Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Week Without Computers: Not for the faint of heart

"Are you guys hungry? Should we eat now, or wait awhile?" I ask the kids.
"Yeah what?"
"Do you want to eat now or later?"
"Ooohh kaaay...tacos sound good?"
"How about ice cream? Should we just have ice cream for dinner?"
"Kittens? Maybe I should fry up some cute, cuddly baby kittens and serve them with soy sauce. Or mustard. Mustard would be good."
                                 Also tasty with ketchup. (Photo credit)

I go into the living room and all three kids are on the sofa, various tablets/computer/phones in hand, the light from the devices casting a sickly light on their zombie-like, expressionless faces.
"Hey, guys? Yoou whooo!"
They look at me, without a trace of recognition in their eyes.

So, I did the one thing I knew would make them hate me forever. Well, they would as soon as they could remember where they'd seen me before.

I took away the internet.

For a week.

This decision was met with a tiny amount of resistance.

                   Like this. Times three.    (Photo credit)

The drama was no less impressive than that of a Spanish soap opera. There was fainting, and moaning, and anguished crying. There was rolling around on the floor, pulling hair, and wailing (and it wasn't me, like it usually is). There was screaming, and fire breathing. (And with time my eyebrows will grow back. Until then, I can use a Sharpie.) I had ruined their life, and they told me that in exactly those words. I wanted to start in with the "When I was your age all I had to play with was poison ivy and roadkill...", conversation, but instead I took the high road and yelled obscenities at them, then took away the items in question.

I slept with my Kevlar vest on, but the next morning the kids were surprisingly...not mad. My oldest actually told me that he thought it was a good idea. Then I promptly locked him in the closet while I searched for the real Nick. And we stuck with it. Almost. 6 days is close enough.

We only had one slip up...about four days in, the boys got up earlier than usual, and since I like to sleep in, I made them take the puppy out and watch him, while my husband and I got a little more time. As long as I could hear them fighting with each other, I knew all was well. But got really quiet. My husband called answer. Got up and searched the usual rooms, nothing. He found them locked in the bathroom, with the dog and the tablet perched precariously on the toilet. Hey, when you need a hit, you need a hit.
Minecraft addicts are looking at that picture, and mentally rearranging the pills to make trees and sheep. (Photo credit)

While I didn't completely give it up, I did cut my computer use in half. My house has never been cleaner. I actually read a few real books. (The Dresden reads, by the way.) The kids and I played games at night, and my daughter and I put a few puzzles together. Nick and I drew together, and Sam and I read all about dinosaurs. Over and over. And over. (I know now how to pronounce Quetzalcoatlas.) We don't have TV, but we bonded over reruns of "My Babysitter is a Vampire" on Netflix. We pretended to be zombies. We played Barbies. We tried to teach the dog tricks. Nick wrote a story. Attitudes improved.

I'm definitely implementing a stricter schedule when it comes to computer/tablet/whatever time. It was a worthwhile experiment, and we will do it again. But maybe only a few days at a time, and I'll give the kids more notice, so they have time to mourn properly.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vodka in my Orange Juice

I've never featured food in any of my posts. There are so many great blogs dedicated solely to recipes, and my flaky, disorganized method of cooking would add nothing of value to anyone. I'm the person that stands in front of the refrigerator at 6:00pm, wondering why the kids have to eat everyday, trying to come up with something to feed them. Not because I don't like to cook; I actually like it a lot, and before I had kids (who have very "sophisticated" palates) I made some pretty creative dishes. But I never write down my recipes and they're never the same twice. I don't measure anything, and I don't taste anything as I cook, I judge what it needs by smell. That tends to be hard to explain in a recipe. "Add salt, pepper and basil until it, uh... smells right." Yeah. Doesn't really work. Nor are the kids impressed with my impressive sensory feats, and the past several years meals have basically consisted of about 10 recipes, rotated over and over. The kids do not deal well with change.
"Mom! There's something GREEN on my spaghetti! Get it off! Why do you always have to ruin my life??"
 But today! Today I was a regular domestic dervish, whirling around the kitchen in a flurry of productivity. I was planning and chopping (no broccoli, however) and marinating. I was cooking. And I hadn't even finished my morning coffee yet. By the time the kids got home from school, I had ten dinners and two pans of lasagna in the freezer. I prepped veggies for several more dinners.
You can't expect me to organize, too.

And, and, and! I made a batch of oatmeal/peanut butter "energy bites" and 3 dozen chocolate chip cookies.
I had to memorialize the occasion with pictures, because it's very possible that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event.  

My kitchen saw so much action today it had to go out and smoke a cigarette. I even wore an apron. However, I don't have photographic evidence so you'll just have to take my word for it. I also managed to take the puppy for two walks and did several loads of laundry. And get this...I even folded it. Well, some of it.

Turns out that vodka in my orange juice was an excellent idea.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Makeup, tiaras, and self-doubt (plus a picture of long toenails)

Once upon a time, I considered entering my daughter in pageants. (Yes, I know. This was before I googled Honey Boo Boo.) I was painfully shy as a child, and lacked even basic social skills. If someone dared to say hi to me I'd stare blankly at them before running away screaming. Maybe that was why I didn't have very many friends...

I didn't want that for my daughter, and I thought that maybe pageants would be a good way to build her self-confidence.  I went as far looking into a few local events. For those who know me in real life, that is the antithesis of who I am. But for my daughter I thought I might be able to keep the gagging to myself, and encourage her to be the social butterfly I never was.
Because this a not-scary-at-all picture of well-adjusted little girl. (Photo courtesy of

Around this same time, I fell into a few "modeling" jobs; since I always pictured myself as the awkward girl that everyone laughed at, this surprised me. But yes, it did a lot for my self-esteem. I was picked for a brochure shoot for Jayco RVs, and I made really good money. Then I wasn't picked for a skiing shoot, and a whole new level of self-doubt crept in. "What is wrong with me? Why didn't they want me? Am I too fat? Are my teeth too yellow? It's my nose, isn't it? I know it's my nose. And my horrible teeth." And so I spend $75 on a teeth whitening kit, and stop eating Oreos in bulk.

Yeah, I'm kind of famous.
I also had another job as a promo model. Pretty glamorous, really. I stood around liquor stores, in shoes that made my feet whimper in pain, smiling, flirting and hand selling (that's not as obscene as it sounds) the product. Then one day a store employee came up to me and said "A bunch of the  guys and I voted, and we decided that even though you're the oldest, you're the hottest." And while I think it was meant as a compliment, I didn't like the idea of being "voted" on in a liquor store stockroom. Then I focused on the old part. "Oh God. I am old. I am too old. What am I doing, who do I think I am? I have gray hair, don't I? I am horrible looking. How can people even stand to look at me and my wrinkled, hideous face?" And I realized that I didn't want my daughter to ever feel that kind of self- hatred. If she fails, I want it to be because she didn't try hard enough, not because someone didn't like her face, or her hair, or her big toe.
Unless it looks like this. Then she's fair game.

So I quit. It was doing more harm than good. I'd leave each job feeling more insecure than I felt when I went in. I debated it for is good. Especially when my hourly pay was triple anything I'd ever made at any other job. But the stress and anxiety and doubt wasn't worth it. And what would a pageant do? Expose a child to the same kind of anxiety and self-doubt. Those little girls can put on a good front, but inside, every time they don't win, they're doing an internal inventory on every tiny thing they think could be wrong with them. That's not healthy.

My daughter will never be in a pageant. It doesn't matter if she's not a social butterfly. Or class president. And so what if she dresses like Punky Brewster? She's awesome.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

My children have watched porn.

Recently I read an article about the deep, dark confessions of a parent. It was posted and shared all over Facebook, and even featured on some prominent websites. I figured it must be pretty profound to get so much exposure. I read it in hopes that her confessions would make me feel better about my miserable parenting failures.

And the confessions were terrible. Brace yourself.

 This terrible woman doesn't always buy organic apples. Holy. Shit.
Non-organic = demon spawn

And get this...she has, honestly, no joke, fed her children boxed macaroni and cheese. I have no words. I can't imagine the horror those children are exposed to in such a household. There was more, but her confessions were things that I do pretty regularly and it never occurred to me that I should be confessing them. Now I know, and after finishing the article I came to the the general conclusion that, yes, I sucked at parenting exactly as much as I had previously assumed.

So, in the spirit of generosity I want to share a recent parenting failure of my own, in hopes that it makes someone, somewhere more confident in their own parenting abilities.

My children have watched porn.

It didn't look like this.

I had let my children play with an old computer that only worked sporadically, and to my knowledge wasn't even connected to the internet. Turns out it was. A search for "sexy Katy Perry" apparently opened the sexual door to perversions that even most perverted adults wouldn't want to watch. The best part was that my then 9 year old son and 6 year old daughter were both having sleep overs, so not only did I allow my children to be corrupted, I also destroyed the innocence of other people's children. Had the situation been reversed, I would have been furious. I made my husband talk to their parents and explain what happened, because I was hiding behind the sofa, hanging my head in shame. For some reason, my daughter's friend has never been allowed back.

I hadn't previously considered giving the "birds and bees" talk to my to kids until their wedding night, however, this situation made it necessary. I had to sit my 6 year old daughter down and explain to her that in normal sexual relationships do not involve one woman and five men, or ten women and one octopus.

I had to say things that I never imagined I'd have to say, and I had to say them without sobbing. My oldest son was embarrassed and my daughter was sad. Why was she sad? Because she wouldn't be allowed to watch it anymore. "But...I like the pictures!" she said. Heaven help me.

Her future.

Yes. I suck at this parenting gig. So, next time you're feeling guilty about poisoning your children with the sweet, sweet fruit of the non-organic apple tree, remember that mine know what a menage a trois is.


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