Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The next best thing

So yesterday I lamented the fact that I do not yet possess a vuvuzela. Since I never learned how to whistle like a freight train (you know the kind: where you stick two fingers in your mouth and let rip a shrill that can be heard across town), I must rely on devices such as these to get the kids’ collective attention.

But just as I sat down to see how much they were on eBay, I heard the low bleating of some kind of horn from downstairs.

Low and behold: the boys have found our didgeridoo. Not quite as portable as a vuvuzela, but I’m excited thinking of all the ways we can use it in the meantime.

Why do we have an authentic didgeridoo? Oh, we got it as a wedding present. Because really, nothing says “wishing you luck and love in your married life” like an aboriginal wind instrument. What? Why are you laughing? You mean YOU didn’t get one when you got married? Huh…Too bad for you.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Deep thoughts,
brought to you (in part) by FIFA

While it’s far from over, with both the US and English teams knocked out of the World Cup, the intensity has lessened considerably at the House of M. And so now I can sit back and reflect on some things I’ve learned while enjoying the world's most-watched tournament thus far:
  1. Despite having soccer on ALL THE TIME at our house, I still don’t understand the rules of the game.
  2. The world’s oldest sport needs to catch up with modern-day technology. Listen footballers around the world: instant replay could save us from much unnecessary grief! Was or was not the goal justified? Was there a foul? Was he offsides? Or...in our house: which boy threw the first punch? How did the Sharpie hieroglyphics really get all over the bedroom wall?
  3. I should have been handing out yellow and red cards to my kids long ago. Thinking about all the times my offending offspring should have been benched from penalty behavior makes my head swim.
  4. From what I know of their international reputation, our 2 year old’s tantrums suggest perhaps a future playing on the Italian national team.
  5. And lastly...When you have a baby, why doesn’t the hospital send you home with a vuvuzela along with your prescription for Vicodin? I’m not saying you’d need it right away, but I know it would come in real handy every now and again at our house. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Extreme make over, the blog edition

Don't worry: yes, you are at the right spot. I just got a little carried away playing with the new blog templates and creating a new look.

Whatcha think?

(Sorry for all you e-mail subscribers...you have no idea what I'm talking about...you'll have to go to the site to see!)

More soon...stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why I'd like to punch a gift horse in the mouth

In case you didn’t know this about me, let me share: I cannot stand clutter. Thus, the decision to have three children suggests I must be some kind of masochist. My house is cluttered with children, let alone the clutter that children collect. Like toys, for example.

One of my favorite things to say is, “if you don’t clean up these toys right now, they’re going in the trash.” 1) This hopefully gets the kids to move into action, tidying their books/cars/trains/blocks/whatever lest they lose the beloved playthings. 2) It makes me feel OK about junking a few items here and there. Nothing major—I have yet to actually send Spiderman or a Star Wars light saber to the dump. But just enough of a clear out to feel like we’ve got some much-needed breathing room, and (if anything) rid ourselves of those weird items extracted from birthday goodie bags or trips to the dentist.

Yesterday I once again let the kids play out in the front yard. The toys of choice: my gigantic cardboard boxes from numerous UPS deliveries, proving my point that the kids don’t need all the plastic, battery-operated, shrieking crap they’ve got. All they need is for mommy to keep shopping online and everyone should be happy.

But I digress…the kids: playing outside…

And then I hear a trio of “Wow!” and “So cool!” and “Thank youuuuuuuuu!” and I go out the front door to see one of my neighbors has brought down an entire shopping back of—let’s just call it what it is—crap. Crappy toys that he’s apparently been collecting since the dawn of time.

This is what I like to call the “Disney” collection. Poor Mickey. Obviously got the worse end of a fight with Donald. And, hey! A megaphone! Exactly what this house needs: amplification for noise from the kids.

This we’ve named the “Tin from the 50’s” collection. These toys are not only old and rusty, but they make lots of noise. Yippee! A tin tambourine, complete with sexy gypsy. A scarey-ass clown clacker. Rattles leftover from a New Year's party circa 1955. Twirly gadgets that should have been left on the set of The Howdy Doody Show. And a single wind up firetruck that all three kids are now fighting over. Sweet.

I am not sure what the hell this stuff is. A brass dish? A string with a fly-fishing fly? A miniature sombrero from the neighborhood junkeria? Who knows. And unless it crosses your threshold, who cares.

And my favorites: ceramic figurines. Perfect for play as well as décor.

So awesome.

I need to get those kids to play in the backyard from now on.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Driver’s ed

I’m a good driver.

Seriously, I am.

I’m the beautiful harmony of safe-yet-efficient on the road. I observe the zipper principle (when two lanes narrow into one, you take turns merging with your fellow drivers in adjacent lane). I give those turning into traffic a chance to pull out. I get a small high from the warm-hearted hand wave saying, “Thank you, lady! Giving me the chance to pull out of this here gas station before next Tuesday has TOTALLY made my day!” I don’t run red lights…but I also don’t stick it to the drivers behind me by slowing to a snail’s pace when I see yellow. (There’s not much worse than a hyper-safe driver who stuffs you up by making you miss the light because they drop to 5 miles/hour as soon as the light goes amber.) I have never hit a cat, dog, or anything that breathes for that matter. I can parallel park my SUV or truck in a way that makes my tractor-driving dad proud.

I’m a good driver.

So imagine my surprise when last week, as I’m merrily driving along, I hear honking followed the sound of an engine gunned, then see a car rocket in front of me. I mean, this is the City, and people drive a little more recklessly than in the ‘burbs, but you still wonder “what the…?” The light turns red; we all stop. Then I see the driver of this car get out and seemingly approach mine. What?! I’ll be honest: my mind went a little blank. I couldn’t figure out what to process first: that I’d found 50 Cent’s long-lost brother, or the fact that I was in the bowels of the City with him approaching me and my car (complete with a tinge of malice).

So, apparently I cut him off. (Between you and me, I beg to differ. Especially as he wound up in front of me.) Figuring a battle of logic wasn’t going to help me out of this situation, I just apologized and made sure my doors were still locked.

** Quick PSA: immediately apologizing stuns aggressive people. They can’t do much with an apology except repeat it really loudly on their way back to their own car. It might sound something along the lines of, “That’s right you're sorry. Stupid lady driver. You’d better be sorry, cuttin’ me off. Open your eyes...Sorry ass driving...blah, blah, blah...” **

Did I mention that my kids were in the backseat during all this? Yeah, that makes this all the better.

“Mom, why was that man yelling at you?”

“Well, he was concerned that Mommy wasn’t driving safely, and he wanted to come over and remind me to be careful.”

“He seemed really mad.”

“No, baby. He was just worried I wasn’t being as safe as I should be.”


I’m guessing a split screen conversation with my do-rag-wearing guardian angel wouldn’t have featured the same explanation or choice of words.

Still, I maintain I’m a good driver.

And then I got this two days later.

My guess is that Husband’s going to be teaching the kids how to drive.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Random acts of malice, pt. 4

Thanks to a FUN case of food poisoning, I’ve been the unwilling creator of the most fragrant wind. Unforutunately this did not go undetected for long, and as soon as the boys started writhing on the floor from the foul odors, I maturely blamed the fumes on their sister. Because, hey, at two she can’t really argue otherwise, and my boys are easily duped.

In the meantime, y’all might want to stay upwind.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Labor of love

This weekend we celebrated Liam’s fourth birthday. (Liam, also known as Middle Man, but now simply referred to as Liam because all the code was starting to do my head in…)

Like all neurotic parents of my generation, I was compelled to indulge my boy with a big ol’ birthday party. In my defense, I had yet to actually throw a party for him (despite the fact that his older brother has already logged a gala at the zoo, a neighborhood-wide Halloween/Birthday bash, and another we like to call “The Chuck E. Cheese Incident.”)

Because the weather in San Francisco is so unreliable—especially in the summer—I decided to hold a little soiree at The Party Playhouse instead of our own home. Read: a warehouse in the middle of a low-rent industrial area, not even within the city limits. And I'm sure that just because I’m a big fan of irony, we were actually blessed with one of the hottest days on record anyway, so essentially we invited family and friends to sweat-it-up in a ghetto-fabulous warehouse on the outskirts of hell. Of course. But who cares because the kids loved it. The sweatier and stinkier, the better.

The décor (if you can call it that) at The Party Playhouse is all castles and dragons, so I OF COURSE felt compelled to stay within the theme.

“I want a Spiderman party.”

“I’m not sure…How about a knights and dragons party?”

“Is Spiderman a knight?”

“Ummm…he could be. As long as we can make sure that he’s a purple and yellow Spiderman. And very small. Maybe like an invisible Spiderman.”


Man, sometimes Liam is such an easy sell.

“And you know what kind of cake we should have, big boy?!”

“What, Mom?!”


“Like with Spiderman on it?”

“No. Just a dragon. Here, let’s work on it together.”

OK, now THIS Liam loved. He got to be in charge of the green icing. Especially the part when he kept scooping it out of the bowl with his fingers while I was trying to ice each damn cupcake. (My sincere apologies to everyone who actually ate the aftermath of our teamwork-in-cooking.)

“There. We’re done. What do you think?” Smiling, almost ready to pat myself on the back. “We do good work, don’t we?”

“Mom, where are the dragon’s wings?”

Really? Remind me about the wings AFTER the cake is done?

So it turned out to be more of a gigantic salamander cake. But again, it was a cupcake arrangement for four year olds. Four year olds who only care about how much icing is actually on each serving of cake they are given. In fact, they don’t even care that I forgot to add vegetable oil to one of the batches of cupcakes. Not one of them said, “Hey, this cupcake would be great, but it seems to be missing about a 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.” Four year olds are very very forgiving and therefor very awesome in my book.

Anyway, all in I think I invested about 9 days of planning, shopping, goodie-bag assembling, inflatable knight sword blowing-upping, dragon cake sort-of making, and general hand-wringing. In comparison to 9 months of pregnancy, I suppose that’s not bad. And yet, throughout the process I saw some similarities to the birth of a child and the annual celebration of said child’s birth.
  • Preparing for these celebrations involves a lot of labor.
  • In order to handle the labor successfully you can either A) plan ahead with classes, a birth/event plan, and (at the very least) making sure a camera is in your bag, or B) do a lot of screaming, swearing and crying at the last minute. Ask strangers to e-mail you pictures because you can't find your camera.
  • The labor becomes MUCH easier once you are on your drug of choice (Epidural. Gin & tonic. Whatever.)
  • The exhaustion/elation you experience after these blessed events often prevents you from properly retaining important details—details that were you to remember them, would make next time easier. Like, maybe, “why exactly am I putting myself through this hell again?!”
  • You do it all because you love the child you are doing it for. 

Lastly, I feel compelled to make a few shout outs to some of our most generous guests…

To the multiple friends who gave bug collection devices, kits and CAGES for said bugs—cages that enable crawling, flying and buzzing critters to become inside pets, I say: THANK YOU! I can’t wait to be invited to your kids’ birthdays now. I totally know what I'll give to your children.

To the particular family member who gave the large rubber bouncy ball: THANK YOU! However, you might not want to read about the fate that befell our beloved yoga ball


And to the family member who gave not one, not two, but THREE loud, blinking, shrieking, plastic, battery-operated Spiderman vehicles: THANK YOU! I guess you forgot that I know where you live and I that have the code to the gate. You might want to sleep with one eye open for a while and definitely not let your rose bushes go unguarded. (And please spare me the line about payback being a bitch, etc., etc. You are my mom first, and the their grandma second.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My name is Jen, but you should call me Zach’s Mom

So this is my latest conundrum: what should I have my kids’ friends call me, and likewise how should I have my kids refer to their friends’ moms and dads?

I don’t know where along the way we lost our manners. When I was growing up it was always “Mr. This” and “Mrs. That.” I never dreamed of calling my parents’ friends by their first names. Whether the Mr. and Mrs. titles subliminally elicited respectful behavior is something my mom would have to answer. But at least it sounded better.

Nowadays we are so psyched—and overanxious—to have our kids start talking, we grab the first and easiest name that we can use. I mean, really, can you imagine sitting around some happy-clappy circle time at Gymboree trying to get your 2 year old to sing “Bye bye Mrs. Really-Long-Multi-Syllable-And-Lots-Of-Consonants-Last-Name”? Get real.

Up until recently I hadn't given this (boring) topic much thought. But with an increasing number of play dates, I’m getting the SUPER AWESOME pleasure of spending too much time with my son’s friends. Five year old boys with attitude like you would not believe.

“Hey Jen. I’m really thirsty. I want some juice.”


“Ugh, Jen. I like my sandwiches withOUT the crusts.”


“Jen? Jen! I just went poo. I need you to wipe my bottom!”

Sweet LORD!

Now, swap out all those commands/demands with a Mrs. M or at least Zach’s Mom instead. Isn’t it just a little less harsh? Obviously the word please would soften the blow tremendously, but let’s not ask for miracles, people.

What do you think? Am I really parenting in the wrong decade? Or are manners something that we can make fashionable again. Like victory gardens. Or even wayfarer sunglasses.

An PS...In case you didn't gather, I'm selling out and calling my kids by their real names. My nicknames are too tough to use, and if all my kids come after me for is libel, I'll consider myself lucky.

Monday, June 7, 2010

If it’s brown, flush it down

You’d think with the Mighty Midget 99% potty trained I’d be dancing a jig. Well, I am, because I don’t care what kind of mother you are—you could be Mother Theresa for all I care—no one likes dealing with poo.

And so, we are just so close to being done.

Except now the Middle Man has decided to leave calling cards after he uses the facilities.

“What the…? Duuuuuuude. Why didn’t you flush toilet, buddy?”

No response... other than a couple of long-lashed blinks.

“Seriously, what is going on? Why didn’t you flush?”

“I don’t know. I guess I forgot.”

How is that even possible? You are right there and there is a TURD STARING BACK UP AT YOU.

“OK, well, please try to remember next time. Because it’s not a pet. It’s poo. And we need to flush once we are done with the toilet, OK?”

“Got it, Mom.”

(Repeat this conversation twice daily for two weeks straight. Now you are experiencing my pain.)

Any tips on how to handle this? And is this just a boy thing, or is short-term shit amnesia something that affects girls as well as boys?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Random acts of malice, pt. 3

Sometimes I do things that I know Husband is going to freak out about but then just blame the offensive acts on our children.

For example, I have always hated our yoga ball. It takes up a huge amount of space and has never been used for anything other than bowling down any unsuspecting child. Husband bought it at Ross for $3.99, thereby justifying the acquisition. ‘Cause, if it’s a deal, we MUST get it. Even if we’ll never use it (in the manner for which it is intended).

I just can’t believe that THE KIDS ACCIDENTALLY POPPED IT.


Friday, June 4, 2010

The baby shower

Last weekend my family—as well as my sisters and their kids—trekked from the Bay Area down to my parents’ home in Southern California. It’s a little slice of Eden down there: the weather is always warmer, the sun is always sunnier, there are activities a ‘plenty for kids and adults alike, and booze flows like water. It’s a wonder we don’t spend more time down there.

Our travels were aimed at not only taking advantage of the long weekend, but to also celebrating impending arrival of another baby in the family: my cousin’s wife is pregnant.

For most people, celebrating a cousin’s kid’s anything is a fairy tale. You have your siblings and maybe the random niece or nephew. The extended family is something of days past (or The Sopranos series.) But not on my side of the family. There are a total of 16 cousins in my family, and 9 of us already have kids of our own…so that number’s only going to go up. This past weekend we had almost two dozen kids running around my parents’ place during a “baby shower” inflicted upon this poor girl.

I don’t know if there’s a crueler way to treat a woman who is 9 months pregnant with her first child than to make her sit through a sugar-induced pool party with 18 kids running around. I mean, hello? It’s too late for protection now, and here she is looking down the barrel of her child-rearing future, of which she is surely ill-prepared.

Plus, what happened to the dignity of a ladies’ luncheon? Where guests sit around in a civilized fashion, make polite chit chat, and pay attention to the mother-to-be? Isn’t the shower supposed to be for her? So what’s the deal with the whole “couple’s shower” where not only spouses but kids are invited? I can think of no faster way to take the spotlight OFF the poor pregnant guest-of-honor than introduce children to the occasion. Children doing cannon balls, hurling water balloons, and shooting you with either water launchers or laser guns.

To be fair, I think my cousin (and my mom and aunt who co-hosted the shower) thought that an early summer bbq would be casual and relaxed. Judging by the pictures below, you can see that my mom interprets a hot-dog-and-hamburger pool party as something that necessitates rented linens, centerpieces, and the wrath of God brought upon anyone who touches her napkin display or puts fingerprints on the windows. Totally laid back.

I just hope that my cousin’s wife got some good loot out of this shower. And I do have confidence that now that she’s survived her couples baby shower, she can survive anything that motherhood throws her way.

We love you MH!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

15 minute bliss

Twice a month I get to enjoy about 15 minutes of Pine-Sol-infused bliss: the 15 minutes immediately following my house keeper completing the monumental challenge that is cleaning my house.

That I'm a stay-at-home mom AND have someone come ‘roudnd to clean up after us is embarrassing, but it's my reality. I am a neat-freak at heart, yet sadly my husband and children don't share my love for a germ and clutter-free environment.

Surely the most absurd piece of the puzzle is how frantically I do clean the house before the cleaner herself comes over.

“Babe, why are we cleaning the house before Evelyn comes?”

“Look at how filthy this place is! I can't have her see that we live like this!”

Really, it makes sense, no?

I justify the massive amount of time I block out each cleaning day as “tidying” rather than “cleaning”. I pay my dear, sweet Evelyn to clean the house. I don't want a second wasted on shelving toys and books, nor do I think she should be paid to put away the golf equipment and weights that migrate their way into the house.

My Evelyn, the cleaning fairy, just left. And not five minutes later I also see Middle Man has finished his snack.

Really, it would just be easier if I lit cash on fire rather than go through the charade that is keeping a clean house. Because let's be honest: having a professional clean your house when you still have kids makes about as much sense as hiring a personal trainer yet eat nothing but Twinkies for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Backside betrayal

See this function on your phone?

I highly recommend you use it. You never know who your butt may dial while you innocently go about your day. Apparently today my butt dialed a neighbor in my babysitting coop.

A neighbor who isn’t (yet) hardened by raising three kids.

A neighbor who doesn’t let her own 2 year old have a temper tantrum in Target, and then announce rather loudly “Listen up: I’m leaving now. I’m not sure why you are so sad and angry, but if you want a ride home you’d better get off the floor and follow me out.”

A neighbor who isn’t undeterred when followed in public places by the howls of 2 year old woe.

When the distress call ended, my neighbor *69’ed me to make sure that everything was OK. Much the way the 911 operator follows up on a misdial, making sure police, ambulance or fire services don't need dispatching. I guess my neighbor wanted to see if CPS was warranted given the amount and decibel of wailing she overheard.

I have for years hated my butt. Now I have one more reason to add to the list.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day, caterpillar-style

When I was about 5 years old I was really into “pet” caterpillars. Like most kids, the idea of my fuzzy little friend transforming into a beautiful butterfly blew me away. Here was glamour and science working together. And it involved bugs, so HUGE bonus there. I would collect them, one after another, in the hopes of one day seeing a beautiful Monarch fluttering around in the jar-turned-terrarium I’d build for them. (That my caterpillars were nothing more than the Western Tent variety is a small-yet-pertinent detail a 5 year old typically ignores...)

Sadly, none of my pets made their full journey from little ‘pillar to beautiful winged friend. In fact, most perished well before their chrysalises even formed. And although I did once manage to sustain a caterpillar long enough for it to create a chrysalis, when I eventually found the common household moth fluttering madly in the Prego pasta jar, I was totally of bummed out.

Well, I guess these infatuations are timeless, ‘cause guess what new pet our family adopted yesterday while at Grandma’s house.

BMoC: “Mom! Look! It’s a caterpillar!”

Middle Man: “Hey, let me see!”

BMoC: “No! Get off. You’ll squish him. Leave him alone.” This said as BMoC picks the caterpillar up, flips it around in his hands and basically does not leave it alone.

While I left the boys to enjoy (but ultimately tire) of their new find, my mom stepped in and audaciously suggested that BMoC create a little habitat for it so he could KEEP it. Whipping around, I looked at my mom with an expression that said, “are you kidding me?!” My mom replied with an unspoken, but clear-as-crystal smile suggesting, “welcome to my world.”

Well, just like his mother, BMoC (unfortunately) does not have a future in zoology. Or at least not an unchaperoned one. Our Mr. Caterpillar did not make it to Day 2. (Quite frankly, I’m not sure he made it past Hour 2 in the plastic tub that was serving as his new home.)

"Mom? My caterpillar isn't moving?"

Ugh oh.

"Umm...maybe it's just taking a nap."

"Maybe. But, like, it's a really long nap. And see how when I shake the tub, he doesn't wake up."

Ah, yes. I wonder what ever could be the matter.

"OK, well let's give it until after lunch, and if he doesn't move by then, what do you think we should do?"

"I think he's dead."

And then tears.

"He was such a good friend. I'm going to miss him so much."

Right. You guys shared a lot together.

"Buddy, sometimes caterpillars are better left living outside, in the grass, where you find them. No matter how nice a home you make for them, maybe we should just leave them outside and visit them rather than move them into a new place."

"Maybe. Or maybe I just didn't have enough water in his new house."


Once BMoC called time-of-death, it was time to move onto proper burial services...

...as well as spreading the news to all family members, such as Husband/ Dad at work. (I made sure he called Daddy's cell phone so that even meetings were interrupted for the urgent and grave news.)

Memorial services are expected to continue tonight with a wake including comfort foods such as corn dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese.

Who wants to bet how long it takes to ask for a dog?