Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. Photos part II

Now, where were we? Oh yes, lying in a snowbank.

By the time I manage to extract Super Toddler and myself from the snowbank, we are both soaking wet but still 15 minutes early for the appointment. Sometimes, it is all in how you look at it, right? Awkward Dad holds Super Toddler in a vise grip for the rest of the way and I push the stroller; we slosh through Sears to a few stares. I try to tell myself that it is because my children are so cute, but it might be the squishing noise that I am making. We enter the photo studio and check in. We rock/paper/scissors for changing duties, and my rock falls to Awkward Dad's paper. I gather up Super Toddler and we seek a bathroom.

Said bathroom is about 10 miles from the photo studio and past every Christmas item you could possibly imagine, including a creepy animatronic Santa that laughs and sings at us long after we pass him. I can still feel his eyes on the back of my head, yikes! We finally reach the bathroom, sans changing table, of course. I peel off Super Toddler's sodden clothes and attempt to change him in the corner (on a portable mat I have for such occasions, having learned my lesson during a particularly disgusting bathroom in Indiana). Anyway, we are down to his diaper when a especially festive song comes over the intercom and Super Toddler gets the urge to dance. Well, who am I to stand in the way of art? He Michael-Flatleys himself over to the sinks and back, and then for some unknown reason, the bathroom is invaded by every other Sears patron. I don't know if someone told them we were giving out cookies or free animatronic Santas in here or what, but suddenly it is very crowded, blocking my view of Super Toddler's big finish. His twirls are impressive but I have a feeling that isn't why these ladies are staring at him. I race over and gather him up, hurry back to our corner, and change him as fast as humanly possible. All this changing has resulted in his hair standing straight up, so I go digging for the comb that I am sure I packed before we left the house. You all know how that search goes, so I won't bore you. It ends with me leaning Super Toddler over the sink and patting his head with water, trying in vain to tame his alfalfa. When this doesn't work, I do what moms all over creation do, after plenty of pre-child swearing that they will never, ever do this. I lick my hand and plaster his errant cowlick to his skull, causing gasps of horror or nods of understanding from the audience of women watching me, depending on age and parental status.

We return to the photo studio to find Super Baby chewing on a block and Awkward Dad discussing the finer points of gaming with a tween boy playing a hand held video game. While Awkward Dad and this boy discuss the best names for monster trucks and Super Toddler heads straight for some girls in festive velvet dresses, I grab Super Baby and change him right there in the waiting room because we are no longer early for our appointment. We are called back soon after that and I have to drag both Awkward Dad and Super Toddler away from their new friends. Awkward Dad comes willingly, more or less, but Super Toddler hangs on to his friends, "the princesses," for dear life and has to be bodily carried into the photo room. Resulting in this:

The unwillingness to cooperate continues and this and this quickly follow:

Of course, those are followed by these:

We give up on the joint photo at this point and pick the last one, even though it looks like a strange and terrifying mug shot from the turn of the century. Whatever, they are clean and both looking at the camera, and sometimes that is all you get.

We decide to focus on Super Toddler, who is much more interested in focusing on the waiting area princesses. To distract him for the royals, we petition for a large letter or number, knowing Super Toddler's partiality to over-sized anything. We settle on a huge 3, since he is now closer to 3 than 2. (Can you believe it?!) The number turns out to be a mixed blessing. It definitely distracts him from the princesses, but now he is so enamored with the number, that he won't look at the camera. To combat this, our expert photographer (who was about 16...maybe) tells Super Toddler to lie down in front of the number. Moving temptation out of direct eyesight and resulting in this:

Ummm...no. That is not gonna work. So, we let him stand back up and get Awkward Dad to dance around in his goofiest manner until we finally get this out of Super Toddler:

Good enough! We free Super Toddler to cavort with velvet clad princesses, and we turn our attention to Super Baby. Now, bear in mind that Super Baby has turned mobile since our last experience with professional pictures. I won't bore you guys with it, but the next 10 minutes look a lot like this:

Oh boy. OK, eventually, after much pleading, dancing, and super human patience on the part of the photographer, we get this:
Pretty much worth the whole rotten day, right? Of course, the cherubic red cheeks are due to his illness and he completely blew out his diaper right after this picture. But we can just keep that between us, right? No need to ruin my mother-in-law's Christmas gift with the back story, eh? Thanks, guys!

Readers, seriously, it was the vilest thing ever, resulting in nearly a complete package of wipes and the evacuation of the changing-table-less bathroom. Probably serves Awkward Mom right for dragging her poor sick baby out just to feed her unexplainable need for professional photos. However, we will respect her wishes and just enjoy these glorious pictures of the Super Boys. Merry Christmas all!

Have an Awesomely Awkward Christmas! We can't wait for new adventures in 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Awkward Mom vs Photos - Part I

Awkward Mom takes on a photo shoot at Sears...oh me, when will she learn?

Christmas 2008, we decide that we need professional pictures of Super Toddler. No one really knows why we decide this, but suddenly there it is. A strange compulsion that just appears that first Christmas. No one explains that this is going to happen; no one even bothers to warn you. I am thinking of writing to the editors of “What to Expect When You are Expecting” and asking them to include this phenomenon, so that no one else is surprised by this irrepressible urge to pay someone to document the existence of their child in front of a winter-themed backdrop. We can’t fight it, so, we haul our 10-month-old bundle of joy off to Sears and have it done. It is glorious. He smiles. He coos. He poses on a sled, while wearing a tiny sweater vest with a reindeer on it. It is like a Christmas Baby Gap ad sugar-dipped in extra cuteness. We are elated with the results and we give those pictures to everyone; grandparents, friends, relatives 8 times removed, folks on the street. We feel that we have captured Norman Rockwell’s Christmas in that close-up of Super Toddler, in a festive onsie and itty-bitty corduroy pants, gazing beatifically toward the painted mountains over his right shoulder.

Christmas 2009 is a different story. Awkward Dad is deep in his residency interview travels, and Awkward Mom is very pregnant with soon-to-arrive Super Baby. Our sugary-sweet 10-month-old has morphed into a rather active toddler. Add to that a family-wide battle royale with arch-villain Stomach-Flu. Yea….photos don’t happen Christmas 2009. They happen by Easter 2010 and are a rushed affair, squeezed in between playdates and packing. Super Toddler attempts to run through the scenic backdrop. Super Baby falls asleep while posed on some black velvet bunting. We use a coupon, don’t even bother with props, and buy the bare minimum photos that we need for grandparents. And thus, our shameful decent into second child neglect begins.

Determined to not repeat the slacker holiday of last year or neglect Super Baby anymore than we already have (where is that baby book, anyway?), we call up Sears and make an appointment. Then, we sit back and pat ourselves on that back. Too soon, it turns out. Super Baby comes down with some explosive GI concerns, and I do mean explosive, my friends. If I could bottle what is going on in his intestines, I could be the next Alfred Nobel. (Wikipedia him, I’ll wait.) Needless to say, we have to reschedule, and we do, for the day we get a massive snowstorm and Sears cancels on us. They then reschedule us for a Tuesday evening at 7pm and we take it. We take it knowing that Awkward Dad will be on call the night before. We take it knowing that the doctor’s office told us Super Baby’s virus can last 2 weeks. We take it knowing that no sane parent takes their children to the mall so close to Christmas. We take it because…well, I don’t really know why and “What to Expect When You are Expecting” won’t tell me. Whatever deep physiological forces are at work here will remain a mystery, but know this; they are strong enough to get all of us to Sears at 7pm on a Tuesday.

First things first though, we need some cute outfits. Luckily for us, Aunt Awkward has sent her Christmas gift early this year and it is an entire box of child couture. Ok, well, it is an entire box of clothes from Gymboree, which is couture enough for me!

Super Baby selects a festive monkey onsie and sock set, made casual cool with his pairing of jeans and bedhead. He throws on a red and brown sweater to tie the whole look together. Genius!

Super Toddler dons a dinosaur themed ensemble in muted beige and brown, paired with grey cords and casual, yet fashionable sneakers. It is a true feast of the eyes....especially if you are a hungry T-Rex.

Now, you aren't thinking that I dress them in these outfits and let them wear them to the mall, are you? Oh no. Familiar with Super Toddler's flying leaps into any available snow, and painfully aware of Super Baby's current GI maladies, I tuck these stunning fashion creations into a bag and dressed them in stained sweaters and frayed jeans. We all pile into the car, 45 minutes before our appointment (a new record!) and head into early evening traffic, which is extraordinarily heavy in our neighborhood this time of year. Must be all those holidays shoppers completing their Christmas lists....hmmm, guess I ought to make a list. But hey, if this picture field trip works out, guess I won't have to!

After a harried drive to the mall and a discussion with Super Toddler that Awkward Dad just thought he saw a donkey in a passing car, hence his calling to him in a rather loud manner, we arrive in the Sears parking lot, ahead of schedule. Amazing work! We bundle the boys into the double stroller and make slow and sure process toward the door. New Flash, it appears that Super Toddler can now unbuckle his stroller strap. This, of course, results in an escape of epic proportions. He narrowly avoids collisions with 2 cars, while drenching his boots, the lower half of his pants, and all of me (who, by the way, has no change of clothes in Mom's magic diaper bag). I tackle him into a passing snowbank. As I lie there, clutching Super Toddler and the teeny tiny shred of my dignity that isn't soaking wet, I debate the wisdom of taking the boys for professional photographs. What is so great about sparkly backdrops and giant birthday numbers anyway?

We'll be sure to tell you, in the next installment of Awkward Mom! Be sure to tune in; this one has huge number 3s, diapers worthy of Mr. Nobel, and this:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. Time

Dear Readers, please forgive my lack of posts. I am doing serious battle with holy-cats-is-it-really-a-week-until-Christmas. Plus, I took the boys to get their yearly photos done. The process looked like this:
I'll be back to tell you all about it as soon as I address all these Christmas cards, figure out how to bake, locate the source of that weird smell, and wrap a Mr. Potato Head. Back in a flash!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Awkward Mom vs Jello

Awkward Mom is asked to bring a dish to a holiday party.....silly host.

OK...so, I am fairly certain that we have not discussed my prowess in the kitchen. This is because it does not exist. Nope, no prowess here. I am not being modest either. I freely own up to the myriad of superpowers that I wield on a daily basis. (The fact that I can not think of one right now does not deter me, I have many.) However, I have not been blessed in the culinary arts. At all. I periodically attempt to increase my skills in this area, but prowess continues to elude me. A saner person might not aim for prowess right off the bat, they might seek adequate tries, bang-up jobs, or bully attempts. (Apparently, my imaginary saner person is Theodore Roosevelt...) Anyway, Awkward Mom has never really been one for sane approaches.

The Awkward family has been invited to a holiday party and asked to bring a dessert. For someone whose idea of making cookies is to assist the Pillsbury Doughboy in the process, this request is daunting. But I have convinced myself that I am up to the challenge! I have also been asked to make something without dairy, gluten, nuts, or eggs. Umm...ok, I can do this. Further interrogation of the host results in the gentle suggestion that I make some Jello. I am momentarily heartbroken. Jello? Really? How am I ever going to develop any kitchen prowess (can't stop saying it!) if I am relegated to making the children's dessert? But no matter. I will do it and it will be the greatest Jello dessert in the history of Jello desserts! Famous last words...

A quick check of jello.com (oh yea, check it out, I will wait) immediately relieves me of the illusion that this is going to be easy or in any way great. There are hundreds of recipes on here, each more daunting then the last. Cherry Royale. Banana Pineapple Passion. Chocolate Elegance. Citrus Sensation. I click on something called Cool 'N Easy Pie to get lost in a labyrinth of molds and cooling times. Florida Sunshine Salad loses me with its abundance of Miracle Whip. Watergate Salad is confusing and not as political as I thought it would be. I am fascinated by Cosmo Bites and Mojito Granita until I remember my audience. I am debating between a Hidden Treasure Cake and a Holiday Ribbon Mold when a quick look in my pantry reminds me that I have no Jello mold. A quick look into my soul alerts me to the fact that there is no way I am gonna be able to "cut a 1 inch wide, 1 inch deep tunnel inside the center of the cake, avoid cutting all the way through the cake." I am tempted by the line "remove and save cutout for snack," but we all know the Hidden Treasure Cake just is beyond me.

However, the routing around in the pantry does unearth a set of cookie cutters given to me by my friend, the eternal optimist. They are all the letters in the alphabet, previously the sole belongings of Super Toddler, banished to the back of the pantry after he started cheating on them with the fridge magnet letters. This generates an idea; the cookie cutters, that is. Not Super Toddler's fickle nature. Why not make a sheet of Jello and cut out the letters for Merry Christmas? The directions for making plain, regular Jello are right there on the side of the box and even I understand all of them. How hard can it be to cut out letters and spell a festive phrase? More famous last words...

I am boiling water (even I can do that) when Super Toddler appears in the kitchen and demands to help. He pulls a chair over and climbs on up. Super Toddler enjoys helping in the kitchen. He is usually helping his father, who does possess kitchen prowess, but he seems quite content to muddle along with me as I search the cabinets for mixing bowls and spoons. I suppose you are all wondering why Awkward Dad isn't making our dessert, given the nature of his culinary superpowers. I could tell you that it is because I want to defeat my fears of food, that I want to prove to myself and the world that I am able and strong and just as talented as any of those crafty moms I am so jealous of. I could wax poetic about the joy of climbing a mountain just for the exhilaration of looking back and seeing how far you have come. You know, the mountain being my fear of cooking and the journey of Jello being what I am looking back on...or something. These are great reasons. They are not the reasons. The reason is that he is at work.

OK, where was I? Right, I am boiling water, and doing a fine job of it too! The fact that it is my 2 year old son who coolly opens the drawer next to his chair and pulls out the spoons I am scouring the kitchen for is not something upon which I wish to dwell. Let's just say that we find the needed items by the time the water has boiled. We mix the Jello powder and water easily, if a tad energetically, and soon we have vibrant reds and greens in our bowls. And on the counter. On the floor. On Super Baby, who has somehow teleported in here. And all over Super Toddler's hair, the chair he pulled over here, the knife block, the coffee maker, and my shirt. I resolve to deal with that later, as I seek and find 3 Pyrex containers of varying sizes and depths. Super Toddler and I set them out and debate our options. We ultimately decide to pour the red into the biggest container, and we separate the green into the two smaller ones. Super Toddler has a heavy hand and one ends up quite a bit deeper than the other one, but no matter. It will all work out, right? It's just Jello. I have got to stop with these last words....

We cool the Jello for the required three hours, giving me time to clean up the kitchen and get the boys in bed for naps. Neither of these things happen, but 3 hours is enough time to do that in. Just thought I would mention it. We pull out our Jello sheets, set them on the counter, and admire their jewel-like brightness. They are beautiful, glinting in the afternoon sun, but we are not done with them yet. Oh no. I intend for them to produce a masterpiece that will increase my self-esteem, demonstrate my skills as a mother, and maybe even produce a gasp or two when it is revealed at the party. Best get to it then.

Super Baby is doing figure eights around my legs and Super Toddler is demanding a Jello Z, but I attempt to tune them out and cut out the first letter, an innocent enough M. I place the cutter on the Jello, push down, and pull it back up...empty. Hmm...I can see the cut M, nestled in its Jello womb, seemingly unwilling to break free of the nest and be the lead actor in my statement dessert. In actuality, it is just stuck to the bottom of the pan, something I discover when I attempt to pry it out with a knife. I tear it in half, as I completely butcher the surrounding Jello in a misguided removal process. My terribly thin, reedy M stands alone on the plate and nearly reduces me to tears. I consult jello.com for some advice, and am soon back in the saddle, ducking the bottom of the Pyrex dishes in hot water.

The removal of the red R and Y go rather well. The H ends up with some stringy parts, but the I is near perfection. The T is fine, but the middle of the A refuses to come out, resulting in a letter that looks like a triangle. I have nearly half the red Jello left, but I move on to the green Jello. I want some contrast in my dessert, you see. I push the E into the green and immediately notice a problem. Remember how Super Toddler was rather generous with one of the green trays? Well, said tray just ate my E cookie cutter. Yep, the green surface of the Jello has engulfed and devoured the whole thing. I am left with no alternative but to dive in after it. I fish out an E much thicker than any of my current letters. I place it on the plate anyway, but seriously, once it is in direct comparison to the other letters, it looks like it is on steroids.

I will not be bested by thick Jello. I will not. I grab the other tray and attempt to cut out another E, only to have it fall apart in the removal process. The same thing happens with the R and the C. I am running out of good sized green Jello, so I am extremely careful with the Ss. They turn out nicely. However, the M has to come from the thick Jello, I simply have no choice. Fine. A little variety never hurt anyone, right? For balance, or maybe just to distract from my odd sized green letters, I cut Ho Ho Ho out of the abundance of red Jello. I spell out my opus on a plate and stare at it. It is hideous. It is boring. It looks like nothing on jello.com. It is a plate of odd shaped Jello letters. What in the world was I thinking?

I start to cry. Super Toddler and Super Baby are feasting on Jello remains and throwing letters at each other. They completely ignore me and offer no assistance. A quick dig through the pantry reveals 3 more boxes of Jello; cherry, lime, and raspberry. I decide my Jello letters need a base to sit on. Clearly, I can't use the same flavors/colors, so Raspberry becomes my only option and it is only 4 ounces. Oh well. I steal the red Pyrex dish from the super boys and wash it, while the water is boiling. No time for 3 hour cooling spells now, so I return to jello.com and discover that you can use half boiling water and half ice water to speed the cooling time to 90 minutes. Amazing. Super Toddler gets his chair and we assemble the raspberry base, pop it into the fridge, and go watch Pingu.

90 minutes later, I remove my Raspberry beauty and adorn it with my letters. It still looks hideous, but it no longer looks boring. It looks like something Martha Stewart's hillbilly cousin might make and think is the height of class. I am out of time, ideas, and mixing bowls. It will have to do. I snap on the top, gather the boys, and head to the party. Where my hideous Jello letter "cake" is a huge hit with the kids, reminding me of these very important lessons. "The manner of giving is worth more than the gift"(Pierre Corneille). "We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers" (Seneca). "When your audience thinks that the pinnacle of culinary greatness is the fruit snack, you have nothing to worry about" (Awkward Mom).

Awkward Mom would like to assure you that if you invite her to your next holiday party, she will ask Awkward Dad to make a pie.

The Aftermath...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. Call

Awkward Dad's job necessitates overnight call sometimes; sometimes being pretty much every 3 or 4 days. This has made schedules and order a little tricky in the kingdom of Awkward. Well, that is the line Awkward Mom has come up with to justify why her children sometimes go to bed at 10pm and why dinner routinely seems to consist of pirogies and grapes. Tonight happens to be such a night.

More ketchup! I seem to hear this about 14 times every dinner, regardless of the entree. To be fair, yes, I may have overcooked the pirogies, a little. Still, I am pretty sure that any level of dryness would not warrant the red sea that is currently lapping at the edges of Super Toddler's plate. However, I am tired (big surprise), so I acquiesce rather easily. I must be tired because I also have absolutely no comment when he proceeds to dunk his grapes in the ketchup. Then, I know I am really tired when Super Baby makes a lunge from the highchair and sinks his hands into Super Toddler's plate, and it doesn't even phase me. I just blink at him while he smears ketchup everywhere, generating a look not unlike a stabbing victim. Luckily, it is bath night.

No, my children do not takes baths every night. I think we have already discussed my chances for winning mother of year, so I figure baths aren't going to make me or break me at this point. However, once in awhile, the smell, the dirt, or, in this case, the ketchup, just becomes all too much for wet wipes and sleeves, and those are bath nights. Lucky me.

Around here, baths are a production on the level of a Cecil B. DeMille movie. The toys, the bubbles, the pageantry. Getting just the right temperature between scalding and freezing from old apartment pipes that hate me. Super Baby touching the invisible force field that ropes off Super Toddler's personal bath space and all hell breaking loose in a flurry of sudsy water that now covers my glasses, my shirt, and the socks I foolishly wore into the bathroom. Trying to walk that fine line between protection and repression when it comes to Super Baby's boundless enthusiasm for water and flinging his face into it. You know, just the mom panic and those untold hazards that are involved with 2 little boys careening into each other and slipping around on wet, deadly hard tile.

About the time my shirt turns translucent, Super Toddler hollers for the removal of Super Baby. I decide to oblige, which produces howls of glee from Super Toddler and howls of indignation from the squirming naked water baby now in my arms. Super Baby thrashes in his towel prison until the only part of him the towel is covering is his left arm. It is covering far more of me, soaking my pants. Super Baby shakes himself like a dog and now I can't see out of my glasses. I bumble into the nursery, dropping the towel and banging my right leg on the door frame. This turns Super Baby into a very wet football that I am trying desperately not to drop, which in turn results in the flying leap of me and Super Baby onto Super Toddler's bed. Which is now soaking wet. Great.

I heave us off the bed and give Super Baby one of Super Toddler's toys (don't tell). He immediately sticks it in his mouth and quiets enough for me to get him onto the changing table. I can hear Super Toddler talking about mermaids and making splashing sounds that don't sound like drowning ones, so I proceed to diaper and dress Super Baby. About the time I finish with that, Super Toddler's monologue shifts to don't poop in the tub..Mommy says don't poop in the tub. I pretty much throw Super Baby into the crib and fly into the bathroom. Turns out to be a false alarm for which I am eternally grateful, but I get him out of there anyway. Super Toddler gives in to the tub removal, but he wants to dry himself. He clothes himself in his "princess" (a blue hooded towel that his Aunt Maggie made for him), firmly places the hood on his head, and directs me to admire his beautiful hair. Once he is suitably admired, he regally pushes the towel back, so that it flutters about him like a cape and directs me to admire his pretty dress. He parades about the bathroom for awhile before inspiration strikes and he dashes into his room. He roots around a toy box before finding 2 bracelets, a Hello Kitty lip balm necklace, and a tiara that he puts on like a belt. Thus adorned, he stalks the hallways, shouting about castles and dragons for the better part of the next half hour. Super Baby, freed from the crib after some rather ear-splitting negotiation, is quite content to trail after his half-naked princess brother, while I change Super Toddler's damp sheets.

Eventually, Super Toddler resigns himself to wearing a diaper with his outfit. 20 minutes after that, he agrees to pjs. However, he must pick them out. He debates for awhile, perturbed that the Buzz Lightyear ones are dirty and not available. He settles on some with monkeys, but only after we embellish the look with a pink sash and mommy's shoes. He then insists on one more Pingu before bed. I am too tired to fight, so I agree. Now Readers, you know I love Netflix so much my husband thinks I am cheating on him with it, but sometimes the near infallibility of Netflix can be suspect. Case in point, Pingu. It started suggesting that we might like Pingu after Super Toddler exhausted Shaun the Sheep, Super Why, and Angelina Ballerina, and I have to admit Netflix is right, Super Toddler adores Pingu. I, on the other hand, merely stand there in confused horror as this bizarre, Swedish, claymation penguin carpers and cavorts through some of the weirdest story-lines I have seen in children's television. Currently, he is accompanying his father, a penguin postman with a strangely Italian accent, as he delivers mail to some igloos. He delivers a black-trimmed telegram to a old lady penguin and Pingu sheds a tear, forcing me to envision her penguin son being gunned down in the battle of Dunkirk. I am trying to figure out if he was in the ground forces or air personal when I glance at the clock. Holy Cats, why is it 9:15? Enough, it is time for bed!

I drag the boys to the bathroom, where we brush teeth and Super Baby attempts to climb back into the tub. Then, I herd them into the nursery for bed. Super Toddler climbs into his with 13 stuffed animals, while Super Baby rebels against the crib in a tone normally reversed for fire drills. We attempt story time, which goes something like this (for the purposes of this portion of the story, this is me, this is Super Toddler, and this is Super Baby):

Once upon a time, there was a princess! And she had beautiful glowing hair. And she lived in a hot dog. Umm..yes, a hot dog. AHHH! This hot dog was in the middle of the forest, by a giant lake with fish and mermaids and bubbles. AHH! And the princess decided to have a ball. Yes, a ball. And she invited Rapunzel and fireflies and Odie. Odie? AHHHH! Yes, Odie. OK, so the princess is having this ball with Odie and Rapunzel when... and fireflies! Oh, yes, and the fireflies. AHH! When...an evil witch comes. Yes, the evil witch comes in with...fireflies! Fireflies? Yes. OK, with fireflies and a dragon. and sticks. Of course, a dragon and some sticks. So...Burp. Then, the evil witch sends her dragon to get the princess. And fireflies! And the fireflies too. So...the prince. AHHH! Right, so the prince comes and he...the fairy godmothers! The fairy godmothers do what? They give a sword. Oh right, they give him sword. No! No? AH! No, they give sword to Rapunzel. Oh, OK. So, what does the prince do? Hides. Hides? Hides in the bushes. Umm..OK. So the prince hides in the bushes and Rapunzel...Princess! And the princess slays the dragon. Laughs. No! No? Poofs! Oh, sorry, she poofs the dragon. And witch! And the witch, and they never bother them again. So, the ball goes on and...they dance! They dance in new shoes! Right, the fairy godmothers give them new shoes and they dance all night long in the hot dog. Snorts. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair. Well, that is a different one. Different story! Coo. Oh no, now it is time to sleep. No! Yes, time for bed. NO! AH!

I leave to the melodious tones of toddler tantrums and baby burbles. 3 minutes later, they are both snoring. I settle onto the couch and survey the damage. I am fairly certain every one of Super Toddler's 4328 toys is out here, the dining table looks like a crime scene, and apparently Pingu and his father just cracked the egg and the new baby might be dead. I pick up the remote and let Netflix tell me that I should watch Fawlty Towers or Cake Boss. I fail to make a selection before I fall asleep, and I proceed to dream about John Cleese and some bakers fighting Italian penguins on the front lines of World War II.

Oh, fear not, good readers. After all, Awkward Dad isn't on call for 3 more days. And 3 days after that. And after that. And on Christmas Eve. And well...residency is only 3 and 1/2 more years anyway, right? No worries, none at all. Meet us back here next week for the next installment of the Adventures of Awkward Mom!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. Netflix

Dear Netflix-

You know that I love you. Thank you for suggesting I watch Martin Scorsese's early work, The Girl on the Bridge, and all that Wallace & Gromit. You know me so well, it is like we have been friends forever. Your interest in British comedy and French new wave makes me think we are soul mates. And you are so good with Super Toddler; making sure he has access to Angelina Ballerina any time he needs. I wasn't too happy with you introducing him to Pingu, but it makes him happy. So, I suppose I can forgive you, even though it is Swedish and incredibly weird.

Netflix, you really are a dream come true and so wonderful. You enable me to go to film school from my couch for $8.99 a month; you are lovely. However, I wish you wouldn't document all of our encounters together. I am starting to find it a little creepy. Furthermore, it doesn't help interactions with my husband when he comes home after 30 hours on call to find out that I spent most of that time catching up on 30 Rock. So, if you could do something about that, I would be forever grateful.

Awkward Mom

PS I will never, ever, be able to thank you enough for having the Orson Welles' version of Jane Eyre streaming on my computer at 3 in the morning. You complete me, Netflix.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. Procrastination

Ok, clearly Awkward Mom is having some issues with follow through these days. Turns out twin villains (Procrastination and we-now-have-streaming-Netflix-on-the-Wii) have shown up to tax Awkward Mom's resolve and duty to this blog. Add a heavy dose of baby teething and outright toddler potty training refusal, and we have no conclusion to Awkward Mom vs. the Road Trip. It just isn't gonna happen. You will be cheered to know that she already told you the most awkward parts. The adult alone time was nice, but they talked about the boys most of the time, called them 6 times, and fell asleep by 9:30. They did, however, drink wine and they managed to have several conversations uninterrupted by random screaming and demands for fruit snacks. I am also happy to report that the super boys had a great time at the Awkward Family Estate. Super Baby attempted stairs, causing heart palpitations all around, and Super Toddler gave Grandpa Awkward heart palpitations of a different kind after modeling all 4 of his princess dresses. The trip home was uneventful, if heavy on the pink CD and, you guessed it, fruit snacks. Awkward Mom is resolving to defeat her villainous foes and be more dutiful to this blog and to documenting awkward antics in general. However, Netflix just informed her that due to her recent viewing, she may enjoy Season 1 of Fraggle Rock, Amelie, the Inspector Lynley Mysteries, and Pawn Stars; I won't expect much out of her for at least 48 hours....

Monday, November 22, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. the Road Trip - part II

The Awkward family spent the first night of their trip with Super Baby's godparents, a completely normal and non-awkward couple. The evening was wonderful and relaxing, and the boys behaved themselves. For those reasons alone, it will not be included in this tome of terrifying trips with toddlers. Let's catch up with the Awkwards, as they head out of town and toward their next destination, the maternal Awkward home.

It is 9 in the morning. Super Toddler has consumed 3 packs of fruit snacks. We have been in the car for 8 minutes. Super Toddler could easily eat his weight in fruit snacks, and I, like every other mother in America, let the fruit part ease my guilt as I hand them to him. Gummy Buzz-Lightyear-shaped candy just doesn't have the same ring, eh? But whatever it is called, it is keeping him happy on this 4 hour car ride and that is fine with me. It isn't like I am gonna win mother of the year anyway, after the committee gets a look at our floors, pantry, or Netflix history. By the way, does that simply exist to shame me with its sheer volume of Backyardigans? But I digress.

We are heading north to my parents' place, a 5 acre "farmette" where Super Toddler actually took his first steps. 11 of them, running straight down a hill; one of the scariest/happiest moments of my life. It is a good place for kids to play/scare the living daylights out of you, and we are leaving them there with my parents, overnight, for our first adult vacation in 3 years. This vacation will consist of nearly 2 days and 1 night in a town about 2 hours away, but it might as well be the Bahamas because we will have no kids for about 30 hours! (PS....don't call it a "farmette" in front of Grandpa Awkward.)

We are trucking along nicely when the rumpus starts. Super Baby is asleep, which should come as a surprise to no one...I think that child might be a vampire. But Super Toddler is waging war back there with a cornucopia (aka Toy Store backpack) full of magical creatures. The fact that these magical creatures are incognito should also come as a surprise to no one. Apparently, the dragon (aka dinosaur) and his minions (aka Dr. Doom and a robot) are attacking the prince (aka Luke Skywalker) and his buddies (aka Spiderman and somehow also the same robot), so the fairy godmother (aka toy car...even I had trouble figuring that one out) gives the princess (aka Strawberry Shortcake) a magic wand (aka toy carrot) which she uses to poof the dinosaur, I mean dragon. However, in the poofing, the dragon somehow ends up being hurled at the back of Awkward Dad's head. This results in the confiscation of said dragon, which results in the rumpus from the backseat. And it is time for lunch.

We stop at a family restaurant that we have been at before, remembering their clean highchairs and the absence of patrons sensitive to random toddlers screams. We always seem to eat at this place around a holiday, last time being near Christmas. Then, along with a ton of jolly Santa cut-outs and glittered mangers, the pictures on the wall were all wrapped in festive paper with enormous bows, which sent present-loving Super Toddler into raptures. This time we are dining on Veterans Day, which taxes the decorating skills a wee bit more than Christmas, but the proprietor has stepped it up remarkably. There are numerous flags and thank you troops signs flanking the register, and a rather impressive window cling of the flag raising at Iwo Jima graces the front picture window. Nestled in the fall display of leaves and pine cones on our table, is a little thank you note to the troops, surrounded by 4 army men. Seriously creative. In danger of being destroyed by an overactive toddler, but creative.

Lunch proceeds in its usual unusual fashion. We switch chairs and confuse the waitress because the toddler can't stand to be apart from Awkward Dad for a moment. Super Baby consumes all of three spoonfuls of applesauce before deciding that the bowl, and its contents, make a better hat. Super Toddler declares a hankering for sausage, and then eats 1 bite. He does, however, eat nearly all of my french toast, spilling most of the syrup in the process. The syrup makes its merry way onto all of Super Toddler's clothes, amazingly, even the spare ones in the diaper bag. The syrup also lands on my shoes, in Awkward Dad's pockets, and in Super Baby's hair. Super Baby has quite the organic scalp treatment going on there. Awkward Dad announces that his chicken wrap is too "eggy," given the presence of mayonnaise, which leads to an argument about whether or not one should assume mayo will be the de facto condiment on any given sandwich. I say yes, given that we are at a diner in the Midwest, the sandwich is referred to as a "traditional"chicken wrap, and I have absolutely no issues with mayonnaise. Awkward Dad claims the mayo "snuck up on him" and all egg related foods (condiments or otherwise) need to come with bold type warnings. He has egg issues.

After a quick trip to the washroom to "de-sticky" the boys, we are back on our way to the farmette, bopping along to C is for Cookie. We are on the highway for 5 minutes before Super Toddler demands fruit snacks. And so it goes. We make it to the farmette in record time, some of the later speeding may or may not have been due to running out of fruit snacks. Super Toddler's delight upon seeing Grandma Awkward's horses causes yet another rumpus from the backseat, complete with flying fairies (aka toy cars), resulting in yet another confiscation of toys. Which results in the melt-down that Grandma and Grandpa are treated to as we fall into their house, right about the time that Super Baby decides to wake up, just in time to blow out a diaper. The Awkward family has arrived.

Wanna know if Grandma and Grandpa Awkward did indeed watch the super boys for 30 hours? You will have to tune in to the next episode of Awkward Mom!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. the Road Trip - part I

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip....

So, we aren't out of the parking lot, and Super Toddler starts clamoring for the green CD. The green CD being the Sesame Street CD. Now, I am fine with this, as it avoids the pink CD, the silver CD, and the red CD (Barney, German lullabies, and this Christmas album Super Toddler loves that has a positively scary version of Good King Wenceslas, respectively). We get on the highway to the melodies strains of One Fine Face.

We speed up the on-ramp, only to slow down to a crawl in construction traffic. Ever been in construction traffic with a toddler? It is an education. He points out all the different trucks to me, assuring me that Muck and Dizzy are their names, no matter what any grown-ups may tell me. I dutifully wave to Muck and Dizzy and receive some cheerful, if slightly confused, waves back from the construction workers. By now, Super Toddler has lost interest and is belting out C is for Cookie. It doesn't help that his father is also singing along at the top of his lungs. This is gonna be a long trip....

Fortunately for me, Super Toddler falls asleep by the time we get to Kalamazoo and play #4 for the green CD. I switch it to grownup music, which doesn't seem to discourage Awkward Dad from singing. It probably doesn't help that I put in Weezer, tossing the "grown-up" aspect of the music choice up for debate. I attempt to enjoy the impromptu concert from the driver's seat and settle in for the addition of a hour. You see, we moved into the Eastern Time Zone with our move to Ann Arbor, and the power that little hour can wield is amazing. When you have watched the news at 10pm your entire life, to have it switched to 11pm (the same year you enlarge your family to include a rather nocturnal baby) becomes a big deal. I have yet to see many benefits to being in eastern time. Even with the addition of daylight's saving time, it is still dark here in the mornings. Every time I call my family they seem to be eating dinner, and as much as I adore Modern Family, 9pm is pushing it for me these days. However, I have noticed one little benefit to being in eastern time. Anytime we travel back to the proper Midwest (yes, I said it), we gain an hour. I can tell my mom that we left at 8 and really leave at 9, and she is none the wiser...it is like magic! 2 things here: 1.) Clearly, I was no rebel as a teenager. 2.) My mom is totally going to be the wiser after she reads this. Anywho, gaining an hour equals awesome. Losing one, not so much, but more on that later. Right now, I am focusing on Awkward Dad, as he honks the horn to signal our arrival at the Michigan/Indiana line, somehow in rhythm with the CD. Untold super powers, this one.

Deep into Indiana (which is completely relative, as it is maybe 100 miles wide where we cross), the Super boys wake up. There is a slight stirring from Super Baby and a rather rude request for fruit snacks from Super Toddler. And so it goes the rest of the way through Indiana. We turn the green CD back on, so Awkward Dad can have peace from hearing fruit snack requests as he negotiates the Chicago traffic. It is odious and we have a close call with a Hormel truck, but we are soon heading south, as Bert sings about pigeons. I think things are going well, until I hear a blood-curdling scream from the backseat. I spin around, convinced that the back of the car is somehow breaking off, to be met with this: "Mommy! He is looking out my window!" Super Toddler indignantly glares at the offending sightseer, Super Baby, who is laughing and smiling right back at him. "See! He is looking out my window again! Make him stop!" No amount of reasoning or bribery can solve this, so we decide to go to lunch. You know, lunch other than fruit snacks.

Speaking of lunch, I better feed these two before Super Baby decides to pull up on the table where Super Toddler set that huge bowl of Cheerios and pulls them down all over himself...like he appears to be doing right now. Sigh. Must dash, more later!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. the Road Trip - preface

So, the Awkward Family just took a 6 day road trip. It should come as a surprise to no one that this was done awkwardly; involving 4 states, a ridiculous amount of baby wipes, 7 extended family members, 3 horses, 3 different houses and 1 hotel, 81 listens to C is for Cookie, 2 5-week-old-kittens, 1 romantic dinner out, 4 happy meals, and about 14000 fruit snacks. But before we get to all that, we have to leave the house.....

I have about 46 items (not including children) to remember to pack before leaving the house on a normal day and I regularly forget about 7 of them (not too often including children). Can you imagine the hoard of thoughts and items swirling around right before leaving for 6 whole days? Here is what this particular cacophony of chaos sounds like at our place:

What is on your face? Who lives in a pineapple under the sea! Someone pack the Tylenol, please. Did you stop the paper? No, you can not bring 65 stuffed animals. Anyone know what the weather is like in Illinois? I'm the fairy godmother! Ouch! Whose legos are these? SpongeBob, SquarePants! Where are my keys? Not now! Did you write the check for the catsitter? Poof! 14 onesies ought to be enough. Stay away from that wire! Maybe. Where is the checkbook? No, you can't have any. The wheels on the bus go round and round! Are those feathers? Someone shut the curtains. Poof; you're a frog! No, that is our old catsitter. I think 3 wands is plenty. Where are my keys? Where is my suitcase? Honey, Daddy will sing with you. Pick two. What is on your face now?! Only two. Get away from that outlet! Please go brush your teeth. When exactly do you think you are going to have time to read all those books? Who is calling us now? Only 3 dinosaurs. It should fit. Mommy's the evil witch. You can watch Toy Story at Grandma's. No, I am fairly sure she isn't going to take it if the name is wrong, please rewrite it. Poof! I already packed it. No, not now. Don't forget the pack and play. Not the open one. Where are my keys? Mommy can't think right now. Sweetie, stop packing the cats; they don't like it. Someone hand me a trash bag. Are you sure it is just a cold? 17, I think. Who threw up under the bed? Stop poofing your brother! The small one. Well, it doesn't set a very good example if we tell him that he can only bring 5 and you have 14 yourself. Ouch! Seriously, legos? Right now? Please turn the music off! I'm a princess! Where are my keys? Leave it on the table. I think the sweat-top is fine for the car. Don't forget to leave a light on. Why is this sticky? Just leave the stroller, there's no room. Did you take out the garbage? How many socks do you own? No, it is the 10th. Are you sure we have everything? Deep breaths, honey. Did you bring me one? How do you lock this? Poof! Where are my keys? How would I know how old she is? How does he sleep though this? Shoes! Are you serious? Where is the map? Poof! You're a prince now. Did you call her? Thank you, honey. What time is it there? I just know I am forgetting something. Because princesses have to wear seat belts, that is why. No, I think it will be ok. C is for Cookie! Where are my keys? Did you lock the door? Where is the baby?!

Oh, readers; we are in for a ride. Tune in next time, when we drive to Central Illinois; dealing with time changes, road construction, and the first of numerous fruit snacks. Bon voyage!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Awkward Mom vs the Evil Computer Virus (rematch)

Oh, sweet readers, it continues. This computer virus is way more wily than I could have imagined. As last time, I have managed to access the outside world via Awkward Dad's computer. In addition, Awkward Dad is using his super tech skills in an attempt to de-bug my laptop. However, this may take some time, as the hospital would also like him to use his super doctor skills, and it appears they have dibs on his time these days. I will attempt further communications from this computer, if I can get over the weird keyboard shape and Cubs screensaver. For I have tales a plenty, from the fleas and faxes of the vet visit to the sordid saga of our recent road trip across 4 states with 2 children and no common sense. Stay tuned, it just may curl your hair!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. Halloween (part II)

In yesterday's episode of Awkward Mom, outfits were rejected, diet Pepsi was consumed, and Super Baby slept, again. The Awkward Family parked to the haunting melody of the Monster Mash and prepared to seek candy and a meaningful childhood memory for Super Toddler. But mostly candy. Confused? You won't be after this episode of Awkward Mom!

We excitedly exit the elevator and Super Toddler immediately crashes into Darth Vader. Apparently, Darth's mom wears fake purple eyelashes and sweaters with large sequined cats on them. Who knew? We stumble down the street in our standard awkward way; seriously, who designs walkways? Because they do not fit 2 adults, a stroller, and 1 super-charged toddler, and someone might want to look into that. We cross the street without incident and arrive at our first trick-or-treat location, a bank with a candy station outside. We don't even have to go in, mess with doors, feel bad because we aren't conducting any real business; it is the perfect spot to practice Super Toddler's technique. We have been coaching him for a week; it is time to see if it pays off.

He shyly glances at the keeper of the candy, a sweet faced lady wearing cat ears and a blinking pumpkin pin. He looks at the candy bowl, then her, then back to the candy bowl. He adjusts his crown and shuffles his feet. He then retreats behind my leg, peeking out to watch some mini-firemen and a tiger score some candy. I gently push him forward and crouch down next to him and the candy bowl. "What do you say?" Super Toddler lifts his crowned head and looks right into the candy keeper's eyes, flashes the smallest of terrified smiles, and his tiny little voice comes out and says "Please?" Well, it isn't quite right, but the bank lady is freaking out over his cuteness and pouring candy into his bucket. I guess it will do; we have about 45 more stores to get it right anyway.

We meander down the street, taking in the sights and sounds of 503 children high on adult-sanctioned sugar. We venture into 2 more banks, a clothing store, a hair salon, and 3 restaurants, one of which gives Awkward Dad a half-off coupon. Guess adults can trick-or-treat too. The candy bucket is getting heavier and Super Toddler's please eventually morphs into a whisper-quiet, hesitant trick-or-treat; we're getting there.

We arrive at the courthouse. Awkward Dad refuses to go in, and I am a bit concerned that 7 years isn't long enough to know everything about somebody, when he confesses that he just doesn't want the hassle of getting the stroller and everything through the medal detector. He wants to sit on the bench outside, feed Super Baby, and watch the parade of Halloween chaos. I guess we all have our quirks, so I head in alone with Super Toddler. Awkward Dad need not have worried, the medal detector is beeping like crazy and they are just waving people through. I suppose it isn't particularly likely that Super Toddler, a rabbit, 2 sheep, and that contingent from Middle Earth are packing anything other than a few Mars bars, but still, it gives me pause. The security guards don't seem concerned in the slightest. In fact, they are lavishing praise on most costumes and appear rather giddy; ever seen giddy people with guns? A little odd and sorta refreshing.

We are pointed toward the left and follow the pumpkin signs down a cavernous hallway. We enter a file room to be faced with an enormous table full of candy, flanked by a heavily made-up scarecrow doll and a blow-up pumpkin. This table is like a cornucopia of candy; seriously, it is spilling over the edges. A gaggle of professionally dressed adults huddle in a corner, giggling with pleasure at the astounded faces of the children. Super Toddler goes up to the scarecrow and says "trick-or-treat." This produces wild laughter from the adults corner. Super Toddler looks confused, so I tell him to take a candy off the table. The peanut gallery behind me bellows for him to take a handful, as he is the most polite king they have ever seen. Super Toddler contents himself with a Baby Ruth and a bag of malt balls, and we make our way out of the file room. We are heading back up the hallway to the door, when the security guard stops me and says, "You aren't leaving, are you?" My heart stops for a full minute, but then he says, "There are 3 more floors. Kings need a lot of candy!" He points me to the right, laughs, and heads toward some bumblebees. Guess Awkward Dad is just gonna have to wait. It will give him time to ponder the wisdom behind his medal detector avoidance.

Three floors, 6 Snickers bars, 4 Reese's Cups, 2 suckers, a pumpkin sticker, and a box of Nerds later, we emerge from the courthouse to find Awkward Dad and Super Baby peacefully snoozing on a bench. Their powers of concentration will never fail to amaze me. We rouse them and proceed to cross the street. Now, here is when things get interesting. We are crossing a fairly busy street, and Awkward Dad and the stroller are way ahead of us. Guess that nap really perked them up. We are trying to keep up and make the light. Suddenly, Super Toddler trips on his cape, and I mean, full out trips; screams, falls, candy flying everywhere. It is like a pinata went off in the intersection. The light is changing, of course, and this is when I find out that I have super traffic control powers. Rather specific and not terribly versatile, but good to know. I am scooping up candy and yelling at drivers, while a crying and caped boy king clings to my chest. Ah, yes. Did I say that I love Halloween?

We make it to the curb and I busy myself adjusting Super Toddler's cape of death. Meanwhile, Awkward Dad spies a comic shop that is giving away candy. He insists we head over there right away. At least, he has his priorities in order. I try to inform him that this isn't trick-or-treat for thirysomething comic geeks and that it is doubtful that they are giving away the latest issue of Spiderman, but he and Super Baby are already inside. Super Toddler starts crying for Daddy, so I hurry inside as well.

Now, comic shops are decorated for Halloween pretty much all year, so, if they want to stand out, they really need to bring their A game. This place doesn't disappoint in the slightest. Ghost Rider greats us at the door, an intricate light/fan contraption providing a very passable flaming head. There are purple and green twinkle lights draped over a full-size cut-out of Darth Vader. He seems a wee bit bigger than the one we ran into earlier...but no matter. I steer Super Toddler away from the scarier of the displays, including a whole wall seemingly dedicated to serial killers and horror graphic novels. Awkward Dad does not seem to share my worries, as he has parked Super Baby's stroller right in front of said wall, where Super Baby has proceeded to fondle the severed arm within his reach. Super gross. I soon realize the reason for Awkward Dad's parking decision; the Spiderman comics are directly across from this hall of horrors. I am not going to bore all of you with this...we were in there for hours (about 15 minutes) and he spent thousands (about 5.99) and it was horrible (not that bad). Super Toddler got 6 pieces of candy because he knew that the proprietor was dressed up as the Hulk and I got some serious inner pangs about my parenting. Especially as we are leaving and Super Toddler gazes gleefully up at Ghost Rider's flaming skull, grins, and shouts Trick-or-Treat!

Now, I know that you were promised details about our lunch, an incredibly eventful experience at a decidedly not-child-friendly establishment, where we weathered the complete absence of highchairs, hipsters twentysomethings, and low-hanging light fixtures. I want to tell you all about it, but I have to break up a super fight going on over some toy cars. Perhaps, next week, but I have also had a vet visit since then where Super Toddler stole a giant inflatable flea. I will mull it over and get back to you in the next episode of the Adventures of Awkward Mom!

Awkward Mom vs. Halloween (part I)

The evil computer virus of doom (mostly) defeated, Awkward Mom can turn her attention to more important matters, like nurturing confident and emotionally balanced sons, locating the source of that weird smell, and telling you all about Halloween. Buckle up; this one has goblins, ghouls, and more than a couple gaffs.

Sometimes it feels like every day is Halloween in the land of Awkward. I mean, Super Toddler wears costumes pretty much all the time. The Halloween pumpkin bucket has taken up permanent residence in the boys’ room (Where else are they gonna store all their magic wands and toy cars?) The decor in here resembles Neo-Munsters, what with all the cobwebs and dust. And then there is the matter of the secret candy stash in the top shelf of the pantry. Yeah, that is there pretty much all year. You know how Popeye has his spinach and Superman has the rays of the sun? Well, Awkward Mom has to get her super patience and super endurance from somewhere. Chocolate seems a little more socially acceptable than tequila, but I digress.

Now, one aspect of Halloween that isn’t year round is the trick-or-treating, obviously. And this is also the one aspect of Halloween that Super Toddler has yet to experience. Halloween 2008, year 1 of Super Toddler’s eventful life, was spent sleeping in a stroller while Awkward Dad and I attended a Halloween party. Halloween 2009, or year 2, was spent in his Elmo costume, at least 10 minutes and 42 pictures of it was. The rest was spent in bed with a nasty cold. Therefore, Super Toddler has no idea what trick-or-treating is, and we have decided that we need to mark this massive moment in his childhood. Mark it is style, ceremony, and Snickers.

Luckily for us, our town has multiple trick-or-treating options, with emphasis on the treat. Today, the downtown stores are where to be; apparently it is like one big Halloween festival over there. We decide that this will be a great trick-or-treat introduction for Super Toddler and practice for the main event on October 31st; a trial run, as it were. Now, we just need to get there, and for some reason, this is proving to be a challenge. After spending all morning as a variety of fairy characters from the frog prince to a fairy godmother, Super Toddler has decided that all he needs to leave the house is his sweat-top and a Cubs hat. My entreaties to just put on a crown are met with an indulgently bemused look that I thought I wasn’t going to see until he was 13. Now, I can’t exactly blame Super Toddler for his confusion. Usually, when he wants to wear his dress-up clothes outside, we tend to discourage it. Subtlety, with an eye roll, if it is his cape, crowns, or any of the wands. Actively, if it is the sheer Princess dress with Mommy’s heels. Today, I am begging him to head out into the world decked from head to toe in sequins and fake-ermine. Being a mom means knowing which battles to pick, and I know that the day is young. Therefore, I pack his costume into a bag, pack Super Baby into a hooded pumpkin sleeper, and head out to get Awkward Dad.

Now, I am not entirely sure if taking Awkward Dad with us, after his 30 hour shift, is a wise idea, but when was Halloween ever a time for wisdom? We circle the hospital 5 times, and we wave at the robed gentleman smoking on the bench 4 times, before Awkward Dad emerges. He is none too pleased to find out that we are not going home for him to change. I tell him he can pretend that he dressed up as a doctor for Halloween, but he mumbles something about student loans and falls asleep.

The downtown is truly a festival for the ghoulish and the slightly garish; the stores are bedecked with orange and black balloons, set out to proclaim their participation in the dental decay of our youth. Little ghosts, giraffes, and the kids from Glee abound, dragging in their wake wild-eyed parents, clutching to-go coffee cups and an assortment of debris that have fallen off costumes. Super Toddler has a conniption when we drive past a horde of princesses and insists that I roll down the window so he can shout something about frogs at them. Some stores seem content with their sedate black and orange balloons, but for some this simply won't do. These over-achievers have fastened mini-mausoleums and carefully crafted crypts, overrun with skeletons (or pieces of them), friendly ghosts, and an arm or two. Most have some cast member from True Blood guarding their candy bowls and all are in high spirits (pun totally intended). Holiday excitement fills the air, as well as the melodious strains of The Monster Mash. The music seems to be actually emanating from the parking garage I am pulling into and it wakes Awkward Dad, saving me the pleasure of doing it myself. Thank you Monster Mash!

I throw Super Toddler's costume on him while restraining him from throwing his little body in the path of the Evel Knievel drivers that are whipping around the corner. His king costume consists entirely of dress up clothes that a talented friend of mine made for him. (Thank you, Krista!) Awkward Dad decides that he doesn't want to be mistaken for a fake doctor, so he leaves his lab coat in the car, covers his scrubs with a large sweat-top, and rapidly downs my Diet Pepsi (Awkward Mom's other special weapon in the war against exhaustion). Our pumpkin (AKA Super Baby) doesn't even wake as we transfer him from car seat to stroller; guess he is immune to the power of The Monster Mash. We head to the elevator and ride down with a robot, Hannah Montana, a fairy (who Super Toddler quickly chats up), and twin skunks. I love Halloween.

We interrupt this Awkward Mom broadcast for a test of the Super Baby emergency system. Back tomorrow with more Halloween high jinks from the Awkward family. We get candy from the courthouse, have cape malfunctions in a crosswalk, and dine without highchairs; stay tuned!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. Computer Virus

Awkward Mom may be facing her most villainous foe yet; her beloved laptop is waging war against a computer virus! Luckily, she was able to access Awkward Dad's electronic sanctum (i.e. computer) in order to send this missive to the outside world. She may use it to communicate further, but, as it is slow and the keyboard is shaped funny, no promises....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. the playgroup

Oh, dear readers. This one is ugly. Awkward Mom attempts the playgroup again this week, buoyed by her near success, 2 weeks ago. Seriously, if she can handle the Bounce House, she can certainly handle a nice, quiet playgroup at the indoor playground. However, Awkward Mom didn’t bank on the terrible trifecta of super villains that were waiting for her. You see, Perfect Mom (with about a dozen clones) decides to show up with her sidekicks, Jealousy and Insecurity. Oh yes, this one is real ugly.

So, it begins right in the parking lot. Super Toddler complained about being hungry on the ride over, so I gave him some goldfish crackers. No big deal, right? Except, for some reason, I gave him the entire bag, and then he decided that it would be more efficient to dump said entire bag onto his lap. And that was before he located the bag of M&Ms sitting next to the car seat (Thanks, Awkward Dad…). I arrive at the indoor playground in plenty of time, and I arrive at the backseat to find Super Toddler covered in orange fish heads, sporting a chocolate Clark Gable mustache. I rout around the backseat floor; finding 3 pencils, Awkward Dad’s id badge, a sock, 14 mummified fruit snacks, 6 Sesame Street stickers, a post-it with an affirmation on it, and the camera. I do NOT find the wipes I was looking for; those I finally locate in the glove box. I wipe Super Toddler’s face and gingerly lift him out of the car seat, trying not to dislodge his lap of fish into the aforementioned (disgusting) backseat floor. I am shaking his fish bounty onto the ground, assuring him that the birds love crackers, when Perfect Mom pulls up next to me. The sheer beauty of her brand-new, recently washed Mini-Van somehow causes my Baby on Board sign to fall off the rear window. I assume it will join the host of debris on the backseat floor, peek out of the window, and shudder in shame once it sees Perfect Mom’s M.O.M. (Master of Multitasking) bumper sticker.

She waves at me, so I wave Super Toddler back at her. She gives me that pitying look I know so well, as she herds her 3 children out of the back seat; all under 4 and all in matching outfits. The baby is already walking, imagine that. I finished shaking off Super Toddler and grab Super Baby out of the car. Then I slip on the goldfish crackers I have littered the ground with and nearly fall. Perfect Mom offers to carry the baby for me. I decline (nicely, I swear), and we sheepishly follow her into the indoor playground.

This place is a wonderland; flanked on all sides by numerous stations of child euphoria, and in the middle, an enclosed baby play mat, with every educational baby toy you can imagine. Super Toddler grabs a shopping cart and takes off for the play market, shouting something about tomatoes, so I place Super Baby in the baby enclosure, perch on the edge, and try to look really engrossed in his complete and utter inactivity. This does not work and Perfect Mom sits right next to me. She laughs indulgently and corrects her baby, who has just counted 5 before 4, while stacking meticulously perfect rows of blocks. I jokingly say, “I bet she will be juggling them next.” Perfect Mom tells me that it took Perfect Preschooler until 3 ½ to learn to juggle, but maybe Perfect Baby will be precocious. “She is in everything else, you know.” I sigh and look over at Super Baby, who is now showing signs of life; happily stealing from Perfect Baby’s neatly stacked blocks. He shoves a purple block in his mouth, only to have Perfect Mom pluck it out and place it in the dirty-toy bin. While she is busy rubbing hand sanitizer all over herself, I give Super Baby a plastic triangle to chew on. When she turns back, I assure her it is ours and mentally remind myself to stick it in the dirty-toy bin before we leave.

She moves on to something about her homeschooling curriculum, but I am not listening. I am mesmerized by her teeth. She has the whitest teeth I have ever seen. Like Hollywood white. Like toothpaste commercial white. Seriously, you could guide planes in with her teeth. This, of course, makes me carry on the rest of our conversation through barely opened lips, suddenly very aware of my less than movie-star-white teeth. I end up nodding a lot. Perfect Mom doesn’t seem to mind though.

Miraculously, one of Perfect Mom’s many clones arrives, and I am able to discreetly slip away to check on Super Toddler. I find him playing house with one of the Perfect Kids. Due to the fabulous design of this place, I can see Super Baby from any of the play areas, so I further avoid Perfect Mom by watching the toddlers for awhile. Their play is all-consuming and hilarious. Currently, they are baking brownies in the pretend oven, while they set the table with no less than 14 forks, a rubber duck, some Monopoly money, 2 cups, a baby bottle, some chalk, and a washcloth. I could watch this all day, but I see that Super Baby is upsetting Perfect Baby’s perfect tower of blocks, so I hightail it over to the baby area.

I crawl over the Super Moms, who are suddenly everywhere, and reclaim Perfect Baby’s blocks for her. Super Baby is indignant for a moment, but once he is given my bracelet to chew on, he is in seventh heaven. Never, ever let me say that this child isn’t easy to please. I sit down amid the enemy and try to stay calm. In the course of the next 14 minutes, I experience this: Lysol, I carry it everywhere. I can’t believe I gained 5 pounds with this pregnancy. Of course, I made her costume myself; you can’t be sure where those store bought ones come from. Yes, she is potty trained, and yes, she is one and a half. Oh no, sweetie, that is just not normal. Of course, she isn’t getting a cake for her birthday, all that sugar. Peter’s head is in the 95th percentile. I won’t even let that stuff in my kitchen. It was only my 4th marathon, but it went really well, I thought. What do you mean, he can’t read yet? You simply must try…

I gaze longingly at the children thundering past me. I am starting to feel like this baby enclosure is more like a Roman arena filled with my most villainous foes, and let me tell you, Jealousy and Insecurity are rapidly winning this tournament of torment. Just before I am ready to run screaming back to my car, a rather hassled looking mom with 2 little girls sits next to me. I glance at her stained shirt and she takes in the goldfish crumbs on my jeans. We then spend a blissful 4 minutes talking about hair, Mexican food, and Dancing with the Stars. I think she might be an angel.

I am brought back to reality by the scream that I know so well. I vault over the baby enclosure to find Super Toddler engaged in a serious tug-a-war over a train. I say something about sharing that I hope sounds mature to the other kid’s mom because Super Toddler is deep in his tantrum and way past listening to anyone. I pry the train out of his clenched fist and hand it over. I pull Super Toddler into a hug, which immediately alerts me to another emergency. I pick him up and head for the bathroom, grabbing the diaper bag on the way.

In the bathroom, Super Toddler calms down at an amazing rate; this startles me every time. Are toddlers just little teenagers? Whatever the reason, thankfully, it enables me to change him in record time and send him on his way. He doesn’t seem interested in vying for the train, so he heads toward the art area. I breathe a sigh of relief and hurry back to find Super Baby curled up in Perfect Mom’s lap. Should’ve waited for the sigh, I guess. I steel myself and climb over to her. “Oh, Erin, you are so brave. I would never have been able to leave my baby at this age.” I deflect her passive-aggressive laser deftly, as I thank her (sincerely) for watching Super Baby. I haul Super Baby into my lap and he immediately crawls back into hers. She giggles. I don’t.

I catch a glimpse of Super Toddler fighting with a little girl over a piece of chalk. I snatch an unsuspecting Super Baby out of his lap of lies and try not to let his crying break my heart. I wave off Perfect Mom’s offers to watch him, as I, once again, vault over the baby enclosure. According to a watching mom, Super Toddler was merely offering the little girl the chalk, but I decide that I better stick around, just in case. The little girl does take the chalk, and then she sticks it in her mouth quite contently. Watching Mom does not appear to be this little girl’s mom and, as no mom seems forthcoming, I ask the little girl to please spit out the chalk. She does so, right into my hand.

I am starting to think this couldn’t get much worse, which is, of course, exactly what it does. With absolutely no warning, Super Toddler just loses it, and I mean, nuclear annihilation loses it. He throws some chalk at the chalkboard, where it explodes, so much louder than chalk should explode. Heads start to turn. There doesn’t seem to be any cause for this meltdown, other than his toddlerhood and perhaps the need of a nap. I stash Super Baby near Watching Mom and try to get a hold of Super Toddler. But hugs and diaper changes aren’t gonna cut it this time. Sometimes a superhero mom just has to know when a retreat is in order. I quickly grab Super Toddler and run him over to the shoe cubbies. In the time it takes me to race to the art area and unstash Super Baby, Super Toddler has thrown himself on the floor, which he is beating with every appendage available to him. Perfect Mom is cooing at him and brushing his hair off his face. I am afraid I completely ignore her, as I shove shoes on every member of the Awkward family, while really hoping they are even our shoes. So many heads are turning now that it is like the Exorcist in here. I am faintly aware of Perfect Mom’s voice, but I have no idea what she is saying, as I fling jackets on my children. Super Baby decides that Super Toddler needs some support in the screaming department and we now have the entire, undivided attention of the playgroup. I somehow hoist both of them up and into my arms, and then, laden like a pack mule, I begrudgingly allow Perfect Mom to hold the door open for me. I might even thank her, not quite sure. But I am sure of one thing. After I stumble to the car and place my screaming kids inside. After I remember to run back inside to grab my diaper bag. After I put the bag in the car and promptly slip on the 167 crushed goldfish lying on the side of the car. After I fall. After that, while I am sitting there staring up at Perfect Mom’s M.O.M. bumper sticker. Yes, there. Right there is when I swear off playgroups forever. Well, that or feeding Super Toddler goldfish crackers in the car. It is kinda a tossup right now.

Fear not, my good readers! Awkward Mom, while bruised surely, is not broken. She will live to playgroup (and be incredibly awkward) again! Same awkward time, same awkward blog!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Awkward Mom vs. the Zoo - finale

Let us now return to the ridiculously riveting conclusion of Awkward Mom vs. the Zoo! (Actually, it is probably just ridiculous.)

The leaf battle rages forever…about 4 minutes. Spiderman and his doctor brother are called away by their mom. But Super Toddler is not about to let a real live superhero (and one his height, no less) out of his sights. So, we begin the long process of stalking this family through the rest of the zoo. And we are by no means slick about it either; no peeking behind trees for us, oh no. We are bold in our stalking. Everywhere this poor family goes, we go. Every animal they look at, we are looking too. We check out the tigers, lions, and bears (oh my) in the shadow of Spiderman, until I decide that Spiderman’s mom is 2 seconds away from calling security and we stop to sit on a bench. I also want a snack.

So, we are sitting by the zebras, eating some grapes, granola bars, and candy corn. Which is why my superhero name isn’t Healthy Mom, but anyway, I digress. A field trip decides to stop near us and look at the zebras too. This field trip seems to be made up entirely of clones of Dennis the Menace. They are throwing rocks. They are kicking each other. They are pretending to throw each other over the fence. They are falling, making faces, and stealing each other stuff. Maybe spurred on by this glut of burgeoning testosterone, the zebras start to chase each other around the enclosure. The Dennises are delighted. They line up along the fence, waving and cheering like they are at a bull fight. Super Toddler stands on the bench in order to join in the festivities. And then, what happens? Of course, the only thing that would make this moment more appealing to 9-year-old boys. Now, how to put this delicately? Let’s see…I think I shall consult my old friend, thesaurus. Thesaurus tells me that the zebras begin to: cohabit, copulate, couple, crossbreed, generate, join, land, match, merge, pair, procreate, serve, tie, tie the knot, wed, yoke. (Land? Really?) The Dennises are screaming with laughter at this point; the poor chaperones just shake their heads and tuck the zoo worksheets back into their bags. No one in this group is going to want to discuss the foraging habits of zebras now.

Super Toddler wants to see giraffes, so we leave the field trip to their hooting and hollering. There is a baby giraffe, so Super Toddler is in heaven. It seems all things baby are very special to him…that is, except for Super Baby. We watch the giraffes for quite awhile, long enough to become confused by their enclosure. It is designed to resemble Egypt, which I suppose isn’t too weird. It is the huge (and I mean bigger than the giraffes by a long shot huge) pharaoh statues flanking the gates that strike me as a little odd. Not to mention the giant mural of a chariot riding into the sun that is hovering over the aardvarks across the way. I am hoping that if we wait long enough Charlton Heston will show up and part something, but Super Toddler losses interest and we must move on.

We are leisurely strolling in the direction of the polar bears, which is to be the pinnacle of our zoo journey, when Awkward Dad declares a hankering for “zoo food.” Just a little back story here; Awkward Dad’s parents, like many sensible people, never had much desire to pay the extremely outrageous prices for food purchased at zoos. And for that matter: movie theaters, theme parks, ballgames, most restaurants, etc. Awkward Dad likes to tell of a road trip to the Rocky Mountains one summer where all they had to eat was a cooler full of cheese ends, Star Crunch, and RC cola, and all they had to listen to was 1 Huey Lewis tape. But that is another story. Anyway, because of this “deprivation” as a child, Awkward Dad has infused zoo food with a magical culinary greatness. A greatness that is somewhat exaggerated…ok….non-existent, but we rarely see Awkward Dad in the middle of the week, so what the hey! Let’s get some zoo food!

I will spare you the details of the zoo food….create something mediocre with your mind; that’s it. However, the company at the Arctic Food Court is first rate! We are joined by no less than 8 peacocks. These beauties parade about their personal runaway, the aisle between the picnic tables, and they are stunning. Each one seems to have a dozen sparrows fluttering around them like an entourage. All is good; my family is here and we are eating zoo food in the peaceful splendor of nature, or at least structures developed to strongly resemble nature. What peace. That is until a sound not unlike a tornado siren emerges from just beyond the picnic tables. This is no ordinary crowd chatter; there is trouble in the air. I am pretty sure the ground is shaking and a cold wind blows. There is a mass exodus of the peacocks and their minions, as well as every family that is within sight of whatever is coming around the corner. Could it be? Yes, it is; that formidable foe of all who venture out to the zoo or the museum or the heritage center. It is the field trip. And this one make the Dennises look like bridge club. Off to the polar bears! And off to Awkward Dad:

One of the most touted features at the Detroit Zoo is the Arctic Ring of Life. (No, not “The CIRCLE of LIFE!” but admit it, you thought it too.) It is basically a circular set of habitats, containing seals, arctic foxes and yes, Polar Bears! You wander in a circle until you get to the grand finale, the polar bears, in all their arctic king predator glory. The first leg is fun, but it is more “waiting in line at the bank snake around” shaped than circular. I guess they had to do this because, during Zoo Season, this must be second only to the penguins in popularity. Still, it is frustrating to see that the seal exhibit is about 5 snaking solid habitat-rock rows away. You think “SEALS!” then start snaking and winding and turning and then finally you arrive. You watch them for awhile, now instead thinking, “oh..seals.” Time to wind your way to the next habitat!

All of this winding serves the additional purpose of moving us further down the ramp to the highlight of the circle of…I mean ring of life, the underwater viewing tunnel! This is where you can see seals and polar bears flipping around while you walk down the see-through glass underwater tunnel. To me, these kinds of tunnels, or underwater viewing stations, allow me to pretend for a few minutes that I am living in the near-future Underwater Terrain Utopia, where humanity goes to perfect society after we have learned from our mistakes and have ruined the surface world – it’s that kind of vibe. Either that or Las Vegas – but either way it’s still future technology that seem out of place in 2010 until you remember – its 2010! Floating cars and teleportors (should) abound! Well, at least we get to watch polar bears and seals swim in separate sections – or today, a lone seal swimming in place right next to the glass. Oh well, at least Mr. Peanut procured the whole tunnel for us!

But now, the grand finale in the ring of Simba, it’s...POLAR BEARS! As you go dashing out of the other end of the tunnel, winding your way up hill, snaking around, you get there, amazingly still thinking POLAR BEARS! When you see – one polar bear, sleeping, laid out on a rock, oblivious to the world. He either got the memo from the show penguins to lay low for a paltry crowd, or he is busy digesting the only other visitor for the day, whose family still thinks he is snaking around Habitat Rock. Or he may be actually not among the living anymore. At least I wa
s able to get about 50 pictures of him in his napping glory for the family album & posterity!

Well, that’s that. The Awkward Family vs. the Zoo; also captured for posterity, in all its glorious awkwardness. I figured you have had enough and therefore did not expose you to the escapades of the gift shop…you’re welcome. Join us next week for another ordinary opus from Awkward Mom!