TV Guide

Sarah stayed home from school for two days this week with a fever/cough/stomach ache.  Her illness has thrown a wrench in my daily routine and instead of my usual errands, classes with Katie, etc., we have been housebound….and watching A LOT of television.  While I am ever grateful that we live in an age where there are at least 5 stations with cartoons on all day, every day, I do take issue with some of the content of children’s programming…

Shows with animals in human clothing:  It’s not that I object to animals wearing clothing, that’s fine…weird, but fine.  However, is too much to ask for some consistency?  If one character in the show is all dressed up, so should everyone else.  Otherwise, are we to assume that the undressed characters are all running around naked?  Is the animal world clothing optional?  Don’t the other animal characters care that their friends are prancing around in their birthday suits?  I am deeply disturbed by this.

The mom is dressed like an Amish person but Little Bear is completely naked...around food. Gross. I have no idea why the human girl is there...maybe they are going to eat her for lunch?

Franklin the Turtle wears a jaunty cap and scarf but his friends are in various states of (un)dress. And really, would this crowd hang out with the Snail? I don't think so.

Frumpy Moms:  Growing up, I remember the cartoon moms being somewhat snazzy and savvy.  Think Wilma Flintstone in her pristine white (a mom wearing white?  Now that’s BOLD!) one-shoulder mini dress or Betty Rubble in her blue halter top number.  Or Jane Jetson in her short purple A-line dress with the triangle collar punching up the evening’s dinner order from her automatic kitchen and greeting George after a hard day at the office toiling for Mr. Spacely.  But what do I see now?  Frumpy, worn, haggard moms with absolutely no sense of style.  Moms who have clearly thrown in the towel.  Is this how society sees us?  Worse yet- is this how our children see us?

Calliou's Mom: Ruffle collared shirt, primary colors, and a headband! I bet those pants are elastic waist too. Someone give this woman a makeover.

MIA Parents:  There are those shows that, while the parents are not the main characters, you know they are around.  They may pop into the room to check in on the kids.  Or you hear their voices offscreen asking a question.  But there is one show in which the parents who don’t exist at all.  Max and Ruby, for those of you are who unfamiliar, are brother and sister bunnies who seemingly live entirely on their own.  They occupy a large house and although a picture of their parents hang in the living room, they never make an appearance.  Like NEVER.  Holidays, birthdays, shopping for clothes, buying groceries, or even just dinner— it’s Max and Ruby on their own.  Are the parents dead?  If they are, why are the kids living alone?  Have they been emancipated by the bunny court system? And it’s not as though adults are not around.  Max and Ruby’s Grandma lives just down the street and routinely helps out.  And believe me, I’m not the only nutcase wondering about this.  There are whole webpages devoted to this very topic….go ahead, do the Google.

Ruby helping Max go to bed. I'm fine with latch-key kids but I have to draw the line here. Where is Bunny Social Services when you need them?!

Max and Ruby decorating their own Christmas tree sans any parental guidance. Alone at the holidays! If Ruby weren't so annoyingly bossy, I'd feel much more sorry for these two.

Thankfully, Sarah is back at school and I can return to my own quality TV programming…like Doomsday PreppersSeriously, check it out.  I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or build a bunker.  What I do know is that when one prepper filtered his own urine to make it into drinkable “water” and had his WIFE DRINK IT OUT OF A WINE GLASS,  I could not tear my eyes away.  Now that’s damn good television.  Happy viewing everyone!


Send in the Clowns

About a year ago, I decided to take Sarah to the Our Lady of Grace School carnival.  Sarah was going to start kindergarten there later that fall and I thought what better way to introduce her to they joys of her soon-to-be new school than to take her to a good old fashion carnival?  In my mind, I pictured a leisurely evening playing a few rounds of ring toss, munching on popcorn, and maybe winning a stuffed animal.

What I got instead was about 700 rabid children hopped up on Pixie Sticks, marauding the school like packs of wild dogs.  I held on tightly to Sarah’s hand all evening, wishing I had a Taser with me to protect ourselves from these feral children.  The sole focus of the kids, besides ingesting as many high fructose corn syrup based products as possible, was to amass points from a variety of games in order to redeem them for a veritable treasure trove of Made in China prizes.  They sprinted from game to game in an animalistic frenzy, in search of greater and greater winnings.  And the parents- oh, the poor, poor parents.  We were outnumbered 3 to 1, trapped in the confines of the school with no adult beverages in sight, and at the mercy of of our sugar-crazed offspring…if clowns had been roaming the premises, then my nightmare would have been truly complete.  The best the parents could hope for was to survive the evening without suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Sarah, of course, was in heaven: an alternate universe where the kids rule, sugar flows like milk and honey, and the parents can only stand by and weakly protest?  SIGN ME UP!  But me? All I could remember thinking was, “Dear God in heaven…I have THIRTEEN more of these to go.”  The horror, the horror!

"Hair salon" at the carnival- I could feel my brain cells shriveling up one by one from the fumes

"Hair salon" at the carnival- I could feel my brain cells shriveling up one by one from the fumes

This past Friday night, we had the school Carnival again.  And because we now had a student enrolled at the school, we were expected to offer up someone from our family like a sacrificial lamb to work one of the carnival shifts.  Of course, I drew the short straw in our family.  So not only would I have to attend the carnival with Sarah, but also WORK it.  Oh…but it gets worse.  Yes, I would be working the carnival, but I would have to work the last shift at the prize redemption table.  As the direness of my situation dawned on me, I wondered who had I pissed off on the Carnival Committee to get this assignment.

To prepare for the evening, I took 3 pre-emptive Advils.  Later in the night, I would speak with many parents who self-medicated with a cocktail prior to the event.  I’m not talking about some wussy white wine spritzer– I’m talking about the stuff that’s one step removed from rubbing alcohol.  If ever there was reason for a little parental liquid courage though, this was it.  As for the rest of my strategy to survive the evening, the plan was for me to take Sarah for 90 minutes or so and then have Chris and Katie join us for 45 minutes.  Then he would take the girls home and I’d work my shift before heading home.

Sarah and a friend after the hair salon

Sarah and a friend after the hair salon

Maybe it was because I knew what to expect or we had a better handle on the layout of the school, but overall, taking Sarah around this year was not the beat down that it was last year.  I did have to tell a gang of overeager 2nd graders to back off in my best Asian dragon lady voice when they cut in line at the batting game.  And Sarah required some “management” during her own prize redemption process but other than that, most of the evening went smoothly.

Then it came time to work my shift.  I retrieved my name tag and approached the prize table.  Actually, it wasn’t a table but rather, a collection of fold up tables arranged in a U-shaped  barricade against a tidal wave of children desperate to redeem their points.  The moms (and the lone dad) held their ground behind the tables, with a look of grim determination to endure the next 60 minutes of their shift.  The tables themselves were laden with all sorts of crapilicious tchotchkes- small stuffed animals, baseball key chains, peace bracelets, rubber stamps, etc.  All designed to be either broken or forgotten within 24 hours.  The tables also held containers of Dubble Bubbles, Fun Dips, Charms Blow Pops, and other candies created to ensure that dentists across America never go hungry or homeless during our children’s lifetimes.  And finally, behind all the tables, and behind all the parents, in sort of it’s own secure lockdown barricade within a barricade, were the big ticket items: giant inflatable chairs, inflatable swords, huge inflatable guitars and microphones, etc.  They were the Stanley Cups of all the prizes, each requiring a 100 or more points to redeem.

This kid scored TWO swords!

I jumped into the fray and began helping kids to cash in their points.  The older ones were able to do their own math and were relatively easy to help. It was the younger tikes who would thrust their cards in my face, demanding to know how many points they had.  I’d count them up for them and pray that they would pick a big ticket item so that they’d use up all their points at once.  Most of the time though, they’d chip away at their points one Tootsie Roll at a time and I’d tell them with clenched jaw and a smile, “Great! That was 2 points.  You still have 79 to go! How about this stuffed alligator for 40 points?!”  And then have to watch in silent agony as little Johnny or Jill picked another 2 points worth of Pop Rocks.

Or, I had parents who were clearly on the edge of a nervous breakdown, desperate to have their kids select something so they could just go home.  Grown women and men begging and pleading with their young children to “JUST PICK SOMETHING BIG NOW!” and offering up toy after toy with a crazed look in their eye, hoping they would get one step closer to leaving the “fun.”  Others were more subtle— as their little ones were perusing the colored hair spray or silly string, they’d whisper to me to slash all the points no matter how much the prize actually cost. I’m surprised they didn’t slip me a $20 in the process.

At one point in the evening, I found myself helping two girls who were combining all their points together (268).  As they shopped for the prizes, I actually had to pull out my iPhone to use a calculator and show them my math, as though I was a merchant in an open air market in a foreign country trying to figure out the conversion rate.  Haggling with 12 year olds?  This definitely was not in the job description.

As the shift wore on and my migraine grew (note to self, next year- FOUR Advils AND a cocktail!), I discovered one of the perils of working the last shift. We were quickly running out of prizes and yet, more and more children were coming to us, eager to cash in their winnings.  And because it was later in the evening, most of the kids were on a downward spiral from the evening’s sugar high.  It made for some tense times.  Children were screaming and crying because the toy they had eyed earlier in the evening was no longer in stock.  I almost feared for my life when we ran out of the inflatable swords.  And like any free market society when goods become scarce, the kids panicked…grabbing fistfuls of Fun Dips and braided bracelets like they were stocking up for the Second Coming.  Other kids hovered around the tables like vultures descending on carcasses asking when we were going to give stuff away for free– I predict these kiddos will be the future looters of our country.  And parents even got into the battle- clutching stuffed monkeys and lizards as though they were discount Christian Louboutins and telling their kids that they had to take it because it was the last one!

70 minutes of this and my shift (and the carnival) was over.  I helped clean up a little bit but finally, I just slunk away into the night, dreaming of the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc I had chilling in the fridge.  Exhausted, I fell into bed and my loving husband let me sleep in the next morning till 9:30.  Still, I woke up aching, sore, and with bloodshot eyes.  But by God, I survived and I lived to tell the tale.  And believe me, it could have been worse….I could have been working the Petting Zoo.  Those camels spit you know….


April Showers

Most of the other stay at home moms that I know are highly intelligent, motivated, and savvy.  All of them, prior to staying at home, held professional jobs that relied on them to solve complex problems in creative and efficient ways.  Most hold graduate degrees from higher institutions of learning that validate that yes, these are some smart cookies we are dealing with.

And yet, one issue seems to stump all of us moms of babies and young toddlers: how to shower (and also subsequently, get ready) in the morning.  Yes, such a simple thing, I know, but I have had roundtable discussions about this very topic with scores of moms, all trying to figure out the answer to this conundrum.  Short of creating flowcharts, we have dissected this subject to death, without any meaningful solutions.  Should we all shave our heads? Laser off all our body hair?  Shower with our children?  Tattoo on our eyebrows and eyeliner? Laugh all you want but I know moms who have employed two of the four tactics I just listed…I leave it to you to guess which two.

Why is this so difficult? A shower requires maybe 10 to 15 minutes, tops.  Hop in and hop out, right?  Sounds simple but you have to understand, in toddler minutes, that is equivalent to about 30 to 45 minutes without their precious mommy.  And post-shower, you still have to somehow whip yourself together in a way that makes you presentable to the public.  That might require, depending on who else you have to encounter that day , anywhere from another 10 minutes to another 30 minutes.  Most days, I surrender and put my hair up in the ubiquitous mommy ponytail in defeat.   Because by the end of this time, your child is foaming at the mouth, desperate for your undivided attention.  Am I exaggerating, you ask?

If it pleases the court, I present to you, Exhibits A-E: Katie While I Take a Shower.  (While you view these, please imagine Katie screaming “GET OUT NOW!”, “YOU BE DONE!”, or just a high-pitched “MAMAAAA I NEED YOU!!!!”)

And Exhibit F: Katie While I Get Ready…she has me in a viselike grip around my knees for most of this time, making it virtually impossible to pivot, turn, stand, or maintain balance.  My eyeliner often shoots across my face making me look like a drunken kabuki actor- which is a look I very rarely go for.

And might I note that these photos were all taken while my beloved husband was in the house?  Not even the presence of another parent on duty is a guarantee of a peaceful shower.  So then what is?  I am happy to write that at 27 months, Katie has reached another crucial milestone: Exhibit G: Katie Finally Watches TV ALONE!  She does not need me right next to her, stroking her hair, while she zones out with Elmo.  She can pollute her mind and kill her braincells with Spongebob and commercials for Bratz dolls, in her words, “all by myself!”

And me? I can rinse, lather AND repeat without an audience! Just one step closer to becoming a normal adult again….YES!!!!

Guess I Don’t Have It So Bad After All

Wow.  I thought I had a lot on my plate but these Hollywood moms really have it rough.  No judgement but you know, wow.  I do have to give them kudos for doing it all themselves in true servant mommy fashion instead of outsourcing…

From this week's People, click to enlarge

From this week's People, click to enlarge

California Dreaming, Part 2

Earlier this week, I posted some of the highlights of our trip to California.  Now for a couple of the not so high points…

Katie goofing off during happier times in the car

1.  A Reichert family trip is not complete without some vomit.  And no, I am not referring to myself or Chris suffering the effects of knocking back one too many Jim Beams.  While I seem to possess a stomach of steel, our daughters have a more delicate constitution (I blame the weak European genes inherited from their father).  Now that Sarah is older, she is kind enough to let us know when she is about to upchuck.  Then we have all of 30 seconds to find the nearest toilet/bucket/bush or to jerry rig our own crude receptacle a la MacGuyver before the joy begins.  But Katie, at age 2, sounds no such alarm.  So imagine our surprise, when after a family dinner at our favorite Mexican spot, Las Casuelas Nuevas, Katie gives a little cough, and then proceeds to regurgitate her entire dinner…chicken tenders, french fries, fruit, and the piece de la résistance- a strawberry smoothie which gave the whole affair a pink cotton candy tinge.  Sorry to be so graphic but I just want to give you a visual.  And it didn’t stop with round one…we suffered three rounds of this while cruising down Highway 111 in our rental.  Somewhere between rounds 1 and 3, Chris screamed at me to throw my jacket on her so that she wouldn’t ruin the rich nylon interior of our rented Nissan Xterra.  We headed home with the windows rolled down, our noses in the air, and Katie and my new denim jacket from Anthropologie drenched in pink slime (but thank God the Xterra was safe!).  The only silver lining was that Sarah was riding home in my in-laws car.  Otherwise, I am sure Katie would have triggered Sarah’s very sensitive gag reflex and we would have witnessed the classic domino effect in action.

2.  I am currently in the process of assembling a team of physical therapists, masseuses, acupuncturists, and orthopedic specialists to undo the damage that occurred to my back during our trip.  Did I A: trip and fall during a strenuous hike?  B: Twist my torso in a pathetic effort to play golf?  Or C:  have to share a bed with a my two-year old daughter for the majority of our stay? Ding ding ding!  My in-laws did supply Katie with a small air mattress complete with princess bedding tucked away on the side of our room for her sleeping pleasure.  And although Katie initially expressed enthusiasm for her very own bed, she soon found that she much rather preferred to share a bed with her parents…something that is absolutely verboten at home.  While my sweet baby girl may be less than 36 inches tall, let me tell you, she takes up a considerable amount of real estate during the night time hours.  The graphic below, taken from How to Be a Dad, is the perfect illustration for our night terrors.  Katie was especially fond of the divisive “H is for Hell” maneuver (4th on top row), the viselike “Neck Scarf” (3rd on bottom row), and the classic “Snow Angels” (3rd on top row).

Click on the picture to enlarge

So, all in all, a great trip. Sure, my vertebrae may have sustained permanent damage and my Anthropologie jacket will never ben the same again, but such is the price you pay for traveling with the 6 and under set.   I can’t wait for our next trip, where I, with back brace and vinyl poncho in hand, will be prepared for anything the kiddos throw (or throw up) at me!

California Dreaming

Our springtime oasis

The Reicherts are back after a week in beautiful La Quinta, California.  My very gracious in-laws allowed the four of us to squat for 7 days in their condo where, like a plague of locusts, we encroached on their living space, eating space, and private space.  Here are some of our highs and lows from our excursion to the desert:

Let’s start with the good stuff…

1.  Our flights to and from the left coast were in a word, uneventful!  I can see a day in the not so distant future when I will not have to fear air travel because of the exquisite torture of having to sit in a confined space with a tyrant of a toddler.  I am hopeful that with our next roundtrip, things will return to normal, when all I have to fear is mechanical failure, pilot error, weather catastrophes, air traffic control misdirections, mid air collisions, unexpected (or expected) turbulence, water landings, or crazed airline staff members.  Yes, Katie squirmed and yes, she fussed, but she did not do anything that made me afraid that US Marshals traveling incognito would tackle her and remove her forcibly from the aircraft.  We received no “go to hell” looks from other passengers nor did I, at any time, feel that I owed everyone seated in a 5 row radius a round of premium drinks.  And thankfully, we were NOT flying Jet Blue.  Hurrah!

An in-air miracle: all three Reicherts engaged in quiet activity while Mommy watches from another row!

Katie striking a pose with her supermodel pout

2.  Whenever our girls got bored, needed a change of pace, or threatened to decimate my in-laws place with their hijinks, all I had to mention was the “pool” and as if I had sprinkled fairy dust into the air, the girls got a glazed look in their eyes and a wistful far away look.  Luckily, the pool was only steps away and although it took us approximately 21 minutes to actually get ready to go to the pool (swimsuits, cover ups, sun screen, swim diapers, pool toys, towels, one last trip to the bathroom, and away we go!), once we got there, it was fun for everyone.  Well, maybe not everyone.  A couple of days, I had single mother duty while my husband spent the morning attempting to make the Guiness Book of World Records for most lost golf balls in a 5-hour period. I spent those days frantically keeping one eye on Sarah, who adores diving and swimming in the deepest of the deep, and another on Katie, who adores giving me a heart attack by attempting to drown herself at any given opportunity.  But all in all, the pool was a godsend and had the added bonus of exhausting our daughters so thoroughly, that bed time was, on most nights, a breeze.

Hair fixed and chlorine-free for a night out with my hubby!

3.  Finally, while on our trip, my in-laws gave us the most priceless of gifts for parents of young children: free babysitting!  Since neither Chris nor I have any relatives in Minnesota that we can offload our children onto, we routinely pay upwards of $13 an hour for a some needed relief from our parental duties.  So maybe “priceless” isn’t the word…they gave us a gift roughly valued at $80 but you know what I mean.  With our children under the care of their loving grandparents, Chris and I relived simpler times, when we dined at our leisure and finished conversations without interjecting threats of time-outs or sprinting with our 2-year old to the potty.  We started our evening at 5pm(!), just in time to catch happy hour at Tommy Bahama’s fabulous 2nd story deck. We were serenaded by an acoustic guitar player who sang a wonderful blend of songs that made me feel both young and old at the same time.  I partied like a rock star and ordered two drinks within 30 minutes so that we’d make the happy hour prices.  Buzzed and happy, we sat enjoying the warm desert breezes and fantastic people watching: silver foxes with their trophy wives (or perhaps mistresses?), surgically enhanced cougars on the prowl for fresh meat, and millionaire baseball owners/Hollywood film producers out on the town.  Then, after two hours of this delicious precursor to our evening, we set off for Sense.  Modern, sleek, and welcoming, the restaurant offered a wonderful mix of classic dishes as well as plates for the more adventurous palate.  I had a spicy and unforgettable sweetbread cornbread slider to start, poutine topped with hazelnut-fed escargot, truffle oil, and parmesan, and finally, roasted bone marrow with a pungent purple mustard.  We ended the evening with a lovely slice of cheesecake that was simultaneously creamy and airy and drizzled with sweet macerated berries.  Surprisingly, I did not end the night with an acute case of gout but rather, a happy, warm glow of satisfaction.  Sigh.

My "Millionaire's Mai Tai" from Tommy Bahama's

Next post: the not so high points of our trip!