Archives for category: family

Do you ever wonder what your job evaluation as a parent would look like? My wonderful hubby has to go through the job evaluation process once a year as part of his job. He has to fill out an evaluation and his boss reviews him and assesses his performance on an evaluation as well. Most jobs and careers have similar forays into the world of analyzing how well or not so well you are doing your job. Parenthood comes with no such procedure. We don’t get evaluated at the end of every fiscal year, but after days like today, I wonder what mine would look like.
Each parent has certain days that make him or her wonder whether he or she would have been better off getting a cocker spaniel instead of having a child. As a parent of four, I have had several such days. When Kath was enrolled in her first Vacation Bible School (I’m not going into a religious theme here-just telling a story that will definitely have a context for this blog), her father and I looked forward to the wrap up night in which the children would sing sweet little songs and we would eat either badly burned or undercooked hot dogs. Her group went to the altar to sing the song they learned that week. All these angelic faces smiled out to the audience showing perfectly even white baby teeth as they sang their little song, all except one face. Kath was running around the altar continually. Wonderful hubby and I slunk into our seats as we wondered how many people knew that was our daughter. When she was too old for the nursery, Kath had to attend service with us. When the organ’s first notes filled the sanctuary, Kath jumped up to the center of the aisle and yelled out her music request.
One of MJ’s finest moments came at a craft store. He was three and ran away from me and Kath. He was out of my eyesight and at the other end of the store as people were pointing the way to his location before I could catch up to him. I was scared and angry at the same time. Scared because if he had headed the other way and run into the parking lot (the store had automatic doors) before I could have caught him, he could have been seriously hurt. Angry because he had run away from me and not responded when I called him back to me. Fortunately he has never done that again, but six and a half years later, I still remember the gamut of emotions that flowed through me at the moment he bolted.
Cupcake and Chunk bring about a whole new set of complications. Fraternal twins do not run in our family and we were not expecting twins at all when I became pregnant. Nevertheless, they normally brighten our day, but today I took them to story time at our local library. They ran around the room, they played tag, they wrestled each other, and they fought over who would sit in my lap. What is supposed to be a calm and fun introduction to story time as this is a toddler lap sit story time session designed for 1 to 3 year olds turned into a travesty for me as Cupcake and Chunk ran around while every other child sat angelically in a parent’s lap.
There are just those days in which you know that if people around you evaluated your skills as a parent, you would fall way short of the Carol Brady standard. Of course, Carol Brady had a full time, live in maid, but her three children had to share a bathroom with their three tween and teen stepbrothers. I have to remind myself sometimes that a parent evaluation isn’t judged on the moments in which you want to pull out all of your hair, but it is also judged on the moments you want to savor. When I got the phone call that my beloved grandmother had died, Kath went to her room, found a beanie baby teddy bear and brought it to me as I was crying my eyes out in the formal living room. I think about MJ helping his younger twin siblings so I can make dinner. I think about Chunk dancing at his grandfather’s wedding and making everyone around him laugh with his little dancing steps. I think about Cupcake taking Chunk his cookie and not eating it before it ends up in his hand. I know I have a lot of room for improvement, but they are happy and healthy. It’s tough knowing that time will have the final evaluation, but judging on right now as Kath plays her flute, MJ pets the dog, and the twins play together, I think there is hope that all of us are happy that wonderful hubby and I decided to have them rather than adopt a cocker spaniel puppy.

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While the real saying or cliche is “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” I have discovered that it should actually be “the more things change, the more expensive they are.”
Technology is a part of our everyday life. Whereas my grandparents were excited to have a television set and my parents a video cassette recorder, my generation (I’m a Gen Xer) has witnessed the rise of cable TV, satellite TV, and now the internet. I remember the first time we had cable TV and what a stir HBO caused in our household. Now the internet with You Tube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other outlets provide us with access to more television shows than we have time to watch.
As a parent, I see the differences in the wallet with all the new technological fads as well. I remember shopping with my parents for the new Atari 400. What my parents discovered was that it wasn’t necessarily the price of the unit that was overwhelming, it was the price of each cartridge that added up quickly. We had PacMan, Basic Programming, Asteroids, States and Capitals and Centipede. Those five cartridges cost a lot of money back then, but I think my parents got off rather cheaply as compared to now.
Our house has three cell phones, one iPad, one computer, one working laptop and one working not so well laptop that is on its last legs and so on. (I don’t want to make our house super attractive to any burglars who may be reading this; may I add that our super aggressive dog is known throughout our neighborhood as the barking dog and she is feisty.) My two year old daughter, Cupcake, can already navigate my iPad. She knows what to touch to make PBS Kids appear and how to make it turn on Sesame Street and The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. She knows how to get the pictures to show a slideshow. She is especially fond of the song “Better Days” as the background song. Cupcake can also operate a VCR; yes, our household still has that somewhat outdated technological device. Her pronunciation of Netflix is getting better as it now sounds more like Net-flicks rather than Neck-lace. She also knows about websites. One of her favorites is koko.org which features the detailed life of Koko the Gorilla. She loves to get whoever is at the computer to stop what they are doing and type in koko.org so she can see the video footage of Koko’s birthday. All of this before her third birthday.
Cupcake’s twin, Chunk, is more into food so he wants to increase his understanding of how to cook food. He is starting to figure out the microwave. He keeps bringing me popcorn bags so I can pop them in the microwave. Even so, he still likes looking at my iPad. He likes the slideshow also, but he is not a fan of “Better Days” and constantly asks me to turn off the music when Cupcake has the iPad in her lap watching 1000 pictures of her and her family over the past three years.
MJ also has grasped the media technology that rules our household. He is especially fond of Wii and the internet. The good news is that he is enamored of several math educational sites right now and is trying to outscore other members of his class. The bad news is that the Wii cartridges he tends to want for his birthday or Christmas tend to cost around $50.00 a piece. We carefully budget and save for whatever technological item we bring into our house. As much as I would love certain new devices, I don’t want to owe money on them and my wonderful hubby would like to retire someday. As a result, we have plain everyday cell phones that are mainly used for emergencies rather than the SmartPhones that supposedly organize your life but do not vacuum or dust.
Kath did receive a laptop as a middle school graduation present, but that was solely because she needs one for high school and I use the word need there on purpose rather than want. Yes, she likes Facebook and “wants” her Facebook account, but many of her teachers require homework to be done on the computer. Her lit teacher has assignments that are handed in via one website rather than on paper. She has a school e-mail address. So as much as I would have loved to use the money for something else, she really did need this in order to write compositions, send photo files to her teacher (her lit teacher had people send her pictures of each student reading a book to her e-mail), and use online textbooks. Technology isn’t cheap, but sometimes it is necessary for today’s society.
From my Atari 400 to our family’s technological devices, I’ve seen quite an evolution in the cost of these items, but as a family, we are drawing some lines. We don’t need fancy phones when we have laptops and a computer. I also draw the line at paying for Sirius Radio (although I lament the loss of my favorite radio station which is changing format to an all sports radio station) and I draw the line at contractual fees for cell phone service. I also draw the line at new Wii games except if a child earns the money himself or herself or receives a game as a gift for Christmas or birthday and even then it is one new game. Same thing goes for the handheld game devices. Not in my house and the only exception is if you earn all the money yourself and it is not to be a gift. MJ knows he can’t get a Nintendo DS as a gift, but he knows he can earn the money by doing chores or asking grandparents for chores (and I would check to make sure they paid a fair rate and not extra and did not give him extra).
And so the technology bugs have hit our house and bite even the youngest of occupants. We try to manage to keep the expenses of the different gadgets to a minimum, but it is hard. That’s when I pull out Zooreka or Star Wars Monopoly or even a puzzle. Our Thanksgivings are always marked with a puzzle that we try to shield from the twins’ destructive forces. So hopefully I will learn to balance fun activities that do not require electricity just as my parents had to remind me there was more to life than scoring the high score on PacMan and just as my grandparents had to remind my mother there was more to life than listening to the same Beatle record over and over and just as my great grandparents had to remind my grandmother that there was more to life than going to see the new Roy Rogers movie over and over and over. I say maybe as I am sitting here trying to figure out how to blog. Now if I could just figure out how to upload pictures, maybe I just need to get Cupcake to do that for me.

In the movie series Lethal Weapon, Danny Glover’s character, Roger Murtaugh always delivers the line “I’m too old for this (insert what you know he said here)…” with great aplomb whenever certain situations arise which only exist in Hollywood action flicks. Sometimes those situations revolve around one of his onscreen children who inevitable cause another uttering of that line. There have been a couple of times in the past couple of years when I find myself uttering a cleaned up version of that line and I think about my age in relation to my children’s ages.
Being the mom to twin toddlers requires energy that I do not always seem to possess yet which they always assume I have in spades. They love piggyback rides and the “upside down” game. That is the process by which I swing them upside down for a couple of seconds and then gently toss them on the couch. They always yell “My turn” or “More” if I do not do this fast enough. Another invented physical fun activity is “Firm Embrace.” If you were (or still are) a fan of the TV show “Mad About You,” you will remember Mel Brooks’ hilarious performance as Uncle Phil who always demanded a firm embrace from Paul and Jamie. This vignette was in my mind one day when Kath was little and we started the firm embrace game which has continued through all four children during toddlerhood. They lay on me and I roll them from side to side while chanting “Firm embrace, firm embrace, I need me a firm embrace.” As I am doing this to toddlers, they love it and do not mind the grammatical incorrectness. All of these physical fun times, however, seem to be causing me to feel my age a little more now than when Kath was little. The day following an intensive session of “upside down,” I feel the muscles in my shoulders and neck more prominently than the morning before. Still Cupckae and Chunk love this and I try to give it my best effort. When I’m a little too stiff, I take them to a neighborhood park to run around and get rid of some of that excess energy.
Nevertheless, I far prefer feeling a little stiff in the joints to another new feeling that I have started to experience lately: the feeling that I am way too young for certain life changes. No, I’m not talking about the M word; I’m writing about being the mother of a teenager and all that entails. Kath turned fourteen this year. Up to this point, boys had been “icky” and “gross.” That was absolutely fine with me. I could handle that; in fact, I loved it because it meant my daughter who is two inches taller than me was still my little girl. Then came a phone call a couple of weeks ago. My wonderful hubby had called me to ask to see if I had found his wallet in his car which I had borrowed to go to the library to write. I instantly run out to the car to search frantically for his wallet. I look under the seats, in the console, in nooks and crannies to no avail. I call home to ask him whether we need to start cancelling credit cards when Kath answers the phone and yells the immortal words, “I have a boyfriend.” Wait a minute. What happened to boys are “gross” and “yucky?” All of a sudden, she has a boyfriend? So goodbye to boys being disgusting and hello to the dating world. For the first two and a half weeks, I especially loved this new dating world. There was no going out on what I perceive as an actual date; instead, there were phone calls and an occasional Facebook message, but no coming to the door and taking to a restaurant or movie. All was going well until Labor Day when Kath asked if we wanted to meet her boyfriend. While I would have preferred to do my income taxes or run a marathon, I smiled and nodded. Ben (not his real name) came over to watch Back to the Future. Instead, MJ had strict orders not to leave their sides. MJ ingratiated himself well and taught him how to play a computer game. Instead of learning the value of 1.21 jigawatts, Ben had to endure MJ’s explanation of how to play Heroes of Might and Magic. Then came dinner. Spencer Tracy was not more surprised to have Sidney Poitier as a dinner guest than I was when Ben stayed to dinner that night. I am definitely too young for my daughter to be dating.
Sometimes I ask myself what is the happy medium. I feel old when I play roughhouse with Cupcake and Chunk but feel too young to have a daughter that is actually dating. Then I come to MJ who has discovered he likes watching movies with me. He loved Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, but he didn’t like The Pink Panther with David Niven and Peter Sellers as MJ has a definite sense of right and wrong and (spoiler alert) for Inspector Closeau to get framed for Sir Charles’ crimes is a little too hard for him to accept. As the Oreo cream filling between the cookies that are his twin siblings and his older sister, MJ bridges the gap for me between the three different age groups I have running around my house. Although there are days when I feel old and days when I feel too young for some parental activity, I smile knowing I’m in the right spot for right now. Then I reach for the ThermaCare patch and know I can make it another day.