Category Archives: Not cool, Mommy

Craptastic, I can’t mess these kids up fast enough.

Survival of the Funnest

You may well be wondering “Hey, did you guys survive the bedbugs? Or have you been carried off by the invading swarm?”

Well, both, in a way.

We came through it. We walked Bloodsucker valley and lived to tell. We’re still moving around the city, and we’re not scratching persistent itchy bites. We pass through the nights unmolested. Ten years from now, I might be cautiously optimistic that the process has worked. But we also seem to have been carried off, replaced by new, stronger more bad-ass people. We were made new through bedbugs. And even the Fun Apartment was made new. Even though it’s pretty much still the same.

It was 26 days living with the bags. Twenty. Six. March of 2017 is now just a charred piece of paper on the family calendar.

It was only supposed to be 24 days, but the exterminator decided–twice!–to rearrange his schedule.

And perhaps I should thank him, because it was those extra two days that did it. Those were the days that showed me that things couldn’t be the old way anymore. I knew on those two days that we were–or at least I was–going to be different people at the end of those two days. Those were the days I said all the swear words.

Happily, at the end of those two days, Mr. Fun Apartment and I were different people still married to each other, so that’s a plus. And I was a new person who just did whatever felt good. And didn’t feel bad about feeling good. I dyed a pink streak in my hair. I threw out at least a third of our stuff, but decided that we really couldn’t live without a giant squid costume.

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Eyeballs the size of dinner plates!

I went to a fancy party–on a Monday night–and drank ALL the champagne! I made cereal and called it dinner–to great applause! We started watching Looney Tunes! The Mr. bought some shorts! (Well, he’s got the legs for it.)

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Push the Sky Away.

I got interested in a band* and then actually went to see them play–like an actual real person does! We went camping and ate ice cream sandwiches for lunch! At this point, I fully expect the boys to come home with tattoos. I’m cool with that, as long as they are anchors with the word “Mom” over them.

So now, apparently, I’m a person who says “Yes, why the hell not?” to almost any proposition I get. But I warn you to use your power over me wisely: I’m very susceptible to suggestion. Yes! The answer is yes! Unless you’re the PTA, in which case the answer is “Umm . . . maybe next year?”

So does all this newness mean that I’m ramping up for a big blog-name-changing announcement? No. Not yet.

But we’re asking ourselves a lot of questions that begin with “When?” and “Where?” I think we’re pretty set on “Who?” I’m afraid that “How?” will just have to sort itself out later. I’m too busy saying yes to things.

So, for my mom and the realtor she’s been secretly emailing, we’re not packing up yet. But we’re opening the lens wide. We’re putting on shoes, but no pants.

Why the hell not?

__

*One of the in-house music critics insists on referring to the band as Nick Cave and the Bad Nuts. Hey, I’m pretty sure Nick would say “Bring it on.”

 

 

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Back to school.

Ahh, it is back to school time again. And not just for the kiddos, this year. For me, too.


You see, five years ago, I gave up teaching for what, in a lot of ways, has been an even harder job as a stay at home mom, albeit with smaller adult to kid ratios. Maybe if you don’t move to an insanely small home in a prohibitively expensive city, and maybe if you don’t lop three quarters of your income and living space away at the same time, you have an easier go of it, I wouldn’t know.

But I spent five years sitting on the economic sidelines. And I had thoroughly convinced myself that I would never be fit for the work force again. I made several awkward attempts at it, but my most recent approach of having a job find me just wasn’t working. “Give it another five years,” another mom urged me. “I think it could happen!”

But now–miracle of miracles!–I have rejoined the gainfully employed! I teach kindergarten! And it’s awesome! And it’s kindergarten! We are going to have so much crazy fun! And the kids are hysterical! I’m beyond excited!

And beyond terrified. What if I forget how to work? My memory of how jobs work is a little fuzzy. I gather that they want me to be there every day, around the same time. And apparently, I am supposed to stay there all day. Does that seem right to you guys? And I am supposed to dress up, not just in the jeans without holes. Yikes. I urgently need to know if skirts with cargo pockets are still a thing, or if I’m totally screwed.

To launch this whole job thing, though, it has taken a really large village. So many wonderful people have come forward, arms linked together, to make this possible for me. It’s a good thing you can’t see me typing, because I am actually crying as I think about everyone who has babysat my kids, cheered me on, lugged my laundry to 8th Avenue, bought me a(nother) glass of wine, texted me that it’s all going to be fine. Even the boys I have abandoned to their fate at the afterschool program rush toward me at pickup, joyfully asking about my day, thoughtfully inquiring if anyone has the same lunchbox that I do. Truly, I am blessed.

So I’m going to ask you guys a favor, too, if that isn’t too cheeky: send me off on this adventure with all your good wishes, okay? I’m going to need them.

***

You may ask yourselves, why has it taken me an entire month to get this first day of school post up? Well, things came up. And work is a damn lot of work. I’m tired.

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Tribal

You’ll have to excuse us at the Fun Apartment this month. We have birthday fatigue. Our Little grew a bit bigger a week or so ago and, well, the jump from four to five required quite a lot of effort and energy.

See, in New York, it is hard to just . . . have a birthday party. At least, it is hard to have a birthday party attended by more than one child. So we have been putting off whole the “birthday party with your friends” business because, well, there are difficulties to be faced. But we thought, if we kept it small in stature and size–only his three close friends–then it might just be manageable.

The main difficulty, as it always is in New York City, is space. It is at a premium, especially around the Fun Apartment where one kid coming over for a play date creates a standing room only situation. Also, all of our extra chairs are broken in various eyebrow-raising ways. We could go outside, of course. There are parks and playgrounds, but these will probably be too cold to sustain a party longer than half an hour — what poor planning to have winter children! We could try an expedition party and head off to some fun destination, but then one has to schlep a cake and gifts through the zoo or a museum, while still keeping track of the guests. (Telling another parent that you are sure that you saw their child somewhere in the room with the giant whale, an hour previous, tends to put a damper on budding friendships.) And our local restaurants will demand a rather exorbitant fee for the disruption that a party of five-year-olds would provide. Or they might just laugh in your face.

So our inner party-planners were stymied, and decided to sleep on it. That is, until we realized that the ideal party space lay not two feet from our sleeping heads! Our beloved neighbors recently decamped to Brooklyn in order to accommodate two new roommates: twin girls. Their apartment–Ready to rent! You could live there!–was standing empty. So they graciously allowed us to have a riotous party in their former living room.

Space problem resolved, we tackled the problem of theme. If only indecision could be considered a party theme. An early birthday present of a woolly mammoth convinced the birthday boy that an ice age-themed party was his heart’s most intense desire. But, just like last year, after I had already bought the sharks, he changed his mind, a mere five days before the guests were due to arrive. Wild Kratts, he insisted, was his one and only party idea. While I love these crazy bros, I was not so eager to embrace this new idea. But, because, I am able to see the bright side of everything, I did not collapse into a(nother) screaming panicking fit. Instead, I patted myself on the back for my foresight in accidentally holding onto our amazon prime membership I signed up for to get the Christmas presents here on time. (How was I to know that you had to actually cancel after the one month free trial??) Smart by accident again!” I congratulated myself, while clicking on the free two day shipping button! Soon, small quantities of various animal print goodies arrived at our door.

(Although, I will pause here to concur with a friend who thinks that it would be good for us all as a society, if we agreed to give up on this whole goody bag thing. Although I do like the idea of giving presents on one’s birthday, instead of expecting them. But what to do with all those random little items? I have a special bin, specifically for “small toys we got for free somewhere!” Perhaps I sort too much. At any rate, I digress too much.)

I even managed a crafty type thing I’ve been intending to do for years. “I know!” I thought. “I’ll clean out all these random broken crayons and melt them down into rainbow crayons! They’ll be perfect for the birthday party! They are recycled! There may now be room in the crayon bucket for all the crayons! I am a such a domestic demi-goddess / mad genius!” Naturally, this project was a disaster start to finish. After I wore my fingernails down to brightly colored stubs, the Mister asked “Why didn’t you just soak them to remove the paper?” Luckily we didn’t have to go to the emergency room to remove the crayons I stuffed up his nose. Chopping and melting the crayons was easy, but Martha Stewart neglected to mention that this process turn your previously-serviceable muffin tins into a brown field super fund site. And the rainbow crayons, while kind of cool looking, only color on one side. And they looked so interesting and unrecognizable that one unfortunate party guest mistook them for a colorful snack.

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Me love cookies.

But despite my domestic demigoddess failings, it was a wildly, successful birthday party. And it was grand! My son and his three besties ran rampant. We opened the door to the Fun Apartment, and the door to the neighbors’ cool, enormous empty apartment and the guests immediately sorted themselves. The kids dove headlong into the Fun Apartment, pulling down every toy bin in reach (and a few I’m not entirely sure how they got to),  while their parents enjoyed some adult celebrating in the cool whiteness of the neighbors’ apartment. I have always maintained that the secret to a good kid’s party is in the cocktails. Thus, I found myself at Chelsea Wine Vault asking the rather unlikely question: “What wine would you recommend for a five year old’s birthday party?” They picked a winner!

“Should we go check on the kids next door?” I asked, setting down my wineglass. This naive statement earned me such withering looks of pity–looks that said “No, of course not, you foolish woman. They are fine and will find us if they are bleeding.”

“I could really get good at this parenting of increasingly independent children,” I thought, passing the bottle around again.

The lads eventually joined us to wrestle in a large pile at the center of all that empty space. Then they invented a game that involved throwing their inflatable animals at each other. I’m sure it was something totally sanctioned by the Wild Kratts: Living Free and In the Wild!

 

Keep on creature adventuring!

Our guests stumbled home when the threat of bed time began to loom. I even thought about how fun it would be if we woke up in the morning with the three extra kids in residence. But alas, or luckily, they all departed for home–hopefully two steps ahead of an impending meltdown.

But by the time the school birthday party rolled around, I had run out of celebration stamina. Fridays are rough around here anyway and when you throw in attempting to make rice krispie treats with uncooperative marshmallows, let’s just say that the bloody decimated bodies of Snap, Krackle, and Pop, or those of their bastard cousins from Trader Joe’s, were littered throughout the Fun Apartment’s kitchen. I kept expecting the Keebler Elves to show up with some crime scene tape. And I showed up late at school anyway. But at least nobody took a bite of the rainbow crayons.

Another reason to celebrate: this little guy’s birthday is also a party for all of us Fun Apartment residents, because it was on his first full day in the world that we decided to move back to New York, in a post-natal haze, with only a vague sense of, oh who the hell knows what to guide us. “If New York is in your heart,” said a friend, ” then that is where you need to go!” But for the longest time after we moved, even we–the Fun Apartment natives–weren’t sure that we had made the right call. After Little’s first birthday–a walk along the high line with balloons–even after champagne, the man of my dreams and I cried a little. “Did we make the right choice?” We asked. After giving up good jobs, an awesome house with lots of space, we weren’t sure we had arrived in Paradise. Instead the Fun Apartment felt more like Easter island. We moved here only to accustom ourselves to ever-increasing, ever-more expensive hardship. “Will he ever have a birthday where we don’t cry ourselves to sleep, in between kicking ourselves?” We wondered.

The long view won out, of course. This month, along with the Little’s birthday, it felt like we actually celebrated our 5th anniversary of Fun Apartment living, rather than just marking it by nodding solemnly at each other. Five years is more than twice as long as we planned to stay, but hey, plans change. We are finding our tribe. And loving it.

 

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Fun Apartment Fitness Plan

I got a stack of “how to be hot . . . err healthy” magazines at the Y, which was kind of awesome. But after reading nothing but Self, Shape, and Women’s Health magazines, a girl could be forgiven for thinking that she’s not doing enough to keep her smoking hot self in good shape. So I developed this Fun Apartment Fitness Plan to help all the other moms in tiny apartments on track to set a PR (it only took me two months to figure out they meant parenting record, not public relations.)

Morning: wake up early to the relaxing tones of shrieking children fighting over old Halloween candy and dumping out bins of Legos. Take a minute to visualize throttling them with their own licorice. Give yourself a good long hamstring stretch as you reach down to clear a path wide enough to reach them. Then drop into a squat to scoop one of them up and carry them away from the battlefield. (Lift with the legs, keeping the knees behind the toes–remember, form is important!)

Incorporate some yoga into your morning preparations. Assume the downward dog thingy to check for the library books under the table. Use warrior pose with your honey when he suggests that he might want to work late tonight. If you really stretch with your back leg, you might be able to reach the bathroom door. Hold it closed to remind your older son than he really needs to flush before he comes out. Then swivel around–engaging your core–to direct him to the sink for washing his hands. Finish with child’s pose when one of the children tells you that they need 44 purple-frosted cupcakes by 10 am today, for the party they thought they told you about.

Stare at is picture of a labor intensive breakfast consisting of multiple complicated and / or expensive ingredients. Then make yourself some peanut butter toast and pour a large mug of coffee. Remember, coffee is just one of the few flimsy things that stand between you and prison.

Now that you’ve completed the warm-up, it is time to get that heart rate up. Just check the clock and realize that you should have left uh now. Kick it into high gear by jumping around the apartment on alternating legs while trying to put on pants. Windmill your arms to get the children moving toward the door. Make sure you leave some critical item behind, so you can have the added benefit of running back up to the fourth floor an extra time. Want to make it harder? Forget something else and remember it only on the second trip down. Now you can really feel the burn!

High intensity and high impact time! Let’s take it outside! Make sure you carry a minimum of 40 lbs of kid and backpack as you race walk the half mile to school. If you like intervals, you can alternate between carrying and dragging. Do this a minimum of four times and your biceps and back will love you for it! Remember, poofy down jacket season is just around the corner!

For strength training, look no further than your trip to the grocery store. If possible, wait until you run out of all the heavy stuff at the same time: milk, cat litter, laundry soap, box wine–all the essentials. That way you can maximize your heft and really throw those shoulders out of whack. Plus you will really blast some calories hauling all that stuff up to the fourth floor. Be sure to reward yourself with a few chia seeds when you get upstairs.

If you are looking to build stamina, you can just clean the apartment by walking from one end of it to the other, carrying things back to their base of origin. Based on my expert fitness assessment, one can do this circuit a total of 237 times and still have crap to put away. It is a great way to keep your heart rate and blood pressure up!

And for the real tough mothers, you can take on the laundry challenge. Haul 40 lbs of your family’s dirty clothes three blocks away to the nearest laundromat! For extra burn, carry the large size detergent–or better yet, run back for it! You will feel great as the weight of all those quarters tugs down your pants!

Let’s not forget the fitness fad of the moment: kickboxing! If your day is anything like mine, then you probably have numerous opportunities to practice your jab and cross, followed by a nice, satisfying roundhouse. Be creative in your workouts: think outside the gym! You could be throwing down with the clerk at the drugstore, the walkers-while-texters weaving around on the sidewalk, the UPS guy, the inept contractors working upstairs that inadvertently cut off heat to your apartment, the pot-smoking teenagers occupying the slide at the playground, and pretty much anyone working at your insurance company. Think of all these daily encounters as chances for calorie-burning and muscle-building! Thanks everyone! (After all, the relaxed feeling you experience afterward is probably keeping your family alive!)

Make sure you incorporate some more cardio intervals as you race from one school to the other, because of course they dismiss at exactly. The Same. Time. You can really torch those calories by alternating between dragging the kids behind you because they are “too tired to walk” and racing to catch them because they saw a dirty plastic spoon in the street that they need to bring home and keep forever! Make sure you turn up the burn by carrying their backpacks.

I’m sure you are already planning your high protein, fiber rich, healthy fats, green veggie filled dinner made from limp scallions and whatever is in the freezer, rounded out by peanuts. Make sure to engage the hamstrings when you are cleaning shells off the floor!

After dinner, hoist the lads  into the tub and boost them into bed. Finish up by raising your middle finger at the article that encourages you to do squats and lunges during commercials. When you have finished your wine glass bicep curls (about 150 reps ought to do it, adding more weight as necessary), reward yourself with a nice stretch, face down on your bed.

 

Mommy is tired.

Workout complete! Tomorrow you can shrug your shoulders hopelessly as you admire the payoff when you look in the mirror! You go, girl!

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Something to whine about.

Do you want to know why my son is whining?

Here’s why, in chronological order:

7 am: He woke up and wants the lights off, so he can play night time.

7:20: He doesn’t want the oatmeal he asked for.

7:30: He hates oatmeal.

7:45: His oatmeal is cold.

8: He’s full.

8:20: He doesn’t want *those* airplane underpants.

8:30: His pants are too soft.

9:00 – 10:00 Sesame Street (Hey, don’t judge. I’m not at a bar. Yet.)

10:15 He wants to pick up the cups from the floor with his feet.

10:16He can’t reach the floor (screamed from his position lying on the floor.)

11:00 He dropped his favorite toy behind his bed.

11:10 Again.

11:15 And once more.

12:00 He wants to use a big spoon to eat yogurt.

12:05 He has yogurt all over his shirt.

12:10 He hates cheese. Except string cheese. And parmesan. And mozzarella.

(On our way to pick up his older brother.)

3:10 He doesn’t want to go up 9th Avenue.

(We procure older brother and start for home.)

3:15 He doesn’t want to go down 8th Avenue. He wants to go down 9th Avenue.

3:20 He wants to stop in the playground. (It’s 30 degrees and he’s wearing a spring jacket.)

3:25 He’s cold.

3:30 He wants to be the first and the second one up the stairs.

(Sainted mother in law comes over to babysit. I deny that these are even my children. Instead, I blame her son and the devil for them. She stays anyway.

Two hours pass. I return largely sober. Sainted mother in law insists they were little angels the entire time I was away.)

5:30 He doesn’t have any bath toys. (We have hundreds).

5:32 He can’t find his bath toys in the bath tub.

5:33 There are too many bath toys in the tub. He has no room.

6:00 He doesn’t know what we are having for dinner. But he doesn’t like it.

6:15 He can’t set the table because he can’t carry a fork. It’s too pointy.

6:35 He wants more bread. But not the half-eaten piece on his plate. A new piece.

7:00 There are too many (i.e. six) toys to clean up.

7:30 He wants PJs that he saw in a picture of himself as a baby. (A 3-6 month sleep and play).

7:35 He doesn’t want to read the book he picked out. He hates it.

7:40 He wants to read that book again.

7:45 He desperately wants to sit in the dark and drink wine by himself.

WAIT. Sorry, that last one was me. Somehow, I must have started whining too. No idea how that happened. Well, you know where to find me. . . .

Beast Mode.

Beast Mode.

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Monkey See

Recently, the Fun Apartment had a population explosion. And I do mean explosion. Like in the millions. We are completely overrun.

You see, it all began at the Dino-Store. During our monthly pilgrimage to the New York’s most awesomest place of fun for little boys who love animals, science, and large open spaces, we saw a kit for growing sea monkeys.

Happily, curiously, miracle of miracles! I happened to have a kit for growing sea monkeys! Even more astonishing: I knew where it was!

(I wish this would work for my snow pants. Boy, are those suckers cleverly hidden somewhere around here. When I find them, I am going to hide all the Christmas presents there.)

(Also, of course I had a kit for growing sea monkeys just sitting around doing nothing. Doesn’t everyone? Where’s yours?)

So I rescued the sea monkey kit from its cold dark hiding place. And I wish I could convey the thrill that both boys felt over these creatures. We bought the bottled water. We purified. We poured. We added the eggs with bated breath. And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

This was not entirely wasted time. The boys used this time to plan an elaborate birthday party for the sea monkeys, 362 days hence.

We waited again. We added the food to the tank.

We waited. We fed.

We gave a sea monkey kit as a birthday present to an unsuspecting dear friend turning 6. (Sorry buddy! Great party, though!)

We waited. We fed.

The boys’ enthusiasm did not dim, but I finally began to suspect that we were feeding an empty tank. I began to read up on sea monkeys. At the university lecture, I learned that sea monkeys appear within 24 hours of meeting water. We were now at least a week past that. The sea monkeys were not coming.

But the boys did not notice! See, these are, after all, *my* children. They need no evidence to believe in the impossible, or even the unlikely! In fact, they can completely ignore evidence that runs contrary to their enthusiasm. They believe! They adore! They blithely ignore!

(I shall pause here to wipe away tears of pride.)

Eventually, the Mister and I broke the news to the faithful. They were not exactly heartbroken, especially because I assured them that we would remedy the sea monkey population situation as soon as the ridiculously archaic system would allow us.

And we are not without pets. We have an ancient yet understanding cat. He’s probably the most constant thing in my life. If anyone knows anything about cats who do not live to be 45 years old, keep it to yourself, please. Ironically, it was this feline fellow who offered the solution to the sea monkey problem. By throwing up. All over.

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the need to clean up cat vomit, but if you have ever done it, then you know about Nature’s Miracle. And it is a true miracle: you spray it on the vomit stain. And you walk away. And so does the stain. (Loaves and fishes, I tell you.)

But we had let our supply of this necessary tonic run perilously low before the most recent vomiting incident. So one day after school, we headed off to the pet store for . . . several hours. You see, pet stores are like fun houses. They are full of fish tanks, bunnies, lizards, turtles, and, of course, shipwrecks. Because if there is one thing we are really into here at the Fun Apartment, it is shipwrecks. In fact, if you ever find yourself, as I have, in desperate need of a shipwreck model, get thee to a pet store! There have more shipwreck models than pets! So, in between the many attempts to pry the boys away from the wrecks of sparkly pirate ships, I asked the clerk in an offhand way if they carried sea monkeys.

That clerk looked at me blankly, but another clerk behind her said “Yes, they’re right over here!”

Did you guys know you could buy sea monkey eggs at a pet store? Well, you can.

You can buy a lot of sea monkey eggs, as it turns out.

I've got the whole world in my hands. . . .

I’ve got the whole world in my hands. . . .

So we brought home our canister of life. The packaging assures me that our goldfish will never want for food again. Never mind, our fish (Happy, Healthy, Hopeful, and Thirsty) all departed the Fun Apartment long ago. Free range sea monkeys, I thought, in a vaguely Whole Foodsish way. None of those farm-raised captives waiting to be slaughtered for us! Those are for the fish whose mommies don’t love them.

So we tried again. I put what I thought was a conservative amount of sea monkey eggs into the tank.

We wai–

“Did you see that?? Look! They’re moving! Yay! Sea monkeys!”

That crytobiosis or whatever is powerful stuff, let me tell you. Soon we were in danger of being overrun by these little suckers. If they had banded together to vote, let’s just say it wouldn’t be the sea monkeys leaving the Fun Apartment.

There was much celebration. In fact, there was rather too much celebration, considering that sea monkey observation time happened just before bedtime. Whispered conversations about marine biology were heard long after lights out.

But maybe my conservative amount of eggs was too liberal. There was definite overpopulation in the tank (and believe me, we at the Fun Apartment know about overcrowding and density.)

We fed this new hungry crew, but that only seemed to make them sluggish. Perhaps brine shrimp eat their young and need no other sustenance?

Then, on Friday morning as we were getting ready for the day, I remembered we were having dinner guests. “Clean something!” I urged the Mister. “Like what?” he asked. “Anything,” I assured him.

So later that day I was mildly surprised to discover the sea monkey tank missing from the bathroom. Hmm. That’s a rather odd choice for cleaning up, but as I’ve noted before he’s not so great at prioritizing when guests are imminent. I assumed he had relocated the sea monkeys to some undisclosed location.

But as the weekend progressed, no sea monkeys made themselves apparent, nor did the man of my dreams know what I was asking about. “Perhaps they moved,” I thought. “Maybe they’ve got a bigger place in Queens. They’ve gone off to make all their little brine shrimpy ways in the world.”

But no. They were here, in the sea monkey graveyard / pile of washcloths that now all need laundering. They must have been knocked over in the morning’s excitement of . . . oh god knows what these boys get excited about, but it isn’t putting their shoes on, that’s for sure.

It was clean washcloths. Now its laundry.

It was clean washcloths. Now its laundry.

And so, we begin anew. The sea monkeys shall (hopefully) rise again. Maybe I can put them in charge of something. Like meal planning.

I hope they like their water salty.

I hope they like their water salty.

Hmm. I did not know I had more than one thousand words to share about sea monkeys. Motherhood changes one so.

 

 

 

 

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Elf Help

Last year, Elf on the Shelf came to live at our house–a gift from Grandpa. And it was a godsend. Big became immediately obsessed with it, and carted it around everywhere with him. The elf even went with him in kindergarten, and seemed to have a somewhat positive effect on what was otherwise a rather uphill slog toward appropriate behavior.

I was a little dubious, at first. After all, I am a Pinterest Denier, so I certainly wasn’t going to make more work for myself moving that elf all over the Fun Apartment every night. After all, there’s just not that many places to hide things around here. How many times can we hide the elf in the cat’s litter box before that gets old? But after only one time of nearly getting caught with the elf stuffed under my pajamas, we worked out a solution. Luckily, it seems we have an elf that is lazy and kids with low expectations. We don’t have to stay up all night stuffing the elf into unlikely incriminating situations. Instead, he stays put and just writes them notes in my handwriting. And he only does it sometimes. When he remembers.

And I was mildly uncomfortable ceding my authority to six inches of plastic. And I don’t love the dynamic of it: Shouldn’t the motivation to not grab from one’s brother be “Grabbing isn’t cool”? Not when the elf is there. Then it’s “Don’t grab because this elf has his overly-large eyes fixed on you. And he will report you.” And there’s this whole thing, too.

In the end, I swallowed my reservations last year, and the elf really did help, however dodgy the whole thing seemed.

This year, I was kind of looking forward to having the elf back me up on some discipline issues. The elder lad seems to be have some background application running, that doesn’t free up enough memory for him to pay attention or self-regulate. This rough patch was starting to get ugly and I was kind of looking forward to elf-regulation, instead.

Maybe I should have gotten a tougher elf. Do they make one that had a few inches of rubber hose, or some brass knuckles, a very deep voice and lots of interesting scars? Because it only took about two nights of “The elf is watching!” before the elf became less of a magical holiday friend and more of a snitching party-pooper. Before our first week of holiday preparations was up, the boys played a game in which the elf was stuffed in a bucket and sent to Africa.

No elves were (permanently) harmed in the taking of this photo.

No elves were (permanently) harmed in the taking of this photo.

At least it was a holiday-themed bucket.

I’m relieved and disappointed all at the same time. I don’t necessarily want kids that slavishly follow a plastic doll’s instructions. (Or if I do, then I want a film crew in here now to capture the whole thing and turn into blockbuster!) But I wouldn’t mind a little fear of repercussion once in a while, or a little back up on the obviously empty threat of no Christmas presents.

That would really help on the elf control around here.

 

 

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