December 29, 2008

That's it, time to pack it up....

I love our Christmas decorations. Every year when I pull them out I am reminded of past years: the felt doorknob mitten, the clothes pin angel ornaments, tissue paper and paper tube candle holders, and letters to Santa. So many good memories!

I have to admit, though, I am equally happy to put it away. As a somewhat compulsive organizer, it's challenging for me to have all the extra "stuff" in my house this long. I don't know how people who leave decorations up until April survive! It's time.

December 14, 2008

Jesus wore a big red suit?

Today's email from my sister....

While my Second Grader is being told keep quiet about her belief in Jesus instead of Santa, my Kindergardener came home with her weekly newsletter. And it stated,"This week we celebrated Christmas' of other cultures. We learned about Kwanza and Hannukah. Students made levened bread and played with a Dreidel. We also learned math concepts using Menorah Candles. We look forward to celebrating a traditional Christmas next week focusing on the man with the Big Red Suit."

Funny, I don't remember Jesus wearing a big red suit! Seriously, can they make it any harder for us to celebrate Jesus before anything else?!

December 9, 2008

Don't just stand there, grab a shovel....

I was shoveling the driveway tonight when the neighbor stopped and said, "you know it would be easier if you shoveled a path down the middle, the pushed the snow on the right side of the driveway to the right and the left side to the left."

"Yeah", I said, "but when I shovel it all to one side there is more snow on the sledding pile."

Duh, why else would I shovel the driveway at all? :)

December 7, 2008

My niece is THAT kid (the rant that goes with the story)

Throughout my parenting years, I have encouraged my kids' belief in Santa. My sister has taken a much more religious view with her children, and sticks to the nativity story.

This past week my niece was taken out into the hallway where the teacher told her that she was not to debate the "realness" of Santa anymore because of the conflict she was causing in the classroom. Yes, she was told to stifle her religious opinions to keep the peace.

Her teacher was given a brilliant opportunity to teach, and she took a pass. I am disappointed that the teacher was not equipped to deal with the topic of differing views more effectively. Someday soon it won't be Santa they fight about - it will be about religions, politics, or gender issues. Grade school is when we need to start giving kids the language of tolerance and acceptance.

Although my sister and I sit on opposite side of the S-man debate, our kids have existed peacefully all these years because we agree to respect each other's views about the holiday. Believing in Santa does not prevent my kids from enjoying the religious aspect of the holiday. Religious beliefs do not keep my nieces from enjoying the history of the Santa story. Our kids have common beliefs in an omniscient being who knows what they are thinking (and when they are asleep or awake), and they can appreciate the magic of carefully chosen, cleverly packaged gifts (like Jesus).

December 6, 2008

Yes, my niece is THAT kid.

My niece did not have such a great day at school today.

The kids were working in centers or 6-8 kids when the teacher noticed a commotion. As it escalated she went over to see what the problem was. Apparently on the eve of St. Nick, my niece had told all the kids that Santa was not real, and that parents brought the presents.

Some kids were arguing, some were on the verge of tears. The teacher took my niece out in the hallway and talked to her about over-sharing.

My poor sister is waiting for the angry phone calls to start.

I have a serious response to this, and you'll get that tomorrow. For right now I am just happy that I am neither a classmate's parent nor my sister!

November 30, 2008

I'd like to buy an "A"

I have issues with a lot of things that happen at school. Normally I let it go. But this one drives me crazy!

On the way home from school my daughter was desperate to stop at Walgreens. Why? Because the teacher is giving extra credit to kids who bring in a box of Kleenex, and my daughter really wants an "A" in that class. This is not the first time this has happened.

We struggle to make ends meet sometimes, and sending tacquitos for the whole Spanish class for Cinco de Mayo extra credit is not in our family budget. So what about the kids whose family is even more financially challenged than we are? They get to keep their "C" because they can't afford to buy their "B" like some kids can.

Level playing field? I think not.

I am so on my game

My family and friends know I have issues with time management (read about the Easter Bunny situation). I always seem to be caught off guard - holidays, lunch money, conferences.... Not only do I have St. Nick on my calendar, but I scheduled time to put up the stockings tomorrow for St. Nick to fill. I rock.

November 29, 2008

Um, what did the Easter Bunny bring you?

In the 14 years I have had children, you'd think I would have mastered the art of Easter and any other holiday that involves creatures who come in the night and leave stuff. Somehow I always find myself standing in Walmart the night before picking through the remains - knowing that in just a few short hours everything left will be half price. But as moms do, I suck it up and get it done, and all ends well.

This year I took it to a whole new level. Saturday night, on the way home from my best friend's 40th birthday party (she's WAAAAY older than me), my sister asked what the Easter Bunny was bringing to our house. So there I stood, after way too many Cherry McGillicudy's shots, in a 24 hour Walgreen's hoping for the best. When the youngest woke me this morning with a whispered, "Mom, the Easter Bunny came last night" I cringed as I asked, "and what did the Easter Bunny bring you?"

"Mom, I got really cool stuff - I'll go get it.

Ahhh, success.

November 24, 2008

5 reasons I love snow (an optimist's view)

  1. Just saying "it snowed" got all three kids up and out of bed in 30 seconds flat, something that usually takes 20 minutes.
  2. The dogs ran themselves silly in the yard, came in and collapsed on the floor.
  3. I got to listen to my WHOLE playlist on the way to work this morning.
  4. I don't have to look at the un-raked leaves in the yard anymore because they are "gone".
  5. The people out shoveling (with 40 degree days predicted all week) make me laugh!

November 23, 2008

Way out of her league....

So, my oldest daughter had one of those it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time ideas. She and David decided as part of a prank to bring his brother's Halo 3 game to school. Predictably, it got broken, and predictably, the parents were not pleased.

My daughter felt responsible so the next morning - the kids had off school - she took her own money, and I drove her to Hollywood Video to pick up a new one. She planned to take it over that evening and apologize when David's parents got home from work. During the day she texted David, only to find that within 24 hours, his parents had already bought another copy of the game.

Obviously some of the things I tell her are sticking, because she made a couple really insightful observations all on her own:

1) Some kids can't live 24 hours without something they want.
2) There are no consequences for bad decisions - if you break it, someone will fix it.

The thing she was most frustrated by was that David's family didn't even give them the chance to do the right thing. She wanted to fix the situation, and was feeling pretty proud of herself for calling around to find the game, arranging a ride, apologizing to David's brother, and thinking about what she would say to his parents.

In the end she did go over there, talked to David's brother and parents, and offered to pay for it. They were very understanding, and declined. But this was a clear reminder of how different our family expectations are sometimes from the mainstream....

November 22, 2008

I hope you have an idea!

Those of you who know anything about me will not be surprised that despite being ultra-organized, I am also ultra-busy so unfortunately, I am the queen of the last minute.

It should come as no surprise that my youngest and I were standing in Target looking for a birthday gift an hour before the party. Feeling the crunch, I started suggesting ideas: how about a DVD? does she have an ipod? maybe a journal and some cool pens? clothes? watch? GIFT CARD???

I was nearing the breaking point because she couldn't choose, when she said, "Mom it's not that... it's just, well, those are all too teenish - she's a kid." Bad mom....

November 17, 2008

Working mom, and working, and working....

It's Monday. Since Friday I have:
  • worked 18 hours at my first job
  • worked 16 hours at my second job
  • graded 40 essays for some contract work
  • attended 8 basketball games
  • worked the concession stand
  • attended a basketball pizza party
  • went to a girl scout meeting
  • made 12 greeting cards
  • attended the party to exchange them
All I say is thank God moms can multitask! It's time for a break. I'm thinking something fruity with a little umbrella in it....

November 10, 2008

Grainy stuff for lunch

My youngest was telling me about her day, and said, "Oh, mom! I had a really good lunch today. I had pizza dippers, an apple, and whole wheat bread."

"Whole wheat bread? How did you get whole wheat bread at school?"

"Well, it really wasn't whole wheat bread, it was brown with the regular crust - it didn't have any of the grainy stuff in it..."

I didn't think they had real wheat bread at school....

November 7, 2008

Fall cleaning... stand back!

I had the day off yesterday so I took advantage of the time to get a manicure, finish my scrapbook pages, and meet a girlfriend for lunch. Yeah, right. Actually I cleaned the house. Again. Like I do on every day off.

When I clean I don't mess around - ask my sister about her pantry after the time I babysat her kids. And with the forecast turning colder, I realized that if we are stuck inside for the next three months the dust and dog hair could kill us. It was time.

I dragged the shop vac upstairs and vacuumed everywhere. I did the blinds, the light fixtures, got the ladybugs in the windowsills, and even moved the beds to do underneath. All the extra blankets are in the wash, and I changed the furnace filter (I don't even want to know how long it's been since that was done), and the big pile of clothes in each kid's bedroom was purged while they were at school.

I know you're thinking, "Oooh, can you come to my house next?" I can, but when you ask an organizer who is probably slightly OCD to help, be careful what you wish for....

October 31, 2008

I am a Hallo-weenie....

I like Halloween, but as my kids are getting older we are all realizing that I like the preschool version of Halloween. I like pumpkins, and witches, and little ghosts, and bats. I am not a fan of chainsaws, slashers, and x-files.

In my 15 years as an EMT I saw some really gross things, and talked about them openly over dinner. But pop in the latest horror flick and I turn into a squeamish weenie. My daughter and her friends have invited me to join them for some of their scary picks. I watched The Grudge and Darkness (both rated PG-13) with the covers up to my chin, hiding behind a bunch of fourteen year old girls.

At least when my youngest daughter's girl scout troop went to the haunted corn maze tonight, they knew they had me to hold down the fort outside.

October 26, 2008

There was a little witch....

My youngest asked me today if I would tell "the pumpkin story" again at her Halloween party next week. Another parent shared it when my 15 year old was in Kindergarten, and between my three kids I have told it every single year.

The best part for me, is that it requires no planning. I grab a sheet of orange paper from the supply cabinet on the way to the classroom and use my daughter's scissors. The story is about a witch who is trying to find herself a home for the winter. As you tell the story you make a few cuts in a folded piece of paper. When you open it up the sheet of paper has been magically transformed into a jack o'lantern.

The story is “The Little Orange House” from Paper Stories by Jean Stangl. And this is for those visual folks. Enjoy!

October 22, 2008

That's it, I'm outta here!

I'm walking to San Fransisco, starting tonight. Well, ok, I'm cyber-walking. I found a great website in the USA Today Weekend Section (I realize it's Wednesday night and I'm just getting to the weekend section, but it is what it is).

The Gal To Gal Walk is a virtual walk-a-thon for patients with late-stage breast cancer. The walk started on October 1 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and will end in San Francisco. It gives a whole new meaning to "you go girl" doesn't it?

And since I lost my mom to breast cancer, I had to join. Find team Marsha and sign on!

October 20, 2008

Update on the "Blanky Saga"

A guest post from my sister....

As I said I would, I faithfully walked the ground we covered at the Zoo the night before and came up with nothing. I asked numerous Zoo employees, and filled out a lost and found report at the administration office. Nothing.

My son still insists that his blanket is in the possession of a scarecrow seen leaving the Zoo with a cardboard box under his arm. Between my son’s fear of scarecrows and the absence of his “lovey” we are up against the odds for a good nights sleep.

With this truth at the forefront of my mind, I have found what might be the only two Circo mircofleece striped blankets left on the planet. One comes from an ebay sale in Illinois and will be here in two days (and yes, I did consider driving to get it). The other blanket is coming from a girlfriend who read the story on this blog. Her son has the same birthday as my son and the same love for a special blanket. She has seen our boys with their special items standing side by side with the blanket/thumb position and knew its importance. She will be by tomorrow morning with said item to see if it will do.

I know that you are all thinking, “He’s going to know it’s not his…” and you are probably right. My efforts may all be futile. But as I said before, the things we do for our children…

October 19, 2008

Deena's Homemade Chicken Soup

  1. Buy a roasted deli chicken for dinner at 8pm on Thursday night on the way home from basketball practice. Pull all the meat off the chicken and put it on a plate so the kids can eat the tater tots instead.
  2. Put the meat back in the deli container with the bones (because the deli containter has a cover and the plate does not). Refrigerate.
  3. On Sunday when there is still an entire chicken in the back of the fridge, dump it into a big pot and cover with water. Simmer while you go to the store for onions, carrots, celery, and egg noodles.
  4. Remove chicken pot from stove and dump into the spaghetti strainer placed over a popcorn bowl. Pick out the chicken, toss the bones, put the broth (already seasoned...) back into the pot. Pay the kids to cut up the celery, carrots, and onion while they whine about it. Add to pot.
  5. Simmer while you finish the laundry, bathrooms, dishes, vaccuming, and dusting, about 2 hours.
  6. Call the family to eat. Add the egg noodles and boil for 15 minutes or until the kids show up and tell you they are not hungry right now.
  7. Simmer two more hours and serve with bread and butter.

For the love of a “Blanky” (and some sanity)

And now a guest post from my sister....

Last night was our annual Halloween at the Zoo outing. With three costumed children in tow, we headed out into the darkness with our flashlights. My youngest son has long been afraid of the dark and “the mooner”, his newly acquired fear is costumed people. With Halloween soon approaching, he has a “love/hate" relationship with malls and department stores. From the cackling moving broom in the grocery store, to the scary witch statue that occasionally moves in Wal-Mart, he chooses to stay in the cart with his sun glasses on (apparently safer this way).

So, when it came time to go to a Zoo full of scary costumes walking around the in dark, I decided to break the “no blanky” rule and let him take his beloved striped blanket in his stroller with us. I am sure one can already calculate what happened. At the end of the night, we put the stroller in the car and within seconds of snuggling in his car seat, he asked for his blanket. Anticipating his request, I was already frantically scouring the back of the car for it. When my husband ad I realized it had been dropped in the Zoo. We panicked. As a mom or dad one can guess how a night without the “lovey” paired with his left thumb can be.

My husband spent the next 20 minutes scouring the Zoo in all the places we’d been. He chased two golf carts (with very fast Zoo employees), answering my three cell phone calls as I retraced my visuals on the blanket in my head, and encountered three packs of raccoons coming out of the woods. Needless to say, our efforts were in vain and we did not find “Striped Blanky”. On the drive home we retraced our steps with each other out loud and narrowed down the vicinity in which we may have lost it. After trying to convince my son that the “Puppy Blanky” was good, we put him in his bed. Thankfully he was traumatized enough by the costumes and the loss of his blanky that he crashed immediately. In between the cries for his blanket at 11:30PM, 2:00AM and 5:30AM, I plotted out my plan for this morning.

I will wake up, get some breakfast for my kids, and be at the ZOO by opening at 9AM. I will attempt to comb the Zoo in daylight once again for the beloved blanket with my new search parameters. I will go to lost and found with a current picture of the missing blanket and unleash on the Zoo employees until someone drives me in a golf cart through the Zoo until we find this blanket (o.k. maybe not the golf cart).

Oh… the things we do for our kids…. (I’ll let you know how it turns out!)

October 17, 2008

the lunch lady is going down

Today my daughter had a fundraiser at school (yeah, I know another one... but this one I didn't have to do anything for). For a buck, they could wear a hat in school all day. My daughter dug through the costume bucket and came up with a witch hat. As she was passing through the lunch line, the lunch lady (our oldest kids went to school together - we go way back) looked at my daughter's hat and asked, "Oh, is that your mom's?" When the teachers started laughing, she realized what she said and she started laughing, then they all laughed even harder when they realized my daughter got it too. I can't wait to see her face when I show up for the Halloween party at school dressed as... the lunch lady!

October 14, 2008

Pinkies Up, Ladies

My sister and I talk most mornings.

I have been through play dates, sleepovers, and theme parties, but today she shared an invitation that was a first for me. One of the parents invited the girls in my niece's class to a four-week etiquette series including: table manners, introductions, shaking hands, and a week tailored to the group.

Are you serious? Tea parties are great for 3 year olds. The Manners Try-it is a great unit for Girl Scouts. But a four-week series? My girls learned table manners at family mealtimes. They learned introductions and hand-shaking (hey, a two-for-one) when I introduced them to parents at PTO meetings or coworkers at the company picnic. We didn't need a "series" - a series with a $15 fee - to teach them to be polite.

But, we did not have all the other girls in class already signed up, not to mention the nagging thought, "Did they invite her because they think my daughter needs better manners?" I can't blame her for writing the check.

October 9, 2008

Oh, I give up....

My kids have a habit of leaving their dirty clothes lay in a pile on the bathroom floor when they are done taking a shower. I left them all week to see if anyone would take care of them. I am not surprised that they didn't - I am surprised that I thought they might. This week the laundry experiment is officially over.

From now on I will pick up their clothes each night and put them into the wash. I know this does not teach them responsibility. I know this does not teach them independence. I know this does not teach them consequences. And I'm ok with that. My oldest got home from volleyball at 9pm with more than 2 hours of homework still ahead. My second daughter went from her basketball game right after school to another practice, and she also got home after 9pm with 2 hours of homework. As far as teaching responsibility, independence, and consequences - managing a schedule like that trumps picking up their own laundry any day.

October 7, 2008

Communication Breakdown

My daughter lost her phone today. Well not really - it was confiscated. At school. As she was turning it off. In the hallway. Between classes.

Ok, I understand the school has a policy about phones in school. If she had gotten caught using it during class, I would be hard-pressed to defend her (not to mention all the work I would make her do before I gave it back). But she wasn't using it and it wasn't during class.

Our family depends on our cell phones. At 7:00 every morning we leave our house for work and school, then spend the afternoon and evening running from one activity to the next. Her phone is the difference between sitting in the rain for 20 minutes when practice ends early or calling me during the break to let me know. It means that I can let her know my meeting is running late so she doesn't think I forgot to pick her up (again). Our phones are a lifeline between each other.

To make matters worse, today after school when she went to get it from the office it was missing. Yep, the school lost my daughter's phone, so now I have to go in tomorrow and find it. All I have to say is her teachers better keep their phones off and out of sight while I'm around....

October 4, 2008

I disagree with the experts on this one....

I am always looking for ways to stay connected to my daughters as the walls of their worlds expand daily. There are a lot of experts with advice about keeping the lines of communication open with teens, creating meaningful discussion, and building relationships with them. Well, I have some of my own:

Don’t talk to them. Comment on the music, compliment their hair, but don't try to engage in meaningful conversation. Listen to how they talk to their friends - it's not long-winded discourse - they talk to each other in bursts. Sometimes the best information is not a conversation, but a snippet that can lead to a conversation later.

Let them text or type. I lost my ability to multi-task years ago. My children know this and use it to get permission for things while I am distracted by something else. Just the same, when teens are multi-tasking, they are likely to answer a question without thinking about it - so we get the raw facts.

Feed them. Food has long been a way for moms to care for their families. Teens let their guard down when they sit down at the table (or on it). Munchies seem to work the best because they have to keep coming back for more - again the snippet concept.

In one weekend, using these techniques I was able to find out that: Amber's mom won't let her watch PG-13 movies, Angela copies Sara's every move, Melanie got a concussion in cheer-leading, Sam was shopping for a different homecoming dress, the tendinitis in Erin's knee was still bothering her, and I had supposedly reported a drinking party to the school authorities.

It may not seem like much, but snippets work. Instead of the typical, "How was your day?" I can ask, "Did Sam find another dress?" to which she will reply, "You would not believe what Sam said in math today - I don't even want to talk about her." Hmmm, another snippet....

October 1, 2008

Why I’m not a cool mom….

I used to be a cool mom. Then one day, all that changed and now I am just a regular mom.

September 24, 2008

You left it WHERE?

Today, 20 minutes after I dropped my youngest off at school, and headed for a meeting an hour away, I realized that she had left her lunch money on the back seat of the rental car (actually, I only realized it because she called to tell me).

You have to know that I don't function well hungry, so I don't expect my kids to either. And her lunch account was already negative yesterday.

My sister, who is always there for things like this, logged onto the school's payment site and transferred money, only to get a message that balance updates may not be available. I called the school... to get the administration office... to get food service... to get their voice mail. At least the rest of the drive went fast.

When the meeting was over I called the food service line again to find out if the funds transferred or if I would be picking up a pizza lunchable at the next gas station. All ended well, but I can't help wondering if all working moms face the same issues or if it's just me....

September 23, 2008

"The Funny Book" lives on....

I was terrible at logging milestones for my kids. I can’t tell you when each took her first steps or which one’s teeth were first. I can tell you first words for one child – only because I tracked them as part of a college assignment.

At some time in their preschool years I began keeping a notebook with cute stories and funny things the kids said. This was dubbed “the funny book” and kids would pull stories out for “all about me” day at school, visits from out of town relatives, and to embarrass each other in front of friends.

This is the online, teenage years version of “the funny book”.