kids

Parenting Win?

It’s Spring Break and we’re on a staycation. Kealoha has to work and the kids’ biodad is off in Sedona with his wife. Their step-siblings are off on a cruise with their dad and their friends have been whisked away by very wealthy parents to Disney World, California, Italy, and I’m pretty sure someone is flying in a private jet to an island somewhere. (This is what happens when your kids go to East Grand Rapids.) I told my kids if they want an island, build one out of Legos and take a bath. I’ve been trying to do fun things with the kids to pass the time. First, I gave them a ball of cheese and said that they could watch the mold grow on it. It would be hours of entertainment! HOURS! My daughter glared at me, popped the cheese ball in her mouth and made that idea disappear.

Cheese balls! Hours of entertainment!

Plan two. We took them to the Van Andel Museum to see the dinosaur and Lego exhibits. We leaned back in the planetarium and learned about constellations from a very sweet and energetic college-aged student.

Yesterday, I decided to take them to a hotel for the night. I figured if they fell asleep in the car, I’d tell them we were really in Florida. Alas, they didn’t fall asleep during the ten-minute drive, so I lost out on that. We got to the hotel, they put on their suits and spent the next four hours in the pool while I read The Maze Runner.

Kids seem to lack any sort of fear with other people. They see another kid, they walk up to them and start playing. They don’t even bother with names. They just move right on to insta-play. One of the kids swam over to me. Here is what she said while wearing goggles and bobbing in the water:

“That’s my sister over there. She’s being a real you-know-what and all pretending she doesn’t know me.”

“She’s talking to those boys?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well, that’s why. When they’re gone, you’ll be friends again.”

“I’m twelve and she’s seventeen.”

“That’s a big age difference. It’ll get better as you get older. You’ll probably like each other when you’re in your twenties.” (The girl seemed to need some comfort. I was trying.)

The girl continued: “We’re five years apart. My mom didn’t even know I was going to happen until she went to get her tubes tied and the doctor said that he wouldn’t do it because there was a baby in there and it was too late so she had to have me.”

I blinked a couple of times. Wiped the sweat from my brow. “Uhh…well…I guess that makes you pretty lucky then. To have, uhm, made…it…here.”

Luckily the kids started fighting then and I could go intervene.

That night, Kealoha joined us for dinner and we went for Mexican food. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a comic book store, where my son Franz immediately fell in love with a stuffed sperm. He thought it was hilarious. “I can have my very own pet sperm!” he cried, squeezing Spermy close to his heart.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 9.05.02 AM

Kealoha said: “Kid, you’ve already got plenty of pet sperm.”

Actually, I’m not sure he said that, but I sorta wish he did.

We compromised and Franz chose a friendly stuffed red blood cell.

Kealoha had to go home (work and all) and I shuffled with the kids back to the hotel for another two-hour swim. At night we snuggled in to watch TV. All we could find was Family Guy. I remember watching that and finding it really funny, so I gave them the thumbs up.

It ended up being an episode where the dad wins a golf excursion with OJ Simpson. I couldn’t stop the episode because, well, it was awfully funny, the kids were laughing, and I was just too tired to worry about if this was an appropriate thing to watch. There was a line where they called a woman a stupid beaver and I gasped. Then the camera panned to show an actual beaver who was very offended being called stupid. We all laughed and then high-fived.

 

Today it’s Meijer Gardens, walking outside, and me telling the kids to use their imagination or they’ll send me to the crazy house. I’m not quite sure if this staycation is a Parenting WIN but maybe it’s a Parenting GOOD-ENOUGH.

I’m okay with that.

WTF I've Been Up To

I promised myself I would try to stop posting whiny woe-is-me blogs. In fact, I did post one last week, but then I pulled it. I forget sometimes that my blog shouldn’t be a dumping ground. No one wants to hear me sit in a corner and complain…unless I’m complaining while drinking a bottle of wine, then even I admit I can be humorous. It’s all the drooling that makes it funny. So here’s what’s happening and why my blog might be a little more sporadic for a while:

1) I had a tooth emergency and some ‘oral surgery’. It sucked. But the plus side is I got a whole day off to watch TV. I mean, that’s all I did. I sprawled on the couch (upright, cuz I couldn’t lie down) and moaned and groaned and watched True Blood, Orange Is The New Black, Nigella Lawson, MasterChef, and Newsroom. All. Day. Long. It was so glorious that angels sang! (Or it was taking me a while to come down from the laughing gas at the dentist.)

Me. Recovering.

2) I had an excerpt from my memoir accepted for publication. I need exclamation marks for that. Here: !!!!! The excerpt called “The Friendship Camp” will be published in the fall literary journal of Midwestern Gothic. I was so excited when I found out that I whooped and then I said ow and then I whooped again. And then I said ow. It was a vicious cycle for a bit.

3) I’ve joined a writer’s group. Two, actually. One online and one I’ll meet with in person every week. The groups are forcing me to work on my next novel and I’m 15 pages in. Not much, but it’s a start.

4) I’ve been gluten free for two weeks. It’s not as annoying as I thought. I’m now addicted to polenta, which is okay, because I can only eat soft food. And my food-belly seems to be a little smaller.

5) I’m ready to send the kids back to school. I’ve become the ultimate lazy parent, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I mean, there’s only so many crafts, outings, and ‘adventures’ a parent can realistically have before saying “Aw, fuck it!” Now when the kids ask if they can do experiments with the toaster and a fork I say, “Sure” and then “Call me if anyone’s bleeding” and then I go back to playing BananaKing on my iPad. School better start soon or the kiddos will be building a homemade methlab to earn money for Legos.

6) For the last two days, I’ve been talking like I’m wearing those cheap, plastic vampire fangs. This morning, I did a recording, and I sounded just fine. My mouth is good. My voice is good. And my jaw only hurts when I open really wide, so I have stopped opening my jaw really wide. (There’s a joke in there about Kealoha, but I will not stoop to that. It’s simply TMI.)

plasticfangs

7) All is well.

So, look for my blog periodically. I’ll try to post only important stuff like, you know, things about chafing and when we go to Applebee’s and my upcoming trip with Kealoha to a tiki bar in Chicago. You know, stuff that matters.

But if you really, really miss me, check out one of my books that you haven’t read, or force your friends to read one. And stay tuned. We’ll be releasing some free stories soon, and “Foodies Rush In” will be released as an audiobook in October narrated by the fabulous, Audie-award-winning Kate Rudd.

Happy, happy, me.

(I mean that sincerely. The laughing gas has totally worn off now.)

Moxie and the Case of the Missing Underwear

Magnifying-glassSometimes, as a mom, you have to become a detective, questioning your child boldly, using techniques that would rival any interrogation scene in Castle or Law & Order. Here is where I demonstrate those skills. July 30, 9:03PM

CHARACTERS:

Moxie: 7 year-old, blonde girl, wiggles a lot, loves fairies and animals, wants a hedgehog for a pet, hates pants.

Me: 40 year-old, multi-colored hair woman, too tired to wiggle, loves cooking and cats, has a stuffed buffalo next to her bed, hates pants.

SCENE: ME, in bed, about to fall asleep. Sound of footsteps. MOXIE approaches bed, wearing a nightgown with Jurassic-sized flowers on it.

MOXIE: Can I cuddle with you?

ME: Okay. Just for a little bit.

MOXIE: I just want to warn you, though, that I’m not wearing any underwear.

ME: Uh, okay. What happened?

MOXIE: They fell off.

ME: Your underwear fell off.

MOXIE: Yes.

ME: Wait. What? You mean, you were wearing underwear and they just randomly fell off?

MOXIE: Well, I was wiggling a lot.

ME: So what you’re saying here is that you took your underwear off.

MOXIE: Yes.

ME: That’s okay. I can deal with that. Come here and cuddle.

CASE CLOSED.

Adventures in Momming: The Beard Episode

The kids have been fighting a lot. I shouldn’t be surprised. They’re six and seven, girl and a boy, extrovert and introvert…and they’ve been stuck in the house together and with each other nearly every moment all summer long. So when Simone was crying on the swingset yesterday, I went outside to referee yet again. I was prepared with “Louis, stop touching/tasering/poking/teasing her.” I was not prepared for what I got.

Simone had big tears streaming down her face, and took deep cry-breaths. (She's very cute even crying.) She sat on the swing with her smirking brother next to her. I wanted to scoop her up and hug her, but it WAS possible that she’d kicked him first and then he called her something, so I had to investigate first, dole out some kind of punishment, and then comfort.

Me: Okay, what happened?

Simone: (cry cry choke gasp cry and then:) Louis is imagining me with a BEARD!

Simone then followed that little statement with HUGE crying while I…stood there, trying desperately not to laugh because all of a sudden I was imagining her with a beard. She’d look like a dwarf dressed up for Snow White. Her beard would be strawberry blonde and long. She’d HATE having a beard. She’d keep scratching it. Louis with a beard would probably look like Freud.

I TRIED to stop imagining it and be all Mom Dictator.

But, I mean, honestly, how are you supposed to chastise someone for 1) Using their imagination and 2) Imagining a beard on a cute 6-year-old girl? There’s a little bit of evil-brother-genius in that.

I instantly imagined me dealing with this:

ME: Louis, stop imagining your sister with a beard.

LOUIS: Fine.

SIMONE: He’s still imagining it!

LOUIS: Am not.

SIMONE: You are too!

LOUIS: So what.

ME: Louis, stop imagining a beard on your sister right now or I’ll imagine you without legs.

I mean, this could not happen.

So I did what any other parent with a strong sense of humor and appreciation for the surreal would do. I said “Stop It” and then quickly walked into the house where I told Kealoha all abut it, stopped myself from laughing, grabbed something to drink, and then glanced at the calendar. School for them starts in one week.

One more week. We can do this.

Tanya's Week Off

Kealoha here. Seriously. Tanya needs this week off. She's got narration, voice-overs, teaching, writing, editing.....  You get the idea.

So I told her not to stress about blogging. In fact, I've changed her password, so not only can't she blog, but she'll need to resort to leaving comments if she has anything to say!

I'm not taking all of her social media away. She still has Facebook and Twitter. And Pinterest, which I've still avoided.

Plus, this blog needs a few more references to tikis!

Limited Edition Tiki Bowl

That, dear readers, is not a Mai Tai.

In today's cocktail culture, the only safe place to have a Mai Tai is in a Tiki bar. And those are few and far between. (I would suggest searching Critiki to find the closest bar to your location, and make sure you thank them for keeping the spirit alive!)

If you can't make it to a Tiki Bar, here's an easy to follow recipe:

Trader Vic's Mai Tai

1 oz fresh lime juice ½ oz orange Curacao  (ORANGE! NOT BLUE!!!) ¼ oz orgeat syrup  (Orgeat is an almond syrup. Usually found with coffee syrups) ¼ oz rock candy syrup  (I've been substituting Agave Syrup, and it works great) 1 oz aged Jamaican rum (I would highly suggest Appleton Estate) 1 oz aged Martinique rum (Myers Dark rum is perfect) Shake well with plenty of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass. Sink your spent lime shell into drink. Garnish with a mint sprig. Original drink by Trader Vic, 1944. Adapted from Jeff Berry & Annene Kaye, Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log. (San Jose: SLG Publishing, 1998) p. 50

OK class, get shaking!

Aloha & Mahalo!

A Heavy Heart

I think I’ve got post-holiday blues. Well, that, and some serious cramps. Blugh.  

I woke up this morning with a really heavy heart. You know, that sort of sadness that sits on your chest the way a cat does, only without the lovely comfort and purring? That sadness that just lingers; a heavy weight on you.

 

It’s about my kids. I miss them. I miss that I only get to spend half their lives with them. (They’re at my house for one week, and then at their dad’s and we alternate holidays.) I’m sad that my son has so much anger in him, and I can’t seem to help him express it or let go of it. My daughter seems to have adjusted better, but I worry about her too.

 

I’m sad that I’ve somehow become this monster in the eyes of my ex and his wife, when really all I’ve tried to do is be business-like in my approach to them. I spend a lot of time trying to ‘soften’ the language in my emails (it involves smiley faces, lots of questions about how they’re doing, and remaining vulnerable and open) but their emails and correspondence haven’t changed toward me. They’re still succinct and business-like. I guess the language thing only applies to me.

 

I’m sad that his parents have stopped responding to my emails, and for the first time his mom didn’t contact me to have lunch and catch up when she was in town for the holidays (They live in Canada; a twelve-hour drive). I’m not sure if this was her choice, or pressure from my ex, or pressure from her husband, or maybe even my ex’s wife. They think that my having a friendship with my ex-mother-in-law is wrong. It was never about trying to manipulate or even talk about my ex with her. I genuinely like her, care about her, and wanted to continue a relationship with her. She is, and always will be, my kids’ grandmother.

 

A couple of a weeks ago my ex was yelling at me and saying “When you left, you said the kids would be fine, and they’re not.” Essentially, he was saying “Look what you’ve done!” I honestly don’t understand. My ex is so much happier in his new life. I am so much happier in mine, and I truly have the perfect partner for me now. I don’t believe for a second that the kids would’ve been better off if I’d stayed, because I would not have been better off. They need a stable mom, and that’s who I am now.

 

I do the best I can. I’ve never claimed to be perfect. I do try very hard to be loving, supportive, understanding, open. I try to listen and support, not just my kids, but my family, the kids’ dad and stepmom, friends. And it saddens me that I can’t have a relationship with my ex’s parents, even though they’re the kids’ grandparents. And it saddens me that there is half the time when I can’t be there to help my kids. I chose co-parenting thinking the kids needed their dad as much as possible. (My dad was not present until I was thirteen, and even then, not very much.) Part of me wishes I’d fought for more time, like 75/25. But I didn’t want to put the kids through a custody battle.

 

I wish I had the power to fix this. I wish I could make transitioning between the two houses easy for my son. I try to talk to him, get him to name his emotions, but it doesn’t work. I wish he and my daughter could understand that I made all of the choices I did with them in mind FIRST, not last. I wish that my ex’s family had a wider understanding of family. That you don’t have to choose sides. My mom says that “Love is something you don’t take away from people. It just grows.” There’s plenty to share.

 

So. Heavy heart. I know I’ll get through this. Kealoha helps. Having the kids here for a week at a time helps. We’ll get my son counseling. And some day I’ll be able to explain so that they’ll understand.

 

But right now, I really wish they could be with me and Kealoha all the time, and the whole trying to parent 50/50 is breaking my heart. And I think maybe that’s what the heaviness is.

The Perfect Answer to "Do I Look Fat?"

There are times when you know you shouldn’t ask a question, but you just can’t stop yourself. This happens to me all the time. I sorta float outside my body, see what I’m about to do, tell myself “Oh no you don’t” and then I go ahead and ask the question anyway.  

This happened Sunday evening. Kealoha’s parents and grandmother came over for lunch along with my mom. His grandmother is in her nineties and says what’s on her mind. It’d okay. I figure she’s earned that right. She told us we should live in a different house, that mine was too small, that Kealoha needed to lose weight, that her fingernails were falling off and I was terrified that she was going to tell me I looked fat (because she did say that in my engagement pictures I looked fatter in some pictures than others). Thankfully, she didn’t call me fat. I might’ve cried.

Later, once everyone was gone, I sat drinking my wine. Louis (6) sat working on his homework and Kealoha sat across from us. And I floated outside my body and I knew I shouldn’t ask it but I did it anyway. I said those words every woman shouldn’t say, but she does it anyway. I said: “Do I look fat?”

There was a moment of post-nuclear silence and I think I could see Kealoha sweating. Louis said immediately “Oooooh, no. You are NOT fat. You might FEEL fat, but you are definitely NOT fat.” Then he continued with his homework.

I sat back, glowing. That might be the best answer I have ever heard for that impossible question.

Men: memorize that answer. You’re about to make the woman in your life very happy, and it’s an answer she’ll understand.

I asked Kealoha to check his app and see if I was PMSing. I’m not, but Louis was right. I just FEEL fat. It’s stress. And extra salt. The feeling will pass.

A Philosophical Discussion Between Me and the Blunder Kids

Usually, my mom-time is spent saying things like “Stop it! Do not touch each other! You now need to sit at least fifteen feet away from each other. What’s fifteen feet? It’s a lot. It’s like the size of a giant serpent. I will turn into a giant serpent if you two don’t stop touching each other and fighting. I’ve had enough. Enough. ENOUGH!” In fact, I think I said that exact thing yesterday after my daughter’s twelfth tantrum to which Louis (6) said: “Mom, so, I believe that everyone has good in them, even you do when you’re having a really bad day. Somewhere deep, deep inside you is something good.”

Uh…(That's almost a direct quote from something I told Louis earlier when he asked if I believed in God.)

It was hot yesterday and the kids took turns throwing gigantic meltdowns. First, I had to literally drag Louis to his summer camp at Meijer Gardens. I dragged him to the car, we were rear-ended on the way to Meijer Garden (no damage), then I dragged Louis across the parking lot to check him in, he took off running, I ran after him, he hit my cell phone as I tried to call his dad, it went flying in pieces, then I dragged him back to the check in and he cried for about an hour until I was able to leave.

That’s an example of tantrum number one. There were eleven more that followed throughout out the day. (I had one of them.)

On the way to swimming lessons, we had the following conversation:

 

LOUIS: So, Ma, do you believe in ghosts?

SIMONE: I don’t believe in ghosts. I do believe in fairies but NOT ghosts!

LOUIS: I’m asking Mom.

ME: Well, I don’t really believe in ghosts. But sometimes I pretend to believe in them because it makes ghost stories better.

LOUIS: What about aliens?

ME: Full stop. 100%. I totally believe in them. I mean, the universe is so huge that to think that there’s no other life forms out there is just ridiculous to me.

LOUIS: Yeah! Me too. My friend Beck and me? We’ve talked about this and we think that like thousands and thousands of years ago there was like these aliens? And then there was a bam! explosion and it blew them all up and turned them into meteors and the meteors hit everything and that’s why there’s spots on the moon.

MOM: Huh. I can see that.

SIMONE: Are there alien ghosts, Momma? Do you believe in alien ghosts?

MOM: No. That seems like stretching it a little bit.

SIMONE: I think so too.

 

Then the kids went back to poking each other and screaming and general blood-pressure-raising behavior.

I’m hoping that once all these tantrums are done, we can have more conversations like this. They haven’t yet asked me about my theory on sandwiches or my belief system in Sasquatches. I want to tell them that everything I believe in I learned from Leonard Nemoy’s “In Search Of”.

Chicago Trip--Part One

This weekend, Kealoha and I took the kids on our first Family Vacation. (It deserves to be capitalized.) Of course, we’ve gone up north to visit family for morel hunting, but this was different. This vacation included Chicago, traveling, the Field Museum, hotel, restaurants, and god help me, The American Girl store. Here are some highlights:

 

ONE

The morning of, Kealoha was so excited. We finally got the car loaded, everyone buckled in, kids hooked up with DVD players and emergency snacks, and Kealoha cried: “Alllll riiiight! Road Trip! Who’s excited?” (Silence.) Kealoha: Okay…who’s excited for their first road trip to Chicago!! (Silence.) ME: Yay.

 

TWO

Louis makes this begging-face he discovered on the 4th. He wanted more candy from the Hollyhock Parade so we told him to look, you know, like he really needed candy. He tilted his head, made his eyes look real big, and held up his hands to his chin. Then he sort of just sat frozen there and groaned a little bit. He does this all the time now when he wants something and I can’t help but think that people will think he’s ‘special’. Not that there’s anything wrong with ‘special’ kids, but you really shouldn’t steal their candy.

He did this face in the car and Kealoha and I started cracking up. Then Simone says in her 1930s Hollywood starlet voice “Don’t make fun of my bruder!” (I don’t know where she got this accent, but it’s achingly cute.)

 

THREE

Conversation with Louis in the car.

 

LOUIS: Mom? Mom! Mom, what’s the biggest hour?

ME: What do you mean what’s the biggest hour?

LOUIS: You know, what’s the longest hour? Like the biggest one ever?

ME: I don’t know how to answer that. An hour is a constant. Every hour is the same. The DEFINITION of an hour is that it’s sixty minute so no matter what country you’re in, your hour is always the same. It’s one hour.

LOUIS: Yeah. Okay. But what’s the LONGEST hour?

ME: (sigh) I don’t know. The longest hour I ever had was last year getting a root canal.

LOUIS: Mom.

ME: Okay. Okay! Louis, the longest hour is fifty-nine. It’s fifty-nine.

LOUIS: Wow. That’s long. Fifty-nine.

SIMONE: Do they speak a different language in Chicago?

 

(Part two coming later. I've got to get ready to narrate.)

On Pringles, My Kids, And General Mom-crying

PROLOGUE (skip this if you just want the current story) I spent a good portion of the evening crying last night. Meh. It happens. I think everything just finally piled up and all the stress had to go somewhere. It was either tears, or eat an entire pint of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. If we’d had chocolate peanut butter ice cream in the house, I probably would’ve gone that way.

First off, we have to go back a little bit. I haven’t had a real vacation of relaxing and recharging since I left my marriage. So that’s over two years. I had two trips to New York. One I took my niece to and developed a tooth infection and needed a root canal. And the other I went there to pitch my 4th novel. They were fun trips, but not relaxing.

If you go back further, then I haven’t had a vacation since being pregnant with Louis. So…almost seven years. (Although why I would need a vacation when I didn’t have kids, I can’t quite figure out. What do childless people do with all their time? Don’t take offense. I just mean I’ve forgotten what life was PreKids.)

Keep in mind that I’ve been working my butt off since having kids, but particularly these last two years where I managed to start over from nearly nothing….except $600 from my ex and a couple of narration pay checks in the mail. Over these last two years, I’ve started teaching full time at a college (they just renewed my contract for a third year), bought a house, written two books, found daycare for the kids, tended them, nurtured them…and re-met and fell in love with a great guy. I’ve accomplished a lot.

THE CURRENT STORY

I’ve also realized (especially over the last month) there’s only so long that you can keep running before you collapse. I’m not collapsing, but I am exhausted.

It makes the conversations I’ve had with my ex and his wife this week that much harder to bear.

Now, I’m not attacking them. I try really hard to empathize with their perspective and choices, and I usually do a good job. But my ex called me shocked to hear that I had given our son Pringles.

Pringles.

He’s upset because I shouldn’t give the kids processed food and he doesn’t want them to be overweight and the food industry is manipulative and controlling and I should know better than to give toxins to our children especially when they have allergies.

Yes. I admit, in times of weakness, I let the kids have snacks. I don’t have time anymore to cook everything from scratch. When I was a stay-at-home mom and in a marriage that was ultimately too controlling and confining, I cooked EVERYTHING. From homemade bread, to snack crackers, to roasts, to whipped cream. If I could’ve milked the cow, I would’ve.

I’ve since learned that life is about balance. While I try to encourage my kids to make healthy choices, I also don’t want to control their diet so fiercely that they’re terrified of gaining too much weight or they eat a diet that is so bland (and free of salt, fat, and wheat products) that when they get out into the ‘real world’ they go crazy. I also need to balance out my own time. I can’t cook everything anymore. Not when I’m working two jobs (teaching and narrating), writing, exercising, and trying to stay sane.

Sometimes the kids get PRINGLES. I’ve also given them GUMMIE BEARS. This week for dessert, they had SMORES. I have, on occasion, taken them to MCDONALDS.

I don’t think I’m an evil person for doing this. I think I’m a normal working mom who is doing the best for her kids. I make mistakes, but it’s not out of neglect. I also want the kids to know that life is about balance. If you have a treat some time, then be a little more active and eat some more fruits and veggies.

You know my kids’ favorite meal? It isn’t McDonalds. I haven’t ruined their palates forever. In fact, I’m shaping their palates to be pretty discerning and appreciative. Their current favorite meal is homemade chicken strips with panko and sesame seeds, edamame, and Chinese noodles.  I’m proud of that…and I’m proud of the way I’m raising my kids.

There’s more to this story though…the other part of the crying fit had to do with allergies, our cats, and trying to make a decision that’s right for my kids and our family…all while being pummeled and criticized for being a selfish parent.

Trust me. I’m not a selfish parent. I love my kids deeply and I’ve done everything I can to give them a loving, stable life. I do the best I can.

Thankfully, in two more weeks, I’m taking a real vacation. No kids. No teaching. No narrating. Just time to recharge and reassess. And possible, quite possibly, eat some PRINGLES. I like the sour cream and onion ones the best.