Friday, May 30, 2008

The Final Countdown

I have reached that stage of my pregnancy where, on a given day, I might get an irresistible urge to paint the entire house, plant an herb garden, or sew a complete set of crib bedding from scratch (note: I don't sew); yet I am officially too big to even put on my pants by myself.  Some call this urge the nesting instinct.  I call it panic.

See, at thirty-six weeks and counting, you suddenly realize you only have about three or four weeks left to be an actual human being (albeit one with a rather large, energetic parasite that starts doing water ballet about 11p.m. each night) before being plunged back into the world of feed, spit-up, poop, feed, spit-up, poop, feed, spit-up, poop -- a world where you exist in such an exhaustion-induced stupor that when you finally come to, you realize you haven't showered or brushed your teeth in six weeks.  (Incidentally, this is the part of motherhood you conveniently forgot when you started to consider getting pregnant again).

Yeah, it's beginning to dawn on me that, unless I act quickly, the crayon mural my two-year-old created on the sliding-glass door will still be there in a year and a half, along with the drips of orange juice on the wall behind the kitchen table, and the twenty-some-odd boxes in the basement labeled "Stuff" left from our last move.

So I've written up a nice long list of impossible tasks to complete before the end of June -- things like cleaning out all the cupboards in the kitchen, organizing the storage room, and finishing the novel I started six years ago.  And I'm all geared up to accomplish every last one of them -- something that would seem so much more achievable if only I could see my shoes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Confessions of a Non-Soccer Mom

I like soccer.  I really do.  In fact, I played soccer for six or seven years as a kid, and in fourth grade my team won the state championship (you should probably know, though, that my contribution to this victory was fairly minimal; that is to say, I occasionally blocked the ball with my face when it was kicked in my direction).

But there's something about walking onto the field with your 5-year-old for his first soccer practice/game that feels like the first day of junior high (minus the zits and bad haircut) -- except the sensation is doubled because you're also feeling it for your preschooler:  Will he make friends?  Score goals?  Or just occasionally block the ball with his face?

Within a couple of weeks, however, I realized this was worse than junior high -- I mean, in junior high you eventually discover other mutant thirteen-year-olds dealing with zits and bad haircuts who will at least sit with you at lunch and not make fun of you when your hamburger goulash gets inextricably lodged in your top braces.  But I quickly became convinced that I would never fit in with the other soccer moms.  

For one thing, the other boys all had names like "Talon" and "Gage" and "Stryker" (as if their parents had actually wanted cars or tools or heavily-armed science fiction action figures instead of kids).   A kid named after a sixteenth-century poet/playwright could get eaten alive out there.

And if the kids didn't get him the parents might:  I actually overheard one of the dads telling his boy who had fallen down and was crying, "If you don't stop crying, I'm gonna sign you up for the girls' team!"  Honest.  I'm not making it up  (I wanted to say something to the guy, but I had problems with what he was saying on so many different levels I didn't know where to start).

And then there was the mom who, every week without fail, dressed her three-year-old daughter up in a sparkly pink and purple cheerleader outfit (complete with pompoms) and reminisced with another mom about their cheerleading days.  This is the same mom who, after watching her five-year-old perform remarkably straight cartwheels out on the soccer field, called him over and said, "If you don't stop messing around and start scoring goals, we're going home!"  Yeah, I'm not making that up either.

So, after going the first three or four games without a goal (in fact, I'm not sure Will even kicked the ball -- he spent most of one game inspecting a weird bug he found in the grass), I began to wonder if I should have prepared him better, practiced with him more, so he would be able to play like the other kids.  

But then I started to appreciate the entertainment value in a kid who, after the first five minutes or so, completely loses interest in the game and becomes oblivious to the ball going back and forth across the field.  

For example:  Gage steals the ball from Stryker and runs down the field.  Talon pushes Gage down, takes the ball, scores a goal.  

Will picks several handfuls of grass and tosses them up into the air.

Talon throws the ball in, Stryker takes it down to the goal.  Gage kicks him in the shin, takes the ball away and scores a goal ("Get him, Stryker!  Get him!" screams Stryker's mom).

Will runs over to show me the pile of rocks he's found on the field.

You know, maybe next year Will will be more interested in the game and score a goal or two, right along with "Ridge" and "Titan" and "Truck" (okay, I might have made some of those up).  Then again, maybe he won't.

But in the meantime, I'm okay with the fact that when the game's over and Gage runs over to his mom and exclaims, "I made five goals today!" Will runs over to me and says, "Guess what Mom!  A kid fell down and I helped him up!"

Good enough for me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The $35 Band-aid: A Hysterical Mom's Guide to Dealing With Minor Lacerations

We have a rule in our house: no broken bones, deep lacerations, or knocked-out teeth after 9 p.m.

The reason for this is simple.  The urgent care clinic (co-pay: $35) closes at 9 p.m. and the emergency room (copay: $400 and up) is, basically, off-limits since we would have to sell the afflicted child (once healed, of course) to pay the hospital bill.

We made this rule early on in our parenting career after Will got croup at ten months and I woke at midnight to hear him gasping for breath. Being the calm, practical mother that I am, I carefully analyzed the situation, then shrieked, "We're going to the emergency room, NOW!" and dragged my half-dressed husband and sick baby to the car.  After three hours or so of waiting, breathing treatments, and doctors looking at this hysterical mother like they wished they had a strait-jacket nearby, we headed home with instructions for steaming up the bathroom to help Will's breathing and an ER bill designed to squeeze our savings account dry.

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson.

So, this morning, when Will was spinning himself and his younger brother around on the office chair (parenthetical warning: two boys + spinning office chair + sharp desk corner = disaster), and I heard a loud smack and that long pre-scream silence that signals catastrophe, I took a deep breath and prepared myself to be calm, practical, and analytical.

Then I walked into the room, saw blood running down the face of my precious two-year-old, and did what any other calm, practical mother would do.

I completely lost it.

I'm the kind of person who, if a grease fire started on the stove, would sit and try to blow it out. My brain simply ceases to function in an emergency (which, by the way, is why I'm a piano teacher instead of, say, and EMT or police officer).  I was lucky to get out the door with both children, my keys, my purse, and my pants on.

Play-by-play of the next two hours: 
Jack stops screaming bloody murder.  
Jack stops bleeding.  
Will and Jack spend next 45 minutes touching every possible surface in the waiting room.
Nurse takes us into examining room.  
Will and Jack spend next 45 minutes touching every possible surface in the examining room.  Twice.  
(Garbage can, three times.)  
Jack swings from the arm rest of the chair and smacks the other side of his head on the wall (heck, if he'd gotten another gash, it could have been a two-for-one deal, right?).
Doctor finally comes in, pokes and prods at cut.
Doctor applies band-aid.
We leave.

Luckily, the whole ordeal only cost us $35 (band-aid included!) and an exhausting two hours at the urgent care clinic.  Not expensive enough to sell a child.

But a spinning office chair, maybe.

Pumpkin Soup

An easy soup that my kids love to help me make.  They can help with everything except heating it on the stove.

1 tsp. onion powder
3 T. butter (melted)
1 can unsweetened pumpkin
1 can chicken broth
1 C. half-and-half
1 t. salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 T. brown sugar or honey
1/4 t. yellow curry (if you like curry)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Warm over medium heat, stirring frequently, until hot but not boiling.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

This is a Russian recipe that usually uses "Tvorog" or farmer's cheese.  I can't find any in my area so I just use cottage cheese, and it works fine (though it doesn't taste exactly authentic).  My kids help me mix them up, and I fry them up.

1 C. cottage cheese
2 eggs
3 T. sugar (Jack's favorite part!)
3/4 cup flour
dash of salt

Combine ingredients and drop by spoonfuls into a frying pan coated with oil or cooking spray.  Brown on both sides and serve with butter, jam, or even sour cream on top.

Easy Peach Dessert

Another fun recipe to make with kids -- just toss in ingredients, mix, and stick it in the oven.  

1 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
1 can peach slices
1/4 C. brown sugar

In a baking dish, combine flour, sugar, egg, soda, vanilla, and salt.  Mix in peaches.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake at 325 for 35-40 minutes.  Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.