Posts Tagged ‘Humor’

A reformed playground drop-out

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
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Have you ever had a moment where you try something that used to be effortless, fail miserably, then realize you’re old and pathetically out of shape? I had that moment recently.

Let’s start at the beginning: All of this beautiful weather has created many opportunities for me and the boy to visit the wonderful parks and playgrounds we have in the area.

One perk of having a toddler is being able to use the playground during school hours, when there are fewer children around. On this day, I was thankful there were also fewer parents. Less witnesses.

If you haven’t been to a playground lately, you’re missing out on one of the greatest advancements ever in monkey bars — the obstacle course. Today’s advanced sets are veritable havens for the high-energy monkeys that we love. Gone are the days of bare metal horizontal ladders.

A formidable foe

A formidable foe

The sets now have pull up bars that connect to swinging bridges, which take you to a zipline and finish with a curvy swing across to a fireman’s pole. They’re impressive.

They also look a lot easier to complete than they actually are.

We had a rare afternoon of solitude at the park, where I was playing actively with my son… by watching him… from my sunning spot on the bench by the swings… where I was drinking my venti iced tea.

While on the bench, my eyes stopped on one section of the playground, about eight horizontal bars that landed on the swinging bridge. I felt the hair on the back of my neck raise and memories of third grade came flooding back.

I used to love the monkey bars, until the last week in third grade. One bloody accident, two chipped teeth and six years of braces later, I haven’t been on a set since.

So, I decide today is the day. I’m going to swing across those monkey bars just like I did back in 1993. Mistake #1.

I chugged down the rest of my tea (mistake #2), put my iPhone in my pocket (mistake #3) and prepared to climb the wooden steps to the eastern side of the monkey bars (mistake #4).

As I stepped across the railroad tie and sank into the tiny pebbles that would serve as my landing IF I fell, I looked down to see the beautiful blue polish chip from my toes. Oh, that did it. It’s on now, monkey bars.

I perched on the edge of the wooden platform, strong, ready to take back the playground. My son stood to the side and clapped excitedly, ready to see his graceful mother swing effortlessly across the bars and land like a butterfly on the other side.

As I stretched out to touch the first bar I thought it seemed a little far from the platform (WARNING SIGN #1), but tiptoed closer. Now, the moment… I grabbed the bar with my right hand, let my feet leave the platform (mistake #5) and willed my left hand up to the second bar.

Then, I couldn’t move. I was stuck, dangling over the abyss of juvenile memories. My palms suddenly started sweating and I decided it was time to let go of the bar, two bars in. A really far ten inches later, I landed on my feet, but I had a huge urge to run to the swings and wait for the bell signaling the ice cream break. But no, this is real life. There is no magic bell that calls you forth to white, styrofoam cups of strawberry ice cream, eaten with wooden spoons.

Embarrassed, I glanced back up at the monkey bars. How could I fail at this? Of all of the areas in life where I could fail, I was a playground drop-out. I had to make it right.

My heart started pumping harder, my vision got a little clearer and I once again ran up the steps to the wooden platform. This time, failure was not an option. My son was watching. The first round was for me, but this time, it’s for him. I grabbed the first bar, swung out big and managed to grab the third bar with my left hand. My momentum carried me forward and I grabbed the fifth bar, then the seventh and finally my feet landed on the far shore!

I had done it! Triumphantly, I raised my fists in the air and looked around. A octogenarian walking around the lake stopped out of shock and looked at me, then shook her head and walked on. I pulled my T-shirt back down over my muffin top and smiled from ear-to-ear as I slide down the pole. By then my son has lost interest, and was climbing his own ladder to the big slide. I rushed to be his spotter, my moment in glory gone.

I glanced down at my aching hands and saw nickle-size blisters start to rise. My thighs started to burn from sliding down the pole.

That’s it, this mom is sticking with the swings. Monkey bars are for the birds.

Finding Myself in Never Land

Monday, June 6, 2011
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She only looks innocent.

I’m writing this on the night before the last day of school, having packed Ava’s final lunch: One container of ham and cheese slices, crackers, a cup of pineapple, a grape Capri Sun, a spoon, and two napkins.  And one memory of what she used to do with food, before she got caught.

Kindergarten was a rough experience for Ava because she hadn’t attended preschool.  She was completely shell-shocked by the thunderous pounding of feet in the hallway going to classrooms and going to buses, and she sat in a stupor during lunchtime as kids laughed with each other, chewing and spewing food as they talked.

A few weeks into the semester, I noticed that nothing was coming back in Ava’s lunchbag — no evidence of what she did or didn’t eat.  I assumed she had found her appetite and was going through a growth spurt because she raided the pantry from 3:00-on.  But one afternoon, her teacher motioned for me to get out of the car so she could speak to me.

“For the past few weeks, our custodian has been finding a smashed peanut butter sandwich on the floor after the first lunch period,” she began. “We couldn’t figure out who it was, so we had someone walk around today to see who might be doing this over and over again.  It was your daughter.”

My eyes widened.  Not my child.  My child would never do that.

“We didn’t say anything to her because we knew you would.”

My eyes narrowed.  You can count on that.

“What in the world would make you throw food on the floor for weeks on end?” I demanded when we got home.

Tears welled in her eyes and her lip began to quiver.  No response.

“You left a mess for someone else to deal with.  Why would you do such a thing?” I continued.

Sniffling. Rubbing of eyes.

“Don’t you see how disrespectful this is?”

Sobbing. Head in her hands.

“We aren’t leaving this kitchen until I know what’s wrong.”

She looked up with a tear-stained, swollen face.


Aha. Of course.  So it’s my fault.

After 15 minutes of interrogation (minus waterboarding – we weren’t there yet), she confessed that she hated sandwiches because they were mushy, but she didn’t want to waste food.  She also didn’t want to bring home a full lunch bag because I would have been mad that she didn’t eat.   Still. My. Fault.

However, my little schemer figured that if something happened to her lunch, she wouldn’t have to eat it.  So, she’d open her baggie, nibble on the ends, place it in her lap, nudge it onto the floor, and then step on it as she got up to leave the table.  Whoops! I dropped my sandwich and it’s ruined.  I can’t eat it now.

I was upset that she felt she had to hide her food and her feelings.  I was concerned that she was afraid of teachers and staff…but even worse…her own mother.  Was I that mean? That harsh? That scary?

Even though I felt terrible, I still had to punish her for causing such a production at school. I grabbed the bread and the container of Peter Pan, slathering it between the layers.  Then, I dropped it to the floor and stepped on it.  “Now clean it up,” I said calmly.

Inside, my heart broke.  I was the reason we were in this situation to begin with.  I felt awful – and completely regretful because peanut butter had filled the grooves of our hardwood floor.

She hopped off the stool and peeled the sandwich back, leaving a stamped print of dough and crunchy paste.  She ripped off a paper towel and scooped away the mess, tossing the wad in the trash.  The thought of someone on their hands and knees cleaning up my child’s deliberate mess – whatever her reason – bothered me.  But I think she got the point. The next day, she apologized to the custodian for her behavior and he lovingly patted her blonde head. ­­

That night, I scraped peanut butter out of the floor with toothpicks; my own hard labor for giving my child the impression she couldn’t come to me with her problems – for fear she might hurt my feelings.

In retrospect, we both learned an important lesson from Peter Pan on that day. We won’t find out what’s really good for us until we’ve gone a little nuts.

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s SuperMommy

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
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In honor of the Daily Mail’s Nerd Living blog, I’ve been thinking about some nerd aspects of my own life.

“But Cara, you’re so hip and fly, certainly you don’t have any nerdy tendencies.”

Uh, yeah, in my head “hip and fly” aren’t nerdy, therefore I must be one, right? Trust me, I have my nerd secrets. Ask me anything about “M*A*S*H” (book, TV series or movie); I watch Jeopardy every night; and I have a favorite Pantone color. NERD ALERT.

OK, so I’m not a McElhinny or a Maddy (they’re in a very loveable nerd class all on their own), but I can hold my own when it comes to some comic book characters. I’m a Batman girl, he is the best superhero of all. However, I’ve been thinking about what superhero we really need: A super mommy!

SuperMommy to the rescue!

First, I must say that all mothers are heroes. Every father is also a hero. Anyone that can give up their lives and nurture every need of a child is indeed a hero. But I’m talking cape-wearing, super power, fights-the-bad-guys hero.

The following is my own vision of SuperMommy. Feel free to add your own features. Perhaps we’ll create a new DC character. (DC > Marvel)

To be a superhero, you must have one eye-catching costume. In my mind, the SuperMommy costume would be low rise jeans or khakis. Leave the mom jeans at home, SuperMommy is super fashionable. The material would be resistant to any pudding fingers or juice box spills that happen over the day.

The top of the costume would be a simple tank/cardigan set, making it easy to change in a phone booth. Cardigan = regular mom. Tank = super mom (or Karan. She definitely has the best arms of the mommy bloggers). No spandex in this costume, only Spanx.

A cape is another must-have. This superhero’s cape just happens to be minky on one side with a soft satin on the other, to cuddle chilly babes and comfort those that are sleepy or hurt. Oh, and it would be shiny in flight.

Yes, in flight. SuperMommy can fly faster than a speeding bullet. How else would she get from work, to the store, to T-ball games in time? Or how could she leave five minutes before the first bell of a school that is 15 minutes away and still get the kids there in time?

The signature piece of the costume would be a bold necklace that would bounce mean looks back at bullies, leaving innocent little ones unscathed. It could also function as a nightlight in dark bedrooms.

SuperMommy’s utility belt would contain Band-Aids, suckers, string cheese, extra undies, a flask (for teething babies, of course), safety pins and a Sharpie.

Her hands could switch from epidermis to microfiber at the first sight of a mess. One spin around a room keeps it more spotless than a Mr. Clean commercial. Pet hair vaporizes under her steely glare.

Her eyes would have X-ray vision, to find out if her mancub really did spit out every penny he put in his mouth.

The SuperMommy-mobile would be a fuel-efficient, sexy yet practical crossover. Black, of course, with a built-in DVD player that plays only the most educational videos.

She could create gourmet meals for less than $10 and she’d be able to get everyone in her house to eat veggies.

I’m sure there are many mothers out there who do these things and more every day. I don’t come anywhere close to being a super mom, and sincerely admire those that do.

Now, get in on the fun! What feature would your SuperMommy have?

It’s a Kid

Monday, April 25, 2011
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Children's Book Week: May 2-8, 2011

Last week, Maryn got her head stuck in a Queen Anne chair.

She and her sister were playing in the dining room, goofing off on opposite sides of a chair.  Ava’s head would swing to the left, and Maryn would mirror her movement.  Then to the right.  Again to the left.  Finally, Maryn became bored with the game and decided to shove her head through the middle. Then she got stuck.

I was in the kitchen making dinner, announcing every few minutes they were going to tip the chair over and get hurt.  I figured Maryn would bounce off and get a rug burn. Then, I imagined both girls cracking heads if their “copy me” game got out of sync.  But I never thought my five-year-old could get her head lodged between the wavy cut-out of a formal dining room chair.

“MAMA!” Ava screamed. “Maryn’s head is stuck!”

The seven-year-old began to cry. Maryn began to whine.  I began to panic.  I remembered stories about children getting their heads stuck in-between the spindles of cribs and handrails.  Stories of crushed windpipes.  Suffocation.  Hanging.  Broken necks.

Obviously, Maryn could breathe because she had progressed to screaming and crying.  However, I didn’t know how we were going to free her, or how I was supposed to leave both of them to get a saw…and yes, I was prepared to saw the chair enough to break the wood with the adrenaline that raced through my veins.

When Maryn heard me say that I had to call their dad for help (or should I call 911?), she grimaced and yanked her head through the chair, scraping the sides of her temples and cheeks, and leaving a blue bruise on her forehead.   She cried for a few more minutes and curled up on the couch, where she eventually fell asleep.

One of these days I may laugh, but for now, I’m still thinking about it too hard.  The books, Not a Box and Not a Stick by Antionette Portis mean a little more to me, as they share the story of a pig and rabbit warned not to play with things that could harm them.

Watch where you point that stick! This is not a stick.  (It’s a paintbrush.)  Don’t trip on that stick! I’m telling you, it’s not a stick! (It’s a horse.)

Why are you sitting in that box? It’s not a box. (It’s a race car.)  What are you doing on top of that box? It’s not a box.  (It’s a mountaintop.)

Maryn is the more active child with a vivid imagination.  She is surrounded by toys and animals and games and art supplies, yet she prefers everyday things to occupy her mischievous self.  Laundry baskets become cages for wildcats.  Brooms become a witch’s transportation.  Staircases become escalators.  She enjoys herself in the simplest of ways, yet I’m always hovering to spoil the fun.

You could get hurt!  You’re going to fall!  You’ll shoot your eye out!

What happens to a child’s imagination when parents get inside their heads?  What do we do to the natural wiring of their creative ways when we tell them about the potentially dangerous consequences of play?  When does the backyard become an open space where accidents wait to happen?

If we are chosen to become parents, our occupation changes from whatever it was to that of security guard.  Our primary responsibility in life is to keep our children safe.  Yet we sometimes take these measures to the extreme, clipping their wings just before we nudge them out of the nest.

Children are encouraged to be kids, but within reason.  Draw something creative, but color inside the lines.  Imagine how confusing this must be for a child!  We tend to correct self-expression to make it safe; to make it acceptable for everyone else — but mainly ourselves.

I doubt my Maryn will attempt a stunt like that again.  If anything, she’ll move on to something else that makes the last trick seem relatively harmless.  After all, she’s the determined one.  She just uses her head.

And the Oscar Goes to… Mom

Monday, March 7, 2011
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Steel Magnolias sharing Terms of Endearment: Shirley MacLaine and Sally Field

Last weekend, I watched the Academy Awards from the family room couch, swaddled in a Snuggie. I spent the evening criticizing beautiful, talented women in toddler-size dresses, but I never anticipated that Anne Hathaway’s awkward “Hi, Mom!” moment would help to create this blog.

There are only two categories specifically earmarked to honor women – Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. While women may write, produce and/or direct, they aren’t heralded for their female contributions to the entire film in any other way.  Therefore, I will do so by honoring the Best Mothers in the Movies:

10. Barbara Hershey – Beaches

“I don’t want Victoria to see me here.”

I hate to begin a top ten list with a hospital deathbed scene, but a mother’s greatest responsibility is to protect her child. Of course, it helps to have Bette Midler as the wind beneath your wings.

9. Diane Keaton – Father of the Bride

 “Will you stop acting like a lunatic father and go out and talk to her before she runs out that door, marries this kid and we never see her again?”

What’s more complicated that a mother-daughter relationship? Being daddy’s little girl. Thankfully, Nina Banks comes to her daughter’s rescue as she attempts to wiggle loose of her father’s overprotective grip.

8. Olympia Dukakis – Moonstruck

“When you love them, they drive you crazy because they know they can.”

Nothing compares to the wisdom of an old-world mother who dishes out a healthy portion of tough love with a side of manicotti.  Rose Castorini always knows when her daughter’s life is “going down the toilet.” And she tells her so.


7. Diane Keaton – Baby Boom

“And your sister’s name in Wiesbaden – in case of an emergency – and her prison record if any…”

Corporate workaholic J.C. Wiatt has no trouble hiring new graduates to work on entry-level marketing accounts, but she doesn’t possess the same confidence when searching for a nanny to care for 18-month-old Elizabeth.

6. Katharine Hepburn – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

“When she fights you, I’m going to be on her side.”

In parenting, it helps if mothers and fathers are on the same page when it comes to handing down an important decision.  Yet Christina Drayton is willing to sacrifice her own marital bliss to make sure her daughter lives happily ever after.

5. Katharine Hepburn – On Golden Pond

“Don’t you think that everyone looks back on their childhood with a certain amount of bitterness and regret?”

Once again, leave it to Katharine Hepburn to be the voice of reason. Fed up with her adult daughter’s sulking, she insists that Jane Fonda’s character get on with life before it passes her by (in a motorboat).

4. Sally Field – Forrest Gump

“Remember what I told you, Forrest. You’re no different than anybody else.”

Mama always had a way of explaining things so Forrest could understand them, and she sure did care about his education! Always reassuring, Mrs. Gump challenged everyone to define “normalcy” in his or her own unique way.


3. Sally Field – Steel Magnolias

“I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life.”

No child has been blessed with a better mother. Devoted to Shelby’s special needs, M’Lynn Eatenton would have jogged all the way to Texas and back for her daughter. Luckily, she had the support of my next honoree to provide laughter through tears.

2. Shirley MacLaine – Terms of Endearment


If Ouiser Boudreaux doesn’t scare the daylights out of you, then Aurora Greenway will.  MacLaine proves that even the coldest mothers have the warmest souls and the loudest voices, particularly when their child is in pain.

1. Robin Williams – Mrs. Doubtfire

“I do have one rule: they’ll only eat good, nutritious food with me. And if there’s any dispute, it’s either good, wholesome food or empty tummies.”

Yes, a cross-dressing housekeeper wins the top prize for being the most outstanding parent. Bound (literally speaking) and determined to spend time with his children after a bitter divorce, Euphegenia Doubtfire kept the home fires burning.

The ‘please wrap up your blog’ music is playing, so I will conclude my tribute by saying, “Thanks, Mom. We owe it all to you.”