The Electro Cuban

Feb 25 2011

Cai, Cael and I have been reading a book about water safety.  Boats, life jackets, anchors, paddles, how to bail water, etc., etc. and so forth.  Their minds are sponges at age 4, and it’s fun to watch them soak up knowledge.

Last night, Cael asked me to explain the Electro Cuban.

The Electro Cuban? I said.

Yes, Cael confirmed.  The Electro Cuban.

I don’t know, Cael.  Maybe it’s a really expensive cigar you plug into the wall?

Cael was pretty sure that wasn’t it.  Me, too, actually, but I still thought it was funny.  Sometimes my kids look very concerned at the things that make me laugh.

I asked for more information so I could help Cael out.  In case you’re not familiar with the Electro Cuban, Cael reports:

The Electro Cuban is something you do with water and whitening and it hurts very, very bad.

Really?  I thought teeth whitening was relatively painless.

OH!  Water and lightening and it hurts very, very bad.

Cael, do you mean electrocution?

Yes, that’s what I said, Mommy.  The Electro Cuban.

Ah ha!


When my twin boys grow up to be crime bosses, I’ll know I should’ve put a stop to their plotting today.

The boys hatched a brilliant scheme for cheating at preschool share time.

See, share time is that most wonderful part of the preschool day where one lucky child gets to bring a toy from home to show the whole class.  With 12 kids to a class and only 2 days of school per week, it’s a special kind of torture for kids to wait their turn for six whole weeks… longer even, with holidays thrown in the mix.

When MOMMY!  I HAVE THE SHARE BAG! is the first, high-pitched, screeching sound that hits me coming in the door, I know that the excitement has begun.

Wonder of wonders, Cai brought home the share bag this week.

Before school on Monday, we’ll pick out a toy, we’ll put it in the share bag, and we’ll write some clues so the rest of the class can guess what magical thing might emerge.  We’ll make it complicated.  Something like: 1) It’s plastic. 2) It’s a guy. 3) He’s a space ranger who says “to infinity and beyond.”   Bwahahahaha… they’ll never guess!

And, if you can’t be the kid who has the share bag, you sure as heck want to be the kid who guesses right on what’s in it.  Yeah, it might be a second string position, but, man, it means you’re on the team.

Tonight, my boys were working through ways to get past Share Time security and break into the vault.

They have the schematics all laid out.  They mocked up a fake preschool room.

OK, Cai, let’s pretend that this pillow is a carpet square.  And this bear will be Mrs. Staples.  Now here’s our plan…

And then Cael laid it all out.

I will sit here.  In the front.

I’ll be the guy at the bar with a club soda wearing a pink tie.  You can’t miss me.

I will raise my hand, just like this.  You will say my name and point to me.

We’ll be in.  In like Flynn.

I will guess, and I will be right!

They’ll never know what hit ’em.  In.  Out.  Just like we planned.  Then we’ll live the rest of our lives on our own private island, feet in the sand.

Gosh, I know I should’ve stopped them and explained how to be fair to all the rest of the kids.  I know I should’ve put their conspiracy to rest.  But I was too busy cracking up in the hall to break up their early efforts at a life of crime.

All this plotting sheds a whole new light on the Electro Cuban discussion, though.

Maybe I should be a lot more concerned.

Winter Storm Death Watch

Feb 24 2011


I plagiarized that from my friend Nate. Is it plagiarism if you credit the source?  Either way, it was the best Facebook post of the morning.

Snow on the ground, folks!  There’s snow on the ground!

This is how we react:

  1. We get 1/2″ of snow.
  2. The entire area panics and cancels everything.
  3. The rest of the world scoffs at our patheticness.
  4. We sit back and chuckle into our hot chocolate.

It’s a vicious cycle, and I love it very much.

I can’t say being stuck in bed for our only snow day of the year is my favorite thing.  Nor, guessing from the paternal sighs emanating from downstairs, is Greg very enthusiastic about my absence.

Nevertheless, like the proverbial show, a snow day must go on.  Our day started at 6:30am with exuberant children jumping on the bed.  Four exuberant children to be exact.  (My preteen was practicing her sleeping-in skills.)

Four exuberant children, one hacking mommy high on codeine, and one daddy who wished we’d all go away and let him sleep.  Hmmm… maybe that’s what all the sighing was about.  Or maybe it was the fact that we just missed the garbage truck, so we’re left with our pile of trash for another week.  Did the garbage guys miss the WORLD IS AT A STANDSTILL memo?  Those garbage truck drivers make the rest of us look like the slouches we are.  Frafrufrumfrul, hard-working garbage truck drivers.  Sheesh.

Greg managed to bundle the children and send them out into the Snowpocalypse, and we took the obligatory Children Playing in the Snow Photos.  You know the ones I mean.  You’ve scrapbooked them, too.  Seriously, tell me that you can’t just take these photos, paste your own kids’ faces on them and not even notice that they’re not your original photos?

That’s the “Mom Made Us Pose For This Photo” photo. Of course, you may not have taken it from your second story bedroom window, but still, you know you’ve snapped this photo.

That’s the Boys Smashing Each Other With Snowballs photo.

That’s the I Just Smashed My Sister In The Face With A Snowball And Now She’s Crying photo.

The Action Shot.

The Oh My Gosh, Could My Baby Be Any Sweeter? photo.  (Although that thing running out of his nose makes me rethink that title… someone get that kid a tissue.)

And then there’s this one, which you may not have.  It’s the I Can’t Tell You How Much I Love That My Baby Boy’s Favorite Color Is Still Pink photo.


All things considered, the day is shaping up nicely.  The kids were wet, freezing and crying before the snow started to melt, so we’re right on schedule.

Someone even brought me a snow cone.


Happy Snowmonia Day to Me!

Wishing you all a bright and happy Thursday, wherever you may be.  (Um, it is Thursday, right?)


Little House on the Prairie

Feb 23 2011

I feel very Little House on the Prairie right now.

Kids: Pa!  Ma’s stuck in bed with pneumonia and the winter storm’s comin’ on!  What are we gonna do, Pa?

Pa: Well, we hardly know how to feed and clothe ourselves without yer Ma, but we’re just gonna do the best we can, kids. The best we can.

Yeah, that’s not exactly how it’s going.  It’s actually a touch disheartening how well everyone does without my intervention, which is why I have to write TV scripts to make myself feel better.

The winter storm that’s a-comin’?  It’s supposed to arrive in the next hour and last for… wait for it… 1 day.

There will be SNOW! (We don’t get much of that.  Can you tell?)  This is breaking news that’s taking over our TV channels.  The assorted weather people assure us that they mean it this time.  Snow for sure.  Stores are selling out of snow gear.  People are stocking up on water.  For, I kid you not, a one-day snow event.

The truth is, the grown-ups I know may be more excited than the kids.  Time to break out the concentrated Kool-Aid and make snow cones with real snow.  Mmmmm!  Can’t wait!

In other late breaking news, I finally have a diagnosis that explains all my whining, wailing and gnashing of teeth.


Officially, according to a new doctor (who ordered a chest x-ray this time, bless his heart!), it’s “big.”  Yep.  That’s what he said.  Lots of cloudy crap all over that x-ray.  Which explains a lot of things, like why I’m getting winded typing this.

So I did what any reasonable, responsible woman would do in similar circumstances after finding out I’m confined to bed for at least 5 days.

I called my mommy and daddy, and I emailed my girlfriends.

Moms of the world, here’s the truth.  Parenting small children can feel like one of the most isolating, lonely jobs on the planet.  There are lots of times when there’s just no one around who’s available to help… not even your mommy… and you have to suck it up, cry your tears and figure out how to not shake the baby.  (Don’t shake the baby!)  It completely and utterly sucks, and there’s no help for it.

At first, parenting small kids made me less willing to ask for or accept help.  I can think of lots of reasons why, but I suspect the biggest was that I was afraid.  What if I accepted help and came to depend on it?  What if it let me down?  I didn’t think I’d be able to stand it.  My strength was a fragile thing, and I was terrified it would be snapped by any show of weakness.

Now, I’m a touch more pliable.  I bend a little more.  I snap sometimes, but it’s a work in process.

I take the risk of asking.  Here’s what it netted me this time:

  1. Mommy and Daddy – pharmacy run for lots of spendy drugs, store run for Gatorade and Zone bars (and giant pads to wear for when I cough too much… which I probably shouldn’t mention in public, but, hey, I can always blame it on the narcotics), chicken and rice dinner for the whole family, and afternoon/evening childcare… yeehaw!
  2. Girlfriend Kim – bossy bossed everyone around, canceled social engagements at my request, and told everyone how it’s gonna be.  Plus, this girlfriend has the spiritual gift of making meals for people in need.  She’s always pushing food, to my family’s benefit.
  3. Girlfriend Leslie – offered “anything” ’cause she’s “around”… do I feel a playdate for the twins coming on?  Oh, I think I do.
  4. Girlfriend Melissa – shared her own encouraging story of recovering from pneumonia.  Ended with “Your stair case is really, really long.  Be careful.  I realize you probably won’t be traversing it for a couple of days, but the energy takes a long time to get back.  You’re welcome.”
  5. Girlfriend Leanne, who’s had a bronchial thing going on longer than I have, declared me the illness winner.  I LOVE winning!  Yay, me!  Does this girlfriend know me, or what??

If you don’t have girlfriends, get some.  They will see you through life in a way no one else can.

If you don’t have a good mommy and daddy, borrow someone else’s.  Seriously.  My parents did it.  My friends have borrowed mine.  Good mommies and daddies are around for the asking.  They really are.

And, of course, there’s Greg.  He’s been single parenting for many moons now.  Unsung hero, I’m singing.  Not really, because singing makes me cough, but the sentiment is there.

Kids: Pa!  Ma’s stuck in bed with pneumonia and the winter storm’s comin’ on!  What are we gonna do, Pa?

Ma, interrupting:  Someone bring me a snow-cone!

Not Boring, Always Weird

Feb 21 2011

“Mom!” Abby yelled, indignantly.  “Ian called me weird!”

“Yes, Abby.  You’re weird,” I replied.  “Ian’s weird.  I’m weird.  We’re all weird in this family.  We only let the weirdos in, because normal people are boring.  Sorry.  It’s something of a family curse. You see, once upon a time, approximately forty years ago, your Papa vowed to your Nana that she’d never be bored.  From that point on, we were doomed.  Our special contribution to the No Boredom Curse is being a family of weirdos.  You’re welcome.”

Some kids have to find out they’re adopted.  Adoption’s old news in our house.  Instead, we have to break it to them that they’re weird.  (Oh, and we had to break it to our twins that they’re not adopted… that was a sad day for them.  Who can blame ’em?)

Today was a Weird, Not Boring day.

Not Boring

I got to visit the hospital.  As a patient.  Oh, woe is me.

I share this for two reasons.

Reason #1

Attention and sympathy.  Duh.

Reason #2

I realized that I needed to be a good friend to myself, and I thought you other moms out there might need a friendly reminder to do the same.

It’ll come as a complete surprise to you (because I suffer in silence and haven’t already mentioned this in, oh, the last 4 blog posts) that I’m sick.

Like, deathbed sick.

Like, I’ve never missed this much work ever sick.

Like, my husband is getting sweet, sweet revenge for all the times I’ve said, “Well, when I’m sick I still manage to parent.”  (Yeah, I probably had it coming.)

Got that?  I’m sick.

It’s respiratory.  I was thinking it’s that kind where you wait 2 weeks because it’ll go away all by itself and paying money to have a doctor say “yep, you’re sick” seems financially irresponsible.

In the meantime, I made 2 of my kids see the doctor.  I made Greg see the doctor because I told him I didn’t want to wake up next to his cold, dead body, and if I had to spend one more night listening to the wheezing, I was going to drive myself insane with worry.  I made my friend Leanne see the doctor because she was coughing for days and eventually you have to acknowledge that you’re just not getting better.

Greg told me to see the doctor.  Leanne told me to see the doctor.  Other friends told me to see a doctor.  I tried to see a doctor on Thursday, but my plans got waylaid when I took one of my kids instead.  I made a camp nurse listen to my lungs for free… she said I had “diminished breathing capacity” and told me to see a doctor.

I’m stubborn.

But then I couldn’t breathe, and I kind of freaked myself out.

I still considered not getting medical help, but I then realized that I’m not a very good friend to me some of the time.  That’s gotta change.  So off I went to the hospital for treatment, medication, and the sincere hope that the incessant posts about illness can end.

There’s nothing better than a personal life-lesson to make me want to preach to others, so I say to you:

Be a good friend to yourself.  Talk to yourself and treat yourself the way you’d want a friend to do.  Friend up.  All the cool kids are doing it.

That’s the Not Boring part of my day.  Here’s the…


Try this on for weird.

My children love visiting the dentist and the doctor.


If one of my twins gets to go to the doctor without the other, there is deep and abiding angst.  “But I want to go to the doctor!  I never get to go to the doctor!” (Actually, you were there three days ago with a weird body rash, but whatever, kid.)

Today, I took 4 kids to the dentist.  I would’ve taken 5, except I double-booked my oldest and she was out of town.  Oops.

My 4-year-olds were counting sleeps ’til they got to go to the dentist.  They were SO excited that the big day finally arrived.

The best part of living close to family is when they serendipitously show up to help.  The only thing better than a visit to the dentist is a visit to the dentist when Grandpa stops by.

Clearly, these are two boys who don’t like each other very much.  I wish my kids’ grandparents would invest in having meaningful relationships with them.

The only thing better than a visit to the dentist when Grandpa stops by is when he also reads books.

Miss Aden bravely offered to go first to show the boys how it’s done.

That’s my girl.

Cai was next.  He was very clear that he was next because he was the most brave.

“Courage is not the absence of fear.  It is the triumph over it.”  Oh, Cai Cai, my courageous boy.

Cael was equally clear that it wasn’t his lack of bravery that made him willing to have Cai go first…

…it’s just that he thought that Grandpa might want to finish reading him that book.  So thoughtful.

Eventually, Cael made his way to the chair.

As confidently as Cai.

Ian perfected his simultaneous gaming/dentistry technique.

For my kid with the sensitive gag reflex (read: voluminous vomiting at the dentist), I was thrilled with this new skill.  Yet another surprise in parenting: filled with pride at my son’s love of video games.  Who knew?

While my kids were troopers, I must say that the credit for their stellar experience goes to the staff and dentist at Dr. Brecke’s office.  Gosh, you just can’t underestimate the value of good peeps.  They are unfailingly kind and encouraging, and of course, it doesn’t hurt that they have toys

and prizes.

My kids’ liking-the-dentist weirdness is firmly in tact.

And how does the mom do it?  Hospital then dentist’s office?

Caffeine and drugs.

The secret of my success.  Caffeine and drugs.

Here’s hoping to dial that back to just caffeine in the very near future.

Keep it weird.  Keep it boring.


On Your Marker Contest Winners

Feb 19 2011

On Sunday, I shared an artistic masterpiece I created at the tender age of 11.  Because nothing says “Happy B-day, Mommy” like a frowning man in a dress.

By way of a contest, I invited you to rewrite the inside of the card (without revealing my original message), and, boy howdy, did you come through.  At every response, I deeply regretted issuing the challenge because I have some sort of bronchial mess going on, and you made me laugh and cough and laugh and cough.

Lough.  You made me lough.

Unfortunately, I’m a lousy contest judge (hey – live and learn – next time I’ll browbeat some folks into helping), and I just couldn’t decide on one winner.

Here’s the card one more time.

And here are our four contest winners, in no particular order:

Happy B-day, Mommy!  I HOPE…

…that the operation goes well.

Happy B-day, Mommy!  I HOPE…

…you have a happy beard-day!

Happy B-day, Mommy!  I HOPE…

…that you know that if anything ever goes wrong with Dad, Chewbacca called and wants a date.

Happy B-day, Mommy!  I HOPE…

…you have a happy birthday! Instead of a wrapped present, this card is redeemable for one hour of babysitting so you can go to the barber for that face and leg shaving you’ve been talking about. Maybe you can also have your pinkies reattached (again, sorry about that.)

Thanks to Cathie, Mark, Kristen and Nate for these winning entries (respectively).  Send your address to for your signed reproduction, hand-drawn in historically accurate marker.

Now it’s time for the Big Reveal.

What’s on the inside of that card, anyway?

Well, in classic 11-year-old fashion, it’s a stretch.

The truth is, this isn’t actually a birthday card for my mom.

It’s a birthday card for my dad.

Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

See, I wrote this card when my mom went back to work and my dad did time as our primary child-care provider… roles neither of them included in their original life plan.  But, like every good parent I’ve ever known, they sucked it up and did what had to be done.

To honor my dad’s commitment to his family, I dug down deep in my bag of writing tricks, and I rewrote the Marine Corps Hymn.  This is the inside of the card, complete with spelling errors:

The Mr. Mom Hymn

From the halls of Montezuma

To the Shore of Tripole

Your the best Mr. Mom

In the air on land and sea

First to be nice to everyone

And to keep your honor on

You are proud to claim the title of

The United Mr. Mom

Bad, right?

Alright, I’ll take terrible.  That’s fair.

There’s a lot of awfulness there on which to dwell.  I’ll give you a minute.

All done?

Here’s what I’m thinking about this monstrosity…

Poor cadence and misspellings aside, I wonder how exactly one keeps one’s honor on.  Like, do you pull your honor up by its boot-straps?

Do you cinch it around your waist?

Tie it to your noggin with a strap like a headlamp, perhaps?

And what if it slips?  Is that embarrassing?

If I could go back and ask my 11-year-old self these questions, you bet your Crayola markers I’d do it.

No doubt she’d wonder what the crazy old bag’s carrying on about.

Kids those days.


I have to wash my hair.

Feb 18 2011

Greg and I have a large capacity for handling sick kids.

In the middle of the night, by just the light of the moon and an LED nightlight, we can change vomit-laced sheets, reroute children to new beds, stop bloody noses in less than 5 minutes flat, open up asthmatic airways, and correctly dose medications in syringes, droppers and spoons.

Our skills were honed the same way desperate parents throughout time have perfected their craft.  Practice, practice, practice.

This morning’s main event involved a child, a toilet, and a garbage can.  You can do the math.  My role included  back-rubbing, heartfelt prayers for relief, and assurances to the child that she wouldn’t die.

After we completed our bathroom activities and I had the child tucked safely back in (my) bed (note to self: wash sheets before going to bed tonight), I had 10 minutes left to get ready for work.

In the same way I’ve honed my middle-of-the-night skills, so have I perfected the art of getting ready for work in 10 minutes.  Neither is my preference, but both are occasionally necessary.

Before I had kids, I used to shower twice a day.  I know that’s extreme, but I really love to be clean.  A hot shower may be the penultimate luxury, surpassed only by a hot bath, a good book and a glass of red wine.

These days, I’m lucky if I can manage a lukewarm shower every other day.  And sometimes, like this morning, even the every-other-day shower gets preempted by a sick kid.

What’s a mom who wants to be presentable to do?

Sure, there are the usual tricks.  Smell nice by layering deodorant and brushing teeth.  Throw a little talcum powder in the hair to take away that greasy shine.

But did you know it’s possible to wash just the front of your hair?  All you need is a sink and a pea-sized drop of shampoo.

Revolutionary!  My fabulous sister-in-law, Kim, taught me that move, and, lately, it’s my #1 get-ready-in-a-hurry tip.

I can wash, dry and style the front part of my hair in less than 5 minutes.  By contrast, a full-on shower and hair-styling session will take me 35-45 minutes.

Best time-saving, look-and-feel-human tip this side of a shower.

Shallow?  You betcha.  But on these I’m-sick, you’re-sick, we’re-all-sick days, a little feel-good boost soothes the soul.


Feb 17 2011

Today’s vocabulary word is paraphernalia.

Paraphernalia – (noun, plural) personal belongings

Used in a sentence:  Five kids have a freaking lot of paraphernalia.

I swear on the Environmentalists’ Holy Handbook that I do my ever-loving best to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but every school day we still have to handle:

  • 3 backpacks
  • 2 homework folders
  • 3 lunches
  • 4 snacks
  • 2 preschool buckets
  • 1 dance bag with 5 different pairs of dance shoes, bobby pins, hair nets, leotards, tights, shorts, and  hip hop gear
  • 1 preschool sharing bag complete with sharing item and written clues
  • 1 martial arts uniform
  • 1 tumbling leotard and shorts
  • 5 coats
  • 5 pairs of shoes

I love it when that stuff leaves my house.

I’m not such a big fan of managing it while it’s here.  It’s particularly tricky to designate places to keep it all so we can find it when we need it.

In related news, my husband is a genius.

In case you’re curious, I am not a genius.

To clarify, I mean genius as in, on the IQ test, certifiably, Mensa-qualified genius.

Technically, I may have made that last bit up, as I’m not entirely certain Greg’s been tested.  But by way of anecdotal evidence, I offer the following:

  1. For fun, Greg built his own digital video recorder.  I’m pretty sure he used a stick of gum, a pair of pliers and a Mac Classic from 1993.
  2. Sometimes, to get Greg to understand the world around him, I have to draw computer-based corollaries between his world and mine.  Usually, these corollaries involve me throwing around archaic computer terms and Greg kindly not laughing at me… things like “If you give your wife lots of flowers as input, guess what your wife’s going to do for output?”  I get lots of flowers, so I’m standing by this whole corollary idea.
  3. Every time Greg correctly predicts something relational on TV (Is she flirting with him?  She’s flirting with him, right?) he exclaims, “YES!  I got it!”

As if those three things aren’t enough to prove geniousity (go with me on that one – it’s a cool new word), Greg also put his genius power to practical use in Paraphernalia Management.

That’s our entry way.  And, yep, those are school lockers.

Each member of our family has one, and all our paraphernalia is stuffed inside as soon as we walk through the door.

Gene E. Uss

Now, since I promised you honesty and I tend to sometimes unfairly blame the chaos on the children alone, I’ll tell you that I can fit a lot of paraphernalia in my locker.

In fact, we cleaned out the lockers recently.  And, by “we,” I mean I hired a couple of high school girls to help.  Thank God for kids who need money for camp.  My household would grind to a halt without them.

Here’s one of the girls, holding only the stuff from my locker.

I kid you not.

I can cram all that stuff in one locker, and I can spell paraphernalia.

You know what?  I might be a genius, after all.