On Weeds

**CAUTION: THIS POST CONTAINS WEEDS SEASON 8 SPOILERS**

[I admit: I really like watching television, especially on Netflix or Hulu (less commercial interruptions). Everyone needs a show or two (or 29) that entertain, amuse and provide a well-deserved escape from our regular scheduled programming. Used introspectively and in moderation, TV watching, like everything else in life, can be a valuable tool in making our own choices. We can learn from the mistakes of the bumbling idiot Homer-types, bask in the wisdom of Carol Brady-like moms, and protect the world from vampires and demons with the naturally buff ones such as, well, Buffy. So, that’s why I’m talking about the boob tube here today, and probably will again in the future.]

**SPOILER ALERT ** SPOILER ALERT**

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If anyone can make me feel a little better about my parental ability, it’s Nancy Botwin.

Weeds Season 8 is on Netflix and I’m two episodes in. I have to say, Ms. Nancy usually irritates the crap out of me. I often wondered if the show would be better off without her, because I really like most of the other characters much better (the poor saps).

But as she lay lifeless in a drug-induced coma, nursing the bullet wound in her head, I was surprised to discover I missed her. It was kind of a Duh moment, when I realized, Of course! She is the classic love-to-hate persona. What would the show be if we didn’t have our beloved anti-heroine to judge, despise, laugh at, and, yes, even root for at times?

Her selfish, depraved, insane choices in life make me feel a bit better about my own little mishaps. “Well, at least I’m not a drug-dealing, sex-addicted egomaniac, and my kids haven’t killed anybody yet. We’re doing OK,” I can say.

So I was happy when she was up and about by the second episode, and even welcomed her new Pollyanna-esque view on life. My heart was as warmed as anyone else’s when she thoughtfully gift-wrapped and shared her special cookies with the hospital patients at no charge. This defies the very essence of her being. What charity! What pureness of heart! I mean, as much as giving away free pot-filled baked goods to the terminally ill can be.

It’s easy to enjoy her adorable little attack of conscience because (I’m calling it!), it won’t last. She’ll be faced with some tough choice later on in the season, and pick (anyone??): Nancy.

But let’s move on to a few other themes. I’m wondering about Shane’s sudden affection for the police academy. This could be a good thing for him or an extremely dangerous, horrible thing for everyone else. His instability continues to worry me.

Doug continues in his role as a humorous distraction to the ridiculousness of the Botwin clan, but did anyone else find his coma-groping a tad creepy? I know, of all the things in the show to bother me, and yet, it did.

Andy. Oh, Andy. Nancy’s sister? Could anything be more cliché and doomed for failure than this? As my favorite character, I feel for you, man. Part of me wishes you’d stayed in Copenhagen where you seemed mildly happy and somewhat free from the madness; the other part is having a hard time looking away from the car crash.

And the little infomercial for the vagina weight? Priceless. I’d like to say I didn’t Google it, but …

The S&M is new for Silas … are we to assume he’s now an in-control grown-up manly man? Okie doke. Mostly I’m just glad he’s blond again.

Ahhhh, Botwins. It’s so good to have you back.

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Haiku Kung Fu – Paper Calendar

Paper calendar

Keeping time in pen and ink

Life safe in small squares

(Anyone else still use one of these? I also use my computer and phone, which are not synced. So, I’m basically writing activities in 3 separate places that have no connection to each other whatsoever. Go ahead and marvel at my extreme efficiency, I understand.)

Well played, iPod. Well played.

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As I sit here working, I’m contentedly bopping my head along to the music playing in the kitchen. All seems normal and good, until I fully listen and realize I’m getting my jam on to Yo Gabba Gabba’s Hold Still. And there’s not a kid in sight. (Don’t worry, they’re around here somewhere.)

Perhaps the more alarming aspect of this statement is that I’m completely fine with it. I’ve grown accustomed to children’s music. In fact, I even enjoy it for short stints. I am not embarrassed to admit this. (OK, not very embarrassed.)

But not everyone is so lucky to have my weak and impressionable flexible and accommodating nature, which allows me to cheerily sing along to The Laurie Berkner Band. I’m married to a music fanatic who loves a wide range of music from hip hop to folk rock to jazz to metal. His tastes are eclectic, but they do not include kid bop.

For example, on a recent jaunt, he switched the moppet mix that constantly streams in my car to random shuffle in the hopes of hearing some “normal” tunes on the drive.

First song, a rousing recording of kids singing Ain’t No Bugs On Me, which Connor immediately joined in on, making it impossible to skip.

Next came Sleigh Bells Ring (this one really got me giggling, as he is not too fond of holiday jingles even on December 25) and Ona happily shrieking at the first note. Trapped again.

But he patiently sat through both, and when the next children’s title popped up (which of course it did) he quickly skipped it before either child noticed and lucked out with a track from The Black Keys. But not before we both had a good laugh.

I suppose I get the aversion. Children’s music has been labeled as overly peppy, annoyingly catchy and totally devoid of any artistic merit. Which may be true from a grownup perspective but let’s face it, most kids (and many adults) love it. There must be a reason it resonates.

Perhaps it is the lively, upbeat (or lullaby-like soothing) nature of the songs. Or the topics, which are all the major themes of youngsters’ lives right now: loosing teeth, starting school, making friends, holidays, birthdays, bedtime, siblings, making mistakes, making choices, growing, food, playing, camping, sports, toys, games, dinosaurs, space, monsters, even puppy love.

The kids hear the words and realize they are not alone in all this. Others out there have the same interests and struggles and vivid imaginations. On the same vein, I am suddenly immersed in kid-important issues, making it easier for me to remember what’s going on in those beautiful brains and hearts.

Of course, there is also the valuable learning hidden between the notes. I try to appreciate education in any disguise. Even if they deny it when asked directly, most kids love practicing skills like counting, rhyming, memorization and alliteration.

And let’s be honest, on days when my brain is mush and it’s school carpool time, there’s a certain peace and satisfaction in putting on the kiddo’s favorites and letting us all take in some sweet life lessons and silly scenarios through the sounds of music. I can focus my mind on driving and not playing word games or looking for orange cars.

Maybe that’s why I love my kid bop. It’s yet another friend lending a helping hand in my parenting realm.

The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.

Bring it to the table

About six months ago, I felt like we’d entered a new stage in our family life. Ona was turning two, Connor was starting kindergarten, and I finally reached a point where I remembered not only do I know how to cook, I also very much enjoy it.

(Apparently I need about 730 days to get my food-making brain back after giving birth, as the exact same thing happened when Connor reached his 2nd birthday. It was a short-lived stage, however, because Ona was conceived soon after and we reverted back to feasting regularly on a variety of Trader Joe’s prepackaged goodies.)

But now, family dinners are in full swing, and we are reaping the benefits. I’m thrilled we are enjoying healthier, home-cooked cuisine almost every night and saving a little money with less restaurant time and meal planning. I’m also digging the creative release I get from trying new ingredients and tweaking recipes to suit our particular tastes and needs.

I have to admit, though, that’s all just (ahem) icing on the cake. It is another little bonus that has really sparked my desire to (forgive me) cook up this master plan of regular table time.

It’s not so much about the dinner as it is about the family. The whole process is something we do together. The kids help prepare the food by chopping, pouring, and stirring. Connor and Cory set the table with the necessary utensils and napkins. Even Ona grabs her own fork (sometimes two) every now and then. Once we sit down to eat, we put away all outside distractions: no phones, no computers, no toys, no books, no magazines, nada.

It’s just us, sharing food and our sparkling wit.

Well, the wit part may be a stretch, I’ll admit. Mostly we end up playing games: The Color Game (everyone takes a turn naming colors without repeating any until we can’t think of any more), The Zoo Game (“I went to the zoo and I saw a {blank}.”), The Superhero Game (Describe a superhero while the rest of the players try to guess the character.), The Dinosaur Game (see The Superhero Game and replace the word ‘superhero’ with ‘dinosaur.’)

Cory and I do, however, attempt to fill each other in on little details of our day during all the delectable diversions. It sometimes gets a little confusing recapping our lives in the midst of shouting out “Lavender!”, reporting a recent sighting of a walrus at the zoo, and asking questions like “Are you a carnivore or an herbivore?” but it all works out.

Another fun development involves my instinctual gravitation towards flavors from my childhood. For example, one of our current favorite desserts is the same pudding sundae my mom made for me and my sisters (one layer chocolate pudding, one layer whipped cream, another layer chocolate pudding, a dollop of whipped cream on top.) I tell the kids about my own mom, who did not buy pudding from the store in a tub like us, but made it on the stovetop. Then she used lovely clear glass sundae cups (I have to find some for us!) to serve, but she made them before dinner and put them on display in the fridge so we had to salivate over them FOREVER. How many times was I scolded for opening the refrigerator door just to glimpse their brown-and-white deliciousness?

When I share this little memory with my own children, they take it all in with big eyes and toothy grins. I try to imagine what their little brains are envisioning: Mommy as a little kid, slurping down dessert and laughing with girl versions of Aunt Jen and Aunt GiGi. I adore the incredulous looks they pass back and forth, with slightly raised eyebrows and crinkled eyes that seem to say, “Are you buying this?”

I remember exchanging those same glances with my sisters, and in a flash I realize I’m witnessing the bonds of siblings form right before my very eyes. How cool is that.

It’s a rare moment of clarity: I am so fortunate to be part of such an awesome family.

In the immortal words of John “Hannibal” Smith, I love it when a plan comes together.

All you need is love …

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Happy Valentine’s Day! How can you not have fun with a holiday that involves crafts with colorful paper, safety scissors, glue sticks, glitter, and lace?

Well, I found out this year as we bought our cards, but Connor still painstakingly chose and filled out each one with tremendous affection for the recipients. Ona sort of scribbled on a few and then went off to be distracted by a shiny object in the other room. I felt a bit like a slacker in the creativity department, especially when we received some really nice handmade cards from friends, but we all enjoyed the day just the same.

Next year maybe I’ll be more ambitious … but I’ll probably just Ooh and Aah over the amazing ideas on Pinterest and then hit the dollar store again.

But we did do cards, so that’s an accomplishment in itself! It always feels more like Valentine’s Day when cards are involved. And lots of chocolate, of course. I plan to pick a red wine with dinner, as well, so color me festive. Hope you all also found the perfect way to celebrate for You!

And mad, mad, mad, mad love from our home to yours!

Like mother, like son

7957795548_991816cc9cThere are a lot of things I like to think my son has inherited from me – his love for making (insanely creative) art, a totally corny sense of humor, the ability to enjoy an impromptu dance party in the kitchen for no other reason than Dance Yourself Clean starts playing on Pandora.

I’m more than happy to take credit for the good things.

But there are things about me I’d rather my children not inherit, like my terrible eyesight, my vertically challenged frame, my fiery temper, and most definitely my intensely timid nature.

Yet early signs are pointing in that very direction. My sweet Connor is – so far – a very cautious child. He has passed on countless activities – which I really think he would have enjoyed – simply because they make them too nervous. Perhaps because it means he would have to go without Mom or Dad, or Mom and Dad are there but on the sidelines, or maybe it just involves a wild mob of party people and a piñata.

If he was fine about not taking part, I’d support him. Smell the flowers just quietly, my little Ferdinand, I’d say.  (Insert your best cow joke here, book fans.)

But I can see the internal struggle as he starts to put on his coat with a brave smile … then flings it down again crumpling in a defeated heap.

“I want to go, but I don’t want to go!” he cries woefully.

And I kind of want to bawl right along with him. I feel my muscles tightening, my jaw clenching, my blood pressure rising …

I get so worked up about Connor’s inhibition because it strikes a very familiar nerve. I was an extremely introverted child, and I am not a naturally outgoing adult. I’m much more comfortable tapping out my thoughts and feelings on a keyboard than opening up to even the most kindred of spirits.

(Luckily, my dear friends understand this about me and love me anyway. Thank you so very much, by the way.)

So this shy scenario? It reminds me of my own painful issues, and I just don’t want him to have to deal with that crap. I know, he has to have limitations. But not my limitations.

Because if his struggles are the same as mine, then isn’t it my fault? I must have passed them on in utero. If it weren’t for me, would he be happily trekking all over creation, eagerly meeting new people, and excitedly trying interesting things??

Instead it seems he is in turmoil at times. And I get how he feels in those moments, maybe a little too much. Instead of my experiences making me more nurturing and soothing when  he’s melting down, the guilt and bad memories just stir up irrational anger. Not at him, of course, but at myself and the Universe. But unfortunately he probably feels my cross mood, which in turn I’m sure just makes him feel more anxious.

Ugh. I’m creating a vicious circle here.

Deep down, I know I just need to back off and let him find his own way. I’m working on it. I’ve been focusing on deep breathing and counting down from 1o in my head to stay serene when he needs calmness the most. All the things I tell him to do when he’s upset, but I somehow forget to role model when it really matters.

He’s only 5, after all. I do understand this could just be a short-lived age-appropriate developmental stage he is in right now (fingers crossed). After all, there have been a few breakthroughs. He talks about the (the) time he went to the neighbor’s house to play by himself, and he was scared at first but he went anyway and he had such a good time he didn’t want to come home.

“Remember, Mom?” he asks, eyes bright with pride.
“Yes, love,” I reply. (I don’t remind him of the 20 minutes we struggled to walk out the back door. Then 5 minutes to step off the patio. Three more before we open the gate. Ten to walk from our yard to theirs. A 30-second trip took 40 minutes, but whatever. It’s progress.)

I need to remember this feels much more extreme right now because we are in the moment. Very likely, he will develop his own self-confidence and courage at his exact right time. And having a supportive, sympathetic (not pushy and controlling) mother in the background will do nothing but help him find his way.

In a blink of an eye, I will probably be re-reading this post with a heavy heart knowing my son is becoming assured and independent, and he is also pulling away from (sniff) me.

I will think, What the heck was I complaining about anyway??

Hair of the Dog(s)

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No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.” – Louis Sabin

Especially if dog hair was a valuable commodity.

For those animal lovers out there who welcome furry little beasts into their families like ours does, do you ever wonder how much pet hair you and your loved ones consume on a daily basis?

I pondered this question while grinding coffee this morning, as I removed a hair caught in the lid. A few minutes later I felt a something odd and pulled a rogue strand out of my mouth. Then I turned around and saw Ona eating spilled cereal off the not-swept floor. Huh.

Maybe it’s more of a dog issue, but we will never be rid of the mass amount our dear Odin and Lelu shed. It’s a never-ending stream. It’s incredible in volume. I’m surprised they aren’t bald by now.

It’s simply part of our existence now, embedded into our lives just as tightly as the hair weaves into the fabric of our furniture, never to be separated. Just like our dogs in our hearts.

Let’s face it, even though the cleanup can be a pain, that hair is big part of why we love our furry pets so much. I’m sure turtles, fish, and porcupines are nice, but I can’t say I’d enjoy a snuggle with them. I would assume the word “pet” was derived from the fact that people loved to pet animals, at least those with hair. We very much enjoy the comfort that soft hair brings when our furry friends curl up next to us.

We love them because of their fluffy coiffures, not in spite of them.

Even if it means we have to invest in an industrial vacuum that we have to employ hourly. Which we probably could should.

Maybe we should be more enterprising and produce something worthwhile from it, like these people. But really, who has the time. (Or the inclination.) Strangely impressive, though.

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Work it out

Want a great tip for getting more exercise?? I wear work-out clothes almost every day in the hopes I might get a free minute to jump on the elliptical. It’s nice to be prepared to do a few lunges or crunches at the drop of a hat, really helps me fit more activity into my …

OK, OK, fine. I’m totally lying to myself. And now to you. Sorry about that.

It’s true, I do wear sweats pretty much all the time. But not because it makes me more likely to get my Downward Facing Dog on, no matter what I may try to trick my brain into believing. It’s because they’re comfortable, dammit. And I really like being comfortable.

Throwing on my standard uniform of black yoga pants and a tank top under a nice, big, cozy fleece is one of the few perks of stay-at-home-dom. Why on earth would I bother with complicated things like zippers or buttons or a bra, for goodness sake, to taxicab kids to and from school, prepare endless arrays of tiny snacks, build an army of Lego Transformers,  and sing The Moon Song for the millionth time. For real.

(It’s along the same vein as the concept of making one’s bed. WHY? You are just going to sleep there again in a matter of hours. Possibly less if you sneak in a nap. Just straighten the sheets and pull up the comforter. Done.)

I know, I know – there is a middle ground. I could figure out a way to be both stylish and comfy. Absolutely. And some days, I find that perfect blend. And it is awesome. Puts me on a high for days. (Also, I usually wear that same clothing combo for days … which kind of kills the effect.)

But most days, I just congratulate myself for remembering to brush my teeth and put on deodorant before leaving the house. I applaud the fact that I planned out meals for the week before going grocery shopping so I don’t have to try to put together dinners based on my mood at the time (hmmm … what to make with organic chard, basil pesto and a container of peanut butter chocolate chunk ice cream?).

I am happy I managed to write one blog in 5 days.

One kind of short, rather abruptly ended blog.

Yay, me!

Pacifying Parents

cryingI recently read a funny post about the two ways parents react to their inconsolably screaming babies in restaurants: those who leave, and those who Live and Let Scream (I am definitely in the camp of Quickly Scoot Out With Heads Ducked in Shame, but the reason lies more in the less noble I Really Hate People Looking at Me Especially in a Judgmental Fashion camp than the Doting Mother Who Puts Her Child’s Concerns First one).

This phenomenon got me thinking on the crying issue in general.

I love my kiddos. Adore them. It is a surreal kind of love that I never understood until they were a part of my world. Seriously. I want nothing more than their utter and complete happiness.

But I logically know a state of constant happiness is not only impossible, it is also unhealthy. We all need to experience the good, bad, amazing and ugly on the emotional spectrum to really live the fullest life possible.

We have to learn to deal.

Yet I too often try to shut down my children’s “negative” emotions. If a child is crying, I want to stop the tears. If they are angry, I tell them to stop screaming and deal calmly. If they are whining, I hand them a lollipop.

Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe we should support and nurture our children. When they are infants we just need to keep their butts dry and clean, their tummies full, their bodies warm and well rested (You can tell it’s been a year or two since I’ve had an infant if I can sum it up that easily, yes? Nothing to it! Please no hate mail from parents of newborns.).

For infants, crying is an accepted form of communication. But for older kids who seem to be such little PEOPLE, for goodness sake, it’s easy to expect them to “know better.” I catch myself constantly trying to shut down the whining, crying and screaming so we can talk about things reasonably. Please contain your surprise when I tell you: This ain’t working.

pacifierI guess my point (I think I have one) is that, at least in the privacy of our own homes when we won’t be disturbing others, what’s wrong with a little kicking and screaming once in a while? It’s not our jobs to keep our kids happy all the time. We are not pacifiers, we are parents. Kids need the most help when it comes to figuring out the difficult situations involved in this quirky little thing called Life.

When a child is losing it, that is when they need us the most. Not to correct their feelings by telling them they are wrong, as I often do (This is not appropriate behavior. You are overreacting. It is not a big deal. Stop your valid emotion and react like I want you to. And do it NOW. Etc. Etc.), but by simply listening. Kneel down so you can look into their eyes, nod empathically, repeat key phrases (if you can make any out), maybe give a hug. Whatever works for you, and especially whatever works for the child.

I think next time I will try running a positive dialogue in my head, kind of a mental cheerleader thing: Be mad, my child! Be frustrated and angry! Be jealous and petty! Feel disappointment and rejection! Wallow in that ridicule for a bit. Immerse yourself with sadness. You are doing great. You are learning and growing right here before my very eyes. I am amazed by your capacity for emotion and sheer strength of spirit! I’m so proud of you my heart could burst! Feel the hurt; it won’t last forever. All things are temporary. I am here with you. We will come out of it in a bit, and we’ll both be better for it.

You know, stuff like that.

And hopefully we all really will be better for it.SAMSUNG