Awkward Social Situations And Chinoiserie

This year I talked my daughter, Riley, into having a birthday party in an effort to help her manage her social anxiety. I wanted to show her that being the center of attention doesn’t have to be traumatic in a safe, low pressure environment…and also to make up for the fact that the only other party I threw for her sucked.

Okay, I need you all to look past my fragile ego and narcissism and focus on my desire to be a good mother here. Thank you.

Anyway, this party was much better than the last one. Our theme was Awkward Social Situations in a Chinese Setting, and I think we pulled it off. I’ll admit that the whole theme didn’t fully gel until the middle of the party when one of my daughter’s eight year old friends asked me for my full name and if I had a Facebook account. But then it all fell into place.

Awkward social situations are much more pleasant under paper lanterns and balls of tissue.

Awkward social situations go well with paper lanterns and balls of tissue.

This particular friend is a sweet girl, petite like my daughter with an innocent face…exactly the kind of person who turns out to be a sociopathic stalker in a Lifetime movie. And because that’s the way my brain works, an image of this girl boiling our rabbit on the stove a la Fatal Attraction immediately popped into my head, even though we don’t have a rabbit and the girl is really too young to be cooking without an adult’s supervision.

"I won't be ignored, Mrs. Redican."

“I won’t be ignored, Mrs. Redican.”

Since it would be inhospitable to answer “None of your damn business!” to a guest in my home and also highly unlikely that I would be granted a restraining order against a third grader with dimples, I opted for the only reasonable alternative, feigning hearing loss, a language barrier and incontinence.

At that point the other girls were trying to draw and quarter each other in the living room so I figured that she would forget her need for my personal information. Eight year old stalkers have notoriously short attention spans as they are easily distracted by Littlest Pet Shop toys and Justin Bieber. As soon as she was safely in her parent’s car I put it out of my mind.

However, four days later at a school function the same girl approached me and complained that I hadn’t answered her friend request. Having not checked my Facebook page in a couple of days, the complaint caught me off guard. I hadn’t had a chance to carefully craft a casual but responsible response to such a request using my best understanding parent voice.

"Stop stalking me!"

“Get away from me, evil child!”

Instead I said, “You sent me a Facebook request? I haven’t gotten it,” as if I had a friends list full of minors. Then I ran home and checked my account.

Sure enough, there was a friend request from an eight year old waiting for me which triggered a horrifying string of imagined situations: me hosting keg parties for grade schoolers, getting a stripper for my son’s sixth birthday party, taking prepubescent girls on secret runs for birth control. It’s a slippery slope. One day you accept a friend request from an eight year old and the next day you’re on trial for having inappropriate relations with your Middle School student.

I told myself that I was overreacting. I don’t even have a teaching credential.

To which I responded: Of course I’m overreacting. THAT’S WHAT I DO! You cannot expect me to receive a friend request like this and not descend into a downward spiral of parental panic anymore than you can expect me to sprout wings and fly. It’s in my nature.

Point taken.

But to be fair to my psyche, because it’s the only one I’ve got, an eight year old girl friending adults on social media who her parents don’t really know is dangerous. It might be antiquated thinking but I’m not a big fan of kids this age on social media to begin with. I’d like to go back to the days when kids played on the street without having to worry that some pedophile they met in a chat room was going to abduct them or that the suggestive pictures they took on their smart phone and then forwarded to the boy they had a crush on were being circulated across the internet. Thank God there were no smart phones in the 80s or there would be suggestive pictures of me all over cyber space.


Am I right, Lisa?

And even more importantly, where would I spill intimate details about my children and their tiny stalker-like friends or look at inappropriate memes and risqué comments if my Facebook news feed was invaded by young impressionable eyes? Seriously, you can’t expect me to be responsible all of the time and you really can’t expect that of my friends, some of whom are at least as crazy as I am.

So it looks like I’m going to have to have an awkward conversation with somebody’s mother while trying to avoid suggesting that their child is a stalker and/or that they are a bad parent. Am I the only one that doesn’t see this going well?


Photo Credits:


Five Reasons To Have Children When You’re Young And Stupid

I was the accidental product of older parents. A bonus child, as it were. By the time I came a long Mom and Dad were as laid back about parenting as they apparently were about birth control.

It's called a condom, you silly beatniks.

It’s called a condom, you silly beatniks.

I probably would’ve taken this fact for granted but my sister, Lori (the closest in age to me with a nine year difference) told me often while making me touch the electric fence as penance.

Behold to the right, the tool of sibling torture: the electric fence!

Behold to the right, the tool of sibling torture: the electric fence.

This generously imparted knowledge left me with a Rainman-like reaction to electrical shock of any kind and the desire to wait until my thirties to have a child. I reasoned that as an older parent I would be able to avoid giving birth to a sociopathic child who enjoyed torturing younger kids and avoid stretch marks in my twenties.

Look, my Mom’s stomach was a road map of maternity and I wanted to spend my twenties in a bikini. Yes, I was shallow. Let’s not judge.

There I am living the dream--the extremely shallow dream.

There I am achieving my goal.

Well as luck would have it (and by “luck” I mean a rampant fear of commitment) I did wait until I was older to have children. Even older than my mom. I had to have special tests for elderly pregnant ladies and everything. Who says I can’t stick to a plan?

No seriously, who says that? It’s not nice to talk about other people behind their backs. I have feelings, you know.

Anyway, I’ve been very happy with my decision for the most part, but last night I was lying in bed after a particularly taxing bout of ineffective parenting and I started thinking about the down sides of my plan. Nothing is perfect. Not even Meryl Streep (but don’t say that out loud in Hollywood).

I'm an acting tour de force and a g.d. American icon, you sniveling fence toucher."

“I’m a g.d. American icon, you sniveling fence-toucher!”

  1. First of all, let’s address the stretch marks issue since it had such an impact on my decision. If you’re going to ask your skin to perform the greatest of all hat tricks and stretch over an additional human, you want to do it while you’re still producing some collagen and your skin has all of its elasticity.  Later on your skin is going to stretch out and then give up, much like my father in front of prime time television. And despite what I thought in my teens, you don’t stop caring about your looks and life in general when you hit 40.
  2. Also, grandparents are more valuable than gold. Aside from being the only people in the world who want to watch your kids without a salary attached, they will also keep your kids supplied in quality socks, underwear and the type of frilly dresses that you would never buy but little girls go ape-sh!t over. You want to get grandparents while they are still alive and young enough to care. Let’s face it, when you’ve gotten to the age where you’re deaf and in a diaper, you don’t get as excited about tiny sticky humans. My kids only have one set of grandparents left and we have a team of doctors forcing them to stay alive. It’s a lot of pressure.
  3. When you’re young you think you know everything. There’s a certain freedom in that. You don’t have to constantly second guess yourself. You are free to blissfully screw up your children with complete confidence. I agonize over screwing up every day, which ironically doesn’t make me screw up any less. It just takes the fun out of it and screwing up should be fun. Like a Van Wilder movie.
  4. Parenting is stressful and it’s hard on a marriage. If you get married and have children young you have the chance of getting through the challenging years and then rekindling your marriage while you and your spouse are still young enough to travel without breaking a hip. Or you can cash it in while you’re still young enough to take an attractive picture for a dating website.
  5. One word: resilience. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m more fragile than I was at 25 when I thought that knees magically went on working forever and at 2:00 a.m. I have a hard time caring about anything other than another four hours of uninterrupted rest. You have to have a fever, the likes of which could start a house fire and make you speak in tongues to rouse my empathy at that hour and even then you’re guaranteed terrible parenting the following day.

So there you have it. Now you can make an informed decision, justify/regret the decision you already made or just pour yourself a cocktail and ignore this post all together. Personally, I recommend the latter. I also recommend Tylenol PM, so that you don’t lie in bed crafting lists like this until all hours of the night. Trust me on this.


Photo Credits:


Outnumbered: A Retail Tragedy

I took the kids to the mall today. Both of them. At the same time. I try never to do this because it tests my sanity but today it couldn’t be helped. Either child on their own is no problem 99% of the time. However, the two together are a volatile mix, the likes of which blow up chemistry classrooms and send chemistry professors into early retirement or a habit of drinking in the closet.

But BFF’s birthday party is tomorrow and we hadn’t yet found the perfect gift. We’d found many imperfect ones but not the absolute right gift to capture the specialness of the bestest friend in the entire universe, including fairy kingdoms, without whom my daughter would surely perish of sorrow and boredom. So off we went today, all three of us, to the mall.

Dum Dum Dum Dum.

I should mention that Conor has skinned and reskinned his knees again, so he’s working his Dickensian limp while holding his shorts up, like Tiny Tim learning to curtsy. It is impressively tragic. Immediately after entering the mall Conor wanted to be carried with his imaginary cane to the Disney store. Scrooge Mommy denied his request.

Don’t laugh. It’s tragic.

The Disney store didn’t have the item we sought. They also didn’t have the back-up item Riley came up with after 15 minutes of coercion. Conor on the other hand found 50 things he desperately wanted in the same amount of time. Have you ever tried to keep two children together and focused in a Disney store? It’s physically impossible. Because they sprinkle crack on the floor.

(Note: Disney denies this allegation and the local CSI teams are all too busy solving “actual crimes” to call me back, but I’m pretty sure I’m on to something.)

Finally we fled left and headed to another store in the mall to look for a back-up to the back-up item. But alas, the perfect gift was nowhere in the second store either. We know because we checked. Every. Aisle. Twice. Riley was despondent and Conor was losing patience and demanding his twentieth escalator ride, so I corralled them into a restaurant to eat.

Immediately after we ordered, Conor announced that he had to pee with an urgency reserved for pregnant women, drunk coeds and children who wait until the last minute. Riley is deeply insulted by even the thought of any boy’s “private parts” (congratulations Hubs) and didn’t want to come with us. As the waiter had disappeared, I also didn’t want him to think that we’d ordered and then left like fugitives. So, with Hubs popping a blood vessel in my imagination, I left Riley to hold our table. Alone. At the very front of the restaurant. Wearing her Dear Child Predator, Take Me Because My Mom Is An Irresponsible Parent t-shirt. While Conor and I took a trip to the bathroom. In the bowels of the earth.

Okay Riley wasn’t wearing that t-shirt. She was wearing this.

Her My Mom Is Irresponsible Enough To Let Me Draw On My Clothes tank top.

Same difference. And the bathroom wasn’t in the bowels of the earth, but it was in the back of the restaurant, which curved around a corner and went on for ten miles. Nearly.

Riley wasn’t abducted but I got plenty of dirty looks on the way back to the table. I wanted to yell, “Shut up! Tiny Tim had to pee!” But I realized that would only be an admission of guilt and we already knew I was guilty. Of so many things.

Conor likes to stretch his meal out as long as possible, so we finally took his corndog to go. Not in a container. That would be too classy. He yanked the stick out and mashed the fried bread/meat combo into his little fist and we took it through the mall. We were giddy from all-you-can-eat steak fries and beyond caring.

When I stopped at Teavana to sample their wares, Conor was possessed by the spirit of mall music and started to bust out some ambitious dance moves, still clutching his fist o’meat. A steak fry buzz will do that to you. Mid-spin he went down hard. So hard, in fact, that the Teavana sample dude just took his things and went inside his store. Conor lie there stunned, wondering where it all went wrong.

Never dance with carnie food. (image via dreamstime)

I helped him up and we shuffled on. Not ten yards later, Conor stepped on somebody’s discarded pastry and took another digger, this time letting loose with his famous super sonic cry. Malls have excellent acoustics. I gave up on BFF’s gift and started to giggle hysterically.

If you saw a manic woman hustling two children through the mall, one of them screaming and limping dramatically while clutching a dirty wad of corndog, it was me. At the car the kids managed to headbutt each other and all three of us started to cry, though I was the only one who also cursed. Then I bought them candy and waited for our car to burst into flame as a capper.

When Hubs got home, Riley and I went out on our own and found a birthday present. We laughed, skipped, shared a soda like childhood sweethearts. It was magical.

One child. It makes all the difference.

Separation Anxiety

I’m a bit maudlin today. Earlier this morning I stealth cried into my daughter’s hair while listening to a Kimbra CD (the emotional equivalent of crying at a Disneyland).

You see, I’m having a hard time handling Riley’s maturation.

I know what you’re thinking. “You, Kelly? But you handle everything with such ease, hardly a ruffle in your outer veneer of total competence.”

I know. I too am baffled. I actually expected to enjoy this part of parenting quite a bit. My mother seemed to enjoy it. And during those sleepless nights when my babies only wanted me to hold them I thought wistfully of their future independence. Both of my children were very attached to me.

True, Conor would sprint toward traffic if given a moment’s chance. But that was only because he knew how much I enjoyed the heart attack and subsequent chase, while toting a diaper bag and insensible shoes. He’s a thoughtful boy, that one.

Riley, however, would hardly leave my side to play at the park. You could always count on her to stay close in stores or any other public forum. She craved my closeness. I appreciated her attachment, but at the same time I wanted some confidence for her, some sense that all would be okay if she wasn’t holding my hand.

So here it is.

This weekend Riley slept over at her best friend’s house two nights in a row. She prefers to sleep at their house. They have a pool. Totally understandable. Riley now prefers the company of her best friend to mine and then spends whatever time she and I have together talking about her best friend and what they did together. I get that. I remember how that was. I am happy that she found some assurance in the world outside of my arms.

Well maybe happy is too simple a word. If you took happiness, added misery and heartbreak and then mixed it up into a muddy swirl of ambivalence you would be closer to how I feel about my daughter’s mounting independence. My little girl is separating from me. It reminds me of the time my mom had to rip off the rest of my big toe nail after a gruesome toe-stubbing. Only this is bloodier and deeper and hasn’t been followed by a trip to The King’s Table buffet restaurant.

And I know that further separation is inevitable and the thought of it eviscerates my tender mommy emotions. Dang it! I hate being a needy pile of mush. Please tell me that I’m not going to spend day after day staring out my bedroom window while singing George Michael’s Careless Whisper badly and full of feeling.

I am, aren’t I?

I can’t say I wasn’t warned, hadn’t watched other women go through this or listened to them talk about it. But I honestly didn’t think it would apply to me. I swear to God, I thought I would handle this transition sh!t smoothly. In no way did I anticipate that I would miss her so badly while she was still living in my home. Nor did I see myself mooning over her baby pictures, longing to smell her baby breath once more.

Ah, baby breath. It smells like love dipped in sweet cream. And there is absolutely no way to save it for posterity. I have Riley’s first shoes in a box, but what I really want is her baby breath in a bottle and the smell of her baby head on my pillow at night.

I am psychotic.

I’m not the only one who’s suffering here. Conor is also struggling with the changes in his sister. He’s baffled that the girl who used to dote on him, suddenly doesn’t want him around, doesn’t want to include him when she’s playing with her friend, doesn’t think anything he says is cute or funny. When she spends the night elsewhere, Conor asks where she is. Hourly. His heartbreak is second only to mine.

Maybe we can sing a duet of Careless Whisper. I should teach him the words.

The Gigli Of Mothers

I received my second negative parental review from one of my daughter’s friends. This one was delivered indirectly, second-hand from my daughter.  Apparently one of her friends, who we’ll call Spazmonkey here in order to protect her identity, thinks that I “could be better”. Interesting. Riley followed up her report by adding, “But I think you already are better,” which, though meant to soften the blow, was less than effective.

Could be better. Already is better. Better than what? A crack ‘ho? Or mother of the year? Because it does make a difference.

Better than Britney driving with a baby in her lap? (image via BBC News)

Or better than Angelina and her multi-ethnic child convoy? (image via celebritydiagnosis)

But the good news is that Riley thinks I am better, which suggests that I’m getting over my parental faults like a cold. I might still have a little post nasal drip but all in all I’m a better parent already.

I told Riley that we shouldn’t speak ill of other people’s parents, that nobody is perfect because we’re all human and trying to be better people, etc. At no point did I refer to Spazmonkey as a poo poo head or question her intelligence. I felt I was very adult about the whole thing. But as soon as Riley left the room I had to admit to myself that I was secretly crushed.

Eight year old girls are diabolical. Sure they look all cute in their Target outfits and speak politely to your face, but then they cut you down behind your back like little Pokemon-loving Judases. I’m going to have to start emotionally frisking these girls before they enter my home. They’re dangerous.

Granted, I shouldn’t give this too much stock. The source is a girl with whom Riley has already been having issues. However this puts me in an awkward position, because I see this girl regularly at Riley’s school and it’s going to look bad when I throw her into a headlock and give her a noogie, yelling “Who could be better? You could be better!”

I’m going to end up looking like the bad guy when in actuality I’m totally justified.

Can’t a woman give a child a noogie anymore without being castigated?

So why am I crushed over this mild insult from an eight year old girl with a questionable nickname? Well I suppose part of it is because it’s totally unexpected. I think in my heart of hearts I always expected my kids’ friends to love me. I’m the cool mom. I’m funny. I have many faults but kids aren’t supposed to notice them, because…I’m cool and funny.

Did I mention that I’m cool and funny?

Yeah well, cool and funny go a long way.  They make up for a lot of other deficiencies.

My main concern however is not my own feelings, but those of my daughter. Do you remember the first time someone said something less than flattering about your mom or dad? I do. I was in middle school and it was not the best day ever. How devastating is it to learn that your parent’s are not perfect in the world’s view? Riley shouldn’t have to face that yet. She should come to that conclusion on her own in a puberty-spurred epiphany, the way God intended.

I didn’t expect the few years I have left of unconditional love from my children to be undermined by my daughter’s peers. Nor did I expect to have to use a high-powered pellet gun on eight year old girls.

I’m just kidding about that last part. I would not use a high-powered pellet gun to shoot young girls in the butt no matter how much they subconsciously begged me. Because it is wrong! And if you hear any stories about that sort of thing happening to an eight year old girl, it wasn’t me, I have an air tight alibi and we never talked about this.

A Banner Day In A Public Loo

Yesterday was a banner day here in the Fathead household. My son, who until now has steadfastly held to his vow to only pee sitting down on his very own potty seat in his very own home, peed on a foreign potty. Not only that but he did it standing up. And without any coercion or anti-anxiety drugs.

There we were at a park we’ve never frequented in a questionable part of town when Conor decided that he needed to use the bathroom. Now I brought along a pull up for just this possibility because we have loads of experience with potty meltdowns–refusals to use a potty or bush, cries to go home, a full on meltdown followed by the inevitable wet pants, but Conor decided that he wanted to see the bathroom there at the park.

Each toilet was contained in a separate tiny, dark room, ostensibly to minimize sexual attacks and maximize germ distribution. The ambience reminded me of the first Saw movie and upon stepping inside my life immediately flashed before my eyes, but Conor stepped right up to that nasty, unflushed metal toilet, dropped his pants, leaned against the germ-infested surface and peed right inside. He had to wait a minute for the biological magic to happen and for a moment I thought that he had contaminated himself and would still end up with wet pants, but he did it. Then I let him flush with his foot because I’m pretty sure that his hand would have instantly dropped off from fast-acting necrotizing fascitis had he touched the button with his fingers and we were instantly encased in a microscopic mist of germs and fecal matter while I desperately tried to free us from our toilet tomb and find the nearest bucket of bleach. Yay, Conor! You did it!

Excuse me, sir, could you hurry up and saw off your foot? My son has to pee. (image via haro-online)

Did I mention that I have a teeny tiny hang up about children in dirty public bathrooms? Just a little one. Hardly worth mentioning, really. But I might go a little bit Howard Hughes when confronted with a questionable loo.

However, this was momentous and let’s be frank here, I’m desperate. Desperate to run errands or visit friends without a pull up. Desperate not to have to worry that said pull up might not last the whole visit. Desperate to avoid more phone calls from grandparents and the like asking what to do about Conor’s mental breakdown and refusal to go potty anywhere but home. Desperate to find an incentive that works, so that he can go on to the next year of preschool and eventually college without an adult diaper. Desperate enough to let him go pee anywhere this side of a genocidal body dump. D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E.

So you best believe I muttered words of encouragement through my gritted teeth and tried my best to go to my happy place (a place where everyone is potty trained and surfaces are well cleaned, by the way) while Conor and I stood in that nuclear waste dump of a bathroom. I didn’t throw up in my mouth or do the heebie jeebie dance when we exited either. We calmly washed our hands. Twice. And then we went and got the big boy a Happy Meal.

A proud boy with his happy meal

I will swab him down with disinfectant and burn his clothes later after my bleach bath.

Not a bleach bath!

Oh and did I mention that he also let a little girl go ahead of him on the slide, saying “Ladies before genamen?”  Hubs and I couldn’t be prouder of Conor if he speed assembled an M16. Well I guess I should only speak for myself there. The speed assembly would probably bring Hubs to tears. My standards are lower and less sanitary.

Who Da Loop? OODA Loop!

A couple of weeks ago, on the way to a parole search, Hubs was traveling in the lead car of a law enforcement convoy when he saw a fire on the median between the freeway and the main adjacent boulevard. A pile of tires had been set ablaze, the kind of fire that often signals the designation of a body dump (homicidal maniacs rarely care about their carbon foot print). At least that’s what Hubs was thinking in the split second between seeing the fire and yanking his car over.

Hubs leaped from the car, grabbed a fire extinguisher, sprinted to the fire and went to work. He ultimately emptied two fire extinguishers to douse the flames. After seeing no body in the charred remains, Hubs turned to take the empty fire extinguishers back to the car.  At this point some of the other team members were just getting out of their cars.

In the eloquent words of the Probation Officer, “Dude!” Thirteen years later and I still find myself stunned and impressed (or occasionally appalled) by various things Hubs does.

Hubs shared this story with me, as he often tells me about his day at the office (later on he had a parolee at gunpoint in a bathtub, but that’s another story) and he said that the team members who were slow to respond were probably just out of the OODA Loop.

Who da loop, you ask?

He had to explain that one to me too. Apparently it’s a concept developed by military strategist and USAF colonel, John Boyd. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It was used in the military to gain the upper hand over an opponent. The quicker one can process this cycle, the more likely one is to gain the advantage over a situation or opponent.

John Boyd aka The Ghetto Colonel, Forty Second Boyd, Genghis John, The Mad Major. He was not into smiling. (image via Wikipedia)

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with Hubs wouldn’t be surprised to hear him describe this philosophy. It’s how he lives his life. For better or worse, Hubs will act quickly. It makes him extremely good in a crisis and sometimes destructive in the home. You don’t want someone using the OODA Loop in your home if you own a lot of breakables, which is why you’ll hardly ever see a curio cabinet full of Precious Moments figurines on a military carrier.

This window was an OODA Loop victim during a yellow jacket incident.

A glass doorknob OODA Loop victim from a “Daddy I’m stuck in my room” incident. Notice the judicious use of duct tape in both cases.

Some shiznit could get broken, there may be some colorful language involved, somebody might even get their feelings hurt, but Hubs will leap into action in a swift and dramatic fashion, while the rest of us say, “Dude!” And then he’ll duct tape the carnage together later. That’s just how he rolls. With a siren.

It is impressive, but if you think about it, mothers use the OODA Loop all the time. Sure it usually doesn’t involve a freeway fire or a gun fight and we try our best not to break household items, but we regularly face our own sort of combat. For instance…

You walk into your two-year old daughter’s room, after her “nap” (otherwise known as the hour she plays in her crib to give Mommy a much needed break) to get her out of bed before the nice man from Craig’s List comes to buy your sofa and discover that your sweet cherub has gone Picasso with the contents of her diaper.

Except your daughter’s painting will commemorate a bombing in her bedroom instead of Spain. (image via Wikipedia)

You Observe the carnage: you might say something colorful that you hope your child won’t repeat later.

You Orient yourself: poo on the walls, crib, stuffed animals, ceiling fan (now that is impressive) and daughter, husband entering room and exclaiming more colorful language, bathroom directly behind you, front door through which you Craig’s List purchaser will arrive in ten minutes, behind you and to the right.

You Decide: husband will take poo-coated daughter to the tub. You will grab a trash bag, Clorox wipes, paper towels, rubber gloves, a vacation in Bermuda (No! Now is not the time for vacation plans! Focus!). You will stay locked in the offending room for as long as it takes and husband will handle the sale of sofa and disoriented daughter.

You Act: scrubbing poo and salvaging toys for the next hour.

Oorah! OODA Loop!

You are one bad@ss mama. John Boyd and Hubs salute you with an emphatic “Dude!” Now go out and get yourself that camouflage diaper bag. But shower first because you smell like poo and Clorox.

I Love You To China

I read this post over at The Book Of Alice about the sweet way Alice (a.k.a the Kidling) was expressing her love for her Mama. In the comment section, Christine (a.k.a the Mama) stated, “I don’t believe there is an age limit for expressing your love creatively” which struck a chord with me because, as a parent, there is nothing sweeter than when your children shower you with buckets of genuine affection and nothing sadder than when they enter into the nuclear winter of affection known as adolescence.

As an experiment, I called my eight year old, who teeters on the precipice of Tweendom, to me, gave her a big hug and told her “I love you to the dirt and bath again and around the soap and towel again.”

To which she replied, “I love you to China and outer space.”

And then she started pretending to choke from my suffocating hug.

But still, she loves me to outer space, which is pretty infinite, especially since NASA’s budget has been gutted and it’s harder to get up there and see exactly how much square footage we’re talking about. And China is where all of the toys are made so that’s a pretty choice location too, unless you are protesting human rights or something, but I don’t think she’s thinking about the political aspects of any country yet, so it probably wasn’t a statement about the restrictive nature of my parenting. Probably.

In any case, I’m happy to report that my eight year old hasn’t reached an age limit for expressing her love creatively, though she may be approaching an adolescent hiatus. I still have a couple of years of outer space/China love to enjoy. And believe me, I’m squeezing all of the blood I can from that love-turnip.

It looks like Riley is kissing me but actually she’s grunting, “just take the picture,” which is why I’m having a fit of giggles.

A Word From Pig Pen’s Mother

My kids love baths. If you stick them in a tub they will spend great stretches of time bickering and/or joyously playing with bath toys.  This is almost always true, except when they are sick or have an open wound. In either of those two circumstances they will protest personal hygiene with great vigor. If you’ve ever given a cat a bath, you have a good idea of what the ordeal is like.

Same expression, less hair. (image via Flickr & Waldo Jaquith)

I usually just let it go and push bath time a bit until the virus has subsided or the scab has set. No biggie. We don’t attend many black tie functions or have lunch with the Queen. I can’t even remember the last time I dressed the kids up as Little Lord and Lady Fauntleroy.

“I’d like to go to McDonalds, Mother.” (image via Flickr & Darren & Brad)

By the same token, we don’t own farm animals or live near coal mines, so they stay relatively clean. For little people.

This past week, Conor and I were both very sick. In fact, I felt crappy enough that I didn’t even check to see if he was up for a bath because I was busy abandoning my own personal hygiene. Even being upright felt ambitious. Navigating the shower seemed reckless and futile. When at last I had regained enough brain function to resume my motherly duties, I discovered that Conor had at some point decorated himself with markers in a state of delirium.

I made a mental note that Conor would be spending some quality time in the bath after school.

However, on his way to school he fell and skinned his knee. It wasn’t a bad scrap but he did limp around dramatically at the preschool and scored an enormous band-aid for his theatrical efforts. Then he fell again after school and made the scrape worse. He refused another band-aid, blaming the band-aid for his fall, though it was more likely due to the fact that he was limp-running like a Dickens character.

A limp-run is very hard to execute without at least one wipe out. This is why Tiny Tim never joined the track team.

“I knocked down all of the hurdles.” (image via Flickr & Camknows)

The bath was postponed until a scab could be formed.

That night Conor’s leg formed a scab. Yay! Unfortunately his pajama pants were included in the scab. Boo. The body’s healing power is amazing. Conor’s body just chose an unfortunate method of displaying its talents. The following day when Hubs removed Conor’s pajama pants he also removed the entire scab.  And Conor’s will to live.  Conor spent the whole morning and most of the afternoon laying on his bedroom floor, clutching his blanket for comfort.

We’re still waiting on the bath.

What I’m trying to communicate here is that my boy is ripe. He is traveling around in a cloud of dust and flies. But it isn’t due to parental neglect. There were extenuating circumstances. It could happen to anyone.

Don’t judge me.

Mama’s On Strike

My mom cooked a lot of tv dinners and things that required a can opener or an addition of water. I don’t remember her cooking much else. She made bread from scratch that doubled as a paper weight, a barley/green chili casserole that we all inexplicably loved and the best toast ever (the secret was pre-buttering, which inevitably caused a toaster fire in our ancient, second-hand toaster and so our toaster spent a lot of time on the back steps, smoking in the rain, much like my father but minus his cocktail.) Mom never sat down to eat with us. When I was about five years old she declared that she’d never make another Thanksgiving dinner. She kept her word.

After her death, my father carried the torch of prepared food dedication, keeping me on a steady diet of Hamburger Helper, Soup Starter, Van de Camp’s frozen enchiladas and Jello salads (he added all four food groups and any condiments available in our fridge to make it a complete meal.)

Looks and tastes like an alien (image via chloeofthemountain)

Maybe because of this, I developed a strong desire in my twenties to learn to cook from scratch for the express purpose of one day becoming one of those mothers, about whose cooking her children brag. I loved to cook and I pursued it with a singular purpose. I enjoyed pleasing friends with my meals, but always, in the back of my mind, was the goal of one day pleasing my children. Food is love.

Of course this was before I actually gave birth and discovered the futility of my plan. My two lovely progeny only approve of two spices, salt and sugar, will not eat any of the same foods with the exception of chocolate, generally distrust most vegetables and want all of their ingredients to have at least an inch of distance from any other food source. If every meal came in a fast food bag they would live their short, unhealthy lives in pure ecstasy.

Hostess products and chocolate milk are also acceptable.

A couple of nights ago I was feeling uninspired but felt obligated to put something on the table. I grilled some chicken, made some Spanish rice, tossed it together with some beans and fresh salsa and called it a Mexican rice bowl. At Hubs’s prompting everyone offered up a feeble “Thanks Mom. It looks delicious.” and started picking over their plates.

Then Hubs innocently asked, “Is there paper in this?”

Before I could answer, Conor asked to be excused and Riley spit out her mouthful, exclaiming, “This is disgusting. I don’t even care if I get dessert.”

Realizing that he had unintentionally started the avalanche of dinner protests, Hubs tried to back pedal.  “I mean the paper doesn’t taste bad or anything. I think I’m just tired and a little full right now.”

In my defense, let me just say that I don’t cook with processed tree pulp. I once made a sandwich with the paper that separates the cheese slices but I was pregnant and disoriented so you can’t count that. The paper-like substance they detected was brown rice. I love whole grains but the rest of my crew prefer their grains fully bleached and processed, which is coincidentally also how they prefer their paper.

That was the nail in the culinary coffin for me. I’m on a cooking boycott until further notice. If my mom were here I would salute her with a loaf of her 15 pound bread in solidarity.

I will continue to make sure that the kids get a fairly balanced diet throughout the day and we’ll still gather at the dinner table in the evenings to talk about our days over some sort of food–perhaps some pear and cheese or carrots and pretzels. But for now I’m not cooking any evening meals.

My children are already flying the victory flag.

Brown boxes are cool. Brown rice is not.

Has anybody else thrown in the dinner time towel? Or figured out a way to avoid it? Did it involve hiring a personal cook or a child hypnotist?