Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mamma Gone Wild

If separated for any length of time, a mother should miss her children, worry about them relentlessly, and pine for the moment they’re all reunited. I’m sure that’s what reputable parenting magazines say, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, and my old neighbor Mommy Smarty Pants (we all know one, right?). So when I began feeling guilty and sad about leaving my children for the weekend, I knew I was a good mother.

Before we left, my youngest, Zack, had stood at the door with his lower lip quivering and his eyes moist. “Please don’t go, Mama,” he said. “Don’t go.” Kinda tears you up inside, doesn’t it? At that moment I didn’t think I’d last a day, let alone a weekend, away from my kids. But my husband had business in Boise and my mother-in-law had offered to baby-sit while we were away. A free hotel and childcare--how can any sane parent pass that up? As we pulled from the driveway I dotted the corners of my eyes with a tissue and took note of this noble mother moment.

It didn’t take long for me to perk up. In addition to having alone time with my husband, I had also orchestrated a scrapbooking marathon with my mom and sister. Having just moved to Boise, my sister had this cute little apartment perfect for, well, scrapbooking, what else? My mom had taken two days off to join us. By Mountain Home I was already imagining the wild days ahead: drinking caffeinated soda, singing out loud to 80’s music, and piecing together unexpected and crazy paper combinations. Partey!

When we got to Boise my husband asked, “Do you want to call and check on the kids?”

“The who?” I asked.

“The kids,” he said. “You know, our kids. Your kids. The offspring you carried in your womb for nearly two and a half years total?”

“Ooooh,” I said. “The kids. I’m sure they’re fine.”

For 67 hours it was mamma gone wild. I stayed up until one in the morning watching HGTV at the hotel. I slept past seven. I ate drive-thru from Sonic and drank a Route 44 all by myself. I made 26 scrapbook pages and watched 2 whole chick flicks and one entire episode of “Ghost Whisperer.” And I called my kids twice. Take that, Mommy Smarty Pants!

We pulled into our driveway at 4am on Sunday morning, and instead of checking on my kids (they were fine, really!) I went to my room and pulled the covers over my head. And I tried to look happy when they woke me up 2 and a half hours later. Two and a half days later I was still a little glum. And when I started to feel sad and guilty about that, I reminded myself that even good mommies can enjoy a break now and then. A break and a short walk on the wild side.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Family Pictures

Given the choice between getting family pictures taken and getting food poisoning, I’d pick food poisoning every time. So when my husband gave me a gift certificate for a family portrait package, my, “Gee, thanks, honey…” was a little less than enthusiastic.

Anyone with children knows that family pictures drive more people apart than poor hygiene. Getting multiple children to sit still, stop picking their noses, remain clothed, smile, and look at the camera all at the same time is tricky choreography. It requires more than the simple alignment of planets; you must schedule to avoid naptime, mealtime, and general testiness, all while keeping everyone presentable for an agonizing amount of time. And with three children ages 2, 4, and 5, I knew we were in for one doozy of a sitting.

We showed up five minutes before our scheduled appointment with one fight under our belts. My husband Rich thought the pink and brown outfits I had coordinated made us look like frosted meatloaf while I argued that everything we were wearing came straight from an Old Navy display. Zack was already defiant, wiggling in my arms as our photographer told us she had to “arrange” our sitting.

And if things couldn’t get any worse, our photographer was a trainee. Poor woman. That’s like sending a security guard in to wrangle up the mafia. She was no match for our photo-resident children.

Our oldest, Kaleb, can smile on cue, but won’t sit close to his sister and is easily distracted by bright lights and photo props. Leah, while great in candid shots, has developed this strange fake smile where, while tilting her chin down, she looks up at the camera through her lashes and pouts (when asked why she smiles like that, she informed me that’s how all the Disney princesses smile. But that’s another column). Zack is, well, two and half. And I’ll be honest. Rich and I are poor ventriloquists, so while trying to smile and order our children to behave at the same time, we end up looking like bulldogs, our eerie grins exposing gritted teeth. The photographer was beat before she even set the flash to automatic.

“Say ‘cheese’,” she finally said.

“Food poisoning,” I thought and smiled just the same.

It took about an hour to finish our “family portrait package.” When she told us to come back in 15 minutes to pick our poses, we about sprinted from the studio. And after splitting three orders of pretzel bites in the food court we returned only to discover that our friendly photographer in training had accidentally deleted the only good group shot.

“But it’ll only take a minute to re-shoot,” she said, oh-so-optimistically.

So we’re safe for another year. And our family picture now hangs somewhat apologetically in our living room. I’ve tried to convince my husband that it’s quaint; with Zack trying to leap from my arms and Leah mid-pout, the picture did capture what our family life is all about. He remains unconvinced.

I wonder if they make Pepto Bismo for an upset photography session.