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Grumpy No More

I’m not really interested in doing this anymore.  The blog, I mean.  The fact that it’s taken me weeks to bother writing this post is probably the best evidence of that.

I started this because I am by nature a writer.  I love to sort out my thoughts on paper, or computer as the case may be.  My favorite method is to vomit up every thought I have on a topic in one giant outpouring of keystrokes, and then go back and rearrange, delete, modify, etc., until I have something that resembles the gist of what was in my mind when I started.  I simply love the process.

The problem is that the process can take time, and time is not something I have right now.  I actually haven’t had it since I gave birth to Fred (Ginger was easy, so easy in fact that I decided to get pregnant again only 6 months after her birth.  Boy, have I learned my lesson).  However, because my interest was here, I made the time, at the expense of other activities.

Now, however, I don’t feel compelled to make the time.  Moreover, it’s not just a time issue.  The fact of the matter is that this blog is not the creative outlet I was hoping for because I censor myself a lot.  I only wish I could write about what’s really on my mind, but the lawyer in me won’t let me.  I may want a paying job again someday.  I may get sued for some unknown reason.  I did employment law for a decade, for crying out loud.  I know how blogs like this can come back to haunt you.

As a result, I’ve stopped myself from writing about the truly funny or interesting things that happen to my kids, GrumpyDaddy, or me.  I have a wickedly raunchy and snarky sense of humor, but you’d never know it from this blog.  I curse like a sailor in real life, but I’ve purposefully watered down my usually salty language here.  I have things to say about people I love that probably aren’t very nice, but I’ve resisted sharing because I have no clue whether someone I care about is going to find out that this blog exists.  The odds are small, but still.

Frankly, self-censorship sucks.  I occasionally go back and read some of my posts and I cringe when I see where I’ve left out fun details or wry and unkind observations.  It really does a disservice to the stories I’ve shared.  If you ever sat down to chat with me over a beer, you’d probably never guess that I and the writer of this blog are one and the same.

My lack of interest in continuing the blog may also be related to a somewhat Luditian kick I seem to be on right now.  I’m feeling a bit disenchanted with all things internet-y.  I started using Twitter and think it’s completely stupid.  It’s just another source for information in my already cluttered and hectic day.  I will probably deactivate my account shortly.

I finally caved and joined Facebook because most of the moms with whom I hang out are on there and rave about the hilarity of the daily status updates.  It was entertaining and cool for about a day, but I’m still searching for the hilarity.

I have several blogs on topics of interest to me in my Google Reader, but lately I’ve been opening my Reader, taking one look at the huge number of entries to read, clicking on “Mark as read” and closing the page.

I just need to reprioritize my time, or least move things around a bit.  I won’t delete this blog – yet – and I may decide to pick it up again.  Hell, I may find myself writing again in a week.  But for now, I am stepping away.

One final thought: I do think I finally figured out why I am so “grumpy.”  It’s the dawdling.  Every activity with a toddler and especially a pre-schooler is dragged out to the outer limits of what a person can handle before losing their grip on sanity.  Getting Ginger dressed in the morning is a Herculean effort.  She pull a shirt over her head but before she can get her arms in the sleeves, she’ll spot a toy she wants to play with and go play with it.  Then we’ll get one arm in her shirt and she’ll decide she wants to sing a song.  The next arm goes in and she wants to run around with no pants on because she thinks it’s funny.  Then underwear goes on and we have to have a discussion about what’s for breakfast.  She’ll start to put her pants on and then decide that she needs to get a hair clip.  She waddle over to her hair clips, pants around ankles, spend 5 minutes trying to figure out which one she likes, and return.  If I dare to step away from this process to do something other than help her “get dressed,” I get a pouty, whiny child.

Nothing happens quickly in a pre-schooler’s world except mood changes.


I Hate You! Wait, Who Are You Again?

Ah, the imagination.  Isn’t it a wonderful thing?  Allow me to share the inner workings of my agile brain, if you will.

You see, I thought I was in an argument with the mom of one of Ginger’s classmates.  Apparently I was the only one who thought so. 

Ginger has been coming home from school raving about all of her classmates… except one.  Let’s call this classmate Obnoxious Child, or OC for short.  OC is the youngest of four children and all three of her older siblings are boys.  As a result, OC basically punches other kids when she wants something they have.  I exaggerate, but not by much.

Ginger frequently mentions that she’s friends with everyone except OC.  Or that she played with everyone at school that day except OC.  Or the OC pushed her down on the play ground. 

Now I’m not quick to judge very young children for being rotten.  The fact is that even my kids can act like bullies around other kids at times because they haven’t yet learned that sharing is nice.  This is what little kids do – act like punks because they want the ball.  But I was hearing far too much about OC to be comfortable.

I asked Ginger’s teacher about this devil child and learned that she is, indeed, a tough cookie.  However, the teacher, whom I consider to be quite observant, had not noticed any particular problems between OC and Ginger.  So either OC was good at hiding her behavior, or she was a jerk to every kid and Ginger wasn’t being singled out.

I would see OC’s mom while waiting to pick Ginger up at the end of school, and she never had a smile for me.  I wasn’t sure if she knew who I was, but it was pretty clear she was not ready to be friends.  I didn’t know if this was because she knew about OC’s interactions with Ginger or, worse, knew that I had basically ratted OC out to the teacher by asking about her rotten behavior.

Then in November, school was closed one day for a teacher in-service day.  I decide to host a play date at my house for all of Ginger’s classmates, and I slipped invitations into her classmates’ school bags while they are still in class.  Everyone RSVP’ed one way or the other – except OC’s mom.  Yowza, this was getting personal.

I tried to justify this by telling myself that she is super busy with four kids and probably lost track of time.  But then I wondered if I’d somehow missed OC’s school bag.  Worse, OC’s mom was friends with others in the class and surely they would ask her about this play date that she had NOT been invited to.  Now I was the one looking like the big jerk.

This is all very high school, yes?

In December, the school had a holiday party and I was dreading it because it meant I might actually have to interact with OC’s mom.  I drove over to school, practicing the various ways I was going to inform her in the most cutting way that her little angel was really a demon from hell, just in case she decided to confront me about her non-invitation.  Merry Christmas, and all that.

After the musical presentation – nothing beats a bunch of awkward and untalented 3-year-olds singing Christmas songs but  –  we headed to Ginger’s classroom for the party.  OC arrived, sat down, and started getting served food by some woman who was not her mom.

Or was she?

It was at this point I realized that the woman giving me the evil eye while waiting for school to let out had no knowledge of who I was, and probably couldn’t have cared less about me.  She wasn’t a mom to anyone in Ginger’s class.  She was just another mom, juggling a baby and waiting for her child to get out of class.  No evil eye intended.

Then OC’s mom talked to me.  She was pleasant.  She also was frazzled.  This clearly is a woman who could forget to RSVP for something. 

So this was the fight that wasn’t.  Ginger has stopped complaining about OC and has even, on certain days, proclaimed her to be her BFF.  The lucky recipient of this designation changes daily, but it’s a step forward that OC even rates.

This also was a reminder that no matter how far I get from high school, all the social anxieties, miscommunication, silliness, and psych-outs still exist.  And that’s quite disappointing.

Nursery University

If you want to feel much better about your search for a pre-school for a child (or if you are like me and absorb whatever emotion is being portrayed on TV, and want to feel your blood pressure increase), put this movie in your Netflix queue.  It’s called Nursery University and it’s about the insanity of trying to get children into the “right” pre-schools in New York City.

It’s like watching people apply for college.  There are admissions counselors.  There are thin and thick envelopes, the width of which is supposed to indicate whether Little Precious was accepted.  There are parents who exercise whatever tenuous connections they have to effect the best result for their child.

It’s mind-blowing.

And it makes me very, very happy to not live in NYC.

Compared with NYC, we have it relatively easy where we live because we don’t really have an intense quality hierarchy around here.  Some schools are more desireable than others, but it usually has to do with the class size, cost, and teaching approach as opposed to the belief that a particular school is a springboard to getting Johnny into Cornell.

There is a wait list every year for my kids’ pre-school because the classes are small and the cost is low.  It’s a Quaker school, which around here gives it an aura of quality, and the school gets good buzz from parents in general.  But after an initial slew of phone calls (see below), getting in required nothing more than filling out an application and paying a deposit.  Moreover, if that hadn’t worked out, there were plenty of other schools around here that Ginger could have attended.

Now granted, for Ginger’s first year, I had to put her in the less desireable (for us) afternoon class because the morning class was full.  Despite having to mess with Fred’s nap schedule big time on school days, however, it was fine, and as an existing student entitled to early enrollment, I managed to get Ginger into the more desireable (for us) morning class for three-year-olds this year.  I also managed to get Fred into the morning program for his age thanks to Ginger’s status as an existing student.  Early enrollment for existing students has also managed to snag us the desireable (for us) classes next year as well.

Now, with all of this said, I did have my own moment of crazy.  I hadn’t really decided whether to send Ginger to pre-school last year, when she was all of two.  I know jack squat about school in general (not exactly a desireable quality in someone raising a child, but I’m sort of winging it here, folks).  But I was at play group one day and heard that a couple others in the group had enrolled their kids in pre-school. 

Suddenly I had visions of Ginger having to take remedial classes in high school because we didn’t put her in school until she was 3.

Thus began the mad rush on my part.

It was as though a switch flipped and I went from being non-chalant to borderline panicked that I had to enroll Ginger somehwere, anywhere, just to have her keep up with other kids.  The hard part was that it was April or so when I had this epiphany, so many classes were full.  This didn’t mean she couldn’t get into school – as I said above, we had other choices – it just meant she might not get into the school that we liked.

So naturally, and just because we apparently like to make our lives difficult, we decided we wanted her in the school that was going to be among the tougher to get into.  I called and called and called, but no one returned my calls, and I went from borderline panicky to downright panicky.  Suddenly, I just HAD to get Ginger into this school (this would be the crazy in all of this).  About a month after my first call, the head of the school called me back, explained that she had been traveling, and told me there was a slot left in an afternoon class, if we wanted one.

YES!  I practically shouted into the phone.

Thankfully things worked out, but the entire episode was a tiny window into what it must be like for parents in NYC trying to get their little ones into school.  I’d like to think that I could keep my head about me as to something so seemingly trivial as pre-school, particularly when other options were available, but apparently I couldn’t even make it through my rinky-dink system without having a partial meltdown.

Someone is going to have to tie me down when my kids apply to college.

Anyway, watch Nursery University and feel better about your own situation.  And be prepared to pick your jaw up off the floor a few times before the movie ends.

Grinchy Christmas

Christmas is by far my favorite holiday.  By a mile.  You can’t beat the lights, the music (well, OK, some Christmas music is just plain awful – Christmas Shoes, anyone?), the generally festive spirit, the constant availability of chocolate, etc..  As the song says, even streetlights look Christmasy with the red and green.  I even manage to (sort of) contain my road rage during this time of year.

So I returned from Thanksgiving travels ready for Christmas and motivated to decorate the house.  I eagerly put on some Christmas music and started bringing all of our decorations up from the basement, where they are stashed in red and green containers.  No, seriously, they are.  I. Love. Christmas.

Unfortunately, my kids had other ideas.  I managed to get the tree up, but before I could take the tree ornaments out of their storage boxes and bags, the kids were ripping them out, using them as footballs, and generally making a hash of anything Christmasy. 

Glitter could be found all over my house.  The glass on one of our stocking holders, which all contain photos of the person whose stocking is supposed to be hung from that particular holder, got smashed (no one was hurt, thank goodness).  I tried putting a couple presents under the tree and they got ripped.

For a hot moment, my house looked like the scene in Poltergeist where crap is flying all over the place, the kids are a giant blur, and chaos reigns.  So I had to crack my Mommy Whip and brings everyone and everything back in line.

Thus, we have a tree with lights only, no decorations and no gifts, no stockings hanging by the fireplace, and no other Christmas decorations to be found anywhere in the house, save for a wreath on the outside of the front door.

Someone please remind me why Christmas is so much more fun with kids, because I’m not really feeling the spirit at the moment.  Bah humbug.

It Feels Good To Be This Shallow

I wasn’t planning to post anything more before we left town for the Thanksgiving holiday, but I can’t resist describing my afternoon grocery shopping trip.

Ginger and I maneuvered our cart to the canned fruit section because there was a sale on mandarin oranges – $1 per can.  This is a good price in my corner of the world and given that fresh fruit that was not trucked in from 2500 miles away and/or not blasted with pesticides and/or that doesn’t taste like mildly-flavored water is pretty much out of the question right now, I tend to fall back on the canned variety to get the kids through the winter time.

So there we were, standing in front of the oranges, and I’m studying them because they are on the top shelf and someone has stacked them three high, meaning I don’t come close to reaching the top cans.  Worse, the cans sitting near the edge of the shelf have been sold, so I have to go up on my tip-toes and hold onto the shelf to have a prayer at getting the cans that are still there. 

I manage to pull down a few cans and put them in my cart.  Then I turn back to figure out how to reach more of the cans.  At this point, a woman with a young child steps in front of me and starts pulling cans down.

I’m not sure there exists a term precise enough to describe how I felt, but “gobsmacked” comes pretty close.  Was it not COMPLETELY OBVIOUS that I was in the process of pulling the oranges off the shelves?  This was a serious breach of grocery store etiquette.  Where are the canned fruit police when you need them?!?

Now to be fair, I’m not entirely certain this woman knew what I was doing.  Although I was standing directly in front of these items and had removed a few cans from the shelf, it’s entirely possible she thought I was simply admiring the remaining cans, hoping they were going to find good homes.  I suppose. 

But I doubt it.

So when she pulled down a few cans, struggling as I had given that she was about my height, and stepped away to put them in her cart, I did what any petty, passive-aggressive individual would do:  I stretched as high as I could and snagged every last can that someone of our height could possibly reach.  Better yet, I took my time.  And I could feel her standing there watching me.

After I cleared the reachable portion of the shelf – buying far more cans than I actually wanted – I turned to Ginger, said, “Come on, Sweetie!” in a chipper voice, and walked away.

I hope she was gobsmacked.

I’m Still Alive

Goodness, I didn’t realize so much time had passed since my last blog entry. Where does the time go?  At least I have a good excuse: we’ve been hiding in the basement with food, toilet paper, and shotguns, hoping that no one with swine flu comes near us.

I kid.

But seriously, who knew it could be so difficult to find a doctor to stick a sharp object in you?  My kids finally managed to get their first round of jabs, but I’m still naked, as is GrumpyDaddy.  My hands are practically bleeding from the constant washing and I canceled a play date when the mom told me her kids woke up with runny noses.  I’m not sure why I bother, given that my kids are in school and therefore will eventually contract every illness known to humankind.

So it’s been total chaos around here for no good reason other than that’s life in our household.  No one has pooped on the carpet, I haven’t ruined any food lately, and we didn’t leave town only to discover how much we miss being childless

For whatever reason, 3-year-old Ginger’s social life has kicked into high gear and we’ve had loads of play dates.  I suppose this is good, although she managed to bite another child at one of the play dates we hosted, which essentially is the social kiss of death amongst pre-schoolers.  She has never done this before and after the talking-to I gave her likely never will again, but I suspect the victim won’t be inviting Ginger over any time soon. 

The episode was just awful and was one of those moments that made me want to disappear into thin air because I was so mortified.  Remember Jonah, who bit Fred?  He was on my mind the entire time I was on my knees, in Ginger’s face, telling her that she was going to be in time-out until she was 18 because this was so beyond unacceptable.  I don’t think I could have apologized more to the victim’s mom in my effort to be the un-Jonah-mom.

I also got a bunch of hair cut off and was berated the entire time by a very loud hairdresser who spent 20 minutes announcing to the packed salon how awful my hair was.  I used to dye my hair and I’m growing it out because somewhere between the dye and my pregnancies, my hair went bad.  Really bad.  And if you had been in the salon that day, you could have heard just how bad it was.  The worst part was that I tipped her anyway when she was done.  Why why why???

So we are off for Thanksgiving.  A full week in a beach rental with my entire family.  And yeah, I’m thinking the same thing you are and it essentially involves the Oh &%#! face.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Stop Feeding My Kid Junk Food

I’m going to do something here that I don’t ordinarily do, which is a serious rant.  As in, I’m serious when I rant about this.

Why is it that when you invite my little Ginger over to your house for a playdate, you feel compelled to stuff her full of junk food?  I’ve yet to have Ginger come home from a playdate and not report that she had one or more of the following: lollipops, ice pops, fruit juice, candy bars, ice cream, artificially-sweetened water, jelly beans, and/or gummy bears. 

What is the point?  It’s not as though Ginger or any other pre-schooler needs a bribe to go on a playdate.  Do this many people really think it’s acceptable to feed kids this much garbage?  I realize that I’m a wee bit neurotic about sugar intake in our house, but apparently the rest of the population sits on the extreme far side of the spectrum on this issue.  

Moreover, are pre-schoolers really not capable of going 90 minutes without eating or drinking?  Ginger is on the lean side, but she doesn’t look as though she’s hurting for food.

Let our kids play, and scale back the junk food.  I can promise you that I won’t be feeding your kid any of that stuff when they come over to my house because (1) they don’t need it; and (2) I respect the fact that you may not want me to feed your child like that.  Trust me, our kids will have a good time without it.