Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A better kind of battle

 In a strange twist of irony, Coen and Lucy have spent two peaceful, fight-free afternoons playing battle with their toys in the playroom.  Here Coen has set up all their figures and toys, robots and dinosaurs in a battle of good against evil.  "Nice against Bullies" Lucy calls it.  Lucy's little people and Lalaloopsy dolls are on the sidelines cheering for Nice. 

Coen summoned me to come and see the battle.  He explained that there are more good guys than bad "just like the world".  I'm so glad to know that his world has more good guys than bad. I hope it stays that way forever. 
Also, apparently even though there are swords and light sabers in this battle, Coen has assured his pacifist parents that mostly they are attacking each other with "weird kinds of foods and jokes that make the bad guys laugh so hard they can't even battle." Also, see the four guys in the astronaut suits?  That's Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.  "They don't really like wars", Coen tells me, "Only peace."  They are hiding in those astronaut suits and singing songs to confuse the bad guys.  Also, the astronaut on the dragonfly?  That's John "He REALLY doesn't like war, more than the other Beatles don't and he's flying above the battle and singing to the good guys.  Also, he's dropping instruments on the bad guys." 

It has been a nice couple of days in the Kriofske Mainella household.  Though hundreds of little plastic insects, people, the cast of Star Wars and other creatures are at battle, our children are living in harmony.  I hope this lasts.

If anyone is mean to you today, let us know. We'll dress up like astronauts and come and sing weird songs until they don't know WHAT'S going on.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Men? Women? No Different?

One time I was at the open air market in Estonia, browsing hand knit mittens with my friend Rebecca.  I have never really liked being approached by sales people and was trying to remain anonymous.  I loved talking with Estonians in the market, unless they were trying to sell me something.  Rebecca was not interested in buying anything either.  An elderly woman selling her wares tried to entice us to buy something.  She held up a pair of mittens and said to Rebecca,
"Men? Women? No Different?"
"Yeah. They're no different." she said continuing on.
"Men? Women? No different?" she said to me, holding up the mittens.
"I gotta follow her." I said.

But, it is an interesting question, no?  Men? Women? No different?  Yeah, I gotta say, they're pretty different.

Tad and I try really hard to mix up the gender roles in our house.  We bought dolls for Coen when he was young and cars for Lucy.  But still, Coen will be smashing two Star Wars figures together in a rough battle, sending one flying across the room and hitting the wall.  Meanwhile, Lucy is sitting quietly on the floor "nursing" her baby doll.  It doesn't seem to matter what kind of toys we give them.

And we even try and switch it up in our house.  Why, just this morning while Tad cleared the table and rinsed dishes, I was under the sink with a wrench working on a clog.  Often when I'm out cleaning gutters or shoveling snow, our older neighbor will say, "Where's your husband?! He should be doing this!" And I always reply, "He's doing the harder job.  He's watching the children."

It doesn't seem to matter though.  Coen likes to wrestle and kick a soccer ball and battle his toys.  Lucy likes to do puzzles and art and play with her dolls.  But you know, sometimes the children will join each other in a game of house or Pokemon battle and that makes me happy.  And raising my kids to be strong, independent, feminist individuals includes me accepting and embracing all things they want to do--no matter what gender roles our society has assigned them.

It's an interesting question though.  Men. Women. Girls. Boys.  Speaking of which, I shall end with this:

Here is a conversation between Tad and I during a discussion on men and women making friends as adults.

Me: Why do men in their 30s not make an effort to become friends with each other? Women do.
Tad: You're the smarter sex.  That's why women have been incrementally surmounting men year after year.  Except for hand to hand combat and the hundred meter sprint. That's about all we've got on you.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Kids just know...

Saturday we got the kids in the car and headed south to Greendale--Ferch's Malt Shoppe to be more specific.  We got wonderful (terrible) lunches of burgers and fries and onion rings and soda. Then we took our children over to the park to play in the snow.

A little boy was there, about three years old, and he immediately walked up to me, fashioned a snowball and threw it at me.  What gives?! How did he know I was the sucker? 

I am terrible at discipline; I was a substitute teacher for MPS for two years in my twenties and was very nearly eaten alive.  I am clearly the pushover parent in our house. Sometimes when I come home late and Tad's already put the kids to bed, I'll go up to give Coen a kiss and he'll try to work me over for a snack!  I never give in to that one but the fact that he thinks it might work is quite telling. Both kids know how to ask me in a way that will at least give me pause, if not make me say yes. Coen's is with puppy dog eyes and a cocked head.  Lucy says "Pleaaaaaasse" while waggling her bottom jaw back and forth.  I'm actually not sure why she thinks this is the irresistible way of asking, but it's become so by virtue of her thinking it I suppose.  I am working hard on adding "firm" to my other qualities as a parent.  When other people's kids are out of line, I think telling them so might be the most frightening thing I can imagine doing. (Which is funny since I've done such brave things as given drug-free birth to two kids, ridden in an old Russian military vehicle to an island across the shallow parts of the Baltic sea driven by a man who was unquestionably drunk, and gone head to head with an angry ostrich [well, he was behind a fence, but still], among other things....

Anyway, so this kid hits me with a snowball and I say weakly, "Oh, I don't think you should be throwing snow at me..."  And of course he fashions another snowball and does it again.  I look to Tad for help. He is clearly very amused with my predicament.  I say, "Oh, please don't throw snow at me." I hear my own voice. I sound like a meek-cartoon-turtle version of myself.  Tad laughs and does a spot-on impression of me which makes me want to throw snow at him.  The little boy's next target is Coen.  After being pelted in the side, Coen looks surprised, then looks at Tad and then says, "Oh, that's okay." and laughs.  The boy doesn't even consider getting Tad. He tentatively approaches Lucy with a snowball  in his hand. She gives him one look and says "NO!" He retreats immediately.  The next time the boy goes to throw snow, Tad reprimands him.  Then his dad, who is sitting on a bench, takes notice and says, "We're going to go home!"  Coen looks over at the dad. "Why?" He asks. Tad and I both laugh.  The next time the little boy throws a snowball at me, Tad tells him to stop throwing snow at us. I suggest he tries to hit the nearby tree with a snowball.  His dad yells again from the bench "We're going home!"  The little boy joins Coen and Lucy at the teeter totter and there is throw free fun for all three for a while.

They eventually do leave and then Tad, Coen, Lucy and I engage in a full-on snowball fight of our own.  Tad asks the children what they want the safe word to be if we want someone to stop throwing snow at us.  "Peace!" yells Coen. "Potty!" Yells Lucy.  We have a nice battle and then head out.  Below is a wonderful picture Tad took of Coen jumping off the swings. Our offending little snowball thrower is beneath him.  On the way home, the kids sing along to the Beatles and I contemplate my assertiveness skills.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The semantics in our house

In our house, it is all about semantics.  Tad and I both being former English majors and writers, we often find that in the middle of some typical marital argument about laundry or who's picking up the kids or bill paying, we are suddenly discussing the phrase word that really should have been used in this situation or that.  Or getting really involved in a discussion about what I meant to say vs what I said vs what you heard me say.  Which often makes us both laugh in the middle of even the tensest of quarrels.

Aside from proper semantics arguments, Tad and I (and now of course our children) have a propensity for making up words and phrases which we think better suit the words or phrases we are making them up to replace. 

I have mentioned before that I take a Zumba class, which I love and which Tad refers to as Jazzbo.  Yesterday I had this conversation with Coen.

Me: I'm going to be home late tonight, honey but I should still be able to tuck you in when I get home from Zumba.
Coen: What's that thing you do on Wednesday nights that makes you come home late?
Me: Zumba
Coen: No, the other thing.
Me: Well, I take Zumba on Wednesday nights. Also my Abs class.  Absoglutely (I am serious--this is what it's acutally called.)
Coen: Abso-GLUT-ley?
Me: Yes, that and Zumba.
Coen: No, but what's that other class you take.
Me: (thinking) Um....Just Zumba honey.
Tad: (Peeks around the corner, toothbrush in his hand) Jazzbo?
Coen: Yeah! Jazzbo!

Lucy often argues semantics with me too.  She's drawing a picture on the chalkboard.  "Mommy! Look at what I'm drawing!"
Me: Look at that!
Lucy: Don't say 'Look at that!'!  I don't like it when you say that!
Me: Well, why not?
Lucy: When you say 'Look at that' it seems like you are not listening.
Me: Okay. Let's try again. Start over.
Lucy: Look at what I'm drawing.
Me: Oooh that's a beautiful picture of a person. I like it. (pause) Is that better?
Lucy: Yes. Can we practice it again?  Look at what I'm drawing!
This could go on and oh does it ever, but I'll spare you.

One more example between Tad and Coen and I and I think it will be sufficient evidence to the original statement I made in the beginning of this blog post which is that in our house, it is all about semantics.

Tad: (to me) Let's watch a documentary tonight.
Me: Yeah, let's watch the Who one.
Tad: Yeah, but we'll have to watch like half of it; its long.
Coen: Who?  Who are you going to watch?
Tad: Exactly
Coen: Who?
Tad: Exactly. The Who.
Coen: The Who you're going to watch?
Tad: Yep a documentary on the band, the Who.
Coen: And its called "Half of the Who?"

You have to love it.  Who?  Well, I have to love it anyway.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I did it!

There's me.  There's a pile of undone dishes.  It is 11:30 p.m. and I am going to bed.  Dishes undone.  This may seem a benign scene to you.  But for me it is a huge accomplishment.  It is six months worth of therapy and lots of letting go.

We all have our issues.  Mine has been about control.  About me wanting to control the world around me because I couldn't control it when I was young.  And so it became about me getting all these tasks done, needing to check things off my lists. And suddenly I realized that tasks and lists were coming before things that really mattered: the people in my life.

When I was in college, I remember that during a big party when everyone would be drinking and hanging out, I would be walking around with a garbage bin, filling it with empty bottles and cans, wiping down the counters.  My friends would say, "Why don't you just hang out with us? That can wait!"  And it was all fine going along that way.  But suddenly it was my own children missing out on me. Coen would say, "Mommy, can you play with me?" And I'd say "Hold on a second, I just have to get the laundry started."  Lucy would say "Mommy, come see what I drew." and I'd say, "I'll be there in just a minute. I'm doing the dishes."  When I realized I was missing out on my CHILDREN, I knew something had to change.

And it took a lot of me forcing myself to stay on the floor with Lucy and her puzzles, even though I just spotted a floor that needed sweeping.  It took me taking deep breaths and ignoring the pile of crayons on the couch, falling into the cracks of the cushions, because at that moment, Coen was playing the drums for me.  And of course it took figuring out why I'm like that and where it comes from and what I need to do to change things.  

And Saturday night, I left the dishes. And they stayed there half the day Sunday until Tad did them.  And I left the playroom a mess for a whole week.  It didn't even raise my blood pressure.  And one day, Tad said, "This is driving me crazy!" And our whole family cleaned it up. 

I always pictured myself the kind of mom who has a messy house and stuff everywhere and art projects all over the walls.   The scene might be cluttered and messy but there is a happy family there, involved in each other.  I'm working really hard on my own self-improvement and way way less on the dust in my house. 

I left the dishes over night.  And no one died.  Quite the contrary. We lived.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A social experiment

I am undoubtedly an extrovert to the largest degree. I love being around people, talking to people and most of all connecting to people.  Now, as human beings, we all want some connection introverts and extroverts alike. But sometimes it seems to me that we've gotten so bad at just connecting with others, particularly with people we don't know, out in the community, out in the world...

But I try to connect like this nonetheless with varying results.  Here are my 2 examples:

I was once at Woodman's and the woman behind me in line seemed really cool. I liked her vibe, if you will.  So, without really thinking, I turned around and said, "I like you."  She seemed a little taken aback and uncomfortable.  I tried to explain. "I have a good vibe..."  Still taken aback.  I was probably coming off like some strange hippie girl.  I let it go.

The next time was at Mia Famiglia Italian restaurant in Hales Corners (Which I highly recommend by the way). Tad and I were there on a date sans children of course but there was a family there with their kids who were so well-behaved and sweet. They seemed like such a cool family. So I wrote them a note:
Your kids are so impressive--well behaved and sweet.
You must be really good parents.
You seem like such a cool family.
I sneaked a peek back as we walked out and they were smiling as the mom shared the note.

So last night Tad and I ate at EE-Sane Thai restaurant and he ordered his food at a spiciness level of 3.  When the food arrived he said that it was super spicy and he was glad he didn't get a 4.  Shortly after a group of four came in and were deliberating upon which spiciness level to order.  Tad and I deliberated over whether we should lean over and tell them about Tad's spicy 3.   They asked the server if the cook was "spicy" and she said "Yes."  So they settled on a 4 and then called her back and changed it to 5.
"Too late now." Tad said.  We had to leave before they got their food but I was so curious as to whether they would find their spiciness level intolerable.  What I REALLY wanted to do was give them my phone number and tell them to text me after they tasted their food.  I wanted to know the end of the story!!!  I did not do this but it prompted Tad and I to come up with some rules and thoughts for my social experiment.

It will be called "Operation Connection" and while I'm not quite sure about all the details of the Mission of this (since these instances seem to happen at random times with varying missions), I have decided that the Vision will be to create more connection among people around me.  So here are the rules:

1. The people or person must be aware that they are being or could be overheard.
2. The people or person must be smiling more than not smiling (There may be an addendum to this rule since sometimes I really like to talk to people who seem unapproachable)
3. My personal knowledge, contribution or seeking of knowledge to/from said party must be specifically relevant to what I heard them say
4. Any request for information or information shared with people or person involved must correspond with information which I would be comfortable sharing or having shared with me.

So those are the rules. I shall document when such things occur and let you know how it goes! 
Have a lovely Saturday.  I hope you connect with someone today.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's a magic science lamp!

So every year, about this time, Tad and I begin to get the calls from teachers. 
Coen is being a bit disruptive in class.
Coen is unaware of his body movements and sometimes flops into other students, disturbing their work.
Coen is saying inappropriate words.
Coen is making noises all day long. I don't think he even notices he's doing it.
Coen seems to be in his own little world.

Tad and I have wondered about S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or perhaps he's just not getting enough exercise to round out his enormous amount of energy.  At any rate, this year we finally went online, did some research and bought him a Happy Lamp.  This is a form of light therapy, that can elevate mood and energy during the dark and cold of the winter.  The lights arrived in the mail Tuesday and we set one up in Coen's room for his reading time at night and one in the dining room to shine on all of us while we eat breakfast.  They're lovely.

So, when we opened the boxes I said, "They're magic lamps!"
Coen looked up. "Magic? What do they do?"
Tad sighed. "Sorry honey, but these are Montessori kids.  We can explain the science of the thing."
"Fine." I said. "They're science lamps."

In Montessori, the teacher gives the First Great Lesson to the students. They learn about how the entire universe came into being.  The teacher talks to them about stars and the sun born in a cosmic instance out of clumps of particles being pulled together.  They get to see a balloon pop and a volcano erupt during this lesson.  They learn about the speed and importance of light to human beings (that lesson comes later, as do humans). So Tad is now a Montessori teacher and my children are Montessori students.  They can understand the science of the sun and vitamin D and mood and energy.  Sot Tad explained it to them as we sat under the light of the happy lamps.  
Last night I went to tuck in Coen and he asked me to turn on his happy lamp.  "Sure, I said. I'll turn on your magic science lamp."

A fair compromise, don't you think?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm not a flake!

When my head gets cluttered, I make mistakes. That's all that it is.  Really!

I was supposed to recruit a teen or two to attend an upcoming conference with me in March--The Wisconsin Teen Dating Violence Summit--fun, huh?  But all I could find were boys.  Which is cool, except that the conference requires that all teens are chaperoned and I may be a dedicated youth leadership specialist, but I am not sleeping in the same room with the boys I serve.  Nuh uh.  So, finally I found a teen and both his parents want to go with him.  Yay me!  But then I looked at our budget for the grant under which this event falls and we have no more money left for travel and conferencing.  Crap.  So, I had to email our funder to ask her for more money for this family to go...

This funder already gives a lot of money for my program.  And the person who used to be in charge of it here is a WAY different personality than me. And our funder LOVED her.  I'm not sure that she loves me so much.  Where the other program manager was serious and stoic, I am silly and bubbly.  Where she was calm, cool and focused, I am excited, energetic and sort of scattered.  You see?  None of these are bad qualities--just different.  SO--I had to email our funder--and ask for more money.  Eeek!  She said we could move some line items around, but that we should hurry up and register because the conference was filling up. 

So I said, I'd get them registered but that I was already registered. I registered in December.

She wrote me back.  Apparently I am not registered.  My name is not in their system at all. Perhaps I should check into this and get registered because as she said, it's filling up.

I opened the file where I keep all my conference stuff and lo and behold.  My registration and signed pre-approval and check request. Never. Sent. CRAP!!!

I went to my boss who was gracious and understanding and took me to get the agency credit card.

I went to register online and a big screen popped up which said "Registration Full"  ARGH!!!   So I called our funder and left a really frantic message about how its full and hopefully she can fit me in and my teen and family already did register which is great but I want to be there with them.  Perhaps they could fit me in? And on and one I went.

Then I hung up and looked at my computer. 
I was trying to register for 2010. 

So, I registered online successfully and then sheepishly called back to say that she could disregard my email and my voicemail and that I was all set.  And registered.

Now I'm waiting for her response.  Part of me thinks it would be really funny to call again and leave a message, asking why she's not calling me back and if she's mad at me. 
Wouldn't that be hilarious?
Prolly not.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Schmalentines Day!

Yesterday when I picked the kids up from school, I reminded them that the next day would be Valentine's Day.  Coen said "Oh no! I never finished making my cards!  Remember that blog post? When my kids made it through the making of one to three valentines before they lost interest.  Luckily I had purchased (yes, purchased) a box of Phineaus and Ferb cards for Coen for such an event.  And I took a very cute picture of Lucy and put pretty paper behind several copies for her to take to class. 
And so Coen wrote all his classmate's names on his cards and Lucy wrote her name on the backs of all her cards and I was happy and satisfied with a job well done.  Then Tad came downstairs and reported that Lucy needed to bring a treat to school tomorrow.
Me: What?
Tad: She said Ms. Pat said that everyone needs to bring a treat.
Me: No!  She is bringing her cards and pencils for everyone. I already told her that!
Then I stomped away in a cloud of inexplicable ire, muttering under my breath and cursing Valentines, until I realized how funny that was.  I walked back into the kitchen.
Me: Sorry I got so mad.
Tad: (With a smirk on his face?)  This is why Valentines is a crock.  But you had to see Lucy. I tucked her in and kissed her goodnight and just as I was leaving, she looked at me, tears in her eyes and said, "But Daddy, Ms. Pat said we have to bring a treat tomorrow."  What could I say?
Me: Oh, she worked you over!
Tad: That may well be, but I'll take them to the store in the morning to get treats on the way to school.

I knew I was just mad because I had worked so hard on their valentines and thought about it so long and made sure they had something for weeks and weeks leading up to it.  And then the day before, Tad waltzes in and proclaims that they'll all stop at the store tomorrow for treats.

I gotta remember this next year.  At any rate, the children are off to school with heart-shaped pizza slices and heart-shaped jello jigglers.  (Yeah, I'm still a sap).  As they drove away, Tad rolled down his window and said in his most theatrical of voices "The Heart-est felt of Valentines to you, my love!". And I shouted back "And the same to you, my darling!"  They drove away and I'm sure any neighbors out shovelling would have thought we were the sweetest, not knowing the sarcasm with which these sentiments were shouted. 

Happy SCHMValentines!  Here are my three favorite designs.  Enjoy. And Valentines Schmalentines to you!

This was my original idea.  It was first done one lined notebook paper with crayon at the table in 1998 with good friends.

Meat grinder! Hee hee.

This is another of my originals, inspired, of course, by the Exorcist girl.
Whether you love this day and will be the recipient or giver of flowers and chocolates, or you despise this day, and all its consumerist fan fare, or you're somewhere in the middle, have a wonderful one no matter what.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Because the greatest....

I do not usually get into discussions on the lives of the famous--be it wedding, divorce, death, birth, who lost how many pounds, who looks better in what and the list goes on....
I don't much care.

However. I must spend today's blog on Whitney Houston, who-as you know-has died.  I remember standing on the arm of our living room couch--a black velour, aging piece of furniture--looking at myself in the mirror over the fireplace, singing The Greatest Love of All and really really feeling it.  I wanted to be shown all the beauty I possessed inside!  When, in class, we were asked our role model, from 1985-1990, I said proudly "Whitney Houston".  When Tad and I got together, he put I Wanna Dance with Somebody on one of my mix CDs and I was again sure that he was the right person for me.

So, in honor of Whitney, I will tell you a funny story about me, as a youth and Whitney (sort of).

When I was in 7th grade, in our speech class, we had to do a graded lip sync performance.  The boy I liked at the time, Ryan, did Whitesnake's Here I go Again on my Own complete with a guitar prop and dance moves. I Think We're Alone Now by Tiffany, Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer, and of course Walk Like an Egyptian were all performed by my various classmates.  But I chose Whitney Houston's Greatest Love of All.  While my classmates did dance routines, dressed like their chosen performer, or had props to look like the song's original video as they'd perhaps seen late in the evening on NBC's Friday Night Videos, I (always longing to be different from everyone else) did something else entirely.  I sat on a stool in front of my class with a stuffed-animal monkey puppet (my favorite animal and the only puppet I could find).  My puppet had Easter grass on its head for hair (I had a perm) and we both had matching large-beaded, neon-colored necklaces, and a microphone in hand.  And we traded versus of Whitey's hit song.  I started it out "I believe that children are our future..." And my puppet took over at "I decided long ago never to walk in any one's shadow..."  And when the chorus started "Because the greatest love of all is happening to me...", me and my puppet sang with great passion; I turned its head so we were looking each other in the eye while we sang. 

I know when I planned out my lip sync (I got an A, by the way) I thought it was a brilliantly funny and strange thing to do--funny and strange were my favorite ways to be--but now, as an adult, I can't believe what a weirdo I was.  And how brave I was too, I suppose.  I'm glad, even though I withstood a lot of bullying and meanness because of my strangeness, that I still wanted to be who I was.  And I'm glad I've grown into an adult who has embraced her weirdness.

And Whitney, thanks.  The way you sang the words "Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier. Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be" still resonate with me today. Learning to love yourself IS the greatest love of all.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kalahari in pictures

Coen and Lucy taking the red slide in tandem. Lucy's first year going on slides all by herself!

Bottom of the slide. Lucy's so proud of herself.

I got an award at my conference!  The Distinguished Adult Service Provider award!  Wow.

These three played in the water park all day while I conferenced.

Crazy kids in the water park.   

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kalahari here we come

Tomorrow we go to Wisconsin Dells for the Wisconsin Statewide Transition Conference at the Kalahari, which I go to every year and bring my family.  The kids have been counting down the days since about thirty days ago and were so happy this morning at the breakfast table when they could say "TOMORROW we go to the Kalahari". 

Last year when we went, I wrote this particular blog post after I felt like my kids were taking it a bit for granted the super fun thing they get to do.  Coen assured me this morning after spooning a big bite of grapefruit in his mouth, "Mom, this year, I'll be pretty much happy the whole time, I think."  They both speculated on which slides they'd go down and with whom and I started thinking about how we've been going on this February trip since 2007. 

Coen checking out the game room on his first trip to the Kalahari

Lucy, in her very first swimming suit February 2007
 I think it's lovely that we've been doing this for as long as we have.  We always spend most of our time in the water park and then dry off in our room in front of the fireplace.  I think, despite the fact that I'll be working much of the time, I'm looking forward to it almost as much as they are.

I'll likely not write until our return.  I'll let you know how it went.  And which slides we went down.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Frickin' Valentines

Don't worry. He's not flipping you off. He's flipping February 14th off.

This will not be my only anti-Valentine's post. Just let me warn you that, right off the bat.  First of all, I have never liked Valentines day. It's a day of "supposed to's" You're supposed to be in a romantic relationship with someone. And if you're not, you're left out of Valentine's Day  If you're in a relationship, you're supposed to give flowers, cards, chocolate....  Which means you're supposed to spend money on things you don't need.  To let the person you're with KNOW that you love and feel romantically about them. Why do we need a day for that? Can't we surprise our loved ones with spontaneous gestures, "I love you's" and the like all throughout the year? Why just on this one day?  So, I call it Schmalentines Day, as in Valentine's Schmalentines.  And I make Schmalentine's which are anti-valentine-sentiment-ed cards.  I love them.

Do you want a Schmalentine?  Okay!  The first five people to comment on this post ON the blog website, will get a Schmalentine.  Don't worry, my feelings won't be hurt if you don't want one. You might just get one anyway.

The other reason I don't like Valentine's is that my kids need Valentines to take to school.  I don't like to buy the licensed character ones.  So this means for the past many years I have taken great pains to MAKE my kids' Valentines to bring to school.  As Coen has gotten older, and now Lucy too, it means the excruciating task of trying to get them to sign their names on 30 little cards, or worse yet MAKE thirty little cards. They don't want to do this. I don't want to make them do this! But every year,for some insane reason, I want to be one of the moms who's kids have handmade Valentines.  WHY?  Because I'm an artist, of sorts.  I like to make things. My kids like to make things (well, okay they like to make one thing. At a time. In the span of an hour, usually. They're not really mass producers.)

On Sunday, I hauled out lace hearts and craft supplies and crayons and markers.  I said to Coen and Lucy, "Who wants to make Valentines?!!"  Both of them said "ME!!!"
Coen made one.  One! And then went  back to his post on the couch, reading his Pokemon book.
"Coen" I said, "You have thirty friends in your class.  Do you want to have Valentines to bring or not?"
"Mom." He said. "Valentines Day isn't even until next week.
But it's not like he's going to take this task up himself.  I suppose I should just not worry about whether he has Valentines to take to school or not.  He knows it's next week. He knows where the art supplies are.  If he has nothing to bring, he has nothing to bring.  Why do I care?!

Lucy made four.  But one was for me.  Very sweet, yes, I know, but she also has thirty classmates.
"I'm tired of making these." She said, holding one up. "I don't like this one." She ripped it.
I wanted to cry.  It was really cute and it took her at least thirty minutes to make.

Later on I came out of the bedroom with some construction paper and saw Coen. I opened my mouth to speak.
"Please don't talk about Valentines Mom." Coen said.
I tried to get Tad to commiserate.
"You're the maker of Schmalentines." He said, not commiserating. "Why do you care about this so much?"

I really don't know.  I suppose that I shall help my younger child as she is four and can't be expected to sit and make 30 cards.  And when she, as her brother is, in 2nd grade, I shall place the proverbial box of chocolates in her court.  Or in her heart-shaped-box.  As it were.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hurricanes, skipping stones and seagulls

Today we had a winter beach excursion. 
Last weekend, as we drove past Bradford Beach and saw all the frozen piles of snow and ice at the shore, Coen declared that he wanted to go down there and pretend we were in the middle of a frozen hurricane.  So we promised we would do so and do so we did, this morning. 
The snow and ice had melted away in the sixty degree weather of last week, but Coen and Lucy, clad in snow pants and boots anyway, did not care. 
Coen climbed rocks, skipped stones and watched the waves with his daddy. 
Lucy and I ran down the beach, yelling to the seagulls, who flew away nervously and wrote letters and drew pictures in the sand.
 It was funny to two boys were content to stay relatively in one spot, spending most of their time introspective and wave watching.
The two of us girls, really never stopped moving: running around, playing in the sand, and screaming at seagulls. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cycling with the moon...

For a long long time, I have cycled with the moon.  It makes me feel powerful.  Like my own body can be in tune with the pull of gravity from moon to earth.  How lovely.  I am alive and strong and connected to all living things.

Except when I'm not.

I am pre-menstrual.  Yep. I'm just putting it out there.  And I know you can handle it readers, because either you are women or you intimately know women, most of you. 

I am in turns, depressed, weepy, pissed off, irritable, feeling like there's just nothing to look forward to, crabby, snapping, needing a hug, and then not wanting to be touched at all.  My body is puffy. I wake in the night drenched with sweat.  I shed layers and lay there, disgusting and freezing.  WTF, hormones?!!!! 

 I have just finished eating four squares of a chocolate caramel bar.  I want more coffee.  Lucinda Williams is making me cry my face off.  This morning I barely spoke to Tad, now I desperately miss him.  I look in the mirror and imagine myself probably three times larger than I really am.  I am not saying such pleasant things to my reflection.  Then, Gosh, Alie, Lay off!  Then I laugh. I'm talking to myself in the mirror. How silly.  Holy cow, I'm a maniac!

And eventually, as the full moon draws near, I will suddenly come back to myself again. I'll feel like a fog has lifted. I'll feel light and happy and remember how wonderful my life is.  And then I'll bleed. My body and mind will be my own again.

What a strange, wonderful, difficult thing it is to be female. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A not so subtle entrance, or exit.

I am not a slick, sly or subtle person in the least.  The slier, slicker or subtler I try to be, the louder, bumpier and more obnoxious I get.

Just ask my husband, at five thirty in the morning when I'm trying to get my running gear on and I'm dropping shoes, bumping into the wall and opening the creaky closet door for the fifth time.

Just ask my kids, pre-wake-up on Saturday when I'm trying to "surprise" everyone with pancakes.  Meanwhile I'm dropping pans, opening overfilled cupboards, cups and Tupperware falling loudly to the floor.

Just ask anyone who's ever lived with me.

Quiet and calm, I am not.

The other day, I went to a meeting. I was non-committal about it from the start. I only went because I have a problem with saying 'no' and thought I'd just see what it was about and perhaps then say no later.   I sat down as quietly as I could on my chair.  I gingerly pulled my paper tablet out of my purse.  Apparently a stack of my business cards were hooked onto the pen that hooked on to the tablet and the cards flew out all over myself and my neighbor.  Sort of Alice in Wonderland-ish... Like a card trick gone wrong.

I could not suppress my giggles, try but I might.  Then after picking up all the fallen cards and re-situating myself, I sat quietly (really!) as the meeting started. I even contributed like a real professional.
I went to take a drink of my water and spilled it on my shirt.  As I pulled the dripping bottle away from my face, a small tidal wave seemed to have gone on inside of it and it splashed out, across the table, leaving little water drips on table and floor alike.
An hour in, I had to leave.  Leaving was not too bad; I had pre-written a note to her about what help I could lend.  After writing it, I changed my mind and put it back in my bag.  Then when the woman facilitating looked at me as I passed her, I knelt down and apologized for my early departure. And on second thought gave her my note.  When I left the building I went through a wrong door and almost through an alarmed one before I was stopped by a staff member who guided me out the right way.

It really wasn't that bad. Nor out of the ordinary for my usual exits and entrances.  I'm just glad I'm not a secret agent.  Or a Librarian.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I did it!

So, yesterday I challenged myself to be patient with the kids this morning.  I know I am not alone when I say that getting children up, dressed, fed, and out of the house on weekdays is perhaps one of the least pleasant aspects of parenting.  But I know that, like all things, my attitude can shape the way things feel, however unpleasant things can be. 

And I did it.  I went into this morning promising myself (and you) not to become irately impatient when getting Coen and Lucy out the door. And I did not.  Yay!

And it was not without its challenges.  Lucy took her time getting out of bed, laying there and telling me all of her dreams and claiming that she was "much too tired to get up yet".  Coen too was taking his time.
I went in his room and rubbed his head and said, "Why don't you get dressed and go on down stairs and see what Daddy's doing." 
To my surprise, Coen was up and dressed in the time it takes him on the weekend when we're going sledding. I was impressed. 
"Wow!" I said, "You were such a good listener." 
"What's Daddy doing?" Coen said with excitement.
Then I realized, he thought that I was sending him down to see Tad doing something out of the ordinary.
"Oh..." I said.  "He's just getting breakfast ready.  I thought you'd like to go down there."
"Awwwww" Coen groaned.  "I thought Daddy was doing something exciting."
"Well..." I said, "It is February. You could watch him change the calendar!"
Meanwhile, Lucy was now out of one layer of pajamas but still had more to go and dragged her half undressed self into the hallway by Coen.
"Wanna hear about my dreams?"
"Lucy..." I said, "Why don't you finish getting dressed and we'll tell him about it at breakfast.

Finally we were downstairs and the kids ate surprisingly fast. 

Then it was time to go.

Coen first put on his boots and coat and then I reminded him about his snow pants and he took everything off and then suddenly was sitting on the floor, reading a book, making no attempt to get his stuff on again.
Lucy hid under couch cushions until I found her, then hid under the art easel until I found her and then finally began the arduous process of getting her snow pants on.  After they were on, she went in the playroom and began drawing.
"Lucy, it's time to go, honey. Come on." (I say a similar phrase each morning, but today I said it with kindness in my voice)
She brought a doll with her and said, "Can I kiss my baby goodbye?"
"Yes" I said, "But get your coat on first.
She did put her coat on and then proceeded to sit on the stairs with her baby, giving her a long and drawn out series of kisses and hugs.
Meanwhile, Coen, now in his snow pants and boots, had found a book on the china cabinet and was reading it.
"Coen.  It's time to get going."
"Mommy?"  Lucy piped in.  "Can you find the crown for my baby?"
I sighed. "I will look in one spot for the crown, but you need to get your hat and mittens on while I do."
I found it and she crowned her baby, gave her some more goodbye love and placed her on the steps.  "Can I bring a stuffed animal for school today?"
Coen came in, all dressed and ready to go.  "Oh! And I need a book!"
Both of them tromped upstairs, snow pants swishing and boots clomping.  I waited. And breathed. Deeply.

Finally they came down. We got in the car.  I looked at the clock. It had been exactly twenty minutes since I uttered the phrase, "Okay guys, it's time to go."

In the car I said, "Well this is exciting! Now I know that it takes exactly twenty minutes for you guys to get in the car! And now I know that every day I take you, I have to tell you that its time to go twenty minutes before its actually time to go. Isn't that exciting?"
I looked at them in the rear view mirror. They looked at each other and said in unison, "No."

Ah, but we made it.