Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Changing Roles

Every year on Christmas Eve since I can remember, our family would act out the nativity. I always wanted to play Mary, because, well, she was the glory role, and I was a kid out for glory. The rules of the family nativity were simple: After your first Christmas, or once you got too wiggly to lay in the manger, your stint as Baby Jesus was unequivocally over and you were replaced by a Cabbage Patch Doll and permanently relegated to a co-star position. Of course, the next best thing to being the baby (who was always too young to appreciate their good fortune anyway), was being the baby's mother. Always "onstage" (read: in the middle of the living room), and providing there was no "live" Baby Jesus attempting an escape, the focus of attention. So that's who I always wanted to be, and should any of my cousins decide to get grabby and want my role, I would pull out my trump card--it's my birthday. Yes, I realize I sound like a jerk, but I was very small and had to find a positive to having an otherwise fairly lousy day for a birthday. So, other than a few memorable exceptions due to having fairness thrust upon me, or sickness (like the memorable year I was dubbed "the puking angel"), I always played Mary. The one role I hated being stuck with was of course the angel visiting the shepherds. I hated this job because not only did you have like 2 minutes on stage, but it was the only role with actual lines--so you had all the work and none of the glory. To a kid, that's the very definition of lose-lose.
I can pinpoint the exact moment when my perspective on the Christmas Nativity changed forever. It was when I became a mother. I remember very clearly, being dragged out of my hospital bed shortly after Sam's birth, followed immediately by barfing and fainting. After they pulled out the smelling salts (very effective and disgusting by they way), the nurses reassured me that it was a normal reaction to the epidural wearing off. Call it what you will--but I will never fully work out in my head if it actually was a side effect of the epidural, or the abject fear and crippling responsibility of parenthood overcoming me. It was the first time in the entire process that I wasn't either too preoccupied with giving birth or holding my adorable baby in my arms that I realized the magnitude of the job ahead of me. I was humbled, excited, and terrified at the same time. Of all the swirling emotions in my head that day, happiness and inadequacy fought for supremacy.
That first Christmas after Sam was born was the first that I didn't see Mary as the "glory role." I finally understood the fear associated with parenting even a normal child (granting of course, the theory of every parent that their child is amazing). My pregnancy was not announced by angels, but the advent of car sickness. I was not told that my child would be the Savior of the World, or that I was chosen of God, yet I tremble with the responsibility to raise her to be the best person she can be. Although I love and adore my family and friends, my baby was not visited by wise men following a celestial sign and bestowing the gifts of kings. Even with my limited experience in the matter and understanding of the smallest fraction of what Mary must have "pondered them in her heart" that day, I wouldn't trade places with her for anything in the world. Of all those involved in the Christmas story that day in fact, Mary (and Joseph as her partner in parenting) are probably the only ones whose abundant joy was tempered by fear of the unknown, knowing as they did in small part, the magnitude of this child's role in the world.
So after years of dying to play the virgin mother of the Savior, I have now changed my ideal role. Now, given the opportunity, I would choose to play the angel. I rejoice in the idea of the joy in the heavens so great that the angels can not be restrained and sing out in praise of God. For all those years I thought the angel was all the work, I know realize that it was Mary who was facing the real work--seeing her own child in the throes of sorrow and pain, betrayed and humiliated, doing the most important work ever to occur on this earth. And while I feel even more strongly for how incredible her nature must have truly been to have been given this responsibility, I don't even want to pretend to come close to it. Yes, this year, I will gladly relinquish the role of Mary to my little sister, who will wear her pillowcase head wear happily until she too understands the role of "mother" more clearly. This year, I will give glory to God in the Highest as one of the scores of angels witnessing His birth. And I couldn't be happier for my two minutes to proclaim my testimony.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

To my loving husband on this Thanksgiving weekend...

Nanny Nanny Boo Boo! Two years in a row!

For those of you who thought this would be one of those gushing posts about how much more fantastic my husband is than yours, you are missing two key pieces of information:
1) That's just not my style, and never has been. You must be new here. Welcome.
2) My husband is a Sun Devil, and I'm a wildcat. This is the weekend we taunt and ridicule each other until my throat is sore.

It's okay honey, I still love you, even if you went to an inferior school academically, and well now it's proven--athletically. Sorry about your luck.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Famous last words, right?
Well, chalk another one in the parenting book up to "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Today, I decided to buy Sam some Pampers diapers instead of Luvs, because I had a coupon. For the record, I hate Huggies, and I think it translates to "cleaning up pee for hours" or something like it in Klingon. We buy Luvs because they're cheaper than Pampers but I figured with a coupon, I'll try the other "best" brand and just see if they're better. Luvs work great, but they do smell disgusting and chemical--I'm immune to it now, but it took months for my nostrils to adjust.

It wasn't until after the Pampers were in our cart that I realized they had an Elmo on the box, and remembered that Pampers diapers have Sesame Street characters on them. When I asked Sam if she wanted to wear Elmo diapers, to say she was excited was an understatement. The kid was stoked. She loves her some Elmo, but you already knew that from last week.

I thought her excitement about the new diapers was a plus--silly Mommy!
She was so happy about her Elmo diapers, that we opened the box right away to look at them, even though we still have some Luvs left. Since her diaper was wet, I figured she could have one right then and there.

What I did not count on was Sam spending the entire day obsessed with trying to look at her diaper's artwork--which is of course, unfortunately placed. She didn't want to wear pants to cover them up (luckily we were home in the evening and her clothes got dirty at the park, so I didn't care about an afternoon in diapers). Once she figured out there was a teeny Abby Cadabby on her backside, she nearly made herself dizzy trying to check out her own tush. After I asked her to stop yanking on her diaper while it was on, she tried to take the diaper off to get a closer look (apparently the tabs covered Big Bird). That met with major Mommy resistance, so she settled for finding a stash of clean diapers, and taking out every last one to carry them around. Finally, the topper came when Daddy came home and Sam greeted him by pointing at her crotch and yelling "Daddy!!!! Cookie!" to proudly display her Cookie Monster.

It would seem that one lousy coupon has opened a box of worms I rather regret. Not to mention, it's going to be a bloodbath when I have to switch her back to the cheap diapers after this box is gone. She doesn't give a flying fig about Blue's Clues, and she won't give up her Elmos without a fight.

Thank you very much, diaper-character marketing guys, you're absolute geniuses. You've turned my toddler into a weapon of brand-power. Now back away from our house slowly--I'm a Republican, so you know I've got weapons too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Proud to be a Street kid

On Tuesday, Sesame Street will officially turn 40. According to the AP, Tuesday's episode will be the 4187th time "Sunny days" will be "Sweepin' the clouds away." Yeah, right. I think we hit 4,187 times hearing that theme song on our last road trip. They must mean "officially."
Now, 40 years after Jim Henson's "good idea" that TV could be used to educate and entertain became a reality, Sesame Street is shown in 140 countries worldwide. According to CBS Sunday Morning, that makes it "the longest street in the world," made even more remarkable by the fact that each country's version of the Street (or Plaza, or Takalani, etc), is not an English translation of the American show. Each country has individual characters and plots, and is aimed toward the needs of preschool children in that country--which is why a muppet on the South African version of Sesame Street is HIV positive, like a large percentage of the children there. Plus, of course, it's all put on by Sesame Workshop, which is nonprofit. As if I needed another reason to love Sesame Street.
So, while the media, and world, and even almighty Google pay homage to the home of Big Bird, Telly Monster, Grover, and company, I must admit that it's just not enough. I would be an ungrateful fan indeed, if I didn't take a moment to explain what Sesame Street means to me.
Like many children, I was raised on the Street called Sesame. Unlike many children, however, I probably had exposure to Bert, Ernie, and the gang for a longer period than my preschool years. My brother is nearly 5 years younger than me, and my sister nearly 12, making me one of the few teenagers in my school who knew about Elmo's daily happenings. Just as one of us grew out of it, another child was just discovering the secret zen of Oscar the Grouch. Heck, I logged a lot of babysitting hours, and was more than happy to let Zoe (my sister's favorite Muppet) share the load from time to time. A lot of what happened on Sesame Street has stayed with me over the years. Even though he died about a month before I was even born--thanks to reruns, I can't even talk about Mr. Hooper without getting choked up. You really have to hand it to Sesame Street for being willing to tackle head on an issue like death in a way that preschool children could understand. The fact that they pulled it off so well is nothing short of a miracle.
Although my rhythm is questionable, and I've got a lot more to move these days, I can still "Do the Pigeon" and "The Batty Bat." Thanks to my repeated viewings in my early years, my mother involuntarily shudders if anyone mentions the words "Follow that Bird."
Today, I'm proud to say that I'm raising a Street kid. Sam loves watching Sesame Street every day, and can name all the characters (except The Count, who is named only by a loud "Ah Ah AH!"). There's no way she would know all her letters by now if it wasn't for us singing the many many alphabet songs I learned on Sesame Street, and loudly sounding out the letter of the day along with the TV. One day, as we headed home from somewhere to "go watch Sesame Street," some nosy parent chimed in with "I never watched Sesame Street, and I don't let my kids watch TV either."
I don't know any other way to say this, but you were deprived. And your kids are deprived. Sesame Street is fan-freakin-tastic.
Part of what makes it so great, is that while it's educational, it throws in laughs for adults who are inevitably stuck watching episode after episode of their kids favorite shows. I know I get more laughs than Sam out of "Law and Order: Special Letters Unit" trying to find a missing M, or "Meal or No Meal," when the banker (Cookie Monster) tries to get contestants to trade a healthy balanced meal for varying amounts of cookies. In all reality, I doubt Sam really knows or cares who Jamie Foxx is, his appearance is all for me. I'll take that over Dora any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
So I'm grateful for Sesame Street. When it comes to educational programming, the original is still the best. In fact, my devotion to Sesame Street is so deep, that we decided to combine Sam's abiding love for Elmo with my excitement over the 40th anniversary this Halloween. Here we are at a trunk-or-treat with the scenery we made, Daniel as Bert, me as Ernie, and Sam as Elmo. We also piped classic Sesame Street songs from the windows of our car (and house on Halloween). Because we're just that proud to be a part of the magic that is Sesame Street.
Happy Birthday, Sesame Street! We love you!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Let's all hope she's smarter than she looks...

Sam has officially decided that I am in fact, an idiot.

Although I'm not surprised that a daughter would turn on her mother like that, I must admit, I thought I had at least a decade before the whole "my parents are stupid" thing came to pass. Boy, was I wrong. Eighteen months, and she's just done with me.

It all started with my personal nemesis, the leftover Halloween candy. Now, I love it, but I'm trying not to eat it, and this year, I have the added joy of keeping it away from Sam. She isn't generally allowed to have candy, but with the bowl out there, and a sweet tooth she's developed (I blame G and Grams, not myself, by the way), it's constant begging. Still, I can't bring myself to throw it out, because it's only been a few days since Halloween and we bought a ton of candy--it feels like I'd be tossing little dollar signs into the trash. And I just can't do it. So I have a couple pieces now and then, and send Daniel to work with little piles, and sometimes I let Sam have a treat.

My favorite candy to give Sam is Smarties, because they are low fat (yes, high sugar, but most candy is high fat and high sugar, so I figure this is better), and I can control how many little tablets she can have. Plus, they're too small to be taken out of her mouth and played with, and even if they are removed, they aren't sticky--a lesson I learned from the affectionately named "Tootsie Pop Incident of 2009." So yesterday, I let Sam have some Smarties.

As soon as the last Smarty (is that the singular?) was gone, Sam was pointing to the bowl on the counter and saying "More? More? Mama...More? Puh!? (please)" If she had been saying "Mine" she would have sounded just like those seagulls in Finding Nemo. She just kept doing it.

I crouched down and looked her in the eyes in a way that would have made Supernanny proud, and said "Sam, I know you want more, but you have had enough candy today, and you can't have any more right now. No more candy." I thought it was odd that Sam just looked at me and cocked her head to the side, instead of erupting into a full-blown screaming tantrum--which is her new favorite activity upon being told "no." As an added bonus, tantrums now come with added stomping, completely for free!

But she didn't scream, stomp, or lose the ability to stand on her legs. Instead, Sam walked to the garbage can and opened the lid. She sighed as she reached inside and I exclaimed "Sam, we don't play in the garbage." She looked at me like "I hope you're smarter than you look," and pulled her arm out of the trash with something in her hand. I hate it when she gets garbage back out, but this was particularly embarrassing, since I was chatting on the webcam with my sister and dad, so I had witnesses to my kid's most disgusting habit. I was just hoping she wasn't getting a dirty diaper to show G her "poo poos." There's precedent. Sam, however then came over holding the empty wrapper to the Smarties she had just finished, held it up to me as close to my face as she could reach and said "More mama. More. More."

Apparently, the only way she could fathom me telling her "No" was that I was too stupid to understand what she wanted. So she had to dumb it down a few shades to get her point across. She must have been shocked when after this obvious tutorial, I still said no, because that's when the crumbling, screaming, and stomping started. Because, not only was she not going to get her coveted candy, but Mommy is obviously not as dumb as she looks.
Bummer breaks, kiddo.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daddy or Mommy's Girl--it's a toss up

Today, Sam went to the doctor.
She is in the 98% for her height and 56% for weight.
Way tall and kinda skinny.
Talk about stats that have never, ever, ever, in my entire life applied to me. I was there when she was born, but I can't help but wonder sometimes where she came from. Not to mention, she's still pretty bald, completely opposite her monkey-looking mommy's baby pictures.

Just when I was trying to figure out if Daniel's genes are really that much more powerful than mine in every respect, she held up a W flashcard to the doctor and said "Wha! Wha!"
He looked at her and said "What did you say?"
I said, "She telling you what a W says."
Doctor turns back to Sam and says: "How would you possibly know that?"
I said, "Sam knows all the letter sounds--if you count that 'Q says Quack.' It obviously doesn't actually, but that's what she thinks so we go with it for now."
Apparently that's good for 18 months. Sam responded by holding up an H card with a Hat and saying "Hah, Hah, Hat!"

Then it hit me--Sam is a know-it-all!!! She may be a little beanpole, but she's all mine after all! If she ever yells at a guy for buying booze at the grocery store, and reminds him not to drink and drive, the circle of life will be complete (and yet another generation will mortify my mother).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So, you're saying this is a big deal?

I saw a commercial the other day that I just didn't get. It was for those new Purex sheets that go from the washer and dryer with the soap and stuff already in them. Sure, it's kind of a cool idea, I'll listen. The lady in the commercial went on to say something like this:

"I mean, I'd take a small improvement to my day, but this makes my life a thousand times better!"

My first thoughts went something like this: "Um. Okay. Really? A thousand times better? Do me a favor and let's NEVER trade lives, okay?"

Soon, however, I saw the light. This can not possibly be a insane marketing ploy, this must be true! They wouldn't say it if it wasn't true! Firstly, laundry is in fact--despite the near magic washing machine and electric dryer--the worst thing that has happened to me or anyone else in the world--move over AIDS in Africa. I can not tell you how many times I have cried myself to sleep over the burden of being able to afford decent clothes that I am nearly crippled by the responsibility to keep clean. The weight on my soul is crushing. Also, while I'm pointing this out--if I were to change just one thing about how I do laundry it wouldn't be the pre-treating, the sorting, the folding or hanging up of clean clothes, or the touching of other people's dirty skivies. Oh, no! It would be to eliminate the 10 seconds it takes me to fill the little cup and downy ball with soap and fabric softener, and the .5 seconds it takes me to reach up to the shelf to grab a dryer sheet and toss it in the dryer with the clothes. Ten point five seconds saved equals a one thousand times better life.
Who wouldn't take that deal?
Besides, the fact that it will take an extra hour of overtime to pay for the difference in price between the liquid and the 10.5 second saving miracle sheets, is my husband's problem, not mine.

Thank you so much, marketing world. You have once again offered some much needed perspective and shed light on a true tragedy--ten second increments of precious time going utterly wasted.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch some more commercials. I hope that one with Kelly Ripa tossing cookies to kids while closing the dryer with her toes comes on so I can get even more cranky!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Not it.

I'm not usually a fan of making up increasingly lame excuses to justify behavior. If you believe something is right, just do it, and don't make up a million dumb reasons to make yourself feel better. If you have to make up a million justifications to feel better, maybe you aren't making the right decision after all.

Today, however, I thought of a perk to going back to work putting my kid in daycare that suddenly doesn't seem like a lame justification at all.

It would be really nice to be able to assume someone else taught my kid to yell "Me Nakie!!!!" and run around the house like a lunatic, and leave it at that. Because as of right now, I honestly don't know where she got it...and she pretty much only hangs out with me...and I have no memory of yelling about nakedness. Plus, she was fully dressed at the time, so I really have no idea what new concept got completely twisted around in that little mind of hers. She's definitely coming up with weirder and weirder words and things these days, and when Daniel looks at me like "where did she come up with that?", so far my only response is to defensively shout "Not it!"

There has to be a better, more adult way, to shift the blame for my bizzare toddler.

Monday, September 28, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want

As I write this, my daughter is watching Yo Gabba Gabba, her first and only true love. She adores this show, and I don't mind the episode she's watching because Jack Black is on it, and he totally cracks me up. Another reason I like this episode is because of the song that's on now. It's a show aimed at preschool kids, and here are the lyrics:
You can't always get what you want
(no, no, no, no you can't)
(no, no, no, no you can't)
You can't always get what you want
(no, no, no, no)
It won't help if you keep on asking!
(la, la, la)
It won't help if you whine!
(la, la, la)
It won't help to complain!
Repeat repeatedly.

As a mother, it's a message I appreciate being passed on to my kid. Nothing drives me crazy faster than whining. As a human being with a sense of humor, I find the song hilarious in and of itself. Of course, Sam is only a year and a half, so thus far the message has fallen on deaf ears, but someday...she'll get it. I hope.
Hearing this song quite a bit (we watch this episode A LOT), brings two things to mind. First of all, I wish it wasn't quite so true. It is though--gospel truth. You can't always get what you want, no matter how much you ask or whine. I have yet to whine myself into a size 6, and let me assure you, it's not for lack of trying. As it turns out, I have to work for the things I want, and even then, there's no guarantee.
Secondly, why are they marketing this song to preschoolers only? From looking around the world we live in, it seems to me it should be required listening for everybody everywhere. After all, where to we think our kids picked up the whining and complaining? All too often, I see people going crazy about other people's choices. Usually, that person is me. So, I'm adopting this mantra--I can't always get what I want, it won't help to whine or complain. Sometimes when you are dying for justice, you see mercy, and the reverse is true too. Sometimes I am hoping against hope for mercy only to feel the swift kick of justice squarely in my behind. And although I've given whining more than ample time to work out in my favor, it hasn't panned out. There are truly things in this world that you just can't control, I can think of nearly 7 billion of them off the top of my head. It just took a slightly creepy kids show to remind me. So thanks to you, Yo Gabba Gabba--they should play this song on every radio station, every morning. Spread the knowledge around a bit, you know!

By the way, for the record and the continuation of this blog, pointing out injustice is not the same as complaining about it. As much as I am trying to let things go, no amount of singing will turn me into a lie down and take it kind of person. I still am what I am, but now I will focus on attitudes I do have a shot at changing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let's do the Timewarp

Today I was driving in the car for an appointment with the Optometrist, and the song "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind came on the radio. Suddenly, from the words "I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend..." I felt exactly like I was transported right back to Jr. High. I can't explain it, but it was almost an out of body experience--all the emotions of that time came flooding back as if they were happening right then. I was in Jr. High again (shudder)--forget the fact that I was driving, with my daughter in the backseat no less, and she was trying to poke me with the crocs she had removed from her feet against my protests yet again, while wearing a paper Krispy Kreme hat.
*May I just interject here to admit to one thing--no, we hadn't been to Krispy Kreme that day. My car is officially what my husband would consider "disgusting." On the plus side, we went yesterday, and what my husband considers "disgusting" when it comes to car cleanliness is probably what most people would call "perfectly acceptable." I maintain the fact that no matter how long it's been since you went to the donut store, one paper Krispy Kreme hat on the backseat does not a "pigsty" make. *
Back to the task at hand, for one moment I forgot that I was older, fatter, and considering my errand, even blinder than I was then--I felt 14 again. In a word, it was bizarre.
Now, it's no anomaly for me to hear songs from my Jr. High or High School days on the radio. I exclusively listen to the radio stations for people who don't quite qualify for the oldies station yet, but crave the familiar while lying to themselves that they have some semblance of relevance today. The truth is, I find Lady Gaga's appearance unbelievably frightening, and know nothing more of Rihanna than the fact that her ex-boyfriend is a scumbag and the repeated syllable "ella...ella...ella." Listening to stations that mainly play songs I recognize while throwing in the occasional Taylor Swift number (take that, Kanye!) or even the rare "Just Dance" is as modern as I get, musically speaking. A song has to be pretty far ingrained in the mainstream before it reaches my ears these days. Sheesh, just writing that makes me feel like a geezer.
The point is, every song I hear from my formative years does not have that effect on me. This experience got me thinking about the songs that I hear rarely enough that they give me a instant trip down memory lane to Jr. High or High School. You might be confused by the fact that a lot of these songs came out in all different years, thinking I don't even know my own age, but these songs didn't necessarily come out when I was in this age group, but it was in my formative years that I discovered them, listened to them ad nauseum, and cemented them in my memory. If the timeline confuses you, well, deal with it.
Here is what I came up with:

"MMMMmmmbop" by Hanson. Am I proud that this song is in my age group's legacy? Heck, no! Every time I hear it (which is thankfully rarely), does it totally take me back? You bet! (Also in this category, but still too soon to talk about is the "Macarena." I have very embarrassing memories of my only Jewish friend's bat mitvah I'm still not ready to dredge up.)

"I Want You" by Savage Garden. Anyone else for a Chicken Cherry Cola? By the way, if you are thinking about telling me that I am wrong and feel the need to inform me of the actual lyrics, you are years too late. I know it's probably not correct, but Chicken Cherry Cola is a part of me now.

"Leaving on a Jet Plane" originally by John Denver. Yeah, it's a classic, and from way before my time, but I didn't fall in love with the John Denver version. I fell in love with Ben Affleck singing it to Liv Tyler in Armageddon, which is still one of my favorite movies. Discovering the song was just a bonus.

"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day. Yes, this one came out just before my senior year and was therefore used in every video montage documenting this time in my life or anyone else I knew. Every. Last. One. Oddly enough, I still like it.

"Stay" by Lisa Loeb. Actually, pretty much anything by Lisa Loeb takes me back instantly, because I listened to her stuff constantly, but they don't play it on the radio much anymore--not even on my "still want to be hip, but only listen to songs from at least a decade ago" channels. That makes me kind of sad.

So there you go. You now know just how out of touch I am with music. If you've been paying attention, that means I have recently done posts about my lack of fashion sense, mentioned my embarrassing TV habits, and this just in, copped to listening to "a shade shy of geezer" music. You will have to conclude from the evidence that I am just not cool. In fact, I am starting to have a sneaking suspicion that I will soon surpass my mother--who used to time her work by cleaning the entire bathroom during one play of "MacArthur Park"--by journeying into uncharted areas of uncoolness. Speaking of which, some Journey would really cheer me up right now...
Yes, I just upped the uncool factor again, what of it?

Stick around, this could be epic.

Friday, September 4, 2009

An Overdue Thank You Note

Although I have told them this individually several times, it is about time the rest of the world knew how I feel. I would like to send a virtual thank you note to my parents. Not a thank you for driving me to school and activities, or keeping me in clothing, food and shelter throughout my life, although I appreciate all those things!

The very best thing my parents ever did for me was pointing it out when my head seemed to be inserted into a very different body part and telling me to knock it off. They called me on it when I was being a jerk to someone else. At the time, I most certainly did not appreciate it, but as I look back now, I am insanely grateful to have had a trusty barometer. My parents always supported me, but never led me to believe I was perfect or above reproach. My mom and dad understand the vital truth that it is better to watch your children trip a little than to make them feel invincible and watch them fall completely flat the remainder of their lives. It is always better to scrape a few knees now and again, than to end up in traction.

I remember doing something as a teenager that perfectly illustrated this point. I don't remember what I said about someone else, but I do remember that it was extremely self-centered and rude--like I said, I was a teenager. My mother just looked right at me and said, "Carly, the other six billion people on this planet are not just here to cushion your fall. You. Shape. Up." This hit right on target as my mother is usually more the sweet, touchy-feely type than the straightforward-don't-make-me-come-up-there type.
Did it hurt to be checked like that? Yes. Did it teach me the value of others in a way I will never forget as long as I live? Abso-freakin-loutely. And finally, was she right? Painfully so. The rest of the planet is not here to make me feel better about myself, to serve me, or to honor me. If anything, I am here to serve others and make the world a better place. Lesson learned.

I feel the need to thank them for this now, as recent events I've encountered have forced me to come in contact with more and more people who clearly were never told, not once in their formative years, that they are less than perfect. No, not even perfect, they must have been told that they are what perfection aspires to be. So, operating under the untempered delusion that all should worship at their feet, they go through life demanding, rude, and selfish. They are driving everyone around them, even the people they love, absolutely nuts (although no one in their inner circle will ever call them on it). Everyone meets one of these people, eventually--they are the people that show up late because "the party won't start without them any way. How could it?" They make Narcissus look like Mother Theresa. When they need something, they tell, they don't ask. Frankly they don't ask because they consider you lending them a car to be a favor to you, not from you.

My brother encountered one such person recently. I happened to be on the phone with my parents when he came in the door and said, "Mom, Dad, I just want to say a big thanks for doing everything in your power to keep me from being a total selfish jerk!!!" My dad had to laugh and say "yeah, that's what your sister says when she runs into one." Now I am so far from perfect, the highway milage signs only read as far as "suitable." I do not, however, for one minute, feel like I am more important that other people just because of who I am. I do not think my views are better because I am better, I am most certainly not better. I do not think that everyone in a room with me should count their blessings just to be near me. Ever.

So, I just wanted to say thanks again, mom and dad. Thanks for being parents, not just mindless cheerleaders. Thanks for understanding that a dose of self-esteem without the ability to back it up, is simply off-putting ego. Thanks for telling me that the other six billion people on the planet matter too. Thank you for knowing that me thinking you are my cool best friends pales in comparision to your responsibility to make me into a decent person. I didn't realize how rare parents like you really are. As an added bonus, I do think you are both cool and my best friends, so it worked out on your end too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"NaNaNaNaNa NaNaNaNa...LEADER!"

As it turns out, I'm a trendsetter. Now, I'm very much aware that anyone who has seen me at church in my worn-out Target shoes, or worse, walking through Wal-mart in workout pants coupled with Mary Jane Crocs (yikes!) probably would disagree with that. They would be glaringly correct, as at least in regards to all things fashion, I'm not exactly leading the way. Nor am I cutting edge unless the "edge" is slightly mismatched, poorly-fitting clothes for women who rarely leave the house and refuse to go update their wardrobe "until the baby weight is gone--pass the Ben and Jerry's please." My idea of an accessory is hanging the handle of Sam's sippy cup on my jeans pocket so I can leave the diaper bag in the car while we stop at a store. Let's just say that although it would be most unwelcome and beyond mortifying, it would not be at all surprising if the duo from "What Not to Wear" sprang up on me and tried to cure me of my apathy to all things fashion. What would surprise me is how they would manage to get secret footage of me--they probably have a better shot of filming Bigfoot than catching me out of the house and/or car. By the way, this isn't a cry for help, and no amount of money on a gift card would induce me to parade myself around on TV and get yelled at by "fashion experts," so please, don't even think about it.
So I am not a trendsetter in that sense. Nor am I particularly cool in regards to music, movies, or television shows. My guilty pleasure is watching reruns of "The Nanny" late on Nick and Nite, and I was inordinately thrilled to find a channel on our satelitte had brought back my favorite show from when I was a kid, which I actually DVR and watch every single weekday. I'd tell you what it is, but it would make me even less cool than I am now, and that is saying a lot, because I just admitted to watching "The Nanny," and anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I know way too much about "Saved by the Bell."
Where I am an apparent trendsetter is the blogosphere. Despite the fact that I joined WAY late in the universal blogging game and haven't garnered a huge following or anything, I was the first on my husband's side of the family to start a blog, and now my family is getting in on the act as well (over a year later, we're not fast movers). In fact, the title of this post is a tribute to my brother's new blog, which relates Simpsons quotes to his life experiences. (If anyone is interested, my quote is from the episode where they after several failed brainwashing techniques the Movementarians get Homer to join their cult simply by substituting the word "leader" into the Batman theme song. As a leader, I found it appropriate.) You can check out his blog, "The Quotin'ist Blog You Know" here. If you want proof that I come from a whole herd of "smart mouths" you can check out my Dad's blog "My View From the Cheap Seats" here.
You might end up deciding that we put the fun in dysfunctional, but our quirkiness is what I love about us. No matter what you think of the other blogs, just remember that I was the first. Oh, did I mention that we're really competitive, and I'm the oldest? Can't help but claim my turf!

One more thing, for the record: My dad has a really good eye for fashion, and would be completely embarrassed by my workout pant/Mary Jane combo. I'm embarrassed too, frankly, but that doesn't seem to stop me. I just wanted to place blame where it lies--yes, I was raised better than that, the shame is all mine.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Relax, It's Not Brain Surgery!

I haven't really posted lately, because as I mentioned in my last post, I've had quite a bit on my mind--literally! My doctor was concerned about the fact that my headaches included dizziness, and ordered some additional tests "just to make sure there's no aneurysm." Sidebar: add "aneurysm" to the list of words I don't want tossed around when they're concerning me. Anyway, the doctor told me they wouldn't call if all the results were normal, so when I got a call the morning after an MRI that the doctor wanted to see me as soon as possible, but was out of the office for a week, it resulted in a week of freaking out about the state of my brain. Needless to say, I was very concerned...after all, if they were looking for an aneurysm and had something in the results that made them need to see me immediately...well, I was concerned. My only comfort was the fact that if they were willing to make an appointment a week out, as opposed to "hey, go straight to a hospital!"--whatever it was obviously wasn't going to kill me in the near future, or at least the next seven days. Small comfort when you're talking about brains, really.

It turns out that the news was actually fairly good. The tests showed the reason I've been getting dizzy, but found it is not dangerous, progressive, or related to any other symptoms. In fact, it has to do with the way the blood vessels in my brain have been wired since birth, and the extra energy required to work through the pain is why I get dizzy with the headaches (and by the way, also explains why I got dizzy a lot when I was pregnant). Most likely, I do have ordinary migraines that are completely treatable with preventative medication. What a relief!

During this very stressful time, I have been extremely blessed by the support of my family and few people I had told about what was happening. Those that knew went out of their way to be supportive, and to say incredibly nice things to and about me. I really appreciate it, more than you will ever know. Facing a mysterious future makes everyone feel more open, and I know that I too, was a kinder, gentler, me. I wanted to make sure those I love knew how much I love them. I'm hoping this past week will teach me a more lasting lesson than a trite platitude would, but since it's human nature to forget, I figure I'll make hay while the sun shines.

The words I have to share with my family I'm not going to be sending out on the blog, but I've been thinking about something else I've taken totally for granted my whole life. It's about time I gave a tribute to one thing I was truly afraid to lose even part of: my brain.

To my brain:

Thanks, buddy, for being with me through the long haul.
I know I don't deserve your devotion--I'm sorry gave you a big bump on that Payless shoe rack when I was three and messed with you a little bit. If it helps, I still have a scar on my forehead.
You have always been there for me though.
Your hard work is the reason I loved school (well, until college), and was able to figure out "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" every day at 4:00.
Thank you for the endless library of Simpsons Quotes, and song lyrics. It's truly a treasure trove of useless junk in there, and that's part of what I love about you. I've always got a handy factoid when I need one. I owe that to you, brain.
You gave me a love of literature. You gave me the ability to find comfort for teenage loneliness in "Jane Eyre," and the adult maturity to roll my eyes at Bella Swan's headstrong cheesiness...uh, repeatedly.
You memorized the State Capitols, and promptly forgot all the states smaller than Colorado.
You learned some calculus, the parts of a cell, and helped me get an awesome score on Ben Stein's Trivia game on the ipod.
You gathered just enough Organic Chemistry to squeak by, and promptly dumped it out the day after the final. Thank you for both of those, but mostly, for getting it out of there (probably to make room for more Simpsons quotes).
You have at least a million stored memories--funny ones, sad ones, poignant ones, angry ones, happy ones--and every single one is priceless to me. Thank you for holding on to my past.
When my heart tries to run away without you, you always step in. You have saved me from stupid decisions countless times.
You're vital to me, Brain. I'm not naive (or skinny) enough to think I'm going to make a life for myself based on my looks or athletic ability--I know you are my only moneymaker. I'm so glad you're sticking around to be taken for granted again. Don't tell my heart or liver, but you're my favorite organ. Thanks for everything.

Monday, August 10, 2009

You Know What Your Problem Is?

Lately, I have had a ton on my mind. That probably explains the quasi-permanent migraine I've been sporting for nearly 2 months now--which was so bad it even drove me to find a doctor and seek treatment--a huge deal for those that know me and my desire to avoid doctors if I can help it. The past few weeks, however, a lot of stressful things in all aspects of my life came to a head. I've been very discouraged and angry the past few days about how everything is seeming to come down at once. I felt sad, downright crushed, as some of my hopes turned out to be disillusions.
The other day, I was discussing my frustrations and anger with my dad and he offered this insight.
"Hey, Carly, do you know what your problem is?" For the record, I am always (wisely) wary of any conversation that starts with that statement. It tends to mean I'm about to find out the problem lies not with the other people I'm blaming and places it squarely on my shoulders, which is my least favorite place for a problem to be.
The only answer in my head was, "People suck?" (As I said, it'd been a rough couple days on multiple fronts and I wasn't exactly feeling all up with people)
"No, you take issue with injustice, and always have. But you're real problem is that you persistently believe that people will change and do the right thing given the right information. Usually, however, people are who they are, they don't change. That's why when people do change, it's so remarkable, because most of the time, people keep doing what they're doing even if it doesn't work for them or anyone else."

Interesting, if depressing thought. At least in regards to me, however, it is certainly true--I keep thinking that when people are behaving horribly, rudely, or stupidly, it must be because they don't know better. If someone would just teach them, they'd be nice, smart, and pleasant. If they could see how nice a person was they wouldn't hate them anymore, or if they could see that they were hurting their family members they would stop a specific behavior. Despite a thousand instances to the contrary, I just keep thinking that "someday they'll learn," which not only means other people don't change, but that I seem to be incapable of changing my mindset that someday they will! My dad added his thoughts as explanation as to why I'm so often crushed and disappointed. I see something happen that should have taught a lesson I'd been hoping for, but the lesson doesn't do anything to inspire change, and I feel depressed and discouraged.

One thing is for sure, my dad does have my number--I've always been stymied and disheartened by a lack of change. For example, with all the groups trying to raise awareness of AIDS in Africa, why are the numbers still skyrocketing? With all the research out there about why teens raising babies is a recipe for disaster, and all the options to prevent pregnancy in the first place, and tons of groups and options to assist families if prevention falls through, why are instances of teen pregnancy and young single mothers so high in one of the most developed countries in the world? Further, with instances of infertility and unwanted pregnancy simultaneously rising, why are adoptions to put the two together actually dropping? I understand the pull of addiction can be too strong for many smokers, but with all the research in our faces every day on the dangers of smoking, why do new smokers light up and start the habit every day? If "awareness" is truly the answer touted by social groups and governments, why hasn't it answered anything yet? I ask myself this on a regular basis. So, yes, my dad was right about a few things, especially in regards to my own personal peeves.

Whether he was right about people being unable to change is really another discussion for another day. Right now, I'm inclined to agree with him, but at happier times, I know I could find examples that would prove that people can be better than expected, and they don't always fall short. I'm not laying this conversation out as my new outlook on life or anything, because there wasn't a lot to really inspire hope and happiness, but I'm mentioning it because the whole concept made me laugh.
I couldn't help it. I laughed right into the phone and said "Dad. So what you're telling me is that despite all the times you've called me grizzled, harsh, and crotchety, and told me I'm the youngest and girliest grumpy old man you've ever known, my real problem this whole time has been that I'm just too darn optimistic?!"
"Yeah, I guess."

Oh, the irony!

So if you see me in the next little while, and I look angry enough to kick someone, just think to yourself--"ahh, her optimism is killing her again! She should really be less hopeful." Then try not to laugh, I dare you.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sam continues to teach me

Another law of the universe I've learned courtesy of Sam:

The more public the location, the deeper the finger in the nose.

Thanks, baby, really.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Keeping it Mysterious

I don't remember meeting my husband. As strange as it may sound to those of the "love at first sight, he's my own personal vampire" persuasion, it is just the truth. We were only eight years old when I moved in across the street. Further, I don't remember when he went from "ewwww gross" to "he's a good friend" to "madly in love." I do remember the moment I realized that I was in love with him, but by then the damage had been done, and it was an imperceptibly slow process to that point. So when I read in a magazine that the secret to a happy marriage is continuing to find your spouse mysterious, I could only determine that if that psychobabble garbage was indeed true, we were pretty much screwed. There's not a lot of mystery to someone you've known forever, no exes to pop up and surprise when you've watched them leave for every single date from your kitchen window. I figured we were very nearly done with the "mystery" of marriage before we were married!

Imagine my surprise then, when a few months back Daniel came in the room an announced that instead of playing basketball with his buddies, they were going to play dodgeball for the next several weeks. Just as the words "That's too bad then, that you won't have anywhere to play for a few weeks. Only sadistic jerks like dodgeball" were escaping my lips, I realized he was saying "I'm so excited! I love dodgeball! This is going to be awesome."
Uh oh. What?
"You love dodgeball? You LOVE dodgeball?! Are you serious!?" I felt like he had just dropped a bomb on me, and in a way he had. I was a total nerd growing up, and I was very much serious about the fact that only jerks enjoyed dodgeball--I could picture them with their rock-hard red kickballs, laughing as they pummeled you repeatedly and you begged to go sit on the sidelines.
I decided years ago that you have to have something wrong with you to enjoy beating weaker people with balls. I believe that with all my heart. To find out the very man I was married to was the type who would have hit me and trampled on my self-esteem shook me to the core. I'm still coming to terms with the fact that Daniel can be a decent man and like dodgeball. As stupid as it sounds, it still hurt. I just have to keep repeating to myself that maybe not all people who like dodgeball end up in prison.

I'd pretty much gotten over the dodgeball thing when we went bowling. Every two to three years Daniel and I forget that we totally stink at bowling and we think it will be fun. Then we go to the bowling alley, it smells like old beer and cigaretts, we both suck at the sport, I rip off both of my thumbnails inside a germy disgusting ball, try not to think about wearing shoes a million people have sweated in, I realize I enjoy the company but not the game, and we go home with sore wrists deciding not to do that again for a while. It works for us. There is nothing wrong with this system. Imagine my surprise that on the way home from the bowling alley, Daniel turns to me and says "I think I'd like to buy my own bowling ball."
"Yeah, with a score like 110 I'd say you have a career blossoming, is the stub of my thumnail bleeding where it ripped?"
"I think it would be fun to do this more often. You know, learn how to be better at it."
"So you're not kidding about the ball?"
"hmmm. I just don't think I know you anymore. A bowling ball. I am so confused."

It would seem that there still are mysteries in our marriage, and they all involve sports. Now please make it stop!!! I'm not the surprise type, and I'm tired of ducking in fear every time Daniel picks up one of Sam's playground balls.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Whatever happened to Stranger Danger?

Small children adore my husband. It's not something I've always fully understood, as he's generally quiet, a bit shy, and looks nothing like Barney the dinosaur, but it just is what it is. Our friends' kids have always taken to Daniel immediately, even though he's not remotely the type to strike up a convo with a kid he doesn't know. I, on the other hand, have always seemed to be wearing a sign that says "trying too hard." I remember one time, I was babysitting my good friends' kids and I decided I would do my best to be as lovable as they found my husband. Maybe, just maybe, I could get them to stop referring to us as "Daniel, and Daniel's friend." It didn't fly, and their daughter ended up sitting and watching Daniel study rather than do play-doh with me. Talk about an ego blow. Really.

It usually doesn't bother me that kids like to hang with Daniel. With kids he knows really well, like our nieces and nephews, he's the fun Uncle that tosses them in the air, and plays chase or catch in Grandma's backyard. It's adorable to watch.

However, lately, when he tries to take Sam to the park to play, strange children have started following us around. By strange, I mean kids we don't know from Adam, not that the kids are weird--at least not any weirder than the general weirdness of feeling completely at ease bugging strangers. They appear out of seemingly nowhere, so they must live within view of the park, and they just come over and make themselves comfortable with our toys and talk Daniel's ear off. And the extra weird thing is they come all by themselves, not a parent in sight, not even on the porches or in the windows of nearby houses. What the heck is up with that? Haven't these people ever heard of stranger danger? I mean, yes, I know that Daniel is an incredibly nice guy who would never hurt their kids, but they don't know anything about us! This isn't an isolated incident either, I personally have seen it happen twice in recent weeks, in two different parks in our neighborhood, and it's not the same kid!
It's insanely awkward for several reasons, not the least of which is that Daniel is not cool with being alone with kids he doesn't know, and who can blame him for not wanting to appear on Dateline because some kid decided to show up and be his best friend? So instead of him staying at the park with Sam like he planned, he ends up making me come supervise instead of cooking dinner, or he just has to leave and head home earlier than planned.
Leaving gets complicated too, because we don't just want to leave some kid standing alone in the park at dusk (unlike their own parents, we actually do have concerns about their kid's safety), but we also don't feel comfortable asking where they live to take them home. Who knows but that the kids who don't seem to understand the concept of not talking to strangers will in fact freak out if a stranger asks their address? I hate that these parents are ditching me with a sense of responsibility that they don't seem to have for their own children. Plus, when these kids come to play with our toys, good luck getting them to cough them back over so we can go home! Just last night, some kid was holding our remote control car hostage until Daniel would tell him what night we would be coming back to the park to play (yeah, right, like we'll show up when we said we would, strange little child)! How insanely nuts is that? I was in no mood to play his little game, because we forgot Sam's water and she was getting overheated, so I just started walking away. I had to get my baby some water, and I wasn't about to let someone else's crappy parenting stop me. A few minutes later, I heard Daniel literally running behind me to catch up. When he got there he said "Geez, you can't leave me alone with a strange kid! What is with nosy kids today, did you hear all the stuff he felt okay asking me about!?"
Instead of a nice day at the park, we were ticked off. I was mad because with work and school Daniel gets maybe 45 minutes a day to just play with Sam, and instead, he had to spend it with a kid taking his attention away from her by taking her toys and asking rude questions! He was mad because he doesn't want to be put in a situation he's uncomfortable with, and there's no one to talk to about stopping it because the parents are all ghosts or something. Sam was the only one happy because while Daddy and I were distracted by Captian Obnoxious, she found a mud puddle to step in.

I want to know what the crap these parents are thinking to just let their children wander around with total strangers. If you think I watch too many crime shows and don't care about your kid's safety, then at the very least, have the social decency to keep them from endlessly irritating people you don't know!!!

Am I crazy? Do we still live in a world where you can be totally chill with your kids going up to people you don't know without you present to keep an eye on them? I really don't think we do, but what's your take?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Just the other day, I realized I had to do some studying for the first time in a while. Not just passive reading, mind you, but actual studying complete with highlighters, pens, and notebook paper. I was actually looking forward to working out my brain. I went upstairs to get some lined paper but when I set foot in our office I quickly realized that I had no idea where to look for it.

And I was stunned by that realization.

The surprise was in no small part because as wife and mother of our home I am expected to know the location, state of repair, time until replacement, and approximate remaining battery life (if applicable) of roughly one million objects on demand, so I was floored that I could be so easily stymied. The main portion of the shock I experienced, however, was that it was only a few short years ago that I was never more than an arm's length from college lined notebook paper. I was once utterly surrounded by office supplies, five subject notebooks, both full and empty, reams upon reams of note paper, and quite possibly 100 pens. If I was away from home, I carried paper on my back, along with several books. I was at the bookstore buying paper at least every couple of months. You could argue that for most of my life, I was quite literally defined by my proximity to notebook paper. I was a hard core student, and my collection of office supplies was a testament to that fact. It was a physical testimony of what made up the majority of my personality, and where I spent my time.
Fast forward to Monday afternoon, and I was digging through my home office on some sort of deranged quest to find that one pack of paper I was absolutely positive I had seen floating around when we moved in. When I finally unearthed it, it wasn't even open. I found myself shocked all over again, and actually a little bit sad. Never had it hit me so hard that a major portion of my life was unequivocally over. I was saddened because apparently I hadn't even really noticed until a few years later.
Perhaps I never noticed that what had once been an object so central to my very being was now gone because I wasn't all that sad to see it leave. By the time college graduation finally came due, I was so thrilled to be finished with the years of slavery I didn't care if I never saw another notebook again. I guess I took what I thought at the time was a flippant joke truly to heart. Maybe it took me nearly five years to notice the absence because if I'd realized it any sooner, I would simply have felt continued relief. I'm not at all sorry to not be in school anymore, mind you--I wouldn't go back and trade what I have now if you paid me--but after all these years, I guess what I'm sorry about is that I could be so oblivious to the sweeping changes I've made.

This got me thinking about what objects have defined me since I left behind the lined paper days. When I was working full-time, it was always nasty microwaveable lunches at my beck and call, I suppose. When I was pregnant, it was baggies full of dry cereal to stem the desire to heave. And now, I'm never more than a few steps away from a size 3 Luvs diaper. I suppose diapers have become my new paper, a physical testament to what my life is really about and how I spend my time. Not that my daughter brings nothing to my life but poop, but that diapers represent what I always have at the ready, what I am in constant need of, that my time and energy is not directed at me, but a very small person who still pees her pants. I'm happy with that, but if you had told me in the lined paper days that I wasn't that far away from trading it all for diapers, I'm not sure what I would have thought about that.

I've also been thinking about my brother in context of all of this "defining myself by the objects that surround me" thing. He is now home after spending two years as a missionary in Mongolia. Virtually overnight, the objects that defined him, and how he spent his time, and where is priorities are, have to change. There are so many things that are part of your everyday life in the countryside of the third world that simply don't apply to the everyday in the good old US. But it's not just that. No more does he always have several copies of the Book of Mormon with him, strapped to his back, ready to share. Sure, he might plan to carry some around, but the day will come when his textbooks will outpace his back strength and he will have to take them out of his backpack to make room for what he needs right then. That doesn't mean he has traded something great for something so-so, it just means his immediate needs have changed. I don't know what his new objects will be, all I know is that he is in a state of confusing limbo right now. It's hard to let go of what you always had at hand, and it's even harder to realize that they have let go of you. That's what life is about, evolving and changing from what was important right then, to what is important now. And I want him to know that it's okay. It's okay to let your definitions change, or you might never find what brings you the most joy. You won't find the objects you want to keep if you don't collect new ones.

Today, while I was laying on the floor doing ab exercises, Samantha decided she needed attention right that very second, so of course, she came and sat on my face. It was at this point, I realized she had a diaper completely full of poop. Now, there was a time in my life, in fact any other time in my life but right now, that I would have been completely undone by another person sitting on my face with poop in their pants (diapers or no, it's gross). At this stage in my life though, I just got her off my face, explained that it's rude to sit on Mommy's face, and went to snag a clean diaper. After so many experiences like this one, I can honestly say I won't be sad to see the diaper stage of my life go either. But if my experience this week has taught me anything, years from now I just might be moving furniture and find a long lost size 3 Luvs, and while I won't want that time back per se, I'll certainly wonder where in the world it all went, and feel just a little sad.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bear With me

Please bear with me and my long absence. It's only going to get longer.
Right now, we are anxiously preparing for my brother's homecoming, and life is a bit of a mess. I'll be ready to wax all philosophical and emotional again soon.

In the meantime, here's an illustration of what life is like now that Sam is old enough to understand most of what we say.

The other day, Sam was touching something she knows she's not supposed to. It happens a lot, and she flashes this "aren't you going to come stop me?" grin every stinking time. I was super busy with chores, which is why I just looked at her and said, "Samantha, you are doing a no-no. Would you like to go to time out?!"
Sam looked right at me, yelled "Yeah!!!" and came running over for her punishment. I don't really know what to do with that other than admit that it's probably time to change our method of time out.
Since Sam is a bit of a wiggle worm (major understatement there), up until now "time out" has consisted of her having to sit on Mommy or Daddy's lap with her arms folded and not being allowed to wiggle or play. Unfortunately, now Sam is old enough to figure that out and she gets herself "sent" to time out by acting up when she just wants some cuddle time. I got played.
It's like 20% flattering, 80% super obnoxious.
Besides, now I have a conundrum, because she is still too young to sit on a naughty stool and not get up for time out, but clearly too old for the time out on Mommy's lap. Not that she seems to understand the principle of time-out anyway, it's just a good chance for her to calm down. Having a baby who is smarter than me makes me sleepy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"You Keep Using That Word..."

Near the beginning of the all-time classic movie The Princess Bride, Vizzini kidnaps Princess Buttercup with the help of his two cohorts, Inigo Montoya the Spaniard, and Fezzig the Giant, while being pursued by the mysterious "man in black." Each time Inigo announces that the man in black is still hot on their trail, Vizzini hilariously exclaims "Inconceivable!!!" complete with his insane lisp. Eventually, after a final "Inconceivable," Inigo (played by the brilliant Mandy Patankin) stares at him and responds--"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Much like the uber-intelligent criminal mastermind Vizzini, a large portion of the world today keeps throwing around a word that does not mean what they think it means, and those most energetic about its usage seem to be the most ignorant of the meaning. The word is: Intolerance.

According to dictionary.com "intolerance" means: "The quality of being intolerant; refusal to allow to others the enjoyment of their opinions, chosen modes of worship, and the like; want of patience and forbearance; illiberality; bigotry; as, intolerance shown toward a religious sect." More importantly perhaps, is what "intolerance" does not mean, and much to the chagrin of the screaming public, is does not mean "simple disagreement with others' opinions."

Intolerance is my least favorite word in the English language, because it is no longer used without making the speaker look like a hypocrite. Currently, people are labeled as "intolerant," when they do not wholeheartedly agree with and embrace the other sides' views. This is ridiculous! If one uses that definition, the word becomes utterly impossible to use. Follow me through the steps of logic if you will: If I disagree with you, I am therefore intolerant of you. However, if I disagree with you then you must also be in disagreement with me. If you are in disagreement with me, by your definition, it therefore makes you....oh my gosh!...intolerant!!! It not only makes you intolerant, however, it makes you a hypocrite for calling another what you are yourself. Bummer.
(As a side note, I was clearly paying attention in 8th grade Geometry, because I did learn how to make a proof.)

Intolerance means that you do not allow others "the enjoyment of their opinions" and I don't care what planet you are on, allowing you to enjoy your opinions does not force me to agree with them. If you can not enjoy your opinions without everyone else on earth agreeing with you in every aspect, I wish you the best of luck with finding said enjoyment, but it is never going to happen. You can believe whatever you wish to believe, I will never hunt you down, or actively try to prevent you from saying your piece--because that would be intolerant. I will not even trample on the right of white supremacists or others I find morally reprehensible because I understand that the same amendment that grants them the right to spew their disgusting vitriol gives me the equal right to call them hateful, ignorant, monsters. You can not take away the rights of one without trampling on the rights of the other, and eventually, there will be no one left to fight when it's my rights on the chopping block. When we incorrectly use the word "intolerance" to describe anyone who does not see things the same way we do, we are actually saying that our beliefs are more correct than others, and others should therefore not be granted the same rights we are because they are "wrong." What a dangerous precipice to stand on!

I have already mentioned what I do not have the right to do, so what remains is to assert what I do have the right to do. If, you ask me a direct question, or ask me to vote and therefore choose sides on a controversial issue, I have every right to answer you with what I believe--no matter which side it falls on. That does not make me intolerant any more than choosing the opposite side makes you intolerant. It makes us different--which is why we have a democratic process in the first place. The founding fathers obviously picked up on the fact that you can't please all of the people all of the time. This is the most fair system we've got. If you did not want to hear what I had to say, you shouldn't have asked or backed me into a corner and forced me to choose sides.

So, what is a real-life example of intolerance, according to proper use of the word? Hmm, I don't know, let's see... Oh, how about firing someone for giving the "wrong" answer to a question you asked that wasn't supposed to have a "right" answer? Miss California USA may have been fired for "not upholding her commitments," but I can not help but wonder--not upholding her commitment to what? Her commitment the unspoken rule that she must fall to one specific side of a controversial issue? Her commitment to agree with a gossip columnist whose only "credibility" and "celebrity" comes from harsh comments on real celebrities goings-on and wardrobe choices? I'm sorry, but the whole point of asking controversial questions in a pageant setting is to that the contestants have the right to fall on either side, as long as they defend their points. If there's a specific answer to be found, maybe they should ask obviously one-sided questions such as "Puppies--cute or ugly?" or "Adolf Hitler--horrible monster or stand up chap? What do you think?" They should avoid the hornets' nest of issues that divide voters virtually in half altogether! Heck, maybe to avoid confusion in contestants who might actually speak for themselves, instead of asking questions, they should just make statements. "Gay marriage is right. Please expand on this established fact."

Regardless of what side of the gay marriage issue you stand on, this is just not right, any more than it would be right for one of those creepy little girl pageants in the deep South to decrown a contestant for saying she did agree with gay marriage (which by the way, the ACLU would be all over like white on rice). Disagreeing with someone is not intolerance, but firing them as a passive aggressive "punishment" for disagreeing with you, surely is "a want of patience and forbearance." It's real intolerance, by definition.

So, stop using that word, unless you are willing to understand what it means and use it correctly. Understand that the meaning of a word does not change just because the actual meaning does not meet your immediate needs. The more you call me "intolerant" for simply believing differently than you, the more it's not myself I consider ignorant, and it makes me want to buy you a dictionary.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Compare and Contrast

I've been thinking a lot lately about making comparisons. It seems like human nature to always being comparing yourself to another person in every way imaginable, and women seem particularly addicted--"I could never get my hair to do that! I can't can homegrown vegetables! I could never be a stay-at-home mom like her! I could never be a working mom like her!"
The whole thing is insane, but I'm right there in need of a straight-jacket myself. The real question is why are we so nuts?

Considering how few years I've actually been old enough to hold "grown-up" callings in the church, I've certainly done my time in nursery, and in multiple wards at that. When I was in college, I'd work in the nursery whenever I was visiting home. Once, we were having a lesson on Easter Sunday, and it was about the resurrection of Christ. The teacher held up a picture of Christ during the crucifixion when suddenly, one of the three-year-old boys screamed at full volume "NO FAIR!!!!!!"

Thinking that the picture of Christ in pain had frightened or touched him particularly strongly, we stopped the lesson to make sure he was okay.
The little boy continued with the meat of his complaint by adding "my mom never lets me go outside in my underwear, and there is Jesus in his underwear!! Outside! And my underwear even has Spiderman! His is boring."

There you have it, folks. He was not upset that Jesus was undergoing a horrible, violent death at the hands of his own people, he was jealous that the Savior of the world was sporting what looked to be underwear, outdoors. He was out of his mind with envy. Apparently, every boys' dream--running around in your underpants. Basically, he was three. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard, or tried to hold it in so poorly.

This brief but hilarious experience has been popping up in my muddled brain constantly lately. I can't help but wonder how many times we look at someone else, and not seeing the whole picture, we assume we are getting a raw deal and they are the lucky ones. Certainly, if he had understood what the picture really depicted, my little jealous friend would not have given his right arm to trade places with the Savior, at least not in that particular moment of time. Someday, of course, he will understand what it means, but how many years did he waste in envy before growing up enough to figure it all out? I think of all the people I know that I think have it better than me, and I think about all the people I don't know that I think have it better than me. I can make myself feel so picked on--and to what point and purpose? To waste my time being jealous of a situation I don't even understand?

I remember several years ago, watching the show Jon and Kate Plus 8, and being slightly irked at the fact that they get so much free stuff. These people happened to have a bunch of kids (accidentally by they way), and now, they are making bank off of it! It's not like they set out to do anything remarkable, and how fair is it that there are families out there who have just as many kids, or multiples, or children with special needs, but can barely make ends meet because their surprise wasn't massive enough to sway the attentions of a cable network! Where's the justice? I know they need to support their family and all, but other families in equally bad shape don't have the option of letting people film their everyday lives and give them vacations to keep food on the table. They work real jobs! I saw the show again the other night, and I can't believe I wasted even a minute of my time being angry at the world or jealous of them. Look what all that "awesomeness" has cost them! I don't know the whole story or the real truth any more than the next gal, but just the simple fact of having your supposed marital problems splayed all over newsstands for your kids to see and the world to judge would outweigh the benefit of the money right there. I can't imagine the pain of having your children living in constant fear that the horrible things people say about their parents are true! Forget whether or not there was any real infidelity or actual "wrongdoing," just watching the way they interact now (or more accurately, don't interact) is proof that fame has affected their family in a very negative way. They are never together, they don't smile like they used to, and the real joy the show used to showcase, just doesn't seem to exist anymore. But, they do have a bus driver and a luxury bus to take them places! I can't help but feel like I was watching someone on the deck of the sinking Titanic, and feeling jealous of their beautiful bracelet I didn't have.

As my little friend reminded me so many years ago, and life has harshly continued to remind me since, there is no benefit to comparing yourself to others, because you never fully understand what we are comparing ourselves to! We never know the entire story of what exactly makes that grass greener on the other side of the fence, and it is futile and damaging to our own lives to pretend we do. Which is why, despite the fact that it goes against my nature as a human being and a woman, I am doing my best to just stop comparing and contrasting. I am myself, I am no one else. I don't think exactly like anyone else, I don't live exactly like anyone else, I don't look exactly like anyone else (though remarkably similar to my mother). I am just going to start embracing the fact that I like it that way!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Got it all figured out

I was trying to get some chores done this afternoon, when Sam decided to follow me around screaming. I'm not a fan of the new tantrum phase, which is (naturally) combined with her "if Mom is busy I must have her attention RIGHT NOW!" phase. Not a fan at all. People keep telling me she's too young to discipline, but if she's not too young to run over to mess with stuff she's not supposed to and then smile, run away and pretend she wasn't when she sees us looking at her, how can she be too young? Anyway, I decided to give her a job to do to help me, since trying to send her to play wasn't going over at all. Less than zero on the blocks, drums, little people, you name it.

I was folding laundry so I walked her over to the dryer with the empty laundry basket. I showed her how to move the clothes from the dryer to the basket and said "Put the clothes in the basket!" Sam is just getting old enough to love putting things in buckets and baskets, which means she helps clean up her toys--can I get a hallelujah??!!! Sam just looked at me, pulled one sock out of the dryer and into the basket, then smiled at me and ran to her room.

It wasn't what I was going for, but I thought I had figured out a universal rule of parenting--if you want a kid to leave you alone while you are working, give them a chore. So, I went back to my laundry pile feeling like I had gotten at least something about Sam all figured out. Apparently, she, much like her mother, is entirely lazy and will do something she doesn't feel like in the face of an even worse fate like a chore. This same personality trait is the only reason I've ever watched a Lifetime movie--much less the same one three times over in the same weekend. Anything's better than cleaning the bathtub.

After only a couple of seconds of feeling pretty on top of things and giving myself a knowing mommy smile, Sam was back at my feet waving and pulling me out of the room anyway, so I went with her to get the rest of the clothes out of the dryer myself. Imagine my surprise to find that Sam had not gone into her room to play after all. There was a plastic teething bee in my whites. She had run into the other room to get something far more interesting than T-shirts for the basket. Then she had come back to get me and show me that she understood her job--put crap in the basket. Obviously, she misunderstood the part about what specifically I wanted her to put in the basket.

And it turns out that I haven't gotten it all figured out after all. The only thing I know for sure now, is that there isn't anything I know for sure. I may have a lot of "first days" in parenting, but this certainly is not my first day feeling self-righteous for all of 30 seconds before being straightened back out. That's pretty much an everyday thing around here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Feeling Isolated

Hello everybody,
Don't worry, I'll be coming back to the blogosphere soon, but things are a little rough around here right now.
My entire social circle has a diaper rash.
I need to either get cranky-pants over this so she is more fun to hang out with, or expand my social circle. Possibly both.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Government job available: No people skills required

Sometimes, when I'm cranky, I wish I could work for the government and take out my abusive venom on the unsuspecting public. The beauty of working for the government is that you can be as horrible to the "clients" as you ever want to be, and with no ramifications whatsoever--seriously, what are they going to do, hit another DMV and spend their legally mandated registration fees elsewhere? However, for all of us on the other side of the glass window, dealing with government agencies just plain suck.
Case in point:
I was supposed to have jury duty on Monday. Yuck, right? Not really. I was actually kind of excited. I've never had jury duty before, and I got called to the county courthouse only a few miles from my mother-in-law's house, which is so much better than dropping Sam off and heading into downtown Phoenix in rush hour to get there before 8am. In fact, this was the perfect setup if you have to go in for jury duty. No chance of getting sequestered in some huge trial, it's county court for crying out loud, and it's close by. So, weeks ago, I made arrangements for Sam to go to Grandma's if needed so I could preform my civic duty and all of that. I sent in the slip after checking the box that said "I'll be there!" and wished there was some sort of sticker, like the one you get for voting, to prove you are a true American.

Because my jury duty came on a Monday, I was supposed to call on Friday afternoon to see if I was going or not. The Friday afternoon recording told me to call back at 11am on Monday to see if I had to come in on Monday. Okay, well, isn't that nice. So I have to have this hanging over my head all weekend long only to find out if I have to drop everything and run to jury duty that same day. Nothing more fun than keeping a babysitter on retainer and keeping not only my, but her schedule, clear for potentially nothing. It's okay though, just bureaucratic red tape, and I should have expected it. At this point, I'm still ready to preform my civic duty.

I could have come out of this thing virtually irritant-free, but on Monday morning, my mother-in-law called me to say that her mother wasn't feeling very well and there was a chance they would need to take her into the hospital that day. She was still willing to help out, but wanted to know if I could find out for sure if she was needed or not. I decided that the last thing my mother-in-law needed to worry about was deciding between watching her granddaughter or taking her mom to the hospital. Insane, really, to ask her to do that. However, I don't have a ton of friends, and therefore try very hard not to alienate the ones I do have by asking last minute crazy favors like "Can you watch my kid right this second for a completely undetermined amount of time? Thanks." I'm not the boss from Office Space, and I don't take joy in screwing over my friend's entire day.
By this time it was 10:30am, so I decided to try to call the "Juror helpline" to try to find out if I was going to be needed that day. It was only half an hour early, and I didn't want to send out desperate emails to everyone I know trying to unload my kid only to send one out 30 minutes later saying "Nevermind. I'm spending the day with "Top Model" reruns on Bravo. Thanks though." I was not going to try to get out of jury duty, I just needed a little more than 30 minutes notice for a babysitter. This is how the conversation went down. Keep in mind, they named it the "helpline," not me, which indicates just how badly they need a dictionary.

Ring ring.
Deep huge sigh and angry voice "Juror helpline."
Me: "Oh. Hello."
Angry woman: "Yes?"
Me: "Okay, I'm sorry to bother you, but I am supposed to call the recording back in half an hour, to find out if I need to come in today, and my only babysitter has come up with a family medical emergency, so I was just wondering if you could tell me now if I am going to be needed so I know if I need to hurry to try to get another one right away."
Angry woman: "There is no possible way I could ever know that."
Me: "Is there anyone there who might be able to look anything like that up? I don't want to get out of jury duty, I just want an extra half-hour to try desperately to get a babysitter if I need to, and I don't want to bother everyone I know if I don't."
Angry and now even snippier woman: "Hold on. ["forgetting" to put me on hold and speaking to another joyful government employee] There is no possible way we could know this. Jeez. [back to me] There's nothing I can do. I can offer you a postponement."
Me: "Does that mean that even though I did make arrangements to be able to be there today, and called when I was supposed to on Friday but was put in a longer waiting game by you guys, and I can still make arrangements for today if necessary, I'll have to do this all again in 60 days because no one knows who is coming in a half hour before it happens?"
Angry woman: "Yep."
Me: "That's okay. I'll figure something out last minute I guess."
Angry woman: "Wait. You a stay-at-home mom?"
Me: "Yes, which is why I'm so stuck."
Angry woman: "Send a fax to us stating you are a stay at home mom and the age of your child and you can't get childcare and you don't have to serve on a jury."
Me: "Really? And I can fax this in today, even though I'm supposed to call and report in 25 minutes and this will be okay?"
Angry woman: "Yes. That will work." [gives the fax number and click. She is gone before I can ask how I will know they got it and accepted it.]

20 minutes later, after writing a letter, signing it, scanning it and emailing to my husband to fax at zero hour if needed, I called the recorded hotline again (five minutes early I might add).
"Group 1502 is released from duty today."

Seriously. Was that so unknowable 20 minutes before? Really? Was there some sort of confusion that instead of asking "Does my group need to report to jury duty today?" the government agent misheard me as "When is the second coming?" This is why people hate dealing with the government, because even if you don't go into the interaction with an angle or hating the system, they will find a way to make it a miserable, awful, painful experience. Frankly, as to the why of making a system so unbearably frustrating, and why we allow it to continue every single day...
"There is no way I could ever know that!"

My new attitude is most certainly going to be "Jury duty! Yuck!"

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

This Much I Know

I used to read a parenting advice column with a section entitled "This Much I Know." Now this was usually followed by what was, in my humble opinion, fairly iffy advice, but I still like the title. I like it because it doesn't claim to be what everyone else should know or do, but it's a simple statement of what the author knows. How do you argue with that? The answer is straightforwardly delicious--you can't. You can't argue with what someone else claims to know for themselves. You may "know" they're wrong, but it's not called "This Much You Know," now is it?

In that vein, I've been thinking about some things lately, and this is what I know:

I know with every fiber of my being that as soon as I am thoroughly tired of Coldplay's overplayed hit "Viva la Vida" and cringe when it comes on the radio, my little brother will come home from Mongolia, discover it and fall in love with it--entirely because it contains the line "Missionaries in a foreign fi-eld." He will then proceed to listen to it over and over and over again, just when the rest of us are ready to put it in a time capsule and never speak of it again--until VH1 does a "I Love 2008" special and we feel nostalgic.

I know that despite me talking him up and showing her his pictures every day in an effort to prepare her, my usually friendly daughter will suddenly develop "stranger danger" and be completely terrified of her Uncle when he does step off the plane from Mongolia in eight weeks. I also know that if he smells anything like some of the Mongolian "crafts," he's sent home, I won't blame her for screaming.

I know that "the world is changing." I simply don't care. No amount of telling me to "get with the times" or "relax" about the standards of the rest of the world are going to make me change what I choose to teach my children and believe myself. No amount of teaching honesty, morality, generosity or decency is wasted breath, but I can promise you that telling me to "just be cool" is. If I didn't care about being cool in high school, why in the world would I care now that I have another human life to take responsibilty for? If you want to waste your breath complaining about the hopelessness of good teaching, do it without wasting my time, because I'm busy fighting an uphill battle, not a hopeless one.

I know that what people do is more important than what they say. This is why I'm not a democrat.

I know that my DVR is going to make me choose between "Reaper" and "Better Off Ted" next week, and it's not a choice I want to have to make.

I know that hard work is the cornerstone of success in any field, including the home. I know that our welfare system is broken because it doesn't seem to realize that.

I know that Sam's nap lengths are inversely proportional to the things I have to do while she's sleeping. If I have a lot of chores, her nap will be short. If I have nothing to do, she will sleep for hours. It's a law of the universe.

I know that the only things I "deserve" are products or services I've already paid for. In full. The only blessings I'm entitled to are the ones I've already earned. God, the government, or the universe at large don't owe me anything else, but often graciously give me more than I "deserve," for which I am grateful.

I know that for every single parenting choice I make, someone in my life thinks I am a moron (or too uptight, too permissive, too strict, insert skeptical word choice here), but I know that they aren't raising my kid, and I'm doing what I believe to be best. I also know I'm not raising theirs, and I should remember that when I'm busy thinking they are a moron for their parenting choices. I'm getting there. Slowly.

I know that Heavenly Father loves me, and has filled in the gaps for me countless times when my best has failed to be good enough. I will never be able to deny that, no matter how long I live. I feel supported every single day, and the worse things are in the rest of my life, the stronger I feel that love, without fail.

I know that my worst moments will continue to be replaced by even worse moments throughout my life, but if I continue to rely on my faith, I will get through them, better for the wear.

I know that when Daniel comes home, he will be hungry for dinner, but as to what I'm going to make, now that, I just don't know.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Behold My Future!

The other day, I called my little sister on speakerphone just to say hi and rag on her for always leaving her cell phone off (augh!). She asked what Sam was doing, so I told her Sam was sitting on the floor playing with her Little People. Maddie asked if Sam could hear her and when I said "probably" she shrieked at the top of her teenage lungs--
"Hi there, Booger!!!" (Why in the world she thinks Booger is an adorable nickname is another post for another day).
Sam response? "Whut?" She even used the oh-so-charming surly teenager tone in which the a sounds like a u, and didn't bother looking up from her toys. Even from across the room, Maddie could feel the crankiness and just said "Jeez, sorry. So, did she just say what I thought she said?"
Now, I realize that she is way too young to know what the word "what" even means, or use that tone on purpose. She just happened to make a sound so bizarrely appropriate to the situation it sound like an actual answer. In fact, I would probably have found it completely hilarious if it wasn't for the fact that I felt a strange out-of-body experience at the time, as if I had just time warped 12 years into the future and was beholding my darling baby girl as a surly teenager. Instead of cracking me up, it's given me a little oogy shiver and brought back all the reasons I was terrified of having a girl in the first place. I'm so afraid of the drama and attitude--ranking it only slightly under my secret of not being able to do hair to save my life (the fact that she's bald has hidden it for a while, but she won't stay that way forever and soon the world will know my manly shame)!

I have seen my future, my friends, and it is snotty.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Proper Way to Go to the Doctor

Today, we have a guest blogger on It's My First Day, and it is none other than Samantha.

Hello everyone, Sam here! Today, I'm taking over Mommy's blog to share my wisdom with the babies of the world, and my first installment will teach you how to go to the doctor--correctly. Let's face it, none of us like getting shots. It's a miserable experience and I don't think our parents realize just what they're putting us through. I always end up with a fever that wears me out and puts a serious damper on my climbing for at least two days. Then, when I'm sick, they won't even take me to the park, even though their stupid shots are what made me this way! Jerks! Fear not, fellow babies of the blogosphere, because if you stick with me, I'll teach you how to make sure that going to the doctor is just as miserable for your Mom or Dad as it is for you! Use the wisdom wisely.

Yesterday, my Mom told me we were going to the doctor. She told me the doctor would check my ears, eyes, teeth, arms and legs, while pretending to give me a check up. If your mom does this, it is important to giggle and smile and play along. This will lull your mom into a false sense that you are going to be better than expected at the doctor.

When we got to the doctor, the receptionist told my mom that need her to fill out some forms at the 1-year visit. This is what you might call a lucky break, one you may or may not get to encounter. I was lucky because when mom is trying to fill out a form on a clipboard, she can not also hold a very wiggly toddler who likes to "help" with the pen. She had no choice but to put me down. If you get this opportunity, DO NOT waste it. This is the perfect chance to run around the waiting room and touch everything. More importantly, you can try to touch everyONE. I've never met a newborn I didn't like to poke, and fortunately for me, there were several in the room. This made sure that Mom and to get up and yank me back to her chair roughly every 30 seconds. Not only did this extend the form-filling-out time exponentially, but it mortified Mom, because if some strange kid had hovered all over me when I was two days old, she would have popped something internally and wanted to bust some heads. It's easy to embarrass parents, but acutely mortifying them takes more skills. When all the newborns were gone, I found a kid my age who couldn't walk yet. I would run over, grab his toy (so much better than my own that I will not play with outside of my own home) and run off with it. Again, this ensured Mom could not finish the form. If your mom tries to bribe you with snacks, I have a little trick to make that fail, while still getting you the goodness you seek. Grab handfuls of whatever it is and then run back around the room shoving them in your mouth. You get a snack, but your mom still has to get up to keep you in check, and as an added bonus, you leave a trail of cheerios behind you mom has to clean up. Win, Win, Win! The trick to making all this work without reflecting badly on you is to wave and smile at the other people in the waiting room while you wreak havoc. This way, they will think of you as a total sweetie who must not have any boundaries at home, instead of a demon seed. You do not want them feeling sorry for your mother, you want them shooting her annoyed looks. This can continue until your mom gives up on the form and hands it back.

While mom is cleaning up your cheerio trail, the nurse will come and call your name! It is your turn to see the doctor! Make sure to shoot a parting wave and toothy grin at the waiting room crowd (ahh, how cute!) and then just run over to the nurse and follow her. Don't bother looking back for your mom, you didn't hear her yell "Samantha and Mom" did you? Besides, she is busy stuffing all your toys and stuff into the diaper bag and running behind both of you while unknowingly dragging your blankie on the floor. She'll catch up soon enough, I'm sure, but pretending you have any concern for your mother's whereabouts only makes her feel loved and needed. You don't want to get a clingy mom on your hands.

If you swing it right, you can get one more chance to frustrate your Mom before you get to the exam room. Walk right next to the nurse and your Mom down the whole hallway, polishing your halo and waving at all the other doctors and nurses. This will help mom relax slightly and stop sweating from the waiting room fiasco (if your mom is actively sweating, you have done your job). Right before you get to the room they want you to go in, dash as fast as you can in another direction, just for kicks. Randomly running off is good, but it's a rookie move. If you can make it to someplace there are other people to see you (and shoot your mother more annoyed looks when she finally catches you), you have mad skills. Myself? I made it behind the receptionist's counter and into the main office. Booyah! At this point, your freedom is over, and you will be carried, preferably kicking and babbling, into the exam room.

The nurse told my mom to put me on a table that was covered in paper. They say it's there for your protection, but it is not for your comfort. I decided I wouldn't stand for it, ripped off one end and and shoved the paper out of my way before sitting down on the table. Don't worry about germs, that's your mom's job to stress about! To keep the cuteness going, while mom tried to undress me, I literally danced out of my pants. That helped balance the yelling when she tried to take off my shirt, and the fact that upon removal of my shoes, I picked one up and licked the bottom of it. Being naked in public is it's own reward, so go ahead and behave yourself while they measure you, besides, you don't want them thinking you're shorter than you are. Give that measurement a good stretch!

When the nurse leaves, cling to your mom, give her smiles, and make her think that her ordeal is over now that she's got you captive. While you wait for the doctor, do all your favorite tricks! Point at everything she asks for, "Where's the door? Where's mommy's hair? Where's your shoes?" Say a few words on command. Throw the woman a bone, she's been through a lot today. Then the doctor will come in the room.

Instead of greeting him with a smile, stare at him suspiciously. Whatever you do, do not return his wave, and do not do anything your mom tells him you can. When she says you know 10 words, refuse to say a single one on command. The point is to make her look crazy. When the Dr. is explaining important things about vaccine side-effects to your mom, it's time to decide that you are starving, the fact that it's not time to eat means nothing. Start screaming and yelling "num num!" at random intervals. Scream through the entire exam, remember, if your doctor can actually hear your lungs when he is trying to listen to them, you aren't trying. After the exam, when it's time for mommy's questions, she will give you a snack and you can eat ravenously and say "Num, num" to your heart's content. Here is an excellent time to decide you will wave at the doctor, so do that. If he doesn't wave back, because he's talking to mommy, give him the business in a loud angry voice.

Then, the nurse will come back to give you several shots. The only advice I have here is to yell "mama!" heartbreakingly when the nurse puts you back on the paperless table to maximize pre-shot guilt. While you are getting the shots, scream and sob, but keep your eyes open and stare at you mother reproachfully as if this is all her fault. If you have a very advanced vocabulary, you can say "Et tu, Mama?", but if you are like most of us babies, you'll just have to let your eyes do the talking. Look betrayed, look upset, but mostly, look miserable. After the shots, mommy will give you your blankie or lovey and cuddle you on the way out. Some kids think the continued screaming is the best route, but I disagree. I've found that screaming automatically puts mom back into "problem-solving" mode to get you out of the office without a scene, while quieter sobbing, and the occasional gasp from the depths of your soul, will win you the most sympathy and guilt. On the ride home, lay in your carseat like a slug. Make sure that when she looks in the rear-view mirror, she sees 1) your many bandaids, and 2) the look on your face that shows you've lost the will to live. A master of these skills can get Mom's eyes to well up along with yours. Your work here is now done.

If you go to the doctor properly, as I've now imparted the wisdom to do, you will make sure your mom or dad is as miserable as you, yet leave them with enough guilt and sympathy that you will recieve nothing but cuddles, love, and excuses for any finky behavior for the next several days. That, my young friends, is what makes me a true artist. You are welcome.