True Parenting Confessions

I remember the day it happened.

Our school district has an evil contrivance called “Winter Break”. Don’t confuse this with the break that happens in December, the one punctuated by good cheer and the type of good behavior that can only be brought about by the imminent threat of No Presents.

The “Winter Break” of which I speak happens in February, near Presidents’ Day. Around the time when you haven’t seen the sun for about three and a half months and would cheerfully set your winter coat on fire you’re so sick of it, were you not so entirely dependent upon it to keep from freezing to damn death.

Most years Winter Break is an entire week long, depending on hurricanes and teacher negotiations.

This is a vile break for several reasons, but the most important are these:

1) It’s smack dab in the middle of peak production season for new Broadway shows.

2) CC is always in production on one of said shows during this break and working double time.

3) I am not, and am therefore locked inside during the day with the kids.

Yes, “locked inside” because, remember:

4) It’s February in New Jersey.

The first year we had the kids, we were approximately 38 hours into Winter Break. I was five hours past sanity. But we had finally landed on an activity that made everyone happy: they made cookies while I unpacked CC’s family china and washed and dried it.

I looked at the clock and  it was 2pm. We had all been so absorbed in our tasks that I had entirely forgotten to feed them lunch. There were still three boxes of china left to unpack, and all the counter space was taken up with it. I was holding in my hand a shallow bowl that had a weathered old note indicating the origin and the date “early 1710’s”.

Me: So, ah, you guys must be hungry, huh?

Them: Yeah!

Me: Do you want me to make you some canned beef stew, or would you rather eat cookie dough for lunch?

Duh.

So it began that I don’t feed my kids lunch when they’re home. Lunches to take to school are no problem–especially now that CC makes them pack their own lunches.

At first I continued offering no-brainer choices like the first one to get out of making lunch. Then I moved on to having to run an urgent errand at lunch time and leaving a responsible kid in charge of lunch. Eventually, I stopped even trying.

They don’t seem to be bothered by it.

We have enough things around that they can fix themselves, or graze upon, and every so often one of them will come to me and say, “I’m hungry!”… and if it’s one that I like that day, I’ll make them something.

26.2lbs, in case you were wondering
26.2lbs, in case you were wondering

Once I noticed the frozen yogurt containers that #2 and #3 were eating out of very near meal time. The ability to obtain junk food on a whim is, I believe, the most valued benefit of having both a drivers license and a job for a teenager.

Me: I take it you guys aren’t super hungry right now?

#2, smiling sheepishly: Not really.

Me: Good.

#2: Because you weren’t going to cook for us anyway, were you?

Oh wait, that was true. And it happened today. At dinner time. Nevermind, that story has nothing to do with this blog post.

What’s the lamest thing you’ve ever made for lunch?

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Peep Dioramas

Kids are funny about holiday traditions. They’ll cling mightily to some while not remembering others; actively resist certain new ideas but welcome others without question.

Easter is where all holiday traditions have broken down in this family. We’ve done something different every year, to new levels of failure every time. I posted about a couple of them here and here.

Last year after so many Easter ideas that didn’t fly, I gave up trying to find something that would work. I dumped some chocolate in a pile on the table and slept in while CC took the kids to church. The older kids hid eggs for the younger kids, and I felt guilty for a whole year. I believe they considered that the best Easter ever. . .

But you never know what kids will latch onto. They’re always watching you, even when you think they aren’t paying attention. Turns out I did start a tradition: The five-dollar egg, and the dog poop egg.

#5 started asking about this year’s egg hunt shortly after Christmas.

The other kids would chime in that they just weren’t into egg hunts, didn’t want to color eggs, had no interest in doing anything like that- they were way too old for that stuff. They stopped short, however, of giving up their Easter baskets.

Spurred by last year’s guilt I decided that I would do an egg hunt this year, by God, because #5 kept asking about it. True to their word, his sisters all bailed on coloring eggs. All except for #4, who was forced into it by the babysitter after #5 had waited for her all day to do the eggs.

Sometimes it sucks being the youngest. I remember that.

The astute among you will notice that I am not the colorer of eggs. If you dig through the archives, you will also discover I don’t carve pumpkins, either.

But something. . . dare we say miraculous? . .  happened on Easter Sunday. Three of the girls decided to join in the egg hunt. Probably it was the promise of the $5 egg. Now, I may have hidden that egg in a place where it was more likely to be discovered by a ten-year-old boy than a teenage girl. Maybe. I may or may not have given him a word of encouragement/direction before the egg hunt began. I did not, however, tell him where it was.

Regardless, #5 did find the $5 egg (which was an egg with five bucks rubber-banded to it because I didn’t get plastic eggs this year).

#3 found the dog poop egg- which was a poop-colored egg hidden near a pile of dog poop (not in it). The best part is that she didn’t notice the poop when she found the egg, and was more than a little grossed out when I pointed it out to her. Win-win.

Peep Dioramas were next on the agenda, the prize up for grabs being a bag of Robin’s Eggs and some Silly Putty. The only rules were that Peeps had to be involved, and so did their Easter baskets. I guess I was envisioning  small Peep scenes contained within the Easter baskets. But the term “diorama” became. . .expanded. And suddenly three teenage girls and one ten-year-old boy were madly scrambling for anything remotely resembling blocks, dolls, or action figures.

All with showtunes blasting on Pandora.

My living room was epic.

And twisted. Most of the Peeps died. Including one that was puggle-napped.

#5’s scene involved a roller coaster, military vehicles, and towers. I called it Peep Inferno, even though nothing was technically on fire. Yet.

DSCF7453

It included a botched helicopter rescue:

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GRAB THE ROPE! THE ROPE!
MY ROPE BROKE! OH NOOO!
MY ROPE BROKE! OH NOOO!

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I seriously debated whether or not to include #4’s for fear of my door being broken down by DYFS. Then I figured, what the hell. If it’s the Peep diorama that sends DYFS over the edge, they haven’t been paying attention.

I dubbed this Rock Show of Doom because she claimed it all started at a concert:

When Mosh pits go bad
When Mosh pits go bad

And yes, I am intentionally avoiding close-ups of all of the creepily posed dolls. Please don’t scrutinize it.

While it was never clear who started off performing in the concert, it was very clear who the victor was:

Last Peep standing.
Last Peep standing.

#3’s started off as a volcano sacrifice (with tomato and Craisin lava). . .

Who to save?
Who to save?

DSCF7476But the availability of extra Army dudes changed it up a little and she opted for a “make your own story line” motif.

And who won?

#2.

With her Peep depiction of Les Misérables:

DSCF7462

Cosette. . .*cough*. .  mais non. . .
Cosette. . .*cough*. . mais non. . .

I have thrown Peeps, stuck Peeps to the wall to have Peep races (last Peep standing wins), tried to blow up Peeps in the microwave, eaten Peeps (not recommended), and cleaned up dog-vomited semi-digested Peeps (also not recommended). Hands down, the Peeps “dioramas” were the best Peep experience I’ve ever had. Maybe this tradition will stick (like a Peep, to the bottom of your shoe…)

What’s the most fun you’ve had with Peeps?

The Best Idea He Ever Had

Monday is pizza lunch day at the elementary school, the only school without a cafeteria where one could buy lunch in a pinch. . . if, say, one overslept or forgot to get lunch meat, or just couldn’t fricking deal with the prospect of making that many goddamn sandwiches again. Therefore, Monday has long been our throw-money-at-the-kids-and-let-them eat-crap-at-school day.

When school started up again after the holidays, CC issued a mandate: each of the four kids who have not yet graduated will be responsible for making school lunches one day each week.

Monday plus 4 kids making lunches each one day a week translates into both of us getting a whole extra thirty minutes’ sleep in the morning. That’s almost better than sex.

Almost.

It had to be a rule laid down by him. I never would have been able to make it stick. First off, they wouldn’t have believed me. Then, when they realized that I meant business, they would have been stuffing fistfuls of dry cereal (if there was any left) into sandwich bags and hurling them at each other on the way out the door going, “Here’s your lunch!”.

But now, the night before their allotted day, they make the sandwiches. They gather the snacks. They label the bags and put the cold things in the fridge. There have been some interesting but predictable occurrences. Like the lunchmaker gets the most coveted snacks. And how the day that we were nearly out of bread, #4 equally dispersed the hateful heels from two loaves of bread so that everyone got only one, and no one got stuck with two. Except for herself; she was exempted from heels and got the last two regular pieces of bread. She left one heel for CC and I to share for toast.

The bread hates you too.
The bread hates you too.

Last night #2 came into the living room full of angst.

#2: I would like to state for the record that I HATE that wheat bread for sandwiches!

Me: That’s what you said when I bought white bread! What do you want?

#2: Well, I like that OTHER white bread!

CC: I bought a loaf of that- it’s on the counter!

#2: I KNOW! That’s why I used it for my sandwich.

Me: And you used the hateful wheat bread for everyone else’s sandwich?

#2: Well, yeah. That way there will be more of the good white bread for my sandwiches later.

Me: When has that concept ever worked at any time for anything in this family?

#2: We’re out of goldfish.

My favorite part of this whole thing, maybe even better than the extra sleep, is what they’re writing on each other’s lunch bags.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious but we didn’t see it coming: My darling baby brother, Fart Face, Booger.

But #5, having Friday as his lunch-making day, has the entire week to think up retaliations for what his sisters write on his bag.

The girls underestimated him. My favorite last week was Don’t forget your ointment!