‘Tis the night before Christmas Vacation

‘Tis the night before Christmas vacation
and all through the land
not a parent is sleeping
for teacher gifts await – to be made by hand

There are crayon wreaths
and cookies
Ornaments galore
I might’ve lost the baby
in the mess of ribbons on the floor

Such care is taken
Special attention to detail
There is no room for error
No such thing as a Pinterest fail

For our beloved children,
teachers go the extra mile.
It’s really the least we can do –
to burn off our fingerprints
with an overflow of hot glue

wine-bottle-boy-today-tease-1-151005_dafe9dd9bcffe57d6f8b1c92ec31437b

If we’re being real . . .

At daybreak, the kiddies
to the bus they will go
your precious cargo – the gifts –
into their throes
But you’ll hear the bus driver exclaim as she drives out of sight:
What, was your mom up making that all night?

Ode to Maternity Clothes

Thank you, maternity clothes, for making me feel less attractive than I already am

I realize the orb-like appendage extending from my midsection leaves you with lofty goals to attain; still, you fall grievously short of your endgame

With fabrics somewhere between highly viscous jet fuel and canvas starched to within an inch of its life

With shoe-string thin ties that either knot in one’s back or threaten to dip in the toilet in an already awkward dance

With handkerchief hems that add volume to our thighs, yet leave our sausage-like backside showing

Thank you

Thank you for pricing anything that looks remotely like real clothing out of range of anyone in her right mind – for three months of wear

Thank you to your merchandising gurus who decided to place your displays next to the plus size wear

Thank you for providing an infinite amount of baby-doll tops to go with three proffered pairs of pants

And to your partner in crime: the fitting room mirror

Thank you for showing me the parts of myself that I hadn’t realized has gotten so hairy under that belly

Thank you for accentuating just how wide my side view now is

Thank you for sallow skin, double chin, and purple circles under the eyes

Maternity clothes, you suck – only slightly more than trying you on

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‘Portrait of an Unknown Lady’ by Marcus Gheeraerts II

 

 

Murphy’s Child Outtakes

If you’d like to further tempt fate and play the odds for a surprise child, here are additional steps you can take.

  • Purchase a big family vehicle with one seat more than number of children you currently have. When your father-in-law comments that ‘you have room for one more’ and asks if you’re going to fill that seat too, say “Nooooooo! Not planning on it!”

    stocking

    (llbean)

  • When looking to hang the precious Christmas stockings your mother bought for each member of the family, you must have identical hooks. Be sure to buy the unique,weight-balanced ones, regionally made, sold from but one supplier – and only in sets of two. So when you outfit your last baby, you can tuck the extra hook into the storage tote, telling your husband, ‘you don’t think keeping this ensures another stocking (child) to fill it?’ You both laugh heartily at your superstition, but perhaps a little too much.
  • While giving visitors the dime tour of your new, larger, family-friendly house, point out the proximity of the bathroom to your side of the bed. Be sure to quip, ‘Too bad I got it after I walked down the stairs in the middle of the night for the three other pregnancies!”
  • Tell everyone about that woman you knew in your early twenties who surprised everyone, included herself, by getting pregnant at forty. She’d just joined a gym, replaced her wall-to-wall carpeting with refinished hardwoods, and sent her youngest off to middle school. Be sure to add significant shock and awe to your retell.
  • Try not to micromanage and embrace life in all its iterations. And you and Murph will get along fine.

Murphy’s Child

There are some sure-fire ways to guarantee the growth of your family. None are medically proven; none are rational – but all fall under the accord of Murphy’s Law.

  • First and foremost, tell everyone who asks – even those who don’t – that you are done having children. Your family is complete.
  • Further this point by passing along all your baby paraphernalia, with the caveat that you never want to see it again. They can do with it whatever they like when they’re done with it, but you don’t want it back.
  • Sweep maternity clothes out of your home with great aplomb. Plunk the rubber tote you’ve been storing them in on your neighbor/co-worker/friend’s front step with great and resounding authority.
  • Start to enjoy the long-forgotten freedom you and your spouse can reclaim at parties and cook-outs, even when the children are present. You can sit for 2.5 seconds without rushing to pluck them from the jaws of salmonella, see-saws, or swinging bats. Up the ante by enjoying a refreshing adult beverage.
  • Dream of a day in the not-so-distant future where you may actually be able to take a family vacation. All the kids are potty-trained, done with naps, and significantly less likely to throw a tantrum. The rosy glow on the horizon – and substantial sums of money no longer going toward diapers and pull-ups – even make you consider opening a dedicated savings account.
  • Send your youngest off to her first full day at school. Look at the seemingly endless hours that stretch before you and marvel at how you’ll fill them. Begin to dream and scheme for something soul-fulfilling, personal, even professional.
  • Most importantly – and the penultimate step – is to engage in quality intimate time with your spouse. Have actual conversations, canoodle, and connect in ways you haven’t since you conceived your last child – wait, what?
  • Too late. Murphy strikes again.
tostada-1000x666

shedka.com

Obtaining a Passport in 14 Simple Steps

  1. Wait until the absolute last minute to apply. For instance, if the state department says processing time is four to six weeks, file your applications four weeks to the day of departure.
  2. Be sure to do all your business on a weekday. This gives you the added bonuses of:
    • your spouse’s absence
      • While he’ll miss the ensuing hilarity at the passport counter, he can contribute by badgering his fellow officemates for a notarized seal on the extra form you’ll have to present as proof you’re not trying to steal his children across the border without his consent.
      • It will also give both of you the opportunity to appreciate the true skills of license forgerers as neither one of you will be able to photocopy his likeness. *It may also make you wonder if you’ve married a vampire.
    • time constraints
      • With all postal collection agencies stopping their passport services 30 minutes-1 hour before their already conservative closing time, you have the thrill of rushing at breakneck speeds from your children’s busstop to a neighboring town – which brings me to my next point.
  3. Bring all of the children for whom you’ll be obtaining passports. The more the better. More whining in the long lines. More children crossing their eyes at the one trying to maintain a stoic face while getting his/her photo taken. More little hands to pull padded envelopes from their displays in the post office lobby. To grab the weighted blotter from the counter and wave it above their heads. To terrorize the patrons retrieving mail from their PO boxes.Not only does the passport agent need to see them, their behavior may make them reconsider this inconvenient policy.

And speaking of inconvenient policies:

  1. Be sure to choose a postal collection agency that does not have its full information posted on the link from the state department’s website – so you can wait in said line with children straining to hold in their poo only to reach the front counter to be told, yeah, we don’t process passports within an hour of closing. You’ll have to come back. Yes, with all three kids.
  2. Drive back through the two neighboring towns you passed to get here, with two children beating each other in the backseat since starvation and dehydration have set in and the third complaining about the poo in her pants.
  3. Try again the next day at a postal collection agency that’s a little closer and open a half-hour later – which you know because you’ve checked and checked again. Schlep all the children through that line, meeting clerk so nice she won’t take your application because she would hate for the state department to return the whole thing since your husband’s photocopied license isn’t visible.
  4. Curse the amazing mediterranean tan your husband gets each year, wish he were as pale as you, tuck your tail between your legs and leave the counter. *Wondering even more if your husband is a vampire.
  5. Release your pent-up rage as you pass through the parking lot since it wasn’t the so nice clerk’s fault it’s so gad-dummed difficult to get someone, anyone to just take. my. papers!
  6. Take several days off – because life intervenes, and you don’t want to be arrested for assault of a passport agent. Plus, you’ve already screwed any chances of obtaining the passports in time anyway.
  7. Take this downtime to discuss with your incredibly tan husband, who may or may not suck blood, the possibility of expediting your children’s passports – for an additional fee, of course. Why not pour all the money you saved by purposely opting for the less-expensive passport cards – and then some – into the exorbitant total cost for expediting three kid passports?
  8. Scurry around the house like nincompoops, scanning, printing, and peering at new copies of his license for what better be the ultimate passport application submission attempt.
  9. Revisit post office from few days previous, nice clerk nowhere to be seen. Dispondently hand over application materials to new clerk, who, when you mention the license issue, looks and says it should be fine, but she’ll submit both copies just to be sure. When clerk questions your departure date and whether you’d like to expedite, answer ‘no’ so quickly, she jumps back. When she reminds you the passports may not arrive in time, with a twitch of the shoulder and giggle so borderline psychotic she looks uncomfortable, tell her, ‘Well, we just won’t go then.’
  10. Hand over a ridiculous amount of checks and funds and get the hell out of dodge.
  11. Resist the urge to dwell on the fact that you’ve wasted a week of your life – especially when you discover that all your children need to pass over the northern border are their birth certificates.

3passports

What Overnight Camping with Girl Scouts Will Teach You

  1. You were sadly mistaken when you thought the sleepless nights of your child’s infancy were over.
  2. You really did forget how much they sucked.
  3. All that whining about being overtired on your ‘normal’ schedule is a gross overexaggeration.
  4. The winding roads leading out of camp will make your head swim like the Dreaded Corkscrew of Death rollercoaster you loved as an eleven year-old – because now you’re middle-aged and sleep deprivation does funny things to you.
  5. Sometimes it pays to delay dropping the winter comforter you removed from your bed last spring at the dry cleaners. When you realize you forgot a blanket, you can retrieve it from your car trunk. Needs to be cleaned anyway!
  6. No matter how tired you are, you will hear the ill-seated toilet clunk upon the floor when the child masquerading as an elephant rumbles downstairs to use it at 3 AM.
  7. That odd scritching sound you hear just before dawn is not the pitter-patter of your charges. A seasoned leader will later tell you it was the squirrels in the ceiling.
  8. Impressing upon children the skill of packing only what you can carry is like telling Imelda Marcos she needs to cull her shoe collection.
  9. Engaging caffeine is a love/hate relationship: love it now, hate it when you shake so much you can’t put any more in your body yet still feel like shit.
  10. You really do have a laissez-faire, no-nonsense attitude with your own children.
  11. Other people’s children may not know how to navigate your ‘tough tooties – time for bed NOW’ attitude.
  12. A short time after arrival, you will take on the ‘Eau de Camping’ – a subtle scent with notes of mildew and maple syrup.
  13. Crafting at 11 o’clock at night is totally on the table.
  14. Four to eight eager girls will demand on-pointe spatial relations skills simultaneously and impatiently – at 11 o’clock at night.
  15. Children who go to sleep at approximately one o’clock in the morning will bounce out of bed at approximately seven o’clock.
  16. Bounce is not a euphemism.
  17. Shaky balcony rails were meant to be leant on.
  18. All trap-doors, attic access points, and all-around off limits areas will be located and attempted to be entered.
  19. The limitless flow of last night’s enthusiasm will dwindle drastically when it is time to sweep the floor before leaving.
  20. There is a threshold for number of times to hear ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ sung at top volume.
  21. Even eight, nine, and ten year-old girls can be subject to hormonal swings.
  22. You will all remember this as a special time – a bond that can only be made in a sleep-deprived, survivor-type environment.W_C2

The Changing of the Clothes

In just ten easy steps, you, too, can get your children’s drawers ready for fall and winter!

1.  Save every possible stitch of hand-me-down clothing you can get your hands on, even items your previous child may have loathed or ones they loved so much they near extinction.

2.  Wait until the switch is absolutely essential.  That month or so of sweatshirt mornings/shorts afternoons – way too early.  You must relish those last-minute mornings of fishing the one clean pair of long pants out of a random laundry basket.  Searching out hooded sweatshirts shoved into the sandy bottom of your forlorn beach bag – priceless.

3.  Reassess the situation when your children have shivered onto the bus for six consecutive school days.  Ensure that the sixth day follows a weekend.  See if it wasn’t just an acclimation period.  Grudgingly drag one bin up from the basement and pull from that during this waiting period.  If needed, you may also pull one stretched out kitchen garbage bag into your child’s room.  The clothes in this bag, however, may not be of any use to you as they were the ones that might not fit next season, but were so stinking cute you couldn’t bear to part with them.  Now is the time.

4.  After three days and nights of your children plying you to change out their drawers and your frantic scrambling to find clothes that fit them, but still sending them off looking like three of Fagin’s minions, start pulling your youngest’s summer shirts out of the baskets in her closet.  Make a pile of outgrown clothes to donate, a pile of ones that might not fit next season, but are so stinking cute you can’t bear to part with them, and a pile of those that certainly won’t fit next season but could work under a sweater right now.

5.  Leave these three piles on the floor of her bedroom for a day and a half.  Be sure to yell at your other children for knocking over and mixing up the piles.

6.  Open the one bin you’ve dragged up from the basement and put the shirts from it into the baskets in the closet you just cleared out.

7.  Repeat step 4 1/2, 5, and 6 for pants, sweatshirts, pjs, and bathing suits (the spot of which will now be filled by sweaters).

8.  Shove the rest of the clothes which you do not have room for – but are in perfectly good shape and kids are so messy you could always use an extra pair – into any nook, cranny, or hole you can find in their closet.

9.  Take the one bin you’ve managed to empty and bring it into your oldest’s daughter’s room.  Put her outsized clothes into it, where they will stay for the 2.5 years it will take for your next child to grow into them.

10.  Put all the newly filled bins back into the basement where they would sit collecting cobwebs for three months – except that in two weeks you’ll have to move them all about to get the one on the bottom into which you must place three more items you found lingering at the bottom of the hamper two weeks too late.

from operationwife.com

from operationwife.com

And that’s all there is to a smooth wardrobe transition from one season to another!  Easy Peasy!

An Unexpected Beaver

A dancing dragon and a firefly met on a moonlit night.  They began to talk and play when suddenly out popped a beaver.  They jumped, then laughed and laughed.  Their unexpected visitor added fun and excitement to their meeting.images

 

The above scene transpired in the puppet theatre at the library yesterday.  My three year-old, in the guise of the beaver, taught me an important lesson about humor in story.

While the dancing dragon and firefly were compelling enough in their budding friendship and moonlight dance, the beaver’s unexpected entrance added another layer of depth that hadn’t been there.

Even the dragon and firefly, as played by her sisters, laughed – not just me in the audience.

It is the unexpected or turning of conventions on their heads that makes the best humor.  It also makes for fresh, unpredictable plots.

Novel, indeed.

Yoga with Kids

By adhering to the following prerequisites, you too can have a complete yogic experience with your children.

 

image from NPR

image from NPR

  • Start by choosing your mat.  When your children see you roll out yours, they will immediately clamor for one of the remaining mats (tip: be sure to have only one of each color and one less than the number of children).
  • Place yours in an open area, free from obstacles and other people.  Your children will fill in the void.
  • Set your yoga strap at your side, easily accessible during your practice.  Your children will be able to grasp it easily as well to whip each other.
  • Don’t forget yoga blocks – in case you need extra support during a stretch.  Or a teething ring or projectile.
  • Clear your mind.  Your children will ping around like ping-pong balls no matter what venomous thoughts you entertain.
  • Lie in repose.  Ignore that fact that a toddler’s thick skull could sucker punch you in the gut at any moment.
  • Oh, and be sure to slide your sandals off before lying down, but keep them close by.  Your particularly feisty child may need a missile to launch at you for not arranging her not-right-color mat properly.
  • Range through the poses at your own pace – not that of your instructor.  You need to adjust for puppies crawling through your downward dog, snakes wriggling under your bridge, monkeys hanging onto your tree.
  • Accept your body as it is.  Don’t force the sore muscles of your shoulder or your tight hamstrings.  Your children will do that when they knock into you, sending your warrior tumbling.
  • Move your yoga practice outside for inspiration and variety.  Tell your children they may play nearby if they tire of yoga.  They will tire of yoga, but will stay right by your side, taunting and pleading for snacks and your attention.
  • Scan your body for areas of tension.  Notice the up-tick in your blood pressure as your children attempt acrobatics off the couch onto the yoga mats.
  • Do not abandon your practice before it is finished.  You came here to find inner peace and relax, dammit.

Laugh So You May Not Cry

My grandmother came from a large first-generation Irish-American family.  All blessed with a wicked, but subtle sense of humor and superb poker faces, it was easy for their humor to run under the radar.

But what if the humor itself hid something below the surface?

One of her siblings, a woman I never met due to her premature death and my postponed birth, made dear through family love and lore, apparently had the sharpest wit imaginable.  She brought joy wherever she went and had everyone in stitches.

When I was older, I learned that she had suffered from depression.  My first inclination was to think how ironic that was given her ability to inject laughter into any situation, but I realized that made her the perfect candidate, then, for family comedian.

It made sense that the person with the most pain to hide would be the one who needed the most diversion; both keeping her mind off her own problems and drawing others’ attention away from them.

It’s easier to crack a joke than to admit you’re trying so hard to force a smile your face might crack.  It takes less energy to make a witty remark drawing a laugh than dealing with the awkward silences and looks of pity.  There’s less mental energy and anguish in concocting playful banter than constructing a viable explanation for your moods.

My senior English teacher, who later became a mentor as I prepared for an education career myself, when dealing with a particularly challenging class or situation, would say, ‘Laugh so you may not cry.’  I quoted that line as I waited out the next contraction in my difficult third labor.  My midwife couldn’t believe I still had that attitude at that point in the game.  ‘You have to, right?’ I asked.  ‘Not everyone does, though, Jen,’ she answered.

I had to.

Not finding some bright spot, some positive attitude, was akin to curling up in a ball and dying.  And that was not an option.  So, then, there really was no choice.  By process of elimination, grinning and bearing it was the only way to move forward.

Whether it’s an avoidance tactic or a coping mechanism, humor gets a lot of people through their days.  And from that deep, dark place of truly authentic experience comes some damn good material.

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