Tattling times two
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:17 | Comments Off

I’d been out of the kitchen long enough to get my shoes this morning when I heard a wail. Little Guy rushed over and epoxied himself to my knees.

“Momma, budder poosh me!”

First reaction: Wow! A four-word sentence!

Second reaction: Aw, crap. Another tattler.

Tattling’s been all the rage at our house for almost a year, ever since Little Guy got old enough to walk and start annoying the life out of his brother. Before, Little Guy had been only a minor pain. He could creep around pretty well, but his ability to take Big Guy’s stuff was limited. Suddenly, he could get up and grab whatever he wanted.

I did not, however, expect to reach the cross-tattle so soon. But, then, Little Guy has been learning from the

No more toys. And I (mostly) mean it
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:15 | Comments Off

I wavered as I gazed into his pleading amber eyes. So young – he was just born in April. So soft, his fur supple beneath my fingers.

Then I snapped to and realized what I had to do. I tossed him into the garbage bag with his littermate, tied it shut and tossed it out the door.

This year’s Easter bunnies were history. So were last year’s, and Big Guy’s duck from the year before that. They joined a safari’s worth of critters – a gorilla, chickens, elephants and some neon green puffy thing of indeterminate genus.

We’re down to less than a dozen plush playmates, and if you think that sounds like a lot, you should see the pile that just got sent to the stuffed animal shelter. Four remained because they’re cute and expensive – Tigger, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Mickey Mouse. The rest will go in due time, and they will not be replaced.

I have declared a toycott.

More bedtime bedlam
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:14 | Comments Off

When we left our heroes, Little Guy’s big-boy bed had just arrived.  He hated it.  Big Guy, on the other hand, loved it. They’ve been sleeping together since. Most nights, that is – except for three, including last night. 

When it comes to discipline, I’m a steel-coated marshmallow. So the first week of the bed-share experiment, I let a nightly gabfest go because I wanted this to work. There are so many advantages to being roommates – learning to share, more brotherly closeness.

 All right, I’m lying. I wanted this to work because I lost my computer room when Little Guy moved in, and I want it back.

  Honestly, it isn’t Big Guy’s fault he can’t shut up. He’s a blabbermouth by nature. He’ll yak

They HAVE to be the best
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:13 | Comments Off

I knew better than to say anything, but it was one of those instances where pressure to make polite conversation took a masochistic turn.

“So how’s the kid doing in kindergarten?” I asked.

“Fantastic!” parent gushed breathlessly. “The teacher said the kid’s way ahead of everyone else. So I’m really going to keep working with the kid at home. Now that I have her ahead, the kid has to stay ahead. The kid has to be the best in everything.”

I’ve never been the best at math, but I do know enough to burst that bubble: There’s about a 50 percent chance the kid will be only average at something.

There’s a 50 percent chance my kids will be “only average” at everything. And I’m fine with that.

Much of the rest of society isn’t these days.

Look Who’s Talking II
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:12 | Comments Off

Strange utterings from Little Guy’s world of learning to talk:

Cop-a-ler: Helicopter, of course. Sometimes, he’ll just give up and say “airplane.” He never gives up, though, with Thomas’ friend, Harold the Cop-a-ler. I guess some aircraft are just too important to dismiss as mere planes.

A-wa : Agua, or water. Little Guy goes bilingual, courtesy of his friend “Keen” at day care. “Keen” – you can get a huge smile out of Little Guy just by saying the kid’s name, so you know they’re buds – has his little friends speaking Spanish, too, which is fine by me. I know enough Spanish to muddle by, but I don’t think I would have caught this had Little Guy’s teacher not tipped me off to the “a-wa” epidemic. What the heck, I’ll play along. Tonight, when he was saying “more a-wa,” I responded with “mas a-wa.”

Bummo : This means either “steering wheel”

Passing the puke test
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:11 | Comments Off

There are certain things I worried about before I had kids: Would I succeed in teaching them right from wrong? Would they grow into kind people? Could I instill in them values such as respect and regard for education?

But, most importantly, would I be able to handle it when they puke?

I’m only half kidding.

I can deal with any discomfort except nausea. I’ve smashed a femur and delivered two children and barely blinked. The broken leg was worse than labor, but that could be because I had no warning on the fracture. I was fairly certain with both kids that I’d have to deliver them sometime. With the leg, I didn’t exactly wake up one morning and plan to wreck a car.

I’d gladly break my other leg or go through labor again given a choice between those and a stomach bug.

Day care regulators fight the real menace: Sunscreen
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:10 | Comments Off

Here’s an opportunity for local meth manufacturers in a bind as production increasingly is outsourced to Mexico.


Seems it’s the new hidden menace. Recently, my day care’s licensing agency told the director that staff can’t apply sunscreen to the children. It’s a “medication.”

I’m sure glad the licensing agency nipped this one in the bud. Turns out, sunscreen is a dangerous, dangerous substance. I bet the FDA is even looking into reclassifying it as a narcotic.

From the hands of preschool teachers to the clutches of a corner drug dealer. No doubt, it’s a direct path, and I was willing to send my young innocents down it.

Bad, bad Mommy!

Attack of the clutter beast
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:08 | Comments Off

It says something about my life that it’s taken more than a week for me to get to a recent parenting.com newsletter offering “our best clutter-control tips”.

My email box, you see, is in as bad a shape as the rest of my world. In neatly organized subfolders, I have 955 unread emails from the National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting, 62 from the governor’s PR machine and 39 in a catch-all folder labeled “parenting.”

In my laundry area, I have two baskets of washed and neatly folded clothes, sorted by owner. It drives me nuts every morning, rifling through piles to find something for the kids to wear.

My dining room table is a crapalanche. I haven’t seen its surface since December, when it was briefly and gloriously cleared for a Christmas luncheon. It’s now populated with bag after bag of mail – items that will never be read, but need shredded before they’re tossed.

See? I know how to organize. I’m just lost as to what to do with all that organization. OK, I’m lying. I know exactly what to do with it. But I lack the will to finish the job.

Making the punishment fit the crime
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:07 | Comments Off

“Do you have Dr. Pepper in a can? You better let him out!”

My, but prank calls are considerably more sophisticated – and dangerous – than when I was a kid.

Seems today’s trendy stunt is to concoct an elaborate tale about a kidnapping, worry your loved ones to their wits’ end and waste tons of public time, energy and money as officials search for you.

It happened twice Monday.

The case first reported involved 12- and 13-year-old cousins who decided it would be a giggle to disappear from Vintage Faire mall, then text-message their parents that they were being held against their will.

The second involved a woman who wanted to get out of a date. She told her would-be suitor she’d been kidnapped. He called the police, and she kept law enforcement busy tracking her, as she described being hauled around south Sacramento in the trunk of a car. All the while, she was home.

Rage of angels
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:06 | Comments Off

Mommy requests the honor of your presence at a debutante bawl honoring Little Guy. Black tie optional; ear plugs mandatory

The calendar says the actual event is weeks off, but the attitude says something entirely different. Just ask anyone who was in SaveMart Saturday morning. Yep, Little Guy has met the Terrible Twos.

Except for a few isolated storms — the unfortunate airplane incident, for example — Little Guy’s always been a pretty chilled dude. When he did fuss, it was for one of two reasons: Hungry or sleepy.

His tiny fits were endearing in a way. His chin would drop and his eyes would shoot a wounded look. His mouth would start quivering, and the face would crumble. “Waaaahhhhh!!!!” But not a waahhh without warning. You could always see it build.

Saturday, though, was quite a coming out party for acting out with little notice.

Nothing special, but everything wonderful
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:05 | Comments Off

Today was perfect. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the tantrums were tolerable.

But best of all, I really connected with my kids, in a way that I hadn’t in months.

The day started early – they all have since Little Guy moved in. But for some reason, Big Guy didn’t wake up when his brother did this morning. Which meant I got the Little Guy time I’d been missing lately.

We read “Thomas.” We worked puzzles. He stacked wooden blocks, learning what the word “tall” means and bursting into mile-wide smiles every time the tower reached new heights. We did all the gloriously mundane things I’d always dreamed of doing with my kids.

Then, while Little Guy napped, it was Big Guy’s turn. We decorated a cake – Big Guy’s contribution was an overabundance of sprinkles and thick blue squiggles of frosting plopped smack in the middle. He, too, was blue, from eyebrows to elbows, when we finished.

What a mom loves about summer
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:04 | Comments Off

Six reasons summer and kids are a perfect fit

Dinner al fresco: At Che Two Guys, we have the finest open-air dining in the Central Valley, no reservations needed. And no dress code either, other than a requirement that you wear some. That part’s a bummer when your most-loyal customers love to shed their bathing suits and sprint naked, but it’s a requirement management must enforce.

Ambiance? We have that a plenty, from the faded and cracked resin patio furniture to the equally faded blue gingham table cloth. Shabby chic’s still popular, right?

For your listening pleasure, we have the neighbor’s stereo, usually cranked up to Motown tunes, or the sounds of the proprietress shrieking at blue jays bent on pecking at the grass seed planted in hopes of filling in brown spots before Big Guy’s birthday.

Halfwits on the highways
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:03 | Comments Off

Nominations for Idiot of the Week, Roadster Division:

The young man, 20 or so, zipping south on 99 about 5 p.m. yesterday. He was riding a red motorcycle – without a helmet – and zigzagging at at least 70 mph. And for a good half mile, he was doing it on one wheel. That makes him at least three kinds of stupid. Maybe more.
The older man, probably late 40s, driving a beaten-up van five blocks down Crowell Road in Turlock, in the left-hand lane. I’ll assume he grew up in England, and that’s why he smiled a Chester Cheetah grin and waved gleefully as he dang near took off my front fender.
Used to be, this stuff didn’t bother me. I’d shrug it off, think “some people are just insane” and go on with my life.

But that was in the day BC – before children.

Egciding birthday extravaganzas
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:02 | Comments Off

Big Guy is “so egcided” today. There’s a birthday party at school, complete with Happy Meals – which he largely won’t eat, but, hey, there’s a toy involved! – and a jump house.

Correction: A jumping house.

“It’s not a jump house, Mommy,” he lectured this morning. “It’s not a bounce house. It’s a jumping house. That’s what all my friends call it.”

Thanks heavens he set me straight. There’s nothing worse than being a fuddy-duddy parent who’s not hip to the current slang.

I’d rather he be a little less egcided, though. Bounce house … er, jumping houses … are the bane of my existence. Big Guy loves them – in theory, at least.

The birthday pregame show
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:01 | Comments Off

Completely random thoughts from a fried brain:

I just spent the past hour using tweezers to put round sprinkle on cupcakes to make monster eyes. Can I still get a room at Stanislaus Behavioral Health Center tonight?

When did kids’ birthdays become multi-day festivities? I didn’t quite fall into the egciding extravaganza pit, but I’m teetering.

Big Guy’s big weekend kicks off tomorrow … er, make that today … with cupcakes and goody bags at school.

At least I kept them reasonable. Had about $1.25 per bag invested. And it’s still more affordable than buying the whole class pizza or an evil bounce house.

The monsters are pink. That’s what Big Guy ordered, and no amount of asking “are you sure you want pink?” was going to change that. At least the noses and mouths are blue, which I hope will convince Guy Protective Services that they don’t need to intervene.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:01 | Comments Off

I used to drive my high school chemistry nuts. “You always want to know why,” he would say. “I could give you the chemical equation for water, and you’d want to know why.”

I had no clue at the time why that was so annoying. But now that I’m living with a human question mark, I understand.

I’m glad Big Guy is curious. Really, I am. I just wish life were more like those government press conferences, where reporters have a few minutes at the end to get in their questions and that’s it. And only one question per person, please.

I used to think all his questions were asked with the sole goal of driving me mad. But then I began to notice patterns and purpose behind the rapid-fire barrage of “why?” He’s not trying to make my head explode! He’s trying to accomplish something.

Sometimes, I’m still convinced he’s just trying to make me nuts. Most of the rest of the time, though, his questions fall mainly in six categories: the grouse, the quaintly curious, the show off, the stumpers, the “where did that come from” and the epiphany.

Mom wins a skirmish in the dinnertime war
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:00 | Comments Off

I’m not good at sneaky and clever. I prefer to hit things head-on, and when you’re dealing with small people, that usually results in getting your head bashed in. I have a perpetual concussion these days.

I don’t do spontaneous well either, unless I have plenty of time to plan it.

So it always astounds me when I’m able to pull off something with even a smidge of finesse. Tonight, I did sneaky, spontaneous and finesse. Hey, maybe I’m figuring out this Mom gig after all.

Motherhood Muses, please don’t take that as a challenge. I’ve had all the smiting this week I can stand. And besides that, I might well have re-learned something valuable here, a long-forgotten lesson about how twisty, curvy back roads sometimes get you there just as quickly as the freeway.

The sneaky, clever plot began accidentally, as Big Guy kicked off his nightly harangue roughly 2.6 seconds after he buckled his car seat. “Mommy, what are we having for dinner?” The question’s usually a trap.

A tough transition — Little Guy leaves the crib
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:58 | Comments Off

Harsh reality has pre-empted tonight’s sentimental ode to the end of babyhood. The sappy remembrance will air at a later date, reality permitting.

Little Guy hates his big-boy bed. He glares at it, as if it’s responsible for famine in Africa and $3.40-a-gallon gas

He’s not wild about me, either. I robbed him of the blessed comfort of his crib, cold-heartedly tossing it in the garage and replacing it with this thing . “How could you ruin my sweet little life?” his eyes ask.

This one was supposed to be easy. But every time I think I have this gig figured out, the Motherhood Muses are tittering around the corner, ready to smite my butt.

Except for scattered tummy and teeth pain, Little Guy never has had trouble sleeping. He recently dozed off over a bowl of Cheez-Its. He slept in two different beds on vacation, adjusting to each in about five minutes.

He took to his big-boy bed immediately in the showroom, climbing in and lying down with a huge grin. This is going to be a snap, I thought.

Heche, Homer and the working mom
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:57 | Comments Off

Seems that I have some things in common with Anne Heche, although I’ve never run dazed and confused through rural Fresno County knocking on doors and pleading for help late at night.

Heche’s husband of 6 years, Coleman Laffoon, has filed for divorce. And it looks like Laffoon v. Heche is going to be anything other than a civil civil case. He wants $33,000 a month and joint custody. Presumably, his $6,000 a year premarital salary won’t keep him in the style to which he’s become accustomed.

So he’s letting it all hang out: allegations of poor parenting, disorganization and potty mouth.

Some accusations, if true, are troubling. The most serious: That she allowed their 5-year-old son, Homer, to ride without a car seat.

Most of the rest smacks of the standard stuff used to smear working moms, whether they make $81,000 an episode or $8 an hour.

Professor Tree v Florida’s Pre K
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:56 | Comments Off

Welcome to Professor Tree’s Lemonade 101.

In April, Professor Tree was loaded with fragrant blooms. At least, most of him was. The top was a threadbare, the victim of the winter’s frost.

Big Guy and Little Guy, of course, wanted to rip off the blossoms. And since the tree desperately needs pruned – it’s a metaphor for my life – many blooms were within easy reach.

“Let’s not do that, guys. We need to leave the flowers, so they’ll grow into lemons,” I said.

Big Guy looked at me as if I’d sprouted another head. “No way,” he said. Tonight everything clicked.

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy ! I see the little lemons! I see the little lemons! Can we make lemonade?”

I explained the rest of the process: they’d have to water Professor Tree so the little green lemons would get big and yellow, and then we could make lemonade.

Welcome to the state of Florida’s pre-k program, where 5-year-olds are given one-minute drills in an effort to gauge the program’s success.

War of annoying words
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:55 | Comments Off

I love parenting lists. I seldom find useful advice, mainly because they’re not keyed to kids as intractably stubborn as my two. But they’re a great pick-me-up in a “misery loves company” sort of way.

So when I ran across parenting.com’s “The Six Most Annoying Things Kids Say” while suffering from a bout of Google-induced attention deficit disorder, I couldn’t resist clicking, just to see how my guys stack up.

The Top 6:

Mine: This one’s easy to deal with. They’ll outgrow it, and more quickly than you think while in the throes of it. It’s Little Guy’s current favorite word other than “Thomas,” though Big Guy never said it much. He prefered to clinch his little fists skyward and plead, Have it!

It’s not fair : We haven’t made it to this stage, though I’m sure with two kids, it’s inevitable.

The Mufasa bridge
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:54 | Comments Off

To say I’m not a patient person is like saying Bill Gates has sold a little software. I want to get everything done 10 minutes ago, and I hate waiting. It’s a nature vs. nurture question: Did I get into journalism because I’m a speed freak, or am I a speed freak because I’m a journalist.

But while I’m impatient, I’m not stupid. I take Ninth Street to work, and usually I’ll wait out any train toddling along B Street. The reasoning: By the time I detour, the train will be gone and I wouldn’t have saved any time.

Thursday, though, I was running late and a train was using B Street for long-term parking. So I turned around and eventually wound up on Seventh Street.

Minutes later, Big Guy was spellbound. “Mommy, Mommy, MOMMY!!! Look! It’s Mufasa!”

And in a 3-year-old’s mind, it was indeed the “Lion King” perched in all his glory on the south end of the Seventh Street Bridge.

The line between freedom and fear
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:53 | Comments Off

The story that made me want to throw up this morning:

In Vernona Beach, N.Y., 6-year-old Kayleigh Cochis died after she fell off a chair while trying to reach scissors on top of a refrigerator. The blades stabbed her in the neck. Her father was home, but didn’t see her fall.

Two things are certain about this stomach-turning tragedy.

One, the father will second-guess himself until the day he dies.

Two, a substantial portion of the rest of the world will blame him for the death.

That’s usually the case these days. Somewhere along the line, we stopped believing in accidents. Everything has to be someone’s fault, and it’s usually the parents’, even if the kid’s not a kid anymore.

Thomas here!
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:52 | Comments Off

Little Guy had a brief dalliance with Lighting McQueen. He trifled with Woody, from “Toy Story,” but eventually wanted to be just friends.

He’s moved on to his first full-blown obsession.

It’s Thomas the Tank Engine. And it’s making me understand why my sister – the one with four kids — hates Barney.

First word out of Little Guy’s mouth in the morning – “Thomas.” First words out of his mouth when we get home – “watch Thomas.” Last word out of his mouth before bed – “read Thomas.” At least he’s still excited about reading. I worried about that a few weeks ago, when I started letting him openly watch TV.

He has a toy Thomas that can’t be more than a few yards away at any point in time. Technically, it’s not his toy, but Big doesn’t mess with Little Guy on this issue. Sometimes, Little Guy will sit “reading” his Thomas book with the engine tucked under the other arm.

Family leave, hair and heartburn for Mother’s Day
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:51 | Comments Off

If I had to be pregnant again, I’d want to be an Indian living in Sweden.

Babycenter.com posted a neat little “mothers around the world” feature this week, looking at traditions, old wives’ tales and family leave policies.

Quick conclusions: Sweden’s the place to be – 16 months’ leave at 80 percent pay after the birth of a baby. Canada’s not bad, either – a year at 50 percent.

And Indian’s the ethnicity to be. According to the article, for 45 days after a baby is born, the custom is for the mother to stay home while relatives care for her.

I could have used some of that after Big Guy was born. Labor wasn’t particularly hard, but Big Guy quickly developed colic. There were days on end when I barely saw my bed. Advice from my favorite Sanctimommy: “You should sleep when the baby does.” Well, what if the baby NEVER FRIGGIN’ SLEEPS?

Dessert detente
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:50 | Comments Off

There are a few keys in a relationship: good communication, trust, shared interests and brownie compatibility.

Except in the last area, in order to be compatible, you have to be at odds. If you like the same thing, you’re doomed.

I’m an edge person, and I’m fanatical about it. I would pass on brownies before I’d eat a gooey interior piece. Give me a crusty corner, and I’m euphoric. I was the only edgy one in the family, so it wasn’t an issue growing up. It did irritate the snot out of my mom, though, to see my surgical work around the outside of a pan. “Why can’t you just eat them in order?” she’d ask.

My husband doesn’t care for brownies, so it’s never been an issue for us either. I had a roommate once, though, who also was an edge person, and it got competitive at times. We probably were the only household in town where the outside of bar cookies would go first.

So in addition to all the other worries a mother has – Will he love me? Will he get into a good college? Will he grow up to be an ax murderer? – I fretted about brownies. What if one of the kids turns out to be an edge person? I’d already given up my bread heels to Little Guy. I didn’t want to lose my edges, too.

The changes of parenthood
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:49 | Comments Off

I’m sitting at my desk this afternoon, rushing to get caught up before a meeting so I can rush to finish afterward, and a call comes over the police scanner. Vehicle versus train on Claribel Road.

It’s always phrased that way: Vehicle versus train, vehicle versus tree, etc. It’s a coping mechanism.
Within an hour, still in the “vehicle versus train” mode, I was posting the early report on modbee.com.

A woman and four people in her sport utility vehicle had died. We heard rumors children were involved.

Possibly very young children.

And that’s when I made the mistake of climbing into the driver’s seat of that SUV. Did she know this was it? Did she have time to say good-bye to her babies, to get in one last “I love you”?

People ask how parenthood changes you, and you mention the obvious: Lack of sleep, time and money. The deeper changes are inside. You feel things differently.

When food attacks
Sun, 1/06/08 – 19:48 | Comments Off

Big Guy “helped” bake his daddy’s birthday cake, dumping flour in the mixer and spooning sugar into measuring cups. He licked the bowl afterward, smearing batter roughly from eyelashes to toenails. He watched me ice and decorate it, picking colors and testing frosting repeatedly, to “make sure” it was all right. He begged for cake all afternoon.

When it came time to dig in, he eyed his plate suspiciously. “This looks like an egg cake,” he said. “I’m not going to eat it.”

I’ve never been so proud and so heart-broken in my life.

Big Guy, you see, is allergic to egg. Deathly allergic. The last time he had egg – roughly three bites of a shepherd’s pie that had one egg in the recipe – he was 10 months old. We called an ambulance.

He’s also deathly allergic to peanut. When he was about 14 months old, a girl at day care who had eaten peanut butter an hour earlier touched his teddy bear. She didn’t even have peanut butter visible on her hands. Big Guy in turn touched the bear, then touched his face and broke out in hives.