Friday, March 30, 2012

Dear Mommy Egg Hunt

Dear Mommy Egg Hunt,

My kiddos are definitely looking forward to you, a yearly tradition that I created a few years ago.  You are a spiced-up egg hunt, or a cross between a treasure and egg hunt that is fun, fun, fun!

Since I did not experience egg hunts while I was growing up, it occurred to me my kids will never know the Easter Bunny the way they know Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.  Two years ago, I set up an egg hunt in our house for the kiddos, and they knew that Mommy put it together.  Sorry kiddos; it seems that you will probably always think that the Easter Bunny is a creature that is supposed to be associated with egg hunts.  Which brings me to wonder how soon it will be before they make the connection that since Mommy is the Easter Bunny, then who really is Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy?

Years ago, we participated in park district egg hunts.  The organizers usually used a large grassy area, dumped out a huge bag of plastic eggs, blew the whistle, and created a mad dash frenzy of kids and grownups alike.  We soon saw that these egg hunts became a race for parents -- to see which adult can run more kids over so they can snatch the eggs right before the little ones.  It was such an infuriating sight to see that we soon decided not to go feed that madness anymore.  I would create our own egg hunt in the comfort of our own home.

As soon as Dear Daughter learned how to read, I took over the Easter Bunny's job and held our own egg hunts right at home.  This treasure egg hunt was inspired by my late grandfather, who used to play a treasure hunt game with me when I was a little girl.  He would give me a note with his scribble that said to go find something somewhere.  And when I went there, there would be another note there telling me to go somewhere else.  This chain of notes would continue until I finally find the object I was supposed to find.  It was always turned out to be a nice treat for me.  After we played this game a few times, he then taught me how to set up the chain of notes.  You have to go backwards and plant the notes in each place accordingly.  Once I got the hang of it, I made notes for him to find treasures.  It was such a lovely childhood experience that I kept the memory with me all these years.

So for the egg hunt, the kiddos would wake up to a letter from Mommy and a basket each to collect their eggs.  The letter contained instructions for their Mommy Egg Hunt.  Since DD can read, she was instructed to read aloud the letter and subsequent notes and take Dear Son around the house to find their eggs.  She would take her little brother by his hand (as he was still very little then) and go find the first set of eggs (one for each of them), which sat upon another note, which led to the second set and another note, and so on.  Dear Husband and I followed them with our camera and camcorders, fully reaping the excitement the kiddos were showing during this hunt.  Of course, I had them run all around the house, going upstairs to downstairs, in easy places and not-so-easy hideouts.  The best part was I had made each note into a riddle, and they had to figure out where to go!  Last year, the notes were as follows:

Where you both bathed together when you were kiddos,
But now you don't fit because you're humong-os!  (Their bathroom bathtub) 

Where we put things that can be reused,
Instead of in the garbage or down the trash chute.  (Recycling bin) 

Where I find stinky, icky, smelly socks,
And dirty, muddy, yucky smocks.  (Laundry basket) 

Where we make yummy cookies and cupcakes, 
But must be careful of the heat it makes.  (The oven) 

Where one sleeps when camping under the starry skies,
Except ours is in the activity room all the days and nights.  (Play tent) 

Where DS falls asleep every night,
Before he flees to Mommy's room when there's no light.  (DS' bed) 

When our dirty laundry becomes clean,
And our clothes sparkle with a nice sheen!  (The washer) 

Where there are beans and beans and beans galore,
Before DD and DS spills them all on the floor!  (The play kitchen) 

Where Tyler steps on since he's too short,
It's pink, it stinks, and it snorts.  (Pig step stool) 

Where the Egg Hunt always ends with a surprise,
Where you will find your little gift of delight!  (Under the coffee table)

The very last riddle led to the final surprise, which is usually something special, such as a Pokeball.  Then the kiddos sat down and opened their eggs together (they were not allowed to open them until the very end).  Watching our kiddos do so, DH and I found them complete opposites; DD opened all her eggs and had all the plastic eggs and their contents in one big pile, while DS meticulously sorted all the plastic eggs in one pile and lined up all his prizes and candies in a straight line.  Yes, remember the mention of DS' OCD and AR tendencies?  Case in point.  It was such an eye opener for us parents to see the little differences in them!

It is almost that time of year again.  I've got just over a week to come up with my riddle clues, my stuffed eggs, and plant the eggs and notes after the kiddos go to bed the night before.  I'll have to be more creative with the hiding places this year, since they've had a few years of practice already!

So, Annual Egg Hunt, my kiddos cannot wait to see what you have in store for them this year.  I hope to make it as fun as, if not more, than the previous years. Maybe you will even evolve once DS can read, but I still have a few more years to figure that out.  Happy Hunting!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dear Spring

Dear Spring,

You have arrived early.  Not that I'm complaining, but you can be such a tease.

Mother Nature decided to grace us with spring summer-like weather early, so we went from winter straight to summer temps over the last week.  We had 10 days of record breaking (or tying) high temps, which make us think twice about what kind of summer we're really going to have.  But of course, this morning's temperature was near-freezing, so I had to turn on the heat yet again, despite all of us wearing sweaters and jackets at home.  According to the calendar, the first day of spring was 3/20/12 this year.  But our crazy weather couldn't agree less.  Here are my Top Ten reasons for knowing spring is here without looking up the spring equinox date:

10.  It's time to put away the inhaler and Aquaphor.  Sneezing and drippy noses force me to dig out our allergy meds again.  As soon as the temperature goes above 60 degrees, we -- Dear Daughter, Dear Son, and I -- start our daily doses.  #claritinforbreakfast

9.  Since we're on that topic, I also dig out the allergy eye drops.  Apparently allergy meds are not  great for itchy eyes, and when children have itchy eyes, children get very grouchy.  Since I cannot stand watching them rub their eyes, I chase them down and drown them with $EyeLiquid.  #costsanarmandaleg

8.  Mother Nature takes out her spring palette and paints our world in nice shades of green.  A color that is said to be soothing for eyes, greens of pine, sage, laurel, moss, fern, asparagus, and tea begin to take over.  #worldcomingtolife

7.  I happily put away winter coats, jackets, boots, mittens, and hats.  I won't see them for a good eight months.  Which means the time it takes to shoo the kiddos out the door is now tolerable.  #byebyewintergear

6.  In the middle of the heatwave, my tulips, who unearthed themselves to greet me, made me giddy with delight.  You see, the last time I saw them and planted them in November, I was not sure if I'd ever see them again.  Spring was the definitive force that pulled them out of the ground to declare their permanent residence.  #growtulipsgrow

5.  "Can we play outside?  Can we play outside?"  As soon as the temperature starts to rise, the nagging begins.  Spring is the perfect season to play outside.  It's not too hot, there are no bugs, and it is just a breath of fresh air out there.  #gorightaheadmydears

4.  Waking up in the morning isn't quite so dreadful when melodious birds chirp me awake.  I think there's a nest right outside my bedroom window.  It's music to my ears after a long winter of silence out there.  #suresignofspring

3.  This time of year always plants a little seed in my head about chopping off my long locks.  There's just something about spring and the renewal of one's look.  I wonder when I'll take the plunge this year?  #layersorbob

2.  But first, my beloved rose bushes get a 'haircut', or what looks like a really nice trim.  I prune my roses every spring so that they become the prettiest ones on the block.  And I'm not even ashamed to brag about it.  Pruning is hard work.  It's also a leap of faith.  This year, buds and leaves were already growing when I pruned them, and it felt really weird cutting off all that growth.  But what remains will grow even better.  #selfproclaimedpruningpro

1.  Last related note about hair: my legs have not seen the light of day since I planted those tulips.  They've been hibernating all winter, and now need to come out of the cave.  Which means for a few days, the follicles on my legs despise what I do to them.  #byebyeleghair

Just look at those glorious flowering trees in that picture up there!  Only you, Spring, are able to accomplish such marvelous task as allowing those trees to blossom with bountiful white flowers that sway in the gentle breeze.  Mother Nature done good again.  You are the proof of that.  Welcome, Spring!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Dear Trifecta Writing Challenge

Dear Trifecta Writing Challenge,

You are undoubtedly my newest addiction.  As if I have time for you!  But, seriously, you had me at 33.

I came across a writing community in the blogosphere a few weeks ago.  The editors at Trifecta Writing Challenge give out a weekday (Trifecta) one-word challenge and a weekend (Trifextra) challenge.  Based on the prompts or instructions given, writers submit their entries by linking their blog posts to Trifecta's site.  There, you can read all the brilliant writers' submissions and see the different takes one single word or other such prompts can take on.  For detailed instructions, see Trifecta Instructions here

As its name indicates, Trifecta is enamored with the number 3.  Weekday challenges are limited to a word count between 33 and 333, and weekend challenges are limited to exactly 33 words.  The weekday word prompts must be taken from the 3rd definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Every 3rd weekend, the community votes for the winners of the challenge.  The editors like to showcase the 33rd entry on its Facebook Page and on Twitter.  Since 3 is my favorite number, I naturally had an attraction to Trifecta even before my addiction began.

Over days, as I read the different responses submitted by other bloggers, I became jittery.  It seemed as though words wanted to jump from my fingertips to the screen as well.  On a whim, I decided to submit an entry.  (By the way, anyone can participate; even people who do not have a blog.  Over at Trifecta Anonymous, you can submit entries via email, and they will be linked by the editors for you.)  After I submitted two entries in this manner, I decided to create another blog just for prompt-writing.  I hesitated linking up to Letters of Muse because I was simply not willing to change the concept of this blog: all posts are letters, and they shall remain that way.  My posts are usually much longer than 333 words, so I probably cannot incorporate a prompt-related post here.

Thus, Promptly I Write is born.  I invite you to hop over there to see the entries that I have submitted.  I know... as if you have time to read any more of my writing.  I assure you -- that since I don't have time for this -- they are all short entries.  And they are just for fun.  So far, my entries are still in my voice (based on my experiences or memories).  I have not attempted any fictional writing just yet, but I may give it a try one of these days.  Other writers in this community are such experienced fiction writers that I really have much to learn from them. 

So what happens when one wins?  One gets a lovely Trifecta Winner button for one's blog.  It's an honor.  Or pretty blog wall decoration.  But that is certainly not my reason for joining.  Participating in these challenges gets my creative juices flowing.  I get to meet kind, talented writers, read their entries, and check out their blogs.  Like I said, as if I have time for this.  But time I do make at the cost of wearing bags under my eyes.

So, Trifecta Writing Challenge, it has been quite an experience getting to know you.  Interestingly, I almost feel as though I'm cheating on Letters of Muse with Promptly I Write, but let's just say that Promptly is a new sibling to Letters (which means my Dear Daughter and Dear Son have somehow gained a couple of non-human siblings; did I mention that I don't have time for this?).  You certainly have me hooked, Trifecta!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dear Birthday Cupcakes

Dear Birthday Cupcakes,

You were definitely a nice change from the half sheet cakes I used to redecorate with fondant.  A first time making and decorating with buttercream frosting was a success indeed!

Dear Son's newest infatuation is Ninjago -- Lego Ninjas who are masters in Spin-jitsu.  All of a sudden, toy store shelves are popping up with these Ninjago Lego sets that cost an arm and a leg, and cartoon episodes are showing on TV, one slow episode per week.  Naturally, his birthday cake will be in the form of a Ninjago character.  But DS knows exactly what he wants; there's no talking him out of anything.  I wanted to convert a half sheet cake into one Ninjago character, but he wanted all the characters on the cake.  So I proposed cupcakes instead of a large cake so that we can have many different characters all at once.  DS approved.  Vanilla cupcakes they will be.

Weeks before the party, I began a search for the best vanilla cupcake recipe.  I came across many beautiful food blogs that featured professional photos of masterpieces.  After studying the ingredients, I decided t o adapt Brown Eyed Baker's Vanilla Cupcakes.  I would have liked to make her mini cupcakes and swirl vanilla buttercream just like those in her picture because I think they look exquisite.  But Ninjago cupcakes they must be.

I set out to make 3 dozen cupcakes and a small cake for DS to blow out the candles.  The first batch was an EPIC FAIL.  DS was helping me, ever so excited about pouring flour and eggs and vanilla into the mixing bowl.  Needless to say, I was distracted.  As soon as I placed the cupcakes into the oven, I realized that I had forgotten to add SUGAR to the cake batter!

The next batches all went without a hitch, since DS decided that helping with one batch was enough.  By the end of the day, I had my cakes all baked and cooled.  I made the buttercream frosting on the morning of the party.  The thing about making frosting with lots of different colors is it takes a lot of time.  Separate bowls, spoons, piping bags, washing tips in between, etc.  I was glad to have only four colors to work with.  I doubled the frosting recipe just to see how far I'd get.  But by the time I finished frosting the cupcakes, there was not enough to frost the small cake, nor was there enough time to make more frosting.  Don't worry, I didn't freak out.  It is what it is.  I do have 36 cupcakes for DS to choose from for his candle blowing ceremony.

To frost the cupcakes, I first frosted each cupcake with a thin layer of yellow.  Then I used a ribboning tip to pipe lines across the cupcake, leaving a window for the eyes.  Before the eyes went on, they really looked like colorful mummies to me.  Thank goodness the angry eyes made them look like ninjas!  To finish, I smoothed out the ribbon edges all around the cupcakes with a small spreader. 

In the end, the only change I made to the Vanilla Cupcakes recipe was reducing sugar in the batter from 1 cup to 3/4 cup.  I made the frosting according to recipe, but I bet that next time I would not use all 2.5 cups of powdered sugar.  Perhaps the extra vanilla extract boosted the sweetness of the buttercream, but I found it too sweet.  The cupcakes taste dense but moist, and the buttercream frosting is very vanilla-y.  A great combination and an excellent recipe if you're a vanilla cupcake fan. 

One very helpful trick I learned from researching online was using an ice cream scoop -- the kind that requires a quick press of the thumb to release the ice cream -- to measure and drop cake batter into cupcake liners.  My first batch, that failed anyway, turned out to be too high of a cupcake mound since I filled the ice cream scoop fully.  I then adjust the amount of batter to make flatter cupcakes for easier decorating.  The ice cream scoop gets all the batter to land inside the cupcake liner, reducing batter drip mess.

All in all, it was a great experience making these cupcakes.  Now I have about 2 months before the next big birthday party bash.  If you're not familiar with that process, Dear Birthday Party tells all.  We'll probably relive that entire scenario with my other kiddo.  (And in case you're wondering, Miss Bea Stingy is on probation.  She blew the budget just on the party site alone.  She needs to do better next time). 

So, Dear Birthday Cupcakes, I had a good time with you.  And I'm still munching on some leftovers in the fridge.  Now I will begin researching the chocolate version of you, as my DD is a bona fide chocoholic.  See you in two months!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Dear Four-Year-Old Son

Dear Four-Year-Old Son,

Today is the last day that you will show four fingers when asked how old you are.  Could it be that half a decade has passed already since you came into this world?  Years ago, my longing to become a mom was finally answered when your sister and you came to being.   I've come so far from that stage of my life that I sometimes have to take a good look back to realize how lucky I was to have had two miracles, as well as to see how far we've all come.

I have a picture of us on our mantel, just you and me.  You were about 8 weeks old.  Our eyes were locked on each other's; I was talking to you, and you were answering back with your knowing gaze.  You were telling me, I'm full and happy, Mama, and I know that you fed me.  It's amazing how our eyes talk.  It's wordless, powerful, emotional, and stated.  We've perfected our communication with our eyes over the years.  We read each other with absolute precision.  My eyes tell you how much I love you, and your eyes are my World.

When I look into your eyes
It's like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise
There's so much they hold

Daddy and I hear about other babies who are easy-going, sleep through the night straightaway, or are just content with their lives.  Then we ask ourselves, why were our babies were so extremely the opposite?  You had reflux, making your early days painful for you and sleepless for us.  You nursed for 22 months, which meant I didn't sleep soundly at night for longer than that.  You were so attached to me that we were practically joined at the hips.  There was a time when I couldn't walk three feet away from you without you howling.  I sat with you in Toddler School from September until March before you were ready to say goodbye.  You required help with so many things not because you couldn't do them, but because you weren't ready to do them yourself and wanted me to do them for you.  In time, I've come to realize that you just needed more time and more help from me in order to become the person you are growing up to be.  You needed my assurance, my understanding, and my patience so that you can confidently carry on your own.  You knew what you needed, and you taught me how to be a mother who does not have to conform to the standards of others.  You taught me to be a better mother than I set out to be. 

And just like them old stars
I see that you've come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?

But it always had to be meI had to be the one to wake you up, dress you, brush your teeth, feed you, put on your shoes, and -- for crying-out-loud -- buckle you into your car seat and unbuckle you to get out.  You wouldn't allow anyone else to do any of those things for you.  How often would I throw my arms up in the air in frustration and just resign in the unfairness of it all!  I wasn't given one moment of rest, one moment to be relieved from duty, one moment to have someone take over for me.  I wanted to hide; I ran out of patience; I wanted to give up.  But then I looked into your eyes and I remembered.  Your eyes told me that I was your World. 

I won't give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up

But as time goes by, I know that you won't stay in my World forever.  You go to the bathroom by yourself now; you eat by yourself most of the time now; you dress yourself now; you can shower by yourself now; you even turn on the TV and select a show to watch all by yourself now.  There are times now when you slip into your own World to enjoy some me-time, when you play with action figures and superhero sounds.  Whoosh.  Boom.  Ka-pow!  I love to watch you from afar and see your imagination at work.  Every now and then you'd look for me, just to know I'm still there with you.  The good guy fights the bad guy, and they're having fun, you'd tell me.  While our Worlds still overlap, I feel more at ease about your attachment and its timely progression towards your own path.    

And when you're needing your space
To do some navigating
I'll be here patiently waiting
To see what you find

Today I see a beautiful pond on a sunny day.  I find a smooth, polished rock; I toss it into the water.  The moment the rock hits the water is the moment you came into being.  The ripples that the toss create are both our Worlds overlapped together.  Dense at first, but fading with time.  Eventually, you will look for me with less frequency and urgency, and be in your own World with more confidence and direction...  But even when we no longer see ripples, our Worlds will still overlap, however tiny an area, since without barriers, these ripples go on to infinity.

'Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We've got a lot to learn
God knows we're worth it

This is what I've learned, and it is what you have taught me. 

No, I won't give up

Along the ripples are tiny, microscopic moments that act as reminders.  A birthday, a traumatic incident, a nostalgic memory, or a peaceful day can all bring to light why -- amidst our busy and chaotic days -- I must follow your lead and be the mother that you need me to be.  I'm still looking up.

Dear Son, I cannot wait to see you unfold that thumb and show that you are five-years-old tomorrow!  

With all my love,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dear Friend-Turning-Forty

Many people in our circle of friends have officially joined the 40's Club, my own DH included.  (I am the baby of the bunch, but I am headed straight to the coveted club myself.)  A very close friend had asked family and close friends to write a keepsake letter for his wife's fortieth birthday; these letters were put into a memory book and given to her as a present.  Here is my letter to my dear friend of twenty (!) years. 

Dear Friend-Turning-Forty,

It’s no wonder that infants have milestones recorded in weeks and months, and that grown-ups have theirs marked by decades.  What’s exciting should be celebrated often: smiling, sitting, crawling, walking, eating solids, and talking, etc.  What’s not exciting should be reminded less often: losing brain cells, failing physical and mental agility, forgetting your own age (intentional or unintentional), slowing metabolism, sagging of skin and body parts, and graying of hair, etc.  

Those have nothing to do with you turning forty, of course.  

In our teens, we thought we knew everything, but were fools nonetheless.  In our twenties, we were hopeful and fearless, but broke and busy.  In our thirties, we somehow gained ourselves offspring(s) and mortgage(s) and became slaves to them.  I can’t quite say what our forties will bring just yet, but I suspect that it will be something entirely different and unexpected.  

But I’ll be sure to write what our forties brought us in the letter I write you when you turn fifty.

Today, I wore the hair clips I wore in your wedding.  Each time I see it, I think of you, and I think of our friendship for the past twenty-something years.  Even though we live far apart and only get to see each other once or twice a year, each time we meet, it’s as if time hasn’t passed.  What I treasure most from your friendship is your kind heart, your keen understanding, and your knowing smile.  

I look forward to many more decades of friendship with you.  Together, we will watch our children grow up, we will embrace what life has to offer us as we get older and wiser, and we will be there for each other as we reach the upcoming milestones of our lives.  

I suspect the next milestone will be our need for reading glasses.

Happy Big Fortieth Birthday, Friend!

With much love,

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dear Birthday Party

Dear Birthday Party,

You are only fun when you belong to someone else.  If I have to throw the birthday party, the only fun I have is making sure I have enough Xanax to get me through the weeks of planning, especially the week of the party.  Fretting begins at least 6 weeks prior to actual party date.  Blood pressure returns to normal at bedtime on party night.

For our kiddos' birthday parties, my goal is to throw a good one without breaking the bank.  Meet my party planner, Miss Bea StingyMiss Stingy is always on the quest for going about it the least expensive way possible without seeming so.  I guess that takes some extra work here or there.  Here is my Top Ten list of birthday party planning to-dos. 

10. Party site.  These days, it seems like if you don't book the party site by six weeks out, you blink and it's gone.  So first things first, book the site and worry about everything else later.  This is usually where most of the cost goes.  But you know me: OCD sufferers simply cannot host a party of pint-sized people in one's house.  So I pay for this and try to save on everything else.  Miss Stingy approves.  #payingyoutoclean

9. Invitation list. "Who would you like to invite from your class?"  "Everybody."  "No, we can't possibly invite your entire class."  Sorry, kiddo, says Miss Stingy.  "Should we invite X?"  "Yes."  "Do you play with X?"  "No."  Well, then.  We do lots of cutting, adding, shuffling, and tossing before the final list is done.  #kindalikeasalad

8. Evite.  I use Evite to eliminate postage and addressing envelopes.  Miss Stingy likes to be green.  Myth: it's just easier for everyone.  Truth: it is somewhat unreliable so I always have to followup to make sure people got the invite.  #rsvpalready

7. Theme. You'd think this is an easy task for the birthday kid to choose.  It turns out that it takes about 8 conversations, 14 suggestions, 32 changes, and 53 maybes to reach a verdict.  And, the theme for the next 4 birthday parties have also been decided, or so the birthday kid likes to think.  Are you writing that down, Miss Stingy?  #sameroutineeveryyear

6. Cake.  One year we bought a birthday cake for $80.  Yes, 80 friggin' dollars.  Miss Stingy vowed to never do that again.  On a related note, Miss Stingy also happens to be a fantastic twice-a-year cake decorator.  For years now I have been buying a Costco cake, stripping its buttercream, and redecorating it with fondant to match the theme of the party.  I've done Thomas the Train, Pikachu the Pokemon, Spider-man, and iCarly iPod cakes.  This year, I got a different request, to which I must rise to the challenge: CUPCAKES!  (And that's the AWESOME purchase I made for them in the photo above!).  I'm also doing buttercream frosting instead of fondant on the cupcakes, so the kids won't have to peel off a layer of play dough before eating the cake.  #bakingmarathon

5. Food.  How many kids' pizza birthday parties have we all gone to?  I want to serve something else, but Dear Husband says kids like pizza.  So okay, we'll compromise with pizza for kids and sandwiches for grownups.  My job: coordinate on-time delivery of food from two vendors and supply our own cake, drinks, fruit plate, and chips.  Why?  Miss Stingy wants to make sure that the party site does not charge me an arm and a leg to serve cardboard pizza and artificially-colored juice boxes.  #booyah

4. DecorationsAnother one of Miss Stingy's DIY projects.  We make birthday banners ourselves.  I have a roll of those restaurant table papers I bought years ago for the kids to draw on.  Each year, I write HAPPY BIRTHDAY in big letters, put the banner on the floor, and let the kiddos go to town with it.  They bring out their markers and crayons and whatnots, and spend a good hour or two quietly coloring and decorating the banner.  #musictomyears

3. Goody bagsMiss Stingy skips store-bought ones and makes her own.  We use brown paper sacks decorated with a theme picture.  The kids get in on this project, too.  They love to fill the bags like an assembly line.  #morefreechildlabor

2. Transportation.  We look like we are going on a week-long road trip with the amount of things we pack into the car for a two hour party.  DH gets all the credit in this department.  After all, Daddy has to do something for the party, right?  Miss Stingy agrees.  #otherthanpayingforit

1. Thank-you cards.  The one thing that I do not skimp on is the thank-you cards.  Miss Stingy clocked out on party day.  These I do actually hand address and stamp, because we do want to thank everyone who came to the celebration as well as for the presents they brought for the birthday kid.  This includes friends and family from out-of-town as well.  The birthday kid writes or signs every single one.  And if one's hand gets tired, well, we'll write more later.  A stack of thank-you letters is the completion of a birthday party and the last item on my to-do list.  #hallelujah

As I approach the week of the party, and panic sets in while I realize that I haven't done even half of my list (breathe in, breathe out), I just have to remind myself that cake will be eaten, lunch will be served, presents will be opened, and fun will be had, even if I Miss Stingy goofs a little here or there.  So, Birthday Party, you challenge me twice a year to be your host as you turn my life upside down for a few weeks each.  But unbeknownst to you, each time I get a reward all to myself that is utterly priceless: seeing the expression on my birthday kid's face at first sight of the birthday cake/cupcakes.  Those looks are what make all the blood, sweat, and tears worth the trouble.  But I still cannot wait to bid you farewell until next year.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dear Mommy, Interrupted

Dear Mommy, Interrupted,

You are the epitome of life as a mommy.  Or a parent, since there is total gender equality here.

More than a decade back when I was student teaching, my mentor teacher, a first grade teacher of 33 years, told me that she has a rule that she goes by in her classroom.  If she is speaking to an adult and a child comes up to her, she will always stop the conversation and listen to what the child has to say.  In other words, she believed that a child's need comes first in her classroom.  She explained that if that happened when we were speaking to one another, she isn't being rude; a child may have more pressing needs and that our conversation can continue after the child's need is met.  And the reason why I still remember this rule to this day is because I thought to myself at the time: what a great rule to go by.

And then I became a mommy.

The other day, as I was writing on the computer in the dark office nook upstairs, Dear Son came up the stairs with his new helium balloon.  He gave it to me and said, "There's a knot in the string."  My brilliant thought at the tip of my fingers just vanished.  Oh, dear.  I turned on the desk light and took a look at the knot on the string.  The ribbon is one of those gift-wrapping ribbons that you can curl with the blunt side of a scissors blade.  Shouldn't be too hard.  I began tackling the knot with my nonexistent nails on my fingers.  Each grasp resulted in a slip.  I pulled the knot closer to me, and immediately then pushed it farther away, since my fickle eyes cannot decide which is better.  Oh, movement!  I managed to clear some space between one loop, but could not loosen the other loop.  And now, it's become a vendetta.  I knew the only way to undo this knot is with some tools.  I got out two paperclips, pulled out one end on each and inserted them both into the knot to pry it apart.

Dear Husband walked by.  "What are you doing?"  To which I replied, "I'm surgically removing a knot from the string of this godforsaken balloon for your DS."  The grand, ambitious flow of words in my head just hit a circuit breaker, and my DS happily walked away with a knot-free string attached to his new balloon.

Of course, life experiences then teach me that children do not always take precedence, especially when the children are your own.  In real life, parents and children are perpetually learning and teaching each other when it's okay and when it's not okay to interrupt.  If I'm in the middle of cooking dinner and Dear Daughter needs help with her homework, I tell her to complete something else and I'll help her at a later time.  Or when I am in the middle of scrubbing the toilet, I am not going to stop and help insert new batteries into a toy for DS.  Some things can wait.  And then there are ones that cannot.  Like a response to the voice of a four-year-old from the bathroom, "I'm doooooooooonnnnnneeeeeee!"  To which I begrudgingly oblige, whether or not I am cooking, cleaning, or eating my no-longer-appetizing meal.

Likewise, I've learned that when the kiddos are playing well together, I do not interrupt to ask them to do something else.  Because I would only be jeopardizing my own free time if I did.  Just like I would not interrupt DD while she is reading or doing her homework, because you just don't fix something that is not broken.  And nobody interrupts her when she is watching American Idol, for fear of his or her own life.

Even now, I still take my mentor's rule to heart, and I do the same when I am teaching.  In a classroom, that is. 

Truthfully, parenthood is one giant interruption.  Remember the life you had before kids?  Yeah, me neither.  In my blurry memory, it was all about me us.  Life had work, entertainment, fine dining, down time, me us time.  Now it seems to be fully devoted to fixing boo-boos, finding the irreplaceable-toy-of-the-hour, laundering and folding endless clothes, grooming, feeding, cleaning after, and chauffeuring little human beings that now hold the whip to my life.  Giddy up, Mommy!  But, except for those rare mommy-gone-mad moments, I asked for this interruption.  In fact, I begged.  Because I knew that this interruption is what will complete the rest of my life. 

Mommy, Interrupted, I know that you are a stage in my life that will diminish over time. And I know that at a certain time down the line, I will miss you and wonder why the kids don't interrupt call.  But for now, I will fully engage you to the best of my patience and ability.  Because, you know, that balloon and its string had to be unknotted three more times after the first visit to Mommy's OR. 


Friday, March 2, 2012

Dear Wishful Thinking

Dear Wishful Thinking,

Aren't we all entitled to a little of you every now and then?

Every time the kiddos say, "That's NOT fair," I think to myself, no, life's not fair; you kids get all the good stuff.  Kids have magical people bring things to them all year round.  Santa Claus breaks into the house while everyone is sleeping and leaves toys for all the children.  The Easter Bunny breaks into the house and leaves eggs filled with treats and candy for all the children.  Even the Tooth Fairy 'magically' commits breaking and entering to leave money for shed teeth.  Now wouldn't we grownups like some fairies to do things for us, too?  Here is my Top Ten list of 'Fairies Wanted'.

10. Of course, first and foremost, I would like a Cleaning Fairy.  How nice would it be to wake up in the morning to a clean house because a Cleaning Fairy came for a biweekly visit?  #iwilleventakeonceamonth

9. While we're at it, a De-cluttering Fairy would be nice, too, since we all know that the house can't be cleaned unless it is first de-cluttered.  #iseeapartnership

8. I don't mind doing the laundry, since it's really the washer and dryer doing all the work.  But I would like a Laundry Folding Fairy.  You see, we pretty much live out of the 'clean laundry basket'.  When the kids tell me there are no more clothes in the basket, you should see their bewildered faces when I tell them their clean clothes are in their drawers. #onceinabluemoon

7. I would LOVE a Tank Fairy that visits once a month to clean Tucker the Turtle's tank.  That would be an hour of my time I get to keep to myself each month, and I would never have to feel guilty for being a week (or two) late.  #findahappyplacefindahappyplace

6. DH has a motto: We don't lose things; we just can't find them.  Well, I would LOVE a Find Fairy for all the things we misplace.  There is nothing more frustrating than losing something, even if it's small or trivial.  #whereisthetupperwarelid

5. Even more frustrating than misplacing something, I forget things.  How much time is wasted when trips to the store don't count because I forgot an item?  I need a Reminder Fairy to bullet point my brain at night.  #damnthoseseniormoments

4. Too many times do I reach into the aromatic kitchen garbage can to retrieve something that can be recycled.  A Recycling Fairy would be greatly appreciated so that I can sleep better at night.  #recyclinglessonneeded

3. Speaking of which: only about once a week do I wake up refreshed and full of energy to tackle the day.  The other six mornings, uh, not so much.  How I would love an Energy Fairy to tap me with her magic wand or sprinkle me with 'Functional Dust' at night so that I can wake up and feel like I had 8 full hours of sleep!  #coffeeisnolongerenough

2. To eliminate food-gone-bad in the pantry and refrigerator, I think a Food Inventory Fairy who shoves all the 'expiring soon' items to the front of the pantry and fridge where I can SEE them would be marvelous.  #thatsbeentherehowlong

1. And I know every mommy needs one of these: a Get Well Fairy. Everyone gets sick.  Little ones catch germs from school and bring them home to share.  Well, getting sick builds up immunity, they say.  Okay, let's build up that immunity for one day.  Then the Get Well Fairy breaks into the house at night and taps her magic wand on the sickly, sprinkles some Stay Well Dust on everyone, and disappears into the night.  Now wouldn't that be something?  #winwin

While I risk seeming too lazy or out of touch with reality, I do know that all of these Fairies are really Wishful Thinking Fairies.  But since we encourage an active imagination in young children, we can use some imagination ourselves, too.  So Wishful Thinking, a dose of you every now and then helps us get through our days in the real world.  Frankly, I wouldn't want anyone to break into our house in the wee hours of the night, unless of course, you really are Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy.