The Second-Most Humiliating Experience in P.E. Class, Next Only to Dodge Ball

Good news, everyone! The moment you’ve been waiting for—and feared would never happen—has FINALLY arrived…The chance to relive those cherished memories from junior high gym class (“middle school” for you damn twenty-somethings)…Yes, you guessed it…All adults are now able to…take…the…PRESIDENTIAL FITNESS TEST!!! I know, I know. Don’t be embarrassed. I cried too when I first found out.

Man, I’m not sure which I’m looking forward to more—the shuttle run or the flexed-arm hang. Each was such a rich source of pleasure (and by “pleasure” I mean “pain”) during those awkward pre-teen years. I can still recall praying that I would somehow spontaneously break my ankle so I wouldn’t have to run back and forth across the gym, bending down to touch the lines, wondering if I should be MORE embarrassed that the boys could see down my shirt each time I bent down or that I came in near last, beating only a couple poor souls who had the misfortune of being even more uncoordinated than I.

Sit-ups (called “curl-ups” now) weren’t quite so bad. You didn’t need much coordination or arm strength, which was a plus for me. And we took turns with a partner, which meant that really only ONE person was watching us when we “performed” instead of a whole gaggle of gawking, hormonal adolescents who somehow always got away with making catcalls or making fun.( I swear, P.E. teachers are all secretly sadistic at heart!)

Today kids do the Sit and Reach, where they have to sit and try to reach past their toes or something to that effect. I don’t remember having to prove my fitness in this event. I think instead we had to do something called the flattering name of “burpees.” A cross between a toe-touch and a push-up. Another activity where you had to worry about your shirt flying up and your boobs (or lack thereof) being exposed to the world. Or at least your 6th period class.

Next came running the mile. Oh how I hated this. How I nearly sacrificed my firstborn to the rain gods to get out of this event. How I remember wishing for death when I realized I had only reached the quarter-mile mark and was already gasping for breath. Testing students on their ability to run one mile is asinine if you ask me. It’s not a test of physical fitness. No—or at the most, extremely few—7th graders have been training for the next decathalon. Either you’ve got the running genes in you, or you don’t. Either you were built to run, or you were built to loathe running (and runners too, for that matter). Me? Well, I’m pretty sure you can fetch a good guess…

Finally, it was my turn to really shine, my turn to really show off those arm muscles…uh, yeah…Pull-ups and the flexed arm hang. Or as I like to refer to them: The Ultimate Humiliation. “Class, gather ’round. C’mon, c’mon, get closer. You short ones, come to the front. I want to make sure everyone can see.” Every judgmental eye was on me as I reached up and grabbed that cold metal bar. Okay, deep breath. You can do it. And….pull! Pull! Pull! But, alas, it was not meant to be. My puny arm muscles gave their best effort but merely buckled under the pressure. Pull-ups: The Big Zero. Pretty sure that wasn’t getting me a stinkin’ Presidential medal.

Oh, but wait! We still have the flexed-arm hang! There’s still hope! I pictured how proud I would be to wear that medal around my neck, strutting down the hallway, as my teacher lifted me up until my chin was just above the bar. “Okay, ready? Now, just hold it there!” And he let go. Everyone held their breath and said a silent prayer. (I like to remember it happening this way, but in reality, I’m fairly certain my loyal classmates were snickering and pointing.) One…two…three—AND, we’re done. I crashed to the floor in a heap of public defeat. There would be no Presidential Fitness Award. Just the satisfaction of knowing I was a big loser—and that I got to prove it in front of all of my peers! Once again, our government, working its magic…

So why, oh, why, wouldn’t I jump at the chance to relive those fine moments…especially considering how incredibly fit I am now? I can picture the scene…a crowd gathered at the gym, watching this 20-pound overweight mama running and bending, pulling and flexing, flab flying, muscles screaming…all in the name of Presidential Physical Fitness. Sorry, G.W., but you’ll have to save your fake-signature-adorned award for someone else.

It’s not that I don’t understand the need to be physically fit. I get it. I really do. Kids should eat healthy and get plenty of exercise. But I just don’t see how subjecting them to this “test” is supposed to motivate them. And furthermore, I don’t think that this test is a reliable indicator of whether or not a child is “fit.” Let’s look at Boy #1 for example. His fourth grade class got the pleasure of participating in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test this year, and…the poor boy takes after his mama. He did okay on the curl-ups, the shuttle run, and the sit and reach. It wasn’t “presidential award” good or anything–don’t get me wrong–but decent. Then there was the mile. Not pretty. I’ll just tell you that there were tears. And how many pull-ups could he do? That’s right–zero. Flexed arm hang? A whole 5 seconds. So did that motivate him to get out there and exercise? No. All it did was send him home thoroughly embarrassed and down on himself because he was “the only one in his whole class” who didn’t get the Presidential Award or even the National Award (the loser-ish “runner up” award). This is a boy who is already overly critical of his body image at age 10…Gee, thanks, President Bush.

When he brought home his results, it was complete with “comments” from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Here’s what it recommends he do to become more “physically fit.” (Keep in mind that this is a boy who lives for sports—plays competitive football, wrestling, baseball, and golf—and is outside with his friends 24/7 playing pick-up football games, exploring our neighborhood pond, or just running around being a 10-year-old boy.)

Abdominal Strength: Your scores indicate a need to improve your abdominal strength. Try doing sit-ups, stomach crunches or other forms of abdominal exercises for 10 minutes per day, 4–5 days per week.
Agility: Your scores indicate a need to improve your quickness and sprinting ability. Try doing activities that promote foot quickness and running in short bursts, such as jumping rope, tennis, handball, or basketball at least three times per week.
Flexibility: Your scores indicate a need to improve your flexibility. Try stretching for 5–19 minutes each day, perhaps before going to bed or after awakening as part of your routine.
Endurance: Your scores indicate a need to improve your endurance and distance running. Try doing cardiovascular activities such as jogging or walking, swimming, or bicycling, for 20 minutes per day, 3 days per week.
Upper Body Strength: Your scores indicate a need to improve your upper body strength. Try doing push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, or working with dumbbells 3-4 times per week. Do as many repetitions as you can without undue strain or discomfort.

Seriously! Is it just me, or would this seem completely overwhelming to a 10-year-old? Especially one who is active every single day and is actually a talented athlete? I’m sorry, but I would much rather see #3 outside, running around being a kid than worrying about how many reps he did with the weights this week. Maybe I’m just being an overprotective or overly sensitive mom, but I find the comments, as well as the whole program, totally ridiculous. I think it has good intentions but fails miserably at measuring a child’s true “physical fitness.”

I would like to see the presidents have to perform the Presidential Physical Fitness Test on national television before being sworn into office. President Bush–he could probably hold his own. Clinton? Hmmm…he would’ve been another story. Maybe if cheeseburger curl-ups and bench-pressing interns were events…

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really need the national government telling me I’m slow, weak, and uncoordinated. I can pretty much pick that up on my own. And the award? Well, my trophy case HAS had a special place reserved for it in the hopes that someday, somehow, I would get another chance to prove my worth…But, on second thought, I think my 10-year-old’s baseball team photo would look really nice in there instead.

Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom

The pack stalks its prey, watching…waiting…looking for the right moment to make its move…go in for the kill…One of the pack members—the alpha male—gives orders to the others. “Climb up to its nest, using whatever means necessary.” The others obey, eager for the reward that awaits them. And suddenly, quick as lightning, its over. Plastic and paper fly as the pack devours their quarry. Their hands and faces drip with the sticky satisfaction of a job well done…That 6-pack of Hershey’s Chocolate Bars never had a chance.

You’ve heard the phrase, “They’re eating me out of house and home”? Well, I’m pretty sure that was first uttered out of the mouth of a mom with three boys. At first, I thought it was good—”They’ve got such strong appetites!” Then it became annoying—”OK, who put the licked-clean peanut butter jar back in the cupboard??” Now? Now I’m downright scared. Scared that they have a tapeworm or that disorder that causes them to never feel full. Scared that if it’s this bad when they’re 10, 6, and 3, what’s it going to be like when they’re 17, 13, and 11? Scared that our income will not rise proportionately enough to offset the rise in their ability to devour. Hunger inflation, if you will. Scared that we’ll have to cash in our 401(k)s to pay the grocery bills and will then be working at those grocery stores until we drop dead at the age of 98 while asking, “Paper or plastic?”

Let’s take last night for an example. It started out innocent enough. Another gourmet meal of Hamburger Helper (Cheesy Potatoes this time), baby carrots, and grapes. Of course, Boy #2 wouldn’t eat said Hamburger Helper, so he got his old standby—PB&J. Well, then #3 wanted PB&J, so I made him one too, which he then proceeded to “eat” by licking the peanut butter and jelly off the bread and then taking one bite in the middle of each slice of bread. Boy #1, being a tweener and all, was still hungry after the HH, so I proceeded to make him a sandwich as well. I then got ready to attend a meeting and, being the nice mom I am, told #1 that I would stop at the store on my way home and pick up some ice cream so he could make us all milkshakes, which he learned how to do at school. (I’m pretty sure that’s on the ACT test.)

So…fast forward through meeting…trip through the grocery store at 8:00 to pick up ice cream and various other staples…finally carrying in the groceries to the kitchen at 8:45. #1 was waiting as I knew he would be, blender in hand. Even though it was bedtime, I was going to let him whip up some quick shakes for us all. THEN, I saw it—laying on the counter. A scream caught in my throat as my brain attempted to process the information. One Hershey’s full-size candy bar. The little cardboard piece that cradles the 6-pack of bars. Plastic wrap, shredded to bits. “DID YOU GUYS EAT THE CANDY BARS I HAD HIDDEN IN THE CUPBOARD?!?!?”

Looks of guilt sprinkled with a dash of pleasure came over their faces. No one spoke. “I SAID, DID YOU GUYS EAT THE CANDY BARS?!?!” I then noticed the bar stool that had been scooted across the floor and sat, incriminatingly, right beneath the cupboard. “Yes,” one of them finally squeaked.

“You ate FIVE candy bars between the THREE of you while I was gone?!”

Silence.

“Okay, so obviously someone had more than ONE full-size candy bar. I can do the math! WHO ate more than one?”

And then it came out. #1 had eaten a half of one. #2 ate a whole one. And—yes—that leaves 3 1/2 candy bars for my 3-year-old. At 8:00 at night.

Then came the lectures. “You do NOT eat food without asking!” and “Your teeth are going to FALL OUT, and I’m NOT going to pay your dentist bill!” and “Do I EVER buy candy bars for you just to snack on? EVER?!” (Which, by the way, no, I don’t.) and “We do NOT have money to just BLOW on a SIX-PACK of CANDY BARS that you SNARF DOWN FOR A BEDTIME SNACK!” Then, “Well, I guess we won’t get to eat s’mores when we use our fire pit then. That’s why I bought the candy bars!” (I don’t know who was more disappointed–them or me, because campfire [or fire pit] s’mores are my FAVORITE!)

Needless to say, #1 didn’t get to make the shakes.

Seriously, though, it’s like they’re savages! Nothing is safe in the kitchen. A bag of apples is gone in a day (and the slimy apple cores left on the floor, under the bed, in the car–yum!), cereal is looted the moment I bring it in the house, and yogurt? We won’t even go there. I try to at least buy healthy things for them to snack on, but it’s just ridiculous how much they eat! I can’t keep up! Husband says, “Don’t buy them ANY snacks anymore!” But I feel like such a sucky mom saying, “No, you CANNOT have a banana, #3! What are you thinking?” I mean, they need to eat, don’t they? I think I’ve read somewhere that they’re supposed to get vitamins and minerals, right?

I’m sure the blame lies on me. If I had any sort of control of my household, my kids would think twice before just helping themselves to whatever tickled their tastebuds. They wouldn’t think that the kitchen was like Wal-Mart, open 24 hours a day. Crap. Why does everything always have to fall back on parenting? This gig’s hard.

Although I do have to mention that #3 fell asleep RIGHT AWAY last night, without the usual begging, pleading, up-and-out-of-bed-54-times routine…Sugar coma? Maybe.

Hmmm…

Seriously, where was all this cool stuff when I was still having babies?!?


It’s like they’re taunting me. They know I’m done. No more babies for this mama. Not that I wouldn’t love to have another child…It’s just that I know my limitations. Like a rubber band, I know just how far I can be stretched until I either break or–even worse–go shooting across the room and put an eye out. So, why, oh why, must they come out with so many cool things for babies and baby-mamas now? Why, why, why?

Take, for instance, maternity clothes. This industry may well have made the most drastic improvements since I started having babies. When I was first pregnant, over *gulp* 11 years ago, maternity shirts were basically t-shirts that went to your knees. Soooo flattering for the pregnant belly. Was that supposed to fool everyone into thinking you didn’t really have another human being growing in your uterus? And that style did WONDERS for the butt too. Then there were the pants. Oh, the pants! Let’s see, take your pick: Either those knit pants tapered at the ankle to really accentuate the fact that your butt and stomach make you look like you are wearing an inner tube around your waist…OR a lovely pair of jeans, complete with the waist that ends right under your boobs and the, again, tapered legs that are about an inch too short to begin with and by the time you are in your ninth month, end right below your knees.

Now I find myself drawn to maternity clothes in the stores and actually consider purchasing them for my non-pregnant body and cutting out the tag so no one knows…In fact, I think maternity clothes have done a complete 180 and are now CUTER than non-maternity clothes. It’s a conspiracy…

I’m not against maternity tees with sayings on them. It’s just that the only choices when I was pregnant seemed to be “Baby on Board” or “Baby” with an arrow pointing down. Soooo clever. Now, however, a pregnant mama can make just about any statement with her belly! Take, for instance, this “Say hello to my lil friend” tee or this I’m-proud-to-be-hormonal Pregzilla shirt. Proof that the Wiggles and that make-your-baby-smart classical collection aren’t the only ones on the pregnant mama’s ipod–Rock Me Mama tees. Is it really so bad if your baby comes out of the womb already knowing the words to “Rock Me All Night Long” or “I Wanna Be Sedated”? And just knowing that I could wear M.C. Hammer on my preggo belly makes me ALMOST want to get knocked up again…almost…

Let’s move on to baby decor. Raise your hand if your nursery was decorated in one of the following: a) teddy bears or b) Baby Looney Tunes. I swear, those were the only choices when I was pregnant with my first. (We opted for the Teddy Bears. Tweety Bird frightens and confuses me.) Now, of course, new mamas have an almost limitless selection of bedding, blankets, and other accessories that are anything but “cutesy.” If I were to have Baby #4, I’d have a hard time deciding between this Modern Baby Boy Caffe Crib Bedding and the Animals Collection by Dwell Studio. (“I tawt I DIDN’T see a puddy-tat” in that nursery.)

And then there are the baby clothes. No longer resigned to all look alike in their white Gerber onesies and pastel Carter’s sleepers, babies now have it easier than ever to express their true selves (or at least who their mamas want their “true selves” to be). Some of these clothes are so stinkin’ cute I can’t stand it! Take, for instance, this creeper with a green pig saying “meow.” Oh, the irony! And it even comes in a tin lunch box! How cool is that? Or, if you want to get your baby on the road to ghettoville in a hurry, you can dress your little boy in this “Where my ho’s at?” tee. What may be even better than the saying on the shirt is the description of it: “When you are a pimp, your “Ho’s” are like your employees, and you have to know where your employees are.” I say true dat! The perfect shirt for a baby in my house may very well be this pirate shirt that exclaims “All hands on the poop deck!” What? … It even comes in a 6T? Ooh, some lucky boy in my house is gonna be wearing that for his school picture next fall…

Baby shoes used to be either 1) those horrible booties that would fall off their feet every 3.7 seconds or 2) bare feet. Now every baby I see has on those cute little soft shoes that actually STAY ON THEIR FEET (what a concept!) and are fashionable as well, like these Retro Bubbles Booties (What are the chances these come in a women’s size 9?) or these super-cute rocker baby pink guitar shoes that my baby girl would definitely have to have. How awesome is it that baby girls are no longer stuck with frilly girly-girl clothes? (Just say no to Disney Princesses!)

Okay, be honest now–how many of you have kept up-to-date with your child’s baby book? How many have purchased a baby book but only filled out the baby shower information even though your “baby” is now in first grade? How many have forgotten to even BUY a baby book for that 3rd or 4th child? Yeah, well, I’m blaming the fact that poor #3’s baby book is still shrink-wrapped on this excuse: his book is lame. If I had bought him this baby book, which was incidentally designed by a co-worker’s relative, I’d be looking for any excuse to write in it. “May 18, 2008, Today #3 picked his nose and then licked his finger.”

And where was this when I needed it? A Baby Care Timer for new parents! It tells you when you last changed a diaper, fed baby, laid baby down for a nap, and more–all at the push of a button! Now, if only if would actually change the baby, feed the baby, and rock the baby to sleep for you…

All right. Enough of the self-pity and new-mom envy. I don’t need any of that hip and trendy baby stuff to make me happy. All I need is my boys’ love…And this Zolo Cha Cha Buggy Rattle….And that’s all I need….I need this Angus the Cow Handsqueaker!…But that’s all I need. I need this too! And this! And this Fido Kerchief Bib! And that’s ALL I NEED!

“Sorry to tell you this, ma’am, but you’ve got a raging case of boys!”

WARNING: For those of you who picture me as the “ideal mom” with perfectly trained children and a house so immaculate that it makes Molly Maid jealous, STOP READING NOW. Put down the mouse and SLOWLY WALK AWAY from the computer. Pick up the latest copy of Martha Stewart Living and superimpose my head onto her body, especially if it’s in a photo where she’s making her own candles or arranging a stunning bouquet of flowers freshly picked from her own garden.

For those of you who prefer to know the REAL ME, continue reading at your own risk . . .

You may have been suspecting it for months…possibly years. But now, for the first time, the true signs are revealed:

How To Tell If You Have Boys Living in Your House.

1. Your house has been overrun by soldiers, knights, Star Wars characters, turtles with weapons, or basically anything that fights. You know for sure that you’ve got boys if the majority of these characters are missing limbs or are otherwise deformed.

(Notice the vacuum in the background? That’s just for show. We like to leave it out so people think that we’re really serious about cleaning. “It’s so much a part of our life, we can’t bear to shut it in the closet!”)

2. Your mantel is tastefully decorated with an angel, antique books, and … a nut cup.

(Enough said.)

3. You find a toilet paper holder underneath your kitchen table.

(I’m sure it was being used as some sort of weapon when it found its way under the chair. Since I’m “keeping it real” I’ll even tell you that it was under there for at least 3 days until I finally picked it up.)

4. Sunflower seed shells mysteriously appear on your kitchen floor.

“But Dad spits out his seeds on the ground!”

“Yes—OUTSIDE!!!”

5. You find a name carved into your kitchen table.

(If you can’t tell, it says “Jake.” I actually caught Boy #2 doing this with a fork at dinnertime. Not because he was mad or anything. Just because. And not because HIS name is Jake, either. Jake is our favorite 14-year-old baby-sitter. I guess he’s got a permanent place at the table!)

6. At least one of your kitchen chairs has been glued again . . . and again . . . and again . . .

(If you do find that you’re living among boys, know that you will NOT want to get new furniture of any kind until the last one has left the nest. A lesson we’ve learned the hard way.)

7. Your dog’s brand-new L.L. Bean personalized dog bed has been “decorated” with black permanent marker.

(I used to cry when things like this happened. Now I barely give it a shrug.)

8. Your cupboard goes from full to looking like this approximately 30 minutes after you’ve returned from the grocery store.

(Notice that they’ve left the raisins, the English walnuts, and the bottle of salad toppings. How generous of them!)

9. An icon for World of Warcraft somehow shows up on the desktop of your computer.

(This is also a sign that will be featured in upcoming post: How To Tell If You Have Geeks Living in Your House…)

10. No matter how hard or how often you scrub, your bathroom reeks of urine. And even if you try to light a candle, it then just smells like baked apple pie and urine.

Well, there you have it. If you read the signs and couldn’t relate to any of them, chances are you are boy-free in your house.

BUT—if you found yourself identifying with the photos or descriptions, I hate to tell you this . . . but you’ve got boys.

It’s best to face the facts now and learn to live with them.

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The Hidden Dangers of Fire Safety

I’m the meanest mom in the world. It’s official. This morning it was Boy #2 who bestowed this honor on me. Why, you may ask? What did I do to be worthy of such a title? Did I make him eat All-Bran instead of Cocoa Pebbles? Did I tell him he had to pick up his dirty underwear off the kitchen floor? No–worse. I’m almost too ashamed to even put it in print…Almost.

Here goes. *gulp* I would not let him crawl out his bedroom window (which is on the second floor, mind you) and jump down from the roof. I know, I know. I’m too strict, aren’t I? I’m probably injuring his self-esteem by telling him no…Wow, I really am so mean.

You may be thinking, “This can’t be true. She just made this up because she couldn’t think of anything to write about today.” Well, you’re partly right. I was struggling last night with what I should write about next…so many ideas but none of them really jumping up and down waving their arms going, “Me! Me! Pick me!” That was, until this morning. Leave it up to my kids to provide me with material so rich that the posts practically write themselves. The truth, cliche as it may be, is: I couldn’t make up this s@#t if I tried!

So back to the argument about jumping out the window (Doesn’t every mother have this argument with their 6-year-old? Isn’t it a rite of passage, kind of like arguing with your kid about when she/he can get her/his ears pierced —I am so PC!— or engaging in negotiations about curfews?).

This all started a few nights ago when I was reading a book about firefighters to Boy #2 and Boy #3. I THOUGHT I was being a good mom by initiating the conversation about what we should do in the case of a fire in our house. A house in our neighborhood had recently been destroyed in a fire, so the need for creating a “fire plan” for our family was all too real. So I told Boy #2 that if he couldn’t get out his door, he should climb out the window and wait on the roof for the firefighters to help him down. It was such an innocent comment. Little did I know that it would morph into something ugly and loud a few days later.

Seriously, I told him to get his shoes on and come outside so I could take him and his brother to school. His reply? “I’ll meet you outside. I’m going to go out my window.”

WHAT???!??? At first I thought he was kidding, because my kids often think it’s fun to say things just to stress me out. Then I realized that he was serious–dead serious– or at least jump-off-the-roof-and-break-your-leg-and-get-
taken-away-from-your-family-by-DHS-because-your-mom-let-you-jump-
out-a-second-story-window serious.

“You can’t jump out the window! What the heck are you thinking?” I so patiently said to #2.

“But you told me I could jump out my window!” he yelled back.

“Yeah, if there’s a FIRE in our house and you can’t use the doors!” I hollered, checking my watch to see just HOW late we’d be this morning.

“Well, I’ll just pretend there’s a fire!” he said.

“You can’t jump out your window! Did you hear me? You will BREAK YOUR LEG! Seriously, why are you being soooo irrational?”

“What’s irrational mean?”

(Why did I use the word irrational with a six-year-old??) “It means you aren’t making sense. Now get your shoes on and GET TO THE VAN!”

“No! I’m not going to school if you don’t let me jump out the window!”

“So I’m going to call your teacher and tell her that you refuse to come to school because I won’t let you crawl out your window and jump down a story off the roof and hurt yourself? Good plan!” (If you’re wondering, NO, I NEVER use sarcasm with my kids. NEVER.)

So on the argument went, and if you’re wondering, yes, I did eventually win. ..If you call winning wasting 10 minutes on a fight about jumping out a window (an argument I’m sure half the neighborhood heard), throwing a six-year-old into a van with his brothers and a dog, peeling out of my driveway, and driving like a maniac (or a manic mom) to the school (only coming to “rolling stops” at stop signs), realizing I was so flustered I didn’t even put a bra on…

Such was my morning. At least it gave me something to write about… Is 9:48 too early to start drinking?

Mr. Sandman Hates Me


Aaah, bedtime. That sweet interlude between a busy day and a restful slumber. Some might even call it–magical. That special quiet time when you can snuggle with your little cherubs and then send them off peacefully to Neverland…

Yeah, right. As I so eloquently expressed it to Husband a few nights ago, “I f-ing hate bedtime.”

For some parents, bedtime signals the beginning of some alone time for mom and dad, a time when they can fire up the TiVo or throw in some laundry or read a book or work on their blog... For me, however, it signals the beginning of a nightly battle, where I will eventually fall asleep in me bed (I just typed “me bed”–who am I, Popeye??) still wearing my clothes from the day, covered up by a small corner of sheet and using my arm as a pillow due to the fact that at least one of my kids is beside me hogging the covers and using my pillow. (This morning I woke up at 5:00 to my dog barking, Boy #2 and Boy#3 laying practically on top of me, and Husband sleeping on the couch…)

If you can’t tell, I’m becoming extremely bitter about bedtime. I keep thinking about the fact that my sister’s oldest, who is the same age as my oldest, just announces every night, “I’m going to bed. Good night!” And that’s it! Grrr…

So, what do the experts have to say? What am I doing wrong to turn this into such a battle? Let’s consult the AP article, “Bed Time Routines for Children” (which happens to have the clever subtitle: “How to Create Bed Time Routines for Children”).

“If you are a parent, you may have a nightmare on your hands each night when you are trying to put your child to bed. This is because a lot of children simply do not want to quit playing and go to bed. [OK, wait, gotta write this down. Kids don’t want to go to bed. Okay, so far so good…]A lot of parents actually say that it takes well over an hour to get their child into bed and then the child simply pops right back out of bed.” [Yes, yes, last night it was about 2 hours. But I’m not sure my kids “pop” right back out of bed. It’s more like a whiny slither…]

When you develop a routine for your child you can eliminate a lot of the bedtime struggles that you normally face. This is because these routines give the child a chance to wind down while having some say as to how this routine will be carried out.” [Okay, well, we do have a bedtime routine. I’ve never just said “Go to bed!” and expected it to happen. Let’s see what else you’ve got to say…]

“Your child’s bedtime routine should begin with a ten-minute warning in which they are told that in ten minutes they are to get on their pajamas. [Two out of my three boys prefer to sleep in their underwear.] At the end of the ten minutes, let your child know that it is time to go put on their pajamas. If you find that this doesn’t work, you can always insert another reminder at the five-minute point.” [Well, my kids know that bedtime is 8:00, and I do give a warning, which is usually followed by protests and pleading, but I stick to my guns…]

“Once your child has their pajamas on, they should then be instructed to brush their teeth.” [Yeah, I’ve got really good intentions on this one…but am I the only one who wakes up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night in the realization that my kids haven’t brushed their teeth in a week? Yes? I’m the only one? That’s disgusting? I was just kidding…I meant to say that my kids LOVE to brush their teeth. They actually beg me to let them brush after every meal. And floss too! The dentist actually told me to lay off the brushing for a while because they were wearing the enamel off their teeth…] “After your child has brushed his/her teeth then your child can pick out a book. It depends upon the child as to whether you want to let your child look through the entire bookcase [In the case of Boy #3, this involves actually REMOVING every book from the bookcase as well.] or if you want to offer your child only three choices. The child can then decide to sit on the floor or bed, or lay down on the bed to have the book read to them. You should have already decided how long you would read to your child. If you read for thirty minutes then do a count down and announce when there is only ten minutes, then only five minutes left.” [In our house, the reading routine usually begins with everyone fighting as to who I’m going to read to first, resulting in someone screaming, “It’s not fair!” and “You ALWAYS read to him first!” and “You hate me!” Then they fight about who gets to be in the room to listen while I read. Right now Boy #2 and Boy #3 both lay in #2’s bed with me squished in the middle and #2 managing every night to somehow elbow me in the chest. (Don’t get me wrong–I love reading to them. We’ve done this every since they were babies. It’s just the insanity leading up to and following this that I could do without.) When I read to Boy #1, I lay on the floor (usually cushioned by a pile of clothes that he refuses to put away) and increase my volume as I try to read over the interruptions (“#3!! Get out of my room!!! Mom–make him get out of my room!! GO TO BED!! Mom–make him get in his bed!!!”). Maybe this explains why I wake up with a sore throat nearly every morning…

“Once you have finished reading a book
to your child, tuck your child into their bed and turn off the lights. It is time for your child to go to sleep.” [Sounds easy enough. Except my kids are never satisfied with the amount of reading I do, either. “Don’t stop there!! No, read more, pleeeeaaaase! Please, Mom, please!! Just two more pages! You never read enough!! It’s not fair!!” Aaah, the rewards of motherhood never end…]

“If you have a child that will not stay in their bed then tell your child that you will be back in five minutes. After five minutes, go back to your child’s room and tell your child that you will be back in ten minutes. After ten minutes, go back. This will help your child develop the trust that you will return.” [Hmmm…okay, but what if your kid DOESN’T stay in bed for the five minutes or ten minutes?]

“While you are establishing this bedtime routine, you need to stick with the times that you state. This is what truly helps develop the routine for your child. This also helps your child know what to expect each night. Of course, this is going to take a lot of patience. However, after a few weeks [Weeks?! Try 10 years!] your child will begin to trust the pattern and stop fighting with you at bedtime. This is because the child is involved in making the choices that are a necessary part of this pattern. Soon enough your bedtime struggles will be completely eliminated.” [My kids do get choices. “#3, you can either get back in that bed or get spanked. Your choice.”]

This is what ensues after I tuck in each boy and give him a kiss (crossing my fingers every night that they will just FALL ASLEEP FAST!
#2: Mom, I need a drink of water!
Me: Okay, just a sec. (I bring #2 a glass of water.) Good night!
#3: Mom, I need a drink of water!
Me: Okay, just a sec. (I bring a glass of water.) Good night!
#1: Mom, will you shut my closet door?
Me: Yes, just a sec. (I shut the closet door.)
#2: Mom, #3 is in my room.
Me: #3, get back in your bed right now.
#3: Is it a school night? (Because he can sometimes lay with #2 if it’s not a school night.)
Me: Yes, it’s a school night. Go back to bed.
#2: Mom, did you know that when you take a drink of water, beer, pop–anything–you stop breathing?
Me: No, I didn’t know that. (I’m still wondering how “beer” got thrown into there.) Did you learn that at school?
#2: No.
Me: Did you figure it out on your own?
#2: Yes.
Me: Well, I’ve never really thought about it, but you might be right. Maybe we can try to find that out tomorrow. Good night.
#2: Good night.
#3: Mom, I need Blankie!
Me: Where is it?
#3: Downstairs!
Me: *sigh* Okay, just a sec. (Tromp downstairs. Tromp back up.) Here you go.
#3: And I need Leonard (his lizard).
Me: (finding Leonard on the floor) Here you go. *kiss* GOOD NIGHT!
(I get 5 minutes to myself downstairs before hearing foosteps.)
Me: #3? Is that you?
#3: I want to sleep with you!
Me: No, you need to sleep in your own bed!
#3: But I’m scared! Pwease, Mommy!

And this is how it goes until I either give in and let him lay in our bed or I lay down on his floor (cushioned by all of the clothes he’s thrown out of his dresser in an attempt to find “the perfect outfit.”) until he falls asleep and I fall asleep too, waking at 2:00 a.m. with a backache and the imprint of the snap from a pair of jeans in my cheek.
And then I wonder why I can’t ever seem to get anything done, don’t want to wake up early to exercise, and can’t kick the caffeine habit.

And we won’t EVEN go into how the DOG fits into all this...Bark! Bark! Bark!

Well, time to jump in the shower so I can face my SECOND-favorite routine: the morning routine! But that’s for another blog…

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Due to technical difficulties, I am unable to bring you the blog I started writing last night. I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but the computer curse struck again! This time, it’s the cord. (Nothing is safe.) If you’re wondering if a three-prong plug will still work if one of the prongs breaks off inside the socket, the answer is–yes, actually, but a bit sporadically. Last night the amputated plug was just not able to pump out enough juice. (If you’re also wondering–yes, I’m pretty sure this is a fire just waiting to happen.) This is seriously about the 17th cord I’ve gone through; I think it’s a conspiracy designed to keep Steve Jobs in designer underwear.

ANYHOO, today, instead, I leave you with these photos to ponder, courtesy of my middle sister (momof2dancers), who happens to live right behind me. She sent me these photos while I was at work one day, sending a chill immediately down my spine. Yes, this is my house, with a huge, black, foreboding bird perched on top.

I’m pretty sure Edgar Allan Poe is buried under the foundation.

Would anyone else take this as a bad omen?

A Schmoopy Mother’s Day Post

Someday, when I’m old and senile, trying to remember if I’ve taken my fiber supplement and if today is pinochle day or bridge day, I hope I never forget these moments from Mother’s Day 2008, arranged birth-orderly by son:

Boy #1
The look of disappointment in your eyes as I walked in on you preparing breakfast in bed for me. We both knew that I’d spoiled the surprise but seemed to come to a silent agreement of “I know nothing!” as I yawned, stretched my arms, and loudly declared, “I’m still tired–I’m going back to bed!” The toast was more like warmed-up bread and the fact that I don’t like Raisin Bran wasn’t helped by the fact that it was Generic Raisin Bran–but still it was the sweetest breakfast I have ever had the pleasure of eating. I didn’t have the heart to tell you that I hadn’t taken my thyroid pill yet and I’m not supposed to eat for an hour after taking it–Neither protesting taste buds nor underactive thyroid would destroy #1’s moment to shine on Mother’s Day. No matter that you called me LAZY twice this week in a prepubescent haze of frustration. Today you are my little boy who just wanted to make Mommy happy. Mission accomplished.

Boy #2
Your adorable I’m-trying-not-to-smile pursed-lip half-smile as you handed me a paper sack and your husky voice said, “Happy Mother’s Day.” I didn’t have the heart to tell you that I’d already eaten breakfast, courtesy of #1, but fortunately the second course of breakfast consisted only of a Special K breakfast bar, a packet of tea, and a picture of me, with my beautiful red pouty lips and brown yarn hair, in bed. Next came two more cards, thanks to a thoughtful and creative kindergarten teacher, and then another card “because I wanted to give you one that I made at home,” this one expressing love the best way that a 6-year-old can: “I love you more than God.” Someday, sweet boy, we’ll discuss that you should really love God MORE than Mommy, but for today, I will take that as my biggest compliment to date.

Boy #3
The aura of independence that surrounded you as you sat on the floor, late in the afternoon, trying to play a game of solitaire Cootie. How you studied that game board, trying to decide what to do and the look of intrigue as you realized the countless combinations of Cootie parts! Then came “Play with me, Mommy!” and I knew there was nothing that I’d rather do with my baby-who’s-no-longer-a-baby on Mother’s Day.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, people, in some ways it was still business as usual: I washed a blanket my dog had peed on in his crate; scrubbed a stock pot with spaghetti from 2 days ago; cleaned up #3 after he announced at the playground, “I’m poopy!”; dug 2 pairs of shoes, 2 magazines, one of my freelance style manuals, and a baseball out from under the couch after #1 and #2 had surprised me by “cleaning” the living room; said, “Well, I don’t feel sorry for you because I told you guys to stop because someone was going to get hurt” at least 14 times; and yelled, “Why are there 5 Tootsie Pop wrappers on the floor?”

BUT, I also spent a beautiful hour watching my three boys at the playground help one another climb up rock walls, race across “river stones” and play a retro game of hide-and-seek. And not one yell, one cry of, “Mom–he hit me!” or “It’s not fair–he won’t let me play!” Not one it’s-so-hard-to-be-the-youngest scream of frustration. Just a blue sky and a good day for being brothers. And a GREAT day for being the mother of brothers.

Thanks, boys, for a laid-back, around-the-house, remember-why-it’s-good-to-be-a-mommy Mother’s Day. From the words of #3: “I love you all the days.”