From My Punkins to Yours: Happy Halloween!

Oct 31 2011

My kids’ favorite part of Halloween, like every holiday, is posing for pictures.

I can only assume that my children are such willing photograph subjects because I’m a better mom than mine was.  After all, some of the most important parts of parenting are analyzing the ways we were parented, finding them terribly lacking, making corrections, and ultimately deeming ourselves superior parents in every way.

So, despite the fact that she’s more selfless than I will ever be, I remember that it was always so irritating when my mom wanted to take pictures of me for every dumb thing. Holidays, school events, vacations.  Annoying.  Totally unnecessary. And a waste of my valuable time.  I, after all, had important things to do, like talk to my boyfriend, read books, and be so, SO perpetually bored.

But things are completely different with my kids.

It makes them feel happy to do something nice for their mommy.  Something they know I really want.

Something that will let us capture forever the fun the of day so we can someday show their kids the joy of their youth.

I never have to bribe, cajole, beg or threaten.

And I never have to say things like, “Come on, guys.  Pretty PLEASE?”

Or, hypothetically, “Seriously?  I just spent two hours helping you carve your pumpkins, and you can’t smile for one nice photo for me?”

Yeah, well.  In the words of my esteemed mother, “I’ll take what I can get.”  (She might’ve gotten more right about this parenting gig than I initially thought.)

From my punkins to yours,
Happy Halloween!

And, um, may you hold your candy better than we do.

……….

P.S. If you used one of Rachel’s AMAZING Halloween costume ideas, pretty please send me pictures!  You can email ’em to me at fivekidsisalotofkids [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sensical, Nonsensical, and Nuclear Bomb Research

Oct 29 2011

I am more common sensical than my husband.  By way of evidence, I offer the fact that I can prioritize a bleeding, screaming child over, oh, say, hypothetically, the next line of code I’m writing on my computer.  (Like I’ve ever written code.  Bah!)

My husband is smarter than me.  By way of evidence, I offer the fact that he read the first line of this post and noticed that I wrote “sensical,” which is not technically a word.  I didn’t ask him if he noticed; I simply know it’s true.  Just like I know that it unsettled him because using “sensical” was incorrect.  I should have said, “I have more common sense than my husband.”  But I didn’t.  Because that was WAY MORE fun for me.

Now, Greg’s been married to me for a long time.  (Someone give that man a medal!)  And I like to think I’ve broken down his discomfort at having a rule-breaker for a wife, the same way I introduced spicy food to his diet and laughter to kissing.  (That’s what we call it on a family friendly blog.  Kissing.)

I like to upend the Table of Correct.  The same way Jesus tossed around the Tables of the Cheating Tax Collectors.  And the same way my mama upset the Table of Monopoly the night my dad closed the bank ’cause his wife was winning.  Me, Jesus, and my mama.  Rule breakers.  Justice mongers.  Hey – we play to our strengths.

But there’s still a core part of Greg who’s more comfortable within the confines of rules, structure, logic and sense.  Yeah, well; everyone has some faults, right?

And, besides, sensical should be a word, else how can we have nonsensical?  Although I suppose one could argue that nonsensical without sensical is, well, nonsensical.  So maybe that’s the point.  Maybe nonsensical is smarter than us all.  Maybe nonsensical is going to take over the world.  Maybe I won’t notice any difference if it does because nonsensical is my all, the air I breathe, and the beating of my heart.

Regardless, Greg is smarter than me.  I know it all the time.  But sometimes I get special reminders.  Like last night when Greg said, “Hey! Did you see that the U.S. is dismantling our largest nuclear bomb?”

A question which, in and of itself, was not a special Greg Is Super Smart reminder, because I did see that.  And I said so.  “I did!  It was a headline on my news feed.”  (A headline on which I did not click.  But whatever.)

No.  What reminded me was what followed.  In 6 seconds flat, our conversation devolved into a play by play of the additional, bonus information that Greg, as a Smart Person, was compelled to research so he can have a comprehensive – absolute, if you will – understanding of not just nuclear bombs, but… um… hand on a second…

OK, folks.  Here’s the problem with writing about Greg.  I get this far in a blog post.  This far, and then I can’t remember specifics.  I mean, I know we started the conversation with “nuclear bomb,” but after that part, Greg said a lot of other words.  A lot of other Smart Person words.  Greg is like the teacher in Charlie Brown.  And I am the bewildered kid in class.  “Wah wah.  Wah wah.  Nuclear bomb.  Wah wah.”  That’s what Greg said.

So I sent Greg a quick message.  It said this:  “Any chance you can send me a quick list of things you researched yesterday re: the dismantling of that nuclear bomb?  I intend to use this to mock you online.”

And Greg wrote back.  Because he humors me.  And because of that whole kissing thing.  And here’s where we pick this conversation back up.  Because now I know what he said.

Greg writes:

First, I wanted to know just how powerful a megaton is (in Joules, a
more standard measure):  Megaton

(Duh.  Of course in Joules.  Sometimes, Greg really states the obvious.  Also, what’s a Joule?)

Which required looking here:  TNT Equivalent

Which prompted me to wonder about the comparative power of various nuclear
tests and the original WWII bombs:  Nuclear Weapon Yield

But one of the news articles compared the recently dismantled bomb to
the largest one ever detonated, so I had to read about that one, which
was fascinating:  Tsar Bomba

And then I noticed another headline:  Wolf Packs Don’t Need To Cooperate To Make A Kill**

Which had sidebar links to two more interesting stories like this one:  Dinosaur Teeth Hold First Clues To Migration

And this one, which I mentally filed to discuss with a friend at some
point, as it somewhat relates to her university research:  Water’s Quantum Weirdness Makes Life Possible

In short, my husband eats ham, cheese and nuclear bomb research for lunch.

I am not as smart as my husband.  Which is apparently a real time saver.

But I do remember the end of our conversation last night.  Because that’s the part where I shook my head and said, “Geez, Greg.  It must really suck to be smart.”

And Greg sensically said, “It does, Beth.  It really does.”

……….

**P.S.  Regarding that wolf pack article.  Um, anyone with a collection of children already knows that packs don’t need to cooperate to make a kill.  Doy.  So, to the smart scientists who spent time in the unforgiving wilderness tracking wolves, rather than extrapolating the data from the much more comfortable (though no less dangerous) wilds of my living room, I say, “Your mistake.”  Next time, guys, just give me a heads-up.  I’ll put on a bigger pot of coffee, and we can observe the heck out of ’em.

The Transitive Property of Parenting

Oct 27 2011

This conversation between my cousin and his kid just happened at my dinner table:

My cousin:  Do you want ketchup?
The kid:  Yes.
My cousin:  Do you want ketchup?
The kid:  Yes.
My cousin:  Do you want ketchup?
The kid:  Yes.
My cousin:  Do you want ketchup?
The kid:  Yes.
My cousin:  Do you want ketchup?
The kid:  Yes, PLEASE.

My cousin to me:  The key to effective parenting is repetition.

You guys!  The key to effective parenting is repetition.

HOLY COW!  I’ve been on the lookout for years for the key to effective parenting.  And yet I somehow didn’t expect to find it while eating meatloaf.  The world is full of surprises, I tell you.

And I’ll also tell you, if parenting is all about repetition, I have this in the bag.  I repeat crap All. Day. Long.

And now we’ve come to the mathematics portion of the day.  Because I was right in the middle of my open-mouthed meatloaf revelation when my husband quoted Rita Mae Brown out loud:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

Get ready, folks.  There’s some serious math logic ahead.  This is JUST LIKE that time when that guy, Newton, had an apple drop on his head.  I mean, we all know the dude wasn’t the first to get beaned in the noggin with a piece of fruit.  But he was the first to call it gravity, and that changed the world.

Are you ready?  OK.

This is the Transitive Property of Equality:
If
a = b

and
b = c,
then
a = c.

And this is the Transitive Property of Parenting:
If
parenting = repetition expecting different results
and
repetition expecting different results = insanity,
then
parenting = insanity.

Parenting equals insanity, guys!

I know.  We all had this apple drop on our heads a LOOOOONNNGG time ago.

But now we have proof.

On Going Potty and Being Brave

Oct 26 2011

Sometimes, I wonder if my preschool son will ever be willing to go to the bathroom alone.

He’s five.  He’s social.  He detests solo time.  And, since he has a twin brother and a large family, he quite literally never has to do anything unaccompanied.

I admit that sometimes I think I should force the issue.  “Go potty!  Go alone, child!”  Because we mamas; we like to second-guess ourselves.  It’s much easier than giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt.  After all, parenting is serious. It’s the most important thing we’ll ever do. And what if he’s still inviting me to take him potty when he’s 47?  Because I don’t think I can do this ’til I’m 70, guys!

But I don’t force the issue.  Because forcing it doesn’t feel right.  And the longer I’m a mama, the more I trust my gut, even when it’s for weird stuff.

Besides, my son is affording me some choice teachable moments.  Like this one:

“Hey, son!  I have an idea.  Now that you’re finished pottying, how about you twist your undies so they’re straight?  That way, your boy bits won’t fall out of your underwear leg-hole.”

“MOM!” he replies.  “What a GREAT idea!”

What can I say?  I’m a genius.

So instead of forcing, I encourage.

“Want to try going alone this time?” I suggest.

“NO, Mom!  I told you.  I am TOO SCARED,” he replies.

“How about I stand here in the doorway?  You’ll be able to see me, but I’ll be just a little further away?”

“Alright, Mom.  I’m not very brave,” my baby explains.

“Oh, honey,” I answer.  “It’s OK.  You don’t have to be brave yet.  Let’s just practice a little bit.”

Do you ever catch the words falling out of your mama-mouth?  Do you ever hold them in your hands and stare at them a while?

Because I think about all of the times I lament not being brave yet.  And I think about the hard time I give myself for failing to put myself out there.  For not being the mama or the employee or the wife I wish I had the guts and drive to be.  And I suspect that I need that little life lesson as much as my son.

“You don’t have to be brave yet, Beth.  Let’s just practice a little bit.”

Yep.  Things fall out of my mouth, and that’s when I remember that it’s my job to teach my kids, not just with words, but by example, how to be gentle with myself, how to forgive myself, how to encourage myself, and how to not beat myself up.

It’s my job to treat myself with the same love with which I treat my kids.  I don’t have to be brave yet.  I just have to practice a little bit.  Because bravery isn’t something we’re given.  It’s something we learn in fits and starts.  No matter how old we are, and no matter what fear we’re trying to overcome.

And I wouldn’t be remiss to learn from my kids, either.  To remember that it’s OK to admit when I’m scared.  To invite people to accompany me to the heart-places where I’m vulnerable.  To relax my “I must do this alone” mantra.

Because, when we invite people in, we learn to identify things that we can’t see when we use only our own eyes.

And, let’s be honest, we all need people in our life who can remind us that we’re OK, who can help us be just a little bit brave, and who can tell us when to straighten our pants.

 

……….

And, just a quick reminder that Rachel of Fawn and Feather is taking your Halloween costume questions all week, right here on this blog.  Or, if you just need some ideas, check out the responses she’s already given other readers.  AMAZING!

Lost: Dignity. If found… nevermind.

Oct 25 2011

I forgot, when I had children, to put a dog-tag and collar on my dignity.  I’m afraid, even if someone does find it, bedraggled, cold, famished and shivering on the side of the highway, that it’s irretrievably lost to me.  For no one will recognize it as mine.

My 9-year-old: “Mom, do you have to go potty or are you just dancing again?”
Me: “Um. Just dancing again. Thanks for asking, Aden.”
Aden: “You’re welcome, Mom. You always say to ask if I have a question, so that’s what I did.”
Me: “Well, I’m sure glad we had this conversation.”

Admittedly, my dignity always lived in a precarious situation. I wasn’t ever the most conscientious owner.  I never walked my dignity on a leash, and it was forever tearing off down the street, chasing cars, barking at cats and disappearing into the night, not to be seen for weeks and weeks.  But, back in the day, I could always count on it to come home eventually.

My 5-year-old: “Mom?”
Me: “Yes, Cael?”
Cael: “Do you know why I wuhve you so much?”
Me: “I know why I love you so much.  You’re my precious baby boy, my gift from God, my sweet, smart kid.  Why is it that you love me so much?”
Cael: “Because you’re so squishy for waying on.”
Me: “Aw. Thanks, Cael.  I like our snuggles, too.”

Cael:  “Mom?”
Me:  “Yes, Cael?”
Cael: “You know how I said ‘squishy?'”
Me:  “I remember that from 12 seconds ago. So, yes.”
Cael: “I just meant fat.”

OK, then.

Me: “Cael?”
Cael: “What, Mom?”
Me: “I love you.”
Cael: “I wuhve you, too.  That’s what I said.”

One day, I realized my dignity had been gone far longer than usual, and I began to wonder if it would ever return.  The days turned into weeks turned into months turned into years.

4 out of 5 children:  “Mom!  I have to PEE.  Right NOW.”

I pulled the car over.

Me: “OK. Drop trou and pee on, ladies and gents.”
Them: “But this is a parking lot.”
Me: “No one’s looking. You’re shielded by the door and your squishy mom. According to your brother, that’s plenty of cover. You have 10 seconds. It’s go time.”

Over time, I said my slow and final good-byes.  I used to think there would always be a hole in my heart, that empty and unfillable place where my dignity used to live.  I missed her.  I longed for her.  I remember all the nice things she used to do, like close the bathroom door.

Now, though, that I’ve released so many chunks of my heart into my kids’ grubby, sticky, beautiful hands, I hardly miss the old girl.  My kids have stuffed the holes full, packing every nook and cranny with love, sass, and missing Lego pieces.  In fact, I suspect that’s where all the dryer socks end up; shoring up the walls and holding every heart thing in place.

I guess what I’m saying is this: if you find some extra dignity laying around, don’t return her to me.  I am no longer capable of responsibly caring for her, and, frankly, she deserves better than what I can offer.

Instead, in my dignity’s memory, take her in.  Give her a hug.  Maybe a warm bath and a hot meal.  Tell her I miss her.  And that I’ll always remember her fondly.

This Little Piggy (means more bacon for me!)

Oct 24 2011

(pig butt courtesy of The Collective)

Dear Vegetarian Readers,

Run.  Run now.  Save yourselves!

This is not a drill.

Yours Truly,
The Emergency Vegetarian Protection System

……….

OK.  If you’re still reading, you’re either an omnivore or a carnivore… or a vegetarian who’s very, very bad at following directions.  Yes?  Excellent.  Then I have something in common with each of you, and I feel super close to you right now.  Group hug!

Last week, we introduced our children to one of their food sources.

And, by food, I mean bacon.  Which is the pretty, pretty princess of food.

We live in Oregon.

Oregon is crunchy.

Now, I don’t know where I’ve been the last few decades, but I only recently became acquainted with the word “crunchy” as a lifestyle descriptor.  (Yes. I’m aware that I’m completely out of touch.  In fact, I still think the word “hip” is hip.  I am a dinosaur.)  I was all hip to the overused “granola” to describe those of us who want to be in tune with our food sources, who let our kids pee outside (even the girls), who don’t buy anything without feeling guilty about our abysmal environmental footprint, and who think that Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is the Holy Trinity.

When I first heard the word “crunchy,” I thought it must apply to me, if only because… well, I think I express it best with poetry…

Going To Bed
in 2 word phrases
by Beth Woolsey

Night time.
Bed time.
Mom’s relief.
SO thrilled.

Clothes off.
Husband ogles.
Thanks, Babe!

(Ahem.  Sorry.)

Nightgown on.
Brush teeth.
Wash face.

In bed.
What’s this?
Kid crumbs.
Kids.  Crumb!

Ah, well.
Crunchy sleep.

Yeah; poetry is SO in my future.  In my imaginary, fake future.  Which is where I also turn suddenly skinny after eating loads of bacon.  It’s my imaginary, fake, AWESOME future.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that crunchy does not, in fact, refer to the perpetual state of kid crumbs in my bed sheets.  And then my relief when I learned I still get to apply it to myself.

Whew!  That was a Crunchy Close Call. But I think I’m Crunchy Safe, ’cause we did what can only be described as something crunchy last week.

We had our friends, Bubba and Sarah, who run The Collective, dismantle a pig in our garage.

Chorus (this is your part!) :   YUM!

You might remember Sarah and Bubba from the rather blatant overtures I made to bring them into our zombie apocalypse planning with the ultimate goal of trapping them in our futuristic commune.  I mean, who better than pig farmers to force lovingly welcome into our End of Days home?  And I’m very happy to report that my less-than-subtle offers to help with pig-husbandry (“Listen up, little piggies.  When a mommy piggy and a daddy piggy love each other very much…”) didn’t harm our negotiations.  In fact, the Bubbas agreed to link their current commune with mine upon the advent of the apocalypse.  We might have to see the whites of the zombies’ eyes before the Bubbas will head on over, but we have established our commune consortium, which is a real load off my mind.

Anyway, after the Bubbas raised our precious pig and gently ushered her to Heaven, we had three choices for what to do with the carcass, and they were these:

  1. Have a butcher butcher.
  2. Have Sarah the Butcher butcher at the Bubbas’ abode.
  3. Have Sarah the Butcher butcher at my house.

Sensing a glorious and golden opportunity to a) teach my children about food sources, b) receive a personal lesson in butchery, and c) gross my husband completely and totally out, I chose Door #3.

Now, there was some debate betwixt the spousal unit and myself about whether or not this was a good idea.  Here’s the entire transcript of our conversation:

Greg:  Don’t you think the children will be traumatized when a whole pig carcass moves into our garage to be cut up into tiny little bits?

Me:  Maybe.  Maybe they’ll decide to be vegetarians.  Which means MORE BACON FOR ME!  Win/win!

Armed with that logic, we pressed forward.  And, on my babies’ 5th birthday, Sarah and Bubba showed up with our deceased friend, whom I shall respectfully and lovingly call the Baconator, in tow.  Happy birthday, Babies!

I’ll be honest with you.  (I know.  It’s a flaw.)  This experiment was both a success and a failure.

First, it was a failure.  Because my husband, whom I publicly maligned as a pansy-bottomed, American suburbanite wasn’t, even in the least little bit, sicked out.  He actually thought it was all rather cool.  So a total disappointment for me there.

But then, it was a success.  Because our son stepped into the void Greg left and proceeded to walk around the garage all morning with expressions that combined unbridled enthusiasm with mild nausea.

Ian was awesome.

And, finally, of course, it was a success.  Because… mmmmm!  Bacon!

In conclusion,

This little piggy went to Heaven.
This little piggy stayed (at my) home.
This little piggy became bacon.
And Mommy’s gonna get me some.

The End

……….

You can find more information on The Collective and all things local, sustainable, and piglicious at Sarah’s blog, Currently on the Menu.

……….

P.S.  If you need some free, professional costume advice just in time for Halloween, it’s not too late!  Check this Halloween Help post out, and leave a comment for the talented and creative Rachel.

……….

It has occurred to me, rather belatedly I must say, that I write blog posts sometimes about other people’s businesses.  And that you might wonder what I get in return.  And that I should tell you that what I receive for writing thusly is a great, big sense of satisfaction.

At no time did Rachel of Fawn and Feather, whom I don’t know outside of falling in heart with her online, ask me, bribe me or pay me in anything but thanks to promote her business.

Nor, at any time, did Sarah or Bubba ask me, bribe me or pay me for the same.  Except that one time when they gave me a glass of whiskey and a scrumptious plate of pasta.  And I drank and ate them all the way gone.  So there’s that.

I write about Rachel and the Bubbas because they inspire me.  And they influence my life in ways that make raising five kids easier, cheaper, and healthier.  And then I share that with you.  Because sharing time is a happy time.

This is the section I shall title “disclosure.”  Consider me disclosed.

Halloween Help Is Here!

Oct 21 2011

Woodland Creatures photo courtesy of Fawn and Feather

photo credit Heather Espana

If you, like me, are in the depths of despair over your kids’ Halloween costumes, realizing That Day is just over a week away and you have done, oh, say, NOTHING about facilitating them, finding them, or funding them, then this post is for you.  Keep reading, because you’re about to receive personalized, professional help.

If, on the other hand, you purchased your kids’ perfect, premade costumes weeks and weeks ago, and you’ve already pressed them and laid them out on your kids’ beds (which they happily make every morning), and you’re only now deciding which of 17 hair accessories best compliments your daughter’s outfit, and you’re aghast that I’ve left Halloween costume decisions for SO LONG, then you clearly read this blog because I am your schadenfreude.  In which case, this post is also for you.

Let us begin.

All my 9-year-old daughter wants, in the whole entire world, is to be a blue parrot for Halloween.

Now, you might say, full of logic and reason, “Just buy the kid a blue parrot costume.”  But I am forced to respond, “That’s the easy way, and have you met me?”

And, honestly, I found myself in an awkward position.  See, I’ve always been a staunch supporter of the Cheap First Philosophy of Halloweening (I tend to be a staunch supporter of most of the things I invent), so I just couldn’t bring myself to hop online and order a $50 parrot costume and pay expedited shipping, too.

But Aden hasn’t been suspended, not even once, since school started 7 weeks ago. And what better way to reward non-suspension than with a blue parrot costume?  I found myself between a Halloween costume rock and an empty pocketbook hard place.  How do I grant her wish on a budget?

In a frantic attempt at an easy Halloween save, I cried out for help on Facebook.  “Anyone have any fantastic, cheap and fast ideas for how to transform my daughter into a blue parrot for Halloween?  If you must choose, here they are in priority order: cheap, fast, fantastic.”

Have you ever had your butt plucked from the fire?  I have.  Because it took Rachel of Fawn and Feather four minutes – four minutes – to snatch my hind-end from the Halloween costume fire.

She replied, off the top of her head, “Blue tights and T-shirt. Blue boa for a tail (from Michael’s/JoAnn), blue visor with eyes, beak, etc…, blue plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Tree cut into fringey wings and attached along each arm across her shoulders in one piece.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I couldn’t come up with that in days and days of thinking.  She met all of my criteria effortlessly.

Well, I jumped right onto Rachel’s website, and I spent the next half-hour being spirited away by her images.

Woodland Creatures photos courtesy of Fawn and Feather
photo credit Heather Espana

Rachel is a self-described dreamer with a huge costume closet, and she created one of the coolest businesses I’ve ever seen.  See, Rachel takes her love of dress-up, her artistic knack, and her photography skills, and then she spins them, cotton-candy-style, into a theatrical, magical memory for her clients.

Lost Boys photos courtesy of and credit to Fawn and Feather

It’s like Rachel infuses joy with a touch of helium and sends it aloft, so that, for an hour or two, even grown-ups remember how to play.  How to frolick.  How to romp.

And I realized how much I needed Rachel’s unintentional reminder; that dressing up is about playing.

Hippie photo courtesy of Fawn and Feather
photo credit Jonathan Morell and Jon Macy

And that Halloween doesn’t have to be just one more task list.  It doesn’t have to be about checking my kids’ costumes off of my To Do list so I can get through this holiday in time to take off at a dead sprint for Thanksgiving.

I have a 9-year-old who wants to be a blue parrot.  And, this year, I get to be the mommy who makes her dream come true.

And, get this; in case you’re like me – a) out of money, b) out of time, or c) generally pathetic – or even if you’re not any of those things but you just want a little boost from a pro, RACHEL HAS AGREED TO HELP YOU, TOO!

Seriously.  Just in time for Halloween, I managed to corner a professional visual artist and talk her into giving us all advice.  I’m incredibly excited!  And what I like about Rachel is… she’s excited, too!  See?

Rachel’s photo courtesy of Fawn and Feather
photo credit Jonathan Morell and Jon Macy

If you need tips, from now through… oh, a few days from now… post your questions for Rachel below.  We’ve got your back, folks.

And, Rachel? Thanks for helping me be that mommy.  The playful mommy.  The wish-granting mommy.  The blue parrot’s mommy.  I’m grateful.