Monday, August 23, 2010

Mom's wallet is closed for the season

For the love of all things holy, WHY oh WHY does summer need to be 86 days long?  By that I don't mean I need less of the sun and warmth, but 86 days straight with my 3 frat boys to be. I love them dearly, really I do.  But at this rate, I'm going to end up in the loony bin before I'm 40.  That's right... EIGHTY SIX glorious days to spend with Captain Competitive, Good Time Charlie, and SirWhineAlot (try listening to whining for 86 days and you will want some Prozac).  Captain Competitive is driving me CRAZY, he is bouncing off the walls like a crazed lunatic, while Good Time Charlie is pulling his pants down in public and I'm pretty sure will be arrested if he doesn't start preschool TOMORROW.  A family unknown to me apparently complained at the pool last night that he was yelling "chocolate penis" too loudly in the food cabana.......  honestly.... again, like his beer sale, NOT in the parenting manual!

In May, for some reason that I can't remember, I looked forward to this summer............ kids playing in the sprinklers, on the backyard play set, licking popsicles and drinking lemonade.  I envisioned it very Norman Rockwellish.  This lasted for about the first 6 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes, and 42 seconds until "MMMMMMOOOOOOMMMMMM.... I'M BORED"  kicked in.  I loved summer when my kids were very little,  especially because they all used to nap, giving me 2-3 glorious hours to myself to recharge my patience and my mental stability (who doesn't need that?).  I could give them a bucket of water and a few cups and they'd be busy for hours.  Now, they are no longer happy to play in the backyard for 3 months, or the free local playground, or the outdoor library story time.  They have moved on to bigger and more expensive places...the waterparks, themeparks, bowling alley's, arcades, funways, just about anything that costs money,  they have either found or heard of (If you are a Cartoon Network or PBS Kids marketing executive, please stop advertising these places on Chicago TV. Thank you very much. Sincerely, a very exhausted, broke mother). 

So I have decided to call this my million dollar summer.  It's so much cheaper to have my kids in school.......... no one is insisting they need 18 snacks a day, or just one more juice box, or another pack of silly bands (don't you wish you were the guy who invented those???), or a 4$ popsicle at the local pool, or a pack of gum at 7 Eleven (where my twins have been nicknamed by the owners "the tornados"), or just one more junky souvenir at the gift shop, or one more happy meal at the golden arches.

Captain Competitive came home the last day of school with a FREE ticket to Six Flags that he earned for reading 300 minutes in 6 weeks or something like that.  He kept telling me we just HAD to go, after all, it was free. This a great marketing gimmick by Six Flags I must admit.  Have you ever been to Six Flags?  It's a concrete jungle off a Chicago expressway, and this particular day happened to feel like a thousand degrees.  I will preface my complaints by admitting that I'm spoiled. I grew up at Disney World, where all your dreams come true and the customer is always right.  So I pull into Six Flags and they want 20$ to park. Yes, 20$ to park my car in a lot big enough for the entire city.  And the parking attendant is NOT smiling.  I knew right away that this was no Magic Kingdom. Then I pay my own 35$ fare, 3$ for a bottle of cold water, 3$ for a sprite for Captain Competitive, 10$ for a kids meal, 11$ for my own lunch,  17$ for a locker (yes, you read that right.. SEVENTEEN dollars), and 6$ for a souvenir on the way out.  And no one smiled at me. 105$ dollars later, Captain Competitive says to me, "Mom, isn't this such a great day?  And Mom, it's free!"  Oh yes I think to myself, it's just exactly how I wanted to spend this ninety degree day, I'm so glad we are here. 

I of course did not take the dynamic duo with us, because after all, you have to be six to go to Six Flags, that's why it's named that.  And since I am a professional at parenting through falsehood, they believed me.  But they have their own ways of sucking my wallet dry this summer.  Sir WhineAlot has learned this summer that at certain places we belong to, he can "charge" snacks simply by giving the waitresses his cute smile and his last name. He too thinks that charging with your name means everything is free, like the secret credit card I had in college that I hoped would magically pay itself off one day.  One particular day this summer we were at a 4th of July function with my family.  The kids were off at the moon jumps enjoying themselves when we discovered Luke was missing.  My dad and I start frantically looking around all the food booths and moon jumps.  It didn't take long to discover him at the Snow Cone machine, happily licking a red snow cone.  The snow cone lady quickly pointed out on her tab sheet that he had already charged six snow cones on my account.  Thanks snow cone lady.  Three weeks later, his 18$ worth of snow cones arrived on my bill in the mail.  Cha Ching.

Last week, we made our last pilgrimage to the city, it was our last big outing of the summer before mom's wallet is closed for the season.  After a morning at the Shedd Aquarium, I decided to take the kids to Navy Pier.  I told them we could do everything we could find on Navy Pier that was free.  I was thinking what a great trip this was going to be.... we were going to be creative, inventive, make our own fun........  it was going to be wonderful.   It was nothing short of a disaster.... there is only one thing to do on Navy Pier that is free, and that is WALK.  And walking around with 3 tired, crabby, kids who are dying to go on the 10$ fun maze and buy a a 5$ frozen lemonade is NOT enjoyable, even with a cold beer in my hand.  So after much complaining and cajoling, we left for the day, back to the suburbs to play in the sprinkler and drink the lemonade they had left in the fridge from their beer sale.  

My wallet is closed now and tomorrow morning, the glorious sound of the school bell will ring at 9:00am, transporting me and all the other mothers back into the world of sanity.  Next summer, they are all going to boot camp, and hopefully it's free.  I know for me, it will be priceless!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Almighty Dollar

I think it's only appropriate to name the boys for my blog.  There are 3 of them, one 7 year old, and two almost 5 year olds.  My 7 year old, Captain Competitive,  is a spitting image of his father... feisty, self motivated, a rule follower except when it comes to winning. He'll do anything to win.  Twin A, aka Good Time Charlie,  is destined to be president of a frat house one day . He is very concerned about how far he can spit and pee, but not very concerned about following the household rules.  He's all about the moment and not so much about the future.  And then there's Sir WhineALot.  He came out whining and has never stopped. I keep thinking he'll outgrow it, but so far no luck. 

Sometimes, ok most of the time, I feel like I'm living in a frat house.  My home sometimes looks like the frat houses I remember at FSU.... messy, disorganized, but thankfully not smelly.  If you walk in my house, you will find nerf bullets stuck to the second floor cathedral windows (we don't own a 20 ft. ladder, so I decided they make great boy mom decor), a small stuffed dolphin stuck on the 2nd floor family room fan (also which I can not reach), superheros in my kitchen drawers, legos in the toilet,  an old blanket thrown across the entry way chandelier, lovely crayon wall drawings they think I haven't seen.... you get the picture, right?  Lodging things across the house and decorating the walls seem to be favorites over here at Alpha Gamma McVey.

A few Sundays ago, Good Time Charlie and Sir WhineALot took Alpha Gamma McVey to a whole new level.  It started as just another day in paradise.  I was doing what felt like the 50th load of laundry for the weekend while the boys played on the driveway.  Here in the Midwest, we all have refrigerators in the garage to store the usual items... bottles of water, juice boxes, lemonade, beer, wine, etc.  Driveway sitting is one of my favorite past times, so the fridge is usually stocked.  On this particular day, I walked out to check on the boys to find Good Time Charlie neatly arranging glass beer bottles on the edge of the driveway.  Sir WhineALot was the supplier and distributor from the fridge, Good Time Charlie the organizer. I admit they make a great team.  By the time I had gotten there, they had took 7-8 beer bottles out of the fridge and had them neatly aligned near the street.  Without losing my cool, I asked, "Whatcha doing boys?"  They looked at me like I was an idiot, the look that says "what does it look like we are doing mom?"  Sir WhineAlot says with absolute certainty, "We sellin' beers for dollars".  I am now quite horrified that they have skipped over the juice boxes and lemonade and water in the fridge, and gone straight for the beer.  Good Time Charlie must have noticed the look of shock on my face, so he says in a very annoyed voice, "We not DRINKIN' it mom, we just SELLIN' it, you know, for dollars."

At this moment, all my parenting abilities seemed to come to a halt. There is nothing in the manual that says how to handle your 4 year olds beer stand, or how to explain that "just sellin' it, not drinkin' it" is just wrong in so many ways.  I could have gone into a long discussion about how lemonade would have been a better option, but honestly,  I was secretly pleased that they had figured out that beer sells for DOLLARS, not CENTS like lemonade. They were putting their future economical skills to good use.   So I just put the beer back in the fridge, tried not to let them see me laughing,  and thought that this memory will stay with me forever.  Even when they are  DRINKIN'  the beer, hopefully far in my future, I will look at them and remember their 4 year old little voices telling me they "just SELLIN' " it. 

Cold beer anyone? Cute twins to go with.  See you in the driveway!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Parenting through Falsehood

I admit, I lie to my kids, ALL the time.  I prefer to call it parenting through falsehood.  It sounds more psychologically pleasing that way.  My neighbor with a PHD in philosophy made up that fancy term.

 You see, I have 3 boys.  Boy BoysDirty, mischievous, rambunctious boys.  They play dodge ball in the house, lick the dirty puddles they play in, and make a mess of just about everything.  They are hilarious (if you don't have to live with them), adorable, and did I mention naughty???  I swore I was going to have at least one girl........... I just knew that one of the twins was going to be a girl.  She was going to be quiet and sweet, have brown curly hair, and her name was going to be Cecelia.  That is until the ultrasound tech pointed out that my last hope was another BOY.  Five years later, I'm a great boy mom.  I don't freak out when they are 10 feet up in a tree, or bleeding down their foreheads, or riding their bikes with no helmets or shoes.  But I do spend alot of time lying................ 

It started a few years ago.  When my eldest was 3 and the twins were 1, I'd make my morning trek to McDonalds for a regular coke, extra ice.  What mom of 3 boys under 3 doesn't need a little caffeine and a shot of sugar to start her day?  But one day my 3 year old started realizing he wasn't getting anything at the golden arches this early in the morning.  So I hear his little voice from the backseat, "Mommy, can I get juice box?"  Now a good mommy would just answer "no, you just had juice for breakfast, you can not have a juice box right now", and would then listen to the tantrum ensue in the backseat, along with the screeching of 1 year old twins.  But not I friends.  I simply answered, "today is Tuesday, and they don't sell juice boxes on Tuesday".  I waited for the tantrum with bated breath, but it never came............. I waited and waited, and then I heard, "ok mommy".  And voila, parenting through falsehood was born!  From then on, I find myself lying all the time to get through my day with the fewest amount of tantrums possible.  Ofcourse this all works perfectly until your oldest child learns how to read (which is why I decided he didn't need to learn early, after all, that's what tax dollars are for when they enter kindergarten).   

My friends think I'm crazy, but did you know that Chuckie Cheese is only open in the winter???  This is a horrible lie I know, but who wants to spend a beautiful summer day there?    In my house, it's closed until the first snowfall.  And since we don't pass it on the way to anything, they still believe me 3 years later.  (Thankfully, we have never been invited for a birthday party there on a hot summer day). 

The grocery store with any child is a bear, but take my three and it's a recipe for disaster.  They are constantly whining for the latest sugar and dye filled snack they saw on Cartoon Network, and reminding me that the commercial said it has "real fruit" in it.  Yeah right.  No problem when you parent through falsehood.  See, when they can't read the sign, I just tell them, "that isn't for sale, it's just on display today".  And guess what?? No tantrum, no more whining.  Lots of confused, perplexed faces, but thankfully no poor behavior to show off to all our fellow shoppers.

In my house, things are only for sale on certain days, open during certain seasons, and available during certain months or periods of time. There are rules I make up that are flat out lies, but these little secrets keep me sane.  And with insanity knocking at my door each day, that's all I can ask for.