Chutes ‘n Hoots

During his recent birthday countdown, my son got to open a small gift every morning prior to his big day. This year’s 3-day knick-knack extravaganza included water-soluble capsules that transformed into vehicle-shaped mini sponges. Utterly fascinated, both kids watched the spongy space shuttle and Titanic replicas unfurl in all their toxic-green glory, soak up water, and sink. The entire affair held roughly five minutes of entertainment value. Once dried, I tossed the hodgepodge of cheapness into our already packed IKEA minifängst/closet organizer, where it joined the ranks of other misfits.

This made me wonder why manufacturers don’t place a tangible “entertainment value” on their packaging, as in “five minutes of fun” so pragmatic parents can gauge the rationale of blowing $5.

I realize that board games show an approximate length of game time (as in “attention, this Monopoly game cycle may last 48 hours”). I’m referring to sheer entertainment value, as in five minutes of watching sponges expand in lukewarm water.

We have often had to slog through 40 minutes of chutes and ladders after the initial five minutes of true joy literally went down the chute (darn you, number 87!). The manufacturer could have thrown us a bone, or timely hint, such as “serious repetition may occur. You may experience diminished returns after approximately five minutes of fun.”

Nooo!!!

Nooo!!!


The other day we played a game of life. Fun. Except that three toy snakes “had” to play along as well. How about a “life expectancy increases with the number of players. Dinner might burn on the stove.”

Do these guys really get a salary?

Do these guys really get a salary?


I can picture it already. LEGO would flaunt their triple digits: “180+ minutes of solid fun!” Of course, the Target dollar bins of the world would unite in a class action suit to ward off a dreaded “barely enough entertainment minutes to sneak a cup of coffee while your kids are ‘busy’ with our senseless product” labels.

Hm, maybe that wouldn’t work after all.

In the end, well spent family time, whether it’s derived from a toy or simply a walk around the block, is something to cherish. And while my kids may not remember the discreetly tossed trinkets (empty minifängsts rejoice!), I will remember their smiling faces while having fun.


The Glaze that Keeps us Together

Fear not. A coffee break is within your grasp.

Fear not. A coffee break is within your grasp.

This morning a fit was brewing next to my coffee. In less time than it took for a sip, drama erupted over the cracked surface of a glazed donut.

With the butter knife hovering mere millimeters above the smooth glaze, my son shrieked, “DON’T!” I could only watch in slow motion as my out of sync hand-eye coordination exacerbated the situation. But does a neatly halved pastry warrant the fuss?

Hardly.

But in the eyes of my little guy, cracked glaze was akin to derailed peace negotiations.

Ugh.

For the sake of civility (and to get to work on time) I waved the white paper towel and patched up the glaze.

With renewed happiness all around, and only slighted cooled coffee, life was good again.

This made me reminisce about my daughter at that age. She would have fits over, um, altered soy yogurt surfaces ignorantly disrupted by her naïve parental newbies.

More often than not my husband and I would exercise pathetically poor judgment and stick a spoon into the smooth surface of our daughter’s snack.

Crazy!

With backs turned, we’d quickly smooth out the surface and present the “new” yogurt, sans Jackson Pollock lines cross-cross apple-saucing the surface. This was usually met with full approval.

Fit forgotten and a fresh cup of coffee poured, we’d resume peace talks and marvel at the delicate balance of it all.

Of course, teachable moments can be found even among donut crumbs and soy yogurts…till reality sets in. When faced with a deadline at work, a healthy dose of parental backpedaling and resourceful picking of worthy battles just seems more reasonable at times.

Life around our kitchen table is full of peace talks, embargos, and concessions. And that’s fine with me. I’m glad my guys are so expressive.

And while I may meet some deadlines by the seat of my pants and with glaze on my sleeve, I still can’t wait to get home and embrace their sticky messes all over again.


Why Motherhood Rocks

“Mom, how old were you when the dinosaurs were alive?”

“The tooth fairy has to be real quick with piranhas!”

“What’s this, buddy?”
“An airplane limo!”

Airplane Limo


Price Check on Skeletons – a Seasonal Bake Tale

ImageWhat do a bag of assorted plastic skeletons, a tray of cookies, and a roll of duct tape have in common? Absolutely nothing! But when they are thrown into a hurry up and wait project on a school night, they all came together nicely to add extracurricular stress.

Compelled to enter a baking contest at her school, my daughter recently found a seasonal cookie recipe, complete with a long list of ingredients, and sent me on my way to the grocery store to support her baking enthusiasm. After locating the pricey hodgepodge spices and adding a little Halloween flair with brightly-colored skeleton decorations, I caused a queue to form at the checkout (skeleton price check!). The discounted bag of bones at least offset the steep, seasonally gouged spices (or maybe I just haven’t checked the real market value of Saigon cinnamon in a while). I remember thinking that nutmeg and allspice may just qualify for bonus points at the pump. But that was neither here nor there. I had a serious baker waiting at home, and it was getting late in the day.  

Back at home, my daughter mixed, whipped, poured, and baked. Her little brother was on sampler-standby until bedtime forced him to drop out of the finger-licking race. Much to my daughter’s chagrin, the seemingly bottomless batter baked like molasses, and she finally threw in the apron an hour later. I assured her that I’d supervise the great cookie cool down and transfer them safely into the Tupperware. While it was true that she baked the entire batch without help, as per her assignment, the instructions were silent as to aftermath of the sugary deliverables. So I cleaned the kitchen, poured a glass of wine, let the cookies sit, and triumphantly signed the school’s contest permission slip, only to read that the entire event wasn’t even scheduled until the following week. So…I shelved the entire project in the freezer. 

A week later, we defrosted the cookies and rounded up renegade skeletons to start up the project once more. After all the cookies were defrosted and frosted, the lid was secured with duct tape for good measure, and the skeletons were attached for added flair, my daughter set off to dazzle the judges.

In the end, her recipe didn’t win, but I got to marvel at her dedication, diligence, and hard work in the process. And that alone was worth the exercise. 


Tales from the School Supplies Front (and Jelly Bean Zombie Retail Excursions)

Jelly Bean

Last night I found myself standing in a disheveled school supplies isle of a large, national retailer, rummaging through near depleted bins. Although I had purchased most supplies weeks prior, I was one jumbo-sized book cover short and needed to join the ranks of “one more thing” shoppers, slackers, and parental luddites who literally didn’t get the online school supply memo. Whatever the motivation, we were all there, after 9 p.m., sorting through glue sticks and reaching for the last two book covers. I snatched up a candy-scented pink jelly bean stretch cover, jumbo size. Of course, a candy-scented pink anything made perfect sense at 9 p.m. at a major retailer with like-minded shoppers who’d rather be elsewhere. Not to frame my retail exploits in the context of a popular movie (WWZ) or scarring book (The Road), but I couldn’t help feeling like I was playing an extra in either nightmare scenario.

Scented super jelly bean cover in hand, I headed to the checkout and somehow found other oddities along the way, like an oversized canister of coffee. For the sake of civility, but mostly to offset that irrational zombie/post-apocalyptic feeling I picked up in isle 2A, I turned around to establish eye-contact with a fellow mom/school supply slacker shopper. She promptly ignored my rolling eyes and likely added me to her roster of “this is why I don’t usually shop late at night” anecdotes retold at the office or bus stop the next morning.

Back at home, my husband took one whiff of the cover, shook his head, and opened the new canister to brew some coffee for us. Five Kindle clicks later, while recuperating from my outing and contemplating how to conquer earth (aka, what to do with all this amazing free time after the kids go to bed), I promptly fell asleep.

Sad.

Well, not really, because I’ll click, conquer, and sip tomorrow, sans jelly-bean scents wafting through my “me time.”


The Irrefutable Truth about Monster Trucks, Spoilers, and Socks in the Dryer

Spoilers, suspension, socks, go!

Spoilers, suspension, socks, go!

…or how to catch, keep, and cherish time with your kids

Somewhere along last Tuesday, or maybe while retrieving socks from the dryer last night, I must have been in a particularly agreeable mood while coasting on autopilot. Unbeknownst to me, I edged in stone an irrefutable truth that has since become my son’s mantra. Since I blindly answered in the affirmative, the following paradigms have since shifted in our backyard’s universe:

Cars with spoilers are faster than those without. Obviously. (Although my first car, a Fiat, had a spoiler; but we are splicing hairs here.)

However, once you add some layers to this proposition, you’ll find yourself chasing your sanity all the way down the rabbit’s hole. As in:

Race cars are faster than muscle cars.

A muscle car with spoiler is faster still.

Monster trucks trump muscle and race cars if the latter don’t have spoilers.

Given these “facts,” who wins the race?

Why any of these vehicles would even compete against one another is not debatable. This is where my son’s resolute conviction neatly clashes with my complete lack of automotive knowledge and my inaptitude for multitasking is exposed.

Since I walked into this “fact-finding” discussion unprepared, I got tangled in a web of irrefutable half-truths that counter everything my son has ever learned from Team Hot Wheels books.

So what’s the lesson in all of this?

Since life seems to happen in the blink of an eye or a swig of coffee, I learned to never distractedly confirm anything while my head’s in the dryer.

Always stop, drop, and Google first.

I also realized that I ought to live in the moment more often, sans clean socks, if necessary.

(Note to self: take “logical” thinking above, package, and sell word problem to an LSAT test center.)


Why Motherhood Rocks

Reason 357:

Breakfast ham

or

Stonehenge?!

Hamhenge

Hamhenge


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