Friday, December 30, 2005

At Random

With the cold weather settling in, it gets harder and harder to get the kids outside for fresh air and exercise. So, I'm thinking of clearing out the garage and whipping them into shape with medicine ball training.

Yeah, yeah. Crazy talk, I know.

I'll never get the garage cleared out.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Rush is Over

So I'm looking at the old picture that runs on this site of the kids and me, and I'm thinking Cara's grown about a foot since then, Ryan must have grown at least an inch or two since then, and I look pretty tired. I probably look more tired since that picture was taken, but really, it has to come down. There should just be a yellow smiley face there in our place. Or a picture of King Kong, screaming. That actually would be pretty apropos.

I was also reading some posts from last year, and they seem funnier than anything I posted this year. And I'm thinking, do incidents with the kids seem funnier after a certain amount of time has passed? Or am I just getting bitter, and the humor just isn't coming through at all anymore?

Speaking of being humorlesss: next year, Santa is wrapping up the TV remote in a big colorful ribbon. And THAT'S IT as far as presents are concerned! Because, officially, it's Day 2 of the Christmas break and I've given the ol' "Turn the TV off!" shout out about 30 times already. I'm reduced to having their FRIENDS over to break up the TV viewing.

Legos? Too complicated. Zero Gravity vehicle? Needs more charging and emptier walls (I guess. I think the North Pole is going to be getting that item back tomorrow). Chicken Limbo? We've done it twice. Time to pack it up, apparently. Hot Wheels? Never work like they do on TV. Harry Potter Scene It? Cara needs someone who knows about Harry Potter to play it with her, and that counts out her immediate famly. Simpsons' Clue? It's for "Ages 8 and Up," so she won't play it with Ryan, and I'm still trying to dig out from under, so I'm out. Therefore, TV is the obvious first choice for entertainment.

They got a lot of gift cards this year for Christmas. Which had Ryan begging to go to the mall this morning before breakfast.

Ryan: "What! I have a Build-a-Bear card! You don't have to spend your money!"

Is it pathetic or good training, the fact that he knows I'm not dropping any more cash for stuffed animals?

Ryan: "And I have a Toys R Us card! I can get more stuff there."


Yesterday, in an effort to get away from the implosion that was our house, we went to the Museum of Natural History to catch the Darwin exhibit. Ryan made sure we brought the American Express gift card my brother Joe and his wife Jen gave him. The exhibit mentioned how Darwin was really into studying bugs and other small creatures as a young boy. What Ry got out of that was, he should BUY a $30 "Critter Cage" in the gift shop, which was really the only reason he agreed to go to the museum in the first place.

Me: "Ryan, you have cages like this at home."

Ry: "It's MY gift card. I should be able to buy what I want."

Me: "Ryan, there are no bugs to even catch this time of year."

Ryan: "But it's my credit card."

Me: "It's a gift card. And when the money runs out because you've wasted it on things you already own, that's it. You're not getting more money."

He pushed for a $5 bug trap thing. Which he can't use until spring because the tundra is currently frozen. I told him he'd have to try and not lose it before the ground thaws in three months.

Ryan: "Fine. Done. I'll tape it to my bed if I have to."

It's a warped theory of evolution at work.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Things are heatin' up

So, there was, like, 50,000 things to do before Christmas, give or take a thing or two. Mentally, the engine was on overdrive, the heart palpitations had set in and then, boom, Cara got sick with a raging fever. It's like racing down the highway late for work and then stopping dead in a sea of red brake lights. There's nothing that can be done in either case.

Cara tapped my shoulder to wake me up last Thursday before dawn. I opened my eyes with a scowl on my face, fully expecting Ryan to be the culprit, when I saw Cara standing there. It turned out, she had a fever so high, she felt nauseous. I was so grateful that she wasn't heaving on me or the carpet, I was actually nice. For me. In reality, and unlike Ryan, Cara never wakes me up unless she's really sick. The last time she woke me up during the night, which was about a year ago, she had mono. So...I try to be decent to her when she comes in to get me. 'Cause that's the kind of mom I am.

(Notice: neither of the kids goes to wake up Mike. That's just a non-starter.)

Luckily, Cara's pretty easy to deal with when she's sick. She just watches TV. And this time around, she didn't even eat for two days (I HAVE to get this illness come January, after all the "holiday fesitivites", a.k.a., reasons to eat cookies for breakfast, are over.)

So Cara missed school on Thursday and Friday, but I picked up her school work Friday afternoon so she could do it over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon, when I was going a little crazier--washing all the sheets and towels of sick germs, going through a year's worth of photos of Cara and Ryan to find one that wasn't just plain idiotic for the Christmas card, hitting a couple of stores on the "LAST SATURDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS" as all the papers touted it, even though it WASN'T the last Saturday before Christmas--Cara handed me a notice from her bookbag. "Attention Parents: We'll be having a cookie swap in our classroom. Please have your child bring in a batch of their favorite cookies and a copy of the recipe Monday."

Now, I had planned to make Christmas cookies. We always do. It's just that this year, I was thinking of putting it off -- until after Christmas or something. "Don't be sad, guys. We can make President's Day cookies."

But with this notice staring me in the face, I realized Sunday was going to be a do-or-hit-the-bakery situation. I wasn't a thrillin'.

But, to take a breather from all the mayhem, I kept my plans to get together Saturday night with high school friends, who this time included Stephanie and Pat. In remembering some of our good ol' days, I recalled one holiday party where Pat's mom made really awesome treats. At the time I was like, "These are great! How did you make these?" And his mom was like, "It's chocolate chip cookie bars. Instead of making drop cookies, you just spread the batter out in a pan. It's faster." Pat is one of four boys, and I'm one of five kids, but for some reason, my mom never made these pan cookies. She'd just as soon grab a box of Entenmenn's. Maybe that's why I was like, "What is this foreign cookie bar you speak of?"

Nevertheless, I never made chocolate chip cookie bars. Everyone was always cool with the regular cookies.

So come Sunday, Ryan and I got the cookie party started. We made gingerbread cookies for him. Then we made a batch of chocolate chip cookies -- for Cara's class. I'd make the "family chocolate chip cookies" later.

By late afternoon, Ryan got an invite to a buddy's house. And Cara's friend Alex asked her to go shopping. I, meanwhile, was left decorating the chocolate chip cookies. By the time I was done, I was thinking, no way am I making a whole new batch. You could say I wasn't really into it any more. In fact, I decided the finished cookies were for us, not Cara's class. In further fact, I was ready to buy a package of Oreos for Cara's class with a recipe that read: "Drive to grocery store. Buy cookies. Rip open. Happy Holidays." But it occurred to me that that could be perceived as a peevish downer.

Plus I had butter, eggs and chocolate chips staring me in the face. And that's when it hit me--stand back-- "Hey, cookie bars! They're faster!" I'm telling you, it's a steel trap, that mind of mine. Lightning quick,too. ... It's frightening, really.

...It's The Best Time Of The Year

After I got the cookie bars in the oven, I went to pick Ryan up from Andrew's house, and his mom--my friend Cindy--gave me a Dunkin' Donuts Box o' Joe she had leftover from a family brunch that morning. Not being a coffee drinker, she couldn't use it. But she knew where to turn.

I brought the joe home and set it on the kitchen counter until I could find room for it in the refrigerator. Mike, meanwhile, thought he'd try to straighten up the place.

Mike: "What is this 'Box o' Joe?' Can I throw this out?"

Me: "Are you crazy?! That's coffee!!"

Mike: "In a box?"

Me: "Cindy had a brunch and this was leftover."

Mike: "But why is it in a box?"

See, that's a question that shouldn't even be asked. HOW LONG has Dunkin' Donuts had Boxes o' Joe? C'mon!

Anyway, we got the kids to bed. I decorated Cara's cookies, printed out the recipe, cut the cookie bars up and put them in Ziploc bags. Then I moved on to doing Christmas cards. (And Mike wondered why I'd want a Box o' Joe.) Around 1 a.m., I'm heading upstairs when I hear Ryan making a noise that sounded remarkably like a crying frog. I went in and felt his head. A fever was starting. Of course.

Well, at least my list of 50,000 was about three items lighter.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas All Over--Again!

There's nothing like a three-day weekend with the kids to make you want to erect an igloo for them to live in for the rest of the winter.

We had a major snowfall on Friday. Which meant--every parent's heart-stopping nightmare--a snowday. My kids, in typical form, woke up at 6:30 in the morning Friday all bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Even though on most days I can't get Cara to come out of her bear-like hybernation without first doing a series of jumping jacks on her head.

Luckily, my friend Sharon, a teacher whose district also closed for the day, called early to invite both Cara and Ryan over to play with her two girls. I got them ready, then started the endless process of shoveling. When I finished, I headed over to Sharon's. She was giving them lunch and saying how they'd just come in from playing in the snow. I, for one, was shocked, seeing as how my kids only seem drawn to snow so they can see who can get ready, run out the door and get back in the fastest.

Meanwhile at Sharon's, as soon as they were done eating they headed back out again. Weird.

Sharon was like, "They're all outside! What should we do?!"

Instead of putting our feet up and eating bon-bons, like usual, we decided to put up her Christmas tree. Which was fun, actually. Because all the kids were outside. Nobody was stepping on something breakable or pulling out 50,000 ornaments while we were trying to string the lights. It was fun.

When the kids came in and saw the tree, Cara and Ryan launched into their annual Christmas tree medley. It goes a little something like this: "When can we put our tree?" "Can we put up our tree today?" "How come their tree is up and our's isn't?" And everybody's favorite: "They're so lucky--they have their tree up and we don't."

So, Saturday morning, after Mike and Cara left for her morning activities, Ryan was ready to break into the medley again when I stopped him cold with: "Okay, we'll do the tree after breakfast."

He was a little shocked. A little confused. I had agreed to something and I hadn't even had my coffee yet.

Now, for those of you who believe you need a real (read: it used to be a living thing) tree for it to be a real Christmas tree, you may want to stop reading. Because we have a looks-like-real, could-pass-as-real-if-you-light-a-pine-scented-candle, fine-whatever-it's-not-real tree. Between my seasonal allergies and Mike's being allergic to tree hauling, we've gone with an unreal tree for years.

Ryan and I put the thing together and I got the lights on before a buddy of his called and asked him over. I wanted to go shopping anyway, so we stopped the decorating process. I told Ry we would take out the other decorations and put the ornaments on the tree "later." Later turned out to be Sunday, because Mike and I went to a party at my friend Melissa's house Saturday night. We had a new sitter coming and wanted to clean up so she wouldn't realize how we actually live. The tree was lit, a few decorations were deftly placed in the dining and living rooms. The empty bins were moved to the garage. The furniture was polished, the floor was vacuumed. Assorted crap was put back in Cara's room. It almost didn't look like our house at Christmas.

So, Sunday, I get the rest of the bins of ornaments. I was busy trying to coordinate extension cords with surge protectors with tree lights and the light-up village--all so I can just flick a light switch and have everything light up at once. I'm under the tree, behind the chair, in back of the sofa--pretty much not paying attention. I THOUGHT Cara and Ryan were just putting their ornaments on the tree. They each have their own big box of ornaments they've been given over the years.

When finally crawled out from under the entry table, having made long work of that fun little project, I realized SOMEBODY had torn out EVERY ornament from EVERY bin along with EVERY piece of tissue paper, bubble wrap, and cardboard divider. Crystal ornaments sat precariously atop piles of lids. Boxes that I had put away in the bins were back out and scattered all over the floor. Three musical decorations were bleating at the same time, drowning out the iPod's Christmas selections that were now relegated to beyond background music.

Me: "What in hell....?!?"

Cara and Ryan's finger-pointing began, the place looked like a tornado blew through. I was ready to blow a gasket. And that's when I thought, "Now this...THIS is Christmas."

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Beauty of the First Snowfall

There was snow when the kids got up Sunday morning. The kind of snow Mike and I like -- which is, barely any snow. But snow's snow, and Ryan and Cara were determined to play in it. So, starting at about 7:30 a.m., Ryan turned into Broken Record Ryan: "I wanna go in the snow (skip) I wanna go in the snow (skip) I wanna go in the snow..."

After an hour of this, and a couple cups of coffee, I told them I would embark on the one-hour search for the boots, gloves, coats, etc. Why did I not have it all at the ready? Leave me alone.

A week prior, we were in Florida. So I spent the week getting us back to our normal routine (if you can call living in hellish chaos a routine). Enter the one-inch of snow to throw the whole routine off.

We had been using our fall coats up until Sunday. With the snow I was now required to go in the basement to get Cara's winter coat, the attic for Ryan's coat (it was a hand-me-down, so it was still in the hand-me-down bin, OKAY?!?), the basement for the gloves and scarves, back to the attic to search for Cara's boots, which I had forgotten I gave away during the summer because she outgrew them, back down to the basement to see if she'd fit in my boots (which she didn't because her 10-year-old feet are bigger than mine), back up to Ryan's room to look for a pair of boots for him, and then back to the basement to keep looking for his boots, which were in a drawer with scarves--that's how little HIS boots are.

Mike was on the sofa with the Sunday chat shows on TV and the laptop on his lap. He was not engaged in this mayhem, nor was he being asked to assist. Yet, this is what we got:

Mike: "WHAT are you doing??"

Me: "They want to go in the snow."

Mike: "Are you crazy? What snow? There's one inch of snow. And they'll be in it for one minute before they want to come back inside."

Me: "They're CHILDREN, and children like to play in snow. It's not like they're asking YOU to go out with them, so REE-LAX!"

Mike: "This is stupid."

After I thanked him for weighing in, I got Cara and Ryan out of the house. Cara wore her fashion Skechers boots from last year. They have a heel about two inches high, which is great for snow play. Ryan, meanwhile, resembled the little brother from "A Christmas Story." I was surprised he could move at all, I had him so covered up. But he suffers from miserable eczema with the cold and, trust me, I suffer with it too when he wakes me up at 3 a.m. whisper-whining, "I'm itchy. I'm itcheee."

I got them out, started to clean up the breakfast dishes, and Ryan started pounding on the door. I opened the door, letting a gust of cold air into the house. "We need the buttons for our snowman's eyes and a carrot for the nose!"

He had dug out some buttons from my "sewing box," which is really just storage for all those extra buttons that come attached to new clothes. But now said buttons were nowhere in sight. I checked the main floor, the basement, the kitchen. I opened the window and was like, "Ryan, what did you do with the buttons?" He says nonchalantly, "Oh, they're up in my room. I left them there when I got dressed." Thanks, son.

I get the buttons, and a Grimway baby carrot, which I knew would work just fine because they lose interest in projects like snowman making pretty fast--this wasn't going to be any Frosty replica. I opened the door, letting in another gust of cold air, and told him to go play for a while. Two minutes later, Ryan's pounding on the door again. I opened the door, the gust barged its way in. "Cara isn't doing the buttons right!"

Oh, God. I did the mental countdown before I heard Mike again.

Mike: "What did I tell you? A waste. They're never happy!"

At that, Cara came marching up to the door, trying to explain her reason for arguing with Ry. Then Mike yelled out, still from the sofa in the basement, "You'll both be in your rooms cleaning for the afternoon! Get along!"

The prospect of cleaning their rooms all afternoon scared them straight. I got back to cleaning the kitchen.

Two minutes later, more pounding on the door.

Mike: "WHAT is going ON!?"

I opened the door. At this point, it was making no difference in the interior temperature of the house.

Ryan: "Can we have hot cocoa?"

Me: "Ry, I wouldn't come to this door again for a while if I were you...."

Mike: "That's IT! In the house! To your rooms!"

Ryan: "Aaaaah!"

He ran to the backyard. Not to be heard from again -- for a good 12 minutes.

Sleigh bells ring, are ya lis-nin'?

--Catherine Schetting Salfino