March Madness

The heck with basketball, I am about to embark on a little March Madness of my own here. I am unplugging the TV for the next 31 days. Hold back your gasps people, it has got to be done.

The kids have become two little zoned-out zombies, planting themselves on the floor in front of the boob tube completely tuning out everything around them.

They don’t move. At all.

Nothing disturbs this. Even the sound of the dog scratching on the door, barking his head off to come in does not cause a stir. I’ll hear him from my vantage point upstairs, where I’ve retreated for a few minutes to take care of business. I’ll scream “LET THE DOG IN!” to no avail. The TV blares on, the dog stays outside and barks more and I have to finish up quick. “Did you not hear the dog?” I ask. No reply. Just the whine of Sponge Bob on the TV.

They are in the zone. I speak to them, but I am ignored. I stand between them and Disney XD. Try to get their attention over Nick Toons. They crane their heads to look around me. They’ve commandeered the dog’s bed. He looms over them glaring. They don’t move. He finds a new place to rest. They don’t care. TV has won. And, sadly, I have let it.

The winter was hard. There was so much snow. The kids got sick of it. There were only so many snow forts they could build. They were tired of digging luge runs just to be able to sled. They were tired of trudging through 3 feet of snow to recover their sled once it went down the luge run by itself. It was hard and tiring to attempt walking through it. So the TV went on and stayed on too long.

So off it goes tomorrow.

We did this little exercise last summer, when in the lazy hazy days of August, my kids decided that reruns of Avatar The Last Airbender were way more important than getting their daily dose of Vitamin D.

I would stand by the wooden playscape in the yard waiting for them to come out. I’d run inside and say “Let’s go! It’s beautiful outside! Who’s with me!” and I’d head back outside. They weren’t behind me. I felt like Bluto trying to rally his frat brothers out of Delta House only to realize that he was alone. I’d return inside to my kids, who were happily crazy-glued to the TV.

So we turned it off and an amazing thing happened. The kids played. They colored for hours. They wanted to go for bike rides and to the park and for long walks around town. They laughed, made up games and sometimes just vegged with a book.

Mind you, I had to spearhead a lot of these activities due to the fact that we live in rural suburbia and not in a subdivision, but it was okay. I am, after all, a stay at home mom and this is my job. Blogging aside. **That’s free unless y’all wanna pay me to read this nonsense. Didn’t think so. Alrightythen.

The TV-free August was met by a lot of cheers from people who said what great parents we were for doing this. Others said we were crazy and felt it would hurt less if we stuck bamboo under our fingernails. Believe me, I was nervous in the beginning. I thought what will we do? How will we survive? When on earth will I have a minute to myself? But it worked. And we survived. And TV became less of a right and more of a novelty.

For a while. Then back to the grind and the draw of TV.

So tomorrow should be the beginning of an interesting test of wills for of all of us. Not only will the TV be off, but due to the start of my son’s third grade mastery tests, homework will not be coming home either. (I don’t know what I am doing blogging here, I need to get my sh*t together for the next month!)

In all seriousness, I hope that we can reconnect as a family. It’s easy to let them watch TV while I try to get things done. It’s easy for them to not want to do anything else because their shows are on. It’s time to dust off our board games, go crazy with some crafting, put on our wellies and take to the melting snow for walks. It’s time to have some good old-fashioned family fun time with out TV as a distraction.

Talk to me in 31 days. I may feel differently than my current positive Pollyanna-ish outlook. I may have less hair, more wrinkles and a larger collection of empty wine bottles nearby. But for now, we are all systems go.

Buh Bye flat screen. The kids will certainly miss you. See you in a month. Or not.

Some Restrictions May Apply

I was on hold with AT&T today for an eternity. No seriously, it was nearly 45 minutes by the time I realized I’d stretched the phone cord beyond its limits in my quest not to be tethered to the wall phone. My cordless was dying a slow death, so I sat, walked around some, tidied up a bit, sat some more all the while listening to the annoying ads that AT&T thrusts upon prospective customers.

I don’t know how many times I heard the recorded girl tell me that I could have this great option with my new wireless, although Some Restrictions May Apply. Disclaimers. The fine print.

It got me thinking. Life, especially parenting should come with a set of disclaimer cards that we could pick and choose from depending on our situation.  Here is what I came up with.

  1. Subject to Change Without Notice — I think this one might be the mother of all disclaimers. When teen daughter is pissed at you because last night you said she could go to the mall with her friends but today you don’t like her attitude — this would come in very handy. Or you just can’t stand listening to the grating, horrid sound of Sponge Bob’s voice one more minute, just pass the kids this card, turn off the tube and bliss. And for hubby, pass this card to him about every 28 days or so and he can run for cover. Enough said.
  2. Not Responsible for Lost or Damaged Property — This little disclaimer could have come in handy for me the time, while at a playdate, my son and his friends got into some paint and decided to see what would happen if they actually put it into a water blaster and shot aforementioned water blaster at my friend’s house. Yeah. Are you cringing? *We are still friends, but she hides any home improvement items before we come.
  3. Closed Weekends and Holidays — I just want to hang this one up in my kitchen sometimes, go grab a book and lie down. Ok, sometimes more than just weekends and holidays, but it’s a start. You know?
  4. Results May Vary — If you have more than one kid, well this one is a must.
  5. Limited Time Offer — This one would be the one you’d pass to your kids when you are feeling generous at Target and want them to experience your joy, however brief it might be, before you reneg on your promise to actually give them the candy or buy the new toy because they didn’t stop fighting in the store when you screamed at them to.
  6. Colors May Fade — Actually should have given this one to my hubby on my wedding day letting him know that my youthful rosiness would certainly be gone after birthing a couple of kids. Also would have come in handy that first time I cleaned up child vomit, an exploded diaper, and doggie diarrhea. You get the picture. I am not good with this kind of thing.
  7. Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear —  “Mommy what is that?” My kids have asked and pointed to the little piece of hair that sprouted on my chin over night. That whisker IS closer than it appears and once you pluck it, more just show up in its place. Ignorance is bliss. Some days I just ignore the mirror altogether. I know, sounds like I am giving up, but there are only so many whiskers I can get in one day.
  8. If Rash Continues, Discontinue Use – Now this is any easy one. Instead of screaming for junior to STOP WRITING ON YOURSELF WITH PERMANENT MARKER! for the umpteenth time, you could just pass him this little disclaimer and voila, his fault not yours.
  9. Not Valid With Other Offers or Specials — This would be a good one to give to that kid who is always trying to get that extra something. Can I have one more? Just five more minutes of TV? In a minute! With this little card, they’d know it’s now or never buddy. *See Dad for details.

There you go. I am sure there are many more that would apply. Have a little fun with disclaimers. Just read and listen. THEY are everywhere.

*Please note, the above is the viewpoint of this blogger alone. Any similarity to a living person is purely coincidental. Names were changed to protect the innocent. This is not for everyone. Some assembly is required. Restrictions apply. If symptoms persists, please see a medical professional.

Battle of the Barbies

On a recent day when I was cleaning up our Toy Room (code for The just-throw-the-crap-in-there room) I came upon the collection of my daughter’s Barbie dolls strewn across the floor.

While still on my hands and knees, I organized them into a pile. Then I spread them out across the floor and sat down to have a look. Just then, my husband walked in.

“What do you notice about this picture?” I asked him as I pointed to the mess in front of me.

He looked down at me there on the floor with our daughter’s dolls.

“Um, they are all naked?” Yeah, they were but that wasn’t the answer I was looking for.

“No,” I said. “Look at them. Every single one of them is blonde.”

“Oh,” he said, shrugged and walked away, leaving me there on the floor, me a petite brunette with now shorter hair, amongst a sea of long-legged, long-haired skinny blonde beauties.

Interesting.

I had never realized that almost every doll she owned had blonde hair. Barbie Ballerina, Barbie Rockstar, Barbie from a Mermaid Tale, Barbie Sleeping Beauty, and lots of other no name blonde Barbies. Oh wait, Barbie Ariel has red hair and a Belle doll over there is chestnut. Hmmm.

Did my daughter like the different look of a blonde Barbie? Will she be happy with her own brown hair-brown eyed look when she grows up or will she want to experiment with hair color and highlights? Contact lenses? Tattoos? Nose piercings? (Sorry, getting off track here.)

Growing up, I was not happy with my genes. I wanted lighter hair. I am not sure blondes were having more fun than me, they probably were. But they certainly had pretty hair. And I wanted in.

Back then, my only choices to lighten my locks were Sun In or a box of highlights. I tried Sun In. I sprayed so darn much on there that I ended up looking like I had a shiny copper penny on top of my Dorothy Hamill do.

I threw it out. Cried for days about it. That summer I got sad looks and nods from people who just knew —  as a brunette you should NOT ever do the Sun In thing. In the fall of 7th grade when my hair was back to normal, I tried a box of paint on highlights. I put the plastic cap on, yanked little strands of hair through the holes with a crochet needle-looking thingy and applied the peroxide highlights to my dark brown hair.

The result –brown hair that looked like I used a box of home highlights. It was awful. Really. Not as bad as the Sun In, but pretty bad nonetheless.

I gave up on being blonde until I was in my 30s and went to the hairdresser for a haircut. She told me I could “brighten myself up a bit” with strategically placed highlights and low lights if I wanted to go a few shades lighter. Really?

So I did, and I liked the outcome. It wasn’t blonde, but I did have lighter brown, gold and red tones in my hair. I felt like a new me. A lighter brown me. It was nice for a while, but then I decided, or I should say the price dictated, that I would go back to basic and somewhat boring brown.

I can change the color of my hair if I wanted. I have a friend who is  nearly platinum blonde – but a natural dark brunette. Celebs are constantly changing from blonde, to brown to blonde, to whatever. Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Drew Barrymore, Beyonce. The list goes on. It looks good on them, mostly, except for Beyonce. I am not sure it would on me and frankly, I am done trying.

Basic brown, just enough to cover up the grays that have sprouted over the last couple of years since parenting began.

So, back to the Barbies.

As I sat there on the floor with the dolls, I had an idea — a little experiment to  find out, at least with my kids, whether the color of your hair matters to them. Would they choose someone because of the color of their  hair?

Julia blonde or brunette?

I took my daughter’s one brunette Barbie – a Belle princess look-alike — and the blonde Barbie Rockstar, dressed them both in similar princess gowns and placed them on the floor before my children.

“Which one do you like better? I asked.

Since she had a slew of blonde Barbies in her collection and she loves Taylor Swift, I figured at least my daughter would pick the Blonde one. I wasn’t sure where my son’s preferences would fall. He has some cute little blonde girls in his class as well as some adorable little brunettes. There is even a red-head somewhere in the mix.

They both pointed to Belle.

I asked them why.

My daughter said she liked the Belle doll better because Barbie Rockstar was missing a hand.

My son said he liked the Belle doll better because she looks like his Aunt Jane.

Well. There you have it.

According to my kids, brunettes trump blondes with missing hands and apparently blood is thicker than a bottle  of peroxide any day.

Who knew?

Unwanted Visitors

It’s been lurking around. Hiding. Waiting. Just itching to come out. We’ve fended it off for six months. Others were taken down. Whole families were stricken. We were lucky. It didn’t come. Until last night.

Yeah, its’ here. The most unwanted visitor of the season.

The stomach bug.

Round 1. At 12:30 a.m. we awoke to the sounds of my daughter coughing, a quick splat, then crying. And I just knew. I stood in the doorway and looked in. There it lay ruining her beautiful fairy-themed bed sheets. The biggest pile of pink-tainted puke I’d ever seen.

I got my daughter up, ripped off her vomited-upon pajamas and began the horrible task of picking up chunks off the sheets. I held my breath as long as I could. I gagged. I had to stand back, regroup and dive back in again.

I once made the mistake of NOT cleaning them off first and was greeted with squeaky clean chunks of vomit in my washing machine. Not something I recommend.

I grabbed as much as I could with an available diaper wipe and my dear and heroic husband took the sheets and blankets and threw them in the wash. (He knows my gag reflex just isn’t what it used to be. Morning sickness.) I changed her sheets, put new pajamas on her, lined her bed with towels and she lay down and immediately went off to sleep.

Sorry for the dramatics,  but the stomach bug just sucks. It takes all the strength you can muster up as a parent to get your kids (and yourselves) through it. And if you go down, Lord help the family. You are helpless and the kids, well, they just have to fend for themselves until it’s over. Hopefully your spouse will be in town for it. If not mommy, you are up you-know-what’s creek without a paddle.

Round 2. 1:45 a.m. After a blissful hour of sleep, I  heard her cough, recognized the splat and then waited for the cry. I ran in, quickly grabbed the towel and a diaper wipe for her hair and face, and cleaned her off. My husband and I tag teamed it again — I went to the washer, he got her back into bed.

Round 3. At 3 a.m. the dry heaving and crying started. It’s awful how helpless parents can feel against the stomach bug ravaging through your child. There literally is nothing we can do other than offer love, comfort and some Gatorade.

Now is was just waiting for what was sure to come next — the other end and likely the other kid. I will NOT give you gory details on that. You know what it’s like.

It is sure to make its way through as many of us as possible before moving on. She just got out of the tub and seems to be doing better. Having some cinnamon toast and Gatorade.  Perhaps it will be mild this time. I sure hope so. I will keep my fingers crossed.

And clean sheets at the ready.

Wrestling With Some Issues

I heard about this story yesterday where an Iowa high school boy, a wrestling champ and favorite to win his state tournament, defaulted on his match because he didn’t want to face his opponent – a girl.

The boy said “As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa.”

I have three words. Good for him!

Seriously I am all for women’s liberation and equal opportunities all that, but sometimes you just have to stop and ask yourself “Is that really necessary?”

Warning —  I am about to climb very high onto a soapbox.

Contact sports are just that. Full of contact. Football and hockey might be easier for a girl and a boy to face each other, as there is a lot of heavy equipment involved. Pads, face masks, ice skates. Even with all that I am still not 100 percent convinced girls belong there.

As a gender, boys are stronger than girls. Not always, but generally they are. I am not sexist. I am strong, but not as strong as a man.

But as far as wrestling, I gotta say no. It’s two boys, a stretchy unitard and some head-gear. That’s it.

As a member of my high school gymnastics team, quite a long time ago, we practiced in the gym right next to the boy’s wrestling team. They slammed each other on the mats. They were entangled together in strange half Nelson or some other-named positions where a leg was here, an arm here, a leg over there, someone’s face at the mat. They grunted, grabbed and groaned. They were close and sweaty and slimy.

And boys.

I feel sorry for that boy who had to give up the chance to win the state championship. He worked hard, as I am sure the girl opponent did, too. But we teach boys to respect girls and that we are not physical with girls. Yet we are placing them in situations where that rule just goes out the window. It’s confusing to say the least.

I saw Diary of a Wimpy Kid the movie with my kids and, the scene where Greg Hefley gets his butt kicked by a girl was admittedly supposed to be funny. (As an aside, the movie stunk.)

However, in real life, I wouldn’t want my son to have to wrestle against a girl. Nor would I want my daughter wrestling against a boy. I’ve seen first hand in youth soccer some boys who are just not comfortable with being aggressive and stealing a ball from a girl. And in soccer, you are not entwined on a mat.

Along with the unwillingness to give it 100 percent for fear you may hurt your female opponent, both wrestlers would be grabbing each other in places that, as parents, we certainly don’t want grabbed. I am not saying it does happen, just that it could.

I know that in some schools, you will get in trouble for hugging your friends. But we’ll put a boy and a girl up against each other in what may end up as a compromising position on the mat.

Girls should wrestle  if they can and want to. It’s obvious they want to. The article I read stated that, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, about 6,000 girls wrestled in competitions last year. There were nearly 275,000 boys.

Why not create a girl’s wrestling team where like-minded girls with a desire to wrestle can do so? There are already girl’s athletic teams for basketball, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, track and field, and countless others. So why not wrestling?

Most states require girls to wrestle boys. I don’t understand it.  Only three states  — California, Hawaii and Texas —  sponsor girls-only high school wrestling tournaments. I think that it’s a start.

So, as I head down off the soap box, I have to ask you — parents and non-parents alike out there. Is it necessary for our boys and girls to compete against each other in close contact sports? Is this going too far with women’s liberation by putting them there?

I wonder what the statistics are of boys wrestling with decisions  like that boy in Iowa had to.

In The Trenches

I spent most of yesterday in the trenches of small town politics. My friend and I bundled our preschoolers in her car, and, loaded with a map and some signs, drove around our town sticking political yard signs in snow bank after snow bank.

Dodging cars, and puddles I might add as spring was in the air, I climbed frozen ice mountains in order to get the word out on a contentious school issue. Sticking that sign just so in a snow bank so that drivers would be sure to see it.  Some people beeped while I am sure others, who did not agree with my viewpoint on the issue, had other choice words that were kept in the confines of their own car. Windows thankfully rolled up.

And then last night, it was phone calls. I was that person calling you during dinner to encourage you to get out and vote today and remember to vote on my side. Unfortunately, I had the list of numbers where most of the people on the other end of the phone were staunchly disagreeing with me.

I now know what it must be like to be a telemarketer. I was hung up on more times than I can count. I actually didn’t realize I was being hung up on though until maybe the 7th time. Naively, I thought my cordless phone was acting up. Sad, I know. I will be nicer to telemarketers from now on. I swear.

I did get to try to explain my side of the school issue to a few folks who would listen. I am not sure if  I sold them on it. Today is the big day and we’ll find out tonight.

Having been a community newspaper reporter for many years, I used to view the town politics from an objective outsider, looking at it through a glass and taking in all sides to an issue. I took each viewpoint,  gave them ample and equal space in an article, told the whole story and moved on. I was not affected by the outcomes because I didn’t live there nor did I have kids yet. If it wasn’t part of my job, I certainly wasn’t going to go and listen to citizens wrangle about issues for fun.

Now it’s a whole different story. I am entrenched. My husband is entrenched. Because we want what is best for our kids. Now and in the future.

My how things change. I suppose I could have sat back and waited to see how things unfolded, not say a word and trust that things would work out as they should. I tried this, but sitting on my  hands was no good. I started writing letters, attending Board meetings and, gasp!, standing up publicly to give my spiel.

I am no public speaker and let me tell you folks, it’s scary! A little. At first. But then, the next thing you know, you are part of a political action committee trying to change things — or in our case keep things the way they are — hanging signs, distributing fliers and climbing snow banks to get the word out. And, after a long hard fight, waiting for the people to decide.

I have enjoyed this exercise, though not the climbing icy snow banks part and not the part where people can be nasty to each other.

But becoming part of my community, being someone who will fight for what she thinks is right, for our school kids as a whole, not just my own two.

I know one thing —  political office is not in my future as I don’t have the stomach for it. (Don’t’ worry. No Sarah Palin wanna-be here.) But I will roll up my sleeves and help out and gladly spend some more time in the trenches for my kids.

It made me feel like I was teaching my kids a good lesson: Fight for what you believe in in a fair and balanced manner.

 

Zombies, Aliens and Other Guilty Pleasures

I ran into a girlfriend yesterday at the grocery store. She’s one of my very active friends – marathoner, triathlete, one day hopes to compete in an Iron Man or 1/2 Iron Man. She is busy all the time, running around, training for this, training a friend for that. She makes me tired. Only because I haven’t made that commitment yet. I will soon. 2011 will be the year! Or not.

In any case, she was doing a quick shop before she was going to take full advantage of a beautiful and warm melty Valentine’s Day to  run her butt off somewhere. A quick exchange, and she was off.

I saw my friend later at a much-needed girl’s lunch and asked her how her run went. She covered her eyes with her hands and confessed she was too embarrassed to tell me why she hadn’t run.

Her reason: She  jumped on the computer “for a second” to see if she could get to the next level in her kids’ video game Zombies Versus Aliens. The next thing she knew, bam,  3 hours had gone by and she had accomplished nothing.

I busted out laughing because a) it was totally unlike her and b) we all have our little guilty pleasures that we could waste time on.

Don’t say you don’t because I know you do.

With all that fun out there, electronic or not, it’s so easy to get sucked into many things that can end up being takers of time. Lots of it.

When I first got on Facebook… wow, well if you’ve ever been on Facebook, you know what I mean. Where did my night go? How long has it been? Searching for long-lost cousins and friends I haven’t seen in decades took a looooong time. Living vicariously through Facebook friends’ posts took a looong time, too.

Another time-wasting guilty pleasure for me was ancestry.com. My dad’s side of the family is huge and goes back a long time. We had very little information other than some last names.

A few Christmases ago, I joined ancestry.com to find myself. Rather, my lineage. I was determined to prove that my parents were keeping serious information from me — I really was the great, great, great-granddaughter of some Russia Czarina or Irish Queen.  I lost hours and hours and hours to his program and I found out squat. I did find out that my great, great, grandfather might have been a cab driver. There’s a crown out there I just know it. But my 3-month membership expired so perhaps I’ll never really know.

Then there’s my husband’s Blackberry. There’ s that Brick Breaker game.  The kids fight over it during car trips. My son, especially, can play for hours. But my husband, well I have found him playing it on more than one occasion when the kids were not near by. It’s addicting watching that little ball break bricks. I get it.

I think my new-found time-wasting guilty pleasure is Wikipedia. I seriously love this site. Type in anything and, presto! You have pages and pages and pages to peruse, all the while sitting on your butt in front of the computer. You don’t even need to move and you get smarter and smarter. Getting lost in layers upon layers of hyperlinks that will take you as far away from your original topic as possible. Even so, I love it. Disclaimer: I know I blogged recently about technology and my determination not to let it overcome my life. This is EXCEPT for Wikipedia. I will totally take an online encyclopedia over having to look in volume after volume at the library. Call me a hypocrite as the label does fit here.

Other time-wasting guilty pleasures that I can indulge in include People Magazine, US and OK at the hairdresser — which I did indeed just indulged myself while at the hair salon —  Entertainment Tonight and anything on the Food Network when I can actually have the tv to myself. Food TV is awesome. Except for getting up for a snack because the episodes are making me hungry, I don’t move. Love is there at the Food Network.

So as far as my friend’s hours lost to her kids’ video game, I say, so be it. We are all somewhat busy people who just need a break sometimes in a place where we don’t have to think, make hard decisions or discipline anyone (except may a zombie or an alien).

So tell me friends, what sort of things do you waste time on?