Sunday, April 29, 2007

Born Free

While walking in the field behind my house with husband and four year-old son:

Son: "Mama? Would you carry me? These plants are scratching my legs."

Me: (lifting son) "You bet."

Bob: "We need to toughen him up. He should walk."

Me: "But his legs are all scratched up."

Bob: "When I was a boy, we ran through brambles. And sticks. No one picked us up."

Me: "You lived on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs."

Bob: "Still, it was the wilds behind my house. It was the seventies."

Jen: "That was an undeveloped lot."

Bob: "Yes. But it was large."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Parenting Assvice

Three mom bloggers in our blogosphere are getting ready to have babies (Liz of Mom-101, Christina of A Mommy Story, and first-timer Tammie of Soul Gardening), and Motherhood Uncensored is having a virtual baby shower for these lucky mamacitas. She's asked for various things, including some assvice from us other, non-knocked up mom bloggers, to pass on to the ladies.
Jen's Ten
1. Boys invariably smell vaguely of pee and sunshine. Heavy on the pee. Stock up on Fabreeze.
2. Your boobs, when engorged (this is for the first timer) will look like something out of a fetish video. Your husband will be intrigued; practice saying "If you touch my nipples I will be wearing your scrotum as decorative jewelry."
3. That fun "period" you get after you give birth? Don't worry, that's not your liver in the toilet.
4. When people ask if your baby is on a schedule, tell them the little ass monkey won't listen and you're wondering if it's too soon to start spanking.
5. With each subsequent child, you will look nine months pregnant for at least two weeks longer after giving birth.
6. Watching reruns of the Sopranos in the middle of the night helps bring down your milk, so does a good gin and tonic.
7. Your older children might be jealous of the attention given to the new baby; this is natural. Just tell them they're not as special anymore, and would they please move, daddy is trying to take a picture of the little princess.
8. Other moms are really, really competitive. Make shit up. Tell them your baby started muttering the phrase "Einstein was wrong" while thrashing in the crib at night.
9. Only you know when it's time to wean your baby. If you could put a plate in your lip and get on the cover of National Geographic while topless? It's time.10. Older people are really judgmental when it comes to things like co-sleeping. Don't get irritated at their antiquated advice. Just smile and tell them you really find that co-sleeping works for you. You just wish little junior would yell louder when you accidentally roll on him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Open Letter to Interim GAP CEO, Bob Fisher

Here it is. I had promised in an earlier post that I would write a letter to the people at GAP/Banana Republic (same company) about their wretched low-rise jeans. If you want to sign it, just add your comment at the end....

Bob Fisher, Interim CEO
The Gap, Inc.

Dear Mr. Fisher:

First, congratulations on making it this far. No one was very shocked when Paul Pressler left; maybe he should have stayed at Disney. After all, for a lot of GAP's customers, shopping for a pair of jeans was about as fun as being whipped around on Thunder Mountain after eating a $14.00 snow cone.

Which brings me, rather abruptly, to my point. Since you're in a time of flux right now, figuring out how to make more consumers "fall into the GAP, " I thought I'd put in my two cents on how to make your stores a better place to shop.Everyone wears jeans, Mr. Fisher. And while we understand that the GAP is going to continue to pander to the fashion whims of the under 21 set, you also need to consider your demographic of women, age 25-45. We're the ones paying for all these clothes, whether for ourselves or for our kids. We have money, time, and a history of brand loyalty to your store (we've been shopping there before the vacuous sales clerks you insist on employing were flirting with their first eating disorders).

All we ask for is a little diversity within your denim line. We are sick and tired of the jeans that have zippers (and I've measured) that are three inches long. Three inches. In order to effectively cover the area of the body known as the pubis, zippers need to be more in the five to seven inch range. Certainly, Mr. Fisher, you're aware of the important distinction between three and seven inches.

Have you checked out your Spring line? Are you familiar with the popular fabric, seersucker, often employed in such warm-weather clothes? Well, for women of a certain age who have used their uterus at least once, the area below our belly button very closely resembles this delightful puckered textile. We harbor no desire to, in any way, showcase this part of our body. The same goes for our oblique region (known to your younger consumers as the six pack and handles). Have you seen an angry Shar Pei puppy? Well that's what our oblique area looks like when we try to sit down in your jeans. And for the final area of our body that is prominently featured when donning a pair of your lowrise or ultra low rise jeans, well, polite company may be reading this, but you can understand that we have no wish for anyone to fall into our gap, if you catch my inference.

I appreciate your immediate attention to this matter,

Your Customer Since 1986,

Jennifer M.
(and friends)

Saving For Parole, Part II

My nine-year old has always been an onion. There are layers to this girl that I will probably never uncover, or at least not until The Smoking Gun gets them, because she'll either be winning an Oscar someday, running a company, or appealing her federal prison sentence.

Like the time when she so painstakingly forged a note to make it look like her sister had written it.
Dear Chloe: It said. You are stinky like a garbage can. And poop. Your sister, Maddie.

Then she planted said note on her vanity table where I was sure to see it. She watched, later that day, as I grounded Maddie and sent her to a time-out to "think about how much your sister means to you and what a note like that says about your character." She played in her room as Maddie languished in her time-out. Finally, Maddie figured out that she hadn't written a note of that nature for some time (it had been an ongoing issue and she was getting tired of time-outs) and asked to see the note. Because maybe it was an old one and what a delicious turn of events that would be.

But it was even tastier than that."Mom. This isn't my handwriting. Look."Well, duh. The signature wasn't even close. I took the evidence to Chloe's room and held it in my hand where she couldn't see it. Even upon interrogation, the girl was cool as a cucumber. She didn't concede that she had lost until I produced the physical evidence, and even then she was hardly flustered. More like disappointed that she hadn't anticipated the handwriting loophole.

So when my friend, Pam, told me the other day that Chloe had been calling in to morning radio trivia shows, it was less than stunning. Pam drives the girls in to school each day, and she had the radio on to her usual station when she heard the D.J. say, "You know you're on live radio? What's your name?"


"And can you answer today's useless trivia for us Chloe, and win lunch for two at La Fonda's?"

"Yes." Pam looked in her rear view mirror and saw Chloe in the backseat with Pam's cell phone to her ear, and thinking back, remembered that a "Chloe" had called in a couple of times earlier that week, too.

"What's the number one thing American families fight over after dinner?"

"Which board game to play."

"No, sorry, it's the computer."

"Well not at my house." Click.

An onion.

Monday, April 23, 2007

How Low Will They Sink?

Clearly the people over at Pampered Chef are willing to do what it takes to get my business. Can I get a vote here? Am I really that much of a throwback that I am alone in my guffaws when looking at this ad? It's not that my husband doesn't pull his weight around the house. He does. But somehow I drew the Betty Crocker stick when we married. Also, why does she look so happy that he's only cutting one green onion at a time? Why isn't she grabbing the knife and chopping four or five of those babies, while berating him for his obvious attempt to get out of helping with the cooking? Or are they really geniuses over there at the Pampered Chef headquarters? Is this their sly maneuver to get us to overlook the man's obvious passive aggression with the knife, and choose instead the pricier food chopper? Ahh.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Needing to Hide My Uterus For a While

I may have to start blogging from a deserted island. Or the Bahamas. I just need to find out if there's wifi in the tropics.Bob has been gone on a business trip, and his last words to me before he flew back home were:I just saw the most amazing motivational speaker. I'll explain more when I come home. But watch out, because I'm getting you pregnant.Now, it's one thing to be the one who's gone. The one who's missing the family. The one, who, when hearing all about the amazing motivational speaker with nineteen children, thinks it would be so great(!) to have another child right away. But. But when you're the one holding down the fort, getting up early after four nights of no sleep (does anyone sleep when their spouse is gone? I stay up listening for intruders that will never come, because all smart intruders know to avoid the houses with pit bulls or kids like mine), my God getting your own coffee in the morning, the last thing you want after being a single parent is another kid. All I wanted when he got home was three consecutive hours to myself. Just three.Apparently, there is some manic crazy man who happens to be the General Manager of the Orlando Magic basketball team who has, in his sixty-some years, managed at least two NBA teams, had one long marriage, parented nineteen children (many adopted from countries all over the world), written forty books, and helped see his wife go back to school late in life to get her PhD. Oh, and in the last few years, he's also taken up running marathons.I was happy to get the laundry under control today.But this is the magic of the motivational speaker. They're like figure skaters. They make it look sooo simple, the way they tell it. You, too, can do what I do! First, become independently wealthy. Then, do more than thirteen Harvard graduates put together. Ta dah! See? And now for my triple axel.Not to say we don't have plans for more, but it's not exactly the hot topic du jour when you're still nursing a nine-month old.Our lives are so busy, so full, and generally so happy with these kids, that I don't really blame my husband for wanting another one so soon. I don't blame him at all, especially after hearing someone so fired up about living talk about, among other things, his amazing nineteen children. I think that the reason people like him make their personal success look so easy is because they're excited. They're excited about life, and that, I believe, is how people can have nineteen kids and manage to do so much more. My husband's favorite quote (one of mine, too) is The masses of men lead lives of quiet desperation. How did Thoreau know this without the internet to help him? Because he was right then, and he's right now. I'm beginning to think that one of the major ingredients in success is excitement.So. Where does this leave me, for the last week in April? Excited about my life. Taking joy in the little things. And looking for a convenient place to stash my reproductive organs until Jack is walking.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

When Teens Reveal Their Youth

Recently overheard in the car of my best friend, while transporting her children and one additional teenage girl:

Child #1: We're going to Kansas City tomorrow. We have to go see that big religious exhibit.

Friend: Oh, those Dead Sea things.

Child # 1: Yeah.

Friend: I went with my parents and saw them last weekend. It was so lame. I was like, where do the squirrels come in?

Child #2: Exactly.You know. The Dead Sea Squirrels everyone is so hot and bothered about. Duh.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Review Time: Jacob Won't Be Eating Paste Next Year

Hey guess what, I'm a part of the Parent Blogger's Network. Every now and then, I get to review things that impact my family, and pass on the good (or bad) to you. I'm not one of those moms who thinks her kids walk on water. I'm the first to wonder what they've done wrong, and I would rather underestimate their abilities (and be pleasantly surprised) than overestimate them and be perpetually disappointed.And so it is with my kindergartener. One, he's a boy. Boys tend to be, oh, about thirteen years behind girls at any given time. Also, he's my third child. When the girls were getting ready for kindergarten, I had been doing flashcards with them, singing with them, and conversing with them for their entire lives. I've tried that with the boy. But he only recently started speaking coherently, and he would rather poke the dog with a blunt object than sit with me and recite the alphabet. Demoralizing? Not really, but then I recently registered him for kindergarten and started to wonder, Is he ready? Did I make the right decision in his pre-k placement? He currently is in a small, private pre-k that doesn't focus much on writing, or reading prep. They do a lot with their hands, and I swear he can tell you all about chickens, bugs, and beer fermentation, but I wasn't so sure how he would fare next year.I was ready to just accept the fact that next year, while his classmates construct the double helix with their Legos, he'll be scratching himself in immodest places.Then I was asked to review the book, Let's Get Ready for Kindergarten. Linda Desimowich and Stacey Kannenberg know their stuff. They've written one for first grade, too. Each time I've gone over some of the concepts in the book with Jacob, like letters, placement, or shapes, it has held his attention. No scratching. No talk of hops. He really likes the shiny pages (you can use dry-erase pens on them, a huge plus) and the bright colors . And guess what? He is a lot more prepared than I thought. I had no idea he knew his left from his right (save your judgment until you have four kids) until he got to the pages with outlines of the left and right hand. I placed his hands over the drawings and asked him which hand was his left. He got it right. I almost choked on my tongue.Do you have a munchkin who's about to enter kindergarten or first grade? Check out, go to the Let's Get Ready post and tell them why you need these books, too. You might just score yourself a free book (they are giving away a set, people! Free stuff!), and even better, peace of mind that your child is probably not going to be the deviant you thought.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Only Our German Shepherd Would Be Impressed

While on a cross-country telephone call with my husband, who is out of town on business.

Bob: Jen, now that people at my work read the blog, you can't write about me. You need to temper it.

Jen:(Laughing). Yeah, okay. Suuure. (More laughing). You know you can't censor your own wife.

Bob: Did you hear that?

Jen: No.

Bob: That was the sound of me putting my foot down.

Jen: You know that only works on the dog.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Just Put a Fork in My Eye

I am hiding in my office right now. I have to go face the inevitable in a few minutes, but really, I'd rather put a fork in my eye.

It's the homework. I had no idea when I decided to throw caution to the wind and have all these kids that I would have to help educate them. Don't get me wrong, we'll pay for their college, or at least until we have sold as much blood and kidneys as we can between the two of us. It's the day to day moan-fest called homework time that puts the fear of Jesus in me.When you have a first grader, you kind of expect the tears. The whining. You start to think they'll never be able to count money or understand fractions and you envision a future that has your forty-something child living in your basement. But by the end of elementary school, things somehow start to click. However, the part of their brain that governs "remembering to bring your lunch/lab book/writing assignment home" apparently rots away with the onset of pubescent hormones.

Today, not unlike many others, featured a conversation with one of my daughters when we were far away from her school and nearly home.

What's your homework today?

I have to learn my part for the play. And I have an English sheet.

Great. Do you want me to read you your lines when we get home?

Oh. I didn't bring my script home with me.

Stabbing the eye. Right now. I figure if I'm sufficiently injured, someone else will have to deal with this.

But Will I Get a Wedgie in the Locker Room?

I feel like the kid who is in concert band and gets asked to sit at the cool kids' table. The one with the cheerleaders and jocks and homecoming queens (I'm a product of the eighties, so think Breakfast Club).For those of you who have voted for my site (<----see icon to the left<------) at the blogger's choice awards site - THANK YOU. If you haven't, hey, I'd like to sit at the cool table for a few more days! I checked on the site tonight and this blog is on the first page for Parenting Blogs. I'm with Dooce. Dooce, people.She is so totally Molly Ringwald and I'm just pouring pixie sticks onto my sandwich.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

If You Don't Forward This to Ten Friends in the Next Ten Minutes....

I received one of those forwards the other day, those "getting to know you forwards" whereby you read maybe twenty questions or so, see the answers your friend has filled in, and then cut and paste the questions, answer them, and send the thing off again to a dozen of your unsuspecting friends.These things shame me.

Question Number Six:What's in your car right now?

Friend's Answer: Jumper cables, a map, kleenex, an old copy of Oprah Magazine and the garage door opener. Geeze, what a mess :)

My answer: Children's underwear, old cheese, two - no three - empty juice boxes, someone's backpack, and, oh God. I'm just stopping right here and pretending that's it. That's what's in my car. You try keeping a house our size clean everyday for the realtors and see if you have time to clean the damn car. Judger.

Question Number Eleven:What Was Your Most Recent Memorable Dream? Friend's Answer: I can't tell you that! Let's just say it involved Brad Pitt and some vaseline. As exciting as that was, I still loooove my dear hubbie.

My answer: Well. I was in my house, but it wasn't really my house. And someone came to my door and it was a mom. She was pushing her stroller and she just pushed it right into my house. I am not making this up. She got dirt tracks everywhere, all over the new wood floors in the front room. I was like, am I dreaming, because who would do this? Then, she whipped out this cleaning attachment from the side of the stroller and started vacuuming up the dirt. It was a stroller/vacuum combo. I just watched her vacuum up all that dirt. I didn't clean any of it.

As exciting as that was, I still loooove my dear hubbie.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Vagina, Vagina, Vagina

The best way to get a teenager to listen to you, or embarrass them (come on, you know it's fun)or at the very least, go away? (Many thanks to Alice for some of these)...

1. Threaten to kiss him/her in public
2. As he/she exits the car for school, loudly remind him/her "Don't forget to wipe, sweetie!"
3. My personal favorite with my own girls is "Make good choices!" as they get out of my car.
4. If you are the female sibling to a teenage boy and want said boy to leave the room? Just say "Vagina, vagina, vagina." They disappear almost instantly
5. Threaten to chaperone the next school dance. Even better if you wear your prom dress from 1989.
6. Sing along to music they're listening daughters would add...
7. Exist. Insist on breathingI'd like to add to the list. What are your suggestions?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'm In Over My Head

Apparently, malls across America are teeming, teeming I tell you, with un-chaperoned eleven year-olds.This news came to me in a huff yesterday, delivered by my own eleven year-old. I had sat her down and told her that in our home, we had four rules:
Be kind
Respect your parents
Try your best
If you make a mess, clean it up
I'm trying to simplify. When your kids are young, it's necessary to micromanage every move they make. Chew your food carefully, brush your teeth, hold my hand, be careful, write your name neatly at the top of your paper. I'm still in that mode. Two of my kids still need that kind of supervision and so it's really hard for me to make the transition of letting go with my older ones. Really hard.
Hence, yesterday's recap of our household rules. I went over them with my daughter and she just stared at me. When I finished she said, "What about going to the mall?"
"Um. What about it."
"It's not in our rules [can you hear the snideness? Can you hear the cork popping from a bottle of pinot grigio?]. So I guess that means I can go to the mall. By myself. With friends."
"Well. That's not really a household policy. That's an activity we'll evaulate on a case by case basis. And right now, I don't think your behavior is showing me you're ready for that kind of responsibility. And you know what? I don't recall seeing any eleven year old girls by themselves at the mall last time I was there. I'm pretty sure you're in the same boat as a lot of your friends."
"Uh! No! ALL of my friends get to go to the mall. I see kids my age everywhere every time I go. Everywhere!"
After she stormed out, I called my husband at work. He bounced it off his assistant, who has a house full of teenage girls. He asked if we were at the apex of the sassing (he uses words like that). She laughed and said we were nowhere near done. It peaks around sixteen or seventeen. She is a really good mom, Bob's assistant (hopefully, soon to be promoted, and good for her because I don't know how she's done it this long) and she told Bob that she doesn't believe in hitting her children, but by God they test her so hard that once, she put her hands on her teenage daughter's shoulders and shook them during an awful exchange.
Her rationale?
No one's ever heard of Shaken Teenager Syndrome.
At least her teenager thought it was funny, too. Me? I'm going to the mall.