Saturday, December 27, 2008

Some Assembly Required???

Christmas morning was a blast. The children opened the million or so presents they received from Santa. Smiles on faces everywhere. The smell of eggs Benedict coming from the stove. The dog content with the days events kept watch from her normal perch.... the back of the couch. And then it began. "Mommy, Daddy, can you put this together?"

As a parent, we assume this position of assembler with utmost appreciation. We remove toy after toy from their boxes, all the while keeping a smile on our face. This is no work for the weary. As we place the finished product into our child's hand we march on with bravery, and grab another toy from beneath the tree. We give the occasional smile and wink to our partner for a job well done. Of course the occasional laugh is also heard when we realize that the box we selected contains more pieces than a one pound bag of M&M's. As the perspiration runs down our foreheads we are quickly reminded that somewhere lost in the small print of the Parent Contract, we did indeed sign on the dotted line right after: "Some Assembly Required."

I have to admit that the thought of breaching that contract on Christmas morning did indeed pass my mind. After my husband opened the Playmobil Circus, I was quickly handed the box. "This one contains material," he yelled. "I'm not doing material today." And that's how it began.

Buried under a direction booklet the size of War and Peace sat a myriad of bags, each filled to the brim with yellow, red, blue and white pieces. And so I dug in.

I propped up the lid as to refer to the picture on the box. Obviously the Playmobil people had snuck in some accessories during the photo shoot to help fool parents into believing how incredibly cool this toy was going to be. I of course bought into that thought, and that is why it was currently sitting on my couch awaiting a playmate.

Then, just three hours later, the words echoed through our living room: "Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to the greatest show on earth."

Maybe you didn't catch the beginning of that last line. Yes, it took three hours to put together. All complaining aside; the children love it. There were even enough seats in the arena to accommodate their Lego friends. Not to mention the available parking spaces for their new Matchbox collection.

The Playmobil Circus was a hit. Children smiled. Parents smiled. And the dog, three hours later, still laying on the back of the couch seemed content with the new toy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Peril's of "The Santa Line"

So there we were in the middle of the mall starring up at the 50 foot tree. Like all children do, mine also wondered who was the moron that climbed all the way up that thing with a star. After said question was answered as best as "Why isn't the Indian Jones Lego set made for five year olds..Daddy let us watch the movie?" We moved on.

I took a quick glance at the portrait packages available. Suddenly it dawned on me that I wasn't the only one scanning my Santa pictures for our entire family. The elves must have caught on and despite economical difficulties, they decided to increase their prices three fold. Oh Goodie! I'll have to thank American Express for this night.

Aside from the Oscars (which I have not been nominated for yet) this was the only red carpet I would be walking on this year. But just as my foot was about to take its first step, a sound so heart wrenching went through my very being. I knew what it was, I had heard it before. In fact I hear it more often than I would like to admit some days.

As I turned to acknowledge the loud siren, which by the way, was coming from my little boys mouth, I put on my best Mommy pose and got down on my knee. In between his attempts to once again except fresh air into his lungs, he casually told me that he no longer wanted to sit on Santa's lap. (Oh fine, I thought to myself. What are we going to do now?)

My older child now took the opportunity to inform me that he will happily sit with Santa. A quick glare was given to his little brother. ("Oh no you don't Big Brother. Not here, not now. Mommy is on to that trickery. There is only one size Kids Meal at Chick Fillet. You Hear me little boy!"

I began to work my Mommy magic once more on screaming child. Hubby was already fed up after yes, dare I say, 2 minutes of tantrum....Amateur! I finally coaxed our little boy onto the red carpet. We began to talk about Santa's costume. Suddenly I realized I was having a conversation with myself.

My little boy had found the basket of goodies that Santa was handing out this year to all the good boys and girls who sat on his lap. He may have saw toys, but what I saw was ammunition. That's right I thought, two can play at this game. "If you want one of those toys honey, you'll have to talk to Santa." Basically it was true. Santa wasn't handing out Gingerbread gumby dolls to just any delinquent.

And with that, he made his choice. But I sadly learned the hard way, that bribery doesn't always work in Mommies favor.

My son gladly gave his wish list to Santa, and proudly collected his new toy, but sit for a picture...No Way! Just as the elf yelled cheese, the gut wrenching screams began again. The poor elf tried twice. Neither picture turned out like we hoped, but none the less, I pulled out that American Express card. (Don't leave home without it!)

Once our son recovered, which happened once he jumped off of Santa's lap (Ahh, a Christmas Miracle!) We were off to the food court. A big smile appeared on my son's face once the shining lights from the Chick Fillet sign were in sight.

Yes, I had been bamboozled by a three year old. It wasn't the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Memories are memories no matter how good or bad. This one is still going down as a good memory.

For all you mommies out there that were wiping away tears this holiday season, this article is dedicated to you. The pictures will stay in a frame, but the memories go in our hearts! Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Too Much Green to be Green

I have to admit, I'm somewhat of a tree hugger. Yes, I love the idea of being a part of something so big; something that I know will have an impact on my children and their children and so on. But lately I've become a little disgusted at the whole idea. It seems that no matter where you go, companies try to use the "green" label to get you to buy their product. And with that label follows the dollar signs.

I'm a Mommy on a mission. My main focus is my family. The household budget has always been a focus, but now more than ever, especially with the way the economy is going these days. While I strive to get to the checkout without reaching for a credit card, I'm also made to feel guilty when the products I load onto the conveyor belt are a less than healthy alternative.

When I had my first child in 2003, I looked up and down for biodegradable diapers. They could easily be found online for a not so reasonable price, but I noticed that I really couldn't find any stores around me that carried this item. A local (and by local I mean 15 miles away) Whole Foods catered to Environmental Moms, but after I figured in the gas I would be burning for the round trip, I concluded that my carbon footprint on the world may in fact be larger than it began before I got involved in this whole mess.

I have improved my habits in some ways over the last few years. When you visit my home you will find product names such as Seventh Generation, and Meyers Cleaning solutions. I try to stay away from colors and dyes in my laundry, and I now understand why the absence of phosphates is so important. I recycle and reuse when possible, although I noticed that my borough is still trying to catch up with current trends. The recycling man took my glass, cans and papers, but failed to remove the large stack of cardboard I so neatly tied up for them. Apparently, that's not in their contract.

I try my best to teach these habits to my children, although they are still of the belief that a mound of bubbles constitutes a cleaner child. My environmentally friendly soap made them both smell like peaches and barely left a lather on their bodies.

Trying to explain to your family that clean doesn't necessarily mean lemon fresh, but rather the absence of stink is a very hard lesson to teach. Especially when the world around you chooses to teach something else.

If the environment is so darn important, why is it so hard to pay a reasonable price for the products we need? How about trash bags for instance? They take forever to break down, yet there are no environmentally friendly trash bags at my local grocery store.

Despite the lack of cooperation I think at-home moms are getting with this trend, I still see things moving in the right direction. People have an awareness at least, if not a clear understanding that there is a problem. At least there is an awareness.

I have hope that there will be a day when actions take precedent over dollar signs. But until that day arrives, this Green Mom can't help but also being a little blue.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Paper Clip Necklace

When I think of Christmas' gone by, I can't help but believe that my best memories stem from my youth. Christmas is always a wonderful time, but there is something different about being young and believing in the magic.

There are many definitions of fortunate. Some will tell you it's the person with the most money. Other's will tell you that it is the man who couldn't pay his electric bill, but made enough money to purchase a loaf of bread to feed his family.

Fortunate to me would be the word to describe my entire life. We had our highs and lows as many families do, but there was always something waiting under the tree for us Christmas morning.

I remember the year I was awoke by my brother. He wanted to tell me that he had already snuck out to the living room and looked at our presents. "Santa left you a Whoopsie Doll," he said. "But he left me a racetrack." I could barely hold the excitement in. I couldn't wait to play with my brand new doll.

The Christmas of 1982 left us discovering a large white sheet in the living room. All three children were left their first bikes. It was hard to open any gifts after that. We couldn't wait to get outside and try our brand new wheels.

I have received much more than I can remember, but there has always been a special gift that has stayed close to my heart. I believe it was Christmas of 1986. I had opened all the gifts under the tree and had just finished my stocking. Normally then we would give our mom her gift and then exchange with our siblings. We relied on the Secret Santa shop run by our school to buy those special gifts. I'd like to say I remember what I gave everyone that year; but I don't. However, I do remember the gift that was handed to me by my little sister.

It was barely the size of my hand. Wrapped in Christmas paper, and heavily covered in streams of scotch tape, the process of opening my new gift was slow and tedious. As I pulled back the layers of paper, a strong smell began to emerge from within. I shortly began to realize that the smell of nail polish was lingering inside. I thought something must have exploded, but I was wrong.

As I reached the final layer, I must have looked confused. "It's a paper clip necklace," my sister explained. "I didn't have money to get you anything else, so I decided to paint it your favorite color pink. I borrowed your nail polish. I did it last night, so be careful, it may be a little wet."

You may be thinking to yourself: What does one say after receiving such a gift? They say what they would after receiving any gift..."Thank you."

And that's the story about my favorite gift. It didn't come in a larger than life box. It wasn't professionally wrapped, nor did it come with a warranty or gift receipt. But it was perfect.

As you run from store to store this year, try keeping this story in mind. If you're looking for the perfect gift this year, chances are, you probably already have it.

New Year New Look

Hi All,

To all my frequent readers, you may have noticed some changes occurring on my blog. Yes, the look has changed but it is still the same Mommy typing her heart out on the other end. Let me know what you think. If you can offer any suggestions, or think there is something I can add, please leave me a note. Us Mommies are incredibly busy these days and rely on one another for support.

As for my own look, I can only reveal that there is nothing new to get excited about. I have been so busy with the holidays that there has been little time to do much else. Case in point: I was organizing my closet, putting away the laundry, and cleaning my shower all while a glob of hair dye sat on my head. Normally, I would not recommend such behavior, but in a world where 24 hours often feels like 24 minutes, sometimes you're forced into such situations.

For now, I will close letting all know that this Mommy will be getting a quiet shower since her Hubby is home helping her today. Ahhh!

Tune in next post when Mommy Maestro remembers to deodorize under both arms before beginning her morning car pool.

A Trunk Full of Love

Well, only two days have passed since our family Christmas Party and I'm still recovering. To say it was a success would be an understatement. Over 50 of you joined us in celebrating the holiday. Everything turned out far better than expected.

I tried to get around to everyone. Hopefully you got at least a hug and kiss.

To those of you that participated in helping us sponsor a family; there truly aren't enough Thank You's. We delivered the presents on Sunday via the trunk of my minivan. It was an overwhelming experience. I wish all of you could have been there.

The night was filled with fun and surprises. Friends we haven't seen in years showed up on our doorstep. May I send an extra thank you to those of you who brought along a little bubbly. The bar is again stocked and ready for the next party. I am hoping to get everyone together in the summer. The pool will be open, so be watching your mailboxes for invites.

May all of you have a wonderful holiday, and thanks for making ours just perfect!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thank Goodness for Little Boys

I recently read an article that talked about how to choose a name for your baby. It got me thinking back to that not so long ago day when my husband and I were going through those motions. I would suggest a name, he would say "no." He would suggest a name, I would say "no." And so it went.

My husband was always ready with a boys name, whereas I could come up with a girls name at the drop of a hat. Turns out, the ultrasound revealed we were going to need a boys name. And 18 months later, we needed another boys name.

Preparing to be a mother was going to be hard enough, but preparing to raise 2 boys seemed at the time impossible; if not a little psychotic. I felt I would know what to do with a girl. There wouldn't be any surprises. I would know what to do when she cried. I could teach her to dance, sing, and write. When she got older I could teach her how to shop without spending an entire paycheck. I could have "the talk" without feeling uncomfortable. I could teach her the difference between men and gentlemen. I could teach her to love, and hold her when he heart gets broken. But, I don't have a little girl.

Instead, I have been given something much better. I have not one son, but two. And all the things I thought I would miss out on, I actually get to do almost everyday.

It didn't take long before they were both making their way through our house. Maybe it was due to the fact that I would often turn the car radio up while they were still in the womb, and play my favorite CD. And although the days of disco are long gone, both boys will proudly strut their stuff to The Bee Gees Greatest Hits. Yes, I taught them to dance.

You will probably never find me auditioning for a spot in American Idol. But I have to confess that I've taken my chances on numerous Karaoke Nights (yes, I have done it without alcohol). Despite my lack of Mariah Carey vocals you can often find me belting out a tune within the confines of my minivan. For the most part I encourage those who ride with me to chime in as well. And so, my boys have learned to do just that. Yes, I have taught them to sing.

It's hard to consider myself a writer, but a day never passes that at least a few words haven't been saved on a hard drive or even a notebook. I believe that children should be given that experience as well. It's amazing what they will do once a pencil is placed in their hand. I still remember the day they realized that coloring books are not the only palette for a crayon. Whether Picasso's or mini Ernest Heminway's they have been given the tools to become great at whatever they choose. Yes, I have taught them to write.

As I was leaving for the grocery store one morning, my younger son asked: "Do you have your coupons Mom?" He may not know exactly what they are for, but he knows not to go shopping without them. Both boys have been taught to look for the "red" sign. Explaining clearance and sale at this age may be a bit over their head, but they do understand colors. And if what Mommy wants to buy doesn't have a "red" sign above it; it doesn't go home with Mommy. Yes, I have taught them to look for a deal.

My boys are a little too young for "the talk" but when the time comes, well I don't deserve all the credit...Daddy will sit down with them. He may even shed some light on the topic of: Girls you date and Girls you marry. (No doubt, there is a difference).

A day never goes by that I don't whisper the words "I love you." And lucky for me, they whisper them back. Often times with no prompts at all. Yes, I've taught them to love.

My hopes for a little girl are obsolete; though not completely forgotten. I have more than any one person should have. And for that, I am grateful.
My days are no longer days, they are adventures....Adventures of a Mommy Maestro!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Safety First, and Second, and Third, and...

As I go crazy over the list of things that has to be done by the holidays, the one thing I find myself constantly doing everyday is cleaning. With two small boys, a husband, and dog; the job sounds much easier than it is.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm finding crevices "where no man has been before" within my house, or maybe it's that undiagnosed OCD family members swear I suffer from. Either way, I'm finally coming to terms with my need for safety. Not so much for me, but rather for the children.

I'm reminded each day of my neurotics just by the simple chore of vacuuming. In order for me to begin, I must first remove the safety plug that fits into the receptacle. As I move from room to room with my trusty Oreck, I pull a safety plug out, then put it back in before I leave.

Some may think I'm being overprotective, but I clearly remember the day my brother put a pin inside a baby lamp while it was still plugged in. Needless to say he was shocked and fell backwards off our bunk-bed. Looking back, yes, this was a stupid stunt, but never the less, had my Mom had in her disposal some of the cool safety gadgets available these days, my brother may just be normal (Sad but true).

Travel into my kitchen and you will find the safety covers over the knobs for the stove. I don't know what I was scared of when I purchased these things, but it seemed smart at the time. Maybe I feared the children may find a way to make their own meals therefore leaving my job obsolete. (Sorry, started dreaming for a minute). Sadly, my children are more familiar with the menu at Chick Fillet than the one in my kitchen. One day I'll learn to cook. Until then, nuggets anyone?

Go into my bathrooms and you will find safety locks for my cabinets. I still think this is a good buy, and that is why they are still there after 5 years. I even bought a safety lock for the toilet at one point. It was right after the Oprah episode that reminded parents that children can drown in just an inch of water. After I read the directions, I realized that this safety feature could cause more harm than good. If your not good at figuring out puzzles, let's just say this is not a good investment. Another side note: if you suffer from overactive bladder or have had at least 2 children; you can do without a lock on your toilet.

I don't know where this sudden urgency for safety came from but it certainly wasn't from our parents. Looking back, I'm sure my crib was decorated with lead paint, and yes, I drank directly from the garden hose on more than one occasion. We swam in our pool while our mother mopped the kitchen floor and we rode our bikes without helmets.

Did we get hurt. Sure did. But we got up, washed ourselves off, and continued to play until the street lights went on.

I remember once falling out of a tree and hitting every branch on the way down. A few scratches, but no broken bones. I got right up. I waited until the next day though to climb back into that tree.

I still look both ways before crossing a street. Nothing has changed about that. But I'm always amazed at the amount of safety features that are offered in new cars today. I too have fell victim to these packages that promise if something hits you, your life will be saved by these pillows that magically blow out of the side panels.

Here's something to think about: Back when I was kid, we didn't even wear our seat belts. My parents owned an over sized station wagon that was tough as a tank. I on the other hand have owned 5 cars so far. I have had 4 accidents of one kind or another (thankfully none were my fault). However, I've only been slightly hurt once. And guess how I was hurt? Yes, that's right, the magical pillow that blew out of my steering wheel burned my arms as I tried to avoid a car that went through a red light. On the brighter side, the pillow also saved me from hitting the wind shield. (Safety wins again!)

We recently bought an inground pool, and again the only thing on my mind was this issue of safety. There are 3 gates that lead into the pool area. All have safety locks. My children take swim lessons, and I make them wear their life preservers even when they're sitting at the picnic area just in case they wonder off. I even invested in a pool cover that promises it can hold the weight of an elephant. I have seen a bird, a duck and even my own dog run across that cover. I have yet to see a pachyderm in my backyard, so I am still somewhat skeptical.

So I continue to clean my house and get ready for the holidays. Ever so slightly working around these safety obstacles I have set up. Next room is the basement. In the mean time I'll try to figure out how to get a steamer over the baby gate.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Update for All Christmas Party Attendees

Hi Family and Friends. As you can see, the party is only 11 days away. I have spoken to a few of you about the gifts you have chosen for our sponsored family. The list appears in the side bar. For those of you having trouble deciding on a gift, you'll be happy to know we just received a few suggestions from the children's mother.

Boy #4- Enjoys hockey and loves Game Stop

Boy #3- Likes to build things. Likes Game Stop.

Boy #2- Would like a statue of St. Timmy. Loves Game Stop

Boy #1- Likes to build things. Likes Game Stop.

I know this isn't a long list, but try to keep in mind that these children believe that there will be no Christmas this year.

Thanks to all of you who are getting involved and even those who can't. I am so excited about this party. I'm still trying to figure out where we will be putting everyone. See you all soon!