Humor is also a way of saying something serious. - T. S. Eliot

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We're Ready

Sophia at the Children's Museum

Ella at the Children's Museum
It was open house time at the twins new school.  We went and the girls had a great time.  We stayed in each kindergarten room for a while watching other families cycle in and out. The girls didn't want to leave their rooms.  I was feeling good about things.  Then we walked out of the school and Sophia said she didn't want her teacher, Mrs. T.  She wanted Mrs. D, Ella's teacher.  Ella's teacher is a very bubbly person while Sophia's teacher seems more quiet and contemplative.  I

And then both girls started complaining about how it wasn't fair that their friend gets to go all day and why do they have to only go for part of the day?!  (Because mommy can't afford the nearly $7000 tuition it would take to send the pair of you, that's why!) 

They're ready.  I'm ready.  And according to Andi, Andi is ready.  When I told the twins that Andi was going to be sad that they got to go to school Andi inserted herself into the conversation, "I'm not going to be sad when they go to school!  I'm going to be a big girl!" 

Whatever that means....

Andi loved playing in the kindergarten classrooms and had no problem yelling at the other open house attendees that the play kitchen was hers and all hers, "THAT'S MINE!  NO!"

Not only will she tell new kindergartners what's what, she is not shy in telling the 5th grader next door to us, "Don't do that. Please! Stop!" when the 5th grader played in our fairy garden.

But it doesn't stop at 5th graders, Andi yelled at a group of women sitting out -- one of them a neighbor that Andi L-O-V-E-S, the other women were strangers to Andi.  "Who moved my baby?!" Andi screamed at the four women who happen to be sisters sitting on the patio.  When no one answered, Andi gave one of them "the stink eye" I am told. I apologized for her attitude and the women all laughed, "she is so funny!"

And when she's not yelling at the neighbors or terrorizing kindergartners, she is telling off daddy who stands at 6 feet tall and is over 200 pounds.  Removing a book from a tug-of-war between Andi and Ella, Andi yells at Daddy,  "Don't take Ella's book!!"

I love two-year-olds and their feisty, difficult, assertive behavior.  And I love five-year-olds who are heading to kindergarten.  Life is good.

Hell's Kitchen at the Children's Museum where Andi ran the show and smacked older children on the back when they didn't follow her rules.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mean Girls

"You can't come play in this castle. This is our castle and our slide. You can't be our friend and you can't play here!"  Sophia was -- verbatim -- relaying the interaction she and Ella had with a clique of pre-kindergarten girls at our neighborhood park. I asked Sophia and Ella if the little girls had really talked to them like that and Dave poked his head around the door confirming the snotty facts.

But he offered me a conclusion to the interaction that in an instant told me that Ella is going to be just fine when she goes to kindergarten.  After the mean girls at the playground issued their exclusionary statement to the twincesses, Ella calmly reacted, much like a duck letting water roll off it's back and said, "But it's a park."

I had been worried about how Ella is going to do in kindergarten.  The last two years at preschool she has been in the same room with Sophia who is a social butterfly.  Ella befriends the kids Sophia befriends.  I'm not sure how she will do at making her own friends. I have also been worried that when the girls aren't a pair, that perhaps Ella might even get picked on and not assert herself.  I am going to have to pick something else to worry about since Ella's come back to the mean girls at the park was perfect, if I do say so myself.

It hasn't taken me long to find something else to worry about...


She is a bully.  She chased another toddler away from a teeter-totter in a store, "That's MINE.  That's my teeter-totter! Get away!"  The other toddler obeyed my tyrant and headed towards another display but the tyrant turned stalker AKA Andi chased after the toddler shouting, "NO! THAT'S MINE!"

"She is a bully, Shannon," mom said, as she watched the whole scene play out from across the store. 

I don't know about that.  But we do need to work on...reigning her in a bit, harvesting her assertiveness while weeding out and disposing of her aggressiveness.

Playing at the children's museum this week, she ordered eight or nine other children around the "restaurant" yelling at them, "Put it on the counter!" when they had trays of food.  Andi proceeded to take the trays and served the patrons of the restaurant -- which were giggling parents -- who were seated watching their children and my tyrant.  But since this behavior wasn't necessarily bad behavior, Dave stayed back and only intervened when he saw the large, obese eight year-old come and take Andi's toys off the conveyor belt she was playing with.  Andi's face screwed up, her eyes narrowed and she took off after the little boy.  "She didn't just follow him, she hunted him down among the crowd," relayed Dave, "and when she reached him, she smacked him on the back."

A child therapist I know once said to me, "it's far easier to reign in a wild child than to bring out a shy child."  After my personal and ongoing drought of assertiveness and social ease, I'm praying for reign for our children.

The girls sitting in a historic hotel in Red Wing -- and SURPRISE! -- guess who doesn't want her pic taken...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gnome where we've Been?

We travelled to IA, came home and got sick, went to the zoo, developed and taught a childhood nutrition class, continued being sick, then Bobo came & went, and now the other gramma is on her way.  We did get a little gardening done, too...Here's the pictures that prove we're still around even though I haven't had a chance to write a blog lately...

Picked up a new tree and mini-wild grasses in IA and added them to the fairy garden...

Ella shows off her drivers license obtained at the Como Zoo driving school

Sophia carefully cruises around -- British style

The girls and their neighbor friends added "fairy floats" to the bird bath...eventually they added lavendar leaves for the fairies to have a calm, peaceful oasis.

A little tiny gnome moved in next door to the fairies...we'll see how this all plays out...

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Dentist Makes Me Smile

I had a dental cleaning appointment with Dr. Hottie Patottie this past week and, fortunately, he found two tiny cavities in one tooth necessitating my return for fillings the next day.  Before I get too far into this blog, I need to tell fellow fans of his a bit of bad news.  Dr. Hottie Patottie recently got married.  (Which kind of surprised me because while he is pretty and a very good dentist (surprisingly enough, I mean, who thought someone who looks so jock-like would be so smart and capable?) he doesn't have much for personality.  Did that last sentence even make sense?

Anyway, while his hygienist was doing my cleaning, we traded advice.  I gave her my professional opinion on dealing with her 3 year-old's tantrums, and she gave me her advice on how to deal with stains on my front teeth leftover from my days with braces.  She recommended doing microabrasion.  Finishing my cleaning, she told me she was going to go get Dr. Hottie Patottie (ohboyohboyohboy) to have him review my teeth and assess whether microabrasion would help.

During my consult with Dr. Hottie Patottie, I didn't think to ask about the process of microabrasion, but neither he nor his hygienist made it sound like a big deal.  Further research on-line that night left me with the impression that this was a quick, easy, PAINLESS procedure. 

I confidently walked in the next morning for my fillings and microabrasion.  With the fillings done, Dr. Hottie Patottie set to work on the cosmetic portion of the appointment.  I nearly died and, because I was mostly in Dr. Patottie's arms, went to heaven. 

Microabrasion is not painful.  Painful doesn't describe the feeling of chills running through your entire body while the ceiling starts swirling, your vision becomes cloudy, and you feel as if someone is ramming a frozen metal rod into your nerves.  Can you say torture?

The microabrasion -- which is a technique involving actually sanding off the surface of your tooth -- was a partial success.  He could see the disappointment in my eyes when I looked in the mirror, "You already have really white teeth -- they're beautiful -- and I'm not saying you need to whiten them, but if you want to take it farther to get the look I think you are wanting, then we can do more abrasion, or you can use a whitening product."

I quickly said no to further abrasion and left the office.  During the day, my teeth re-hydrated (which restored their color) and while they still have a bit of the stain on them, they do look better.  And so I spent a lot of the day smiling.  I even smiled at myself in the mirror -- I can't remember the last time I did that.  A traumatic moment in the 7th grade girls bathroom has left me with the habit of not looking at myself in the mirror -- that's a whole other blog. 

As I laid there, hoping I didn't die or pass out, it came to me that it makes sense to go to a dentist who could be a model.  Having work done on your teeth is such a traumatic event, why not at least have someone's beautiful blue eyes to stare into? 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Terrorist and the Foodies are Home

"I want stay EVER!" shouted Andi as she barricaded her body across my parents door. 

It was time for us to drive back to MN and say good-bye to gramma.  We spent two days helping mom celebrate her birthday.

Homemade Carrot Cake courtesy of Aunt H!  

Our family is a bunch of foodies, I believe, and for mom's birthday, we got her a bunch of exotic or indulgent high-quality foods to cook with.  My grampa was a chef who owned a (successful) restaurant for many years and while he may be gone, his legacy of good,  home-cooked mid-western fare is alive and well. 

Last week, after realizing that the girls turn their noses up at food like Kraft mac and cheese and the frozen bagel bites and chicken nuggets, I speculated to Dave that perhaps the girls are turning into foodies.  He agreed immediately stating that Sophia had scolded him that morning when he made her toast.

Dave proceeded to the fridge and took out a stick of margarine and Sophia told him, "Dad! That's margarine! Not butter!"

Later that day, Sophia tattled on him, "Daddy put margarine on my toast."  And then she rolled her eyes. 

While in Ames, besides the required trip to the chocolate store and bakery, the girls spent time swimming and further honing their swimming skills.  My goal is not to have children who can make the swim team, but children who are drown-proof.  So far, Foss swim school is FINALLY the place helping the girls achieve that goal.

"The Shark" (aka Uncle P) dives in to come eat squealing little girls. Yikes!

Sophia has a BIG JUMP!

Ok, so Andi was a bit tired and not too into the whole swimming thing...

Ella experimented with jumping styles and utilitzed: cannon ball, splits, twirling, and the run-and-jump

Ella is about to launch...
After swimming, Patrick and I combined ingredients and foods and made mom her birthday dinner.  Andi has become especially fond of Aunt H after Aunt H's visit to our home last week.  I wish we could bring Aunt H home and keep her forever.

Andi, waiting for cake, with her tub of candy from Grampa,  and her Aunt H.  It doesn't get better than that.
By 2:30, with a cup of coffee in hand from the nearest coffee store, we hit the highway back to MN. Once home, I quickly unpacked, started laundary, then bid Dave farewell and good luck with the cranky children and set off to Zumba in search of the latest gyrating stripper-style moves and my sanity. While I was away, though, the cats did play...with make-up...

By 9 PM they were all showered and put to bed to dream about their next adventure with family...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mother-of-the-Year Works on Appropriate Modelling

"No Soliciting EVER!"  reads the new note I taped to my door.  After my last set of run ins (see: Mother-of-the-Year Picking Fights with Giants) I decided I needed to make a newer, bolder sign. 

This morning the girls and I all headed to the chiropractor -- my zumba/stripper dancing class keeps knocking my knee and shoulder out.  While we were at the chiropractor office, the girls, who don't normally fight and misbehave there LOST IT.  There was yelling, arguing, hair pulling and hitting. 

And our chiropractor doesn't put up with much.  She is a very conservative Christian who doesn't like gay people, non-christians, misbehaving children or...well...people like the REAL me.  But I keep quiet while I am there because she is the only chiropractor I have met who makes me feel better.  And whoever can keep me on my fitness regimen that burns 700 calories a session with running and gyrating my way through zumba class every week is somebody I need to keep on my team.

"You girls are having a very hard time today," Dr. C told my children.  "You girls aren't getting anything out of my toy chest today and mommy is going to have to leave and do some disciplining."  (*"Disciplining" is code for hitting (spanking)).  (No. I don't hit my children).  But Dr. C believes I should, as does some nut case she loves...I think it's Dr. Dobson???

For the rest of the time, she stared at all of us as if we were cretins -- I could feel her stare telling me I wasn't managing my children well.  I don't know if I was or wasn't.  I was tired, they were having a bad day.  Shit happens. 

We drove home and the fighting, whining, and crying continued.  It was lunch time and they were hungry.  I cooked lunch and tried to enforce the "pick up your toys before you eat!" rule.  Eventually, I won that fight and the girls sat down to eat. Thank goodness...peace for five minutes...until...

"Mommy! Someone is coming to our house!" Sophia announced the arrival of solicitors which got the other girls out of their seats and the short-lived calm I had turned back into chaos.

"Sit down. No one is coming to our house.  They will leave," I told the girls feeling confident about my easy to read new sign taped by the doorbell.

"No mommy," said Sophia, "they are coming.  They are at the door. Look! Look!"


SON OF A MF'ing Bi***!  But I went to the door, maybe it wasn't a solicitor...after all...the sign was up...  Maybe it was neighbors?

I opened the door to two late-adolescent looking girls.  To be more exact, I opened the door to "Sister Randall" and "Sister Sara."  Their name tags eannounced that they were from the church of Latter Day Saints.

Upon reading their name tags I went from 0 to bitch in record time. Not only were they soliciting when my door told them not to, they were soliciting for my belief in some dude named Jesus.  (Here are some blogs on my thoughts about religion: Namaste and Namaste 2). But in sum, don't push it on me, because I don't care what you do and you shouldn't care what I do.

I open the door, armed with the irritation I felt from my chiropractor visit, armed with my adolescent defiance of "You can't MAKE me believe in God," and looked Sister Randall in the eye. Before speaking, I reminded myself of Ella's voice as she modelled me calling the last guy a "fuckhead" and told myself to stay calm.

"There is no soliciting here," I say quietly and calmly while pointing at the sign BY THE DOOR BELL SHE RANG, "and that means no soliciting for religion as well."  I then slam my door against their, "Ok! Have a nice day! Thank you!" 

Oh man!  Their stupid, perky, happy little voices made me want to turn right back around, rip the door open and boot their happy little asses right off the front porch.

But a scene familiar from just a few weeks ago, I turn to see three sets of big, blue eyes staring at what mommy did to the people who came to the door.

I walked past their big eyes, back into the kitchen and they bounced along behind me with only Sophia -- of course Sophia -- verbally expressing her observations...

"BOY! You suuuuuurrrre told them!"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

OH! So it isn't me that's the Problem?

Ella and I have some interesting conversations in our times together.  The other day she asked me how much our home cost and I told her.  "Wow!  Did you have all that money?"

I told her that we did not have all that money.  I explained the bank let us borrow the money and that every month we give the bank back small amounts of money.  I went on to reinforce the message I gave her recently about why daddy works...They give him money, and that's how we pay for the house,"so if daddy doesn't go to work, then we can't have a house.  The bank will take it away from us."

"Oh, well that would be ok. We could just go live with the neighbors."

Tonight, Ella and I had another conversation and I was able to glean from it that Ella was paying attention to my explanations of how things work.  At the start of the conversation, I complimented Ella on her problem-solving skills as well as her initiative (yes, it's so rough to be raised by a mental health therapist).  I then asked her if she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.

"I'm going to be Cinderella."

I was a bit disappointed that she didn't have bigger plans (for supporting me in my old age) and asked her how she would make money to pay for her house to live in.  She thought about it for only a second before switching plans.

"Oh.  I guess I'll be Belle.  Cause she has the Beast."

It took me a second, "Oh, so you mean the Beast can pay for her house?"

"Yep."  And she skipped off leaving me to realize that while I never really had to worry that Disney Princesses were giving Ella an unrealistic standard to live up to, I did have to worry about what I was showing her.

Now granted, this really isn't something to get worked up about unless you are a jaded, insecure feminist who hates relying on anything that has a penis...But since I am a jaded, insecure feminist who hates relying on anything that has a penis, I did get a bit worked up.

My immediate thought was that I needed to go get a real job and put off my private practice work.  Then I realized that that would be an awful lot of take care of 3 kids, a home, a yard, and be gone 50+ hours a week. 

While I don't want to be gone from my kids, forcing them into a daycare facility, I DO wish I was able to get something done that still whispered of MY essence.  I didn't know how to convey it articulately, so instead I ranted at Dave about how I can't figure it all out.  I don't know how to get my practice lifted up, raise our girls, take care of all the home stuff, and gain full-time employment to remedy the ever-increasing debt that piles up for us.  "I shouldn't be miserable, but I am.  When I can't get writing done, when I can't get my private practice work done, when I can't even keep one corner of the home clean, I start to resent the girls.  I just want SPACE!  And then I resent you because you are gone all the time furthering your career.  And I'm mad at me because there is NO reason for me to be miserable...but I am at times and I don't want to be. Everyone is healthy, we have A LOT.  I ought to be singing from the rooftops."

And then the girls walked in, the conversation, as it so often is, was interrupted and I'll go back to trying to figure it all out on my own, as so many moms do...If you'd like a more articulate link to what I am trying to say, you can read the writing of a former grad school colleague at This link.

Or if you'd like to be thoroughly incited by how family un-friendly our society is, you can read a book I recently read by Sharon Lerner, "The War on Moms: On Life in a Family Un-friendly Nation."  That book may have saved my self-esteem.  Until I read it, I assumed I was the idiot who couldn't get her shit together. 

Click here to see the author briefly speak:  Watch video

Now I can just blame everyone else and sit comfortably in my victimhood.  ;) (Not really.)  But the book was very validating -- something I never expected to get from it when I grabbed it off the shelf as I chased Andi through the public library. 

Whew! This post -- much like the conversations I have with Ella -- went in a direction different than I thought it would go in...

If we don’t take care of mothers, they can’t take care of their babies.” –Jeanne Driscoll

Monday, August 1, 2011

Test Run: My Ship May Have Come In

I have decided to try a new parenting strategy.  Today is my first day using the technique.  I'm pretty excited about it because lately, my children's behavior has been eating away at my last nerve -- which is only there thanks to the psychopharmacology of zoloft. 

The girls are all asleep at 7:45 this morning and while I have a vague anxiety floating about me wondering if they are all dead, I more think it is due to them: 1. Partying their asses off at gramma's house and 2. Wandering all over the house at 1AM, 3AM and 4AM last night.

By their sleeping in, I was able to blissfully get ready without interruption and that's when I found my lavendar spray that I bought at Whole Foods in June.  It was my birthday gift to myself having read that lavendar has both a calming effect as well as an anti-depressant effect. 

Today I'm putting that claim to the test. I have slathered lavendar lotion over my entire body, and then for good measure, I sprayed myself -- head to toe -- with lavendar spray.  And because a lot of fights happen in the car, I have sprayed the car, too. 

I am hoping that in the same way that bug spray works, that the lavendar spray will work to fight away any screaming/yelling/tattling/whining/bitchiness.  My thought is, is that the girls will get near me and be hit by this invisible shield I have created around myself and they will instantly be set into a state of blissful calmness.

Please note that I realize I could just go ahead and spray it directly on them, but I have two pieces of evidence that indicate that technique won't work:

1.  I tried it.  They began screaming, "Ow! It's in my eyes!"  That is the opposite effect of what I was looking for.

2.  My sister-in-law tried it being careful to avoid the facial area.  When my brother woke up on the wrong side of the bed and started bitching at her, she promptly got her "calming spray" and shot it at him.  "It only made him madder."  Not the effect I want either.

And so we'll see how this goes.  If all goes well, my ship has come in. In my private practice as a parent coach I am finding that parents are over-stressed, over-tired, and just want a quick fix.  I get it.  I do too.  If all goes well today, I will have developed the first technique to insulate all mothers from their children's crazy-making behavior and I.Will.Be.Rich.