Scream Free Parenting Works. For Some People. Apparently.

I came across it quite by accident, I assure you.  Really, I’m not one of those self-help book, “how can I better myself?” kind of people.  If I can’t get better through trial and error, then I’m prone to continue in the same, dysfunctional life patterns that have carried me through this far.  It isn’t an honorable way to go through life but the apathy comforts me.  In my perception, there is something insincere in most self-help books.  First, it isn’t really self-help if someone else is telling you how to do it.  Second, if the author of the book or developer of the program were really interested in helping people better themselves, they would just put the information out there instead of making us spend $30 for the hardcover, or wait a year to spend $15 for the paperback.
So, there I stood in my local library looking at the books on CD section.  Again, way outside of my normal pattern because I don’t listen to audio books.  Primarily because the only place I could listen to one is in the car, and secondly my ADD-ridden mind tends to drift and I lose huge sections of what was being said forcing me to repeatedly rewind.  And, if I’m driving a car, and already not paying attention, do I really need one more thing to distract me from the narrow strip of pavement that I’m maneuvering several thousand pounds metal and combustible fuel across?
With a business trip to the pacific northwest coming up, and a bit of a road trip once I got there to look forward to, I decided to try an audio book (I wouldn’t have the kids with me, which removes one of my distractions, so by adding the CD, I’m still at par on the old distraction tally sheet).  As I stepped in front of the metal shelves that hold the audio books my eyes rested on one in particular.  Do you know that angelic music that accompanies an “a-ha” moment of divine intervention in most movies?  I swear it was like that.  Faced with a wall of small square CD cases, my eyes settled on one in particular.  Scream Free Parenting.  Now, this audio book stood out for a number of reasons.  While I don’t scream at my kids, I have been known to get a certain kind of pissed off that leads me to yell.  It is a kind of yelling that I know all too well.  And I hate to yell.  Swore I’d never use this yell when I had kids.  So, as I stood there that morning, with my throat still a little raw from my latest tirade I wondered if I were being guided by a higher power.  I wasn’t really looking for a self-help/parenting book.  Fiction was what I was really after, but you can’t really argue with the planets when they line up just right, can you?  So, I checked out Scream Free Parenting (as well as a fiction audio book, because a business trip is really like a mini-vacation for work-at-home moms, and who wants to focus on self-help when you only have 30 hours to yourself?).
So, I’ve not only listened to the (entire!) CD, I’ve actually been implementing some of the strategies with my kids.  Don’t get me wrong–it isn’t easy.  In one week I’ve gnawed a hole through my inner cheek and bitten chunks out of more plastic items than the puppy has (sure is handy to have a puppy to blame that on!).  To anyone who doesn’t know better, it must seem like I’ve been stricken with some strange affliction that causes me to breathe deeply with closed eyes before every sentence.  I’ve also solved the problem of having spare liquor hanging around the house (notice I didn’t say that I’ve quite drinking, only that there’s no spare liquor around!).
I’ve only yelled once in a very stress-filled week, and it was for a very short-lived period, seconds really.  And I patted myself on the back for my reserve.  Then I surveyed the battle scene.  The Oldest and the Middle dutifully picking up every goddamn toy that I’d just tripped over (after having been threatened several times that if they weren’t picked up they’d be in the trash), looking back over their shoulders at me as they did so, eyes wide and glistening with tears as their lower lips quivering in defeat.
And I was 4 1/2 feet tall, and I could feel the wall against my back and how the sound of the yelling reverberated in my ears and rattled every bone in my body.  And how small I felt.  How very, very small and insignificant.  And I realized what an asshole I was to be standing there, patting myself on the back because I’d only yelled once this week.  This week.
So, now I’m off to the damn library to find that damn audio book again so that I can listen one more damn time and commit it a bit more to my damn memory.  And, while I know how important it is, how critically consequential, I have to admit that it pisses me off to have been showed my ass by self-help (audio!) book.

My Halloween Journey to Self Discovery

I think I’ve finally recovered.  I had to take some time for self-reflection and I think I’ve finally rediscovered my true self (not my YCS…she’s long gone and I still haven’t really dealt with that, which is why I drink, dress and party in a manner that is just sad for someone of my age!).  No, I’ve had to reconcile my inner self with my public persona.
I came to a crossroads recently that left me questioning myself.  I think that at some point, everyone is faced with that one defining moment when you have to decide where your values really lie and what kind of person you truly want to be.  Do you quietly acquiesce as life pushes you into newer, uncomfortable decisions or do you stay the course, remaining steadfast to the path you’ve set for yourself?  These are decisions that don’t come easy.  Even if you hold tightly to your true course in life, transient thoughts will often invade your mind, making you question everything you’ve ever held dear.  And so, I faced this question myself.  Do I want to continue to acquire new skills that, were I a traditional female, I should have mastered years ago, or continue on my course as a slacker mom?
Okay, enough with all the soul-searching verbiage.  Basically, it was before Halloween and I had a hard time deciding if I wanted to skate by and throw the kids into some crappy, but easy to assemble costumes or show up the other mothers make my kids happy.  Well, The Oldest wanted to be Indiana Jones, not too hard, right?  The Middle has been practicing his Jedi mind tricks (which means he’s been fucking with my mind a lot lately).  The Baby was clueless about the concept, which is a HUGE bonus for me, and yes, I realize that this precious time won’t last long.
After I spent some time considering my options, and the overpriced, poorly constructed, commercial Halloween costumes available in our local chain stores, I decided that even I could come up with a decent costume (and at a considerable savings!).  Now, don’t get bent out of shape just yet.  I haven’t belied my skills as a mom.  I don’t do many most of the things that traditional moms are expected to do.  I don’t iron, I barely cook or clean and I don’t sew (oh, and don’t even think about inviting me to your damn scrap booking party because I’d rather hot glue my labia together).  Not only do I not sew, my husband once had to buy new shorts because we were about to go on vacation and the button had fallen off of his favorite shorts.  Don’t judge me, he could have picked up gone out and bought a needle and thread just as easily as I could have!  So, what was it that made me think I could pull off Halloween costumes?  Well there is a secret arsenal available to slacker moms like myself.  If you are a traditional mom, you may not even know that these things exist, but if you look very closely at the hemlines or cuffs of your children’s classmates you may notice…fabric glue and iron-on adhesive.  That’s right, there are moms who use that crap for actual clothing repair and construction.  Now, I did mention an iron.  However, it doesn’t involve true ironing skills, you simply hold a hot iron against something that melts, and who hasn’t accidentally done that a million times?
So, my Halloween plans were lining up.  I bought all of my supplies and carefully planned each step of my creative process.  Here’s what I didn’t figure on: making a damn Jedi costume out of iron-on adhesive and fabric glue takes a long damn time.  It is too much work to try to slack at!  In my darkest, most exhausted moment, as I peeled the dried fabric glue away from my blistered burns, I confessed to my husband, “I never thought I’d say this, but it might have been easier if I had a sewing machine.”  He got me another beer to drown out the sound of the unreasonable voices in my head—I love that he knows me so well.
So, next Halloween, no matter how much the kids beg, no matter how much I want to prove that I’m just as crafty as the other moms, I will not subject myself to that kind of torture.  I will accept that I am not that mom; I will not pressure myself to conform to unrealistic maternal ideals.  I will simply buy extra toilet paper and send everyone damn one of them out as a mummy.

The cause of my breakdown (the costume--not the kid--well, not this time!)
The cause of my breakdown (the costume--not the kid--well, not this time!)

After all the preparation, he forgot his brown leather jacket for the photo shoot!
After all the preparation, he forgot his brown leather jacket for the photo shoot! Oh, and it's a fake beard--he isn't a mutant!

The poor child who had to accept that he was just getting ears sewn onto a brown hoodie!  He got over it once the M&M's started rolling his way!
The poor child who had to accept that he was just getting ears sewn onto a brown hoodie! He got over it once the M&M's started rolling in

Why Is Your Underwear In The Toy Box? And Other Questions You Don’t Really Want To Know The Answers To.

Sometimes you know, as soon as the question passes through your lips, that you really don’t want to know the answer.  So why is it that we can’t stop asking the questions?  The list is endless but these are some of the ones that have come up, just this week.

  • Why is your underwear in the toy box?
  • What is that smell?
  • Did you eat all of the cupcakes?
  • How much is that going to cost?
  • Is that my bra?
  • Why is it so quiet in the kids’ room?
  • What did you just flush down the toilet?
  • Where did my tampons go?
  • Did you like the new recipe?
  • What did I just step in?
  • How many calories could be in that?
  • Should we invite your mom?
  • Are you gonna throw up?
  • How long have you been standing there in the dark, son?  No, really.  How long?

Note to self: stop asking the questions.  And close the bedroom door!  (FYI, it was only a near-catastrophe).

When You’re Craving Pumpkin Pie, But Desperately in Need of a Stiff Drink.

The holidays are here and along with the gathering of families, and exchanging of holiday recipes comes the one important thing many people overlook.  The need for a good stiff drink!

Pumpkin Pie Martini

(makes 2 drinks–or 1 really huge and efficient beverage!)

2 oz. vanilla flavored vodka

2 oz. crème de cacao

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

whipped cream (in a tub or sprayed into a bowl)

1.) Fill a martini shaker halfway with ice cubes.  Add the vanilla vodka, crème de cacao, heavy cream and pumpkin pie spice and shake well.

2.) Dip the rims of 2 martini glasses into the whipped cream to cover just the rim of the glass.  Strain the cocktail into the glasses.

Enjoy your guests.

Three Weeks Changing the World

Once again, I was sucked into a whirling vortex of activity that kept me from the internet and, more importantly, from my long suffering blog.
In all fairness, I’ve been consumed with critical activities that are geared towards improving the state of the world, stimulating the U.S. economy, providing affordable and adequate medical care and education for children everywhere and…I have this election that I need to guide toward the conclusion that will most benefit our country. As you can see, I’ve had a lot on my plate.

Alright, that’s all bullshit.  I really just got behind on a ton of stuff and rather than deal with it like a grown up and double my efforts, I took the “screw it, I just won’t do anything” route.  So, now I’m crawling out of that hole and determined to never sink into it again…this year anyway.

In addition to being behind on things, I had one day two weeks ago when two crappy things happened within hours of each other and my shit just came down around me.  The first had to do with The Oldest and some stuff that’s been going on at school.  The second was related to the stay-at-home job that’s been bleeding me dry taking a lot of my time.  What I learned from that event (the work one, that is) is that you can bend over backwards for some people, go out of your way to meet their needs and to ease things for them and that there are still bitter, deceitful, malignant personalities who will f*ck you the minute you reach across the desk for a pencil.  All I can say to the person who wronged me is that I firmly believe that karma is diabolical bitch.  I can’t wait to hear how this comes around on you…and believe me, I have ears out there!

Now, what other things have I done to contribute to the betterment of the world?

Right…

I’ll need just a minute here…

Oh, yeah.  I switched to an environmentally-friendly all-purpose cleaner.  I haven’t actually used it yet, but when I do…saving the planet, baby!

Please, what do you expect from me?  I’m no SuperMom.  I get tired.  I can’t cook a meal, clean the house, do the laundry and help with homework all in one week!  I have to prioritize and, quite frankly, the homework is the only hope I have for getting these boys out of my house someday!  So, I’m not making HUGE contributions.  At least my kids will be able to endorse their own unemployment checks someday!  And, for the record, I am teaching them how to vote, using a variety of ballot formats so they can TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR HOW THEIR VOTE IS CAST!!!  (and that will be my last political comment of the day)

The Great Recipe Challenge

Apparently, one of my kids is a budding chef.  That is fine, except that whatever he’s been creating is being done secretively, in his room.  I found the evidence yesterday while cleaning. (To clarify–not the cleaning that most people think of, more like relocating piles and playing “Find That Smell”.)

So, while rooting around in the filth of the boy’s bedroom I found a variety of very random ingredients and kitchen items.  All of which lead me to believe that 1) one of my boys has become interested in the culinary arts, 2) that boy is either very creative or very in need of a good cooking class and 3) I may have found someone to do the cooking for me (and that is really the most important point, right?).

Now for my challenge to you all.  I will give you the list of ingredients that have been pilfered from my kitchen and I challenge anyone to come up with a decent dish to explain them.

The Equipment:

  • a 1/3 cup measuring cup
  • a butter knife
  • a plastic tumbler
  • a 2-cup capacity tupperware
  • a potato masher
  • a wooden spoon (although I’m pretty sure this disappeared for a different reason.  You know…remove the threat)

The Ingredients:

  • one cup dried pinto beans (honestly, I don’t remember even buying those!)
  • 1/2 an apple (I’m assuming the recipe only calls for 1/2 based on what was left over)
  • small box of raisins
  • one blue colored GoGurt
  • Cheese Nips crackers
  • Capri Sun Water
  • one strawberry cereal bar
  • a Nestle Quick strawberry milk
  • a piece of Bazooka bubble gum

Those are all the items that I found.  Feel free to add additional ingredients, I’m sure the boy did (I just haven’t found the evidence yet!).  If you think you can come up with a decent recipe (or meal) to explain them, I’ll give the boy a chance at a new career.  Really, I’m not too hard to please.  Anything vaguely resembling an edible dish and the boy assumes cooking duties.  Really.  Anything even close.  Anything at all.  It doesn’t even have to be in the food pyramid.  Anything.  Help me out here.

Bad News For My Kindergartener

  • Yes, school is every weekday.  For the next 16-21 years.  And then you’ll work a similar schedule when you grow up.  Only there will be no summer breaks then.  I told you to enjoy your life of leisure while it lasted.
  • No, you don’t get to eat lunch at school.  For one more year you’ll have to suffer through healthy, home-prepared (notice I didn’t say home cooked…there’s a difference!) meals.  Next year you’ll be stuck at school all day and you can gorge yourself on Little Smokies and mushy tater tots then.
  • I don’t believe that after all these years they have changed the direction that the letters of the alphabet face.  I also don’t believe that the rules of addition have changed.  So, we will do your homework the way I learned it.
  • You don’t need to ride the bus.  Your mommy picks you up at school.  And yes, someday you’ll be embarrassed to be seen on school grounds with your chubby, old mom who may have woken up late and thrown on her best sweat pants/plaid shirt/crocs combination before strapping on a fanny pack and rushing you to school.  But, bear in mind, the first time you bitch about it or fail to kiss me good-bye, I’ll start putting curlers in my hair and I’ll personally walk you to your classroom every day.  (And to everyone else, I don’t really have wear a fanny pack).
  • Sometimes, you’ll have to learn stuff that you don’t think you’ll ever need in life.  I had to learn the metric system because they swore to me that the whole world would be using it by the time I graduated.  The U.S. didn’t convert but I did go into the medical field where the metric system is used.  The lesson is…just learn the crap they tell you, you never know what will happen.
  • Get all you can out of school because you’ll have to support yourself.  You can’t live here forever.
  • And one last bit of bad news/advise for you dear son: get good grades so you’ll qualify for scholarships.  Sorry, it was the big screen or the college fund.  I’m not good with delayed gratification.

Back From “Quality Time” Hell…And I’ve Got Some Bitchin’ To Do

Yes, I have been gone.  For a very long time.  A long, long, long time.  And believe me, I’ve got some things bottled up that need to get out.
I used to wonder, “Where the hell did blogging come from?  Whose idea was that?” Now I know.  Blogging had to have been the brainchild of someone with children, who had a whole lot of “quality time” and very few vices with which to fall back on.  You know, somewhere out there was a thirty-year old in a housecoat she swore she’d never wear, with a runny-nosed toddler on one hip, a toad in the microwave, a dog and a kindergartener sharing Coco Puffs under the kitchen table while the Backyardigans blared in the background, and she realized there was no way she could crack open a beer without dropping the baby.  So, what’s a girl to do?  How do you cope with that “This Is Your Life” moment?  Go online, of course and rake your family over the coals for the perverse amusement of others who are trapped in the same inescapable, parental hell and searching for the one person in the world who may be worse off.  And so, blogging was born.  (Okay, that’s how it happened in my mind, I don’t want to know how it really came about so please don’t destroy my vision!).
So, what has happened in my absence?  I had a birthday.  The kids started school. One of my stay-at-home jobs is sucking the life out of me occupying a lot of my time. We got a puppy.
Let’s talk about back to school.  By now I think everyone’s kids are back in school.  My kids started in August.  The Oldest is in second grade and The Middle started kindergarten.  We spent the last couple of weeks of summer trying to cram in as much quality time as we could with the kids.  We drug them to fishing trips, movies, parties, outings, and even a trip to that damn, wretched palace of childhood glee, Chuck E. Cheese’s.  All of which I’m pretty sure was done to assuage my guilt at the daily countdown that was running through my mind, “15 days until they go to school…14 days until they go to school…13 days…”.
I barely survived back to school shopping without my head rocketing up into the metal beams of the store.  Let’s first talk about back to school clothes.  In my area, school starts in mid-August.  It is still freakin’ HOT here.  Why in the hell are my choices long sleeve shirts and jacket combinations?  Yes, I know, some people think ahead and get their shopping done early.  I am NOT a Martha, nor will I ever be.  (Martha- a noun.  Meaning: An uptight, overachieving bitch A female caretaker who consistently demonstrates significantly superior organizational, creative and culinary skills.  A member of the Martha Stewart minions).
School started on a Monday, I was back-to-school shopping a week and a half before, and that was early for me.  Not only do I not get my shopping done when the clothes I’ll need are still in season, there’s a good chance I’ll be stopping at the 24-hour super center on the way to school to pick up the new shoes and socks I forgot to buy.  Since it is almost impossible to find the short sleeve shirts we need, I’ll have to introduce my boys to the stylish world of cutting the sleeves off and rolling up the frayed edges.  Paired with a long sleeve T-shirt and we will be ready for winter when it finally arrives…in December!
What about school supplies?  I don’t know how every other region does it, but in mine the stores carry lists from every school that tells what supplies you need for each grade.  What a great idea, only why don’t those stores also put the listed supplies in the back-to-school section?  The Middle needed a box of 8 crayons.  The list said, quite specifically, “8 count crayon box.  Traditional colors. No more than 8 crayons, please”. I finally hunted down a box that only had 8 crayons, and I only had to walk to the complete opposite side of the jumbo-surplus retail hell to find it in the Office Supply section.  There needs to be a compromise.  Either stock the 8-count crayons with the rest of the school supplies or let us bring a box of 24 crayons.  They’re 5 year olds, there’s a good chance that 60% of the crayons are going to be eaten or stuffed up somebody’s nose anyway, so why not let us buy the extra crayons to make up the difference?
A week later, at Back to School Night, I was happy that I had The Baby in my arms because I was handed a list of supplies specific to each classroom that I now had to buy.  It would have been a shame to strangle a teacher in front of all those eager school children before they had the benefit of her teaching.
Now I need to mention coordination.  When they called to print up the lists for school supplies why not ask the teachers, “Hey anything else you need them to buy?  You know, so the frazzled, school-poor schmucks who are breathing with relief because their school shopping is done don’t flip out and strangle you when they get a new shopping list.”
Then I looked at the list for The Middle’s class.  The last item, I kid you not, was an empty frosting container.  Where the hell does such a random need come from?  That isn’t the kind of thing I have just laying around the house.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m no Martha.  To have a frosting container implies baking, and I don’t expose my kids to that kind of behavior (it will just lead them to have unreasonably high expectations of my maternal skills if I start trying to develop them now).  So, now I have to go to the damn store, buy a container of frosting, and eat the whole damn thing to meet my obligations.  I bought chocolate.  Wiped the residue out with my finger and licked it off.  Hey, it only said empty, didn’t say nothing about clean.
So, there I am walking out of the store with arms loaded down with school supplies.  A screaming baby in one arm, The Middle and The Oldest fighting over who gets to push the door open and then blaming each other when the automatic door opened and dumped them on their butts, car keys dangling out of my mouth, and only one thought occupying my brain.  But there was no way I could crack open a beer without dropping something.
And so…I blog.

The Real Housewives of Middle America

I’ll admit it.  Sometimes I stay up late at night and watch the most vapid television shows known to man.  Some of them are completely inane, even by reality show standards (wait, did I just pair the words “reality shows” and “standards” in the same sentence?).  My favorite late night indulgence has become Bravo.  Not only does that channel offer some of the best (and by best, I don’t mean quality!), late night programming on television, but if you miss a show, they play it all night and several times a week so that you can catch it again.

The other night, while looking through the schedule of programs I noticed one that caught my eye.  It was a preview for “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”.  Now, if you aren’t familiar with the whole “Real Housewives” conglomerate, let me enlighten you.  It all started with “The Real Housewives of Orange County” a reality show that followed five rich women in, you guessed it, Orange County, CA.  That was followed by “The Real Housewives of New York City, and now, apparently “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”.

Here’s the thing.  These women aren’t like any of the “real housewives” I’ve ever met.  They live in HUGE houses, drive top of the line cars, wear designer clothes, host gala events, and, oh yeah, most of them have jobs, which goes against the entire idea of being a housewife.  These women would never survive if they were expected to be a housewife in the rest of the world.  Drop one of those women off in some town in Middle America and she would be cowering in a corner of the first Wal-Mart she was forced to drag three screaming kids through.  And where the hell is Wife Swap when I want to prove a point?

Now I find myself wondering, could a reality show ever succeed if it portrayed the reality that most of us live with?  What would it take to make “The Real Housewives of Middle America” a hit?  True, it would lack some of the glitz and product endorsement opportunities of our more financially endowed sisters, but deep down, don’t we really have similar lives?

I submit that I do very similar things during my days as they do, only on a smaller scale.  We have the same joys and the same aggravations it’s really just a matter of perspective.

For instance:

  • I have a gardener and, yes, I’ve been known to nag at him.  But, it’s his house too and the dog that’s crapping in the front yard isn’t mine alone.
  • I too support the arts.  Every year I buy extra crayons, markers and supplies for the entire classroom.
  • I enjoy the theater.  I actually attended a gala event at the local theater.  OK, it was opening night for the new 14-plex cinema and we were only invited because The Hubbin helped build it, but still…
  • I enjoy shopping and I prefer brand names.  That’s right, I prefer to spend the extra money for Del Monte instead of saving a few pennies on the “store” brand.  I admit it; I can be a wasteful consumer.
  • I am involved in community service.  I gave all the clothes that didn’t sell at my yard sale to the Catholic Outreach.  I supported the building of a rehab for meth addicts in our community (I supported it in a “yeah, I’d support the building of a rehab” kind of way, not a “yeah, I’ll donate a huge amount of money to build a rehab” way).  I’ve attended a ball for charity, and even spent over $100 on silent auction items to support the neutering of cats.  Hey, after 3 pregnancies, I’ll sign up for any neutering project.
  • I have a pool boy (aka The Hubbin) who refuses to wear a Speed-o when cleaning the pool. He does have a point, it’s a little pool he can clean it without getting his jeans wet.  He just has to tip it over and refill it.  I just think the Speed-O would be a nice touch.
  • I consider myself a “foodie” and enjoy attending soirées hosted by my family and friends.  It’s true that these events usually involve pizza and a keg but sometimes they go very chic and add one spinach & feta pizza instead of the usual stack of 32 meat lovers.  And as a proper guest, I always bring the hostess a box of the best wine in town.

So, you see, we really are very similar.  And it’s time that the real “Real Housewives” of America stand up and demand to be appreciated for the ranch-style home owning, Chevy driving, Levi wearing, warehouse store shopping, domestic goddess lives we’re leading.