Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So Many Arms

Mona says:  "Mom, when I grow up I want to be a mommy octopus."

I say:  "Why Mona?  That's kind of a funny thing to be."

Mona says:  "Because I could have so many of arms to do a million things like moms have to do and like you have to do and like talk on the phone, and make hot dogs, and change the diapers, and let the dog in, and do the emailing, and pick up socks, and clean up the milk and all the millions of stuffs like that." *she says counting them off on her fingers*

I say:  "That would be a great idea."

Mona says:  "And then if you had so many arms there would plenty of arms left over for when I need a hug with my hot dog."

I say:  nothing *bending down with my so many arms to give her a hug*

Monday, March 22, 2010

Even Low V.O.C. Paint Affects Your Brain

The Father and I have spent the last 2 weeks repainting nearly the entire interior of our home.  Every morsel of time I've had, where my children were otherwise occupied (read: all the in between moments I usually steal away to peck at the keyboard and attend to TheMiddleBit) have been spent spackling, sanding, taping, wiping baseboards, vacuuming and rolling.  I've been expressing myself with premium paint colors like Soft Chamois, Warm Toffee and Basketry this week but this color story is nothing compared to the ideas I'm brimming with as a result of being away from TheMiddleBit for so many days.

These ideas are likely to spill out all over the place, like the paint can I knocked over in a rush to get to the preschool carpool lane, and it is entirely possible that spending too many hours in a small room inhaling paint fumes for days at a time has caused my brain to produce grand ideas that upon further examination may prove to be less worthy than they seem right now...

However, it is also possible that the hours of uninterrupted solitude I spent painting walls and pondering the rules of the universe have allowed me to stumble upon my most ingenious parenting metaphor to date.  Only time will tell if when the fumes dissipate I'm still feeling enlightened...but here's what's been on my mind.

Parenting is Like Painting

Selecting a color is not the difficult part, but it's the thing that keeps many people from ever getting started.  You head to the paint store with lots of ideas about what you think you want and how it's going to look when you get it home.  How it's going to transform your space.  Make a great, big, hairy, stress-filled deal out of selecting the right hue if you need to, but the simple task is to come out of the whole thing with a gallon of paint.  Like that amazing day when you get into the car with nothing but the over-stuffed suitcase and the empty carseat.  The real work begins once that guy at the store hands over your non-returnable, customized gallon and wishes you good luck.  You get that baby home and start to paint.  Or parent.

The prep work takes three times as long as the actual painting but if you do it right, take your time and plan ahead, the job goes more smoothly.  Certainly I'm not referring to 40 weeks of pregnancy versus a lifetime of parenting here...that's not the prep work of parenting that takes the supreme effort.  I'm talking about the weeks of suffering through nighttime waking that ultimately results in kids who sleep until dawn, the repeated loss of quiet mealtimes where the struggle over green beans eventually results in kids who eat vegetables, the mind numbing rehearsal of the morning routine that produces kids who dress themselves, and countless other examples of prep work. 

You can hire someone else to paint for you, or you can tackle the whole job yourself.  But know this: Your level of satisfaction and ownership of the end result will undoubtedly be affected by this decision.  The pro painter will have a different level of skill than you and certainly a different reason for doing the job right, but there is something to be said for the "learn as you go" mentality that sometimes results in paint on the ceiling and drips on the baseboards.  There are countless professionals that can have a role in the job of parenting.  I'm not saying the end result is better or worse with the help of a professional.  I AM saying they affect how you feel about the end result.

You're going to want to cover everything you don't want to get paint on.  Painting is a messy job.  So is parenting.  If you mask off the white baseboards, and put away your modesty, your impatience and your favorite crystal vase, just temporarily, you won't need to be so stressed about getting paint, or adolescence, all over them.  Drop clothes always seem like 'worst case scenario' items to have, but sometimes they help minimize the damage.

The "load it up with paint and just ride the roller" technique works great for the big flat parts like living room walls, but you need a steady touch for the edges and the corners...those are the tricky parts.  All that parenting prep work definitely affords you some auto-pilot days, but then the game changes out of nowhere and the lives of your children require a more steady hand.

It is possible to put color on a wall with no special tools at all.  Technically, you could do it with your hands, but for the more advanced jobs like painting a vaulted ceiling, or parenting a female teenager, having a few specialized tools like extension poles, or GPS chips in their cell phones, makes the process easier.

Nobody wants to do the clean up, but it has to be done.  Enough said.

Any idiot can paint a wall, some of us idiots are better at it than others and it shows in the final product.  Yep.  Same is true with parenting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Va Va Via!

An Open Letter to Starbucks

To Whom it May Concern,

I love coffee.  I love good coffee.  I love your coffee.  I'd like to personally thank you, Oh Wise Executives of Starbucks, for making your deal with the devil (Costco) so we plebeians can afford to buy the perfectly toasted fruits of your bush in bulk at a reasonable price.  My darling husband does a wonderful job of brewing your beans in our humble kitchen each morning and this makes me love him more because #1-he knows I like Starbucks and #2-he does all the work.  However, he travels alot (read-he is not here to measure the beans, load the water, grind the beans to the perfect consistency, and program the timer so my coffee is ready to greet me on mornings when I am solo.)  Yes, I realize that an experienced cook with advanced degrees in everything from English to Mothering ought to be able to figure out how to make her own coffee...not the point.

When he's gone, I'd love nothing more than to roll out of bed in my jammies, throw a granola bar at each of my three small children, as they climb into their carseats and swing by the drive thru, drawing ever nearer to the dark mother whose lift giving caffeine makes my morning so much more pleasant...but you don't brew it in my town!  Problem!  Here in The Middle, my neighbors are in love with another dark roasted bean pushing establishment named after a large forest mammal with furry antlers...but I'm not convinced.  

So, finding myself waking up alone and un-caffeinated many mornings over the last few months I started drinking tea, the logic being, any idiot (me) can boil water and drop in a tea bag.  Not the same.  Then I got the crazy idea that I would brew my own pot of Pike's Place...what a waste, I should have just scooped the whole beans right into the garbage can because the coffee I made was undrinkable sewage.  Then I started to take stock of my dependence on caffeine and decided that being enslaved to an unattainable and costly beverage was setting me up for daily disappointment, so I should wean myself off of it and begin a regimen of pure hydration and drink water in the morning...yeah, that lasted about 14 minutes.

Then, last week my darling husband, seeing my downward spiral, arrived home with what just might be the most brilliant revamp of what was formerly a highly disgusting and essentially non-potable beverage option...instant coffee.  As he slipped the tiny tube of powdered treasure into my withdrawal induced shaking little hand he told me with a whisper of good things to come and and air of mystery, "It's called Via.  It means the way.  Just add hot water."  Could this be true?  A powdered form of a mood altering substance that is readily available, easy to prepare (even without a husband at home) and legal?  He leaned in again, hands still warm from gripping his coffee cup, took me in his arms and breathed another miracle into my ear, "And, they sell it at Costco."  I peed a little.

I'd like to thank you Starbucks, from the bottom of my heart.  I'd like to thank you Starbucks, on behalf of my children, who know from experience, that caffeine makes me a better mother.  If Via is the way to go, then I think I have finally found my way.

Highly Caffeinatedly Yours,


****Do not read this as an endorsement for a particular product but more as a resounding declaration of the importance of having people around you who know what you need and who love you enough to figure out how to get it.  What do you need?  Who have you told?****

Monday, March 8, 2010

It Snot

It is the fact that they screamed through the entire phone call forcing me to lock myself in the bathroom so I could hear, and then I had to actually follow through on my threat even though I had more bills to pay and was planning to park them in front of NickJr while I finished.

It's not the kind of thing I am usually capable of doing, but I had a choice this afternoon to push through my task with children beating each other and screaming in the background OR to go another way.
It is the snot colored playdough that I whipped up to keep them occupied while I finished the bills and that kept them so entertained that I was able to knock out a blog post or two.

It's not that I'm opposed to the kind of full contact, Betty Crocker, homespun, whole grain, non-electronically stimulated, fully craft motivated, finger painted, glue-sticked, patience of Job type parenting that all my homeschooling, faith saving, husband at home having neighbor wives seem to be so good at!
It is the fact that sometimes even MarthaFrickinStewart needs a break!

Here's our diversion...and the recipe in case you need a few moments to yourself.

2 Cups water
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Cup salt
2 Tablespoons Cream of Tarter (This stuff makes the dough last months, so resist the urge to leave it out)
Food coloring
2 Cups flour

Combine water, oil, salt, cream of tarter and food coloring in a saucepan and heat until warm and dissolved.  Remove from heat and add flour.  Stir and then turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, adding small pinches of additional flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to your hands.  Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mind The Gap

Mind the gap?  Nope.  I don't mind the gap at all.  I think it's precious.
Love you Marge!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tear Protectors

I wear these ridiculous goggles when I'm dicing onions because onions really mess me up...seriously.  I can dice a single onion and be red eyed and puffy for hours.  I can enter a room where onions have been chopped and get wrecked.  My neighbors practically have to call and warn me when they've got onions in their recipes.  But the good news is, these goggles have totally fixed the problem.  I wear them and people laugh at me, but I don't get a bleary eyed, mascara tracked, blotchy face anymore.  These ridiculous goggles have become an essential tool for me in the kitchen.

Now... if I could just find a pair of goggles to wear that would protect me from all the other things in my life that regularly move me to tears...THAT would be a neat trick.  I love my onion goggles.  I need tired goggles!  Not the kind of tired that I get from not sleeping, but the kind of tired that makes me cry over changing the same baby 6 times in one hour because she has the runs, or the kind of tired that makes me cry when I'm trying to unload the dishwasher and I drop the same spoon 4 times and pick up the same spoon 4 times while trying to take it from the basket to the drawer.  Goggles to put on when being tired moves me to frustrated tears because I get Mona bundled against the cold weather in her hat, coat and mittens and in the time it takes to run upstairs and grab a pair of socks for the shoeless one, Mona removes every stitch of clothing on her body because "Mom, I had an itch on my butt."  Can I get some goggles for that?  Please.

Having a pair of goggles to keep me from crying would make it easier for me to do these things and countless others.  Like the shield that protects my eyes so I can safely wield a knife, sometimes I think I need goggles to protect me from my life.  Because like the onions I have no plan to stop cooking with, these wearisome things in my life are going to keep coming up.  Goggles.  Stylish, pink, padded with foam for comfort and always within reach when I'm about to do something that I know will leave me red eyed and puffy for hours...ya know, like going to the grocery store with three children.