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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two facts my husband didn't know

1. Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards.

2. Flamingo's knees bend backwards.

Two facts my husband didn't know

1. Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards.

2. Flamingo's knees bend backwards.

I’m gonna have to face it, I’m addicted to…Webkinz

I happened to be brushing my teeth when my daughter slapped me with this dandy of a question.
“What’s an addiction?” she asked.
My first response was of course, “murph uff baa arw urg” which is dentist for “hang on a minute, I’m brushing my teeth.”
Extended rinsing gave me sufficient time to think just how to answer that question to my seven year old. When one normally thinks about the term “additction,” mostly non-childproof thoughts come to mind. We teach our children about negative addictions, such as drugs, smoking, and alcohol. We children of the 80’s know that Robert Palmer was addicted to love, and likewise Weird Al was addicted to spuds.
Trying my best to not tarnish her innocence, I simply asked her what she thought it meant. Her innocent answer was something like “when you like something,” which is pretty close.
To finish the definition I added on an explanation of how when you have an addiction, you like something a whole bunch, so much that you think about it a lot and it would be hard to stop doing whatever it is.
“Oh, like how you are addicted to coffee and the tile game on Webkinz, right?”
Er, yes.
It’s a well known fact that I’m a coffee lover. My children haven even proclaimed in their wisdom that “moms drink coffee, otherwise they might die.” But this Webkinz addiction is something new.
Haven’t heard of these fuzzy narcotics yet? Webkinz are cute little stuffed animals that come with a specific code. After buying the animal, you log onto their Web site and register your pet, which then becomes your real, live, virtual pet.
And because your pet is alive (in a virtual sort of way) you need to feed it, clothe it, give it a room, and provide it with love. All of these are available to purchase in the W Shop, but like real life, these things cost money. Well, Kinzcash, that is.
Thankfully, the wise marketing geniuses at Webkinz have devised a number of different ways to earn Kinzcash. These include a variety of online activities such as answering trivia questions, being employed, and playing a plethora of games in the arcade.
The more you play, the more you earn. The more you earn, the more you can trick out your virtual pet’s room by buying them stylish furniture, toys, decorations, and I’m not making this up, furniture to store your purchases in.
And just like in real life, I want my daughter to have it all. She is certainly the one sweet enough to not fully understand an addiction, so I naturally want her to want for nothing in her Webkinz world. And being an adult, I tend to be a little more skilled at solitaire games and trivia questions, therefore having the ability to earn money at a faster rate.
So instead of doing the laundry or reading a book or making lunch, I play Webkinz games. Mostly, as she has noticed, the Webkinz tile game. In fact, just now while writing this week’s column, my husband accused me of playing games instead of working, and my daughter in the background asked when I was going to be done so that she could have a turn…with her own toy.
It’s sad and pathetic but just as addictions go, it is nearly impossible to control. I’d like to say that it’s all for the good of my daughter that I am losing my eyesite for squinting at the screen, but while that’s partly true, I cannot tell a lie. It’s become my new addiction.
In fact, just give me my cup of coffee and my laptop, and I’m one happy junkie, with the best dressed stuffed animal on the block.

While visions of mozzarella danced in her head

This is what the universe does to you when you make fun of tofu.
I’m a firm believer in eating REAL food. To me, there is no such thing as a substitute. If I want protein, it’s time for a big steak. Ice cream should be ice cream, not frozen this or that. Eggs should be made of real crack-the -shell eggs, and as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather not waste my time drinking skim milk when I could be enjoying the fatty goodness of the cream-top variety.
I’ve gone as far as standing in the grocery store, giving the evil eye to the tofu “ice cream” and saying aloud, “who buys this stuff? If you’re gonna have ice cream, have ice cream. Who are these people trying to kid?”
And now, I’m afraid it’s me. They’re trying to kid me.
Lately I have been totally consumed by my longing for dairy products, so much that I sat down to write this week’s column and instead of seeing a blank paper I saw a piece of Swiss cheese. I very nearly nibbled on the corner of my computer screen. And when I went to the bathroom to wash the drool off of my face, I came pretty close to tasting my milk and honey soap.
The reason for this dairy desire, this craving for cream, this yearning for yogurt is that my baby girl has broken out with a bad case of eczema. Her precious baby skin that was smooth and silky suddenly turned red and bumpy. So like any good parent, I panicked.
Multiple trips to the doctor and dermatologist only seemed to increase the mystery of the rash and it wasn’t until I snuck her a tiny bite of ice cream that things started adding up. Just the tiniest dab of vanilla soft serve and her face looked like she went hog wild with a tube of red lipstick.
After visiting the allergist it was confirmed. My baby is allergic to milk.
This doesn’t seem like anything too major, especially to someone with a baby who doesn’t really eat much food. Controlling her intake of cow’s milk is really not the problem. The problem is that I choose to nurse my baby instead of bottle feeding, and it follows that I can honestly look at her and say “you are what I eat.”
This choice of mine is something that I feel very strongly about, so when the allergist sat me down and told me that while I am breastfeeding I should cut dairy out of my diet, I considered it my only option. He asked me if I was willing to do it, to which I answered “of course.”
These are the things we do for our children. In fact, having kids often feels like one giant sacrifice after another. First it’s small-sized clothing, then sleep, then a tidy home, and the next thing you know you’re in the supermarket, staring at the sour cream and salivating.
But no matter what it is, you do it. You do it because you love your kids and you want the best for them. It is those same parental emotions and hormones that make moms lift cars off of their kids and dads coach years of little league.
And now those emotions have made me spend hours in the grocery store, reading labels on things that are supposed to taste like butter and buy slices of cheese that aren’t even cheese. I left the checkout lane with soy yogurt, non-dairy creamer, milk-free bread, soy milk, and yes, even a small tub of the ice cream made from tofu.
I might say the universe owes me one, but I know I’ve already been paid back and then some with a chubby little baby girl.

LOL: Laughing Out Loud or Learning from Our Little ones?

Here’s a question I guarantee you won’t have an answer for.
When’s the last time you stuck a popsicle stick into a banana and pretended it was a phone while walking down a main street and laughed so hard that you caught the attention of many passers-by and thereby publically humiliated yourself?
For me, eleven years.
It was 1997. My college roommate and must have consumed dozens of cups of cafeteria coffee over an extended lunch, and the over-caffeinated result was…wait for it…the Cellana. The cellular banana: an awesome idea spawned from the fact that every time my mother packed me a banana in my school lunch, she drew little number buttons on it with a blue pen so that I could make phone calls on my elementary lunch hour.
Regardless of what the Cellana means to anyone else, the image of a banana with an antenna is a sad reminder to me that I just don’t laugh that hard anymore. I’m talking full-out, doubling-over, eyes tearing up, “stop it stop it stop it” kind of laughing.
It’s the kind of laughing I see coming out of my kids all the time, especially when whatever they are laughing at isn’t all that funny to me.
For my older kids, 4 ½ and almost 7, their laughter seems to build off of each other. If one finds something funny, the other will start laughing and like the snowball effect, it doesn’t take long until they are on the floor rolling around giggling. Speaking of rolling, they also find it quite comical to roll down the hill in our front yard, seeing if anyone hits the sidewalk. And other times their laughter all stems from a killer knock-knock joke such as the one I actually heard today, “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Pete.” “Pete who?” “Pete-y seed-y eat-ys his eyeballs!”
Cue laugh track.
My baby, on the other hand, is very particular about what she finds funny. At seven months, tickles don’t work. Toys don’t work. Peek-a-boo only works for a very short period of time. But if I pretend to take a big bite out of her chubby baby leg? Hilarious. In fact, it’s so funny that I have to watch where I’m biting because sometimes she laughs so hard we get giggles out one end and something else out the other.
So surrounded by all of this laughter, it makes me wonder why we adults don’t laugh a little more. Some studies show it’s healthy for us, improving blood flow, energy levels, and immune systems, while also reducing stress. Not only that, but one study done at Vanderbilt University showed that 10 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories! All of those benefits and smiling at the same time. Sounds better than health food and the gym to me.
What else about adulthood is keeping us from laughing? Is it the daily stresses or the tiredness that could be alleviated by a few good jokes? Or maybe is it just that our standards of what is really funny have dulled down to the point of being, well, dull?
Maybe we all need to take a few lessons from our kids the next time we see them snorting their drinks out their noses over a good knock-knock joke, or rolling down the hill and crashing into the sidewalk. Or maybe the next time I take a bite out of my baby’s leg and she laughs out loud, maybe I should just laugh back. Not only will these things boost my health, but they’ll also boost my relationship with my children.
It’s a win-win situation, one so spectacular that it is worth more than a million brand-spanking new Cellanas.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Afternoon Haiku

It is four-thirty.
I've gone from coffee to wine.
How was your day, dear?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The zoo is good to the last drop [of sweat]

For a child, there are few places more exciting than a zoo. Perhaps it’s the idea that an animal that you’ve only seen in books is right there, behind the glass. Or maybe it’s the enchantment of seeing these animals up close, to see the texture in their fur, to hear their sounds in first person, or to look one square in the eye and have it look back.
Or maybe it’s just the anticipation of waiting to see if one will actually go to the bathroom while you’re there watching it.
Whatever it is, the zoo is pure magic for children.
And unfortunately, it’s pure sweat for parents.
When my children first caught wind of our potential zoo trip, I was constantly barraged with questions. “How many more days to the zoo?” “When are we going to the zoo?” “Is the zoo today?” And, as usual, when dealing with small people with no concept of time, every answer you give is a real waste of breath.
But finally, after a few agonizing days, it was time to go to the zoo. I knew it was the perfect day because the temperature was going to top 85 and the air was so humid, just looking out the window made you start to perspire. I could almost smell monkey exhibit…
After a lengthy “arewethereyet” car ride that might as well been to Africa itself, we arrived. While still in the parking lot, over the screams of enthusiasm, I did my best to hurry through the preparatory procedures. Because as all parents know, going to the zoo isn’t as easy as say, going to the store (even though that’s not all that simple either.) You have to pack and prepare like you’re going on an actual safari.
So while herding my children away from moving vehicles, I managed to slather sun block over three children and outfit them in hats and sunglasses. Then in between my yelling and herding, I packed the backpack full of the necessary items for the day. These items include: more sun block, baby food and toys, water bottles because surely the sun would dehydrate us all in a matter of minutes, and fruit snacks for bribing the children to keep walking. Oh yes, and the camera just in case something exciting happens. (I learned my lesson a few years ago when we saw an otter eat a duck. Sadly, I have no photographic evidence.)
At this point I’ve already started sweating through my clothes and have used my loud-angry-voice quota for the day. The sweat has deactivated all of the product in my hair and as I hoist the baby in the backpack and the backpack on my back, I am really starting to resemble the mule that I feel like.
And if you’re keeping track, we haven’t even entered the zoo yet.
Eventually, after a bathroom break and me shelling out the big bucks for our tickets to this arena of animal wonderment, we were off and running.
Well, walking. Actually, more like dragging, as in the kids dragging their mother from penguin to fish to crane to lion. Not wanting to miss one attraction, we hiked the entire zoo. By the time we reached the bears, I was glad to be carrying the baby on my back – the backpack did a fabulous job covering up the fact that I could now seriously wring out my shirt.
But through my sweat-stinging eyes, I watched my daughter, a kindergarten graduate, read the signs to my preschool-aged son for the first time. I saw them learn and laugh, and not once did I have to bribe them with fruit snacks to keep walking, which was a good thing because I ended up eating them all myself, just to make it back to the car.
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