Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chocolate - The Good, The Bad, and The Guilt

     I'm not a big fan of the Chocolate Holidays, and I'll tell you why.  They incite devious, sneaky, lying behavior at my house.  Let's start with Halloween, for example.  The kids dress up in overpriced pieces of stretchy nylon, hit the streets in the dark - armed with a plastic pumpkin head and a flashlight (both deadly weapons), and beg (very noble practice) for candy.  They come home, we deal out the treasures, and make up arbitrary rules like: "Only one piece a day."  First of all, it never works out that way, and second, if I have done the math right, we will all be eating candy that gets harder and chewier with every passing day, and will finally be inedible by the time we get to the last piece on February 13th.
     But, hey, we're in luck!  February 14th is the official start of the next Chocolate Holiday!  This stash is much more cluttered and complicated though.  The kids have to actually write something on a small piece of paper, tape on a tiny, tape-able piece of candy, and then address it to each one of their classmates.  Plus, when they bring home their cache, it has to be separated from tattoos, tape, gum wrappers, and other bits of Valentiny paraphernalia before they can even hork it down.  Much harder.
     Not to worry.  The grand-daddy of them all and the official end to the season of chocolate is just around the corner - Easter!  To begin with, I stuff plastic eggs full of candy for the Easter Bunny to hide, and then indulge the Easter Bunny to leave additional trinkets and chocolate candy in a basket.  Then I make them hunt for their goodies in the morning - making these chocolate treasures just that much more "valuable."  Not only have I taught them that hiding candy is good, but I have also given them a plethora of sneaky spots for future hiding.  It's all my fault.
     So I guess I just have myself to blame for this morning's escapades.  As I was getting ready for the day, assuming that both children were still slumbering peacefully in their beds, I heard a noise from the kitchen downstairs.  It sounded a little like a sack of marbles dropping and then rolling about randomly across the hardwood floor.  But upon closer auditory inspection, it sounded exactly like several plastic Easter eggs crashing open on to the kitchen floor, spilling out scads of jelly beans, robin eggs, and Cadbury mini eggs - accompanied by frantic bare feet hopping from pillar to post, scooping up the runaway candy.   Hmmm...   I can't quite remember now... did I put jellybeans and toast or Peeps and peanut butter eggs with milk on the breakfast menu ... and some little person was just helping to prepare the prescribed breakfast to surprise me?
     By the time I entered the kitchen, life seemed just as normal as possible.  Two children in their jammies just casually, innocently eating breakfast and writing their spelling words (rather quietly and diligently).  I must have been hearing things.  Surely these two Heaven-sent children could not have possibly been involved in some sort of a candy heist - right?  I pretended to be completely without suspicion and gave them their usual morning hugs and kisses.  We continued this charade for a few more minutes until something went terribly wrong.  As one of them stood up to get more milk, I heard a peculiar, but recognizable sound.  Then the mad scramble to cover up the crime was underway.  The sound heard was that of a robe pocket over-filled with jelly beans spilling it's contents on to a wooden chair, that continued to roll off on to a wooden floor, which when followed, led directly to the "nest."  As I let my eye follow the rolling jelly beans along the floor boards, I caught a glimpse of something shiny underneath the sofa in the sun room.  When I pulled back the skirt of the sofa, to my great "surprise," I was treated to a vast array of foil wrappers, Easter grass, part of a chocolate bunny ear, and anything with coconut in it.  Seems as though this job had been well underway for the last several days.
Without me saying a word, this is what followed:
Accomplice #1: "Mom, I was just moving these plastic Easter eggs from here to over there... because they needed to be moved."
Accomplice #2: ....Yeah, Mom.  We weren't going to put them in our lunch boxes or anything... really!
Accomplice #1: Mom, they just spilled this morning somehow - and I didn't have time to put them all back together again... I had to get my spelling done.
Accomplice #2: ... and I didn't see anything at all.  I don't even know where the candy is...
Accomplice #1: What?  What's under the couch??
Accomplice #2: That's been there for a loooong time... and I don't even know why...

See?  Lying, sneaky, devious behavior... all because the Chocolate Holidays... and one guilt-ridden, chocolate-loving mom who isn't ready to give up the magic of a Halloween costume, the delight of making a Valentine Box, or the lovable - yet tricky Easter Bunny.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Only List They'll Ever Need

"I can't be responsible for everything, Joe.  If you want to learn how to cross your eyes so that only one moves, you will just have to ask mom.  She's the one who taught me."
Wow.  I didn't realize I had given lessons in that area.  I had to stop and think what exactly I have taught my children in the last ten years.  I guess I was hoping for at least a few life skills - like, tying shoes, making a bed, some simple multiplication, and maybe even the intricacies of flipping a pancake.  Somehow crossing their eyes is what made it to the top of the list.  I thought I better retool the list of lessons my elementary-aged children should learn before they hit the pavement to seek their fortunes:
1. Always say thank you - even it's directed to the lab tech that just poked you six times in the attempt to get a sample of your blood - would you rather have me try?  I think not.
2. When someone is angry in the house, start cleaning something.
3. Spend some time on your teeth - The Bald Knobbers show is no longer hiring.
4. Notice the little things and appreciate a beautiful sunset... or the trail of sticky juice you just spilled as you walked through the entire house.
5. Be kind.  Even when it seems it's getting you nowhere, this one always pays off at a later date.
6. Close the door behind you without slamming it - and first make sure no one is directly behind you - in that case, hold it for them.
7. Go to church - and occasionally listen instead of making origami frogs out of the bulletin.
8. Break a sweat now and again.
9. Just because your friend's lunch is chock full of Little Debbie Snack cakes and Slim Jims and yours is not - does not make me a mean mommy.  It just means that what goes around, comes around - I didn't get that kind of a lunch as a kid, so you can't have it either.  Simple "Bitter Child" law.
10. Help someone every chance you get.
11. Laugh at yourself.  Laugh at funny people, places, and things.  But don't laugh at funny-looking people.
12. Clean up what you get out - all of it.  No one likes to find a splotch of pink play dough on the seat of their pants when they return home from a trip to Target.
13. Oh, and learn one skill that sets you apart from your peers... like crossing only one eye at a time.
There.  That oughta do it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Road

A couple of weeks ago, we stuffed the mom van full of enough snacks and entertainment to keep a troop of monkeys happy for a week, and headed south to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a week on the beach.
What made our first family road trip so special?  Let me fill you in:
1. The snacks - for some reason, all food rules are literally out the window when it comes to traveling.
2. Uninterrupted time to talk with my husband - who knew plugging the kids into movies and ds games for 18 hours would almost be like a date?
3. Hearing my mother's voice come somewhere out of my mouth.  Saying things like: "Kids, who wants to play a game where we see who can find the most signs of spring?" and "Just look at how GREEN it is!"
4. Narrowly escaping being maimed when the car's back tire in the lane next to us suddenly exploded and sent pieces of plastic, strips of bent metal, and hunks of rubber hurdling in our direction.  All I can say is that the parents were glad that the kids were ear phoned up at the time... not sure what was said... pretty sure it wasn't "Oh my, there seems to be a disturbance next to us, let's hurry along now."
5. Gas station bathrooms... enough said.
6. While parked at a gas station/convenience store somewhere along a lonesome highway in Mississippi, a group of young men pulled up next to us.  They must have seen our license plates because when they got out of their car, they all gawked into our windows as if to say, "So that's what Minnesotans look like!"  They were all on cool duty as they made their way to the entrance - all swaggering and stretching their necks up to appear taller than they were - apparently proud to be Mississippi residents and still have a full set of teeth.  When the last one was sashaying along the sidewalk in front of a locked cage full of propane tanks for grills, he somehow caught the edge of his t-shirt on the padlock which not only surprised him, but also pulled him back rather abruptly and managed to rip out the entire seam of his shirt.  The Minnesotans observed that it's a bit tricky to maintain hip, slick, and cool when being jerked around by an inanimate object - even when you have all your teeth.  A little slice of entertainment that provided us with laughter for a good twenty miles after that.
7. Reaching our destination with all of our faculties still in tact and actually still talking with one another.
Our spring break trip was, by all accounts, a great time and a complete success.  People are funny, and it seems that the farther we get from home, the funnier they get.  I'm sure the people we encountered along the way thought we talked and looked funny too - in fact, I'm sure I stuck out among the locals when I rolled out of the van in a McDonald's parking lot wearing a wool scarf, long pants, and a sweater on a 70 degree day in Mobile, AL.  Although the airport in itself can be a real trip these days, the road gave us an opportunity to look around and observe and actually see what else is out there.  So... I think we'll pack up our snacks, earphones, and funny people and do it all over again next year.