To the Fathers of Daughters, To Make Much Of Time

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Now, I want all of you literature majors out there to shut up for a minute. Yes, I know what many folks assume that piece is about. And YES, if THAT was what I was talking about, then making this a post for fathers about their daughters would be…really, really creepy. But I’M NOT and it’s NOT, so go sit in the corner with your sheepskin and chuckle to yourself.

With that over, I’d like to dedicate this post to my own father, who kept the roof overhead, the bread and meat on the table, and while he never bought me that horse I always wanted, he always supplied all the horsepower I ever needed – and sent me away to college in a Mustang. All in all, I’d say I got the better part of the deal. None of this is intended to be critical of any choices anyone ever had to make (or still has to make.) It’s a piece about fathers and daughters, that’s all.

Dad worked a lot. That’s an understatement. Dad STILL works a lot, and Dad is retired. My Dad came from that generation of fathers who had never heard the phrase “deadbeat dad” and if they had, would have immediately thought of those draft-dodging hippies. Or smelly poets with greasy hair. They might sort of be the same. Dad didn’t change diapers. Dad didn’t give bottles. Dad didn’t sit up with colicky babies all through the night, because Dad had to get up at the crack of dawn and go to work.

Dad meted out justice. Hard, bottom-line, no-frills, justice. There was no arguing with the Chief Justice. Oh, you could try. Oxygen is free, and very few people will jump in your way if you decide to go ahead and start working on your own grave.

Don’t get me wrong. Dad also took over projects that little girls would start and then have no clue how to finish. Tables and chairs for the playhouse. Hell, the playhouse itself. I remember sitting in the garage half the day at around 9 years old, trying to saw my way through a 2×4 with a handsaw – when Dad came home after a 12-hour workday, he found me sitting there with my little saw and my ragged cuts, and fired up the circular saw. I watched for awhile, then ran off to dinner. The next morning, there sat my homemade table and two stools in the back of the garage, with a couple of cans of spray paint sitting on top, ready for me to finish. I took an extra 1×4 piece from the scrap pile, about a foot and a half long, and painted it gold with black letters that said “Dad’s Paintbox” for his paint cabinet. He still has that little sign in his garage, nearly 30 years later. It’s a different garage and a different cabinet – but that little sign moved 3,000+ miles across the country with him.

Once I was in high school, my superhero Dad very quickly became the bane of my existence (second only to Mom – but I was a teenage girl, some things are to be expected.) I recall several specific instances, but the one that has always stuck in my mind was when I talked to Dad about going on the “Senior Trip” to Myrtle Beach after graduation. Most of my friends turned 18 before graduating, and could do what they wanted (or liked to think they could.) I didn’t. My brother had gone on the same trip four years earlier when he graduated, so I was looking forward to it. But when I asked Dad about going, he just laughed and said, “No.” My jaw dropped. “But my brother got to go!” Dad kept chuckling and shook his head. It was so simple to him, and he couldn’t believe I didn’t see it. “Honey, you’re a girl.”

UGH!

Mom heard the whole thing, and just stood aside. Later, she tried to explain to me: “He still sees that nine year old girl in the garage, building stick horses out of broom handles and tube socks. Give him a break. He was always so busy…he feels like he missed out on so much.”

At the time, I was just mad. Plain, old-fashioned, teenage-girl mad. Such white-hot fury is the sole province of girls of that age. Any older, and we wouldn’t survive it, so furiously does it burn. I heard Mom, but I didn’t really hear Mom.

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years. – Mark Twain

So – go back and read that poem you thought you knew. Read it from another, less snicker-worthy point of view. Read it from a Dad’s point of view. Or read it from an older daughter’s point of view, to her Dad, speaking about a grandchild. Or read it from a mother’s point of view, to her father-friends (or other mother-friends.)

Somebody has to work. Roofs must be kept over heads. Meals must be put on the table. Do I feel like I missed out on something, having had a father who was so busy all the time? No – because he provided for us and I appreciate that. Do I feel like he missed out on something? I know he did. He knows he did. Something that can never be recovered. So while all those things have to be provided by someone, that same someone deserves to get to experience the joy of the life he or she is providing.

My own husband is a Mr. Mom. He changed as many diapers as I did. He sat up late into the night. He held the crying baby, he played with the happy baby, he metes out justice, he goes to the beach and to the playground. When I travel away from home for work, he does all the work of a single parent while I’m away. He’s as engaged in our daughter’s life as I am. He’s able to do that because we both work to provide for our family. It’s not up to one of us to carry the burden alone – and it’s not up to one of us to experience the joy alone.

It’s still hard. We both have to make sacrifices all the time. That’s what parents do. There’s still times when no one but Mommy will do – and there are also times when our little girl just wants to hang out with Daddy.

I don’t want him to go through what my own Dad went through – and by that, I mean I don’t want him to look around one day and realize that his little girl is gone. That somewhere in there, while he was working and hoping and praying, she grew up and went away, and he missed it. So I make sacrifices, too, and I drag him out of the house when he doesn’t always want to go, and I lock myself in the bathroom for ridiculously long periods of time, and I encourage him to take breaks from working to just go outside and play. It’s not always just because I want some time to myself (although sometimes it is.) Sometimes it really is because I remember how sad my Dad looked on my graduation day, and on my wedding day, and on the day my own daughter was born.

So far, I think we’re doing okay.

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You lead, I’ll follow…

 

 

My child just said of herself, “She’s dead. A bad guy shot her.”

Child with guns

I’m gonna get you, sucka

So I’m sitting in my favorite chair, reading through my Facebook Newsfeed, and my child sneaks up behind me with one of her stuffed animals, Cocoa the Bunny. The following exchange ensues:

Cocoa: “Hi, Mommy. Will you play with me?”

Me: “I’d love to Cocoa, but I’m busy reading right now. Daddy is just in the next room and I know he’d love to play with you.”

Cocoa: “I don’t have a Daddy. I’m Cocoa the Bunny.”

Me: “Oh, well…maybe you could find Pookie and she’ll play with you.” (Pookie is my daughter’s nickname)

Cocoa: “She’s not here.”

Me: “She’s not? I could have sworn I heard her…where do you think she is?”

Cocoa: “Um…she’s not here anymore. She’s not coming back. She’s dead.”

Me: (a little disturbed) “Dead? Pookie? Why would you say that, Cocoa?”

Cocoa: “Because she’s dead. A bad guy shot her. She’s dead.”

Me: (more than a little disturbed) “She’s not dead, Cocoa. Why would you say that? She’s right over there.” (pointing to Pookie)

Cocoa: “No, she’s not here. A bad guy had a gun and shot her and she’s dead. She’s been dead for a long, long time.”

At this point, I’m looking directly at my four year old, who is very matter-of-factly saying these horrible things of herself. She’s standing behind my chair, holding Cocoa out in front of me around the back of the chair. I can’t hide that this little dialogue is upsetting me.

Me: “Pookie, it makes me sad to hear Cocoa say these things. Do you know why it makes me sad?”

Pookie: “Because Cocoa said I’m dead. That a bad guy shot me.”

I can no longer play along. I can barely breathe. My little girl doesn’t watch the news. We don’t ever watch violent shows with her in the room. I try to limit her exposure to violence, period (except for what she sees in cartoons – and even then I try to steer her away from violent cartoons.) She has obviously picked up little things here and there. It’s almost impossible to shield children from the American gun culture – even harder these days than ever before.

I’m not trying to make a political post. I’m not even sure what I’m trying to do. This just happened a short while ago and for the most part, I’m still kind of in shock. My husband overheard the entire exchange and called Pookie into the room with him. He asked her if she knows what ‘dead’ means (she sort of does, but not really – she said “when you go like this” and acted out a dog “playing dead.”) I’ve seen her do this recently while playing with some older kids – she kept saying “pretend I’m dead” and would then lie down on the ground with her eyes closed and her tongue sticking out. They got her up to play tag and I sort of forgot all about it.

But this one was different. This wasn’t playing dead – this was my four year old talking in third person about a bad guy having shot her. I’m sure it was going to turn into some kind of superhero “let’s catch the bad guy” game, and I’m equally sure I ruined it by getting all sad rather than just playing along with Cocoa – and possibly finding and “saving” Pookie in the process. Part of me thinks the “big deal” here isn’t what she was saying, but rather my own response to what she said.

I’m still sad. I’m still upset that this sort of “story” is part of her play narrative. I’ve tried so hard to prevent her from seeing gun violence – or even knowing that guns exist at all – much less from knowing that there’s even such a thing as a bad guy who might shoot her with one. We don’t have play guns – not even water guns. This isn’t about politics, this is about my family and our choices for what is acceptable for our child. Guns aren’t acceptable. Shooting isn’t acceptable. The thought of my child being shot isn’t f*cking acceptable.

Yeah, still upset. I’ll part with this:

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Not enough information really, but noteworthy nonetheless

 

Get thee behind me, Spongebob!

I’m going to lead off by sharing this story and the associated video clip from ABC News:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/watching-spongebob-makes-preschoolers-slower-thinkers-study-finds/story?id=14482447

Go watch at least the first segment. I’ll wait.

Here’s where I’m at: I friggin’ hate Spongebob. He’s an idiot. He encourages my kid to call her stuffed animals, her pets, ME – names (including “stupid” and “dumb dumb” – just like in the segment above.) He’s annoying. Want to know how annoying? He’s this annoying:

HOLD EVERYTHING! Offensive AND annoying. I was trying to find a snippet of his laugh. That laugh. The one that wakes a sleeping giant inside me and makes me want to bludgeon things. I found that snippet – and in the course of watching it, I found another reason to hate Spongebob. He’s teaching my kid stereotypes before she can even say the WORD “stereotype.” (Sidenote: my husband watched that clip and he doesn’t “read” the link between two male characters commenting on Spongebob’s sense of style and employing a “limp wrist” gesture as a stereotype. I think he’s wrong. He thinks I am. You may feel free to judge for yourself. PS – I’m right.)

Okay, that’s a lie. My kid can totally say “stereotype.” She doesn’t know what it means. She also doesn’t know what “inscrutable” means, but she can say that, too. She enjoys tackling really hard to pronounce words and busting them out in public to watch the look on people’s faces. She gets that from me. Or more to the point, I taught her to do it because there’s just something so RIGHT about the look on an uptight Mom’s face when her preschooler is stumbling over “ravioli” and my preschooler says “indubitably.” Makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, even if it’s just schadenfreude.

But I digress.

Do I think Spongebob makes my kid dumb? Well, no, but that’s just because my kid is a genius. Do I think he encourages my kid to be a meanie? Yep. Do I think watching Spongebob is not valuable to her in any way? Again, yep. So, in keeping with the study, do I think that means she’s better served by watching Caillou? You know, the whiniest kid on public television? Um…no. Or how about Dora, the Explorer, who speaks in a constant shriek? Or Elmo? The little puppet who can’t help it if his creator likes to date children?

So where does this leave those of us who don’t mind letting their preschoolers watch television? Are we just supposed to take away television altogether? Are we prepared for the inevitable fallout of having to actually PARENT our children for hours on end?

Did I just take a pot-shot at parents who let their kids watch TV? Oooh, I did. Did I mean it? Ooooh, I did. Only because I’m one of them (you, whatever.) I throw stones fully ensconced in my glass house. My child is watching The Smurfs at this very moment so that I can have the freedom to write this blog post. Does that make me a bad parent? No. There’s always these people:

http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/videos/honey-boo-boo-drinks-go-go-juice/

I’m not actually filling her full of caffeine, sugar and B-vitamin overdosed energy drinks and turning her loose on the world. I’m also not teaching her that her entire sense of self-worth is defined by a tiara and a toddler title. Nor do I teach her that any family alive needs that quantity of paper towels on hand at all times.

But it’s kind of easy to say, “well, at least I’m not a member of the Shannon family!”  then walk away, hand-wiping gesture and all. It’s not as if there’s good parents, and then there’s Honey Boo Boo’s parents. There’s a vast gamut of bad parenting between depravity and Spongebob. It’s the guilt that’s slowly getting to me. For example, just today I had to give my child a timeout in the corner for calling me a dummy. Was I being a dummy? No, I had told her she couldn’t eat sprinkles until the cupcakes were finished and the sprinkles put on the icing. She said, “Dummy, sprinkles don’t go on icing! They go on ice cream!” In her world, she was right – she’d never had sprinkles on icing – but she has had them on ice cream. She didn’t even really hear herself calling me a dummy. It was just something to say. We had to talk about it after, and she couldn’t get past the sprinkles. She really thought I gave her a timeout for thinking sprinkles go on ice cream.

And here we come to the heart and soul of my post. It’s my fault. I let her watch TV programming that’s not intended for her as an audience member. It’s because she’s so freaking smart. She’s smarter than most four year olds. She is. I’m not just being one of “those” parents. This kid has a vast vocabulary – and knows how to use it. She can do basic addition and subtraction. She still can’t read – but I don’t push it. I couldn’t read until first grade – but once it “took,” I became an avid reader overnight. My husband learned to read before he was 3. She’s just taking after me, and I’m okay with that. She also memorizes songs and acts them out. She can do all of “Part Of Your World” in character. She knows “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello, Dolly! She’s working on the Witch’s Rap from the Intro to Into the Woods. “Greens, greens, and nothing but greens! Parsley, peppers, cabbages and celery, asparagus and watercress and fiddle ferns and lettuce.” She gets stuck on “asparagus and” – and giggles and trips over her tongue, then asks me to do it. And I get it – I used to trip over the same part “once upon a time.” How does she know all of those songs? Because I let her watch The Little Mermaid, WALL-E and Into The Woods while I’m working. Or cooking. Or blogging. Or generally trying to be a human being. Don’t get me wrong, she also plays with her toys, plays with her cat, chases the dog, goes outside and swings on her swingset. She’s a normal four-year-old. I just think I let her watch too much TV, and the evidence of that is how much trouble she gets in for how she talks to her parents.

Remember the scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie’s mom puts the bar of soap in her own mouth after repeating the word Ralphie said helping his dad change the tire? That’s how I feel every time I have to put my daughter in timeout. Like I should have to stand there with her.

Maybe that feeling is enough. Maybe that’s acknowledgement that I need to do better, and the first step to real change is acknowledging where the problem lies. At least I get that there’s a problem, and the problem isn’t my child’s problem but my own.

In the meantime, I should probably get in there and see if she’d like to engage in a pillow fight before bed. You know, because encouraging her to hit me upside the head with a pillow may not be a good thing, but damn, it’s great to hear her laugh that hard. And between me and you, it’s kind of fun to knock the little booger sprawling and giggling with a fluffy pillow. Keeps me sane ;)

How about y’all? How do you balance TV and playtime? Do you allow TV at all? Are there limits? Do you find yourself breaking the rules to give yourself time to do things you need to do, or do you hold fast to your principles no matter what?

It Sure Has Been Awhile

I had occasion this weekend to tell a new acquaintance about my blog. I also had to mention I haven’t posted in a long time.

Yeah…about that.

Nope, nothing happened. I didn’t lose my muse or anything romantic. No writer’s block. No tragic illness. I *did* leave my iPhone in a shuttle van and had to go without it for 3 days. I learned something about myself in those three days and it is this: my daughter comes by her iPad addiction honestly. There was a conversation with a dispatcher wherein I heard myself saying, “We’re not talking about a phone, here. We’re talking about a device upon which my whole world turns.” That’s probably a bit much…but it’s also true. It also has no bearing whatsoever on my lack of blog posts in the last couple of months.

I even started a contest that I then never officially ended. I didn’t use the artwork submitted – and it has nothing to do with the quality of any of the pieces.

The problem is this: I’m a working mother of an active 3 year old. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. I’ve also got a lazy streak about some things. That’s probably more the heart of the issue, really.

But here I am! My triumphant return! I want a parade! An arch built in my honor, beneath which I can ride into the blogosphere, carrying my iPhone proudly overhead so that it can be properly worshipped by the legions of fans out there who can appreciate that I survived three days without it – barely.

So if you left a comment I didn’t reply to, I will. Shortly, even. Sorry about that. You took the time to read my ramblings and then further, you put yourself out there for ME to have dialogue…and I kinda blew it. I’ll make it up to any if you, I swear.

Where have I been, you might ask? Massachusetts, New York (upstate and down), North Carolina, Las Vegas (with the child – new post coming about that, too). I’ve hung out with friends I hadn’t seen in 12 years. I also saw the show nominated for the most Tony Awards this season – including a Best Actor in a Musical nod to the boy I was first kissed by when I was 13 years old. At the lips of greatness, as it were :) And then after the show, he totally tweeted me. That sounds far more fantastic than it actually was…but it was still pretty cool. I had bragging rights for an entire evening in NYC.

All of this is to say I’m back – and there’s more to come. Oh, and while I was gone this last time, a babysitter totally got my kid to poop in the toilet. HUGE news. I am so glad, it’s a little unreal. Never would have believed poop would rank right up there with my first trip to NYC as “most exciting thing all year.”

Stay tuned…

Travel With(out) Your Child

I travel quite a bit for work. On many levels, these are satisfying experiences for me. I get “off the rock,” as we say in our little island community. That’s sort of like “out of Dodge” in some ways. In my younger days, I longed for a job that would require jetting about the country, racking up the FF miles, meeting new people, adding pins to my interior map of places I’ve seen. For the most part, my imagining is quite a bit like the reality, minus the glamour – and minus the FF miles, really. I have lots – they’re just all spread out among the various airlines such that I don’t have enough on any one carrier to DO much with them. It would also be nice to have the available credit I squandered in those younger days (you know, on silly things like higher education and food). Travel without access to credit cards is…a whole different blogpost’s worth of “delight.”

The first few times I travelled for my job, my daughter was still nursing several times a day. So both she and my husband came with me. I work for some of the coolest people in the world – and they made unbelievable concessions for a nursing mom (well, unbelievable when compared to the American standard, which is that if you dare actually invoke your FMLA rights, you’re going to find yourself looking for a new job).

As she got older – and our extended nursing became less about actual nutrition and more about comfort and security – I slowly started going out on 5-day trips without her. These were few and far between, and slowly ramped up in range as time passed.

The first one was hardest. I was a wreck. Anxious for weeks before – couldn’t sleep, couldn’t get enough holding, snuggling, smelling the top of her head. The morning I left, I had been awake all night holding her and cried the whole way to the airport (a two-hour shuttle ride). Cried in the plane taking off. Cried in the hotel room. Then opened up Skype on the computer and saw her – she was taking a bath and standing up – “Mommy! Mommy! It’s Mommy!” I’ll never forget it. And she was smiling. Happy. FINE. From that moment on, the whole trip changed for me. It became fun. I went to a movie by myself for the first time in over two years. It rocked. And every night, we talked via Skype. It made all the difference.

My boss asked me how it went – he knew it was an icebreaker – and I said, “You want the truth?” Of course – he expected nothing else from me. “First thing this morning as I left – I was cursing your name. I thought ‘NOTHING is worth this’.” He laughed and asked, “And now?” So I told him about Skype, told him she was fine – so I was fine, and he said, “Good. Enjoy yourself.”

Each trip got easier. There still weren’t many – and the two of them would still come on the drivable ones.

Then this last trip. It was a short one – out on Monday, home on Friday. I told her ahead of time, and reminded her as we went to bed Sunday night that Mommy would be gone when she got up in the morning, but that I’d be home in a few days. She seemed fine – seemed to understand. My mother in law is staying with us, so this time she gets Nana AND Daddy while I’m gone. Seemed easy enough.

Then I hear later – my little one woke up calling over the house, looking for me and crying for Mommy.

Now – she may do this every time. I know my husband tries to spare me some of the “little” grief – because travel is part of my job. There’s no avoiding it – no getting out of it – so he leaves things out I know. Things like crying for Mommy. I’m sure it happens – but there’s nothing I can do about it. Nana texted pics all day long which were awesome – and they made me feel better. I just wish I’d never actually *known* about the sadness. Figuring that there is some is one thing – finding out for sure is something else entirely.

When I came home, there was some joy. Lots of it. I try to hold on to that.

I’m writing this sitting in a Waffle House waiting for my early flight out on a long trip – two weeks this time – and I explained it all last night as we snuggled in bed. She touched my face and said, “I’ll miss you on the a-plane, Mommy.”

One of those moments I just want to lock in time – a perfect little moment to recall when she’s fifteen and hates my guts.

It gets easier – and then again, it doesn’t. Do any of you travel away from your family for work? Do you use Skype or another tool to chat? How do you deal with the longing to be home?

Contest time! It’s a win-win!

It’s official! I need a logo and header for this blog – and the whole thing is getting a facelift. Thing is, I’m a mommy-blogger, which means somewhere in my busy computing schedule I have to find time to do some parenting. Plus, my creativity-spark is pretty well tended by the writing bug here lately. I don’t have too much left over.

However, some of *you* may have cups running over with ideas and talent. So much so that you’d like to design a logo for Shine On, You Crazy Mama and a cool header to put together on the top of the page. Then I’ll design the rest of the blog around whichever design wins!

“So you said it was a win-win, Crazy Mama. I get what’s in it for you, but where’s my win?”

I’m glad you asked.

First of all – it’s a contest. If you win, then you’ve already won! You’ll get credit, you’ll get fame, and you’d get fortune if only I had one to give.

Speaking of give, that’s the other part of the win. I’m putting together a package for the winner of cool things created by my friends or fellow bloggers. The big feature is Tamara Duricka Johnson’s awesome adventure-tale-cum-dating-book, 31 Dates In 31 Days. If you’ve not heard about her amazing story, go check out her blog. Tamara and I went to school together – and we’re both bloggers – and she’s likely to be a future mommy who will no doubt benefit from all of my “here’s how NOT to do this” parenting tips one day.

I’ll also be throwing in some other goodies – perhaps even of the home baked kind.

Do you have to be some kind of HTML genius to do this? Nope. You could use crayons and construction paper, for all of me. The medium is up to you. Just make it something I can scan and compress the crap out of without ruining its essential wholeness.

There are no rules. Submissions may be sent to my email: laughingophelia at yahoo dot com. Or if you need to snail mail it, email for my address.

Contest is open now through St Patrick’s Day at midnight EST. Let’s see what you’ve got.

Oh, and no age restrictions, either. Got a creative kid? Let ‘em at it!

Dressed Up To the Nines! Or, Nine-And-A-Half’s. Or, WTF Happened To My Feet?

I have been invited to my first-ever red carpet film screening – and am a little excited. Mostly because I’ve had little to no opportunity to get all dolled-up since becoming a mom – but also because it’s just freaking cool.

I’m working in Connecticut this week in a sleepy little former mill town called Torrington. The coolest thing I’ve found in

Warner Theatre

Inside the Warner Theatre

town so far also happens to be the place I’m working for the week – The Warner Theatre. It’s an awesome old Warner Brothers movie palace built in 1931 and completely restored to its glory beginning in 2008. I can’t say enough good things about this place – both the space and the folks who lovingly operate it. They’ve even invited me to a final dress rehearsal of their production of Titanic this Thursday…which is totally rad since I hardly ever get to actually see shows when I’m onsite with clients. They tend to want to do training in their down-time, and while I don’t blame them, it means I get to hear all about fun events that I don’t actually get to see.

While I’m in town, they’ve put me up at the historic Yankee Pedlar Inn – a very cool, very Shining-esque colonial-style inn across the street from the theatre. Due to flight delays, I didn’t actually get to my hotel until after midnight the first night, and was so tired, the idea of dragging my bags up the single flight of stairs to the second floor was just too much. The night clerk said I could use the elevator, but he’d have to come operate it. I immediately thought of the elevator from The Shining – as it is described by Stephen King in the novel, not the one in The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, which probably doesn’t actually belch a bloody tidal wave down the hallway, but I guess you never can tell. Either way, I was not disappointed, from the creaky brass gate to the sudden lurching stop when we reached the second floor. Too. Cool.

So far, I’ve spent one night of fantastic sleep in the hotel, and am looking forward to another tonight. The room is cozy, the bed is comfy, and the television is guaranteed to NEVER so much as pause on Sprout.

And then we get to tomorrow.

As it turns out, the film opening is for The Innkeepers, a charming tale of – oh, who am I kidding – a nail-biting, face-hiding, sure-to-make-me-scream horror movie about a haunted hotel. This particular hotel, in point of fact. You know…the one where I’ll be returning to sleep later that night. Part of me thinks I’ve made a foolish choice…and another part of me thinks, “Sweet!”

I’ll be sure to let you know how that works out. I have a suspicion I’ll be only too eager to hang out online tomorrow night after the movie. With the lights on. Maybe even in the lobby with other people around.

In some ways, the very coolest thing about tomorrow is that I get to dress up and attend the VIP party both before the show at The Warner and after at the hotel. I am totally stoked. I’ve brought my favorite winter Betsey Johnson tunic dress, spiderweb textured tights, and an awesome black rose and spider-festooned necklace I nabbed at Betsey’s online jewelry flash sale last week. I am SO ready for the party portion of the evening’s festivities.

There was only one little drawback to my fashionista plan. I used to have a fantastic shoe collection. I sort of still do, but all of the shoes are a little dated at this point. So I needed shoes. Badly.

Before flying out, I took my daughter shoe-shopping with me this weekend. I did not expect that to go well. I actually sort of expected her to lose patience with me as soon as she realized the store had zero toys and zilch for candy. As it turns out, I was mistaken.

As it further turns out, my daughter has the most acute eye for fashion I’ve ever seen in one her age. She’s three.

We walked into the store – one of those big, discount retailers where you can find real gems if you don’t mind sifting through rack after rack of total crap (which I don’t) – and within 10 seconds, my daughter cries out, “Look, Mommy! I need it!” I follow her pointing finger, expecting to see some Gabba Gabba-related nonsense, and instead I see this:

For the uninitiated, that’s a Skull and Roses Betseyville purse – and it was just hanging there, right out front on the rack of cheap and horrible purses. It has skulls. It’s a Betsey. And I have an invite to a red carpet film opening for a horror flick.

“Yes, you do. Here, let Mommy carry that for you.” Does it help that it was like 80% off retail? Yes. Would I have bought it if it hadn’t been? Probably. Do I care if you think it’s tacky? No. I’m just that certain you’re wrong.

I was stunned. Ecstatic, and stunned. I looked at my daughter in a new light – I thought shopping was going to be a chore, and in less than a minute, she’d managed to pick out the one thing in the entire store that I am now completely convinced I could not live without.

Thus, we entered the shoe section.

I don’t know if you’ve ever shopped at one of these mega discount retailer shops for shoes. It can be awesome. It can also be a living hell. Women in various states of dress (and odor) stand around, hopping on one foot most of the time, trying on shoes without the benefit of footies (or socks in most cases). You’re lucky if you find anything at all in your size. You’re doubly lucky if you don’t catch a mean case of athlete’s foot in the offing.

I saw nothing I liked. I also learned that my foot is now a full size larger than it used to be. Just as I was thinking to myself, “Okay, thanks for eyeballing the purse, but you sure could have cut mommy a break on the ‘making-my-foot-huge’ thing as you came into the world, sweetie,” my child once more works a complete freaking miracle. She reaches out of the cart and grabs a pair of shoes, saying, “Here, Mommy! Try these!”

Nine West. Vinyl. Platform heels. Peep-toe. Size 9.5 (grumble grumble)…but wonder of wonders, they fit. And they’re perfect. Perfect. I couldn’t have found a more perfect shoe if I’d tried. And I did try. And I found nothing. She effortlessly scooped up the exact right thing. We’re ten minutes in on this shopping trip, and I’m done. Score two for my child (and me by extension). Yes, I let her pick a treat for herself. She chose some really cute socks. I am now, more than ever, convinced I have the coolest child on the planet.

I don’t have a pic of the dress to share – yet! But I promise to update the post with pics tomorrow…or most likely will write another post after my Film Opening Adventure.

I started out wanting to write a post about how being pregnant and having a child caused me to have enormous feet – that are still enormous three years after the fact. I know this happens because I’ve heard other moms complain about the same thing. Something really cool happened though, and about halfway through this post I realized that I have absolutely nothing to complain about. She may have “helped” me grow an entire shoe size, but far more importantly, my daughter has managed to help me put together the perfect outfit for my first big night out since before she was just a twinkle in my eye.  Nicely played, daughter. Nicely played :)

Oh please not now – Mommy doesn’t feel good

Is there anything worse than feeling sick with a super-energetic 3yo in your face?

Okay, sure there is. Lots of things. But shhh – Mommy wants to feel sorry for herself right now. Go watch Netflix on your iPad.

It’s ridiculously late and I’m awake. Of course I am – I slept forever this morning because I felt like crap. Now it’s nearly 2:30am and I’m just lying here. So I figured I’d do what most people do when they can’t sleep – I’d blog about it.

Before becoming a parent, I think I actually enjoyed sick days. In fact, don’t tell anyone, but I used to take them even when I wasn’t actually sick! Now, between simple exhaustion, days when my daughter just *needs* her Mommy, and days when the proverbial poop has hit the equally proverbial fan, I’m lucky if I don’t use up all my sick days within like 3 months each year.

Most days, I do what all you other mommies do – I suck it up and keep going. It generally works. My immune system is strong – and when it isn’t, I threaten it with OTC medication and it bucks up. I’ve felt less-than-stellar several days this week. On Monday, I tried going out with my husband to a gig and wound up asleep in the car before he was finished. By this morning, my body had sent me a white flag. It told me to take a day to myself “or else.”

So I slept in. Then I shuttered myself in my bathroom for like an hour and a half (there’s going to be a future blogpost on the sanctity of Mommy’s bathroom) with my friend Tamara’s awesome book, 31 Dates In 31 Days. If you haven’t read about her project (you may have seen it on Good Morning, America) or her book, do yourself the favor. She totally rocks it. And she breaks things, too – take my word for it ;) Total rock star.

Where was I?

See, it’s really late, and I’ve not been feeling well – I may have mentioned that :)

Oh yeah, the bathroom. Then we did lunch, I took my MIL to pick up prescriptions, then took my husband to a gig and my daughter to the playground. I love playgrounds. I can totally sit still, eat a healthy snack (a broccoli and cheese baked potato), and let my daughter run out her boundless energy. By the time we picked my husband up, I felt good enough to sneak a little rum and coke (aka “nectar of the gods”) before coming home.

And now I can’t sleep. Oh, and the rum brought back the pounding headache. Good one, there, Mommy. Way to go. Did I mention the child smacking the dog (Isis, star of my previous post) with a piece of styrofoam and caterwauling when I immediately sent her to bed? No? That may have played a role.

She’s sleeping like a log beside me. She would. She’ll be wide awake and raring to go tomorrow.

I really hope I feel better by then. If not, I may just have to go to work to get away from it all ;)

Do you have any tricks or tips for dealing with general Mommy sickness on days when the kids feel fine? Or how about recipes for a good hot toddy?

“No, Mommy, go away!” – Playgrounds and Letting Go

I’m writing this one from a bench at the playground. It’s really just a way to keep myself busy and let my daughter be herself and play. Um, not easy. I spent two years being a “helicopter mom” – walking a few steps behind, hovering, making small talk with other parents (or kids) to try to explain my persistent presence. I live on an island and in constant fear my daughter will fall into a canal. Even at the playground. Or that she’ll fall off the equipment. Or that some kid will be mean and make her cry. Or worse, that some kid will ignore her and make her sad (which is much worse than crying).

I need to lighten up.

Today, while pushing her on a swing, some other (older) kids came up to us. They thought my little one was too cute (well, she is). One wanted to push her on the swing. As I prepared to shape the word, “No” – my daughter answered, “Yes!” for me. Um. I pushed another time, so used to the rhythm and kind of at a loss. Then she said it: “No, Mommy. Go away. I want the kids to push me.”

Oh god. Ouch. Ouch. I’m okay. I’m okay.

So I came to this bench and sat down. And huddled into my phone where things seem safe. And where my daughter can’t ignore me and make me sad.

I seriously need to get over myself.

Meanwhile, she’s having fun. Smiling, laughing, squealing with glee. And NOT falling into any canals. Huh. Without me standing two feet away – she’s fine.

I’m the one who’s not fine. So that’s what all that helicopter mom thing is all about. It’s not about the child. It’s not for her safety. She’s fine.

And everyday, I learn a little bit more about this “Mommy” gig. It’s pretty sweet. And it hurts. But it’s awesome.

And now I have to go – because she’s asking for me :)

“Give me my iPad! I NEED it!” or, Adventures In Hi Tech Parenting

This is a huge topic of discussion around our house lately. I’d say most parents have had this argume…peaceful exchange of ideas…in some form or another.  When I was a kid, it was “how much TV do you let the kids watch?” or “how much time on the Atari is TOO much time?” Anyone who ever played Pitfall knows the answer…there’s no such thing as “too much” time from the kids’ point of view. I mean, look how far I’ve come! Any minute now I’m going to see the gold bullion or the big diamond! Mom! Don’t turn it off! No! I’ve been playing this stupid game for HOURS!

But I’m not bitter or anything.

In our house, it’s not XBox 360 or Nintendo DS. We’re a Mac house. I was given an iPad by my employer a year or so ago, and promptly bought an Otterbox for it (having learned a terrible lesson with my first iPhone). I knew as soon as I saw the box who in the family would be getting the most use out of the iPad. I know, I know, you’re just *shocked* that the answer isn’t me, right?

Our daughter’s love affair with the iPad started with Elmo’s Monster Maker. At first, when she was only a year old, she played it on the iPhone (see comment above about a terrible lesson…). Once the iPad made its appearance, I was overjoyed to learn I could put Elmo’s Monster Maker on the iPad, and hence get my iPhone back for all that terribly important Facebook time I was missing.

As time went by, more apps got installed on the iPad. Wheels On the Bus (guaranteed to make you want to gouge your eyes out in fifteen minutes or less), EasyBeats, Preschool Adventure (don’t put your junk in my backyard, my backyard, my backyard, don’t put your junk in my backyard, my backyard’s full). Don’t ask. And of course, our daughter’s personal favorite app…Netflix.

Yep. I pay $9 a month so my child can stream Wonder Pets, Dragon Tales, and Strawberry Shortcake. So shoot me.

The thing is, I’m about ready to shoot the iPad.

Mostly, she plays with the preschool apps or with the various coloring or drawing apps. She likes the interactivity of the games. I really don’t have much of a problem with the educational apps. She learned the alphabet playing the Super Why app. She can count to 20 and recognize all the numbers. She’s learning spatial relations (something she can then help mommy with later…). For the most part, she’s learning all kinds of stuff. And the drawing apps are just freaking awesome. She can color – with PAINT – for hours, and there’s zero mess! This is remarkable, amazing, and…okay, yeah, I don’t have many drawings on the fridge. Well, I could print them out…but I don’t know…it loses something when you have to send it to the printer – the same printer where I routinely scan my receipts and copy out my expense forms. Ick.

Then there’s Netflix (like we needed another reason to hate Netflix, right?) Wonder Pets. Dora. Diego. Dragon Tales. Spongebob. The Walking Dead. The Smurfs. My Little Pony. Wait, did she say, “the Walking Dead?” As in, the incredibly violent show about a zombie apocalypse? Yep, she sure did. And yep, this really happened. Luckily, my daughter is either terribly smart, or terribly single-minded, and once she realized (within like four seconds) that this wasn’t an animated or brightly colored show (well, depending on the episode, it can be REALLY colorful, but that’s not important right now), she hit the “done” button, went back to “Home” and selected something more her speed – like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Or Caillou (I think I’d rather her watch The Walking Dead, to be honest). Oh, and that link is NSFK – and only the first 25 seconds are funny, but they’re REALLY funny for those of you who have to endure Caillou. The rest is crap. But my point is that there are no good parental controls on Netflix. The smart thing would be to have a separate account for the child…but of course, Netflix would make us PAY for two accounts. Which makes me think this is exactly how they planned it. Which makes me hate them even more.

Did you catch that, though? Before I went off about Caillou and my loathing for Netflix?  She started The Walking Dead, registered, “ew, this isn’t one of MY shows,” then tapped the screen to make the controls show, selected the terribly tiny “Done” button at the top left of the screen, then tapped the equally tiny “Home” button at the bottom of the Netflix page, and located a show more to her liking to watch. She’s 3 – and she’s been doing this kind of “advanced” selection for over a year.

Do I think she’s a genius? You bet your boots, I do. But not because of her ability to navigate an iPad. I think most kids her age can do the same thing with the same level of exposure. In fact, I know they can, because I’ve read articles about how preschools are starting to use iPads and touch screens as educational tools. I’ve also been reading articles about iPad addiction among young children, particularly among very young children. Even the Apple forums have several questions (some serious, some not) from parents concerned about their child’s “problem” with the iPad. Just Google “toddler iPad addiction” and you get some alarming results, if for no other reason than how many  hits you get.

The real reason we’re concerned isn’t so much that she uses the iPad. It’s how she acts when it’s time to STOP using the iPad that has us worried. She goes from sweet little angel to Veruca Salt in less time than it takes to hit the Home button. If we’re good parents and have a redirect all ready to go, we’re fine: “Hey, come help make dinner in your play kitchen” or “Listen to what Daddy is playing in the studio!” If we’re not ready, or if the battery just up and dies, you’d think we were sawing off her arm by removing the iPad from in front of her: “Nooo! Not my iPad! I NEED it!” or “Give me that back! It’s MY iPad!” So for the most part, it’s like any other toy that we need to take away for whatever reason. Which is precisely why I’m conflicted. On the one hand, the iPad is like anything else the child enjoys, with the added bonus that it *can* be educational. For those of you who haven’t experienced it, the iPad has completely changed the face of long car rides with a very young child. I actually look *forward* to long car rides because I know we can both be absorbed in our own little worlds (me with the thrill of driving – I’m geeky like that – and she with the thrill of watching Nemo for the 742nd time).

I could just delete Netflix, but somehow I think she’d find her way to the App Store and just download it again.

Then there’s my dirty little secret: Netflix is “Mommy’s Little Helper” some days. If I need time to myself, Netflix is there. If I need to make a phone call…Netflix! If I need to use the bathroom…Netflix! I can get an entire half hour of complete silence (well, relative silence…I can hear the show she’s watching) and I can get things accomplished I would otherwise not be able to do. So in many ways, I NEED the iPad. And Netflix. Which makes me feel like a bad mom, but it also allows me to feel like a regular human being who is able to accomplish normal things.

Ultimately, I don’t know what to think. Anything in moderation should be fine…but some days, I’m not so good about the moderation. Then there are whole weeks that go by (when we visit with family, for instance) when the iPad hardly gets any use at all. Maybe it’s just like anything else involved with parenting a child and there is no easy answer. I just don’t know. For now, I lean toward “more good than harm” – but I have to wonder, am I leaning that way because it’s true, or am I leaning that way because it’s easy? Has your child taken possession of your tablet? How do you respond? Am I overly worried here?

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