Babysitting, Date Night and the Art of Romance

I eagerly anticipated my son’s 12th birthday. Of course, I was sad to see my little boy grow up, but I was excited that he could become our resident babysitter. John is very responsible and trustworthy, and almost never locks his sisters in the bathroom.

You see, we had paid for 12 years of babysitting. Over the years fees have skyrocketed to almost $20 an hour and this was putting a damper on our date nights. When you factor in the sitting fees on top of dinner and a movie (and absolutely forget it if you want popcorn and a drink), things were getting out of hand. Yes, I was beginning to think we no longer could afford romance.

But, hurrah! John turned 12 this summer and we began to groom him for his next career: sibling management. Our biggest expectation was that his siblings were still alive when we returned home. Afterall, that was pretty much what we expected from our professional sitters–unfortunately, that’s about all you get for your 20 bucks around here.

Considering he’s a boy scout and has earned his first aid badge, he’s actually more qualified in some ways than our previous sitters, too. We went over the rules and expectations. We made a checklist and gave him bed times and chores that needed to be done. He had his trusty list of phone numbers and was briefed on dialing 911.

When he sits, we don’t go far. Maybe to the local movie theater or a nearby restaurant (we’re talking one or two blocks). The girls have consistently been alive and well-cared for upon our return. I even found myself daydreaming about the day that we might be able to go away for the weekend. I knew this was years in my future, but a girl can dream.

Well, a girl can dream until she is watching The Real Housewives of Orange County. In this particular episode, the mom and dad were going for a night away, but had to have the grandma come and watch their 16 and 18 year olds so that they didn’t get into trouble. This is where I begin to bang the remote control against my head.

What? I have to hire babysitters when my kids are 18? What? This means I only have a few years of sitter fee freedom? The world is a cruel, cold, confusing place. I have so much to learn.


Life’s A Beach, And Then Your Fridge Dies

We returned home late Friday night from a glorious family vacation in Mexico. The trek home was not without it’s minor irritations and it was oh so good to be home sleeping in my own comfy bed.

Sunday morning I awoke rested, glad that we had the foresight to factor in an extra recovery day before the routine began again. Basking in the memories of an excellent get-away, I poured milk onto my cereal. Gloop.

The milk that I had carefully bought to be within it’s expiration date when I returned home was a gelatinous goo. Thinking that it was odd, I looked into the fridge. I touched the orange juice container. Warm? The eggs? Warm.

Nothing was cold. There was furry white mold floating in the jam and green spores in the salsa. Even the catsup had a watery layer floating on top of its surface. Ugh.

Rarely do I feel like physical violence is the way to go, but I wanted to kick that GE Profile refrigerator. I have wasted so much food because someone didn’t SLAM the freezer door or SLAM the fridge door.

My family knows the routine, but unsuspecting guests have no idea that you have to apply your full body weight in the ceremony of making sure the door is shut and the food stays cold. I want a new fridge! I want one that actually keeps food cold without freezing it. I want one where the door shuts properly.

Except, this wasn’t just a human malfunction. The fridge isn’t actually running at all. The freezer part is fine, but…
Waaaahhhhhhhhh! Yes, that’s the sound of me crying while I bang my head in frustration. It will all be better once I finish my coffee, right?

Auto Parent

A post written last summer while the older 2 kids were away at camp:

Day four of sleep away camp.  K3 and I have been bonding over our divergent interests:  she, the dvd player; me the computer.  Hours go by where she plays quietly in her room.  Hours go by that she is using both hands to hold my face and say “Mommy!  Mommy!  Mommy!  Mommy!”

Something occurred to me on the fourth visit to the restroom at a restaurant yesterday.  Germ-phobe (yes, that too) that I am, I am looking all around the bathroom stall with a sharp eye for pathogens, while listening to my daughter sing.  My foot is tapping with impatience and I’m wondering if it’s really fair for me to tell her to concentrate and hurry up one more time.  Yes, my revelation was that it occurred to me that I have been living on Auto Parent mode.

The magic of having older kids is that they take their sister to the bathroom. They take their sister to the park.  They are willing to play with plastic animals and the wooden farm house for hours.  Ugh!  My poor daughter is stuck with me for another week and a half, alone.  Boring, tired, playless mommy.

When I try to sift the moments that we spend together, I see that much of the time we barely interact:  making and serving breakfast like a zombie while I scream for everyone to hurry up or we’ll be late;  zooming along in transit to one activity or another while tabulating the endless lists in my mind;  dropping them off for school; picking them up; transit; dinner; bedtime race; bed.

I am sometimes hearing the question, the story, the thought as she talks in the back seat. I find myself lost and nodding or asking her to repeat herself. I’m tired of auto parent. Where’s the control thingie so that I can turn myself back on?

Bubble Bath Meets Jacuzzi Tub


Margarita Friday?

It’s Friday, and I’ve got green tea. Hoping for a cocktail later!

Travel Compatibility

The first holiday debate ended amicably years ago. We chose a civilized approach to the holidays and trade off celebrating with each side of the family each year. It is very predictable and works very well for all concerned.

The other classic debate we have is over travel: do you fly the red eye or do you take the 6 am flight?

I get no sleep either way, so I might as well fly the red eye and have my kids at least sleep while we are making time to our destination.

I think this is much the same debate that parents have about night drives. Do you drive all night to take advantage of the peace and quiet of sleeping children? I grew up with a night driver, so I, of course like this idea.

George is a day driver. He is a speeding, maniac day driver. He has the tunnel vision of a coal miner with a headlight. He points the car in the direction of the destination and it takes a medical emergency or natural disaster to steer him off course. This includes use of the bathroom and eating.

If you need to go the bathroom, you have to make it abundantly clear that it’s an emergency and you have to do it at the first twinge. If you are not direct and clear on this front, you could wind up trying to pee into a ziplock bag, and this is very tricky and mostly doesn’t work.

In my family, eating is one of the best parts of a road trip. You buy all of the secret forbidden snacks and proceed to eat them randomly and continuously for the duration of the road trip. Of course, rules dictate that the trip must be over four hours in order to buy entire bags of doritos and assorted childhood favorite candies that you no longer allow yourself to buy in public daylight.

Shorter trips beckon fast food restaurants with poutine, onion rings and double cheeseburgers with bacon. I used to buy my snacks on the road from shady gas stations, but now I have to pre-hoard. There is no hairy eyeball to contend with from George if I pre-plan my menu.

This man believes in not eating the whole trip. You don’t get the big gulp or the supersize fries, because then it warrants the aforementioned stop at the bathroom. Why would one leave their speed train and have to pass all of the semi trucks that you just got around again? You eat when you get there, even if it takes 7 hours.

Over the years, I’ve corrupted him a bit. He’s put me more on the straight and narrow. The best thing about 15 years plus of marriage is that you can prepare and strategize for the arguments or roadblocks ahead of time.

I’ll tell you one thing: if you try to pee one time in a ziplock bag and it doesn’t work, your husband is more likely to make a genuine pitt stop in the future.

Uncle George, We Will All Miss You

When I first met my husband’s Uncle George, I knew I liked him right away. He arrived for a long weekend at the cottage with raspberry pies. These weren’t just any raspberry pies, these were the most delicious pies that I had ever tasted. I was surrounded by healthy food and healthy eaters and a mother-in-law that looked much better than me in a bikini. Bring on the pies! I had a comrade in arms.

Uncle George was always an easy guest. When I had a 5 year old, 3 year old and a newborn baby, he never complained that dinner was grilled cheeses or chicken nuggets and baby carrots. He never once made me feel guilty that the salad was dumped from a bag into a bowl and slapped on the table. I can’t begin to tell you how much stress that took off the situation. He went with the flow and enjoyed all of the chaos. He even tried to entertain the baby and read books to the children to make the dinner process easier–this was an amazing gift for an overwhelmed mom.

He always remembered everyone on holidays and birthdays with cards and gifts. He was exceedingly thoughtful. He even remembered you on regular days with a phone call or a card. George was always asking about the perfect gift for the kids. He wanted to know what their interests were and what would make them shout “Yahoo!” when they opened a present.

He was kind and generous.  He bought us a computer when we were first married and couldn’t afford one. He always enjoyed computers and connected us when we moved far away and couldn’t easily connect with our family. This included creating a family website to help us all with our Christmas lists. He invented the idea of signing on as Santa, so that you could secretly delete things that you had bought for someone.

Uncle George loved arguing. You would be innocently talking about something and he would lean back in his chair, cross his arms over his chest and give you a look that said, “Oh, yeah?” He would sit late into the night debating. Sometimes it would get hot and heated and sometimes it was cool and cerebral. He was well-read and up to date on pretty much everything…and he had an opinion on pretty much everything.

George loved travel. He visited us whenever he could. He was always around for family gatherings and was delighted when we were all together in a big, rambunctious group. He thrived on the love, joy and warmth of family. His travel slowed down this last year or so. We started getting phone calls on Sunday nights instead of regular visits. We kept talking about his next visit…

We thought our next visit might be over the Christmas holidays. We never dreamed our next visit would be a memorial service. It happened quickly, yet in slow motion, too. Before we knew it, our time for visits had run out.

It is times like these that everyone tells you to call that friend that you haven’t talked to in while or visit that relative. We all get caught up in our own struggle against time. There is never enough of it, we are madly rushing in and out and around. We have a thousand excuses why not. We anger at small things in a big picture and rage against meaningless moments. Words are spoken lightly and carelessly. We bang the doors over nothing and find ourselves empty.

Time has a way of snatching moments from us when we’re not looking, or when we are looking the other way. Seize the moment, seize the day–call your loved one that loves Thousand Island salad dressing. It is the little details that make you smile. Just like the raspberry pies, I too, secretly like the Thousand Island dressing. The details differentiate, define and delight.

George had a way of touching our lives gently. He always had a smile and he will stay that way forever in our memories.

George, if you’re listening, save a piece of raspberry pie for me.

Halloween Is Finally Over At Our House!

This probably only makes sense if you saw the picture shown below from December. Now that Halloween is finally, officially over at our house. Makes me a little sad and a little happy at the same time.

I sure got my money’s worth out of that balloon, wouldn’t you say?   

December 2008 

And Finally… Facebook

So, I gave in. I fianlly signed up for Facebook.

I was an active non-participant for a long time. I knew all about it. I thought I knew enough about it not to get involved. But I did want to check out old enemies. (Were they still losers?) And I did want to see if my friends were happy and doing well (if they were, then what were they doing on Facebook…) I wanted to be part of the action. And I rationalized that joining Facebook was imperative as I have a son who is on the verge of sharing his entire life digitally with just about anyone who will listen.

I was WRONG! I did not know enough about Facebook. It overwhelms me! I NEVER should have joined!!!

And I sure didn’t realize how many past lives I didn’t want to remember.

 Well, forty eight hours in and I am massively overwhelmed with texts from my “suddenly FaceBook friends” who want to friend me, poke me, text me, or otherwise torture me with emails and reminders of part of me that I can barely remember. (and frankly, some of it I’m better off not remembering!). I had hoped to improve with age. I have actively participated in keeping with the times. I try to dress my age with style and sophistication. I wear 4 inch heels and relish in it.

And yet there I am. Is it the real me? The very first picture that I see of me on Facebook.

No — it’s not a picture that I, myself, uploaded. It’s a picture that a friend (with whom I have not conversed since before my third child was born) had uploaded from my high school graduation! And I don’t have a choice about it. I’m back!!!! With all the HAIR!!!! And a plastic black belt around my waist to prove my that my saying that I had bad fashion in the 80’s wasn’t just me being humble….

I can not escape myself.

Can I un-friend myself?

(And NO – I will absolutely NOT provide any links!)

Mom, I’m The Kicker

Birk was getting in the shower. Her 7 year old body jumping up and down and squiggling out of her clothes.

She looked at me with a big smile and joyfully said with a jump to punctuate her point, “Mom, I was the kicker!”

We had talked about many things that evening. I tried to figure out what she meant. I said, “In soccer?”

“No, mom, in your tummy. Remember? I was the kicker, Ruth was the hiccup-er and John was the roller. Remember mommy?”

Yes, now I am remembering…and smiling right along with her.