Thursday, July 23, 2009

Momma = Meanie

Sometimes being a parent isn't so much fun. It's not all trips to the zoo and ice-cream cones and presents on Christmas morning. That's the fun stuff you take pictures of and, I suppose, reminisce about when you get old. But what about all the little things in-between? Its those little things that, when added together, play a role in determining what kind of values your adult child will hold near and dear. Yikes!!! I can tell you in all honesty I was not thinking this whole thing through when I approached Ryan with the idea of having a baby. My head was filled with images of happy mommies and daddies piped into my home via TLC's Baby Story.

What this is leading up to is a confession: I have not entirely enjoyed being mommy these past two weeks, because I feel like a big jerk. Here are just a few examples of the life lessons occurring at number 615 this July:

Last week, Nora did not finish all of her chores on Chore Chart 2.0. She was three chores shy of completion. I wanted her to earn a book so very badly, but after some discussion with Ryan, we decided that she really hadn't done her part. Teaching her to do half the work for all the reward wasn't a very good lesson in helping out family. I was the one that had to tell her why it would be another week until she could earn a book. At first she thought it was a joke; she smiled and said, "But Mom, I want a new Jack and Annie!" Nonetheless I cleared the board. The look of devastation on her face was just the worst, and I was the bad guy. The whole time I was thinking, "Is she old enough to understand what is going on?? Can't I just give her the book, because this sucks".

Nora also got a lesson in "faking" i.e. lying today. Nora has taken to the habit of telling fibs, a habit I worry about because Mr. Karma isn't kind those who are less than truthful. Unfortunatley, she thinks its nothing more than a joke. Today I asked her if she wanted the uneaten portion of her sandwich. She said no, and I asked again, and again, because my plan was to make it my lunch. I was hungry, and it looked good! So I ate it. After I had eaten about half, Nora saw what I was doing and screamed, "I'M HUNGRY!!!! MOOOMMMMYYY!!! I want my sandwich! I was just FAKING!". I knew I had two choices: One, give her the rest of the sandwich. This would teach her it is ok to lie, it is ok to scream, and that it is ok to avoid the words please and thank-you. Two, explain that faking is not cool, and finish my sandwich. I went with two, and ate that bad boy up. In the process I unleashed the unholy forces of a Nora tantrum, complete with spit and thrown furniture. Time out time. Momma for sure needs another cup of coffee.

These are the moments that don't feel warm and fuzzy. They hurt. Yet, in spite of it all, I know that I've done the right thing. I love these girls so much, and I'll do anything to help them grow and mature into loving, kind, and truthful women. It seems mean now, it probably sounds abusive to the neighbors, but if it takes an argument here and a tantrum there to set them on the proper path, then I'll do it. Plus, not 10 minutes after I finished that sandwich, we were cuddled up on the couch watching the Care Bears with Emily. TLC, that's "fake" happy. This is the real thing. When I'm not being mean, that is.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Silly Pic of the Week

Nora subtly hints that she wants to go to the water park by wearing her new bathing suit, water wings, and...her snow boots???

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Diaper Bandit Strikes Again

Someone keeps stealing Emily's diapers. We put her in a diaper and lay her down for a nap or for bedtime, and she wakes up naked. The bandit tends to hide the diaper under the bed or in the sink of Emily's play kitchen. The first time this happened it was funny, because the sheets were dry. Then she would hid her head under the pillow, thinking she couldn't see us, and her naked butt was hanging out, making for a rather comical scene. Other times, Emily has been found in her room running around in circles yelling "Whee!!!! Whee!!!! Woo...Wheeeee!!!" because running around in circles is more fun when there's a breeze. Unfortunately for Mom and Dad, the funny factor has run out, yet the diaper bandit continues to strike.

It seems like a perfect opportunity to start teaching the lessons of potty training. We have a book that "flushes", and the training potty has been sitting out for months. Everyday I take Emily into the bathroom with me, point to the toilet and explain that's where the pee pees and poo poos go. She just stares, and then proceeds to put her foot in the training potty. I am simply not getting across to this kid. She won't wear dirty diapers, so she has an understanding that dirty diapers are yucky, yet she is not ready yet to pursue an alternative path. Honestly, I don't know what to do. So we've resorted to keeping her in a onesie at all times because she has a hard time unsnapping the buttons and disposing of the diaper. Plan B: Operation Onesie has been working for a few months now. But now her nimble fingers have figured out the snaps...

Ryan took a vacation day on Friday to watch the girls while I went to Navy Pier with my Grandma Esther. I had a great day of Italian coffee, food, and wine. He did not. A big part of his problem was Emily not keeping her clothes or diaper on. He put her to bed at the normal time, she fell asleep, then he and Nora played outside. Apparently Emily woke up, and finding no one to stop her, pushed a container next to her play kitchen to fashion a very effective stair system. She climbed up into the kitchen, and then stepped into the top drawer of her dresser drawers (which thank goodness isn't too high). Ryan is not sure at which point she dumped the diaper into the sink, but she managed to get completely naked. I imagine she did a little Emily jig once she realized success. However, at some point she couldn't get down, and got completely scared. She screamed and Ryan ran to the rescue. She had peed inside of the dresser drawer (obviously she was really scared). Ryan was furious, and I will probably not have the opportunity to go to Chicago anytime soon. But, I said, at least she had thrown all her clean clothes on the floor before the accident. There's always a silver lining.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ode to Bunny

Several weeks ago, I came to conclusion that Emily's little pink bunny blankie was gone. Bunny has been an integral part of Em's bedtime routine for over a year now, and the realization that we would never see it again was surprisingly sad for me. Bunny was there for her first tooth, Bunny always rode in the car for long trips, and no one could make a boo-boo feel better than Bunny. She loved it like it was part of the family. But I figured these things happen. Binkies and blankies get lost, get ruined, or kids simply grow up and toss their babyish things. Besides, nothing lasts forever. And to be honest, Emily's world didn't come to an end, although she hasn't been sleeping as soundly as normal. The noise of the coffee maker now wakes her up. Of course this does not stop Ryan from brewing my morning coffee...

Ryan and I decided not to speak of Bunny's disappearance with the children, in the hopes that it would eventually be forgotten. While the situation provided a good lesson on impermanence, Emily's language skills bar us from having any kind of meaningful conversation. Best leave Buddhist philosophy for another day and just let them be kids. It is not the last time they will lose something, and we will do our best to help them when that time comes.

You can imagine my surprise when I decided to look through some hand wash laundry items, and I found Bunny stuffed into Emily's birthday dress! I shook it to listen to the rattle; same old same old...Bunny, you're not gone! I have never been so happy to see a ratty, chewed up piece of pink fabric. Thank goodness we didn't have the big deep talk, because Bunny is back! I immediately put Bunny in the wash. It was finished just around the time Emily was ready to lay down for her afternoon rest. I hid Bunny under my shirt and put Emily to bed. Then, with a little help from Nora (who was absolutely dying to see what I was hiding) I pulled a rabbit out of my hat. The look of recognition was instant, followed by a smile, a grab for her pink buddy, and then she proceeded to start chewing on Bunny's ears. Oh Bunny, its so good to have you back!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Silly Pic of the Week

Future Olympic Gold Medalist Emily Dally practices the pole-vault in an attempt to gain access to the kitchen.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chore Chart 2.0

According to the experts, children as young as two are ready to begin household chores. Do I believe the experts? NO. Nonetheless, I want to believe the experts as badly as Agent Mulder wanted Scully to believe in aliens. Most of the time, this house is anything but clean, and any help in any shape or form is very much appreciated. Not to mention the fact that I'd like to teach my kids about cleaning so they don't have to live in a pig-sty when they grow-up.

Chore chart 1.0 has been around for about a year now. Version 1.0 started out with a lot of excitement and fanfare, but the fun has since worn out. I created a little template on Word with six chores listed for Monday through Saturday. When Nora completed one of her chores for the day, for example making the bed, she would choose a Princess sticker for the box. If she completed all of her chores for the week, she would get to choose a prize from the box on Saturday night. Most prizes came from the dollar store, others were clearance toys from Toys R Us. She earned Strawberry Shortcake dolls, puzzles, stuffed animals, Play-doh, and paints. She loved her prizes, and I only felt a little guilty that she was working for third-world wages.

Unfortunately, Chore chart 1.0 did not last very long. A big part of the problem was me; I would forget that I had assigned a chore and did the work myself. I also assigned chores that didn’t always need to be done, for example, watering the flowers on a rainy day. She would do some chores, but not all of the chores, and felt cheated about not getting her prize. Eventually Nora and I fell out of the habit of doing chores.

Enter Chore Chart 2.0, an awesome Melissa and Doug product. Ryan and Nora came home from Barnes and Noble with a magnetic chore chart for the fridge. I mean an awesome chore chart. There were a ton of tasks to pick from and smiley face rewards. No more buying sheets of stickers. Plus, this chore chart provides several things 1.0 did not. First, it provides variety, since it’s easy to change up the chores completed each week. Second, the nature of the chores are probably more age appropriate than the chores I had chosen. Brushing teeth and saying please are rewarded. These tasks are easy for kids to do, and it instills great habits. Finally, the instructions say give a prize at the end of the week for a certain percentage of chores being completed rather than filling up the whole chart. There are 49 tasks for the week. We give her a prize for completing 30 things. The 30 smiley faces are up on the fridge, so she knows how many more chores she has to complete. Finally, I loaded the prize box up with books! Nora loves the Magic Tree House series, and now she has the opportunity to own the first 40 volumes. (I got a deal. She’s still working for slave wages).

So far it’s been a rockin’ success. Nora dances around when brushing her teeth, makes her bed with pride, and asks if there’s anything else she can do! The awarding of the smiley face is always accompanied by jumping up and down and loud yays!!! I’m jumping up and down with her, because everything about kids doing chores is wonderful!!! And we’ve had fun reading the Sunset of the Saber tooth. I hope she picks Midnight on the Moon next.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fourth of July

(I do apologize for the untimely nature of this post. It's been a bit hectic around here lately...)

Ryan and I have always made a point of making the fourth of July "our holiday". It hasn't always worked, but we've always tried to stay here and celebrate it together. Maybe that's because I always find fireworks to be both romantic and a little bit scary, or maybe its just because we love the old-fashioned way DeKalb does the fourth. Before we had kids, we talked about how fun it would be once we were parents. And it has been. Its funny though, because even though we think of the fourth now as "our family's holiday", we always celebrate with our best friends from college, Tim and Rachel. I guess that makes them part of the family.

This year, the girls and I had to leave town for the night of the fourth, so we decided to have a bonfire and camp-out in the backyard on the third. It had all of the barefoot fun and late-night appeal of the usual fourth of July celebration without the crowds of people. We set the tent up early in the morning, and Nora and Emily had a blast playing in it all day long. While they amused themselves by hiding under their blankets in the tent, Ryan and I took turns in the hammock. After dinner, Tim and Rachel came over for the bonfire portion of the evening. I decided to put Emily to bed inside, in part because I was worried about her safety, and in part I don't think she's old enough to be able to sleep well in the tent. She really likes her bed, and I didn't want to push my luck and ruin everyone's evening.

The fire started up nicely, and we pulled our chairs around. Nora was overly excited to be hanging out with the grown-ups, and she stayed up way too late. But isn't that what the fourth of July is about? We made s'mores and ate cupcakes and the grown-ups enjoyed some grown-up beverages. Nora helped make the s'mores, but decided she didn't want to eat any because the marshmallows were toasted. She slept in the tent next to the fire, only peeking her head out occasionally to complain that we were making too much noise. What a stinker! But is was a great evening. I really wanted to sleep in the tent with her, but the weatherman called for rain, so a little after eleven we brought her inside and put her to bed. We tucked our little sleepy-head in, gave her kisses, and I made a little promise to her that we would have another backyard camp-out, and soon.

Uncle Tim, Aunt Rachel, and Nora

Dad getting the fire started.

Nora and I by the flowers.

Nora getting ready for bed...yeah right!

Friday, July 3, 2009

La Cucina Americana

Several years ago, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the art history of the Roman Empire in its formerly glorious and still vibrant capital city. Bella Roma, oh how you changed me! The art was jaw-dropping, Michelangelo paintings and life-size marble nudes and the such, but I think my favorite part of the five-plus weeks was the food. Scratch that, I KNOW my favorite part was the food. In that short span of time, it was like my mind and taste buds and stomach were completely reborn; like I had been stuck in Plato's proverbial cave and suddenly I was in the light for the first time, tasting food the way God and the angels above meant food to be. I ate everything and everything in sight, savoring the simplicity of the dishes and the freshness of the ingredients. We lingered at sidewalk tables hour after hour after hour over the multiple courses and bottles of wine. I can hear the Vespas buzzing past now....

(Shaking myself out of a reverie, just a moment please....)

I really want to have that kind of food experience here, at home. We are surrounded by farm country, and the girls and I even have our own garden. So why is it then, after having the experience of food ecstasy, that I find our family eating (brace yourself foodies) peanut butter and jelly on generic Wonder Bread, Kraft Mac and Cheese, Aldi cardboard cheese pizzas, and mozzarella cheese sticks aka string cheese? I have fallen so far. God, why have you forsaken me? Forsaken us? Why have I been given fussy children who can't appreciate the flavor of food without a bunch of synthetic additives? Sweet zucchini and succulent eggplant, lovingly tossed in fine olive oil and roasted to perfection, receives a chorus of yucks ends up on the floor. Pasta pretending to be spaghetti smothered in tasteless jar sauce accompanied by overly salted garlic bread wins me the mom of the year award. There has to be a solution, a compromise, a place where the food contains nutrients!

I have to figure out a way to combine the freshness of the Italian kitchen with the prepared items at the American grocery story. They need to be juxtaposed in a way that isn't anathema to the kids. I have to realize that Nora and Emily are growing up in the States, don't know anything else, and can't be blamed for their penchant for eating crap. After all, I am the one that introduced the Mac and Cheese. I started this mess, and I need to end it now. This week I started with the pizza. It wasn't pizza rustica de Napoli, but it wasn't you're Tombstone either. I took

1 Aldi cheese pizza
2 fresh Roma tomatoes, cut into slices
3 large basil leaves (from the garden), torn into tiny bits
Grated asiago to taste
Grated parmigiano-reggiano to taste
Lots of love

I covered the top of the cheese pizza with these ingredients and baked it for 17 minutes at 450 degrees. Not too bad, Ryan and I actually enjoyed it. (It was the love the overpowered the cardboard crust). And Nora only complained a little bit about the 'matos. She doesn't like 'matos. Fresh ones that is; the 'matoes in the jar of Ragu are "delicious". Chef Mom of la cucina americana has a lot of work ahead.