Me vs It

This morning I was putting away some dishes in the dishwasher that I had neglected last night. As I was doing so, the hugest bellied spider that I have ever seen in this house came scurrying across the counter at me.

It was coming. Right. For me. Naturally I screamed bloody murder and would have jumped a mile if my back hadn’t slammed into my kitchen island right behind me.

So I stood there for a good moment dazed, grasping my injury and willing my breathing back to normal before I noticed the terrible offender had stopped moving. Surely I must have startled it with my effective hyena-banshee combo screech. In fact, I bet it was more afraid of me than I was of it. That is what I say to myself about small creatures and insects of which I am inexplicably terrified.

Except cockroaches. I saw a few cockroaches back in my days when I lived in NY and let me tell you, hot damn if those things don’t have it ingrained in their genetic code to bide their time for the day when they can pick us off one by one. While it’s been many a year since our last encounter, I am well versed in how to take those bastards on.

Anyway, having collected myself I tried to muster enough courage to get a closer look at the offender so that I could decide my next move. I would need to judge if I would have enough guts to dispose of it (if you think I’m one of those people who would trap it in a cup and set it free to the outside world think again), or if I was going to go with my usual tactic of hiding in another room until it went away on its own. I was fairly certain my dishwasher would not be turning on anytime soon.

Holding my breath, legs poised to bolt at the mere hint of movement from the counter, I leaned in for the examination. Only then did I learn the true identity of my nemesis.

"I am plotting my next attack, RIGHT NOW."

 

Not a spider; just a dried up baked bean from last night’s dinner that probably fell off a plate that I had lifted and rolled across the counter.

I am open to the possibility that I might need therapy.

Live Through This

I was driving to pick up my daughter from school yesterday, when on route I passed over 20 high school-aged kids standing on the side of the road. They were huddled in small groups; many were hugging, bunches of flowers were piled at their feet. It was an unmistakable indicator that something terrible had happened to someone much too young.

I easily located the news article when I got home, and found that it was a local teen from a neighboring town. She had been out with a friend driving at 3:20 in the morning on Saturday night, only three months after she had obtained her license. The police suspect she was speeding and lost control of the car; her friend was ejected from the rollover but survived, she was trapped in the car and pronounced dead at the scene. She was only 16 years old, may she rest in peace.

You can question for hours what she was doing there and who is to blame. There is a curfew for drivers under 18, and a law against having other teens in the car without adult supervision for new drivers. Not to mention that it was three in the morning! What was she doing going for a sandwich at three in the morning? Did anyone even know she and her friend were leaving the house? It is so easy to stand aside and judge; so easy to tell yourself that your kid would never do such a thing and suffer a similar fate.

But I remember when I was 16, and while I was actually a rather compliant kid there are definitely a few things my parents didn’t know about that I most certainly should not have been doing. I knew a bunch of very ‘good’ families whose kids were extremely fortunate that luck was on their side for much of their adolescent shenanigans. My questionable behavior didn’t come until my early 20’s when I really should have known better. I know that I tempted fate more times than I would like to admit, and I have no excuse for it. That’s the sort of thing that terrifies me when I think of my own children.

That is why all that I wanted to do when I got her home was hold my six year old daughter, and tell her all the things that I know she does not need to hear yet.

Things like, do not speed. It is better to be late than dead. It is better to be tardy or get in trouble for being somewhere you’re not supposed to be, than to kill or maim someone else. Besides, if you get pulled over for speeding you’re going to be even later than you were to start with, and your father and I are not paying your tickets or car insurance increases. And I don’t care if it doesn’t look cool; keep your hands on the wheel at 10:00 and 2:00, and not on your cell phone.

Oh, and do not do your makeup in the rearview mirror while driving. That story about me not noticing the police officer trying to pull me over for a half mile because I was too busy putting on my eyeliner is not funny. Not even when I was pounding on the dashboard because I thought the low siren was coming from a glitch in my tape deck.

What is a tape deck? Go to your room.

But before you do, promise to never, ever, drink and drive. Never, ever, get in a car with a driver who has had a drink. Call me and I will come get you. I promise not to yell at you in front of your friends and will wait until the next morning. Call me. Call your father. If you must, call a cab. Just get home to us safely.

If you are going to disobey curfew, and you will have a curfew, remember that nothing good happens after 2 a.m. You shouldn’t be out there anyway. You should have been in bed hours ago. Just go home.

For good measure, and we might as well go all out, if you’re going to do ‘the deed’ make sure he wears a condom. Tell him to bag or sag it. Trust me when I say it could be the biggest two minute mistake of your life. Don’t believe me? As soon as you get yourself a boyfriend, on your next grounding I will make you watch hours upon hours of A Baby Story followed by a marathon of Nanny 911.

Deep breaths and a silent plea to the powers that be.

I don’t know how, and the prospect scares the hell out of me, but when the time comes we will get you through the stage of adolescence well educated, un-impregnated, drug free, STD clear, and most importantly, alive and well. I’ll do my part. Just please, promise me you’ll do yours.

Now go play with your Barbies.

Homonymous Disappointment

It was early morning. We were all up and starting our daily routine when we heard a huge bang. It was the sort of noise where you could feel the vibration throughout the entire house. I immediately assumed it was a transformer and expected us to lose power. We did not, but the source of the ruckus still generated a lot of questions from the little ones.

“What was that?” they exclaimed.

“Oh, it’s nothing to worry about; we probably just blew a transformer.” I replied.

“Why did it blow up?”

When your caffeine intake is minimal at best and you’ve got X amount of time to get ready, which over time involves step by step instructions in order for the numerous tasks to be completed (Take off your pajama bottoms. Take off your pull up. Put on your underwear. You put them on backwards, take them off and turn them around. Put your underwear back on. Put you underwear back on. I said, put your underwear back on. Now put on your pants…), going into long explanations about how electricity travels when you’re not even a subject matter expert yourself is a conversation that you are going to want to avoid at all costs.

So I pulled an awesome parenting moment and said that it had to do with how electricity works but was hard to explain and since we had very little time we would talk about it later. Regardless my son continued to run from window to window all excited and wanting to see the blown up transformer. I kept telling him, “Buddy, there’s nothing to see. It’s probably not even on this street.”

Getting him ready was almost impossible; he just wouldn’t stop running from room to room to look outside. Even getting him to eat breakfast was a chore. Once I finally got us ready and got him outside, I had an even harder time getting him into the car. He kept circling around the driveway, looking up and down the street and in the backyard.

Finally having accepted defeat, he was strapped into the car seat and we were on our way. We had just left our street when he called to me from the backseat,

“Mommy, are there are a lot transformers in our neighborhood?”

It was then having had a moment to think that it hit me, and I understood in a flash the reason why he was so excited. In my hustle and bustle to get us out the door I couldn’t see why it was so important to him to see the transformer, and why he spent an hour running from window to window to peek outside.

The little dude was trying with all of his might to catch a glimpse of Optimus Prime.

Reading Remedy

I have a habit of reading before bed. The word ‘habit’ feels misused, as if I know it should be something else, but what started out as a childhood hobby has become a bit of a necessity. If I want to properly shut down my brain and prepare my body for a restful sleep, I need to read, even if it’s just a few pages. I need to immerse myself in someone else’s story before closing my eyes; one that is not my own. Only then do I feel my brain quiet and settle enough for sleep.

Wow, that sounds horribly escapist, but rest assured that I do actually love my life. I just have a tendency to spend too much time thinking about it.

It’s not like I can’t sleep if I don’t read, I just have a harder time getting there. This is how my brain has always operated. It doesn’t stop analyzing again and again what I need to do, what I have done, where I could improve, what I should have done better, how I could have created a different outcome, what my future decisions should be based on my options, how each move will be perceived by myself and others, and what could be the cascading effects from any and all possible outcomes derived from my initial actions. This could be from something as simple as what to make for dinner the next night, to life changing decisions that concern my career, family relations, friendships, and the well being and growth of my children.

So that’s a lot to think about as I stare wide-eyed into the darkness. Yes, I often find it is better to not dwell on these things and to read a little instead. And it works for me. While I often finish a chapter and shut the light, I cannot tell you how many times my husband has had a good laugh when finds me asleep in bed still holding onto my book.

I love to read. I have always been ‘a reader’, pretty much since I first learned how. When I was a child I often read at night before bed. My parents got me one of those reading lamps that clip onto furniture. I used to clip it on the headboard of my bed behind my right shoulder. I’d read for hours, often propping my head up by making my favorite and most beloved stuffed animal into a pillow.

Then one night this happened:

That right there on my old best friend’s leg is a heat burn from the bulb of my reading lamp. As I lay there with my head propped on his big tummy like I used to love to do, my mind soaking in every word of something like No Flying in the House or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I had his not so little stuffed leg too close to the bulb. I still remember the smell of something burning and crying out when I jolted up and saw the damage that it had done.

If I may, who puts red innards inside a stuffed animal? Seriously, people. You want to talk about shit that dug deep into my 10 year old psyche? That right there was enough to send a lasting chill through my tiny bones.

Oh, that’s Pot, by the way, as in pot belly bear. Yes, I still have him, and no, I did not understand until much later why adults thought his short name was funny. Or that in creating that burn I had actually created a perfect hiding spot for its namesake (not that I did that sort of thing).

So, why I am telling you all this? Recently I came to discover that after I put my daughter to bed, she’s been turning on her closet light so she can read at night. She’s picked up on the fact mommy reads in bed too, always asking about the books or my Nook on my nightstand. I went to check in on her when I noticed the dim light shining through the cracks of her closed door and found her asleep, book still in hand; so much like her mommy.

Unfortunately, her closet light with its soft lighting from several feet away was not producing enough reading light, and I cringe to think of the strain she has been putting on her already troubled eyes. To rectify this we set out over the weekend and bought her a reading lamp. I was petrified about it. I had horrible images of her repeating my mistake or somehow knocking it over and setting fire to the rug.

Lucky for us, apparently technology has improved over the past 30 years. Now they have light bulbs that stay cool! Who knew? So we set her up and when we kissed her goodnight she was already nose deep in her book, her mind somewhere else. Later we found that she had already put her glasses and book on her nightstand and shut the light. When I asked her how she did the next morning she said, “I only read a few pages and went to sleep”.

I smile because she is so much like me, and yet worry, because my God she is so much like me!!! I know I could spend hours tonight and for many nights to come thinking about whether or not she will someday have a hard time quieting her brain, and turn to books to cope. Yes, I could add that to the list of the many things that I could spends hours thinking about. The great news is, I’m in the middle of a really good book…

Facebook Is Like Hogwarts

I learned something about social networking recently. In one particular way, Facebook is a lot like Hogwarts. Help, will always be given to those who ask for it.

It was still dark on Saturday morning when my two children burst into my bedroom. Within moments I was wide awake. Only the wails and rushing tears of you own child in a total panic and unquestionable pain can stir that kind of awareness.

He stood before me, arms locked to the sides of his head, fists balled, and through his screams and sobs tried to tell me what was wrong. It’s always the mother who understands her child better than anyone else, but this time he stumped me. I had no idea what he was trying to say.

My usual outspoken six-year old stood by, mouth agape, watching her brother in quiet alarm. At a loss I turned to her and asked if she had any idea what was wrong with him. What was he saying???

“His neck hurts.” she blurted out. She might as well have added, “Duh!” I’m going to blame on my nonexistent caffeine levels on why she was more adept at Incoherent Preschooler to English translation.

Within moments we were in the bathroom and I was trying to soothe him with a cool cloth and trying in vain to unlock his arms still clenching the sides of his head. It didn’t take long for me to realize he was doing this because it hurt too much to hold his head up on his own.

I tried to get him to turn his head from side to side and found that he could not twist left at all. At my husband’s suggestion we decided to lay him in our bed to see if he would calm down. In a flash I ran for the Kindle, the Nook, and my iPhone while muttering to myself, “Always on a weekend. This crap never happens on a Wednesday when the doctor’s office is open.” Technology in hand we began tapping towards WebMD and Googling “stiff neck in children.”

Go ahead. Give it a Google. But only do so if you are not in the same predicament I was, because you will not like what you find. The top five hits all had one thing in common: Meningitis.

Now let it be known that while I did take some cursory glances through the articles to review the symptoms, I am not one of those people who would jump to the immediate worst conclusion. Regardless, my husband (who might strongly disagree with my last statement) made it very clear before I even got the chance to open my mouth that I should not panic, with the firm yet comforting words, “Before you say anything, it is NOT Meningitis!”

Of course I knew he was right, and despite my small worries I knew there was no cause for that major an alarm. He was otherwise healthy. He had no signs of illness, no fever, no vomiting, no rash, not even sniffles. He had a stiff neck.

So I did what any other mother would do in this situation. I left a message for the on call doctor and took to Facebook. I asked friends if anyone had any holistic remedies for treating a stiff neck in children, and despite the warnings for Meningitis and my initial resurgence of not panicking (Tony: “IT’S NOT MENINGITIS!”), I was given some great ideas. People suggested medicated rubs and heating pads. An old friend reached out and told me of a similar circumstance from when she was a child and how her mom handled it. It was a great deal of support from such a lovely network of people.

We had actually tried the heating pad, but it just wasn’t getting around his little neck the way he needed it. Then someone suggested a rice sock (rice packed in a tube sock and heated in the microwave for warmth). I had never heard of it but man, did it sound like a good idea. It turned out to be a lifesaver! The doctor confirmed that we were doing the right things by keeping him rested, and using something akin to Icy Hot as much as he could take it (for kids I don’t recommend more than 2% menthol) and giving him Motrin regularly. But that rice sock gave him the best comfort and he used it on and off for the 36 hours straight that he was immobile.

Miraculously, by Sunday night he ventured off the couch a little. On Monday he was still visibly stiff but was playful and high spirited. A few days later he was back to his old self. We never really knew what did it and pretty much just assume he slept funny.

It was the worst 36 hours we have had in a long time. There is nothing more frustrating or agonizing than watching a loved one in pain and feeling powerless to help him. It’s even worse when you are his mommy and he is looking to you to make it all better. How do you explain that while you are doing everything you can to comfort him, the only fix is time.

Thanks to my Facebook friends for coming to our rescue! Indeed, I have no doubt that help will always be given on Facebook to those who ask for it.

Well, unless you do something crazy like ask for money. Then you’re shit out of luck.

Musings of a Tech Family Snuggle

When I had risen, all that I heard was silence. Unease swept over me. They had to be awake by now. I paused at their empty bedrooms and crept downstairs. I found them lying together on the couch. Each head was propped at an end on pillows, their bodies stretched towards each other; toes touching. Draped across them both was my favorite afghan, handmade by my grandmother at least 40 years ago.

Neither heard me enter the room, for they were both fully occupied. Hands at the ready and eyes focused, she cradled her DS and he clutched his Leappad. I wished for an instant to have been a fly on the wall as they situated themselves; imagining them in a moment of seemingly perfect sharing.

After breakfast we returned to the couch and this time I joined them. We snuggled together under the blanket, bathing in the cozy warmth of the wood stove nearby. She cradled her DS, he clutched his Leappad, and I glided my finger across the screen to turn the pages of my Nook. We settled in quietly. Only the occasional “WOO HOO!” or “OH YEAH!!!” or “AW,  COMMON!!!” could be heard from my Littles as they clicked and tapped through their games.

I smiled as I continued on with my book. I have been rereading Little Women, which may seem like an odd choice, but it is one of my favorite classics. When I purchased my Nook the good people at Barnes & Noble offered the choice of 12 classics to get me started. As such I have been losing myself in the language of the 19th century; words that do not come up in everyday conversation now, such as spandy and skylarking.

I thought of the March sisters, and of the simplicity of their lives. Hands or minds rarely idle, they spent their evenings sewing, writing, reading, philosophizing, playing music, and acting out stories for their own amusement. What would they say about our Saturday morning tech snuggles? We were together, but we were not engaged with each other. Would we appear disconnected?

I pondered this for a while and decided that Jo would embrace the new technology, and want desperately to have a turn. Meg would shun it as improper and insist that our time would be more wisely spent in the service of deeds that would benefit our family. Beth would be too afraid to try, preferring her tattered dolls instead. I struggled with Amy; she would want to do right by Meg and follow her example, and yet the temptation to have such lovely toys may have been too much for her to resist.

I thought of my childhood and the hours I spent in front of our Atari playing Pong and Qbert. Never could I have imagined the toys my children now find commonplace. I chuckled as I glanced over at the small stack of DS games I have for myself. The technology may have changed, but I haven’t. Lucky for me she doesn’t mind that mommy plays sometimes while she is sleeping.

I sit and marvel our new technology and wonder what will be next? Looking far into the future, should I be blessed with grandchildren, what will be their game of choice? I can’t wait to see. I hope I will still want to sneak a turn.

New Year’s Quiz 2011

It is likely ill advised to complete my annual New Year’s Quiz and yearly recap while suffering a head cold and a brain crippling NyQuil hangover, but alas, it is time. The year 2011 is coming to a close; am I the only one who feels as though it was gone in a blink?

OK, so here are the previous years if you are actually that interested in my life: 2010; 2009; 2008

And as always, be sure to hop on over and see Linda at All & Sundry, who has been doing this for much longer than me.

And now we get down to it:

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

This feels so much less about me, but then again isn’t being a parent of young children all about not being about you? I watched my little girl start her first day of kindergarten this year as she marched head high into a building of strangers without even once looking back.

We finally, WOO HOO FINALLY, potty trained the boy. That was the biggest, most unexpectedly long pain in the ass (pun intended) task that ever was, and it took pretty much all of 2011 to accomplish.

Oh, I did go to my high school 20th reunion, which I didn’t talk about here on the blog, but was a truly rewarding experience. The result was that I have rekindled some lovely friendships and made new ones as well.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I had to go back and look at my last year’s quiz to find out if I made a resolution, only to find out that I promised myself I would become more organized. I also mentioned that I forgot to bring my kid’s lunches to school two days in a row this time last year. Now, just last month I only forgot to bring my kid’s lunch to school ONCE! So that’s like, a 50% improvement! GO ME!!! Guess I’ll be sticking with the same resolution for 2012, or perhaps I’ll just make it a little more generic and promise myself to suck less.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, I have two new second-cousins that have joined our ranks. Welcome to the world, little ones.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

2011 brought good fortune for our family, but I have friends who lost dear ones. I hope this year brings health and peace for us all.

5. What countries did you visit?

There were times where I could have sworn I’d traveled to the depths of Morhdorh, but my feet have in fact been firmly planted in the good ole US of A.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Last year I wanted a Droid, and I am happy to report that my situation improved beyond my wildest dreams when Tony bought me an iPhone for Mother’s Day. Yay for Moms! Yay for technology! Yay for me!!!

This year I’d like to step away from the gadgetry and focus more on myself. I would like to find more motivation towards improved health. I am not overweight, but I am not exactly in shape either. I know how the process goes, a more active me is a healthier me; is a more energetic, happier, less tired, and more patient me. So I’d like to find me some more of that.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

December 6, 2011. I saw Tori Amos in concert at the Orpheum Theater in Boston, and wept like a baby pretty much from her first to last song. I don’t know how many more opportunities in this life I will have to see her play again, so I cherished every moment of it.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I just don’t really see this as a year of accomplishments for me. I feel as though this year of my life has been very stagnant in terms of my own growth; I have been so focused on the development of my little ones. And yet, are not their accomplishments in part some evidence of my own? If I am raising two well rounded, caring and respectful children, do I not have cause to pat myself on the back just a little?

9. What was your biggest failure?

For every parenting moment I have to pat myself on the back, there is a slip of the tongue, a screech of the owl, a dark and cold well of patience that has been exhausted of every last drop and yet somehow filled with the echo of my own angry words; words I can never take back. I am sorry, my little ones. Oh, how I do try to be a better mom.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Does this insufferable head cold count? Otherwise, Lady Fortuna has smiled upon me.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Our digital piano; I love having a piano in my home, and watching my six year old practice her lessons is like a 32 year flashback. Awesome.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Daycare, mortgage and car payments, oh my!!!

13. What did you get really excited about?

Seeing Tori, attending my high school reunion, and buying our piano.

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Although it has no personal connection with me, that Adele song Someone Like You, because it was playing on the radio every frakking time I turned it on.

15. Compared to last year, are you:

happier or sadder? Happier. Last winter was dark, very dark for me. I have a feeling the improved weather is a huge factor, but I don’t feel like I’m teetering the same downward spiral that was threatening me last year. 

thinner or fatter? Thinner! I’ve actually managed to, uh, manage myself pretty well these past few months.

richer or poorer? That’s a tough question to answer right after the holidays, but I would say we are better off compared to last year.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing! I’ve been a total slacker these many months. Part of it is a struggle with privacy. When my six year old starts saying things like, “Don’t Facebook or blog this!” I must comply.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying, over-analyzing everything, questioning everything after I have finished over-analyzing everything, and then worrying about all the worrying I did about over-analyzing everything.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

This Christmas was bittersweet. We were only 11 people instead of our usual 20-25 people crew. We missed our extended family, but it was cozy and quaint at my table this year. It was a nice and relaxing day with loved ones.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Oh, I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens! Seriously, that is a tough one because I watch way too much TV and love far too many shows. But I think the one that I most looked forward to without disappointment was Dexter; Sons of Anarchy coming in at a close second.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

I’m probably going to make a sad showing of picking the same book as most teens across America, but I just stumbled upon The Hunger Games trilogy this summer and I basically read all three books in five days with minimal sleep. I had some issues with the character development of the third book but otherwise it was a boatload of awesome.

21. what was your favorite music from this year?

I’m a total loser when it comes to new music, which basically means that I barely listen to it. Now that I have my snappy new phone with a built in ipod I have been loving iTunes. Instead of listening to the fantastic new stuff I am sure is out there, however, I have been reclaiming my long lost Suzanne Vega albums, circa 1985-1987. I know. I’m cool.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

Breaking Dawn. Ha! Kidding. Although I did see it in the theater and I do have to say that it was simultaneously so good and SO VERY BAD. Super 8 was pretty good, and of course the finale of Harry Potter. And that’s pretty much all that I remember.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 38 this year, and while I admit that it took me a good 15 minutes to remember what I did on my birthday 4 months ago, I can proudly say that I do in fact recall! Tony was home sick with pneumonia, so I escaped to dinner for a few hours with the kids and some dear friends. It was not ideal without the hubby there, but it was still a nice way to spend the day.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I’m trying not to be a grass is greener kind of person. There are many things I could say that would make life more satisfying, but immeasurably so? To eat all the nachos I want and never gain a pound? Well, I suppose then I would just get sick of nachos, and that would suck.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

I love it when it gets colder and I can show up at school drop off and pick up in a skull cap, sweatshirt, slippers, and multi-colored slipper socks. In related news, I seem to have no shame.

26. What kept you sane?

Singing, dancing, laughing, crying, beer, and of course my husband who keeps me grounded whenever I am leaning too far over the side of the deep end.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

You never fully appreciate things until they are gone; like the ultra sweet silence that was the NBA lockout. Bollocks.

Even though I haven’t been at it as much as I would like, it’s been another great year of blogging. If you’ve been following along and you’ve actually stuck with me this far, thank you! I wish you a Happy New Year filled with good health and prosperity.

Creative Elf Syndrome

Brace yourselves, a new epidemic is upon us, and you could be next. Each night, all across the country moms and dads can be found holding a tiny red dude and muttering to themselves, “No, I did that already…that won’t work…why won’t it stay up…I can’t use tape, they’d know if I used tape…”

Yes, it is a sad truth that Creative Elf Syndrome (CES) is taking the nation by storm, and once you have allowed yourself to become afflicted, there is no turning back. You are done for.

I used to be one of those moms who didn’t know any better. It was an elf, it sat on a shelf. It was happy to move from one ledge to another each night, and that would be on the nights it actually remembered to move. The children thought it was great, but on the nights it didn’t move, oh the guilt I experienced in seeing the disappointment in their eyes the next morning. It was a giant crock o’ FAIL.

This year I vowed to be better, to make it special. I had no idea that I was falling down a very slippery slope.

Our elf comes out the first night the tree is up on the weekend after Thanksgiving,  which is where he makes his very first appearance, and is on the job all the way through Christmas Eve. From there he moves about from shelf to curtain rod, from room to room. The first thing my six year old daughter does each morning is rush downstairs to find the elf. She runs throughout the house scouting his location. When one morning she said, “Oh, he’s on the window like last year”, I knew I had to step up my game. Not to mention that her friends in kindergarten all have a little recess-time powwow to discuss what their elves did last night.

I could no longer stand idly by and allow her only contribution to that conversation to be, “He was on the bookshelf. Again.”

So the next morning he pulled something rather mischievous and was found holding the Wii Band Hero microphone.

Well, the children crazy loved it! When they brought me over to see him I replied, “I thought I heard someone singing last night!” Their eyes grew wide as they stared open-mouthed at the tiny elf.

And that was the moment right there when I became infected. That was when visions of green and red color-coded spreadsheets outlining the brilliant things I would do from night to night all the way up through December 24th danced in my head.

Well, the spreadsheet only ever came to pass in my brain, but the next week I did scour the dusty recesses of my mind searching for ideas on what to do next. Each night had to be better than the last! He’s taken a ride on Barbie’s horse, in a helicopter, on a T-Rex, and on a fire truck. He has sat at the piano (“I thought I heard the piano playing overnight!”) and even spent an evening with Belle.

How you doin?

To which Sofia exclaimed, “I bet they got MARRIED!!! I bet the got married ALL!!! NIGHT!!! LONG!!!” Oh, just, oh.

But I was becoming exhausted! Each night after I prepped my coffee and started my climb up the stairs to my bed I would have to stop myself. Oh yeah, the elf. Last night (and if you have succumbed to CES you can definitely relate to this) I made it all the way up to bed before I remembered! You know that feeling when you climb in, fix your blankets, twist and turn until you have found the ultimate comfy position, and then feel yourself sink into the pillow as your mind goes blank and you are drifting, softly drifting…

EYES SNAP WIDE OPEN, SHIT I FORGOT TO MOVE THE ELF!!!

Fucking elf. You then throw back the covers, trudge downstairs, grab the elf, and just stand there in your living room searching your brain for inspiration, coming up empty.

Oh, but we should fear not, for there is help! Unfortunately it comes from people who are much more severely afflicted than I am. There are websites dedicated to elf ideas that range from the basics (look at my elf actually sitting on a shelf!) to the totally outlandish (look at my elf cooking a four course meal!) and mildly disturbing. These people are in desperate need of an elftervention, and of course they don’t have the slightest idea how insane they have become.

Truth be told, these people are a threat to us all and must be stopped. I like to think of myself as hovering somewhere around ELFCON 3. I am creative, I put a lot of pressure on myself to best last night’s elf placement, but I don’t put myself in situations where I will spend an hour cleaning my kitchen of flour dust from making fake elf snow angels, or washing dishes the next night when the elf fails to clean up his mess after baking cookies and cakes.

Back when I sporadically remembered to move the elf, I was happily living at ELFCON 5. Oh, those were the days. These people? And these people? And these people who spend all day on the Elf on the Shelf Facebook page??? They have no hope in sight; ELFCON 1 all the way.

I chastise them all for making life difficult for the rest of us, except for this lovely couple; these people are just plain genius. Feeling inspired, I took a leaf out of their book:

AHHHHHHH!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

OK, I couldn’t go through with it. I’m already going to be spending enough dough on their future therapy sessions based on this blog alone, never mind adding elf slaughter into the mix.

Ten nights to go, People! Here’s hoping ELFCON 3 will hold. And for those of you enjoying your ELFCON 5 status, remember my cautionary tale whenever you start to feel a twinge of creativity. That bookshelf is indeed a lovely place to be found.

I Spy Crazy People

When children spend at least 30 minutes in a car every day they find ways to entertain themselves. For my kids, what started out as an ordinary game of I Spy is now an obsessive hunt. What are they hunting? The title may give you a clue, but let me explain how this all came about.

The first item of their search is a commonplace, albeit powerful and noble object: The American Flag.

I don’t know if the same holds true for other areas of the country, but the Northeast is a very patriotic place to live. American flags are everywhere. Take a ride through the back roads of a few of our towns and you’re bound to pass at least 50 of them. I would know. I spend day after day listening to hollers from the back seat:

AMERICAN FLAG!!!

I SAW IT TOO!!!

No, you’re not supposed to look on my side of the car; you’re supposed to look on your side…

AMERICAN FLAG!!! ANOTHER ONE!!!

That’s on my side! Look on your own side. OOH! AMERICAN FLAG!!!

AMERICAN FLAG!!!

Trust me on this, patriotism is alive and well.

The most recent addition to I Spy is a holiday favorite: Christmas lights.

Last year a family on our street placed lights in front of their house that were rather unusual. They were all tulips sticking out of the ground and were comprised of vibrant springtime colors. The kids went bonkers over them.

Why tulips? What do tulips have to do with Christmas? Why aren’t they at least Christmas colored tulips?

They just could not wrap their heads around WHY TULIPS, so much to my own amusement I eventually told them that it was because crazy people live there. They are crazy people, and crazy people do crazy things; like put yellow, pink, and blue tulip lights in their front yards in early December.

Well, I am pleased to report that this theory was joyfully accepted. The children stopped inquiring “Why tulips?”, and instead started asking if we could take another drive by the crazy people. This request was of course completely unnecessary; we drove by them every time we hopped in the car.

To make life even more exciting, last winter was the worst that Southern New England had experienced in a number of years (at least within my children’s lifetime). Snow blanketed those tulip stems from December all the way through April. At one point the snow was piled so high all you could see were yellow, pink, and blue  hues shimmering underneath the sea of white. Yes, those crazy rabble rousers left those tulips lit all the way through April until the snow had melted, and then removed them just in time for spring.

So that is how it came to be that we spent five months looking at the home of crazy people.

Last week my daughter and I were driving along and saw a number of houses that already have Christmas trees up, candles glowing in windows, and twinkling lights strung on bushes. As we passed each one she shouted from the backseat:

CRAZY PEOPLE!!! CRAZY PEOPLE live there!!! It’s not even Thanksgiving yet. Those people are CRAZY!!!

Yesterday after we picked up the boy from daycare she immediately formulated and shared her plan:

Hey Dominic, let’s look for American flags and crazy people.

He was totally on board.

I spy American flags and crazy people. Welcome to Massachusetts!

15 Minutes

Each weekday morning is the same. It starts with the antagonizing alarm, and continues through the bustle of getting everyone up, dressed, fed, gathered, and out the door. Somehow we manage it all in under an hour and it’s very much like clockwork at this point, but oh so hectic. Ask me an hour later what we talked about as a family and beyond the orders to get dressed and the negotiations over what to have for breakfast, I can hardly recall.

Conversations are rushed and when they veer from necessity are mostly controlled by a six year old force of nature, whose mouth runs from the moment her eyes open until her last good-bye and I love you are hollered as she and her father rush out the door. All morning the little guy desperately tries to keep up but always winds up falling behind, or should I say in step. He even picks the vitamin color she tells him to.

After the door shuts and half of our family has left for the day, it is quiet. That is when he comes to sit by me, and that is when we share a lovely 15 minutes together each day before it is time for him to leave. It is sweet, and it is special, and I never could have foreseen that I would come to cherish this time as much as I do.

Every morning I take him to daycare, but before that we have 15 minutes of quiet time, just the two of us.  We talk about various subjects and I can see it in his eyes that he finally has the time to formulate his thoughts, to truly think about what he wants to share, and to let me know just how much of this world he has come to understand.

My sister and I have five years between us, so even though I am the younger sibling I did not experience what is like to become a shadow. It took sharing these 15 minutes each day to make me realize just how much it is happening to my son, and beyond some bedtime cuddling just how little one on one time he was getting from me.

I cannot tell you how many times in a day I have to tell my older child let her brother speak, to give him the time to come up with the answers. What is 3 + 3? She knows, and it kills her to keep quiet. He knows too; he’s just not as quick yet and never has the time to blurt it out before she rattles off the answer.

This morning we talked about dinosaurs. I could have died from the cute as I watched his brow furrow while he shook his head and told me about how there are no more left; that they died a long time ago. Oh, these 15 minutes, just me and my son. What an interesting and funny little dude he is. Who would have thought this change in schedule that I was so dreading could turn out to be such a blessing?

……………………………………..

In the blink of an eye the end of October came and we were all sick; my house a hopeless infestation of untold viruses. Yet somehow we managed to get through Halloween and still enjoy the little guy’s birthday.

Four years old. Happy Birthday, Little Man. We are so lucky to have you.