Top 10 Things

11. Do these bike tights make my ass look fat?

Top 10 Most Common Things Said by Sheepdog

10.  You’re gonna thank me for this after the Apocalypse.

9.  It’s Boots and Skirts Season, Baby.  Boots and Skirts!  It is the most wonderful time of the year.

8.  I think I’ve got time for a quick run.

7.  We have a lot of kids.

6.  I have to go out of town for work next week.

5.  It’s OK, I am a fast healer like Wolverine.

4.  Where do you want me to put this N.R.A sticker on your car?

3.  (tie) The Victoria’s Secret models ARE real girls/ You should definitely go with the higher heels.

2.  I’m still hungry.

And the number one thing said by Sheepdog…

1.  We should do that more often.

Wrangling the Entropy, Tip #2

I’m back today with another post on the laws-of-science-and-cowboy-metaphor-heavy installment, “Wrangling the Entropy.” I have been trying to organize a ton of crap and needing to rely on this stuff a lot lately, so I am totally going cheerleader for it today.  Ready? OK…

Tip #2 – Charts, Forms and Calendars

Today’s tip to Wrangle the Entropy has to do with one of my favorite things… visually appealing organizational tools.  I like color, I like art, I like pretty things that draw the eye, but most of all I like to kiss (keep it simple, stupid).  So I use all of these things to centralize and organize all of the things that I have to deal with to take care of my family business.  There are lots of very expensive software programs and products out there that claim to help you organize your life, but very few of them will actually do it.  Don’t waste your money.  There are many inexpensive and even free (gasp!) things that you can use to keep up with your Kardashians.

Charts are extremely helpful, especially for the little kids. With this kind of visual reminder, you will encourage them to be more independent and prepare for the events of the day. Use a magnetic dry erase board in their room with a 7-day format (you can buy them pre-printed or make a grid yourself). You can find pictures online and print them out on your home printer onto magnetic sheets (available at office supply stores) and use those to let them know what is happening on each day, even before they are able to read! For example, use a picture of a school bus on the days that they have school, or take a digital picture of their teacher and turn that into a magnet. A picture of a tooth or a stethoscope (or a syringe, depending on how much you want to scare them) can let them know they have an appointment coming up, and a cake or balloons can alert them to a celebration. Depending on the kid and their level of independence and ability to follow directions (yes, I’m talking about Kid C getting lost in the hallway between her bedroom and the bathroom), you may want to make a chart to remind them what to do each day when getting ready (clothes, cereal bowl, toothbrush, backpack, coat – whatever you want the routine to be).

Behavior charts are also useful for many families with young kids. These should be posted centrally so that you and the kids are reminded regularly to reward positive behavior.  My sister posts hers right outside of the playroom.  Use stars or stickers or whatever is handy (the price bar codes off of fruit work great too).  When Kid D Was three years old I found that a sticker for each good behavior (eating what we ate without complaints, staying in bed through the night, etc.) did the trick, especially when he could trade in five stickers for a new Thomas train.  Now we have about two hundred fifty of those die-cast metal trains in a drawer somewhere.  I should have charged him ten stickers a piece.  I am such a pushover.

I don’t eat this well. Only the Kids do.

Forms are also helpful for the repetitive, mundane stuff that comes up regularly.  My most used forms are simple word documents that I keep on my computer desktop.  The “Lunch Log” is printed out each Sunday and the kids fill it out to their liking.  The rule is that they have to check the fridge and/ or pantry to make sure that we have what they are writing down.  If we don’t, they are supposed the add the missing item to the grocery list.  It encourages them to have a balanced lunch, help with grocery inventory, and anyone can pick it up and prepare lunches from it for the next day.  This is most helpful when the kids scatter after school to their various sports and activities, and no one gets to complain that their lunch isn’t what they asked for.

I recently got a message from a middle school teacher that I was “the most organized parent” after using this form. So maybe I encrypt a little voodoo in there. I’ll never tell.

Another really helpful form that I use all the time is the “Reach the Teacher.”  I got the idea from a magazine years ago and I tweaked it to fit my needs.  You just set it up with your contact information and update it every new school year with their new teachers, schools and grades.  When you need to send a note to school, you just check the appropriate boxes and send it in.  It covers all your bases and is almost doofus-proof.

Calendars can get a little more tricky.  I am an Apple girl myself, so I keep my calendar on my desktop computer using the iCal program.  It allows me to link up with any of my mobile devices and they are automatically updated, no matter where I make a change.  I also notify Sheepdog of the things he is needed for by adding him as an invitee.  I recently looked into Google Docs and you can do the same thing with their calendar program for free.  I use color coding to differentiate between different kinds of events (medical, school, sports, travel, parties & play dates, etc.) so I can identify things at a glance.  The one redundant thing I do each month is to recreate the family calendar on a giant white board in my office.  I use the same color coding system on this and anyone can come see what is happening on any given day (they don’t have to be on my computer, which I am very protective of).

Yes, I blurred out all of our activities. I don’t want you all showing up for my annual pap smear, now do I?

On an end note… despite all of my charts, forms and calendars, I managed to completely miss Kid B’s once-every-twelve-weeks orthodontist appointment this morning.  Yes, even after a reminder email and a phone call from their office.  It was on my computer (laptop, iPad and iPhone too) and hand-written by me on the big wall calendar.  So, nevermind.  Don’t listen to me.  Apparently this stuff doesn’t work at all.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Friday the Thirteenth

The things that scare me as a grown up are still the same things that scared me as a kid… the death of a loved one, being burned by fire, the loss of one of my six major senses (after five kids I have added “sanity” as one), and the cancellation of General Hospital.  But nothing, and I mean N-O-T-H-I-N-G, scares me more than the horror and suspense films I could not look away from as a kid.  I saw The Shining, Cape Fear, The ExorcistJaws I, II and III, and the seventeen thousand installments of  Halloween,  Friday the 13th,  Nightmare on Elm Street, and Poltergeist.  I skipped the really violent ones (like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series , The Saw ones, and the ones with that doll named Chuckie).  But the ones I rationalized as “my kind of horror film” I would watch multiple times.  I paid to see them in the movie theaters, then I would watch them again when they came out on HBO.  And then I would rent them on VHS and watch them over and over and over again, alone and in the dark for maximum effect.  Then I wouldn’t be able to sleep for weeks and taking a shower with nobody else home or camping at the lake was out of the question (well, camping has always been out of the question for me, but I’m really more of an indoor girl).

So today on Facebook one of my grade school/ high school classmates posted a link to a video done by the College Humor folks called “It’s Friday… the 13th.”  Of course I followed the link and watched it.  I have been listening to everyone from Kids A – E to Conan to the doofuses on Glee (actually, they were kinda OK) singing that brain-infesting song “Friday” that poor little Rebecca Black originally put out there for the world to make fun of see on You Tube.  And I just told you my childhood connection with the scary stuff.  You couldn’t keep me away if you tried.

The first time I watched the link was on an iPad and at 00:26 I reflexively pressed the home button and threw the $499 device across the room.  The second time I watched it, I couldn’t make it past 00:37, when Jason comes up to the van door.  Note that I watched it again.  And I’ve watched it three more times since I typed that last sentence, although I haven’t gotten much farther without having to avert my eyes.  At least I’ve stopped throwing the iPad.

Scary movies really should be just for teenagers.  Little kids have monsters under their beds even before they know that they can follow the light into their television.  Grown-ups have scary realities like unemployment, cancer and the Republican candidate for President in 2012.  The most teenagers have are the fears of bad grades, acne and not being able to access beer while you are still underage.  That stuff is nothing to be afraid of, so they actually need the bone-rattling panic caused by a really good poop-in-your-pants horror movie.  I highly recommend them for the 13 to 20-year-old set.

I have not seen the more recent (from the past 10 years even) horror films that have gotten some pretty good reviews.  The Scream movies are supposed to be good, as are the Paranormal Activity ones.  I just couldn’t bring myself to watch the trailers for those films, let alone the movies themselves.  Now that I think about it, I did see The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense, but I watched them both in the middle of bright, sunny days with Sheepdog nearby.  And I only watched them once.

I guess I figured that I would get over the fear of horror movies eventually.  I keep testing the waters every few years – like by following the link, or keeping my eyes on the screen during a preview for a new scary movie, or even by trying to watch an actual feature film.  Yet, still to this day I am left rattled by the images and sounds that are burned into my brain by Jason Voorhees, Freddie Krueger and the little, fat exorcism lady who told us that the house was clear.  I think I have finally come to the conclusion that horror movies have permanently scarred and scared me.  I think I would be perfectly happy if I never watched another one again.

And I would definitely be happy if I never had to go camping again.  Scariest environment imaginable.  I’m just saying.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Kindergarten Memories

Kid D's first day of kindergarten. Before he learned how to fake sickness or comb his hair.

I’ve been trying to plan Kid D’s kindergarten classroom end of the year celebration for the past couple of days.  My head is about to explode.  Party planning is definitely not one of my strong suits, so I do not know what I was thinking when I wrote my name on the classroom coordinator volunteer list back in August.  I think I was fooled by the fancy title.  If it had said “Room Mom” I definitely would have steered clear of that nonsense.  But I saw coordinator and thought, “Sure… I’ll create a couple of Google documents, send some e-mails, you know – coordinate.  I can handle that.”

So, as I sit here trying to come up with inexpensive, fun, creative, indoor/ outdoor party games, crafts and foods for five and six year olds that do not break any of the expressly written school party guidelines (“Spitting of any type should be avoided” – I kid you not) or offend / exclude any specific race, religion, creed or sexual orientation, I very naturally went into procrastination mode and started thinking about the fact that Kid D is going on to first grade next year, and before I know it he will be graduating from high school.  Then I started recalling all of the fun times we had over his first year of “real” school.

Like the second day of school when he started crying less than five minutes before the bus pulled up – over something completely inane – and got himself into such a tizzy that he wouldn’t even get on the bus when it was time.  I then had to try to stem the meltdown and figure out what he was upset about.  No luck there, but he seemed a little better after a few minutes so I drove him to school and had to walk him inside (still in my pajamas with coffee breath, no doubt) because we were now late and he had to be signed in.  When we got to the lobby he started a whole new level of screaming and crying that became so disruptive that the actual principal came out of his office to see who was apparently being violently murdered in his hallway.  So that’s how my son and I met the school principal.

And also there was the time when I was at a sporting event for another kid and a parent came over to introduce herself to me as the mom of one of Kid D’s female classmates.  She told me how much of a charmer my son is (I am aware) and that all of the girls in the class think he is dreamy (I was not necessarily aware of this) and then she asked me if I heard that Kid D told her daughter that he was going to kiss her so hard that he would knock her teeth out (um, zero awareness of this and actually at a loss for words).  I’m going to have to keep an eye on him.

Or the time that I realized that playing video games was clearly having a negative impact on Kid D’s behavior.  He apparently thought that staying home sick meant he could spend all day playing Wii in the basement.  One particular Monday morning back to school was really bad.  As per usual, Kid D claimed he was “sick.”  I was on to his scheme by then and wasn’t having any of it.  When threatened with losing everything electronic forever and TV for several weeks if he didn’t stop crying and get on the bus he replied, “You’re meaner than the meanest person I thought you were!”  Then he stormed off to his room.  I was furious, but I followed him and calmly replied, “I said ZERO electronics, so NO LIGHTS!” and the room went dark.

He’s had some great times this year as well.  He is reading chapter books fluently on his own.  He lowered his Hate of Writing from DEFCON 3 to just simple dislike.  He has gained a ton of independence and is learning all of the ropes of the elementary school jungle.  He is an outgoing, confident, smart kid who makes friends easily and plays sports well.  We are incredibly blessed to have him as a son.

I just hope I never get a call from the school principal telling me that he just knocked some girl’s teeth out.  How am I ever going to explain that one?

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I am Rich

I promise that I will not bore you with all of the sappy details of my Mother’s Day haul, but suffice it to say that I am a very rich woman.  Rich with love, and all of the stuff that really and truly matters (except on the day that the mortgage or the car payment is due, huh?).  I was not with my family on the actual holiday, so I had all of the loot from my kids waiting for me when I got home.  I cheated and went through everything when they were at school so I could be ready to feign excitement over the crappy gifts and rein it in on the ones that really make me bawl my eyes out when they eventually got opened in front of them.

I truly treasure the gifts that measure them when they are little (tiny handprints with poems, school pictures of the kids with little notes reminding me that time goes by so quickly – all the stuff that I later save in their Boxes of Love in the basement) because I can look back and actually see how tiny they once were, but honestly those gifts are kind of boring.  I am a big fan of the practical gifts, like paper flowers that have chores written on the back which I can trade in when I need help, but they get used quickly and destroyed immediately by the giver so I won’t cheat and use any more than once.  I’d have to say without question that my favorite Mother’s Day presents are the things that show each kid’s personality and really remind me just how different each of my kids are.  I was not disappointed even one iota this year.

One of my kids found a song that makes her think of me (WRONG! if you are humming the Elton John classic “The Bitch is Back”), learned to play it on the guitar, then performed it for me.  Another kid just went with the classic “I Love You” and a big hug, testing my constant assertion that I do not ever require a gift from them on any of the mother-honoring holidays (I swear I don’t).  Another gave me a full bouquet of the aforementioned chore vouchers.  The other two gave me a bunch of presents that they obviously made with love in school.

One of my all time favorites is the fill-in-the-blank questionnaire.  I look forward to these every year.  Some gems from this year’s batch include:  Her favorite food is real food (as opposed to fake food, or did he mean carbs, which I haven’t had in three weeks and I miss so much), Mommy and I like to ride the thing with the brown seat (a horse?  the car? sorry, no clue), and My mommy is the greatest because Daddy is the greatest too! (focus, kid, he has his own holiday in a month).  I particularly loved the drawings that went along with Kid D’s present.  On the one of what I supposedly looked like when I was six (his age), had me clearly wearing red stripper platform shoes.  Apparently, he is a little more like his Daddy than I even imagined.  He also scored big points with the topical and complimentary one that said “My mother is good at bloging.

Sucking up on Mother's Day. Mom says, "Do This." Kid replies, "OK." Oh, so this is fictional.

You can't spell for crap, but you get my age correct? Osum.

My heart is full every day, even if my patience bucket is not.  Each one of these presents shows me that my kids are learning that you should let the people who are important to you know that they are important to you in your own way.  Do it with words, pictures, music, a love note, a hug or a smile.  Do it on Mother’s Day, on their birthday, but also do it today and next Monday and again on the fourth Thursday in November (oops, that’s Thanksgiving – but you get my point).  Do it in your special way and on your own terms, because unconditional love has no rules.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

What Does a Girl Have To Do To Get Pulled Over Around Here?

Yes, I do know a little something about the penal code

So, I visited my hometown this past weekend, spent a few hours one day just speeding driving around my old neighborhood thinking maybe I’d see one of the many boys I grew up kissing who are now totally cute police officers in said town, yet not once did I see a cop.  (What?  Don’t you judge me.  Mama’s just doing some window shopping.  I don’t ever buy anything!).  Ironically, as I was driving home from the airport last night so excited to see Sheepdog and the kids, I ran a yellow light and immediately saw the flashing blue lights behind me.  Oh, crap.  In yet another exciting turn of events, the police officer at hand ended up being completely smoking hot.

As he was asking for my license and registration, I kept thinking over and over in my head, “You are yummy.  Am I suspicious-looking enough for a pat-down?”   Or, maybe I said it out loud.  I plead the Fifth.  He walked back to his patrol car (I think he was laughing, so maybe I did mutter something – who even knows?) and ran my very boring record on his policeman’s computer.  My heart was beating a mile a minute when he returned  to my car just a few minutes later.

“All right, Miss, you be careful out there,” he said in his hunky, Hollywood cop voice.  I was shocked and I thanked him for only issuing me a warning.  “No warning,” he corrected me with a pearly white smile.  “You have a nice night, okay?”  As I not so subtly checked out his walk back to his cruiser in my side view mirror, I was incredibly grateful for many things: (1) he did not call me Ma’am; (2) I would not have to fork over any cash for a moving violation fine; and of course (3) good-looking men in uniform.

When I got back to the house and told Sheepdog of my tribulation, he was shocked that I did not get a ticket.  He kept asking me if I had flashed my boobs or some other inappropriate no-fair-cute-girls-get-away-with-anything accusation.  He was incredulous, but we were both so glad to see each other that he decided to just let it go.  I checked on all five sleeping kids and crawled into bed, dreaming of sexy Halloween costumes for Sheepdog, so grateful to finally be home.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

No, He Didn’t

Mornings, "Mother's Day, Run Away" style. I'll never tell what is in my mug.

I also considered calling this post “Payback is a Female Dog,” but enough about animals already.  If you read Friday’s post, you would be aware that I have gone out of town every Mother’s Day weekend for four years now.  My weekend is filled with a whole lot of nothing but reading, sleeping, and pondering the wonderment of life.  I am actually still pondering right now.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  I awoke on my own, had a great cup of coffee while watching boats go in and out of the marina, leisurely read the paper (Shout Out!  The Press of Atlantic City), and went to a fantastic Mother’s Day service at the church in which Sheepdog and I were married (Shout Out!  Rev. Ron Watts).  Then I came back and fell asleep on the deck for over an hour.  It was a fantastic day.

After a simple veggie burger and tomato lunch I decided to check in with the real world and read some emails.  Sheepdog always says that he is never quite sure that I will return from one of these trips (and rightfully so), so he is careful not to call me too often, leave too many messages, or generally bug the crap out of me.  See – I told you that Sheepdog is a very smart guy.  Yet on Mother’s Day, in a very uncharacteristic twist, this is the email that Sheepdog sent me.

To: Me
From: Sheepdog
Subject: Mohawk

Happy Mother's Day!

A friend saw the picture and after she stopped laughing hysterically she said that’s either the kind of thing that you find incredibly endearing, or the kind of thing that you will kill your husband over. (Shout out! Payback is a female dog).

Wish me luck for tomorrow (and maybe wish Sheepdog a little luck too)…

4th Annual Mother’s Day – Run Away

"I'm leaving on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again." - John Denver, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," 1966. Also, - Me, today.

Sometimes I need a break.  If you are a mom and you don’t need a break once in a while then my hat is off to you, you big, fat liar.  If I can get away – just for a few days now and again – from the crazy and the schedule and the whining and the chaos, then I can better handle it all with patience and understanding and without child protective services ever needing to get involved.  Plus, it helps me to shield Sheepdog from the insanity (I try to have most of it under control by the time he comes home from work).  Fortunately for me, Sheepdog recognizes and appreciates all of this and he sends me away often.

Last year I went to the Dominican Republic for eight whole days, while he stayed here to care for the kids and work from home at the same time.  Then (with only 36 hours notice!) he sent me to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for another eight days in February.  Last weekend I attended my cousin’s wedding in Atlantic City, and I was out of town for three days.  So when my annual solo escape for Mother’s Day fell on the very next weekend I didn’t even consider going.  But Sheepdog is awesome, so he is making me go anyway.

Mother’s Day, Run Away is my weekend to do nothing.  I will not wipe one butt, nose, nor dirt-smeared face (unless we’re talking about my own).  I will not intervene in one sibling argument, nor will I help drive anyone to or from an activity.  I will not give anyone a bath, nor will I put anyone to bed (thirty-seven times in one night).  I am going to sleep for twelve uninterrupted hours, listen to good music, read books and trashy magazines, then take a nap on the deck.  I will probably be bored after one day, but I will force myself to enjoy it.

If you see Sheepdog at soccer or tee ball or meandering the aisles at Kroger, please stop and tell him how awesome he is.  Maybe even flirt and tell him how sexy it is that he sends me off for some alone time.  He will totally dig that and thus be encouraged to send me away again.  And next year you can feel free to join me.

Unless you need someone to wipe your butt.  Then you are on your own.

Oops… Butt Dial

Today I had to pick Kid A up from school because she had to stay late for a meeting.  Sheepdog came home right before so I got to drive his fun little car (mine is more of a bus) to pick her up.  Fun little car with no kids in it.  Fan-effing-tastic!  It was a warm day and the sun was shining so I opened the sunroof and cranked the radio.  It was no more than a five minute drive to get her, but let me tell you I enjoyed every single second of it.

Sheepdog called my mobile on the way back.  “Why did you call my office and leave a voice mail?” he asked with a snigger.  Baffled, I replied, “I didn’t.  I knew you were out of the office all day.  Why would I call you there?”  And why was he laughing about it?  I thought about it and decided either (a) I called him when I was drunk, yet I haven’t been drunk since yesterday, or (b) his office messaging system must be screwed up.  I didn’t recall leaving him a message at all recently, but I don’t remember my kids’ names half the time, so that’s not really any big shocker.

As we pulled into the driveway, Sheepdog was sitting there with a giant, goofy grin on his face.  He had the house phone programmed and turned up to max volume.  Then he pressed play.  What followed was five minutes of some crazy person singing (and I use the term very loosely) “Grenade” along with Bruno Mars as loudly and as off-key as humanly possible.  When I listened I heard the complete abandon of someone who is rarely alone and takes full advantage of it when she is.  Despite the obvious lack of vocal ability, it was the sound of someone with absolutely no self-consciousness, who was extremely and even moronically happy.  And it makes me smile every time I recall that feeling.

Sheepdog on the other hand doesn’t have to recall anything.  He saved the message.  He said he was going to keep it to listen to every once in a while, because it made him smile too.

Plus, I sound like a complete idiot, so that’s really funny.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Inappropriate “Fortune” Cookies

Kid B came home yesterday with a paper for me to sign about an upcoming Market Day for the 6th graders at her middle school.  Each child has to come up with a prototype – of anything really – which they will then mass produce (twenty or more are required) for under twenty dollars.  They will then “sell” these items in a market-like format in the cafeteria or gym for “dollars” (most likely something counterfeit with the principal’s picture on it).  The goal is to have the most fake money at the end.  It is also supposed to teach stuff about supply and demand, manufacturing, sales, price points, and getting rich quick schemes.  I’m in.

From what I recall of Kid A doing this same project, a lot of kids bring in some sort of craft project.  Pipe cleaners, beads, pom-poms, popsicle sticks, felt swatches and glue guns.  Ugh!  This is not my area of like or expertise.  My mom was/ is a kind of Martha Stewart on meth (extraordinarily creative and never sleeps), so I grew up in a house full of crap projects everywhere.  Sorry, craft projects.  I kind of hate them actually.  If this is the plan, I’m now out.  Kid B knows this and wants me to help her (read: do the project for her), so she opts for something she knows I’d be on board with… baking cookies.  Smart kid.  I’m waaaaaaay back in.

Who wouldn’t want to buy a chocolate chunk cookie?  Sales will not be a problem, but we should try to stand out even more with some kind of hook.  One of the requirements is that the items have to be individually packaged, so each cookie has to be in its own plastic bag.  We thought about it some more and Kid B came up with the idea of putting a little fortune inside each bag and calling them “fortune” cookies.  Fun, right?  Then I had the additional brilliant idea of gearing the fortunes specifically to her audience.  This is apparently where I got out of hand.

My proposal was this…  She should divide the cookies by secret color coding into three groups – teachers, girls and boys.  There will be a set of fortunes geared toward each customer.  For example, teacher cookies would say things like,”YOU ARE EVERYONE’S FAVORITE TEACHER” and “YOU WON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANY CRAPPY, KNOW-IT-ALL PARENTS NEXT SEMESTER.”  Girl cookies would have fortunes along the lines of “THAT’S TOO MUCH EYELINER –  YOU LOOK LIKE A PROSTITUTE” or “YOUR BOOBS WILL GROW OVER THE SUMMER.”  And the boys’ cookies would say things like, “YOU WILL SOON BE AS STRONG AS YOUR DAD,”  “JUSTIN BEIBER CALLED AND HE WANTS HIS HAIRSTYLE BACK” and “A GIRL WITH LOW SELF-ESTEEM WILL LET YOU GET TO SECOND BASE VERY SOON.”  I had some real zingers.  I was laughing at myself so hard that I almost didn’t hear when Kid B told me I was fired from the project.

I am so under-appreciated.  Whatever.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…