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The Battle of Crayola

Crayons Image

A few weeks ago, I decided to take my children to the Crayola Experience as an afternoon activity.  I thought it was the Crayola Factory, but Experience was probably more accurate, because I’m pretty sure they’re not making the crayons at this location.  And, for me, it was definitely an experience.

We were a party of four, one adult to each child and my aunt and I took advantage of the opportunity to leave the stroller in the car.  Typically my life is two against one, and the stroller is a must.  But with two adults, man to man defense is possible, most times.

It was a great afternoon, super cute crayons and markers were made.   We learned about the Crayola version of Play Doh, “a superior product,” according to the staff person, and much fun was had.  The children behaved like rock stars, going from room to room without so much as a peep of resistance.  They even seemed to take the news of our visit’s end in stride.

Then, in a super generous gesture to convert my daily passes into season passes, my aunt, the other grown up, needed to have her hands free to pay and could not continue to carry my son.

Charlie bolted like a boy with a plan.  Like lightening, his two year old little feet hit the polished concrete floor running.  He jetted straight under the roped dividers.  And no, he didn’t run parallel inside the ropes, like civilized people at Disney.  He cut his own path, straight under the dividers, missing the ropes by inches.  I trailed a few feet behind him, doing what must have looked like a drunken limbo as I tried to keep up.

In the course of pursuing Charlie, I had to set Giuliana down.  Now, both of my children were darting around the room.  From the ticket line through the coat room and to the water fountains my little lovelies were running laps and laughing their little heads off as I pursued them.

To exacerbate my shame, Charlie let out a cough that sounded directly out of a TB ward.  The last lingering symptom from a cold he had weeks before, it was a cough that he typically had once a day.  And I guess this was the moment.  So, as I ran around like a woman on the edge, I added the task of uttering “he’s not sick,” to everyone and no one in particular.

At some point, I was able to grab one child, and then eventually the other.  It was a blur who surrendered first.  I staggered to the register, a thirty pound child on each hip.  I had won the battle, but I was defeated.  I was a mortified, sweaty, exhausted mess, whose hair was more all over the place than usual.

I stood at the counter, hoping that the staff person had satisfied her information gathering needs and and I could be released from this embarrassing experience.  I had given birthdates, addresses and more. I know it is not true, but it felt like forever.  I wanted it to be over.  I wanted the clerk to take pity, hurry up and let us get out of there.

As I stood with burning biceps, holding my two wiggling children, the clerk twisted the knife.  “Okay,” she said, “look right over here and smile, Jill.  I’m going to take your picture.”

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Big Bird’s Basket of Terror

Sesame-Street

After a successful family trip to Hershey Park, my husband and I figured it was time to bring our children to Sesame Place. Huge fans of Elmo, like most kids their age, we figured they’d like to meet him and see his face plastered on nearly every light post, sign and dinner plate we encountered.

Our day went off fantastically. We took our time getting to the park, had a leisurely breakfast and missed the rush hour traffic. After a few meet and greets with characters, we headed for the rides.

On the first two rides, my husband and father were the adults in charge. As expected the kids were a little antsy waiting in line, and very enthusiastic on the rides. Smiles and waves were plenty.

For the third ride, my mother and I stepped up to accompany the children on a balloon ride featuring Big Bird. For those unaware, it’s the equivalent of a slow moving teacup ride which elevates to what seems like 20 or 30 feet off the ground.

No problem, I thought. I now know, I thought wrong.

Because what I learned is this.  The problem with a ride that slowly elevates and swirls at a snail’s pace is that it gives little kids a chance to wiggle around in their seats, attempt to stand up and move around– at 20 or 30 feet above ground. It gives new moms a chance to envision all sorts of terrible outcomes. And it gives grandmothers a chance to join in the mayhem of worry.

No way would there have been time to entertain my inner Nervous Nelly if I were whipping around in Grover’s Tea Cups trying to keep down my lunch.

My logical brain knows that our ride was no longer than any other. But at the time, it seemed like we took a lifetime to get back down to a scraped knee’s distance from the ground. If the Gods of Amusement Park Rides were smiling down upon us with extra ride time—thanks, maybe next time.

Then, as quickly as it began, the ride was over. We were all on land again, laughing. And if I’m being fair to the Big Yellow Bird, I know, the terror is mine. I brought it into the basket with me. Most likely, I brought it into the delivery room with me.

And while I’m sure next time I could just duct tape the kids to the inside of the basket, or bubble wrap the ‘em individually, I know that the worry is part of my job. Like it or not.

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A Mother’s Legacy in the Eyes of a Two Year Old

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So, I understand that parenting is advertised as a job that is often thankless.  My kids are two, redundant if you’ve been reading along, but informative for my new friends.  (Happy little aside– No more qualifying their ages in months.  I say they are two, not 24 months, not 2 at the end of the month.  Two, period, end of sentence.)

And with two comes even more talking.  Most of the talking is cute and exciting, but some of it has definitely piqued my interest, and I wonder if I would be wise to be offended.

My mom spends a fair amount of time with my children, and apparently has made an impression on them that she is the owner of our vacuum.  I believe this, because my daughter will open the closet, point to it, say “vacuum” and then say my mother’s name.  Despite me staking my claim on the vacuum by saying that it is actually Mommy’s.  It still belongs to “Meem.”

I thought this was a cute association and entertained some friends with the story.  This little nugget reinforced that my little girl is how I see her, perceptive and bright–able to put things together.  It seemed win win, until recently, when my daughter’s latest declaration involved patting my favorite chair in the living room with her hand and saying “Mama.”  Never mind the cleaning, laundry, bathing, feeding and other things I do in broad daylight as a mother.  My mother goes with the vacuum.  And me, I go with the chair.

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Twinkies are Back!!

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Last November, when I learned that Hostess was going out of business, I was stunned.  No more Hostess treats.  No more Twinkies???   How could that little yellow spongy piece of American culture, with its bottom distinguished by three prominent entry wounds from shots of vanilla cream filling be no more?

Twinkies were never a staple in my home when I was a kid, or as an adult.  I can probably count on one hand the number of Twinkies I have had in the last ten years.  But somehow, when I learned Hostess was shutting down, it felt like a very small, sugary and probably fat laden thread of the American fabric was being lost.  And that was kind of sad.

Last week, after more than a half a year’s absence from retail shelves, Twinkies returned.  And all is right with the world.  Not because I am going to incorporate them into my diet, because I have yet to even lay eyes, let alone hands on a box of the new Twinkies.  But, because Twinkies were the Cliff Claven of snacks, not the tastiest or trendiest treat, but predictable and constant—like that element in the room you may not always appreciate, but you miss when it’s gone.

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Stop, Think, then Tweet

Okay, by now many of you may have heard about this story, but I believe it warrants discussion.  Last week, ABC aired a new show called Whodunnit?  Essentially, it’s a reality program where contestants with investigative backgrounds are given the task of analyzing a murder scene.  The contestant whose analysis is the worst is “killed.”  So, in the course of the first episode, two people were “killed.”  Notice how I used the quotation marks…

Now here’s where some folks got confused.  Apparently after the show aired, people took to social media outlets in disbelief, asking whether two people were actually murdered as part of the show.

Yes, really.

Now, here’s my version of taking the high road.   And yes, there’s a little bit of snark on the path of my high road.

Instead of mocking people who thought that it is within the realm of possibility that a major US television network would murder citizens as part of a television show, I will take a different tack.  I don’t need to add to the pile.   From what I read, anyone who was on the business end of one of these tweets got their comeuppance and more from the rest of the world.

I’ll go a different route and suggest stopping, taking a breath, then tweeting or posting.  Have a coffee, get a soda, eat a sandwich– then get back to your keyboard or smartphone and tweet away.  Believe me, much embarrassment and conflict will be avoided. Now, I know I may be acting like a cockeyed optimist by believing that given a few seconds pause, people would do a splash of critical thinking and say, “Nah, that’s not possible.” Or “no, that’s not legal.”  Or even the mother of all possible questions– “when did the same network that broadcast Home Improvement and Full house get into the business of murder???”

Mine is a simple message.  Stop, Think, then Tweet.

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Naive Mother of Twins, Part 1

After spending an enjoyable morning at the mall, my kids and I ventured to the card store to choose a birthday card for their grandmother.  Moods were even, tummies were full.  I had no reason to think we would have anything but a peaceful retail experience.

I wheeled the stroller, which seats one child in front of the other, up the aisle of the card store and zeroed in on the Birthday section.  Then it began.  It was as if my kids were responding to some anti-parent starter’s gun that only toddlers can hear.  They both began grabbing cards from the racks.  And in what I can only describe as a planned tactical measure to make my plight to return the cards impossible, they both grabbed from different sides of the aisle.

Congratulations on your Baby Girl and Happy Birthday Dad cards were flying into the stroller and all over the floor.  It was like a kaleidoscope of golf tees and baby carriages.   My two hands were no match for their very determined four.  I must have resembled Lucille Ball in the I Love Lucy episode where she works at the chocolate factory and is furiously trying to keep up with the conveyor belt of chocolates.

Flanked on both ends of the aisle, by other card shoppers, I could not even whisk the kids out of the aisle and stop the greeting card bleeding.  It felt like one of those war movies where the bullets fly in slow motion, hitting the target who is slowly jolted from the impact and someone yells out a deep, distorted “Nooooooooooooooooooooo!” before he eventually hits the ground.

Somehow, I managed to liberate the cards from my kids and seek pity from a trio of twenty-something women shopping for baby cards who moved so I could be free from the aisle.

Now it was time to pay the piper.  Well, she was more of a saleswoman than a piper, but you know what I mean.

I was the only person in line when I approached the counter and handed the woman the pile of twenty plus cards that my children had collected.  She had a perplexed look on her face when I explained that I would be only too happy to put them away, however, the minute I entered the aisle, I would no doubt return with twenty more.

I singled out the one card, Congratulations on your Baby Girl with the pink baby carriage on the front and told her that I needed to purchase this particular card, because one of the kids had ripped the envelope. (FYI–I know exactly who did it, I just change the names to protect the not so innocent)

When the saleswoman went to put the card into a bag, I told her that she could keep it.  Confused, she looked at me.  I told her that I was only buying the card because my child had ripped the envelope.

“Don’t worry about it,” she replied.  And that’s where I was confused, and went on to explain to her that I needed to pay for the envelope, and did not think it was okay for us to come into her store and damage her merchandise.

“It’s an envelope,” she replied, which puzzled me more, because I was pretty sure that particular detail was never up for debate.  And with that, she reached under the counter and showed me a battered cardboard box, filled with at least 100 envelopes of all sizes and colors.

“It’s just an envelope,” she repeated.  I thanked her, and I let it go.

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Their favorite cartoon continued…

Being a person who tends to analyze, I cannot let go of the fact that I am so bothered by this little cartoon character. It irks me to listen to him whine about not getting his way.  It seems like every episode, the sentence that sticks with me is “I don’t want to” – fill in the blank with any one of the multitude of thing he announces that he doesn’t want to do.

As I am pondering my distaste for this cartoon, yes, I am still thinking about a cartoon. Yikes, I am a grown adult who is passing moments of her life thinking about her dislike for a cartoon.  And I know this is not like penalty time in a soccer game that you get back at some point in life, these are moments of my life that I will not be getting back.

Now here’s where it gets really annoying.   It occurs to me that sometimes, qualities that annoy us in others are actually traits that we possess.  As you would expect, this gets me thinking more.  And then it hits me.

OMG!  Am I Caillou??  Just the thought is unsettling.

But I too have my moments where I probably linger on what isn’t working before I get focused on a solution.  And I am sure that sometimes I whine a little more than is productive.  And maybe I don’t really like change either.  I tell myself we are different because these are only small facets of my personality.

Then I wonder, if Caillou were real person, and his cartoon was his reality show, would he be complaining about the way the editors make him look?  Would he be saying that instead of showing clips of the ten hours he spent complaint-free, playing and laughing, the sensational editors chose to air his bratty moments to make him look like a diva for the ratings?

I wonder.  But then I tell myself that this is enough wondering about a cartoon.  For now.

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More like Curious George

I admit that I think it’s a little too early for me to dislike my children’s friends.  My kids are only 22 months old, and I have to say that I find their most treasured friend more than a little annoying.  Don’t worry, he’s only a cartoon.  And if it helps me look less like a heel, I feel like the biggest ogre reacting to a cartoon.  So here it is.

While my kids are pointing to the television, asking for this four year old bald boy decked out in primary colors, I cringe a little inside.  Yes, I am intelligent enough to know that the boy’s resistance to being with a babysitter, sharing his toys with his sister and telling his mother that he broke a friend’s toy, to name a few, are followed by an immediate lesson.  And I guess the idea is that my kids see the cartoon, learn the lesson and then they will want to share, stay with babysitters and fess up when they break their friends’ toys.

I get it.  I want my kids to learn lessons.

I guess I’d like to see them wrapped up in a different package.  And apparently, I’ll take the package of a monkey over my kids’ current favorite, because I find myself wondering…why can’t he be more like Curious George?

George is a little dude that I can’t say enough great things about.  Sure if he were friends with my kids, I would be scrubbing monkey poop off my carpet after every play date.  He’s curious by name and nature, and that sometimes gets him into trouble.  George certainly makes mistakes–like the time he tried to polish the Man with the Yellow Hat’s bowling ball and ended up sending him to the bowling alley with a gnome statue in his bowling bag.

But, George troubleshoots.  He focuses.  And in the end, he gets the job done.  He doesn’t stand around whining about what’s being put in front of him.  He’s action oriented.  And not to toot George’s horn any further, but I think the man won the bowling championship when George eventually got his ball to the alley.  A solid friend to have.

But I have been warned not to sweat the small stuff.  And for now, I am off to do laundry.  Because in the morning when the kids ask for their favorite shirts, the ones with you know who on them– I’d like them at least to be clean.

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Wasn’t it “Snake in the Grass?”

So, I’ve got a little bit of my mojo back, and I decided that it was time to get out and run.  I packed up the kids, stuffed animals, snacks and sippies, diapers, and the endless litany of things necessary for our travelling circus to operate and drove to the park.

The kids were super cooperative and quietly came alone for the ride in the jogging stroller on our 5k path,  a straight out and back on a paved path about 3 feet wide through 2 parks.  Not conditioned to run 3 miles with the stroller and kids yet, I ran a mile and spent the remainder doing intervals of running and walking– plenty of exertion.

About a quarter of a mile from my car, a man was standing directly in the middle of the path.  It was one of my running intervals, so I was confused that he wasn’t yielding to the oncoming double wide jogging stroller filled with kids and a huffing and puffing mom behind it.  He was looking in my direction, so I was puzzled.

Then the man said the 5 letter word that stopped me in my tracks.  “It’s a snake,” he said with a smile.  My halt was super abrupt.   As I stood behind the stroller, bouncing from foot to foot, probably looking like I needed a restroom, I announced that I was very afraid of snakes.

“Me too,” said the man who stood about 12 inches from this particular snake who I could see was stretched  across the middle of the path.  I wanted to educate the man, tell him that if he was indeed afraid of snakes, he was awfully close.  I wanted to suggest that maybe he was actually snake averse or maybe snake avoidant but that I, the person that was contemplating a different route home involving a major road without a sidewalk, was the one who was truly afraid of snakes.

I blurted it out at least once more, emphasizing the very, “I am very afraid of snakes,” as if the snake was supposed to hear me and move along.  In true snake form, he did not and remained across the path.

My best irrational thinking taught me to determine the snake’s suspected direction, run behind him and get to the car.   I asked the man which way the snake was facing, made zero eye contact with the snake, and zipped past him.  As I looked ahead to the pavement, to make sure I wasn’t running into relatives of my little brown nemesis, I laughed to myself as I realized that this was probably my best interval.

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Learning as I go.

Needless to say, neither of my children came with an instruction manual.  And as my title states, I am learning as I go.  Today I was reminded of how many little mistakes I have made in just the last week.  I will only share a few—actually, today’s if I am being honest.

Life– and this blog, are too short to dwell.

First, I thought it was cute that my kids learned to knock.  Seeing them put their little hands curled into a ball against a door and lightly tap, and eventually knock was a precious sight.  Now, that little knocking sound follows me every time I am on the other side of a closed door.  And sometimes a person just needs a minute to themselves, if you know what I mean.

Second, in an effort to distract my son from something, I showed him how to step on the diaper pail, open its top and drop a dirty diaper inside.  I am not sure where the naivety came from, but I cannot unring this bell.  It’s done.  Somewhere inside in my mom brain, I think I imagined we’d walk away, and visit the diaper pail next time someone had a dirty diaper.

So, just like I showed him, my son stood at the diaper pail stepping on the step and reaching his hand into what I call the poop hamper, touching who knows what.  I am unsure why the smell was not at all a deterrent for him, but he was able to carry on for some time.  Finally, I had to take him away and wash him thoroughly.  Yuck.

Lastly, I didn’t think it the worst idea to let the kids play with cars while they began their dinner.  Don’t judge me here, we have let them hold things while they dined and it wasn’t really a big deal.  It quickly became apparent, I was wrong, again.

As I click away at my keyboard, the die cast cars are in the dishwasher.  My son jammed the front seat of the vehicle with farfalle, peppers and watermelon.  My daughter, just farfalle.  I had to use a knife to get them out, and I am pretty sure they did not say “dishwasher safe” on any part of them.  My next blog might include how I explained to Gary, the man that fixes our dishwasher, how a car tire got stuck in the dishwasher drain.

So, basically, I am just learning as I go.

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