Thursday, March 31, 2011

Critiqued with Love

I have been married close to twelve years. It is surprising to me how I can be struck by how much he loves me in unconventional ways. An example of this: I was trying to find the right suit for an interview that was very important to me. I had been out shopping and returned home with a good possibility. (I quite despise shopping and actually buying something is unusual.) My confidence waned a bit as I put the suit on at home. It looked better in the store, yet I still went to show my hubby. He actually risked hurting my feelings by being honest that it did not look very good on me. I knew he was right and I was taken aback by an outpouring of love through an honest critique of my appearance. I certainly didn’t see that coming. I couldn’t even pretend to be hurt because I knew his words were lovingly meant. Go figure!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

30 Thoughts by My Kids' Mom

1. Being a mom is the hardest job I've ever had, but also the most rewarding. Sounds like a cliché, but I have found that to be more than just words.

2. I tell my kids I love them every morning as they leave the house to get on the school bus.

3. I watch my kids go out to the corner and keep watching until they get on the school bus.

4. My younger child and I wave to each other as the bus pulls away. We don't stop waving until I am out of view.

5. I give my kids a kiss and tell them that I love them every night before I go to bed, even if they are already asleep.

6. My kids appreciate the value of money.

7. My kids don't ever ask me to buy something for them. But every now and then, I do anyways.

8. I love my husband, but if I had to choose between him and my kids, I would choose my kids.

9. I love my dogs, but if I had to choose between them and my husband, I would choose my husband. I like to tease him that I'm undecided on that one.

10. Deep down, I believe that if someone did unspeakable things to someone I love, I would be capable of doing unspeakable things to that person. I hope I'm never put in that situation.

11. It makes me angry when people lie about me or accuse me of things that I didn't do and even more so when they do it to my kids.

12. I try to teach my kids to be nice, but strong enough to not be taken advantage of.

13. I hope my kids are never bullied, but they are so nice, I have a sinking feeling that it will happen.

14. I am thankful that I do not have to home school my kids. My kids and I would be a mess if I had to. I am also thankful that we are in a wonderful school district that teaches my kids great things.

15. I love when my kids tell me things that they learned at school, just because they are excited about learning it, not because I asked.

16. I don't over schedule my kids. If they don't want to do baseball, kickball, and soccer simultaneously, that is fine with me and I won't try and make them do it just because others are.

17. I don't send my kids away to camp over the summer. They don't want to go, and I don't want to send them.

18. I trust my kids more than I trust other kids.

19. I don't like when people send their younger kids over to “play” with my older kids “because, they love your kids and look up to them.” What about what my kids want to do? You don't give me the option of saying “no” each time. As nice as my kids are, they don't really want to “babysit” your kids, again.

20. I don't like when people invite the younger sibling to join the older one who was going to play with my kid because the younger one “doesn't want to miss out, and it's not fair.” Umm... what about what you are doing to the older one and my kid? They can't have a play date without a little brother? Is that fair?

21. I tend to be an advocate for all kids in unfair situations.

22. When my kids ask me to sleep in their homemade fort with them, I always say “yes” because I know one day, they will stop asking. I enjoy every sleepless minute.

23. Meal time is meal time. Not come and get it when you feel like it time.

24. I have expected my kids to clear their plates from the table since they were old enough to do so.

25. I have always expected my kids to stay at the table with everyone else, even if they were done eating.

26. My kids are not allowed to get out of their seat in a restaurant. It makes me crazy when other kids do that.

27. I have always encouraged my kids to do things as soon as they were able. I can't stand when other people expect too little from their kids and say things like “Oh, well he's only 'X' years old”.

28. I know that I am a better person than I would be if I didn't have kids. It is important to me that they learn from my example. Sometimes, I catch myself doing what I should instead of what I really want to, just because my kids are there.

29. I don't expect my kids to be perfect, but I do expect them to try their best.

30. I'm thankful for my life with my wonderful kids. I can't imagine it any other way.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Proud Mom

As a mom, I try to do my best at that role for my kids. I give them tools to make good decisions, knowing that I won't always be there to tell them what to do. I give them hugs and tell them that I love them, knowing that I won't always be there to make them feel loved when others try to make them feel unlovable. I give them encouragement and support, knowing that I won't always be there to give them confidence when they are in a challenging situation. I give them guidelines for life, because I know that I won't always be there to make them follow the rules when others tempt them not to.

My heart feels happy when I think of my kids. They are kind, smart, hardworking, courteous, loving, and more. As much as I know this, it is really nice when others notice it too. Good behavior is almost never recognized, and I love when someone other than “mom” reinforces how important it is to be a good person. The other day we were invited to a ceremony honoring STAR kids at school. STAR stands for Students Taking Active Responsibility (Displaying traits of Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Honesty, and Good Decision Making). Kids are nominated by teachers and only a handful of kids are selected each year. I was honored to have BOTH of my kids selected for the award! At the ceremony, the principal said something that really resonated with me. He said “You don't have to be the star of the sports team, you don't have to be the star of the play, but just by being you, you are a star every day.” I am proud of the job I've done so far as a mom, and I am proud of my stars.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wrong Number, Get Over It!

Dear Paranoid Woman who called my house last night to yell at me,

Yes, it is true. My son called you. It was by accident. He misdialed my cell phone number. No matter how many times you accuse me of making the call, it is not going to change the fact that it wasn't me. I understand that our voices sound a lot alike and you could have thought it was a woman on the phone. Give my son a break, he is only 10 and does not sound like a baritone yet. Really, it was my son. He accidentally called you and quickly apologized when he realized that the person on the other end of the phone wasn't me. He was confused too as to how it could have happened. He even questioned me about it when he finally dialed the correct number and got ahold of me. From your tone, I can tell you don't believe me. That is annoying, but not my problem. Wrong numbers are dialed all of the time. There was no malicious intent. The fact that you are so sure I am lying, has caused me to come up with reasons why you are bothered so much by this one mis-dialed call.

You think I made the call, but this is what I think. You are paranoid. Most likely, you are worried that your live-in boyfriend/husband is cheating on you. You think that you caught one of his sloars (slut/hoar) trying to get ahold of him. This has made you insanely jealous at the thought, so much so. that you waited 3 hours before calling back my house to yell at me. You still didn't believe my explanation, so you decided to wait until 10:00 pm, when my entire family was asleep to call and hang up when I answered. Just to show me who owns your man, you called me again the next morning at 9:30 am to listen to me say “hello” so you could hang up again. Please, get over this wrong number, and get over your cheating man.

Mom of a Soprano


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Drama King

Why is it that perfectly rational, mostly independently functioning men can go completely ballistic over the most inconsequential, fleeting things and make the entire situation worse? My understanding was that women were supposed to be all emotional and irrational. I’ve always kept pretty tight control of my emotions and apparently, my reward for that is to have a spouse who flips out over nothing and is moodier than an adolescent girl (see, even I buy into the stereotypes!)

Situations that I need to handle because I can do so calmly and logically: taking vehicles in for any repairs and talking with the mechanic, returning items to stores past the return deadline, paying bills, setting a budget, teaching my boys sports, homework. All of these situations turn my husband into an emotional volcano just waiting for a “reason” to erupt. The diatribe has many nuances but the same under lying themes : “the car repair places are a rip-off”,” the gas company/tire store/grocery store etc. charges too much”, “homework is stupid it doesn’t matter anyway”, “the boys just don’t want to play sports”, “I work hard I don’t need a budget but you should be on one”, and “why don’t we have any money since we both make a good living?”

Anyhow, what is prompting this line of thinking is a common occurrence in most households. Our two boys are now ages 6 & 5. They have recently stopped taking baths together because there legs are too long. Now that there is not as much open space in the tub there are many more opportunities for invading each other’s space and wrestling around. They have been reluctant to take showers because they are scared of the water spraying at them. However, at a recent splash park, they finally realized that spraying water is actually fun. My husband took the initiative to help them with their first showers. The six-year-old went first with no problems. As the little one is getting into the shower, my husband asks me to get the tear-free shampoo. I didn’t see what the big deal was, so I said to use the regular shampoo since he already knows to close his eyes when we rinse. Unfortunately, the little guy decided to open his eyes when the soap was being rinsed and running down his face. As he rubbed his eyes, his daddy starts yelling, “OMG, OMG THE SOAP IS GETTING IN HIS EYES!” Just picture a sensitive little drama king in a shower with his daddy YELLING at the top of his lungs about soap in his eyes as though there were shards of glass shooting from the shower head. Little drama king begins screaming and Big drama king continues screaming. Screaming and chaos. I come in and of course am subjected to the accusation that this is all my fault and I have to deal with the carnage. After Big drama king storms off and I enter, putting a dry towel over the little king’s eyes, he stops crying. I ask him if he got soap in his eyes, he says, “yes”. I then ask if his eyes hurt, he says, “no”. I then ask, “why are you crying?” He says, “I’m scared because Daddy started yelling at me”. Imagine that, another completely unnecessary dramatic episode. My little king now says that he will never take a shower again. Gee, I wonder why? Post-traumatic stress syndrome caused by a big drama king.

A Fish Story

Years ago, my younger son was invited to a birthday party. While that is not unusual, the party was. The party was held in a local pool clubhouse. The parents of the birthday boy hired animal trainers to arrive with various unusual animals that the children could learn about and even touch or hold. As cool as that sounds, that is not the unusual part either. What WAS unusual, is that each child was sent home with a goldfish in a small goldfish bowl, filled nearly to the top with water. Unaware of this, I pulled up to pick up my son just in time to see some poor dad, who somehow became in charge of this day's carpool. His face contorted and eyes rolled as 5 little boys climbed into his freshly cleaned SUV with their fish. Each boy proudly paused to show him their new pet and then subsequently climbed their way in to their spot with water splashing everywhere. I could tell that some of the dad's facial contortions were the only way he could keep from having a barrage of profanity spew out of his mouth. I tried to hide that I was laughing, but I think he knew I thought it was a funny sight. It wasn't until I tried to walk back out to the car with my son that I started to gain some empathy for that poor dad. Give ANY child a bowl full of water, with or without a fish, and they will NOT be able to walk with it without spilling. Just getting to the car, about 1/3 of the bowl was empty.

I was thinking “Well, that is a good thing, now it won't spill in the car.” In reality, I quickly realized I was wrong. My son, resistant to let his new pet go, tried to climb into the car with the bowl. “Hmmm... mostly on the floor mat. Well, it will give the french fry smell a run for it's money.”

My son finally allowed me to hold it so he could get buckled up, then it went back into his hands and rested on his lap. We live ½ mile away from the party location, so I was still thinking that we might be ok. The first bump out of the parking lot proved me wrong.

“Ahhh!” I hear from the back seat as my son now has fish bowl water on his lap.

I drove that ½ mile home, with 5 turns, in a way that a surgeon could have successfully performed brain surgery. I'm REALLY glad no one was following me! If the police spotted me they would have pulled me over thinking I was an overly cautious 98 year old lady. We FINALLY make it home. The fish gets named Goldie, and finds a spot on our countertop. We soon realize, that we have nothing to feed it. Off to the local pet supply store! Do we purchase fish food and leave? NoooooOOooo. We have to buy Goldie a new bowl, and some rocks, oh, and something to play with in her tank... huh? I give in, after all, the fish was free, right? Look at my son, he is so proud and happy. This is one of those times you give in, right? So we find Goldie a cool bowl, which is really ½ of a bowl. One side is flat so it can go up against the wall. Then my son picks out the rocks and a plastic plant and we head home. Once home, we set up Goldie in her new place and everyone seems happy.

The next morning we wake up and come downstairs, to find Goldie floating at the top of her bowl.

I'm thinking, “Crap! We just bought all of this stuff and now the thing is dead! I wonder if I can return any of it?”

My son sees his floating fish, and starts to cry. He is heartbroken. I am a bit amazed by his strong reaction to... well... it's JUST a FISH. A fish that we've had for less than 12 hours! I do the right thing and comfort him.

As I do, he pulls at my heart strings asking a series of questions between sobbing. “Why did he die? Did I do it? Did I feed him too much? Are you sure he's dead? I didn't even get a chance to take a picture of him.”

Well, that last question at least, I could make him feel better about. I immediately tell him not to worry about the photo, because I took a photo of him in his new bowl. My son felt some relief, but he had me wrapped around his finger again. You guessed it, off to the pet store again with both of my sons in tow. This time to purchase a replacement goldfish.

On the way there, I'm thinking “How much could this trip possibly cost? A dollar? Goldfish come as cheap as a dime or a quarter. I'll splurge and get him a 50 cent one.”

We look around and find a 20 something girl working there. I tell her that we would like a goldfish. With that, she turns into the Fish Police on me.

Her: “What are you going to do with it?”
Me: “Um, put it in a tank?” I'm a bit confused by the question.
Her: “What size tank?”
Me: Thinking first, “ It's a freakin' 50 cent fish! What's up with the interrogation?” then I say, politely “One of those ½ tanks that you sell.”
Her: “You know, fish need 1 gallon of water for every inch long they are. EXCEPT for goldfish. THEY need 4 gallons of water for every inch of fish. Your tank is WAY TOO small!”

It must have been the “Are you kidding me?” look on my face that made her decide to EXPLAIN to me why I REALLY needed a bigger tank.

Her: “If you put goldfish in too small of the tank, it's like torturing them. It is extremely painful and they go blind.”

I look at my son, whose eyes are now the size of saucers, thinking about the horrors that poor Goldie must have endured on our countertop overnight.

I don't respond for a moment, but I'm thinking “REALLY? REALLY LADY? You just HAD to go there?”

She interrupts the silence with: “But, you know, if you WANT to. It IS just a feeder fish. If it was ANY other fish, I wouldn't allow it.”

Why did I have to find the Fish Police in this store? It really doesn't matter at this point because I know that there is NO WAY my son is going to allow another goldfish to be tortured in that bowl. I also know that there is NO WAY I'm willingly purchasing a 5 gallon tank that costs $30.00 for a 50 cent fish. It is at that moment that I look to my right and see several shelves of bright fish in tiny little plastic cups. I ask the Fish Police if it would be O.K. to put one of those Beta fish in our ½ tank. She seems to approve and confirms that we don't need anything else for it, except Beta fish food. I ask if it can eat the brand new goldfish food that we just bought yesterday. She looks annoyed, so I grab the Beta fish food. My older son has been quiet this whole time, but pipes up as my younger son is picking out his bright red $8.00 fish.

“Is he getting one of those?” he asks tentatively. I read between the lines and know what he is really saying is “You're spending all of that money on him, and now he's getting to pick out a REALLY COOL fish and I didn't complain when he got that other fish and the new bowl, or when we came here to buy him replacement fish, but now he's picking out a REALLY COOL fish and I'm not getting ANYTHING!”

Guilt overcomes me and I immediately offer for him to pick one out too.

We are all happy, until the Fish Police reminds me that they are Beta fish. “Beta fish can't share a tank. They will kill each other.”

Geesh! Isn't she full of uplifting fish facts? So we head to the tank aisle, pick up another ½ tank and rocks. We somehow agree that Beta fish don't need something to “play” with, sparing me the cost of another plastic plant. Awesome.

We get home an set up the tanks. All is well until that night, when my younger son asks if he can see the photo I took of Goldie.

My reply, “Ummm... can I show you later?”

I make up some excuse as to why I can't get to it right then. The reason? I DIDN'T take a photo of Goldie, I just SAID I did to make him feel better! Thankfully, I'm a wiz with Photoshop. Back to the pet store for the third day in a row. This time with my camera in hand, and without my sons!

In an effort to make the final photo as believable as possible, I start examining the many tanks of goldfish to find Goldie's body double. “No, too many fish to get just one.” “No, too skinny.” “No, too fat.” “No, too orange.” “No, too many spots.”

Finally, I see one that I can make work with very little manipulation! Of course, these tanks are mere inches off of the floor. To take the photo, at the right angle, I am crouched down on the floor. It crosses my mind that dogs are allowed in this store. I wonder what the odds are that a dog had relieved it's self in this location, but then I try not to think about it. As I wait for the particular fish to separate itself from the other fish and then get a good angle of it, a confused employee walks up to me. I look up slowly, hoping it isn't the Fish Police from yesterday. I'm greeted with a smile. Nope. Not the Fish Police. I explain to her what I'm doing and am left alone. I'm glad, but convinced she will be talking to her 20 something friends later on about the “crazy mom who lied to her kid”. I get several shots of the body double and head home to continue the project. Once home, I take a photo of the tank. Luckily, the new Beta fish is cooperative and is hiding over in the corner. He is easily cropped out of the photo. I get to work on the cutting and pasting, adjust the color a bit, and done! I delete any photographic evidence of other fish and tanks, then call my son over to see the photo I took of Goldie.

He was very appreciative, but then said “I don't remember Goldie being that yellow.”

Dang! I was thinking that she looked a little too yellow too. I explain it away as being a result of my camera flash making her look different. He seems to buy it.

We were told that Beta fish are supposed to live around 3 years. At about 2 ½ years after we purchased the Beta fish, my younger son's fish started to look a bit sick. I prepare my son for the inevitable. He is sad, but is prepared to face the death of his fish. He asks if we can bury it in the yard. I agree that would be a nice thing to do for such a good fish. One morning, I came downstairs before my kids. As I look over towards the fish tanks, something catches my eye. One of the tanks is completely empty! My stomach is flipping as I start to piece together what happened. I call my husband, who woke up before me and went to go work out.

Him: “Hello?”
Me: “What happened to the fish?”
Him: “It was dead.”
Me: “What did you do with it?”
Him: “I flushed it.” I run to the toilet in hopes that it didn't go down. No such luck.
Me: “WHY????”
Him: “I didn't want him to have to see his dead fish. It would make him sad.”
Him: “Crap! I didn't know! NOW WHAT?”
ME: “You need to come home and tell him what happened.” Yeah, right, like I've been SO honest with the kid.
Him: “I know! I'll just get him another fish!”
Me: “You are NEVER going to find one that looks the same!” Unfortunately, I know this from the experience of trying to find a body double for Goldie.
Him: “Don't worry about it.”

Ah, if I had a dime for every time I've heard that! I hung up with my husband and put water back in the tank. I quietly hope that my son doesn't go over to tell his fish “good morning” today. A while later, my husband walks in from the gym with a plastic bag and a Beta fish in it. He gets points for remembering what kind and what color the fish was, but that is where the similarity ends. The fish is not nearly as bright red, has more black in it, has much smaller fins and is much smaller over all. However, I think it is sweet that my husband is concerned and wants to avoid crushing our son with the words “I flushed your fish.” Before I know what is happening, my husband starts speaking to our son.

“You know how your fish was really sick? Well, I have a friend who is a vet. I brought your fish to them today. They had to work on it a long time and had to strip away some of it's fins to save it, that's why it looks a little smaller. But, hopefully, the procedure will make it better.”

Our son seems appreciative, then says “Why does his body look so much smaller?”

We tell him it's an illusion because his fins are smaller. Darn kid, why was he born with such an eye for detail?

As we place the “recovered” fish in the tank, it crosses my mind that I will be putting food in that tank for at least another 3 years. I sigh and wonder if I should have just looked in the sewer clean out for the dead fish.

About 1 year later, our older son's fish started to show signs of being sick. I warn my husband, under penalty of something horrible (I'm not sure what that would be, but he knows I mean it), under NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS HE TO FLUSH THE FISH. He understands completely. The morning comes when the older fish is floating. We put it in a baggie with a little water and find a small box. Each one of us picks a side of the box to write something nice about the fish. It is a sweet and touching moment. My husband goes out to the yard with a shovel and he digs a hole for the burial as our older son holds the box. Our younger son goes to look for a headstone. I have my camera in hand and document the moment. Hugs all around. About 6 months later, my older son asks me why his brother's fish is living so long. I cave and tell him the truth. He can't believe his ears, but understands why we did what we did, and admits he would have been really upset if he didn't have the opportunity to bury his fish and say goodbye. I'm thankful he understands and he eases my guilt about the deception.
Over 1 year ago, the “recovered” fish started floating on it's side. I saw it as a sign of the end, again. Guest after guest has come to our house and whispered “I think your fish is dead.” Each time I walk over, tap the countertop or nudge the tank and the fish springs to back life. Along with my standard response, “Nah, he just does that.”

It has been a long time since we got the “recovered” fish. From my estimates, this fish should be in Guinness for the longest living Beta fish ever. I can't believe how many times the fish has fooled even me. I swear it's time to find another little box, and the fish wiggles a fin to let me know it's not time yet. My husband has walked by the tank and said “Dead or alive. Pick one.” Which makes me wonder, in a tongue-in-cheek way, if perhaps this fish is in some sort of “un-dead” state. It is so old, it shouldn't be alive. It eats, sometimes. It swims backwards, sometimes. It floats, sometimes. It acts normally, sometimes. The only (irrational) explanation I can come up with is that Goldie's spirit has entered the Beta fish's body and is trying to avenge her young torturous death. I'm going with that zombie fish idea for now, just because I find it amusing.

When it's time finally comes, I'm sure we will all be sad. I hope my husband refrains from flushing it, and please, someone, don't let me go back to the pet store.