on Pinterest as child-friendly but did guzzle a half gallon of Gatorade and then rationalize that they are entitled to an ice-pop for dessert since they didn’t have “lunch dessert.” Lunch dessert, in case you are wondering, is the sweet treat you eat after lunch and differs from regular dessert, which is the sweet treat you eat after dinner. “Dessert dessert” is something my kids tried to get from me a few weeks ago, but I am smarter than that.

To be honest, I usually do have ice-pops, cookies, and chocolate of some sort on hand, because as I said before, I am no witch. And I have a husband. Who works from home all the time. But because my children are hard-wired and cannot control themselves, they will eat a month’s worth at one time if I don’t intervene. So, I have been forced to place these treats on shelves eight feet off the ground. This doesn’t really stop them but it does slow them down as they figure out how to get the ladder from the garage into the house.

I think that’s the key – to slow them down. By slowing them down, I give their blood sugar levels a chance to normalize and their brains a chance to comprehend that I only want what’s best for them. Only then will the steamed lemon garlic broccoli have a chance.

First Day Report

Lunch packing went smoothly this morning thank you very much, but we had some other hiccups: one kid forgot to put on underwear, one fished a dirty pair of shorts out of the hamper, and one had to scramble when her walking buddy decided to drive at the last minute. Oh, and the whole town smells like hot, rotting garbage. But even with these twists, their excitement was palpable. They were so ready, especially my last, and I’m so proud of them! Go get em guys!

As for me, the dog was scratching and barking at the bathroom door while I took a shower, someone (me) ate the yogurt I was supposed to put on my face, and I ran out of vegetable oil in the middle of making after school corn muffins. I was going to substitute olive oil but somehow that seemed wrong, so I melted some butter and said a prayer. Baking is not my thing. I once made cookies that never graduated from the batter stage; they looked exactly the same coming out of a 350 degree oven 30 minutes later as they did going in. And my daughter’s birthday cake would not come out of its pan no matter how much I begged and cried. I’ve decided it has something to do with my equipment, even though it’s all from Williams-Sonoma and collectively cost more than my husband’s 2006 Acura TL is currently worth.

Still planned for today is a pedicure and a quick trip to Party City, although what I really want to do is sneak into the Junior School and organize my daughter’s locker.

First Day of School Protocol

We just got an email from our school’s principal entitled First Day of School Protocol so I thought I would share my own personal First Day of School Protocol:

1. Drop the kids off and skip all the way home clicking my heels every few steps and singing the hills are alive with the sound of music.

2. Walk from room to room and soak in the silence. Explain to the confused and frightened dog what silence is.

3. Start cleaning the house with a fury not unlike that of a mental patient.

4. Give myself a yogurt, honey and turmeric facial.

5. Take a long hot shower without worrying about any loud bangs and/or screams coming from downstairs.

6. Get a pedicure. Tell everyone in the place that this is the first day of the rest of my life.

7. Forget I had to buy some things for my last kid’s birthday party at the bowling alley this weekend and fly to Party City, hoping I will make it home in time for pick-up.

8. Get to pick-up technically on-time but late because all the on-time parents have taken the good parking spots. Run the rest of the way, screwing up the pedicure big time.

9. Ward off the evil eye I am getting from my second child for being late even though I was technically on-time and start pressing him for details about his first day in third grade.

10. Drive home waving to everyone else who is walking. Allow my kids their after school snacks, realizing that I forgot to bake the muffins I really wanted to make to mark the beginning of a new school year. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow!