Thursday, May 31, 2007

She's Here!!

Yes, we have confirmation that our baby is actually a girl!! Darcey Elizabeth Simmons was born tonight at 9:19 p.m. and weighed a measly 7 pounds 5 ounces. That's tiny compared to my other boys who were 8 lb 4, 9 lb 7, and 8 lb 15 . We have a chance to actually use those newborn size diapers!!

My labor went quickly after they broke my water at 6:00ish. At that time I was at about 2.5 centimeters dilated, and it only took me until 8:30 to be ready to push. Unfortunately, the epidural completely wore off between 6:15 and 7:15, and by that time I was in some real pain. The anesthesiologist came in and re-dosed me, and I've been terrific ever since. I believe that I was at 10 centimeters earlier than 8:30, because I could feel a little pressure, but they didn't check me until 8:30, and then they had me wait while they called my doctor in, who got here around 9.

I only had to push through about 3 contractions, which was impressive to the medical staff here, because Darcey was posterior, and typically posterior babies are harder to push out since they are basically upside down. They said that if she had been right side up, I most likely wouldn't have had to push hardly at all, she would have fallen out. The resident who helped deliver kept telling me that I was so good at laboring that I should have more kids. Ryan pointed out that it isn't the labor that's the hard part, it's actually raising the beasts once they're here!

Darcey has cried pretty much non-stop in the 45 minutes since she was born, and we are hoping that it is not indicative of future behavior. She looks almost exactly like Zacky did as a baby, except somehow more feminine. But her mouth is the same when she cries and her cry even sounds like his cry. I can't help but be nervous, I don't know what to expect from this baby and I'm hoping I can handle a crier.

That's about it for this update. I'm going to be moved to my recovery room in a few minutes, and Ryan is with Darcey in the nursery while she gets cleaned up a little. I've been starving all afternoon, but now that I can eat, I don't feel like it, which is a bummer. But I think I'll still send Ryan out to find me some dinner, otherwise it's going to be pretty painful at 2 a.m. when I decide that I definitely shouldn't have skipped a meal!

I forgot to bring the card reader to be able to post pictures from my camera, but I'm going to ask Ryan to do that when he gets home. Our neighbor Kelly is camped out in our house, she's been watching my kids all day today and is, in my mind, an absolute saint.

I'm just so relieved that it's over. I'm just hoping that having a baby is easier than I remember!!

mid-labor update

hey everyone, I'm attempting to type this while laying on my side in a slightly raised hospital bed, with an i.v. in my right hand, so forgive the typos. So I got to the hospital at 1 pm, and by 2 or 2:15 they started the pitocin. At about 2:30ish I got an epidural, so other than the i.v. and epidural needles, so far it has been relatively pain-free. Although the epidural was fairly painful in itself, I knew it was a smallish price to pay for the pain relief.

Unfortunately, the progress has been slow. With the last two boys, my labor averaged 4 hours or so, but I didn't get an epidural at all with Noah and only for the last 45 minutes with Zack, and with Zack, it markedly slowed my labor, so I'm guessing it's the epidural that is causing this to be slower.

In the next little bit my doctor will come in and break my water, which should speed things up.

Okay, that's it for now.

Some Final Pre-Partum Thoughts

Today, theoretically, is the day. Although it might not be, either. The blessed event that we've been waiting for for 273 days could be happening today, and I couldn't be more excited about it. Except that I am still waiting for anything to happen. Kind of puts a damper on any excitement.

On Monday morning I realized that I wanted to be induced. I had been offered for many weeks to be induced one week early if I wanted to, but that I had to make a decision early because this is Utah Valley, where childbirth is a pastime, nay, even a hobby with some women, and the hospital's schedule gets filled quickly. Having been induced before, I knew that I absolutely did not want to be induced again. In retrospect, when my induction with my first child was presented to me, I know now that I was being told "No" in my heart, while the logical part of me said, "Heck yes!" Going with the "heck yes" was a mistake, because I've regretted it ever since, even though nothing bad came of it at all. It just wasn't the right thing to do, and I knew it but did it anyway.

So anyhow, Monday morning at 5:45 I was getting out of bed to go to the bathroom for the millionth time and accidentally bumped Ryan. When I came back and got in bed, Ryan was sitting bolt upright and said, "Where were you?" I told him I was going to the bathroom, and he said, "Oh, you hit me so hard I thought there was an emergency!"

Well, I was tired of everything being a potential emergency, and I spent the next hour or so laying awake in bed deciding that, in fact, I am okay with nature not taking its course. I am tired of waiting and thinking that everything I felt could be a prelude to a real contraction. I prayed about it, and immediately felt a peaceful calm feeling about being induced, the exact opposite of the feelings I had had even a week or so before. I can't explain the about-face, but accepted it and emailed my doctor to grovel and plead for one more chance at induction. I told him that I didn't care when it was scheduled for, do the best he could and I'd be happy knowing that an end was in sight.

Yesterday at my appointment, he gave me the good news - he was able to get me on the schedule for Thursday (today), although I am 5th in line behind 2 medical inductions and 3 elective inductions. Or am I the third elective? Maybe I'm 6th in line? I can't remember already, but apparently that's fairly far down the totem pole, and there is no guarantee they will get to me. I was just thrilled that it could potentially be today, and could finally start making plans. Arranging for a baby-sitter. Finding rides home from school. Packing a hospital bag (which I didn't get to do with my last baby, he was so early). Doing some laundry so I don't have to think about it for a while. Downloading the other two sections of a book onto my ipod.

And then the waiting began, but this time we're not waiting for nature, we're waiting for humans. My doctor had advised me to call the hospital if I hadn't gotten a call by 9 or 10 a.m. today, and see where I am on the list. I called at 10, and was told that the hospital was swamped, and that they had no idea when they would get to me. She let me know that if it got to be "too late" they would call my doctor and see if he still wanted to induce me today. I don't know what time constitutes "too late" but things, to me, are not looking good.

So the holding pattern continues. I could have taken my kids to Kangaroo Zoo with all of my friends, who are undoubtedly sitting there assuming I'm in labor even as we speak. The ride I arranged for Brad to go to a Last Day of School Party I ended up canceling, and Ryan drove him instead. Ryan, who arranged to take today and tomorrow off of work (from the one client that we have) has decided to go into work anyhow and do stuff, just to avoid sitting around the house staring at me.

Wait, hold, the phone, there is breaking news!! The hospital just called and said that they are ready for me!! Holy smokes, this is really going to happen today, like right now!! By dinnertime I could be holding our new daughter (with one hand, of course, because the other will be trying to type an update for my blog. What can I say, I'm a die-hard.).

Okay, okay, I'm going - Wish me luck!!!!!!

A Note on Naming Names

So, since all of my six readers are also family members, it hasn't been a big deal to try to obscure the names of my family in this blog. I initially felt that I didn't really want too much personal information about my kids in particular on the internet. Since I put so much personal information in this blog, and we have our business online with lots of other personal information, I thought if I could at least keep their identifying information confidential, it would keep them safe.

But maybe that's a stupid thought. Because every one of my six readers (and I might be slightly exaggerating that number) has questioned the wisdom behind calling them "Boy #1" etc, it seems as though maybe I am blowing the danger out of proportion. After all, if we were to, say, have a disgruntled customer who decides to come after my family, and chooses to do so using the information gleaned from this blog, he'd know a) where we live, b) I have three sons and a daughter on the way, c) none of the children I currently have would be well-behaved enough to want to kidnap.

I mean, honestly, am I painting a rosy picture of my children here? I don't think so. Maybe I should consider protecting their identity not from predators, but from their own future best interests. Like the college kids who post embarrassing pictures on MySpace and then wonder why they can't get a job. Maybe the fact that Brad, who is almost 10, would like nothing better than to sit with his almost 3-year-old brother and watch Thomas the Tank Engine. Whoops, too embarrassing!

So the point is, I'm going to stop censoring myself, and in all likelihood, no one will ever care enough for it to make a difference. Is it a sign of narcissism that I actually thought that someone might dig through all of our personal online information and use it for evil? Well, whatever, I was trying to be circumspect and maybe a little defensive in a world of rampant identity theft, but I'm going to take a chance here. After all, if you google my name, nothing comes up that is actually me, so maybe I can think of this as helping my children avoid the same fate! No one wants true anonymity, right?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Boy, Is My Husband Funny!

Okay, he's forcing my hand here - my Dear Husband has been so funny lately that I have to put a couple of things here to prove it.

We're on the phone talking about the fact that he doesn't take custom animation jobs anymore, so that he can devote his time to our website business. He still gets emails from people asking him to take their project, and he tells them no and usually gives them a referral to another animator. He has a particular client who wants work from him, and he said that the most he could do was consult on the project and give him advice (it's a lengthy project). That seemed to satisfy that client. So DH says to me, that famous quote: "If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime. Plus he'll leave me alone."

What a humanitarian!

Then just now he decides to prove just how much time he has on his hands, so he sent me this email. By the way, just to be absolutely clear, I have not yet had the baby.


Just thought I would put together a composite image of what Darcey will look like when she arrives!

Yes, that is a picture of Boy #3 at like 2 months old, with a bow drawn on his head. DH says to me, "Well, what do you expect? She's going to look the same as the other kids, right?"

I do have to say, s/he looks pretty cute...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Veritable Stew of Thoughts

Happy Birth Day?

The mind games are going a mile a minute today, 15 days before my due date. The significance of that number is that Boy #3 was born exactly 15 days before his due date, giving me a kind of artificial due date for this pregnancy. After all, if it can happen once, it can (and ought to) happen again, right?

I tried really hard not to do this to myself, not to get worked up about going into labor early, because the logical half of my brain knows that it will just make the next two weeks unbearable. Unfortunately, the logical half of my brain is on vacation in Tahiti, or possibly Exotic Kuala Lumpur, maybe expecting me to pick it up when we go there in July. Anyhow, logic has flown out the window and last night before I went to bed I actually wrote down a list of what the babysitter would need to know if I woke up in labor today. And put the cell phone charger and camera with spare batteries on the counter so I wouldn't have to go looking for it.

I didn't wake up in labor today. That kind of goes without saying, because my labors are so hard and fast that I can barely remember to breathe during them, let alone formulate a blog entry. (Although I am tempted to call the hospital and see if they have a wifi connection, so I can do my reporting from my hospital bed.) But mentally, I'm there, ready to be done, not out of sheer misery, but just as if I've reached the finish line and now I'm looking around for the refreshments. Or the award ceremony, whatever. I've never crossed a literal finish line, just figurative ones. And today I feel like I've crossed the finish line, I'm raising my arms over my head and looking around for the paparazzi to take my picture! Where are those dang paparazzi?!?

Yes, the next two weeks are going to be loooong. And I have no one to blame but Boy #3, since clearly he is the one who has ruined late-stage pregnancy for me. But no matter, I'm the grown-up here and will forgive him. But not until this pregnancy is actually over. :)

The Cutest Prayer Ever Said

Not that it's appropriate to judge prayers, but if there was a Cutest Prayer Ever competition, our youngest boy would be a shoo-in. He has figured out how to say a prayer on his own, after months of repeating whatever an adult told him to say. That in itself was cute, but the prayer he came up with, which never varies by as much as one word, far surpasses it in cuteness. Here is a literal transcription of his prayer.

Hay Fadder,
thank iss day.
Bless Noah, be safe.
Gee Kwiste, Amen

Needless to say, the aforementioned boy in the prayer also thinks this is the best prayer ever, and when we sit down to any meal or scriptures or bedtime prayer or whatever, when I ask who wants to say the prayer, Boy #3 immediately says "Me!!" So we let him say the first prayer, and then have a second, official prayer by someone else in the family. If anyone outside of the family came to eat with us, they'd conclude that Mormons sure have a strange prayer ritual, but I assure you, it's just us. And if anyone needed a special prayer for safety, Boy #3 picked the right one - Boy #2 tops the injured list with 3 sets of stitches, compared to Boy #1's one set of stitiches and a concussion, and Boy #3's nothing so far. Plus Boy #2 currently sports a fairly nasty bruise and cut combo on his knee, from banging into the springs on someone's (you guessed it) trampoline.

The Star Wars Saga

Boy #2 goes through phases where he attaches himself to a particular game/movie/idea and will not let go of it no matter what. The first, and most extreme, was the Spiderman phase, where he wore a Spiderman costume daily for about 6 months. He wore it to the grocery store, to the library, while playing outside. He wore it so much that he got holes all over it and we had to procure him a replacement costume. The original face mask that he wore ended up with a brownish stain over his mouth just from breathing, and yes, we did try to wash the thing but it was seriously a biohazard by the end.

Spiderman was followed by Harry Potter, which was far less consuming, as the robe would just go on over regular clothes most of the time, and we collected quite a variety of wands. Anything that was vaguely stick-like would turn into a magic wand, including actual sticks, pencils, and a particularly messy fetish with wooden chopsticks colored brown with marker. The kids in the neighborhood ended up with brown hands for weeks until we stopped ordering chinese food altogether.

After Harry Potter was Star Wars, and he traded in his wands for light sabers. This is kind of where we've been for a while now, and although there was a lapse in interest for a while, we are experiencing a resurgence over the last 6 months and it shows no sign of ending. I think we have more lightsabers than people in our house, and I know for a fact that we've lost both the green and purple ones that were part of the first wave of materialism.

We also have some Star Wars Transformers and other ships that #2 got for Christmas and his birthday. There is a particular ship that he has three versions of - yellow, red, and black (Anakin, Obi-Wan, and someone else, I have no clue). They are identical except for color, and he definitely has preferences, as if they mean something different.

Apparently there is a language here that I don't get. And I've seen the movies, I know what we're talking about here, but I think with the introduction of the Lego Star Wars video games has come a new level of understanding for Boy #2 that far surpasses anything I know. He is on a first name basis with the characters and has an intimate knowledge of their ships. It makes it so that the majority of what #2 talks about is little more than gibberish to me. Here's a direct transcript of something #2 said to me the other day, which he was quite excited about.

"On number 3 from 9 I only have three minikits so I have to get a lot. And in number two from level two there's this hard one that there's three signs and once they are all green then you get the minikit then you get all the minikits. You do C3-PO's sign and then you get the minikit, I've done that before. If i start over in mystery, maybe I'll get number two on one!"

"Josh buyed bounty hunter rockets and guess what happens (sound effect) it comes out of their heads! And if it only comes with one gun holder and comes with two guns then I can use my other gun holder, remember the other one I have that doesn't work? I can use that one. And guess what? From the part of the movie where Jango Fett dies he only has one gun because his other gun fell into the water and he goes like this (sound effect) (motion of cutting his head off)."

But he has always loved costumes, and the beauty of liking such a commercial movie is that there are piles of costumes available. We have an Anakin (from the 1st movie) and a Darth Vader, plus a Jedi robe. He decided that what he needs, more than air, more than anything in the world, is a Jango Fett costume. Which, it being May, is pretty much impossible to just go buy for any reasonable dollar amount. No, in May you go to Ebay, and the costumes there are $25, plus $10 shipping. Arrgh. And that doesn't even come with the guns!

The only reason we would entertain such a request is that his birthday is one month after Christmas, so he has to go 11 months between gift-receiving opportunities. So he has little recourse to get new things for his new fads in the middle of the year, unlike the other boys (and, eventually, the girl). So I made him a deal - if he saves up "his own money" we'd order the costume for him on Ebay. "His own money" of course, means "money we give him for whatever reasons we can fabricate with any amount of authenticity, so that we don't look like we're handing him a $35 present for no reason."

So I basically paid him not to play his Lego Star Wars video game. The weather has been gorgeous outside anyhow, so he ended up spending hours and hours every day playing outside with his friends, while I paid him about $7 a week for this privilege. I extended the same offer to Boy #1, because he is as desperate for money as #2, although with no will power to save long term for anything big. I came up with the $7 per week deal because I figured three weeks was all I could handle of hearing "How much money do I have? How much more do I need? When will it get here? etc. etc."

After three (long) weeks, he had saved $21 and asked me to go online to order his costume. Guess what? All of the costumes available were size small or large, no mediums. That's okay, he said, he'd let us buy the gun set instead and then he'd save up again for the costume. Good enough for us, we ordered them (not really any cheaper than the costume, though) and they arrived yesterday. Jango Fett has two guns, which means that Boy #2, who is the best sharer in the family, can give one to Boy #3 to play with, so they can shoot each other like crazy. I woke up at 7 this morning to gunfire in the family room, but didn't panic because I knew it meant I had two happy children.

One added side benefit - in the three weeks of money-for-no-video-game deal, he rediscovered a lightsaber game we had bought him for Christmas. It's still a video game, but it requires you to swing a lightsaber to fight bad guys (and good guys) from the Star Wars movies. He's gotten to level 4 and is stumped by General Grevious, but it is such an active game that he literally works up a sweat playing it. And that makes it good by me.

Things I Love, in No Particular Order

1. Cool Whip.
2. Long, hot showers when there's nobody standing outside the bathroom door with a stopwatch to tell me I'm taking too long.
3. An empty basket next to the dryer when I'm doing laundry.
4. The smell of our lilac bushes, and the smell of spring in general. Spring requires less pruning than the lilac bushes.
5. Being alone in my house. More loved for its rarity.
6. Not having to make specific rules for kids stupid behavior. Like "Don't yell at your friends or hit your family." Or "You can't eat the wrapper of your Pixy Sticks!" (And its corollary, Don't eat paper!)
7. Opening a washing machine and not finding a left-over load from last week getting moldy.
8. Letters and phone calls from my siblings.
9. Crushed ice.
10. Fresh fruit.
11. Children who can pump their legs on the swing and don't need a push. All of my kids can do that now!!
12. Children who can play independently and amuse themselves. Not all of my kids can do that.
13. TV shows that aren't a waste of time, like Heroes and The Amazing Race.
14. Kids who get dressed by themselves.
15. Knowing where all of the kids' shoes are. Boy #3 has 3 pairs that I can't find right now.
16. Nice, soft, squishy beds.
17. The Nuts About Berries salad at Zupas in Provo.
18. Clothes that fit. And shoes that my feet don't ooze out the sides of. And grammatically correct sentences.
19. Having a vacation to look forward to.
20. The way Boy #1 gets jokes and can hold a conversation like an adult.
21. Our families version of the song "Follow the Prophet" which is substantially more festive than the regular song. Especially when Boy #1 and his father decide to make up new lyrics when they can't remember the correct ones. For example: "Jonah was a prophet, stuck inside a whale, He missed JC Penney's One Day Only sale." We kind of can't sing the song without the new lyrics.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sleepless in Orem

It's 2:12 a.m. and I'm awake. I'd say "wide awake" but that sounds a little too chipper to describe me right now. So I'm eating a bowl of generic Honey Bunches of Oats and writing this to take my mind off of how frustrating it is to be awake when I could, conceivably, be asleep. I could do what my dad does when he can't fall asleep, which is call me since we have a 7 hour time difference, but for now I'll just whine on paper.

Sleep seems to be my one big, unattainable goal in life, not only when I'm pregnant but pretty much year-round. I am not one of those people who can get by on 6 hours of sleep and still remain functional - I can do it to a certain extent, especially in situations where I'm really busy, like a vacation or something else entertaining. But on a regular day when I'm doing my home with the kids routine, lack of sleep makes me grouchy. And the whole family ends up paying the price.

Oh, how I long for those irresponsible days of teenager-hood, when I could stay up all night and not care about the results! I remember a time when I went to a party until like 4 a.m. and then when we went home, I hopped in the car and drove down to Irvine to pick up a free KROQ t-shirt. Or maybe it was a bumper sticker. I got home at like 8 in the morning, and went to a singles ward activity. I was awake for like 40 hours or something and thought that was a badge of honor, like how cool am I? Of course now as an adult I'm screaming at the teenager, trying to convince her that driving on so little sleep is a horrible idea. I wouldn't go so far as the grocery store this tired, for fear of falling asleep at the wheel. Okay, so I don't long for the stupid irrationality of teenager-hood, but the freedom is still pretty appealing.

We had a friend who was single for years longer than us, who used to make fun of us for how early we went to bed. After all, the singles dances didn't even get good until after 10 when everybody showed up. At ten tonight I was polishing off the end of the Heroes season finale, watched a little bit of the news, and then went upstairs to put on pajamas and read scriptures. I was in bed by 10:40, right when the single me would have been debating with her friends whether the dance was good enough to stay, or should we head over to Denny's?

Those days are behind me, never to return. Now, every minute of staying up late is counter-balanced by the amount of tiredness I think I can handle the next day. Some days it's worth it to stay up late, talking to DH or watching a movie, or going to scrapbook at a friend's house. And that's why it stinks so much to be unable to fall asleep in the middle of the night - there's no compensatory enjoyment taking place, for which I'm willing to pay the tiredness price. No offense, but I certainly could have written this blog entry at some reasonable hour of the morning, and it might have actually gone quicker without the ridiculous number of typo's I'm correcting along the way. (I wouldn't be surprised if someone had switched the keys around on my keyboard - that's how bad I'm typing right now.)

The worst is that the kids bear the brunt of it. They are good kids, really good most of the time, as long as I can manage the things that tend to set them off. Boy #1 is set off by boredom, if he can't find a friend to play with he is so miserable and sulky it's hard to be around him. He would love a parent to do something with him when he's bored. Boy #2 is hunger, primarily, and for him all it takes is feeding him regular meals and regular intervals, with snacks in between, and he's good. But that means he needs to be somewhere reachable, say, in our house or backyard, and the noise and friend-levels can get really high when he's here.

Boy #3 is just starting to throw some really good tantrums. He is set off by being forced to do things he doesn't want to do. He is entering that independent 3-year-old phase which we've always found harder than the terrible two's. For so long, he could be manhandled into doing whatever it is we needed him to do, and since he has been a fairly easy going child (bless him!) there wasn't even all that much manhandling that had to take place. We'd get in the car, and I'd buckle him in. We'd decide it was bedtime, and carry him upstairs. Not anymore. Now he needs reasoning, persuading, coercing, and yes, bribing. Just a little, mind you, he's not all that manipulative, nor is he intelligent enough to push this as far as he could. But just try to make him stop playing with something, or keep him in the backyard when he wants to play with his friends, and all heck breaks loose. With him, we need to readjust how we handle things and react to situations, because our former skill set has been deemed obsolete, and unless we are looking to be downsized, we better get some new on-the-job training.

I wonder if anyone can answer the question, "How much yelling can the kids take before we've scarred them for life?" Am I close to the limit? Can I read the gauge to find out which yelling incidents the kids are going to remember, and which ones they will forget? Is it possible to raise these kids without giving them a reason to complain at length about our parenting failures? During General Conference this year, the most guilt-inducing talk for me was "The Tongue of Angels" which is a reference to a mother speaking to her child. With the tongue of angels. When I'm tired, I really wonder if I'm speaking with the tongue of Devils instead. I've read all the conference talks, but this one I had to skip, because "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard" and boy, is that one hard.

I feel particularly bad when I've yelled at Boy #3, because he is still young and innocent enough that he gets really hurt when I yell at him. Consequently, I yell at him less and try hard not to yell at him at all. He still gets that wounded look, which the older boys have long since abandoned, and now mostly tune us out when yelling. But my guess is it's still hurting them.

Okay, so maybe that's all a little too honest. Maybe it makes you feel uncomfortable to read about my flaws in such blunt detail. And maybe when I re-read this at some decent time of day, I'll cringe and wonder if it's too late to edit my post to take all that out. But unfortunately, this is a weakness of mine that I seriously struggle with. It's the thing that makes me dislike Mother's Day so much - all of the stories and accounts of how important the mother is in the life of her child just makes me feel worse for the things I do so obviously wrong. I'd much rather hear that mothers are basically replaceable by day care and that once the kid leaves home is when the real influence starts. I think it's the importance put on motherhood that makes me wish I could just stay home from church on Mother's Day, preferably alone, so that I could have one whole day when I wasn't kicking myself for not being a good enough mother. Why I thought having a fourth child would be a good idea is beyond me, I don't know how I'll handle the guilt next year at Mother's Day when I've got four kids I'm neglecting instead of three.

So, to wrap it all up, I'm hoping tomorrow that I can keep it together. Knowing how tired I'm going to be, I'm going to aim to keep activity to a minimum. Today I thought I could handle taking the kids to Lowe's to pick up a can of paint to touch up the craft room walls, and because none of them wanted to go, there was a fair amount of grouching about it. (I didn't yell, though.) Now that I have to go back to Lowe's (because the paint they gave me did not, in fact, match the walls, and now I have a gigantic light blue spot in the middle of the lavender room), maybe I'll arrange for them to play with someone while I do that. Or maybe I'll get that done during kindergarten hours, when I only have Boy #3 with me, and then take the kids somewhere fun in the afternoon. There's this place called Kangaroo Zoo which is basically a warehouse full of inflatable slides and bouncy things which the kids adore. That way not only am I not damaging the kids, I'm actually earning brownie points with them! Oooh, I like that idea!

It's 3 a.m., my battery has 12 minutes of juice on it and I can't remember where the plug is, plus it took me a full ten seconds to decide the correct spelling of "warehouse" (wearhouse? wherehouse?) so I think I might be tired enough to go to bed. And if I'm still up at 4, maybe I'll call my dad.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I Am That Mother

I had a lovely, relaxing morning, from the time my snooze alarm went off at 7:35, and for about 6 minutes thereafter. And then I found out the price I had paid for that relaxation!

Some background: Wake-up time for all of my kids has started to get earlier, although I'm not sure why. Zack tends to be the first one up, somewhere around 6:30-6:45, but by 6:45 the other boys are usually up too. But as the first one up, Zack comes into my room to get me to turn on the tv for him, and fetch him a morning beverage. I can do this half-asleep and then get back in bed until the alarm goes off, knowing that shortly the other kids will be up, and none of them do anything other than watch tv and bicker that early. Even the bickering is only half-hearted most of the time.

So when I slept straight through to my alarm this morning, I didn't think much of Zack not waking me up. I figured he had wandered downstairs to find someone else already watching tv. This was not the case.

I was stretched out on my bed alone, because apparently my pregnancy snoring has finally driven the wedge into our marriage that unemployment, children, and other stress has not, and he has found some other room to sleep in. Okay, I'm just joking here - this doesn't reflect on our marriage, just on the fact that he is a light sleeper and my snoring has gotten as loud as a bull elephant thundering through the savannah. Even with the white noise machine (sounds of the ocean), a fan on, and earplugs, he has had a hard time sleeping.

So it was nice and peaceful this morning and I enjoyed it for about 6 whole minutes. Then, just as I was about to get up and see Brad off to school, he walks into my room and says, and I quote, "We got Zack back."

"Back? What do you mean? Where was he to get him back from?"

"He was at the neighbor's house since 6:30 this morning, and they just brought him back."

"HE WAS WHERE??!? SINCE 6:30??!?"

"Yeah, she brought him back a minute ago and said he was over there playing since 6:30."

I went downstairs and sure enough, there he was, sitting on the floor in his pj's, watching Arthur with his binkie and blankie. When he saw me, he requested a cup of milk, which I made like an automaton, because I couldn't think about what I was doing, I was too busy processing what had happened during my extra hour of sleep.

I realized that I am that mother. The one you think about when you hear stories of a two year old in just a soggy diaper wandering down the side of a freeway at midnight. You think, Where is that kid's mother? And when the news report says she had been asleep and the kid had left without her knowing, you think, Yeah, right, and how much had she had to drink that night? She's passed out on the couch, right? With her trailer trash boyfriend or something? And you're picturing where she lives and it's a total dump with a weedy front lawn and a rusted out pick-up truck in the backyard, a early-90's model Ford Escort in the driveway next to a brand-new Chevy truck, the kind that requires a stepstool to get into, because the boyfriend needed proof of his manliness. And when she opens the door for the police and the news reporters, she's obviously pregnant and has a one year old on the floor and when they give back the two year old, she hadn't even realized he was missing yet.

Well, folks, that's me. The details (other than the obviously pregnant part) are different, but it might as well be me. I had a two year old wandering the neighborhood and didn't even know he was missing until after he had been returned. I had visions of myself being interviewed in my ratty pajamas and bed hair, saying over and over that he had never done this before, none of my kids have, with the reporter silently judging me the way the rest of America would. Thank goodness he had gone to a friend's house instead of heading for the gas station to pick up a cold one!

I went outside to get the newspaper and the neighbors who had found/rescued my son were in their garage getting ready to leave. I went over and apologized and said, "If you ever see my kid at 6:30, please call me!" She said that she rang the doorbell, but no one answered, and didn't want to wake me up, so she just kept him. She said that he had told her that he had gone out the back door, through the gate, and out into the front yard, which is pretty much what I had imagined had happened. She said her main concern was that I would wake up and not be able to find him and panic... Which is right on the money, had I woken up and not found him I don't know what I would have done. I reiterated to her to please just wake me up next time and I apologized over and over.

Although I hope that there never is a next time, I'm not dumb enough to think that I've dodged that bullet forever. If it's not this kid leaving the house at 6:30, it might be my next one. Or it could be my other kids doing something equally as stupid that is going to make me look like That Mother on Television With No Control Over Her Kids.

Just yesterday, DH and I had a discussion about how every single prayer we say includes a request for the safety and protection of our kids, and it would sound like vain repetition, except that we both mean it fervently every single time. That discussion was spurred by another incident involving Zack. This time he and his twin friends (the same ones who rescued him this morning) had gotten out a big yellow dump truck that we have, dragged it to the top of the driveway at the top of our cul-de-sac (which slopes downward), sat Zack in the back of the truck, and let him go.

He flew down the driveway, across the cul-de-sac, while I watched, hoping that when he crashed it wouldn't knock out a tooth, like Noah did trying the same type of stunt (on a tricycle, though, the dump truck aspect was new). Fortunately, he veered to the left and ended up running into the curb right in front of my house, where I proceeded to tell him to "Never, Ever, Ever! do that again, do you understand me?" He agreed, as did the other kids involved whose mothers gave them similar lectures, because it was obvious that they all considered this a successful test run and they were just waiting their turn to try it.

As I turned my back to walk over to my chair where I had been sitting, he dragged the dump truck back out into the street, but instead of taking it up the driveway for a good running start, he just plopped in the back of the truck and took off again. Our street is slanted downward, and within a few seconds he had picked up some speed, so much so that no matter how fast I attempted to run after him to stop him (quite a sight as you can imagine) he was way faster than me. The problem is the other road that meets our street - no car would think to look for a two year old in a dump truck flying out of the intersection, and I knew that if he got that far it would be terrifyingly dangerous.

Again, fortunately, he veered to the left and crashed into a curb in front of the last house in the cul-de-sac, and this time when he was dumped out of the truck like so many boulders, he hurt his arm and leg and started crying. Good, I told him, that should teach you a lesson. I carried the dump truck back up the street and threw it into the backyard, intending for it to stay back there, although you can see that what goes in the backyard doesn't necessarily stay in the backyard.

So as I pray today, I will not only add thanks for keeping Zack safe during his morning constitutional, but for the dump truck incident, and for all of the other incidents that I am not around to witness and the kids are smart enough not to tell me about. For as many injuries as our kids have had (many, many stitches, smashed fingers in doors, a concussion) I am realizing that the ones that happen are just the tip of the iceberg of narrow escapes, most of which I think I don't want to know about. Like the girl riding her bike through the school drop-off area today, who had her head turned behind her to talk to her friend, who would have hit my stopped car except that I honked at her - you better believe she's not telling her mom that she almost got hit by a car today. (I wouldn't have hit her, I saw her and stopped, but she was about a foot away from hitting me!)

But for now, I'm going to ask you, the next time you see a tv report of a child who did something stupid, think a little more kindly on the mom. Next time, it could be me!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ask Etiquette Emily

My Dear Husband has been requesting a blog entry about a particular topic since last Saturday, and every day when he comes home from work and finds me playing solitaire on the computer, he asks when he's going to be able to read my entry. Apparently the book review from earlier today wasn't sufficient (it's about books, after all), he wants this particular topic. Can I help it that I'm so darn good at this version of solitaire ("Fan" is the name) that my win rate is currently 74%? That kind of skill only comes with practice, my friend, and sometimes other things have to take a back seat.

But here's the main topic, we can discuss solitaire strategy some other time. Oh, and remind me to tell you about Whack-a-mole. I pretty much rock at Whack-a-mole.

On Saturday, DH came home from a Wal-mart trip with a bag full of new clothes for Boy #1, a pair of new shoes for Boy #3, absolutely nothing for Boy #2, and a question. He asks me, "What is the etiquette for someone with a few things standing behind someone with a full cart?"

I didn't know if he was the cutter or the cuttee in line, so before I answered, I asked some follow-up questions:

"How many items did the person with a few things have?" - Two.
"Did either person have a child with them?" - We both had a 9-ish year old.
"So no crying babies or whiny kids?" - No.

I said, then, that it is the role of the person with many items to offer to let the person with a few items to cut in front. I think the only acceptable reason for someone to ask is if they have a screaming child, in which case they are actually doing the person in front a favor by getting the heck out of there quicker. But even then, I probably wouldn't ask.

Here's the story. Apparently DH was standing in line with a pile of things, and it being Wal-mart on a Saturday, he'd been in line for a long time, he estimates 10 minutes, and he's not known for exaggeration. (I am - I exaggerate like all the time. Constantly. I'm almost never accurate. According to DH, anyhow. Heaven forbid he ask what time it is and I round to the nearest 5 minutes.) So, ten minutes in line. And a woman runs up and joins the line right behind him, when DH is the next person to put his stuff on the conveyor belt.

She spends a minute doing the silent pantomime called "Shopper in a Hurry" which is basically, big, obvious movements, looking around, trying to see how long it's going to take, moving her body this way and that to try to get the person in front of her (or the cashier) to notice that she's in a hurry. I wasn't there, but I'd guess there was huffing involved, and possibly comments to her child about how rushed she is, how long is this going to take, etc. Can't say that for sure, but we all know the type.

Then she dropped the bomb. She asked DH, "I only have two things, can I get in front of you?"

Well, what are you going to say to that? If he said "No" he would have looked like the biggest jerk on the planet. Even though he had no reason whatsoever to give up his place in line just because she asks, if he refuses, he ends up being the bad guy. Not the inefficient 16 year old checker, not the 6 people that DH had waited behind all this time, but him, the person who had the bad luck to be right in front of her.

And if he said "Yes" she'd be happy because she got what she wanted, but he's put out now because that's yet another person who he's had to wait for. He waited his turn, but now someone else forces him to hand over his hard earned spot.

Where does it end, though? At a store the size of a city block, with carts that easily hold the contents of an entire house, you are always going to have someone with more and someone with less in their cart. If she had had ten things, would she have felt justified in asking for cuts? What if she had 5 things? 7? No, but 3? 4? Is it a matter of proportion? Did she need to have 10% of the items of the person in front of her in order to warrant asking? Or less? If DH had 100 things and she only had 20? Or 10?

Does motivation matter? Maybe, maybe not. I already qualified my opinion on the subject that screaming children justify asking, but anyone with ears would probably invite you to go first anyhow. It's not a guarantee, and if you have too much stuff, maybe that's still not appropriate. I've definitely stood in line at Wal-mart with a cart full of groceries and horrible children (picked those up on clearance, you know) and had both offers of cuts and deaf ears turned. I don't think less of the people who don't offer, though - they aren't sticking my kids with pins to make them cry, after all, it's not their fault and not their responsibility to end it. I do, however, say silent prayers of gratitude for the people who offer to let me go faster, and I try to return the favor when I can.

But this woman was middle aged, a daughter about #1's age with her, and two bouquets of flowers. Would it matter if she were on her way to a birthday party and was running late? What if it were a funeral? I think it does kind of matter. But seriously, is the largest store in North America really the place to go if you are in a hurry? No, of course not. (See, there's the exaggeration again. North America's -actually, the world's- largest Wal-mart is in Mississauga, Ontario, at 244,664 square feet.) No, a 7-11 is where you go when you are in a hurry. That's why Wal-mart is not considered a convenience store - there's really nothing convenient about it. It's a place where you shovel goods into your dump truck sized cart and if they were smart, they'd give you a backhoe to unload your goods, where they could be sorted like a pile of recyclables on their way to the processing plant. No, this is not the place to go with your two items and expect quick check-out times.

So when DH started unloading his cart and the woman behind him said, "Excuse me, sir, I only have two items, can I go in front of you?" DH was perfectly justified in his response, which was, "No, I'm sorry, they haven't started organizing line order by number of items, so until they do, you'll just have to wait in line behind me while I fumble with my combination of gift cards and exact change and do it all purposely slow just to annoy you." No, of course that's not what he said, it's just what he wanted to say. What he really said was, "Yes." But he made a point of not saying it happily and smacking a grumpy look on his face, in the hope that his non-aggression pact alone would cause her to realize the magnitude of her shameful behavior. Which, naturally, she was oblivious to, as are all dictators who remain not confronted about their bad behavior.

Does this constitute the chickens way out? He has left her completely comfortable to do this again to some other unsuspecting shopper, who may or may not have the guts to say, "No, I'm sorry, if you are running late you should have planned ahead. I did, and that's why I'm in line in front of you." According to "Freakonomics," one of the best books I've ever read, Americans are very unlikely to make that kind of confrontation. They will do as DH did, allow the cutting to happen and then stew over it in silence, at least until they get home and have a chance to discuss it with their wives. And then vow that they will never do the Wal-mart shopping trip again.

The Joys of Fresh Pineapple

I sit here at 8:45 this morning in a paradox. I am listening to a quite enlightening and interesting book about the movement to "Eat Local" - that is, support local farmers and save the environment by eating what you or someone local can grow. And I'm doing it while eating a bowl of fresh pineapple from Costa Rica, and considering turning it into a fruit salad with the strawberries from California and bananas from Ecuador. If only I had some Chilean grapes to go with it.

The book is called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, the author of "The Poisonwood Bible" which is a fascinating piece of fiction that I highly recommend to all you book club types. I like it so much that I've read everything else she's written, which has, of course, not lived up to my initial impression of her. This new book was released a week or so ago, and as I'm always in the market for a new book, especially by an author that I mostly like, I grabbed it.

"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is the kind of book I could see making my dad absolutely nuts. It's a true story of her family who decided to move from Arizona to the Appalachian Mountains of (West?) Virginia onto a family farm and live only on what they could grow or buy locally for one year. She had been raised on a farm, I think, so it's not the "city girl moves to the country" book - it is a serious look at a family who is making a change in their lifestyle.

I both like and dislike the book. The dislike comes in a few different forms - first of all, her ultra-left-wing liberal husband interjects essays every two chapters or so, extolling the horrors of oil dependance, corporate farming, and various other capitalistic ideas. It makes my blood boil to hear such one-sided diatribes - after all, I'm guessing he doesn't use a horse-and-buggy to drive from his farm to his college teaching job. Although he'd probably call that inhumane treatment of animals anyhow. He would have to be a college professor, wouldn't he?

Secondly, I dislike her romanticizing farming. Maybe it's just the lectures I heard growing up from my dad, who was raised on a farm, and on a not too successful farm if I recall correctly. The stories I heard, of grueling, backbreaking labor, are not quite the stories that Kingsolver is telling. Sure, she mentions in passing that most small farms make so little money that the owners have full-time jobs and farm in the evenings and on weekends. But you know that for her and her family, money probably isn't an issue and she doesn't ever mention how miserable farming can be. Although, to be fair, maybe it's just the slanted view from my dad that gives me this perspective - maybe real farmers do actually enjoy what they do, regardless of the amount of work and sacrifice involved. But my gut is telling me that she is painting a romantic picture of small-town farm life, which maybe isn't all that accurate.

On the other hand, I find myself oddly drawn to the concept of eating locally. She waxes poetic about the quality and taste difference between a fresh, garden ripe tomato versus the imported kind in February, about the joy found in eating foods in season and waiting for the arrival of particular vegetables and fruits. She appeals to my gourmet cook side (in want of an audience, obviously) who finds it satisfying to use fresh herbs and make really flavorful, and impressive, foods. There is something deliberate about buying the highest quality ingredients, say from a farmer's market, for a special meal - it makes the meal even better for the amount of care taken even in choosing the ingredients.

The author also talks candidly about the disservice done to families with the women's liberation movement, in that women who fought for the right to get out of the kitchen and into the cubicle are now raising families that eat fast food and rarely gather for dinner. It was interesting for her to take some responsibility for the situation, as now she's seen that cooking for her family is a gift, not a matter of indentured servitude. In her chapter about the subject, she nails the exact reason that I get so irritated when my kids reject the dinner I've made - it's not just a matter of sustaining life, they could do that on their own with hot dogs and cereal (not together) - it's the fact that I'm offering a gift in this meal which they are rejecting. It makes cooking dinner feel like indentured servitude and of course I want to reject that, too.

While that is an aspect of the book, more of it dwells on the plight of the small farmer, with a particularly painful defense of tobacco farmers that I found hard to listen to, and the evils of shipping food across the world, the loss of heirloom crops, and what a year in the life of living off the land brings. Many months of nothing, apparently - the winter is spent eating what you've stored from the season before. then things start slowing growing, asparagus, lettuce and broccoli, and then the bounty of fall harvest. When she describes the food she eats, I have to say it sounds fantastic.

But could I really never eat a fresh pineapple again? Or a banana? Or heaven forbid, a lemon?? Because they really aren't going to grow in Utah, no matter what you do. Isn't there a place for some imported crops? Is it really such a crisis in the world to ship some fruit from the other side of the planet, so I can make fresh lemon meringue pie? The author (and her husband) talk about how we do this at the expense of our children, who may grow up in a world where imported food is unavailable because we've used up all the petroleum. That just seems far-fetched and unrealistic to me, but maybe I'm just not as educated on the subject to be able to make a judgement call.

Will this author be able to change the world with her book? Will Eat Local, or the Slow Food Movement, ever catch on? Possibly, but only with the elite few who can not only afford to buy a dozen free range eggs for $2.50 instead of the dozen at Costco for $.90, and those who make enough money that the range of choices is actually an option. For the low income or working poor who work to put food on the table at all, it's a non-issue. But what do I know, I actually think Wal-Mart is good for the economy, which makes me pretty much not welcome at the author's home, although that's just speculation.

As it is, I look forward to August and September when the tomatoes and watermelon I've planted are ready. And it won't be too long before the basil, oregano, and rosemary are ready for that really fantastic spaghetti and meatballs that has my mouth watering. And maybe I'll end up at a farmers market this summer sometime, eating fresh cherries next month and corn in July. Maybe I'll make an effort to support more local farmers, of which there are many here, by making special trips to buy their products. But for now, I think I'm going to head to Costco. I'm out of fresh pineapple.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Law of Unintended Consequences

For those of you not familiar with this concept, the Law of Unintended Consequences is basically that every action has a result that was unforseen or unintentional. It's used commonly in reference to governmental legislation, which had one result in mind, but ended up also causing additional results, may or may not be positive.

For example, I had no idea that when I cut the drawstring off this particular pair of maternity pants in order to give my waist a little more room that the pants would end up so big that I'm constantly yanking them up. Clipping on an ipod makes for an almost embarrassing situation. That was a bad idea, in retrospect. If pants have a drawstring, I'm guessing it's there for a reason.

Anyhow, here are two unintended consequences that have vexed me this week. And trust me, you don't want to vex an 8-months pregnant woman.

The Swingset Saga Continues

So, as you probably know, we made the choice to get rid of our trampoline, primarily for the reason that it seemed like a matter of time before someone seriously injured themselves on it. Since it was used by so many little kids in the neighborhood (including my own of course) I thought the liability was too great, and we gave it away. The tramp was replaced by a gigantic wooden swingset, which are very, very common around here. Within the first 24 hours of owning the swingset, two children ended up with bloody injuries, including the twin from next door who ended up getting staples in his head.

There have been no more major injuries on the swingset, thank goodness. Boy #3 can spend 30 minutes at a time, just swinging away, and since he can swing by himself and doesn't need a push to get started, the swingset is starting to be worth the money, time, and effort spent on the darn thing. He has, however, found a new place to get hurt.

Two houses up from ours is a neighbor whose youngest child is Boy #1's age, turning 10 this summer. They are great people, as are all of our neighbors - we are lucky to live around such terrific people while raising our kids. Their backyard has a fence around one side, but a cement retaining wall/garden area in one corner, that can be reached from an adjoining yard. They have a dog in the backyard, a gentle, big old dog that needs to stay fenced in.

Lately, Boy #3's friends have taken to climbing over the cement retaining wall, shimmying across the cement against a fence, and then jumping down into the yard. #3 is two years younger than his friends (a set of 4 year old twin from next door) and follows them blindly. He'd follow them off a cliff, and that is more literal than I'd like it to be, because while he is able to jump off the cement wall into the yard, it is too high for him to get back up.

So daily he jumps into the yard, and then when everyone else leaves, screams and cries until I go to rescue him. Several times (four, in fact) he has attempted to climb up the wall like the bigger boys, but can't make it, and ended up with massive scrapes all over his body. His arms and stomach both were scraped up, the arms pretty badly, and three skinned knees. It looks as if he's been dragged along the ground for a while.

Making the situation worse, I think the boys take the opportunity to do things they might not do if a parent was watching them. Many times #3 comes back with an accusation of what one kid or another did to him. I don't take this at face value - he'll wake up in the middle of the night crying and saying that Boy #2 hurt him - who of course is asleep in the next room. But it's just not a good idea to put a pile of moderately aggressive kids in an enclosed backyard where the youngest kid has no chance of escape.

I try very hard to keep my kids out of that backyard, but I am fighting a losing battle. Where the other kids go, #3 follows. The other kids have similarly been given prohibitions against going in that yard unless the yard owner is home, but the other kids' mom has absolutely no desire to enforce the rule, so there's a lot of yelling which gets ignored, and then giving up. So it's up to me to keep #3 out of the yard, which means that he can't play with his friends, and that is always a fight. Or I give in, and end up bandaging yet another knee with Curious George band-aids. (Where that kid gets so many knees to scrape is beyond me!)

Now you know the situation, here's where the unintended consequence comes in. The other day when I trudged over there to rescue #3 from the yard yet again (it was the third time that morning) all of the pieces fell into place - why the kids started going back there all of a sudden, why they like it so much. It's because that yard has a trampoline in it!!! We got rid of our trampoline so that kids wouldn't get hurt, so they migrated to a trampoline that is still available. Which in turn has caused my child to get hurt four times already, which is four times as many injuries as when the trampoline was in our own yard. I realize that the trampoline itself is not causing the injuries directly, but I can't help but think that getting rid of our trampoline was the most dangerous thing we could have done for our children.

Adventures in Baby-Sitting

Yesterday, DH and I decided that we'd take advantage of his moderately flexible work schedule to go see Spiderman 3 which opened last weekend to hordes of crazy fans. We prefer seeing our films horde-less, so a Tuesday 4pm showing seemed perfect for us. Boy #2 requested a particular babysitter, who happens to live next door (the other side, not the twins' house). Again, great family, great kid coming over to watch our kids, theoretically no problems. We'd get a weekday date, the girl would make a few bucks, and as a bonus, we'd be home in time to put the kids to bed ourselves so not even so much work for the sitter.

Therein lies the rub. We've never actually gotten a babysitter for a weekday date like this, nor have we really gotten one that has been during the day. Our schedule is generally to have the sitter come at 5:30 or 6, feed the kids a frozen pizza, watch a movie or something, and then put them to bed at 8. Yesterday, though, the sitter had the kids from 3:30 until about 8:15 or so - five hours smack in the middle of the day in beautiful weather. It did not go well.

I had mentioned that if we were later than 8pm to go ahead and put #2 to bed, but we'd be home in time to put #1 and #3 (who napped) to bed later. So I was initially impressed to come home just barely after 8 and find #2 in bed. Turns out that he, apparently, had thrown a massive tantrum about something they (Boy #1 and babysitter) couldn't pinpoint, and so she put him to bed a few minutes before 8, as either a punishment or to get him to calm down. When I went upstairs to say goodnight to him, he explained that he was mad because the babysitter was riding his bike and his scooter without asking. Seriously? This 15 year old girl who I pay a respectable $5 an hour to watch my kids actually caused this tantrum? I was disturbed.

Next I noticed that the family room, which had been a holy mess before I left, was completely picked up. Okay, I thought, that's redeeming - I absolutely love when a babysitter cleans up, especially when it wasn't her mess. So I mention this to Boy #1, thanking him for cleaning the family room. Oh no, he said, they didn't clean it on purpose. (Don't you hate cleaning accidentally? Happens to me all the time. Just kidding.) The reason the room was picked up was because Boy #3 was mad about something and was throwing things at them. So the babysitter put him in his room in time-out and while he was in there, they decided to pick up all the toys and stuff on the floor, so he wouldn't have as much ammunition to throw at them when he gets out. So that's two of my kids that were punished while we were gone, and since #3 can't really talk all that well, there was no way to know the cause of his outrage. This is getting worse.

I then notice that #3's new t-shirt had red stains all over the front of it. That's not a big deal, happens all the time, but I ask what red thing did he eat to make such a mess? Well, it turns out that Boy #1 decided to have a Kool-Aid stand and sell Kool-Aid in the neighborhood, which is absolutely against the rules, and he knows it. Lest you think that I'm an anti-business hippie or something like that, the no-selling rules stems from the fact that my kid would sell everything in our house for 10 cents each if he could get away with it. And most of the "sales" end up being to adult neighbors who are kind, generous, and loving, and reward him with a dollar for a cup of watery Kool-Aid. I dislike adults being hit up for money that way because it is so intentional - he knows which houses to hit and where he's going to score. In the past he's tried to sell Kool-Aid, popsicles, Pokemon cards (just to kids though, not door to door), coloring books, cleaning services such as sweeping garages, comic books he made himself, and various arts and crafts, including origami cats and dogs and creatures made out of pom-poms and googly eyes. I approve of the comic books and the crafts, as long as he only targets kids, the rest is just basically walking from door to door asking for money, as far as I'm concerned. But I digress.

So he has taken advantage of me not being home during an afternoon to do something I have specifically and in no uncertain terms told him he could not do. I could have killed him. I asked him why he would do that when he knows he's not allowed, and his genius answer was "I didn't know I couldn't!!" Really. But it was a dumb question to ask - there was really no acceptable answer other than, "Well, I didn't think you'd find out so that's why I did something I'm not allowed to." And I don't think any kid is really going to say that, so to ask the question is really just to make my kid lie to me. Third strike, I'm out.

The problem is that, had we gone out to dinner and a movie at a normal time like normal working people, we would have gotten home at 10 and been told that Boy #2 went to sleep a few minutes early, the other two kids were great, and look, I cleaned the family room for you! I would have been thrilled with the whole evening, thought the world of the babysitter, and if I found the dirty t-shirt or the pitcher of Kool-Aid I probably wouldn't have thought to ask about it, so Boy #1 would have made a clean get-away. And I wouldn't have to deal with the unintended consequence of knowing the truth about what this particular experience with this babysitter was like. I would have remained in ignorant bliss. Darn it, I'm a big fan of ignorant bliss too.

So I guess my wise counsel to all of you is to gird yourself for the unintended consequences. Hopefully they won't be as vexing to you as these particular incidents, maybe just annoying like pants that keep falling down, but regardless, be prepared. You are no longer living in ignorant bliss about the potential dangers here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Rotting Our Brains

Well, a ground-breaking article was recently published somewhere important, which I found on Google News, that says that 90% of 2 year olds watch television, despite warnings from pediatricians that children under age 2 should watch absolutely no tv whatsoever.

Really? This is news? How about I write an article about how 82% of 4th graders who go to a friend's house after school leave their backpacks at their friend's house? Or about how 76% of 6 year olds who don't eat their lunch right after school will throw a tantrum in the next 10 minutes? Way to go, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, you've spent your research dollars on something that a survey of the playground at 11:00 tomorrow could have told you for free.

Did the researcher never have a two year old? How about the American Pediatric Society? Is that group comprised solely of only children who were so unpopular (because they never watched tv) that they never got married and had their own kids? Yes, I'm sure their lack of tv watching helped them become the out-of-touch geniuses that they are, that we all want our two year olds to become.

My two year old watches tv. Lots of it. Way more than zero. And, hold on to something here, it's not even educational. While it is generally PBS that he watches, I have no illusions to the fact that DragonTales teaches my child nothing, and that Caillou probably does more harm than good. (Seriously whiny kid who tends to throw a fit to get his way. A fairly accurate representation of childhood, but not fun to watch. At all.)

But let's put this in some context. In the winter, he watches hours and hours of television, because we live in a climate where being outside 6 months of the year is only appropriate for popsicles and polar bears. And deer, apparently. But in the summer, his tv watching is greatly reduced because he can leave the house and ride his bike, go to the park, take his chances on the swing set, run around and play with his friends. Any tv-induced guilt is completely alleviated in the summer.

Here's the other qualification: my 2 year old is awake for roughly 12 hours a day. So even if he spends 2 hours or 3 hours watching tv (not in one block, but in chunks throughout the day) that still leaves nine or ten hours of interaction with other people, kids, etc. Is that really not enough? It's not like he has such a busy agenda that if he wastes time watching tv it is getting in the way of the dissertation that he's working on. Seriously, folks, he's two. What else is he going to do with his time?

I have to say, to the consternation of Boy #1, my youngest brother, and DH's youngest brother, that the other half of the article is where it gets really interesting, and where the report should be focused. The rest of the article is about how tv watching affects teens and adolescents. 33% of 14 year olds watch more than 3 hours of tv a day, and that amount of tv watching leads to a higher risk of:

Frequent attention difficulties.
Frequent failure to complete homework.
Frequent boredom at school.
Failure to complete high school.
Poor grades.
Academic failure at the post-secondary level.

That's the angle I think the focus should be on. My 2 year old is nowhere near ready to enter elementary school, let alone college, but when he is in high school, the story will be different. I have to say, I'm stricter with my 9 year old than I am with my 2 year old, because I can see how he would love to spend his afternoons watching tv, but I won't let him. The reason is that, of the 14 hours Boy #1 is awake, 8 1/2 of those hours are getting ready for school, being at school, and doing homework, leaving 5 1/2 hours for doing something fun. That's a lot fewer available hours to be spent on tv, compared to the 12 hours of nothing my 2 year old has to look forward to. If you compare the percentage of available time being used on television, if both kids are watching 3 hours of tv, it is only 25% of Boy #3's free time, compared to more than 50% of Boy #1.

It reminds me that the teen years are really the time to be preparing, to an extent, for adulthood. I know a married college student, later 20's aged, who had a hard time getting to work on time because he would stay up too late (say, 4 a.m.) playing video games. Granted, I do stupid things with my time too, but at what point do the habits you make as a teenager turn into a liability for an adult? On one hand, you want to say, they're just kids, why make them suffer the kind of discipline they'll need as an adult? But on the other hand, if they never learn that discipline, aren't we making it harder for them when they have to show up for a job every single day at 8 a.m.?

I don't have teenagers, so I don't have any real answers. All I know is that I've got a son turning 10 this summer and that isn't too far away from teenager-hood. Am I unrealistically strict with him, in preparation for the day, many years from now, that he needs this kind of discipline? I don't think so. This is the age when DH gained a lot of weight, mostly due to not being as active as he was when he was younger, and boy has that scarred him. So I'll continue to kick him out of the house every day and tell him to find someone to play with, and hopefully I don't end up with him being a giant sloth on the couch in a few years. And we'll see in a few years if my 2 year olds viewing habits are harder to break because I let him watch so much so young.

I'd keep discussing this, but Thomas the Tank Engine is on.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Snapshot of Life - May 3, 2007

7:38 - After a second snooze alarm, I finally get out of bed. I couldn't fall asleep last night and ended up listening to a book that I had previously discarded as too boring to listen to, and it generally knocks me right out. But it still took me until after 1 a.m. to fall asleep. So I'm dragging a little this morning, would much rather stay in bed, but I like to see Boy #1 off to school. I'm so lucky that #1 gets himself ready every morning, it makes the mornings so much less of a burden!

7:42 - I wander downstairs and notice that only Boy #2 is watching tv. Hmm, that's strange...

7:45 - I go down to #1's room and HE'S STILL ASLEEP!!!! AAAAHHHHH!!!! WE'VE GOT 5 MINUTES UNTIL SCHOOL!!!!

7:50 - That kid is amazing, I'm sure a girl won't be this easy. In five minutes he is dressed, has done his hair (he likes to flip up the bangs with gel) and is getting his shoes and backpack on, while I cook him a pile of frozen waffles to eat (sans syrup) in the car on the way. That's the way to jump start your morning!

7:50-8:30 - I read the paper and get Boy #2 some breakfast. I wake up DH and Boy #3 wakes up at the same time. They go down for some breakfast while I shower.

9:00 - Time to get Boy #2 to school. I send him to get his shoes and backpack, but apparently there's a problem The backpack is readily available, but the shoes are nowhere to be seen. Ironically, I had spent a couple of hours this week cleaning out the hall closet from top to bottom, and even put in some "cubbies" for shoes to go. Are the shoes in the cubbies? No, of course not. #2 get quite indignant as I start quizzing him as to where he has looked - when I suggest he look under the couch he said, "I didn't put them under the couch!!"

9:03 - Doesn't look like the shoes are anywhere to be found. I say, "Boy, I hope you didn't leave them outside!" And sure enough, when I look out there, the shoes are lying forlornly under the swings. The bad news - it's been raining all night. Plus, I think the sprinklers ran too. The shoes are absolutely drenched.

9:05 - I retrieve the shoes (it's still raining) and try to convince #2 to wear either his sandals or his church shoes to school today. Battle ensues.

9:07 - A very soggy Boy #2 finally gets his backpack on and squishes out to the car in his wet shoes. I honestly questioned just sending him in socks today, kind of like sending Boy #1 to school with no coat in the snow, but can't justify that one. I did make an attempt to dry the shoes with a towel, but I doubt it helped.

9:10 - We get in the car and we are running pretty late, which means that of course Boy #3 must buckle his car seat by himself, a 2+ minute process that takes me about 6 seconds.

9:18 - Kids are dropped off, and I swing back home to grab DH to take him to work.

9:30-12 - With the taxi parked back in the garage, Boy #3 and I go in the house and settle in for a nice, quiet morning. I finish reading the Malaysia tour guide I ordered online - it seems as though the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur are eat and shop. I think I can handle that. #3 decides to play the piano and sing the ABC song and Itsy Bitsy Spider while he accompanies himself. It is cute, although not too melodious. Eventually he goes outside to play, then comes back in, then goes back out, and in, and out, the rest of the morning, while I sit on the couch so I can watch him outside. I do some internet surfing (DH calls it "making the rounds" of all our favorite sites) and actually get productive by working on some digital scrapbook pages.

12:08 - I leave to pick up the boys from kindergarten. I'm a few minutes late and they are the last kids to be picked up. How sad. They forgive me, though, when I suggest we go to Arctic Circle for lunch.

12:30-1:40 - Boy #2 and his carpool friend eat all of their food, but #3 just has his fries. The noise is deafening in the play area so I put my earbuds in but don't turn on anything - it's more to block out the sound of the friend chewing. The other moms there probably think I'm a jerk for sitting and listening to my ipod instead of engaging in stimulating conversation with two 6 year olds. Little do they know that I'm actually judging them based on their neglect to stop their bully kids from kicking, hitting, or pushing anyone who gets in their way. Thank goodness it's not my kids doing the bullying. #3 has been known to kick kids in front of him who aren't going down the slide fast enough for him. Just not today.

Unique name of the day: Cumorah. Good thing I think Mormons are nice people in general, because as a population we stink at naming kids. Present company excluded, obviously.

This play place is made for little kids. If they are older than, say, 4, the biggest attraction is scaling the outside walls of the equipment. Again, today it's not my kids. Oh, pardon me, my self-righteousness is showing!

1:45-2:45 - Come home and see that DH had tried to contact me. We have this customer who we think is attempting to use stolen credit cards to buy our products - he has many, many failed orders under different names, addresses, and cc numbers. Fortunately, most of the people must have already cancelled their cards, but twice he's had orders go through, and there doesn't seem like there's much to do about it. We clued in on the second order, and when it finally went through I called the credit card company (AMEX, as it happens) but they wouldn't give me any information, which isn't surprising, but they also wouldn't contact the customer to make sure that they had their card in their possession, or that they had authorized the purchase, or anything. It was for several hundred dollars, you'd think AMEX would care, but apparently not...

Anyhow, the customer is back today trying to place another large order, with the previously working card, which now must have gotten cancelled because it failed. We decided that we don't want to deal with the potential liability, so I'm assigned the task of figuring out how to ban someone from the store. It takes me quite some time, but eventually I find out how to block an IP address, and I do that. I figure we're taking a chance here that this is a legitimate customer who wants to spend hundreds of dollars in our store but I am banning, but how likely is that? Worst case scenario, the guy actually contacts us and we have to grovel. I'd be pretty surprised.

2:45 - I've banned a new word in our house as well today. Now, in addition to "Please?" said in a whiny, pleading, begging voice over and over, we can no longer say "Fine!" "Fine!" is usually shouted with as much venom as is possible for a 6 or 2 year old to produce. The 2 year old only does it because he hears the 6 year old, naturally, but they both make me crazy with it.

3:10 -Boy #2 is on his way to a friend's house, #1 is gone too, and #3 comes in to watch Curious George. I work on this entry while watching People's Court.

4:00 - #1 calls and asks if he can go to scouts with his friend. I tell him no, they have to plan for the right number of kids, you can't just show up, but he tells me that they said it's okay and the last time he went it was fine. The last time he went??? He must not have asked me, I tell him, because I would have said no last time too. He tries to insist that it's okay for him to go, but I say, I don't care what anyone else says, I'm your mother and I say it's not okay. He accepts this and comes home, and has the grace not to mope.

4:30 - DH calls and says that he's tired and doesn't want to work anymore. Isn't it great that he has so much control over his schedule like that, that he can just leave at 4:30 if he wants to? No, the point is that I drove him today and that he needs me to pick him up. Well, that's fine too. I don't mean "Fine!" just regular fine. But he decides it's just as easy to walk home, since it's stopped raining and two kids would need to be tracked down. I tell him if he walks, then it would give me time to straighten up the house like he requested when I dropped him off 7 hours ago, which I have yet to do. He compliments my honesty.

5:15 - #1 calls from the friend's house again, this time to ask if he can go to the friend's soccer game. I say yes, but he has to come home for dinner first. He's gone to watch these games several times, and I'm not sure what he gets out of them - he doesn't actually like soccer all that much. My guess is that they give him treats along with the rest of the team. That would be enough to get him to sit outside in the rain for an hour.

5:45 - I make tacos for dinner, a nice, safe, tantrum- and opinion-free meal. #1 eats most of one but he is supposed to leave at 6 for the game, so he throws away the rest, claiming he is "full." Full of it, I think. He has a tendency to prioritize in ways that I disagree with, but I suppose are natural - speeding through or skipping food, homework, nature's call, etc in order to do something fun. I dreamed last night that we were going to the pool but he lied about having already finished his homework so I yelled at him really bad, but I couldn't make him do the homework right then because he would have rushed through it and gotten it all wrong. That's a dream that could easily be a reality, except that the pool isn't open during the school year.

6:00 - The phone rings and when I see that it is the Stake President calling, I immediately recoil from the phone as if it is a poisonous snake. It is, after all, three days before Stake Conference, and why would the Stake President be calling? Fortunately, he was calling to ask DH to say the opening prayer. I was so happy that it had nothing to do with me I actually jumped up and down. That's a mistake, obviously, but I was very happy not to be asked to do anything, even though normally I'd be happy to do whatever. I'm certainly trying to avoid taking on any new responsibilities, regardless of how easy or insignificant they might be.

6:15 - Boy #2 comes home and has a taco, purely out of obligation because he wants a popsicle and I won't let him have one until he eats dinner. But he eats without complaint and then takes two popsicles outside to share with his friend.

7:00 - It is RS Ladies' Night Out, which is a bring-your-own-craft night type of thing. I bring my laptop and work on some digital scrapbook pages. I'm to the point where I'm familiar with the program enough that I can create the pages fairly easily now, but my hang-up now is just the creative part, which is just as much a stumbling block as it was when I was paper scrapbooking. I think I'm realizing that my excuse of "My pages would be cuter except I'm too cheap to buy all of the embellishments" like ribbons, brads, beads, etc. is no good, because now I have all of that stuff and my pages are still as boring as ever.

7:30 - I am still gone, but DH later tells me that when #2 got home he ASKED FOR ANOTHER TACO!! Yes, everyone, mark this day on your calendars, where one of my kids asks for regular healthy food when they are hungry after dinner, instead of the normal "Can I have some marshmallows?" that I usually get. This is more than just asking for seconds, which is rare enough, this is well past dinner time and asking for leftovers. I really wished I had been home to hear that.

9:30 - I get home after a nice, relaxing evening and DH and I settle in to watch tonight's episode of The Office. By the time it's over and we sit and shoot the breeze for a while, it's 10:30 and I don't feel like doing the dishes, even though it's my turn. They'll still be there tomorrow, I figure.