Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stories: How Maleficent Got her Castle Guards

[N.B. - The Maleficent Stories are getting more simple, but He'en is still buying them, so we carry on. This one requires appropriate sound effects, indicated in caps. In this regard, it is helpful to have only a preschooler for your audience. They will appreciate it. Others may not.]

Once upon a time, Maleficent was flying around the kingdom, making mischief --

Aside: "What does that mean?"
Little voice: "Making twubble. Because she iss twubble."
Aside: "That's right, she is trouble."

-- and a thought came into her head. And the thought was, "I think I would like some guards for my castle." [See How Maleficent Got Her Castle]

She knew she would need lots of guards, so she looked for lots of something. She flew and she flew until she found a field of dandelions.

"I will have those for my castle guards," she said. And in a POOF of green smoke, she turned all the dandelions into castle guards. But because they were --

Little voice: "DAN-de-yions!"

-- right, dandeLIONS, the guards all started to ROAR!


"I do not want a castle full of guards saying ROAR," said Maleficent. So in a POOF of green smoke, she changed them all back to dandelions.

Maleficent flew on until she found a field of bluebells. "I will have those for my castle guards," she said. And in a POOF of green smoke, she changed all the bluebells into castle guards. But because they were blueBELLS, the guards all started to go DING-A-LING-A-LING!


"I do not want a castle full of guards all going DING-A-LING-A-LING!," said Maleficent.

Little voice: [giggle]

So in a POOF of green smoke, she changed them all back to bluebells.

Maleficent flew on until she found a field of crabgrass. "I will have those for my castle guards," she said. And in a POOF of green smoke, she changed all the crabgrass plants into castle guards. But because they were CRABgrass, the guards all started to go SNAP SNAP SNAP with their crabby claws!


 "I do not want a castle full of guards all going SNAP SNAP SNAP!," said Maleficent. So in a POOF of green smoke, she changed them all back to crabgrass.

Maleficent flew on until she found a field of pigweed.  "I will have those for my castle guards," she said. And in a POOF of green smoke, she changed all the pigweed plants into castle guards. Now, pigweed is very strong and sturdy, and so were the castle guards. They were made from PIGweed, so once in a while, they said SNORT and OINK. But they were very good guards.

"These are the guards I want for my castle," said Maleficent. So in a POOF of green smoke, she magicked them all to the castle.

And that . . . SNORT . . . is how Maleficent . . . OINK . . . got her castle guards.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brewster's Thousands: A Love Story

Remember the movie Brewster's Millions? IMDB sums it up nicely, thusly: "A minor league baseball player has to waste $30m in 30 days in order to inherit $300m; however he's not allowed to tell anyone about the $300m deal."

I basically have the same challenge, except that a) the numbers are more reasonable, and b) I am allowed to acquire assets. Well, Stuff, anyway. We're moving forward toward the new house. Closing is set. We're waiting for a final word from the bank.

This is the Dream House, the aerie for our baby eagles, our home base for the next 20 years or so. It's also substantially larger than our current rental, and so Stuff is needed. Stuff and More Stuff. And, oh, after so many years of pouring every penny into the business, please please let it be Pretty Stuff!

To his everlasting credit, DH has declared that Pretty Stuff is in order at last, and he has given me a generous nest-feathering budget. I still am Midwestern enough to want a bunch of bang for my buck. I've created Pinterest boards for each room of the house, and I've had an absolutely lovely time playing "high/low" with furniture.

But here's the catch:  DH is an entrepreneur's entrepreneur. If there's money sitting around, it squeaks in a Jiminy Cricket voice, "Invest me! Invest me!" until it gets diverted into a new venture. Accordingly, if I do not feather this nest just as fast as I can, my nest-feathering budget will turn into a portfolio-diversifying budget.*

There's another catch: DH, reasonably, wants a say in how his nest is feathered. Here's where I learn that I could never be a designer: you pick out everything, and it works perfectly, and it's all in budget and set for on-time delivery, and then the damned client goes and has opinions. What the what?!

Psst . . . okay, don't pass this around . . . it is lovely that he has opinions. It's nice to be working together again on something, anything.  For a decade, we pulled side by side at the very heavy wagon of a busy law firm. Those were largely harmonious and happy years, surfing the monster waves of a real estate boom and a two-lawyer lifestyle.  All we did was make boatloads of money. We ate a whole lot of take-out. We paid a terrific guy named Wes to walk our dog, tidy our house, and pick up our dry cleaning. We barely fought at all. When we did, it was about making bigger boatloads of money. (Make no mistake, those days went out with Bush II. Do not write to me for cash).

Then came children.

Now, children are a blessing; we'd never go back; they give new meaning your life; radda radda. It's all true.  I also am sure that having small children brings some couples closer together. Somewhere in the universe, surely there is a closer-together couple with kids under five who are cooing about how the night feedings, baby drool, shrieking time-outs, diaper changes, preschool runs, and whack-a-mole bedtimes raised their marriage right up to the next level of intimacy.  Somewhere. In the universe.

When you find that couple, I want you to send them right to me, so I can make a zillion dollars off their Oprah and Ellen appearances.

With saintly patience, therefore, I accept and even cherish DH's decorating vetoes.  I appreciate that he realizes there's a house that keeps the rain off the Stossel.  I also appreciate that he's willing to bankroll a decorating project. I appreciate that a whole lot.

So I strive for good cheer while watching my carefully selected designer-copycat rooms disintegrate into the "collection of stuff we just plain like" style of decorating. At the most extreme our new home will look a lot like our preschooler's outfit from this afternoon's walk: pink and lavendar glitter shoes, white tights, black tulle dress with a leopard print bodice and pink trim, red sweater, pink hat with sequins, purple mittens. It's a total fashion mashup, and she's happy, because it's all stuff she likes.

Mashup or not, it's all good.  The last five years have been a very rolly rollercoaster.  I feel -- and am truly lucky that -- we've made it to the rollout, a long clankety place where I can slow down a little, breathe a little, and relish the mundane-but-not-simple task of picking out furniture with my husband. For the nonce. Until he finds a new capital-intensive venture. Spend! Spend like the wind!


* Lest you think I joke about allocation of resources, when we owned our last house DH bought an airplane while I frittered around delaying the kitchen remodel until a cabinet door actually fell off in my hand. Although I have never claimed to be the brightest bulb on the tree, I don't intend to make this mistake twice.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mountain Chic and Other Myths

After a week of vibrating like a violin string from a virulent combination of sick kids, moving boxes, bank loan activity, and a family pre-Thanksgiving celebration (the only bright spot in a dark week) -- all of which may be the subject of future posts, so stay breathlessly on this channel -- I have settled down to the challenge of Packing for the Big City Trip.

Why, may you ask, am I Packing for the Big City Trip when said trip is thirty days away? Yes, you may well ask. And I will answer: in the next twenty-two days, we are closing on a new house, moving to a new house, traveling for Thanksgiving, and sending DH off on a series of business trips that will leave me largely single parenting, albeit with Sister's able and faithful assistance.

The upshot: I am using this calm before the storm to get my Big City gear fitted out and dry-cleaned before I forget something. Like underwear.

The Big City Trip will include a stay at one of the region's sniffier lodgings (where women weren't even allowed in the door until our generation), luncheon with a notable Ivy League professor, a cocktail event, and a black-tie wedding, plus assorted gypsying-around-the-Big-City activities.  All of this requires clothing.

"Oh," says DH, "Just throw a few things in a suitcase." Um, yeah.

The black tie event turned out to be the easy part.  I found a formal gown in my closet to fit over my lumpy Mama-body. (Miraculous. Let's hear it for hoarding.) And the thrift store, on command, coughed up a vintage opera coat, like this, but black velvet and ankle-length. Who knew, right? Apparently when you shop at the Christian Outreach Benefit Thrift store, prayers get answered. Anyway, I can rock that look.

The luncheon and gypsying activities are much, much more difficult. You'd think, because we live in a mountain town, that I could portage my Mountain Chic look over to the Big City without any effort whatsoever. But it turns out that Mountain Chic is not really what you wear in the mountains. You don't wear blazers to the grocery store in three feet of snow, even if they are tweed, and especially not with shorts. And the Fall 2012 collections have, in my opinion, gone completely off the beam with stiletto hikers.  If I scuffed these boots on a fallen log, even assuming they could be worn anywhere outside a limo, you would hear me screaming all the way to Milan's Spring 2013 Fashion Week. Which has already happened. So it would be a time-traveling scream.

Ergo, although I have lots of mountain gear, I am not Mountain Chic. I have flannel shirts (from my favorite consigment shop). I have skinny jeans (even one pair that's not maternity). But the look somehow does not approximate this Michael Kors combo.  I know my limitations. I could buy a nice sofa for that amount of money.

Off to glare the closet while Dragon Girl sleeps. I will report more soon.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sweet Peace, Bitter Guilt . . . Oh, the Heck with the Guilt

I was just thinking that I haven't used the "momguilt" label enough lately. It's a lovely late-fall afternoon. Snow is melting off the trees. Turkey soup is underway on the stove. Challah dough is obediently rising, and in a few minutes I will collect He'en for the braiding.  I will go shovel the porch in just a moment. Probably.

Dragon Girl is napping in her bassinet after a happy day of snuggles and play with her beloved auntie. He'en is in her room with a new My Little Pony, enjoying her time of snuggles and play with her beloved auntie.

And I, am I holding either one of them? Playing with either one of them? Oh, no. I am sitting in the kitchen nibbling cheese and crackers, perusing other momblogs.

On the one hand, I want to defend myself and say "Well, I had all night with Dragon Girl, and a cozy morning snuggle, and we'll reconvene this evening for the night shift."

As to the older child, I want to defend myself and say, "I took He'en to the thrift store, and we sewed together on her Halloween costume, and we made challah dough together and we will soon perform the happy daily ritual of braiding it."

Those things sound good. But they do not a full day constitute.


20 calendar days later:

Pfft, what was that? I am so over the guilt. Those things do damned well a full day constitute.  About six seconds after I sat down to write the above post (completing only what you see), Dragon Girl woke up and demanded milk; He'en emerged from her room and demanded everything; the dog arose from her cushion and demanded pets, treats, and in/out/out/in activity, and everybody generally required a bit ol' slice of Mama Pie.

Accordingly, I post the above and this coda as a reminder to Mamas everywhere, and myself, too:  carpe the heck out of those precious me-moments. You never know when they will appear, and they are fleet fickle little suckers.

Now here is He'en, announcing that she has goosebumps and crawling into my lap as I type. I must go debump my kid.


Three minutes later:

Goosebumps soothed, He'en announces calmly, "I'd yike honey on my Cweam of Wheat. Oh. And yast night I peed in my bed an' my jams."

Oh indeed.

Now, what I was I saying about seizing those little moments?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Whaddaya Want for Breakfast? v.1

When I was pregnant with #1, I had grand and firm ideas about parenting. I would do thus-and-so. I never would do this-or-that. And, though the merciful heavens know that I don't like to judge, any parent who does such-and-such is clearly off the rails.

Fast-forward nearly five years, and I have managed some thus-and-so, but also fallen into some this-or-that, and have participated in an embarassing amount of such-and-such.  The reality of kids is just a different animal:

Eating in the car?
Before kids: "Never! Have some respect for the vehicle!"
After kids:  Cheerios everywhere.

Food bribes?
Before kids: "Pshaw! Those parents are smoking crack!"
After kids:  "If you're good for just five more minutes, just five, okay, two, okay, one, okay just put that down and we will have a treat at checkout."

Before kids:  "I will always make sure the child is decently dressed."
After kids: Have bodily carried into an airport carried a screaming, thrashing child wearing a Tinkerbell nightgown and no underwear. (In my defense, we managed to negotiate some coverage in the rental car return bay).

Lest any nonparents doubt, I am having an apple core shoved in my face as I type with the announcement, "Yook how much I ATE! Now YOOK how big my bey-ye [belly] is, do you see?" with a cheerful display of preschooler skin over the pajama waistband.

Yes, pajamas. And, yes, it's 4:30 p.m. I told her to change clothes after preschoool and she did. Pajamas are clothes, right?  I guess so.  I am not about to quibble over the choice of clothing. This is how low we go.

*** time warp to the following morning ***

But the ground I have held, and still hold, is the one marked with the big neon sign that says I Am Not Running a Restaurant Here. This morning provides a perfect example. I am cracking eggs into a bowl and I ask He'en if she wants White American or Cheddar in her eggs.*

Mom: "Would you like White American or Cheddar?"
He'en: "Um, I wan' a dip-dip egg in-stead."

"Dip-dip egg" = over easy. Unfortunately for He'en, I had already started to scramble the eggs in the bowl.

Mom: "Sorry, sweetie, I am making scrambled today. But you can pick your cheese."
He'en: [welling up] "But! But! But I really wannnn-ed a dip-dip egg!"
Mom: "Tomorrow you may have dip-dip egg. Today is scrambled."
He'en: [spilling over] "But I wan'ned it to-DAY!"
Mom: "Yesterday you were very upset that you didn't have raisin bran. So this morning you have raisin bran. In the same way, I will make you a dip-dip egg tomorrow."
He'en: [unable to speak through stormy fake sobs]
Mom: [wearily] "Go ahead to your room until you can get ahold of yourself, honey."
Foley: little feet trotting off, then a fair SLAM of a bedroom door.

I continue scrambling eggs, with White American cheese, because that sounds sorta good to the Mama this morning. After a decent interval, I hear a rustle from the living room.

From the living room:
He'en: [cough, cough]

In the kitchen:
Mom: [scramble scramble]

He'en: [cough, cough]
Mom: [scramble scramble]
He'en: [cough, cough]
Mom: [scramble scramble]
He'en: [cough, cough]
Mom: [scramble scramble]

She blinks first and edges into the kitchen.

He'en: [cough cough] "Mom? I fink I am sick."
Mom: "Oh, you do? Too sick to eat breakfast?"
He'en: [clearing throat] "Yes. I fink I just need some med'cin."
Mom: "So no breakfast. Well, that's a shame, because I just dished you up some mandarin oranges."

This was straight-up dirty pool: mandarin oranges are her particular favorite. And, in this case, as they have so many times before, they triggered a miracle cure. Next frame: Happy He'en, cheerfully eating her mandarin oranges, raisin bran, and scrambled eggs with White American cheese.

It would really have been easier to just ask her, "What do you want for breakfast?" But, as I said, I'm not running a restaurant here.

*I know that some parents -- my own mother possibly among them -- would wonder if this choice of cheese, standing alone, gives too much leeway. But Sister says, and I agree, that a) kids need to practice making choices and living with consequences, and b) there is so little that a 4-year-old can control in her world that it's healthy for them to get choices whenever practical. Note those last two words: wherever practical. That means practical for me, the Mama.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Undaunted, or, The Backfire

Helen is contentedly eating her pink-dyed, flower-shaped, Sunday morning pancake when I discover the counter graffiti:

Mom: "He'en? What is the rule about markers on the counter?"

He'en: [pausing a mouthful of pancake with a guilty start] "Um . . . I'm sawwy?"

Mom: "I am sure you're sorry, but what is the rule?"

He'en: "No dwaw-een wifout assking."

Mom: "That's right. This is permanent marker. That means it's very hard to get off. After you eat your egg, you will help me scub it off."

He'en: [cheerfully, through a mouthful of egg] "O-kay!"

After a decent interval, He'en is installed with sponge, soap, and a mandate to scrub until the black mark disappears. She sets to.

He'en: [scrub scrub] "I yam skwubbing."

Mom: "Yes, you are."

He'en: [reflectively] "I am do-ween Miss Tina's wuhk."

Mom: "Well, Miss Tina's work is cleaning and tidying, and that is everyone's work, all the time. But she does the very best job of it."

He'en: [scrub scrub] "Whew. Diss is HAWD."

Mom: [with an unlaudable level of parental satisfaction] "That's right, it is hard.  Keep scrubbing."

He'en: [scrub scrub] "Whew. I am TYE-yud!"

Mom: [firmly] "That's right. And when you draw on counters, and places where you shouldn't, Mom and Miss Tina get tired because we have to work hard to clean it up."

He'en: [contrite] "Eye unna-Stan."

Mom: [inordinately pleased with the outcome of this object lesson] "Let me see . . . nope, no more is coming off. I will try Comet later. You can stop scrubbing now."

He'en: "Iss oh-kay. I will keep skwubbing."

Mom: "Okay, if you want to."

Time passes. I wash dishes. Scrubbing sounds and the occasional gasp of effort emanate from the other end of the kitchen. Until:

He'en: "Mom! Yook!"

She has worked up a half-inch layer of soapsuds and now waves the sponge as if she's conducting Ride of the Valkyries.

Mom: "Oh, that's very . . . um . . . don't throw soapsuds, honey."

He'en: "I haff made a Y! Two yines up, and one yine down!"

She points, then adds another little flourish with the sponge. Suds cascade off the counter and onto the floor.

Mom: "That's very nice. Um . . . the counter . . . could . . . oh, never mind . . ."

I throw a dishtowel on the floor in the general direction of the soapfest.
He'en: "Come see! I am vewwy fast, so you can' see me goin'!"

Mom: "Yes, that's a very nice Y."

Scrub scrub scrub scrub . . . scrub, scrub. Suds are now ghosting around the kitchen like snowflakes.

He'en:  [joyously] "Now I haff made an H! It goesss two up and one acwoss. Come see!"

Mom: "Come see your H?"

He'en: "Yes! Okay!  I am done wiff dis counter!"

Shedding a small flurry of soap bubbles, she slides off her stool and brandishes her sponge with a bright sparkly look. Suds and water run down her arm. They puddle on the floor. Her bathrobe arms are sodden. She never has looked more cheerful. I am certain that she has no recollection whatsoever that this delightful morning activity began as a punishment.

He'en: "Dat countah is ALL clean!  Now what else kin I skwub?"

Her lack of remorse powers her through the other two kitchen counters, the microwave, a set of cabinets, the front of the fridge, and the stepladder before her arm gets tired.

I am filing this one under "Father's Gene Pool."