Diaper free? Not for me!
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:54 | Comments Off

I guess I’m just too much of a self-absorbed, spend-thrift, non-environmentally aware mother to get the whole diaper-free movement.

Granted, it’s not without appeal – toilet mastery far earlier, some claim before the baby’s even 1.

But I cannot imagine hauling a butt-naked newborn to a sink or toilet on a set schedule so the baby can potty. Call me lazy, but I’d rather sleep. Or eat. Or do virtually anything in the world just to catch a break for a stinkin’ minute.

What an unsympathetic cad I am. Not at all like people who are practicing “elimination communication” – how’s that for an impressive buzz word?

“It is about slowing down and taking things day by day, moment by moment, learning to listen to your child and figure

My Sponge Bob epiphany
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:53 | Comments Off

I’m a strange person with a strange collection of interests – from baseball to cake decorating, computers to crafting. I even developed a passing appreciation for NASCAR while living in North Carolina. Not that you can help it there – you practically pick it up through osmosis.

There are a few things in life, though, that I’ve always hated no matter how hard I try. Tomato juice. Horror movies. And “SpongeBob Squarepants.”

Just my luck Big Guy would wind up a fan.

Dad started this by buying Big Guy a DVD back in January after Big Guy kept crawling in bed with him to watch the cartoon. Unfortunately, Dad’s now sick of the “absorbent and yellow and porous” cartoon character. I’d laugh, except his Sponge Bob fatigue means

Food, gloriou$ food
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:52 | Comments Off

I bought my first three-pound crate of American cheese today — $10.89 for Kraft at Raley’s. The store brand was two bucks cheaper, but I can’t buy it because, of course, it’s made with Yellow Dye 5.

It would have been one for the baby book, except that thing died before Big Guy’s “36,000 miles walked during colic” warranty expired.

I can remember the day when I’d toss the remnants of a 12-ounce package of cheese, orange-edged and crunchy, during a semi-annual fridge cleanings. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have bought a cow.

Make that a herd. And learned to make cheese while I was at it.

Today’s cheese slab was partly a nod to economy – even when I was single, I’d buy

It’s never too early to freak out over kindergarten
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:51 | Comments Off

There are roughly 347 days between Big Guy and kindergarten, depending on where he winds up going. Is it too early for me to start freaking out?

Because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since Back to School night Friday at his preschool.

Surrounded by two other moms and myself, Big Guy’s teacher lamented the problem of teaching 4-year-olds to do what they need to do to be ready for kindergarten these days. “I have to make them sit here at a table for part of the day, when they’d all rather be playing and running around and being kids.”

I share her sorrow, which is why I’ve always shunned flash cards and such, preferring to let a kid be a kid for as long as possible. I

Phoning in an end to an alarming problem
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:49 | Comments Off

I woke up this morning.

That in and of itself is nothing new – I try to wake up most mornings. It’s cause for celebration, though, because I actually woke up on time, after two solid weeks of oversleeping 10 to 30 minutes. Two weeks of rushing the guys through breakfast, teeth-brushing (sometimes) and out the door, pleading “hurry like you’re furry.”

The problem was so obvious, the guys had even started to harass me about it.

“You gonna set the alarm, Mommy?” Big Guy asked every night as I put him to bed.

“Yes, I am.”

“Set it for real early, like 1. And wake up”

“Set malarm, Mommy” Little Guy added.

“Don’t forget,” Big Guy warned as I closed their door.

Last night, I not only didn’t forget. I also added

9to5to9: Boys versus girls
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:48 | Comments Off

It’s almost fall, so it’s spend, spend, spend season at our house. New lunch boxes. New clothes. Halloween costumes – no, Big Guy, I am not paying $40 for the really cool SpiderMan, because you’ll take one look at the built-on mask and refuse to wear it.

I console myself, though, that at least I’m not facing the gymnastics expenditure a friend ran into recently. Oh, I have the bill for the class — Big Guy’s begged for a year, so I finally did some budget gymnastics and signed him up. But he can wear whatever. Her 5-year-old daughter has to have a leotard, at a cost of $28 for less than a yard of fabric.

The programs are a little different – Big Guy’s is at

A kitchen mess worth making
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:47 | Comments Off
A kitchen mess worth making

I look back fondly to the days when Big Guy played happily with his tiny pots and pans as I cooked. I recall happily the times when Little Guy was content to rummage the Tupperware while I fixed dinner.

Oh, wait. That was just last week.

It’s a whole new ballgame now that the guys have discovered the joy of cooking – you can create colossal messes and get in Mom’s way. What more could a kid want?

Big Guy long has been interested in “helping,” but on his terms, which usually involved covering the table, chairs, floor, himself and Little Guy with flour.

And Little Guy is interested in anything Big Guy does. He’s trying to catch up on those two years he lost due to being the

A grump’s take on Happy Meals
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:46 | Comments Off

My credentials as a grump are impeccable. I graduated magna cum surly, celebrating with a fine dinner of crab and whine.

But I’m going to reach the peak of petulance with this statement: I hate Happy Meals.

Buying a Happy Meal is like shelling out $3 and change for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, stabled together in one cheery box. If you even get a box – half the McDonald’s we go to bag it these days.

There’s grease, a juice box way bigger than I would normally serve the guys, excessive calories and clutter-inducing crap. The first three don’t bother me much – the guys have Happy Meals maybe a couple times a month, three if life is really crazy. In between, I shove as much

Stop! Focus! Um, what was I doing?
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:45 | Comments Off

Happy Meals, Korn or soccer? What the heck was I going to blog about tonight?

It’s the end of the weekend, and I’m reminiscing about weekend ends of old, when I would curl up in bed with a book and read myself to sleep. There’s a book bedside now, but it’s been there since April. But maybe if I can focus and finish up quickly, I’ll have time for a few chapters tonight.

OK, what’s left to be done?

Kids’ school blankets washed and dried: Check! Last week, I forgot the drying part until 5 Tuesday morning.
Lunches … hmm… what’s for lunch. Should have cooked tonight instead of sending Dad to McDonald’s. Ah, that’s right. I was going to write the Happy Meal blog.

STOP! Focus! Lunch!

OK, leftover roast

The new Mommy Track doesn’t leave the station for many
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:44 | Comments Off

I resented Alpha Mom as I scraped neon toothpaste off my dress today. Alpha Mom is too carefully coiffed to go to work looking like that.

She taunted to me as I jetted to SaveMart between work and soccer practice. Alpha Mom never would have forgotten her kid’s water at home. Her nanny would have made sure it was packed.

I cursed her as I rushed dinner to the table – grilled cheese and applesauce. Alpha Mom serves pork loin.

Alpha Mom mouses placidly at her computer, infant in arms and toddler playing blissfully behind her. I tried that during my second maternity leave. Little Guy wailed on one side and Big Guy turned my other arm into steak tartar as I tried to hear my boss over

Battling pickiness one bite at a time
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:36 | Comments Off

Big Guy couldn’t have looked more horrified if I’d put a heaping pile of dog doo on his dinner plate.

“What’s THAT?” he demanded, pointing accusingly at the inch-long morsel.

“That’s a green bean,” I said. “And that beside it is roast beef. It’s a new rule. You have to try a tiny bite of everything we have for dinner.”

For some reason, it hasn’t occurred to Big Guy to argue with “rules.” He argues with everything else under the sun, but not “rules.’ So he dutifully ate the green bean – one microscopic nibble at a time. It took about 10 minutes, as he tried to stall in hopes I’d cave , but he did it.

I suppose I should be a little gentler on the poor child

It’s gonna be a cornhusk Christmas
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:35 | Comments Off

It’s not even Halloween, but I know exactly what the guys will get for Christmas: corn-husk dolls and sock monkeys. That’s assuming I can find good-old American-made buttons for the monkeys. And non-genetically modified husks for the dolls.

It’s getting that ridiculous.I’ve always had a healthy dose of recall paranoia, dutifully registering major baby gear and steeling myself for the wave of nausea sure to come if some company announced a major flaw in something important, such as a car seat.

Never in my wildest nightmares, though, did I imagine the toy tsunami that’s slammed ashore again and again since early summer.Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site:

The tidal wave began in June, when 1.5 million Thomas the Tank Engine toys were recalled

A baseball buddy is born
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:35 | Comments Off

I’d promised the guys all summer we’d go to another baseball game. I even circled dates on schedule, intending to hit one a month. But days slipped into weeks that slipped into months, and we hadn’t made it back.

My procrastination was rooted in a desire to avoid the scene of the crime. I spent most of our last visit with the guys, walking and wailing around the concourse, instead of watching Randy Johnson.

Still, a promise is a promise, so when Big Guy asked late last week when we were going to see Wally, the Modesto Nuts mascot, again, I bought tickets and hoped for the best.

The best turned out better than I’d hoped. Tonight, I found my baseball buddy.

I’ve always had people who

Big Guy’s money lesson, Mommy’s migraine
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:34 | Comments Off

Week 4 into the Grand Allowance Experiment, and I now understand why so many parents choose extremes.

I could have picked Dictator Mommy and just barked, “No! You can’t have it.” I could have picked Push-Over Mommy and said, “Of course, my sweet. I’ll buy whatever you want.”

Instead, stupid me went for the middle ground, the land of learning to make good decisions about money.

 The decision has turned every shopping trip into an exhausting trudge.

I hate it when my masochistic side takes over.

Week 1: 

We hit the summer clearance sales at Kohl’s, where the toy department is next to toddler clothing. Smart store designer.

Big Guy, financially flush with the week’s $5 and late-arriving birthday cash, locks on a Dora the Explorer Travel and Care Pony Trailer. He’s

Dream a little dream
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:33 | Comments Off

“Hey, Mommy, guess what I’m going to be when I’m growed up!” Big Guy asked halfway home this evening.

I’d heard the list often enough to know Little Guy wouldn’t get in a word edgewise the rest of the drive.

“I don’t know, babes. What are you going to be?”

“I’m going to drive the fire truck and the police car and the siren thing and be a teacher and a baseball player and cook in the restaurant and …and …” he trailed off, trying to remember the rest of the list. “And be a pilot!”

“Sounds great! You’re going to be a really busy guy,” I said.

He nodded happily. “Yep.”

There were four things I swore I’d never do when I had children. I’d never raise my voice –

Paying it backward, Big Guy style
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:32 | Comments Off

Big Guy bounced out of bed Sunday with a broad grin. And Big Guy, mind you, never bounces of bed. Stomps and scowls occasionally, but never bounces.

“Go to Target after breakfast?”

That was shock No. 2. He was volunteering  to eat breakfast. Where’s the argument? Where’s the fuss?

“I sure am, babes,” I said. “Let’s get moving!”

He’d been saving since spring to buy “Madagascar.” I’m not sure what started his obsession with the movie, but we were shopping one day and he just had  to have it. And I, having recently bought two Easter bunny movies, was not about to buy it.

“Tell you what. You have $8 in your special drawer right now. You know Gramma and your aunts send money for your birthday. You save all

It was a wonderful party!
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:31 | Comments Off

An older and wiser relative told this cautionary tale a few years back, and thank heaven I’ve held onto it.

It was her son’s ninth birthday, and it had just been one of those days. House full of screaming kids mixed with a headache and a dash of little things gone wrong. When her husband got home, he asked how the party had gone.

“It was awful,” she said.

She didn’t know it, but the birthday boy was within earshot. He burst into tears. “I thought it was a wonderful party.”

So I’ll say this about Big Guy’s birthday: It was a wonderful party.

I was worried at first.  When I finally took the party gear out of hiding, I opened the box and out popped a Darth Vader pinata

Games people play — but not the guys
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:30 | Comments Off

What is it about video games that makes them kiddy crack cocaine?

We don’t have one in our house and, after our experience with Big Guy the other night, we never will.

Dad and I were visiting a neighbor, chatting with her in her kitchen as her teen-age daughter played The Simpsons Road Rage in the adjoining living room. Big Guy sat down with the daughter, and that was the last we saw of him for a good half hour.

Oh, we heard plenty: “Hey! I’m winning the race! Oooooohhh! I crashed again!”

We practically had to pry the controller out of his steely grip to get him away. Maybe he’d like to play her guitar instead? No dice. How about her sister’s drum set – something

My guilt and angst at screwing up the world
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:28 | Comments Off

Originally published July 17, 20007, thehive.modbee.com

Woke up in a great mood this morning. The sun was shining, but not too much. The kids were 90 percent less grumpy than I expected considering they’d stayed up too late the night before. I didn’t screw up the coffee and made it out the door on time.

But then The Associated Press told me I had it all wrong.

In a story about the latest round in “Mommy Wars”, AP recapped the alleged conflagration so far: “There’s spirited talk, angst, and some guilt from mothers who fear they’re doing the wrong thing.

“Now the guilt seems actually tangible.”

Oooooh. Ominous.

I rifled through my purse for some angst but couldn’t find any. Dang it. I know I put it on the grocery list last week. Dad must have

One for the road — finally
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:27 | Comments Off

Of all the things I missed about my carefree, single days – and there aren’t many, except maybe eight hours’ sleep a night – what I miss most is the ability to just walk out the door and go.

It used to be so simple – get dressed, grab tiny purse, hit the road. All in about 10 minutes.

This weekend, a trip to the Bay Area morphed into a 110-minute launch. Granted, it was an extreme case, but not by much.

 10 a.m.:  OK, guys, time to get dressed!

 10:05 a.m.:  How do toddlers suddenly sprout all those extra limbs? I understand that, having had his diaper changed roughly 6,000 times in his life, Little Guy is bored with the process and just wants to have a little

Adieu, Diana
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:27 | Comments Off

As quickly as she came, she disappeared.

Diana, Big Guy’s pink-haired sister/wife protectress, is gone. She’s left to play with the boy next door. “I don’t need to play with her anymore, Mommy,” Big Guy told me when I asked where she was.

At least she didn’t get exiled to the Acre Wood with the Doo-Dahs. Life can be tough in the forest for a chick who always wears pink stiletto boots.

But that’s as it should be, with both Diana and the Doo-Dahs. Less than two weeks after we met her, she took off.

That’s the pattern with imaginary friends, the experts say. They serve their purpose, then move on.

Children work through their problems and conquer their fears through make-believe, psychologist and author Sal Severe says.

In Big Guy’s case, nightmares

A study in contrasts
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:25 | Comments Off

Little Guy’s a daredevil who’s going to wind up in traction before he’s old enough to drive. But he hates crowds, which he defines as a gathering of more than three people.

Big Guy’s so social that a trip to the grocery store could take hours by the time he gabs with other shoppers, checkout clerks, plants in the floral department. But his knees still knock a bit as he stands at the top of tall slides.

Seems I have two riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas. And I can’t figure out how on earth it happened.

Little Guy’s going through a particularly wild stage now.

He tries his dangedest to ride Big Guy’s tricycle, even though his feet can’t reach the pedals and he has no prayer of

The end of the tubeless life
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:24 | Comments Off

Originally published July 8, 2007, thehive.modbee.com   

 The cable box in the living room has been out for almost three months and, to tell the truth, I’m thrilled.

The guys had fallen into the habit of gazing goggle-eyed all evening at The Electronic Box of Enlightenment.

The second the cable was gone, presto! They went back to playing outside, “reading” their books and giving me more help than I really need with dinner.

Then last week, the DVD player joined the cable box in the electronic graveyard – either a baby-sitter or Big Guy broke it. The stories keep changing. Once I got over my extreme agitation at the loss of a very expensive piece of equipment, I was euphoric.

Hallelujah! My fantasy of a TV-free life was coming true.

Dear God, what was I thinking?


Diana, the Doo-Dahs and other imaginary folk
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:23 | Comments Off

Originally published July 2, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

She always wears a pink shirt and either pink or black boots. She works in a restaurant, and sometimes she lives with us. She has pink hair.

Her name is Diana, and she’s Big Guy’s sister.

Maybe his wife, too. “I’m going to get married with her,” he told me solemnly yesterday.

Insert favorite West Virginia joke here.

Sister, wife, whatever. We’ll sort that out later. I’m just happy he’s settled on someone. For a while, he had an imaginary kindergarten teacher, sister and grandma, and I had to be all three. I felt like Sybil.

Now, this might freak out some parents. I’ve heard of moms and dads being concerned that their kids were maladjusted or weren’t getting enough stimulation.

I, however, am all for it. Especially now that I

Time to junk the junk food in schools
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:21 | Comments Off

I did a triple-take when I glanced at a school lunch menu hanging on the fridge at a friend’s house a few months back.

Monday, chicken nuggets and fries. Tuesday, pizza. Wednesday, grilled cheese and fries. Thursday, cheeseburger and fries. Friday, super nachos.

What the heck? Weren’t we at least two years down the road on the “healthy school lunches” kick? Obviously, some districts weren’t getting the message.

That’s why I’m glad the Legislature stepped in with fairly strict new guidelines that become law Sunday. Obviously, some districts needed help getting the message.

Call it micromanagement, call it the nanny state, call it whatever you want. The bottom line for me is, we have an obesity epidemic in this country, with adult-onset diabetes showing up in grade schools. Something

Studies and mommy guilt
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:20 | Comments Off

Originally published June 27, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

This just in from HealthDay:

“First-born children possess IQs that are 2.3 points higher, on average, than their younger siblings, a new study contends. This finding held true even when first-born children didn’t survive and a younger child was reared as the eldest, scuttling the idea that genetics determines the difference in IQ among siblings, according to the Norwegian researchers who authored the report, published in the June 22 issue of the journal Science .

That’s swell news. Because I’d been sitting around all day wondering what I should feel guilty about next. Lucky for me, this showed up in my inbox and I had my answer.

I knew there was a reason I’d always wanted twins. Technically, one still would have been older, but maybe

Sick kids and day care inspections
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:19 | Comments Off

Getting on a plane with four ounces of shampoo would have been easier than getting into day care today.

There’s been an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth virus – which sounds worse than it is, especially when I goof up and say my kid has hoof and mouth disease.

Little Guy came down with it Friday, so he had to be inspected at the border this morning. I watched nervously – for some reason, I flash back to spelling bees in these situations.

I didn’t want to face the humiliation of trudging back to my desk, head hung low, if she found spots on him that I’d missed. Except in this case, the humiliation would have been in being labeled Bad Parent Who Tries to Sneak Sick

A not-so-happy birthday, but that’s OK
Sun, 1/06/08 – 20:18 | Comments Off

It was a passable little Thomas birthday cake, considering the (lack of) time and effort put into it.

Maybe one of these days Little Guy look at the pictures. Because he barely glanced at the cake this weekend. Not until it was sliced and one his plate, that is.

Little Guy was not exactly the life of his birthday party. He’s never the life of any party. Christmas Day, he spent most of the afternoon alone in a corner, playing with Big Guy’s cowboy doll, and he was perfectly happy going unnoticed.

At birthday parties, though, people usually notice the guest of honor. Which made for an awkward situation for Little Guy.

The trouble started when guests showed up early, while Little Guy still was napping