The UnGlam Fam

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How You Change when Your Kids Start School.

The first day V went to school was such a roller coaster of mixed emotions for me that I still remember it too clearly almost 5 years later. It was only preschool but he suddenly looked so much older than his 3 years.. He cried and cried and so did I. I took him back home with me in an hour. I reckon it did get better over the years for both of us because now there are no tears when saying good bye. A sigh of relief from both ends, yeah that’s more like it. He and his brother love school and I love my few hours of coherent thinking before falling into an everyday abyss of insanity that starts at pick up.

Sometimes when I think back to that time of having young babies/kids at home, the isolation of new motherhood in a new city (we moved both times the kids were within weeks of being born), the incessant pace of daily life without a break for food, shower, pee, all I remember is that then my kids defined me and I, them.

It’s a whole different set of rules that I have to learn now, and more keep getting added every day. You know your kid is in school when:

  • You jerk awake at 5am wondering if he finished his homework last night. Sometimes, you have the irrevocable urge to tiptoe downstairs to check his folder to confirm. If he has done it, you go back to bed relieved but can’t sleep. If he hasn’t you lie awake in bed waiting for a reasonable time to wake HIM up so he can finish it.
  • Your general knowledge diversifies without particular focus. So, for example, you now know that Coelophysis was the smallest dinosaur that ever lived, that a boy could become a page in the royal service at age 7 in the middle ages, that there is a bat so giant that its wingspan reaches 60 feet (ick!). If nothing else, you can assuredly hold your own at the next geek convention in your city.
  • You feel compelled to explain to random people that you did NOT teach him that word, and that you’re as appalled as they seem to be that it even exists in his vocabulary. I have had this experience personally with a certain 4-lettered and another 6-lettered word that may or may not have sexual and racist connotations. Well, not connotations so much as direct meaning. Anyhow. Even though these strangers have zero interest in your situation and do not have to have any awkward conversations with said kid, you still worry about what they think.
  • You become a certified sadist without reaping any of the supposed benefits of a BDSM lifestyle. You break your back finishing up their term projects due tomorrow long after they’ve passed out on the couch; you lose your eyesight researching the perfect backpack with enough pockets that’s not too bulky, cute but not cutesy, whose colors will complement your kid’s personality, only to have it kicked around caked in mud 2 weeks into the school year; you contract carpal tunnel from decorating a hundred cookies for their bake sale. And then you do it all again the next year.
  • You pay 50 dollars for a class picture in which your kid is pulling at his crotch. (Tip: You can see a live stream of this at home any time you wish. For free.)
  • You no longer have to mommy-date. No matter how shy you are, you will end up making friends with other women who’re like you.
  • You finally understand the psyche of those women you met pre school who used to gripe about the approaching summer holidays. You understand that they don’t like their kids any less, they’ve only gotten used to breathing uninterrupted. And I don’t judge them any more.

Heck, I don’t judge anyone anymore. I’m a mom of a school-age kid. I renounced my right to righteousness a few years ago.


On an unrelated note…

When things are slow, the baking’s in the oven, and there’s nothing much else to do, this is what little people get up to…

What weird thing can I do today?

And please don’t ask me these questions, because I truly, honestly, sane-mindedly don’t know the answers.

  1. Why the fridge?
  2. Where’s his shirt in this freezing cold?
  3. What happened to the exuberance exhibited just seconds ago while scaling the obstacle with no obvious heed paid to safety?
  4. Why am I taking a picture of my parental failure to keep my kid out of trouble?
  5. Is my house always this cluttered? (This one, I can answer in a word: Yes.)


Chocolate Overdose.

Is there such a thing as that? Chocolate overdose? Many may not agree, but I happen to think there is. I’m not one of those people who salivate at the thought of diving face first into a bar of Ghirardelli. But I do fancy myself a triple layered chocolate cake frosted with a nut flavor, say hazelnut, once in a while. Personally, most treats look much more appetizing to me when I taste them with my eyes rather than my palate. And if they’re not so rich as to clog your very taste buds, that’s a bonus. My occasional sweet tooth has been craving a decadent chocolate treat after supper for a week but, until today, had to make do with a Werther boiled candy, as that is all I had in the house in the way of sugary anything.

Today dawned dark and ominous with a snow warning in effect and schools being let out early. So, after picking up the kids sooner than usual, there was nothing to while the afternoon with than some baking! My neighbor, E, had sent me a recipe for homemade chocolate syrup that is a staple in her house. Blogger Rachel Meeks’ recipe uses nothing but what you would find your pantry usually (cocoa, water, sugar), and since I’m not a fan of having to buy multiple ingredients for a recipe before first trial, this sauce was a perfect resolution for my chocolate fix. Thanks, E! Now I have a beautiful jar of homemade chocolate syrup ready to go that will surely see many, many uses besides being consumed right out of the jar!

I also had a hankering for brownies. I have a foolproof recipe that I use every time I make brownies, but today I had some bananas languishing in the freezer. A quick search brought me to this recipe. It’s a Minnesota state fair award-winning one, so I thought how bad could it be? Gave it a try, and although mine didn’t turn out as fudgy, tall and shiny as the author’s (she is the award winner, after all), they still taste wonderful. Maybe my halving the recipe had something to do with it? The banana gives these brownies a nice little flavor twist that’s quite a pleasant surprise.

Now why am I telling you all this?

THIS is why. Any questions? 🙂


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What He Said.

I just thought I’d write about what my husband means when he says something, and how it’s completely different to what I mean when I say the exact same thing. I’m not saying he’s wrong or anything, just noting the reality objectively.

He Said:

“I’m going to take a nap”: 5 minutes later, zzzz. He’s not picky about his area of slumber, he’s not fussy about the current noise level in the house. He lays underneath a blanket, covers his head, and is fast asleep within minutes, no matter that the kids are holding a loud jousting tournament 5 feet from him, heedless of a very real threat of being poked accidentally by their swords or being crushed under the weight of a slain knight.

She Said:

“I’m taking a nap”: I start to walk upstairs to the solitude of my room, stopping at every step to pick up sundry items such as dirty socks, lonely stuffies, miscellaneous bottles of chest rubbing ointment, cough medicine etc. On the landing I notice that the laundry is waiting to be transferred into the dryer. Upon opening the dryer for said transfer it is apparent that it will first have to be emptied to accommodate new items. Lug dry, wrinkly clothes to the spare room catching sight of the upturned bed in the kids’ room. Think I’ll get to that later all the while knowing I can’t sleep with that tornado image in my mind. Spend 5 minutes completing laundry and bed-making chores. Finally get to my room switching off the bathroom light on the way (why is it on in broad daylight?!). Barely snuggle in, before “mamaaaaa!”

He Said:

“All ready to go?”: The kids are ready. We are ready. Time to head out. Pick up keys, head to the car, back it out the garage.

She Said:

“All ready?”: Everyone is ready, so get to the car. Oh, forgot to pack snack. Run back inside and pick up a few ready-to-go items. Run back to car. “Mama, we forgot water!” Run back again, fill up a couple water bottles, run out. Ooh, it’s a bit chilly, I’ll pick up our jackets in a sec. 10 minutes later, finally back out of the garage, with the kids’ seat belts undone again because it took so long.

He said:

“I’ll get the kids ready for bed”: Come on, boys, time for a shower. 5 minutes of incessant prodding later, “baby, can you make them come upstairs?” Done. After, I ask, “did you brush their teeth?” “They did it themselves.” “Did you put lotion?” “Who needs lotion?!” “Did they use the bathroom?” ‘They said they didn’t have to go.” Oh Kay.

She Said: Self explanatory. It takes me twice as long to get them into bed. I wonder why.

He Said:

“I’ll make dinner today”: (Mostly) delicious dinner made and served. Counter top left cluttered and dirty (to be fair, he only offered to make dinner). Sink piled to bursting (again, I have dishwasher duties because of my own OCD).

She Said:

I never actually say those words since he only says them occasionally. When I cook, though, I cook, I put away and clean the counter, I run the dishwasher, I usually sweep the kitchen floor, I change the dish towels, lower the heat for the night (our thermostat is located in the kitchen), and then I’m done with the dinner.

He Said:

“I’m sick”: He’s not the moaner-, groaner-when-sick type of person, but if the husband is sick he takes a pill and goes to bed for the day. He rests it out, in the actual manner of the phrase, which is a good thing because then he can get better sooner.

She Said:

“I’m sick”: The connotations of this depend on the day of the week. If it’s on the weekend, I do get to actually rest without much disturbance, the few interruptions are expected and not wholly unwelcome. Unfortunately, on a weekday, it is a mostly foolish utterance that makes the kids extra clingy and needy, and only serves to create a despondent atmosphere in the house which, in turn, fosters more than usual whining, bickering and ASB (attention seeking behavior). Thus, I’ve learnt it is better to fall sick on a weekend even though it means suffering for two days before being able to seek medical attention.

There are more He/She Said scenarios, obviously. I’m definite it goes both ways, as well. He plans all vacations top-down. He performs 100% of the financial duties of the household. He remembers things that we need from the store other than what’s on the grocery list. But all that is hard to think about amidst the snores emanating from the couch in the middle of the day.

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A disquieting morning.

I will not be listening to the morning news while driving the kids to school for the next few years. I learned this today the hard way. The 24-hour news channel is my default radio station in the car as driving anywhere is the only time I can catch up on what’s happening around me. The mornings are particularly well suited for this — the news is fresh, my mind hasn’t melted into a jumble of mommy-brained, chore-listing thoughts yet and I can hold a conversation should someone ask, “did you hear…?”.

Not anymore.

We had managed to shield our kids from the Newtown tragedy a few weeks ago feeling that they were still too young to associate school with death. We did not want the joyful exuberance they connect with going to school to foster any kind of fear at the beginning of a lengthy and hopefully happy school life.

Today wasn’t so lucky. Usually the kids are so engrossed in chatting with each other in the backseat that I, let alone they, can hardly hear the radio. They were a bit sluggish this morning and were both quiet on the ride to school. This should’ve been my cue to either chatter with them myself or atleast turn the radio off. I did neither. Instead we all listened to the reporter mention the re-opening of the Colorado theater where so many people were shot and killed by a maniac a couple months ago. Sadly, he also mentioned a 27-year-old who treated his friends to a movie on his birthday and received death as a favor. 😦 Hard as that is to fathom, my heart broke when my 6yo said, “mama, that guy was really unlucky, no? He got killed on his birthday! I hope I don’t die on the most special day of my life. But, you know, at least he was 27, I’m only 6.”

How do you handle that? Do the parenting books give you tips on how to convince your young child that his birthday will likely not be his last? How do you still your heart that suddenly beats violently at the very thought that it is indeed possible? How do you rail against a world that harbors so much evil beyond your control? How do you live knowing that in a world where kids die every day for no reason at all, your own are never truly safe and you can do zilch about it?

My spirit is dark and my heart is heavy this day.


When good intentions go awry.

You know how in the post-Christmas clearance frenzy everything that’s marked down 50 percent or more looks so enticing? When, confronted with shelves of leftover holiday merchandise, you (OK, I) try to stretch your logic to fit the limits of your sane-decisions-making mind in order to convince yourself that you really need something when you actually don’t? Like, “maybe I should get that Elmo set of poorly crafted, totally obnoxious tree lights, even though my kids are teenagers and were never really into the muppets anyway, because I may want to buy a tiny tree for my non-existent pet next year and I wouldn’t want to spend cash on a nice set of lights” logic?

Yeah, that.

That insanity made me buy a make-at-home Rice Krispie kit which, in the moment, struck me as a cool thing for the kids to do on a rainy day. The box even said it would be a “fun family activity” so obviously I believed it. One of the few packaged treats that my kids eat are Rice Krispies, and I was in a benevolent mood (likely because the wackos weren’t actually there with me), so why not? Right? Right?

So. Wrong.

Last week being miserable, the chance for some creative intervention came up soon enough. The excitement in the air was palpable when I sold them on the idea of creating! and decorating! their very own rice krispies. The first sign of trouble arose when V, who doesn’t care for roasted marshmallows or general squishy things, queried, “why does this have marshmallows?” Me: “Because we’re going to melt them! And mix them in with the rice cereal! That’s how Krispies are made, silly!” As I started to melt the mini marshmallows though, my confidence waned. They immediately stuck together into a highly unappetizing, glutinous ball of something that would never, ever hold anything else together. But I persevered. Maybe a few drops of water will work? It kind of did, in that the ball unraveled to become liquid enough to pour into the cereal. But the quantity of the cereal was entirely too much! V, again, “but this is TOO crunchy. The store one isn’t so crunchy.” I could’ve punched his scrunched-up nose! Here I was trying to get the mutinous marshmallows to be friends with the army of cereal; here was my plan for a fun afternoon scattering in front of my very eyes; here my impatient kids would up and run leaving me to work or clean up the mess any minute! I couldn’t afford to be distracted! “It’ll come together, buddy,” I muttered.

It did. A little bit, anyway. Enough to press it into the train mold that came with the kit. This part I had banked upon, apart from the decorating, to provide some enjoyment to the kids. After all, they like squishing play dough into the stapler. No go. Apparently the sensation of cereal sticking to their fingers is abhorrent to kids. I don’t blame them…it was kind of icky. So I ended up doing that part as well.

Decorating did end up distracting them for a few minutes. But even after it looked fairly pretty no one wanted to eat more than one bite of it. The Rice Krispie train sat there ignored for a couple of hours before I chucked it into the trash. If a bonafide, begged-for treat isn’t maniacally consumed immediately, you can rest assured it ain’t gonna be. Its fate was sealed before even getting pressed into shape. And so was the fate of my fun, clearance-inspired afternoon.

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A Bookish Week.

It has been so incredibly foggy and miserable this past few days that all I’ve wanted to do was not get out of bed and read, read, read. If only someone would replenish the coffee, parent the kids, stretch my limbs from time to time and do the laundry! Even with this last wish being inexplicably not granted I’ve managed to read my library loans at the pace I’d wanted to. I picked up R.L. Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, along with Molly Ringwald’s When It Happens To You, at the last libe trip. Although neither of them met any of my reading challenges criteria, I’m glad I chanced upon them, especially the latter.

Dr. Jekyll is a classic that’s been on my classics list for a while, and I grabbed this novelette when I got the chance. It’s a tiny, short novel, and my copy, petite by all standards, nevertheless filled more than half its pages with introductions, prologues, epilogues and various other discussions, that I didn’t actually read. Also, since the story itself isn’t anything new, the shock value of the book is lost on modern readers (even though I hadn’t known that the characters really were two separate people rather than a personality split scenario, as I’d always thought). Since I’m obviously born in this century, the beauty of the writing for me lay in the wordplay, characterization, setting and ethos of the novel. The evil exuding from Mr. Hyde that Stevenson had in mind to portray had to be gotten across through mere words in an era when the luxury of actual visual imagery was absent. Therein lies the brilliance of the writer. I found, however, that the extent of cruelty exhibited by My. Hyde that makes him so repulsive to an upstanding Victorian person (the crux of the story), is so pedestrian in today’s world that he really didn’t appear all that evil to me. So, yeah, an interesting read overall.

When It Happens To You, on the other hand, is an impressive debut from Molly Ringwald. A veteran of the film industry, apparently, Ringwald’s “novel in stories” hit many right spots with me. Pacing, superb. Characters, varied but interesting. Theme, mundane elevated excellence. The novel is written as a series of short stories with an overlapping cast of characters who duck in and out of each other’s narratives. It was kind of fun to try to guess who was who depending on the story and the person narrating it, and to figure out their relationship to each other. The characters are as dysfunctional as their families, and Ringwald manages to bring real life to life. The writing did strike me as a bit amateurish in places (a writer’s basic “show, don’t tell” rule was pretty loosely followed), but the premise of the stories carried me through to the end. I’d give it a 7 on a recommendation scale of 1 to 10, so if you happen upon it at the libe, read it.