Maybe I’m Not Understanding Something Here

In surfing around to many of the blogs that I read, there has been a lot of talk about differences and children and the inability of adults to deal with differences — physical or mental differences, I mean.

1. Gina goes on an entirely appropriate WTF rant about some stupid people in the UK (Profanity ahead)

2. Some people in Oregon don’t understand why a 16-year-old is at a Blazers game
3. And my Plurk-buddy Rocking Pony reminds herself to take it easy on herself and forget about what other people think about her “baby” on the occasion of his 6th birthday

Maybe I’m missing something, but aren’t we supposed to be raising our children to be loving and accepting of everyone? Isn’t that a given? I mean, for good God’s sake, we put a man whose mother was white and father was African in the White House. Am I missing a fundamental disconnect out there?

If that boy who wandered away from the Blazers game was, say, a “developmentally normal” 5- or 6-year-old, would people be questioning why he was at the game? If that woman on the British TV show were… I don’t know… Chinese or black, would outraged parents be calling in to have her removed because she could scare their kids? (And if so, shame, shame, shame on them.)

I have a very precocious 4-year-old child. She points; she comments; she asks questions (like many other precocious children out there). I am frequently a touch embarrassed by her inquiries or comments, but I usually simply say, “God made everyone different, Monkey.” I know I will have to start explaining things to her soon. Here are a couple of examples I have been thinking about.

At a local restaurant we visit, one of the hostesses is a midget — or little person, if you prefer. Monkey has pointed to her and said, “Look how puffy her belly is, Mommy.” I’ve asked her not to point, and I’ve said my line from above. The girl (she is a teenager) seems to take it in stride. But I know that soon Monkey’s going to ask why the girl is so short, or why her belly is so puffy. If I simply say, “Because she is a midget, or a little person” I’m sure that will prompt some other questions. “What’s midget mean?” “It means very short.” “Why?” “Because God made her that way.” “Why?”

See where I’m going?

We have a teen boy at our church who has severe developmental problems; he is in a wheelchair; he can’t talk except to groan; it looks as if he has mental challenges as well as physical — my heart goes out to him and his parents every Sunday. What do I say when Monkey asks what’s wrong with him? What’s the most appropriate thing? I can’t say “Nothing.” That would be a blatant lie. I could say, “I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. He still deserves our love and respect as a person.” Would that be all right?

I’m an information person: the more information I have the better (this drives DearDR batty and it’s one of the reasons I love Lost homework). When it comes to my children, it’s difficult for me to stop explaining things. But I try to remember that there is only so much 4- and 2-year-olds can process. I want to be honest, but I don’t want to be simplistic, I guess.

What do you tell your children? If you know someone differently-abled, what does that person want to hear parents tell their kids?

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Side note to H: Thank you. For coming over with your son for dinner; for hanging out and appreciating some wine and pesto tortellini; for cleaning my kitchen and picking up after the kids; and most of all, for taking three boxes of 18m clothes for your daughter. Love you. Next time, we’ll let the guys clean up & put the kids to bed, and we’ll go out with A for a drink!

Mamma Mia!

Yesterday was a very up and down day.

Up: By 8:15 a.m., I had the house to myself.

Down: The upstairs bathroom really needed to be cleaned.

Up: I plurked most of the morning away.

Down: I had to haul laundry over to my in-laws because DearDR is pretty sure our washer is leaking.

Up: I made a big pot of corn chowder for lunch. It was delicious.

Down — way, way down: I found out someone in my department had been “temporarily” laid off.

Up: I got a car loan.

That’s pretty much how it went.

And then I sat at my in-laws — whose dryer takes much, much too long to dry clothes — and watched Mamma Mia!. I think I was crying by the third (maybe fourth) song.

Maybe it was the ups and downs of the day thus far. Maybe it’s hormones, or stress — or both. But the story really touched me, too. Some of those Abba songs are very poignant.

I cried because I’m a mom, and a daughter, and a mom with daughters.

I cried for the friendships between the three older best friends, which reminds me of the relationship with my two best friends. I cried because I don’t get to see them enough, and if I were Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia!, all that the two best friends did for her in that movie, N & M would do for me. In a heartbeat. And I for them.

And, you know, there’s the whole “a year older” thing. And the fact that I cry over just about anything, including Puff the Magic Dragon.

My birthday plans: I got to go have dinner with the Burgh Moms (and two dads!) last night, which was a treat, as usual. Hang with my girls at home; if it’s nice enough, play in the snow. Do a little more laundry next door. Go out to dinner as a family. And then tomorrow, I will get to see the Steelers play in the Super Bowl. And, I hope, see them win.

A sixth Super Bowl for the city would be the best birthday present ever.

Well, that and some really good green beans.

WTF Wednesday

As with green beans, it all started here. I was going to use a couple of these, the octuplets and Blago in particular, but they’re such universal WTFs, that I will stick with my own.

Yesterday, driving from my office to DearDR’s office, a stone in the road kicked up and chipped my windshield.

WTF?

On top of the other car, and the furnace, that’s three things, right? So I should be done.

Mind you, we haven’t started shelling out money for these things yet. That could be another huge WTF.

In the time it takes me to pick up Monkey from her dayschool, two or three other parents come in, get their kids, and are gone.

WTF? Is it just me? Why does it take me so bloody long to get Monkey out the door?

WTF? Low levels of mercury are found in HFCS. It’s due to the way some of it is processed. Glad I decided to drop that from our diet.

WTF? My husband had a ride home last night from his office in South Hills. And then her husband decided she couldn’t drive him home at 9 p.m. — when he was done with work — because it was too “iffy” on the roads. I had no one to sit with my sleeping kids, so it looked like DearDR was going to have to schlep downtown to catch a bus. He probably wouldn’t have gotten home until 1 a.m., and that would have been after a long walk up a big hill. In the snow. That was a big WTF until the husband decided to drive DearDR home himself.

I’ve had a tension headache for three days. WTF? Well, okay I know WTF — it hasn’t been all that easy around here lately. I’m trying to deal with it.

Okay. Good things: Lost is on tonight. Green beans is a good tension reliever. My children are sleeping through the night at my in-laws.

And countdown to the Burgh Moms dinner: Two days.

Meme Meme Meme

I got tagged back by I am a Tornado (i.e. Melissa), which is handy, because I didn’t have any ideas for today!

Five names you go by:
1. Red Pen Mama or rpm
2. dp or dpm
3. General (at work; my former last — and current middle — name is the same as a famous general from WWI and WWII)
4. Mom, Mama
5. Donnie Osmond (for N — and for N only to use)

Three things you are wearing right now:
1. my iPod shuffle
2. wedding ring
3. my in-serious-need-of-replacement maroon high-heeled boots

Two things you want very badly at the moment:
1. A new car
2. An entire day to myself

Two things you did last night:
1. Watched the Season 4 finale of Lost, so I’m all set for Wednesday’s Season 5 premiere
2. Drank a glass of homemade red wine

Two things you are going to do today (or already have done):
1. Got to work at 7:30 a.m. (done)
2. Watching the Lost season premiere (not done yet)

Two of the longest road trips you’ve been on:
1. Pittsburgh to Seattle and back — lots of camping and sight seeing along the way
2. Erie to Montreal, Canada (family vacation when I was a kid)

Three of your favorite beverages
1. Coffee
2. Lemonade
3. Good beer

What did you eat today?
organic raisin bran cereal, trail mix (two kinds), a big salad and sesame seed roll, and two faux chicken burritos

Two people you last talked to on the phone:
My SIL Earthmother
My husband, only to find out the station wagon died today, and he is not sure why. Awesome.

The Utter Unself-Consciousness of Toddlerhood

One of the things I love about Monkey is her utter lack of self-consciousness. She unrepentantly picks food out of her teeth (usually out of her “triangle teeth” i.e. molars) with her finger at the table. She runs around pulling up her pants (who decided that toddler pants should be low-cut should be cursed to an existence of wearing very-low-riding jeans with granny underpants). She talks to her silverware, her stuffed animals; she decides she is going to be Gusk the dog at the slightest whim.

And I was reminded of these things Sunday, at the very low-key (but not low-riding) picnic at Kim’s house yesterday. Where I also got to see her again, and meet her family, and meet her and her family. It was a nice two hours out of a stressful weekend. And the cupcakes were a big hit.

On the way home, we were listening to the classical music cassette tape that has been DearDr’s choice of late (the CD player is broken). Monkey loves music, and she seems especially attracted to classical. She came in the house the other day to tell me about the nut crack music she liked. As we were driving home yesterday, I was thinking about all the stuff still facing me at home, and Monkey started yammering at me from the back seat.

“The crack nut music, Mommy! This is it. The crack nut, the crack nut!”

I finally realized she was talking about what was playing in the car.

A couple of tracks from the Nutcracker Suite are on the tape. We listened to them four times on the way home. I am thinking there is a matinee ballet in my near future.

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Even though she wasn’t there, I have to link to her site. Because I really like stuff, and this contest looks too good to pass up.

Weekend Retrospective

I should be noted that Bun is too young for Kennywood. Or perhaps it should be noted that Bun should not be taken anywhere, not even outside for a walk, if she has not taken her daily two-hour nap.

I would love to tell you how much fun we had at Kennywood on Saturday. I would love to go on and on about what a fabulous day it was, and how great the food was, and how it wasn’t really that boiling hot.

I would also love to show you some pictures of how much fun we were having BUT, Monkey having dropped the digital camera INTO THE SINK the night before, I cannot show you any pictures.

I do have video, and once they are downloaded to Google or YouTube, I will show them to you. If I use Google, it will be sometime around the next Olympics before they are done, but at least I have a visual record. And not just the memories seared into my brain by the fiery hot Pittsburgh sun.

Yeah, you read that right.

The fact of the matter (if you haven’t guessed by now) is that Bun at Kennywood was much more work and much less fun than I had anticipated. Let’s just say that I wildly underestimated just how NOT FUN it would be. She would not stand still; she would not sit in the stroller; she would not hold hands; she did occasionally consent to be carried, but that was its own special brand of hell. Did I mention it was hot? She did, by some grace of the gods of the amusement park, go on some rides with her big sister. Other times she invented her own rides, and at the very least was in one easily monitored spot. Although there were times I sincerely wished that spot were much, much shadier.

Monkey, on the other hand, had a blast. Monkey made memories and rode rides and rode the merry-go-round and named her horse Horace the Horse and had cotton candy and fudge and did ride in the stroller. Monkey made it completely worth the hot sweaty stressful trip.

And let’s put it this way: It only cost us $20 to get in. We also put out for two bottles of water, some strawberries and cream, Potato Patch fries and pop (eaten at the hottest table in Kennywood — I swear to Noah’s Ark the sun was a white hot spotlight determined to make the cheese on those hot, salty fries boil), cotton candy, and fudge. Lunch was on the company, and the pavilion also featured pop and water to drink. FREE. Oh, and I also packed food. Like I could get the kids to sit still long enough to eat. (Something healthful at any rate. Monkey and Bun looked like they had been instantly transported to heaven when they got their first tastes of cotton candy.)

Back in the car as we were leaving around 6:30 p.m., DearDR turned to me. (It should be noted at this point: DearDR was a champ. He saw me melting down a couple of times, and whisked Bun off of my hands. We were a good team at Kennywood. And he didn’t bitch once about not getting to go on any grown-up rides. He didn’t bitch once about anything, actually.) Fortunately, he had already turned on the air conditioning. He said, “Look, I know you were stressed about today. But it was a success. No one got kidnapped, no one is missing a limb. No one was even out of view for five seconds. It didn’t rain. Our daughters had fun. Monkey will remember how much fun she had.” He went on to say (something I have been trying to tell him for almost four years now), “It is not about how much fun we have. We’re working at these things. We don’t go on vacation; we take the kids on vacation.”

In other words, RPM, it’s not about you. We didn’t go to Kennywood, we took the kids to Kennywood.

And it was a good time.

Also, I’m not taking Bun back until she’s four.

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Friday night with these ladies was FUN. I was bummed I had to bolt around 10 p.m. because DearDR got stuck with a patient in crisis. I can’t wait to see them all again, and read about them and their kids, and find Burgh Baby’s Mom a place she can get a strawberry daiquiri (how hard can it be people??).

Random Thoughts: News of the Week

I signed Monkey up for preschool and a new daycare on Tuesday. I am so excited for her! I would spare you the, “I can’t believe my little baby is going to preschool” yadda, yadda, yadda. But you know what? My little baby is going to preschool!

She asks everyday, “Am I going to preschool today?” She can’t wait. I can’t wait! I really think she is going to love it.

And, yes, a new daycare. Right now, just three days a week (well, technically two half days, after preschool, and one full day). She may start there full time depending on what DCL decides to do. More on that in a moment.

And Bun is on the waiting list at the new daycare, too. They have to hire another staff member for the toddler room first.

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DCL: First, I have noticed some changes since DCL, DearDR, and I sat down for our little conversation. DCL is trying to bring more structure to her day, instituting table time, planning activities, and so on.

Second, DCL received an anonymous note in the mail threatening to report her to the state and the IRS. She thinks it came from one of her neighbors (no, it didn’t come from me or DearDR). As a result, she and MK are considering going in together, and getting a license from the state. That would mean should would have to cut the number of kids (regardless of the season — she says she always has more in the summer). It would probably also mean her prices are going to increase, but my expenses are already increasing as Monkey enters school and a new daycare. So what’s the diff?

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I get to go to dinner with some blogging Burgh moms tonight. They will probably manage to write about it before I do because: We are going to Kennywood tomorrow!

It’s my company’s annual employee picnic. It is only costing $20 for the four of us, and they have free pop and a free lunch from 1-4 p.m. How cool is that?

I haven’t been to Kennywood since I was pregnant with Monkey. In case you didn’t know, you can’t ride ANYTHING at Kennywood when you’re pregnant. Not even the Turnpike. Well, actually, you can ride the carousel. I don’t even like the carousel, but I did ride it on that occasion. Just to prove a point. Don’t ask what point.

It will be Monkey and Bun’s first time. I’m curious to see how they do and what they want to do. And what kind of dirt Bun decides to try to eat. I promise — promise — to bring the cameras, both still and video.

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In house news: We have killed three mice. (For the funniest mouse-killing story I have seen online, go here. If we could buy a cat, we would. But I am allergic. Maybe when the girls are old enough to clean out the litter box, I’ll reconsider and take a daily Claritin for sniffles, but for now, no cats.) Of course, I mopped my kitchen floor and put things back together last night (I still have to disinfect the drawer under the stove), and then saw the body in a cupboard this morning. Gross!

Left a note for DearDR. For goodness sake, I’m a vegetarian. I’d let the critters share the house with us if they weren’t disease carriers. And if they would agree to not poop in my silverware drawer.

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The bathroom floor is a disaster. DearDR pulled up a corner of the rug, dried out the floor, and then ripped out half of the rug. The former owners GLUED the rug on top on linoleum. So now I have a big, sticky mess in there.

I have three levels of frustration about this project:

1. I had wanted that rug removed when we first moved in, a little over three years ago now. I consider rugs in bathrooms the height of disgusting-ness (is that a word?). Unfortunately, it wasn’t high on DearDR’s list. I’m still not sure it’s on his list.

2. I went though the trouble and stress to take the girls to Erie by myself (driving on the interstate with two toddlers in the back is a recipe for an accident, and I have to stop doing it). When I first noticed the spreading dampness on the rug, I told DearDR something had to be done. He said, and I quote, “Take the girls to Erie, and you will have a new bathroom floor when you get home.” I have a different bathroom floor than the one I left last Friday, but it’s certainly not new.

3. So now when is he going to do it? We are completely tied up the next two weekends. Unless he commits to doing it on a Sunday, and gets help, I don’t know when it is going to happen. And I’m not taking the girls to Erie by myself again so that it can happen. So sorry, Charlie.

I am getting an estimate from my sister-in-law’s brother, who is a contractor. But unless he gives us a break on the price, I sincerely doubt we’ll be able to afford it. One plus: We got free ceramic tiles from my parents. So at least we don’t have to pay for that. Just time & labor. Great.

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If you are not already checking out this site, you have to go. Go now. This chickie (and I sincerely use that term with the highest respect) makes me laugh out loud. She pretty much takes stuff from the Post-Gazette and sums it up in her own inimitable and very, very funny style. I’m glad she’s saying it, because somebody should. Thanks, PittGirl.

Lasting First Impressions

I could not be happier that the weekend is over and that I can spend most of the week sitting at my desk. I seriously overdid it this weekend, especially at a Burgh Mom‘s get together at the zoo, and a long day of sitting is in order.

The Pittsburgh Zoo was awesome, however. I just need to get something to attach to my stroller so it can carry two toddlers, because Monkey was seriously flagging by the time we were heading back to the car. I decided that giving her a piggy-back ride (why is it called a piggy-back ride?) part of the way would be a good plan. Not so much. The small of my back was very bad on Sunday.

Much thanks to my fellow Burgh Mom attendees who were kind enough not to lose us in the crowd out of sheer embarrassment of being seen with me and my children. You see, by the time we all met up, my children — at a perfectly dry day at the zoo — were covered in mud. I proceeded to get quite filthy myself, and I can’t remember the last time I was so happy to take a shower at 3 p.m.

How did such a thing happen?

I managed to park myself in the concession area next to the only mud puddle in the whole zoo. It wasn’t too bad when Monkey decided to step in it; true to form, Monkey was wearing her rain boots. Not because it looked rainy, of course; Saturday was a gorgeous, if hot, day to stroll the zoo. The problem was when Bun, also true to form, decided she was going to do exactly what her big sister was doing. Unfortunately, Bun was not wearing her rain boots. I thought sneakers were a much more reasonable choice.

Silly me.

I could have engaged in a public battle royale with my younger daughter regarding the puddle of mud and her desire to splash in it. Changing tables wasn’t much of an option as it was already close to noon and the place was crowded. I was already sharing my table with two other moms (not the people I was here to meet, but that was okay) and their two kids.

In the end, though, I just let Bun have her fun. First of all, the mud puddle pretty much guaranteed that my children were not going to wander off. Secondly, I was able to just sit for a period of time as I looked for the people I was meeting. Third, I figured “kids playing in mud puddle” was an easy landmark. And lastly: Dirt washes off.

So Bun and Monkey tromped and splashed in the puddle. I managed to keep them from splashing others, which was good. They got some laughs, and I got some glances of sympathy. (Monkey was already getting a lot of comments as her outfit consisted of a cute little orange, red, white and black skort with a white tank — and pink rain boots.)

After us Burgh Moms finished lunch and/or snacks, I got Bun stripped out of her wet and muddy shoes, socks and shorts. For some reason I had dry shoes and socks for Monkey but not for Bun — serious oversight there — so Bun spent the rest of the walk in her stroller, bare feet propped up on her tray. She was lounging. We saw the monkeys and gorillas; all the kids seemed to like each other and get along together, although Alexis was very shy for awhile.

We took off before this fun ensued, and it took us another hour to get to the car (the Pittsburgh Zoo is BIG). Monkey developed a little crush on Gina’s boy, who (and I’m seconding Burgh Baby’s Mom here) needs to be cloned, or at least loaned to mothers of little girls for days at the zoo or similar outings. He was very sweet, and I think Monkey would have followed him into the lion’s den if he was going, and it was quite a trick to separate her from him.

Boy, you’ve got a job if you ever want one.

At bedtime, along with all the animals that we recounted seeing at the zoo, Monkey added, “And I talked to The Boy. I was very shy at first, but then I talked to him!” She smiled to herself at the memory. Oh, dear, I’ve a 3-year-old going on teen. We are so doomed!

I left that zoo sweaty and filthy — those shorts may never be clean again — but it was totally worth it to spend that time with my girls, and meet other bloggin’ moms and their kids. What a good time. Next time I meet the Burgh Moms, though, I hope air conditioning and alcohol will be involved, the kids will be at home, and nary a mud puddle will be in sight. I think I will be able to make a little better of an impression that way.