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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Silly me, I thought we would never get around to taking a group photo this year, but there we all are!  I guess this is God’s way of telling us to slow down and have ourselves a streppy little New Year.  Also, He hates us.

Oh, just kidding!  If He hated us, the pharmacy would have run out of penicillin before our order was complete.  Oh, wait, it did.

Meh, it could be worse.  My husband isn’t working this weekend, so we can all have one last chance to enjoy a good old-fashioned family vacation together, sitting around the fire and sipping our disgusting pink medicine, trading good old stories about what we imagined we saw on the ceiling when the fever was at its peak, and tapping out the rhythm of our favorite old songs.  Can’t sing.  Throat hurts.

Really, really, it’s not that bad!  The worst part is the crushing guilt I feel when I think about all those friends and family eating all that fudge and peanut brittle and buckeyes I made with my own, two, plague-ridden hands. . .

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It’s posts like the following, written a few years ago, that make me realize that I really have mellowed out quite a bit in the last few years.  Enjoy it if you can!  Sheesh.


I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee

People who let their children believe in Santa are setting them up for a jaded, psychoanalyst-ridden adulthood of mistrust and paranoia.

People who don’t let their kids believe in Santa are depriving the little ones of their God-given right to the wonder of an innocent childhood.

People who get their kids tons of presents are materialistic swine who are hoping to disguise their guilt over neglecting their children the other 364 days of the year.

People who get their kids only a few presents are disguising the scars of their own deprived childhoods with a holier-than-thou wrapping more falsely tinselly than any Walmart holiday display.

Why aren’t you doing an advent wreath, an advent chain, an advent calendar, a chocolate advent calendar, St. Nicholas shoes, a Mary candle with removable baby Jesus hidden behind a satin veil which covers an alcove you dug into the candle (blue, of course), which you will remove on Christmas morning, not that anyone will notice?, and a Jesse tree? And a Christmas tree?

You should get this together on Christmas eve. Any sooner, and you will be of the world, not in the world, because it’s only still Advent, you premature-holly-hanging pushover! Go ahead, listen to secularist sirens, do what they do, and see what happens to your children, your marriage, and your eternal soul!

There. I just saved you a lot of time, and you can now skip everyone else’s blog until Epiphany or so, and concentrate on mine. And while I’m stinging you along, here’s one more pearl of wisdom:

This

is an abomination.  And not the fun kind, either.

If you grew up with Rudolph and his moth-eaten, hot glue friends, it’s okay: you’re all grown up now, and you can put it behind you. You don’t have to watch it, you don’t have to think about it or acknowledge that it was ever part of your life, and you don’t have to –you must not– introduce your children to it.

What, just because you have fond memories, that means it’s worth something? Wrongo! It’s the lousiest thing ever made. It’s the most destructive, corrosive cultural product of the the 60’s. It’s the most shameful thing about America ever. It’s worse than slavery and war. It’s worse than Scooby Doo. It frightens Satan. Do you hear me?

And no, Burl Ives is not a mitigating factor.

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X-ray Specs

My daughter, exterior view:

and interior view:

That explains a thing or two.

(Thanks to my wonderful sister Abby Tardiff who, for some reason, agreed to spend some of her precious time drawing out the true nature of my little monkey child.  And don’t you wish it were still summer?)

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Highway to Hell

Just because I have a lot of kids, people assume I have a lot of kid-managing skills.  Not so.   In the last twelve years, I  have perfected really only two child-related talents:  ignoring screams, and buying spaghetti in bulk.  Other than that, I’m pretty much where I was at the beginning:  terrified, stymied, trying not to let them corner me.

How, for instance, do I deal with lots and lots and lots and lots of time in the car with four small children who have lots and lots and lots and lots of desire to be out of the car?  Haven’t figured that one out yet.  The reason this comes up is that, as part of my nefarious plan to erase all traces of labor, hardship and inconvenience from my life when we decided to send our oldest four children to a charter school, I have been spending an awful lot of time in the car.

Emphasis on the awful.

The four youngest children always come for the ride in the afternoon, and sometimes in the morning, too.  Sometimes they read or play with baby dolls during the ride; other times, they just sit there, quietly soaking their car seats.  Of course I know all about portable toys, books, snacks, window stickers, soothing or amusing music, “I spy,” and so on.  But some weeks, we spend so many hours in the car, it’s not a matter of passing the time.  We’re just living our lives, but in the car, you know?  We just do the things we always do, but we can’t get away from each other.

Here’s a little illustration. To comprehend the psychological freight inherent in the following drama, you have to know a few things:  first, that the three-year-old

is completely nuts, and likes nothing better than to start arguments about nothing at all; and second, the 18-month-old thinks the three-year-old is a god.

And one more thing:  it was raining.

3-year-old:  “It’s not raining.”
Little sister, parroting:  “Yainin’!”
3-year-old:  “No, it’s not raining!”
Little sister, blissfully playing along:  “Yeah, yainin’!”
3-year-old, in a rage:  “NO, it’s NOT raining, it’s NOT raining, it’s NOT raining!”
Little sister, joyfully agreeing with her idol:  “Yain-yain-yainin’!!!!!!!!!”
3-year-old, in a quivering ecstasy of fury:  “IT!  IS!  NOT!  RAI-AI-AI-AI-AI-AININNNNNNNNNNG!”
Little sister, transported with bliss at the wonderful camaraderie she was enjoying with her sister:  “YAAAAAAAAAAAININ’!”

And so on.

There was nothing that anyone could do.  The three-year-old had rocketed so far past the point of reason that she remained in her little orbit of hysteria for a good half hour; and when she came down, she was hungry.  And guess what?  I had forgotten to bring a snack.

Did I mention we were in the car for three hours that day?  I’m just glad we belong a religion that believes in the value of suffering.  Because, man, it’s only Tuesday . . .

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This post originally ran about three years ago.  This year, our house will be launching the following into an unsuspecting world:  Harry Potter, Aphrodite, a cat, the grim reaper, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,  a Pink Mummy Ghost (this is a costume which started off weird and gets more confusing each year), Ming Ming, and a confused and angry baby.

You can see by the preponderance of trademarked characters that, in the three years since I wrote this piece, my give-a-damn has broken.

Oh, Halloween!

If you are lucky enough to slide unharmed through the Scylla and Charybdis of the Wiccans’ Samhain and decent people’s All Saint’s Day, you will probably be thinking about Halloween costumes for your kids.

I started having kids pretty young, so I went directly from wearing costumes myself to making costumes for my kids. The type of costume changed, of course. When you’re a 19-year-old pseudo intellectual, it seems hilarious to dress up as Aristotle’s Incontinent Man; but for your kids, you really need to reign in the originality. It’s less scarring that way.

The more insane daily life is, the more prone I am to wildly ambitious homemade costume ideas. If I’m pregnant, teaching several kids at home, buying a new house, going to law school, and launching an organic chinchilla farm, that’s when it seems like a good idea to whip up a batch of papier-mache. How hard could it really be to dress any reasonably robust six-year-old as an Elizabethan headless horseman, with false legs, of course, so it looks like he’s really riding on the golden Sphinx part, when he’s actually walking? If I could get a little cooperation around here, I could get something done for a change.

But my goal in these days of relative calm (I’m not pregnant, we’re unpacked and not packing, no one has a new job, and all the pets are dead) is to dress the kids in such a way that it won’t make them cry.

This is not as easy as it sounds, when you have kids who tend to cry when you do exactly what they specifically asked for, several times, with witnesses.

Also working against me is one three-year-old boy who gets angry when he’s having fun. You let him wear a cape and stay up late, and surround him with people who can’t believe how adorable he is, and who want to give him lots of candy . . . and it really rubs him the wrong way.  This is the same kid who steps outside into the golden sunshine, takes a look at the butterflies wafting over the heads of gentle daisies, and yells at the top of his lungs, “IT IS NOT A BOOTIFUL DAY!”

But my biggest handicap is, as usual, myself. I know it’s supposed to be a kids’ holiday, and I genuinely want the little termites to be happy.   But I’m sick. I have a disease which makes it seem important to stay up until dawn getting the tin foil details of Princess Leia’s belt exactly right, even though I know darn well that it’s going to be dark out, and no one without infrared vision could notice any flaw of authenticity, and no one with or without infrared vision would care.

Well, it’s a holiday, and that means it has to be someone’s turn to ruin things — might as well be me. But I’ll tell you the thing I really enjoy about Halloween: at least it’s not a religious holiday — I mean, Halloween as a “boo, eek, Kit-kat and Smartees, oh-how-cute” day, setting aside  the issue of saints and souls and praying and such, which is for a different day.

Halloween is not like Christmas, or Easter, or Thanksgiving — you’re not supposed to be making sure your kids aren’t missing the deeper meaning of it all, and not being too materialistic, and enjoying happy times with your family, while simultaneously performing the back-breaking labor of organizing a pleasant day.

So when I tear around the house with a hot glue gun, insisting that the toddler can make supper for herself because I’m busy, dammit . . . it’s just Halloween! I may be acting like a jerk, but at least it’s not blasphemy.


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You must remember this

I spend a lot of time thinking what it must be like to be one of my kids.  Before you say, “Oh, you’re such a good mommy!” it’s not really like that.  If anything, I’m all the more culpable for being so mean sometimes.  I actually can really, vividly imagine what it’s like to be, for instance, so so upset about someone saying that “Catsy Cootsy Tatsy Wootsy” is a stinky name for a robot — and yet I still say, “Oh, don’t be so silly, who cares?  You stop crying and clean up this room.”  Even though I remember what that’s like.

Anyway, I was thinking about those strange, stranded childhood memories that stay with us.  We say, “When I was little, we always used to sit under the lilac tree and play farm using fruit snacks for animals” when really that only happened one time.  Or our entire sixth year of life is represented by a memory of a maple seed helicopter that someone drew on with green marker and put in our hair.  Probably something else happened that year!  But that’s all we can remember, is the helicopter.

I just wonder how these memories stick.  Why?  I drive down the same country road four times a day, five days a week, with the four little ones strapped into their dank car seats.  Sometimes we chat, sometimes we listen to music, sometimes they yell and kick at each other, and fight over the last of the graham crackers.  But most of that time, they’re just looking out the window.

I glance back and see those dark, placid eyes drinking in the golden leaves, the endlessly unfurling stone walls, the occasional thrilling squirrel or cocker spaniel as we rattle down the road — that familiar landscape that ought to be so soothing and reassuring, and the perfect, idyllic setting for a whole year of comfortable childhood memories.  There’s even a funny plaster bull in somebody’s yard.  That would make a nice memory!

But I know perfectly well the strangeness inside a child’s head.  I remember that simmering stew of comfort and confusion, tedium and alarm, affection and sudden spikes of dread.  And I remember all the adults trotting along so callously, so bafflingly unaware of all the terrible dangers in the world, the savage mysteries that grown-ups pretend are nothing at all, just a shadow, just a plastic bag caught in the wind, just the sound of the house settling.

Some of my children are worriers and brooders, and I understand them.  I can tell them, “It’s all right — it’s all right.  You’ll grow up, and you’ll see that the world is not so terrible.  There is a way out of this dark hole, and there is so much to look forward to.  Just hang in there, and you will not always be a child!  You can do it.”  But that doesn’t help them now.  They don’t know what I mean, and they don’t realize that I understand.

I wish I could choose their memories for them.  When I’m feeling up to it, I try and bulldoze them over with poignant, satisfying experiences, so that they’ll have something good for when they grow up.  And really, I know it’s not for their sake — it’s for mine.  It’s so they can tell me, “Remember when you used to sing that song you made up while we were waiting for the eggs to scramble?” and I can say, “Oh, yes, you were such a difficult child . . . but I made you happy, didn’t I?” and they will say, “Yes, Mama, and we appreciate that.  You were a good mother.”

Ridiculous.  That is not what will happen.  When they have their own kids, they’ll wonder why I couldn’t have been nicer, why I had to be so critical, so capricious, so impatient and embarrassing.  They will love me, but it will be love with exasperation, accomplished with fortitude.  I know that whoever my children will turn out to be, it will be because of their own experiences, their own personality, their own genetics, their own little portions of grace that God chooses for them.  So very, very little of who they are will come from me, even though I crack my brain trying to think of everything they will need.

And of that, they will remember – – what?  The time I yelled at them on their birthday; and maybe also the time I made kitten-shaped pancakes for lunch.  Maybe they’ll just remember me brushing their hair.

I hope the time they remember is the time I remembered to be gentle.

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Today’s post is a re-run from my old blog.  Why?  Because I’m too darn tired to write something new.  And so I present:

THE FIVE STAGES OF EXHAUSTION

Stage 1: You wake up feeling tired.
You stumble around the house all day, misplace your keys, and go to bed early.

Stage 2: You wake up feeling lousy.
You stumble around, maybe drop a few things, and find it hard to finish sentences. You go to bed early.

Stage 3: You wake up feeling dead.
You fall asleep on the baby while you’re changing her. You give the kids cereal for supper because you’re too weak to lift a pound of chop meat. You go to bed late, because if you don’t get caught up on the housework, someone is going to arrest you.

Stage 4: You don’t wake up.
You walk around the house, make meals, drive to the library, and answer the phone, but you’re not really awake. But you dream that you are, and in your dream, you’re very tired. You go to bed, probably. Whatever.

Stage 5: You wake up feeling great!
Some of your noses are a little numb, and you keep forgetting where your feet feet, but you seem to have outlasted the need for sleep! You’re a champion! There are only a few problems:

~You make a tuna noodle casserole (ingredients: tuna, noodles) and forget to put in the noodles. Your only clue that something is awry is a nagging feeling that supper looks awfully low today.

~You ask your husband to pick up some cereal bowls, and carefully explain that they are to be not ceramic, and not glass, but a particular sort of smooth, non-porous material that is rigid like unto glass, and yet not so breakable. And he says, “yeah, I’m familiar with plastic.”

~You wander around the house searching for AA batteries. You spot a book of matches, and think, “That’ll work!”

~Your husband comments that your new yard has enough space to keep a horse, and you reply, “What we really need is one of those horses with horns. That gives milk.”

~You ask your mother, “Can the kids sleep at your house, or are the rooms too full of cheese?”

Everything in this post is true.

Being tired may not kill me, but no one else is safe.

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