Still Expecting To Receive Our Family Christmas Card? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Don’t worry, it didn’t get lost in the mail. It didn’t get returned to sender because I forgot to put stamps on. You didn’t get axed off my list. I simply (gasp!) didn’t do one. Let me explain…

I should have remembered to take a photo of my three kids together when my oldest came home from college at Thanksgiving. But in the hubbub of hosting a dozen people that weekend, I just plain forgot.

I should have brought my camera when we were all together in early December at the Corgi Ugly Christmas Sweater Parade (yes, it’s a real thing). But I didn’t. I took pictures on my phone in horrible lighting and one was worse than the next.

I could have used a photo of my three kids from a vacation we took in January of this year. But…January? Why send out a photo of what my kids looked like LAST Christmas? That seemed silly.

My next thought was to do a card with three recent individual photos. Until I realized that I didn’t have a single picture of my 15 year old son by himself in all of 2017. I was going back through the months of pics and began to panic when I hit March and still no photo of Jack. I thought about cropping him out of a group pic, but really, that’s just sad. Middle child syndrome is REAL, people. Sorry, buddy.

At that point it was around December 20th and we were leaving for California and I had a million other things to do. And I realized that for the first time in about 20 years, there would be no Dutt family Christmas card.

And I felt like a bad mom.

For like, three seconds.

You know, in the “olden” days (i.e. pre-social media) you really didn’t see a picture of people’s kids for a whole year. You had to wait for that card to come in the mail to ooh and ahh over how big they had grown. But now? Well, if you’re reading this on Facebook, just scroll through my page if you want to see what my kids look like. I’ve posted entire conversations between my kids. I have a blog where I drone on incessantly about my kids. Really, you should be quite sick of my children already.

But all those excuses aside, here is the reality.  Moms do a lot. I mean, we pretty much do everything, especially around the holidays. My husband is a great guy, the best, but if I heard him say, “Hmm, I wonder what I should send Great Aunt Mary in Connecticut for Christmas?”, I would probably call NASA to report a possible alien body snatcher.

I decorated. I shopped. I wrapped. I baked. I shipped. I packed. I made sure the “Santa” gifts were wrapped in a different paper from the others, lest my already suspicious 9 year old take notice. Sometimes, you just can’t do it all. I may not have done a Christmas card. But I did enough. And I’m good with that.

3kidsP.S.  This photo? That blond girl is now in college. That little boy towers over me. That little girl..well, she’s still kind of little, thank God. And that sweet puppy now has arthritis. No, the photo isn’t recent, but it may well be my favorite…and it’ll do for today.

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How An Episode Of ‘Chopped Junior’ Changed The Way I Parent

IMG_1191“Mom, can I bake something?” my eight-year old daughter pleaded as she entered the kitchen.

Of course she wanted to bake something.  Because I had just spent the past two hours prepping, cooking, serving and cleaning up from a dinner where I made six different dishes to please our family of five.  I sighed.

“Not right now, sweetie, I just finished cleaning up and it’ll be too much of a mess.”  As if it were the answer she was expecting, she wandered off, probably to watch another episode of some annoying laugh-track show on Disney Channel.

Looking back, I’m embarrassed to admit just how many variations of that conversation we had.  Don’t get me wrong, I often let my daughter help me in the kitchen.  I’m a pretty decent cook and an avid baker and I let her do things I deemed acceptable for an 8 year old.

Simple things like ingredient gathering, pouring, and mixing.  I didn’t let her crack the eggs because shells might get in the batter.  I didn’t let her wash the bowls because she didn’t do a thorough job.  I didn’t let her use the stove top or oven because she might get burned.

Or I would say, “I don’t need any help right now, but you can be the guinea pig taste tester when it’s done.”

And then one rainy night, all of that changed.  I walked into our den to find my daughter watching a show on the Food Network called “Chopped Junior”.  I sat down to join her and for the next 20 minutes I stared at the screen, stunned, as I watched kids the same age as my daughter work their way around a kitchen better than most adults I know.

These kids expertly chopped using razor sharp knives, they sauteed, they boiled, they pan-seared, one kid made a roux.  What the hell even is a roux??

I sat there wondering how in the world kids so young could be so skilled and knowledgeable in the kitchen.  And then I had an epiphany.  It was so simple.  They could do all of those things because somewhere along the line, somebody told them “YES.”

And I vowed right then and there that I would do an experiment.  The next time and every time, my daughter asked me to do something in the kitchen, I would say yes.

“Mom, can I bake cookies?”  Yes.
“Mom, can I make scrambled eggs?” Yes.
“Mom, can I make Mac n Cheese?” Yes.
“Mom, can I make a quesadilla?”  Yes.
“Mom, can I make homemade frosting?” Yes.
“Mom, can I use a bunch of your baking stuff and make up my own recipe?”  Ugh. Yes.

And so it went.  I’m not gonna lie…this was one insanely messy, time-consuming, experiment.  In the beginning, she needed a lot of help, learning how to work the oven, the gas range, the timers.  My countertops seemed to be permanently sticky for a while there…the sink never empty of the many bowls, pots and pans she used.

But I usually didn’t have to explain something more than once.  And the more I said yes, the more she asked to do.  Pretty soon she was looking up recipes online and following along on her own.  I became more and more hands-off and watched her capability, and her confidence, soar.

Fast forward to a year later and I will tell you that this is one of the best parenting decisions I have ever made.  And my children are 18, 15 and 9, so I’ve made an awful lot of them.

This kid could cook our family breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert if she had to.  She can crack an egg one-handed (I can’t even do that) and can saute’ broccoli with the best of ’em.  Her homemade chocolate cupcakes are the best I’ve ever had.

My daughter will have these skills, this confidence in herself, for the rest of her life.  And that to me, is worth all the wasted eggs, the spilled milk, the messy kitchen.

So fellow parents, I encourage you to really stop and think when your child asks to do something, not just in the kitchen, that might result in them learning a new life skill.

Because for all the time and energy you may have to put in up front, there is a huge payoff at the end.  I know this because tomorrow I have to bring in 24 cupcakes for a pot luck event.  And I’m sitting here writing this article.  Because guess what?

The cupcakes are being handled.  And if I’m really good, she might even let me be the guinea pig.

 

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Dear Toy Makers…Your “Realistic” Playthings Are A Sham

Realistic dolls! Realistic food! Realistic appliances!  I was browsing on a toy retailer’s website today and I stumbled into the pretend play section of “Gifts for Girls”.  What is the marketing intent of these items here?  Is it to seemingly prepare little girls for “real” life?

If that’s the case, I fear these children are in for a rude awakening.  Honestly, these toys are going to need to be tweaked just a bit to claim any kind of authenticity.  I’ve taken the liberty of noting some of the differences between the “toy” version and the “real” version of the following items…

1. Baby Alive Sweet Tears Baby Doll

babyalive
Toy version:  This little girl cries tears and her nose lights up to let kids know when she needs a tissue.  There is a switch on her back so you can choose who she’s speaking to – “Mommy” or “Daddy”.

Real version:  This little girl also cries tears (a lot) and pretty much always needs a tissue, due to attending preschool three days a week.  However, there is no switch on her back to let you choose who she is speaking to.  Therefore, this little girl will incessantly question, whine and complain to “Mommy” exclusively, even when “Daddy” is in far closer proximity to her.  I predict the scientist who is able to correct this faulty wiring will win the Nobel Peace Prize.  That is, of course, if the voting panelists are all “Mommies”.

2. Learning Resources New Sprouts Healthy Dinner

healthydinner
Toy version:  This play food set features grilled chicken breast, grilled salmon filet, sweet potato, asparagus bundle, lettuce leaves, tomato, cucumber, and carrot crinkles.

Real version:    Your average preschooler may play with the above-mentioned food items…but there’s no way in hell they are ever going to eat them.  Let me see the set that includes chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, Goldfish, and ketchup.  Lots and lots of ketchup.  That’s prep for the real world, kids.

3. Just Like Home Stand Mixer

mixer
Toy version:  “Complete with lights, sound and real working beaters, your little ones will have hours of fun preparing their next big event!”

Real version:  “Complete with lights, sound, and real working beaters, you will receive one of these as a wedding gift, and it will take up space in your kitchen cabinet for the next twenty years, where it will remain unused.  You will prepare for your next big event by swinging by the Costco bakery on your way home from driving your children to nine different activities/appointments.”

4. Play Go My Light Up Vacuum Cleaner

vacuum
Toy version:  “Play time and cleaning time are now one and the same.  Children can simply push it to light it up with glitter flakes, creating a sensory whirlwind that’s engaging and exciting.”

Real version:  I don’t even know where to begin.  On what planet are “play time and cleaning time” the same?  Maybe the pretend vacuum doesn’t require you to cut out all the gross hair from the bottom rollers every month?  And “glitter flakes” create a sensory whirlwind that’s engaging and exciting?”  The only sensory whirlwind created when glitter is brought into my home is one of maniacal rage.  Seriously, if you get my child a birthday present that contains glitter in any form, I will return the favor by buying your child a 10,000 piece bead set for Christmas.  Not to mention that no vacuum can ever really pick up all the glitter.  You pretty much have to move out to escape it completely.

5.  Melissa and Doug Pretend-To-Spend Wallet Play

wallet

Toy version: Includes 14 bills ($1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100) two coupons, gym membership card, library card, and charge card.”

Real version:  Sorry, kids, but unless you work as a casino dealer, you will probably never have that much cash on you again.  Your two coupons will most likely be expired.  Your gym membership will not be expired but it might as well be for how often you get to go.  The library card you actually did use, until your toddler used the last book you borrowed as a teething toy and now you are too embarrassed to go back.  Hang onto that charge card though, you will need it…every single day.

6. Double Trolley Carrier

dollsuitcase

Toy version: “Designed for going down the street or around the world.”

Real version:  Public Service Announcement:  If you put your babies in a closed suitcase with a plastic window to “go down the street or around the world” you will be arrested and justifiably end up in prison for an indeterminate amount of time.  You might want to purchase a stroller instead.

7. Superhero Cape

superhero

Toy version:  “Your little girl can save the world in this pink cape.”

Real version: One day, many years from now, though you may not save the world, you most likely will have superpowers.  You will be able to run faster than a speeding bullet…to save your toddler from jumping naked into the mall fountain.  You will gain superhuman strength..such as the ability to push three children uphill in an overloaded Costco cart, and fling 50 lbs of dog food into your trunk, without breaking a sweat.  You will develop superhuman senses…capable of knowing when the teenager standing behind you is rolling their eyes or fudging the truth.  You will be able to leap tall nightstands in a single bound, and magically appear in another room (with a bucket) in mere seconds, upon hearing the words, “my tummy hurts” at 3:00a.m.

Yes, this is the one toy on this list that may well prepare you for a grown-up reality.  Be advised, you may not always wear your fancy pink cape.  I’m sorry to tell you, you may mostly wear old sweats with spit-up stains.  But fancy cape or not, a superhero you will be.  Your superhero moniker, which you will hear approximately 239 times a day for 18 years, will be, simply, “MOM.”

I’m A Meme Makin’ Mom

I’ll be honest…I’ve had a bit of an issue understanding what a “meme” actually is.  Even after I looked it up.  According to Dictionary.com, a meme is “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.”  But every time I would refer to something as a meme, my kids would roll their eyes and say, “Mom!  That is NOT a meme.  Why can’t you GET this?”

Well, get THIS kiddos.  Not only do I now get what a meme is, I just learned how to MAKE them.  That’s right, me, sole keeper of thousands of your childhood photos, can turn any one of them into an overnight internet sensation at my whim.  Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but still…I can show them to my nine blog readers.

What prompted this new hobby, you ask?  I came across a photo of my nephew that I took years ago, one of my favorites. And it just looked so meme-like. Though my own kids were pretty cute (in my not-so-humble, mom-biased opinion), my nephew was just next-level cute.  Here’s what I made…

nickmeme4

So I was at the computer with this photo, learning how to use Microsoft Paint to edit, caption it, etc.  And my 15 year old walks by and sees my computer screen.

Jack:  “What are you doing??”
Me:  “I’m making a meme.”
Jack:  “WHY?”
Me:  “Because it’s fun.  Maybe I’ll quit my job and become a famous meme maker.”
Jack:  “Oh my God, are you serious?  And I keep telling you, if you really want to be famous, you need to get off Facebook and get on Instagram.”
Me:  “That sounds complicated.  Leave me alone.”

He then takes a photo of my computer screen and furiously snapchats his sister in college.

Jack:  “Mom’s making memes!”
Hannah:  “What?!  Oh, God, no no no no!  You have to stop her.”
Jack:  “It’s too late.  She learned Paint.”

He then sends THIS to her and to his cousin (the baby in the photo).

JACKMEME

A real wise-ass, that son of mine.  Check out this one of you, my little darling…

JACKMEME1

And to my picky eater youngest….

AVAMEME1

Anyway, you get the point.  In fact, you may want to just unfollow me right now, because I could get really annoying, really fast, just memeing you all to death.

I mean, these ARE memes, right?  I’m pretty sure they are.  Yeah, they totally are.  I definitely know what a meme is now…I think.  Kids?  A little bit of help here?  Anyone?

AVAMEME2

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My Kids Said “Mom” 159 Times In 6 Hours And I Nearly Lost It…Until I Made A List

Let me start by saying that I love my children. More than anything in this world. More than the nirvana of shopping alone at Target, more than Ben & Jerry’s Truffle Kerfuffle, even more than Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey.

BUT. If I hear the word “Mom” just one more time today, I am going to lose my shit.

In fact, I just googled “how many questions do kids ask in a day” because I know I’m not alone here. Are you ready for this? According to a UK study, moms field nearly 300 questions a day from their offspring, making them the most quizzed people around, above even teachers, doctors, and nurses.

Fun fact:  Girls aged 4 are the most curious, averaging a question every 1 minute, 56 seconds of their waking day.

No wonder emails go unanswered, laundry piles up, library books expire before they are read, we scramble at the last minute for that birthday gift (please don’t ever leave me, Amazon Prime). We are constantly interrupted during any given task.

no-more-questions

As an experiment, I decided to make a list of all the times I heard the word “Mom” followed by a question or comment, for the rest of the day. I grabbed a small notebook like Harriet the Spy and lasted six hours before my hand cramped from all the writing. And in those six hours, I was beckoned ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY NINE times. While I won’t torture you with reading all 159 questions/comments posed to me, here’s a small sampling below:

9 year old daughter

“Mom, come look at this picture of Miley Cyrus.” (Please let it be the Hannah Montana version of her)

“Mom, guess how many butt cheeks are in our house?” (Um..does the dog count?)

“Mom, who are you?” (Like, in an existential way?)

“Mom, this kid at school said that one middle finger equals 20 bad words.  How is that possible?” (Oh, it’s possible)

“Mom, I just found a HUMONGOUS house in California and it only costs $14 million dollars.” (Ok, I’ll get right on that purchase, sweetie)

“Mom, can I put a ghost detector app on your phone?” (I’d kind of rather not know when there’s a ghost near me sooo….no)

“Mom, I have a super duper secret.” (There should be no secrets from your mother.  Ever.)

“Mom, do you want to play catch with me?”  (Can’t, because I need a free hand to write down the 29 questions you will ask me while playing)

“Mom, can I have a timer?”

“Mom, I can run down the hall and back 10 times in 37 seconds.  Do you want to try?” (I’m good, thanks.)

“Mom, do I have to get the flu shot tomorrow?  Because I’d like another few days to rest in peace before they poke a hole in my arm.”

“Mom, I got hurt.”  (x3)
“Mom, what are we doing today?”
“Mom, can I invite a friend over?”
“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
“Mom, can I have candy?”
“Mom, do you think my Halloween costume will be good?”
“Mom, can you tell the dog to move so I don’t hurt him?”
“Mom, is today October 15th?”
“Mom, what’s a compass?”
“Mom (watching me type), why are you doing that?”

15 year old son

“Mom, can you tell Ava to leave?  I’m trying to watch a show.”
“Mom, have you seen my phone?” (x3)
“Mom, I can’t find my phone.”
“Mom, can I borrow your phone?”
“Mom, she’s bothering me again.”

“Mom, what are you writing?”
“An article.”
“On what?”
“How many questions I’m asked in a day.”
“Why, is it a lot?”
“Seriously?  I’m adding that one.”

18 year old daughter (away at college)

question6

question8

question7

Mind you, I did this experiment on a Sunday and my husband was home the whole time. He is a great, very involved, hands-on dad. But do you know how many questions I heard them ask him during that time? ONE. When I said no to playing catch with my daughter she asked him to play and he immediately said yes, probably because he wasn’t exhausted from 158 prior questions.

When I sat down to write this, I only had to glance at the kids’ lists to realize something significant. The older they get, the less questions they ask. The less they share. The less they actually talk. They have their friends, they have their smarter-than-a-mom phones.  I mean, my older kids would never ask me what the population of China is, they would simply google it.  To my little one, I’m still the go-to, the one with all the answers.  And I guess that’s a pretty great thing to be.

It’s hard to face the fact that, though my older kids still need me, it’s just not in the same way my younger child does. And someday all too soon my 9 year old will be my 18 year old and one morning I’ll wake up and there won’t be anyone left to pepper me with questions all day long. And the thought of that makes me sad.

Sad enough to try harder not to lose my shit when I hear the word “Mom” one too many times in an hour. Because, at the end of the day, let’s face it, kids and their questions are frustrating, maddening, and hilarious. Feel free to comment with some of your kids’ best questions.  Today I’ve heard more than 159. I think I can handle a few more.

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