Jason sold 454 items. 

Jason sold 454 items. 

There was always that one kid, and it was never me. 

It didn’t matter what the competition medium was at Belle Point Elementary. It could be collecting old phone books, selling candy bars, a canned food drive for the homeless, Christmas wrapping paper…

I was the kid who scrounged around for change to buy 2 chocolate bars for myself, and then had to turn in an almost full box. Sorry. I just…that’s all I sold, and…yeah. 

I usually got to pick some kind of Chinese finger trap or kazoo or plastic flipping frog for my efforts. Well, all right. That’ll do for me. 

But there would be this one kid in class, and it would sound like such a lie.

“I sold 454 items. I’m getting…the Gameboy.”

“Yah, right.”

And somehow, he had. And I’m thinking–this kid can’t motivate himself to study enough to score over a 68 on our weekly spelling tests, and…wth? He can sell a square foot of wrapping paper for $16…454 times?

Okay, go on with your bad self then. I ain’t mad atcha. 

“My uncle Bob is bringing all the phone books I collected to school for me later. He is driving his full-size pickup with a trailer attached, all full of phone books. I collected 768. Our classroom will be getting the pizza party, don’t worry. Miss Napier’s class thinks they are getting it. Hahaha…no.”

“Yah right. Seriously? Where did you get that many phone books?!” I had brought 4, 2 from my own house…including the current one that my mom has been looking for angrily. Shhhhh. 

And it doesn’t matter what someone is selling. I’ll buy one thing from you once, but don’t come at me crazy; I will do crazy back. And joining you in the selling of it? Um…no, never. I’m sorry. I know myself. It’s just not going to be my thing ever. It’s just not. I’ll get the kazoo. 

It could be jewelry or face care products or children’s books or Tupperware, or makeup. It could be vitamins or cookware or local phone service. I don’t care which one. I will buy one thing for $8-12 once. That is all.

For whatever reason, I appear to have the necessary traits to be a seller, and everyone asks me. Everyone. Everyone. You are not the first person to think I should sell stuff. Probably because I’m pretty loud and sorta funny sometimes. Maybe people are envisioning–yes, she would sell the shit out of this stuff. You’re wrong; I wouldn’t; it’s not me. 

I wish you the best in the world, and I’ll buy one thing from you, once ever. And I’ll be clapping and cheering on the sidelines. I hope you get your Uncle Bob to bring a semi-truck full of phone books. I truly do. 

But me? No, no. Not me. Y’all go ahead. If you’re selling chocolate bars, I’ll even buy a few, but…

Hey…oh yeah. Hey, there’s this kid I went to elementary school with, and he’s your guy. He is your guy. Unstoppable combo. Find him

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Balance

Balance

So I saw a friend’s Facebook status yesterday about how she had a seat on an airplane next to a baby and a toddler. And she referred to this as her personal hell.

We talked a little, and she mentioned that she feels anxious around kids. And she also mentioned that she has been told by parents that she “doesn’t understand” things because she doesn’t have kids. 

So I took all that in, and I truly feel that I understand every feeling she said she has regarding kids. That is, I understand as best as I can…as a stay-at-home mom who rarely flies anywhere, who only leaves the house weekly to teach six 45-min fitness classes, who mostly only has to interact with her own kids. 

But I think I “get” both sides. I do. 

As a parent of 5 daughters, I cannot tell you how much anxiety I have felt and do feel when I know I am going to have to be in an unavoidable situation when my babies and/or toddlers might do and say…only God knows what.

GOOD MOODS

Clara is 2yrs and 8months. I don’t accept that “terrible twos” is some unavoidable certain misery.  Kids understand way more than we give them credit for. And Clara and I figure it out together. 

At her young age, she understands the difference in using rude words and polite words. She knows how I expect her to talk to me AND TO ANYONE. She understands this 100%…I promise you.

Not every child grasps that, and I understand not every kid will understand that at the same time. But I hold her to a high standard of obedience and polite behavior because she DOES KNOW. At my house, she will behave, or she will not get what she wants from me.

We talk a lot about expectations when she is in a good mood. Not when she’s hungry, not when she’s tired…those aren’t the role-playing moments, those are the “let’s use what we learned moments.”

Sometimes the lesson works in the naughty moment…not always. 

PRIVATE BATTLES

Does she ever throw a toy at my head and scream, “I hate my nice words!!!!!”

Yes. 

And I scoop her up, put her butt in bed, and we can talk after your nap, Clara. Thank you. 

Do I ever give in? Do we ever negotiate? Does she ever flat out “win” our battles of will? Yes. And yes. And yes. 

But I am pretty firm and pretty stubborn, in a calm and quiet way. 

Sometimes, Clara and I make deals. She wants a red Popsicle; I ask her to eat a banana (or some turkey) first and then she can have one. 

She likes to watch the same shows over and over and over…and over. Sometimes I just let her. And sometimes I make her try something new. Negotiate.

Theory and practice…and utter exhaustion–hers and/or mine.

There are times I let go of my rules completely. I have let her climb into my bed in the middle of the night, and I just hold her. Even though I’ve asked her to please stay in her own bed and to go back to sleep on her own. It’s just…

I don’t pressure her to potty-train. I don’t and I won’t. She will let me know. I don’t believe she will be in diapers in kindergarten. 

I let her have a pacifier, and I don’t care…like even a little bit. I don’t care. If a stranger asks her/me–“Uh! When is she going to stop using that pacifier?!”

I just say–“Maybe never? Is that hard on you? Does it affect your life?” And eye contact is my favorite. People usually forget what else they want to say.

MORE PRIVATE BATTLES

It is a battle of wills, and I’ve found that the best approach is very calm, but very firm and very persistent. 

Watch any episode of Super Nanny to see it in action. I don’t think the parent should yell or spank hard. The key is control. Showing self control by example. 

You can’t do this every time, but I have had to do it at least once with every daughter–stay at it until you break them. Like a wild horse. 

“Your behavior is unacceptable; sit in that chair until I tell you that you can get up.”

And then–ignore. Go about your day happily. Talk to her siblings, talk aloud about everything you are doing, calmly and happily. 


If the child gets up, you say–sit down. If she doesn’t or if she screams no…you go get her and put her back down. That’s yes.

Repeat 1000 times. 

That’s it. Until the child apologizes or changes her attitude. That’s it. We can do this all day. You will not break Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller. 

It’s amazing what level of shrill scream and kicking that I have and can ignore. The rest of us can all play cards or watch a movie…and the “chair kid” is welcome to join us as soon as her attitude changes…or not. Her choice.

PUBLIC BATTLES

So when a child or baby is throwing a fit in public, it’s the parents’ fault 97% of the time. Usually some basic need (nap, meal, etc) has been ignored…sometimes it’s beyond the parent’s control. And sometimes the parent is shopping and ignoring.

But if every need is met, and the kid is just testing his limits. Let him know the limits, especially in public. People say–pick your battles. A public battle is a yes, every time. 

How the fit is handled is 100% within the parent’s control. I can understand a warning, maybe even a few…but after that, it’s “remove the child from public” time. 

I remember clearly a day in the store when Audrey was about 3 years old. She taught me a very important lesson, and I’ve used it since that day. 

I was in a hurry, grabbing this, grabbing that, and Audrey was sitting in the big part of the cart. Every time I stopped the cart to look for or grab something, she would stand up and act goofy. I don’t remember exactly what she was doing or saying, but it was funny and entertaining to everyone else in the store…except me, her mom in a hurry. 

I chuckled it off the first few times, and then I said–“Audrey, I want you to stay seated.” And I held the “I’m serious” eye contact for a few seconds. Audrey is hilarious, and sometimes she’s so funny that nothing penetrates her thick layer of natural comedy, nothing can extinguish her mischievous eye twinkle, and you have no idea what she will say or do next. 

So I stop the cart again, and sure enough…Audrey stands up and does a goofy dance or whatever she had been doing. I get her attention with a swat on the rear, “Audrey. Sit. Down.” Not a hard swat, I barely make pat-contact. It’s the act, not the force. An attention-getter. 

Audrey was mortified. When the other person on the aisle left, she asked me incredulously, “Why did you spank me?”

“Audrey…because you didn’t obey me.” Disobedience isn’t cute. 

“Well, that embarrassed me. And it hurt my feelings.” I can’t remember my oldest two daughters ever telling me they were embarrassed.

“Well…it embarrassed me that my daughter didn’t obey. Then people will think–oh she lets her kids do whatever they want.”

“You don’t have to spank me. Then everyone knows I’m in trouble.” She was truly hurt, sulking in the cart with her little arms folded. 

“What do you think I should do?” Kids have really, really good ideas. Ask them sometimes. 

“Just whisper to me and say I am embarrassing you.” Brilliant. 

And to this day, her brilliant 3-year-old brain idea has worked with 100% success (with my daughters 2.5 years and older). All I have ever had to do in public, is motion for them to come over to me, and lean in–

“I want you to stop behaving this way. You are embarrassing me. This is your private warning. Do you want me to embarrass you?” And they know they have a choice. You can see wheels turn, smell smoke. 

Kids have pride too. And they are brilliant. I have found that their punishment ideas are especially appropriate.

MORE PUBLIC BATTLES

I remember one time Margaret was maybe 18-20 months old. I was pregnant with Hazel. And who knows what went wrong but she started throwing a fit in public. 

Threw herself of the filthy mall floor, kicking and screaming. What to do?? I didn’t have our “timeout chair” with me! Plus…all these people were around to watch all this. 

A bribe?? Promise her chocolate? Um…heck no. A reward for this insane behavior? NO. But it crossed my mind, sure. 

I picked her up and put her on the mall bench, and I sat on the other end of the bench. Here? Now? This battle? Yes. 

It was an eternity before she stopped. Probably 5-7 minutes. She flipped herself over to her belly and attempted to flee at least  7 times. Nope. Even pregnant I could catch her, snag her back up, sit her back down. And wait. 

It’s tiring. But it’s worth it. 

CURIOUS BREED 

Kids are a curious breed…
Not exactly like a pet (well trained or poorly trained). But a lot like a pet.

Not exactly like an adult–they have no filter or need for social pleasantries. But in many ways, they are like adults.

For good or bad, I’ve always kept a good portion of my dialogue to kids as “adult words” (not cuss words, I mean not baby talk). A respectful conversation between equals.

…and a good portion of my interaction with kids involve “adult expectations.” Kids usually  understand way more than adults give them credit for, more than adults give them access to.

And within reason regarding their ages, they will behave and perform to whatever standard you hold them to. That’s the damn truth.

They have basic needs that require regular attendance… that’s the big one that parents try to stretch to limits. A toddler should not be expected to shop for 3-4 hours during his lunch and nap time; it’s going to be bad for all involved. 

That sounds a lot like humans of all ages. It is. 

Things Moms Carry

Things Moms Carry

“Nooooo!!! I yant CHEETOS!!” They aren’t Cheetos, but there are no battles of logic with a 20-month-old. They are the grossest bag of generic weirdo-brand bacon cheddar hot fries that I’ve ever seen. 

“Let’s get…these chips…” I try quiet horse-whisper-bribery, which angers her further. 

“Nooooooo!” She squeezes the bag so hard with passionate angry-love, I do think the cellophane seal might pop. 

“Okay okay…release!” I finangle the bag from her grip. Her moist hands streak across the bag producing the syncopated stuttering of poorly strung bow. 

So we carry Tito’s acid-burp bacon chem-fries around the store. I say “we,” but I mean *I* carry them and I carry…Clara because she insisted on walking instead of riding in a cart but then got tired…and Clara’s giant baby doll because she couldn’t possibly leave her in the van…

Oh annnd…the other 7 items I collect while Keith waits with our cart on 8 deli employees to take 20-min to slice him 1-lb of roast beef…alternately speaking to each other about their break times, avoiding direct eye contact with customers, occasionally asking him if someone helped him, and forgetting what thickness he wanted. Holding up pieces of meat…this? Like this? How’s this slice? …and this one?

My bra is too tight, it is about 7:45pm, I am thinking–why did we wait so long before having supper? I am thinking–the minivan ride home is going to be horrendous with the defiant mood Clara is in. I am thinking–how am I going to sneak these laxative Cheetos out of her sight? I am thinking–what if we have to buy them and she eats them…and then digests them and then…!? I was thinking–Calgon!

I am thinking–

“You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” (On the Waterfront) <back of hand to forehead in dramatic pose> 

Then as I feel my bicep slowly sinking into the abyss of defeat, I feel Clara’s arms wrap around my head…she kisses my cheek a couple of times without me asking, “Love you…Mommy.”

Strength returns to my arm, to my heart. A life of purpose. 

Worth it. It’s all worth it.

…I didn’t buy them, and deep down I know she appreciates it. 

Cool like that

Cool like that

“Mom! Do we have to keep your bra on the kitchen counter?”

“Yes.” Where would Princess like it to be? Too bad. 

Do not give me ammo, child. Have you learned nothing as my disciple? Never give me ammo.

Filing this away…

_______________________
I teach fitness dance classes. I love jamming out to cool new songs and making up dances. 

My older three girls used to stare at me during class and try to dance just like me. 

And now…I turn on “Wild Things” by Alessia Cara, and why the heck do I ask for their input…

Me–Does this move look cool for the chorus?

<me dancing, dancing>

Audrey–Ummm…it looks like you think you’re cool…

Close enough. 

And I will get you back. 

_____________________

I see Audrey sitting on the couch Facetiming her friend. My eyes narrow, joyous mischief ignites my soul. 

“AUDREY ARE YOU DONE POOPING YET?!! AUDREY!!”

She fumbles around almost dropping her phone and “accidentally” hangs up on her friend.

Maybe you should ask Santa for a new mom. 

Now who’s cool? Right. 

Sister, get my bikini

Sister, get my bikini

Yesssssss!!!! I’ve been selected to receive a free cruise to the Bahamas!!

The lady on the phone couldn’t hear me asking her questions; she almost sounded robotic. 

“Ma’am? Ma’am please…where do I go? What port am I sailing from? Ma’am! Ma’am! Can you hear me?”

Crap! I accidentally hung up?!

Busy tones. Busy tones. My return call isn’t going through here? Maybe I just show up at the port and they let me on the ship? Probably. 

Okay, it’s all Exlax and celery until she calls back. Hell yes.

I knew my ship would come in soon…er…or sail off with me in it, that is.

Bon voyage, suckers! 

Janis on the fritz

Janis on the fritz

Are you feeling self-destructive, phone?! Why did you try to drown yourself?! Is it because your screen is busted? You know I’m not superficial. You know I still love you…look how much of my attention you get.

My phone jumped into my ice bath with me yesterday. Why?! I don’t know. She won’t say.

Maybe she was tired of my friendship, just got a little too overwhelmed. I wouldn’t consider myself a needy friend, but then…I did use her for an alarm clock, a calendar, a camera, a connection to my other human friends, a counselor when I needed to type out my feelings in a blog. She read my Bible to me daily for 12-15 minutes. If I had questions, who did I turn to? My phone. That’s so generic. She needs a name. She is weathered, but super cool anyway. How about–Janis?

Do you like that, phone? Do you want to be named Janis? Is that why you jumped in the water? Because I never named you? I’m so sorry, Janis. I really am.

I’m not really sure what you wanted, but come back. Come back, Janis…and we can work this out. Maybe you just need some space and a break from me.

Okay. I can respect that. I often need space too.

I nestled you into a bed of loose organic brown rice in a double-zipper Great Value brand Ziploc for a rest. I snuggled it all around you. I don’t know if you heard me, but I whispered to you–everything is going to be okay. I checked on you often to find that you sometimes shot psychedelic blasts of color all over your screen, and sometimes you were unresponsive. Okay, okay…not yet. Okay.

One time you showed me a picture of a dead battery and a charger cord. Huh? Are you hungry, Janis? Do you want…this cord in your mouth? Oh NO! It’s not fitting…maybe jam it a little harder.  No! There must be a grain of rice caught in your throat!

Stand by, Janis…let me think!

My vacuum? No. It’s too wedged. Okay…phone heimlich would look like–

WHAM! WHAM! Well, hell…that dented my desk. Is your head okay, Janis?

Gasp! Unresponsive!

Okay…uh…this earring that my friend gave me from Kenya. I know I’m not supposed to do blind finger sweeps…but earrings aren’t fingers. I would look up the details of the Good Samaritan law…but there’s no time; plus, you’re not working anyway…how would I look that up?!

Bdoink!! The Kenyan earring catapulted the grain of organic brown rice out of Janis’ throat! Oh thank God!

Janis just…you lay here. I don’t know about the rice again. Just…

Do not go gentle into that good night, Janis…rage…

Rage against the dying of the light!

IMG_4399

 

 

Lock it

Lock it

I need everyone to leave the room. Mom needs to be alone with her jeans. We have some issues to discuss. Go wait in the car. This isn’t going to be pretty. But…it’s happening. It’s going down. 

Close the door. Lock it. Don’t knock. 

So you think you’re big, huh? Well…okay. Let’s see how big you think you are. I wanna know. 

Come at me, bitch. Let’s do this. 

I’m going to slam you into the floor. Step on you. Pull you and stretch you to your limits. 

You’re going to be screaming Uncle. You will beg for mercy. 

Nope. Sorry. Not ready to play nice. 

I’ll probably throw your ass up against a wall at least once. You will smack hard and land in a defeated pile on the floor. 

Oh thank God. She’s done with me!

No. Wait…is she just getting a drink? Oh no, she’s headed back toward me. Round two?!

Noooooooo!!!!

That’s right. You just THOUGHT I gave up. Nope. I didn’t. 

I’ll grab you by one leg and lasso you around my above my head a few times and smash your ass onto the floor again. 

We’re just getting started here. I’m not even tired. Having a blast.

I’ll fight you standing on one leg. Maybe that’ll be a fun change up. I’ll kick at you and shake the hell out of you. 

Crap! I fell down! Oh okay. Point for you. Nice one. Bet you’re proud of that move. Think that’s funny that I fell over and landed on my ass, huh? 

Now you got me mad. 

Who’s big now, huh? It ain’t you. From across the room, your ass might look big enough to hang with me. I mean truly it did.  But nah. Once I got a hold of you–nah. Nah, you ain’t big.

What’s yer problem? Why are you being like this? Huh? Answer me. 

Let’s see what you’re made of. Let’s see how flexible you are here. How much Lycra? Let’s hope, for your sake…let’s hope…that you’re flexible. Because I’m not backing down, and I will bust you at the seams if you can’t give a little.

I will END you. I will slash you up. I will make you into shorts. I will stuff you in a trash bag. Just try me. Don’t mess with me, jeans. Not today. 

Get out of my face. I don’t even want to look at you and your stupid self. I’ll throw you in the other room. 

I got no use for you. I don’t want to see you again. I don’t even care if you exist. Just go exist somewhere away from me. 

I’ll just wear leggings. I don’t even care. I don’t care. I don’t even care. Is that what you want? 

I changed my mind. One more chance. 

I will drag you back into the room. This is your last shot, or I’m done with you. Let’s go. Me and you. 

I will sumo-squat you into submission. I will yank you into obedience by all 12 of your belt loop ears. You are wearing out my last nerve. 

I’m not gonna cry. I know that’s your goal, but you aren’t going to break me. <Sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniffle> NO! Hold it together, Eggshells. 

We can take this down a notch if you need me to good-cop you for a while–why you been actin’ so messed up towards me? What’d I ever do to you? 

Don’t give me that crap about my thigh size. You used to fit, and now you’re just being an asshole. If you could just listen for one-

“Mom…” I hear a timid knock. 

“Yeah?!” Don’t come in here. I don’t need witnesses to this battle. 

“Is…everything all right in there? We heard some noises…” Genuine concern. 

“Oh yah! Everything is peaches!” I told you all…to wait…in…the…car. I will be right out.

“Are you…ready to go…?” They’ve all been ready, just waiting on me. 

“Mom?” I hear the knob rattling. 

“No, no don’t come in. Just a sec.” Kick, kick, kick, annnnnd…

We good? You had enough?

I open my door.

“Have you been jumproping, Mom? Why are you all sweaty and winded?”

“No. Not jumping rope. Just uh…gettin’ these bitch jeans on. It was a fight, but…uh they’re on. Let’s go.”

Sure, I might have to fight you some more when I get out of the car. Sure…I might choose not to sit for the remainder of the day. Sure, you might be causing me incessant agony. Sure, you put up a pretty good fight. 

But…

I think we all see who won this war.