Sunday, July 31, 2011

And so they grow...

There's nothing like a huge summer backyard party going on all day and all night occupied by plenty of families with children to put things in perspective.  There are big kids, little kids, tweens, babies and everyone else in between (the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles don't really count in this scenario).

And somewhere among this happy bustling snacking, bouncing, wet pile of children are my own.  And all day (and all night) they move among other children and jostle for new sizes. 

Now Wolfie is a big boy playing with other big boys.  No wait, look at those other big boys - my boy is still little.  Wait, did he just jump in that pool?  What a big boy!

And Luna, the baby...well, okay, she's not a baby.  She's two.  There are definitely legitimate babies here so she looks pretty big.  But.  There is a two and a half year old and that makes my baby still a little bit of a baby.

And Tulip.  Oh, she's so sweet.  She twinkles around like a little summer fairy.  She's little and big all rolled into one no matter where she is or what she is doing.

And the best thing about parties like this is that I get to step back and see my children try on all these new sizes.  There's just enough distance and just enough independence for them to try on big, then come back to me for a little check-in.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I've Done This

I have used the fact that my children went swimming in a pool as a substitute for a bath.

Yes, it's true.  Sometimes after dinner when it comes time to kick in to get-ready-for-bed mode, I assess whether or not my children need a good bottom-soaking.  And, I feel, that if they spent considerable time in a body of water (i.e pool), we can skip the bath and do something else that's fun.  As long as it is not too much sweaty fun, like Wii Dance Party.

How about you?

Introducing "I've Done This"

I'd like to introduce my new weekly feature: I've Done This.  Here I will admit shameless acts of parenting assuming some of you will nod in amused agreement or shake your head in disgust.  Whichever.  The purpose of my blog posts is to be sometimes prolific but mostly hilarious, of course, but above all to be relate-able.  You see, there is irony in my blog title.  I assume that once you become a parent, there are no secrets.  Every embarrassing secret thing I do that is known to me, mama, and me only (like fart silently in public and blame it on the baby - "Oooh, someone needs a diaper change") is actually NOT a secret.  You have done it too.  Or you know someone who has or you will some day.  So let's all enjoy my weekly humble (and hilarious, of course) admissions and join in the giggles and, quite possibly, discussion.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nature vs. Nachure

There was a moment this afternoon, about 20 minutes, where my children were playing in the backyard but each of us, myself included, was engrossed in our own activity and we were rather quiet and at peace.  It reminded me of the PBS documentary Where Do The Children Play? and the segment about the children on Beaver Island who are so intimately aware of the role nature plays in their lives and how at peace they are when they play outside.

Our moment began like this:  we all ran out into the backyard and I plopped myself down in a particularly weedy patch of lawn.  I immediately began getting my fingers in the ground, which is total Zen for me.  I noticed Wolfie had grabbed a stick from, dare I admit it, our stick pile.  He seemed absorbed in some sort of fantasy kung-fu training exercises involving said stick and the tetherball.  Tulip and Luna were occupied with mud/sand mixtures including water and leaves.  They were all playing so quietly, I think is what struck me.  No one was talking, except for Wolfie's quiet "hi-ya" utterances.  And this went on for 20 minutes.  Such peace.  Among nature...

Granted, it wasn't total nature.  Each of their activities included some sort of plastic objects; however, they each hand their hand grasping or covered in some total object of nature.  It was the nature that inspired the peaceful, creative play.

So it made me think that my funky backyard is really our "nature retreat" and not just an overly weedy, unkempt suburban lawn.  Right?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Skin

My children have indeed been kissed by the summer sun.

Wolfie has more freckles.  He has freckles upon freckles on his honey gold arms.

Tulip, sun- and water-loving Tulip, is a brown nut.  Her skin is so smooth and rich brown.

Luna, laying across my lap, stretching out her arms and legs.  I catch a glimpse of white stripes.  Just two years old, she still has her baby body.  She has a few extra creases between chubby folds on her arms and legs. 

Please stay for a while white stripes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Honey Bear

When I was in junior high, in 1986 to be exact, I tried out for cheerleading.  Long story short, I didn't make it.  Long story long, here it is:

The two coaches held a meeting after school for girls who were interested in trying out for cheerleading.  Pretty much every girl went to that meeting.  They taught us two simple cheers and told us that we would have to perform both, do a cartwheel and do the splits at the try-outs Friday at 5:00.  Oh, and an actual Honey Bear from the Chicago Bears would be there to help with the selection.

The coaches wanted 15 girls on the team and only 18 girls actually went to the try-outs.  The coaches should have just let us all go through the try-out process and then selected us all.  I mean, this was junior high.  But that Honey Bear showed up and she was cut throat serious.  At the end of try-outs she announced that everyone was on the team except for June, Gina, and Stephanie.  Gina, and I'm not picking on her, really couldn't do a split.  She looked like she attempted the yoga warrior pose.  And I'm pretty sure she flat out refused to do a cartwheel.  Stephanie certainly could do the splits, better than anyone on the team, but she was a bit chunky.  Again, I'm not trying to be mean.  I am explaining the Honey Bear's logic of weeding out three, only three, girls.  I was able to do a cartwheel and good enough splits.  For me, it was the hair.  I think.  In that time, girls either had long permed hair or short layered hair styled simultaneously with a curling iron and a can of Aqua Net.  Since try-outs were at 5:00 instead of right after school (Why was that anyway?  Oh yeah, because of that Honey Bear's schedule no doubt) I went home after school and found myself stranded at 4:30.  I had to walk to school in the rain.  By the time I arrived for try-outs my hair was wet and as flat as could be.  Oh, and my eyeliner had completely washed away.  I forgot to mention eyeliner.  It was 1986 - 'nuff said.  I looked like a boy both with my boyish short haircut and lanky non-figure.  I could have totally landed that role in Ferris Beuller's Day Off - you know where the principal goes to the arcade and mistakes, from behind, a girl for Ferris and she spits Coke at him through her straw?  Anyway.  Honey Bear rejected me as a cheer leader.  To redeem my fellow educators, the coaches tried to make ammends with Stephanie, Gina and me the next day.  They were the P.E. teachers and they called the three of us into their office and said we could be on the team.  Stephanie and Gina accepted.  I declined.  The damage had been done and I guess at the ripe young age of 13, I had principles.

Well, that was 25 years ago.  This week, Tulip discovered that she could swim underwater.  It started at the beach Sunday, when she held her breath and went under water in the lake.  She just figured this thing out on her own, splashing in our pool, getting braver and braver.  This is how I learned to swim.  She goes under water without holding her nose.  She goes under water and keeps her eyes open.  She goes under water and spins around and around in circles and does some wacky thing with her arms and legs and calls it swimming.  It IS swimming!  My girl is a swimmer!  Do you know what that makes me?  A cheerleader!

"Mama, do you want to see me go under water?"
"Mama, do you want to see me swim under water?"
"Mama, do you want to see me put my head under water?"
"Mama, do you want to see me put my whole head under water?"
"Mama, do you want to see me put my whole entire head under water?"
"Mama, did you see that?  I went under water!"
"Mama, did you see that?  I swam under water!"
"Mama, did you see that?  I put my head under the water!"  You get the idea.

And what do I say.  Here is a sample of my new role as mother/cheerleader:
"Mama, do you want to see me go under water?"
"Yes."  She does.  "Awesome!"

"Mama, do you want to see me swim under the noodle?"
"Yes."  She does.  "Woo hoo!"

"Mama, did you see that?!  Did you see that?!"
"Tulip is great.  She is so great.  Tulip is great - she swims under water.  Under the water.  Un-under water.  Tulip is great.  Go Tulip!"

Ha, take that Honey Bear.  Cheering for my daughter's backyard victory is so much more rewarding than the Hester Jr. High Wildcats' boys' basketball team.  I knew I developed those principles early for a reason.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Got it, thanks

We went to the beach Sunday and as you know, it was really really hot.  The sand - oh man - the sand was so hot. 

We were walking down the steps onto the beach and I was holding hands with Luna.  There is a sitting area at the top of the stairs where we usually park the stroller and our shoes but today we wore our sandals up until the moment we set down our towels.  Luna and I were making our way down the beach and a woman, a complete stranger to me, coming up from the beach said to me, "The sand is really hot.  You should carry her - the sand could get in her shoes. The sand is really hot."

Okay, number 1: the sand was already getting in my shoes and yes, I could tell, all by myself, that it was really really hot.
Number 2: we had already taken about 12 steps through the sand; hence number one.
Number 3: my child is perfectly capable of saying something along the lines of, "Ouchie!  Ouchie!  Too hot!  Carry me!"
Number 4: Luna was fine.  She was smiling.  She was wearing closed-toe mary janes and was doing nothing at all mentioned in number 3.

So it made me wonder why people feel the need advice to mothers.  Mothers with children; multiple children.  Mothers who perform motherly duties 24/7 such as paying attention to whether their children are getting burned, appear extremely uncomfortable, or carry them to offer any sort of aid they might need.

I mean, really, what is that?  I don't mean for this to be a rant against well-meaning advice givers but it is a gray area.  Was it really advice?  Some might call it meddling.  Or just being annoying.  Whatever.

But it made me wonder if I do that?  I don't think I do.  I don't think I verbally tell strangers who appear to be mothers what to do with their children.  In my head I might.  But I don't think I have ever said out loud, "You should..."  Have I?  I am going to be much more conscious of this because I do admit, I talk to strangers.  I talk to mothers. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Warrior Mama

Yesterday we were playing and swimming in the backyard and Tulip flounces over to me and says, "Mama, I heard some sort of bug buzzing near my ear but I don't know what kind of bug it was."  I just responded with something about how sometimes a bug will fly past your ear and it will sound like loud buzzing.  She grinned and turned around and there it was!  There was a wasp tangled in her hair.  That bright yellow unmistakable heebie jeebie insect writhing around in my lovely daughter's auburn tresses.  Oh the horror of getting stung by one of these creatures!  I had one shot and one shot only.  I bent my middle finger and held it with my thumb.  I was spring loaded and totally focused.  This would require extreme precision considering my target was moving - Tulip was about to lob one of her long legs over the edge of the pool and jump in.  I reached forward and...flick!  As Tulip's other leg vaulted over the edge of the pool, I picked up the scooper thingy we use to get grass out of the pool water and used the edge of it to crush the stunned wasp where it landed in the grass.  I smushed and grinded that scooper thingy until the wasp was in two pieces.  Ha!  Let that be a lesson to all wasps.  You leave my children alone!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Latest Invention

Floating upright mirror for the pool.  

This would be part of my sales pitch: "Do you have a 5 or 6 year old that delights in seeing his reflection?  Do you find him dancing, posing, and gesturing in front of not only the mirror but any reflective surface including windows, tv screens, computer screens, sunglasses...?"

A week ago we set up a pool in our backyard, just one of those 10 ft by 30 inches guys.  It's been a blast.  However, Luna makes me so anxious.  She has no fear of water.  And she's only 2.  And she's the youngest of three so she thinks she can do whatever the big kids do.

I love the pool too so I get right in there with the kids.  I mean, I have to when Luna is in the water.  She needs to be in my sight line and within reach at all times.  But I've been dealing with this phenomenon of Wolfie being so into me.  I mean he is right there, in my face, all...the...time.  At first I thought that he was giving me some major, major eye contact.  He just adores me, don't you know.  I also considered the summer vacation phenomenon where your kids think they have to play with you and you alone and command your attention every second (this is multiplied when the mother is a teacher, also home for summer vacation).

I mean, I was like, "Get out of my face!"  No, I didn't actually say that.  What kind of mother do you think I am?  But he was so in my face.

After about four days it hit me.  He wasn't adoring me.  He was adoring himself.  In the reflection of my sunglasses.  So, as Luna dipped under water for the umpteenth time (no, not really - what kind of mother do you think I am!) I thought up this invention.

Who's with me?

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Some things are so funny you have to put them down in writing - right away!  My friend recently used the phrase "kidisms" and I like that.

Luna, 25 months and still nursing said to me as I emerged from the shower: "Mama, I see your milks."

Tulip, 4 and allowed to pee-pee in the grass behind the play house in the backyard: "Mama, I have to go poo and I won't poo in the grass.  Papa won't like that."

Wolfie, 6 and not very comfortable and I mean really, really not comfortable with the idea that his mother is a mermaid and likes to push this while eating sushi: "How about if you don't be a mermaid.  How about if you just be the most beautifullest, regular old mama."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Rule Breaker

Okay, so I'm not really a rule breaker.  I'm more of a parent etiquette slacker.  For example, Luna, 2, is enrolled in a music class for 2-year olds.  Tulip, 4, likes to come with.  Do I take her with knowing that she is going to actively participate in the class instead of sitting off to the side with a quiet activity or book of her own?  Yes.  Am I trying to scam the Parks Department into a two for one deal?  No.  Tulip is well behaved and it's "okay" for siblings to show up at this type of class.  Sometimes there are loose rules.

Here's another example.  Let me remind you that this class if for 2-year olds.  The children are supposed to sit on a square.  This is adorable.  It's adorable to see Luna learn this routine.  But she's two.  So when she feels the urge to march around me in a circle with her instrument instead of sitting on her carpet square to play her instrument, I don't dissuade her.  In fact, I think it's awesome.  The music has tapped into her urge to move and she's going for it.  That's why I enroll my children in music class, so they can appreciate music.  My kids like to move it, move it.  I have loose rules.  Shocking, right?  Because I'm a teacher and everything, right?  If my kids are having fun (i.e. dancing around to music coming from a radio or music in their own head) and they are not being destructive - then be free.  Really, is there anything more delightful to see than a child dancing with total freedom?  I let them go.  It's more fun for everyone to do this than for me to be the mom that says, "No, sit.  No.  Sit.  No!  Sit down!" 

Speaking of freedom, there are a few other etiquette situations that run loose in my household.  I let my kids have some naked time around the house now and then.  And I let them pee in the grass when we are swimming in our backyard.  I let them eat something that dropped onto the floor.

And sharing.  Sometimes, as a parent, I admit I don't get it.  I see a child with a ball and another child wants that ball.  Parent of the first child says, "You have to share."  Share?  Aren't you really telling your child to give away his toy?  Think about it, grown-ups.  When you and your date "share" an appetizer, aren't you both eating the same thing? 

"Want to share a popcorn?"
"Okay, I'll buy one bucket, we'll put it between us, and we'll both stick our hands in it."

Sharing is something you can do when there is enough to go around.  Sharing a toy is not really possible.  Try "trading" or "taking turns".  Or, if a child has chosen a toy to hold, she gets to hold it as long as she wants.  Unless it hurts someone else's feelings.  There are always loose rules.

Do any of you have loose rules when it comes to parenting etiquette?  (I know you do....)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Now that summer has finally kicked in, we've been enjoying our fair share of water play.  We've got the usual backyard spray, splash and swim gear.  But this past weekend my family experienced an aquatic first.  My sister-in-law and husband invited the family to their condo on Lake Monroe in Bloomington, Indiana.  Lovely.  They rented a double-decker pontoon boat with a slide.  We motored to a cove, dropped anchor, and jumped in the lake.  Other than playing on the beach, which allows a gradual entry into the water, my children have never jumped right into a lake.  Tulip, 4, wanted to go down the slide.  I was concerned that if her entry into the water was at all traumatic, she would shy away from swimming in the lake all afternoon.  So I denied her this experience.  Wolfie, 6, knows his limits and said he did not want to go down the slide but he definitely wanted to see Mama go down that slide.  Luna, 2, heard her sister say she wanted to go down the slide so Luna said, "I go down slide tooooo."  Hysterical.

The kids wore float vests and all of my sister-in-law's in-laws lined up to help hold my children in the water.  The grown ups had noodles.  Man, I wish I invented those.

I was so proud of my children.  They loved the lake.  They loved the boats.  They were gleeful to play in the lake all afternoon.  At 5:30 when it was time to return the pontoon boat, Tulip stood at the railing, watching the water rush by the side of the boat creating a gentle wake, and fell asleep standing up.  Seriously.

Now we are in our backyard and I am evaluating my children's preferences for getting wet.

Wolfgang, 6
  • Loves pools
  • Loves super soakers
  • Not crazy about sprinklers
  • So-so about slip 'n slide
  • Liked the water slide at the water park, but preferred the wave pool both in the wave-on and wave-off positions
  • Enjoys the beach
  • Apparently loves a pontoon boat and swimming in the lake
  • Especially loves driving a speed boat (look for video soon)

Tulip, 4
  • Loves pools
  • Likes super soakers a lot
  • Not crazy about sprinklers
  • Likes the slip 'n slide
  • Will experience a water park in the near future
  • Enjoys the beach for sure
  • Loves a pontoon boat and swimming in the lake - especially if you spin her in circles
  • Is at peace looking at water

Luna, 2
  • Loves pools
  • So-so with the super soakers
  • Not crazy about sprinklers
  • Likes the slip 'n slide
  • Will experience a water park in the near future
  • Enjoys the beach
  • Loves a pontoon boat and swimming in the lake
  • Her preferred water play, however, is of the fill and spill variety - buckets and watering cans.

How do your children play with water?