Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is that a carrot in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

The FurReal horse has struck - she has officially offended and aroused my husband all at the same time.

See...Santa brought this for our daughter this year:

And in case you can't tell from the picture, it stands about 3 feet high and it's mouth moves. And it eats carrots. Not real carrots, but this big, fake carrot that you put in it's mouth and it begins to chomp. And make noises. Like chomping noises. And it will also turn it's head in your direction if you speak and will try to nuzzle with you.

Combine all of those elements with hubby, who was a bit too close to the horse (and minus the carrot) and, well, "Princess (as she's known in our house), decided it wanted to chomp on something else...which wasn't a carrot and was luckily secured behind a pair of sweatpants.

Thus, red-faced hubby showed up in our bedroom exclaiming,

"I've just been violated by a fake horse."

True Story. The End.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Starlight, star bright

While at a friend's house the other night we were formally introduced to the Elf on the Shelf. I had seen the boxes at Hallmark and even the kids pediatrician asked me if we had one, but I hadn't paid much mind to it. That was until my friends told me how magical it was at making kids behave before Christmas! Then, I decided I must have one!

Sunday morning, in the midst of an apparent Nor'easter, I drove myself to the local Hallmark store and purchased an elf on the shelf. I paid more than was necessary, but I had to have the behavior-modification-elf. As I snuck back in the house, I perched him on the hanging light in the kitchen, and then took the accompanying book upstairs to place in the hallway between the kids bedrooms. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. When would the kids notice him? How would I explain his sudden appearance 4 days before Christmas? They were consumed with Handy Manny on TV so there was no shot they'd come into the kitchen. Ah, ha! A plan.

Me: "Hey, guys. You didn't open up your advent calendar."

There is always chocolate inside so I knew that would do the trick! They scurried into the kitchen, opened their calendar and were still oblivious to my little miracle sitting on the light. That was it, I had to draw attention to him.

Me: "Oh my. What is on the light??" Do you see it?"

Abby: "What is it?"

Alex, looking everywhere but at the light: "What? What? What are you looking at?"

Now both kids are clinging to my legs out of fear of some large bug or spider about to descend on their heads.

Me: "Do you see him? I think it's an elf! He must have jumped in my pocket book at Brendan's house and followed us home."

Abby: "I think it's a girl."

Alex: "What? Where? Where?" He was still spinning trying to locate our little friend.

After a few minutes of some searching, Alex finally got a glimpse and then the questions began.

Alex: "Can you hear us? Is he real? What is he doing?"

I didn't want to try and explain the whole purpose of his visit since it was outlined in the cute book upstairs, so I happily convinced them their feet were cold being barefoot so we all needed socks. This Christmas miracle was turning out to be more work than I had thought but once we read the book all would be revealed.

After finding the book at the top of the stairs, we read it together so they would know he can't speak but only listens and watches, and you can't touch him or he'll lose his magic, that he flies to the North Pole each night to tell Santa what good things they've done and then returns to a new spot each morning, and that we had to name him.

They decided on the name Starlight. Abby still insists he's a girl, which is fine. And Alex has stood beneath him and asked him a million questions,

"Do you speak Spanish? Do you go to school? Can you fly up the chimney? Why won't you talk to me?"

Every morning since Sunday, the first thing they do is run through the house searching for him/her. I think hubby is enjoying finding new places for him to hide each night as much as the kids enjoy searching for him. Abby waves to him/her every time she finds herself in the same room as the elf. Alex is still freaked out that the elf's eyes don't move or blink, yet everyone he meets he shouts with glee, "We have an elf in our house!"

I love that I can use Starlight for leverage when the bickering begins. That elf will definitely be making an earlier appearance in our house next year! Thanks for the introduction, Brendan - better late than never :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My butt has finally defrosted

At the time we booked our adventure in November, a horse drawn ride through the woods of NH seemed like the perfect way to kick off the official Christmas week. And then a snowstorm arrived the night before our adventure. And the temps dropped to the teens. And the snow didn't want to let up the day of the "sleigh ride" so we drove slowly up to NH. And the sleigh ended up being a wagon full of hay - with no seats - and little hay - and mostly snow - on which I sat my butt upon (in only jeans) that caused the snow to melt and subsequently freeze my ass in the temperatures that hovered around 12 degrees.

So, while festive, the "sleigh ride" was a real pain in the ass.

It was decided that this will be our last trek through the NH woods - until next year when I get the email with the discount code for the holiday lighted hayride and I'll think "it wasn't that bad" - sort of like childbirth - and we'll do it all again.

But the Santa Claus at the end was fantastic, as were the reindeer. But my favorite moment was the characters that were along the pathway, waving to the kids, including a giant gingerbread man to whom my son screamed:

"Hey! Hey! Do you know the muffin man?"

which made everyone forget the frigid temps and hard, hay strewn wagon we were in and laugh at his curiosity. But, he was serious. He really wanted to know if he knew the muffin man - but the gingerbread man just kept waving so we'll never know.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The "bad" word

I rarely, if ever, swear in front of my parents. It's just something we never did in our house. I remember one Christmas morning getting a "boom box" and it came with a ton of batteries and I must have said, "Jesus Christ, do you think you got enough batteries?" That brought Christmas morning to a standstill. Vivid memory.

I'm trying to control the potty mouth in my own family now. There is an occasional outburst, but usually I do okay, so I was surprised when we were out to dinner recently and my son blurted out,

"Go ahead, Mommy. Say the bad word you say when you get mad."

I had no idea what he was talking about.

My daughter chimed in with,

"You mean Cucka?"

(Hey, it's better than "shit", right?)

Him: "Nope. The other words!"

Me: "You mean, Darn?"

Him: "Nope, it's in my head. It's going to come out."

Me: "What is it?"

Him: "Shut up."

Phew! I'm not doing so bad controlling the potty mouth after all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Excuse me while I dodge this pine tree

I had to head to the office in Western Mass yesterday for two meetings. How did they go? Oh, they were both cancelled by the time I arrived after 2 hours and 15 mins of dodging pine trees and birch remains on the road from the now famous Ice Storm of '08.

We were very fortunate because we never lost power at our house, but only 5 miles up the road in NH there are still homes in the dark, trees in the road, and power lines scattered about. We lost a tree in our backyard, but now we have some extra firewood this season. Anyone know how long wood needs to dry out before you can burn it?

But what amazed me on the drive West was that so many areas looked like they had been cleared to build new homes - the fact that mother nature could spin her fury and snap huge branches like twigs was amazing. Of course my state-of-the-art Blackberry doesn't have a camera so I couldn't grab any pictures on the way out, but imagine the Jolly Green Giant came to town and just started plucking the heads of trees off like the ends of green beans. It was amazing.

My heart goes out to all the families in hotel rooms or cold homes right before the holidays. If you drive South a few miles you'd never know we had trees covered in ice, touching the ground from the weight - but take my word for it - it is quite a mess up here in the Merrimack Valley and Southern NH.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Here's what I'm thinking

Imagine if everything you thought inside your head came out of your mouth? What if it does and you just can't hear it? Wouldn't that be a hoot?

Children tend to say what they think. Two cases in point recently:

Son: "WOW! She's a super, super, skinny, skinny person."

He was absolutely right. She was. And so skinny it looked like an illness and was hard not to notice. She was also our cashier and I had to stand there in horror as she continued to ring up our items after he shouted out his thoughts about her tiny frame.

Daughter: "Mommy...is that...?"

Me: "No honey, it's not."

I knew what she was going to say because every young, fair-skinned black man in a suit is now Barack Obama in her eyes. Every one. He's everywhere.

But it got me thinking about the innocence of my children and the fact that it is up to me to teach them what is appropriate to say and what is not. We've talked alot about how the world is made up of different ages, shapes, sizes and colors and how cool that is - because if we were all the same it would be realllly boring in our world.

But what if you could live your life without ever having those skewed thoughts in the first place, so you never had to worry about what was going to come out of your mouth? I don't think enough of us remember, or care to remember, that we all share this small planet and a human being is a human being regardless of the external factors that set us apart.

I think this holiday season brings to mind how fortunate I feel to have been raised to accept any and all that enter my world. And I may not become best friends or even lasting acquaintances with many of the people I meet, but nowadays it's nice to have a light conversation and smile with all shapes and sizes, colors and genders, fortunate and less fortunate - because the way our world is changing lately the only thing that can keep us moving forward is the fact that we need each other to overcome. Villages can't be rebuilt and strengthened by just one person.

So, instead of keeping your head down while you are out and about this holiday season, be sure to keep it up and say "Hello" to the cashiers working long hours. Your neighbors whose names you may not know. The strangers at the gym, at the mall, at the grocery store. The mailman, UPS driver, FedEx guy. The police officer, small child, tired Mommy or Daddy at daycare. The high school kid at Starbucks pouring coffee, the waitress and the waiter. The teachers, firemen, and co-worker you hardly know. Say "Hello" to an old friend, new friend, or best friend. To the young man collecting grocery carts in the parking lot, or the delivering that pizza after a long day of your own. Just say "Hello" this time of year and don't ignore the human beings that surround you. But remember, if you have an inappropriate thought, keep it to yourself.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The morning after

The kid's family birthday party went over with only minor injuries and two very tired children on Saturday night. They succeeded in getting new crayons, some warm clothes, PJ's, coloring books, movies and a variety of fun toys. However, the most baffling gift for my son was his huge bucket of peanut butter filled pretzels from his Grampy.

The morning after the party he was still perplexed, yet devouring, this unusual gift. When my kids visit my parents in Maine, they run to the cabinet to eat some of Grampy's peanut butter filled pretzels. So, after pulling the large container out of the birthday bag, he ran over to his Grampy and gave him a hug, then pointing his finger at him he said,

"Grampy! You're not supposed to give me food for my birthday. You're supposed to give me TOYS!"

The next morning he looked at me and very cautiously said,

"Mommy, I don't think I like it when people give me food and clothes for my birthday."

To which I responded,

"Of course you like it. It keeps your belly full and your body warm. It would be no fun to play with toys if you were hungry and cold."

"Oh yeah. I do like those presents."

It's so easy to sway the mind of a 4 year old. The 6 year old - that's a whole other story!

Friday, December 5, 2008

My December promise

Finally! The moment I have been anticipating has happened. In 4 days my daughter will turn 6 years old but she just couldn't wait to be *that much older* before she told me that the reason I was sending her to her bed early last night was, "Because you HATE ME!"

It's out of the way, now. She tried her best to play off my inner insecurity that my children won't know how much I love them but it didn't work. I replied with, "I could never hate you. I will always love you. Now get to your room because you are going to bed early for your behavior tonight." The reason I kept my cool as she screeched, grunted and stomped on the way upstairs was because I promised my children that I would not yell a them this month.

The idea came to me when I was driving around and listening to Christmas music and remembering how much I loved the month of December as a kid. All the lights on the houses. The decorations in the stores. Sitting in my living room with all the lights off except the Christmas tree lights. And I decided that I would try my best to not be the raging lunatic I felt like I was becoming lately - job stress, money stress, holiday stress had me all in knots and it came out as shouting 24/7.

By not "yelling" I am referring to the moments when I raise my voice so loud that the neighbors can clearly hear me shouting - for the 800th time - "This is the last time I am going to tell you to pick up all those toys before I throw them in the trash. Do you understand me??" Of course they understand me. Or the moments in the car when my hands are waving erratically and I'm screaming because I can't handle hearing "Stop copying me, Alex" one more time - and the guy in the car next to me can't see the kids through the tinted windows in the back so he just thinks I'm belting out an 80's tune with the radio or that I may need medical attention.

So far, so good on this journey to just talk in a firm voice, issue warnings and then follow through on timeouts, early bed times, or confiscating objects that are creating strife. And they seem to be reacting better to my requests - unless of course if you think your mother hating you is an inappropriate reaction. I think it's quite normal for an almost-6-year-old who wants to be 12.

If all goes well, I may make it my new years resolution, too!