Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The First Commandment of Motherhood

I’ve tried very hard to create structure and healthy living in my home; having a plan for the kale in my fridge makes me feel like a good mom. My children have routine meal and snack times, and they are always seated at the table. It gives us a chance for face time and also keeps the house less dirty. The majority of their food is homemade, organic, humanely raise, and if possible, local. While it is my deepest desire to make this a lifestyle, I don’t want to be the crazy crunchy mom that doesn’t let her children go to birthday parties because they may ingest corn syrup. At some point, our lives have to be worth living.

Sunshine has a terrible cold. The poor baby was up all night and miserable. When she woke up, she was in no mood for eggs with spinach or a bowl of steel-cut oats. We compromised on dry cereal and frozen raspberries. While getting out the berries, I saw that Mr. Responsibility had brought home ice cream. “Sunshine! Look what we have. If you do a good job of eating your meals and snacks today, you can have some ice cream!” Her feverish face lit up and she smiled.

As usual, I finished my food first and excused myself from the table while Baldilocks and The Jungle Kid made finger paints out of the raspberries. Bound and Determined Mom got down to work. After a while, a small voice piped up, “I’m all done.” Sunshine had brought her plate to me at the sink, and she had finished every morsel. “Wow! Look at that! Do you want more?” I said with excitement.

Sunshine looked at me. Her newly freckled skin and enormous blue eyes were so sweet and hopeful. The purple circles under those eyes and the mop of yet to be brushed hair made her look like Olivia Twist. “Mommy, I’m all done with that. I…I want my ice cream.”

The cosmos swirled; stars crashed and collapsed. The unified voice of thousands upon thousands of mothers from all time chanted the first commandment of motherhood in my head: Thou shalt not have ice cream before lunch time! Thou shalt not have ice cream before lunch time!” This is a slippery slope. If you give the child ice cream after breakfast, she will expect it. Then, there will be more lazy parenting in the future. Soon the ice cream will be cheap ice cream that’s made by whipping Crisco with corn syrup and Red Dye 40. The mothers spoke again, “You are one decision away from falling into the pit. One false move and you’ll be smacking them with fly swatters and buying economy packs of Slim Jims.”

“Mommy?” Sunshine was standing before me. Her pale little face had a tight frown and her chin was quivering. Her deep breaths were all in an effort not to cry. It was simply a misunderstanding, and her little spirit was crushed. She didn’t want to eat her breakfast, but she had stuffed it down just so she could have a taste of ice cream. She’d earned it, and now the big person was reneging on her end of the bargain so she could be like June Cleaver. Her tears made little wet spots on my jeans.

“Well, it does have peanut butter in it, so I guess it will be okay this one time.” Cool mom dusted conventional wisdom off of her shoulder like dandruff and dished up some ice cream for all of the children. All would be well. Sunshine’s little spirit puffed up, and there were no problems with wiping faces, brushing teeth, or combing hair today. It’s going to be a good day, though I will admit to having a hankering for some kind of spicy “meat-like food” at room temperature.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Cheeeeldren Are too Skeeeeny

As a child, my Ukrainian grandmother, Baba, was always trying to feed us. By “feed”, I don’t mean give balanced and moderate meals, I mean make us "real chaaaabby" and happy. You never know how hard a winter will be. When we would arrive at her house, there was every kind of goodie imaginable, especially ones my mother never gave us. Her purse was full of Luden’s Cherry cough drops (no medicine, just pieces of cherry candy with cocaine-like addictiveness) and Freedent gum, the freezer bursting with Jello Pudding pops, cabinets loaded with Honey Combs, and jars of Snickers bars. When we were all about two sugary bites from barfing, she would stop basting the roast long enough to look at us and the wrappers on her floor and yell, “Yooooooy! No more fiflikeh! Ged oudda here! Go outside and play!” Minutes later she would call us to a dinner full of beef roast, potatoes, cabbage, and bread with sour cream and gravy on it all. When we slowed down for a moment to breathe, she would beg us, “Eat! Eat! You’re too skeeeeny!” I love my Baba.

Sunshine and Baldilocks are sometimes required to go to the doctor for extra appointments. The first is not my fault; it’s Mr. Responsibility’s…or should I say, Mr. Cranium’s. Both of our children have had to go in for “head” checks to make sure that they don’t have some sort of abnormality. I learned quickly to send the child with her father so the doctor would understand that this is genetic. The sheer size in combination with slender necks and glowing pale skin can only be described as light bulb-esque.

The other appointment is for weight checks. My once cherubic babies have both slimmed down to mere sprites, and I’m the worst mother of Ukrainian descent ever. When this first became an issue, the doctor (who had three pamphlets warning of childhood obesity hanging on the wall) had to dig to the very back of the file cabinet to help me figure out what to do. On the way home, Ukrainian mom stopped at the store and loaded up on every fatty and nutritious item she could find: sour cream, cream to spike the milk, peanut butter, bananas, ice cream, and, (crunchy/healthy mom shudders) canned spaghetti and meatballs. Ukrainian Mom made and tried to tempt Sunshine with it all. There were mashed potatoes and gravy, smoothies, hamburgers, and macaroni and cheese. The child ate two olives and an eighth of a tomato with ketchup. Total failure.

Baldilocks is not quite as picky, but she is skinny nonetheless. I think this has mostly to do with the fact that her diet consists mostly of crayons, stickers, and board books (indestructible my badoot).

The thing that has surprised me most about the kids is their desire not for bland “kid” foods, but for highly flavorful foods. Sunshine eats her eggs with salsa and hot sauce while Baldilocks likes roasted squash with curry powder.

Though it mostly ends up on the floor, they have inspired my cooking. I leave you with one of their favorites:

Nachos with Homemade Hummus and Salsa

2 cans chick peas
¼ cup tahini (in the peanut butter aisle)
Juice from a fresh lemon
3 finely minced cloves of garlic
3-4 tbsp olive oil

Drain chick peas and reserve some of the liquid for later. Combine all of the ingredients (except lemon juice) in a food processor/blender and begin grinding. Add lemon juice, plenty of salt, with reserved liquid until consistency and taste are to your liking. If you want it very, very smooth, cook the chick peas for a few minutes prior to blending. Place in serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika.

1 lb tomatoes
1 lb tomatillos (usually next to the tomatoes, green in color with papery covering)
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion
½-¾ cup fresh cilantro
2-4 jalapenos (remove seeds for reduced heat)
Juice of one lime

Chop all ingredients well and place in a large pot; salt to taste. Gently warm for a few minutes—don’t cook it, just get it warm so the ingredients will marry. Serve as is for very chunky salsa. For medium chunky, run half the batch through a blender. For uniform texture, blend the entire batch. Salsa can be frozen, but shake wildly to reincorporate once it’s thawed.

For the girl’s favorite treat, serve hummus and salsa with fresh nachos.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Monkey Girl Feeds the Meter

As a short-waisted person, I’ve always hated high-waisted jeans. The waist to hip ratio is always off leaving me with either Hammer pants hips or a tourniquet above my belly button. On top of that, they are just a few pleats and tapered legs away from being the dreaded mom jean.

I've Still Got It Mom got up the other day and put on a pair of freshly washed, mid-rise jeans with a little stretch for a flattering fit. They were a little snug, but a layered shirt easily disguised any possible muffin top. A little makeup, a primping of the hair, and I gingerly descended the stairs to make a fabulous and nutritious breakfast. Kisses and pats on the head to the beautiful children and my handsome husband, and I went off tidying while humming a merry tune (June Cleaver peeked in the window green with envy).

Every bend and twist was made easy with my awesome and stylish pants, and it didn't take long for the waist to loosen, turning them into hot low-rise jeans, and making the old muffin top disappear. Soon the children came into play and Bio-Cave Mom not only caught a not-so-pleasant scent, but also knew exactly who made it. “Did someone make a stinky?” Mary Poppins Mom asked with a lilt in her voice. Quickly, I laid Baldilocks on a blanket on the floor and crouched down to get to work.

This is the point where the not-so-awesome stretch in my pants decided to take my formerly mid-rise pants straight past ultra low-rise to be-low rise. Trying not to offend the sensibilities of the children with my new plumber fashion, I tried to hike them up, but Baldilocks took the opportunity to plant her foot into her open and soiled diaper. Diaper Pro Mom made a stealthy entrance.

In the midst of our skirmish, my shirt started inching upwards and the effect was like the parting of the Red Sea. DP Mom tried in vain to wiggle the clothes back into place while keeping all of the bio-hazard contained to a small area. But then, there was a sensation.

A small, Jungle Kid sized hand planted itself on the middle of my back which was now exposed, and a narrow, cold object was being forcibly inserted into the plumber area. My shrieks, whoops, and wild wiggles just egged the little monkey on. Sunshine kicked back and rolled with laughter as I finished cleaning Baldilocks. Fast as lightening, I wheeled around, yanking up my pants, and found the Jungle Kid with a plastic tea saucer in position to feed the meter one more time. Oh, the humiliation of it all.

This event forever changed my view on several things. My heart and mind are now a little less judgmental towards high-waisted jeans. They may not look fabulous, but they are infinitely practical. Pairing them with a belt and a tucked in shirt may keep me safe from an unfortunate exposure.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Oreo Cookie Couch

I have a white couch. It’s a beautiful white couch. Mr. Responsibility and I bought it because it was a ridiculously good deal, and we didn’t have children. My gleaming white couch has a brown cover to keep it gleaming, or at least give me a shot to keep it that way.

I put Sunshine and Baldilocks in their room for nap and hunkered in with The Jungle Kid on the couch. Baldilocks’ little snores came over the monitor in between Sunshine’s fits of laughter and singing. The Jungle Kid, who usually falls asleep quickly, was having trouble settling down. “What’s the matter, kiddo?” She promptly answered me with a loud belch followed by a sippy cup’s worth of milk. As Lightening Fast Reflexes Mom stripped the cover off of the couch, I couldn’t help but notice that milk against the brown cover look just like an Oreo cookie. Brown cover, white barf.

With some quick “it’ll do” cleaning and a few minutes of snuggling, The Jungle Kid powered down, and I was left with my thoughts. One led to another, and soon I was wandering down the memory lane of messes.

When Sunshine was just a precious two weeks old, she introduced Starry-Eyed Mom into the world of real messes. Sleepy But Happy to Be a Mom-Mom was changing her tiny diaper at 3am. I carefully wiped her peachy bottom with care and started to put the itty-bitty clean diaper under her. What a joy to finally be a real live mom! I put a little diaper cream just in case. Then, there was a sudden weird noise and a splatter. My face was wet. I looked down and saw yellow poop running down my shirt, in my long hair, the comforter, the uncovered box spring, and the brand new carpet. Needless to say, Mr. Responsibility woke up easily and laughing.

The messes after that just got better. Like the time Mr. Doesn’t Know How to Contain a Diaper Explosion pulled a dirty onesie off of a screaming child only to leave a pancake of poo in her hair.  Or, my favorite, the time when Baldilocks anointed a new resident doctor who was attempting a routine exam. His feline jump and girly shriek still gives me a chuckle (Go into dermatology young man! Please!).

Soon, my golden hour to myself was over and the girls were recharged and ready to play. Baldilocks needed a change and I’ve Changed Thousands of Diapers and Can Handle Anything Mom set her on the couch with confidence. I don’t know if it was the change of scenery or a whim, but Baldilocks decided to pull a new dance move mid-diaper change and…

…Brown poop, white Couch. It looked just like an Oreo cookie.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dr. Sears, Meet the Stinging Bees

“Mommy! I want to break this plate!”

It used to be that my darling Sunshine would change the subject when we encouraged her to consume calories other than ketchup covered tomatoes and pickles. But as of late, my perfect child has decided to assert her independence by challenging everything her parents request and even think.

It was a sudden change. Her eyes squinted with loathing and disgust when I asked something simple. “Would you like milk or water?” “I want to break this sippy cup!”  “Which shirt would you like to wear?” “I want to eat my shirt!”

After a few days of complete at-a-loss-a-tude, Good Cop and Bad Cop sat down to research and discuss a course of action. Good Cop sat in disbelief at the drastic change his pretty baby had gone through while he was at work. Bad Cop, grateful for three minutes to stare at the computer screen, piped up, “Apparently, this is normal, and we are supposed to praise the good as usual and ignore the bad. We should try to give her more options and let her help more.”

Luckily, we were given plenty of opportunities to practice our new parenting the very next day. We’re Going to Get Through this Unscathed/Awesome Attitude Mom made a loaf of bread, played games, and tried her darnedest to ignore the not-so-shocking, shock-value statements.  By 4 pm, Are We Really Still Working on this Mom was starting to poke her head around the corner. Tee-Tee showed up early to pick up The Jungle Kid and brought some much needed relief. She inquired after Sunshine’s Christmas wishes only to be informed that she didn’t want Christmas presents and that she wanted to eat the Christmas presents. Tee-Tee (not up on the new parenting) told her all about Santa’s relationship with ill-behaved children and coal.

“Say goodbye to The Jungle Kid girls!” I said as they left. “I want to eat The Jungle Kid!” roared my little grouchy pants. Tee-Tee rolled her eyes, wished me luck, and shut the door. “Well, you’ll have to go to jail for cannibalism, but it’s your choice,” Totally Not Shocked/This is Really Old Mom said. “I want to eat the jail!” “Okay, I’ll drive you in a minute, but I have to go potty first.” “I want to eat the toilet!” she screamed as I shut the door.

Trying Desperately Not to Laugh at My Child Mom washed her hands and bit her lip and put the parenting advice away. Sunshine, sensing defeat and on the verge of tears, tried to launch a slap legs attack as I walked out. “Sunshine, I fear it’s time to bring out two old friends of mine,” I said as I stuck out my two stiff pointer fingers. “When little girls are very naughty, it makes the bees very angry! It makes them so angry that they need to STING! BZZZZZZZZ. I quickly and randomly buzzed and poked her ribs and armpits and belly. She tried her hardest to be sulky and Goth, but in no time she dissolved into a fit of laughter. There’s my Sunshine.

When she was finally exhausted and sweaty from squirming and giggling, I taught her the lost eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not take thine own self too seriously.

Tip of the day: When parenting books are lame, you can always rely on a good old fashion working over like the Stinging Bees, Tickle Monster, and the Zerbert Zombie. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mommy, Meet Charlie

Like most girls, I'm a romantic. The sight of an elderly couple holding hands melts my heart and sends flip-book images of their decades-long love shooting through my mind. How precious! I'm also a big sucker for those black and white photo cards of two young children in old fashion dress up clothes with a rose and their budding puppy love. So pure! So innocent! How could anyone not get misty eyed?

Buuuut who has the time to dwell on it?

On a beautiful clear autumn day, Holy Cow It's Almost Winter/We Must Play Outside as Much as We Can Mom threw Sunshine and Baldilocks into the car and raced to the tennis courts. This was my best idea yet: a fenced in area, three brightly colored balls, and two tennis rackets. We hit the balls, threw the rackets and balls, and ran, and ran, and ran! For 45 laugh filled minutes, we soaked up as much vitamin D as we could. Then, Throw Caution to the Wind Mom decided to do a cartwheel and ended the entire session.

Limping towards the car, Cool Mom gave the go ahead for a little romp on the playground. It didn't take long for Desperately Needs Adult Conversation Mom to find another DNAC daycare provider. She had brought several well dressed and nicely mannered children for an outing, and all the chitterlings meshed together in a quaint, fluffy-headed flock.

Our chat flowed smoothly with only small interruptions of "Don't point sticks at faces" and "Don't chop kids you don't know." I easily ignored Sunshine's not so traditional greeting of one youngster, "Hey, what are you doing boy?" What a lovely, lovely fall day. My ligaments were slowly shrinking back and mending as the breeze tossed the hair poking out from under my cap.

Soon, my beautiful little Sunshine came waltzing up to us, hand-in-hand with a much older four year old. "This is my girlfriend," explained the boy to his daycare lady. "Isn't that nice, Charlie?"

Immediately, Pinpoint Pupil/Puckered Butt/Shrill Mom popped up, but It's Really No Big Deal Mom slapped a forced smile on my face. "Ahha ha ha ha! Isn't that cute! Ahha ha ha ha , SUNSHINE, THREE MINUTES UNTIL WE GO! Ahha ha ha ha!"

PP/PB/S Mom and IRNBD Mom started fighting it out in my head. "Why does he know what a girlfriend is? Does he wash his hands after using the potty? Is he even potty trained?" "Psha, the lady said his parents are doctors, and he looks so clean and cute! So they like each other, it's sweet!" "Doctors schmoctors! He spends all day with that crazy old lady prancing around the park with who knows what kind of people!"

Eventually, the three minute eternity ran down, and everyone left the park. The little star-crossed lovers wouldn't say goodbye to each other; they just looked down at the ground.

I was the worst mother ever.

I'm not sure what it was that brought out PP/PB/S Mom. Seeing Sunshine socialize and try new things has always thrilled me, but suddenly seeing her hand in hand with someone else sent the sands of time shooting through the glass. I could clearly see her driving a car with other young adults that I don't know. Would she do the right thing? Would she make safe decisions?

"Snap out of it." I told myself I as turned the key in the ignition. "You'll do better next time." I quickly made amends by blaring Woody Guthrie's "Car Song" on repeat all the way home. After a snack and a nap, I let her play in the dirt until it was almost dark. It's not so bad I guess. She still has 13 years until she learns to drive.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bound and Determined Mom Takes on the World

I woke up early and  fused the forces of Bound and Determined Mom with Healthy/Crunchy Mom. Before long the laundry was humming and a pot of steel-cut oats was bubbling away. The Jungle Kid came over from next door and her endearing little monkey screeches quickly woke up a grouchy Sunshine and thoroughly soaked Baldilocks. In minutes they were clean, dressed, and sitting at the table with a sweet bowl of oats and warm milk. A slurp of coffee and B & D Mom continued to slay the grime the threatened to take over the house and grow the evil villain: Lazy/I Give Up/Lay on the Couch Mom.

The battle was interrupted almost immediately by a sound that could only be described as two glass bowls of oatmeal being swiped off of a table and landing upside down on the floor. Disciplinarian Mom brought out the firm "No!" before I started the battle of oatmeal hair, table, high chairs, floor, and wall.

That battle was immediately interrupted by territorial primate screeches and crying. Baldilocks and The Jungle Kid were fighting over balloons again, and Sunshine decided to push them both to the ground. A time-out, no-no's, and a few kisses later, and I was battling the grime once more.

We repeated the entire scene twice more with apples dipped in almond butter, scraps over the slinky, chicken with rice and veggies, and tug-o-war over shoes. I finally lost it, threw their buns in bed, and gave myself a time out.

Just an hour later, I swept the last corn chip off of the floor and swapped Bound and Determined Mom for I've Apparently Lost My Mind Mom. "Sunshine! Let's teach the little girls to use the potty! You can even show them how!" Five minutes later, IALMM Mom had the puddles cleaned off the floor and panties on the two 18 month olds, who then decided to fight over the potty. Three minutes after that, the little girls were stripped of their pee soaked clothes and put back into diapers.

Tired/Irritated Mom jogged up the stairs and was searching for new clothes when a tha-thunk tha-thunking sound came wafting up the stairwell. My Mom-dar said, "Don't walk! Run!" After falling most of the way down the stairs, I discovered two cave children dancing on the dining room table with such fervor that it was actually skipping across the room. Quicksilver/Emergency Mom grabbed them to safety and let Disciplinarian Mom go to town.

A quick rearranging of the furniture allowed me time to grab some clothes, and I came down to find two completely naked children shredding their diapers into confetti. The battle was lost. With all of my hope gone, I collapsed to my knees with my head in my hands. The filth had built up around me and the dreaded villain was rising. There was nothing to stop her.

But then four sticky arms reached around my neck; I opened my eyes to find two naked cherubs looking on with sympathy. They kissed and hugged me. What a sweet joy and wasn't it worth it all? I basked in this loveliness and ignored, as long as I could, the copious warm liquid with which they anointed my pants and socks.

Lazy/I Give Up/Lay on the Couch Mom won the day, and I couldn't begrudge her that for it was a hard fought battle. But, I knew her strength would weaken with each episode of Hoarders. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of my mind, Bound and Determined Mom was building an army.