Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lucky Dryer Sheets

Okay - earlier in the week, I gave a shout out to the single parents. I'm serious about that. This week, while extremely fun and entertaining was also quite stress filled and also gave me a whole new insight to "family life".

I realize - as I have for a while and my sister Denise can attest to - that being single is a selfish way of life. Not a single soul makes any demands on me. With the exception of work, which is a given. Even that I could take or leave, realistically I am beholden only to myself. If I wanted to quit my job, sell my home, and live in a yurt on the profits - no one is going to stop me. If I want to sleep in until 3 pm on Saturday afternoon, wake up and eat a brick of cheese, and go back to bed, again, no one is going to interrupt that agenda.

So going from that selfish and self indulgent life - to being a Single Aunt of three was a shock to the system. A good shock - it makes me understand why Denise doesn't always have time to listen to my witty banter about geeked up things like scooters and event planning. It also made me realize while I was trying to have conversations with the other family members that called...there's a valid reason that she hangs up on us so quickly. It's because her children are inventive and busy.

They are great kids - wicked smart - endlessly enthusiastic - loud - creative - demanding but helpful. For example, one day, Isabel had left her coat upstairs. So while we were having a discussion about coats and coming upstairs with me to get it (in an effort to show that life is easier when things are in their proper place [side note: Damn it Dad you were right about the whole, cleaning and ordered life business. I hate when that happens.] and I am thinking - you're never too young to get in on these "lessons") Well, Grace offered to run upstairs and grab Isabel's coat. When she returned, Isabel, the 3 year old, mind you... said, "Oh Grace, I appreciate that you got my coat." C'mon - how many 3 year olds say appreciate and use it in proper context?

These are the types of kids that say please and thank you because they mean it - not because they are prompted, falsely encouraged or bribed into doing such behaviors. With the occasional gentle reminder - of course - after all, they are human kids and not some sort of strange Iowa pod-people.

It was in the "small" moments that you realize why parents are frazzled. For instance when you're not in charge of a little person you forget that you have to speak in specifics. You can't say, "Please go pick up your room." Because when they are 8 and under - they don't get that you really meant, "If I step on one more rigid and uncharacteristically sharp dolly hand you will wake up to find all of your doll's hands have magically melted into the round little balls that won't pierce the soles of adult feet like some sort of Mid-Century torture - so if you like your dolls to have 10 fingers, put them in their dolly beds!"

We had a blissfully welcome late start day on Thursday. School didn't start until 10:15* I, in my wisdom and strong desire to sleep past 5:45 a.m. made the following statement to Grace, age 8. "Hey Grace, tomorrow's a late start day, so your alarm doesn't need to go off at 6:00 a.m. Okay?"

She responded in kind, "Oh, that's no problem, it's set for 6:15. And the 2nd alarm is set for 6:30."

What? What? Oh, I get it - see I said you don't have to set if for ANY time during the 6:00 hour and you thought...okay - actually, I can GUARANTEE that all of you will be awake LONG before you need to be in order for me to feed you a proper breakfast and get your butts to school. And this was true. Thursday night was the night that Isabelly woke up at 4:30 - stayed up until 5:30 and Grace woke up at 6:45. Thanks for sleeping in buddy!

It's other strange occurrences, like the fact that even though the Ikea bowls have no visible differences to the adult eye - these kids could determine from WHICH of the white bowls they preferred to eat. Which ultimately meant that one of the children was eating from the unloved white Ikea bowl. Really? What's different about the bowls. "Nothing." Okay, then WHY the fuss? "I dunno."

Also - I forgot about the elements of the random and the totally bizarre. We decided to put the sheets on Mom & Dad's bed as a group so that they'd have a nice comfy, clean bed to crawl into when they got home. At one point between stretching out the fitted sheets in ways that would make Martha Stewart go bonkers, Grace happened upon the dryer sheet. She immediately gripped the sheet in her fist, pumped it above her head and stated triumphantly "LUCKY!" Well, upon the realization to the other two chuckleheads standing in the room that there was only 1 dryer sheet and apparently because it had been declared "LUCKY!" they immediately assumed that this was some sort of vile laundry plot where they were being cheated out of the joys of discovering their own lucky used dryer sheet. Lucky dryer sheets? I don't get this behavior. It's random. It's odd. It makes no sense, and I relish in nonsense! My sister has since confirmed that she does not play some bribing game where kids can help out with laundry in hopes of finding their very own lucky dryer sheets that can be redeemed for things like Nintendo DS systems, or ponies, or cats that haven't been diagnosed with feline leukemia shortly after they go home to live with Nana which is why we don't have a cat anymore.**

It's those little things that make the days crazy and treasured all rolled up into one. The true moments that make you scratch your head and you think, "What if there *were* lucky dryer sheets?"

*Actually, school started at 10. So they were late for their late start day...a fact that was brought to light at precisely 3:15 when they were picked up from school. I believe this tardy was forgiven, the one that we got on Friday - well that was legitimate tardy - so if your kids don't get some perfect on-time attendance certificate at the end of the year Denise, I apologize sincerely. Just remind yourself that you came home and they weren't malnourished or ceased to function normally under my care.

**R.I.P. Shiny Glass Luna - the cat, who went home to live with Nana because of "allergies" that was then diagnosed with feline leukemia and died. Which apparently is how the story gets told when retail clerks at Cracker Barrel ask young children if they have any pets.

Aimee (a 30-something clerk at Cracker Barrel that had her own 3-year old son and kept asking about Isabel... "How old is she? When's her birthday again? She's quite quick isn't she?): Hey there. Do you like those? (points at the motorized hamsters that Isabel and I are playing with.) Do you have any pets?

Isabel (my charming 3 year old lunch date): Well, I do have a big black dog. We used to have a cat, Shiny. But it went to my Nana's house and then Shiny got sick and died. So we don't have a cat. But we do have a Patchy. That's my big black dog.

Aimee: Oh my. Well it's nice that you have a dog, even if you don't have a cat.

Isabel: No, because our cat died at Nana's. Do you have new batteries for this one? (Handing Aimee a robotic hamster that apparently doesn't have fresh batteries)

Aimee: I think I do.

Aimee and Isabel continued to have a lovely conversation about hamsters and batteries.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Damn Dog!

Anyone that knows me well, knows that I'm not really an "animal" person. Animals and I have never gotten along. From my very first interactions with animals - cats, dogs, hamsters things haven't gone well. Especially since the Bear Country USA incident.

Last night Patch, the Luna's big black lab, decided to that my purse my be an interesting source of adventure. The kids had received a very lovely basket of Pretzels and Popcorn and Movie Candy along with Balloons and the movie UP - so while we were unwrapping gifts - screaming about balloons and deciding what to do with ribbons and wrapping paper - the dog was busy devouring a pack of chocolate eggs and a package of gum. Now, I know that dogs can't have chocolate. But did you know that dogs can die from Xylitol? Yeah, I didn't. I mean, the cartoons show that when Marmaduke eats gum, he farts bubbles - they don't draw the family out in the back yard digging a giant hole sobbing uncontrollably.

Mind you - I don't fare well in emergency situations where I don't know the answer. So while the kids are screaming about presents, I'm yelling at the dog. I looked up dogs and chocolate online - and figured big lab, less than 2 oz of milk chocolate...diarrhea at the worst.

Then I looked up dogs and gum. Yeah - screw you sugar free gum, with your Xylitol and your dog poisoning. That's not something you want your dog to eat - unless you hate your dog. So I called the vet. After the phone rang 30 times (seriously) Dr. Hoffman answered. I explained the situation. He talked to me like I was 8. Which is fine, in Dog Care Years, I probably am 8. It involved getting Patch to drink Hydrogen Peroxide. He wretched twice but didn't puke. The vet said to wait an hour - if he hadn't thrown up - to call him back. Meanwhile, kids are still going nuts and also asking a thousand questions about their sick dog. "Why are you trying to get Patch to puke?" Stacie, Stacie? Stacie? Stacie? Aunt Stacie? Has he puked yet? Nope. So I call back Dr. Hoffman - he said, "Well, you can try one more thing...put 3/4 teaspoon of salt in the back of the dog's throat." Now mind you, I call Patch a Dumb Dog often - but he's not that dumb. He knows that I screamed bloody murder when he tried to snatch the 2nd package of eggs from my purse. He was already reluctant when I poured the Hydrogen Peroxide down his gullet - so he wasn't to keen on snuggling up to me when I came down with my salt trick. So I bribed him - I'm good at bribing...just ask the kids. I offered him a piece of kibble - he opened up for that, and in went the salt. Well - the salt worked instantly. Salt went in - chocolate, 12 pieces of gum and the piece of kibble landed nicely on the floor. In a gooey dog stomach kind of way.


The kids come down - apparently dog puke is super cool to look at - not so fun to clean up. I call Dr. Hoffman - I say, "Thank you so much, the salt thing worked." That's when he says this comforting nugget of knowledge... "Make sure you watch him for the next 3-4 days. Unless you can see that the salt came up with the puke. Because salt can be toxic for dogs too." Great...that's just great. What kind of symptoms should I be looking for? "Oh, he'll start to show signs of lethargy and may have a seizure." Hey, Doc, got anything else cool that I need to worry about during an already stressful week.

So that evening, as Patch was trying recover from his adventures with Aunt Stacie I was freaking out with every dog twitch, yawn and sigh. I finally just let the dog up on the couch so that if he actually did start to have a seizure I'd least know he was having one.

I don't know what I would done about it - but hey, comfort is found in the strangest of places. Isabel, true to tattling form, came directly down the stairs in the morning and said, "Aunt Stacie! Patch can NOT be on the couch, Mom Said!" - Yeah, well, I'll deal with your Mom freaking out about dog hair on the couch as opposed to having to sit you three little cherubs down to explain that Aunt Stacie killed your dog.

I am missing the animal gene...

Anyone that knows me well, knows that I'm not really an "animal" person. Animals and I have never gotten along. From my very first interactions with animals - cats, dogs, hamsters things haven't gone well. When my family and the Schroeder family decided that a trek to the Black Hills and a quick drive through Bear Country USA were in order - the gang was all on board. Sure, feeding the goats and lambs and horned rams was fun while we all had full red and white striped boxes of popcorn. Horned sheep, goats, lambs and a plethora of other animals back in the day roamed free at Bear Country USA. I'm pretty sure they still do, because it's South Dakota. Back then, if a long horned ram would have gored me, my parents would have shrugged their shoulders and said, "Well, the stupid kid should have just given up her popcorn." They wouldn't have sued or had long horned sheep put down because of their violent natures.

As the animals got more and more greedy - and as the popcorn supply dwindled. The 3 Schroeder boys and my two darling older sisters decided to seek refuge from the hungry hungry animals and climbed to the top of a picnic table. I was not a husky child. I was tiny and blond and I wasn't the assertive lass you all know and love at the time of the Bear Country USA tragedy. It clearly shaped how I feel about animals, zoos and pets in general. A standard picnic table is surely large enough for 6 kids to hang out on. A table being used for refuge from horned sheep could probably in a pinch rescue a classroom of children. My sisters and "the boys" decided that in order to reserve their bubbles of personal space that there was not room for me on top of the picnic table. So I stood on the ground, now surrounded by animals that are slowly but surely realizing that I'm their last chance at a mid-morning popcorn feeding.

I was not so keen on the idea of being the sole provider of snack time. So, I opted to hold my popcorn high above my head while pleading my case to the refugee council. Before the council could decide - the Orwellian animals housed at the petting zoo area had other plans. One minute the sky was bright blue and I was enjoying a lovely snack with my family and in the next instant I was flat on my back breath knocked out of me - gasping for any air. Suddenly what was wide open sky above me was now replaced with filthy fur - the feeling the rough horns on either side of my throat didn't help with the calm breathing. My red and white striped popcorn box was being trampled around me. The animals taking advantage of my misfortune multiplied at a rapid pace. Finally I managed to get a grip and what escaped my lips was a blood curdling scream. Since that day - animals and I have a serious issue.

I don't like zoos. I have never 'snuggled' with a dog and thought - oh, adorable, I want one. I was the last one outside when our cat Mittens had her kittens - which meant I got stuck with the one that was herniated as "my" cat. He was all black, I named him Spook. He was a whiny cat. Isn't it awful that I don't remember how that cat died??? Yeah it is. I appreciate people that have animals, but I'm just not one of them. I know it, I own it and I don't pretend that it's something that it's not.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Children... I can never eat a whole one.

Ah, Kids....

Seriously - first shout out to any and all single parents. How do you function? I've been in Iowa watching/babysitting/preventing injury and misfortune of my 3 little nieces and nephew. They are precocious children - and not in the fun Mary Poppins way. Okay, perhaps in the fun Mary Poppins way - but thank goodness that broad had magic - because she needed it!

Isabel has garnered the most Facebook posts because - well, I've spent every waking and non-waking hour with her since her lovely parents ditched the crappy, cold, cloudy weather of Iowa and beat cheeks to Cabo. Lucky them.

Unfortunately for Isabel a lovely case of the creeping crud has settled in her lungs. Also, unfortunate is the amount of liquid that she's refusing to drink - and likewise the "GROSS" medication that works the best for her cough. The 12-hour cough medicine apparently tastes like ant butts, because she hates it. Not to mention that every other medication that she's on, currently is running the table with Bubble Gum flavor which makes the "Orange" medicine even more particularly vile. We've managed to spit out as much as we've swallowed.

It reminds me of when my mother would put pills into a spoon full of peanut butter to get us to swallow them. All the while we would retch and gag and my father the man who has the patience of a flea (assuming that fleas are not really patient at all...) would be yelling at the retching, gagging child, "It's all in your head. Just swallow the damn pill. IT'S ALL IN YOUR GOD DAMN HEAD." Ah, Dad...thanks for the memories.

Of course, now, I wouldn't dream of yelling GD anything - and furthermore, it seems quite inappropriate to yell that at someone else's loin fruit. Instead, I acquiese...when she pouts because the crappy medicine is not "pink" - I pull out the red food coloring. Of course, I know full well that she's looking for something bubble gum flavored - it's kind of sad when I let her stir the orange medicine and red food coloring together. She's excited - see, Stacie, it *is* pink. She insists. Yep, Isabelly, it is pink - and in about 2 nanoseconds you are going to realize that "Pink" in your brain means "Bubble Gum flavored" - only you didn't say that - so I've prepared your "Pink" medication - and you'll start to realize that you must be specific in your requests.

Alas, Ariel the magical mermaid fared the worst in our evening med pass. While we downed about 7/8 of our bootleg Pink/Orange medication - 1/8 of it came hurling out of our lips while we squealed, "AUNT STACIE THAT IS NOT PINK MEDICINE!" - The spittle landed smack dab in the middle of Ariel's sea faring forehead. The spittle, much to my chagrin, was not pink - but rather blood red. It looks like Ariel has been hit by a sniper. Unlike our morning medication trial - which ended up in 2 outfit changes - we seemed rather unaffected by the bloody headed Ariel. Isabel has assured me that the stain will come out and, "Mom won't be mad."

Grace has been charming although she has been sad. She's been a big helper - I thanked her for bringing down her clothes for school tomorrow without being asked, reminded and hounded and she rolled her eyes and me and said, "Um, I do this all the time." Well, thanks anyway Super Trooper. She also seemed surprised when I thanked her for replacing the toilet paper roll. It's the little things. She's been great at reading time, and making sure that Isabel has a reading partner. She even took a bath with Isabel - and what started out as, "I'm just going to put my feet in for a few minutes, okay?" Turned into a full blown sibling bath. They poured enough water onto the bathroom floor to weaken the floorboards - hopefully that will dry out before Saturday and I can get back to Minnesota before the claw foot bathtub crashes into the bathroom below. Denise - I swear that stain on the downstairs bathroom ceiling was there when I arrived.

Henry - dear, sweet, Sass-Back Henry. He's having a tough week...filled with bright spots and life lessons. For example, When Aunt Stacie chooses her battles, she does not lose. Which means when you are constantly constantly lose. Two days into this gig, Henry's finally getting the hang of it. We've had 2 classic HR fits - the kind with the stomping, the sour grapes face, the ugly words and the screeching. He gets no response from me for this behavior. He doesn't even get reminded that he needs to calm down and apologize. Which it isn't surprising that tonight's tantrum lasted about 1/3 of the time of yesterdays. The first time, he had to get instructions about the apology, the post-fit time out, and the reparation. Oh, reparation - you Catholic life're a wench. Again, Henry's been reminded that it's all about choices. Last night he missed a snack... And I'm not a horrible Aunt - I knew that he'd been told that he was foregoing his snack if he couldn't get it together - so it's not like I whipped out the treats that Denise had picked up for Grace & Henry and taunted him. Instead, Isabel had Oatmeal and Grace had Honey Toast. But when we were saying our prayers and Henry said something about not getting a snack I gently reminded him that it was a choice. And he ranted about how, "Yeah, it was YOUR choice" And I said, "No, it was my consequence, which I gave to you. You're decision to not stop the tantrum was your choice. Therefore you decided that you didn't want a snack."

Well - tonight was a battle of wills and also a battle of "Choices" - see, Henry, like my youthful former self - understood that you can't punish someone that doesn't acknowledge the power of the punishment. If you tell a kid, "FINE! That's it! NO MORE LIMA BEANS FOR YOU!!!" - Really? No more Lima Beans? Well, by all means, then I'll keep playing with the matches and I'll be *SO* heart broken when the Lima Beans are taken away. So I upped the ante tonight. If you don't care about not helping assemble Pizza Balls for dinner - and therefore you do not want to write out an apology - that's fine, but if you don't help out with dinner - you won't be able to fly your helicopter either. See how that works? Ouch! Okay, fine, I'll write the apology. Amazing.

And the thing of it is - I "catch" him doing nice things as much it's just him being a 6 year old boy that has listening problems. I don't have as many issues with the mischieviousness as much as I have a problem with the back talk and the "I'm smarter than you" b.s. I'm surprised, actually, given how much I was the kid that these kids are today - that my parents still remember my birthday. And the fact that I haven't thrown them into an early grave.

Okay - I'm rambling - a sign that I have "kid" brain. I still have laundry to do - and a kitchen to clean. I am quite content that Isabel hasn't coughed in almost an hour - so perhaps the apple juice chugging and "Pink" medicine is taking effect after all.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Calm

It's Friday, March 5, as evidenced by the date stamp somewhere on this post. It's the calm before the storm. In just a few short hours I'll be jumping into the not-so-shiny red tracker and heading down to Iowa to play Mary Poppins for the week.