Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And a Merry Rockband Christmas to You

It's Christmas Eve. We're about to set out carrots (for the reindeer), cookies and milk (for Santa). But I wanted to pause to wish you all a happy holiday.

May it be filled with silly laughter (Marcie asked for a skeleton face, but requested blue and yellow colors):

Lots of loving hugs:

Plenty of time with your loved ones:

And an opportunity to have some fun and rock out:


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Second Annual Holiday Party

For the second year in a row, my closest girlfriends here in San Diego and I got together with our families to celebrate the holidays. Last year, we decided collectively to stop buying each other gifts and to let our kids engage in a gift exchange instead. So we all gathered at our house on Saturday evening for dinner and conversation and kids' crafts, for the gift exchange, and then to take hot chocolate with us to go view the amazing, local Christmas lights.

The kids were really good about waiting on the exchange until after everyone had arrived, several ornaments had been decorated, and all the grown-ups were finished eating. And then the gift-opening began. We sat them down in a circle and instructed the four kids to open their gifts all at once. Included in this exchange was Casey (age 5), Lucas (age 3- 6 months older than Marcie), Marcie (age 3) and Katelyn (age 2 1/2-- 6 months younger than Marcie, but just as loquacious!).

From oldest to youngest, here are the reactions to the gifts:
This is a repulsor-blast Iron Man. It is a talking toy, which lights up, makes flying noises, and shoots little sticks out of its hand. Casey is sleeping with it for the second night in a row. It was exactly what he wanted, even though I didn't tell my friend that. He couldn't have been more pleased.

This is a shake n go rocket. It didn't get great reviews on Amazon because apparently it tears easily when you shoot it in the walls (duh). I didn't actually consult with Lucas's parents before purchasing this gift-- and in retrospect I probably should have. I mean, it is kind of the perfect gift for a kid-- it's a gun off which the child shakes up. When he pulls the trigger, the rocket ship goes flying off. So a gun and a rocket. All rolled in one. Fortunately for me, his parents rolled with it-- and you can see from his face that it was pretty much exactly what he wanted. He didn't point it at any people or anything, and there were a lot of people around. So I think he'll be good to go.

Marcie got some magnetic dress-up dolls. So far, we've dressed them in Halloween clothes, as a princess, and as a cow girl. I can't believe my friend Grace actually got this shot-- what timing!

I am pretty tolerant of noise. I bought my kids musical instruments, including drums, a year or two ago. Casey has had a harmonica forever. And as irritating as the Iron Man repetition of his name is, I can put up with it for kind of long stretches of time. But not everyone is as tolerant of such noise as I am. Luckily for Kate, pictured here with her new harmonica, her parents were fully aware of this gift before Katelyn opened it. And they gave their blessing. So no worries there.
After they played for a while, we did go see the lights. It was cold, but dry (thankfully). I somehow managed to drop a cup of not-really-hot chocolate all down someone's driveway and felt terrible about it. I felt bad enough that I swiped our friends' drinking water to try and wash the chocolate down the driveway so it wouldn't stain.
And speaking of driveway incidents, today I went out Christmas shopping and then grocery shopping. I wanted Jason to help take in the groceries without seeing the gifts in the trunk. So I decided to hide the gifts around the corner and then ask Jason for help. But my food missed the edge of the walkway and landed in very soft mud, where it sunk down, causing me to twist my ankle and go flying across the concrete. Of course, it happened in slow motion. I hurt my hand and my knee, knocked the wind out of myself and strained my neck. But no blood. After it happened, Casey commented: "You sure do get a lot of owies, Mommy." But Jason didn't see the gift. So I suppose it was worth it. . .

Friday, December 19, 2008

Casey's Holiday Show

I won't be posting any video of Casey's kindergarten holiday program. Not because there weren't some totally hilarious moments, but because I wasn't close enough to zoom only on him. And I feel weird about posting video of other people's kids (without their knowledge or permission). So these pictures will just have to do:

These were the kind expressions he shared any time he noticed we were watching him. . . . What a character.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


When we first brought home Marcie, Jason almost immediately began talking about getting her ears pierced. Like most women I know (not all women-- just those I know), I was opposed to this. Why mutilate her ear lobes unless she asks? I practically begged to get my ears pierced-- both times. The first time, when I was five, my ears got infected. Not because my parents weren't good about cleaning them, but because it turned out I was allergic to the posts. After that experience, my parents prohibited any additional piercings. And finally, when I was 18, I convinced them to let me get a second set. No infections the second time, or anything. But I pretty much never use them, either.

So I've quietly ignored Jason's gentle ear-piercing prodding. Then, a few months ago when I was getting dressed to go out, Marcie noticed my earrings and asked about them. She wanted to know when she could get some like mine. I told her I thought she should wait until she was older, and she agreed to wait until she was five.

Then last weekend, we went to the mall to visit Santa Claus. And as we passed by a Claire's, I commented to Jason that Marcie told me she wanted to wait until she was five to get her ears pierced. Honestly, I'm not sure there is much of a difference between three and five-- I mean, one isn't really all that much more rational than the other (and I say this as the mother of a five year old and a three year old). When Jason interrogated Marcie about this, she gave a distinctly different answer. Okay, interrogate is a bit strong. He just asked her how old she wanted to be when she got her ears pierced (as if it's something every girl does), and she said three. And when he asked if she wanted to do it right then, she said yes. So we did.

We had them poke her ears at the same time. She picked out the earrings (though I insisted on 24K gold posts). She did cry- but not until several minutes after it was over, and I think it was pure shock. The tears stopped within about 60 seconds.

So here is Marcie getting her ears pierced:

And, perhaps more entertaining, here is how Casey busied himself while the piercing was happening:

He was very particular in picking out the glasses and the hat only after trying on several varieties of each. Gosh, he cracks me up.

Oh. And here's a somewhat blurry close-up of the new look:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Marcie's Holiday Show

This is pretty typical Marcie. And how she behaved throughout the entire "performance" (if you can call it that) during her school program. She is awfully cute anyway!

And while I have your attention, what is up with preschool shows during the day? Marcie's preschool used to do them at night before they were bought out by a big "educational" corporation. Then the whole family could go. It used to be kind of a big deal-- the kids (and parents) sat in chairs (so we could actually see them), and it was rehearsed. And a nice way to connect with other families. This year, though, I had to drive 35 minutes to watch a 5 minute show. Then I turned around and drove back to work.

I know, I sound like a scrooge-- but it used to be such a special event. And now it's just another class party. And the thing is, I think it's the school that's being scroogish (if that's a word). My bet is they moved the show from the evenings to the middle of the day so they wouldn't have to pay their teachers overtime.

In any case, she wouldn't really smile for the camera or anything, but here are a couple more photos of us with her at the show.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bad Mommy - A Cautionary Tale

A couple weekends ago, the kids bounded into my bedroom one morning practically chanting, "What trip are we going on today?"

No trips planned. And I said as much. But their repetition seeped its way into my sleepy mind. It wasn't quite 6:00 a.m. yet. Through my morning haze, I calculated what I needed to accomplish and offered, "Well, we could go see Santa today. . . ." The rest of my sentence was kind of lost beneath their cheers.

Once the excitement calmed down a bit, I explained more. You see, we had to go grocery shopping. And Jason was still sleeping. And two kids grocery shopping is, well, let's just say it's not my favorite thing in the world. On my list of things I could probably live without doing, it's higher than taking the trash out in a down-pour, but lower than emptying the dish washer. So I made a fatal error. I predicated the Santa trip on good behavior grocery shopping. This was an error for two reasons: 1. I wanted to take them to see Santa and 2. I feared I was setting them up for failure-- riling them up with such an exciting promise.

To combat the potential disaster, I started our shopping excursion with a trip to Starbucks, where each child was awarded a cup of chocolate or vanilla milk and a slice of banana walnut bread. And off to the grocery store we went.

They were mostly good. But there were some issues. No one screamed bloody murder in the aisle. Marcie didn't insist we visit the restroom. No one knocked the grocery cart over on top of their sibling. No one ran down the aisle out of site requiring me to go chasing after. Sounds relatively successful, right? The thing was, they constantly whined. And fought. And provoked each other. And when Marcie climbed out of the cart, Casey threw a mini-fit because I wouldn't put him in it. But nothing that would really justify skipping a visit with Santa.

At the end of the trip, we pushed the cart to the car, and Casey began banging it against the back. I asked him to stop. He ignored me. I asked again. No response. I began counting. Still nothing. Finally, I reminded him of our pending trip to visit Santa. No good. Instead of complying, he turned in sing-songy "Nyah! Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!" voice and began imitating me, repeating everything I was saying:

"Casey, knock it off." Casey, knock it off.
"I'm serious." I'm serious.
"Get in the car." YOU get in the car.
"We won't go see Santa." We won't go see Santa.

Finally, I physically placed him in the car. At which point, Marcie immediately turned to me and told me she was being good and could she go see Santa. "We'll see," I mumbled, and stuffed her in her carseat. Where she immediately turned to Casey and said in that same sing-songy, annoying tone: "I get to see Santa and you don't."

Casey wasn't going to sit still with that. "Nuh uh," he replied. "You're not going either." And you can imagine what happened next:

"Yes I am!" Marcie shouted.
"No you're not!" Casey screamed back at her.
And so it went, back and forth, as I placed the grocery bags in the car. Until Marcie hauled off and whacked Casey.

And then Santa was no longer an option. I felt immediately sad-- like they'd robbed me of the experience of watching them with Santa.

Dejected, I climbed into the car and turned on the ignition. It was only 9:00 in the morning and I already felt defeated and beat down. And then the pummeling really began. The afternoon before, when Casey and Marcie were arguing and hitting each other, I confiscated television-watching and Wii-playing privileges for the evening. Casey responded by telling me he wanted to move out, and when he got old enough could he please have a car so he could leave us? It was hard not to laugh, but I admired his attempt at problem-solving anyway.

But that morning, Casey wasn't going to be so easy on me. From the back seat, I heard:
"You're a bad mommy."
I ignored it.
"Are you listening?" Casey asked.
Still ignoring him.
"You're just a bad mommy and you're not nice and you're just gonna die and then Daddy is going to find us a new mommy and she's going to be nice and we're going to love her."

The tears began. Slowly trickling down my face. Then Marcie chimed in:
"Yeah. Bad Mommy," she called out.

We live less than 2 miles from the grocery store. When I pulled into the garage, I turned off the car, and landed pretty much immediately in Jason's arms. Where I told him we had awful kids and I couldn't be around them. Then I slipped into our bedroom, closed the door behind me and began sobbing.

Of course that was an over-reaction. It's just that I wasn't expecting such strong words from my five year old. Or three year old. I was expecting them when the kids were 12, perhaps. But there they were-- a cold, hard slap across the face.

Someone later pointed out to me that when a five year old tells you that you're being a "bad mommy," that is obviously code for "good mommy"-- as in someone who sets boundaries and sticks to them. And of course that's true.

In the end, it turned out Casey was reading Hansel and Gretel at school. He claims it's a story about a bad mommy who sends the kids to the bushes. But then she dies, and the dad who is a (wood) cutter (Casey leaves out the "wood" part) goes and gets them, and they are happy again. Casey never mentions the witch. He doesn't understand that the woman is a stepmother. And he doesn't blame the father for leaving them out in the woods. Of course, I didn't have this context at the time of the incident.

So what did I learn? Well, first of all, don't set unreasonable expectations for your kids. Second, don't make a fun trip contingent on good behavior-- too much pressure. And third, no matter how rude or mean your kids are, you have to stick to your guns. Even if it hurts your feelings to do so. I know our kids will be better off for it in the long run. But geesh-- these little stumbles along the way sure to leave some painful abrasions, don't they?