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Ice cream at 10pm

Ice cream is a good thing. I know you agree. I know my friend Paula agrees. But what about ice cream at 10 pm? With your kids?

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There is no such thing as too much of a good thing!

Well, when a family tradition is at stake, it’s the only thing. And, as my husband often points out, it’s just another example of our parenting buffoonery.

This tradition started in 2003: My husband looked fatherhood in the eye and brought home a sleek Lexus hard-top convertible when our firstborn was just weeks old. He was late getting home from work (and, thus, late for his turn to do headstands in order to help ease the colic), because he was tied up in the purchase of this car. So fired up was he about having a sports car to share with his boy, he paid no never-mind to the fact that the boy would have no concept of this vehicle until long after it was gone. How did I know it would be long-gone? Because, in our house, there is no such thing as a forever car. We don’t drive anything into the ground. (Jeff fell in love with his first Jeep Wrangler about five years ago—and he’s traded in twice for new Jeep Wranglers.) Anyway, he was fired-up. I was too—because the purchase of the car had bled past the regular workday schedule, and he’d been an hour and fifteen minutes late coming home. Which means he was an hour and fifteen minutes late for his turn to soothe the colicky baby. For those of you keeping count, 90 minutes in colic terms is about eleventy-billion minutes.

He’d called ahead to warn me—sort of. “I’m picking up dinner on the way home,” he said. “Oh, and a new car. Bye!”

He actually has a “new car voice,” and it contains the kind of undeniable, unmitigated joy that I can’t begrudge. Even though, truly, it’s just a car.

And into the driveway came the zippy sports coupe. Which, I had to admit, looked pretty slick. And also a lot like a man in denial that he was a card-caryying, child-rearing GROWNUP. Potato, po-tah-toe.

Promptly, he scooped up our son, loaded him into the car seat, and then proceeded to place it in the back seat of the vehicle. Carefully, safely. It’s lucky I’m short, or I would have been voted off the island. My front passenger seat had to be slid nearly all the way forward in order to accommodate the “baby bucket.” And, off we zoomed. Mom, dad, baby—out for celebratory ice cream cones.

Since then, there have been a constant stream of new cars—we’ve often leased, and we hardly ever finish a lease. There’s always a valid reason, but it usually comes down to this: Jeff’s a car guy. We like shiny new objects. Often, we joke that we didn’t want to get it washed, so we traded it in. I don’t think that’s too far from the truth. And, each and every time, there’s a celebratory drive that involves ice cream. We also do this when the kids graduate to a new type of car-seat (front facing, booster, backless booster…and someday, if we ever get Lance to eat enough, NO BOOSTER.). So when we got the  new car last Saturday, and the transaction bled past dinner time, past bedtime, past the time any sane person would take their children out for ice cream, what did we do??? Yep. Cold Stone Creamery.

Parenting buffoonery. I think my friend Ellen, who lauded us on Babble.com…(for our, ahem,  heroic parenting) might agree that this opens up a whole new category of Parenting Mistakes. What’s your favorite example of parenting buffoonery?!

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chore chart, laminated, whiteboards, Staples

Calling an audible, Part 3.

Jeff has the annoying/misguided good-husband habit of letting me sleep in on days he knows I am not working, per se, and the kids have no place to be for the day, except with me. The result is that the kids tend to go straight to TV or the computer or video games, or all of the above, the second they get out of bed, and by the time I appear an hour or so later, they are over-stimulated, cranky, hungry, and, in Lance’s case, suffering from a headache that’s the direct result of neglecting to put on his eyeglasses before engaging in activities that require them.

And when I try to, say, feed them, they give me all sorts of grumpy push-back.

Emboldended by the cancelled camping trip, I shut them down one recent morning—after they’d grumped at me about stopping a video game for a breakfast that wasn’t to their liking, and then offered all sorts of attitude and eye-rolling in response to my announcement that they needed to help with the laundry.

Seth, fresh from being the center of the camping trip controversy, snapped to rather quickly, getting the plastic FlipFold gizmo I’d ordered from the Tee Vee, out of the closet. Lance explained that he is no good at folding, and will never be, so why bother? I rejoined with my “we wouldn’t expect more if you couldn’t do more,” speech, and suggested he ask me, nicely, for help learning how to fold well.

Here’s what he learned:

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Laundry done, we set about making lunch. I explained that there were new rules.

To wit:

In the morning, no games of any type, no TV, no computer, no nuthin’…until breakfast is made and eaten, beds are made, teeth are brushed, clothes are worn.

Each child has a checklist, which I figured I could download from another, more-organized-than-I-will-ever-be-mom’s blog. They have to complete the checklist, whether I’m awake or not, and then they are allowed access to TV, computers, gaming or whatever they want.

I asked the kids to help me make the charts (buy in!) and then made a big show of going to Staples to buy laminating sheets (no machine required) and some white boards. I created “command centers” in the kids’ rooms. You know, to make it official.

chore chart, laminated, whiteboards, Staples

Each week, I write a basic schedule on Lance’s white-board, so he has an idea of what to expect each day. It helps.

Here’s when I realized the drilling-in of consequences had taken hold. I hadn’t so much as web-searched “chores list” to get my game on, when I found myself waking in my bed—THE VERY NEXT DAY— to the sounds of my sons happily cooperating making their morning toaster waffles. I thought about getting up, but I knew—I knew it would wreck the moment. I lay there, while they negotiated who would pour the OJ, who would get the place mats, and which plates they would use. All I could think was, “It’s WORKING!!!” That, and “Don’t get up. It will ruin the WHOLE THING.”

I carefully, quietly, slid out of bed, tiptoeing the six or eight steps to my master bath. I showered. Dressed. Presented myself.

“Look mom!” They were a chorus of pride.

“We made our beds, we got dressed, we made breakfast—“

“Lance made breakfast, I helped!”

“When we finish, we will put the dishes in the dishwasher and go brush our teeth and wash our faces,” Lance announced.

“THEN, can we watch TV????” Seth’s voice formed a hopeful plea.

I didn’t have to consider my answer—I had a ton of work to do. Being able to allow them to watch TV was a gift. They had no idea what manna they had offered me.

“Yes. Absolutely. Yes.”

I gave nary a second thought to the fact that it was a gorgeous day outside (again) and I was letting them while it away indoors. I just enjoyed the fact that I could.

chore chart, laminated, whiteboards, Staples

Seth prefers to use his board as a means of self-expression. It’s all good. Also, I drew pictures of each chore on top of the words. As he learns to read, I’ll erase the pictures.

More good ketchup writing, please

I love everything about this post

I am fond of humor writing. And I am extra-fond of humor writing that delivers good, solid, informational service and more ketchup.

The fact that it makes not a single reference to that wretched concoction called fry sauce? Well, that’s just a condiment bonus. I wonder what my friend Virginia thinks of it?

And you? Is your life improved for knowing the proper function of the ketchup cup?