Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Andy Plane!

Success!  Andy earned all 130 of his stars.

That means that Andy displayed at least 130 moments in which he behaved well, had good manners, or begrudgingly stopped hitting another small child in exchange for moving one step closer to his prize of choice. An airplane with his name on it that flies.

Chris found what seemed like a pretty good airplane on  It had a battery powered launcher that promised to shoot the plane off 100 feet into the distance.  The plane would charge and then soar off to the heavens, or at least to the edge of the parking lot.  Chris was very excited about this plane.

"Well, you said you wanted your name on it," Chris said to Andy, getting out the marker.  "So let's write your name on it.  A-N-D-Y."  Pause, turning to me.  "Do you think we should write your phone number on it in case it flies off really far and we can't find it?"

"Good God no," I replied.  "Please do not write my phone number on anything, ever."

We took the airplane to the park, and Chris and Andy wandered off into the field adjacent to the playground while Alex and I played on the slide.  Chris and Andy were so far away that I couldn't see them super clearly, but I could make out what was going on, and it was this.  They were launching the plane, and it was dropping straight down to the grass like a rock.

Airplane, fail.

The two of them tried really hard to get that plane going.  They would launch it, it might curve up for a split second or two, and then it would spiral right down to the ground about six inches away from them.  It was possibly the saddest thing I'd ever seen.  The Andy plane was just not getting any lift.  One hundred feet my ass.  And when I thought about Chris wanting to optimistically write my phone number on the plane- in case it flew too far away- my heart broke a little for all the hopes and dreams unrealized.  Also, I laughed a bit, but I tried to keep that part contained to myself.

Andy and Chris fooled around with the plane a little, I took a turn with it in case I could magically get it going, and then Andy and Chris took another turn on it.  After about sixty total failed launches, they finally got the plane to soar a little.  The first time it flew, nobody but Chris saw it.  He whooped and hollered as if he'd just gotten his time machine to finally work.  He called Andy back over, and the two of them got it to fly a little just a couple more times... and then it was back to not working at all.

For Andy and his 130 instances of good behavior- I'm sorry that the plane was such a disappointment.  But, truly, it was really only a disappointment to me and Chris.  Andy still had a good time regardless.  He got to hold his plane.  He got to try to shoot it.  It flew once or twice.  AND HE GOT TO GO TO THE PARK.

Three year olds are easy.

And now I must contemplate what our next parenting move is now that we no longer have the star chart hanging over our consciences.  Perhaps a NEW star chart?  With the goal of 260 stars?  With a broken toy helicopter and a ride on the swings as a prize?  Sounds good to me.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Unplug and Play!

I was recently sent a copy of Brad Berger's "Unplug & Play!  50 Games That Don't Need Charging."   While it's definitely a few years ahead of Andy and Alex's time, I thumbed through the thin, glossy book and immediately had a vision of a fun weekend in Lake Geneva with a couple of drunken friends- a Dan, a Mike, two Megs, and me and Chris.  The first night, in our rented condo by good old Lake Whatsitsname (not Geneva, possibly Delavan or maybe it was just a large puddle; my mind is start to fade), we had strong drinks, good food, excellent music, and a spontaneous dance party that may or may not have involved pretending bananas were telephones and/or cowboy guns.  We also sat around and played games for most of the night, laughing hard and having a blast.  This was before I was even pregnant with Andy, about five years ago at this point, and I am struck with many feelings when I remember this fun weekend.

1.  We should have had more weekends like this with friends before having kids.  Why didn't we do this ALL THE TIME?

2.  Yikes, was that really HALF A DECADE AGO?

3.  We shouldn't have had soooo much to drink that first night, because most of us paid for it pretty bad the next day.

4.  This book would have been perfect for that weekend.

In fact, "Unplug and Play!" seems to me to be the quintessential going on vacation book.  You're in a cabin or a condo or even a lovely motel room just off the highway, and hopefully you've left the iPad at home and have the cell phones off to the side.  It's the perfect opportunity for you and your friends and/or family (with kids at least eight years old or so) and/or traveling troupe of circus clowns to unwind, have some laughs, and really connect with one another.   You can flip to almost any page and find a fun game to play.  My favorite so far is "Who Drew That?"  where everyone draws the same object or idea (let's say "dance party with bananas") and then you have to guess who drew which particular drawing.  Of course, if you're playing that with my friend Dan, superb artist and comic book superstar, it would be pretty easy to guess which one was HIS dance party with bananas, as it would likely be extremely accurate and include a caricature of his bearded self.  Whereas my drawing might be covered with actual bits of banana, because all of this fruit talk would likely make me a little hungry.

Clearly, I digress.

Anyway, the games in the book, which require nothing more than pen and paper, definitely make me wistful for a cozy vacation weekend with friends gathered around a fire and a big old bottle of wine.  It also makes me think of Andy and Alex growing up, and the four of us playing some of these games either on our own vacation or just sitting around the kitchen table with a big old jug of chocolate milk.  And maybe a banana or two. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Three Easter Egg Hunts!

First Easter Egg Hunt.  Location, Park District.  

Here's the deal with the Park District egg hunt.  You get there, you meander around for twenty minutes wondering what you're supposed to do, and then you shove your child to the front of an increasingly disorderly line simply because you fear your child will not get a single egg. You've seen the bags of available eggs, you've done a rough count of the crowd, and the odds are simply not in your favor.  Would there be anything more heartbreaking than getting your kid all fired up about going on an egg hunt only to come home empty handed?  Anything sadder than optimistically selecting an egg carrying sack at home and then not being able to stick a single egg in it?  I think not.

Alex's age group went first.  The Park District people dumped a bunch of plastic eggs out of a couple of garbage bags, very slowly yelled GO, and Alex and I were off.  Alex walked forwards, slowly selected two eggs off the ground, and by the time he'd carefully placed them in his egg carrying sack of choice (a Dracula head), the hunt was over.  Those sure were ten fun-filled seconds!  We walked off, cracked open his eggs, discovered candy even though I'd kind of been hoping for semi-rare gems, and then we waited for Andy's age group to start.

I stressed to Andy, "When they yell 'go,' run and grab as many eggs as you can."  If young Alex hadn't gotten any eggs, he'd have been fine.  But it would be tragic for Andy, who knew he'd come here specifically to get eggs, not to get his hands on any.  Andy nodded stoically, I shoved him forwards a little bit for good measure, and then somebody shouted out to go.  Andy moved fast and frantically, his hands trembling when he picked up an egg and tried to shove it into his bag.  Uh oh, I thought to myself for a second.  I've turned this into a THING.  I basically told my son YOU MUST NOT FAIL and now he's a nervous wreck about the whole ordeal.  What I should have said was that it's okay if you don't get any eggs, we're here to have fun, not necessarily to get eggs.  I can't believe I've become THAT MOM. Wait a minute, is that clown handing out coupons for McDonalds?  I MUST GET A MCDONALDS COUPON.

Ten seconds later the "hunt" was over, and Andy emerged from the crowd to show me his bag, which held five eggs.  "Great job, Andy!" I cheered, "But remember, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you... something something."

Andy and Alex had fun.  It was a sunny day.  We got some candy.  I don't know what I was expecting, but it was not as much an egg hunt as it was an egg dump and grab.  Either way, the first hunt was a success.

Second Easter Egg Hunt.  Location, Our Living Room.

On Saturday night, Chris and I filled eighteen Easter eggs with equal parts stickers, coins, and candy.  Chris was thoughtful enough to unroll several rolls of Sweet Tarts and simply dump a dozen pieces of loose candy into a couple of eggs, which is pretty much the most obnoxious way you can fill an Easter Egg.  I could see the future of Alex opening some eggs and spilling out twelve little circles of candy onto the carpet, and the future, it was not so bright.

We hid the eggs around the living room, and the next morning, when Alex stumbled across the first egg, Andy excitedly started to run off to the kitchen while yelling, "I'll check over here!"  I had to reply, "No, Andy, I don't think the Easter Bunny made it into the kitchen... Daddy sprayed the perimeter of the living room with bunny repellent as to keep him contained.  Hey, why don't you come check behind the couch?"

The boys found their eggs, and then we told them that Mommy and Daddy had bought them some Easter gifts.  We had decided the eggs are from the bunny, but the boys should know to thank *us* for the actual gifts.  I brought in Alex's gift first, which was basically five bucks worth of crap from the dollar store.  Then Chris rolled in Andy's gift- a brand new bicycle!  I think this may be the last year we can get away with stiffing poor little Alex so badly, although I justify it to myself by saying that one day the bike will belong to Alex, and so it's really like he got five bucks of crap PLUS a brand new bike in two years.  So who's the awful parent NOW?

Egg hunt at home was a success.  Andy looked like such a big boy riding his new bike.  And Alex really seemed to enjoy his new $1 ball.

Third Easter Egg Hunt.  Location, Backyard At Aunt and Uncle's House.

After a lovely Easter brunch (um, that's lunch AND BREAKFAST!) at a restaurant much too nice for the likes of Andy and Alex, we headed back to my aunt and uncle's house.  After letting the plastic eggs "cool down," my mother hid them for the boys around the back yard.  At first, I didn't know what she meant by "cool down" until I later cracked open one of the eggs to find it filled with a chocolate paste of sorts; the unseasonably warm weather had cooked some of the candy inside.  Oops!  Andy was off by himself finding hidden eggs while I guided Alex around and basically yelled, "Alex!  Here's one!  Pick this up!  Give me your bag!  Okay, pick this up!  Alex!"  Alex and I got four eggs, and Andy got thirty.  Or so it seemed.  No need to worry about him not getting anything this time!

After the egg hunt, my mother got out the guitar and put on a show in honor of my aunt's birthday, which was just this last week.  I have to mention this because as my mother is constantly performing at family parties, this was the first year ever that her show included a segment featuring a backwards hat and RAPPING.  And so there was that.  Easter egg hunt, big success.  Rapping mother, even bigger success.  There are just some things you know will never, and can never, forget.

Happy Easter 2014!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Don't Reset The Clock!

Lately, I've been wanting another baby.  Before we get all worked up, let me just say that I am not pregnant, not planning on getting pregnant, and Chris, upon hearing these whimsical thoughts, promptly drove out to get a vasectomy and salami sandwich.  When I said, "Wow, we should have discussed this first," Chris was quick to defend himself.  "We HAVE discussed this.  You know how much I like salami."

Anyway, at this point, I'm pretty sure our family is complete.  When Chris and I talk about having a third baby, we can only come up with negatives.  We've always agreed on two children, and the world is seemingly built for families of four.  From spaces in a car, restaurant booth, players in most board games, and number of people most Groupons cater to, four seems to be that magic number.  And then there are the more reasonable concerns.  We have a small house.  Another baby would be a huge expense.  Being pregnant is miserable.  Having a third would restart that clock that Chris is always talking about.  I'm not sure where Chris keeps this clock, but I know he's marking time until the kids are in school full time, until we can go to Disneyworld, and until they're basically old enough to get lives of their own.  Except for Andy, who is adamant about NEVER getting a life of his own unless it involves marrying his mother and being able to climb a ladder, because ladders are cool.

However, I have a clock, too, and I know exactly where it is.  In my ovaries.  And even though I've been SO INCREDIBLY SUPER DUPER BLESSED to already have had two perfect, beautiful little boys, the clock in my ovaries ticks and occasionally rings and warns, gently, that I have time, but hey, don't dillydally too much on making that final decision, because the old Hotel Uterus is starting to get a little rundown and has recently dropped from five star accommodations down to four.  The continental breakfast is not that great, and the staff is getting surly.

I know I want another baby because even when Andy and Alex are being just god-awful terrible, which is known to happen on occasion, I never think to myself, "Nope, I definitely do not want another."  I want a baby even when Andy poops himself at the Barrington Library (Barrington of all places!) and forces me to cause a scene when I drag him and his crappy underpants right out of there.  I want another baby when Alex throws all my make-up into the toilet and then bites me in the face when I try to scold him.  Sometimes, these two boys are so naughty and infuriating that it's all I can do not to spank them straight into oblivion. Other times, they climb on me and crowd me and breathe all my air and essentially suck my will to live right out of my very soul.  Even then, suffocated and all... I kind of want another baby.

What I should probably get is a therapist.  Or a bartender.

I wonder if every woman goes through this, if it's a truly biological urge to keep on procreating even when you know that it just makes sense for you to be done.  I wonder if mothers of three, four, five, six children... I wonder if they have feelings of wanting yet another little one even though it doesn't make any real practical sense- even though they are already exhausted and crazed and overwhelmed and constantly crabby and eating substandard mystery meats from a dented can because that is simply all of the beefy-type protein they can afford.  I wonder if the feeling of needing yet another baby in the house is something that all mothers just accept and live with.  What are you supposed to do this very small but vacant space other than tuck it into the overstuffed fullness of a completed, perfect family and keep on trucking?

I feel ridiculous for wanting more when I know I already have so much.  This is why I blame biology.  Now excuse me; I mentioned salami earlier in this blog entry and have been craving a slice for the last half hour.  I shall go and enjoy it now, reminding myself that if I were to get pregnant, that would be one of the many things I couldn't enjoy.  Salami.  Wine.  The sanity of my husband.

Oh, and sushi.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Lately, Andy has been stingy with his love, declaring that he loves only Mommy, Daddy, and Alex (sometimes) but not anybody else.  He has stated, matter-of-factly, that he does not love his grandparents or aunts or uncles, and his feelings for his two baby cousins are rather lukewarm.  These are not the words of a boy who is trying to be mean, malicious, or hurtful.  This is just a three year old speaking the truth as he knows it.  The intensity of feelings one might have for the best mother on Earth and a decent enough father and a booger-ish little brother are beyond compare to those he has for the extended family on the outer rings of his little planet.

His grandfather told him a month or so ago that he loved him, and Andy blinked back at him and shook his head.  "I don't love you," he replied, seemingly confused on why the conversation needed to occur in the first place.  When pressed, Andy admitted, "I like you a lot... but I only love my family."  Later, we tried to explain family dynamics.  This was something that Chris and I thought we had down with this kid.  Grandpas are Daddies of Dads or Moms.  Grandmas are Moms, Aunts are sisters, and Uncles are brothers.  That man at the park wearing the bright pink fanny pack is likely nuts, so please stop talking to him.

Initially, I was appalled and embarrassed by Andy's rejection of love for his grandfather and the rest of the extended family, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to see the innocence, honesty, and intellect in it. Andy understands that there is a difference in how he feels about his parents versus everyone else. What he doesn't understand is how love is something that is big and grand and can encompass those with all sorts of roles in our life, even if they are not the ones who tuck us in at night or rub our back just right when we start to cry.  The notion of loving others is something that maybe we grow into; that although in our hearts, that love exists, we don't recognize all the gradations as being part of that one emotion.

Either that, or I'm just making excuses for some little brat.

I tried to have a little talk with Andy, telling him that I was pretty sure he loved his grandparents and aunts and uncles deep in his heart.  Andy denied this, stressing how much he LIKED them.  I tried a new tactic, and said, "Well, they all really love you, and it hurts their feelings that you don't say it back.  So how about next time somebody says 'I love you,' you just reply, 'Me, too.'"

This, of course, will likely be a tactic he uses with women after he starts dating.  Next week, I plan on teaching him:  It's not you, it's me and Sorry I haven't called, I've spent the last two weeks in a Mexican jail.

"Let's practice," I continued.  "Pretend I'm Grandma. 'I love you, Andy!'"

Andy was silent for a second, trying to recall what he was supposed to say.  Then he responded, "Meat."

"Oh jeez.  Not 'Meat.' It's 'Me, too!'"

Andy burst out laughing, and then it was over.  "Tell me you love me!"  he kept crying out through his giggles.  "Meat!  Meat!"

And so, I have not made much headway in the predicament of understanding love of those who do not live with us, but I have further explored my child's ridiculous sense of humor.  Now I have a three and a half year old waiting gleefully for a relative to sweetly tell him how loved he is just so he can yell back, "MEAT!"  To our extended family:  Hey, sorry about that.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I'm Going To Merry You!

And so we rode the indoor merry-go-round at Jumps 'n' Jiggles no less than sixty-three times that day. Included in the boys' admission price of $4.00 each was UNLIMITED merry-go-round rides, which sounds like the deal of a century but is actually a quite hilarious joke on the parents if you really stop and think about it.

This is what we looked like the first time we rode the merry-go-round. 

And this is what we looked like three hours later.

Clearly, this isn't accurate.  There was no alcohol involved and the pumpkins portraying Andy and Alex show signs of queasiness, which was not the case.  They could have ridden that merry-go-round forever and ever, off into the sunset and forward into puberty.  I might have been okay with this for Andy, since he's old enough to ride alone... but even with me holding onto Alex, my little one still almost slipped off his pony a couple of times (oops).  Just call me Butter Fingers!

But the unending merry-go-round is not the most memorable part of that day.  Somehow able to drive through my dizziness, I got us home and put Alex straight down for his nap.  There sure was a lot of fussing, crying, and panicky-type noises coming from behind that bedroom door for the duration of nap time (two hours), but my mantra has always been that what happens at nap time stays at nap time.  Actually, I just made that mantra up now.  What I really mean is that I try not to open that door at all when Alex is supposed to be napping because as far as he's concerned, the whole universe grinds to a halt between one and three and there ain't nobody around to hear your cries for help so you might as well just close your damn eyes.

The day of the merry-go-round, however, I should have opened that door at some point before the official end of nap time, because when I finally did, it was evident that Alex had not closed his eyes for a single second, let alone lay down, let alone SIT down.  He was completely naked, having shed all of his clothes and tossed them overboard out of his crib.  Then, from what I could logically piece together, he had made the fatal error- while naked with no diaper- of peeing in one corner of his crib.  Having done this, he went into a tizzy and proceeded to toss out all of his other crib possessions so that they wouldn't also get wet. Blankies, pillow, Mumma the monkey, Teddy the teddy- all of them were heaved out in a state of hysteria. Having emptied out his crib in a satisfactory fashion, he then realized what a pickle he was in, and it was clear that Alex had spent over an hour just standing around butt naked in his crib waiting for me to come get him.  

When I finally opened that door, he was so relieved, his overtired, bloodshot eyes burst into tears, and he gestured crazily behind him, indicated the pee and the items thrown out onto the floor, including his dry, unused diaper, which had obviously taunted him like mad for close to 120 minutes.

I felt bad for the kid, but I also thought it was pretty hilarious.  And do I blame the merry-go-round? Sure, sort of.   Those things scramble your brain.