Sandwiched but not forgotten

During church last Sunday, Dick asked me if Susan has ADD. I pointed out that A) it was 2 pm and B) we were coming out of a long stretch of boring and C) she did just turn four years old.

Other than that, I got nothing.

I told Grandma (yes, that Grandma) about this exchange, thinking that she and I could have a “What do men know? This is how children behave” bonding moment.

She said, “Well, you could ask your dad about it, but we just tend to think that Susan is Susan.”

Now, I am not one to say that my children are extraordinary. Not extraordinarily good or extraordinarily bad, extraordinarily smart or extraordinarily mischievous. I mean, clearly they are well above-average, but nothing is more tedious than a parent who acts as though their child was the first to ever sing the alphabet or to need seventeen timeouts in one afternoon.

But, as Susan turns four and heads off to preschool (Finally! Note to self: Never give birth in October), I’m left to wonder: What exactly makes Susan Susan?

When we visited our friends in Idaho earlier this month, I remembered many meals shared with them during which we played a game with their son called “Trick Jimmy Into Eating.” On one memorable occasion we got him to eat a chicken nugget that he didn’t exactly digest, if you know what I mean.

We have never had to play “Trick Susan Into Eating.” We play “You can have one more piece of bread and then you HAVE TO GO TO BED I MEAN IT” with Susan. My friend noticed that, of all the healthy appetites in our family, Susan’s is possibly the most healthy.

How did she put it nicely? She said: “Wow, you’re lucky that Susan’s metabolism is so good.”

When I picked up Susan after her first day of preschool, her teacher asked if she’s really left-handed. As if she were going incognito and is secretly ambidextrous. Well, we tend to think that she really is left-handed. At least, nothing we’ve tried so far has cured her. No matter the teasing, the portion-control, or the Chinese water torture, Susan still picks up her fork with her left hand.

Dick likes to say that Susan is my double in looks and temperament. To be honest, I have always thought that she might be extraordinarily good-looking. But . . . I was a headstrong, um, vocal, first child. Shouldn’t Susan, as the middle child, be put-upon and down-trodden and obssessed with calf nuts?

And should she be uttering my own favorite teenage-angst questions so early? “It’s not fair!” “You’re really mean.” “I don’t like you any more.” “You don’t understaaaaaaaaaand!”

Oh, believe me, Susan, I do understand. Life isn’t fair, Mom really is that mean, and getting meaner every year.

It would hurt my feelings if I really thought you didn’t like me any more, but since you hugged me and told me that you loved me right before asking for another piece of bread tonight, I’m sure it was just a mood you were having.

Happy Birthday! Mom loves you, and so do your sisters, and so does your dad.

The One-Dish-Towel Day

I have a dream.

A dream that one day I will hang a fresh dish towel at the beginning of the day, and at the end of the day, that same dish towel, limp but undefeated, will be hanging in my kitchen.

It will not have been sacrificed to spilled milk (SPILLED MILK! AGAIN!) or to a clumsy cook (WHY am I clumsier on homemade-marinara day than on frozen-chicken-nugget day?).

It will not be grabbed by a thoughtful husband to mop up the mud on the floor (MUD ON THE FLOOR!), or by a desperate mom to wipe a toddler’s snotty nose (SNOTTY NOSE ON THE DISH TOWEL!).

It will flap gently in the breeze, scented by the herbs growing in terra cotta pots on the windowsill.

And on that day, I shall gather my little children around me and say, “Oh ye that have honored the sacred dish towel, let us go down to the Chick-fil-A for dinner, as I would do anything to prevent the soiling of this most perfect of all days.”

Have we met before?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to marry a good Mormon boy from a large Mormon family, and in the summers, we would flit from one large family reunion to another. Instead I got Dick, who, after surviving my dad’s family’s reunion, wanted to know whether family reunions were a common thing in Utah.

You know the Christmas letters that sound as if you’re trying to pimp out your kids? Family reunions can be even worse — a full-color, animated Christmas letter you can’t tape to the refrigerator door and ignore.

If you’re in the market for a career, or have children who need a swift kick in the rear career advice, you might want to keep in mind that the bar for bragging has been raised in recent years. Where once it was enough to graduate from a respectable college and enter a respectable profession (engineer, doctor, engineer, lawyer, dentist, engineer), now you need a little something extra to get respect around the family reunion campfire.

My sweet cousin Peter, who’s number 30 of 57 first cousins or something (I lost the cousin chart they handed out the second night) is not someone I’ve talked to much before (I hang with numbers 10-20). He’s returning to college this fall, and it’s a safe guess that his major is chemical/mechanical/civil non-disobedience engineering.

Peter, who knows that I am a stay-at-home mom like all the other female cousins my age, said to me, “You studied at BYU for awhile, right?”

That night around the campfire, we had family sharing time, where each of my dad’s three sisters and six brothers (except that one brother who’s always “busy”) introduced their kids, beaming proudly if they’d managed to produce their kids in the flesh, hoping to produce adequate excuses if their kids couldn’t make it. Being out of the country on a mission for our church earns a pass, barely.

Occupations and recent accomplishments were mentioned, as were their children’s children. My oldest cousin is turning 40 next year, and he and his wife have adopted several — my three girls are a small, if glittering, contribution to the family tree.

So what’s the most coveted bragging point for mostly-Republican, highly-religious, mostly-high-achiever families? (And an automatic get-out-of-family-reunions card?)

Highest honors around the campfire go to those who have at least one child working in a top secret job for somebody like Lockheed or the NSA.* Then you get to say that you’d like to explain what Johnny does, only he can’t tell you because then he’d have to kill you. Or as my dad’s next oldest brother’s wife says her son says: “I can’t tell you or I’d have to do a lot of paperwork.”

Several of my dad’s nine siblings have sons who have every reason to view more paperwork as the kiss of death.

After my grandparent’s youngest kid told us about his youngest kid’s bluegrass band, my dad said he needed to amend his progeny spiel.

Turns out he has daughters, as do all his brothers and sisters, and, though they are not secret undercover operatives, or even doctors or lawyers or engineers, or MAYOR OF WASILLA, they are doing something wonderful: raising children to become secret undercover operatives or doctor or lawyers or engineers.

Or, as in my case: raising mothers. Mothers who will become governor of Alaska, if I and my studying for awhile at BYU had any confidence in the current fairy tale.

Dad even said that his oldest daughter does the blog, and boy! does she post often.

Then, since I am a supportive wife, I pointed out that Dick also has a top-secret, classified, vital job, and since he works for our church, he answers to a higher power. So there. Your sons might be keeping the free world safe, but my husband? He’s protecting God’s secrets.

And I am raising kids and doing the blog.

*My cousins don’t actually work for these people. I’d tell you who they work for, or where in the world they’re deployed, but then I probably wouldn’t be invited back next year . . .

Do you hate being a mother so much?

No, Dick. I hate being a stay-at-home mother SO MUCH. Sometimes. Right now. On bad days. In the morning. In the afternoon. Every time but nap-time. In an apartment. When the dishes need doing. When the kids are cranky. When I am unappreciated. When I feel guilty. When I want to write. When I want to read. When I want to go to the bathroom by my freakin’ self. When it is what defines me.

Dick goes in for a colonoscopy today. I think I’ve just gotten back at him for criticizing my “mothering” and “homemaking” and “cooking” skills this morning. Since he is on a sad, sad liquid diet in anticipation, and not feeling so well, he is “working” from home today, and wants to know why I am sitting at my computer laughing when the kids are Crying! Yelling for Pancakes! Bleeding from the Knees!

How much time do you have, Dick?

Crying! Yelling for Pancakes! Bleeding from the Knees! This is my life, and sometimes I want to shave my head, strip off all my clothes, and run screaming onto I-15. In rush hour. Which is conveniently scheduled for both the early morning I HATE WAKING UP hour and the 5 o’clock WHERE’S YOUR FATHER hour.

So I asked him — Do you hate being a father so much? Because I don’t see you getting out of your chair to dry the tears, make the pancakes, get the bandaids. Oh, I forgot. You are WORKING.

And I must get back to my life.

Battles (Not) Worth Fighting

One of the first things you learn as a parent is that some battles are worth fighting, and others simply aren’t. For a happy home and above-average children, follow these simple rules:

1) Determine which battles are worth fighting and which aren’t. It’s nice to give the Hubs some input here, always remembering who usually mops up the tears and blood.

2) Plot strategies for the battles worth fighting.

3) Resist all temptation to fight those battles not worth fighting.

Your lists may differ (I don’t see how), but here are our:

Battles (Not) Worth Fighting

1. School Attendance — Not Worth It. I know, you’re probably thinking that’s easy for me to say when my kids are so intelligent and well-socialized, but I’d let them skip school now and then even if they weren’t prodigies. Remember Mrs. Lynde’s sage advice:

That is I wouldn’t say school to her again until she said it herself. Depend upon it, Marilla, she’ll cool off in a week or so and be ready enough to go back of her own accord, that’s what, while, if you were to make her go back right off, dear knows what freak or tantrum she’d take next and make more trouble than ever. The less fuss made the better, in my opinion. She won’t miss much by not going to school, as far as that goes. (Anne of Green Gables)

2. Church Attendance — Worth the Fight. Normally I think it’s a good idea to have low expectations (saves on disappointment), but church attendance is one of those things that you should just expect, and keep on expecting. Church wasn’t optional when I was growing up, and if I still have to go now, you can bet your cute patoote my kids do too!

3. Homework — Not Worth It. I know, again with the advanced mental abilities making it easy to shrug off homework, but really. If Sally, age 7, goes to school for 6 hours everyday and then wants to play with her sisters or run around outside or read Danny Dunn and the Swamp Monster, I’m not going to make her sit and fill out some stupid worksheet on the pattern ABABAB. So there!

4. Naps — Worth the Fight. At some point (say 13 or 14 years of age), your kids will grow out of napping. This is a sad, sad day that deserves black balloons and dead roses. Until then, revel in the nap-time. After that, do whatever it takes (locks, threats, bribes) to protect “quiet” time.

5. Piercings — Not Worth It. I’m all for restraint in the puncturing of random appendages, but the one good thing about piercings is that they are so easy to remove! I got a second hole in my left ear when I was seventeen (oh the delicious rebellion!), never guessing that when I was thirty-one I would turn down a pair of earrings from my sister because I haven’t worn anything in either ear for about six years.

6. Tattoos — Worth the Fight. Have you seen all the advertising for tattoo removal? Maybe when my kids are twenty-seven they can make a decision like this for themselves, but no way are they doing it when they’re too young to realize that someday that’s going to hurt like a mother AND cost lots of money to remove.

7. Hair — Worth the Fight Not Worth It (ultimately). After watching home videos of toddler-Sally, Dick made me promise not to cut Spot’s hair in the same Monkees cut (Sally’s the pianist). I am in complete agreement, but Spot is always taking out her ponytails, so often she has hair in her eyes, which bothers me, but not as much as it bothers Grandma, who I will probably have to supervise all her visits with Spot to protect her from scissors. Oh well. Susan keeps cutting her own hair, and I shaved my head when I was nineteen. Almost did it again the other day, but have gained approximately fifty pounds since then, so would not look like Demi Moore in GI Jane now as I did back then.

8. Modesty — Worth the Fight. I was sometimes the least-modest person in the entire city of Cairo (except the tourists), and usually the most modest on the beach in Florida. I don’t want my girls to get a complex, and I don’t see myself ever forcing them to wear a bra. Hmmm, come to think of it, I can’t even see myself taking them shopping for a bra. Maybe Dick . . . no, that’s probably weird, although he did take me bra shopping that one time. Whether clothes match or not is a different story, and definitely Not Worth It (as is backwards panties. Do not point out things like this).

9. Language — Not Worth It. This one might seem a tad self-rationalizing, because I have a bit of a problem with my favorite words (beginning with “f” and “s” and “d”), but I really can’t get too worked up about what they say. We don’t take the name of the Lord in vain, but I think it’s best not to overreact to obvious ploys for attention like “Mommy poops in her diaper.” (If you can’t imagine the appeal of the f-word, read Paddy Clarke HaHaHa. Go ahead. I read it for an English class at BYU, so it won’t hurt you.)

10. Eating (What) — Worth the Fight. Eating (When) — Not Worth It. I saw a mother holding her child in the straight-jacket hold at a picnic last week. Lots of screaming ensued. It wasn’t pleasant. Look. Family dinner time is important. It’s important that we sit around and discuss our day, but don’t make your kid eat when she’s not hungry. As long as the food on offer later is the same nutritious stuff as was at the table, let them eat when and how they want. Please. And if it makes them happy (and keeps them quiet), LET THEM EAT CAKE!

11. TV Viewing — Not Worth It. When I say “TV” what I really mean is watching movies in the back of a moving minivan. This is something that should be encouraged at all stages of development. Mindless TV watching at home should probably be rationed, and while The Simpsons is fine for any age, The Family Guy is not.

12. Seatbelts, Swimming Lessons, and Shots — Worth the Fight. A few months ago I got off the freeway to spank Susan for taking off her seatbelt. She did it a couple more times that week. It was some rough boundary-testing week, and I’m pleased to say that she now starts to hyperventilate if somehow we start rolling with her seatbelt unfastened. I want to be safe! she wails. Thank you. My job is done.

13. Manners — Worth the Fight. When Sally was eighteen months old, she started curling her hand into her chest with her elbow out at a 90-degree angle whenever I prompted her to say “please.” I couldn’t tell if this was some strange sign language she’d picked up or what. Then I realized that when I prompted her to say please I was usually holding something in my hand that she wanted, and I was holding it back away from her, against my chest, until she said the magic word. It was sign language, all right. But not very pretty.

So. What do you think? What are your battles worth fighting and not?

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This is my first attempt at a Thursday Thirteen, and it’s also what Works-for-Me.

My favorite muffins and fun with favicons (cooking! and blogging!) — Updated (I’ve always wanted to say that)

Don’t worry. I don’t use endearments like ‘muffin’ or ‘cupcake’ for the people I live with. Though it is pretty irresistible when Susan is kind enough to inform me, while I change Spot’s diaper for the second time in 10 minutes, that We don’t eat poop. We eat corn.

Or when Sally talks Susan into taking off her panties while they’re in a mutual time-out. Why? For the love of everything holy. For the love of ponies and princesses and pink, why would you do that? We were playing ‘jokes.’ Please, please tell me this isn’t something you learned at school.

So. Since it’s only 9 am, and not physically painful enough for a Vicodin, I need some chocolate.muffin-top-pan.jpg

You know oatmeal’s good for you. Oatmeal cookies, with chocolate chips? Not so much. Since I am uber-healthy, I compromise with Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins. And if you buy me this cool muffin-top pan, I’ll whip you up some.

They’ve got applesauce (fruit), semi-sweet chocolate chips (anti-oxidants), oats (fiber), sugar (energy) and butter (dairy). Basically, all the food groups. You can see the original recipe at that greatest of recipe websites, allrecipes.com, but, as usual, I made a few changes.

At least if I die, Dick can look back through this blog and make some of my favorite foods.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

1/2 c butter (you could use margarine, but, why?)
3/4 c brown sugar
1 egg
almost 1 c applesauce (unsweetened, because this is a health food here)
1 c wheat flour (white or red)
1 c quick-cook oats
1 1/4 t baking pwd
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips (bittersweet and milk chocolate have their places, but they’re just not right for this recipe).

All the wet stuff in one bowl, all the dry in another. Whisk the dry and then whisk the wet. Mix the wet with the dry and add chips. Bake in a paper-lined muffin tin (unless you have the silicon muffin-top pan) and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.

Now that you’ve got heaven in the oven, let’s talk technology. You know you’re a really cool blogger or internet reader or just a geek if you know what a favicon is. Like I found out a couple days ago. Maybe you’ve always known what they are, in which case, Why didn’t you tell me? They’re those little doohickies to the left of the “http…” in your address bar. Look at mine, isn’t it cool? (or, like, descriptive? — Maybe I should get a diaper favicon and re-name my blog We don’t eat poop.)

Don’t Try This at Home‘s was the first favicon I noticed, and here’s a clever, yet potentially disturbing one from June’s new review blog, Chic-Critique. I can appreciate the blog name without having any burning desire to read more beauty product reviews. But June somehow makes even talk about foundation not make me want to poke my eye out, much.

Also check out Dick’s bold yet simple, and Sally’s cuddly yet trendy (in Japan) favicons. Once you know what to look for, favicons are everywhere. Learn how to add a favicon to your own site by googling “how to add a favicon to blogger/typepad/wordpress blog.” I know, you never would have guessed, right? I would link to Blogging Basics 101 for a tutorial, but they don’t have one. Crazy. You can make your own favicon, or choose from a collection.

So, eat, drink, make a favicon. It’s kind of like marking your territory, without the mess.

***

Those smart women at BB101 DO have a post on favicon (Fave-Icon, long A, long I, though I think fahvicon rolls better) making and placing. Guess I mis-searched or made a mistake (don’t tell my kids; I’m trying to keep that possibility a secret for a few more years). If you’re interested in starting or expanding a blog, you can’t go wrong checking out BB101. They even have a podcast, which, besides great information, features cute Southern accents.