Monday, December 9, 2013

Punkgirl Gets Out

I have something to tell you that I haven't previously shared on Suck At Home Mom's Cranky Blog, because it wasn't my secret to share.  Punkgirl gave me the go-ahead, though, since it's something she's pretty happy about.

Punkgirl is officially "out."  She knew two years ago that she was gay, but I had asked her to wait a bit, explaining that I loved her whether she was attracted to girls, boys, or both, or whatever, but that she was still very young, and since she's still too young to date, she had plenty of time to decide. She took her time, sought out her real feelings, and confirmed her original assessment that she was a lesbian.

She was disappointed, I think, that we didn't seem shocked, or disappointed, or something, but Coffeeguy and I had always expected Happyboy to have that conversation (though surprisingly, despite his penchant for pink pants and butterfly tops, he has a crush on a girl named "V"), so when Punkgirl came out we sort of just transferred that prepared "we love you no matter what" speech to her.  She wears a pin that says, "Gay by nature, fabulous by choice" and carries the book Annie On My Mind around wherever she goes, throwing them out as a flag for those who are like her.  She wrote a newspaper for her writing resources class, and in it included a pretend advice column post that questioned the best way to come out.  

We took her to Pride, and celebrated with her, and we became followers of GLSEN and PFLAG on Facebook and Twitter.

She is so well-adjusted, and I have to feel like part of that is because of the unwavering love we have for her.  Most of it is just because she is who she is.

So now you know.  Punkgirl is out.  And she is awesome.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Dental Racket

It's been a few weeks since my last post, mostly due to a throbbing abscessed tooth and sinus infection. Add in the holidays, the new job, and a breastfeeding baby and it leaves minimal time for writing.

I wanted to write a funny post for the holidays, but all I can think about is these two teeth, both of which need to be removed.  I've known for about 4 years that they needed to be removed, but since they didn't hurt, I kept putting it off, despite admonitions and disappointed looks from the dentist.  I realize I have no one to blame but myself for the painful state of said teeth now.  But as vain as it sounds, the idea of going at least two weeks without these two teeth, which are nearer to the front than the back, is devastating to me.  I come from a long line of toothless people, and I don't want to be one.

The dentist doesn't make it any easier.  After looking at the offending teeth, she brought me in for a full exam, sure that the other teeth would be in dire straights too.  But no, those are the only teeth I have really neglected, despite a hereditary bone disease.  After telling me I really just needed the two teeth pulled and some minor cleaning and scaling,  I was given a $6000 out of pocket expense sheet-- and I have insurance, and it's pretty good insurance, too. 

I nearly ran screaming, but then began to look at the work I was put in for. A "building up" of a tooth that I was then told might not crack for ten years, but it could crack tomorrow.  Umm, I'm going to take my chance and save myself $1000.  

Implants instead of a bridge, to the tune of $4500 per tooth.  No, again, I'll pay the $1500 for the bridge, thank you.  An implant for a missing tooth in the back, because there's nothing stopping the top tooth from coming down.  Since I had that tooth pulled when I was 22, and I'm now 41, again, I'll take my chances.  And a $129 electric tooth brush that I'll need to keep my teeth clean.  Ummmm.  I think I'll skip that, too. 

Basically, I need right now about $230 of out of pocket work, plus a $1500 bridge. That's a far cry from $6000. Since my daughter also needs braces this year, I'm going to go ahead and have those two teeth pulled, a bridge made, and my teeth cleaned and leave it at that.  Thanks for the heart attack,though.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Marriage Is No Fairy Tale

This article on The Good Men Project is entitled "Marriage Is No Fairy Tale." The commenters seem upset by the implication that they did not start out as their significant other's "best friend."  What do you think?

Monday, November 11, 2013

To Party or Not To Party?

Rose turns one in a few short weeks, and I don't know where the time has gone. Usually as Punkgirl's and Happyboy's respective birthdays approach, I start planning big, crazy parties so that my giant family can attend.  We have tried the party at home (too difficult--my apartment is small and the guests never leave), the roller skating party (good, but kind of crowded), the bowling party (I liked that one, because we made it a super-hero bowling party), the bouncy house place (that one was a blast, but kind of pricey), and the hiking at the lake party (I liked that one too, but by the second hour it was freezing.)

Now that Rose's big, huge, milestone first birthday is approaching, I have planned...exactly nothing. Not only is the money a sort of issue--I only work one day per week, after all--but it's Christmas time. I could spend a giant portion of our Christmas money on a party I know she won't remember...or I can simply have a cake for very close family and leave it at that. A part of me feels like this is cheating Rose--no cool presents or fun party music--but another part of me thinks this is the only way to go.

While I love planning parties and I feel like they are milestones that should be celebrated and it really a bad thing to skip the hype so close to the holidays? Does that make me the suckiest of suck at home moms?

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Brothers Are Jerks

Go check this out on The Good Men Project:

All Brothers Are Jerks. Amen.

Friday, October 25, 2013

White Baby, Black Doll

I remember when Punkgirl was little, and she loved baby dolls more than any other toy in the store.  She had about 100 baby dolls over the years, each with their own name and story.  Some of them were hideous...I remember one that used to shake like a crack addict and fall down.  I'm pretty sure we even called it "crack baby" (not in front of her, of course.). She loved every single one, but there was a very special set of twin baby dolls that she got on her first Christmas that have brought both her and her sister immense joy, despite the controversy they caused with strangers and even a couple of family members.

Punkgirl fell in love with a set of black baby doll twins when she was about 9 months old.  By in love I mean that she squealed and bounced up and down from the first moment she saw them, reaching out her hands for them immediately.  They have had many names over the years; once they were "the babies"...when she was learning colors they were her "beautiful brown babies"...when she was older they had "twin" names, like Emma and Ava or things like that.

From the moment she started carrying them around, she has had commentary. "Why do you have black babies?  You're white," was the least offensive. Neither Punkgirl nor her parents care if the babies are black, white, brown, or even purple; they are simply cute babies.  But for some reason, some people have a hard time understanding why I would buy my child a brown baby doll.  I had forgotten those conversations over the years, as Punkgirl stopped carrying dolls around (she's is 12, after all) and kept them neatly on her bed instead.  Now that 10 month old Rose has fallen in love with one of the twins (though interestingly not both) I find myself anticipating the same questions.  So I am preparing my answers ahead of time.  They're not complicated, but here they are, the top ten answers to the question "why does your white baby have a brown baby doll?"

1.  This is a cute baby.  Why would I want an ugly baby?

2.  She likes that baby.  They have the same lack of hair.

3.  I don't want her to judge anyone by skin color, so why start with a baby doll?

4.  Why the hell not?

5.  Why are you hating on a baby doll?

6.  It makes her happy.  SEE REASON #2

7.  Why do you only have a white baby doll.  Are you (gasp, look around, whisper) a racist?

8.  I believe in loving ALL baby dolls, regardless of color, religion, or sexual orientation.  In fact, this one just came out of the closet a few weeks ago. (Literally, my daughter has a box of dolls.)

9.  Are you still hating on a baby doll?  

10.  It's none of your damn business what I buy my baby, but in this case, it's been her sister's doll for twelve years, so she's part of the family.  That makes you a (second cousin, great-uncle, etc),  FYI.

So...what kinds of baby dolls does your child have?

Previously posted on BlogHer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Punkgirl's Last Halloween?

Punkgirl decided last week that she was no longer interested in trick-or-treating, after her pet rat (who she had planned to take along on her shoulder) passed away unexpectedly.  I had forgotten her plan to take him along, and her announcement that she was not celebrating Halloween not only took me by surprise but saddened me greatly.

Halloween is my favorite time of year, slightly eeking out Christmas (and only because Christmas candy is generally a bunch of stuff I can't eat.)  I love having the chance to dress up, to be someone else, and to watch my family enjoy the same.  Punkgirl is 12, and pretty soon she'll hit that age where she won't want to dress up, just because--so not wanting to go this year because of the rat is bringing that home a little too early for me.

At 41, I'm realizing that my pre-teen is heading towards "teen" faster than I can say "tween."  I'm left feeling like she will no longer have time for costumes and nerdiness, which is why I've tried to cram them all in this year, with Comic Con and King Richard's Faire.  I'm working on fitting in a SuperMegaFest too, just to give her one more silly activity before her 13th birthday.  She already knows about Santa, and the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, so the days of forcing Coffeeguy to dress up so I can "catch" Santa leaving the presents won't come around again until Rose turns 3 or so.

That was why I was so thrilled on Saturday, when she came home after dance class to tell me that all dancers could wear costumes to class next week (which was reserved for the kinder-combo kids in previous years.) She pulled out an old black jazz costume, a plain black Lycra jumpsuit, and a new mask she had bought for her wall.  She couldn't decide what she would be...Goddess of Death? She added a pair of rainbow wings.  Goddess of Rainbows? I suggested covering the wings with black fabric and getting some black feathers and a tutu--a stylized Black Swan kind of costume.  She hasn't decided yet, but I'm so glad she's trying to figure out what to make.  My baby will have at least one last year of childhood before she's "too old" for trick-or-treating and Halloween.

These are the pieces we have so far:  

Any suggestions from other suck-at-home moms out there? (Or if you're not sucky at home, even better...give a girl a creative tip!) I don't have a lot of disposable cash...but I want this to be a great costume, since it might be the last!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Good Men Project

If you haven't discovered the Good Men Project yet, you should go now.  Read the well-written stories about the men in our lives--as told by men, women, anyone with a great perspective and a talented writing voice.  Here are some of my favorites over at

Go.  Check 'em out!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Take that, Kryptonite.

      I hate change.  I know, I know, who doesn't hate change?  But I really really really hate change.  I have some control issues, so change is like my Kryptonite.  When too many things change, I feel like my entire world spirals out of control.  
     This month I have started a new part time job; my mother has begun watching Rose two days per week; and I have begun weaning Rose.  My head feels like it will explode!  I keep reaching out to grasp something to hold steady, but the bubble I have been living in tilts and I can't grab on.  The kids have taken it much better than I have.  
     That said...I will get my first paycheck in two years on Friday, and that's pretty ok.  Rose is beginning to warm up to my mother, and that's wonderful.  And I have had the occasion to wear something other than a tank top and ripped jeans, which is kind of liberating!
     I don't know how long I'll last in this job, but that's ok.  I don't know how long my Mom can handle my little flower child; and I just don't know if it is a good time to wean her.  But by making all these changes anyway, I feel like I'm de-sensitizing myself to them.  Take that, Kryptonite, take that.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting Punkgirl's Back

     I got a call from the school guidance counselor on Thursday, which is generally never a good thing.  Imagine my surprise when he was calling to tell me that Punkgirl was doing so well in her 7th grade math class that the teacher recommends moving her up to the next level.  As my proud mama chest swelled to its high point, 3 things clicked in my head:

1.  Punkgirl had had a tough couple of weeks at school.  An issue with another child (who was harassing her non-stop) had culminated with the school canceling an outreach program that had allowed the girls to volunteer in the Special Needs program.  The official reason was that there were too many children volunteering for such a small group; but the teacher had let slip that there was too much of an issue between the two girls.  A meeting with the school administration had assured us that Punkgirl was not at fault, and she was issued an apology for the comment.

2.  She was already taking 2 advanced classes--English and Social Studies, which required loads of extra work.

3.  Math was not her strong suit.  She was doing well in it because it was at a nice, comfortable pace, and she was a perfectionist.  If I moved her, would she be so stressed about potentially getting a B that I would be kicking myself?

     Two sentences caught my ear, and they settled the issue for me.  "We would have to move her social studies slot." 
     More changes for my routine-thriving tween.  
     "And you know, there will be the added benefit of not being in the same class as J."

     Wait a minute.  Rewind to last week, before my meeting with the administration, where the Vice Principal--much to his later chagrin--suggested we move MY daughter so they wouldn't be in the same class, and I made him understand instantly that I wasn't moving my daughter when she wasn't the one causing the problem.

     I decided to talk it over with Punkgirl.  As I suspected, she did not want to move from her usual Social Studies AND Math classes. I feel like we challenge our children a lot, and while in some cases it is a great thing, I just think in this case it is too much.  I plan to call the school with my decision today...but my question is, knowing what you now know, would you hold your child back from the more challenging class? 

(Previously posted on BlogHer as "Would You Hold Your Child Back?")

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Grass Is Always Greener

     Next week I start a part time job.  It's two days a week, and it will take the financial strain off of our family.  It's something I know has to be done...and yet I am completely torn up inside.
     When I began my first blog, "Suck At Home Mom's Cranky Blog", it was to get out the frustration of being tied to home after years in the workforce, and to overcome the feeling of being "less than."  There were no evaluations of my performance, no raises for a job well done, etc.  As the months wore on, I called myself the "Stuck At Home Mom", because I felt like there would be no opportunity for me to contribute to society while nursing this little terror I call Rose.
     It's only now, as I face the daunting and emotionally draining task of re-entering the workforce, that I realize how good I had it.  Rose is high-maintenance, in every sense of the word.  She's incredibly smart, and therefore has to be constantly challenged or she starts building ladders out of stuffed animals to climb over the safety gate.  She's fully attached to breastfeeding, so she requires the boob more than I would think necessary at nine months old. And she hates to be alone, so when I leave the room to go pee she stands at the gate and cries, only to laugh when I come back.
     But I know all of those things, and we have a routine, and we have an unspoken agreement (since she only says "Dada", "Hi", "Mama", "Kittykitty" and "Up") that she give me lots of smiles and pictures to compensate for this high-pressure job of being her caretaker.  On Tuesday, that all ends.  My mother, who is a wonderful, caring, amazing grandmother somehow scares the crap out of Rose.  My other children, knowing that Nanna is the best spoiler in the world, find this both amusing and baffling, but all it does for me is wonder if I'm making a colossal mistake.  I'm about to unleash her high-maintenance-ness on my 68 year old Mom with a heart condition, knowing that Rose will probably scream her head off for the first few weeks.  I'm about to put Rose under the care of a loving and wonderful but to her scary grandparent.  My heart is breaking, and yet I know of no alternative.
     I can't seem to make money online.  I am in the middle of writing a book (yes, I really am), but it has nothing to do with what I blog about and it's not even close to completion--and if it were, I certainly have no money to have it published. I am grateful to be able to have this job...but I worry that for me to suddenly be gone 8 1/2-9 hours for two days per week is going to destroy our breastfeeding relationship (because even though I'm trying to gradually substitute the mid-day ones, there really is not enough time to properly wean her.)  It's a catch-22, and I know--the grass is always greener.  It should seem like the best of both worlds...but I worry worry worry.  The date is drawing nearer, and I am dreading it.  Have you had to make this decision?  What did you choose, and how did you accomplish it?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Trying to Change the World

This was previously posted ok BlogHer as "Never Stop Trying To Change The World

     Last night I attended Open House at Punkgirl's school.  She had reminded me at least four times to visit room 205, the classroom where she helps out the Special Needs program.  She has been working with the program since last year, when another child had introduced her to it, and from the first moment it has been her niche.
     She taught herself sign language over the summer, making sure that she would be able to communicate with all of the children this year.  She was thrilled when a child who never remembers names remembered hers. And she has as a screensaver a picture of her with the kids in the program, captioned "My Second Family."
     So imagine my horror last night, when the Assistant Principal told me they were ending the program that allowed the students to help out in the Special Needs program.  His reason seemed plausible enough, that they had four teachers and only a handful of students, so they didn't need the helpers.  But it didn't ring true, in light of the fact that another child had been harassing my child just last week, and that both she and Punkgirl help out in the SN program.  Never mind that the other girl had given Punkgirl a nasty note last year that threatened "If you show your lesbian ass in there again I will out you."  PG handled that by outing herself, and continuing her assistance in the program.
     Never mind that the teachers had told her that they were 100 percent supportive of her, and that she was their favorite helper.
     Never mind that they told her that the program was a "safe space" for her.
     Never mind that she is one step away from depression, and that one step is this program.
     This morning I called the school to discuss this with them, and to give the guidance counselor a heads up, and I got the Asst. Principal.  Without getting rude, there is a reason he is the Assistant.  While I tried to communicate the importance of the program to my daughter, she was busy calling me on the other line.  She was in tears.
     When I spoke to her, I found out that the teacher had told her that because of the "problems" between her and the other child, they weren't going to be allowed to attend any more.
     I exploded.  I was enraged.  I am ok with doing what is best for a program.  I would even be ok--infuriated, but ok--if the Assistant Principal had told me the night before that there were just too many issues, or if it was the only way to keep the girls away from each other. But he had not said that, so I had had no chance to prepare my child, and to let her know that SHE was not the problem.  Because she wasn't.
     Coffeeguy insisted on coming with me to the school, and I will forever be grateful.  My words were jumbled into a maelstrom inside my head, but his were not.  In concise terminology he conveyed disapproval, discontent, and disdain to the Principal and AP, that they had not only poorly communicated, poorly executed, and poorly managed this situation, but that they had done right by none of the children.  As one administrator started to say that they had to do right by the kids in the special needs program, he countered that---by yanking the volunteers out he was disrupting their schedule, and confusing them--"where are my friends that came to visit me every day?"  When they tried to say the school system "was not so poor that they needed students to work with the children in the special needs program", I countered with "But it's clearly so poor that it can no longer offer volunteer opportunities that allow the children to feel as if they are helping their community?  Thus keeping them from spending that time getting into trouble?" (This was my one, pointed, coherent addition to the argument.)  Coffeeguy ran that meeting like a board meeting, and he was the CEO.  We agreed that the best interests of the program have to come first, but that instead of handling it properly it was basically a giant clusterfuck.  The only credit I can give is that the Principal did offer to speak to Punkgirl about safe spaces in the school.  He plans to address the communication issues, and the implementation of other programs to allow the children to volunteer.
     So now, instead of waiting for her to come home and tell me what a great day she had with the kids in the program, she came home and cried in my arms.  My brave 12 year old, who never cries, and who has had to cry far too many times in Middle School.
      Coffeeguy had told the Principal not to be surprised to get a strongly worded response from Punkgirl in a letter about the removal of the program. She may not like the decision, but she'll agree to it--even if she'll also never stop trying to change it. She is doing that as I write, with the admonishment to be respectful, if succinct.  She is unhappy, she is devastated, she is sick about it.  But she'll never stop trying to change the world.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Did Not Marry My Best Friend

15 years ago today I did NOT marry my best friend. You read that right.

-The man I married didn't know my ups and downs, my neurotic tendencies, and he didn't know when to just go with them the way a best friend does.
-The man I married didn't know how quiet I get when I'm upset, so he couldn't badger me to tell him what's wrong the way a best friend does.
-The man I married couldn't encourage his best friend to write, because he hadn't yet learned how much I love to do so.
-The man I married didn't know how to hold my hand through heartache, or how to hold my gaze in joy.
-We didn't have kids, so I couldn't admire the way he protects them, and engages them, and he couldn't admire the way I do the same.
-The man I married didn't know how to tell me the things that bother him, or how to work through things that bother me.
-I had never seen the man I married sing in his off-key voice just to soothe his baby, so I couldn't completely adore that.
-The guy I married didn't play guitar, so he couldn't be patient and teach me so we could play together.
-The man I married didn't know that I like to dance, so he couldn't muster up the courage to dance at least one dance at every wedding just so his best friend could be happy.
-The man I married didn't know how much I love tea, so he didn't bring me a cup every morning just to be nice.
-I didn't know the man I married liked cheap beer, so I couldn't tease him about it the way buddies do.
-The man I married didn't know that I like cheap EVERYTHING, because I'm what my father liked to call thrifty.
-I didn't know the guy I married would become Clark Griswold, making each of our family vacations a trip into a magical land.
-The guy I married didn't value my keen sense of direction, not yet having gotten lost so many times in Disneyland.
-The man who married me did make me laugh...but he didn't know the way I can be "air-tickled" and that puns make me giddy the way besties know.
-The man I married couldn't lean on me as much as I lean on him, the way best friends do.
-The man I married didn't know how to share things with me, the deepest secrets that best friends share.

The man I married was not my best friend.  He was only a shadow of the man he would become.  Today I AM married to my best friend, my confidante, my love.   Happy 15 years, baby, and thank you for becoming my best friend. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Priorities of a 5th Grader

     Last night was the Open House for my son's 5th grade class.  I was annoyed about having to go, because I've been to it before for my daughter and because they do the same thing every year, but I knew Happyboy would be sad if I went to his sister's Open House and not his, so I sucked it up and made my way to the Elementary School.  
     I always feel out of place--when I worked I had no time to donate to the school, and when I stopped working I had Rose, so I still couldn't spend time in the classrooms.  I am awful at small talk, and my kids have a few friends in the neighborhood--but not actually ones that go to their schools (they have friends at their schools, but they are not the same ones that are in our neighborhood.)  This means that I really don't know the other parents, the teachers don't always recognize my face, and I spend my time looking down at my kid's desk feeling like the nerd with no friends.  
     There is always a "surprise" from your child on said desk.  A letter, a question, something you have to respond to so you can't even lie and go to Target and just say you went to Open House.  This year each child wrote their 5th grade goal, and each parent responded with their goals for the child.  Now, I know schoolwork is not high on Happyboy's priority list, but I assumed he could fake it for the teacher.  Below is his goal paper and my response to it: 

     As you can see, he's a TMNT fan.  He's also more interested in art and music than any other subject.  I was almost angry, but in the end, it was so him, I could only laugh.  Trust my boy to leave something to take my mind off of being a nerd.  Happyboy, I hope you rock fifth grade.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

10 Things You Should Know About Breastfeeding

1.  Your baby will suck.  I don't just mean physically.  You will be torn between feeling your natural love for her and wanting to give her to the first Gypsy you see.  For free.
2.  You'll do it wrong.  A lot.  And since she can't tell you why she's screaming or not sleeping or pooping out that sickly sweet-smelling poop, you won't even KNOW you're doing it wrong.
3.  Your baby will be dumb.  That's right, I said it.  After feeding PERFECTLY when she came out of your womb, she'll forget how to nurse.  She'll FORGET. HOW TO NURSE.
4.  You will be dumber.  You still won't understand what you're doing wrong, and you'll absolutely hate it, but you'll refuse to give in and give her the bottle you know would be easier.
5.  Your baby will be a tyrant.  "I want the boob, right now, in the middle of Market Basket.  NOW, MILK BITCH, NOW."
6.  You WILL be the milk bitch, and Market Basket employees will think you're stealing something under that blanket (or if your baby is like Rose, who refuses any kind of cover and rips it off, the Market Basket employees will either admire your rack or be scandalized at the sight of your suddenly bare nipple.)
7.  Your baby will shit on all of your dreams.  Well, ok, not your dreams.  Just your sheets, your baby clothes, your pajamas, and your pillow.  Breast milk poop stains are almost impossible to get out.
8.  You will become a crack addict.  A breastfeeding crack hormone addict.  Did you know your body releases feel good hormones as you breastfeed?  You will hate it, but the bf crack hormone will keep you coming back for more.
9.  You'll be signed up for gymnastics.  Because your baby will feed standing up, upside down, over your shoulder, or however she wants.
10.  You'll become a boob expert.  Because nobody knows boobs like someone who has to use them for work, pleasure, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, comfort, and pain.  Pain because breast infections, cracked nipples, biting, pinching, and weaning all hurt.
11. (I know, I said 10, but sometimes I can't count--because I'm up all freaking night long.) You will, believe it or not, as much as you might hate it at first, miss it when it ends.  You have been the sole sustainer of a human life, and as much as I'm not into all that earthy-crunchy crap, you have made a difference in the life of a child.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Breaking Promises

     We were supposed to end the summer with a big goodbye, by repeating the best reward from all the summer challenges.  Punkgirl and Happyboy voted on dinner at the beach, which was pretty fun the first time around, is something you can really only do in summer (unless you want sand in your eyes and don't want to go in the water at all), and was cheap enough to fit into my non-existent budget.
     When the Tuesday before school came around there was just no way we could do it.  Coffeeguy had to work late, Rose had been up all night, and I had no sandwich bread or anything feasible to transport to the beach.  At 4:30 there were thunderstorms.  We told the kids we would make it the first day of school celebration, and had a movie night instead.  They fought over the movie, finally agreed on one, and only mentioned not going to the beach about 7 times.  
     On Wednesday, Coffeeguy had two people out at work, and he would probably be late.  Although he made it home by 5, I had already had the conversation that we couldn't go today (complete with angry accusations of "you said TODAY.)  The weather was supposed to be much better by the weekend.  We said Friday.
     Punkgirl was pissed enough to go to the INTERIM guidance counselor (hers was on maternity leave) to tell them how upset she is that she didn't get to go have dinner on the beach.  I was pissed enough that she was pissed that I spat out "Life doesn't always go the way we want it to! You deal with it and move on!"
     Friday it was freezing.  Knowing the pissy response I was going to get at the idea of not going, we gave them a choice:  We can go today, and not swim, or go tomorrow, and POTENTIALLY swim.  It was going to be 15 degrees higher tomorrow, and more than likely warm enough for them to go in the water.
     Cue the sulking faces and the pouty behavior.  As they sat down to watch the Goonies (which you can't help but laugh at, which is why we picked it) with popcorn and candy (having replaced Beach Dinner with another Movie Night) I began to analyze Punkgirl's reactions to postponing the trip.  We didn't do that often, and I found myself getting increasingly angry that she was all bad moody because I had to move ONE of the 90 activities I had planned that summer.  Sometimes things can't be set in stone, sometimes we have to be flexible, sometimes we just damn well can't do them at all---
     In the midst of my mental tirade I figured it out.  I wasn't angry with Punkgirl for being disappointed that we had to move our plans to another night.  I was mad at myself, for making her upset enough to go to a virtual stranger to settle her thoughts down.  I had parents who were divorced, and there were times where my father didn't show up after we waited anxiously all day.  My mother would say he had to work.  I remember being mad or upset, and my poor mother could never tell me that Dad couldn't take us today because she smelled alcohol on his breath.  I saw it as a broken promise, that Dad didn't want to spend time with us, that he had to work too much.
     Even as an adult, when my relationship with my Dad was great, and I talked about how awesome he was, my mother never told me why he couldn't make it on those days.  It wasn't until a few years after he had passed that she let on how tough it had been.
     Neither I nor Coffeeguy were alcoholics, and we weren't divorced.  Our broken promises were caused by inconvenience and weather.  I realized that Punkgirl was feeling the same way I had felt, like Mom & Dad just didn't want to spend time with her.  I felt awful.  So I decided, then and there, that I would make up for it.  We not only would go to the beach on Saturday, we would have dinner, they would swim and I would call their favorite cousins who live near the beach for an added surprise. We would bring the leftover candy from movie night.  It would be worth the wait, it would be fantastic, and it would change my "broken promise" into a fulfilled one.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wean On Me

     Rose has been up a lot this week.  By a lot, I mean she just won't sleep.  The lack of sleep is making it impossible for me to concentrate, impossible for me to get anything done, and impossible for me to produce any real quantity of breast milk.  Now, I've always had oversupply issues, so not producing that much right now doesn't worry me, really...but since she refuses to take her rice cereal with anything BUT breast milk it is a bit of an inconvenience.  The result of this inconvenience is that I'm cranky, disheveled, and always running behind.
     She has also come up with a new breastfeeding position.  I call it downward facing nipple.  It's a little inconvenient, too.

     Normally I would chalk this up to a growth spurt, a developmental stage, a funny quirk, but I have to tell you, this week I'm just done.  I want breastfeeding to be all over--even if it means giving up that breastfeeding crack hormone.  I've made it to (almost) 9 months, haven't I? I've gone through the cracked nipples, the mastitis, the cabbage leaves, and the forever-ruined tank tops.  I'm in an F-cup, for God's sake, and if you think that's sexy you haven't seen the way it translates into "uniboob" under clothing.  I'm ready to go back to my own life, where I am not the only one responsible for Rose's drinks, where I fit into my pretty lacy bras, and where I can where a non-accessible shirt if I damn well want to.  
     But Rose isn't ready.  When I try to pat her gently back to sleep she jumps out of the crib towards my boob.  She reaches for it when she's crying.  She pulls at my tank when she's tired.  It could be the breastfeeding crack hormone talking.  I could, like any addict, just be making excuses.  But it feels true.  I know this is a short span of my life...but it feels like eternity.  Any of you suck-at-home moms ready to wean? Or feel like you suck because you want to wean?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Things We Don't Talk About...or Things I'll Tell My Daughter

This was previously posted on BlogHer.

      There are so many things that we, as women, have been brought up to believe are "taboo" subjects, or at least that you don't need to share with anyone.  After going through a series of intense situations on my own, I realized one day that so many of my fellow women--my mother, my friends, my relatives, my acquaintances--had experienced the exact same thing, and had thought, as I had, that they were the only one.  Instead of "burdening" others with our problems, we had suffered in silence, in loneliness, in defeat.  
     I have decided that, when my daughter can understand (and she's pretty smart, so we've discussed some of these already), I will have these conversations with her.  I will have them before they happen, so that she won't feel silly, or alone, or a burden when she wants to talk about them.  Maybe by talking about them now, some of them won't happen to her at all.
     I've compiled a list of the 5 biggest things we don't talk about (these 5 are the ones that have made the greatest impact on my life, but feel free to share your burdens below--I bet someone else has experienced it too) in the hopes that if we share these things, we as women will begin to understand that WE ARE NOT ALONE.

1.  Miscarriages happen
I have miscarried several times.  The first time I was not only devastated from the miscarriage, but from a careless nurse practitioner who chimed, after we failed to see a heartbeat on the ultrasound, "Oh, So I guess you're having a bad day!"  (Just FYI, she was not allowed to see me in my subsequent pregnancy, and eventually was fired.)  With a miscarriage, you either aren't telling anyone it happened because it was too soon, or you're having to explain every time someone asks "so how are you feeling?" that although you feel like crap, it's not the crap that comes from pregnancy.  I have also suffered from a complete molar pregnancy.  I think it was even harder to wrap my head around the fact  that what I had been told was a baby was actually just a mound of cancerous tissue.  When asked how the pregnancy was going, I hesitated, then haltingly explained my circumstance to a friend...who burst into tears because she had suffered the same exact thing two years before, but had never told anyone.     Here's a fact I didn't know then:  miscarriages are very, very common.  They are NOT YOUR FAULT.  There was nothing you could have done, because in all likelihood the genetic tissue simply wasn't viable.  It's no less heart-breaking, it's no less devastating, BUT IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.

2.  Depression can strike anyone, at any time
Nobody wants to tell their friends they are crazy.  In my case, I had such a severe case of depression that I honestly believed my mother was trying to steal my baby from the town fair.  I had stopped to get Coffeeguy some fried dough, and my mother said she was going to take the baby down to the exit to wait.  I either didn't hear her, or more likely, forgot she had said it in the mix of hormones that was rattling my brain.  I had paranoia, anger, racing thoughts, the whole shebang.  I can laugh about it now, but the horrified panic that occurred actually caused me to think: "They always tell you kidnappers are the people closest to you."  Crazy, I know.  I had lost my father the year before, and then miscarried, and then instead of waiting I got pregnant again right away, treating my body to a hormone cocktail that was sure to throw my brain out of whack.  To add insult to injury, shortly after I had Punkgirl I had to have my gall bladder removed, and then, the most devastating of all, my 31 year old brother died suddenly of meningitis.  
      We're trained that we can do everything, and that to be unable to do everything is a weakness, so needless to say I faked my way through my postpartum exam like a champ.  I held myself up at my brother's wake, as if crying would be an insult to his memory.  I was strong, I was woman, you could hear me roar.  Six months later, after a night of picturing myself stabbing a pair of scissors through my wrists, I was scared to death and left a tearful message for my physician, and then told her I was just fine when she actually called me back.  If it weren't for her call to Coffeeguy (which violated doctor-patient privilege, I think, but which also saved my life) I shudder to think what might have happened.  I remember as clear as day (even though it was nighttime) trying to convince Coffeeguy that I was fine and that we had to take Punkgirl (who was all of 6 months old) trick-or-treating, and him telling me he could drive me or call an ambulance.  My hormone-soaked brain cells were certain he only wanted to have a reason to take the baby away from me.  
     Thankfully, I was then able to talk to someone, who explained not only that I had post-partum depression, but that all of those events combined together were enough to make anybody crack temporarily.  That it would be abnormal if I DIDN'T.  My advice for you, which was the best advice given to me, is if you are feeling this way, TAKE THE HELP.  It's OK to crack, because LIFE. IS.  HARD.

3.  Marriage is worth a little work
I will be married for 15 years next month.  I am the happiest I have ever been in my marriage, and I have a very healthy sexual relationship with my husband.  Yet there was a time when I wondered if we would make it. I was floundering in the belief that he didn't want ME, and he was drowning in the surety that I couldn't want HIM.  We weren't communicating, we were living mostly in our own heads, and we were ready to call it quits.  There was no one to talk to--not even each other.  I'm pretty sure neither one of us even believed a marriage counselor would help, but we were at the end of our rope.  I'm going to share with you the benefits of my marriage counseling, to save you several hundred bucks.  LISTEN to each other, and ASK the questions that are festering around in your head.  You may think you know the answers, and maybe you do...but maybe, just maybe, s/he will surprise you, and you will be glad you asked.  Make time for each other--just like you schedule time for the dentist or work, you have to schedule time together.  Make lists.  Lists...freaking...rock.  The first one should be the top three things you absolutely need out of your marriage.  I won't tell you all of mine, but the very first was honesty--brutal, if need be.  Don't spare my feelings by keeping something to yourself--because someday, I will find out and be hurt ten times more.  Make a list of things you want to change.  It helps you figure out how, just by writing it down.  Plan dates!  Just that bit of attention to one another is going to pay off, trust me.  And if you aren't sure, go ahead and seek counseling.  You would be surprised how something you've said to one another a million times translates differently when spoken from the mouth of a neutral party.

4.  Money Money Money (Or Lack Thereof)
I had a friend come home from where he's living in another country, and I was so thrilled at the prospect of seeing him that I was willing to go out with people I hadn't seen since high school just to have a chance to spend some time with him.  Unfortunately, they were meeting at a restaurant with $50 meals and pricey bottles of wine.  I couldn't afford to go, especially not when there would be two of us going.  Neither Coffeeguy nor I wanted to come right out and say we couldn't afford it, but I also worried that if we didn't give some indication he would think we didn't want to see him.  We invited him over for dinner, and even that blew my food budget for the month.  For the next two weeks, we were trying to find creative ways to feed the kids (not easy with Punkgirl's and my required gluten-free diet!)  I truly at one point contemplated contacting a food shelter, but we just (barely) managed without it.  
The following week my girlfriends, who I don't get to see often enough at all, wanted a girls' night out.  They talked about where to meet, and my heart sank, realizing they probably meant a restaurant.  I debated whether or not to tell them I was just plain broke, because it was embarrassing.  Then it dawned on me.  It SHOULD NOT BE EMBARRASSING to say you just can't afford it.  I gave up a $35,000 a year job (which may not go far in Massachusetts, but is a lot to give up) to be there for my children, who desperately needed me.  I have a new baby, we have one income, and I work fucking hard, I just don't get paid for it.  I shot off an email, biting my nails as I heard the whoosh of it being sent...and my dear, lovely friends made me feel "normal" again, by stating that they too were broke this month (dental bills etc) and that a pot luck dinner in-house was better for everyone.  (Side note: I love those damn girls.)  My advice here:  be honest.  You work hard, whether you get paid or not, and if they're friends worth having, they WILL understand.  They may even be in the same boat as you, but nobody wants to say it.  

5.  Sex, Baby
      I know what you're thinking:  this is a new millennium, not the 50s, and women talk about sex all the time (just turn on the radio.)  But there's a difference between talking about sex in the general terms and talking TO someone about sex.  Specifically, talking to your significant other about it.  There was a time (and not that long ago) where I would still blush horribly if Coffeeguy talked about sex anywhere outside our bedroom.  But over the years, I have realized that it is well worth it to tell him what I like (and if you just can't tell them, show them!) and what I don't like.  There is nothing wrong with feeling good about sex! (As long as you're old enough, it's consensual, and it's not with someone else's spouse.)
If this were an actual conversation with Punkgirl, she would be a little older, and I would just have to add, as sort of a series of side notes about sex...your vagina is a magnificent creation, and anyone who doesn't appreciate that is not worthy of you ...nothing should hurt (unless you're into that, which, as your mother, I hope you're not--but I'm not judging)..if you don't finish first at least a third of the time you need to be more's ok to ask questions, and if your partner doesn't understand that then they're being selfish, and are again not worthy of you...and last, but certainly not least, when you are feeling alone, like a freak, like the only person this has happened to, call your Mommy or your Nana or your best friend (because I trust that you've picked a good one.)  You are not alone.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Adventures of Punkgirl and Happyboy

      Punkgirl and Happyboy are twelve and ten, respectively.  Punkgirl is my Joplin-loving, record-listening, knee-high-sneaker-wearing writer.  She has super short hair and a super long memory, she is snarky and smart, and if I were a kid she would be my idol.  Happyboy is her younger brother, and he has idolized her since birth.  Over the years, he has developed his own personality, though, and now, instead of wearing cute things that his sister would wear, he wears cute things that he likes for himself.  These range from pretty butterfly cardigans to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirts, so needless to say his taste is unique.  The emergence of his own sense of style and his own sense of self has caused some troubles in our house, mostly because his older sister and he both have control issues (and gee, I have no idea where they got them from.  Ahem.)  There are times when I watch them, and everything jells, and they hit that groove.  In the groove, they are so creative and funny and loving together.  And then there are the normal days.
     On normal days, they correct one another constantly, tell each other what to do, and the word stop (which becomes stooo-ooop) is repeated more times than I can count.  There are times where I think they can't stand it when the other breathes, and it just kills me.  Having lost my youngest brother at the bright young age of 31, I feel every snipe and every sneer like a sharp knife in my heart.
     At the beginning of the summer, I started giving them "challenges" to get them to work together.  Eight out of ten times they got frustrated and angry because neither wanted to compromise on a project.  It became a struggle between them and I began to despair.  But eight out of ten became six out of ten.  By last week it became four out of ten.  They're finding the groove.  
     For my brother and me, it was comic books.  We could fight all day, but take us to the comic store and we were the best of friends, picking out the best issues that we both could agree on (for you fellow geeks, it was Avengers, Xmen, Thor, Iron Man...occasionally Batman, though I had my concerns with the slim coverage Batgirl was given in that comic...) For Punkgirl and Happyboy, it's creativity.  I give them the camera and a theme, and before I know it there are costumes and props and can they use this or that.  I tell them they need to make a comic book and they are on the computer, heads together, the argument they had ten minutes ago about Happyboy constantly singing instantly forgotten as they come up with graphics and snappy dialogue.  They hit the groove.  I don't have to worry then that they might grow up disliking each other...these moments are proof that their sibling love exists.  I cherish them, those moments, more than I could possibly say, and I miss that bond with my own brother keenly but bitter-sweetly.
      I suck at being a stay at home mom. But sometimes, even I get it right.  That's when we're in
the groove.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boston Comic Con and Other Adventures

     This was Adventure Week, and boy, was it ever.  I gave Punkgirl and Happyboy the life skill challenge of navigating the bus system, and we made it to our destination (a local crafts store) after a somewhat rocky start (Happyboy had read the wrong bus schedule.)  Rose demanded to be breastfed in the middle of said store, so I had the dubious honor of taking my boob out in a back aisle to placate her.  It was an experience, and the trip itself made me realize that we needed to spend more time on the local T.
     My favorite challenge was the spy training, though.  I wove a web of red yarn back and forth through the hallway to make "laser beams", and had them start from opposite ends, forcing them to cooperate to get by one another.  Then we did a few campy pictures for our Camp Awesome scrapbook.  At the end of the day they made Coffeeguy make a hilarious attempt at maneuvering the overs and unders and small spaces.  I'm fairly certain it was a favorite challenge for everyone.  
     Although the spy challenge was a fave, my favorite reward was a trip to Boston Comic Con.  I am a geek's geek, and I love the things you can see and do at Comic Con.  My brother and I collected comics for years, into our adulthood, and just the sight of those characters coming to life brings a warmth to my heart.  Although it is hot, and packed, and often difficult to maneuver (more so with Rose's giant dino-carriage), people are so happy to be there, amongst their own kind--geekdom--that it's a pretty friendly crowd.  The kids love it too--it has a way of letting them feel their individuality, and it leaves me with that feeling of "ok, I'm raising them right!" (rare for me, so it's a bonus!)
     The one thing that did make it difficult was that, as a Mom, it's tough to go in costume.  I did--throwing together a hasty Scarlet Witch (Avengers) look, but I felt kind of foolish, with my three kids in tow.  As a younger woman I frequented many a convention in costume, without a bit (well, ok, maybe a teensy bit) of embarrassment or hesitation.  As a Mom, you suddenly feel like you should be more grown-up, and that you don't have time to do the silly, fun, extraordinary things you once did.  You don't have a lot of time to put the effort in either, so while you may feel a little brave for putting the costume on, you also have this overwhelming sense that the real costumers are snickering--I can assure you, they are not,
but it doesn't stop the feeling.  My cardboard headpiece looked sad and pathetic next to another SW, who had a little hand-crafted leather piece.  Ahhh, I digress into geekdom again.  But I'll tell you, the guy who stopped me to take my picture made my day--thank you, guy. (But no thank you, guy who wanted to take it while I was breastfeeding Rose!!)
     Bottom line, great week!  But now Rose is fussing (for the tenth time--not sure if this is a growth spurt or what!) Suck at home moms, how do you fit in the things that made you you?  Or do you?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sticks and Stones

     I have a huge issue with name-calling.  I don't find it constructive in any way, shape or form.  To me, telling your child they are a brat is the same thing as calling them dumb, or stupid, or lazy.  Someone once told me that your children will believe they are whatever you tell them they are, and I am one hundred percent sure they were right.  The more I tell Punkgirl she is a great writer and so creative, the more creative she gets and the better her writing becomes.  The braver I tell Happyboy he is for wearing whatever style of clothing he truly likes, the braver he becomes.  
     So Coffeeguy and I are having a dispute over this.  To him, "stop being a brat" is equal to "end your rude behavior", and that's that.  To me, it's name-calling, and while, yes, I want my child to stop acting a certain way, I don't think the use of that particular terminology is going to do anything other than set up a head-butting match.  Now I know I suck at staying at home, but I know kids.  Coffeeguy often tells me that, in adults, I see them how they could be, the best part of them, but not necessarily how they are.  This is true, and I freely admit it.  But I think children should be seen that way.  We should see their potential, and emphasize that.  This is not to say that a punishment isn't in order, a grounding, a lost privilege, etc, but I believe that the way that punishment is rendered is equally as important as the punishment itself.  Do I stay calm at every challenging behavior? Hell, no.  But I try not to belittle or label the perpetrator.  There is no response to "Happyboy, you're grounded because you made a poor decision regarding the sharing of the wii, and you were rude to me when I tried to correct you", because both of those facts are specific, non-judgmental, and true.  "Punkgirl, you're grounded because you're being a brat" does not specify's very judgemental...and the truth of it depends on your perspective.  
     So let me get to the part where I suck.  Coffeeguy and I are co-parents, all the way.  We back each other up, even if we don't agree, and then discuss it in private.  So when Happyboy came to me, telling me he "needed to talk to someone", and haltingly revealed all of the things he did wrong, agreed that he should be grounded for doing those things, but sobbed because Daddy called him a brat, and Punkgirl calls him that all the time, I hedged.  I agreed that he should be grounded, but I told him that I disagreed with Dad calling him a name...I said that Dad was probably pretty frustrated with him, but that we would talk about it.
     Coffeeguy didn't like this convo.  He felt that Happyboy was using it to turn the subject away from himself.  I disagreed.  We sort of left it there.  This morning Happyboy was still grounded, and was angry that he had to write a book report (the standard punishment for grounding in our house) "all because Dad called me a brat."  I was taken aback, because last night he knew why he had been grounded, and I reminded him of that.  So who is right? Does Coffeeguy have a better handle on this, and am I just being a naive enabler? Or am I correct in feeling that it should have been addressed differently?  Suck at home moms, let me hear you, how do you handle discipline in your house?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sleep, Baby, Sleep...

     Rose has been awake every two hours for three nights.  Three times two equals cranky minus patience plus yawning! (That's the most math I can do with this brain fog I am currently standing in!)  I have tried gently sleep training her--I go in every few minutes to reassure her, then a little later than every few minutes, and usually she does fall asleep...but she wakes up inevitably at 1 am, stays up until 2, gets up at 4, etc etc.  It's driving me crazy.  
     As a suck at home mom, I'm used to struggling with the issues of raising the children--despite all my years of child care, I find that Punkgirl and Happyboy are now their own little people, complete with ideas and quirks of their own.  This leads to the occasional butting of heads, and I accept that.  But Rose is only 7 1/2 months old...and she has already shown that it's her way or the highway.  I let her "cry it out" a little--something I could never bring myself to do with the older two, but which I felt was a necessity with Rose, if only to tire her out a little before she finally gets to sleep.  
     Now don't get me wrong--in some instances Rose is pretty easy--for instance, I took all 3 kids into the Boston Common by myself, which I wouldn't have done when my eldest were younger.  But as long as I am nearby (read, right next to) Rose is a pretty happy, content baby.  Unfortunately, the instant I leave the room, the tears begin.  I try to spend a few minutes away, reassuring her ill be right back, in the hopes that she'll get more comfortable with me being away, but it doesn't seem to be working!
     So tell me, suck at home moms, do you let your baby "cry it out"? Do you have other sleep miracles?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Camp Awesome

     I've mentioned before I'm an ex-teacher.  I also have some control issues, so the idea of spending my summer without a concrete plan sounds more like torture than a vacation.  With that in mind, I make a calendar, complete with themes and activities and, yes, field trips, so that I can keep my sanity and still enjoy the time with my children.  In life I use my last name, but for the purposes of anonymity, I'll call it Camp Awesome.
     In years past, we had two paychecks coming in, and while mine was no whopper, it paid the bills.  This year, we have a new baby (Rose), and since it costs more to send her to daycare than I would make, it makes more sense for me to stay home--hence this blog, because I suck at that.  I don't like not having a little money for vacations, or extras, or sometimes, even groceries! So how do I plan a bunch of activities with little to no cash?
     The first thing I do is look up the Highland Street Foundation, and its Free Fun Fridays.  If you live in the Boston area, or even in Massachusetts, this is an invaluable resource.  You can take a look here:
but basically, you get six free attractions to choose from every Friday throughout the summer.  Nice ones, like the Museum of Science, the Museum of Fine Arts, Franklin Park Zoo, Buttonwood Park Zoo...I plug one of these free visits into each week of my schedule, because I know that way I have someplace to take the kids that will only cost me gas (I will go over how to avoid the "gift shop trap" at a later date.)  
     Next I go to my community website.  Most towns have a "Wicked Local" or a community news source, a recreation center website, etc.  I check these out, because there are numerous free events your town offers, and since your taxes are paying for them, you should make full use of them.  In my town, there are free movies outside at night at town hall once a month in the summer.  There are community events at each of six parks, including cookouts (being gluten free, I pack myself and Punkgirl a GF sandwich, but we get the chips and soda or water that they offer free.  Coffeeguy and Happyboy can enjoy a nice glutenous burger or dog--and it costs me nothing!)  
Now, before I go on about other sources of free fun--like lakes and beaches--I should mention that I never let Punkgirl and Happyboy just go someplace.  They have to complete what I lovingly term "challenges."  It might be a simple one like designing a recycled dollhouse (see my last post), or it might be a ten-minute triathlon of running, using the elliptical, and getting six dishes loaded in the dishwasher (see how that last one works for me?), but they have to complete the challenge to go anywhere.  I try to make challenges where they have to work together, but the most important part is that they are doing something.  You would be surprised how much time even a quick challenge can take, and it makes them feel like they've gotten double out of their day--even if you get rolled eyes at first, I guarantee it will be something they're talking about to everyone they know for days.  Be consistent--if they don't do the challenge, they don't get the reward.  One time of missing out on the special activity or special trip or even special dessert, and they will be clamoring to complete each challenge.
     Now, we've talked about free activities, but there are some small investments that I recommend which will result in "free" activities for the rest of the year.  Memberships, memberships, memberships!  Now, memberships aren't super cheap...but once you pay for them, you have a free place to go all year long, not to mention deep discounts on exhibits or special events.  What most people don't know is that you can also save money on memberships.  Yes, you can.  There are two ways.  The first, is phone a friend.  That's right, you can share a membership with a friend!  Usually you have to get a higher level membership to do this (anything that allows you to have another cardholder from a different household), however, when you split the cost with your friend it still costs less than just a regular membership!  You and your friend each get the benefit of the membership, and as long as you don't go on the same day you can each take your whole family (because generally the children on the membership do not have to be named, and only one cardholder must be present.)  The second way to save a few bucks is to check out the cost of a membership at a reciprocating museum, and buy it there if it's cheaper.  The Capron Park Zoo is probably a little cheaper than the Stone Zoo, but if you can get into the Stone with your Capron Park membership, buy it there! (Disclaimer: Memberships change all the time, so actually check the membership reciprocals before you buy.)
     This is just how I start my Camp Awesome lesson plan.  I take any memberships, free activities and events, and plug them in.  Stay tuned for how I come up with activities to fill in the rest.  Suck at home do you fill your summer?  How do you save a few bucks?  How do you challenge your cherubs?

Green With Envy

     It's "Going Green" Week here at what I like to call Camp (Insert your last name here.)  Let's just call it Camp Awesome for the purposes of this post.  Every week, I give the kids little challenges to complete, and in return I take them someplace not only fun, but almost always free.  The purpose of the challenge is one of three things--to get them to work together, to get them thinking, or to give them a little friendly competition without actually giving them competition.  For example, this week one of their challenges was to take a two-story "dollhouse" (two wipes boxes taped together) and use recycled materials to decorate it.  There were a couple of requirements--it had to have a "character" living in it, it had to have a recognizable couch, chair, bed, and wall decorations, and lastly, it had to be good enough that it could get 25 likes if I put it on my Facebook account (I had no real worries about that as I have enough adults on there that it shouldn't be an issue.)
     Fun, right?  Right away there were issues.  Punkgirl had jumped right up for this challenge, thrilled because she had made a dollhouse before,  so this should be easy, right?  It's actually kind of tough when you can only use the materials provided.  Happyboy, who had been hesitant, realized he could use a toy dragon as a character and immediately began designing a funky cut-up water bottle chair.  Punkgirl did not like this.  Being the older child, I think she thought it should come much more easily for her, but she was stumped.  There was a mini meltdown, which frustrated both of us.  At twelve years old, Punkgirl is still a master of the mini-meltdown--it just doesn't involve tantrums like it did when she was little.  There is an icy silence, followed by retreat from the family, followed by a few grunts and frustrated howls in the privacy of her room.  I often am at a loss as to whether to ignore these outbursts or meet them head on, and sometimes I do lose out to my own sense of frustration--after all, it's supposed to be challenging but fun, and as an ex-teacher you tend to expect yourself to be able to engage your children without all the nonsense!! 
     I took a few deep breaths and decided not to screech back at her, but the only thing that got her back to the table was the conversation that this was supposed to be fun, and the reward was the chance to go to a neighborhood playground cookout, complete with a dj and prizes, the kind of thing Coffeeguy and I generally shy away from in the heat.  
     In the end, she took herself a little less seriously, and didn't worry as much that her little brother was finishing faster, accusing her of copying his designs, and boasting that he would surely get more "likes" than her.  I explained carefully that I was posting them together, and that they needed 25 likes combined.  Once she realized they wouldn't be in competition against each other, their efforts were pretty darned admirable, and the resulting cookout was surprisingly kind of fun!  (The other added incentive was a chance to win 'chore bucks'--which they can trade in to get out of a chore here and there.)  
     So my question today--Suck at home you encourage competition? And how do you handle jealousy and the occasional mini-meltdown?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Life's Little Challenges

     Sorry, it's been a few days...I've tried several times to write, but unfortunately Rose has been on a non-sleeping kick, so every time I try, she wakes up!  I'm taking advantage of a rare quiet moment...we'll see if it lasts.
     As you know, I've been making my kids participate in our family summer camp--by that I mean the activities and themes that I force them to "enjoy."  Last week was Around the World, complete with yodeling challenges, crepes, scones, and an "Amazing Race" to find out what fun place we were going to that day.  The kids ended up having a blast, and for their trouble, they got a prize---for completing their challenges (making their own crepes, "skiing" on the elliptical while yodeling non-stop, designing their own sari out of pink and blue metallic tissue fabric, and getting "knighted" by composing poetry that complimented their parents) they got to spend one hour of one on one time with whichever parent they chose, doing anything that didn't cost a lot of money.
     Because I like to torture them, I gave them a unique opportunity to add a second hour of one-on-one time...they had to care for a "potato baby"--take it for walks, give it baths, feed it--the best was when they had to get up in the middle of the night to feed them--because yes, I'm just that cruel.  Plus, it's summer, so I have to keep them on their toes!  They worked hard at it, ended in "divorce", and had a hard time "keeping it civil for the sake of the (potato) baby.  I then made them call around to find a good adoptive parent for their potatoes, because they would be better off in a happy home--I prepped their family for this, so hilarity ensued as they asked prospective parents how they would care for the baby and their relatives answered "a little ketchup, lightly salted..."  They finally were rescued by their grandmother, who promised to give a loving and caring home for each potato.
     Now, it sounds fabulous and fun--and parts of it were...and I was looking forward to a nice time of one-child-at-a-time fun...but since both of my children chose Coffeeguy to spend their quality time with, it inevitably ended up being more work for me!  Not only did they each end up violating my "little money" rule--but they missed the point that it was "quality" time, despite Coffeeguy's assurances that they did get to sit and talk.  Not to mention how great I felt when I worked my butt off all week to give them challenges and they both picked Daddy!  To add salt to the wound, Happyboy proceeded to tell me that "it's great that while (Punkgirl) has her two hours with Daddy that I get two hours with you...just like she did while I was with Daddy...even though she said it kind of stunk, but I'll try to have fun."  Gee, thanks, honey.  
     This week the theme is "Arts and Entertainment."  So far we have painted boxes and learned the infinite joys of Spirograph (a childhood favorite of mine.)  As a challenge, they're going to have to act out a scene I'm going to make them write, and if they do it they get another hour...but let's hope that
this time that at least one of them has a little love for Momma!
Suck at home mom's, have you ever had an idea backfire? How did you handle it?