on giving up my appetizing, stimulating tonic for Lent

Two nights ago at bedtime, I settled in to read the boys a few pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I have been reading it to them since July. We are on page 510. Only 380 pages to go. Can you sense my enthusiasm?

I settled into the armchair by their beds to start back in where I had left off, using my best Nymphadora Tonks voice (for which I draw most of my inspiration from Jennifer Saunders on AbFab). But then Seamus piped up:

“Mommy. Why do you always drink a beer?

Okay, coupla things:

  1. Yes, I had a beer nearby as I read. But it was like 8:15.
  2. I don’t ALWAYS drink beer. First graders are way too literal. If I overimbibe anything, it’s coffee.
  3. I was thisclose to being over the bedtime finish line. Maggie was already asleep. Why not kick back with a Mich Ultra while I read aloud?
  4. What the hell is wrong with me? Swigging beer in front of my kids? What, couldn’t I wait another fifteen minutes? Nice work, Mom.

I’m mostly sticking with number four. If one of my kids thinks I “always” drink beer, then I am not happy about that.

Beer for mothers didn’t always have such a bad rap. My 92-year-old grandmother always insisted I work more Guinness into my diet while my babies were nursing. “It’s good for the milk,” she’d say, and she was a NURSE all her life, so who was I to argue with an elder who was also a health-care professional?

“A case of Bratz Beer means much to the young mother, and obviously baby participates in its benefits.” Obviously! They’re both totally chillin’ and plump, nourished by the malt, appetized and stimlated by the hops. Right?

However, I have not nursed a child since 2008, and while my hard is kinda hard right now, my need for a “pick up” is perhaps not quite so medically indicated.

And the cliché of the carefree wine-swilling soccer mom has gotten less funny over the last few years, especially since Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, who literally wrote the book on the subject, became sober and started hosting Don’t Get Drunk Fridays on her blog. One would certainly have to admit that it wouldn’t be worse for your kids not to see you drink, ever. Hmm.

Lastly, there’s Lent, which sort of sneaked up on me yesterday. I am not the most practicing of Catholics, but I love Lent and the opportunity it gives to examine something that I love too well. In past Lents, I’ve given up Facebook, gossiping, clothes shopping, chocolate, and yelling. I did great with everything except the gossiping and the yelling. This year for Lent, I’m giving up my bedtime-celebratory cocktail. I might still have a glass of wine out of the house; I won’t have one at home, in front of my kids or not. I think this will be a little bit tougher than the chocolate. On the other hand, that’s why I’m doing it.

(vintage Bratz ad, original source unknown. But as far as I can tell it’s real. I’ll ask my grandmother if she remembers Bratz Beer.)

Do you make it a point not to drink in front of your kids? What are you giving up for Lent? 




Valentine’s Day: a non-DIYer’s nightmare

I am not what one would call a DIY-er. (Is that what they’re called? I am so not a DIY-er that I’m not even sure of the terminology.) Recently a friend of mine was talking about how she “whipstitched” one of her husband’s ties to make it appropriately skinny for an 80s costume party, and I about short-circuited just listening to her. I can’t even make a decent Lego cake.

god, that's pathetic.

So I tend to regard Valentine’s Day with a fair bit of foresight and dread. Each year my kids come home with fancier handmade creations from their classmates, names calligraphied in fondant on heart-shaped butter cookies, bags full of more candy and more bubbles and more crap, and the stakes get upped again. Between my three children, I am responsible for 55 valentines. Heaven forbid I would ever have to actually MAKE them. So I ordered my Current catalog assortment weeks ago.

February 8th came. No valentines. I called Current. “Oh, we’re sold out of everything you ordered,” they said. “Your order was not able to be filled.” I rushed to the drugstore, heart in throat. All that was left were puppy and kitty valentines, reading “I Ruv You Rots,” which would not do for a nine-year-old boy. They WOULD. NOT. DO.

And so 2012 became the Year of Homemade Valentines chez nous. And I have to say I’m darn proud of what we figured out. Here is Maggie’s creation:

These colorful hearts are fashioned from the four enormous finger paintings Maggie had brought home from nursery school in the last week to sit on the kitchen counter until it felt okay to throw the out when she wasn’t looking. Now they’ve been repurposed! No two are alike! And she signed them all herself.

Connor the third-grader went the unsentimental route:

I mean, it’s a smiling Cyclops, but he would as soon rip you to shreds with those claws as look at you. Not sure what the chain link necklace is about. That may be an actual human heart hanging from it that he’s just ripped out of his latest victim. Happy Valentine’s Day!

And then there’s my first-grader, Seamus. If everyone’s ziggin’, he’s sure to zag. He decided to ignore the mushy stuff entirely and give everyone a much more sensible and proud-American greeting:

Sam the Eagle would be so proud of him.

I am proud to say we did all 55 valentines in about half an hour with nothing but a glue stick, a scissors, a color copier, and Google Image Search. Okay, I won’t be becoming a craft blogger anytime soon. But they’re done. And now that my friend Marketing Mama has pointed out to her readers how sad the Valentines candy cavalcade can be for children with food allergies, I’m not taping lollipops or frosted cookies to them, either. And I’m even feeling like a better mother for it. Happy Good Enough Valentine’s Day!

How are you celebrating Good-Enough-Valentine’s Day at your house?

French parents are superior? Only if we let them say so

I have a story up on Huffington Post this week about the Wall Street Journal’s latest attempt to make us feel bad about ourselves. Last year we were all told Why Chinese Mothers are Superior; now we’re being told Why French Parents are Superior. My own take on this is that ’70s parents were doing the whole laissez-faire thing forty years ago, so step back, mamans.

I was totally annoyed by Chinese mothers are better article last year, and said so, and so did pretty much everyone else in the blogosphere. But in the end all we did was help the Tiger Mother go on every single TV show and say “boo hoo I was so misunderstood” and sell approximately one hundred bajillion books.

And so I am loath to do the same for the latest book excerpt telling American mothers that we all suck. But I also think we’re all getting too smart for this guilt trip from the media. If French mothers are better than us because they pretty much don’t give a rat’s ass, then I say the first French thing we should do is refuse to let the Wall Street Journal push our buttons again. As commenter Andrew McKenzie said over on Huffington Post,

The real reason French parents are superior is that they would never bother asking themselves which country’s parents are superior.

Touché, Andrew! Thanks for the reality check.

Did you read the WSJ excerpt? Will you buy the book? Do you care? Are French mothers better than you?


why being a mother is like starring in a horror movie

I said it the other night, at a cocktail party.

“Yeah, the kids are good! Things are good! We’re in a really great place. It’s… easy!”

And as soon as it came out of my mouth, I panicked. As I chewed on my chicken satay.

Everyone knows that the girl in the horror movie isn’t supposed to let down her guard for a second.

That’s when she’s done for.

Sure enough, this week I have been knocked for a loop by Motherhood once again. It’s my fault for jinxing myself, I suppose. But I’m not ready to write about it. It would be cool if I were. There’s something very compelling about Dooce’s separation and the way she writes about it, without time to process and make sense. She promises her readers unfiltered honesty and that’s what they get.

But I think I’m more of a it’s-funny-because-it’s-true writer. I like to have enough distance from something to make meaning out of it– or at least find it humorous. And I’m not there yet.

The latest parenting challenge I have been handed is NOT tragic, but it’s my hard. And my hard is hard. And I’m mostly writing this to say that I will say something funny again next week.

Until then, if you catch yourselves telling your friends how easy your mother load has suddenly become… watch out.

Have you ever had a “huh, this is pretty easy” moment, followed by a metaphorical piano falling on you?