Monday, February 27, 2012

Birthdays, Bellyaches, and Blessings

Claire is turning two tomorrow and we couldn't be more excited...especially since she has decided that she wants to have her first round of the pukes on or about her birthday.  Awesome.

Over the weekend we had her birthday party.  I know I have been preaching this whole get rid of the excess bit and I swear I tried to actually practice that when putting together her party.  I thought I would share it with you, not to pat myself on the back, but so that you can summarily steal and make it your own.

I love Reading Rainbow.  I admit it.  As a child I thought Levar Burton was maybe the coolest guy on earth.  He had all these books and he flew around on the Starship Enterprise.  He was a very busy man.

Claire loves books.  I know I've mentioned this before, but she really does.  I can't imagine how excited she'll be when she actually figures out how to read the words.  So, based on my love of Reading Rainbow, Claire's love of books, and several ideas from Pinterest, I decided Claire would have a Reading Rainbow birthday party...then I got carried away.

While I love Pinterest more than most things in this world, it sucks you in and leads you to believe that every party needs fancy DIY centerpieces, little placards telling your guests what they are eating, and a shmancy two-tiered cake draped in that gross fondant junk.  I nearly went off the rails, but luckily my cheapness forced me to snap out of it.

What I did do was buy red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple streamers from the card outlet store, some chipboard letters on clearance at the Lobby of Hobbies, pinwheels from the dollar store, and some ribbons.  People, it looked like Rainbow Brite, herself, had been in my basement.

Check it out.  I wrapped the letters in the crepe paper.  I think the butterfly mobile (compliments of Kaki) is a nice RR touch.  Levar would be proud...if he ever returned tweets.

My sister, the doctor and baker-extraordinaire, prepared a delicious batch of cupcakes with lemonade frosting piped on to look like clouds and stuck some rainbow-looking sour candy on top.

I put all of Claire's favorite books out on display all over the room for the kiddos to read.  We also had a bookmark creation station where the guests could make a foam bookmark to take home in their monogrammed bookbag ($1 at Michael's).  The most popular item at the party, though, was the art wall.  My parents brought me a giant, I mean giant, roll of newsprint.  Apparently, you can get this item free from your local newspaper because they are constantly throwing them out.  We covered the expanse of one wall and put lots of crayons for the kids to go crazy.

Success!  The kids all had fun and the adults seemed to enjoy the food and beverages, but not so much Mizzou losing to Kansas in overtime (because of some real b.s. officiating I might add) that was on the giant TV.  Whatever.

If you think I went overboard, let me redeem myself by saying that we requested no gifts.  In lieu of gifts, we asked that people make a donation to the Imagination Library.  It's a program that partners with United Way and provides a book a month until age 5 to children residing in Columbia.  It's Dolly Parton's brainchild and it pretty much rocks.  We also asked that everyone bring their favorite book for a book exchange.

If you are worried about my poor neglected child not receiving any gifts for her birthday, don't be.  She got plenty of books from various grandparents, parents, aunties, and uncles.  Plus, more importantly, she got to spend time with her friends and family.

Which brings me to what else has been happening and causing me to be so lax with my blogging.  A very good friend of mine went through what was probably the roughest week of his life last week along with his awesome I-couldn't-have-picked-a-better-wife-for-you-if-I-tried wife.  Their son was born with a heart condition called tetralogy of fallot.  I'm not a doctor, so I will spare you my simplistic explanation of what this is and encourage you to look it up for yourself.  Long story short, this baby, who is now 9 months old, is just about as precious as they come.  He reminds me so much of Zora.  He had to have several procedures last week and to say that the recovery has been up and down is an understatement.  He is doing better now from all accounts, which is wonderful news.

I have no idea how they are keeping themselves sane, because I wouldn't be.  Watching this family go through this has torn out my heart many times over the past week.  It has made me appreciate my life, just as I did a few weeks ago when precious Tripp Roth lost his battle with EB.  I hate that it takes these moments to make me stop and smell the roses, hug my babies, and kiss my husband.  But they do, all the same.

Saturday I was so stressed trying to get everything ready for Claire's party.  I was a maniac.  I think I yelled at everyone at least once.  And for what?  Did Claire need a perfectly prepared fruit tray with all the colors of the rainbow represented in different pieces of fruit with a cloud of cheesecake fruit dip?  No, of course not.  She eats things off the floor so presentation is lost on her.  Did she need that rainbow tutu and matching bow that I painstakingly created for her?  No, I think Rob wore the tutu on his head longer than she wore it on her body.

She didn't need any of it.  What she did need, though, was her family and friends surrounding her on a special day.  It's the most basic of needs, love.  She's got that, she's got plenty of that.  So does my friend's son and so does Tripp Roth.

In hindsight, I could smack myself for letting myself be overcome by the details and not see the bigger picture.   Luckily, I have great friends and family who, as soon as they show up, calm the savage party-planning beast in me and remind me to relax and have a tiny cup of rainbow colored vegetables with ranch at the bottom (thanks Pinterest)...and they remind me what I really love isn't the things surrounding me, but the people.  I am humbled by the love I have seen in the past week pouring out for Baby Chandler and for the love that I saw over the weekend for my own little 2 year old.  Love.  When it comes down to it, that's all you need...I feel like someone has said that before...hmmm, weird.

Well, was on this morning.  I'm trying to keep Claire in one place so that the amount of things I have to clean puke off of and sanitize are minimal.  She spent half this morning reading Little Critter books and the other half watching Sprout.  This week's theme is birthdays, Sprout is now conspiring to get back in my good graces.  We'll see.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Toddles & Tiaras, now entitled: Prepaid Therapy for Your Teen or Toddlers & Tiaras: Where are They Now? Teen Mom, Season 16

Well, it may be a pretty obvious topic, but I just can't leave it alone.  Beauty pageants, but not just any kind of beauty pageant, kiddie beauty pageants.  Those Toddlers & Tiaras folks.

I know I have said all along that I don't want to be all judgey and such but it's probably going to happen in this post.  Oops.

First, let's just ask the obvious question:  why?  Why would you subject your child to this?  I want to be clear here that I'm not talking about grown, adult women who can make an educated decision about whether or not they want to participate in a pageant.  I'm talking about tiny children who think frilly dresses are fun, don't understand being a "good loser," and would likely prefer to be on a swing set somewhere to being forced through many hours of waiting their turn on the stage.  Again, let's be clear, this should not be equated with a choice.  Think of it this way:  would you give your child the option to eat nothing but Skittles all day?  Probably not, at least I hope not.  Why?  Because they can't make the right decision here or at least an educated one.  Obviously M&Ms are the better choice. That's why we, as their parents, have to do things to protect our children and make good choices for them. 

I always see these parents who claim their child loves the stage.  Of course they do, they're kids.  Kids love attention.  They usually will take it however they can get it, positive or negative.

I see these children being pushed on stage to dance around in a provocative manner in tiny outfits.  There are so many things wrong with this I can hardly sort my thoughts to address them individually.

First, the dancing.  Really?  All these girls are missing is a pole.  They're shaking their tiny bodies in a fashion I have hardly seen on the dance floor of Columbia's more questionable nightclubs.  They're pushing their perfectly polished toddlers lips out in a pout remniscent of a 30's pin-up girl.  What the hell is wrong with you people?  That's not cute.  It's wrong.

Before my brain explodes in a string of expletives, I would like to address the outfits these parents put their children in.  Again, let me just stress that claiming the child likes it, not a valid response.  Why, oh why, are there so many little girls baring their mid-drifts?  On national TV, no less.  Ask yourself, pageant mom, if there was a pedophile sitting in the audience, would you be comfortable letting your child parade around mostly naked in a swimsuit/outfit that is a tiny version of something meant to be sexy on a grown-up?   Just go ahead and assume that at least 30% of the viewership of Toddlers & Tiaras is pedophiles.  Drastic?  Does it matter if there is one or 100?  I have this same problem with little girl swimming suit.  I operate on a strictly no two-piece policy until further notice.  But, even some of the one pieces have a spaghetti strap paired with a ruffled strap that would be quite the sexy swimming suit on a grown-up.  The legs are always cut incredibly high, too.  I noticed this last year with Claire's 2T swimming suit.  The sides were cut higher than my suit.  She was in a swim diaper so luckily no cheeky business occurred at the public pool.  If you let your child skinny dip in your own private pool, I care not.  I'm talking about what you put out there for public consumption when it comes to your vulnerable toddlers and adolescents.  

Now, I'm sure some of you are saying, "Hey, I let my kid wear a two-piece."  That's great.  For me though, it's not going to happen.  For one thing, I am deathly afraid of skin cancer.  I slather myself, my children, and my husband (as he runs away) in lots of sunscreen.  I prefer to cover as much of my children as possible in clothing (SPF, of course) so that I don't have to apply even more goop whilst trying to have a fun day at the pool.  P.S. tan kids = sun damaged kids.  Keep tanning your own hide, by all means, but let your kid make that decision for themself when they are older and make the decision that the risk of skin cancer is less than or equal to the need for bronze skin.  I used to tan, I have taken that risk.  I now cover myself with large-brimmed hats and sunscreen as much as possible.  Does that mean that I am damn-near translucent?  Yep.  I am as white as white gets.  You need sunglasses just to sit next to me on a sunny day.  I glow in the dark.  You get my drift.

Okay, so moving on, the make-up and hair.  These children have more make-up on their precious faces than I have worn in my life.  They have more hair spray than an 80s movie.  Why?  Children are beautiful when they are clean and even when they are covered in dirt, food, markers, etc.  They don't need enhancements.  They don't need perfectly straight, white teeth.  Those flipper things are just creepy.  They remind me of Village of the Damned.  *shudder*  I'm sure every parent thinks to them self when they see these kids winning cash money for being cute that their child is way cuter and could totally beat that kid.  You are correct.  Now, enjoy the way that thought feels in the privacy of your own home and don't go challenge that thought by putting your kid in a pageant.

As if the provocative dancing, make-up, and outfits weren't enough, there's the crazy parents shoveling sugar down their children's throats to keep them going all day.  I recently saw a piece on GMA where a pageant mom had concocted something called "Go Go Juice."  This was a soda bottle half full of Red Bull, half full of Mountain Dew.  W.T.F.  First, don't give your kids soda, please?  I mean come on.  They don't need it.  They are specially built to run on no caffeine until they are at least 18.  Second, do you even know what is in Mountain Dew?  They use a chemical used as a flame retardant to keep the color from separating.  Why don't you just give your kid a line of cocaine.  Shocked that I said that?  Imagine how hard it is for a tiny body to process all of that sugar, caffeine, and chemicals.  Cocaine would likely be more pure.  (Disclaimer:  not advocating giving drugs of any type to children.  Sincerely, Captain Obvious)  I have seen other moms give their children pixie stix, candy, and other sugary offerings to keep their kid going.  You know what we do with our kids when they get tired?  We let them take a nap.  It's crazy, when they wake up, they feel better, have more energy, and are generally happier tiny people.  But by all means, keep your kid up and pump them full of sugar so they can win something because it makes them feel good, right?

Which brings me to my final point, the bullshit reasoning behind putting your kid in pageants.  This "it makes them feel better about themselves," b.s.  Seriously?  You can't think of another way to boost your child's self-esteem than to pit them against their peers in a contest based on who can correctly walk in a line, pout their lips, and stick their fingers in their cheeks?  Go ahead and just tell them flat-out that their looks are all that are important for them and that nothing else is of value.

Look, I think the lesson that you cannot always win is a great one for children to learn.  My sister used to beat my every single time we played Chinese Checkers, regular Checkers, you name the game, she beat me.  She used to do this thing when we flipped a coin:  heads I win, tails you lose.  Got me every time.  She will freely admit that winning all through childhood has made losing now as an adult a very difficult proposition.  Luckily for her she seems to basically win at every thing, still.  Except that time we played Cranium, she was super-pissed.

Anyway, we're not talking about a contest where you can show a child something tangible that caused them to lose, like the other team scoring more points, etc.  We're talking about whether three strangers found them to be cuter than their peers.  There's plenty of that later on in life, it's called High School and it sucks.

Then there are the "purest" parents who say they will not paint their child's face with all the make-up and tease their hair.  They like the natural look.  To those I say, again, really?  It's like sending your child to basketball camp in an evening gown and heels.  They couldn't be less prepared.  Go ahead and set them up to feel inferior, different, and weird from the beginning.

I know some would claim this to be a cultural difference and that I just don't understand, being from Missouri. (which I guess makes me a Yankee?) You know what else was a cultural thing?  Racism, genocide, the Macarena, I could go on.

Look, you want to dress your kids up in frilly, pretty outfits?  Great!  Do it!  Just don't make it a contest.  You want to let them sing and dance?  Wonderful!  Just don't judge them.  Let beauty pageant be a game at home where the stakes are winner gets to pick the movie.  Let kids be kids.  Life ends up being a constant contest when you get older.  It stinks. 

Well, I can't lie, I've sort of given up on the TV thing.  I even made Claire a birthday card and mailed it to Sprout's Sunny Side Up Show so that she might get to see it on-air on her birthday.  I'm so weak.  Oh well, f it.    

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pindulge me please...

Well, I don't feel like ranting about anything this week.  Not that this past week didn't give me a few topics, I'm just saving them because I can.

Instead, I offer you my Pinterest dictionary.  Yes, I know I'm ridiculous.

Pin-a-minute:  What you tell your husband when he asks if you are ready to watch that movie, go to the store, go to bed, etc.

Pinconvenience:  When you see that silly error message that tells you that you cannot connect to Pinterest.

Pin-depth:  The conversations people get into regarding politics and religion via Pinterest comment section.

Pindustrial revolution:  The point in history when all things were made with old pallets, wine bottles wrapped in something, or up-cycled t-shirts.

Pinept:  Those poor souls who have not yet figured out how to use Pinterst.

Pinfinity:  Describes how long you could spend on Pinterest scrolling down.

Pinnovation:  Finding new ways to use toilet paper rolls, chalkboard paint, and mason jars.  See also Pindustrial revolution.

Pinsanity:  The feeling that takes over you when you first figure out what Pinterest is and how to use it.   Of course, you’re pinsane at this point so you don’t realize it. 

Pinsider trading:  Tipping off friends to look at your pinboard for recipes, crafts, etc. 

Pinsomnia:  The need to continuing to scroll down to view new pins even though it’s way past your bedtime. 

Pinspiration:  What you feel when you make your grocery list using Pinterest and wonder what you were eating before.

Pintegration:  Grouping together your Facebooking time with your pinning time. 

Pintelligent:  Used to describe those members that can pin something, comment, like and maintain full-time employment.

Pintense:  Used to describe conversations that people get into over things like swear words in pins, fashion, etc.

Pinterior design:  The pictures of homes and rooms that you will never live in, nor have in your house, but like to look at on your “For the Home” board.

Pinterrogation:  After searching your ex-something-or-another and finding his/her page, you then try to discover things about their pathetic life via their pinboards.  See also Pinvestigation.

Pinvestigation:  When you use the search function on Pinterest to stalk an ex-something-or-another.  See also Pinterrogation.

Pinvestment:  The amount of time you will need to spend on Pinterest to feel satisfied that you have seen enough recipes and pretty pictures.

There you have it.  That was at least 20 minutes of my life.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Penjoyed it, actually.  Thank you for Pindulging me.  Okay, I'm done.

No worries, I'll have something extra-ranty for you next week.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Are any of you on Pinterest?  Let me tell you what I love about Pinterest, okay, one of the many things I love about Pinterest.  I see my friends pin the most delicious-looking recipes then pin a fat-burning exercise or way to flatten the tummy.  I do it too.  Cracks me up.

Okay, so after my rant last week I felt like we kind of all feel the same way when it comes to body image and our kids.  So, I now feel confident to have the following breakdown:

It's too much.  All of it.  I can't take it and I can't live up to it.  Everywhere I turn someone is putting something gross in my food.  Worse, they're putting it in my children's food.

Can't a girl just drive-thru and get a freaking cheeseburger without worrying about the 90 different ways it's going to kill me.  Look, I'm okay with worrying about nutritional content.  Clearly, eating burgers and fries every day isn't good for you.  But I can't even have it once in awhile without wondering now.  Thank you FDA for letting these things end up in my food.

I was sitting in the drive-thru at Taco Bell-y (get it?  My sister invented that one) and I noted a sign that said that their ground beef contained a whopping 86% ground beef.  What the f is the other 14%?  I'm certain I don't want to know.  McDonald's is now uber-proud of themselves because they're no longer putting that weird pink sludge in their burgers.  KFC uses genetically engineered chickens that have bigger breasts than a Hollywood starlette wanna-be.  All of my canned goods are leaching BPA into my cream-of-whatever soups.  There's too much sugar in 99% of the things that I like (not my Nutella!). 

So here's where all of this backfires for me.  I am so overwhelmed by all of it that I just throw up my hands and in a defeated voice order my Mighty Kids Meal (it's the perfect size and it comes with a toy!)

What the hell is a girl to do?  Look, I try my best to feed this family of mine delicious food that doesn't come out of cans, that is grown locally, that won't kill us with its food coloring, etc.  But I'm going to fail because:
A.  I'm not independently wealthy and stuff that's good for you is more expensive than the shit that will give your kids ADHD.
B.  I live in an area with a very sad showing for local winter produce.
C.  Even though I stay home with my children, I don't actually have time to bake all of my own bread, grow my own veggies, and churn my own butter.  I tried the baking bread bit for a while.  It was delicious but good Lord, I don't have that kind of time.
D.  Although I was raised by hippies, I am in fact, not one.

I admit it, I like the things that are bad for me.  I like the things that are good for me, too.  No one is yelling at me to not eat that grape, though.

Apparently now my precious sugar is in jeopardy now, too.  My sister sent me an article that made me never want to let my child eat another carb, drink another drop of juice, eat another cookie.  Apparently the sugar messes with the part of the brain that tells the child that they are full contributing to childhood obesity and a host of other issues.  This makes me sad, though, because I want carbs, juice, and cookies.

I've never been a successful dieter.  (BTW anorexia and bulimia are not diets, so they don't count.)  I can't deny myself things.  I have to have that mini ice cream sandwich after a long day of explaining why it's not okay to pull kitty's tail and whap sissy in the head with a book.  Fat?  Sugar?  Chocolate?  All in one delicious mini package?  Yes, please!

Well, I guess food is like TV for us.  I have basically phased out almost all cans at this point as we have phased out *most* TV.  I still use random cream-of-____ soup for my recipes just as we still watch a bit of Sprout and PBS here and there.  I have pledged to no longer let Claire have animal cookies, *sniff.*  But damnit, I can't cut out every freaking bit of fat, chemicals, and sugar.   

I read on Healthy Child, Healthy World's wall on Book of Political Commentary, I mean Facebook, that one mom's family is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free, and sugar-free.  My brain exploded.  I don't know what we would eat if we didn't have those things.  Okay, I'm not trying to be a complete asshole here, I recognize there are real food allergies out there and moms are their child's first line of defense.  But come on.  I have decided Healthy Child, Healthy World spends way too much time allowing people to congratulate themselves on what they're cutting out of their diet this week rather than offering real solutions for real people.  I think I'll cut Healthy Child, Healthy World out of my diet.