Friday, February 22, 2008

The Constitution of the Kitchen Sink

I, The Mom of this, The Kitchen Sink, in order to form a more perfect home, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the family, and secure clean dishes for eating for myself and my family, do ordain and establish this Constitution for The Kitchen Sink.
Article 1: The Branches of PowerAll Power herein granted shall be vested in a sole ruler, which shall consist of The Mom, because she is the one who inevitably gets stuck doing the dishes.
Article 2: The StateThe State of The Kitchen shall be under the control of The Mom at all times, and should never be blamed on The Mom. The Mom, being responsible for serving multiple meals and bowl-worthy snacks all day, is responsible for, but seldom the cause of, a kitchen counter stacked high with cups and plates. Those nagging about the state of the kitchen will be punished by hand-washing week-old milk-filled sippy cups.
Amendment 1: Freedom of reachThe remaining members of the household are free to place their dirty dishes into the sink, that large vessel in the middle of the kitchen. It should be noted that setting the dishes around the sink in heaping piles does nothing for the state of the Kitchen. Once in the sink, The Mom will, in time, return the dishes to a sanitary state, so the family can once again use an entire dish for a single cracker and leave it again, on the counter.
Amendment 2: The right to bare armsFamily members are permitted to roll up their sleeves and wash dishes at any time, although The Mom expects this as much as she expects a good fairy to fly in and scrub her refrigerator shelves.
Amendment 3: Search and seizure
The family is required by The Mom law to not leave dirty dishes scattered throughout the house. The Mom does not enjoy having to hunt for above mentioned sippy cups that are often left in toy boxes and under couches, nor does she enjoy the midnight snack dishes left by the Dad in front of the TV.
(The exception of this rule is, of course, the coffee cups left by the Mom around the house because she never has time to finish one without being rudely interrupted by said family members.)
Amendment 4: Confrontation of witnesses
Upon the instance of a member of The Family leaving an un-rinsed bowl of oatmeal in the sink (or on the counter), the Mom will not assume responsibility for the crusted mess. Instead, The Mom has the right to confront and berate the member who committed this heinous crime, and withhold further meals until He or She starts scrubbing.
Amendment 5: The powers of The Mom
When the family decides to surprise the Mom by cooking her a gourmet meal of scrambled eggs or peanut butter and jelly, this does not mean that the Mom is required to do the dishes. Therefore, the Mom has the power to do unto others as they have done to her, leaving her own dirty dishes wherever she pleases.

Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of The Mom in the Year two thousand and eight. She has hereunto subscribed her name…in dishsoap.

Eat your veggies! (Along with a little dip…and some bacteria)

Consider this a public service announcement. Especially to those who might visit my home and share fresh cut vegetables and dip with my children.
Sure, my kids are cute. They wear cute little clothes and they say cute little things. They even have great big puppy dog brown eyes. But they are also hopeless double dippers.
Whether it is french fries in ketchup or carrots in garlic-herb, I guarantee that the food will take more than one swim in its condiment. And trust me, I have done my very best in trying to control the chronic double dipping. I have scolded and explained that when they put their half eaten veggie back in the dip, it’s almost as if they spit their germs back in there for all to enjoy.
But they still double dip.
Just like every other kid out there.
It’s indeed a mystery how all children will eat just about anything with the addition of some sort of dip. Broccoli? Yuck. But give them a big scoop of ranch and those miniature “trees” disappear like magic. What about meat of any sort? Even kids that are budding vegetarians will scarf up that meatloaf with the right amount of ketchup.
So it goes without saying that we put away our fair share of dip in this household. As a mom, I disguise as many healthy foods as I can under a dollop of this or that. For lunches, I frequently toss the entire container of dip on the table for their baby carrots. And they dip. And double dip. And yes, dare I say, even triple dip.
”Double dipping” if you didn’t know, is the act of dipping something, taking a bite, and then dipping the same half-eaten morsel back into the dip for a little extra flavor. It is said that the term “double dipping” was first officially used in an episode of Seinfeld in 1993, but I think the term is as common today as the act is. It’s considered a social faux pas because of the fact that you’re putting your mouth germs back into the dip, where it will live and grow and maybe even get scooped up in the mouth of your party mate.
But like my kids, I reckon we’ve all done a little double dipping in our own time…when no one was looking, of course.
And chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve survived this nasty habit.
But chances when you’re done reading this, you might rethink your next double dip.
Later this year, a study done at Clemson University will be published in the Journal of Food Safety that proves that it’s true -- double dipping does cause mouth germs in the dip.
And after my throat stopped it’s series of gag reflexes, I continued reading that a team of scientists tested wheat crackers, a tablespoon of dip, a three-second plunge, and a triple dip. The results were astounding. They found an average of 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth in the remaining dip.
And another test revealed that even sporadic dipping deposited 50 to 100 bacteria from one mouth each time.
I’m no microbiologist, but as a mother constantly on germ patrol, putting other people’s mouth bacteria into my own is not worth the extra taste of dip on the end of my celery.
The hard part will be conveying this information to my young children who may not even understand the concept of 10,000, let alone the idea of microscopic bacteria.
Maybe I’ll just tell them that double dipping leads to [gulp] eating other people’s spit. But knowing how kids just adore their dip, they’ll probably just smile and dive back in for another dunk of their beloved ranch.
I guess at least their eating their veggies, right?

Behavior charts are the “daddy’s belt” of the 21st century

Take yourself back a few dozen years. Go back before the parenting manuals and magazines. Go back before political correctness. Even go back before the invention of the refrigerator. And while you’re back that far, imagine that you’ve done something really bad, like cut off half of your sister’s hair or tied your baby brother to the tree out back.
What did your mother do? What did she say? Did she threaten you with…dare I say… a STICKER???
Chances are she didn’t mention a sticker, and chances are there was mention of a paddle, a switch, or the infamous “daddy’s belt.”
Whatever the threat was, your eyes got wide, your mouth closed, and your hands probably went straight to protecting your backside.
I personally received one “licken” as a child that still stings my mind like it stung back then. Of course I deserved it. When she found me jumping off the couch over her coffee table, my Grandmother scolded me and warned me (OK, threatened me) not to do it again. But working in what I thought was stealth mode, the minute she went off to do the laundry, I resumed my jumping fun.
Boy, did she give it to me. And guess what? I never jumped off that couch again. My lesson was learned and from then on I knew she meant business. My Grandma tells me now that it hurt her more to give that spanking than it did me, but I’m sure I didn’t think so on that fateful day.
Fast forward about 25 years, and me, champion coffee table hurdler, am blessed with a son who has inherited my superb furniture jumping gene. He also has the backtalk gene, the I’m-not-listening gene, the not-gonna-eat-it gene, and the generally-mischievous gene, all of which he must have inherited from someone other than myself.
And in today’s world, the whole concept of spanking has been so socially pooh-poohed that it’s really not an option for anyone pretending to be a good parent. What we are left with are tools like the time-out and the new fangled behavior chart.
My family has used the time-out technique. I think my son spent half of his third year sitting on the bottom step, “thinking about what he’s done.” Now that he’s four, he’s still acting on that generally mischievous gene and jumping on the furniture, so I have recently had to resort to something new. Something contemporary. Something mind-boggling.
The behavior chart.
A lot of my friends have devised elaborate charts that they hang on their refrigerators -- spreadsheets that graph behavior, both good and bad.
In the “positive reinforcement” method, children are rewarded for doing good things, like finishing their veggies or not pounding on a sibling. Smiley stickers are lined up until the child accumulates enough that he or she wins some prize for, let’s face it, doing things they should be doing anyway.
In the “negative” method, the kids get their charts filled with stickers for doing things wrong, like not finishing their veggies or pounding on a sibling. Once so many stickers have been earned, something gets taken away, such as television or computer games, things that, let’s face it, do a good job entertaining our children so that they stay out of trouble.
With my son, I have tried both versions of the behavior chart, all to no avail. I find myself in a fit of rage, yelling at him and threatening him with a “bad boy sticker” and I swear he laughs at me just a little bit. And I can’t say I blame him.
I’ve come to the conclusion that while it may work for others, the behavior chart just isn’t for us. I really don’t know what an alternative is and what will end up working in our family.
Other than my Grandma, that is.

Help! My baby's hot!

I consider this both entertaining and disturbing. But mostly it's just plain hilarious, which is why I had to share it with all of you.
My daughter Ellen, age six, came home from kindergarten yesterday with a Valentine's Day project they did in school. Each child got to choose someone in their class to be his or her valentine. They then had their photo taken with their valentine and as a writing exercise, had to write four reasons why they chose that person to be their valentine. The chosen "valentine" got to bring home the paper that was done about them.
My daughter and her girlfriend picked each other. They wrote nerdy things like "is nice to me," "likes to read," and other such appropriate stuff. Quite typical. And my daughter was really anxious to bring home that paper and show me.
But stuffed in the back of her folder was another one which she was reluctant to bring out.
"THROW IT AWAY!!!!!!!" she screamed.
After begging to see it, I see that a little boy in her class chose her to be his valentine. Why? According to his four reasons, she:
1. plaz with me
2. rns fast
3. kyux (???)
and is...4. HOT.
My daughter is HOT. This is not supposed to happen in kindergarten!
When I wasn't looking, Ellen threw the piece of paper that announced her "hotness" in the trash.
But when she wasn't looking, I pulled it out, brushed off the coffee grounds, and filed it away. If she doesn't like it now, she'll certainly not like it when I pull it out at her highschool graduation party...
Such a mother am I.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Having a baby changes everything: An evolutionary tale

By Karrie McAllister

I’ve always thought that it takes “guts” to have a baby. Not only do you put your body through the wringer with the expanding belly and delivery, but once the baby is born your life changes dramatically. Sleepless nights, constant feedings, childhood illnesses, and watching multiple episodes of Dora the Explorer to name just a few.
I won’t lie, it’s tough. Any mother can attest to that. And any mother would agree that it takes a certain amount of strength and fearlessness to raise a family—you might even say it takes a good, strong backbone.
Or a really curvy one.
In a recent article published by LiveScience.com, they have reported that over time, women’s spines have evolved to keep from breaking. All in the name of beautiful little babies.
For me, at least, it’s long been a mystery how pregnant women don’t topple over and face-plant when their bellies get to be a certain size. In the world of physics it just doesn’t make sense that nearing our ninth month our noses shouldn’t be bruised from ramming into the ground. But according to this article, three vertebrae in women’s lower spines have a special curvature that allows for excessive weight gain (gee, thanks) and the off-set of balance caused by the bulging belly.
Evolutionarily speaking, the scientists also noted this trait in two-legged, but not four-legged human ancestors, providing another clue in their evolutionary tale.
But as far as evolution goes, I’ve got my own trait that needs fixing.
Perhaps women thousands of years ago were quite happy to not fall over on their two legs, but women of today need more. We need more because we do more and we have more responsibilities. Thousands of years ago, they didn’t have to answer phones and push shopping carts and shop at the same time. They didn’t have to nurse a baby and try to change the television channel while another child tugged at their sleeve to open a pack of crackers.
Mothers of today have a lot of weight to bear compared to mothers of yesteryear. Sure we don’t have to scrub our laundry in a stream out back or haul in water from a well half a mile away, but we do have to juggle piano lessons and story hour and cleaning a big house and making our yard not look like a vacant lot. Really, I don’t think that even Ma on The Little House on the Prairie could successfully coordinate a diaper bag to accommodate snacks for a wait outside dance class and an en route dinner before a school function. And she may have had to churn butter and ring a dinner bell, but it’s nearly impossible to feed a baby and type at the same time. In fact, I’m typing this with one hand and it’s taken me three hours so far…
So the next evolutionary trait that I am proposing is a third arm. Yes it might look a little strange at first, but really, think how wonderful it would be! We could do things like hold the hands of three children while crossing the street. We could stir a pot of chili for ourselves and microwave leftover noodles for our kids at the same time, all the while bouncing a fussy baby on our hip.
Of course we’d have to get an entirely new wardrobe to have room for that third arm, but then again, what woman isn’t going to agree to a mandatory shopping trip?
All in all, I think it’s a wonderful, and “r-evolutionary” idea.

Today’s quiz: What kind of “-occer” mommy are you?

By Karrie McAllister

I am really hoping that my children will really stink at soccer. I hope they excel in other sports, but I’d be happy if they never had to don shin guards and cleats.
Why? I’ll tell you that it’s for purely selfish reasons. Some of the same reasons I flat out refuse to drive a mini-van even though I sometimes drool at how convenient and downright handy it would be.
You see, I’ve spent the last few years of my life working very hard to not be a soccer mom.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being a soccer mom, they just get a bad rap for being overly involved with their children, yelling at referees, having the local gymnastic schedules memorized, and being generally annoying.
So as far as stereotyping mothers, there seems to be only two types: a slacker mom or a soccer mom, and neither one is very appealing.
But I’m here to stop all of that. I’m here to broaden the scope of stereotyping moms beyond laziness and the soccer field. I’m here to introduce a whole new era of mommies.
Type I: The Soccer Mom. The Soccer Mom is usually found driving a mini van that has “my kid is an honor roll student” stickers plastered all over the back. She’s always got juice boxes in the back seat and usually wears the colors of the local sports team. The Soccer Mom is a fabulous mom because she really cares about her kids, their well-being and their community.
Type II: The Rocker Mom. The Rocker Mom is usually found driving her kids around in anything BUT a mini van. Her babies usually get toted around in a sling made of some wild printed fabric. She still wears her favorite concert t-shirts and doesn’t think anything of her kids singing along with the “cleaner” rock songs. The Wiggles have never entered her stereo, and her kids have been seen with mohawks and it’s not Halloween. The Rocker Mom is a fabulous Mom because she really cares about her kids and teaches them so well to be their own person.
Type III: The Birkenstocker Mom. The Birkenstocker Mom is the hippie mom of today. She doesn’t care what car she drives as long as it’s got good environmental ratings and the stickers in the back probably say something about animals or nature. Her children eat things like hummus and homemade granola, and usually pack organic apples in their lunches. The family usually celebrates holidays of other cultures and never forgets Earth Day. The Birkenstocker Mom is a fabulous Mom because she really cares about her kids and teaches them to care about themselves, others, and the world they live in.
Type IV: The Bacher Mom. The Bacher Mom surrounds her family with the arts. Classical music (hence “Bach” in the name) is always played in the home, which most likely has a tiny cable-free television or no television at all. Her children take art classes and dance classes and are usually more musically talented at age five than most people you know. They frequent the orchestra and theater and you can bet your NPR that they eat a lot of whole-grained food. The Bacher Mom is a fabulous mom because she really cares about her kids and enriches their lives through culture and experience.
I realize that these are serious stereotypes and it would be nearly impossible to find one type to fit a single mom. I personally can find myself in each and every one—there are juice boxes in my non-mini van with nature stickers on the back while I wear old t-shirts and listen to NPR. And I’d guess that most moms can find a little bit of themselves in each type.
The bottom line is pretty clear, though. No matter what type you are, the fact that you care about your kids makes you the best type of mom…a pretty fabulous one.

An offering to the Coffee Gods

By Karrie McAllister

I have a little coffee problem. Well, many of them, actually, starting with the fact that I drink too much of it. It's not even for the caffeine, since during my recent pregnancy I was very, very good at choosing decaf. It's just a plain old addiction. I crave it. All day long. A javamaniac, a coffee-holic.
But this is not the problem I’m speaking of today. Today’s problem is that I'm also a busy mom. During any given day, I have only short periods of time when I can enjoy this hot beverage before:
a) I need to drive someone somewhere or pick them up
b) The buzzer on the dryer goes off
c) The dogs bark at a petrified delivery man
d) I smell a stinky diaper
d) My son pulls on my sweater until I play him a song on the banjo (this actually happened a few weeks ago...)
or, most likely,
e) All of the above. At the same time.
And so it is with great sadness that I realize that in the past six years, I've probably only finished four cups of coffee in their entirety while they were actually still hot. Warm, even. Barely tepid. Usually what happens is I’ll get three-quarters of the way through my cup-o-joe and set it down in a miscellaneous location and run off to the interruption of the minute.
Then, most likely at a later point in the day I'll stumble upon a cup with an inch and half of cold, stale coffee in the bottom anywhere from my desk to the laundry room to sometimes even the garage. Not wanting that last bit to go to waste and being too busy to make a new pot of coffee, I stick the old stuff in the microwave until it is so hot that the taste is somewhat disguised by the burning sensation on my tongue.
And then sometimes I’ll even forget that I put it in the microwave and discover it a few hours later and be pleasantly surprised before reheating yet again.
This is how I operate. Or rather, how I've ADAPTED over the years.
My husband, however, does not understand my methods. He does not understand the constant interruptions of my daily life, nor does know how to operate the dryer or play the banjo. In his world, he sits at a desk or whatever he does, and although I know there is the frequent phone call, I'm sure no one is tugging on his shirt or beckoning him to the bathroom for assistance.
So it follows that when my husband finds one of my coffee cups with a remaining few sips in the bottom (of which there are more likely more than one around the house,) he turns on the humor...or so he thinks.
"Oh great Gods of the Coffee Bean, we offer this quarter cup of cold brewed beverage to you in sacrifice," he likes to say in a pitiful transcendent and theatrical voice, raising the cup above his head. And then he dumps it down the drain.
This, naturally, makes me cringe. Not only does he completely mock my coffee habits, but he embarrasses himself using that stupid voice as he dumps out my quarter cup of perfectly good cold coffee!
It's these sorts of actions that really irritate the Coffee Gods.
I'm sure of it.
I’m also sure the Coffee Gods understand my little problem quite well, which is why they have given us the gift of caffeine. And microwaves.

The oohs and ahhs and yet another golden rule

By Karrie McAllister

It never fails. They call it an “infant carrier” but they should really call it an “ooh and ahh magnet.” As a new mother myself, I know that when I strap my little pistachio (she’s too tiny to be called a peanut) into her car seat carrier and lug that beast of a convenience item around, it’s guaranteed that someone will stop me and ask to peek in and take a look at her sweet baby face.
And being the good proud mommy that I am, I am more than happy to oblige and show off that little pistachio.
“Oh, she’s beautiful” they remark, which I am fully aware of because she’s my kid and I’m supposed to praise her up and down, but it’s always nice to hear it from someone else.
“She’s got such perfect skin” I sometimes hear, as well as “is that red hair?” and “what cute and tiny features!” and the age old question, “who does she look like?”
All of these comments are wonderful. I smile and gratefully accept all the nice things they have to say and for a second, I’m actually glad that they stopped me and I got to rest my arms and set down the infant carrier.
But just as the blood begins to return to my arms, the questions start flying.
I should mention that in our house we have a rule that we are always reminding our other children about. The gist of the rule is, “you are not allowed to ask questions that you already know the answer to.” When this rule is successfully followed, it works to effectively eliminate such questions as “what are you doing?” while you are in the shower and “do I need to wear a coat?” when there is a foot of snow outside.
So as we are going goo-goo over the new baby and I start getting the inevitable questions,
I want to slam down the golden rule.
“Is she sleeping good for you?” WHAT? Seriously? She’s a newborn. She sleeps all day except when we are trying to eat or I’m on the telephone, and then for lovely two hour stints during the night.
“Is she a good baby?” Nope. She’s terrible. At four weeks old she’s talking back to me, not eating her veggies, and won’t clean her room. I’ve had to ground her until she’s two months old just to get her to stop beating up her brother.
But I really get ready to fire off that golden rule when I hear my all-time favorite question, “how are you doing?”
Think about it. I am the mother. Not only have I endured the whole birthing episode, but I also have two other children, a house, a husband, the holidays, AND a tiny newborn pistachio who, as previously mentioned, doesn’t sleep in any type of human schedule and refuses to eat her broccoli. I am currently knee-deep in chores and leftover Christmas decorations and have watched more late-night TV shows than I care to mention. My eyes, if they are even open enough to see out of, have bags underneath them that would rival the size of the big honkin’ infant carrier that started this whole mess of questioning.
How I am really feeling? Tired and over-extended, but thankfully I’m also head over heels in love with the little one I haul around in that carseat. And somehow, someway, that love trumps the golden rule and I can smile through it all and answer, “I couldn’t be better.”
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