Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mother's Day: What she might want this year...

It’s almost that time again! That’s right, folks! We are a mere two weeks out from MOTHER’S DAY! That magical day where every mother remembers the beautiful, miraculous births of her precious angels. That sweet, full day of being honored and thanked for the endless sacrifices she makes daily for her family. That special day where she will receive thoughtful gifts from her children and her supportive husband, both of whom will rise up on this glorious day of days to call her Blessed!

Um, no.

If your family is anything like mine, then you already know that hubby is going to forget all about Mother’s Day until the preacher starts in on his annual Mother’s Day sermon. And the only homemade gifts your kids are likely to make are the coloring pages they do during Sunday School while Dad was sweating it out in ‘Big Church’, wondering how he’s going to manage to come up with a gift by the time you all get home when you’ve ridden WITH HIM to church.

But listen, dads, I don’t really blame you. I know that you get thoughtful Hallmark cards and homemade gifts with the kids’ handprint and your favorite meal cooked every year for Fathers’ Day. But let’s be honest: some of those super-sweet crafts are a result of necessary structured time to dial down the chaos during hours and hours of summer boredom and mischief. And the card was the result of being desperate to get out of the house, even if it meant dragging kids along. And the favorite meal? Well, that’s because your wife is a total GODDESS and you’re lucky to have her.

Nonetheless, I get that finger paint and stickers and the like are probably not your thing. And maybe you have ZERO ideas what your wife wants from you on Mother’s Day. After all, she’s not YOUR mother. So what exactly is your role here, anyway? (We all know that particular excuse translates into “I forgot about Mother’s Day”, so give that one up…)

To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of a few things your wife might enjoy this year on her special day.

1.      A DAY OFF.
Men, hear me: “A Day Off” does NOT mean that you load all the kiddos up for some fantastic, dream day of FUN while Mom stays home. (Please refer to the episode of The Middle where Mike makes this mistake…) No, no, no. It is very likely, especially if Mom stays home with the kids while you work every day, that you are already labeled “Fun Daddy” while she is the disciplinarian, the business, the chores and daily drudgery. The LAST THING ON EARTH she desires for Mother’s Day is to add to that perception that only Daddy is fun.

Do you want to know what kind of day off Mama needs? A day off from calling kids down. A day off from changing diapers. A day off from eating cold food because she helped everyone’s plates and got everyone’s drinks and cleaned up two spills and found everyone a napkin and then got everyone’s refills AND THEN finally got to sit down to eat her own food. Mama needs a day to ENJOY THE FAMILY FUN without being in charge of ANYTHING.

2.      A hot shower or bubble bath… ALONE!
Dude. Don’t you DARE try to turn this gift into some romance time for you. Don’t. You. Dare.
That woman has had people trying to hop into the shower with her all year long. Let the poor woman have a hot shower where she has time to wash her hair AND shave her legs without people knocking down the door to ask a billion questions or find out when she’ll be done. You can benefit from the smooth legs and the absence of the smell of spit up later. 

3.      Every stitch of laundry in the whole house CLEAN and PUT AWAY.
 And no, you cannot spend the whole of Mother’s Day dealing with the piles while she deals with kids. This is a plan-ahead kind of gift. Good luck! 

 If your wife is a stay-at-home mom, chances are the vast majority of her wardrobe consists of pajamas, stretched out shirts from years of nursing, and a variety of otherwise stained, ripped, and/or mutilated garments. Missing that fun, sexy woman that you married all those years ago? Buy the woman a bra that fits and some decent clothes to wear over it. (Well, YOU probably shouldn’t buy it. Maybe take her shopping, or just keep the kids and let her go alone…) 

5.      Some TLC
 Moms spend the majority of their time worrying over and taking care of their families. So get your woman a massage, a manicure, a pedicure, a day at the spa... And if you can’t afford the real deal, do it yourself.

Friday, November 13, 2015

MY Kid is THAT Kid

You know how there’s always THAT KID that other parents don’t want THEIR KID associating with? The one that’s a bad influence, is always in trouble, has issues with authority, consistently displays poor judgment, maybe dresses a little too wild, etc. It’s hard enough to enforce any attempts to keep them apart when they spend hours without parental interference at school and extracurricular activities… But what do you do when they live together?

WHAT DO YOU DO when they’re BROTHERS??????????

Honestly, I don’t even know which kid is the “good” one and which is the “bad” one anymore. All I know is that BOTH OF THEM are constantly into SOMETHING. And the SOMETHING is always more ridiculous than anything that either of them could have come up with on their own. They just feed off of each other 24/7/365. 

For example:
Normal children strip down naked and run about the house laughing. It’s not something we encourage, but it’s not something to get alarmed about either.
MY children strip down naked OUTSIDE. Then they convince each other to throw their clothes onto the roof of the house to rot during the next thunderstorm whilst they clog up the gutters. Then they pee on each other. Again, all outside for the neighbors to see. Because we definitely needed another reason for the neighbors to consider calling CPS.

For another example:
Normal children will either step on a bug to squish it, or they will run to an adult and ask them to squish it.
MY children HUNT bugs to kill. And not just at home, no sirree. They stalk bugs in public locals, such as the OB office, where they stand atop the nice, cushioned, waiting room chairs on tiptoe after ripping off their shoes. And there, they bang the life out of the harmless cricket that is unfortunate enough to be on the wall above their head until it falls to the floor in complete and utter dead-ness. And then they stomp it some more, just in case.

For yet another example:
Normal children jump on the bed. Again, it’s not a behavior we encourage, but we don’t freak out too much since it’s completely normal.
MY children start out jumping on the bed. Then they convince each other to push the beds close enough to jump from one bed to the other while performing ninja moves. Then they steal the slats from under the bed and build a plank connecting the two headboards where they walk precariously on a 4-inch-width piece of splintery wood from one headboard to the other where they will dive onto the mattress. And probably perform a somersault on the way down.

See? Do you see how things spiral out of control? It’s insane! And the worst part: they are starting to drag the baby into their crazy.

Yesterday, when the older two stripped down naked, they stripped the baby down naked too. I do not know why. I will NEVER understand why children—especially BOY children—are obsessed with naked behinds. But they are, and they apparently drag others into the madness as early as possible. (As a side note, in addition to stripping him stark, raving naked, they have taught him the word “poo poo”. My sweet, precious child knows a whopping 5 words or so, all of which he says in this super cute little baby voice. Yet now he can participate in the potty humor. Yippee skippee.)

Today, the baby climbed right on top of that headboard with his two big brothers, ready to walk the Plank of Death right alongside them. Thankfully, I was able to grab him and get him back to safety before an ER visit was necessitated. But I feel one is on the horizon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Child Spacing Pros and Cons

At some point, every couple has to decide on the number and spacing of their children. Unfortunately, no one actually has any experience or expertise in the child-spacing arena at the time the decision has to be made, so it’s mostly guesswork based on those you can observe around you. 

Some couples want their kids to be born close together in the hopes that they will be able to play together and entertain each other. Maybe they hope they will be able to deal with the sleepless nights and endless diapering better if they just stay in the groove. Or maybe they’re thinking that they don’t want to deal with storing baby gear indefinitely, so they’ll get all their usage in quickly. Maybe one or both spouses are older than the average new mom and dad, so they feel a sense of urgency to “get this show on the road”, so to speak. Regardless of their reasoning, these couples opt to space their kiddos 2 or less years apart.

Other couples feel they need a little more time in between babies. They might be wanting to guaranteed a potty-trained Baby #1 before introducing Baby #2, or have the older one be more independent before adding another helpless one into the mix. Maybe these parents are concerned that the first child won’t get to fully experience “being a baby” if another baby comes too soon. Regardless of their reasoning, these couples opt to space their kiddos 3-4 years apart.

Still other couples wait even longer—5 years, 6 year, 10 years! Some opt to stop after the first little one. And some do no planning at all, figuring they’ll just take what they get whenever they get it, if they get it at all. 

We personally did a little combo of planning and oops-ing, but our vision was to have our children spaced right at 2 years apart. We were successful with Baby #1 and Baby #2, but the math got a little off with Baby #3. He got here a mere 17 months later. And then our little Oopsy will be right at 18 months behind him. 

Now, obviously, since all 4 of our kiddos fall into the “Closely Spaced” category, I can offer absolutely zero advice on any other spacing options. However, I have constructed a quick little Pros and Cons List for those considering this same close spacing. 


1.      They will be very close when they get older. Theoretically. 


1.      Every child is in various stages of potty training simultaneously, from full-time diaper-wearer, to nighttime diaper-wearer only, to full-time underwear-er with wet sheets at least once per week. Know that book, Everyone Poops? True story. And at least 50% of the time, the poop does not make it into the proper receptacle. Other true stories include: Everyone Pees, and Everyone Picks Their Nose and Wipes the Findings in Random Locations, and Everyone Sits on Your Lap to Toot.

2.      No one is far enough removed from the baby stage to have much sympathy for the ACTUAL baby when he steals toys or knocks over someone’s Lego structure, nor to have any sense of what it means to share. So that play time that we thought was going to be so precious because everyone would be just the right age to play so well together? That was lunacy. Play time reminds me of the Cornucopia scene from The Hunger Games: everyone runs for the exact same toy, then the losers attack the winner and engage in a chokehold death struggle until a victor finally emerges. And again, there is no leniency for even the tiniest of contestants. So baby brother is only 12 months old and has toddled unsteadily into the brawl? Dude. It’s on like Donkey Kong. 

3.      Everyone is a mess-maker while no one is a mess-cleaner-upper. From sun up to sun down, it’s spilled drinks, dropped plates full of freshly prepared food, toys flung far and wide, shredded books, unrolled toilet paper rolls, dirty laundry taken from the hamper and redistributed around the house, etc. And while our oldest is able to now assist with some of the pick-up, he’s slow. Slow. As. Christmas. And while he’s moving at his geriatric pace, the others are sure to be creating new messes. In fact, he might create a new mess himself while in the midst of picking one up. For example, he recently accidentally pushed the wrong button on the vacuum. So rather than turning OFF the machine, he opened it up, spilling out everything he just cleaned up, plus extra. 

4.      Laundry. Laundry everywhere. Mountains and mountains of laundry EVERYWHERE. And no one old enough to fold neatly or reach the top drawer of the dresser. And this is not your everyday laundry. These are piles of clothes drenched in pee, smeared with blood and mud and snot and food, literally left outside in the elements for a week before anyone noticed. And due to all the extra substances that find their way to the children’s clothing, they sometimes go through 3 or 4 outfits in one day, none of which will be placed in the hamper without multiple reminders.  

5.      Everyone needs constant supervision, but no one thinks they do. Why? Because they’re not “the baby”, they’re “big brother/sister” to someone. Therefore, they are far too old to hold your hand in the parking lot, or ride in the shopping cart, or sit in a booster seat, or take a nap. “I’M BIG!” they insist. So as far as they are concerned, they can check the mail without you going with them, close their bedroom door and play without you in there, use the scissors and sharp knives and glue without assistance… And the actual baby? Well, everyone else is doing those things, so I want to, too!

6.      No one is fully sleep trained yet. The potty-trained-by-day child is a wet-the-bed-by-night child. Which means a wake-up call for Mom and Dad to change pajamas and sheets and calm a foul-smelling, half-asleep kid. The baby is either still eating throughout the night, or teething, or both. Mom and Dad might as well camp out in the rocker. Any paci-suckers are unable to function during cold season and allergy season because they can’t breathe through their nose NOR their mouth. In Texas, those two seasons cover about 10 months of the year. Another wake-up call for Mom and Dad. And any remaining children are woken up by the ones already mentioned. More wake-up calls for Mom and Dad. So basically, closely spaced children = no sleep for at least a solid decade.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Naming the baby. I swear it’s a more stressful job than birthing the baby. 

You’ve got to find a name that you and your spouse can agree on, a name that the baby will like, a name that will grow with them, a name that can’t be turned into a taunt, a name that doesn’t have inappropriate initials, a name that others can pronounce and spell… 

And that’s not all you have to think about. 

Is the name you are considering too popular? Too strange? Anyone’s ex or enemy?

Are you naming the baby after a grandmother? Well, what about the other grandmother? What if she’s offended? What if she figures out that you think her name is hideous? Or that she’s not your favorite after all?

And is it true that a child’s name can influence his/her personality? What if the name you choose today ends up being the name of the psycho killer in the next big horror flick? Or already was the name of a psycho killer in a flick you’ve never heard of but others will reference for the rest of your sweet child’s life?

The task is daunting.

And then, after you’ve considered Aaaaaaaallllll the possibilities and implications, when you’ve finally, finally, FINALLY landed on a name that you absolutely love and think is PERFECT, it is absolutely guaranteed that SOMEONE will tell you how much they hate it

I am currently in the midst of this hideous name-finding process for the fourth time. But rather than getting easier, it has gotten harder. 

For one, when you choose a family name for that first child and another family member gets offended that you left him/her out, you have an excuse: “Oh, this is just our FIRST child’s name! But we are going to have more children, so we’ll catch you next time!”

This justification does not work on Baby #4 when you’ve told everyone emphatically that this is most definitely the LAST baby you will ever birth EVER, EVER, EVER. Now, everyone knows that this is their LAST CHANCE to get their name in. And unless you intend to be one of those crazy people who give their kid 15 extra middle names, you are bound to leave someone out. And you will never live it down.

When we branch out of family names, we run into a new problem: name associations. After being a student for 16 years, then teaching for 7 more years, plus the hubster’s 20 or so years as a student and 7.5 years of teaching, we now have a grand total of 50.5 years worth of names that are potentially ruined for us for all of eternity. So while I understand that you are trying to be helpful when you throw out the name fill-in-the-blank, which you think is a perfectly lovely name, please understand that in my world, fill-in-the-blank is a smart-mouthed bully with equally obnoxious parents, or a snobby cheerleader that steals everyone’s boyfriends, or an adulterous drug user, etc.

We could, of course, try the creative route where we make a name up completely out of thin air, but then you end up with something like Lemonjello (leh-MON-jell-oh). True story. 

Or we could be those people who use random objects as names, like River, or Street, or Apple. I even know someone named Talon. I wonder if his mother understands that a talon is a claw, and therefore, her child is named Claw. Maybe she does know this and is simply an avid Inspector Gadget fan, so she named her son after Dr. Claw. Maybe. 

Perhaps we could do an adjective or descriptor name instead: Blythe, Precious, Rebel… My favorite of these type names is Brazen. Seriously, do people bother looking up the definitions of words before branding their kids with them? Brazen, if you don’t know already, means “shameless or impudent” (I realize you might not be familiar with “impudent” either, so here ya go—it means “impertinent”, AKA RUDE). So, in a nutshell, your child’s name is “Jerk Face”.  Good job, parents. 

See how I judge these names? That’s what people do! No name is good in the end. Someone, somewhere will think it is the stupidest, most gosh-awful thing they’ve ever heard. And they’ll tell you all about it. Or they’ll laugh about it in front of their kids, who will, in turn, taunt your sweet baby on the school playground. 

You know what I miss? I miss the days of the Bible. Where moms and dads just told it like it is. Sure, to us, it just sounds like a pretty name (or a not-so-pretty one…), but it was so much more! A full description of your mental state at the time. So you were having some preggie cravings for corn? Name = Abib, AKA Tender, green ear of corn. Feeling rashy? Name = Adummim, AKA Red spots. Think it’s funny that you’re preggers? Name = Isaac, AKA Laughter.

If only I knew the perfectly consolidated Hebrew word for “Oh, goody! more stretch marks” or “I’m scared of this girl”. Perhaps we will just name her “Heartburn” and be done with it.