Thursday, April 30, 2009

MR. AND MS. INDEPENDENT

The latest topic on the Momversation site is about teaching your kids independence. And I think it's actually a more important question than it initially appears to be on the surface because it goes to the core of not only who you are as a person, as a parent, as a member of society, but to the kind of adults your children will become.

One of the things Amy and I agreed on early on was that we were not going to treat our kids like babies. If you know anything about us, though, you'll know that we tend to be pretty extreme in all things, and, as a result, have probably pushed our kids to be more independent than they need to be at this age.

Our twins are 6 now. The girl has been and continues to be waaaaay more independent than the boy -- beginning with potty training at 18 months and now well into cooking meals (mostly) on her own.

And while, yes, isn't that all great and good, she's now completely obsessed with doing things on her own and helping out EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF EVERY SINGLE DAY. And I know that must sound ridiculous to complain about, but she's totally that example of how anything in excess is just not necessarily a good thing.

She's even moving into that next stage of anticipating what might need to be done next and taking it upon herself to do it when it hasn't even been asked of her yet, and, bless her heart, is often either not quite right about what she thought needed to be done or finds it actually was not needed at all.

The boy, however, has learned to take complete and utter advantage of his sister's neurotic impulses, frequently tasking her with his own chores, and paying her in gushing compliments ("Saia, you're just soooo much better than me at making your bed and cleaning your room. You always do such a great job, and I'll just mess things up if I do it by myself."), knowing full well that she thrives solely on acknowledgement and appreciation for her efforts, and that his own self-deprecation is just an added bonus. And, yeah, she falls for it every time. And as much as we want to strangle him for being so lazy, it's really hard to punish the boy for working smarter, not harder.

But anyway...I guess we started actively encouraging their independence around 18 mos or so with the potty training thing, and found out pretty quickly that the more we asked them to try to do, the more they were capable of doing. And I would add that you should really let the "I can do it, Mom" mantra guide you. They really do have a sense of their being ready for the next thing. Within reason, of course. But we've often found that at the time they utter the phrase, "I can do it by myself!", they're actually still about 2-3 weeks away from technically being able to do it themselves, and so you should take this as a passive-aggressive invitation to either help them learn to do it the right way right now or they're gonna learn to do it on their own without you.

So, Saia and Chago now have daily chores (which they split and alternate), including bringing the mail in, letting the dogs out, picking up the dogs' poo, watering the garden, helping to set the table, and feeding and watering the dogs.

Then they have the weekly chores of taking to the curb and bringing back in the trash/recycle bins, and helping to put away dishes and groceries.

But because I'm just soooo bad about paying them for their chores on a daily basis (they don't get an allowance without having earned it), they now each get to pick something on the weekend (based on equal weighting of 1. behavior at school, 2. behavior at home, and 3. completion of chores). Sometimes it's a toy, a book, a movie, mini-golf, the water park, etc. And if they're dead set on a toy that week, we'll try to steer them towards the Dollar Tree or the dollar bins at Target because 1) they really don't need another crappy plastic thing they're going to break or lose by the end of the day, and 2) the value of the reward is in the eye of the beholder and not solely on the pricetag -- at least, not until they're 13.

But I had also heard something about this concept of setting aside 3 money jars for saving/spending/charity and am still determined to implement into our routine that at some point because I think it's a phenomenal idea.

So, they've also been dressing themselves every morning for a few years now (we, too, lay out their clothes during the week, but on the weekend, they're free to chose whatever they want -- well, sort of), brush their own teeth (which neither of them do a very good job of still, despite trying flavored toothpaste, musical toothbrushes, vibrating toothbrushes, nothing!), but they also make their beds every morning (which they've been doing since they were 2 -- hers, you can bounce a quarter off of -- his is a jumble of quilts and stuffed animals). One day a week they get a pass on the bed-making, and they can use it whenever they want.

And, don't get me wrong, none of this happens -- well, only very rarely does it happen -- without me on their case, finger-wagging, or even yelling. But they do it. And some of it, without even thinking about it anymore, which means the brainwashing was successful and we are now one step closer to our goal of total global domination.

But you know, as much as I think they're so strong and intelligent and self-sufficient little creatures, I have to keep reminding myself, and Amy, that they are only 6. That they still need the opportunity to enjoy being a child. And that has to include moments of frivolity and even carelessness. (Our recent trip to Texas really drove that home for me, I think.)

That they're not going to get it right every time. That getting it right is such a relative term. And that "I can do it by myself" could still get them very seriously injured if we're not paying close enough attention -- and sometimes, even when we are.

But that's what it's all about, I guess -- raising kids is this amazingly delicate balancing act between molding and developing responsible, well-mannered contributors to society...and just trying not to kill them.

Monday, April 27, 2009

WHEN PIGS FLU

Alright, alright, I'm officially freaked out.

Have tried like hell not to stay glued to NPR and CNN.  To not click on the Twitter links and to ignore the well-intentioned emails from friends and family proscribing the Top X things you should be doing to protect yourself from the swine flu.

But I'm not trying to ignore it because I believe something as stupid as ignorance is bliss or that it's all hype or even that people are overreacting.  It's because I will fucking obsess over this.  Oh, I soooo will.

After I dropped off the kids this morning, all I could think of is what a horrible irresponsible mother I was being.  OF COURSE someone in their school of 200 went to Mexico for Spring Break.  OF COURSE they did.  And here I was, just dumping them into the lion's den with a nice lunch, a sloppy kiss, and a double-pump of Purell.  Yeah, that should just about do it.

And then for the rest of the day I kept thinking about the random fevers they had in Texas.  The sneezing and runny nose he's had of late that've been keeping him up for the past two nights.  My own swollen tonsils.  Saia's complaints of achy bones.  The bezillion enclosed spaces -- read: germ incubators -- we've been to over the last few weeks, including grocery stores, schools, airports, airplanes, restaurants, and (gasp!) Starbucks.

And I feel the paranoia back-building.  Brewing and stirring beneath my heart, speeding up my palpitations at the very remote possibility, but a distinct possibility nonetheless, that one of us, or someone I know, will come down with this.  

And that it will kill them.  

And yes, that's exactly where my mind goes.  That they, like me, will treat it like any other cold.  Will not race to the ER at the first sign of a fever.  Will try home rememdies, like we've always done.  And will lose someone close to us for not taking precautions.

But when those precautions mean we have to go sit in a hypergerminator like an ER or Urgent Care waiting room, how do you choose???  Because if they really didn't have the swine flu when you went in there, they're definitely coming out with some wicked concoction that could be 10 times worse, you know?

So, what?  What do we do?  And how will we know when to do it?  And will doing it be enough or will it just be too late? 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

HAVE YOU BEEN TO YOUR BUTTER & EGG DAY PARADE??

Prompted by a Facebook friend to attend the annual Petaluma Butter & Egg Day Parade, I geared up the whole family (and Amy's not one to easily gear up for outings), and off we went.

The day was nice.  The drive was pleasant.  Really wanted to detour every single time we saw a sign for Sonoma and Napa...but we stuck to our guns (much to Amy's dismay), and arrived just in time to fight for parking near the parade route.

Thinking there would be a whole lot more of, oh, I don't know, butter and eggs, I was a little disappointed in the utter non-dairiness of the parade floats.  This year's theme was Recycle, Reuse, Rethink, but, well, every single float was being pulled by a semi-truck.  And let's not forget the "Old Car Imports," which were, like 6 old VW bugs spouting black smoke into the air and wasting all sorts of non-ecofriendly gas.

But there was definitely some cuteness to be had.

And then the very best part was, as always for me, the bands.  From the little community band, to the Jr. High band, to the very fancy schmancily dressed high school band, in what appeared to be a sort of Scottish get-up, although they were very clearly called the Casa Grande Gauchos.  Hmmm. 

No pic of the "Gauchos" here because I was standing there very confused, mouth agape for much too long. So, instead, a pic of the very cool mobile gymnast for your entertainment.]

Nevertheless, the day ended with KettleKorn and bouncy houses, so all was well in the world of Saia and Chago.


And it was a good day indeed.


And the drive home, although 3 times as long due to some Macktruckian falling asleep at the wheel and blocking both lanes of the two-lane highway, was gorgeous and full of picture-taking opportunities.  Especially once the monsters fell asleep for a very-rare-these-days afternoon nap.

Friday, April 24, 2009

WHAT'S A LITTLE LOGOPHILIA BETWEEN FRIENDS?

Chago's new favorite word is "Drinkability."

Yes, like from the Budweiser commercials.

Still not sure when he might have happened to catch a beer commercial, as our kids typically don't watch any TV at all, let alone during the prime time beer advertising hours.

Thinking it was likely a friend from school. Pretty sure I saw one of them chugging a forty before bell rang last week.

But it's a good word, don't you think? Really jumps around the mouth. I think I'm a convert, too.

It's not enough to make me drink Budweiser, mind you, but neither were those frogs a few years back, and they were total cuteness.  [Word to the marketing world, great branding and solid name recognition still can't make pissy water taste better.]


Thursday, April 23, 2009

EXISTENTIALISTIC CRAP

Let's call him Paul, the strange and slightly over-friendly gentleman who believes he has found his new BFF in yours truly, and now frequents our local Starbucks a little more frequently than I'd like, which is making me cheat on my baristas with others about 2 miles away at least 2-3 times a week now.

Anyway, Paul, starts up a very one-sided conversation with me one day about this book he's reading about the universe.  And he's just so thoroughly awed and inspired and overcome by the idea of infinite space and time, and the concepts of micro and macro existences, that he reminds me so much of how I used to be in college.  And how annoying it must have been for my parents whenever I came home and assaulted them with my newfound insights and my almighty super-geniusness.

Or else he was just high.  Also a distinct very possibility. 

But when he finally finished.  And I don't really know how he got there.  But thank god, he did finally finish, I kindly excused myself and trotted off a little dizzier than before to pick up the kids.

Happy to be back to 6-year-old conversations about tooters and burps and how birds' poop is white so, therefore, it must be clean, I was totally sideswiped by Chago when he decides to start up a conversation about...yep, you guessed it, our place in the universe and how we must seem like aliens or giants to ants and beetles, so there must be creatures out there who can hold our world in the palm of their hands or even in their own bug catchers and watch us under microscopes, too.

WTF?!?  

Channeling creepy 45-year-old men who still live with their mother and never amounted to anything because they can only exist in the abstract world and don't know when to pause in a sentence in order to allow a decent dialog with people NOT inside their own head?

Damn boy creeped me out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR YOUR EARTH LATELY?

Since today's Well-World Wednesday just so happens to coincide with EARTH DAY 2009, here are a couple of things you can do TODAY that will have an immediate impact on our environment:

EAT LESS MEAT
  • raising livestock is one of the most significant contributors to a long list of environmental problems from deforestation to pollution
  • no need to leap all the way to vegan, but just cutting back meat portions to 3 oz (about the size of a deck of cards) will help tremendously
CARE FOR YOUR CAR (if you can't do without it)
  • regular maintenance helps with your car's fuel economy
  • and it also reduces the amount of waste and pollution coming out of it
GO AHEAD AND AIR YOUR DIRTY LAUNDRY!
  • air out laundry to dry whenever possible
  • wash all laundry in cold water
  • maximize load capacity to maximize efficiency (water and energy)
HELP REPLANT THE RAINFORESTS 
  • for just $10 (click the Chip In button below)
  • from the comfort of your cushy sofa or non-eco-friendly office, even!



NEED A LITTLE INSPIRATION TO GET YOU MOVING TODAY?



Now, have at it, people!  Your planet's waiting.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SO, SHE DIDN'T KILL THEM AFTER ALL

Although Mommy was charged with tending to our newly planted garden while we were gone, her hectic schedule which prevented her from accompanying us to Texas should no doubt also have prevented her from watering our fledgling sprouts.  At least this is what the monsters reasoned using that same logic that says if you have room for dessert than you still have room to finish your dinner.

But alas, as Mommy often tends to do, she surprised us and kept our little patch of wannabe veggies sated and happy in our absence.  So much so, in fact, that we now have SEVERAL ROWS of sprouts.  [And this is where Mema is thinking I told you so, as inklings of impending postings of Veggies Gone Wild begin to surface.]


CarrotsChivesLettuce

Cucumbers (on the far left) and pumpkins (on the far right) are still showing no signs of life.  But that's probably a good thing, as I've a feeling we'll have our hands full in a couple of weeks trying to trim back what we do have before they overtake the entire neighborhood.


This weekend we're thinking of adding some tomato plants -- just because we like to live dangerously.

Monday, April 20, 2009

OUR TEXAS SLIDESHOW NOW AVAILABLE

Got back from Texas yesterday, but still feel like we're recovering today.  Everyone's still sleeping later than normal, no one's got their appetites back, and we're all looking a little baggy around the eyes.

And although I will be backposting stories and pics beginning with Easter (for crissakes!!!) up to yesterday's arrival, I wanted to at least get the link to the full slideshow on here before I forgot.

So, here's the whole of our Texas trip (sans the lovely and flavorful commentary from me). Try not to be too disappointed. :P

Saturday, April 18, 2009

TEXAS - DAY 6 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DADDY!!

Last day in Texas. :(

Successfully convinced my father that it was actually okay to do something HE wanted to do today, so we all loaded up and headed for the Naval Air Show in Corpus Christi, about an hour from the ranch.

These redneck social experiments...air shows, car shows, guns & knife shows, monster truck rallys, small town parades and rodeos, and random parking lot carnivals...will forever remind me of my father, which is why I still find myself so drawn to them as a parent, I suppose.  And I know Amy is completely baffled whenever I announce excitedly that the Guns & Ammo show is at Cow Palace this weekend, but the small town girl inside of me that aches for cowpatty throwing contests and mud races is the same one that allowed me to fall so head over 4--inch heels for a redneck of my very own. 

So, except for the fact that I'd had ZERO sleep between checking in on Saia and trying to make the little king comfortable (Chago doesn't typically adapt well to new environments) -- and the fact that they stayed up til MIDNIGHT with their cousins for their first-time-ever slumber party -- and let's just nevermind the fact that all week long I'd been seriously jonesing for my Starbucks and had been without chai or even a remote B-version for, oh, let's see, 6 FREAKING DAYS NOW -- but except for that, except for all that, I was good to go.

Click the PLAY (>) button below to watch the NAS Air Show slideshow.
video

But, man, the oh-so-warm salty breeze coming off the gulf.  That forever Lonestar sky.  And even the bar-b-que joint at the end of the day was all just so well choreographed, I couldn't have asked for a better culmination to our trip.

Until my family pulled an all-nighter with me.  

And we laughed. And joked. And it was easy and fun and perfect.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DADDY!  WE'LL MISS YOU SOOOO MUCH!!!



Friday, April 17, 2009

TEXAS - DAY 5 - AND THE RAIN CAME DOWN

MORNING ON THE RANCH

I think, of all the days we've been here, today's been my favorite thusfar. Woke up to hear the kids squealing with delight as they ran into Grandpa's bed. Got up before he managed to give them another 10 cookies. And introduced my Dad to french toast with real homemade strawberry syrup (i.e., totally sugarfree).

Then we spent the entire morning with just my brother and my dad. Made it to the barn before the rain came down, and then just sat there in the barn listening to it pound on the lamina and feeling the cool breeze on my face. Everything smelled so fresh and clean and...renewed. And let me just add that if you've never heard rain dancing on a tin roof, you're really missing out on one of life's little pleasures.

I wanted so much to capture the moment somehow, and cursed the fact that if I took any video with my little camera I wouldn't have enough memory to take any more pictures until I got back to the house to download. But besides the fact that it wasn't worth the risk, no video could've done it justice anyway. It was too perfect a moment, and will just have to live in my head as this great sensory memory overflowing with visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory triggers that will all coming flooding back to me one day when I really need it the most as I'm driving down a dusty road in the middle of nowhere all by myself and it suddenly begins to rain.

Go on and get your own. This one's mine. Nothing to see here. Mosey along.

So then we got to see my brother shoe the horses, which is actually something we'd never seen him do before, although he's been a ferrier for years. (In addition to his real job.) But my father thought it the perfect opportunity to use his grandchildren to manipulate their uncle into doing a chore my dad's been hounding my brother to do for weeks.

And, well, being my brother, and seeing how we're all pretty easily manipulated by flattery and ego-stroking, it worked just fine.

And yes, Daddy was pleased as punch, but it was lucky for us, too, because it's always been the horseshoeing and the roping and the cowboy in my brother that defines him for me. So I was grateful and happy for the opportunity to get to watch him, to try to grasp the effort that goes into it, to witness his natural camaraderie with the animals, and to capture at least a little of it on film.

Then, most importantly, they got the kids back on the horse they fell off of. It was just for a few minutes, and not without a little whining and nervous tension, but they did it. And it was good.

And the whole morning was all pretty powerful for me, in a way you don't know if you've never been around horses. 

And I was so proud in that moment...to be a daughter, a sister, a mother.  And it was hard to not wish for this to be our every day.  To wish for the kids this life I love, these people I have been shaped by, these surroundings that make you learn to appreciate and respect the larger world around you.  It was hard to know we'd have to say goodbye so soon.  And harder still to not really want to.

AFTERNOON PREP

But once the morning oozed into afternoon and we realized there was still so much yet to be done for tonight's birthday dinner, everyone switched gears and we were off again.  And running errands in Texas is never just down the street. You're running to the next town over. Or a couple of towns away. It all depends on what you're looking for. And since we don't patronize the evil Wal-Mart empire, it was off to the King Ranch store (45 minutes away) once my niece and nephews were out of school for some final gift shopping for Grandpa.

And then trying to beat the impending rainstorm on the way back in time to make the 6 o'clock reservations. We pulled up to Dad's at 5:35. The restaurant was at least 10 minutes away.

With the kids still asleep in their carseats (and me feeling very grateful for such a rare event and the possibility of it leading to their being in pretty decent and accommodating moods for the rest of the evening), I left them in the truck with Tia Ruby, hopped out at Dad's, slipped on my cocktail dress, tussled my hair, reapplied some make up, and grabbed the kids' outfits just in time to hop back into the truck as my brother-suddenly-turned-Mario-Andretti hydroplaned us all the way to Alice in record time.

Between all of the running around this afternoon, shuffling reservations, and confirming the family's attendance, I was most concerned for my father's peace of mind. Was the whole family actually going to be there? All of us? That would be a feat in and of itself. Because we've been here for 5 days now, and it would be a freaking miracle if we (and by we, I mean I) hadn't pissed someone off enough to no-show, which would piss me off to no end because this is about celebrating my father's 60th birthday, which is pretty freaking amazing considering his own father passed away at 42 and so ever since my father turned 42 himself he's felt like he's been on borrowed time or something, so, you know, 60 is pretty spectacular.

But because family is as family does, and likely my family is no more dysfunctional than any other, it couldn't be TOO spectacular an event because, well, that might offend SOMEone, and then that someone might not come or else convince someone else not to come, and then my father would be hurt but not show it, and I would have to be pissed again. And really the times that I leave Texas pissed are just too many to count at this point, so it was really really really important to try to get this right. Which is why I did very little socializing outside of my father's home this week.

I figured limiting the town's exposure to me was probably the best thing I could do for my father. And not because I give a shit anymore about what the town thinks of me or that I think my father's embarrassed of me or anything. In fact, I think after many years of believing exactly that, I actually feel completely the opposite now. And I think it happened the moment he decided to throw a baby shower for me 6 years ago.

NOT-SO-RANDOM FLASHBACK

And yes, of course I know it wasn't all his doing, but he had some say-so there somewhere. And it didn't have to be there in our hometown. And it certainly didn't have to be in his own home. And it didn't have to be so well known that a huge chunk of the town turned out. Because I know that for my father having a gay daughter is still something that he struggles with on a daily basis. And not because he ever tells me so or treats me differently, but just because he's my father. So just the fact that Amy and I were able to stand there in front of family and friends, together, and I was about a mile wide and well over 200 pounds and about to pop with twins that didn't come from some tall, dark, handsome, Mexican doctor de buena gente from the next town over, was a huge turning point for me. And I don't think I ever told him that.

THE DINNER PARTY

But I owed him a drama-free evening. Which, for those of you that know me, is saying a whole helluva lot about my self-control and my love for my father.

And it was great. Everyone showed up, despite the torrential downpour. Everyone was in good spirits. No one was snide. No one was even remotely rude. And the evening was all about Daddy.

Very early on in the evening, though, we ran right into the brick wall that became incident #7 (or is it 8? I've lost count myself now) -- but Saia suddenly came down with a fever during dinner. No other signs or symptoms. Nothing else but radiating heat and completely lethargic. And I think by then I knew it must have been sheer exhaustion. They'd both been going non-stop, completely out of their routine, and more active than normal for 5 straight days now. It was bound to catch up with them at some point. Lucky for me, at least they decided to take turns. (More on that tomorrow.)

Meanwhile...Chago turned into Dick Clark. Moving around the room in his red-and-black-striped tie and matching fedora, schmoozing with everyone around the table. Taking pictures with all of the Tias and Tios and Grandmas and Grandpa, and then taking the camera from me and taking pictures of his own. 




He was perfectly adorable and superbly charming and his timing just could not have been better. His smudgy little finger prints ultimately ruining what is probably the last family picture we'll all take together, but hey, he has never been so on-the-money perfect when I needed him most to be. So, I'll gladly take it over a framable photograph. Hands down.

Saia, on the other hand, laid across my lap throughout the dinner, slept through most of the party, but was such a trooper when we asked her to sit up and smile for a couple of family shots, and, of course, just long enough to scrape her finger across the cake frosting once or twice there at the end. 

Her fever broke about an hour after we got home.  And she never showed another sign of slowing down.

But that was the extent of the drama.  

And considering the anxiety I'm sure most of us were feeling, it turned out to be a really lovely night.  And what I hope was a genuinely happy birthday for Daddy.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

TEXAS - DAY 4 - OF GLOOMY DAYS, CEMETARIES, AND ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES

Effectively cured of the evil eye, day 4 ushered in a calm, cool Texas breeze and the promise of some much needed rain.

The morning was soft but heavy, smelling of wet dirt and fresh cut grass (my two all-time favorite smells that only Gap has ever tried to trap oh-so-unsuccessfully in a bottle).  

The blanket of grey mist seemed an appropriate backdrop as we ventured off to pick up some flowers for the family plots and head over to the cemetery.

Then it was back to Grandma Bs for lunch, to report on the cemetary gossip (who's plots were well-tended, who's had not been visited, etc -- yes, really -- it's a smalltown thang), and to prove to the kids once and for all that it was not actually the pit of hell with a devil cross-dressing as a chiquito-pero-picoso Mexican dog. 

And, yay! after everyone emerged unscathed this time, it was onto some good ol' illegal activities with the family!!!

Okay, so it wasn't nearly as controversial as, say, vote-buying, and maybe it would be, at the most, a citation for littering, but still!  I'm a 39-year-old woman on the side of the highway overpass with my 6-year-old children, my niece, nephews, their friend, and my sister-in-law shoving styrofoam cups (I know, I know, the ecoHORROR!!) into a hurricane fence in order to wish someone a happy birthday and trying to envision having to make that phone call to Amy.

Never, in all my years growing up in South Texas, had I ever done that before.  I think my parents would actually find that quite surprising to hear, but I was a pretty good girl -- considering.  So I took full advantage -- and it was both kinda fun and the perfect opportunity to lecture everyone about littering and pollution and the evils of styrofoam (you know, as I personally designed the 4-leaf clover in the fence links).  And really, one must never pass up teachable moment. Or a chance to lecture someone.  So, there you go.

And lest you think a minor crime spree was enough to entertain this crowd, we were off to a Food & Nutrition Workshop after that (primarily because my brother's family DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO STOP GOING 100 MPH AND JUST RELAX ALREADY) where we got to show off our hoolahooping, jump roping, limbo, and fruit & veggie bingo skills!

After the family swept every single competition (granted, there may have only been one or two other real competitors there), it was time for a fruit break, during which I actually saw my sister-in-law take a breath, but only long enough for me to snap this shot with Gordito, and then she was off again.  

And then while on our way to the truck, Saia and Chago were running around on very little rest, energy reserves, an adrenaline rush from all the exercise, sugar highs from fruit overload, and the sheer excitement of it all, and proceeded to slam right into each other -- forehead to forehead -- while circling a tree.  

An incident we may have failed to report to Mommy.