From the Vault: A Christmas Chronology

Originally published December 25, 2008

medium_42145211818 p.m. – Bathe the kids and start getting them ready for bed. Tell my son that he needs to hurry because he has to be in bed before Santa gets to our house, otherwise Santa won’t leave him any presents. My son asks where Santa is now so we pull up the NORAD Santa tracker online. I gasp and tell him that Santa is already in South America and we’ve got to move quickly because North America is next. He runs upstairs to his room and jumps into bed. I follow him and ask what book he’d like to read. (Normally he wants to read five or six each night.) “No books, Mommy. Santa will be here soon.” Okay, I say, then let’s just say prayers. “We gotta pray fast, Mommy.” We race through “Now I lay me down to sleep” and it’s lights out. I don’t hear a peep from him for the rest of the night.

9:30 p.m. – Feed the baby and try to coax her into sleeping.

10:30 p.m. – She’s finally asleep. I put her to bed and crank up the waterfall sounds really loud so that any noise I make won’t disturb her.

11 p.m.  – Turn my attention to Santa duties. Go to the basement to retrieve presents and congratulate myself on picking out such awesome toys. “I am the coolest mom ever!”, I say to myself.

11:15 p.m. – Buy “Fred Claus” to watch from On Demand and set up all the gift wrapping supplies. Decide that gift wrapping will be much more fun with Peppermint Schnapps. Pour myself a shot, thinking, “Schnapps are so festive!”

12:21 a.m. – Gifts are wrapped and under the tree. “Fred Claus” is a funny movie. Schanapps are making me feel great. My husband calls, so I pause the movie to talk to him.

12:30 a.m. – Decide that I might as well make some breakfast casseroles so that I won’t have to cook much in the morning. Assemble the ingredients, mix it all up and put the casseroles in the refrigerator.

1 a.m. – Sit back down to finish watching “Fred Claus”. Decide to have more Schnapps.

2 a.m. – Put the video camera battery on the charger and go to bed. Miraculously, neither child has stirred.

7 a.m. – I am the first one up. I think I’m more excited than my son. I know I’m more excited than the baby. I wake up the baby and feed her.

7:30 a.m. – Make coffee, put the casseroles in the oven and go to wake up my son. I can’t believe he is still sleeping. “He definitely won’t sleep in next year,” I say to myself. I take the video camera and film him as he wakes up, stumbles down the stairs and sees all the presents. His eyes bug out and he is adorable.

7:35 a.m. – The camera stops recording. Apparently I have run out of tape and have no idea if we have any more tapes. I grab my cell phone instead and use it to take pictures. Curse myself for not knowing how to use the video function on the phone.

7:45 a.m. – Gift opening is over. My husband calls and my son tells him all about the toys. Casseroles are cooked and out of the oven. My son won’t eat them. He doesn’t know what a casserole is and pronounces all casseroles “yucky”. Decide to turn on the Yule Log channel for festive holiday background music. For some reason the Yule Log channel isn’t working, so I start trying to assemble the super cool robot Santa brought.

8:30 a.m. – Still trying to assemble the robot that Satan, I mean Santa, brought.

9 a.m. Robot is (finally!) put together. Flip the on switch and realize that it doesn’t have batteries. Have to disassemble it to install the batteries. It requires seven (!) batteries. I don’t have seven new batteries so I take the batteries out of the camera and all the remote controls. Stupid robot still doesn’t work. I am starting to cuss now, quietly.

9:15 a.m. Give up on the robot. Turn my attention to the really cute penguin toy. The penguins are supposed to climb a staircase and then slide down a luge that ends at the bottom of the stairs. The slide is a major pain to put together. Quickly realize that I need a “D” battery. Don’t have a “D” battery. My son is dejected. Kids aren’t supposed to be dejected on Christmas. I remember that the baby swing has “D” batteries. Now where is that stupid tiny screwdriver?

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9:30 a.m. I’m in the basement digging through the toolbox. Finally find the screwdriver. Voila! The penguin toy works. It is adorable! But it makes a continuous chirping noise. Think to myself that that noise might get annoying after awhile.

9:45 a.m. Trying to build a really cool marble race with the awesome (and intelligence enhancing) wood block marble race set.

9:55 a.m. Have built an amazing marble race for my son. Can’t wait for him to try it.

9:56 a.m. Marble race blocks are scattered all over the room and marbles are everywhere. My son thought it would be more fun to destroy the structure I’d built than to race marbles down it. Not sure what this says about his intelligence or if the marble race can help him.

9:59 a.m. I hate the robot. I hate the marble race. And I would really like to go back to the basement to get the hammer so I can smash the penguin toy to make it shut up.

10 a.m. The caffeine from the coffee is wearing off and the sugar from the French Toast casserole is wearing off. I am experiencing a caffeine crash and sugar low at the same time. My son goes to the bathroom and comes back without pants or underwear on. Refuses to put on either for the rest of the morning. Says he wants to “Porky Pig” it – borrowing a phrase his father uses to describe wearing a shirt with no pants. I give up. Who says a kid has to wear bottoms at home, anyway?

10:30 a.m. The house is trashed. There are boxes, zip ties, and torn wrapping paper everywhere. The penguin toy works too well and the robot doesn’t work at all. My son tried to make the robot work and now there are robot pieces everywhere. The baby is (THANK GOD) asleep. Huge casseroles sit mostly untouched in the kitchen. I’m exhausted and really regretting the Schnapps.

10:35 a.m. My son gives me a big hug and a kiss and tells me this is the best Christmas ever. He says, “I’m so happy, Mommy.”

10:40 a.m. Lay on the couch, close my eyes, smile and think to myself that Christmas is awesome. What a great day. I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

 

 

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photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/sidereal/76724673/”>Sidereal</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

2013 Parenting

 

2013 Parenting:

6 a.m. Wake-up

6:17  Hit snooze for the second time

6:30 Get up, make bed, let the dog out, make the coffee, wake the kids

6:36 Scream upstairs “If you don’t get out of bed now you’re going to be late and miss the bus! And I do NOT want to drag everybody out of the house just to drive you to school!”

6:45 Pour the cereal. Pretend it’s nutritious. Deliver silent self-lecture on how eating cereal with milk is no worse, and probably way-better, than something totally unhealthy like Toaster Strudel. Give the kids vitamins as a back up measure. Remind self to buy kid version of fish oil to add to their regimen.

7 – 7:37 Walk in circles around the living room, alternately yelling at kids to “hurry up!” and “put on your shoes!” Add in three extra laps while trying to remember what I was walking to get in the first place.

7:38. Crap. Totally forgot to let the dog back in. He’s not in the yard. Must have jumped the fence. Again.

7:47 Walk with kids to the bus stop, two minutes late. Again. Spy the dog in the distance, running in circles on a neighbor’s lawn. Reason that he must have learned that trick from me. Debate whether to a) go with the kids to get the dog and risk missing the bus; b) leave some or all the kids at the bus stop and run for the dog, risking them being kidnapped or hit by a car(s); or c) wait for the bus and hope the dog stays put or finds his own way home. Opt for c. He doesn’t stay put. Silently hope that he doesn’t find his own way home.

8 Turn on “Oscar’s Oasis” for the preschooler and put the baby in her “cage”. Turn on my computer and check Facebook. Recall that once upon a time I had dreams and goals but am too tired to remember them, much less care. Play “Gems with Friends” on my phone instead.

8:12 Notice that I have 43 emails alerting me to LinkedIn connections and endorsements. Vow to figure out how LinkedIn works. Tomorrow. Perhaps that’s the key to making this work-at-home thing profitable.

8:17 Read an article about how tween girls are bullying each other on Instagram. Now I have to figure out Instagram, too, including learning that the cool kids just call it “Insta.” Post the article to Facebook.

8:27 According to friends’ comments on my Facebook Instagram story post, predators are stalking kids who play online video games (like Gems? NO!!!) and using social media like Facebook (duh), Twitter (that’s still around?), Pinterest (thought that was just for craft projects…what’s next, Etsy?), Tumblr (huh?), Reddit (wha?), GooglePlus (that took off?) and MySpace (WTH – MySpace? I have to worry about Facebook’s trashy cousin again?) to meet and groom kids… Sidebar: start wondering why anyone needs StumbleUpon? Stumbling upon things is the easiest thing to do online without help… My friends recommend keeping track of all of my kids’ accounts and passwords and monitoring these daily, if not hourly. A few even reference the violence in video games and how it causes sociopathic behavior. They say that kids should never be allowed to play video games without a parent watching. (What?!! Well, then what is the point of video games?!!)

8:43 Eye the liquor cabinet and wonder if it’s too early for a cocktail. Maybe one with coffee in it? I’ve had LinkedIn and Twitter accounts since 2009 and still haven’t made time to monitor MY OWN feeds. I don’t even know MY OWN passwords. Realize that there’s no way I’ll ever remember those long-buried dreams if I’m up to my earlobes in under-age Insta feeds.

9:05 Click on Pinterest to look for a crock pot recipe. Am re-directed to a galaxy, nay, a universe, of mommy-blogs. Wonder who in the hell has time to photograph a sage-rubbed roasted chicken with all this newsfeed stalking (and, um, parenting) we’re supposed to be doing?

9:37 Have finally cleared the inboxes for my seven (why?!) email accounts. 236 messages (in addition to the LinkedIn alerts) have come in since 11 p.m. 222 are advertisements from companies I’ve bought something from in the past. Seven are newsletters from charities I’ve donated to. Four are related to the kids activities. Three are actual, honest-to-God, missives from actual honest-to-God people. Remind self to unsubscribe from all these mailing lists. Attempt to do so but 12 minutes and 2 successful unsubscriptions later, quit. Maybe if I just start a new email address I can ignore these accounts…

10 Google various therapeutic programs I’ve been meaning to research for the kids. Horseback riding, scouting, karate, swimming…  Realize that every kid needs therapy today because every kid has been diagnosed with a condition. When I was a kid we called these therapy sessions “lessons” and “sports” and we called the conditions “weird”, “annoying”, “energetic” and “rude”.

10:15 Put the baby down for her nap. Thank God. She was making me feel guilty with all that quiet play she was doing in her cage.

10:32 Phone rings. Lady says she has my dog. Consider asking her to keep him… Get the baby up, put the kids in the car, go get the dog.

11:30 It’s too late to make up the missed nap. Lunchtime!

12 Try to keep the baby awake for just a little bit longer by playing “crawl parade” on the floor with both girls. Crawl parade is hell on the knees. And boring. The girls love it.

12:17 Still crawling. Maybe this will be the next exercise craze. Maybe next year Beyonce will release an exercise video called “Crawling Back to Sexy” or something. It could be like hula hooping. Reflect on the posse of overweight ladies I saw hula hooping on the sidewalk last week. They would look no more ridiculous crawling.

12:19 The TruGreen guy is looking in the window. Watching. How long has he been there? Put the preschooler at the table with a coloring book and lay the baby down for a nap before answering the door.

12:43 Am now a TruGreen customer. Not really sure what TruGreen is, just wanted the pushy salesman to go away. Google TruGreen. It’s pesticides. Realize that pesticides on my lawn don’t really mesh with my commitment to eat organic this year. Vow to cancel TruGreen. Decide to blame it on the hubs in order to spare myself the last ditch “don’t cancel” sales pitch.

1:04 Back to the computer to do some worky-work, as opposed to mommy-wifey-work.

1:30 Still haven’t put anything in the crock pot. There’s still time if we eat late and use the “high” setting. Look at JustaPinch.com and Recipe.com, then decide to use the tablet because it’s more portable. Browse the Epicurious and Cook’s Illustrated apps for recipes.

2:30 Crap. Got lost in a world of electronic recipes and phone calls from doctors’ offices. Throw some chicken breasts, potatoes, onions and carrots into the crock pot, make a wish, and hope the crock pot will work its magic. Toss in garlic salt as an afterthought. Wonder if the garlic salt contains iodized or sea salt. Briefly consider if any of the veggies are on the “Dirty Dozen” list of things to always buy organic. Glance at the massive size of the chicken breasts on top of the veggies and guiltily recall the “Food, Inc.” documentary. Consider building a chicken coop and raising chickens in my own backyard. Remind self to call TruGreen and cancel. No point raising chickens on chemically-treated grass.

2: 39 Ugh. Realize that if I raise my own chickens for meat then I’ll have to slaughter, pluck and disembowel them, too. Google “slaughter chicken.” Vomit in mouth. Decide that steep price for organic chicken is really not so steep.

2:47 Google “pest control”. What use is going organic and chemical-free inside my home if I’m paying Terminix to spray the outside. Maybe I should cancel Terminix, too? Still haven’t called TruGreen…

3 Who knew you could kill ants with Borax? Damn you, Pinterest! I’m sucked in again!

3:23 Child #1 is home from school, soaked. Wants to know why I didn’t pick him up from the bus stop. Doesn’t understand when I explain that I was busy saving our family from pesticides and hormones.

3:47 Homework is hell — on me. His meds have worn off and the privacy cubicle we erected as a homework station has only peaked his little sister’s curiousity. She keeps whining that she wants a cubicle, too. Fine, let her think that. Twenty years from now when she’s working under florescent lights in a room filled with softly playing radios and cat meme screensavers she won’t want that cubicle so much, I think.

4 Recall something about lost dreams. Start walking circles in the living room. At least the chicken in the crock pot smells good.

4:13 Yell at kids to get their cleats and shin guards on for soccer, er, therapy. Yell, “If you don’t get in the car right now you’ll both be late!”

4:32 Realize, five minutes away from the soccer field, that today is my day to be “snack mom” and I have brought no snacks. Give self silent lecture on how ridiculous it is for parents to sign kids up for sports/therapy so that our little fatties will burn 220 calories and then we fill them with 550 calories worth of Rice Krispies Treats and Gatorade. Decide to pretend I didn’t know it was my turn. Aren’t these kids all about to eat dinner, anyway?

5:25 Home for the nighttime rush: dinner, more homework, baths and bed… and then it all begins again tomorrow.

Lean in? Lean in?!! — I just wanna lie down.

Food Wars

 

I recently got asked to submit some story ideas to a magazine that focuses on healthy and organic parenting. I’ll pause so that those of you who have seen the petrified chicken nuggets rolling around my car, often in styrofoam cups, can regain your composure.

My two older kids are some of the pickiest eaters I’ve ever encountered. I can literally name everything the two of them are willing to eat. Here goes: Bo will eat chicken nuggets, french fries, pepperoni pizza (but not any other kind), cheese, salami, bacon, pancakes, hot dogs, cheese quesadillas, ice cream (but only vanilla) and apples. That’s it. Rudy, I’m pretty sure, eats her own weight daily in cheese and yogurt, but she will also eat cheese pizza (but not pizza with toppings), chicken nuggets, french fries, cheese quesadillas, pancakes, bacon, bananas, ice cream, grapes and jello. That’s it. They both will actually shriek if you give them something green. Bo pretends that he’ll eat corn on the cob, but he actually won’t. Rudy doesn’t even pretend.

So how does a mother who guiltily feeds her children only foods that are yellow or beige write for the organic world? With a lot of stickers, that’s how.

You see, I’ve already gone to the bad place — many times — in the fight to make them eat healthier. My husband and I eat healthy and, as babies, Bo and Rudy would eat anything. I used to feed them steamed and pureed kale and they happily slurped it up. But not anymore. Dinner has become a nightly battle, a test of strength. And, let’s be honest, the kids are kicking my ass.

In fact, a few weeks ago I served them each a Kid Cuisine — a Kid freakin’ Cuisine — a frozen dinner designed specifically for picky-eating kids. They devoured the chicken nuggets and the gummy bears but neither nibbled at even one corn niblet. I urged, I begged, and finally I threatened. I told Rudy that if she didn’t eat one little niblet, I was going to spank her. She looked at the corn, looked at me, then got up from the table, walked in front of me — AND BENT OVER.  She chose the spanking over eating one tiny kernel of corn. That’s what I’m dealing with here, people. (And, yes, I did spank her then. I had to.)

A few weeks ago I had an epiphany: What if I rewarded them AND appealed to their constant competing and bickering? I created a sticker chart with both of their names and “Food” as the first category. Then I had extra room so I made a wishlist of other behaviors I’d like to encourage, adding “Cleaning Up”, “Chores”, “Playing Nice” and “Respect”. They get a sticker every time they do what I tell them to do. The one with the most stickers at the end of each week gets a prize. It’s working okay. They love beating each other and run to count up their stickers, but it’s only been moderately effective at getting them to eat more healthy food.

So then I decided to just trick them into healthy eating. Years ago I’d heard about Jessica Seinfeld’s (Jerry’s wife) cookbook that features recipes for sneaking vegetable purees into brownies and what-not. I scoffed at the notion when the book was released, thinking, “Kids should just eat vegetables. I if I hide the spinach in brownies then they won’t learn to just eat spinach.” Fast-forward several years and I have kids who won’t eat corn. They won’t even eat mashed potatoes. They run screaming from spinach. Bring on the deception!

I’m about three weeks into the puree experiment and it’s working pretty well. I’m already cooking and pureeing baby food for Lucy, so now I just make bigger batches to use in the big kids’ food — but I haven’t been too bold yet. So far I’ve made pancakes with sweet potato puree, mac and cheese with butternut squash and cauliflower and a few other similar easy sells, and they’ve at least tasted what I made — a major win for me. But with kids who won’t eat meatloaf, chili or many of the other kid-friendly foods features, I’m kind of at a loss.

So tell me, how do you get your kids to eat?

 

 

Catching up (aka, Hey y’all — I was on Oprah!)

Wow – I’ve been busier than … what? I don’t know. Busier than a writer fighting the urge to use a cliche, perhaps. Anyway… Since October, I:

1. Met Oprah Winfrey. And Gayle King. And hugged them both. On camera. After Oprah told me and 29 other military spouses that she was surprising us with $30,000 worth of her “Favorite Things.”

(yes – that is how big a smile gets when Oprah decides to shower you with gifts and affection.)

 

2. Put out two great, if I do say so myself, issues of CityView.

3. Had these articles published on Base Guide:

a. 10 Perks of Being an Army Spouse

b. Get Happy at Home

c. One Favorite Thing

4. Had this commentary published by The New York Times:

Finding Home Again After Deployment

5. Was interviewed for Gretchen Rubin’s website. (She’s the author of “The Happiness Project” and “Happier at Home”.)

6. Got three kids adorable for Halloween.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(yes, I realize there are 4 kids in this picture. See if you can figure out which one didn’t come out of my body.)

and a dog…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Was interviewed in The Fayetteville Observer about the whole Oprah experience.

8. Got to watch myself on the show.

9. Started getting boxes of amazing stuff sent to my house. (I’m still getting stuff, by the way. Everyday is Christmas here!)

10. Started finding people to give the stuff I don’t need/want/think someone else could use more. (This, by the way, has actually been more fun than even getting the stuff myself. I’m getting a tiny taste of how much fun it is to play Oprah/Santa.) I’ll share some of the stories with you all later. There are some great stories.

11. Hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner — in a house I’ve lived in for eight weeks — that very quickly included 10 people I’ve never met before — and it was fantastic. Really, just lovely.

12. Single parented three kids and a dog (and, yes, Hank has been up to all his old tricks and some very expensive new ones) because my husband has only just this week received the promised orders that will allow him to move to Florida with the rest of the family. We’ve been waiting since spring.

13. Smiled. A lot. It’s been a busy, crazy and, all in all, fantastic couple of months.