The 9 circles of parenthood

IMG_0503With my apology to Dante, if an apology is warranted. Dante could be a pretty creepy guy, but I did reorganize The Inferno a little in my spare time.

When your children are born they are angels. They coo. They smile. They dote on you. Your worst problem is changing a nasty diaper. And then they start to grow up and to your dismay, you find that are completely unprepared for the evils you encounter.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

The Nine Circles of Parenthood

Limbo. Also known as toilet training. The phase where you will repeat, “Do you need to use the potty?” 100,000 times. It is fraught with uncertainty. Do you buy the Pull-Ups®, or do you not buy the Pull-ups? Can you risk a quick trip to the grocery store? Can you let your child in the wading pool, or are you courting disaster and a public shunning? Should you try to transport the soiled underwear home, or should you just pitch it in the trash?

Lust. When you have no lock on your bedroom door, and one of your children finds their way in every night, this one takes care of itself. Nothing vaporizes lust like a small pair of feet lodged firmly in your lower back. (Sure, I could have talked about teenage lust here, but none of us is ever quite ready for that, right?)

Anger. You are an adult. You have a college degree. You endured workplaces where you encountered all sorts of unreasonable behavior.  And yet, none of them made you half as angry as the child who stowed a half-eaten sucker under the couch cushions you just cleaned (because someone had previously stowed a half-eaten sucker in the same spot.) Who knew your capacity for anger could be this large?

Gluttony. A growing child is capable of all kinds of heinous behavior, like eating, as an after-school snack, most of a chicken that was supposed to feed the whole family before an early lacrosse practice. Or a child who announces, after a day making Christmas cookies with a friend, which ones she intends to share, and which she intends to eat entirely on her own.

Greed. Nothing motivates greed like candy, especially if you discourage its consumption. A child will eat all his brother’s remaining Halloween candy, even if he has just eaten all his own, and his brother had it hidden in a dirty sock behind his bookcase.

Heresy. Your child roots for the Packers during a Vikings game. The Packers!

Violence. Also known as “horseplay,” although you’ve never seen horses carry on the way a couple of boys will. There is no good end to a violent act. Nothing screams an afternoon at urgent care like a child announcing, “I think (my brother) just broke my neck.”

Fraud. You’ve seen that band practice log, and your child is either perpetrating fraud, or writing fiction.

Treachery. They leave. In the end, they leave. You feed, clean, clothe and drive them around for two decades and then they move, taking with them your linens, your car, and half of your small appliances. Oh, and your money.

And Dante thought hell looked bad.

 

Household Mysteries

IMG_0050Either one of my children has been channelling his inner Uri Geller using the power of the mind to transfigure spoons, or he is just bent on destruction. Sorry, bad pun.

And yes, I’m sure it’s a he. My daughter is devoted primarily to the destruction of electronic devices, also any overpriced clothing required for school activities.

I did not realize in my blissful, pre-child state how much damage children can cause. It’s a little like housing a troop of circus bears that have gotten into the fermented honey. They lurch around leaving debris and broken items in their wake. But they’re clever bears. They never admit to these petty crimes, nor will they turn on each other, a trait I’d admire if it weren’t counter to my best interest.

If I believed in such things as poltergeists and supernatural phenomena, I might be afraid. Very afraid. Much of this destruction could be interpreted as violent and threatening. Crushed iPhones. A rather large hole in my bedroom wall. Dirty footprints near the ceiling in the hallway. A hunting knife stuck in an oak tree in the yard. Were I a superstitious person, I’d be listening for the hushed, bodiless voice whispering, “GET OUT.”

But instead, I do what every parent does – persevere and repair the damage. Few of these crimes are heart-breaking, and little of the damage irreversible.

Although, come to think of it, when I glance at the pretty, little pine tree in our yard whose head was unceremoniously chopped off with a pruning shears I’m a little sad. That tree has decades of crooked, unsightly growth ahead of it and no foliage deserves that.

Feel free to vent – worst damage done to your home or property? And yes, damage to automobiles does count.

Actions speak louder

IMG_0301I say “I love you,” to my kids so often I’m sure they don’t hear it anymore. Well, to be honest, they don’t hear much of what I say these days. I can give a direction five times before anyone even acknowledges it.

But I persevere. I’m a doer, so I’m convinced that the little things I do will cut through the fog and instill themselves as some kind of ghost memory of my love in the minds of my kids.

Am I dreaming? Maybe. But if you think about all the annoying things you do just because you love your kids it gets to be a pretty long list.

No one who didn’t love you would do this:

  • Cut up a mango. It’s a giant pain.
  • Go to Chuck E. Cheese or one of its for-the-younger-set counterparts.
  • Change a diaper. Any diaper.
  • Use $10 in gas so you can go to a job that will pay you $40.
  • Invite a friend to be the 6th at dinner when I only made enough food for five.
  • Host a sleepover with more than two children at it.
  • Let you eat in the car.
  • And while we’re at it, prepare a homemade meal whose primary asset is that it was designed to be eaten in the car…
  • …but skip dinner myself to drive you to your activity.
  • Watch The Teletubbies while sober.
  • Drive you to school in my pajamas.
  • Pay your phone bill.
  • Volunteer at a school event that requires me to produce an attractive and educational display…
  • …or carve a map of Africa out of a pan of brownies.
  • Spend the afternoon in a wet bathing suit.
  • Play the same children’s CD in the car, every day, for a year.
  • Make a 5-hour round-trip for the sole purpose of adopting a stray cat.

I could probably stay at this list all day. But I need to go drive some people around.

What’s the most annoying thing you do for your kids?

Read some other perspectives on love or link up at The Wounded Dove.

 

#5: How to relax and enjoy your children

desertToday’s installment of Search Terms of the Sad and Desperate, where I offer advice to visitors whose search terms hit my blog, tackles the thorny topic: “How to relax and enjoy your children.

Is this a question or a personal development program? If the latter, I should probably sign up.

Because even I, who am able to dispense completely unqualified advice on many topics, cannot answer this one. I’ve never actually done both things at once. I am able to relax on occasion, even with the children present, but to say that I am enjoying them in those moments might be going a little too far.

Why, you ask? Well, if I could ignore the multitude of dangers that lurk around every corner, pretend I’m not putting off a huge list of inevitable tasks to spend time with them, and navigate their constant squabbles I guess I might be able to relax.

I’ve never professed to be a fun mom. I make no apologies. Fun is not my natural state. For me, life is not a garden of earthly delights. It’s more like an overgrown plot of intriguing weeds. (And for my children I’ll add, “Sorry, grow where you are planted.”)

So I think I’ve met my match here. This question requires a professional relaxation consultant.

Read the series:

Anxiety dreams involving my kids 

How do I talk to my surly teen? 

I have only one child but laundry and housework never end

Life is not a competition

 

A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

Oh, laundry – it didn’t have to be this way

In my heart, laundry, I feel like we could have had a better relationship, you and I. Perhaps if you’d waited for me in the orderly fashion I desired – whites with whites, delicates with IMG_0472delicates – we could have found a way to coexist. Or if you’d made even the slightest effort to stay folded in the drawers instead of ending up in a wrinkled, tangled mess. But you’ve made no attempt whatsoever to make my life easier. If there is to be any future for us, laundry, you must not, anymore:

  • Hide under beds, at the bottom of closets, in gym bags, and under car seats. Even though I know you are there it is agony to seek you out, over and over again.
  • Show up in the laundry basket when I know you are clean, in fact, just washed. Oh why, laundry, do you punish me in this way?
  • Exceed many times over what is practical for the number of people in this household. I see them each day, wearing the same clothes they not only slept in, but wore the day before – how is it possible that you multiply so? Is it just to taunt me?
  • Appear before me in such a disgraceful state – soiled, wrinkled, smelly, stained with God knows what. It tears me apart, laundry, it really does.

I know, laundry, that I could improve, too. I know I start out with the best intentions, laundering you in a practical, reasonable way – carefully sorting and calibrating the right water temperature. But I admit that after a day with you, I often find myself throwing you into the washer at random without any regard to your care label, not caring if you shrink or pill. And I’m sorry, truly, but at some point I hit the limit of what I can endure.

So how shall we go forward, laundry? Is it to stay this way between us always? Or can we change, coexist peacefully, get along even for just a day? Tell me – what is it to be? I just heard the buzzer on the dryer so the time for truth is now.

Good-bye 2013 – a tribute to the passing of the seasons

One of my favorite blogging goddesses suggested a 2013 retrospective. “What a good idea!” I thought. “Then I don’t have to come up with any original material today!” Anyway, here is my tribute to the passing of the seasons as we head into the new year.

One sad-looking inventory – a late-winter’s lament – in which I describe the horrendous state of my children’s outerwear and really offer no useful advice at all.

The work-at-home personnel manual – A few guidelines for the parent who works at home and is blessed with the presence of their children. All. Summer. Long.

Are you really in the weeds? An ode to my favorite season, Weeding. Is that a season?

…and the changing of the seasons – How do you measure change? I measure it by what is in my car.

And finally, a salute to the current season, and I’ll guess you can figure out just what I’m saluting with. 9 things to hate about winter

Happy New Year to all – and a sincere thanks to all who read and comment. You are truly a blessing to me. It keeps my cynicism (just barely) at bay.

A Christmas decorating don’t

Alert: This tip could save your reputation!

One year as I shopped the frenzied post-Christmas markdowns, I happened across a  store selling off all its leftover Christmas lights for about two dollars a string.

“Score!” I thought. They were a little picked over but there were plenty of festive red lights so I bought a few boxes. Most of the lights I owned were shot, and I love a lot of lights on a tree.

The following year, I painstakingly strung four long strings of lights on our tree and plugged it in. It looked fantastic! All those sparkly red lights! Feeling a rare sense of domestic pride, I hauled out the ornaments and the kids and I decorated the tree.

I left the room and the kids flipped off the lights to enjoy the sight. That’s when I noticed a nearly atomic-red glow from the other room. “Hmmm,” I thought, “That glow could get a little annoying.”

heartThen I glanced out the kitchen window and realized that the red light was emanating from the house, the shocking color reflecting off the snowy yard. It looked like a…like a…bordello. No two ways around it.

After my hysterical laughter died down, I realized that I was going to have to remove all the ornaments to restring the lights. What a pain! Fortunately, I am the queen of shortcuts. Aided by a trip to the hardware store, a glass of wine, and an additional hour, I interspersed a couple of strings of white lights with the red ones. The white light cut the red glare just enough to save my reputation…and the time it would have taken to remove and rehang the ornaments with three young kids.

So let the buyer beware – if you’ve got your eye on those bargain red lights, make sure to include a few white ones.

It’s almost here! I’m participating in the Blogfestivus challenge sponsored by the blogging goddess at Blogdramedy – 5 days, 5 posts, 200 words. Please stop by Monday to read my first post.

12 days of Christmas – a redux

I confess – to me, the run-up to the holidays feels like one long to-do list. With my apologies to the original, I’ve adapted a favorite carol that you can sing, too. If you want to prolong the agony, repeat the refrain until you are so desperate to finish you’ve quadrupled the tempo.

(Not based on actual events. Ahem.)

On the first day of Christmas, I desperately backordered one hot holiday toy.

On the second day of Christmas I guiltily regifted two cute but useless knick-knacks.

(2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the third day of Christmas I  waited in the post office behind three really slow people.

(3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the fourth day of Christmas I went to a party, and consumed four unusually strong eggnogs.

(4 strong eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the fifth day of Christmas I absently bought FIVE TEACHER GIFTS!

(4 strong eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the sixth day of Christmas as time was running out, I bought six last-minute Kringles.

(6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the seventh day of Christmas I cleaned up my house and stuffed things in seven different closets.

(7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the eighth day of Christmas I made myself some tea, and wrapped eight oddly-shaped  packages.

(8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the ninth day of Christmas I wrote a Christmas letter, and rejected nine unflattering family photos.

(9 family photos, 8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the tenth day of Christmas I did my Christmas baking, and ate ten slightly singed cookies. 

(10 singed cookies, 9 family photos, 8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the eleventh day of Christmas I spent on groceries what felt like eleven hundred dollars.

(11 hundred dollars, 10 singed cookies, 9 family photos, 8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

On the twelfth day of Christmas I awkwardly arranged twelve ugly, scraggly spruce tops.

(12 scraggly spruce tops, 11 hundred dollars, 10 singed cookies, 9 family photos, 8 odd packages, 7 stuffed closets, 6 last-minute Kringles, 5 TEACHER GIFTS! 4 eggnogs, 3 slow people, 2 useless knick-knacks, and 1 hot holiday toy.)

Oooh…my apologies to the original. Probably sounds better after a few eggnogs.

In order to brighten my holiday, I’ve elected to participate in the Blogfestivus challenge sponsored by the blogging goddess at Blogdramedy. Watch for my uninspiring entries starting next week.

Of course I can write a book – I blog. Right?

Oh, how wrong I was. Surely, I’m not the only one? I’ve been laboring (pardon the pun) over a Parent Your Business book for over a year. If this was a gestation period I would have given birth to two baby elephants by now. OK, that’s a huge exaggeration, but that’s how it feels.

What I didn’t realize when I set out was:

  1. Writing a book requires some discipline. Blogging, at least in my case, requires a complete lack of discipline since I typically find myself blogging when I should be doing something else (like now).
  2. Blog posts can be irrelevant, irreverent, and wacky and people will still read them – and even like them! A book has to have structure and purpose. Plus, the reader should ideally get some value out of it. Hmmm.
  3. Blog posts are short. You can write them in a few minutes if you’re on a roll. Writing a book takes a long time. (Duh, I should have seen this one coming.)
  4. Blogging is instant gratification. You write a post, publish it and right away someone will read it. Writing a book feels more like casting out a fishing line and then waiting for all of eternity for a bite.

I think I need a writing buddy to keep me on track. Any takers? Understandably, this will not be fun. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just take some solace in the fact that I’m not a pregnant elephant.

How do you stay motivated to write? How do you keep a project on track? Share, please!

I’m grateful, really – I just forget to notice

In the past, I’ve tried keeping a gratitude journal without much luck. I start out with good intentions but establishing habit is not my strong point. In fact, the last gratitude journal I started has entries for exactly four days. And they’re not even consecutive. Ouch.

But given that this is the season of gratitude, I decided to try again. Inspired by the efforts of 30 Days of Thanks, I vowed to tweet a note of gratitude every day during November. It seemed easy enough to do, a way for me to keep a gratitude journal of sorts. For a month anyway. Here’s how I did:

Day 3 – I’m late to the game so I tweet three things I’m grateful for to catch up.

Day 4 – Remember to tweet, but feel put upon because the kids have a day off school, can’t resist adding a snarky related comment.

Day 5 – Learn a friend has suffered a loss, tweet my gratitude that I still have my parents in my life. Feel truly grateful.

Day 7 – Realize late in the day that I forgot to tweet on Day 6, but sneak in a mention of gratitude that the Vikings won. Since that means I don’t have to tell my rabid-fan sons in the morning that they lost, this gratitude stretches into Day 8.

Days 9 through 18 – Forget to be grateful.

Day 19 – Find out to my relief that I didn’t damage my husband’s skis when I ran over them in the garage. Tweet my gratitude and determine to get back on track.

Day 20 – Sick. Forget to be grateful again.

Day 21 – Get all ready to tweet a note of gratitude and then notice it’s snowing. No longer feel grateful but fake it and tweet anyway.

Day 22 -Tweet gratitude. Almost immediately, receive an email for which I am decidedly not grateful. Tell myself grateful is grateful, even if it just lasts a moment.

Day 23 – Realize I can get a blog post out of my wayward gratitude. Feel grateful but too embarrassed to actually tweet that so tweet something else.

Day 24 – Have a quiet day at home ALL TO MYSELF! Truly grateful but enjoying it so much I forget to tweet about it.

Day 27 – Really grateful that someone else is cleaning my house – don’t tweet but leave them a gratitude-saturated note of thanks.

Days 28 -30 Thanksgiving weekend. Gratitude abounds. Truly grateful for all I have. But don’t take the time to tweet about it.

My evaluation? All in all, high on intent but lacking in execution. But maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the point is to pause, even if it’s only every once in a while, to give thanks. And then get on to the business of living.

What are you grateful for today? (I’m grateful I actually finished this blog post.)