Thursday, May 30, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. the Rainforest Cafe

This is what Awkward Mom got for Mother's Day...

For the record, I would be perfectly happy with IHOP, but Awkward Dad gets it into his head that he wants an Adventure. Yes, Adventure with a capital A. We are visiting Chicago and Awkward Dad's Mom (henceforth referred to as Babcia) for Mother's Day. It is about 10:30 in the morning. So, naturally, instead of heading to IHOP like I suggested over 25 minutes ago, we are driving around the northwest suburbs of Chicago, looking for somewhere "unique" to eat breakfast.

Something you should all know up front; Awkward Dad doesn't like breakfast. I know. It hurt a little to type that; it seems almost unAmerican or something, but there it is. The man doesn't like eggs. Doesn't like them in any of their forms, or even in magical things like pancakes and waffles. Oh, he'll nibble at some sausage or bacon, but woe to the waitress (or wife) who tries to put that breakfast meat on the same plate (i.e. tainting it beyond repair) with eggs. Heaven forbid eggs touch his lips or anything that might eventually touch his lips. Even my lips; kissing is a total no-go after egg consumption. And the thing is, I have known this the whole time. He hasn't altered his stance on eggs in our nearly 10 year marriage.

That is why it is so embarrassing that it takes me until 10:40 to realize that he is just driving around to kill time until 11am and the opening of most lunch places. I should have figured that one out way before we pull into Woodfield Mall. At first, he spies the Cheesecake factory, which I nix right away. If the Golden Girls wanted me to join them for a snack, I would be all about it, but I am not going in there with 3 kids. Then, he points out this frog peeking over a sign and before I have time to react to that, Super Preschooler catches sight of it and all is lost.

Super Preschooler: Look at that frog! I want to eat there!

Super Toddler: Me too; let's eat frogs!

Me: Ummmm....wait! What's going on?

Babcia: Oh sweetie, we don't eat frogs; we are polish, not french.

Super Baby: Frog!!

Awkward Dad: I bet it will be fun, let's go there!

Me: Wait! Where? What frog? What's going on?!

Babcia: Over there. There's a frog restaurant. I hope it isn't french. Much too rich.

Awkward Dad: It's something called the Rainforest Cafe. Looking intriguing.

Me: And by intriguing, you mean, not breakfasty, don't you?

Awkward Dad: Same thing really. When were eggs ever intriguing?

Me: Isn't Rainforest Cafe that kitschy restaurant from the 90s where it rains inside?

Awkward Dad, Super Preschooler, and Super Toddler: IT RAINS INSIDE?!?!

Awkward Dad: OK, we're going there for sure. Let me park.

We park fairly far away and dawdle on the way in, but we are still about 15 minutes early and therefore have tons of time to "enjoy" the gift shop. By the time I join the line with the rest of the northwest suburbs, I have said no 17 times to 4 different keychains, 6 stuffed animals, a shot-glass with a crocodile on it, a talking tree, 3 types of candy, an extra large tie-dyed t-shirt, and a safari hat. And yes, there is a line at 11 in the morning. And yes, you had best believe that Babcia and Awkward Dad have us squarely in the front of it. The line is in-between and under connected fish tanks and the Supers amuse themselves by finding Nemo, while I peruse the menu (and more importantly, the prices) taped to the right. I must blanch an especially deathly shade of pale because Babcia grabs me like I am about to faint and whispers, "Don't worry, it's on me." I don't really feel comfortable with her taking out a second mortgage but it's her money, who am I to tell her what to do with it?

I have no idea how to describe this place. It is like Chuck-E-Cheese and a fancy steak house had a baby and decorated the nursery in leopard-print. Here; this is best I can do:

If you click on the picture and squint sideways, you can make out the "rain."

We are not seated near the rain, but rather by a family of tigers that roar every 6 minutes or so. Another fish tank is behind us, and a leopard perches above us, waving his tail periodically; he doesn't complain when Super Baby pulls it so he makes a fairly benign lunch companion. Flora and fauna are everywhere and over the tiger-roars we can just make out the babbles and splashes of the "dolphin show." No one knows where to look first, it is overwhelming in the extreme.

The waiter takes one look at our faces and encourages us to take our time and feel free to wander around. However, since this is breakfast and lunch (and probably dinner) to everyone at our table, we only take him up on that after ordering things like "Planet Earth Pasta" and "Rumble in the Jungle Turkey Wrap." That business tended to, we start wandering around. We are heading for the dolphin show when the lights go out and a huge clap of thunder sends Super Preschooler barreling under a passing table. Turns out that there is a simulated thunderstorm once a half-hour. It takes some coaxing (and the return of the lights) for Super Preschooler to abandon his hideaway and let these nice people resume their meal.

We tail a tour group lead by Ranger Roy (i.e. a birthday party) and learn the ins and outs of the Rainforest Cafe and a smattering of ecology, biology, and numerous ways to save the planet, most of which seem to involve buying eco-friendly items in the gift shop. We throw coins at a crocodile:

Or is it an alligator? I might not have been listening too closely to Ranger Roy...

By the time we return to the table, our food (along with the next thunderstorm) arrive. We fall on it like a pack of wild animals. In fact, Super Baby has lost her shoes somewhere by the monkeys and appears to be going "back to nature" in her own way, growling every time the tigers do so. Sated though we are, Awkward Dad announces his desire for something "special." Because I am guessing that eating a meal that amounts to our weekly food budget inside of a jungle is just "ordinary." He declares that we will have dessert! We never have dessert when we are out. Probably because we overorder things like Chimi-Cha-Cha. But today, we will have dessert! And he announces it loudly and proudly, just like you would expect. He asks the waiter for something called the "Volcano."

Oh Readers. My first clue that this thing is going to be outrageous is when it is heralded by shouts of "Volcano!" from the kitchen. It enters the dining area, held aloft on the waiter's tray; 3 brownies stacked against each other and about a pound of ice cream, with lava of chocolate sauce and clouds of whipped cream, topped with a flaming sparkler. All the other waiters start chanting "volcano! volcano!" and I start to worry that this is perhaps the prelude to a Joe-versus kinda thing. But no worries, it arrives safely to be placed in the middle of the table. The table may be bending a bit under the weight but that could just be a trick of the indoor rain; this place is starting to do things to me. I would like to say that it stays safe but I would be lying. There is also no picture of it, as everyone was too full and sticky to do much picture-taking at that point.

But after we clean up and roll ourselves back to the gift shop, well, that is a different story. There are about 75 pictures of that. Here is just a sample:
I never said they were good pictures, I just said that there were a lot of them....

Wanna know the absolute beauty of writing the family blog?
Picking only the nice photos of oneself to put in it.....

Maybe, next year, Awkward Mom will actually get to go to IHOP for Mother's Day. Until then, she can only dream of breakfast-out as she makes eggs in the kitchen and listens to Awkward Dad's over-exaggerated gagging sounds while she drinks tea out of her Rainforest Cafe mug. There's always next year!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Souvenirs

We have been having a ton of adventures over this way, but I can't tell you about them today. Today, Awkward Dad needs the computer for some work. Therefore, I am reduced to merely showing you a hint of the awkwardness to come:

Wanna make a souvenir postcard that isn't awkward?
Make sure that your 5-year-old hasn't already pushed the button while you are posing everyone.
Just some friendly advice from the Awkward clan!
Back soon with some truly terrific tales of toddler terror!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Expectations

The Ghosts of Thronton Hall have been vanquished! (Super Preschooler is showing early gamer prowess and insisted that we gather all the easter eggs and win all the mini-games on the first pass.) Awkward Mom's personal writing-block ghosts are a little harder to defeat, but she has made slight progress. Rome wasn't built in a day, you know. 

Lovely children of ours-

Let's talk about expectations. You know that your father and I have numerous expectations for you that you are more or less successful at meeting. Fingers out of noses needs a little work, but we will get there. You guys have some expectations of us; food, shelter, access to Netflix. For the sake of being complete, here is a list of house expectations. Some are for you. Some are for us. But they are all here; now you can't say we never told you. Forewarned is forearmed, you know.

1. Santa brings each of you 3 Christmas gifts a year; if it was good enough for baby Jesus, it is good enough for you. (because your father is a giant softie, anything he can stuff in your stocking doesn't count toward the 3 limit)

2. Speaking of gift giving holidays, ours are Christmas and your birthday. I don't know who started this rumor that gifts were to be given on Easter, Halloween, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or what have you, but that person doesn't live in this house. Of course, seasonal treats will be present on all the aforementioned holidays (and many others), but as to honest to goodness gifts, expect them twice a year.

3. Regarding items 1 and 2, your grandparents will totally disregard these rules, and your father and I will not interfere in that, unless the gift given is dangerous or we want it for ourselves.

4. You will not be getting a car on your 16th birthday or upon your graduation from anything. You will have access to an automobile once you are able to drive, don't worry. And as a bonus, this access comes with an on-board driving instructor/moderator. Aren't you lucky?

5. You will be getting assistance with college tuition. Just keep reminding me to set up those college accounts because I keep forgetting. Thanks!

6. We don't lie in this family. Lying about something makes it about 20 times worse. However horrible it is, we will figure it out.

7. You will be the children who write thank you notes to anyone who gives them anything. (Colds and dirty looks excepted) And yes, they will be old fashioned ones that go through the mail with an actual stamp. If you can't write yet, draw a nice picture and tell me what you want written next to it. That counts.

8. You will also be the dorky children who know the following things:
a.) who Agatha Christie is
b.) what the Ring cycle is
c.) how that is different from the Fellowship of the Ring
d.) basic cords on a guitar
e.) how to spell Sauron, Lando Calrissian, Genosha, and radioactive spider
f.) the difference between their, there, and they're
g.) the proper way to bag and board a comic book
h.) how to read a real paper map
i.) how to sew on a button, hem pants, and patch your jeans (unless you like them with holes, we aren't gonna squelch your sartorial freedom)
j.) that sentinals are to be avoided, along with anyone who urges you to embrace the dark side of the force
k.) that Star Wars, and the host of amazing sci-fi that it inspired, owes a debt to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, as well as the serials of the 30s and 40s
l.) most of the Greek myths, a good handful of saints, and every fairy tale the Grimm brothers wrote
m.) A million other nerdtastic and fascinating knowledge nuggets gathered by parents who really think the world, and all its subgroups, are super cool. What you do with this knowledge is totally up to you. You probably won't appreciate your odd bank of factoids until later, but believe me, they will totally come in handy if you get invited to a LARP or fall for someone slightly geeky or major in English.

9. We will fall in love with you completely the day you are born and somehow fall more in love with you every single day you exist. And forever after that.

10. You will never be expected to eat liver or lima beans. If you want them, that's cool, and I won't even make you share them with me. Your Dad might want a taste though.

11. We have no expectations about your future boyfriends/girlfriends. We don't care who you love and marry; gender, race, political affiliation, employment, whatever. (We also don't care if you chose not to marry anyone.) We will accept whoever you love and love them like another child of ours. Unless they treat you bad. If he/she treats you bad, expect the wrath of the furies to descend on his/her head. Then we will expect something. We will expect them to leave. Immediately.

12. We also have no expectations regarding your future employment. We would like it if you had employment or were actively trying to gain employment, but the field of this employment is completely up to you.

13. We expect each of you to be a good person. Not a perfect person, but a good person. You are not the center of the universe. You are one of 7 billion people on this planet, so make sure to share, show a little interest in others, and don't litter.

14. We will try to be good people as well. Not perfect people, but good people. You are not clones of us, you are your own independent people, with interests and skills that your father and I might not understand or fully appreciate. We don't always remember this because we aren't perfect. But we are trying to be good; be patient, we'll get there.

15. There are no girl-games and boy-games in this house. No baby games and big-kid games. Inclusion is the only name of the game around here. Within that, you do whatever floats your boat. Your father and I will not control your play, except to point out that you look freaking adorable and we need about 26 more pictures of you wearing that feather.

Hope this list clears some stuff up. The really important one is number 9. The rest we will try out and see how it flies in real time. Just remember that we love you!

Awkward Dad and Awkward Mom

Speaking of expectations, ours are running high this weekend because Awkward Grandma is heading into town! Back with tales a' plenty; same awkward time, same awkward channel. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Ghosts

In the spring, a young mom's fancy (and one particularly precocious 5-year-old's fancy) turns to thoughts of solving mysteries....

It is that time again, Readers! The new Her Interactive Nancy Drew game is out, and Super Preschooler and I are all set to solve the mystery of the Ghost of Thornton Hall. Nothing like the 80 degree weather we are sporting here to put us in the mood for a Southern Gothic ghost story. Long-time Readers know of my affinity for (and not-so-secret desire to be) Nancy Drew, with her plucky amazonian amazingness. Nothing awkward about her, that is for sure. Maybe for any villain that underestimates her, but not for her. No way.

The timing couldn't be better, as I am currently battling a full frontal assault from villains, Self-Doubt, Debilitating Writer's Block, and Why-Bother-No-One-Reads-What-You-Write-and-No-One-Will-Ever-Like-You-Anyway. I usually have a monthly battle with these guys, but this month seems far worse and I am not entirely sure why that is. Wish Nancy would pop over here and figure it out for me. But I think she has her hands full, so I will just let it be and help her instead.

It might be just what I need. A little bonding time with my attention-craving oldest child and a chance to feel successful at something. Even if it is a game aimed at 10-year-olds. It will still take me all week and I will have to rely on Super Preschooler for the harder puzzles, but I expect great things! Not amazonian amazingness, but perhaps some less awkward adequacy. I would take that.

Awkward Mom is taking the week off to find the Ghost of Thornton Hall and maybe purge a couple of lingering personal ghosts of her own. Check back here next week for some less ghoulish thoughts. We hope.......(insert creepy music here)

Someone's ready!
When queried about the scariness of this one, Super Preschooler replied,
"Oh, it's OK. She's a pretty ghost."
Little Goth in the making over here.....

Friday, May 17, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Timelessness

My Dearest Super Toddler-

Never change.

Seriously, that is the sum total of my mom wisdom for you. Keep on being the you that popped into this world a full 2 weeks early, ready to party, during an ice storm. Of course, you might wanna potty train at some point (no pressure!) and get a driver's license, but other than that, I would say that you are pretty much ready to take on the world.

You are timeless, my angel. The definition of a little boy. We could transplant you into any era and you would be just fine. I can see you playing knights in the middle ages. I can picture your mischievous grin staring back from some Renaissance painting, just itching to tear off your frilly collar and go hunting. You would rock that pushing a hoop with a stick game that 1890s children seemed to favor. That you would have been in Our Gang in the 30s is a foregone conclusion. I would love to see you in some 50s diner, doing your best Elvis. We know you have the hip moves down. And do we even need to talk about how well you would have fit into the 1970s?

No, we don't. It is pretty obvious.

You fit in everywhere. You make friends without doing anything. You are buoyed through life on an effortless pillow of your own charm. You have something special that people just want to be around. I don't know what it is, but this about covers it:

Yep. There it is.

I know that you don't need me to tell you how to be amazing. If you wanted to know how to be awkward, well, I would be all over that. But amazing? No, that is your department. Don't ever let it go. Don't let the world try to tame you too much; they need a few rule breakers just to keep things interesting. You probably don't need it, but here are a few pointers on continuing to being awesomely you, just in case you are ever tempted to conform.

You are what you eat, so enjoy some variety in your diet. A little protein.

Lots of fruits and veggies.

Make sure to save room for dessert though.
Get lots of sleep, whenever and wherever you can. It's good for your brain.

Dress for success.

Whether that's a hat that makes you look like a tiny drunk Brewer...

Or a sparkly headdress.

Whatever you wear will be totally you, because you are rexcellent.
Have a few role models that you look up to.

Surround yourself with good friends.

Don't let anyone steal your focus.
Be bold.

Stay curious.

Always enjoy a good balloon.

Remain fearless.

You are such an amazing person, Super Toddler. I am not so sure that they broke the mould when they made you, I think you broke it yourself with the sheer force of your personality. You are going places and you are gonna do things and it doesn't really matter what they end up being; you will make it all a fabulous, wild, and entertaining journey. You are timeless, yet completely original. Never change.

I love you,
Awkward Mom

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Shortcuts

Sometimes people say to me, "Awkward Mom, you are a stay-at-home mom to 3 children under the age of 5, and they all appear to be making it to the end of the day. How do you do it?" And I answer, "well, awkwardly, clearly. But I do have help from a few shortcuts."

Let me share these with you and you too can keep the children alive until the saner parent arrives.

1. Sometimes shoes are optional. Get a little mom cred and tell the crunchy moms that you are doing it to connect your child to the earth or encourage natural arch support or some such thing. Don't tell them that you actually don't know where your child's shoes are.

2. Automatic car doors.

3. If you just went somewhere amazing, like the museum or the zoo, and everyone fell asleep in the car ride home, park in the driveway, go inside, get a book, and come back and read it in the front seat. If it is a nice day, leave the windows open and read on the lawn. Tell curious neighbors that the children are getting something from the back yard. You deserve it, you just took your kids somewhere amazing!

4. Speaking of driving, want a little brain space and a reprieve from the endless backseat questions? Just blast the Beatles, or something equally kid-friendly-but-not-kid-music, and call it "homeschool music appreciation."

5. You know that playdates are really dates for you, right? You can't put a price on middle-of-the-day conversation with another adult, so don't waste it by helicoptering your child around the park. Remember that 2 sets of eyes are now watching the children, so relax and enjoy the gossip.

6. Hats; warm in the winter, shady in the summer. Everyone will think you are fashion-forward and put-together, and you don't have to ever do your hair again. It's a classier solution than the stay-at-home-mom ponytail. Perfect!

7. Wanna go to the bathroom alone? Hide a piece of candy or a small toy somewhere in the living room and tell the children to "go on a treasure hunt." Make sure it is easily openable so this plan will backfire spectacularly.

8. Always have snacks. I don't care if they are from McDonald's or Whole Foods, but have something. You don't want to have to leave the playdate, and thus miss the end of the Perfect-Mom-and-her-secret-Plastic-Surgery story, just because you forgot to feed the hordes.

9. Speaking of food, there is a huge range of shortcuts between Happy Meals and growing your own organic peas. Please feel free to take them. Baby food pouches, already cut-up fruit, pre-packaged granola; don't be afraid to embrace convenience once in awhile. And don't judge anyone else's food shortcuts, that is just tacky.

10. Netflix.

11. Toy Bins. Label them if you wanna feel fancy. Playdate over? Scoop, dump, close. Done.

12. Wanna write a blog post but totally over-committed for the day? Start the water for the mac and cheese. Start a My Little Pony to serve as a timer. Start the post. Become alerted to the boiling water by a rattling lid and a toddler convinced the stove has a ghost in it. Stir in the macaroni. Resume blog post. Zone out a little around number 3, that sounds really nice. Shake yourself out of it. Go stir the macaroni. Pause in the living room and remark that Pinkie Pie is really odd. Be shooed away by the oldest. Resume blog post. Have number 7 remind you that you have to pee. Resume blog post. Suddenly remember the macaroni. Go rescue it and hope that the children want it well cooked. Proof-read blog post. Marvel that you spelled macaroni 3 different ways, all of them wrong. Hope that your readers are feeling tolerant and understanding in this lovely summer-like weather. Press publish.

Coats? Who has time for that? Just keep a blanket in the car at all times.
Preferably one with a dragon on it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Boy Photo Shoots

Happy Mother's Day to my fellow moms, awkward or not. As predicted, we spent the weekend taking a variety of awkward pictures. We were semi-successful in this one:

Thar she is: Four Generations of Awkward Women.
And a pretty decent photo to boot.
(I don't wanna hear from the bottles-should-be-gone-by-age-12-months-people.
I'm working on it, so just enjoy the moment, please.)
Buoyed by our success with the female members of the family, we attempted a male-only photo shoot. The results are below....

Well, they are awkward, which is accurate, so I guess they are acceptable.

Tune in soon for tell of our trip to the Rainforest Cafe. 
I don't need to tell you that it was wild, do I?
It was wild.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Baby Holding

We are on the move! Heading back to Illinois for a Mother's Day celebration and the time-honored tradition of taking pictures of Awkward women holding future Awkward women.



See those first and last ones? 35 years in between those and Awkward Great-Grandma looks exactly the same! That is all the proof I need to go poking around her attic for suspicious portraits....

Have a wonderful Mother's Day, Readers! See ya on the flip side!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Adorableness

We know. We know. You wanna know how the Vader head pinata went down. (In a blaze of glory and toddlers waving light sabers, if you must know) And we owe you a post about our awkward antics at the Cincinnati Zoo. And we are heading to Chicago this weekend for more adventures. So much to tell, but not today. Not now. Not this post. Why? Because this is going on:

My Beautiful Daughter-

It is early May in 2013, and you are turning 18 months in a week or so. Spring has finally arrived and we are in a daze of daffodils and dandelions. We are barely home; rushing here and there and tumbling headlong into summer. When we are home, everything is slamming screen doors and frantic hunts for hats. Everything is busy and no one sits still, least of all you, but today I forced you to sit on the train table for a total of 2 and a half minutes while I took these pictures.

You. Are. Gorgeous. (You are smart, hilarious, creative, kind, and bombastic as well, but you know that.) If you are anything like your mother, or the legions of awkward women that have gone before you, you are well acquainted with your inner beauty and a little leery of your outer beauty. Well, girl, I am here to tell you that it is ample. I sometimes can't even get stuff done because you come in the room and it blinds me. Like today.

Today, I have wonderful intentions of cleaning and packing for our upcoming trip, but you wander in the living room in your hand-me-down striped onesie and your too long shorts, looking like something off a Kennedy private beach. Your wispy curls are catching the late afternoon sun and, your race around the house, looking for Mr. Potato Head's other arm, has rendered your cheeks as red as the curtains billowing behind you. You are shoeless. You are always shoeless, my hippie child. Your skin is shiny and bright, despite the layer of caked-on kid-mess; flower petals, grass, glitter, cat hair, and dirt cling to you like the day's history in tattoo. Your feet are filthy and I still want to kiss each adorable toe.

Have I mentioned your eyes? There never were such eyes. That a perfect combination of sass and sincerity can exist in 1 pair of eyes is a miracle unparalleled. They are luminous and rival the moon in loveliness. Right now, they vacillate between annoyance at being forced to sit still and boundless joy to be the center of Mommy's attention. Your whole soul pours out those eyes; you see, it is a fearless and blissful soul that can not be contain by your little body.

You are gonna grow and you are gonna change. Your arms will lose those baby folds, and your feet will lengthen. Your walk will sophisticate it's way right out of it's current John-Wayne wobbled gait. Someday you will be taller, stronger, bigger. Your hair will be tamed into ponytails and bobs. Your cheeks will flush for different reasons. You will morph from cute to gangly to elegant, and I will barely have time to blink. I will look up one day and you will be a young woman; roses where there were dandelions. But I won't cry and I won't miss you as you are today. Because I will look in your eyes and see that enormous soul that was always too big for baby-you to house anyway. That isn't gonna change, my beautiful angel, because it has no need to. It is the perfect size already.

I love you,
Awkward Mom

That's nice and all, Mommy. But I gots to go.