Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Mothers: the true masters of illusion

By Karrie McAllister

I have yet another skill to add to my motherly resume. Along with chueffeur, chef, and laundry goddess, I think it’s time to insert one more: master of illusion.
Being a highly skilled magician was never anything I dreamed of. Sure, I can steal the noses of my kids and separate my thumb in two, but those are mere child’s play compared to the grand scale of illusion I’m finally realizing that I have achieved.
My magic skills are multi-faceted. There are virtually no limits to my powers of deception, and I find that I practice my trade nearly every day.
And I’m guessing that most other moms do, too, unless they are aliens, robots, or have obsessive cleaning disorders.
But if you’re not sure if you, too are a illusionist, let me share with you some examples of my most famous tricks…
The Great Vanishing Act. This is a fantastic trick to use whenever you are expecting house guests and lately your house has been a catch-all for everything. If there are more puzzle pieces on your floor than in the box, this is the one for you. To perform this illusion, simple grab the nearest empty laundry basket (if you can find one) and rush around the house shoving everything that is on the floor into it, and then hide the basket in a room your guests will not see. If you run out of laundry baskets, you may have to revert to sticking toys and papers in drawers, under couches, or in closets.
Your family will scratch their heads and wonder, “how does she clean so quickly?”
The Amazing Cleaning Act. Another great one to pull out of your bag of tricks when guests are coming over! Remember, you are not actually cleaning the house, you are simply trying to achieve the illusion of cleanliness. A very simple example would be freshly wiped woodwork. No real person has time to actually do that! So instead, I very sneakily grab a rag and pour on some full strength Murphy’s Oil Soap, which we all know is the Very Smell of Clean. With your damp rag, wipe a few key places where people might actually look to see if there is dust. Once that is done, hide your rag in a central location so that the clean smell will serve as an air freshener.
Your friends will come in and say, “wow! Smells like you’ve been cleaning all day! I don’t know how you do it!”
The Incredible Disappearing Act. This trick is one of my all-time favorites. While I seem to spend the majority of my magical career making dirt and clutter disappear, it is with great talent and cleverness that I perform the most difficult vanishing act of all…making myself disappear. Sometimes moms just need to sneak away, to escape the closets full of disorder and the hidden rags of Murphy’s Oil Soap, not to mention the children, the spouse, the pets, and everything else. We just need some alone time. Thankfully there are many ways to execute this illusion. One can plainly say, “I’m going to clean the basement, anyone want to help?” When shockingly no one offers, sneak downstairs with a good book and a blanket. And when you’re cuddled up on a cardboard box, every so often knock something over or drop the book—the noise will make them think you’re actually doing something and they are sure not to bother you!
Other such ploys involve asking if anyone would like to go underwear shopping, run to the post office or bank, or help outside pulling weeds. There’s not a child or a husband who would jump on the chance to do any of those things, leaving you the opportunity to disappear all on your very own.
Finally, a warning: Moms, if you get to the paper and read this before anyone else in your family, quickly tear it out and hide it. A real magician never shares her tricks, right?

Research finds that one-half of mothers are faking it

By Karrie McAllister

Every once in a while, I actually get to go out alone with my friends. On average, there are four of us, and we’re usually sitting around a table eating, laughing, and discussing the wonderful times and not so wonderful times of being a mother. We each have our ups and downs, but we always end up smiling a lot more than crying during these gab sessions.
And apparently, two of us are faking our smiles. And when we willingly go back to our families at the end of the night, one and a half of us doesn’t know how we’re going to have the strength when we get home to get the kids to bed, clean the kitchen, etc.
It’s not very often that I get to watch morning news programs, because flipping the channel to anything non-animated would wreak havoc on our household. But one morning a few weeks back, the kids actually slept in long enough for me to catch a few minutes of the Today show.
According to some recent research, a survey of 1,000 moms showed that 47% believe they are the least happy person in the home, out-frowning dads and children. Even more, 33% say they are completely overwhelmed, and feel they have far too many jobs.
Of course, the “experts” on the show had a message for all of the moms out there, that they should try to relax and make sure when they make their to-do lists, that they put their own happiness first, professing the old adage, “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
They recommended things like scheduling spa visits and taking long baths. They also suggested to any husbands watching that the way to a mom’s heart is to woo her with folded baskets of laundry, empty dishwashers, and other such unrealistic things.
So being a mom myself and watching this, I naturally start thinking about these facts and figures, and how reasonable they actually are. I wonder how I would respond if I was a part of this research. And I think my conclusion is noteworthy, because according to what they said, their solution is actually part of the problem.
Confused? Here’s an example.
Mom A has had a terrible day. The kids dumped oatmeal on the living room rug and then put on her silk scarf and rolled around in it. Dad is out of town and calling to remind her to mow the lawn and pick up the trash that the dog has gotten into and decorated the garage with. Mom A hasn’t showered in two days and is still wearing her mismatched pajamas at 4 PM when the person calls to ask her if she’s happy with her job as a mother.
Mom B has actually bathed and brushed her teeth today. Her children are eating their oatmeal, and watching educational television. To make up for the horrible day she had yesterday (when the dogs got into the trash), her husband scheduled her a manicure in the afternoon. She’s just enjoying the cup of coffee he made for her when the interviewer calls to see if she’s happy with her maternal profession.
Well, duh. Obviously Mom B is going to be happy. She’s having a good day—in fact, a much better day than she did yesterday. Mom A is going to yell, scream, and probably cry a little into the phone when they ask her if she feels a little overwhelmed.
These studies are always frustrating me, trying to divide and label mothers. The truth is, we’re all pretty much the same thing. Moms. We all have bad days (oatmeal in the rug) and good days (oatmeal in the mouth) and really good days (oatmeal facial mask). We have days of feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated, but we find support from the people we love – our kids, our families, and our friends.
So my three other friends who sat around laughing all night? I don’t think any of us were faking it. I think there were just four other women at home having rotten days and who should have been calling their own buddies for a little support and waiting for a better tomorrow.…just in case they get called by another researcher.

A baby by any other name would smell as sweet?

By Karrie McAllister

I have a friend whose belly is bigger than mine, and of that I am jealous. I am jealous that her pregnancy will be over by the time the chaos of the holiday season strikes. And I am jealous that she and her husband know they are having a girl and that her name will be “Florence.” (Well, it’s NOT Florence, but I try to protect the innocent here.)
Rounding the half-way point of my own pregnancy –and I do mean “rounding” – my husband won the coin toss and we have decided not to find out the gender of our child during our routine ultrasound. He says that since we found out with our other two, and have one boy and one girl, that this one should be a surprise.
And trust me, I love surprises. I do not, however, love the thought of having to wash and separate the basement full of baby boy and baby girl clothes that we have accumulated.
And even more than laundry, I really do not love having to decide on both a boy’s name AND a girl’s name.
Choosing a name for your baby has become a nearly impossible feat these days. Parents long for a name that will meet a certain amount of personal criteria. Usually they’ll want a name that is special, unique, and somewhat different. If not, we’d have billions of John and Jane Smiths running around.
Not that there is anything wrong with Jane or John.
Parents just want their child, who is absolutely spectacular in their eyes, to have a spectacular name that will reflect their individuality in this world, and that, my friends, is the first hurdle of baby naming.
Secondly, when choosing a name, you must take your mind back to the lunchrooms of fourth grade and brainstorm all of the horrible nicknames that your child might possibly be called. Names must not be able to be shortened to, nor rhyme with, certain body parts or functions, nor should they ever rhyme with less-than-pleasant adjectives.
The name must also never be the name of an old girlfriend, boyfriend, or school bully. But this rule should go without saying.
Finally, once you do choose a name, you have to decide how to spell it. This seems simple enough, but trust me, it’s not. Google the top 1,000 baby names of 2006 and half of them are some forms of Emily and Jacob—with more spellings than I could fit in the text of this column. And as someone who grew up never being able to buy pencils with my name spelled correctly on them, I am bound and determine to not re-write the dictionary just to keep my children’s names unusual.
So keeping these conditions in mind, my husband and I have been going back and forth, and well, arguing, about the possible names for this baby that’s started playing soccer in my belly. We’ve done what we’ve been told to do. We’ve made lists and taken turns vetoing the ones we don’t like, and we come back with papers with a lot of ink.
We just can’t fully agree on a single one.
Either I know someone with a certain name or he informs me that “the teen years would be waaay too rough” and we’re back to square one and a nameless child.
I know we’ve got plenty of time to think about it, and eventually the kid will have a name other than “The Baby.” But in the meantime, I’d feel a lot better if we could just settle on a name.
Because once the baby comes, whether a girl or a boy, I’ll be too busy separating laundry to think of anything new and creative.
Florence is sounding better and better.

Another installment of Small Town Tooth

By Karrie McAllister

I love living in a small town. I love the fact that I recognize the same people around town. I love the idea that most people are related to someone I know. I love the thought that I’d better always keep my game face on, because surely if I do something wrong, my mother-in-law will find out.
I am, I admit, a transplant to this area. Having grown up in the suburbs of Cleveland, my vision of small towns in this area was anything but pleasant. Certainly they must be full of terrible gossip and nosiness, not to mention always smelling like a cow pasture.
And while it’s true that news travels as fast as the farm odor on a windy day, before living in a small town, I didn’t realize just how sweet a place it really is, how people you don’t really even know can offer a hand in an awful situation.
For example, after leaving the doctor’s office with the possibility of bad news coming my way, sobbing my way out the door I saw the local children’s librarian. Overwhelmed with emotion, I could do nothing but hug her. And she hugged back, not knowing the issue, only that a hysterical person she recognized needed some comfort.
That’s why I love a small town.
My list of stories could go on and on, but one recent one is worth noting.
My daughter, on the verge of turning six, has had a loose tooth dangling out of the bottom of her mouth for longer than I care to mention. I didn’t have the guts to pull it out because I knew she would be afraid and I would be exercising my trigger of a gag reflex. So it just hung there and hung there.
Until a few days ago.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and we left the boys at home to have a girls-only trip to the grocery store. Rounding the end of one aisle and turning up towards the candy and coffee (our favorite vices), I hear my daughter break into panic-mode.
“My tooth! My tooth fell out!” And she runs screaming towards the chocolate bars.
“What? Where? How?” I ask, but she is too frantic to answer with any clarity.
“We’ll never find it! I lost it right here and the floor is white!”
By this time, we had gathered the attention of the cashiers and nearby shoppers.
“Nobody move!” I commanded, waving my arms around. “Her tooth is somewhere on the floor in this general area!”
And being the kind-hearted small-town people that were there, I had helpers blocking off all of the aisles, telling others to “go around, the girl lost a tooth.” Someone mentioned a broom, others were looking under displays.
So, with their assistance and my daughter safely sobbing near the bin of suckers, I hit the floor. Crawling around, squinting against the glare of the lights, I thought all was lost.
Baby teeth, for those not aware, are absolutely miniscule. Especially front bottom teeth, which are the smallest by far, and finding it seemed like the needle in the haystack would be a cakewalk.
Call it a miracle, call it a sign, call it just plain lucky, but I found the tooth. It was there, in all of it’s smallness, in the middle of the aisle amidst a white backdrop. If it weren’t for the ladies keeping shoppers at bay, that little tooth would have surely gotten kicked into the great abyss, never to be seen again.
So to those ladies, I thank you for your kindness and your concern. It is people like you who make living in a small town so very sweet.
And my daughter sends her thanks, too. She got two bucks from the tooth fairy.

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