Friday, March 30, 2007

Writer's Block

I’ve been trying all morning to come up with a clever,
humorous way to address the topic of child leashes and I just can’t. I’ve got a mild case of writer’s block,
which stems from my current obsession with making a pair of pants for my
daughter. It’s some sort of right of
passage that I feel I must complete. I
must make my daughter an article of clothing. I am, after all, a capable seamstress. Shouldn’t she benefit from my talent in some capacity? Try as I may, I can’t seem to focus on
anything else.

So, if anyone has any opinions about leashes for children,
please share them. Perhaps it will
inspire me. There IS humor there. SNL managed to capitalize on it with Mike
Myer’s short-lived “Phillip the Hyper Hypo” skit and, let’s be honest, there’s
nothing funnier than a three-year-old kid trying desperately to run while his
Mom yanks him back like the family dog, knocking him to the ground in one fell
swoop. Any recent blog-worthy human
leash sightings? If so, please share
them. I need inspiration.

I’m heading upstairs to work on the pants. Afterwards I plan to peruse the Internet in
search of a child leash sewing pattern. Then I can make my daughter a leash and get some real world experience
for my “Freak on a Leash” blog. Gotta
love multi-tasking!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Crying It Out

Sleep is such a hot topic these days among mothers of babies
and toddlers. We have nothing better to
do than to sit around judging each other for our too-soft or too-harsh
sleep methods. How can something as
simple and essential as sleep cause so much controversy? There are books written on the topic,
copyrighted sleep methods and a line drawn clearly in the sand that divides
those parents who choose to use the “Cry It Out” (CIO) method and those who
think said method is cruel and unnecessary.

A self-proclaimed sleep Nazi, I stand decidedly on the “Cry
It Out” side. My son was a good sleeper
until he reached about 18-months of age and developed a will of his own. He decided, at that point, that he would not
go to sleep without a fight and commenced screaming and crying when I laid him
in his crib. I have some major sleep
issues myself and need 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night in order to
function effectively as a human being, mother and wife. If I do not get this sleep at least most of
the time, everyone suffers when I morph into a raving lunatic with a short
fuse and a sharp tongue. Mama must have her sleep.

After some research on sleep problems and
methods, I realized that this sleep situation was a battle of the wills and it
was one I was determined to win. I read
that letting a child cry it out to get to sleep was an effective, non-cruel
method as long as the child did not feel abandoned. Equipped with my plan of non-abandonment, I slid on my boxing gloves and prepared for battle at my son’s
next naptime. I read him stories and
laid him in bed. He immediately stood
up, screamed and threw a fit. I turned
off the light, walked out of the room and checked the clock. After five minutes he was still crying so I
went back in, laid him down and left. I
waited another five minutes and repeated this action. Then, I added one minute to each interval after that. It took my son two very long, painful hours
but he finally did get to sleep. I won
the battle. That night my son cried and
screamed when I put him to bed but he gave up after less than ten minutes and
went right to sleep. The war was
over. He was sleeping again. Crying It
Out worked.

My son is four years old now and my daughter is nearly
two. Both of them sleep in their own
beds through the night. They are both
happy and healthy and, all things considered, relatively well adjusted. I do not think that my son bares any
emotional scars from one afternoon of crying in five to ten minute intervals and,
if they are there, they certainly pale in comparison to the emotional scars he
would bare from being disciplined, day after day, by a sleep-deprived

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monkey Speak

My son spent several minutes yesterday getting in touch with
his wild side. He was pressed up
against a glass partition, face to face with a chimpanzee, grunting and
screaming in a primal way. The
chimpanzee responded by casually slapping the glass where my son’s face was
every once in a while. This sent my son
and his friends into hysterics. It was
very entertaining to watch.

We were attending a birthday party at the zoo and it
included a private tour for the party guests.  We stood in the chimpanzee exhibit for
several minutes, letting the kids interact with the creatures. After a couple minutes of monkey-speak, a crowd of kids gathered and
there was a mini-chorus of unpleasant grunts and screams and squeals of
laughter when the chimpanzee finally did respond in his nonchalant way. My son’s monkey dialogue was very
unpleasant but I did not want to stop it. I heard the Spirit of Steve Irwin whispering in my ear, “Let him talk to the
monkeys. It may be his calling in life. Jane Goodall needs a successor.” So I did. I listened to the voice of the Crocodile Hunter and let my son commune
with the chimp. This process was made a
little challenging by the presence of our cute tour guide, Ian, who I was
crushing on a little bit. He clearly
enjoyed children and encouraged any type of interaction between them and the
animals but he also clearly thought my son was a superfreak. I considered squelching my son’s monkey
tirade to make a favorable impression on Ian and then I snapped back to
reality. I remembered that I was
happily married and that Ian was probably 10 years younger than me and not
interested in a slightly overweight married woman with two children who drives
a minivan. My son grunted like a
primate. I laughed and snapped a
picture of him, the future successor of Jane Goodall with an uncanny ability
to talk to the monkeys.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Poultry Pudding

I met some friends for lunch today at the mall and went through my usual mall routine: 

  • Pick up Chic-Fil-A for the kids

  • Push the stroller through a sea of tables and people to find a table big enough to hold a half dozen kids and four adults

  • Get out the kids’ food, drinks and condiments (there are always condiments)

  • Make the obligatory finally-ready-to-eat bathroom trip

  • Wait my turn to get my food (the Mamas take turns)

  • Eat

  • Nag my son to eat his food

  • Eat

  • Bribe my son so that he eats his food

  • Eat

  • Break up a fight between my son and Katherine

  • Eat

  • Break up a fight between my son and Camden

  • Threaten my son within an inch of his life in order to get him to eat

  • Wipe ketchup off my daughter’s new shirt

  • Eat

This is the normal sequence of events at the mall. I know the mall may not seem like the best
place for kids but it has a free indoor playground that the kids and I frequent
when the weather is questionable. Today
things took a turn for the worse when my son refused to swallow his chicken

This has happened before but it was a long time ago and I
had forgotten how utterly absurd and frustrating it is. I told him that he could not have an
ice-cream cone until he ate his last chicken nugget and he obediently put the
whole nugget into his mouth where it stayed for at least 15 minutes (this is
NOT an exaggeration). By the time the
other kids were finishing up their ice cream, my son had a mouthful of chicken
paste and a melting dish of ice cream in front of him.

He chewed that chicken until it was poultry pudding but he
would not swallow it. My response was
the same as any reasonable parent’s would be: anger. My pulse was racing. I felt
sick to my stomach every time he spoke and bits of chicken pudding would
shoot out of his mouth and land on the table or my lap. My friends were dry heaving just watching
him and I had to fight the urge to grab him by his ears and yell, “Just swallow the damn
chicken!” This was obviously not an
option so I waited, reminding him intermittently about his melting ice cream. It got down to the wire and he asked me for
a drink. After a couple sips the drama was over. The chicken paste was gone. I gave my son his ice cream and my blood pressure started to
normalize. I took my napkin and wiped
the fallout chicken bits from my son’s whining off of my lap and went on with my
day, privately wondering if there were any other 4-year-old nut cases out there
who held meat in their mouths for extended period of time for no particular

Monday, March 19, 2007

Porter's Salve

Yesterday my son got a splinter. We were at my parent’s house and it was late in the
afternoon. He was playing in the dirt. I was inside, preparing to leave, when I heard a screech. My son came running in the house, screaming
as if he had just been attacked by a cougar. He was completely hysterical. I
gave him a hug and did my best to comfort him but he was inconsolable and incapable of communicating in a coherent
manner. I did not see any obvious
wounds so I decided to wait until he calmed down to find out what
happened. He finally yelped between
screams that he had gotten a splinter.  Here's a little sample of his rant:

“Get it out Mommy! I
want it to stop hurting. I don’t want
it to get in my body! I want you to
make it stop hurting. Ow! Owie! Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. It hurts! It hurts! It hurts! Ow!” This was repeated over and
over again in an unbearably loud, piercing screech. I enlisted my Mother, an RN, to help me get the splinter
out. We sat my still-hysterical son on
the bathroom counter and tried to get him to let my Mother see his
splinter. Here’s how he responded:

“I don’t want tweezers. NO tweezers! You get it out
Mommy. You just get it out with your
hand! Get it out! Ow! Ow! Ow! It hurts! It still hurts! It hurts real

My Mom left to sterilize a needle (the splinter was embedded
pretty deep and no part of it was sticking out). After she walked out of the room I asked my son if I could look
at it. He was apprehensive but he allowed
me to look at his finger after he determined that I did not have any tools in
my possession.

“Get it out with your hands Mommy. I don’t want tweezers,” he begged me between screams of pain.

I tried, unsuccessfully, to dig it out with my nails. I told him that I couldn’t get it out unless
I used tweezers. He freaked and
continued to scream. I don’t think I
can do his behavior justice. If Wes
Craven were around to hear it, he may have hired my son to do some voiceover
work on his next horror flick. It was
awful, ear-piercing and unbelievably frustrating. I wondered if it would ever end and my mind started to race. Did he break his finger? What about his arm? What if he broke his arm and I am squeezing
his poor, little broken bones with a death grip to get this stupid splinter
out? Why is he screaming? Did he fall and bump his head while he was
outside, inflicting a concussion that makes him scream uncontrollably? Shit. I’m the worst mom ever.

After much drama, we gave up trying to get the splinter out and packed the kids in the
car. My son was still screaming
uncontrollably. As I was backing out of
the drive-way, doing my best to come to terms with my new life as the mom of
the kid with the concussion that makes him scream uncontrollably, a light bulb
went off in my head. Porter's Salve! I forgot about my husband’s family’s old
school, Appalachian remedy. Porter's
Salve is a drawin’ salve (I absolutely cannot spell ‘drawing’ the correct way
and convey what this product is). It’s a product that was probably featured in ads in Kentucky during episodes of “Hee Haw”
in 1975. It works, though. It “draws things out.” I wouldn’t use it to remove a bullet embedded
in my chest (my husband’s family would) but it sure does work like a charm on

When we got home I put some Porter's Salve (the Hale's always have a can on-hand) and a band-aid on
the splinter. The screaming had ceased,
thank goodness, and my son seemed resigned to a life of chronic pain. We just finished dinner and I removed
yesterday’s band-aid. There is no trace
of that pesky splinter in my son’s finger. Nothin’ like a little Appalachian folk remedy, y’all!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Zero to Crazy

I welcomed Damien back into my home today. He made a brief (here’s hoping!) but
significant return into my life. I’ve
decided to blame his return on daylight savings time. My kids are waking up later than usual and have yet to adjust to
the new time schedule. Springing
ahead seems to be a significant adjustment for them. Thank goodness this week is spring break and, as such, I have
unplugged the alarm clock and assigned my son the task of waking up
Mommy.  This morning my son trotted up
the stairs at 8:55 and announced his presence with a, “Good morning
Mommy!” I roused myself out of sleep,
made a b-line for the shower and went through my usual morning routine. We came downstairs, got my daughter out of
her crib and went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. As I was microwaving some mini-pancakes and
pouring the milk, my son yelled from the living room, “I’m going to eat my
breakfast in the living room Mommy.” I
reminded him of our rule that all meals were to be eaten in the kitchen. He asked again, “Please Mommy, can’t I just
eat my breakfast in the living room? I
promise I won’t make a mess.” Once
again, I told him that he could not. Then, as if my
words triggered a switch in his brain, my son’s behavior went from zero to crazy
in two seconds flat. He took his
beloved stuffed dog, threw it at me and said in his almost-forgotten demon

His rage and throwing the toy qualified him for an
immediate time-out. He fought me,
hitting and kicking while I carried him to the naughty mat. He refused to stay on the mat and was
therefore taken to his room. I locked
the door (this may sound harsh but when my son is raging it is the only way to
keep him confined). He raged and
and said incoherent things in his demon screech for the first two
minutes of his time-out. I heard many
objects hitting the door with a thump.

I made a decision, right then and there, that whatever toy
fallout was in his room from getting thrown against the door was going directly
into the trash. As I walked into his
room to release him from time-out, I said a little prayer that none of his good
toys would be on the floor. I got
lucky. There were two large toys that
had clearly been thrown against the door multiple times and both of them were
bought at yard sales. They still had
significant value for him but there was no sentiment or major cost involved so
it made the trip to the trashcan relatively painless for me. My son, on the other hand, had a conniption
fit when I dropped the truck and helicopter in the trashcan. I took him by the hand, led him to his door
and let him look at the damage he had done. The door looked like it had been attacked by a rabid tiger. It was covered in scratches and nicks. Thank goodness it is old and made of solid
wood. Otherwise it would have never
survived my son’s toy assault.

It is 5:00 now and both my kids are napping. We have all recovered from the
daylight-savings-time-induced hysteria episode. I’ll have to remember this next time we have to adjust our clocks
in the fall. I’ll do a little exorcism
the day after we “fall behind.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Parental Ingenuity

A personalized CD of mixed children’s songs, a package of
sidewalk chalk with a personalized label, a size-appropriate T-shirt with an iron-on transfer of Elmo; these are
all party favors that my children have received in the past couple of
years. This once simple party accessory
has evolved into a full-fledged contest of parental ingenuity. It is no longer acceptable to fill cheap
plastic bags with candy, kazoos and rubber balls. Party favors are a status
symbol and they are less about how expensive they are and more about
originality and creativity.

My friend, Jacquelyn, held a party for her son’s third
birthday today and experienced a little stress as a result of party favor
planning. The goal of the party host
(in most cases, the child’s Mom) is to provide the favor that will make the
best impression on the parents. The
more, “what a great idea!” and “where did you ever come up with that?” you
hear, the better. Jacquelyn managed to
set the bar pretty high with her plastic buckets of sidewalk chalk complete
with a personalized label that featured a picture of her son and said, “Thank
you for coming to my party.” It was a
great idea and one that garnished a great deal of praise. As an added bonus, it was relatively inexpensive.

My daughter’s birthday is less than two months away.  I have yet to book a venue and I'm already contemplating clever party favors.  If you have any ideas that would beat the
personalized sidewalk chalk, please email them to me privately. The party favor contest is one that I must

Friday, March 9, 2007

A Tale of Two Bubbas

I received a “Bubba” pacifier as a baby gift before
I had my son. It was, hands down, my
favorite gift. It is much like the
plastic prosthetic Bubba teeth that gained popularity several years back except
in pacifier form. It is absolutely hysterical.
My daughter has a little love affair going on with her pacifier. She has two addictions in her young
life: her pacifier and her blankie. She can be found with both at least 50
percent of the time when we are home. 

There are many pacifiers hidden throughout our house because
of my daughter’s habit. She’s like a
dog. She finds one, hides it somewhere
in the house and then digs it out days, weeks or months later when she gets the
urge. The Bubba pacifier manages to
find its way into my daughter’s random pacifier rotation. Months will go by and I will forget that it
even exists. It will get filed away
under “MIA” along with the milk-filled Blues Clues sippy cup that went missing in January. Then, out of nowhere, the Bubba pacifier
will make an appearance. It happened
this morning.

I got my son off to school and came back home to get some
things done around the house. My
daughter was playing in her room quietly. I sat down on the couch to fold some laundry and she waddled into the
living room dragging her blankie with that Bubba pacifier in her mouth. I nearly peed my pants. She was dressed in an adorable little dress
with pigtails, dragging her crocheted pink blankie with a mouthful of yellow,
crooked, horse-sized teeth. It was a
classic moment and it made my day. It
appears that I have two Bubbas living under my roof.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

That's What Pirates Do

My kids and I have been taking advantage of the beautiful
weather lately and spending a great deal of time in the back yard. I usually open the back door and let the
kids play on the porch while I get some things done in the kitchen. Then I’ll come outside and read the paper
while they play. I do, however, try to
work in some quality time with them. With my multi-tasking mindset it is sometimes difficult to focus on just
the kids so I try to set up the egg timer for at least one hour of quality play
time. During that time I try to let my
son’s imagination lead us in play. This
always makes for some interesting dialogue. Yesterday was no exception. Here’s the conversation we had:

Son: (up on the
swing set “fort”) Come up here
pirate! Swab the decks! Baton down the hatches! Arrgghhh…

Me: Aye aye

Son: Do you see
those children playing over there?

Me: Yes.

Son: When they
fall asleep, you need to dress up like an old woman and take all of their toys.

Me: (trying to stay
in character) What sir?

Son: You need to
dress up like an old lady and take all of the toys from those children while
they are asleep.

Me: Why?

Son: Because
that’s what pirates do. They aren’t
nice. They take toys from children.

Me: And why do I
have to dress up like an old lady?

Son: To trick the

Me: Because old
ladies would never steel toys from children?

Son: Yes.

Me: OK.

This went on for quite some time. I would don my old lady dress, old lady hat, and old lady cane
and walk around our backyard, stealing toys from unsuspecting sleeping
children. When I brought the toys to my
son he would take out his air sword and air-smash them to bits. We all had fun and I received a life lesson
about the inherent wickedness of pirates as well as the inherent goodness of
old ladies. 

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Birds and the Bees

My friend and I had a discussion at dinner this weekend that
managed to scare the pants off of me. We were talking about the inevitable "birds and the bees" discussion with our kids. She has
a five year old little girl and my son is four so these talks are still a
safe distance away but they are there, looming in a dark corner, laughing at
our fear.

I’m not doing very well in the field of sexual education thus far. According to most experts (and by most
experts I mean Dr. Phil and Supernanny), you should refrain from referring to
your child’s private parts with nonsense words like “pee-pee” and
“wee-wee.” Strike one. My son would hear the word, “penis” (not
from my mouth—I chuckle just thinking about saying it) and wonder what the heck
I was talking about. The fact that one
paragraph ago, I referred to sex as “the birds and the bees” does not bode well
for my future. Experts also suggest
that you should answer children honestly when they ask you questions about
sex. Strike two. My son recently asked me where babies come
from and I was taken off guard and mentioned something about God and tummies. I’m not really
sure what I said and this, I imagine, would not please Nanny Jo.

I guess I am in need of some education in this arena. I want my kids to communicate with me about
these things openly.  The first step in accomplishing this goal is going to
have to be taken by yours truly. I need to let
go of the taboo that surrounds talking about sex myself so that my kids don’t
feel silly or embarrassed when asking me questions. Until I am able to utter the word, “penis” without cracking a smile, I am
completely worthless as a sex educator. I’m off to stand in front of the mirror and utter the words “penis” and
“vagina” five times in succession. Say
it with me now…