Monday, November 29, 2010

Ice Rink and Other Wintry Things (Like Hanukkah & Christmas)

As we near December 1 – and we here in the Picket Fence Post household recover from two Thanksgivings -- here’s a photographic update on the status of our years-in-the-making ice rink:

If and when The Spouse completes the backyard rink – bouts of mild weather haven’t helped the project any – I’ll run right out and buy myself a pair of skates and take to the ice alongside the kids. I swear.

Speaking of December 1, I cannot believe that Hanukkah starts at sundown on Wednesday on the same day when Advent starts. What does this mean for me, the mom of an interfaith home in which we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah? I'll tell ya:

Buy Hanukkah candles -- Check

Remember to light the Hanukkah candles, make (or buy) potato latkes to have in between kids’ extracurricular activities on Wednesday

Buy gelt (chocolate “coins” in gold colored foil) -- Check

Take down the Thanksgiving decorations to make way for, at the very least, the Hanukkah decorations, with Christmas decorations to come

Pull Charlie the giant Advent Elf my mother gave the kids years ago, who has pockets for advent candy, out of the holiday decorations closet in time for Wednesday

Fill Charlie’s pockets with candy . . . which I need to buy

But not chocolate ones, lest Max the cone-wearing dog attempt to raid Charlie’s pockets. We don’t need another trip to the doggie ICU.

Oh, and get the kids’ Christmas list to my mother because she wants to take advantage of Christmas shopping discounts. NOW!

Figure out what The Spouse and I are going to buy for whom

Take the Christmas card photo (I’ve got a great idea, but whether it’ll be great when I try to take the photos in reality is another story.)

I seriously need to hit the “pause” button, for just a moment. Need to breathe. Maybe take a break with a hot cup of peppermint tea, and perhaps start doing what my good friend Gayle joked that she was going to start doing: Answering her phone, "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snarky Video Addresses the Insane Questions Directed at Moms of Twins

When my now 12-year-old twins were babies I was frequently subjected to all sorts of bizarre questions from strangers, specifically about whether or not the children were identical even though one's a boy and one's a girl.

Seriously, I had this argument more than once with people -- usually at the deli counters of grocery stores -- about how some folks thought that my kids HAD to be identical because they looked alike (they didn't). One time when I was severely sleep deprived and stressed out, a woman just would not drop the issue, saying they had to be identical . . . until I remarked, "One of them has a penis." That shut her up.

A man once came up to me at grocery store and asked me if I took "them pills" in order to get pregnant with the twins, to which I just responded with an angry sneer and pushed my stroller by the idiot.
This is why seeing this new video made me smile so broadly. Even though it's been a long time since I've fielded questions about having twins, the questions in the video represent exactly the kind of thing moms of twins usually hear. LOVED how the mom of twins asked the nosy inquisitor what kind of tampons she buys when she asked if the mom of twins had IVF.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three for Thursday: Thanksgiving TV from 'Gilmore Girls' & 'Mad About You' to 'Mad Men,' Helicopter Parenting on 'Parenthood' and Pining For Thanksgivings of Yore

Thanksgiving TV Episodes from Gilmore Girls and Mad About You to Mad Men

Who can forget the wretched awkwardness at the Francis family Thanksgiving table when Betty Draper Francis literally forced her daughter Sally to eat sweet potatoes – shoving a forkful into Sally's mouth which led to the girl gagging them out onto her plate – in order to please her new mother-in-law on Mad Men? Or the Gilmore Girls episode where Lorelai and Rory wound up attending four Thanksgiving dinners because they couldn’t say, “No” to their friends and family? Or even the time when Mad About You's Paul and Jamie Buchman hosted their first Thanksgiving in their apartment and had to grapple with some serious passive aggression from their family members and friends when they didn’t like the fact that Paul and Jamie wanted to have dinner “buffet style” and had messed with everyone’s idiosyncratic ideas of what a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner is “supposed” to be?

I highlighted some of my favorite Thanksgiving episodes over on my Notes from the Asylum blog, including the one of the famous Cheers Thanksgiving food fight.

Helicopter Parenting on Parenthood

This week’s episode of NBC’s solid, incisive and sharply observed drama Parenthood provided a mixed bag of parenting portrayals.

On the one hand, you had Sarah Braverman, who gave her daughter Amber a much-needed push to get her to overcome her fears and meet with an influential alum from a university she wants to attend. And on the other hand, you had an over-the-top helicopter parent in the form of Kristina Braverman insisting that her son was entitled to an invitation to a classmate’s birthday party even after the mother of the birthday girl said he wasn't invited and that her daughter specifically didn’t want Kristina’s son there. While there’s a whole powerful, poignant and painful Asperberger’s backstory there, and some real bonding eventually occurred between the two moms with children who have challenges, a big chunk of the Kristina story bugged me this week. Read more about why in my review of the episode.

Pining for Thanksgiving Days of Yore

In my Pop Culture column this week, I pine away for Thanksgivings and Christmases of my youth, when I used to actually enjoy this time of year tremendously and didn’t see them the way that I do now: As one, long, life-sucking list of things to do, all at the same time, and all while under a heap o’pressure with no time to just sit back and soak in this time in your life. But when I think of how I used to love this time of year, to quote Liz Lemon, I want to go back to there. But how?

Exactly How Dysfunctional IS Your Thanksgiving Dinner?

For several years I’ve been writing and posting snarky Dysfunctional Family Bingo cards every November where I have filled the boxes with potentially horrific scenarios that could occur during your Thanksgiving dinner, though you wouldn’t want them to. Unless you’re a sadist. Or post-divorce Don Draper . . . before he hooked up with Megan the secretary.

I decided to go another way this year. Out with the Bingo cards. In with a silly, snarky quiz in which you look at a potentially ominous Thanksgiving dinner scenario – including one inspired by Mad Men’s Betty Draper Francis -- and decide which one, in your opinion, represents the best reaction in the face of insanity. At the end, you can see whether you’ve picked mostly minor dysfunctional responses or seriously dysfunctional ones (which can sometimes be the most entertaining options):

1) The turkey, which was proudly presented to the assembled guests at the Thanksgiving table, is dreadfully dry. We’re talkin’ sawdust. The people with whom you’re eating dinner respond this way:

a) By pouring a bit more gravy onto the turkey and saying nothing so as not to hurt the hosts’ feelings.

b) By pulling the host and hostess aside while they’re doing dishes and offering future turkey roasting tips.

c) By someone announcing, “Damn! This sucker’s dry! How long d’ja cook it for Chrisssake?”

2) The hostess of the dinner, who made all the food, loudly observes, for all the diners to hear, that your 8-year-old nephew doesn’t have any yams on his plate. “What, you don’t like my yams?” she asks from the other side of the table. “Why don’t you try some? They’re really good.”

a) Your sister-in-law frowns, then says, “Sure he likes them, don’t you Tommy?” Then she shovels some into his mouth as he protests and gags.

b) Your sister-in-law says, “Thanks for asking, but he’s not a fan of yams. He loves your cranberry sauce though.”

c) “That’s right!” your brother bellows, “smart boy! Just like his dad. NO ONE likes yams.”

3) Your cousin’s 12-month-old is toddling around your mother-in-law’s glass-topped coffee table, checking out all the items that have been carefully arranged there: A crystal candy dish filled with M&Ms, a stack of hardcover books and a pair of ceramic candle sticks your mother-in-law made in a pottery class. Before you can reach over little Susie’s head and grab the candy dish, she’s knocked it off the coffee table, sending the M&Ms flying and knocking over one of the candlesticks, breaking it. What happens next?

a) The baby’s mother rushes over, grabs her daughter under one arm and then starts one-handedly trying to pick everything up as she profusely apologizes.

b) The baby’s parents do nothing while everyone else looks around waiting for someone to pick up the debris.

c) The baby’s mother shouts to your mother-in-law, “You knew we were coming here. This is what you get when you don’t child-proof!”

UPDATE: Max Much Peppier, Still Ticked About the Cone

For those of you who've been concerned about the fate of the tan Q-Tip known as Max the dog, I'm here to report that he has substantially improved since Monday, when he was listlessly lying on his side looking as though he'd shed his mortal coil.

Now he's eating, drinking (wouldn't drink out of his Red Sox water dish, but will out of a generic plastic one), running, doing doggie tricks and enthusiastically greeting the kids at the front door when they come home from school. I feel like I can finally breathe because I've been fretting about when the good old Max would make his re-appearance and start bouncing around the house again wagging his tail.

However . . . Max still has to wear that silly cone around his head because he simply will not stop gnawing at the two shaved areas on his front paws -- he looks like he's wearing a pair of furry boots -- in the locations where he had IVs. Plus there are two big shaved areas on his belly which he'd been biting and making bloody. Until the fuzzball stops nipping at those areas, he's going to have to wear the cone.

He's starting to navigate his environs a bit better while wearing the humiliating cone, which he loathes, although his head occasionally jerks back when the edge gets caught on woodwork or furniture. That's not such a pretty thing to watch.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Max Met Chocolate . . . NOT a Love Story

We’ve been on an odyssey of sorts in the Picket Fence Post household since approximately 8:30 p.m. on Friday when we returned home (after being gone for roughly an hour) to discover that our 1½ year-old Havanese/wheaten terrier Max had managed to bust into the pantry (the door had been shut) and not only ransacked it, but unwrapped and ate a 3.5 ounce disk of concentrated cooking chocolate used to make hot cocoa.

And oh, the fun we’ve had since then.

The Spouse raced Max to the animal hospital, since our vet’s office wasn’t open at that time of night. (Of course this had to happen over a weekend. Of course it did.) Long and the short of it, Max was admitted to the doggie ICU overnight, hooked up to IVs and an EKG. His heart rate was really, really high.

The entire family went to the hospital to pick him up on Saturday afternoon and he seemed chipper, or maybe he was just psyched to get out of there because when he got home, it was a different story. Slowly, over the course of Saturday night, during Sunday through Monday morning, the usually effervescent, chipper pup continued to act strangely, shying away from everyone in the family, not responding to us, declining most food and all drink. He looked like a public service advertisement for canine depression screening.

By Monday morning, Max was re-admitted for medical care, this time to our vet’s office for the day after he was diagnosed with dehydration (what’s that about leading a dog to water . . . ) and he hadn’t been able to flush any remaining chocolate from his system. When we brought him home Monday night, it was with a plastic, transparent cone about his neck and cans of special food and a special powder to soothe the irritated, inflamed, bloody spots on his skin (belly and legs) where he’d had catheters and EKG pads and had bitten them.

He’s still not acting like himself, but at least he ate his breakfast. I’m also having to carry him outside, where he will eventually do his business. But this sulky, forlorn version of Max is breaking my heart.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is Modern Motherhood a 'Prison?'

According to one writer in the Wall Street Journal it is.

I must say that I gained some major validation from reading Erica Jong's essay, "The Madness of Modern Motherhood" in the Journal about how motherhood has become so all encompassing and complicated with its current mandatory maternal martyrdom:

"Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization. Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breast-feed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It's a prison for mothers

When a celebrity mother like the supermodel Gisele B√ľndchen declares that all women should be required to breast-feed, she is echoing green-parenting propaganda, perhaps unknowingly. Mothers are guilty enough without more rules about mothering . . .

. . . [W]e have devised a new torture for mothers—a set of expectations that makes them feel inadequate no matter how passionately they attend to their children."

I thought I was the only one who was grumbling about how hard it is to feel good about my parenting when youth sports for my three children is collectively commandeering gobs of our waking hours, when the schools expect that parents should listen to their fourth graders read aloud passages and then grade their fluency homework four nights out of five (never mind sign detailed reading logs, indicate that we've seen math homework/tests and that we're aware that a child has a book report coming up), when it's expected that parents volunteer for every organization in which they've enrolled their children, when there's pressure to make all these healthy meals at home fresh each night, never mind withstand the griping of my kids telling me that "all the other moms" drive "all the other kids" around town so they can hang out with one another. Sure, we can fit in having me host a bunch of kids at our house or drive my kids around to socialize in between school and hockey and soccer and basketball and baseball and band and school newspaper and the library youth book club and church and, oh, Mommy's work, Daddy's too.

There's a lot to ponder in Jong's piece. And when I read her line, "American mothers and fathers run themselves ragged trying to mold exceptional children" believe me, I was nodding vigorously.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Three for Thursday: Ice Rink Part 47 Billion, Kids to the Polls, 'The Middle' . . . for a Much-Needed Laugh

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Ice Rink, Part 47 Billion

Yes, we’re trying again.

To do this home ice rink thing.

(And yes, we know we're fools.)

For years, The Spouse and I have thought, “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have an ice rink in the backyard?” The Youngest Boy plays hockey and adores skating, while The Eldest Boy and The Girl have eagerly chimed in how much they’d love to skate at home. I’d even be willing to get myself a pair of skates if we had a rink at home.

The problem? All of our previous attempts have failed miserably. (We took a break from our annual humiliation last year.) I’ve chronicled our mishaps for years, much to The Spouse’s chagrin, including the time when we tried just flooding the yard with water and the time when we got the wrong kind of tarp resulting in the water draining out of the rink area and into the woods, where it frozen amid the trees. The Spouse is really sick of hearing about how we never got the ice rink thing off the ground.

But he’s back again for punishment this year, emboldened with a new tarp. I’m not sure what else he’s planning to use because I’ve been hesitant to bring the subject up. It's been a sore subject, though I suspect he was motivated by me saying that I was thinking of buying one of those ice rink kits and giving it to the kids for Christmas.

Anyone with a home ice rink, got any suggestions or advice before we embark upon this . . . again?

Kids to the Polls

We all made our family trek to the polls on Tuesday, the entirety of the Picket Fence Post family, minus Max the dog and the 400 pounds of Halloween candy that now lives with us. The Girl accompanied me to the voting booth. The Youngest Boy was with The Spouse, while The Eldest Boy moved back and forth between booths relaying questions to and from The Spouse and checking out for whom I was voting.

When we checked out, The Girl and The Eldest Boy were jostling over who would get to feed my ballot – a sheet of paper – into the voting machine. I was a bit concerned that they’d wrinkle it, thereby rendering my ballot invalid, so I started getting antsy, muttering under my breath that someone needed to let go, NOW. The Eldest Boy finally relinquished it so his sister could feed it into the machine.

The next day, however, when some of the folks whom The Youngest Boy hoped would win didn’t, I had to remind him that the concept of good sportsmanship applies to politics as well as sport.

The Middle . . . for a laugh

It’s been a fairly stressful couple of weeks here at the Picket Fence Post house. And I sorely needed a laugh last night. In a big way. And watching a new episode of The Middle did just the trick. I laughed out loud while watching it -- more so than I did with Modern Family, which was also funny, but not as much as The Middle.

The episode focused on the hilarious birth story of the youngest child in the family, Brick. It was not at all what I expected when the story was finally told. The tale involved lies, greed, rabid football fandom and idiocy.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Anniversary Goodness

The Spouse frequently says I use him as a rhetorical punching bag whenever I mention him on a blog or in a column. And he's got a point. He's oftentimes thrown under the bus when I'm making a point, however he has given me a blanket permission slip to do so, even though he frequently cringes when he finds out what I've written about him. ("You wrote about that?")

But I'm writing this post to do something unusual: To write something nice about him. He recently sent me red roses for our 18th (!!) wedding anniversary and took me out to dinner at a place which doesn't use paper placemats and doesn't dole out packets of crayons. We had a lively conversation that wasn't interrupted by a single, "Hey Mom!," "Dad! Dad!" or the sound of the dog knocking over a trash can and chomping on the garbage. Our anniversary dinner was squeezed in between dashing around to three youth sporting events, getting new tires put on my vehicle (which failed inspection that afternoon because it needed new tires) and delivering baked goods and donations to our church's fall fair.

And even though when we got home from dinner we both fell asleep well before Saturday Night Live -- we had gotten up at 5 a.m. that morning to take The Youngest Boy to his hockey game and he had an 8 a.m. practice Sunday -- it was nice to take a few hours to remember that before we were the parents to the Picket Fence Post kids with their schedules from hell, it was just the two of us. And besides, I got to watch SNL on DVR on Sunday and fast-forward through the commercials.

So while the kids are enjoying their Halloween candy, I'm enjoying the roses.

Reflections on Halloween 2010

A couple of observations from yesterday's Halloween celebration where I unleashed a soccer player, a football player and a scary-looking "Army/Commando guy" in a mask onto residents in my town where the kids collected the massive bowls of sugary goodies shown above. (The Youngest Boy actually counted how many pieces of candy he got so he could make sure no one pilfers from his stash. The total was 150.)

Teenagers: What's up with all the teens showing up at my door with no costumes and clutching pillow cases? Seriously guys, is it too much trouble to make a tiny bit of effort if I'm going to be giving you free candy?

Clever gals: Speaking of teenagers, a trio of teen gals wheeled up my driveway on their scooters, which were wrapped with colorful feather boas and lights. They were all dressed up in sparkly skirts, as music emanated from one of their bags. Now those were clever outfits warranting extra candy.

Ringing the bell: I live in a densely developed neighborhood and lots of people drive their kids here to trick-or-treat which means I'm constantly answering the door (and constantly fearful I'll run out of candy) between roughly 5:45-9 p.m. Because the doorbell rings so often, I sit in a chair about three feet from the front door. Last night, in between giving out the candy, I watched the New England Patriots' game on TV, while listening for the sounds of trick-or-treaters. However there were many kids who couldn't handle the fact that it took me three whole seconds to get to the door -- which was open so you could see into my hallway and that someone was home -- and kept ringing the doorbell impatiently, as if they expected adults to stand in the doorway all night long and not move so as not to inconvenience them. Patience, my children.

Oil spill: A BP oil spill came to my house asking for candy. He was very polite.

Grabby: There are some seriously grabby kids out there who try to push my hand out of the way and grab their own candy out of the bowl I'm holding. Or they'll tell me that I didn't give them enough candy and ask for more. (When I was fearful I'd run out, I was only giving out two to three pieces per kid.) There was the occasional cherub who'd tell me he didn't like what I just handed him, as though he could place orders. My least favorite tactic I saw used by the pediatric set last night: Putting their hands out, when they have a perfectly good candy receptacle into which I wanted to place the candy, in the hopes that I'd give them a fistful of candy instead of two or three items.

Did your Halloween go smoothly? Lots of kids?