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Bad Parenting Moments: December 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ada With Strawberries

I am in love with my grandmother. In awe. Enraptured. I want to exaggerate the pieces of genetics she's graciously handed down. I relish them, but, sadly, I am no Ada. The world will only ever have one.  My grandmother dislikes excess. Her parents, in a psychic show of support, never gave her a middle name. When asked about this, she says, "What do I need with a middle name? We were poor. Poor people didn't have middle names. Did they?" When I tell her that almost everyone has a middle name, she shrugs and says, "Who needs it? Not me. I got by without one." Truth: My middle name has never once picked up a check or bailed me out of jail. Grandma, you're right. As usual.

Ada was always the proud master of her home. Or yours. She will walk into anyone's kitchen and rearrange it, and, I don't mean with her stares. She will literally rearrange your kitchen. You're a professional chef? She's not impressed. You're doing it wrong. Make yourself at home in your own home while she spends most of three seasons of any syndicated television series telling you exactly what you're doing wrong, demonstrating by physically moving your dishwasher to the opposite side of your galley kitchen. Just grab a beer, sit down and relax. Turn the chair somewhat in her direction and maintain moderate to negligent eye contact. In 4 - 5 hours, you will not know where anything in your house is. Let me help you, the batteries are in the butter drawer. Why? "They LAST longer there. Didn't you KNOW that?" No, Grandma. I didn't.

She will talk to anyone. Forever. If you have a meeting to get to across town, I will pray that you don't run into her, while simultaneously hoping that you do run into Ada on the way. The grandma vortex is strong. Fourteen hours later, you're found holding a suspiciously delicious egg salad sandwich in your newly rearranged kitchen.

She calls every male who touches produce, "Young man!" and, she insists that your local market is
storing the freshest produce in a secret location. Yes. Somewhere in your very own store, there is a separate produce section marked with red carpet entry and a bouncer a la Fruit of the Loom. Telling her this isn't so yields no passivity. Congratulations, you've just thrown fresh chum into shark infested waters. Repress any attempts to tell her that the, "young man!" found unloading oranges is a college student on Spring Break. To her, he is King Tropicana, Ruler of Florida's prestigious orange groves and her ticket to the VIP produce section. Five minutes later, she's invited him to date one of her eligible granddaughters. "Orange Groves are a lovely place to get married!"

Ada cuts the excess plastic off of her bread bag. You should try it. You won't be disappointed OR, maybe you will be. You'll never know until you try. When I ask her why she does this, she says, "The plastic takes up too much space in my refrigerator. Look at how much room I have now!" * points proudly to shelf with no visible space.* It's hard to argue with completely fabricated fact. Spoiler alert: *whispers* It doesn't save space, it just LOOKS better. Don't tell her I said that as I, long ago, drank the kool-aid and religiously do the same.

When we told her the name of our fourth child, she cried, "WHAT? I was JUST getting over the the last name. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?"

When we told her our trees would have to be removed after Tropical Storm Irene, she sighed the world's largest weight off shoulders sigh,  "Oh GOOD. I'm so happy you thought of it. I was wondering if you would be out there one day and those damn trees would fall right on the children!"

When I told her that her non-Catholic granddaughter was sending her great-grandchildren to Catholic School, she sat silent for a few moments and then said, "Well, those Catholics are crazy, but, they sure have good schools." Ahem, agreed.

When we told her we were moving across the country, she said, "I love you. You do what you have to do for your family."

My grandmother is honest. If you are an asshole, she will tell you. You will just have to sit pretty with the knowledge that you are, indeed, an asshole because Ada NEVER lies. Ada's scepter of truth is always blinking; guiding all of her assholes home.

My childhood was sordid, difficult and tumultuous. Grandma Ada was home in a sea of houses. The home that was safe. The home where good food, warm blankets and love were always offered. Where you were unconditionally loved, despite your selfish tendencies. Where advice was given whether you asked for it or felt you needed it. But, rest assured, when she gives it, you need it.

Ada was the youngest of 10 children. She has told me that she believes her mother was not really meant to be a mother. She has said, so matter of factly, that those were just the times they lived in. You had children in the middle of great poverty or personal depression. She remembers being dirty. She will coolly tell you that her mother didn't care for her.  She tells these stories with the greatest strength. That strength breaks my heart.

Everything she owns, she earned. Everything she says, she means. Every child she watched grow, she loves.

Every good and truly selfless thing I've done, I learned by watching her. Here is to Ada No Middle Name, storer of cold batteries, severed bread bags and bearer of the undying love of a thousand mothers despite her failure to find even an ounce of it in the mother she was given. To the woman who tells us when we're assholes and loves us right through it.

I love you too.

My Grandmother. "Ada With Strawberries" by artist Susan Brabeau

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Very Merry BPM Christmas!

In spite of the children's attempts to corner the coal market, Santa arrived this year with gifts. A bounty of well-thought out, wrapped delights that said, "I know you. I love you. You annoyed the shit out of your parents this year. Miraculously, you still made the nice list. You're welcome, Santa". This year, my husband organized a brass quartet and sold their services for Jesus. He and three other horn players got the "gig" - playing 5 masses at the local, Catholic Church. When he initially booked the masses, I was relieved. It would help supplement the Christmas the red-suited, fat man was getting all the credit for. Well played, fat man. Well played. Sure, he would be gone the majority of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, but, how bad could it be? Famous last words.

For those of you new to the blog, we have four, small children ranging in age from 6 to just shy of 1 year. I like to consider myself an experienced parent - NEVER an expert. I'm an expert at drinking wine and cold coffee, but, I will never be an expert at parenting. Ever. Never.

In what can only be temporary Christmas blindness brought on by cheesecake diabetes or the copious amounts of wine I'd consumed to make it through the holiday season, I'd failed to think this through to any semblance of a logical conclusion. The extra money sounded like a great idea. The children would, no doubt, be patient on Christmas morning. How hard could it be to sit though hour upon hour of staring at presents? Surely they were old enough to handle several more tortured hours of waiting for something they'd already been waiting an entire year for.

It hit me at midnight - the clock struck Christmas and a big pail of "Oh Shit!" hit me square in the face. I was blind, but, now I see. Dear baby Jesus in the manager, HELP.

Horn playing husband left our warm bed shortly after 6:00 a.m. to head out to play for and in the huddled masses. I heard the rustling of small feet. I heard the tears of the 2 year old screaming, "SANTA DIDN'T COME! HE DIDN'T BRING ME PRESENTS!" Still new to this whole Santa business, she'd assumed she would wake up in a bed made entirely of gifts, dressed as a princess, holding a candy cane wand. 

They bounded downstairs. I followed sheepishly behind with every step, "Oh crap. oh crap. oh crap. oh crap."

They were in Santa bliss. Foaming at the mouth. Like wild, Christmas attack dogs ready for the kill.

Then I said it, "Kids, we're going to wait until Daddy gets home to open presents! Won't that be fun?" 

Record scratching. Turd in punchbowl. Nagasaki.

In unison: "When does Daddy get home?"

*Face melting, slurring words, slow motion - battery dying in toy voice* "Four hours."

I'm not sure what happened next, but, we all mostly made it through unscathed and I've found a new friend in breakfast cocktails. To the first person who poured Kahlua into your coffee, you are a friend, genius and trailblazer. Marry me.

I have made peace with my epic, Christmas morning fail because as everyone knows, I don't do perfect. True to form, what is a Christmas at my house without the ultimate Bad Parenting Moment. I'm a gal who loves consistency and Kahlua. 

Mmmmmmmm, Kahlua.


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Parenting is No Joke!

Parenting is no laughing matter. It is such serious work that you can not turn a corner without wondering if your child preferred to walk straight. The tight grip of responsibility always dangling from your neck, legs or sitting on your feet while you use the bathroom. The ever present knowledge that you could mess it all up, and the reminders from everyone that you probably already have. Parenting is sober work, although, I prefer to parent with a sidecar of champagne. It comes with immense pressure and no manuals. If you seek out a manual, you will be bombarded with the words of physicians, psychologists and know-it-alls. Avert your eyes from the internet, if you can. Advice is more muddied, muddled and fractured there.

Parenting for Dummies - Chapter 1, page 1, sentence 1, word 1:


Parenting is nothing if not humorous. It is absurd. It is ludicrous. It is an endless loop of trials, fails and successes wrapped in the scent of honesty from the week old diaper you just discovered trapped between the crib and wall. It begs that you search for reason where no reason can be found. People mock and spit from the sidelines as you try, desperately, to grab the bull by its horns or feed it a sandwich with crusts still attached.

You are either too soft or too strict. You are too involved or too lackadaisical. You are too this or too that. Malarkey.


When riding a mechanical bull, it's best to have had a few drinks with friends for courage and longevity. You hold on for dear life, laugh, throw your head back and enjoy the ride. You will fall. You will fail to tame the wild beast, but, you will get back on and continue until your long, and sometimes torturous, ride is over. Then, do you know what you do? You cheer on the next rider from the sidelines. You hoot, holler and clap. You reach a hand out to help a fallen comrade. You literally or figuratively smack their rear with outstretched hands or words of support. You clap wildly as they jump back on the bull. That's the best we can offer each other. We're all doing what we can with what we have to tame our bulls.


In my home, laughter is the only medicine for a lifetime supply of wondering just how incorrectly I'm proceeding in this very earnest age of parenting.  In this business, it's best to mind your own and enjoy a hefty glass of humorous perspective each day. I prescribe it to myself in spite of calls from the professionals that I give my work more weight alongside gentle reminders that parenting is no laughing matter. I disagree.

Laugh. Often. Loudly. Laugh

"I said NO CRUSTS!"

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Every Party Has a Pooper!

We rarely get invited to parties outside of family functions. Let me rephrase. We rarely get invited back to parties or functions. For years I've assumed that our invites have been lost in the mail. A bucket full of beautiful invites to amazing parties sitting in the post office as a uniformed postal worker throws in yet another envelope while thinking, "These people must be fabulous. If only the address had been legible!"

Truth be told, we are fabulous. We are also loud and, even when on our best behavior, there is a swirling air of disaster and dirt following us as we move, tornado like, through your freshly vacuumed, party-ready home.

The children give it their best shot, but, they will likely destroy your festivus while I hover romantically near the French Onion dip.  I don't get out much and I came wearing maternity pants.  If you need me, I'll be sitting next to your food table in the folding beach chair I brought from home. Why yes, that is a cup holder. How kind of you to notice; I'd love a drink.

The nature of the event does not matter, nor do our unanswered pleas for their best behavior. How can I put this delicately? Shit is going to go south. Quickly. Would we love to see you perform with your choir? Yes, we would love to. Would you love to have your choir's performance interrupted by some, surprisingly well placed, organ pedal pressing by our two year old? Hello?


Have I walked out of a party with only 3 of my children? Possibly, but, it was the eldest so I'm sure, with a stool, she could have foraged for snacks and eventually found a phone. The look on my face said, "I forgot one of my children again!" and the look on the host's face said, "Lose my number."

Have we left another party without our 2 year old? Maybe, but, it was dark and confusing and she was singing back-up karaoke. If we had disturbed her performance, that would have been worse. An artist should never be pulled away from her work. Besides, we were only halfway down the street so, this is a party foul that I avoid on a technicality.

Admittedly, we are a formidable crew of unrelenting noise, tears, squeals of delight and, we can clear a well stocked kitchen faster than a team of locusts. Still, we are a package deal; like Vikings or a gang fueled prison riot, it's all of us or nothing.

So, be prepared, we are the Field of Dreams family. If you invite us, we will come, but, may I suggest hiding the port cheese ball and the expensive liquor. At the very least, closet the breakables. If you promise to ignore my nervous, awkward conversation and the inevitable lipstick on my teeth, I can almost certainly possibly promise not to leave one of my children as collateral for our invitation to your next soiree.

"Dearest, did you hide my fishing hooks, polo gear and the china?"

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dreams Look Different Now.

When I was young, I had grand dreams of living in Los Angeles. I would have a pool and everyone would love me.

Laying in bed at night, under a blanket of stars and faded yelling, I would imagine my own life with children. I would never scream. There would never kidney beans and rice for dinner. They would never try to hide their shoes behind the legs of their chairs. I would not keep bottles in my flight boots or take my children's babysitting money. Someone would always have a job. There would be a a town we called home and trees to climb.

My family would smile constantly like the beautiful people in the frames. I would be a grown-up wearing wisdom around me like a robe. There would be summer birthday parties and every weekend, we'd picnic and find ducks to feed.

As an adolescent, I longed for the soothing, breezy summers with Dad. Listening to the ivories downstairs while playing in a closet as big as a room. Begging Dad to jump in the condo complex pool in between games of Marco Polo with my sister.  Hiding secrets and one worn, Virginia Slim in the back of my box of letters from boys I loved and then moved away from. With every new home, two trash bags of memories shed to lighten the load.

I dreamed of a life, easy and carefree. Dreams looked different then.

As an adult, I have finally accepted that great understanding is not scheduled to rain down. I will continue to think and rethink my words and decisions. In times of horror, where no logic can be found, we will put one foot in front of the other, half-blind and hoping for the best. With our loved ones and children, we are not meant to live the life pictured inside of a frame.

Throughout all of my pregnancies, I would go through moment upon moment of terror. Then, they were born and love bigger than a thousand oceans occupied every atom. Every thought. Cautiously directed my every movement. My babies were the dream.

Now, my dreams are very simple.

Let them live.

There will be burdens, worry and mistakes. I will fail them. There will be sadness and longing and want, but, please, let them live.

Of all the dreams I ever dreamed, every pore of my being screams this. Let them live to be heartbroken. Let them live to be disappointed. Let them live to long to leave us and embrace their independence. Let them live to reach their goals or to fall short. Let them live to fail and pick themselves back up. Let them live with choices they may regret. Let them live to fall in and out of love. Let them live to have children of their own. Let them live. Wrap my love around them to protect them and breathe in let them breathe out live.

Dreams look different now.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Once Upon A Time...

My husband and I have a pretty good deal. I can write whatever I want about anything I want as long as I extend him some vague, undetermined amount of privacy. I think that's fair, in theory. I'm sure no one dreams of becoming blog fodder or, in this case, blog father. I've kept this unspoken agreement that could never be held up in a court of law, until now. Honey, I love you. There's a box of your favorite cake mix in the pantry.

When I met my husband, I was on the heels of the bitter, ugly end of a long term relationship. He was a college student living in his twin sister's spare bedroom, sleeping inside a sleeping bag on a futon. On our second date, he said, "I'm going to buy you dinner. This may be the only time this happens. I just got my financial aid check." and I thought, "Wow, this is the man of my dreams."

His car was a devastatingly old Saab that required equal amounts of pressure on the gas pedal and brake in order not to stall at a stop light. I was impressed with the dexterity it took to make that happen. One foot pressing in the clutch. One foot hovering beautifully on brake and gas pedal. Hey, miracle man, wanna make some babies?

We officially set a date to be married before he officially proposed. I may have also been pregnant with our first. Details. In true good guy fashion, he hounded my dad for a private meeting. My father, always a wise man, tried to blow him off, but, my husband was persistent. At their sit-down, he asked for my hand in marriage. My father said, "May I suggest a long engagement?" to which my husband replied, "We've already set the date." This is the stuff Hallmark movies are made of.

We were married in a small ceremony in a quaint little Chapel. In Las Vegas. In the middle of July with a temperature in the triple digits. I have fond memories of holding my $99 eBay gown over my head while hovering my pregnant rump over the wall unit AC in the "bridal dressing room" -  an ancient, mildewy on-site motel room 100 feet from the entrance to the chapel. In the throes of awful morning sickness, my main concern was if I would vomit directly into my husband's mouth during our first kiss as man and wife.

We did not have a honeymoon. We instead decided to have several children in quick succession. Anyone will tell you that this is a fool-proof plan.

We went on our first date 8 years ago. We were married 7 months after our first date. Our first daughter was born 7 months after our wedding. Our son was born two years later. Our second daughter, 2 years after that, our 3rd daughter, 21 months after that.

When I look at the details that make up our story, it is not the traditional fairy tale romance. It is awkward, untimely and ridiculous. It is more often unplanned than carefully constructed. It is silly and full of shenanigans. Some did not take us seriously. Some probably still do not. However, on our third date, I knew. I knew that he and this ridiculous, hilarious, silly life were supposed to be mine. So, back off ladies, he's taken. You don't really want to take me on as a crazy ex. I mean, can you imagine?  It wouldn't work out anyway; this is a well-loved and regular conversation in our home.

Husband: "You know that I will never give you a divorce, right?"
Me: *sigh* "Yes, I know."
Husband: "Even if you move out, I will NEVER sign the papers."
Me: "What if I get a restraining order?"
Husband: "You'll have to let me see the kids. When I drop them off after our visits, I'll say, Kids, tell Mommy that I love her SO much. Ask her when I can come home. Tell Mommy I know she doesn't love me, but, I love her."
Me: *Through snorting laughter* "That is terrible."
Husband: "Well, I guess we have to stay married then."
Me: "I guess so."
Husband: "I love you."
Me: "I love you too."

And they lived happily ever after.

Never gonna give, never gonna give...GIVE YOU UP!

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Believe.

The world can be a cynical place. It is easy to lose sight of  the magic of this season as we rush, overextend, overbuy and become overwhelmed.

I am as guilty of this new-age celebration of marketing as anyone else. I worry about the number of presents we will have under the tree. I place my love squarely inside a box with a bow. I believe that my ability to provide what is desired is linked to my success as a parent. Will we disappoint them? How much is enough? How much is too much? Stuff. Things. Shiny, sparkly want. I wander through stores, doing math in my head. I don't see the magic. This is not a lecture. An intervention in an envelope arrived in the mail. Something amazing happened to my family. Here is my Christmas Story. My, "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus."

This year has been difficult. We have struggled. We have made difficult decisions. We struggle to make ends meet. We stretch our dollar and creativity as we hurdle through. We have watched our savings shrink and our debt increase. We are in an ebb. We hope for the flow.

During this, we have done everything in our power to keep the children unaware, though stress always leaks into the home. Children always know. We have been home more. They are small. They don't understand why they can't participate in classes with friends. They ask for experiences outside of our reach. We have to say no. They are starting to ask less. We are finally settling into a new normal.

This year, my husband and I sat down to delicately discuss Christmas. What would we do? Which credit card had the lowest APR? How would we pay it off? We argued about who was going to go pick out the stuff, things and shiny, sparkly want.

Yesterday, a simple envelope arrived. Red, addressed to our family, begging to be opened. Our last name was misspelled. There was no return address. I opened the envelope. Inside was a card. The front simply said, Merry Christmas. I opened the envelope to discover one hundred dollars and the following message:

Someone once did something nice for me. It's my turn to pay it forward. Merry Christmas.

As the moment poured over me, I felt shock, joy, humility and gratitude. I knew that something incredible was happening. I believe. I believe that I was lost. I believe in the goodness of people. I believe that I want to create a new legacy of giving. I believe in moments of grace. I believe that Santa Claus is alive and well in the spirit of gracious giving in all of us. I believe in second chances. I believe in magic. I believe.

To the unknown Santa who chose our family, you have given us so much. For the selfless kindness, for the magic, for the perspective, thank you. We will not forget your reminder of the true meaning of giving. For gifts that money can't buy, thank you. And, thank you for the gift of the simple sentiment we look forward to passing along:

Someone once did something nice for me. It's my turn to pay it forward. Merry Christmas.

"Christmas magic is silent. You don't hear it --- you feel it, you know it, you believe it." - Kevin Alan Milne (The Paper Bag Christmas)

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

No One Talks About My Thirst.

These days,  you can't seem to throw an extra comma into a sentence without hitting the well meaning advice of others. For example, I personally like to serve my children dinner while twirling a baton, but, I bet there are some anti-baton twirling parents out there just waiting, in my bushes, or in the pile of dried wipes and coffee cups on the floor of my van, to jump up and tell me that batons have been known to cause concussions. Well sure, but, if you haven't caused a concussion, clearly you didn't throw the baton high enough. Attempting a grilled cheese plating and quadruple spin is tricky even with acoustic ceilings. If you miss the catch and no concussion occurs, you have some work to do on your power throws. Rookies.

My current favorite thing to do to invite scorn and disgruntled, angry eyes is to emphatically state how much I enjoy my evening glass of wine or cocktail. This bunches an amazing amount of freshly pressed pantaloons. In between sips of my delightful wine, I adjust my glasses and take special note to not listen to any of the impassioned cries urging me to enjoy my children uninhibited by numbing agents. In response to these pleas I say, do you even have children or have you just seen them in passing? I also say, I've gotten quite comfortable in this spot on the couch, do you mind refilling my glass?

In my time as the accused, I can honestly say, it's always best to let someone know how sorry you feel for them as they enjoy a delicious cocktail. "Do you KNOW what you're missing in your state of wine daze?", they cry. Unless your answer is, the slightest edge off of the shrill death cry of freedom, then no, I don't. I also don't know where I put my glass. Have you seen it?

If you're going to insult the very simple pleasures of others, here's a bit of advice, it's always best to do so with absurd and over the top statistics. Why no, I was not aware that 2 glasses of wine a day made someone who clearly has it all figured out seem like an overbearing, statistic maker-upper. Oh wine, you have clouded my judgment yet again.

In the eyes of the tsk-tskers, I am the Miss Hannigan to their Donna Reed. I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but, even donning my best Miss Hannigan boa and compression knee highs, I can't pull off the bathtub gin. I don't have a bathtub. It makes my accurate depiction nearly impossible. I'm doing the best I can. Those are big shoes to fill.

I imagine that even if I opted to find another outlet that provided release and relaxation, there would be no way to please everyone. And, if you can not please everyone, you should strive to make several people unimaginably and unreasonably offended for no valid reason. In this way, I am a huge success. Mission accomplished.


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