Friday, December 3, 2010

"Why?" and the Case for Boarding School

Just try to send us to boarding school...

I am intently curious who coined the term "the terrible twos." Did this person give their child up for adoption on the eve of their third birthday? Send it to boarding school for pre-schoolers? Because if this person let the kid stick around, they'd have found out the threes ain't no picnic.  And the person who coined this phrase is guilty of leading all stressed out mothers of two-year-olds to believe that they only need survive until the kid's third birthday for things to get better. BAHABHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  The joke's on us, ladies! Because they don't get better at 3. They are just as big of a pain in the ass with the added bonus of an expanded vocabulary with which to torture you.  And with the high twos and low threes comes the very bothersome "why" stage.  Following is an excerpt from a recent discussion with Lulu:

Me: Lulu, what are you doing? (I asked this because I looked over to see her with her finger up her nose up to her knuckle while out in a public venue.)

Lulu: (matter of factly)  Mommy I'm picking the boogers out of my nose.

Me: (wondering where she learned the word "booger" because I assure you I have never uttered that word.)  Well... don't pick your nose.  Do you want to blow your nose?

Lulu: Why?

Me: Because nobody wants to see you pick your nose.

Lulu: Why?

Me: Because it's not very polite.

Lulu: Why?

Me: Because it's yucky.

Lulu: Why?

Me: Because... (thinking of how to explain that nobody likes to see a kid digging for their own snot)

Moxley: Because you should use the blue thing when we get home. (the blue thing is that nose-suctioning device)

Me: (slightly annoyed a 3-year-old is smarter than me) Right! We should use the blue thing!

Lulu: Why? (as she goes to hand me her "boogers.")

Me: Because mommy doesn't like to be given boogers!!!! (annoyed she got me to say "boogers")

Lulu: Why?

The conversation about boogers actually continued for quite a bit longer and it occurred to me as I tried to explain my distaste for nasal residue being placed in my hand that I once routinely sat in meetings during which the strategic direction of a Fortune 500 company was discussed.  I'm pretty sure I am exactly who Leslie Bennett had in mind when she wrote The Feminine Mistake... Leslie, I can assure you that I will never have to support my family alone because my husband would be too terrified of me to ever leave. Shoot himself in the head to put himself out of misery, sure. But leave me while he still has a pulse, no.

Oh, and isn't it lovely that aforementioned "blue thing" is a nose plunger / sometime lollipop holder? Very hygienic.

So speaking of boarding school, I used the think such a concept was the sinister making of morally bankrupt people who had way too much money on their hands and couldn't be bothered to take care of their own kids. I mean, what kind of mother outsources her parenting duties to the extent they don't even live at home? Everyone knows it's your responsibility as a parent to allow offspring to live at home until they reach 18 at which time you pray to God they get into college -- preferably one at least a two-hour drive away. Then you suffer through them coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks at which time they will barely acknowledge your annoying presence except when they want to borrow the car, which they'll probably crash at some point and not even apologize unless they happen to kill somebody. They will be non-rent-paying squatters at your home for the summer too, in between partying with their high school pals and making minimum wage in some useless job that will make them look like directionless losers on their resumes.

In the old days parents needed only suffer through this cycle for four years before their adult children limited their visits to the holidays with their own families in tow. Not anymore! College now can stretch on for YEARS. Graduating in four years is for overachievers only. And when they do finally graduate do you know where they expect to live? In their old bedrooms. Which they demand be in the exact state they left it four / eight / twelve years prior. And grandchildren? With the rampant arrested development epidemic not to mention fertility treatments you'll likely be senile and/or blind before your kids reproduce. Perhaps if your children are never permitted to live at home in the first place, they don't expect to return there to live as adults.

So my point here is: the rich who ship their kids off to boarding school at a young age aren't morally bankrupt. They are enlightened VISIONARIES.  Alas, my children will attend Chicago Public Schools. And I didn't see a room and board option on the form.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Food Issues

We like cake so what's your freakin' problem?

I quit a lucrative job to stay home when my twins were born because I was convinced my constant presence in their fragile little lives was of utmost importance. Looking back, perhaps it was in their best interest to ship them off to an orphanage upon birth and ask that they be returned when they turned 25, assuming Angelina Jolie didn't adopt them first. Add "proper nutrition" to my growing list of failures as a mother, which currently includes not potty trained, still drinking milk from a bottle, general menace to society.

But all of this isn't really my fault, right? RIGHT? It's clearly theirs. I've long suspected my children have devised a sinister plan to slowly drive me insane. So slowly that I wouldn't really be sure when in fact my mind reached the brink of a breakdown at which point some very big men in very white jackets would show up at my house and take me to an undisclosed location where my brain would be subjected to severe electrical jolts. Which might actually feel like a vacation right now. I would think of it as an all-inclusive Sandals-like resort for the mentally ill. With the added bonus of being paid for by insurance.

My girls' food issues about have me near that point. Men in white / travel agents? You know where to find me. My children will only eat a subset of foods which require a diabolical amount of work on my part.

--Raisin bread with the raisins picked out. This went on for months until I finally scoured The Jewel bread aisle wherein I found a cinnamon loaf that looks and tastes remarkably like raisin bread sans raisins. Lulu looked at it and had the balls to indignantly demand, "Where are all my raisins?!" "YOU HATE RAISINS IN YOUR RAISIN BREAD AND MAKE MOMMY PICK THEM OUT LIKE A DERANGED PSYCHOPATH!" I concede that perhaps I uttered this a decibel too loudly.

--Blueberries muffins minus the blueberries. Fellow coffee shop patrons don't seem to appreciate my decimating baked goods in their presence.

--Chocolate chips cookies without the chocolate chips. Do you see a pattern?

--And perhaps most problematic, bagels with the crust cut off. Have you ever tried to explain to a pre-schooler that bagels are in fact SURROUNDED BY CRUST?

They won't try any new foods unless it contains 99 percent sugar. The other 1 percent should be some kind of artificial coloring. While other mothers lament their kids will only eat mac-n-cheese and chicken fingers, I would throw an elaborate party to celebrate this breakthrough and gladly serve it every night. And I wouldn't get all Jessica Seinfeld-y about it and sneak in pureed cauliflower and such.

So today Moxley nonchalantly looked at me while I attempted to gut a bagel, and says "Will you put jelly on top please?" My child, who won't eat foods "touching" other foods, requested a condiment, if in fact jelly is a condiment. No matter what food group, the kid asked for jelly! Thank you Caillou, the slightly slow and more-than-slightly annoying Canadian kid who loves jelly sandwiches! See the evidence of some nibbling:

Strangely, while they won't try delicious treats like hamburgers, bacon or chocolate, these kids love squash. Love it like I love Daniel Craig. Except they get to lick the object of their affection. Even grosser (them, not me), they like to eat the cubes I freeze. A SQUASH POPSICLE. I'll wait while you regurgitate. This is what a gnawed cube squash popsicle looks like. And yes, there sits a side dish of banana split lollipops. Oh, please, like you don't consider that a serving of fruit...

I'm already worried about packing their lunches for kindergarten in 2013. I don't think I can send squash popsicles.  Of course I can just send bags of Dum Dum lollipops and explain my theory that if the flavor has a fruit in the title (banana split, strawberry shortcake, coconut, tangerine...), it counts as a serving of fruit. Then see how many days it takes DCF to pay a visit.

PS -- Lest you be worried about my children's well-being, perhaps I should mention my kids also eat apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, green beans and McDonald's french fries, a grossly under-appreciated member of the vegetable community.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mission Aborted. As Usual

"Halloween is over when I say it is..."

I skipped happily into my girls room the other morning, much like I did on the day of their first hair cut with presents in tow and a chirpy voice one should only hear from that crazy bitch on Sprout who wears pigtails and a handkerchief around her neck.  It was potty training day and these two kids were gonna poop in the potty whether they liked it or not. As was the case, not.

I presented them with Hello Kitty baskets full of brightly colored undies and promised them all kinds of big-time presents if they cooperated.  Lulu seems intrigued and began pawing through the undies deciding which ones to put on (a pair that said "Wednesday" even though it was Saturday but I was going to pick my battles that morning). When Moxley realized what was going on she ducked under the covers screaming "NOT YET NOT YET NOT YET!" and hurled the basket of undergarments in the general direction of my head.

That set Lulu off and a second basket hit me in the shoulder and she too hid for cover. I stood in the middle of their room with Baby Gap underwear strewn about with no clue how to proceed. So I did what I've always done (getting them off the bottle, getting them to give up pacis, getting them to accept that other humans live on our planet) and immediately gave up. Mission aborted.

Lulu, who often serves as the official spokesperson on issues of grave concern, said they "were not ready yet." I asked when she thought they might be ready and after giving it some thought she answered, "Seven weeks and two days." I'm not sure how she came up with that interesting timetable, but it won't allow me to meet my self-imposed deadline of their third birthday, which is in exactly 5 days.

My revised goal is to have them potty-trained by next August when they start pre-school. The tactic then will be shame. "Nobody likes kids that crap their pants" perhaps I'll say as I hold my nose in disgust. But this goes to a larger problem with my parenting style: avoidance. I avoid the hard things, apparently, which makes our life day-to-day very pleasant and a barrel of laughs but perhaps I'm not preparing them to deal with the real world. They don't seem at all ready or willing to move on to next stages, and I just enable it.

Like they are still wearing their Halloween costumes every day and it's mid-November. I figure maybe by March they'll start wearing the little Christmas tree t-shirts I bought them at Target.

Plus, I see a glimpse into my future, and it's not very pleasant. They will be 35 sitting ass on my couch and when I inquire why they don't have a job they'll scream, "NOT YET NOT YET NOT YET!" and instead of kicking them out so I can fulfill my dream of dying in peace at The Villages, America's Friendliest Home Town, I will be 74 years old and supporting two no-good daughters who use up my entire Social Security check on Depends because they STILL crap their pants.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happiest Place on Earth Observations

"Really, I would pretend to have fun if I knew my parents mortgaged the house to be here."

Can we agree that whomever deemed Disney World "the happiest place on Earth" never rode the monorail home filled with a gazillion screaming toddlers after a long day? Did you know that all Disney employees are called "cast members?" And that if you stay at a Disney resort every verbal exchange ends with "Have a magical day!" It's sort of tolerable the first 20 times and then you want to give the "cast member" a magical punch while smiling "Have a magical migraine!"

Here are a few tidbits from our trip. Let's start with the most horrendous part so the post gets more pleasant as we go:

--There is an abomination of an event called "The Princess Lunch." Perhaps you've heard of it? It's where little girls are first presented with the notion that a white horse with a rich, handsome prince will someday save them and take them to a castle where they will wear bejeweled crowns and learn to curtsy. And eat very bad food. Let me preface this by saying I'm not a "foodie." It is my wish to gather every person who defines themselves as a "foodie" into one room and make them eat Subway sandwiches and bags of pork rinds until they puke. My ideal meal would be a Bennigan's deep-fried Monte Cristo sandwich paired with The Bloomin' Onion from Outback Steakhouse. (Seriously, those two franchises should team up, merge or acquire each other in what would be the best chain restaurant coup since Dunkin' Donuts combined with Baskin Robbins.) I have never sent a meal back at a restaurant. I don't recall ever really complaining about bad food. I think whoever came up with the two cheeseburger meal deal at McDonalds should be given one of Obama's Czar positions. Maybe Czar of Pure Genius or similar. Get the picture? So when I was presented with the "baked chicken with risotto accompaniment" at the Princess Lunch (and I use the term "lunch" loosely) I thought, "How bad can it be?" despite the vaguely sock-like odor emanating from the plate. I dug in because being around royalty renders me ravished, and almost broke a tooth on the un-cooked rice in the risotto dish. Plus, my children, who swore they wanted to meet a bunch of princesses, cowered and whimpered and refused to get their photo taken. Granted, these princess bitches were scary, but still. Each adult entree was $35, $21 for kids and since my kids don't eat normal food, theirs sat untouched as well. But the special Tinker Bell punch was only $6.50 a pop and came with some Tinkerbell thingie that lit up. Well worth sitting at a depressing round table as my children hid under the table while Cinderella tried to lure them out. My sister, whose 7-year-old appreciated the princesses more than my 3-year-olds, told me to move some food around on my plate so the waitress didn't feel bad. Something tells me if you're serving food to a bunch of "little princesses" dressed in majestic garb you have bigger problems than how much one cranky-assed mother ate. (Note: Our kids did not wear princess clothes to this lunch, the photo above is from Mickey Mouse's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party wherein Lulu was a princess. I feel the need to make this known for reasons still unclear to me.)

--Oh no. I'm not done with the princess lunch yet. Not only were most kids dressed as their favorite princess with crowns, hair glitter and even makeup (my favorite was the toddler dressed as that mermaid princess with her belly bared and fins so tight she could barely waddle around), there was a couple there WITHOUT KIDS snapping pictures of the princesses like they were the paparazzi at Chateau Marmont. I so wanted to go tap them on the shoulder and whisper, "Pssst. They're not real princesses. Plus, you're weird.")

--I've never been a cost/benefit kind of gal. But the Dumbo ride made me think a bit more mathematically. Does it make any sense to wait for 63 minutes in line with two screaming toddlers for a ride that lasts exactly 90 seconds? Don't make me whip out a calculator but the percentage of pain versus pleasure doesn't work for me.

--Is it me or is there something disconcerting about grown men wearing Mickey Mouse sweatshirts?

--Mickey Mouse's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is pretty much as billed: not scary, except of course for the price (about $60 pp). Lulu dressed up as a fairy princess, Moxley was a monster from Yo Gabba Gabba whose name currently escapes me and I went as a 40-something exhausted mother of twins. My costume was the most authentic and surely would have earned me first prize had there been a contest.

--We planned to, at the end of the week, allow the girls to each pick out one souvenir, or parting gift so to speak. Ah, but that clever Walt Disney had another plan in mind. See, Walt cleverly places gift shops in locales one cannot avoid. Going on Winnie the Pooh's Honey Pot ride? Well, great! Because you have to go through the Winnie the Pooh gift shop to get out. So here was gift number one (times 2 of course) and yes, Her Royal Highness was exhausted on the monorail home after the "Spook-tacular" fireworks show.

At Epcot, they threw a very public tantrum which I decided to placate with an undeserved present to reward bad behavior when they demanded these fashion-forward hats. They came with a bonus pair of sunglasses which broke several hours after purchase. If you've ever seen an uglier piece of head gear, please send photos:

Oh, and conveniently located near the only place we could get food at our hotel were these pajamas, for the low low price of $24.95 each. The enthusiasm for their new evening attire has long since waned:

Of course, the most fun they had was when doing free things, like burying each other's torsos in sand:

Despite the price (geez, I'm becoming one of those grumpy old cheap people who stock up on canned goods when they're on sale), we had a great time as evidenced by the following exchange the day after we arrived home:

Moxley: Why do we live in Chicago?

Me: Because daddy's job is here. You don't want to live in Chicago?

Lulu: No!

Me: Where do you want to live?

Moxley: I want to live on vacation.

You and me both, sister.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


People, I awoke this morning as I would imagine a soldier might when he knows he'll be engaging in life-threatening, hand-to-hand combat. Except instead of doing push-ups and perhaps a few shots of tequila, I put on the most over-the-top, peppy, faux elation persona and burst into their room first thing singing like a lunatic what a SPECIAL SPECIAL SPECIAL day we were about to have! Here are your new SPECIAL Hello Kitty t-shirts made especially for first haircuts! Have whatever you want for breakfast! Halloween cookies? Excellent choice! What do you want for lunch? French fries and ice cream at McDonalds? Yes, ma'am would you like another!

All the while I kept reminding them there was a SPECIAL SPECIAL SPECIAL present awaiting them after they successfully got their hair cut. Really, it's best I don't star on a reality show like those other freaky moms of multiples -- I'd be committed to the nearest psychiatric facility or at the very least mocked to high heaven for the way I carried on today. At least nobody witnessed the idiocy except for a couple of 3-year-olds who kept looking at me all day like, "Calm the f@#$ down lady." And all the gifts and my manic antics (if you saw me today you might have suspected we won PowerBall) was all for nothing, given nobody was really protesting. The only voiced resistance to the proposed haircut was when Moxley said "Lulu has to go first." Conveniently, Lulu said she wanted to be first. I kept waiting for the terror to set in. The howls. The bat-shit crazy reaction that used to happen when strangers came too close. Nothing. I almost wanted to scream: "You bitches are getting YOUR HAIRCUT TODAY! BY A STRANGER! WITH SCISSORS! DON'T YOU GET IT!!!???"

But we calmly walked into Snippets and they were presented with lollipops and by God, my twins got their first hair cut and everyone, including the stylist, is alive. (It would have been so much of a better story if they went berserk and the stylist stormed out hysterically mid-cut and her body was later found in the Chicago River with a suicide note that simply said "TWINS!")

The outcome: New haircut and new sparkly shoes as promised.

On the down side, who knew two children's haircuts could be so expensive:

Actual haircuts including overtipping because I was so very joyful: $51
Hello Kitty t-shirts from Old Navy: $24
McDonalds lunch (I had a McFlurry and not one of those pansy-assed snack sizes either): $9.33
Cook and bake roll of sugar cookies plus two tubes of orange decorating frosting: $10.63
Lelli Kelli sneakers plus shipping: $147.94
Not having kids that have Heath Ledger hair: Priceless but slightly sad given Halloween is in 18 days and The Joker would have been funny
Total: $240.90

I'm pretty sure even JLo doesn't pay this much for a hair cut.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Pumpkin Patch

Can someone please explain to me what is not fun about a pumpkin patch for a three-year-old? You pick pumpkins, go on hayrides and pet ponies. If that's not a honkin' good time for a toddler, then I need a briefer on what is. Plus this place has a big huge jumpy thing, a giraffe (I doubt South Barrington, Ill. is the ideal habitat for a giraffe, but then again I'm not a zoologist) and tons of awesome Halloween decorations. Good old-fashioned fall fun! Plus, it was a beautiful weekend here.

And my kids bitched and whined and moaned. All. Weekend. Long. I warned them: "It's going to be freezing out soon and we'll be locked in the house like that movie where Jack Nicholson goes bonkers and you'll be so OUT OF YOUR MIND nuts you'll start howling 'Red Rum' over and over! Now it's 80 degrees in Chicago in October! Let's have fun or at least pretend like we are!"

They were not the least bit appreciative of our planning what we thought would be the perfect outing. Okay, they're three. But the problem is that by the time they do acknowledge all of the sacrifices their parents made for them -- if they're like me -- they'll be about 40. Which will make me 79 and most likely well into advanced dementia. Which means I will never get the full satisfaction of hearing them articulate their unbridled appreciation for my taking them to pumpkin patches at ungodly early hours to beat the crowds and having to eat $16 worth of tickets for a large inflatable pillow they decided last minute they didn't want to jump on and for the pony ride they didn't want to take for reasons still unclear to me.

And here is my real concern about this less-than-satisfactory outcome at the pumpkin patch: we are heading to Disney World on Saturday for a week. And if these two don't man up and love the freakin' crap out of that Mouse, I'm going to be one unhappy bitch at the happiest place on Earth. The good news is they are not yet three, so they're free. The bad news is my husband and I are not free. And by "not free" I mean we have to pay something like $60 each to go to Mickey Mouse's Not- So-Scary Halloween Party and something like $70 each to break bread with some fake princesses.

My best memory of Disney is the Haunted Mansion. I'm assuming that would be frightening for a couple of 3-year-olds. But maybe it can be used as a good scare tactic. Drag them on that ride the minute we arrive and tell them that's where they'll be staying all week at the first sign of a grumble. Wow, you know what? I was originally just kidding, but seeing it in writing makes it seem like a viable option. If you've used that approach yourself, please post a comment and let me know if it worked and if you had to enroll them in therapy sooner than originally planned.

Anyway, I've been doing an absurd amount of research on preschool-appropriate Disney activities, and received some very distressing information after we got our tickets: It's a Small World AND The Teacups are "closed for refurbishment" during our stay. I think we should get a discount for that. That's like going to Outback Steakhouse and after ordering drinks being told they are out of the Bloomin' Onion. Kind of important information to know up front.

Regardless, I will report back after the trip. I fear the report may start something like this: "Can someone please explain to me what is not fun about riding on a flying baby elephant named Dumbo for a three-year-old?"

PS -- I am aware their hair looks crazy. I am dragging them to Snippets this week and bribing them with the sparkly Lelli Kelli sneakers they keep pointing out and plan to tell them the princesses won't associate with girls who look like rag-a-muffins so we must get our hair cut before Disney trip if we want to hold court with royalty. Bribing and lying: my top two parenting tools.

PPS -- What are the chances they get the shoes but no haircut? Waffling / not following through on threats: my third top parenting tool.

PPPS -- Wendi Aarons, one of the funniest women alive, almost has me convinced to paint their faces like Heath Ledger as The Joker to make Mickey Mouse's Not-So-Scary Halloween party so frightening that everybody flees The Magic Kingdom and we'll have the place to ourselves for a couple of hours. Now, that would be worth the $120. I might have to forgo our Snippets appointment...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Holy Grail: Chicago Park District Gymnastics

Because my kids have such intense separation anxiety, I decided we'd wait for pre-school until next fall, and they'll still have a full two years of "socialization" before kindergarten. Also, if we started now they would probably get kicked out and we'd lose a year's worth of tuition. And I'm cheap like that. I mean, as of late I make banana muffins so I don't waste a few pieces of overly ripe fruit. WHO HAVE I BECOME?

So, I made a pact with myself that in this interim year I'd get them acclimated to structured activities, not just "open play" scenarios, so when they do go to preschool next year and are told to sit down or similar, they don't laugh in the teacher's face and throw a juice cup at her head and demand a lollipop or something. (Which is what they do to me, but all kids do that to their mothers, right? RIGHT??!!)

In keeping my pact, I signed them up for a gymnastics class through the Chicago Park District. Lest you think that sounds relatively simple -- signing one's children up for a class through the Chicago Park District -- let me assure you it's not. It entails sitting poised at your computer on registration day at 8:45 am logged into the CPD web site gazing at a timer counting down until 9:00 am when about 4 trillion mothers are vying for a minuscule number of spots for various relatively inexpensive activities to keep their children busy all winter. Some moms actually get babysitters that morning specifically so they won't be distracted with unimportant aspects of their child's well-being like feeding them -- if you wait even one second too long, you're screwed. The stress involved is sort of like if you are about to be electrocuted for a murder you didn't commit and the executioner is mindlessly counting down "10, 9, 8..." and you know BIG BIG things are going down in 7 seconds. Because being stuck inside with your children all winter in Chicago IS LIKE A DEATH SENTENCE. In fact, being electrocuted is probably more kind. Actually, the Park District should offer volunteers to come to your home and execute those moms who don't get their toddlers into one of the pre-school programs. It's the least they can do.

So anyway, there I was, beads of sweat rolling down my forehead, fingers ready on the keyboards to get the girls into a 45-minute gymnastics class and then the clock hit 0 and I spun into action quicker than Lindsay Lohan did a line of coke after being sprung from the clink. I've never typed the names of my kids so fast in my life, it was like I was vying for a $1 million a year slot in the typing pool. I entered Lulu in a frenzy, hit order and boom! We're in! I silently congratulated myself on being the kind of mother who gets important things accomplished. I type in Moxley and a message pops up -- the worst message a mother can receive within Chicago's city limits -- telling me the class is full. I start to feel light-headed and nauseous like I might possibly puke. Then clarity kicks in and I think: "These are reasonable people, they will let Moxley in the class since her IDENTICAL TWIN got in, right?" Riiiiggggghhhhhttttt.

August 16, 9:15 am: Approximately 10 minutes after receiving the news that the class was full, I high-tail it to the place this gymnastics class is going to go down and speak to a boy of about 12 behind the counter. I explain my predicament. I don't use words like "predicament" because I'm not sure 7th graders have had that vocabulary word yet. He listens. He seems sympathetic. He lets me talk for a good 10 minutes without saying a word. I stop talking. He stares. After an awkward silence I say, "Well, can I sign the other twin up for the class?" And he says, "What twin?" and I say, "My twin who didn't get into the class" and he says "What class?" and now I'm slightly agitated and yell "THE GYMNASTICS CLASS!" He then tells me he doesn't have the authority to sign students up for classes that are full and that the person who does is at lunch. I want to ask who goes to lunch at 9:25 am but I decide to sit on the bench quietly until this person with authority returns from her unconventional lunch hour. Or I should say "lunch hours" because I sat there for nearly two hours and she never came back. I leave to go grocery shopping.

August 16, 2:00 pm: Surely one doesn't lunch from 9:25 am to 2:00 pm, right? I mean, even government workers, right? That would be some lunch! The kid sees me coming and looks slightly scared. This gives me immense pleasure. "Remember me?" I ask. "Yup" he says. "Is she back?" I ask. "Nope," he says. "She likes lunch, huh?" "Yup." My sitter is leaving soon so I call it a day, and vow that WE WILL GET IN THAT CLASS. I implement that technique from The Secret wherein I believe my wish has already happened and picture my two girls, vaulting and cartwheeling and doing triple axles with twists at the end of their balance beam routines.

August 16, 2:30 pm: I call the office and get the voice mail of the lunch-loving lady. I leave a very pleasant message detailing my problem and ask for a call back. I am impressed with my ability to erase all signs of sarcasm when I say I hope she had a nice lunch.

August 20: Having not received a call back, I once again go to the office. There is another kid, albeit not the same kid, manning the desk. This one actually has an IQ that might be at or above the 25th percentile range. This pleases me. He gets out a list. He shakes his head solemnly. He writes my name down but tells me signing people into over-booked classes "is above his pay grade." No, the woman whose pay grade it's not above is not available. I'm beginning to think she's like the Wizard of Oz. I leave a note for her. A very pleasant note with my phone number and a smiley face. I feel a sense of resolve. I am getting Moxley into this class or I will die trying. If the latter, their father can explain their mother was a very brave woman of conviction who died for a noble cause. The cause of trying to get Moxley into a 45-minute gymnastic class for 18-month to 3-year-olds sponsored by the Chicago Park District. And if that's not worth dying for, really what is?

August 27: I have received no phone call. No returned messages. But I am not irritated. I am empowered. I saunter into the office and smile sweetly at the lady behind the counter. This one is old and I sense she is not Oz. I sense she is an underpaid, disgruntled, hardened grandmother who wishes she was retired but can't because her no-good ex-husband took off to Vegas with their retirement savings and a hooker. I spend 7 minutes (I timed it) explaining my desperate circumstances and reference "the list" on which I saw the young gentleman write down my name. Grandma is unaware such a list exists. Did I get the guy's name who wrote it down? I did not. She frowns at me with a look that calls me a liar. I don't take it personally -- poor woman is used to liars. Her husband ran off with a prostitute after all. I ask if the Grand Poobah of the Park District with unlimited powers is by chance in. She is not and I'm beginning to think I want this woman's job as I could get paid full time and still be a stay-at-home mom to my two kids. And get them into any Park District program I please. I'm told to check back next week when people may have canceled their registration thereby opening spots. Grandma knows as well as I do that NOBODY gets into a CPD class and cancels. Nobody. I don't let her know I'm onto her scam and leave peacefully. "I'll be back" I whisper sinisterly.

August 31: I leave another voicemail. I sound rather casual and sing-songy like this is all no big deal and I look forward to getting Moxley in the class with her sister so she's not forced to sit on the sidelines like a fourth-string reject on a football team. I hang up, satisfied with my non-confrontational tone. I am going to kill Oz with kindness. Literally, I hope.

September 3: I am starting to channel Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. "I will NOT BE IGNORED, PARK DISTRICT!" I do some breathing exercises wherein I try to picture butterflies but instead picture bunnies boiling on the burners of this thus-far faceless person. Perhaps she doesn't even exist, I begin to think. Weirder things have happened in Chicago. Dead people routinely vote here, so it'd be no big deal if someone was scamming an extra paycheck from a phantom government worker who was allegedly in charge of registration for the city-sponsored pre-school sports program. Maybe this is bigger than my gymnastics dilemma. Maybe I am destined to expose a giant corruption scandal that will bring down city government as we Chicagoans know it! At this point, we are on our way out of town for Labor Day Weekend and I have no time to go to the office. I leave a very loving message noting in a very non-accusatory manner that this is about the millionth time I called and won't someone please do me the courtesy of a return call? Please and thank you!

September 10: It dawns on me I actually might not get Moxley into this class. It dawns on me that I might be a failure as a mother. It dawns on me that I have become a deranged lunatic over a 45-minute, once-a-week class that given the age group will consist of somersault instruction. I have a defeated aura about me as I shuffle into the park office. There are about 14 people in front of me with varying issues (none as urgent as mine!) and then I notice an unfamiliar face behind the desk. Could it be? I feel like Dorothy when she finally laid eyes on the Wizard of Oz: unimpressed and duped. But I also feel hopeful. At least a decision maker is in my midst! I wait about 55 minutes and am sort of nervous, like I'm about to meet a rock star. Albeit an aging rock star wearing a pink hair scrunchy and nylon gym shorts. I introduce myself. No glimmer of recognition at the name. I wonder if perhaps she routinely gets 500 voicemails from the same mom every registration session so it's no big deal or if she simply deletes her voicemails without listening to them because she's too busy lunching during breakfast time to bother. I explain my situation. She gets out "the list." I see my name. She tells me several names are ahead of mine so there's nothing she can do. I admit defeat. I ask for a refund for Lulu and figure we'll join something more expensive like The Little Gym instead. No big whoop. And then she says: "You needed to ask for a refund two weeks before the start of the class." I feel a vein in my head explode and wonder if I'm going to die of an aneurysm right there in the Chicago Park District Office. I joked about dying to get my 3-year-old in gymnastics but I'm REALLY GOING TO DIE TRYING TO GET MY 3-YEAR-OLD IN GYMNASTICS. I sort of lose my mind and start spouting an unintelligible crazy rant I barely recall about how do I tell one twin she can't participate while the other twin is doing backflips and shit and how can they not give me a refund when I've been trying FOR WEEKS to get this resolved and who the hell eats lunch in the 9:00 morning hour anyway?!!!" She shows no emotion. She looks at me and says calmly, "We may be able to get you into the 11:30 am class instead of the 10:30 class. Would that work?" "Yes! Yes! For the love of God, yes!" I felt a flood of emotion one should only feel in therapy. Then she says: "I have to go over the list again, I can't promise anything." SHE SAYS SHE'LL CALL ME.

September 17: I have not received the promised phone call. I leave her a voicemail. I sound like a wounded, yelping dog on its deathbed. I think this woman could work magic at Gitmo. She is a master manipulator. I am ready to confess to anything to get into this class, including but not limited to that I, not Drew Peterson, murdered everyone he's ever been married to. I go to the office, she's not there. I leave her a hand-written note on scratch paper with a bitten, inch-long pencil provided to me by the kid -- the slightly more intelligent one -- working behind the counter. I briefly look at the note and realize it looks like it's written by a psychopath. Which it was. I fold it, press it into his palm and beg:"Give it to her, won't you?"

September 20: This class, in which only one of my twins is registered, starts in 48 hours. My feelings toward this woman have become so complex I wonder if we knew each other in a past life. I think about her more than I've ever thought before about someone I barely knew. (Except Daniel Craig, I guess that goes without saying.) I lay awake wondering why she wants to deny my children access to toddler gymnastics and thereby possibly someday the Olympics, why she hates me so much and if she is just a figment of my imagination, which would at least explain why she won't call me back. I get in my car. I slump in the drivers seat for way too long, wondering if this woman sits around thinking of ways to make me miserable while she eats lunch during breakfast-time and asking myself if she eats lunch at breakfast, when does she eat breakfast? After much internal debate I decide she must eat breakfast for dinner. I drag my tormented soul into the office. I wonder if I should have gotten a $100 bill out of the bank to bribe her. All city employees in Chicago take bribes -- why didn't I think of that before? Our eyes meet. I see a flicker of recognition in her eyes. Yet I have to explain AGAIN why I'm there and she replies "There is no movement" on the waiting lists for any of the pre-school gymnastics classes and reiterates that they can't refund the registration fee for the twin who did get in the class. I sigh, I am done. I give up. Keep my $50 City of Chicago! I no longer wish to serve as a pawn in your very twisted game! I turn to go and hear her voice call out: "Can you do the 9:30 class instead?" I whip back around. She wants to get my hopes up so she can tear me down, right? She continues: "I can switch Lulu into the 9:30 and sign up Moxley right now." I grab for my credit card before she changes her mind. I hear the machine accept payment and am handed a receipt. Lulu and Moxley are official students in 9:30 Chicago Park District Gymnastics! Victory! VIICCCCTTTTOOORRRRYYYY! I think of Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, not because he survived an epic battle but because I always think of him and that day was no different. I walk amongst heroes. We have faced tough battles and come out winners. I am one with greatness.

September 22: It is our first day of gymnastics class. I practically scream with glee when I go to get them in the morning: "WE HAVE GYMNASTICS TODAY!!!! ISN'T THAT EXCITTTTIIINNNNGGGG?" They are not quite as enthusiastic as I am. All morning I say things like, "We'll do cartwheels and balance beam and have soooo muucccchhhh fun!!!!" I wonder if someone slipped an Adderall in my coffee. We arrive early and head toward the gym. I pass other moms in the lobby and want to shout, "You bitches have no idea what I went through to be here!!!" There are 2 floor mats, one small bouncy thing, one pair of rings, one colorful wedge apparatus and two balance beams. The girls head for the rings and begin playing. Okay, this is fun. I take several pictures. It's now 9:25 and we're walking on the low beam. At about 9:28, the entire toddler population of Chicago storms the gym, sort of like a reenactment of Spain's Running with the Bulls but far more dangerous. The ratio of kids to equipment is approximately 4 million to 1. We wait in long lines to roll down the wedge apparatus which has several holes with foam sticking out. An understandably frustrated child charges the rings knocking into Lulu. It's 9:45 and the moms start wondering where the teacher is. One mom takes charge and goes to the desk. Oz appears wearing her trademark gym shorts but really mixing it up with a purple striped scrunchy and informs us THERE IS NO TEACHER. "This is a caregiver-led gymnastics experience," she snorts condescendingly.

Doesn't the word "class" imply it is in fact TAUGHT by a TEACHER? To summarize a very convoluted and long-winded post, I LOST SLEEP and more importantly MY MIND over getting my kids into a "caregiver-led gymnastics experience" during which after 20 minutes my children informed me they "think it smells poopy in here" and "never want to come back." Mommy doesn't want to come back either, I told them.

PS -- Anyone ever do Little Gym? We have a free trial class on Tuesday. Five minutes after I registered for it online, a very nice woman called asking if I have any questions, what to expect during class and other welcoming niceties. BITE ME CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT.

PPS -- Just in case you think I'm exaggerating, which I'm prone to do, the Chicago Tribune reported that some CPD class spots fill up within "less than half a second" online.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Go ahead, admit it. As soon as you saw the title of this post you thought, "Mmm hmm, I knew it! This lady has a prescription drug problem! Clearly that's why her kids still drink milk from a bottle and they are nearly three and not potty trained! That's why she hasn't posted in a month! She's too busy snorting vicodin!"

Well, no. I'm not even sure if you can snort vicodin. I was once given a prescription for vicodin after a surgery and as I repeatedly hurled stomach acid into the toilet (maybe you're not supposed to take it on an empty stomach?) I wondered how the hell all the celeb types who are hooked on it film movies while simultaneously throwing up.

There is a prescription I desperately want (if desperate means Googling "medication without a prescription" and giggling with glee when magically appears) but I don't think any doctor will give it to me. Not that I've asked, mind you. I don't like doctors to think I'm any crazier than need be.

Thing is (beware: TMI), since giving birth, my time of the month has become excruciating. I used to think all that PMS talk was a good excuse to call off of work or get out of a date or blame eating a whole basket of cheese fries on. I didn't understand what women went through who suffered from it because it never affected me. Until. Until I had two babies, now toddlers, to contend with. Um, God? It would have been kinder the other way around, just for future reference. When I was a carefree singleton I could have dealt better with the mind-blowing cramps because I could have just stayed in bed all day. Try explaining to two kids that mommy doesn't feel like cursing out other moms at the park because her tummy hurts. Doesn't go over well.

But the cramps aside, I also retain enough water to fill a swimming pool that could cool off every child within the city limits of Chicago. Which is where the prescription thing comes in. There's a glorious, magical pill for high blood pressure that eliminates water retention called hydrothiazide (or something like that). Its creation is on par with men flying to the moon. It's that awesome. Here's the problem: I don't have high blood pressure. As a matter of fact, my blood pressure is on the low side. So I'm assuming no doctor in their right mind would give me any, even though I just want to take one pill five days of every month.

I'm innovative, however, so why let a pesky little roadblock like a doctor stop me? Hence, yesterday I am on and I find the prescription I want and am faced with some decisions that are probably beyond my medical expertise. Do I want 25 mg or 50 mg? People, I think you know what I chose. Why get rid of a little bloat when you can bomb the f@#$ out it? Right, 50 mg. Then I had to decide how many pills I wanted. 30? 60? 400? Well, one never knows when the feds might catch up with so I opted for 400 which were rather reasonably priced at 16 cents per pill. Hell, I would have paid $1 per pill so now I'm thrilled and wondering if I should do overnight shipping which would mean the very next day my bloat would be washed away or be more economical and do regular delivery. Hell, I've already SAVED money by choosing to buy in bulk so I choose 2-day delivery as a compromise.

I'm feeling pretty good about myself at this point. Why does nobody know about this site? Why does my friend who is desperate for Adderall for weight loss not go here instead of faking an ADD problem? Why are all those idiots "doctor shopping," wasting time going from doctor to doctor to get their valium or whatnot? I wonder if Lindsay Lohan knows about this site and if I should get a Twitter account for the sole purpose of telling her about it.

So I click "buy" and am informed I need a membership to execute the transaction. Okay, I'm mildly perturbed but these lovely people are giving me DRUGS. WITHOUT A PRESCRIPTION! Who am I to complain? I am now faced with a decision: do I want the monthly, quarterly or yearly subscription. I do the math. The yearly option is a much better deal. Sure, I'm ordering enough pills to last me well into menopause when I will presumably no longer need menstruation relief, but hell -- who knows what else I might need! I can do away with doctors altogether by self-diagnosing via Google! That's probably how doctors these days diagnose anyway! Why pay them for something I can do myself for free! I click the yearly option, and am asked for my credit card information so they can charge the $79 fee. I'm feeling slightly less smug, but still grateful.

I use a Visa Gift Card I was given because something tells me my husband, who gets all hung up on silly legalities and such, might ask some questions if he sees a charge from on our credit card statement. He's the type who might turn them into law enforcement, thereby cutting off my supplier.

I'm asked to come up with a user name (in case I want to chat online with a community of drug addicts, I wonder?) and briefly consider BloatedMama to turn off any online sexual predators. I fill in a bunch of other info that strikes me as wholly unnecessary (just send my pills, f@#$ers!) and finally am now an official member of what must an elite club at

Finally! I set my order for 400 magic pills and press the "submit" button at which time the following note appears: "You need a valid prescription to order this medication" with an address where I can mail the prescription.

THE WEB SITE IS CALLED NOPRESCRIPTIONNEEDED.COM for crying out loud! And they now have $79 from me from a gift card. Can you even get a refund on a gift card? I am incensed and bloated. Not a good combination.

I call the 800 number. I decide I am going to be calm, rational and diplomatic about this because a) these people are drug dealers, and b) they have my address.

Guy on Phone: How can I help you?

Me: Right, well, I just joined so I could order some medication without a prescription (I'm now feeling slightly dirty saying this out loud) and well, I went to purchase the medication and it wouldn't let me and said I needed a valid prescription.

Guy on Phone: (In very slow, condescending tone) Yes, ma'am, you need a valid prescription for prescription medication. It's illegal to dispense medication in the United States without a valid prescription.

Me: (Forgetting I vowed to stay congenial): How lovely you are up on federal drug statutes. Let me ask you this: Do you think it's a bit strange your web site is named NO PRESCRIPTION NEEDED.COM when you in fact NEED a prescription to order drugs from there???!!!

Guy on Phone: How can I help you ma'am?

Me: You can refund my membership fee which I won't need because the only reason I joined was so I could ORDER MEDICINE WITHOUT A PRESCRIPTION as your website so clearly implies can be done.

Guy on Phone: So you want to cancel your membership?

Me: Um, yes, doesn't everyone once they learn they can't order medicine without a prescription from NOPRESCRIPTIONNEEDED.COM!!!"

Guy on Phone: Can I assume you will dispute the charges if we don't issue a refund? (clearly he's seen this line of complaint before...)

Me: You bet your sweet ass you can!

Guy on Phone: Please hold.

I am now put on hold for a stretch of time that the geniuses behind determined that most prescription drug addicts are not willing to wait. But, alas, I am not a prescription drug addict! I am a bloated mother of twins who wants her $79 back so she can buy some junk at Target!

Guy on Phone: (Sounding somewhat surprised I am still there) Ma'am, we will issue a refund within 48 hours.

Me: (click)

What are the chances they are really going to refund me? 10 percent? 5 percent? 0 percent? My guess is they figure drug addicts won't even remember the whole chain of events and just get their credit card bill and forget if they scored drugs from there or not. Not me! I have a note on my calendar to call them back (I hope I get the same guy, we bonded) in exactly 48 hours from the time of the conversation if that money doesn't reappear on the gift card.

Lesson? 1) Periods get worse after having kids. 2) It's really time-consuming and expensive, I would imagine, to be a prescription drug addict. 3) Never give up -- I need to Google "faking high blood pressure" asap.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Take a Picture of the F#$%ING Paw!"

I have not one coherent thought today, so instead I will share random crap that's happening in my neck of the woods. Don't you hate that expression? "My neck of the woods." Who made that shit up? Only Al Rocker can get away with it. And only because he started using it when he weighed about 500 pounds. Nobody wants to hear a skinny weather man say that crap.

--The girls, as depicted above, like to sit in boxes and are still drinking milk from a bottle. I think bribery is the key to effective parenting, so I've been waiting for them to really really want something so I can nonchalantly, like I don't really care if they accept my offer say, "Oh really? Well Mommy will get you that when you start drinking milk from a cup like a big girl." Then casually go about discussing something else, like if Kipper the Dog's British accent is upper crust or working class. We were at the park when our neighbor who is six went flying by on her new bike. "I want a bike! A big pink bike with feathers!" declared Lulu. Why feathers? We don't know and that's not the point. Moxley concurred except she wants hers to be blue with a big horn so "people get out the way." Here was my chance. In the same casual, I couldn't-care-less tone I used to muster when a guy was breaking up with me, I told them I'd be happy to oblige if we got rid of their bottles. They looked at me, looked at each other and Lulu said: "I love my scooter" followed by "cups of milk are stinky" and scootered off.

--Please note the Christmas pjs. In July. At least we're off the Halloween kick. I figure around Thanksgiving they'll become obsessed with Easter.

--Facebook is a funny thing. I'm not very good at it. I don't know the basic rules, like how to hide my profile and pictures from the world. How to tell everyone I "like" something and why I'd even want to. Recently, I wrote an unremarkable post over at FameCrawler about Gene Simmons going to see his son Nick play at some bar. I made an unfunny comment using a Kiss lyric. It wasn't my finest work. Then I saw someone said they "liked it" via Facebook. So I wanted to see who it could be. Only Gene Simmons or Nick Simmons or the owner of the bar I mentioned could have possibly wanted to share that post with their Facebook friends. So I clicked on the little Facebook logo only to find out now I had a note ON MY Facebook page that I liked it. Except I didn't. Then I had to figure out how to delete the fact I supposedly liked it (which, again, I didn't) deleting several other things at the same time. Hence, I need to a) quit Facebook but I'd never figure out how; or b) get a tutorial so I can be a meaningful participant on Facebook or c) get a tutorial and hope it includes how to delete your own Facebook page.

--So speaking of Facebook, I received an apology via FB from a boy (now man) I dated circa 1983. In case you're not good with numbers, that's 27 YEARS AGO. More than half of the time I've been on this Earth and then some. The relationship, if one could call it such, was a very innocent infatuation and we never went further than kissing. Then my family moved to a new town, we wrote for a while and then he found another girlfriend. Who can blame him? Well, he could I guess. He wrote to me to tell me he "could have handled things better" and it's one of his biggest regrets. Robbing a liquor store and haphazardly shooting someone is a life regret. Dumping a girl when you're 16 who moved two hours away is not. Then I started wondering if this a craze or fad hitting the United States and we're all supposed to make amends with anyone we ever wronged, no matter how slight. I'm a busy person, and if I have to apologize to every single person I offended since the mid-80s, I'm not going to be blogging again for a while. Maybe ever.

--I was just lugging groceries up our back steps and heard one of the hippies screaming to another: "Take a picture of his f@#$ing paw!" I'm assuming he's speaking of the dog. Why do they need a photo of the paw? Why not the whole dog? This mystery might have me up all night. What also has me perplexed: why are these hippies so mean? What happened to put them in terminally bad moods? Granted, they live in an illegally parked rv with a dog on the dashboard. I get it -- life hasn't been kind. But these are the most pissed off people you've ever seen. I'd broach the topic with them but I fear they'd murder me and feed me to the dog. I saw some rather big bones in front of the trailer one day. They might have been human.

--After all my bitching about pre-school, I decided to wait a year. Perhaps they're not ready. Perhaps I'm not ready. Or perhaps the "Going on a life journey? Come fly with us! No baggage fees!" turned me off to the whole thing. Regardless, they will still have two years of pre-school before kindergarten if they start next year and if that ruins their life? Well, they can add it to the list.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Kim Kardashian recently got blasted (by Demi Moore of all people) via a Twitter war about using the term "ghetto." But I think that's because Kim used it like it was cool, like "that party was all ghetto" as if "ghetto" is cool rather than a stark, sad reality in many of our country's largest cities.

So if you're reading, Demi, and let's face it, you seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on electronic technology so you just might be, I mean it in the real sense of the word. The girls wanted to have a picnic, but they didn't want to go to the park. They didn't want to have one on our deck overlooking the squatter hippies (and who can blame them?) and they didn't want to have one at our friend's house who is fortunate enough to have a back yard.

Hence, off to the sidewalk in front of our condo we went. Which just struck me as sort of low rent. Like we're just one step (barely) above the aforementioned surly hippie squatters. (Oh, someone asked why we don't call the police. The police, alderman, Humane Society, ASPCA and a host of other authorities have been alerted to no avail. A woman in the neighborhood with some connections -- unlike me -- is leading the charge and I'm pretty sure she's working up the channels and Obama himself will soon be alerted to the situation. She is actually a radio personality and said she's doing a piece on it soon. If there is a tape of it, I will certainly link as she's hilarious about the whole situation).

But back to our unfortunate picnic. There is a new, somewhat popular restaurant that opened next to us with outdoor seating. I kept feeling the clientele looking at us pitifully, like "Look at those poor children relegated to sitting on the hard sidewalk eating graham crackers for dinner!" I almost wanted to start begging them for bites of their entrees or if they could spare a french fry for the girls for effect.

Speaking of which, I've decided the only snacks I will bring to the park are fruits and vegetables. No more crackers! No more yogurt melts! No more heroin! (Um, can't you take a joke?) So now I get the Spanish Inquisition every time they want a snack:

Them: I want a snack.
Me: Okay, I have carrots, banana and green beans.
Them: Do you have a cereal bar?
Me: No, I have carrots, banana and green beans.
Them: Do you have graham crackers?
Me: No, I have carrots, banana and green beans.
Them: Do you have Elmo crackers?
Me: No, I have carrots, banana and green beans.
Them: Do you have animal crackers?
Me: No, I have carrots, banana and green beans.
Them: Do you have cookies?
Me: No, I have carrots, banana and green beans.
Them: Do you have pretzels?
Me: No, I have carrots, banana and green beans.

Okay, I think you get the point.

This could go on anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. Yesterday after quizzing me for about 30 minutes, Lulu looked at me and said: "Is this a funny game?" and I said, "No, I have carrots, banana and green beans."

Then she asked to search my bag "just in case" there were crackers in there. Would you believe she f@#$ing found an old squashed-up Earth's Best Strawberry Cereal Bar in some random pocket of the bag I forgot existed which has escalated the whole freaking process because now she never believes when I say I don't have a certain snack item?

Anyway, my point here is: Is it time I pack it up and move to the suburbs so my kids are not destined to having picnics on our city sidewalks while onlookers look at them with sympathy? I hate to admit it, but I might miss our terminally high, illegally parked neighbors and their alley-mates who like to set off an explosive or two. Or at least the idea of them. You won't find that in Naperville, Ill., I'm pretty sure.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Partying Like It's 1776

Independence Day is now my least favorite holiday. It used to be St. Patty's Day. (Do you wear kelly green and look too eager? Not wear green at all and be accused of being a a kill-joy? Why dye a perfectly tasty beer green?)

My hippie neighbors, the ones squatting in an illegally parked Winnebago in the alley behind our condo, usually party like it's 1966. Well, this weekend they partied like it was 1776. I swear, whatever they were setting off couldn't have been fireworks. No, I think they rented a cannon from an outfit that does Civil War reenactments -- because I'm pretty sure they were setting off cannons, not firecrackers. My other theory is that they are time travelers and their RV is one big travel machine and the dog living on the dashboard is the pilot. They didn't have to rent the cannon, they simply showed up at the Battle of Gettysburg and shoved some ammunition into their RV and poof -- back to 2010!

I knew things were going to be ugly when I heard one of them say to another at 3:00 pm on the Fourth -- as their the empty Bud Light cans edged out the dog's nook in the front window -- "ya git the lighter fluid or what?" I thought he was talking about cooking on the grill but now I realize he was referring to fuel for the explosives.

Flash forward seven hours and I'm on the floor in a sleeping bag trying to calm my daughters' nerves as World War III raged outside our window. While, by the way, our dinner guests are having a very lovely evening (without me) eating grilled delicacies. SHOOT ME.

The celebration lasted well into July 5, with me waking up with two toddlers on top of me asking for lollipops for breakfast at 5:00 am. SHOOT ME AGAIN. Because we were out of the Strawberry Shortcake and Banana Spit variety. I lasted as long as possible (7:00 am) until I went storming into my bedroom where their father peacefully slept and hollered as loud as humanly possible, hoping to wake up not only my husband but also the hippies, "YOUR F#$%ING TURN!"

Deliriously, I fell into bed and I later learned the girls were placed in their crib and slept until noon. I am already planning my vacation for July 2010 -- it will be in a country that is not supportive of America's victory (England? France? Iraq?). ANYWHERE will be better than here. I thought of Cancun (how expensive could Mexico be in July?) but I think people who vacation there in the summer are just looking for excuses to blow shit up.

So after naps today (mine and theirs) we had a perfectly lovely afternoon downtown near our old haunt where we lived when our place was flooded by our liquored up neighbor who decided to take a tub at midnight after five bottles of wine but passed out before she had the pleasure. I only add the last part about our Cleaver-esque family time because I think it's sort of an uplifting note on which to end for those readers who think I only complain.

PS -- This is the first time ever I slept with my children. It confirms my theory that parents who co-sleep are: a) mentally unstable; b) masochists; c) unspeakably lonely.

PPS -- The last time I slept in a sleeping bag was 1990 when my college boyfriend of several years took the opportunity to tell me on a camping trip that I was getting fat. That was really fun compared to this.

PPPS -- Oh, our neighbors who I verbally assaulted last year? Nothing. They must have had a family meeting (there are like 98 of them in that apartment, enough for a full-blown debate) and voted, deciding to take the safe route in case the lady who lives behind them is as potentially criminally insane as she seems.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

An Open Letter

Dear Fellow Citizens of the United States of America:

I'd like to begin on a positive note: Kudos on your enthusiasm in commemorating the independence of our great nation as evidenced by your early start! We are indeed on the cusp of the 234th birthday of the Unites States, and dare I say George Washington, Ben Franklin and all of those other guys would be thrilled at the glee with which you are celebrating! So thank you for that. It's nice to know I'm surrounded by neighbors who love these United States as much as I!

However -- and please know I don't mean to damper your spirits or love of country -- might I ask you a few thought-provoking questions weighing heavily on my mind as I was awoken repeatedly last night by nerve-wracking explosions, blaring Ted Nugent music and a peculiar "Whoop! Whoop!" sound? (And also one of those vuvuzela things, but I'll take that up separately with the World Soccer Association.) I checked my calendar, just to be sure, and last night was JULY 2, a full two days before Independence Day. Which makes me wonder if you regale all occasions in such a pre-mature manner. For example:

--Do you open Christmas presents on the morning of the Eve of Christmas Eve?
--Hide your kids Easter basket on Good Friday?
--Leave money under your child's pillow when their tooth is merely loose?
--Bang pots and pans and clink champagne at midnight on December 29?
--Eat a big turkey dinner the third Tuesday of every November?
--Throw a wedding reception 48 hours before marrying?

No? Then lay off the f@#%ing fireworks and associated revelry until THE ACTUAL HOLIDAY.

I would guess, if I had the means or the inclination to do a study in which I gathered the offending parties in one room and asked them a simple question: "What is the significance of the Fourth of July?" the answers would range from "Boston threw a tea party for the Queen of England" to "The South officially seceded from the Union" to "Metallic put out its first album."

An occasional "whoop whoop!" between now and tomorrow I can tolerate. Because I've become a better person since last year. And despite the fact that explosives ARE ILLEGAL IN ILLINOIS I'm willing to look the other way instead of going off on a profanity-laced tirade when your children attempt to blow their appendages off tomorrow. But, until then, in the name of our Founding Fathers, can you keep it the f@#$ down?

PS -- If you don't cooperate, I'm going to force you into my living room at gunpoint in the middle of the night and insist you watch Caillou 40 times with toddler twins when the repeated popping scares the bejesus out of them. And, trust me, watching Caillou 40 times at 1:00 am is slightly less fun than a bottle rocket exploding in your face.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Rules

In the span of about a week, Lulu went from a borderline recluse to a social butterfly. Not just a social butterfly, but one of those annoying people who are too eager to be your friend. Remember those girls? They might have been okay and maybe you would have hung out with them if they didn't seem so, well, desperate?

When I say this metamorphosis happened over the course of seven days I'm not exaggerating. It started last week with "Mommy, what's that little girl's name?" and when I told her to ask the girl she insisted, "You ask Mommy!" and then bashfully hid behind me while I struck up conversation with a four-year-old. Then I served as her go-between wherein I'd ask pertinent questions as instructed ("Do you like ice cream little girl?") and relay the information back and forth, all while Lulu buried her head shyly into my legs.

This gradually progressed throughout the week until the other day when Lulu went storming up to a girl at the park and said: "Hi little girl. What's your name? I'm Lulu. Do you wear big girl underpants and poop on the potty? I love you!" This was pledged in one long sentence without giving the girl (Hannah, age 5, who we later learned does poop on the potty but still wears pull-ups at night) time to answer or breathe. Then Lulu moved in for the kill, hugging the girl tightly and begging, "Please play with me!" It was slightly pathetic.

Listen, in my experience aloof plays better than needy any day, but how do you explain that to a two-year-old? I don't think she's old enough for a copy of The Rules, which in some ways can apply to friendships as well as romances. This unbridled affection, by the way, is only saved for a certain subset of park-goers. Only girls between the ages of 4 and 7. If you are a boy, or are not in the coveted age demographic, she'll have nothing to do with you, possibly even stating very forthrightly, looking you straight in the eye: "I don't like you!" and then for good measure, even if nobody is touching her scooter, yell "Get your own scooter!"

As Lulu indiscriminately invites every girl in her preferred age range to our home ("Want to come to my house little girl? But I love you!") Moxley cowers, and screams, "No little girl come to my house! No No No!" It's like an unfunny Abbott and Costello routine.

Luckily, if Moxley keeps insisting on wearing empty tampon boxes as hats, I don't think I have to worry about anyone actually showing up at our house for a play date. And when a "little girl" denies Lulu's aggressive advances, this is how she reacts:

Lulu is also obsessed with grandmas, routinely and loudly pointing them out as if she's being helpful in identifying the grandma species, "That little girl with her grandma!" she screams proudly. Unfortunately, I fear she's a bit young to explain that thanks to modern infertility technology, oftentimes these are mothers of "advanced maternal age" as my fertility specialist so eloquently called it, not grandmothers. Her own mother (moi) would probably look more like a grandma too if not for the sacred inventions of Botox and bleach. It's terribly embarrassing as she hollers, pointing "GRANDMA!" as I try to usher her away saying, "Yes, we'll go see Grandma soon!" in the hopes the poor haggard mother doesn't understand Lulu thinks she look like a member of the AARP.

She is also starting to notice, shall we say, the size variances in individuals. And while the girls thankfully don't know the word "fat," Lulu will call out, "That's a BIG BIG BIG little girl!" while pointing, just to make sure I see who she's referring to. I die just a bit inside when I see an obese kid coming our way (and there are a lot in Chicago), anticipating that Lulu might feel the need to point it out for my benefit. I try to tell her it's not nice to say that but she doesn't get it. On that note, a friend's son recently said to a larger guest in their home, "Will I have a big belly like you when I growed up?" Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if this was said to a guy, but alas it was a young woman. And then he KEPT innocently pestering her with that line of questioning while his mother (I presume) disappeared into the kitchen to do some tequila shots to take the edge off.

Is there a muzzle on the market for toddlers? If so, and I make Lulu wear one to the park, will Child Services pay a visit?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chicken Soup

An observant, anonymous reader kindly noted recently that I "find fault in everything and complain a lot." And you know what? She's right. And it got me thinking: what am I so damned pissed off about? My life is pretty good and I'm crazy about my girls. My family is healthy. The girls are happy (usually). So I think I'm going to change my tune, my blog, my life. I am going to become a positive person, be grateful for what I have and stop, as the saying goes "sweating the small stuff." I'm going to stop being so negative and start blogging about the spiritual, positive aspects of my life. I am going to have new mottos, oldies but goodies: "live and let live" and "free to be you and me." Readers, welcome to my revamped blog: Chicken Soup for the Twin Mom's Soul.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA! Seriously, no movie line ever resonated with me so completely as when Shirley Maclaine (or was it Olympia Dekakis?) said in Steel Magnolias "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me." Well, that and "Nobody puts baby in the corner" by the late great Patrick Swayze and "I get a lot of compliments on this, besides it's not a man purse it's a satchel; Indiana Jones carries one" from The Hangover but those are less relevant here.

Okay, so on that note here are my top gripes for the day:

1) Independence Day: July 4 will be here in exactly 3 days. While I like to celebrate the birth of our great nation as much as the next guy, now having kids it only means one thing: they will be awakened repeatedly over the weekend by idiots setting off fireworks WHICH ARE ILLEGAL IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS. Last year, I went ballistic (a bit embarrassingly over the top) on our neighbors (I haven't been able to make eye contact since) and wonder if my excessive over-reaction will a) make them not set off fireworks this year or b) set off about 10 times as many just to prove a point. And something tells me the hippie squatters behind us won't pass up the opportunity to make a little noise this weekend. After all, what could be more fun than mixing pot and explosives?

2) The Ice Cream-Eating Nanny: We pretty much go to the same park after naptime very day which has the unfortunate location of being across the street from a Dairy Queen. Which wasn't a problem until recently, when a nanny starting showing up at the park like clockwork every day around 5:00 pm eating a ginormous sundae, and occasionally when she desired candy with her ice cream, a Blizzard. Her charge is only an infant so doesn't really get the ice cream thing yet. But all the other kids do and you hear a dull roar resonate throughout the park of kids demanding ice cream. Listen, I get it's a public place and you can whatever you damn please there. But really? You need to taunt children with ice cream during the dinner hour? Kind of like the mom who sat in a sandbox sucking on a lollipop at 9:00 am. Really?

3) The Jet-Setting Neighbors: Our neighbors who own the comparable unit in our condo building are going into foreclosure. Who would have known they were broke and not able to pay their mortgage when they were going on lavish vacations and recently bought a fancy new car! What suckers we are to be driving a 2004 model and skipping vacations so we could continue to afford ours after I quit working! And because they put no money down, they don't care what price they sell it at -- because they're not getting any of their non-existent down payment back anyway! So guess who is screwed if we want to sell our place because theirs is going for way below market value? Not them! They also have a dog who recently overdosed on Prozac and had to be rushed to the doggy emergency room. I bet that cost a pretty penny... And, no, I swear on my life I'm not kidding.

4) Ali the Bachelorette: And just when I thought I couldn't hate a Bachelorette more than Jillian, Ali exclaims "Bring on the boys!" And it's been downhill since then. Who could have foreseen that a professional wrestler who goes by the stage name "Rated R" might be up to no good? And what's with the guy Cape Cod Chris who has his late mother's signature tattooed on his chest? You get that creepy piece of information and you don't even wait for the next rose ceremony to chuck him.

5) The Chatty, Pretentious Lady at the Park: People, do I seem like I want to make friends to you? Some woman is hell bent on being pals and, quite frankly, I'm more open to Lisa Rinna becoming my BFF --and we know how I feel about her. She uses "summer" as a verb. She says things like she "doesn't shop at big box stores" and brags that she and her husband (who must have been a serial murderer in his past life and this is payback) take their kids to "fine dining establishments" because "that's why we live in the city after all -- for the culture." She's never been in a Jewel (is that a "big box store" one wonders?) only Whole Foods and "Trader Joes only when absolutely necessary." Whatevs. I try not to respond beyond what's completely necessary so as not to encourage further interaction but I am curious why going into Trade Joes would ever be "absolutely necessary." Asking that question, however, might present the false impression I care. She also goes "on holiday," not vacation and no, she's not European.

Thing is, this woman tries to act like she's wealthy but I'm pretty sure if she summers somewhere it's at a Motel 6 right near a major interstate. So anyway, my mom was visiting and after a joint encounter with this woman my mom said, "You were so cold to her!" I was so happy because that's the exact demeanor I was going for. I actually thought I was being sort of too nice. But if you give this lady an inch, she'll never leave. Anyway, this woman just announced she is selling her house and moving to a new neighborhood and she must have wondered what was up because I practically hugged her in glee. She probably didn't know I had teeth before that moment because I'd never before smiled in her presence. BTW, later in the week after we encountered this woman again and she cornered my mom she understood why I give this lady one-word answers. It's not "cold" it's "self-preservation." Oh, and don't get me started on her kid who is like a mini-me and one day asked me if the bananas the girls were eating were organic. She's like four or five years old! When I said no, she yelled, "Ewww!"Again, I'M NOT KIDDING. I didn't know what to say so in a juvenile move I said, "Ewww yourself." I don't know what that means exactly but it's all I could come up with at the time. I was pissed all night I didn't come up with a better retort. I was out-witted by a pre-schooler.

Listen, I don't have a lot of readers, so to keep Anonymous happy I am going to think of an uplifting topic to write about. As soon as I can think of something. Don't hold your breath though -- it might take a while.

PS -- Does anyone else encounter these situations at the park or is it just me? Maybe park-goers are like dogs -- they migrate toward the least friendly people in a bid to win them over and I should be over-the-top hyper friendly and see if that turns people off and they leave us alone?

PPS -- I just thought this photo was a fairly bizarre one from the park and went with it...

PPPS -- Do you think the person who didn't like that I used PSS instead of PPS is happy I switched purely for her sake?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scooters and Socialism: A Rant

My girls received scooters as a surprise present from their father. I took one look at said present and declared it ridiculous: whose 2-1/2 year-olds can ride scooters? Well, as it turns out, mine. They are obsessed and really quite good, soliciting comments at the park ranging from "How old are those girls?" to "My son is an uncoordinated wimp compared to them" to "What f@#*ing mother doesn't make her kids wear helmets?"

Um, me. I don't remember ever wearing a helmet and I'm fine, thanks. Okay, maybe not fine, but not dead either.

But these scooters, these seemingly unproblematic vehicles, are giving me a migraine and might land me in prison. Because every kid at the park wants to try them. WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION.

My husband, a staunch conservative (don't hold it against me) has labeled the forced sharing at our parks as "socialism bordering on communism." I'm a bit more moderate in my political views, but still, I'm starting to agree with him on the communal sharing mentality that permeates city parks. Hey, here's a thought: You want my kids to share their cool new scooters -- bring something equally as cool and maybe they'll be willing to swap for a while.

Because here's the thing: I lug a bunch of shit via a double stroller everywhere I go. I look like the damn Sanford and Son pick-up truck coming ("Ya big dummy!"). I have two kids, two scooters, two helmets (that go unworn but I bring just for show), a soccer ball, a basketball and various little accessories I need not name. Tons of these moms saunter into the park, towing their kid, a Starbucks and nothing else. DO YOU WANT TO SHARE YOUR SKINNY VANILLA LATTE WITH ME, BITCH?

Probably not. And then we get stalked. And these moms, these people I swear I might kill one day, sip on their coffee which I don't have the luxury of having because my cup-holders are filled with lollipops and matchbox cars their kids want to steal, and they let their children maul us.

One such mom who wasn't wearing a bra, probably because she is banging her gardner, loudly announced to her friend for my benefit: "If you don't want to share, you shouldn't bring it to a public park." Says the person who brought nothing but silicone, caffeine and a toddler with her. Then she went back to her iPhone where she changed her Facebook status to "Looking like a whore while ignoring my kid at the park."

We shouldn't bring our stuff to the park if we didn't want to share... Except. Except we live in a city, and don't have a backyard. So if my kids can't ride their scooter at the park in peace, where will they ride it? (I have one suggestion that isn't polite and it's between the enormous crevasse on the chest of that women's poorly done breast implant surgery.)

So, listen, I get that you should share chalk at the park. But are my kids required to share their scooters or are other kids required to share high ticket items like bikes? It's becoming a major problem and I'm becoming a major ass about it. One girl of about 5 followed us around today (we finally left to go elsewhere) telling me, "I WILL take a turn on that scooter!" I told her while I admire her pertinacity it wasn't happening. (I borrowed that line from Dave Barry's literary agent who turned down a manuscript of mine years ago. Who knew rejection would come in so handy?)

Am I crazy? Am I right in thinking my girls have a right to decline advances on their stuff in a public venue with people we don't know AND DON'T WANT TO KNOW? Honestly, I don't like being accosted by kids while parents stand by in oblivion.

My sister and her kids came to visit recently. They had cool children's (but real) digital cameras and one mom let her daughter take the cameras FROM OUR STROLLER and use up the entire disk. The mom not only encouraged the child to take the cameras, she showed her HOW TO USE THEM. When my sister confiscated them from these people we didn't know, the 4-year-old said with hostility: "Why don't you want to share?" Like my sister had done something wrong! As the mom gave us a dirty look!

Seriously, I've had strange children rifle through my diaper bag for snacks while her mother looked on, had toys grabbed right from our hands as the father cooed "Buddy, let's give back their Thomas the Train" but let his kid run around with it for 10 minutes and had a mom allow her son snatch a banana from my child's hands, eat half, then coax him into giving it back with a "c'mon baby, let's share the snack" all without apology. When her son wouldn't oblige, this woman then returned the chomped on banana saying in a little kid's voice, "Thank you for sharing!"Except we didn't share. He stole it. I'm thinking of walking into a 7-11, making myself a Slurpy, eating half and handing it to the clerk with a cheerful, "Thanks for sharing!" and see how that plays out.

To put this in perspective for mothers: Suppose you and I are on a plane. You had the foresight to buy the current issue of Us Weekly to see who Jennifer Aniston is screwing and if she's pregnant. I, on the other hand, dawdled, showed up late and didn't have time to stop at the newsstand. Mid-flight, I get bored of reading the plastic-coated emergency evacuation procedures. I grab your magazine and start reading it. "WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO SHARE??!!!" I protest when you ask for it back, making you feel like YOU did something wrong. See my point?

Is it just Chicago??? I am not a disciplinarian. Lord knows. But I don't let my girls' touch other people's stuff, steal shit and pester other kids. Advice? Counsel? Promises to visit me in prison when I snap?

PS -- Whenever we break out a camera these days, the girls immediately put their hands in their mouth and scream "Funny face!" I have no idea whatsoever where this originated. It was funny like the first 50 times. When as adults they ask why there are no photos of them from age 2 to 16, I plan on screaming at them, "Funny face!"

PPS - Remind me to tell you about the nanny who shows up at the park every day at dinner time with a Dairy Queen sundae to taunt the children. Tomorrow I plan to tell her to DQ Something Different.