3/31/10

Carseat Kerfuffle

A post this week on another blog got me thinking. About how some things are so much easier said than done. And how we sometimes do things even when we should know better. And about how little kids can throw giant hissy-fits over carseats. It prompted me to dig into my archives for this little gem from when Miles was almost 2:

We have not had a smooth start to the new year. It’s as if the minute the ball dropped, evil spirits conspired to make my life difficult. For one thing, Miles has turned into a Terrible Two virtually overnight. Apparently, he didn’t get the memo that his birthday’s not till June.

It started one day when I was picking him up from the sitter and, instead of running towards me, he turned and sprinted in the opposite direction. This kicked off a fun game of catch-me-if-you-can, culminating in me wrestling him to the floor to get his coat on. Then, once we got home, he refused to come inside. Once in the house, he refused to take his coat off, and so on and so on.

Then came the Talbot’s Parking Lot Incident. Let me set the scene for you: that morning, we’d joined my neighbor and her 2 sons at an indoor playground. I won’t reveal the name of the place, but in my opinion it should have been called Ultimate Lawsuit Zone. It was mayhem, people. Picture hoards of tiny Vikings pillaging inflatable villages. Picture Lollapalooza for kids, with mosh pits and crowd surfing and torn shirts, only with juice boxes instead of beer.

My son, clearly born without the fear gene, took off like a bullet the second we stepped inside. Panicked, I ran around looking for him, only to spot him whizzing down an unbelievably steep slide with his arms up. Not even remotely concerned that no one was at the bottom to catch him. My poor neighbor was trying to keep her 3-year-old from being trampled alive and feed her 5-week-old at the same time. After 40 minutes of this, we’d had enough. Sweaty and frazzled, we parted ways in the parking lot.

But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I just HAD to pop into the Talbot’s outlet for a minute to check out the kids’ stuff. Let me tell you: no amount of 70% percent off Christmas clothing could make up for the saga that ensued.

Miles started getting antsy in the store, so we left. Once back at the car, however, he adamantly refused to get back in his carseat. Back arched, teeth bared, legs kicking, arms flailing, the whole bit. Although I outweigh my child by over 100 lbs. and can carry a half-dozen bags of groceries at once, I physically could not force his stubborn little body into the carseat. The more I tried, the madder and meaner he got.

I stopped and took a deep breath. Passersby were staring. I feared someone would call Social Services. Fine, I thought, have it your way. So I let Miles run amuck in the car. He crawled into the front seat, beeped the horn, turned on the windshield wipers and generally had a grand old time. After awhile, I tried again to get him into the carseat. Same scenario. By this time we both had scratches on our faces and were out of breath. I yelled, he screamed. Neither of us was giving in.

Finally, in desperation, I called C. at work: “I am stuck in a friggin’ parking lot with your stubborn son and you better come get him into his damn carseat before I leave him by the side of the road!!” He did.

At this point, Miles was sobbing and heaving hysterically. He smacked away anything we tried to give him — a drink, a snack, a toy. Thinking it might soothe him, we headed for the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. We sure as HELL weren’t letting him out of the carseat again! Waiting for our food, I saw a woman walk by with a baby on her hip and 3 other children under the age of 6. Calmly, peacefully, all holding hands, like it was NO BIG DEAL. I hated her on sight.

Since that day, the carseat showdown has become a near-daily experience. Once, I bribed Miles with an old cereal bar that had probably been on the floor of the car for 6 mos. Another time, I sang “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and tickled him. I even called my mom and tried to get her to distract him over the phone. Some things worked, most didn’t. All I know is, this year can only get better.

3/28/10

The Cure for Teen Pregnancy

I must have jinxed myself, because I was JUST thinking how Miles has never really embarrassed me before in public. I mean, we’ve had some tense moments in Target, but he’s never said, “Mom, why is that lady so fat?” or “Don’t make me sit next to that scary man!” in church or anything.

Well. Then we went to the playground today. It’s a little one near our house that’s usually deserted, and we go there when we need to kill an hour before dinner. So we show up, and there’s this teenage couple canoodling on top of one of the play structures. I mean, they were in broad daylight and weren’t licking each other’s faces, but they were obviously trying to have a moment, if you know what I mean.

And then WE showed up. “Hi!!” shouts Miles, running over. Faint greetings from the teen lovers. “I’m 3. We’re making a pie. My dad’s getting a haircut. He should be home soon. My favorite toy is my spaceship. It’s in my room. I have a really cool room. It’s messy sometimes. My favorite color is green.” And on and on and ON.

OMG. You’d think the lustful teens would be the ones who were embarrassed, but no. That’d be me. “Miles! Come over here and leave them alone.” He did, for a few minutes, before running back over to play an annoying extended game of peekaboo with the poor, privacy-starved couple.

Meanwhile, I’m chasing Riley around trying to keep him from eating wood chips. “He’s so cuuuuute,” I heard the teen girl say to her beau. Cut to me, shouting, “Riley, NO! Yuck! Don’t eat that!” I pick dirt and bits of wood out of his mouth, then turn back to Miles who’s bellowing to his new friends, “I’m wearing my new boots! I like Spiderman. And I like Batman, too. I got a pock-sicle today. It was green. Green’s my favorite color.”

Now, these teenagers must REALLY have had no other place to go, because they continued to sit on top of the slide even while being badgered by the world’s most talkative preschooler. I finally gave up trying to distract him. Besides, I was too busy keeping his baby brother from taking a header down the stairs and ingesting his body weight in sand.

“See kids? THIS is what can happen if you have unprotected sex!” I was practically broadcasting by my very PRESENCE. Do you think the teen couple took note? Nah, they were too busy giggling and gazing into each other’s eyes. Ah, young love.

Hopefully our little interaction on the playground jolted them into behaving responsibly and considering the consequences of their (potential) actions. Yeah, right. I’m sure once me and my double stroller were out of sight they were like, let the canoodling commence! OK, kids. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

RECIPE O’ THE WEEK: Here’s the “pie” we made for dinner tonight (aka, crustless spinach and tomato quiche courtesy of Anchormommy). My 13 m.o. loves it! My 3 y.o., not so much. But I think he’s coming around since I let him crack the eggs and stir in the spinach this time.

3/24/10

In the Thick of It

The other week I met a mom. We started chatting about our kids, as moms tend to do, and she asked how old mine were. When I told her 3 and 1, she gave me a look that was part pity and part relief. Her kids were 5 and 7, I believe. “Wow, you’re really in the thick of it, aren’t you?” she said.

I suddenly remembered a friend telling me about a very similar conversation she had with another mother when HER kids were 3 and I. Except I believe that woman’s exact response was, “You’re in hell, huh?”

If complete strangers are widening their eyes and oozing sympathy, there’s gotta be something to it, right?

The thing about having kids ages 3 and 1 is that one is trying to be independent and the other is still completely dependent on you. One can talk (you may wish sometimes he’d stop) and the other gets your attention by screaming and crying. One is trying to do wheelies on his scooter and the other is trying to scale the stairs. One can eat anything but won’t, and the other can’t eat everything but tries to. One is still napping (thank God) but the other wages epic battles against quiet time. One may be out of diapers but you’re still wiping 2 butts. It’s grueling, people.

And yes, I’m sticking with that word: GRUELING. Rail at me all you want about how motherhood is nowhere near as hard as picking beans in a field and I will tell you you’re WRONG. It’s harder.

In a single day, you can find yourself rushing to the pediatrician because of some weird rash, racing to the ER because someone did a faceplant at the playground, saving one kid from drowning when his brother gets too rowdy in the bathtub, fishing the other one out of a duck pond, and changing a wet kid in a crowded locker room after swimming lessons while the other screams in the stroller. And yes, these are all real-life examples.

In a single night, you can find yourself comforting a child who’s coughing and another who’s having nightmares. You could be chasing away monsters, singing lullabies, fetching cups of water, and changing diapers and sheets. You might sleep from 11 p.m. straight through till 7 a.m., or you could be woken at 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. You never know.

Some days I wonder if I will ever again wake up without a small, damp person clawing at my face and kicking me in the stomach. Will we ever get through a meal without tears and threats? Will I ever get to finish a cup of coffee without reheating it 7 times? Will I ever get to shampoo AND blow-dry my hair on the same day? Or wash, dry, fold, and put away a load of laundry in the same week?

So why the heck do people do this kid thing, then? Because all the stress and struggles are interspersed with moments of real joy.

I’ll be yelling at Miles to take his hands off his brother when I notice Riley is laughing harder than I’ve ever seen him laugh. Riley will be wailing in the car and I’ll hear Miles say, “Don’t cry, buddy. When you get bigger we’re going to have bunk-beds, isn’t that exciting?” The tears and scrapes are offset by hugs and silly songs we make up. A day may start with spilled milk and slammed fingers, and end up with a picnic and feeding the ducks. And then one kid slips and falls into the pond and it’s back to tears and laundry.

So, yeah. I’d say we’re in the thick of it. But at least I know from these other moms that there’s life on the other side of 3 and 1. Man, 5 and 7 must be a walk in the park… without a change of clothes.

MILESISMS, VERB EDITION:

– When he uses half a bottle of soap to wash his hands, he’s “make suring” they’re really clean.

– “Mom, when you’re done take caring of Riley, can you get me a snack?”

– He likes “lawn mowering” the grass with his toy lawnmower.

3/22/10

So Fast

It wasn’t so long ago I had to fight back the urge to punch those well-meaning folks who accosted me at the park, the supermarket, and virtually everywhere I went with my baby to tell me, “Enjoy it. It goes so fast!” Maybe for YOU…

But now I’m starting to come around. I get it. I blinked and my baby was 1. How did THAT happen? Read more about how it really does go so fast at TheBump.com. This is as sappy as I get, people.

3/19/10

Welcome to Our Home

Hi! Come on in, but watch your step. Those are our muddy shoes from a trip to the park yesterday. And don’t mind the kids’ snowsuits, which I hung on the doorknob to dry — in February. All those coats on the floor are because of the broken coat rack, which I’ve tried to glue back together 3 times now. The baby thinks it’s fun to knock it down.

Whoops! Watch out for the bowling pins. We turned the hall into a bowling alley the other day when it rained. Ugh, more shredded newspaper? Looks like the dog or the baby got into the recycling bin again.

Here, come on in to the kitchen. I’ll make you some tea. Don’t mind the crunchy floors. That’s just the Cheerios left over from breakfast. And don’t worry, those plastic cups and plates strewn all over aren’t dirty. The kids just like to go through the cabinets and play with the dishes. They use the pot lids for cymbals. And “skateboard” on the cookie sheets. Sorry there’s no place to sit. Miles is using the stools for his fort. Yes, that’s the random pile of junk over there in the corner.

Let’s go have a seat in the family room. Just shove that laundry aside. Don’t worry, that’s clean, too. The kids just dumped it out so they could make a spaceship out of the laundry basket. Contrary to appearances, we actually DO own a toy box. Several of them. But the kids empty them out daily because the toy they want always happens to be at the bottom. After awhile, it just seems pointless to keep putting the toys back, you know?

The bathroom? Sure, it’s the door on your left. Just be sure to close the door behind you if you don’t want an audience. Don’t trip on the Elmo potty next to the tub. And there’s a lock on the toilet, since Riley just discovered how to open it. That will explain any foreign objects you may see floating in there. Wait — here’s some toilet paper. We don’t keep it on the roll anymore since SOMEONE likes to unroll it every chance he gets. And the soap is that purple bubbly stuff in the SpongeBob bottle. I know it looks and smells like juice, but trust me.

Want something to eat? I think I have some cookies around here somewhere. Oh, wait, sorry. I used the last one as a bribe to get Miles to eat his dinner last night. How about some animal crackers? Cheese sticks? Dehydrated fruit bits? No? Here, let me get rid of your tea bag for you. We have to keep a stack of cookbooks on top of the trashcan so the baby doesn’t throw away the remote control when we’re not looking.

You’ve got to run? Are you sure you don’t want to stay for dinner? I can nuke up some extra chicken nuggets and frozen corn, it’s no trouble. I just have to give these guys a bath first, before it gets too late and they start having meltdowns. No? Well, maybe another time, then.

Great to see you, too! Yes, that’s a great idea. We’ll get together at YOUR house next time.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Thanks to my dad, we’ve discovered this mini-barrel of Red Truck wine. It’s 4 bottles for the price of 3, and best of all it stays fresh so you can just drink a glass or 2 a night. Much classier than a box, don’t you think? 😉

3/16/10

8 Reasons I Love Mom Blogs

Mom Blogger?Actually, I just call them blogs. But I thought this headline would be more controversial. (That’s a JOKE, people!!)

1. They’re entertaining. Where else will you find a picture of a kid who gave himself a Desitin facial? Or a baby’s reaction to peeing in his own face? Or a podcast by a preschooler trying lobster for the first time? Or an account of a work-at-home mom locking herself in the closet to conduct a conference call? On blogs, that’s where.

2. They’re interesting. I do love my magazines, but lots of them are cutting my favorite parts — the personal essays, the humor pieces, the stuff about non-celebrities. When I get sick of “10 Ways to Lose the Baby Weight” I go online and read funny or introspective stuff by real people.

3. They’re helpful. Yes, there are a bazillion books and articles that tell me how to potty-train my kid. If you’ve read any of my past posts, you’ll know NONE OF THEM helped me. What did? Reading other moms’ accounts of their toilet trials and tribulations. And if you think that means I get all my medical info from sketchy, disreputable sources, you’re dumber than you think I am.

4. They’re informative. For non-mom stuff, too. I’m a writer, so I read blogs that tell me how to be a more prosperous one and answer questions about writing and publishing. I’m a blogger, so I read blogs that tell me how to blog better and make money at it. I’m a wife, so I read blogs about how to have a happier marriage. And I’m a HUMAN, so I read blogs about celebrity fashion disasters to learn from others’ poor sartorial choices. (OK, that’s a lie. Mostly I just laugh at the pictures.)

5. They’re timely. Let me regale you again with the tale of the time I wrote an essay about my firstborn that was published in a national magazine 3 YEARS LATER — after the birth of my second child. It’s embarrassing enough that by the time a celebrity appears on the cover of a wedding magazine, they’re usually divorced. If I want to find out what’s going on NOW, I’ll check Twitter and blogs, thankyouverymuch.

6. They’re diverse. I read blogs written by people who live in exotic locales like Georgia, Utah, Idaho, Florida, Canada, the UK, and Japan. I read blogs by authors, actresses, chefs, lawyers, librarians, doctoral students, GUYS even. Turns out not everyone is a 30-something SAHM in NY or LA. Who knew??

7. They’re interactive. You want to know why I blog instead of writing all this stuff in my own private journal? Because I actually like to interact with other people! I know this may come as a shock from someone who blogs semi-anonymously and only reluctantly recently joined Facebook, but it’s true. I read what other people write and respond and vice versa. Sometimes we–GASP!!–meet in real life. You know, at conferences where we talk about tutus and stuff. 😉

8. Because I just do, OK?! Look, I don’t disparage people who like to collect Hummel figurines or breed Chinese crested hairless dogs or make their own socks. (At least not to their faces.) And I doubt those people feel the need to defend their interests or professionalism. (Although what do I know? There could be some huge uproar going on right now in the hairless-dog-breeding community. Heck, THIS POST could incite one! Crap.)

So I’ll stop listing the reasons why I like what I like and write what I write and read what I read and do what I do and just get on with it. Sound good?

3/12/10

The Falafel Debacle

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I made falafel? No? Well, that’s probably because it was AWFUL. I had this idea that because both my kids like chickpeas I should kick it up a notch and make something fancier than our usual dinner fare (e.g. spaghetti and peas). Plus, I have golden memories of this amazing falafel I had in Montreal one summer when I was studying French there in college. It was legendary, people.

My falafel? Was nothing like that. I knew I’d gotten off to a bad start when the recipe said to use a food processor and, since we don’t own one, I decided to use a blender. Only the bottom third of the chickpea mixture was mixing, so I tried to shove it down with a rubber spatula. When that got chewed up, I picked out the pieces of plastic and tried a wooden spoon. When a chunk of that splintered off, I thought about giving up, but instead I transferred the whole mess in two batches to the Magic Bullet.

Then, it turned out we didn’t have enough vegetable oil to deep-fry the falafel patties so I added some olive oil to the pan, thinking I’d sauté them instead. Healthier, right? So here’s what happened: the falafel dissolved in the oil and I ended up with a pan full of chickpea sludge. Did I mention that I had invited our neighbors over for dinner and there were 5 hungry kids running around my house at that point?

I managed to salvage a few paltry falafel patties, which were gritty and too salty and contained shards of wooden spoon. My neighbor, ever the good sport, pronounced them “not that bad.” The girl is a terrible liar. But polite. Needless to say, the kids wouldn’t touch the stuff and ate chicken nuggets instead. And THAT is why I don’t cook much, people.

Someone who does is Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater. A food writer and dad in Seattle, he writes about his culinary adventures with his very funny and precocious daughter, Iris. The child was eating sushi at 10 mos. She once did a podcast about lobster. And her favorite food is some Szechuan dish with pork that her dad grinds himself. For real.

I loved this book, even though I am SO not the intended audience. For one thing, I’m a vegetarian. For another, my favorite cookbook is one he openly disparages (Desperation Dinners). And for another, I hate grocery shopping and only do it because I have to, whereas Amster-Burton goes food shopping at farmers’ markets and specialty grocery stores up to 8 times a week (!!).

But I’m a sucker for a good read, especially one about a devoted stay-at-home dad and his hilarious 3 y.o. I know ALL about hilarious 3 y.o.’s. Mine is a pretty good eater, but there’s no WAY he’d ever eat a fish eyeball like Iris does.

The book is very funny and includes recipes, 99% of which I will never make. With the possible exception of the Pad Thai. I laughed out loud at the chapter about his stint as preschool “Snack Dad.” He makes empanadas and Chinese dumplings for the class — from scratch. I would HATE this guy if I were another parent at his school. As a point of comparison, I brought in prepackaged popcorn when it was my turn to do snack.

My poor children will never know what it’s like to grind their own spices, buy shrimp straight off the boat, or make sticky rice at home. Oh, well. Maybe when they’re in college they can study abroad one semester and get a taste of what good food is like.

READ O’ THE WEEK: Amster-Burton’s book includes a “recommended reading” section at the end, complete with food-related kids’ books. One of our favorites is Jamberry by Bruce Degen, a rollicking, rhyming fruit adventure. Mmmm, jam…

3/10/10

Early Bird

The baby has decided to make a liar out of me. Remember how I said now that he’s 1 he’s gotten a lot easier? WRONG. Don’t let this picture fool you. The past 3 days in a row he’s decided to wake up crying at 4:30 a.m. Not just whimpering and falling back to sleep. Wide awake, hollering at the top of his lungs. Why? Teething? A dirty diaper? A burning desire to watch infomercials? Who knows. Any attempts to coax him back to sleep in his room or ours are futile. It’s like wrestling a bobcat.

Needless to say, being forced awake before the sun’s up sets the tone for the rest of the day. By the time 10 a.m. rolls around, it feels like it should be 5 p.m. No such luck. I have tried to rest when Riley goes back down for his nap, but that plan is foiled by someone else: his brother.

Miles’ idea of “quiet time” is to jump repeatedly off his bed onto the floor, or to build intricate structures out of books and blocks and then crash into them with his trucks. I’d have a more restful nap backstage at a Metallica concert.

Also, I cannot WAIT until Riley learns to talk. He has no problems being HEARD, mind you, it’s just that his primary means of communication is a range of high-pitched screams. “AAAAAHHHHH!” means “Come get me out of this crib immediately!” while “UUUUUHHHHHHH!!!” means “You are not feeding me at a sufficiently swift pace.” There are other screams that mean “Give me that toy back” and “How dare you keep me out of the cabinet where you store the toxic cleaning products!”

In between the screeching and clawing and not sleeping, he is actually quite cute. Lucky for him.

I’m sure there is something witty or pithy or profound I could say here. But waking up at 4:30 a.m. does not render me at my peak mental performance, shall we say. I’m lucky I can string a sentence together.

So, hey -– if there are any rowers or bakers or newspaper delivery people out there who need help getting up extra, extra, EXTRA early? I’m happy to lend you my screeching bobcat alarm clock. If the noise doesn’t wake you, the aroma from his diaper sure will.

QUOTE O’ THE WEEK: “When I grow up I’m doing to be a donut maker and a diver.” –Miles, age 3. Good luck with that, son. And make mine a maple frosted.

3/7/10

Bloggy Boot Camp Baltimore

I attended my first blogging conference this weekend. There, I learned some important things. Such as:

1) There are a lot of people out there with much better haircuts than me.
2) There are a lot of people out there with way more kids and page views than me.
3) Not all bloggers are introverts.
4) I really should have brought business cards.
5) I have more balls guts than I thought.

First, you should know that I crashed the conference, which was called . I was not registered or invited. I waited too long and the conference was sold out. When I woke up on Saturday morning, I was seething with jealousy and regret. WHY hadn’t I just signed up?? Actually, I didn’t think I was available that day, but it turned out I was. And I had childcare and everything!

At my husband’s urging, I decided to just go down there and hope they had a no-show or two. Hey, it happened at our wedding. Why not a conference? The whole time I was showering, picking out a blog-conference-worthy outfit, and obsessively checking Twitter to see what people already at the conference were saying, I was thinking, “I can’t do this. It’s so forward. So obnoxious. So NOT ME.” I was as bad as those White House gatecrashers! Only not as well-dressed or connected, obviously.

So you know what happened? I showed up and…they let me in. Nicely, graciously, totally no big deal. Whoa. Who could’ve predicted THAT?

The moment I slipped into my seat, I knew I had done the right thing. First of all, people? Bloggers are FUNNY. None of those stiff, boring Powerpoint presentations droning on and on. People were laughing, shouting out questions, sharing information. I didn’t even want to go to the bathroom because I was afraid I’d miss something. Even the woman running the conference was so down-to-earth that she took off her shoes halfway through and walked around barefoot the rest of the day. Awesome.

There seems to be this mythical lore surrounding “mommy bloggers” right now. They’re always being talked about in the media and by advertisers and PR people, and it seems like every other mom you meet at the park has a blog. Dooce has become a household name. (Blogger joke: Some family member reads the article du jour mentioning Dooce.com and says, “Hey, this woman is actually making real money from her blog. YOU should do that!” Ya think?)

Sometimes the attitude toward mom bloggers is patronizing. Sometimes it’s positive (“Ka-CHING!” think the advertisers). And sometimes it’s perplexed. Why would someone devote all this time to a blog when a scant few are making any money from it? Who reads it? What’s the point? And why attend a conference if all you do is write about your kids and your husband’s crappy housekeeping habits? (Not me, of course.)

Well, there are probably as many different answers as there were women at that conference. I met people who blog about fashion, food, saving money, even how to make your own tutu. I met lawyers, photographers, stand-up comedians, mothers of triplets, people who make their own yogurt, people who flew cross-country to be there. And that was just at my lunch table.

I bet it would surprise some people to know that there were discussions about media kits and advertising rates and work agreements in between conversations about “The Bachelor” and potty training. That’s right. We mom bloggers are a multifaceted bunch.

For me, it was a chance to meet some people IRL (that’s “in real life” for you non-texters) who share my passion for blogging. It was an opportunity to gain some knowledge and support for my labor of love. (My OTHER labor of love, besides the 2 little ones at home.) It was a chance to spend an entire day on my own, doing something *I* wanted to do. How often does THAT happen?

But boy, did I miss my boys. Within minutes after the conference ended I was picking up my son’s prescription and heading home to nuke frozen peas and lay out Batman pajamas. Later, I knew I’d jump back online and start implementing what I’d learned. That’s my life — a messy mix of mom, wife, writer, blogger, domestic, and professional. Just the way I like it.

SHOUT-OUT: To my amazingly supportive hubs, who always encourages me at whatever I do. *Love.*

3/5/10

Birthday Blues

R's 1st b-day, photo by TGSOne of my former writing students wrote a scathing and hilarious essay about kids’ birthday parties. It began something like, “Do you enjoy standing around on Saturdays in your socks making small talk with strangers?” As someone who’s been to more than a few toddler parties, I could completely relate. I don’t HATE kids’ birthday parties, but they’re not my favorite way to spend a Saturday, either. Here’s why.

It starts with the guest list. In theory, I am all for the “one guest per year of your child’s age” policy. Certainly, I am not interested in hosting a 50-person throw-down every time one of my son’s birthdays rolls around. But here’s the thing. Once you start including parents and siblings (the norm for most of the little kids’ parties we’ve been to), you end up with a crowd.

Also, at my son’s school they have a policy that kids should invite all or none of their classmates to their birthday parties. I get it; they don’t want anyone to feel left out. But the WHOLE CLASS?? Good lord, people! Do you know how many goody bags that is?

Which brings me to the next thing: goody bags. When did these become the norm? Of course the kids love them. But now my son EXPECTS to leave every party with his own loot. And not just a lollipop and a couple of stickers. His gift bags have included coloring books, temporary tattoos, stamps, pens, balls, games, and of course, CANDY. Lots of it.

I actually considered shirking the trend for my 1 y.o.’s birthday party. After all, it was just a couple of family members and friends. Small, casual. I know for a fact most parents don’t want another bag of plastic crap from the Target $1 section. It’s cheap, it falls apart, it’s almost surely made in China and saturated with lead paint. But…

Some of those things are so darn CUTE. Have you seen the Easter stuff? And imagine the disappointment on those poor kids’ faces when they left the party empty-handed, with nothing but pizza stains and a killer sugar buzz to remember it by. I couldn’t do it. I compromised by giving them board books. Yep, I’m THAT mom. Next thing you know I’ll be handing out raisins on Halloween.

The next anxiety-causing issue is the gift. I am not a great gift-giver even when it comes to people I know and love. Ask my husband. To this day, my kids’ favorite gifts are things other people bought them. So the thought of buying something for some random kid I know nothing about besides their gender fills me with dread.

How am I supposed to know what they like? What they’ve read? What they already have? If they live in a TV-free or Barbie-free household? (They exist, I know for a fact.) God forbid I give some kid a Tinkerbell puzzle and incur the wrath of a feminist, anti-Disney parent.

I know, you’re thinking, “Just get a gift receipt.” Uh-uh. Because I have a place where I can get new, hardcover books for a steal. And another place where I buy things like hand-painted wooden toys from Germany for up to 70% off. No one needs to know my secret! (Except you guys, that is.) If they want to regift it, that’s their business.

So, yeah. I’m a little stressed about birthday parties. I thank my lucky STARS that my older son’s birthday falls after the school year. Until then, you can look for me on weekends at the gymnastics place, the inflatable jump house place, the bowling alley, or the art studio. I’ll be the one standing around in socks, making small talk with strangers.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: If you plan ahead, personalized stuff like this from Olive Kids is a foolproof gift. Super-cute, too.

*Thanks to my friend T for the photo!

3/2/10

Clothes Call

Look at this shirt, people. He’s been wearing it for approximately 4 hours, and it’s covered with 6 shades of paint and some mustard from his lunch. And probably some dirt and axle grease. Seriously, why do I bother?

I’ll tell you why. Because my son was invited to a birthday party and, God forbid, I wanted the other parents not to think he’s an orphan from a refugee camp. So I put my foot down and suggested—no, FORCED—my son to choose a shirt that a) did not feature a superhero, b) did not feature a monster truck, c) actually fit him, and d) had no visible stains, holes, or rips. You would’ve thought I was squeezing him into a barbed-wire wetsuit.

The kid has something against stripes and collars. Who knows why. A traumatic experience on “What Not to Wear”? Afraid going too preppy will ruin his ironic hipster vibe? Concerned that horizontal stripes don’t flatter his figure? Too bad, since stripes or superheroes are about the only options for boys.

I have heard from mothers of girls that their daughters are complete nightmares when it comes to fashion. Some will only wear dresses, some wouldn’t be caught dead in a skirt. Every time I see little Suri Cruise in the tabloids wearing some seasonally inappropriate get-up — like rain boots, a tiara, and a sleeveless party dress in December — I laugh. Even Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have no control over how their little girl dresses.

But let me tell you, boys are no picnic either. Miles may be the next Hugh Hefner, given his intense fondness for pajamas. No sooner have I wrestled him into his school clothes than he comes home for lunch and wants to put his PJs right back on. A new pair, mind you. Does he think I have nothing better to do than laundry?!

Clearly not, given the way he treats his party clothes. Of course, whose idea WAS it to host a 3 y.o.’s birthday party at a paint-your-own-pottery studio? What did I THINK was going to happen? Although it’s worth noting that the birthday girl was dressed in an off-white sparkly dress and got not a DROP of paint on herself. I guess it’s just my kid.

Looking on the bright side, I guess a wardrobe of Batman T-shirts from Target will save me a lot of money in the long run. Money I can spend on more stain remover.

FLICK O’ THE WEEK: I guess I have bad taste in movies since I tend to hate the ones critics love and vice versa. “Couples Retreat” is a good example. Great cinema? No. But I laughed out loud in several places, and found Vince Vaughn’s character surprisingly endearing. Good enough for a Netflix rental.

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