Wednesday, December 07, 2011

WE GOT A THREE-FER TODAY, FOLKS!!


The good deed for the day was...to write a letter to a soldier. :)

WIN! WIN! WIN!

I don't know if I was just being overly diligent in my planning the good deeds based on the days of the calendar or if I just got really really lucky. Hmm...let's just go with the former.

So, we spent our breakfast talking about the kids' great-grandfathers, grandfather, uncles and cousins, who have all served in our military.  We talked about the troops coming home by Christmas. We talked about the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed. And we talked about bravery, and courage, and patriotism.  

Then they debated the kinds of pictures that were appropriate to draw on the back of the card, not knowing which soldier might receive their card -- could be male or female, could celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanzaa or nothing at all, could be currently fighting or maybe already wounded in a hospital or never have seen a fight at all, could have family and friends waiting for them or not, could miss being home or not, could be older or younger, highly educated or fresh off the streets.  There really was no telling.

And they sat there, with their pen in hand, unsure of where to begin. Unsure of how to be so generic and still make it personal.  How do you make it mean something specific when it could mean any number of things to so many different people?

So, what's the common denominator, they kept asking.  

Turns out, the common denominator is YOU, I finally realized.  YOU are grateful for the work they do.  YOU are happy they help provide you the wonderful life you live. YOU are in awe of their bravery and selfless service and strength.  YOU are proud to say you're American.  And YOU want them to know they are appreciated and never forgotten.

And after finally sorting out the incorrect address issue making its way through Facebook (i.e., don't send mail directly to Walter Reed Hospital), we were able to finish our letters this morning, stamp 'em, and pop 'em in the mailbox to:
HOLIDAY MAIL FOR HEROES
PO BOX 5456
CAPITOL HEIGHTS, MD 20791-5456
FYI --- they have to be postmarked by this Friday, Dec 9th if you hope for them to actually reach a soldier before Christmas.

Thank you for all you do, who you are, and what you represent.  We remember.
...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

THE GOOD DEEDS ADVENT CALENDAR

I love the idea of an advent calendar. The kids are already obsessively counting the days til Christmas, so the calendar just gives us a method for masking that compulsion and legitimizing our...er...their holiday madness.

One of the many things I don't like about the store-bought calendars, though, is that they're all chock-full of treats, mostly chocolates, and not even good chocolates at that.

Numbered stickers applied and
good deeds taped to the back of ornaments
But it's not just the unnecessary over-abundance of processed sugar that gets me on this one. Oh, noooooo...that would be too easy.  It's the idea of giving treats to children who already really have everything they could possibly want or need.

It's the fact that the holiday season, a time during which we're supposed to be emphasizing and re-instilling the concepts of gratitude and generosity and giving, is being counted down to the biggest children's gimme-gimme-gimme day of the whole friggin' year by a calendar that only reinforces that sense of entitlement and unearned rewards on a DAILY basis.  And it's just beyond my understanding. Or acceptance.

Our final finished product! 

And yes, I do realize there are other advent calendars out there, but while we do teach our children about the various religions and the true meaning of Christmas, and that the underlying meaning of the word "advent" in this instance is actually about the coming of Christ, I don't really wanna be lectured and preached to every single morning through the month of December by a self-righteous calendar.  (I much prefer to be bullied and guilted into a false sense of happiness and contentment by the overcommercialization of spirituality provided by the magical ratio of the number of light bulbs on my house to the number of bows under my tree.)

The garland and ornaments was quicker and
easier for me than the traditional cardboard calendar,
but that's always an option, too
So, anyway...thanks to a friend who posted about a good deeds advent calendar on Facebook, I immediately became obsessed with incorporating this new tradition into our holiday events.  I say immediately because it was December 1st that it occurred to me -- with only 4 hours before I'd have to pick the monsters up from school.

So with zero time and just under $30 between Michael's and The Dollar Store, here's what I did:

  • half-priced garland for $8
  • plastic ornaments at 4-for-a-dollar
  • ornament hooks
  • numbered stickers
One of Saia's "notes to a sibling" :)
Then I searched all over the internet for 25 good deed ideas that kids could do without making it feel like a chore, but also not so easy that they wouldn't require any effort at all.  It was a surprisingly difficult task.

But then I found some fantastic stuff!  Some great examples were, "write 3 kind notes to your sibling and hide them around the house in places they'll find them."  And "bring in a neighbor's waste bins" (which, of course, you have to then time with the garbage collection days). But some were as simple as "hold the door open for everyone behind you today" or "smile and say hello to every single person you pass by today." (For a full list of the 25 good deeds I selected for this year's calendar, CLICK HERE.)

Completed good deeds are piled in a bowl
So far, every morning they've remembered about the calendar and asked to see what that day's good deed was going to be without my having to mention it.  

And no, it hasn't suddenly made the whole world a better place.  

And it hasn't even made our own little household tantrum-free, yelling-free, or tattling-free.

But...I'm hopeful. That a little tiny bit of the message, a realization that they have to contribute to and appreciate the world around them, that there's more to the season than just getting, and that random acts of kindness can and should be incorporated pretty easily into your everyday life with little to no effort sinks in.

And sticks.
...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

THE ONE LESSON I HOPE THEY NEVER EVER LEARN

I feel so inexplicably emotional today.

I can't pinpoint it, but it just hurts. Everywhere.

I woke up this morning and immediately turned on the news. The flashback of that action transported me instantaneously back to the morning of 9/11/01.

And I burst into tears right there on my bedroom floor this morning.

The weight of it was just so unreal. Because I didn't know anyone personally who lost their lives or their loved one that day.  But re-watching those planes... slice through the towers...like warm cake...

And all day long, every movie on every cable channel had something to do with 9/11 or New York or war...

And even at the Cowboys/Jets tonight, moments after Lady Antebellum sang the National Anthem, the entire crowd of 80,000 began chanting U-S-A, U-S-A...

And then, of course, there were CNN and MSNBC, and their constant continuous ceaseless coverage of the Anniversary Celebration, recapping the events of that day, interviewing the people noted as "footnotes" in the 9/11 Commission Report (including the airline agents who actually checked in the terrorists, the flight controller who confirmed the first hijacking was in progress, the F-16 fighter pilot deployed to find and intercept American flight 11, the person who gave the 1st-ever national emergency order to cancel all flights and ground all planes).

I felt shaken all day.

And then at some point, a bone-chilling clip of the 9/11 Hearings just rattled me to the core.

Thank God for the passengers of Flight 93, they kept saying.  Because the FAA had refused -- paralyzed, it seems -- to inform pilots in the air of further potential hijackings.  And then...then came THE question asked by the Commission of the airforce general in charge at the time of the attacks: "Assuming all communication would have worked out the way it should have, would it have been physically possible to intercept either the first plane that hit the first tower, the 2nd plane that hit the 2nd tower, or the 3rd plane that hit the Pentagon?"

And the answer, qualified by, "You're assuming the FAA would've communicated their knowledge of the hijackings as soon as they knew?"

"Yes, we could've shot them down."

I can't stop thinking about that. What a different world this would be today.

And all day long I've felt obsessed and overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness.  I can't seem to get my fill of every possible minute, of every conversation, of every suspicious notion, of every first moment of recognition, of every photo, of every sound byte, of every single individual memory and story.

When Former Counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, got up in front of the Commission, all by himself, flanked only by the media and the victims' family members, and finally took accountability for the failures of our government to protect its' people, I broke down again.

At one point this morning, I did try to explain the significance of the day to the monsters.  We talked about 9/11 again, about the hunt for Bin Laden again, and about the memorial and what it means to family and friends and even complete strangers to have a place to go pay their respects.  And they were listening, and nodding, and trying to show me that they understood what I was saying, that I was somehow deeply affected by all this, and that I expected some reverence from them -- for the moment in time, for the lives lost, for the forever scar it left on so many.

But they're eight.  And they don't really get it.  Not really.  And I can't really explain it.  Not the way I mean to.  And suddenly I get how my grandmother must've felt whenever she tried talking about Pearl Harbor to us kids.  And how my mother must've felt every time she tried to explain how the Vietnam War affected so many on so many different levels.  And here we are now.  And this is ours.  Our war.  Although it's never really been designated as such.  And so they'll never ever get it. Not really. Not from that place that knots up your belly and chokes up your tears.

At least not until it happens during their lifetime.

And I can only hope and pray that that's one lesson they never ever have to learn.
...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

WE BE JIFFY POPPIN'

After a long and terribly exhausting day of the boy's playdate way over at a friend's house, which subsequently left Saia and I to our own devices, which inevitably and pretty quickly devolved right into the watching of an all day Restaurant: Impossible marathon, which totally necessitated the munching of every last scrumptious bit of garlic spinach dip and fresh salsa picante from the farmers' market yesterday, we then rounded out our awesomely lazy Sunday with a double dose of Jiffy Poppin' Goodness.

And just in case you've, you know, never actually made Jiffy Pop yourselves, here are the monsters to personally help you navigate that tenuous labyrinth. You're welcome.

Step 1: Stare Intensely...
Step 2: Stab it With a Sharp Object...
Step 3: Devour...

Times Two.

Friday, August 26, 2011

THE SPY KIDS STINK-O-RAMA: A REVIEW, OF SORTS

So, for their last movie night before becoming 3rd graders, the monsters chose, of course, the new Spy Kids movie, All The Time In The World in 4D.

The 4-D was, ostensibly, smell-o-vision, whose concept, yes I'll admit, intrigued me enough to spend the small mortgage payment for a family of 4 on a Friday night.

And yes, I actually really did think they were gonna pump strange and offensive odors into the theatre, much like Vegas casinos pump in oxygen. And because I had to work myself up to that idea, and kinda gagging at the very thought, I was pleasantly surprised to find that would not be the case.

Instead, however, shoved underneath our tickets were 4 sheets of paper with the numbers 1-8 on them. At various times throughout the movie, some benign, some not so...er...appealing, you were to scratch off the number flashing on the screen and sniff the appropriate scent.  That is, if you could find it, of course, because it's a movie theater after all, and, hello, pretty dark.

So, all obvious nasty scratch-n-sniff jokes aside, let's jump right into how very much this sucked big hairy dirty rotten eggs.

The storyline was ridiculous, if you can even call it a line. It was more like chicken scratch, as the writing clearly consisted of only two objectives: 1) highlight at every opportunity a potential smell-o-vision moment and really really really...really push this horrifically bad marketing ploy that we've sunk all this money into and now must somehow make work by sheer faith alone, and 2) see how many times you can use the word "time" in one hour-and-a-half period. Ready? Go.

But wait! It gets worse.

Because the scratch-n-sniff was a huge NON-stinking FAIL!!!  Not a one of the numbers smelled like anything at all recognizable, and even less than that, they all smelled like the previous one.  The kids were done with them after the third one failed to produce the dirty diaper smell the screen insinuated.  I, being the diligent reporter I am, scratched every. single. stupid. one.

So, my official recommendation: if you must go (because sometimes there's just no winning those battles), go to a drive-in and take yourself a little flask.

Two very enthusiastic thumbs down!!



Monday, August 22, 2011

COMPLICATING SIMPLE THINGS: GETTING BACK INTO ROUTINE

Four pages. That's all. I only gave them 4 pages of activity sheets to work on tonight.

School starts next Monday. We started our wake up schedule this morning and our bedtime schedule this evening.  But getting them to work through four (super easy -- like two grade levels below where they're at) pages was almost as difficult as it was potty training them. At the same time. For that week when they both ran around with no pants.

I mean, there was yelling. Actual yelling. And tears, even.  And tantrum throwing that I don't think I even saw when they were three.  And tirades regarding personal freedoms and self-expression that were dripping with so much sarcasm and pure disdain as to make any smartass proud cringe.

But they did it.

They pouted. Did a few problems. Crumpled a few pages.

They shouted. Did a few more problems. Made giant Xs across the whole page.

They time-outed.  Did the rest of the problems. Got them reviewed, corrected, and re-did them with such ire that they went through 3 pencils from popping the leads because they were pressing down so hard.

But they did it.

It took us TWO AND A HALF HOURS (!!!) to get through those four silly little pages. So let me just put it out there, folks. If you haven't yet started your kiddos back on a homework/activity book schedule yet before school starts, DO. IT. NOW. Because it's really really frowned upon to take your kids to school with a margarita in your hand at 8 o'clock in the morning.
...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

BOY VS FOOD - THE LEANING TOWER OF PIZZA

So, my kids think the TV only shows the news (aka, The Today Show), cartoons, football and hockey, and cooking shows.  Once they discover that the Favorites List was actually programmed by me, I'm screwed.  

Until then, however...

Heavily inspired by my latest summer TV crush, Adam of Man vs Food on the Travel Channel, Santiago took it upon himself to start his own series...

BOY VS FOOD: 
Episode 1 - The Leaning Tower of Pizza


"So, Mama," he says after he watched the replay. "I really didn't win, did I?" And he bows his head a little. "I didn't swallow it all in time."

"I know," I agree. It happens to the best of us.

"So, I guess we should do it all over again so I can do it right," he suggests reluctantly.

"But there's no more pizza," I say.

"Oh," he perks up, "well, then...can you just include a little note at the end of the video that tells everyone that...in this episode...food actually won?"

"Sure, baby," I smile.

"And if they don't read that part," he adds, "...oh well, at least I tried to be honest."
...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

MAMA LADY IS DEFEATED ONCE AGAIN BY STUPENDOUS MAN'S OVERPOWERING MALAPROPISMS

"...and now comes Stupendous Man, lover of liberty, foe of tyranny!"

Tromp. Tromp. Tromp.

"Bubba, are you wearing shoes in the house?" I yell from the kitchen.

"...with stupendous hearing, Stupendous Man hears a cry from a distant alleyway...only Stupendous Man can save the day!!!"

Tromp. Tromp. Tromp.

"Chaguito, shoes off," I say again.

Tromp. Tromp. Tromp.

"Mom," she sing-songs from the kitchen table, "...he's got his rainboots on," his sister rats.

"Santiago Gaél." I hands-on-hips him. "Now."

"Ah," he says, his index finger raised high into the air, "...just as I suspected, foiled by my evil arch nemesis, Mom Lady and her ever-nosy sidekick, Sister Girl!!"

"March, Stupendous Man. Shoes in the garage please."

Three minutes later, he walks back into the kitchen in just his white t-shirt and boxers.

"Whoa. What happened, Stupendous Man? Whatcha doin' in your chones?" I ask.

"Well, as you know, by day, I'm just Mild-Mannered Playboy Santiago."

And then I don't really know what happened next because I think I passed out from the laughter.
...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ON BEING A BOY...WITH A MAGNIFYING GLASS...AND SUNSHINE

At least no ants were harmed in the writing of this post (that I'm aware of).

But several years ago, in efforts to "toughen up" what I mistook for a way-too-sensitive, easy target for bullies, skinnier-than-the-average-bear, more-creative-than-athletic son of two women with a sister and two female dogs, I went out and bought a whole shelf full of those crazy survival books about how to escape a rhino attack, and a handful of those overly generalized, completely discriminatory, gender narrowminded, everything-a-boy-should-know books.  I know. I KNOW! I was having a rough year.

Anyway, the books, which hardly even got thumbed through back then (except by me because, let's face it, they're actually really REALLY cool!), have mostly just been gathering dust...until this past year, that is, when our little monster determined that if there were books about things lying around the house, then that was clearly giving implicit permission to do and try anything in them.

So so so much smarter than me, he is.

And so today, his mommy toted him along to the hardware store, where he evidently spied a $2.50 magnifying glass at the check-out stand, finagled an early allowance, and sprouted chest hair and peachfuzz before he even got home.

The seared leaves...and fried twigs...and the tiny tip of his sister's pinky nail...really never stood a chance.

Huh, I think for a second, maybe I'm underestimating the impact of testosterone after all.

Pouting and jealous and clearly disgruntled, Saia calls out, "Dibs!" well in advance of any subsequent trip to the hardware store, or really, anywhere remotely in the vicinity, as she begins to count out her savings and plots her revenge.

At which point, we just both look at one another and say, "They're just like YOU!"
...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

MAMA, WHAT MAKES THE KIDS IN THE SPECIAL CLASS, SPECIAL?

When I was in school, the classes were called "Special Ed."  Everyone knew that's where the slower kids were. Most everyone made fun of them on some level or another, even though we all inherently knew we shouldn't.  They were the punchlines of jokes, just like blacks and fags and fat people were.

It's hard to swallow. That I grew up that way.  That I was that way, even remotely.  That I contributed or participated or allowed any of that to happen in any way, shape, or form.  Ever.  But I did.  I know I did, much to my mother's horror, I'm sure, when she reads this post (sorry, Mom).  And it's not that I never said anything, or took a stand, or shut someone down -- because I know, for a fact, that I did.  But not every single time.  And that's just not enough. So now, of course, I'm bound and determined not to see my kids go down that same shaky path.  Often, I realize, overcompensating to a fault.

If I try to think back to 7th grade, which is when I think I first took notice of it, that's about all I remember.  I didn't know then -- and still don't know -- exactly what that meant.  What happened behind those closed doors of the portable building not even attached to the regular classrooms?  Who were the teachers that took on that position, and why? How many kids were actually in there? How were they taught? What did they learn? Were they just moving along at a slower pace than the rest of us, or were they having to teach them a completely different curriculum? And where are they now?

And because I still don't know the answers to any of those questions (and can't even tell you why I didn't ask these questions then), when my kids asked me what made the "special kids in Room 12" at their school so special, I was a little gobsmacked.

I mean, is "special" even the right term? Doesn't it, by definition, single out a group of people as superior in some way? Because then I'm stuck with trying to explain to my own children, who are special in their own right, that they're actually not considered to be "special kids."

In my time, we still used the word "retarded," but not the way it's being used by teens now, to call something out as ridiculous or stupid, often interchangeable with the phrase, "that's so gay" (but that's another post).  We used it, specifically, to refer to those kids who weren't in our regular classes, who were different, who required additional attention and special kinds of teachers.

Although they hadn't yet heard the term "retarded," I wanted to be the one to broach the subject with them before it suddenly appeared on the playground -- most likely inappropriately.  And also because the terms that were apparently already being thrown around by others, like "crazies" and "dummies," just had to be stopped. And no, I wasn't trying to exchange one for the other, but it seemed like the most logical place to start.

In Saia's class currently, there's one child who seems to have some pretty significant behavioral issues. From what Saia has told me, the teacher and principal are pretty on top of it, and manage it well enough so that it's not hugely disruptive to the class.  Last year, Santiago had a similar situation in his class, but she was much more disruptive. But both of them brought up these specific children because, evidently, they had been wondering all on their own why these girls weren't in Room 12, too.

So then I got myself all bogged down in this very generalized explanation about what disabled, handicapped, physically-/mentally-/behaviorally-challenged, retarded, special needs, and different all meant.  And I found it almost impossible to not use the words "normal" or "regular" when trying to differentiate.  And I was just stumbling...awkwardly and ignorantly stumbling all over the damn place.

And I'm staring at them, trying to judge from their faces whether or not I was getting through.  Whether or not this topic, which I apparently have all sorts of latent biased feelings and guilt over, was making any sense to them at all.  Whether I was doing more harm than good in trying to overexplain, trying to paint all sides of an incomplete picture, trying to give them historical reference points from which to draw on while attempting to instill in them a sense of comfort that this is just one more aspect of living and learning that we must embrace and promote and protect. That above all, they must be compassionate, considerate, and emotionally aware people.  That the world has too many followers and not enough good leaders.  That the way they acted, the way they responded to situations, the things they said or sometimes didn't say could really influence and affect someone else.  That we're all just dominoes...ripples in the water...grains of sand...

I was clearly drowning beneath a deluge of synonyms and metaphors, analogies and parables, and strangled by the over-reaching arms of political correctness. It was a fucking mess.

When I was finally done brain-dumping everything I could about what little I knew, I asked them what they would say the next time they heard someone tell them or tell someone else that the Room 12 kids were dumb or crazy.  Without a moment's hesitation, Saia said, not even looking up from her drawing, "I'd say that they're just a group of kids that learn and act a little differently from the rest of us, that you should introduce yourself and get to know them if you're so curious, and that if you can't say something nice about someone, you shouldn't say anything at all."

"Yeah," Santiago agrees nonchalantly,"....me, too."
...

Friday, May 27, 2011

AM I THE ONLY ONE COMPLETELY UNINSPIRED BY "SPIRIT WEEK"???

So, here we go again. The most annoying week of the year. Next to Teacher Appreciation Week, of course.

And let me just be very clear, before you go off on me, that that's not because I don't think teachers in general should be infinitely more appreciated, because, oh my God, talk about the most undervalued, overworked, grotesquely underpaid, most influential, and yet least revered job in America.

BUT because it's one of those forced acknowledgement things, I just abhor it. It's right up there with what  Mother's Day is becoming for me.  I mean, what about the other 364 days of the year that I'm a mother? Don't we deserve any acknowledgement or appreciation then? I know I'd like a random breakfast in bed in, I don't know, November, just because it's chilly.  Soooooo...when my kids' teachers are awesome, we do everything we can to make sure they know it.  Little things here and there, extra volunteering time, pushing the kids just a little harder to be leaders and help their teachers out.

Disney Day
But if they don't, and when they're not, and Lord knows there are those handful that really just have no business in this line of work -- at all -- ever, then I just don't feel that we should be guilted or coerced into reveling in their mediocrity, at best, or celebrating their incompetence, at worst.  Anymore than I would allow my children to be satisfied with their own.  That's just not okay with me.  And it's not a lesson I ever want our children to learn.

But that's not what this post is about, so let's just get to the goofy pictures, right?  So, okay, besides the additional annoyances of having to get everyone up extra early so we could get dressed and do hair, my two favorite days of the week were, not surprisingly, 80s Day, and, thoroughly shocking, Disney Day.

Full view of 80s Day Attire
For Disney Day, though, the monsters opted out of the traditional and lazy don-a-Disney-Store-t-shirt concept (which we don't own anyway). Instead, he dressed up as Mickey in the Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia (he made his own costume personally).  Saia, who was not about to dress up as yet another Disney princess, decided to go with Mother Gothel from Tangled, and spent the whole morning singing my favorite song from that movie, "Mother Knows Best." :)

About 80s Day, they first asked if I was ALIVE WAY BACK THEN?!?!?  And then, once I'd recovered from that mild aneurysm and had them all decked out and shiny, they managed to easily bring me to complete tears of joy when they both said that they wanted to dress like this every day from now on. :)

It was a totally rad moment, dude. Like, fer sure.
...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

WHO'S IN LOVE WITH ABBOTT AND COSTELLO? NO, HE'S ON FIRST BASE!

Watching the "Who's on first?" skit

I don't know how, exactly, we got onto the conversation. I overheard Santiago saying something punny (which in itself is not unusual), but something about it reminded me of the scene from Airplane! (yes, don't judge) where the tower is speaking to Captain Oveur and Roger Murdock, and everyone keeps saying "over" and "roger" and both men keep responding, "Huh?"

Yeah, you know it. Cracks me up just thinking about it!

So, I described the scene to Santiago, and he was, literally, curled up into a ball on the floor laughing within seconds.  Just hysterical over it.  Which, of course, sent Saia into fits of laughter.  Which then meant that I really had no choice but to laugh, too. That sort of thing being contagious and all. :D

Realizing, though, that they were obviously ripe for *exactly* my type of humor, I immediately launched into the story of Abbott and Costello and the "Who's on first?" skit.  I did a terrifically horrible job of explaining it.  If you know me at all, you know how very much I suck at retelling jokes. If I'm lucky, I'll maybe remember a part of the punchline, usually not the important part.  And more often than not, I get stuck right before it's supposed to get good.

So never was I more excited to have the internet at my fingertips than when I found EXACTLY what I was looking for on YouTube in two point five seconds.  Watching the performance within seconds of talking about it was the most anachronistic moment I've had since teaching my Grandma how to redeem her online gift card at JC Penneys.

But here it is, in all it's glory.  And it really doesn't matter how many times you watch it, you're gonna laugh every single time. :)



Okay, so, because these are my little seedlings, they became, of course, obsessed. Absolutely O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D!!!

"Play it again, Mama!" he said.

[More belly laughs.]

"Again, Mama, again!" she begs.

[More splitting our sides.]

And at least 4 more times before I even started making dinner.

Then while I was busy with their chalupas, they decided to try it themselves.  Santiago, the great improviser, who thinks absolutely everything can be improved upon if he just puts his stamp on it, decided to take a little liberty with it and make some adjustments.  And this was just his first, totally unrehearsed dry run.

(gave up messing with the orientation on this one)

And because I very often obsess about latching onto things they love, while they were eating dinner, I found and printed out the script, one for each of them, stapled, and with their lines highlighted...in different colors.

Oh, yes. I did.

And, of course, they squealed with delight!

At bedtime, they began officially rehearsing, as they've since decided they'll be performing it for the school talent show.

[Oh, Lord, help us. What have I done???]
...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BREASTFEEDING BABY DOLL -- WARNING: I TALK ABOUT BOOBS

How in the world did I manage to miss this when it was released in the U.S. on April 6th?!!?

Apparently, it has stirred up quite the controversy, with the most ridiculous argument being that it sexualizes young girls. Seriously?!? Sex? That's where you go with that?

Clearly, that's been the primary issue with women breastfeeding in public all along.  It makes people uncomfortable because they immediately view breasts as sexual.  And not to insinuate that they aren't, but let me just assure you, for the record, that at the moment you're breastfeeding a baby, let alone two at the same time, it's anything but sexually stimulating.

In fact, early on, it's pretty fucking painful.  There's biting and blood and cracked nipples and flaking skin.  And in between feedings, when you should be resting and recovering, you're busily pumping your overly engorged, rockhard milkbags with a sadistic electronic sucking machine just to help keep up your supply, or to store it while you're at work, or to donate it to needy milk banks.

That being said, once your body acclimates, it's a pretty phenomenal experience.  That you can sustain a life with your body is an incomparable power.  And, truly, breastfeeding is possibly one of the greatest moments you'll ever share with a child, if you're lucky enough to do so.  I don't regret a single second of the 2 years I was fortunate enough to do it.  And for every year since, the cry of a newborn, any newborn, still sends tingles right through my breasts.

But as much as I'd like to support this new marketing ploy under their whole "play and learn" scheme, I have two melon-sized complaints about this:

1) Why is the baby pretending to suckle on a flower?  

Didn't we already go through this social discussion a few years ago, about how it's not healthy to give pet names to children's private parts and that they should just be referred to by their proper biological terms? (And yes, that's coming from the hypocrite who's daughter has a "gigi" and who's son has a "jalapeño and a couple of vidalias".)

And yet here we've got a little flower on a bra. And not a fake nipple in sight. What's wrong with nipples, for crissakes??? We'll give Barbie 56 DDD breasts, but we shy away from a nub?  Even though every single one of us has seen piglets and kittens and puppies and calves suckle from teats.  And most of us HAVE actually seen a baby suckle from an actual woman's...gasp!...actual breast.

Really?? What is it that we're so afraid of here? That we're encouraging our children to pretend play? That our little girls are gonna wanna have babies earlier?  That we're damaging a child's psyche by exposing them to the magnificence of mother nature's self-sustaining concession stand?  That more little girls are gonna wanna be stay-at-home mommies than Board Room Bitches? PLEASE! We can be and do and become whatever we want,  regardless of how we're socialized, or I'd be married to Ken and living in a three-story townhouse with a pulley elevator and baking homemade brownies all day long in my easy-bake oven!

So, does that mean, then, that we should also get rid of GI Joes and the buckets of army guys and the fake guns and rockets because they encourage our children to perform adult actions without fully understanding the genesis or consequences of said actions???  I mean, just the sight of phallic instruments that seek to destroy human life certainly makes ME uncomfortable...

But no. No, of course not.

Because children learn by mimicking behavior.  Any and all behavior.  Bad and good.  Healthy and eh, not-so-much.  And that in combination with their life lessons, and family values, and friends' influences, and teachers' guidance, and free market advertising (forfuck'ssake) somehow produces the best possible iteration of ourselves.  If we're lucky.

Okay, enough, onto complaint #2) The sucking baby doll is almost NINETY DOLLARS?!?!?

Why the hell would anyone spend $89 dollars on a toy just because it puckers and purses its lips, when what we're supposedly trying to encourage here is PRETEND play and children using their IMAGINATIONS?!?

Betsy Wetsy's functionality was WAY more impressive, and actually, you know *produced* something.

But this, this is just ridiculousness.
...

Friday, May 06, 2011

SCREW THE FLOWERS AND CHOCOLATES, HERE'S THE DOWN-AND-DIRTY ULTIMATE HI-TECH MOTHER'S DAY GIFT GUIDE YOU WERE ACTUALLY LOOKING FOR

So I was shocked to find that when I googled "high tech gifts for mom," all I kept getting were top ten lists of things like, "Sign her up for a Skype account."  I mean, okay, yeah, if she's over 65, but hey, what about the rest of us?!?

Don't let my 5" heels, french manicure, and Fendi shades fool you -- I'm a geek thru and thru.  But not a pink keyboard, blingy iPhone case, and robot vacuum kinda geek. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I'm more of a tekky mom. In my let's-just-call-them-early forties. And if you've read me even more than once, then chances are, you probably are, too.  So, really girls, isn't it about time we just came out of the electrical closet already?

We don't have to let another Mother's Day pass us by chained to dangly heart-shaped costume jewelry and lamely stuffed heart-hugging bears, do we? Really? I mean, we can do this. If we stand united, we CAN overcome our natural maternal guilt and innate need to selflessly just smile and hug and coo.  At least for the 30 seconds it'll actually require to complete this task. Can't we?

And yes, I'll be the first to admit how hard it is to let that go.  When my kiddos started asking earlier this week what I wanted for Mother's Day, I did what we all did. I said, "I have everything I need. I just want to be with my beautiful babies."

Which is true, of course.  And I'll treasure beyond words until my dying days every single macaroni necklace, chicken scratched love poem, and finger-painted self portrait that I've ever or will ever receive.

BUT...lemme just say now, for the record, whatthefuckever.  What we REALLY want is gadgets.  All sorts of gadgets.  But not just any old gadget, like something they just pulled off a hook from that rotating case in the checkout lane at Target.  And not, let me repeat, a kitchen gadget.  Of any kind.  What we really really really want are legitimate, plug-me-in-suck-my-battery-power-and-make-my-lights-flicker gadgets.

So, because I couldn't quite find THAT list on the interwebs, I went ahead and threw one together on my own.  Here's the actual list (in no particular order) that you'll need to slip into your children's lunch boxes today or your significant other's underwear drawer tonight because it's highly unlikely they've gotten it right so far and they've really only got one more shopping day to do it:
  1. Wireless Charging Station Because cords all over the house is nerdy, not tekky. There's a big diff.  Here's a pretty cool example from WildCharge.
  2. iPad2
    Preferably in White, Engraved, in a Cool Neoprene Carry Case with a Handle, you know, since you asked.
  3. Sirius Stiletto 2 Portable Satellite Radio
    Because sometimes Pandora and iTunes just. don't. cut. it.
  4. Flip Video Camcorder And the sexy underwater case because we're worth it, dammit.
  5. iTech Easy Chat Skype Headset
    Because it's so cute and compact, plus I hate how everyone stares at me at Starbucks when I'm yelling at my monitor thinking it somehow affects the volume control on my end.
  6. Apple Magic Trackpad
    Because carpal tunnel syndrome, and any and all versions of it, sucks.
  7. Adobe Photoshop Elements 9
    Because, oh, my God, have you TRIED it out yet!??!
  8. Blog2Print Gift Card So we can finally turn our prized blogs into the hardcover, totally shelf-worthy books they should be.
  9. Enormous 2 TB (1,000 GB!!!) Backup Harddrive
    Because, ya know, we gotta whole lotta shit goin' on. Oh, and here's a smaller portable 1 TB version for those of you who still believe size doesn't matter.
  10. HyperMac External Battery
    It's like a combination of Botox and Viagra for your Apple products. They're all still eventually gonna die, but they're gonna look and perform like the day they did when you first unwrapped them -- and in most cases, even better!!
So, that's it! What'd I miss? Please please please drop 'em in the comments section 'cause, you know, there's ALWAYS time for an update.
...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

HAVE YOU SEEN 'THE RED BALLOON'?

Have you seen this adorable award winning 30-minute French children's short film?

It's subtitled, but actually has very few words, and the kids were easily able to keep up.  Although, it really never even needed that much.

I did have to twist their arm to even get it from the library, though.  And then had to double twist it to get them to even agree to watch it.  And then I'm pretty sure there was an ear-pulling bonus in order to get them to actually sit down and watch it.

But from the minute the movie started, they. were. hooked.

And I knew they would be.  Because, of course, Mama is never wrong.

The cinematography was amazing. The use of, and lack of, color.  And the surprisingly moving story line. The ending, I thought, was just a little silly, but it was too sweet not to love just the same.

The monsters gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up!!

And, evidently, you can just stream it from Amazon right now for $1.99, or even buy it for five bucks, which probably would've been a waaaaay smarter move for me, as I'm pretty certain we're at the very top of the Notoriously Late list at the local 'brary by now and those fees are NOT pretty.

 (This, by the way, is not a solicited or paid review, although, after re-reading it, it sure sounds that way, doesn't it?)

Monday, May 02, 2011

HOLY EASTER BUNNY? SOOOO NOT WHAT YOU THINK.

Another successful midnight stuffed animal surgery in our home, as the girl, aka Destructo, managed to rip a hole into the side of her brand new Easter Bunny less than a month after his arrival.  Of course, that was 29 days longer than expected, so there's always that. :)

But she claims he came to her that way, and I couldn't bear to get into a holy easter bunny discussion ( ;P ), soooooo, the brave and still quite shaken little thing took about 10 sutures, refusing any anesthetic, and is now happily eating his jello.

"Please tuck him into bed with me when you're done, Momma. He gets scared without me," she said.

And as I happily obliged, the only remaining evidence of the incident, whose details still remain a mystery (and really, as far as we're concerned, don't ask, don't tell), is the tell-tale sign of Mama's red-threaded heart lovingly (and clearly, a little sleepily) stitched into his back right paw.

The next morning, Chago says, "Look, Saia, Mama put her love mark on your bunny."

[heh. heh. no comment.]

We wish you well, Fluffy ol' boy. But I'm pretty sure we'll see ya back here soon.  She's kinda hard on her plastic-eyed peeps.  I'll save ya some thread.
...

ON CELEBRATING THE MURDER OF A MURDERER

I received 4 texts, 2 emails, and a phone call last night from friends and family who were overwhelmed with relief at the news of Osama bin Laden's death.

Then, for the next two hours, my phone turned pinball machine as Facebook status updates and tweets poured in.

But me, I still couldn't formulate a single thought.

To be honest, I actually didn't feel anything when I first heard the news.  It was the fall of an evil nihilistic human being, yes.  The end of a decade-long search, for certain.  The period at the end of the sentence for an iconic global terrorist, absolutely.  And the death of someone's son, grandson, sibling, cousin, and friend.  But the fact that he was suddenly, willfully and brutally erased from the earth didn't change the way I felt...about anything.

I mean, as a society, we're already so desensitized to death, and violence, and war, as it is.  And so I think because of the unbelievable weight of human suffering and misery that we're faced with daily on the news, in our own lives, on the streets, that we must, as emotionally driven human beings, find a place to put that in order to even be able to get out of bed in the morning.

After the horrible tragedies of 9-11, in particular, the only way we as parents could ever step out of our homes again was to compartmentalize those feelings somehow, while still finding a way to simultaneously manage to remain sympathetic to everyone's suffering and still be and raise a compassionate forgiving race of people.

But once you do that, once you put that away and bury it beneath the surface, tucked neatly beneath the illusion of orange safety alerts and heightened security screening, it's not always so easy to flip that switch again. Especially if you were fortunate enough to not have been personally affected, and then walk around with this guilty need to apologize for the fact that you've been fortunate enough to not have been personally affected all these years since.

So, I think it honestly took me a few hours to allow myself to fully recall the memories, where I was when I first heard about the towers, what it felt like watching it on TV that morning, hearing my brother's voice first thing as we listened to each other breathe on the phone while we stared in horror at the screen.  The perpetual lump in my throat that's rising again today.  How I was completely unable to tear myself away from the news reports for the next five days. Unable to concentrate on anything else. Uncertain of my own future. Terrified suddenly of the whole entire world and every single person in it.

And yet, here we are, almost 10 years later.  A little more cautious, a lot more patriotic, but still a strong, surviving, thriving community of people with varying backgrounds, spiritual beliefs, political convictions, and controversies.  But we're still here.  It was a horrific moment in history.  But we're still here.  We lost so many, so soon, and so unnecessarily.  But we're still here.  And I guess that that's what I'm most focused on today. I'm most proud of the way our country came back after September 11.  The way that everyone, despite our differences, found a way to move forward, united and divided all at once.  That THAT was what made us the greatest superpower in the world.


Not this.  Definitely not this.

And while I do know how much the certainty of his absence from this world brings closure, and peace, and a tangible sense of vengeance for so many, his death really means nothing to me.  No, actually, that's not true.  The news of any death is a horrible thing. But death at the hands of another, for me, is always always so much worse. 


No arrest? No trial? No evidence? No justice? Just licensed vigilanteism and dancing around the stuck pig. In a time of war, especially, it's a blurry line that crosses the grey space between a legal and an illegal action. Did he deserve to be judged for he did? Without a doubt.  Did he deserve to die? That's not for me to decide. Nor you.  But it's kind of a done deal now.  So, that's that. Or is it?

The terror threat has not changed.  Evil still exists.  We are in a perpetual state of war.  And the fact that we have now martyred and elevated him to the level of Hitler or Stalin only ensures his immortality, just as our gloating ensures we will taunt his minions into retaliation.

And where's the grey line now?

So, as I woke the kiddos up at 6:30 this morning, I knew I had to find a way to explain what had just happened, that there would be kids celebrating his death on the playground, that he would become a punchline to jokes, that his name would suddenly be on the lips of my children, too.  And while everyone grumbled about it being Monday and how the weekend was never long enough, I watched as they stretched their perfectly healthy limbs, and yawned with their strong lungs, and slid their well-fed and well-clothed bodies out from under their warm blankets under their free sky, and all I could feel was this vacuous sense of guilt for having been born so lucky.  And what the weight of that responsibility actually meant.

So, sitting with them on their beds, I began to retell the story of 9-11, reminding them of who bin Laden was, what he had done, and the legacy he had left behind.  I talked about all the people who lost their lives that day and since, and all those who lost their loved ones because of it. And then I told them that bin Laden had been killed by our military.  And I waited.

And the only thing Santiago said was, "Oh. Then that's good...and bad."

And that was exactly what I needed to hear.
...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

HONORING THE TYPEWRITERSORAUS (SORTA)

Sorting their coins
So, this post was originally written just after the kiddos' birthday.  That was over a month ago.

But then I read this morning about the last typerwriter manufacturer in the world closing its doors, and realized I no longer had to wallow in my guilt of draftdom.  I would just start whipping out an old (doesn't matter how old, so don't ask) draft of a post that I never quite got around to finishing for whatever reason, so long as I could sync it up, however remotely, to a current event.  "Current" is yet to be defined in relation to this revelation.

Yay, procrastination station has once again opened its exit doors!

So...onward ho! (There's no comma. No need to be offended.)

The (as yet) featherless quill.
Must remedy that soon.
Besides a rubber chicken (which they didn't get), the top three items on our kiddos' birthday wish list this year were...Number 3... coin collector kits...Number 2...a real quill...and Number 1...a typewriter.

Yes, really.  No, no, REALLY.  That was their list.  I have a handwritten copy.  It's pretty freakin' magnificent.  I'm breeding nerds. How cool is that? :)

And yes, before you ask, they do each have a laptop. And yes, we even own a desktop. And I, of course, am practically physiologically attached to my iPhone and MacBook Pro. They also have a Wii at their Mommy's. And two DSi's at their fingertips (yes, I know the apostrophe doesn't go there, but it looks ridiculous without it).

But no, no, that's clearly not. the. same. thing.
  
So off we go in search of a typewriter.

Hmmm...

Where does one even begin?  I mean, besides yard sales and antique stores, who in the world even stocks these things anymore?  And lo and behold, wouldn't you know, thank you, Office Max, there were still 6 on the shelf (and covered in layers of dust).

Hunting and pecking
But my short-lived moment of Mama joy was quickly extiguished when I saw that the cheapest frickin' thing was $100?!!? For a typewriter?! Really?  No, no, REALLY?!?!?  And here I was thinking we could get them one a piece.  Whatever. That ain't gonna happen. They shared a placenta. They can share a damn typewriter.

For what, you ask? For thank you notes, apparently.  At least that's what they claimed after realizing they couldn't change the size or type or color of the font.  ("What's the point of THAT?" he said.)  Although, since I made the feeble attempt to peck out their names in asterisks, they've now got me on a hunt for a book on how to create "cooler" ASCII images.   Nerds, I tell ya. :)

On the upside, however, it's proven most useful for buffing up Mama's biceps, evidently, as the dinosaur weighs as much as a third child.  And it doesn't even come in a handy dandy carrier, or with a storage case, or stand upright to easily put away in a closet or an attic... or maybe on a street curb.  It seriously simply could not be MORE inconvenient.

And now, back to today's headlines...
...

Monday, April 25, 2011

THE SANDS OF TIME, AS MEASURED BY WORMS

"Mama, I love that game you used to play when you were a little girl on those old video game things. Caterpillar. We have it on the Wii at Mommy's. It's reeeeeally fun."

"It's called Centipede, my love.  The caterpillar's a dance move. And no, I will not be demonstrating that one."

[Ugh.]

Monday, March 28, 2011

I AM NOT MY HAIR.

Came home from a girls' weekend away to find my handsome little man...hairless. Well, pretty much.

We'd already been talking to him about cutting his hair for the summer and letting it grow out again for the school year. He was very very VERY attracted to the idea of no tangles and no hair brushing.

And while I was expecting to return to see his Gladiator haircut from a few years ago, what I got was a bit of a shocker.  So much so, in fact, that I literally didn't recognize him from behind when I picked him up at school.

When he turned around, of course, all I could see were his gorgeous black-sea eyes.  But then, I honestly had to fight back the tears.  It was just such a dramatic difference, and it really caught me off guard.

And yes, I do know how silly that sounds.  And no, of course it doesn't change at all what I think or feel about him. That would be ridiculous. I'd love that boy if he was dyed polka-dotted purple and turned inside out.

His locks just a week ago
But man, it makes you think about what your hair says about you.  And how your hair makes you feel.  That hair revealed so much of his personality.  Or rather, warned people from a mile away what was coming.  It suited him.  It WAS him.  He was his long, flowy, untamed, easy going locks.  And he knew it, too. He rocked that hair. He did.

So now what?

He mentioned this evening that he missed his long hair, as he longingly ran his fingers across his newly landscaped plane.  He came right out and said, in fact, that he didn't really like how it looked on him after all, curling up his lip and scowling and everything, after which I promptly explained the concept of buyer's remorse.

He does still seem a little nervous about the change himself.  He chose a style he thought he liked out of a magazine, but you know that never really ever works.  Of course we told him how handsome he looked.  How we hadn't really seen his whole face like this since he was a toddler.  How it doesn't ever matter what he wears or what he looks like.  And that his hair doesn't make him who he is inside, to which he immediately responded, "Can I get a mohawk then and color it red?"



At school he took a little ribbing for looking like a stranger in the morning, but it seems to have dissipated by afternoon recess as the novelty began to wear off.  On the upside, he's totally taking advantage of the fact that his scar is now showing.  His sister rammed him into a bannister when they were about 4 or 5, busting open his head and leaving him quite the Harry Potteresque bolt on the upper left-hand side of his skull.  He's decided to randomly make up its origins instead, of course, and completely leaves out the fact that he promptly returned the favor, although it's not likely we'll be seeing hers anytime soon. (Knock on wood.)

The amount of attention he's getting hasn't hurt either.  Not a one of us, including his sister, can seem to stop rubbing his head every single time we walk by him.  So, although, he's not completely happy with it, he, like the rest of us, is taking a little time to get used to it and own it.


But it's a blank canvas, I explained to him.  And you're the artwork this time, Bubba.  And now, settling into the idea of it all, I'm finding that I'm really looking forward to seeing where he decides to let it go from here. 

So, how have you responded to dramatic haircuts in yourself or your children?  Or what if you or your child had to lose their hair due to chemo treatments or the like?  Do you think, like Samson, that we all hold onto the illusion of a certain unnamed power in our hair?  Or maybe that we even choose subconsciously to hide behind it?  

Hmm...maybe we could all stand to pull a Britney (sans the umbrella bashing) and shave it all off at least once in our lifetime to give ourselves a genuine opportunity to 1) see the real you, 2) actually find your inner beauty beneath that big sexy hair, and 3) squash the misconceptions of ourselves by others?

Or is it, in the end, maybe, just hair?
...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DECOMPRESSION

Always look forward to the weekend. Always. Always.

And then it gets here...

And, suddenly, your days seem fuller than you could've ever imagined.  And the time is passing you by so quickly.  And you don't know what you could've been thinking, planning such a ridiculously long to-do list.  And why did you ever think any of it would fall anywhere near the same category as FUN just because you were all together...all the time?

All. The. Time.

Because the being together, really does reach its peak eventually.  And it's usually right around that twelfth hour of non-stop ever-lovin' togetherness that the raw bloody derma just above the nerves with the neverending grating becomes painfully and fully exposed.  And perhaps if the little elbows in your ears and across your brow, and the knobby knees in your kidney and bladder all night long, and the toenails that are just a little too long and are now digging in behind your knees wouldn't have kept you awake all night, trapped in the cocoon of love that's only about two breaths short of heatstroke and suffocation.

Or...perhaps...that was why, so long ago, women used to go out into the wilderness...by themselves, for a week...all...alone. How can we reinstitute that universally.  And get employers to foot the bill, to boot?
...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

IS THAT OCULAR PROPTOSIS OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME?

Reyna mid-eye-popping incident
Not many people are aware that our little Reyna is actually also South Texas born and bred.

She's one of the 3,000 spawn of my brother's family's chihuahuas, Dot and Li'l Boy.  She was shipped to us via Southwest airlines from Corpus to Seattle, at only 2 months old, a good two years before the monsters were even born.

When we moved from Seattle down to Cali a few years later, she was back in the air again, racking up those frequent flyer miles.  And although she travels well, this latest trip was not nearly as fun. For any of us.

Here recently, she and Ryce, our Weimaraner mix from New Orleans, have not been seeing eye to eye.  Literally, it would seem.  But Ryce is 13 years old.  Apparently, that's 65 in dog years. [I know, I know, I always thought it was just their years multiplied by 7, but evidently there's an actual formula you can use to figure it out. Or you can just plug their human years into this handy dandy calculator and not have to think.]

So, in her golden years, our Ryce is getting...well...a little bitchy.  She's lost most of her hearing, and her hips are beginning to weaken.  She has no time or patience for a chihuahua of any age.  But you might be surprised to hear that it's not Ryce that's doing the bullying 'round here.  It's the littlest diva and her apparent intolerance for the aged.  We've caught her several times snapping at Ryce, and although we have no proof of it, we're all pretty certain, that it was some variation thereof that led us to this latest incident.

After the kids had just experienced a pretty rousing and emotional movie in The Last Lions, watching a tiny water buffalo calf being taken down by a lioness, and, without spoiling the rest of the film, some other pretty brutal wild animal, survival of the fittest, only the strong survive experiences, we get home just in time to find Reyna running around with her left eye all bloodshot and popping right out of its socket.

Both kids screamed.  The timing seriously could not have been worse.  They were right back there in the movie theatre, crying and pointing and turning away from the scene, unable to process what was happening and why.

But I scooped her up and we were off to the vet immediately.

Proptosis due to ocular trauma, like a hard hit to the head or some larger jaws squeezing down on her face, perhaps, is evidently pretty common in smaller dog breeds.  That it had not happened before this was surprising to the vet.  To us...eh...not so much.  We were all perfectly happy with both her eyes set properly into their sockets, thank you very much.

Reyna $950 later...
But they anesthetized it and gave her something for the swelling before resetting it. She had to stay there overnight, but then could come right home. The vet said it's highly unlikely she'll be able to see out of that eye ever again (which immediately sent the children into a renewed round of tears and sorrowful cries), but there's still a chance that we may not have to have it removed completely if the eyeball is still viable.  We won't know that for a couple of weeks, though.

In the meantime, the kids are wondering if we're gonna be able to call her "Silver Eye," like one of the lionesses in the movie who also lost a battle she'd started.

Other than that, our little diva seems pretty pleased as punch at all the attention and extra treats she's been getting.  The kids try to show her affection, but it's like they're holding a 10-foot-pole. They don't wanna get too close.  They don't want any of the nasty goop that's dripping out of her eye to get on them.  And they don't want to even see the sutures, let alone hear me talk about them or watch me clean them.

And you know, I just don't think I ever really knew how skittish they were about these things.  And it's not something I'm really all that comfortable with, I'm finding.  In fact, it took just about everything I had not to yell at them to just suck it up and think about how the poor dog feels for one tiny second.  Well, yeah, okay, maybe that part did come out. A little.

But my goal this weekend is to get my brand new 8-year-olds to learn how to help me change her foot bandages, clean her eye, and apply warm compresses 2-3 times a day. City mice or not, these monsters are gonna need to strengthen their backbones.
...

THE DAY BEFORE WE WERE BORN

"Okay, Mama," she says this morning over breakfast. "Here's my list."

"What list, baby?" I ask as I plate their Leprechaun Burritos with Blueberry Sauce.

"My birthday wish list," she says, very intuitively choking down the "Duh!"

Leprechaun Burrito
with Blueberry Sauce
I'm certain my mouth dropped open. But just as certain that that didn't stop him for one second from following her clearly genius lead, as he promptly handed me his own extended version of said list.

"You DO realize your birthday is tomorrow already, right?" I say.  "And you also realize that your Mommy and I are NOT Santa Claus, right?" (Just go with me on this one.)  "And nevermind for the moment that you should already know that you just don't ever ask for a specific gift."

And I could see the dreaded "why" beginning to shape on her lips.

"You just don't!" I preempted. "It's just not polite.  And you should always be grateful for whatever you already have."

Last-Day-Being-7 Lunch
But they were unconvinced.  Totally sold on the theory that if you don't ask for what you want, you're gonna get what you must return, or donate, or re-gift.   Can't imagine where they got all that info from. Really.

So then the bugging started up again.  The same 3 questions they've been badgering me with all week, ever since I set myself up for it completely by dropping that teaser out there that we'd be doing something special on Wednesday if they could keep all their fingers and toes inside the ride til then.

But I am a rock.  I tell them nothing.  And they whine and huff and puff all the way to school.  When I pick them up at noon (short day today), man, were they ever RARING to go. Like...really really raring.

Last-Day-Being-7 Lunch
We head out to Berkeley and find a great little diner because the monsters decided, without hesitation, that they wanted a burger and fries for lunch.

Every two bites or so, they asked where we were going, and made some pretty good guesses.  But, let's face it, people, I'm the Mama. There was no breaking me on this one!

Off to the frozen yogurt shop for healthy yummy goodness.

And then...finally...finally...SURPRISE!...we walked over to the movie theatre right next door. And they both immediately scowled.

"A movie???" they said in unison.  "How is that special?" (Spoiled rotten ungrateful little monsters.)

Frozen Yogurt Heaven
But we'd never been to this one before, I reasoned.  I was guided there by my new favorite obsession, Groupon, through which I snagged three $5 tickets to see the National Geographic movie, The Last Lions.

And...oh, my God...it is absolutely my new favorite theatre.  Plush, oversize sofas and rocking seats.  And as we were leaving, I think I even saw a sign outside the attached lux lounge that said you could take your drinks into certain theatres. Internal woohoo moment.  New Orleans flashbacks.  Filed way for later.  Kiddos in tow today.

But then, as if it wasn't awesome enough already, we had the balcony ALL. TO. OURSELVES. (Which, of course, they thought I'd arranged special -- and no, you just don't argue those things -- it's not polite. Or something.)

So the movie begins. It's immediately scary and a little violent, in the way that real life animal documentaries tend to be. But what makes it more difficult to digest for the kiddos is that there is a really enthralling storyline, and we're following the unbelievable tale of this one mother lioness. It gets a little graphic and gruesome, and there's a TON of heartbreak -- so much so, in fact, that at one point he unburied his head from beneath my arm to tell me that this was NOT a great birthday gift.  After which, we were graced with a close-up of a bloody nostril chunk hanging off the face of an embattled water buffalo.

So, it's not like their reactions were completely uncalled for. I cried, and shuttered, and gasped quite a bit, too.  But what it did mean was that I would have to go into hyperexplanation mode quick, fast, and in a hurry.

Because our kids, if you happen to be new to the blog, are mega-talkers. TALKers. And with movies, especially, as every single moment MUST be dissected, every motivation explored, every possible alternative discussed. Right there. In that moment.

No, I don't know where they get that from either.

And so it got emotional, and a little loud.  And I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the theatre who was grateful we'd chosen the mid-week 2pm show.

You, too, can text
LIONS to 50555 to
donate $10 to help
save the lions
But once it was over, they wiped away their tears and clapped, and said what an awesome movie it was. And as the credits began to roll, they both tugged at my arms, sat me back down, and yelled at me to pull out my phone and text the number on the screen.

"SAVE THE LIONS, MAMA!!!" they squealed.

Which, of course, I did.  At which point, their sad and frightened faces transformed into nothing but teeth. Smiles and hugs and thank-yous.

I mean, come on, people, I'd only just emotionally tortured my children for an hour-and-a-half in the hopes they would understand a little more about what it means to be so blessed and so loved and so protected. The least I could do was donate 10 bucks to save the lions in exchange for such a traumatic lesson in gratitude.

And as we walked back to the parking garage, arm in arm in arm, still talking about the movie and what a great afternoon we've had, I suddenly realize how tall they are.  How easily they can slip their little arms through mine now.  How I don't have to strain my C1 and C2 just to look down at them anymore.  How, any day now, they'll be taller than me, not clinging to my arm, and walking in the other direction. How much they fill me with joy and heartache, with hope and frustration, with more than I ever could've imagined, and still somehow less than I'll receive tomorrow.  And I feel myself stand a little taller, my gait lengthening, my strides purposeful and strong.  And I imagine what I wouldn't do, what I wouldn't give, what I wouldn't be for my little cubs, too.

That night, as I tucked them in, I told them the story of the night before they were born.  "This exact time, eight years ago..."

And curled up beside me, eyes all wide, cheeks all aglow, the only thing that mattered to them in that moment, was that today, Mama saved the lions.
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