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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Make YOUR Dream List!

Yesterday Lindsay Blake from the Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs) came to our house to interview me about my 'momblog'. She was young, energetic and reminded me how important it is to keep dreaming! On her website, she has a dream list. When I was much younger, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I died. A dream list sounds much more optimistic. Anyway, take a look at this girl's list! (The link is below.) Note the bolded items. (She's already done those.)Anyway, I encourage you all to take a look and make a list of your own. Maybe you won't skydive, go to Pakistan or fly a plane yourself, but heck, I don't know. Maybe you will! The point is don't forget to dream! I'm reissuing my "dreamlist" this weekend. It will be a perfect activity on the way to KC.

PS Know any other mom blogs in this part of Iowa? Post a comment for Lindsay's article!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Creative Parenting Techniques

When I was pregnant with my first child, I envisioned myself being the perfect mom. I would feed them well, dress them well and teach them many, many of life’s lessons.

Sometimes my best intentions turn awry. The whole feeding thing has been a disaster ever since they got off the bottle. Dressing them how I want them to look has turned into a challenge of unimaginable scale. But the teachings of life’s lessons are hit and miss. Take this week for example.

Alex calls me at work.

“Mom? I think Cole needs therapy. He’s scared of a butterfly! He said one chased him and he won’t go back outside!"

“Let me talk to him.” (Alex puts Cole on the phone.)

“Cole, don’t you know that butterflies are beautiful creatures sent from God? As a matter of fact, I wonder sometimes if butterflies are actually angels with their big, beautiful wings! And they fly so graciously, they must be angels! So, you see? There's nothing to be afraid of. Now, hug your sister and go back outside.”

I’m thinking I was pretty clever with this one. Cole will now always look at butterflies with thoughts of angels. He'll probably go on to tell his kids and grandkids the same story about butterflies being angels!

My cell phone rings 30 seconds later.

“Mom? What did you say to Cole? He's really crying now! He said the butterfly attacked his face.”

Oh boy. So he probably thinks that an angel from God was after him. I scared the poor little boy. Regroup. Think. Courage. This boy needs courage. Like the lion on the Wizard of Oz, which we just happened to watch Sunday night.(I hadn't heard Cole laugh so hard in a long time. And he wasn't at all scared of the flying monkeys. Go figure.)

“Alex, here's what you do. Dress him up in our lion's costume. Tell him he’s the lion on the Wizard of Oz. Then bestow the badge of courage on him. See if that works.”

And so it did. Well, at least it got him away from the scary butterfly for awhile.

My whole point is that sometimes my techniques work out. Sometimes they're a bitter failure. But even when I scare the crap out of them, my kids somehow always end up okay. And why is that?

Because the only responsibility that truly matters is to love them. I never screw that up.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gearing up for Halloween, in July

If your household is anything like our household, you discuss Halloween costumes at least twice a week. Unless, of course it’s September or October. Then we discuss costumes a few times a day. As we edge toward August, costume discussions are becoming more frequent.

Alex seems to be going through a latent princess stage of sorts. I could barely get her to dress in frilly costumes when she was a little girl. She preferred Blue from Blue’s Clue, Simba the Lion King, or scary witch people. The one time I convinced her to be a princess, she demanded an ugly princess costume from Wal-Mart. She looked more like a peasant than a princess. But now, she wants to look pretty again. Last year we ordered a costume through the Internet. I was a little embarrassed to receive the angel/devil costume at work. The package came from a company called “Hotsy-Totsy”.

Anyway, I divert from my cute story. Last night, Alex informed us that she and her friends were going as old movie stars and she was going to be Audrey Hepburn. Doug asked, “why not Marilyn Monroe?” Alex explained that Lexi already called that one. But they were unsure about other old movie stars for Mikayla and Maggie.(I’m not even sure if Lexi and Alex have discussed this idea with their other two Halloween buddies.)As we were all contemplating other old movie stars, the solution came out of Cole’s mouth.

“How about Mary Poppins?”

Perfect! Audrey, Marilyn and Mary Poppins. I couldn’t think of a better fit. Now, who will be the fourth Hollywood movie star? Maybe Phyllis Diller? It would certainly be humorous.

So we'll see what the four girls come up with. As for Cole's pick? Well, he takes costume-hunting to a completely different level. Much more to come on this...

Sidenote: Doug and I have decided to go as the Orkin bug people. You know, like the ones on the commercials? So, if you know anyone that has a really good bug costume…

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Girl Crazy? At the Age of 6?

"So, Emma's been your girlfriend for quite a while now, huh?" My dad asks Cole.

"Yeah." Cole pauses. "I think it's the real thing."

When Cole was 3 years old, I developed a much greater appreciation for my husband and his, well, intrigue of the female form. As Cole sifted through Victoria's Secret catalogs and pointed out the pretty girls, I decided that perhaps boys are simply wired that way.

But I'm faced with this challenge of ensuring that my little boy grows up to be respectful of women. He's forbidden to call any girl "hot", even though, he's informed me that calling a girl 'pretty' doesn't sound very cool around your friends.

"I don't care. It doesn't matter what a girl looks like anyway as long as she's nice. And smart." (The smart comment is a seed to plant for his future bride search.) "Just make sure you treat all girls with respect."

Who knows how far my words will go. But I do know one thing. Superheros generally treat women with respect. Heck, they even save them once in awhile.

Who says chivalry is dead?

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Joy Gone Amiss

One of the greatest joys of motherhood I have found, as my daughter inches her way toward teenhood, is to embarrass her by putting on my 'cool-hip' mom act. It's most entertaining if her friends are around. To be a cool-hip mom, simply try a few of these tactics:

1. Make known your opinion of any Disney star such as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato or The Jonas Brothers. Don't forget to mention which boys you think are the cutest.
2. Sing loudly to pop songs on the radio. Rihanna or Leona Lewis songs work well, but any pop star will do.
3. Use terminology such as bling or OMG. (I wasn't even trying to embarrass Alex when I told her I liked the hat with more bling. "Uh, Mom. Don't say that. Bling. It sounds, well, like you're trying to be young.")
4. Explain to your daughter's friends that you're more of a 'BFF' than a mother. (This is my personal favorite. The mortified look on her face is priceless.)

But be careful not to overdo, as I have done. I'm currently doing my best not to embarrass the little tween, since this joy of mine has somewhat backfired. The other day as Alex and I were in the car she starts a conversation like this:

"Mom! Hannah tells her mom everything!"

I'm wondering why she is so surprised.

"Yeah, so? Like you tell me, right?"

"NO! I mean she, like, tells her which boys at school she thinks are cute."

"You mean, you DO think some boys are cute? And you don't tell me? Even though I ask and ask?"

"No way! You'll tell everyone. I know you. You'll tell Amy. Or blog about it."

But I wouldn't tell that! I know the girls' code of honor on sharing cute boy secrets. But how would she know that? I blab about anything that vaguely entertains me.

But not anymore. I'm vowing, in order to strengthen my relationship with my daughter, to only tell embarrassing stories about Cole. At least until I find out what boy she likes at school.

(Just kidding, Alex!!)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fearful Fascinations

When Alex was five she developed a great interest in snakes. "Yuck," I thought. My cousin, Timbra, loved snakes. When we were little and would play outside, she would scout them out. Upon the sighting of a garter snake, she'd pick up the little devil and delight at my unabashed screams of terror. So Alex was going to follow in my cousin's footsteps. Or, at least I thought.

During this 'snake' phase, we visited the zoo. I put on my brave mom-face to visit the Pavillion where the reptiles were showcased. It immediately became evident that Alex wasn't really the snake charmer she claimed to be. As a matter of fact, she was a bit reluctant to look at the snakes at all. I pretended to enjoy the sights of the slimy, creepy serpents while beckoning her to take a look. She politely informed me that she was fine standing a fair distance from the cages. Apparently her fascination was laced with fear.

Now Cole has a similar fascination. Only his object of attention (not affection) is none other than, 'The Joker'. Most of you know Cole's history of superheros. It all started with Buzz Lightyear and quickly went to Spiderman. Then Batman. Then Spiderman. Then Darth Vader. Then Spiderman. Then Superman (very short-lived). Then Spiderman. Then Darth Vader. Then a short-lived stunt with Iron Man. Oh, and I suppose The Power Rangers need to be mentioned as well.

Obviously, we're focused on Batman right now with all the Dark Knight publicity. (It helps that Doug has mentioned that Batman is the only really cool superhero.) So despite our incessant discussions of Bruce Wayne along with the devising and revising of costumes, we will not be visiting the big screen this weekend for the premiere. No Sirree. Well, have you SEEN The Joker? He's pretty creepy. As a matter of fact, Cole won't even watch the previews. He hides his eyes. Then demands to have a full recount of how The Joker looked and what he did.

Doug hates to see his son be so open about his fear. "Fine. You'll have to stay home. The rest of us will go see the movie." Cole immediately responds, "You and Alex go. Mom will stay with me." Cole knows me too well. And he really wants to hear about the movie. Whether we venture to The Dark Knight or not remains to be seen.

There must be a fine line between fear and fascination -- at least for our kids. The good news is that Alex no longer obsesses about snakes. But she is awfully fascinated about boys -- especially Nick Jonas. It's a good thing we bought her Jonas Brother concert tickets, only of course, so she can face her fear...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stupid Mom Tricks

I now have a reason to laugh every morning as I give my kids their allergy medicine. Normally, I don't take medicine-taking in such a jovial manner. But it now reminds me of an occurrence that happened two weeks ago when we took our adventurous escape to Des Moines.

On the way, I realized I had completely forgotten both of the kid's allergy medicine. So we stopped at a convenience store and I found Claritin -- not specifically made for children, but the label, which I read diligently, said could be used for kids and adults. I also wanted the kind that dissolves in the mouth, so no drink was necessary. (Why I needed this feature I'm unsure, since we all had our own sodas by then.)

Anyway, I distributed the medicine in the car and instructed the kids to allow the pill to dissolve in their mouth. They obliged without any fuss.

The next morning, I disbursed the allergy medicine for the day. Cole said, "UGH!" and ran into the bathroom. Alex complained, "Oh, do we have to?"

What? The day's only beginning and we're already whining? Only the second day into our little escape!

"What's going on? It's just allergy medicine."

As Cole remained in the bathroom, Alex groaned, "But they taste horrible!"

They taste horrible? They just dissolve in your mouth, right? Wait, don't they dissolve in your mouth? I grabbed the label, which I so carefully read yesterday. Hmmm. Nope -- not a word about dissolving in the mouth. These pills were to be swallowed.

I was so proud of the kids. They sat in their seats during our travels, sucking on a bitter pill until it was gone -- without one complaint! Of course, I'm not completely sure that Cole didn't spit his out. But not my faithful Alex. She let the horrible-tasting pill evaporate in her mouth.

So, what's amiss here? They'll eat a yucky pill but gag if I serve them broccoli.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

From my Daughter

Yesterday I was down with a migraine -- one of the worst that I had suffered in a long time. Lucky for me, my 11-year old daughter, Alex, has converted into a caretaker! We've obviously turned a corner in our household. Prior to yesterday, it wouldn't matter how sick I was. I still had to take care of the kids. Alex asked me numerous times if there was anything she could do for me and made sure she intercepted Cole's requests. The house turned into quite a disaster, but it didn't matter. I only had to get off the couch if I thought I was going to throw up! What really touched my heart was this get-well card that Alex wrote...

Mom I really want you to feel better, because I love you. It’s always so lifeless in this house when you’re sick. So I wanted to write this for you so your day will be a little bit brighter in the gloom of a headache. So hear are 7 reasons why I love you…
You always have a positive attitude!
Your smile is so bright!
You have so many people who love you!
Your so funny!
You wanted to become a writer and you did it!
I love it when you do that “cat whisperer”!
I can talk to you about anything!

So that was 7 things I love about you!

With love,

I told her I would post it on my blog. She asked if I could put a decent picture of her once. ("What? They're all so cute!") Anyway, per her request...

And for those of you who are wondering about the "cat whisperer", for another time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Recipe for Peace Negotiations

I'm an only child. So it's been interesting for me to watch the interplay between Alex and Cole. For the most part, they get along well. But it's starting to become a long summer between an 11-year old girl and a 6-year old boy. Alex has had to hear an awful lot about superheros (especially a fearful fascination of The Joker, which will come up in another blog) and Cole has had to endure much about clothes and decor for a new bedroom. Commonly-heard comments in the house right now?

"Cole! Quit! Oh, my gosh! You are so full of yourself." Along with the standard roll of the eyes. or

"Alex! You always do that! Quit chewing your food so loud." With a gruff slide to the next chair.

The other day the argument was getting heated. Tears were starting to roll. I remembered this trick my friend Amy taught me.

"Kids!Come here."

They astutely came into the living room.

"Now, face each other and hug. You can't quit until I say so." (I think Amy uses the hand-holding method which works well too.)

They groan. But they oblige me. Within seconds they are laughing. It works everytime!

Last night a water fight turned ugly, as I predicted it would. (Cole overstepped his boundaries when he drenched Alex wearing a favorite vest. Never mind that she drenched him first.)They ran in the house bickering. I stopped the chatter in a second with my "Stop! Enough! You knew that was going to happen!" Then I walked into the living room and pulled up the laptop to show the kids something funny I had seen on the Internet. They needed a laugh to break up the tension. So, I called them in.

They walked in with their heads down. Cole spoke, "We already did it."

"Did what?"

"We hugged."

Now, isn't that sweet? I wonder what would happen if we made a few world leaders hug?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Back to Work, After a Week Off..

A Message to Boomers...

I really do have a great respect for all you Baby Boomers. After all, you are a pretty cool bunch. You brought us The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and other way-awesome bands. You made this country realize how important diversity is. You redefined the role of grandparents by refusing to age. There is no doubt that the Boomer generation deserves respect. But there’s an issue we don’t see eye-to-eye…

Is it really so bad that we younger generations would like a better balance between work and family? The nights I leave the office by 5:00, my boss looks at the clock and makes a comment like, “Oh, you’re leaving already?” Yep. And it isn’t like I’m going to go home, put my feet up and eat bon-bons. If I don’t have to pick up a prescription or get groceries or run kids to some activity, I’m usually rushing home to toss in one load of laundry (so the kids have underwear tomorrow) while making a mediocre supper and skimming the daily headlines so I have a vague idea of what’s going on in the world. Quality time usually begins around 9:00.

Well, that kind of sucks! We’re all half-dead by that time.

My Boomer Mom and my Boomer Dad raised me to work hard and get ahead. I do believe in hard work. It’s good for many more reasons than “keeping up with the Jones’” – like contributing to society, putting food on the table, etc. But I you know what I think? I think we should all wake up at a reasonable hour to take a long walk, smell a flower and spend time talking with the kids in the morning. I think we should get home early enough to take the family to the park, play some catch and settle down in the evening and read a good book together.

It’s been said that Boomers live to work. That’s fine if that’s really what makes them happy. (I think there’s a badge of honor associated with number of hours worked. Or maybe it’s just more money.) But I’d rather work to live. And really live. So, what do you say Boomers? Should we reduce the work week to 40 hours? Maybe 39?

Yeah. That’s what I thought you’d say! 

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Thrill Seeking

You know how everyone always says, "Kids these days! You can't get them out of the house. When I was a kid, you couldn't keep me in the house." I hear this phrase most often from my husband. Well, the truth is, I must have been one of the pioneers of 'staying in the house'. As a matter of fact, Mom told me that I would only go outside if she went with me.

When it comes to thrill-seeking, or searching for adventure, Doug and I are complete opposites. This polarity has been blatently apparent in the past few days.

Doug loves roller coasters. I will tolerate, because I'm trying to be supportive of his interests like good companions do. Neither of our kids seek out the roller coasters at amusement parks, but like all good kids, they like to make their parents happy. Last Wednesday our family visited Adventureland. We all faithfully accompanied Doug on the Tornado. Cole and I backed out of the Outlaw. We all refused the Dragon. He was disappointed, as I defended my stance that not everyone is cut out for heart-stopping, brain-shaking thrills. I find pleasure in looking at a simple flower or watching the penguins play. Zoos and botanicals gardens bore him to death. Want to get a sincere smile out of Doug? Check out those pictures from the roller coaster rides -- when his hands are in the air as he's sailing down a ridiculously steep rail.

Now, I realize that I worry beyond reason. Run through the sprinkler? Only if Dad or I are watching! And don't run too fast!! Play with sparklers? Only if I follow you around closely, after your Dad has lit the spark while you stand ten feet away. (Okay, this didn't really happen, but that's how my mind thinks.)

Today, Alex ran inside and told me she was going to drive the 4-wheeler back to the farm to pick up her dad. Of course, this was upon Doug's instructions. "Are you sure you don't want me to go instead?" She considered it a moment. She's so much like me. But then replied, "No, Dad says I can do it." I held my breath and said a little prayer until I heard the sound of the 4-wheeler returning.

So, I guess I'm making progress as an insufferable worry-wart. The pictures above indicate that I merely 'photographed' the kids with the sparklers. I wasn't following them around for their own protection. Really.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cupboards, Drawers and Closets, Oh My!

This particular posting is dedicated to two of my closest friends, Amy and Lyn, who are not completely anal or obsessive-compulsive.

Have you ever been at a friend's house and opened a cupboard to be taken back by the categorical positioning of each color, shape and theme of dishware? Now, as many of you know, I'm absolutely at-ease with my cooking deficiencies. But I'm starting to wonder if I suffer from something opposite of OCD. Maybe it's called Closet Clutter Disease, or Shove-It-All-In-A-Drawer Disease.

On the outside, my house appears fairly well in order. But after visiting my aforementioned friends this past weekend, I took pictures of my cupboards and drawers. The first step in therapy is to admit you have a problem, right? So that is why I'm sharing my mess with you all.

I could make all sorts of excuses, like I work too much or both of my kids take too much time. But everyone has kids. (Amy has four, Lyn has three.) Everyone works too much. (Amy helps to run a nursing home while working toward another degree. Lyn is a social worker, works part-time for an orthodontist and sells skin-care products on the side.)

One time, while taking a week off from work, I determined to organize my house. I spent a week in one bathroom and said screw it. I never got back on track.

My family spends a fair amount of time looking for stuff. You try to find something in those drawers! But in a way, it helps to develop each of our problem-solving skills and spurs even more creativity. Can't find the tape? Let's figure out a new way to wrap a gift! There's no safety pin to be found? What about a paper clip! Or this rubber band! You get the picture.

The other day, I was trying to figure out where to shove a basket I received for my birthday.(The fresh flowers finally died and were getting stinky.) I opened the nearest cupboard I could find. It was, of course, full of stuff (a serving plate, candles, Christmas decorations, plastic cups and one of my ice buckets). But much to my pleasant surprise, I also found an over-the-door wreath hanger! Totally forgetting I had one, it was just like I received a new gift.

So, perhaps my disease is more indicative of my love of surprise. The next time I need a little pick-me-up, I'll just open a drawer. And if you ever have a need to add the element of surprise to your life, stop over. I'll give you a cupboard.