Monday, March 30, 2009
One of my favorite things to do is to create useless theories about nothing and so here I go. This is not the first time I've likened parenting to raising animals and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last, but today's discussion revolves around leaving the room and wild dogs.

Today, I left the kids unattended so that I could go and get dressed. Horror of horrors! What was I thinking! I literally walked across the threshold of the bedroom and a screechy, piercing, "you wronged me" scream hit me in the cerebral cortex and radiated instantly down my spine.

"Not even 5 seconds! How is this possible?" I asked myself. Then I realized, the alpha-(fe)male-well, maybe the beta-(fe)male-has left the pack unattended and now the remaining dogs are fighting over who gets to take his/her place. The problem is that they both know that it's not always the stongest, biggest dog that wins. Sometimes it's the smaller, faster one. This means the battle for superiority has to be quick and decisive with a good healthy dose of shock and awe.

Unfortunately for me, it means many days of dressing in the living room, but I have discovered a few things that marginally delay the pack instinct for long enough to make it to the bathroom on occasion or to turn on the kettle to boil (but probably not enough time to fill it with water first).
  • Bribery
  • Blackmail
  • Threats (only effective for very quick trips up to 15 seconds)
  • A loud hair dryer (if a tree falls in the woods and a hair dryer is on, does the falling tree make any noise?)
  • Pre-emptive time-out
  • Lollipops or "silencers" as we call them in our house (as long as no one has a better color than the other)
  • Inappropriate television shows or movies
  • The Transformers theme song
That's about it really. I can usually make it through the day with these tactics in my parenting toolbox. Some times I have to use a blender or vacuum in place of the hair dryer for a little extra shock and awe on my end. But, for the most part, I can get an extra 30 seconds of peace for each tactic implemented in my campaign to dress in the privacy of my own bedroom. That's a whole 4 minutes of "me time" every day. Can't beat that, can you? Oh, wait....I forgot that I gave up privacy and peace the day I got pregnant.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
UGH! That about says it all, but let me break it down for you. Just for fun.

6:30 Wake-up to the sounds of "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"
6:31 Brush teeth and go to the bathroom simultaneously to the sounds of "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"
6:33 Answer the call.
6:33:30 Find a leaky diaper, a soaked child, and a soaked bed
6:34 Handle the aforementioned items...blach!
6:35 Redress and rediaper child screaming "No diaper! Naked!"
6:36 Lose battle
6:37 Greet other child to the sound of "Mommy, I'm hungry. Mommy, look. This is a clone trooper and this is another clone trooper. And this is a gun that shoots purple lasers. Mommy, can I have milk and a cereal bar. Mommy, look...this guy's a good guy. This guy just got blown up."
6:38 "Cook" breakfasts for 1 adult, 1 Kindergartner, and 1 toddler to the sound of "Mommy! My milk! I'm hungry!"
6:42 Bribe toddler with blueberries if she gets dressed.
6:45 Make the mistake of giving toddler frozen (organic) blueberries for breakfast.
6:46 Eat (e.g. shovel in) own breakfast as blueberry covered daughter climbs in my lap for her share.
6:47 Pour hot tea over my arm and leg to the sounds of "Mommy, more milk, please. Mommy, can I have a pastry? Mommy, this DVD isn't working."
6:48 Gather Kindergartner's clothes together and ask him to get dressed.
6:55 Smell something foul.
6:56 Change nastiest diaper even known.
7:00 Change toddlers clothes. Outfit 2. Fight 2.
7:10 "More blueberries, Mama!" (Mama is used for variety, but the impact is the same.)
7:12 Deliver more blueberries.
7:15 Deliver more blueberries.
7:16 Tell Kindergartner to get dressed or he will be going to school in pajamas. (Turns out this is not a big threat to a garden variety Kindergartner.)
7:20 Wipe blueberry covered face and hands with minimum success.
7:21 Wipe blueberry hand prints from wall with no success.
7:23 Dress Kindergartner. Ask him to put on his own socks and shoes.
7:29 Advise children that I'm getting dressed.
7:31 Attempt to locate public-safe clothes while husband is trying to sleep because he's on the night shift this week.
7:32 Yell to the kids to "STOP FIGHTING!"
7:33 Locate clothes and dress.
7:35 Put Kindergartner's coat on and place his backpack by the door.
7:38 Put unhappy toddler with new layer of blueberries in stroller.
7:40 Put on horrible, bright yellow Crocs and brown dowdy coat.
7:40:45 Push stroller out door.
7:41 Get to elevator. Toddler pushes button! Mommy realizes that Kindergartner has left his backpack next to the door. Advises Kindergartner to get backpack FAST!
7:42 Elevator arrives.
7:42:15 Kindergartner arrives with backpack. No shoes.
7:42:16 Elevator leaves.
7:44 Kindergartner brings shoes to elevator and button is pushed again.
7:50 Elevator arrives.
7:50:05 Board elevator as doors close on crappy, yellow Crocs.
7:50:30 Arrive relatively unscathed on "E". Exit elevator and proceed QUICKLY to school.
7:55 Hear school bell.
7:56 Arrive at school.
8:15 Arrive home (toddler wanted to walk).
8:16 Realize shirt has hole in very inappropriate location and sweatpants could safely be called crotchless. Turns out they weren't public clothes after all.
8:17 Hope the day improves as toddler begins her first temper tantrum of the day.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Sometimes when you are a parent of small children, you are lucky enough to be admitted to the hospital. When you win the parenting lottery and this happens to you, it is best to be prepared.

I recommend packing a bag ahead of time so that you will not have to think while you are in pain. Grab and go is the best policy here. Some things to include in your bag are:

  • A "Do Not Disturb" door hanger for your room. Just let the nurses know that you will buzz them when you need them and you do not want to be interrupted unless they are bringing you meds or your pizza delivery.
  • Your computer so you don't miss out on valuable Facebook and blogging time. (Be sure to ask about the availability of Wi Fi in advance.)
  • An updated list of your local food delivery service phone numbers. Call ahead to find out what they need to be able to deliver to the hospital. Sometimes this may require a "tip up front" arrangement to give them some incentive to work the complex hospital heirarchy.
  • Your favorite personal items, such as lotion, nail polish, manicure set, make-up, etc.
  • Reading material (Non-parenting related items are recommended. After all, you don't want to be distressed while you are "healing".)
  • iPod with your favorite entertainment and games.
  • A soduku puzzle mag. This is best used after you've taken your meds.
  • Your best silk jammies (as long as you don't expect to have weeping wounds during your stay).
  • Your favorite snacks and beverages. Room service is sometimes a little slow in hospitals. In addition, most hospitals will not serve alcoholic beverages, so pack carefully.

To get the most out of your spa treatment, call the nurses for any and all needs irrespective of their apparent importance to the nurse. After all, this is your time. Don't lose sight of that goal.

Be sure to ask if they have a physical therapist who can massage your bed sore muscles. Many hospitals provide this service and will happily bill your insurance company for you. No tipping required.

Get plenty of rest. This might be your last opportunity for your entire parent-cy. After a day or so of attending to your every whim, it is likely that you will have easy access to all sedatives required for maximum sleepiness.

Finally, be sure to fill out all your forms before you have your manicure. You wouldn't want to sacrifice beauty for bureaucracy.

And, don't forget to put the spa treatment on your list for Mother's Day! You never know.

Friday, March 27, 2009
Dear Tips from the Trenches:

After reading your blog for at least 30 seconds, I was relieved and bolstered to see such thoughtful, sensible ideas for practical parenting. Your "40 Off-Label Uses for Toothpaste" post really helped me see that I've been under-utilizing toothpaste for years. In addition, your "Twix Fix" story brought me to tears. You are SUCH a good parent.

It also made me realize that you may have some good ideas for one of the biggest parenting problems I encounter....playdates. When I hear the word "playdate" my situationally-occuring ulcer starts to bleed. (It's pretty ornery that way.) Occasionally before a scheduled playdate I'll even wake-up the night before in a cold sweat. To me, the best playdate is one that involves substantial amounts of wine.

Please, please, please give me some ideas for making the less painful.

Please help me before I bleed-out,
Ulcerating in Myanmar

Dear Ulcerating:

Playdates are indeed one of the most challenges items on any parents "to do" list. In fact, they used to top my own "never do" list until I learned the following tips. I hope they will help you as much as they helped me.

First and foremost, the best action is preventative action. Instead of waiting for the playdate to start before you crack open your merlot or chardonnay, make sure that you ingest a minimum of 4 ozs of alcohol per child per hour of the playdate at least one hour prior to arrival. No more, no less.

Second, when scheduling your playdate, remember, a playdate should always end at least 45 minutes before you think it will. Usually this means before you get to the nitty gritty of the local gossip, you should be putting on your shoes and locating your sippy cups.

Third, be sure to have lots of movies on hand that the visitng children would not normally be allowed to watch at home. When things get tough, pop in a movie and you will experience a peace that you have not felt since you last slept through the night.

Fourth, charge up your iPod and go buy yourself some nice noise cancelling headphones. Keep them handy for those moments when redirection just doesn't do the trick. Vacuuming is a low-cost alternative to this method.

Fifth, plan a continuously flowing supply of food and drinks. The more systemically toxic, the better. I found that reading labels can help you here. The less ingredients you recognize, the better chance you have of it placating young minds and bodies.

Sixth, keep in mind that "don't ask; don't tell" is an important guiding principle for any playdate. For example, NEVER, EVER, EVER ask the child if he/she is allowed to do something at home. Your house, your rules. The less you know, the better.

Seventh, usually silence is the kiss of death when your children are playing alone, but the same rule does not apply on playdates. Silence is golden. Never forget it.

Eighth, don't clean up your living quarters prior to the playdate. Kids love projects. Put them to work. Suitable projects include cleaning the floors, sorting laundry, washing windows, loading the dishwasher, collecting trash and disposing of it, and don't forget all those annoying tasks that your hands and fingers are just too big to reach.

Ninth, block all exits from the premises. This will allow you to socialize in peace...well, realistically, you don't have much hope of that, but it should help make things a bit easier.

Lastly, remember the only way to conquer your fears is to dive right in and face them. Mano-a-mano. So drink up (I have a great recipe for Maalox Merlot) and get playing!

Let me know how it goes.

Yours in playdate parenting bliss,
Tips from the Trenches, Your Practical Parenting Connection
Monday, March 23, 2009
  1. To brush ones teeth.
  2. To brush someone elses' teeth.
  3. To brush the dog's or cat's teeth (because the vet always says we have to do it).
  4. To use (on a toothbrush) as a toilet bowl cleaner. (This is most effective when used on Daddy's toothbrush while he is at work or otherwise indisposed.)
  5. To clean a computer keyboard
  6. To clean the screen on a new LCD flat-screen TV. (Is not effective on old, crappy and scratched TV screens.)
  7. To clean the pen marks off the wall.
  8. As a paint and wallpaper remover.
  9. As a substitute for diaper cream.
  10. As a bedtime snack.
  11. As a condiment.
  12. As shampoo. (Keep in mind it is not tear-free.)
  13. As glue.
  14. As furniture polish.
  15. As paint. (Comes in various pastel shades. You may also opt to enhance the color with food coloring.)
  16. As cosmetics.
  17. As glass cleaner.
  18. As a DVD/CD scratch remover (or enhancer depending on the formula).
  19. As a liquid key (fits really well in a lock).
  20. As a hair accessory.
  21. As plant food.
  22. As a mouse pad.
  23. As a staple-less stapler.
  24. As fingerpaint.
  25. As dishwasher detergent.
  26. As shoe polish.
  27. On a Q-tip as an ear cleaning substance.
  28. On a toothbrush, as a floor cleaner. (Be sure to scrub hard, especially around toilets.)
  29. As a stain remover, I mean, cover-up.
  30. As caulk.
  31. As a body lotion.
  32. As a contact lense cleaner and lubricant.
  33. On boo boos as a environmentally-friendly antibiotic cream with a nice mentholated sensation as it soaks into open wounds. (See your peditrician if the wound doesn't heal or seems worse after 24 hours.)
  34. As jewelry cleaner. Not safe for use on pearls.
  35. As a safe and tasty substitute for epicac.
  36. As a remote control button lubricant.
  37. As a belly-button lint remover.
  38. In place of whipped cream on most desserts.
  39. As pet food.
  40. As a sibling torture device.

Please submit any other off-label uses to Tips From the Trenches.

Saturday, March 21, 2009
I think the whole PBA problem is just a marketing ploy by the sippy cup manufacturers to make you replace all your sippy cups. They are tricky, too, because "old models" are still out on the market so you can just as easily replace the bad with the bad and have to start all over.

What I don't get is if it's such a problem, why on earth don't they properly recall them? I did an extensive Google search for sippy cup recalls and didn't come up with much. Overall, we have more important things to worry about so I'm going to give a quick, second lesson in sippy cup issues (click here for the first lesson).

For the sippy cup novice, common sippy cup issues include:

  • They all look the same to kids (and most parents) so who knows whose sippy cup is whose. On any play date, they all end up looking the same and it usually ends up in a frantic "is that mine or yours" discussion at the end of the play date. Don't even get me started on how to control the cup sharing issue during flu season. Who needs that aggravation?
    • Tip 1: Purchase wine glass ornaments and affix them to the sippy cups. A fun way to identify your child's own cup. You could even have a ornament making play date. It's even more fun if you fill the sippy cups with a wine-juice mix. (You can just call it sangria.)
    • Tip 2: Oh, yeah, you could also just order some of these. Using these would probably be less likely to put you on the receiving end of a social services visit.
  • Taking out and replacing the valves every time you wash them is enough to make you go crazy.
    • Tip: Buy sippy cups made by the same company and all the valves should be the same.
  • Matching lids to bottoms after washing them is often like taking an IQ test.
    • Tip 1: You could try numbering them in permanent marker if you are so anally retentively inclined. Use the same number for the top and bottom. (Duh!)
    • Tip 2: Never let your non-primary care giver unload the sippy cups from the dishwasher and reassemble them. They will never be put together properly again.
  • Lost sippy cups are a horror worthy of Wes Craven.
    • Tip 1: Count your sippy cup inventory at least 3 times a day to ensure that you have a full count.
    • Tip 2: Never take sippy cups full of milk in the car. They may get left there.
  • Sippy cups are no good without the valve. Always check to make sure the valve is secure in the correct location or you'll be doing more than just crying over spilled milk.

As always, at Tips from the Trenches, we welcome your ideas. Share the bloggy wealth if you have tips on sippy cup safety or any related issue.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Since I posted yesterday, I've been feeling a little uneasy. It's not that I don't feel like I was telling the truth, but rather that it sounded like I was dissing the importance of volunteering which wasn't intended.

Unfortunately, we live in a place where volunteering tracked and credit is taken for how many hours of volunteering people have done. Oddly then, it is also taken for granted. If you are not in a paid job, it is often assumed that you aren't doing anything so you should be volunteering. Unfortunately, this places a large burden on parents because we want to be involved, but realisitcally are already seriously overworked.

I, for one, often find myself paying for a babysitter in order to accomplish my volunteer projects. Most of the time, it's ok because I've picked something I enjoy doing, but when I got home to pay the babysitter, I can't help but feeling a little put out. It's weird to have to pay to work for free.

So, of course, I would encourage volunteering if you have time, but want people to realize the pool of volunteers is greater than just parents and that parents should feel no guilt if volunteering can't fit on your calendar.

Additionally, volunteering should be something you enjoy. (This took me a long time to get, for some reason.) There are an endless list of possibilities, so pick something that doesn't make you shudder at the thought. If you have one hour a day to yourself, you should spend that hour doing projects that you enjoy; and, by all means, don't commit yourself to donating your one hour every day to someone else. Donate it to yourself as well.
Monday, March 16, 2009
"They" say that volunteering is important and we should all "give back to our community" at every reasonable (and often times unreasonable) opportunity. And in most cases, I've drunk the Kool-Aid. But there are sometimes that I find myself confronted with a volunteer "opportunity" that I just don't want to do, yet I feel compelled simply because it is expected of me. After all, I'm only a stay-at-home mom.

The irony of this is that stay-at-home parents spend their entire day volunteering, but are, for some reason, expected and encouraged to "give back to their community" more than anyone else. Isn't the fact that we work 12-16 hours days for free making sure that our kids don't grow into a social services cases enough?

Be forewarned, though, when you feel spunky and offer the "I'm already volunteering, I'm a parent" argument, be prepared for the also popular "keep your resume current" or "find something that YOU like to do" counter-arguments. For moms with the intention of "going back to work" once the kids become school-aged, these are compellingly manipulative arguments.

I'm not saying that volunteering can't be rewarding, worthwhile, and important. I'm only suggesting that stay-at-home parents shouldn't every one's primary target when they need volunteers. As an occasionally responsible, social participant, my volunteering cup runneth over. Please look elsewhere.
Twix candy bars are currently an important snack in our house. Because they are popular, we usually have a good stock of Twix so everyone has enough to share without argument. (Sort of like needing a good stock of toilet paper, just in case.)

This didn't appear to be the case today when Jack decided it was time for a Twix Fix. Usually the Twix package contains 2 sticks of chocolate covered caramel and cookie, but this time the Twix was partially eaten (by the babysitter) the night before. She had broken off half of a stick and left the rest neatly wrapped on the counter. Not only that, but it was the last Twix in the house. A fight or flight mentality was starting to take hold...the kids were gonna fight and I was outta there!

When Emma saw Jack come in the room with a Twix, she decided it was time for her Twix Fix, too. I told Jack that it was the last Twix and that he needed to share it with Emma. He paused, looked at the open package, and took the two pieces (one short and one long) out. This is when I saw the problem for the first time.

Now as can be expected Big Brother gave Little Sister the short stick, but Little Sister wasn't having any of that! She instantly passed Jack the short stick and reached for the long stick. There was another moment of pause. I could almost see Jack salivating over the anticipated snack. He really, REALLY wanted it. I felt bad for him (and me) because I knew Emma would fall apart.

Just as I was getting ready to distract Emma from her forthcoming tantrum, Jack handed her the long stick. Tears welling in his eyes and cheeks going red, he took the short stick and started to retreat to his room to gut it out. Just as I was getting ready to give Jack a big hug and tell him he did a good job, Emma yelled "Wait, Jack!" and gave him a big hug and kiss. "Thank you, Jack. That was so nice!" she said. It was a tear jerker, I have to say.

So, you ask, what was the lesson learned? When the stakes are high, you may be surprised at what your children have learned (but NEVER demonstrated).
Friday, March 13, 2009
"They were trying to kiss me! I need to find something to wear."

"Something to wear" turned out to be a Darth Vadar suit complete with mask and lightsaber. I couldn't help thinking that if two girls were out to kiss him ("him" being my 5 1/2 year old son) that even Darth Vadar with a lightsaber might not be enough. And, depending on the girl, it might only egg them on.

Once he was geared-up, he ran off into the fray while I was left feeling like I was about to embark on a dangerous, life-long journey. All at once, I felt like I needed to warn him, protect him, and cheer him on for his bravery.

He came home a few minutes later saying that they told him they loved him and gave him a cut out heart. I didn't dare ask if he also received any kisses. He asked me to cut out a series of hearts that he wanted to go back and deliver.

So the question is, now what? What the heck do I do now? My temptation is to run away and hide in my closet (no jokes, please), pile all the clothes on top of me , and pray for a lapse in the space time continuum. But running away never really helped anyone....right?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
When parenting on a military base, there are so many typically undesirable child rearing obstacles that appear every day. Knowing what to say when you first encounter such obstacles is often hard, so I've prepared a list of things you can say (and I have road tested) to manage some of the more common occurrences:
  • Don't touch the razor wire by the playground. You could cut your fingers off.
  • No, that gun is not a toy. No, I don't know where he got it.
  • Look at the sniper practicing behind the preschool. No, he wouldn't really shoot if kids were there.
  • Oh, you found bullet casings. Next to the school bus? Interesting.
  • They are just practicing taking care of pretend wounded in the hospital parking lot. Look at those doctors run!
  • Did you hear them say the word "exercise" before the gas attack? That means it is pretend. We only have the gas masks for the real attacks.
  • Today we have to do a safety practice in case we need to leave the country in a hurry. It should be fun. Grab your gas mask and your suitcase. Don't forget your lovey. We'll have the neighbors feed the fish.
  • We can't leave the BX until the man with the gun tells us it's OK.
  • It's not polite to tell your friend that Daddy could bomb his house even if he is mean to you.
  • Quick, ear plugs! Why are those U2s so darn loud?
  • It's an AMRAM, not a SCUD.
As always, I hope this makes your job a little easier. We've got to help each other in this crazy world.
Friday, March 6, 2009
I just wanted you all to know. My role of parent is complete.

My 5-year old just said, "Mommy, you were right!" I almost collapsed. A total policy reversal since 7:30 this morning when I was informed that I "don't know how to do any of that!"

I'm now going to retire, move to Florida (or Vegas), and find myself a Sugar Daddy.

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