Friday, November 18, 2011

Frilly Unmentionables

Wow. I've got a million blog posts rolling around in my head right now. OK, maybe three. Maybe. More probably two. The children each had a birthday, and quite frankly, the fact that parenting is getting harder suddenly clobbered me over the head last night. This post, however, is going to be light hearted, because a stranger saw my underwear today.

So. Laundry. It's gotta' get done, right? In my house I do it. Just another one of those housewifey duties I took over when I got knocked up, walked up to my boss, and told her I would no longer like to show up to work every damn day.

Laundry is a chore that never fails to sneak up on me. I'll spend two days doing it, then walk around all smug and proud that everyone's got clean clothes and sheets and there are plenty of towels and man, I'm good at this whole being a housewife thing. Meanwhile my family is walking around wearing clothing and taking showers and sleeping in their sheets. Before I know it it's two weeks later and those same clothes are sitting in hampers scattered around the house waiting to be washed again. "But, I just did the laundry!" I think. Like those two weeks just didn't happen.

Every once in a while I let it go WAY too long, though, and then I have an epic, epic amount of laundry to do. I could die in the basement in a pile of laundry and it would take weeks to find me. One night this week after Oliver was done with his shower he went to find a clean pair of underwear and declared he was 'all out'. I didn't believe him, because of course I'd just done laundry, so I checked in his drawer and sure enough, no underwear in there. Then I turned around to look at their overflowing hampers. Perhaps I hadn't JUST done laundry.

For the last two days I've been doing laundry. Load after load of laundry. I haven't even touched the towels yet. Which means I've been folding load after load of laundry in the living room. Sometimes an article of clothing spills out of the hamper and I'm unaware of it, or I'm aware of it, but my hands are full and I'll just get it later. So, today, after dropping the kids off at school (and helping with breakfast and cutting out some frog faces for the preschool classroom and getting a box of books to get ready for the library) I came home just in time for the piano tuner to show up. I let him in and he walked over to the piano to take the stuff off the top so he could start his job when I saw them. There, in the middle of the living room rug, was a pair of my underwear. All crumpled up, with a neon arrow pointing at it, shouting "LOOK AT ME! THIS WOMAN IS DISGUSTING! SHE LEAVES HER UNDERWEAR ON THE LIVING ROOM FLOOR FOR STRANGE MEN TO LOOK AT!" These were not, of course, modest mom panties. Nope, if I'm going to leave a pair of underwear laying around, they are going to be humdingers.

What to do? I'm fairly sure at this point he hadn't seen them. I didn't want to draw attention to them, but I couldn't just let them lay there. He was talking pleasantly and I was trying to form coherent sentences and answer his questions and not seem like a total mute freak who leaves her underwear on the floor. I don't know how he couldn't have seen them, because to me they were lit up with a spotlight while the rest of the room lay in darkness. "Get them!!" my brain screamed at me. Still, I didn't want to draw attention to them. I tried melting them with lasers from my eyes but that didn't work (never does), and then I came up with an elaborate plan to pretend to fall and land on them and do some sort of rolling move where I could put them into my pocket without him noticing.  Right before I was about to pull the trigger on my tuck and roll move he sat on the piano bench and turned his back to the rest of the room. I quickly scooped them up, stuffed them into my pocket (classy), and then I went out in the back yard and burned them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Things I will not do. Ever.

Now that I've been a mother for seven years and an adult for an amount of time I will not currently specify, I've realized that you should probably not say "I will NEVER do that" very often. Almost never, really. I was the best parent in the world before I had kids. "Oh, I'll never let my kids do that", I'd say to my husband, and we sipped coffee and silently passed judgement on the people around us who had procreated. The reality, of course, is the that you don't 'let' your children do anything. Children are going to do stuff, bad stuff, no matter how great of a parent you are, and it's got nothing to do with the fact that you force them to eat vegetables or not. A good parent knows what battles to fight, and the longer you are a parent, the less battles you're willing to fight.

That being said, there are a couple of things I'm not going to do. Mainly because they are stupid. Also maybe a little bit because I'm old(er) and didn't grow up texting and using the internet. Al Gore hadn't invented it yet when I was a kid. I also didn't hang out in coffee shops much in good ol' Fond du Lac, WI, because there weren't any coffee shops there. When we were in high school the cool (I use the term cool very loosely here) thing to do was to go to the Country Kitchen and drink coffee there. We were rebels, that's for sure.

OK, here they are. Number one, I will not use abbreviations while texting or tweeting, etc. that mean "rolling on the floor laughing", or "laughing out loud", or anything like that. I won't do it. It's dumb. Really? You're rolling on the floor laughing right now? Literally rolling around on the ground of wherever you are, be it in the privacy of your own home or out and about in public? I don't think you are. Perhaps you think what you just read was very amusing, but let's not get too carried away here.

As for "laughing out loud". Well, that's great. Laughing is awesome. You know what isn't? LOL. That, right there, is the first and last time I have typed and or written those letters together as a stand alone abbreviation.

The same goes for all of the other abbreviations people use. I'm going to tell you right now, if you use an abbreviation while texting me, I probably won't know what it is. I just recently learned that IDK means 'I don't know'. I know this makes me sound old, but I don't care. Just say what you mean. We're raising a whole group of kids who are actually going to say things like LOL (whoops, I lied up there), ROFL, IDK, WTH, etc. Words are good. Use them.

The other thing I refuse to do is use coffee shops' terms for small, medium, and large. No, I don't want a grande. I want a medium. The middle size. A tall* is not a small. Some may say it's the opposite of small. I, for instance, am not tall. Today I went to Target and decided to stop at the Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte. I rarely get fancy coffee drinks, but it was rainy and dreary and windy and I had no kids with me. It was clearly time to celebrate.

"Hello! What can I get for you?"

"I'll have a pumpkin spice latte with skim milk."

"What size?"


"Would you like whip on that?"

(Is it really so hard to say whipped cream?)


"OK, that's a grande skinny pumpkin spice latte with no whip..."

Is it just me or does that sound kind of ridiculous?

I know this whole post makes me sound like some crotchety old person who has nothing better to do with her time than complain. I know that. Yet I still wrote it, which is another nice thing about growing up and getting out of your twenties and starting to feel really comfortable in your own** skin. You care less and less what people think of you.

*Full disclosure. I totally had to go to the Starbucks and Caribou coffee websites to see what their sizes were. I now know that at Starbucks a small is a small, the next size up is a tall, then the top two sizes are grande and venti. I still have no idea what they are at Caribou.

**I proofread this and the first time I typed it I said "old skin" instead of "own skin". Wow. Freudian slip much?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hair is what almost brought me down today.

Today was the first day of school for Alison. Hooray! Except not hooray because I love having both of those kids home with me. And next week Oliver starts preschool. And Alison is getting so old! And what am I going to do when Oliver goes to school full time next year? And also, my Grandma died. So, yea. This has been a tough week. My emotions are a bit...unstable.

Today we went to get the kids hair cuts after picking Ali up from school. I am not a vain person. (Silas's head just exploded because maybe I am about my hair. A little bit.) I don't treat my children like living dolls (although I totally could, have you seen my children?).

We have been swimming at my in-laws' pool a lot this summer. Two years ago after another summer of swimming Alison ended up with hair that closely resembled that of those trolls that crazy people bring to Bingo halls and rub for good luck. She cried every time I brushed it, but refused to have it cut. I didn't want to go through that again, so I've been spraying it with watered down conditioner before she goes in the pool and washing it with swimmers shampoo I bought at the very salon we were getting their cuts at. Mostly because they were on sale two for one, but still, I was trying.

So, the kids are getting their cuts side by side. The woman who is cutting Ali's hair starts brushing it and says over her shoulder at me: "Do you use a clarifying shampoo after she is in the pool, mom?" I'm sorry, but when people call me "mom", and their names are not Alison or Oliver, it tends to drive me nuts. CRAZY. My name is not mom. I am not your mom, in fact, I'm not even close to old enough to be your mother. Maybe, JUST MAYBE, you are even older than I am, in which case it would be physiologically impossible for me to be your mom.

Anyway, I dug my fingers into my palms and said, while perusing Alison's planner, and in the breeziest manner I could, "yes".

"Oh, which one?"

"The one I bought from here." I said this rather smugly. 'I've got her now!', I thought.

"Which brand, was it the Malibu?"

OK, really, is she even serious? Which brand? It's shampoo for my kid. It said swimmers shampoo on it. I couldn't tell you even now, after I had this inane conversation, which brand it is. I finally looked up from my inspection of Ali's planner, which I'd read about five times now, since it was just the first day of school and it turns out there was really nothing to read, and looked at the shelves of products in front of me. I pointed to one.

"That one, with the picture of the little girl on it." To demonstrate the fact that I. do. not. care. At all.

"Oh", she says, "next time buy the Malibu, it is probably a little better and would do a good job of getting out the chlorine residue. Her hair feels like adult hair, with all of the texture in it already."

I stopped pretending to read Alison's planner and looked up.

"In fact", she continued, "you should think about a Malibu treatment. It would really improve the texture of her hair."

I stared at the top of her feet because I couldn't look her in the eye. Had this woman seen directly into my soul? If there is one thing I want more than anything in this world it is for my children to maintain their child-like innocence for as long as possible. No, not just child-like. YOUNG child-like. You know, before they realize that cynicism is even a thing. Before they worry about someone making fun of them for what they wear, or lose that glorious confidence that young children seem to have in abundance. Before they develop, God forbid, hair with the texture of an adults. I'm being serious. This comment really bothered me. I mean, one minute she's telling me how much she loves me and the next she's making me pick her up from school around the corner with Oliver hiding under a blanket in the back seat. It's a slippery slope.

I'm seriously contemplating the Malibu treatment. There isn't much I can control in my life right now, but so help me, I CAN make sure my daughter has soft, child-like hair for as long as humanly possible.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Daylight and a promise.

I need to write a post for Alison's birthday, as I've done every year since I started this blog (which means she was 3 years old the first time I wrote her a birthday post!), but what "they" say is true. (Who are "they"? "They" sure seem to say a lot of things, and have a lot of opinions, but I've never met them.) The older I get, the older the kids get, the faster time passes. Maybe it's because I don't seem to be struggling to burn daylight as much as I did when I was home all day and they were tiny people who couldn't do anything for themselves and we ate, nursed, changed diapers, read books, played, rinse, repeat. Not that I'm complaining about that, because I enjoyed all of that, but sometimes it got, well, it got a little tedious. Now I'm struggling to fit in all of the things I want to do with them while trying to keep the people in this house with clean laundry and full bellies, going to work one or two, or, if it's a REALLY busy week, three days a week, and struggling to do it all before Alison goes back to school in the fall. And, gasp, Oliver starts preschool this year, too, and before you know it my life will once again consist of driving to and from school, doing homework, going to dance, chaperoning field trips, and still going to that pesky job a few days a week. What I'm trying to say is that yes, there will be a birthday post, but it's going to have to wait. Right now we're busy drawing with chalk and playing T-ball in the yard. After that it'll be time to make dinner, and there is talk of baking something with the blueberries in the fridge. Before you know it all of the daylight will be burned and another day will start. We'll fill that one up no problem, too.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Also, Alison is upset there aren't more two dollar bills in circulation

We've been at this summer vacation thing for two weeks now, and the kids are still figuring out how to be together for large amounts of time. Well, pretty much ALL of the time. They share a room and also go to daycare together the days I work. I don't remember there being a large adjustment time for them last year, but apparently two years of being sister-free for the majority of his days has made Oliver more independent, and being told what to do for those same two years as had Alison more angry when Oliver doesn't obey all of her specific instructions. One morning this week they decided they weren't talking to each other (it didn't last long).

This morning the kids woke up at 6:59 on the dot. Oliver wanted to set up his Thomas train track, but in order to do that they needed to clean the playroom. They did, without complaining. I should've known something was up then, but I hadn't had much coffee so my brain wasn't working properly.

I needed a shower, so I told them to work together to build a track while I was showering, and when I got out if they needed help I would help them. I urged Alison to listen to Oliver and allow him to have some control over the building, then got in the shower, expecting to hear arguing and find them at opposite ends of the room when I got out.

Instead, I stepped back into the playroom to see both of them sitting around a track they had built, not arguing, and playing a game with the trains. When they saw me they announced, rather proudly, how they had worked together to build the track. I expressed my approval in glowing terms. Then I noticed that Oliver had two dollar bills next to him. Because my children are so very innocent, and haven't learned the word 'bribery' yet, they immediately explained what was going on without any questions from me.

Apparently when Oliver didn't want to listen to Alison's ideas for the track she told him that if he listened to her (which also means 'do what I say' in Alison speak) she would give him two dollars. Oliver agreed, Alison built the track the way she wanted, and then gave her brother two dollars she had earned during a fundraiser at school this year. Oliver was happy with his two dollars, even though I'm sure he has no idea the value of money or what he could do with it. Case in point, after proudly showing me the crumpled bills he said he wished he had a hundred dollar bill, then asked me how much that would cost.

I feel like this is a great social experiment I didn't even have to set up. Look, I've never bribed anyone in front of the kids. At least I don't think I have. I have, of course, being a parent, bribed THEM countless time with promises of extra books before bed, movie watching, treats, Wii playing, a ride home instead of walking, and the privilege of continuing to live here for free, but never with cold, hard cash. Perhaps I should try a new tactic, it gets amazing results. The kids have gotten along ALL DAY. Right now I'm pretty sure I could leave and they wouldn't notice.

Money talks, even to those who don't have any appreciation or understanding of its value.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

That's Coach McAghon, to you.

A few things you should know about me before I tell this story:
1. I love baseball. I played softball growing up, and I loved it. I watch the Twins religiously.
2. I don't know a lot about soccer. I stopped playing it in the 8th grade. I never watch it on TV.
3. I hate using the telephone. My palms get sweaty if I have to call anyone I don't know that well, or even sometimes someone I do know well. I hate making appointments-Dr, hair cuts, whatever-because it means picking up the phone and talking into it.
4. I am not organized, nor am I good at organizing. Anything.
5. I really, really like having free time.

This summer we took the plunge and signed the kids up for some sports. Oliver is playing T-Ball, and Alison will be playing soccer. Oliver's season has started already, and so far he is enjoying himself. Unless it gets too hot, which it did, one night, and you would've thought we were inflicting Chinese water torture on the kid.

During the games I'm more than willing to make sure the kids on the bench are sitting in order and ready when it's there turn to be up, to coach bases when they need me, and bring treats when it's my turn. I really, REALLY enjoy T-Ball and have a hard time sitting down and watching the game. "I really should've signed up to assistant coach", I thought to myself, what with my love of controlling everything I possibly can coupled with my love of baseball. Coaching, however, seemed like way too much work--sending out emails, making sure everyone got their shirts and hats, setting up a treat schedule, setting up the lineup and positions for every game--it all seemed like a hassle.

Alison's season was supposed to start last week, however because of the weather, and a problem finding enough coaches, it will start this week. Yea--a problem finding enough volunteers. Isn't that almost always a problem? After a few emails, each sounding more desperate than the last, I wrote to the coordinator and said I would be willing to help out. HELP OUT. I admitted, in this email, that I didn't know much about soccer and hadn't played since 8th grade. The night I wrote that email the guy called me and said "Hey, thanks for volunteering! You are now the coach of team #6."

Oh, I forgot another thing you should know about me: I can't say no. If you ask me to do something, and your name isn't Alison, Oliver, or Silas, I will probably say yes, even if it's nearly impossible for me to do it. It's not a good thing, at all. I don't do it because I think it makes me look like a good person, I do it because...I don't know, I'm a wuss? I hate confrontation? I'm sure a therapist cold tell me, but that sounds expensive.

So, when Rec Coordinator man said that, instead of saying "Oh, hell no, there is no way I am going to coach a soccer team. You could not pick a sport other than auto racing or golf that I know less about", I said "Um. OK, but I really don't know a lot about soccer." Then Rec Coordinator man assured me that it would be fine. He said lots of words, and through the ringing in my ears I heard him say that one of the moms has coached for him before and would be willing to help, she just couldn't make all of the games. I started to feel a bit better. Then he said "So you'll be in charge of equipment and handing out uniforms. Oh, and calling the parents..." I heard nothing after that because I passed out for a second. When I came to he was talking about emailing me a roster and rules, etc. I numbly hung up the phone and told Si I was now a soccer coach.

After a night thinking about the phone, and how I was going to need to dial the phone, and talk into it, to people I didn't know from Adam, I decided this probably wasn't just going to go away. I printed out all of the stuff he emailed me (roster, ideas for practice, rules for the games
--guess who referees? the coaches!--equipment list) and started screwing up my courage to make the dreaded phone calls.

On Sunday, while I was at work on my break, I took the roster list with me into the break room. With shaking hands I slowly unfolded it. My heart started beating a bit faster. I took a few deep breaths and looked down at the script I had written out in case I got on the phone and completely blanked on what I was going to say. I wrote out a script. I am pathetic. My first call was to soccer playing, assistant coach mom. She was very nice, very willing to help, assured me she'd be at our first game, but said she couldn't make the practice I had decided to schedule. "Fine", I thought, "I can hold a practice, she'll help me with the games, this might not be so bad". I called the next few people and left messages, talked to a very nice dad who seemed genuinely excited to start the season, and then got to the last name on my list.

"Hola", answered a man's voice. "Crap", I thought. I hesitated for a moment but then figured I had no choice other than to launch into my speech and hope he understood. After I got done talking there was a moment of silence. "I'm sorry", said the voice, in heavily accented English, "I speak Spanish". Now, this person did not have an email address listed, so the only way I could communicate with him was through the phone. During the pause that ensued my brain frantically tried thinking of some of the Spanish I learned in high school, or something I may have picked up while helping Ali with her homework. I came up with some fragments. "Futbol", I thought, but I figured he knew what soccer was. I mean, he'd signed his kid up for soccer, and there was no Spanish on that website. "Man, how do you say 'practice' in Spanish? How about times?" When I realized that there was no way I could communicate to him in his native tongue I just did what every good, English speaking person does to someone who doesn't speak it, I said exactly what I had to say, in English, but slowly and over-annunciated.

It worked. He even repeated the times and places back to me so I was sure he knew what I was talking about. I'm really looking forward to meeting him at practice tomorrow so I can hand him his schedule and then ask him to sign up for a night to bring treats. I should probably look up how to say that in Spanish now. I have never regretted taking Spanish 1 and 2 in college even though I'd had two years of it in high school just so I could get the easy A more in my life.

Tonight the assistant coach for Oliver's T-Ball team couldn't make the game so the coach handed me the lineup and positions and asked for help. I had a blast. I loved every minute. Yes, it's frustrating to keep yelling at kids to stop digging in the dirt and pay attention, to have to tell them to throw to first every time the ball is hit to them, to send them to their moms every time they have to go to the bathroom, but it was fun. I realized that I liked being in charge, it was much better than sitting passively on the sidelines. Maybe this soccer thing will work out and I'll love it. Or maybe it will be painfully obvious that I have no clue what I'm doing, the kids will find out I'm a fraud, and I will be the one crying and asking for my mom at the end of the night. I guess only time will tell.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I don't know either.

A conversation between Oliver and I.

"Mommy, afta I'm done being fouw and a half will I be Alison's age?"

"You'll be five. Alison is six."

"Oh. Afta I'm done being five will I be six?"

"Yes. Are you in a hurry to grow up?"

"Yea. I want to gwow up."

"Why? Why do you want to grow up so fast?"

"Because I weally want to be a gwampa!"

"A Grampa?!"

"Yea, I weally do. Like Gwampa."

"Why do you want to be like Grampa?"

"Because, he weally likes honey."

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Humans have logic bones, right?

Getting gas. Not a complicated thing, right? You pull up to the pump, gawk at the price, mutter under your breath about how ridiculous it is, and then fill up anyway, because your other option is just leaving your car there. Although with Ringo it may be a viable alternative.

Tuesday on my way home I noticed the car needed gas. I figured I'd get it after I finished picking up the kids, but my feeble brain couldn't hold a thought that long and I ended up pulling into the garage, looking down at the orange light, and cursing under my breath. I told myself over and over that I would need to remember to try to leave early the next morning so we could get gas on the way to taking Alison to school. I know a huge part of my brain was all "Yea, right, because you are so successful getting her out of the door on time without an added stop", but a small part thought I could do it.

Fast forward to the middle of that night. I woke up with a horrible sore throat, took some ibuprofen, and went back to bed. I was up off and on until I finally waved the white flag, rolled over to turn off my alarm, and told Si I wasn't getting up to run because I didn't feel good. Si was nice enough to take Ali to school for me, and the thought of getting gas in the car left with him.

Later that afternoon I'm in the garage with Oliver getting out various toys. I glanced at the car and all of a sudden it came to me. Hey, I have to get gas! We'll leave a bit early to pick up Ali. I KNEW I could do that! Yay for me!

The time comes and I realize that Si was the last person to drive the car, because the seat is all jacked up. My tiny brain remembers he ran some errands last night. The thought ends there. I get to the gas station, gawk at the price, mutter under my breath, swipe my card and start pumping. The pump immediately turns off. I try again. It turns off. I look around, flabbergasted. I try again. It turns off. I pull the nozzle out just a bit and try again. It turns off. I seriously consider kicking the pump. I try again. It turns off. I pull the nozzle all of the way out, notice there is some gas dribbling out, swear, and try again. It turns off. I walk away before my temper gets the better of me, consider going in to tell the attendant this gas station SUCKS, look around and notice no one else is having problems, and try again. It turns off. I've managed to put half a gallon of gas into the car. I realize the guy next to me is leaving. "I'll try that pump", I tell myself. I get into the car, realize it's time to leave to get Ali, and also the guy next to me is re-organizing his wallet and may never leave. The thought of having to stop for gas AGAIN is making me want to punch someone, but I need to get Ali, and this gas station is obviously stupid. I turn on the car and look at the gas gauge. "I wonder if half a gallon will make he needle move at all?" I wonder. The needle indeed moves. It indicates the gas tank is absolutely, positively full. "Holy crap! I wonder if there is something wrong with the tank?! Or the gas line?! Or the car in general?!" I think, because obviously that's the most logical explanation to this whole thing. I put the car in gear and think that maybe, once I hit the gas, the gauge will go back to almost completely empty. It doesn't. I pull out onto the street, at a loss as to how this situation is occurring. Then, slowly, it dawns on me. Silas filled the car up with gas last night. I think back to getting into the car. Was there a light? I don't think so... Did it beep at me? Not that I remember...

I call Silas. "Did you get gas last night?" "Yep. Why?" "Because I thought the car was broken." Sadly, the man I've been married to for over ten years, who has known me since I was a sophomore in college, did not have a hard time believing that I ignored the fact that the gas gauge said "full, dumbass!", that the orange light was not on, that the car did not beep at me and display the stern message (in a German accent, in our minds at last) "PLEASE REFUEL".

I am so happy I didn't go in to tell the attendant "Pump number 3 is broken.", because that would've been really embarrassing. "No, ma'am, I think your logic bone is broken."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I have a really hard time trying to type Oliver's speech phonetically.

This morning, I'm upstairs getting ready for church. I can hear the kids in their room talking, but no one has emerged yet to start asking for breakfast or whining about having to wear pants that button. I'm quietly enjoying a cup of coffee while finding nylons that don't have a run in them (seriously, I'm SO SICK of having to wear nylons/tights. I need it to get warm now.) when suddenly the stillness of the morning is broken by the sound of the childrens' bedroom door opening.

My hand tightens on my coffee cup, ready to start another day at the mercy of the whims of my small overlords. Then I hear this:

"Hey, look, a spider!"

(worried) "What?!? Whawe?"

"Right here."

(shouting in a worried voice) "MOM!!! I'M KIND OF NEWVOUS ABOUT A SPIDEW DOWN HEWE!"

"Just have your sister take care of it. Ali, will you take care of the spider?"

"Fine." (sounds of bathroom door, where Si is showering, opening) "Sorry, dad, I just need some toilet paper." (sound of door closing on what is probably a very confused Silas.)

(scuffling noises) "Oh, no, where did it go?"

"Undew thewe! Undew thewe!"

"Huh. I can't find it."

(sound of bare feet frantically running down the hallway)


And so begins a Sunday morning in the McAghon house.

(Luckily Oliver forgot about the spider by the time he went to bed tonight.)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Good thing he explained that

Oliver: Wait, Daddy comes home today?

Me: Yep

Oliver: Hey, that means he might come home with pwesents!

Me: Maybe

Oliver: Yea, maybe not. He might just come home.

Me: Yes, and we should just be happy we have daddy home.

Oliver: Yea. Wait, did he go to Quebec?

Me: Yes

Oliver: Oh, he'll pwobably come home with a pwesent. It would be OK if he came home with a toy. Then I would just play with it.

Me: So, in summary, you're OK if Daddy comes home with a present for you?

Oliver: Yep. I am OK with that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's good for him is not necessarily what's good for me.

Silas is in Quebec this week. I'm joining him on Thursday (believe me, it can not come fast enough), and his mom and dad are staying with the kids. This involved some car swapping so Si's mom could take our car up north to their condo on Mille Lacs for a few days before enjoying some quality time with her grandchildren. (Good luck to you, Claire, I'm turning off my phone the second you drop me off at the airport. Just kidding...or am I?)

We have two cars, a 2004 Passat station wagon named the McAghon Wagon. It's automatic and almost everything works on it. It doesn't have a side-view mirror, but we're working on that. Our other car is a 1999 VW new Beetle named Ringo. It runs. Other things don't work on it, though. Of course we weren't going to let Claire drive that car all the way up to Mille Lacs, so we gave her the McAghon Wagon, meaning I am driving Ringo.

I don't drive that car a whole lot, and if I do, it's just to work on the weekends, so I'm not getting kids in and out of the back seat. Let me tell you some of the things that are wrong with that car, and these are just the things we know about.

1. I have to crawl through the passenger side to get into the car.
2. I can get out of the driver's side, but then have to lean against the filthy car-hard-to close the door.
3. The levers that fold the seats are broken, so in order to get the kids in and out of the back seat we have a paint brush in the car. We stick the handle into where the levers used to be to force the latch up and fold the seats forward.
4. If you get gas there is some sort of pressure problem that makes the car stall out several times unless you gun the engine until pressure is built back up in the system. I can tell you from experience that people will think you are a dumbass. Especially if you just crawled into the drivers seat from the passenger side.

There are other things, too, like the button that rolls down the passenger window is broken, but in the winter that is just not a problem. Also, it only has one headlight working, we've gotten it fixed quite a few times (short? no. loose housing? apparently not.) and now frankly we just don't care anymore.

The radio stuck on AM? That's just like the car gods kicking us in the butt for good measure. Take that, McAghons. You like that? Yea, listen to more KFAN. That's what you get for buying VWs.

Anyway, this morning at work I was lamenting the fact that I can only listen to so much KFAN before I want to shoot myself, and a coworker said "Isn't it time to get a new car?". You know what my first reaction to that was, and this is after I spent 5 minutes listing all of the things that are wrong with the vehicle... "why, it runs?". I've become that person. That old crotchety person who complains about something but is too cheap to fix it. This coworker then went on about how we have two incomes and we should be able to get a new car and bla, bla, bla. First of all, we have one and a half incomes, second of all, not really his business, and third of all, THE CAR RUNS! It got me to work. It's paid for. So is the McAghon Wagon, for that matter. I like not having a car payment. So, whatever. I'm old and crotchety. I'll wear it like a badge. At least I'm old and crotchety with no car payment!

Of course, if I was the one who drove that car every day, you'd better believe we'd be getting a new car.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tiger mom? I'm more of a bear.

This morning I was at work in a patient's room during a bone marrow and the TV happened to be on. Specifically, The Today Show, and I'm not going to lie here. That show drives me nuts. It's like all of the anchors or reporters or whatever are caricatures of themselves.

They were interviewing a woman about a book she had written regarding 'the Chinese way to raise successful children'. I listened to the interview, and frankly, it made me feel like I was doing a sub-par job raising my children. Worse than sub-par. Somehow I was taking the easy way out of parenting, letting them watch TV and play video games and have playdates and not forcing them to practice the violin for hours every day.

I'm not kidding about that violin part. The woman actually forced her daughter to practice the violin for a few hours every day. In order to do that in this house there would have to be some bondage required.

Basically, the woman said this: (I could do some basic research here and find a name and an actual title of the book for you, but I'm not going to spoon feed you here, people. You all know how to google.) Eastern parents would be horrified by how we raise our children here in the west. We let them have sleep overs and play video games and don't push them to live up to their full potential. She said her (and their) method of parenting is basically that children are capable of doing a lot more than we, or they, think they can. It's our job to push them to live up to those expectations.

When I first started listening, I was horrified. I felt bad for her daughters (she has two). But then self-doubt started gripping me, and I thought about my two children. I thought about the Wii we had just bought for Christmas, the piano that I promised to teach Alison (she's only had about 3 lessons so far), the fact that the first thing they do when we get home from school every day is watch TV and eat a snack. I thought about the potential that Alison has shown, and how maybe I'm not equipped to parent her in a way that will make her live up to it. And then there's Oliver, who at four we just basically let have fun. I haven't MADE him learn his letters yet, or write his name. If he expresses an interest, I encourage and try to teach, but otherwise we let him be a four year old boy.

There are so many ways for us to feel bad about parenting. I think for just about everyone, it's probably the area where you feel the least confidant, where it's easiest to start to feel like you're not doing enough. I stopped reading parenting magazines because instead of feeling informed after reading them I just freaked out that I wasn't doing everything they suggested.

The more I thought about what the woman was saying, the more I realized that she and I had different goals for our children. She used the word successful a whole lot. Her focus was raising 'successful' children. She herself was a law professor at Yale and has written two books. She's married to a fellow Yale law professor. Of course I want my children to be successful, but that doesn't necessarily mean they need to have high-powered jobs and make lots of money and become piano prodigies when they are ten. What I want most for my kids is for them to be happy. To grow into adults who know themselves and are confident. Who care for other people. Who know that their parents, no matter how old they are, will always be there for them, cheering them on 100%. If being a high-powered lawyer is going to make them happy, then go for it. If being a stay-at-home mom or garbage collector is going to help them achieve happiness, then that's what they should do.

It makes me so mad that women like this get to go on TV and preach their rhetoric and make the rest of feel like we aren't doing enough. I'm not a leniant parent. I have rules, and I enforce them. Yes, my kids come home and watch TV. They get no more than half an hour, it's PBS, and the snack has to be a piece of fruit. I expect Alison to have her homework done before supper. I expect her to work hard at school, just like I will expect Oliver to work hard. I have taught Oliver how to write his name, whether he does it when I ask is another question. He knows his ABCs, colors, shapes, and can count. I didn't sit down with him and force him into it, but I looked for opportunities to teach him things when I knew he'd be receptive to it. Yes, we play Wii, but always as a family, and we have pretty strict rules for how long the kids get to play (after they go to bed, though, Si and I can play Mario Kart for as long as we want-the bonus to being a grown-up). How many times do you hear a parent brag about all the good they do for their kids? Most of the time we make self-deprecating remarks about our kids or how we are raising them. I'm not saying that there aren't parents out there who are taking the easy way out, but I think for the most part we're all just trying to do the best we can, and what we need from other people is encouragement.

I'm already keenly aware of any mistakes I make, it's the good things I tend to gloss over until I sit down and really think about it.

Tonight, instead of thinking of all of the mistakes you made all day, why don't you sit back and bask in all of the good things you did for your children. You'll go to bed much happier.


OK, here's a link to an NPR article:

The title of the book is "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother"

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Dark Days of Winter

Recently I was listening to MPR (one of the many things Silas has influenced upon me over the years) and they were calling these months we're in now "The Dark Ages". January is historically the coldest month of the year here. A few days later I was watching the news, and the unrealistically orange weather man (who happens to be Scandinavian and therefore his pallor is all the more unbelievable) was lamenting the fact that the temps were going to return to normal after a day where it was 40 degrees and raining. The female anchor was disappointed, and indicated she preferred the 40 degree day. The day where it rained...ALL DAY. The day that turned all of our nice snow into a 2 foot crust of ice. The day that trapped us inside. It was a horrible day. I mean, weather-wise. It was a great day to hang out in the house all day in our jammies, but you can't do that EVERY DAY. Right? I mean, you could try, but I think after a while your job would notice you weren't showing up and before you know it you wouldn't have a house to hang out in at all.

I happen to like winter. I like snow. I don't even mind the cold. When it's not raining there is a myriad of activities you can enjoy outside. I love ice skating, playing hockey, sledding, and watching my children build forts. There is nothing better than coming in from the cold, tired out from whatever you were doing, and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, while everyone's mittens and hats are drying in front of the registers all around the house.

So, to the oompa-loompa and his female, rain-loving sidekick, I have this to say: Put on a hatand mittens, get outside, and man up about it already. Or move to a place where that orange is a little more believable.

Why in God's name would anyone prefer an unnaturally warm day that turns everything into a gray slush pile to a nice, brisk winter day where the snow is sparkling and you can go sledding? Basically, here's what I'm saying: We live in a place where you can expect it to be cold and snowy for several months out of the year.