His Fair Share

July 26, 2013 at 11:22 pm | Posted in Bun, Haiku Friday | 9 Comments
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Haiku Friday: His Fair Share

He won’t share his cars
or french fries or magic seeds
or sometimes his hugs.

He won’t share the book
about Bill’s dump truck or the
Sparkly dinosaur.

He won’t share pennies
or the hole puncher or rocks
or roly polies.

But broccoli and peas
and sneezes and fevers? These
are given freely.

What are your children eager to share? What are you eager to return? And are you in the throes of a summer cold, too?

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Will Work for Chocolate

July 15, 2013 at 7:00 am | Posted in Family, Me, Serial Commas | 17 Comments
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OBJECTIVE
Raise three kind, creative, patient, helpful, empathetic children while maintaining my sanity, marriage, and hidden cache of chocolate.

SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS

  • 7+ years of experience growing, birthing, and raising children.
  • Expertise in multi-tasking, resource allocation, conflict management, customer service, program development, scheduling, chauffeuring, and train-track assembly.

SKILLS

  • Successfully completes numerous tasks simultaneously, including talking on the phone, digging a red Matchbox car out of my purse, wiping someone’s nose, and cutting off sandwich crusts (after washing my hands, of course).
  • Arbitrates disputes over who ate whose Cheerios, who squished whose roly poly, who isn’t sharing the paper-towel-tube telescope, and who pulled the dog’s ear first.
  • Teaches manners to otherwise caveman-like children who resist learning to pee in the potty, share their toys, and color on the paper (and only the paper).
  • Utilizes educational resources including television, computers, and video games to prepare children for school.
  • Possesses uncanny knack for knowing location of missing household items including left red rainboot, yellow cupcake eraser, favorite stuffed bunny, froggy sippy cup, and library book due tomorrow.
  • Treats boo-boos from keeto bites and cat scratches to goose eggs and stubbed pinky toes.
  • Manages four laundry baskets, three toilets, 56 markers, 56 marker lids, and one husband.
  • Able to overcome a variety of obstacles, including sleep deprivation, wasp nests, and refusals to eat broccoli or anything green for that matter.

AWARDS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • Clean floors if you don’t look too closely.
  • Record WWF score once of 114 points for the word “zouk,” obtained while children were feeding Play-Doh pizza to the dog.
  • Children who sleep through the night in their own beds. Mostly.
  • Recipient of lifetime supply of rainbow drawings.

EDUCATION

Are you hiring? What skills are on your mothering resume? And would you like to be paid in Cookies & Creme Hershey Kisses, too?

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I is for “I’m an innovator in my industry.” See more I’s at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

Here and There

July 7, 2013 at 10:03 am | Posted in Transylvania | 7 Comments
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Exactly 377 days ago, we flew over an ocean, over highways and skyscrapers, over cookie-cutter subdivisions with manicured lawns and pH-balanced pools, and landed on American soil. We put our driver’s licenses back in the slightly-too-small front slots of our wallets and relegated our Romanian identity cards to a souvenir box in the closet.

We were home. No longer expats. No longer foreigners in a foreign land.

Red, White, and Blue.

But, strangely, we found ourselves on unfamiliar ground: wide swaths of glorious, sole-burning asphalt offering up more parking spots than could ever be filled, except on the Biggest One-Day Shopping Event of the Year! Places (plural) to buy milk or batteries or pipe cleaners or whatever else we might need at 1:30 in the morning. Air conditioning. Clothes dryers. Cheetos.

Welcome home indeed.

Now, just over a year later, we’re repatriated. Completely.

I haven’t eaten cabbage in a year. Or smelled it. I lie awake at night willing dusty synapses to re-engage so that I can remember the Romanian words for “snow” and “strawberry” and “cable package.” I bake without rationing my chocolate chips. And it no longer feels right to kiss a friend’s cheek when I see her in the grocery store.

But I also keep a 10-bani coin in my wallet. I automatically say “Opa!” when Bun trips over his shoe and face-plants on the sidewalk. I prefer fizzy water, slightly warm with no ice, to the ice-cold still variety. And I tuck my children into bed with a whispered noapte bună.

Red, Yellow, and Blue.

All of it — the memories that have long since been deleted from my mental hard-drive alongside the ones indelibly imprinted there — makes my heart seize up as if I were navigating the roundabout in Mănăştur on my way to Cora.

Did we really live abroad for a year? In Romania? Did we really call taxis, order pizza (with corn and ketchup), and get used to frozen hair? Did we really break two bones, have two surgeries, and navigate health-care systems in four different languages? Did we really pick cherries and apples and blackberries and eat them, right then and there? And when did we stop noticing our perpetually vermilion thumbs?

If we really, truly did all of that — and I know we did; I’m still sorting through the 6,000 photos that document it — why has it been so easy to come home? To fall back into this land of the free public bathrooms and home of the brave parents who trudge to Walmart in the middle of the night for baby Tylenol, animal crackers, and a Red Bull?

A year there, a year back here. I wanted it to be hard. I needed it to be. Because if it wasn’t, how could our year abroad have meant anything?

I’m secretly and desperately afraid all I really have to show for it is some lovely handcrafted pottery. And an immense appreciation for Mark Zuckerberg, who makes it possible for me to stay in touch with friends from places like Sibiu and Alba Iulia.

But shouldn’t there be more?

Does home ever feel too “easy”? Where is your farthest-away Facebook friend? And do you know that smell I’m talking about, that cooked-cabbage-or-possibly-a-child-with-gas smell??

Day Dreams

June 15, 2013 at 2:35 am | Posted in Bun, Family, Giggles, Lollipop, Photo Tuesday | 14 Comments
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“If you want sweet dreams, you’ve got to live a sweet life.” — Barbara Kingsolver

What makes your life sweet? What’s your favorite Barbara Kingsolver book? And what fancy hair trick (à la French braids) can you do?

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D is for dreams. See more Ds at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

Our Summer Crush

June 7, 2013 at 8:43 am | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Lollipop | 16 Comments
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Three kids. One mom. One house. One week. Only 79 days of summer vacation to go. But who’s counting? (Me, me, me!)

Here’s a recap of our first week of vacation:

Trips to Target: 1
Icees: 3
Scoops of ice cream: 13
Trips to splash park: 1
Goose eggs acquired at splash park: 1
Number of times swimsuits laundered: 5
Water-bottle refills: Oh, who can remember?
Containers of yogurt consumed: 19
Items lost: 1 dress, 1 hat, 1 stuffed bunny, 1 temporary tattoo
Items found: 1 jacket, 1 flag pin, 7 bottle caps
Books checked out from library: 15
Episodes of Curious George watched: I plead the 5th.
Lunches at Daddy’s office: 1
Tantrums while lunching at Daddy’s office: 4
Number of homemade muffins delivered to the fire station down the street: 23
Firehouse tours: 1
Ice-cream factory tours: 1
M&Ms smashed into ice-cream-factory floor: 7
Scraped knees: 5
Band-aids applied: 3
Summer reading logs in progress: 4
Tubes of sunscreen used: 1 1/2
Roly polies collected: 9

What’s your summer been like so far? Are the heat and the boredom crushing you, too? And how many roly polies are living in a jar on your coffee table?

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C is for summer crush. See more Cs at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

The Trouble with Treasures

May 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Lollipop | 21 Comments
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We collect things. (And by “we,” I mean everyone in my house under age 6.)

It borders on obsession. (And by “obsession,” I mean, well, obsession.)

Treasure map.

Rocks. Sticks. Seeds. Acorns. Leaves. Pamphlets from the doctor’s office. Bits of ribbon. Bits of bark. Paper scraps. Glue-sticks lids. Old keys. Lollipop wrappers. Junk mail. Junk-mail envelopes. Broken pencils. Barbie hairbrushes. Pony hairbrushes. Full Tic Tac boxes. Empty Tic Tac boxes. Full Tic Tac boxes that mysteriously become empty Tic Tac boxes. Bouncy balls. Straws. Take-out menus. Subscription cards from inside magazines. Flower petals. Yogurt lids (washed, of course … okay, mostly washed). Found coins. Business cards. Buttons. Toilet-paper rolls. Little circles from inside the hole punch.

The kiddos collect by day. And I discard by night.

With secrecy, stealth, nonchalance, and not a single ounce of Mommy guilt. Because, otherwise, I would be overrun by detritus, miscellany, and things that decay.

Occasionally, my ever-zealous Giggles will find one of his treasures that I thought I had tucked out of sight in the recycle bin — the cellophane address window from the weed service advertisement, for example.

The day’s bounty.

“Mooooooooooooooooom! I was saaaaaaaaaaaaaving this. It’s important! Who. Threw. It. Away??” His words flick through the air like darts.

I do what any self-respecting mother who values clutter-free space and aims to minimize the time she spends vacuuming each day. I lie.

“I have no idea, sweetheart.”

And after he’s in bed, I sneak in and tuck his animal blankie up around his chin. I put his favorite stuffed mouse on his pillow next to him. I brush the soft blond tendrils from his forehead.

And with one deft, nearly invisible swipe, I take his treasure from wherever he’s re-hidden it. And I throw it away. Again.

Because there’s more treasure waiting to be discovered tomorrow. And the next day … and the next day … and the next day …

Do you expect to see your kids on Hoarders one day? How do you handle “treasure”? And what did you collect as a child?

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Z is for my zealous hoarders. See more Zs at Jenny’s on Thursday.

Jenny Matlock

My Handsome

May 10, 2013 at 7:02 am | Posted in Bun | 15 Comments
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In Europe last summer, an orange crayon melted in our rental car. We may or may not have gotten a parking ticket in Madrid. And our youngest made many a Spanish woman weak in the knees.

With his blond curls. His chocolate eyes. His dimples.

mi Guapo

Que guapo, el guapo bebé! we heard. Over and over. Everywhere we went. In metro stations, souvenir shops, park benches, hotel lobbies, Burger Kings with free wi-fi, museums, and mercados. Guapo! Guapo! Guapo!

We joked that we were lucky he was only 2  at least all  the attention wouldn’t go to his head.

Today mi Guapo is three. He’s more worldy. He knows being cute can get him things, like extra lollipops and stickers and cookie samples. He pitches fits. He throws important things in the trash. He hordes rocks. He sits on the dog.

But he’s still my handsome baby.

The one whose best friend is his stuffed giraffe. The one who is my alarm clock, leaning over his crib rails and yelling, “Mom? Mooooom? Moooooooooom?” until I free him. The one who adores poot nacks.

Last summer, when the mosquitoes gobbled up his sweetness and turned him polka-dotted, I had to explain to everyone: “It’s not chicken pox. Or measles. Really, he’s not contagious. They are just mosquito bites.” Just. He was so miserable, and he didn’t know how to make it better. I started scratching the bites for him, gently, barely more than a tickle, just enough to soothe.

Now, it’s our thing. He’ll crawl in my lap and point to an imaginary spot on his arm. “Keeto bite here, Mom. Will you scratch it for me, will you?”

And I do. And we sit there. Quiet, together, close. Him, eyes and little feet drooping. Me, wishing every trouble could be fixed so easily. But I know that’s not my job. I’m to teach him to scratch his own bites, fight his own fights, mend his own heart.

And, through it all, to smile that handsome, contagious, soulful, full-bodied, jelly-faced smile. Just like that, mi Guapo, just like that.

What kind of smile does your kiddo have? What kind of accidental rituals do you share? And have you ever had to convince people your child does not, in fact, have a communicable disease?

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“Y” is for youngest … See more Ys at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

Bag Lady

May 6, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Posted in Family, Me | 18 Comments
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I got a new bag. It’s big. It’s cute. And it was on sale!

It’s the kind of bag that looks like it might hold exciting things like designer lip gloss, breath mints in a fancy silver tin, an iPad, or a chic planner with entries like “Mani/Pedi” and “Drinks with J.”

But no. Not my bag. While stylish on the outside, inside it’s all business. Okay, it’s mostly business with a smidgen of chaos. Because my bag is a mom bag.

Here’s an inventory:

  • 1 cloth sunglasses case with green marker stain (and, surprise, the sunglasses are actually inside!)
  • 1 brown paper bag snagged from restaurant in case my sick child needs to puke in the car
  • Girl’s size 6X red sweater
  • Craft store flyer and coupon (Bonus: coupon not expired)
  • Receipt from recent merchandise return stapled to original receipt stapled to temporary store membership card because real membership card is … not in bag
  • Wallet (whose contents include a Romanian bus ticket, the Clean 15 list, a dental floss coupon, and a heaven-sent Starbucks gift card)
  • 2 bottles hand sanitizer
  • Tissues (unused, I think)
  • Shout wipes (unused, I think)
  • Fancy bottle of sunscreen from infamous weekend in Florence
  • 3 tubes chapstick (Carmex, Blistex, and cherry-flavored)
  • 1 large package baby wipes
  • 1 pair 3T Thomas the Tank Engine undies
  • 1 pair 3T Batman undies
  • 1 set of instructions for a “Kids Herb Planter”
  • 3 packages fruit snacks
  • 1 empty fruit snack wrapper
  • 3 pieces Super Bubble gum
  • 1 rubber duckie
  • 2 reusable grocery bags
  • Keys
  • More keys
  • Orange emergency whistle
  • 3 Wendy’s coupons that expire tomorrow
  • 1 “Best Smiles Dental” pen
  • 1 rusted penny from the playground
  • 1 rusted washer from the playground
  • 1 cell phone, 14 Words with Friends games in progress, 20% of battery remaining
  • 1 Sleeping Beauty cell phone with 3 dead AG13 batteries (Note to self: find and purchase AG13 batteries)
  • 1 library book (Bonus: not overdue)
  • 1 Sheriff Woody toy hat
  • 1 green bouncy ball
  • 1 Blue Bell ice cream lid

What’s in your bag? A puke bag? Thomas undies? Expired coupons? Rusted washers? And what else??

My Mixed Bag

April 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Posted in Family, Photo Tuesday | 20 Comments
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“Camping:  The art of getting closer to nature while getting farther away from the nearest cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet.” — Unknown

Camping is a mixed bag for me. Or should I say, a mixed sleeping bag?

I don’t like bugs. Or sweat. Or dirt. Or marshmallows. But my family does. So I go. Twice a year, as per a verbal agreement between my husband and me, I drag myself into the woods, along with three kids, a gigantic dog, an even more gigantic tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses, firewood, s’more fixin’s, peanut butter and jelly fixin’s, water shoes for 5, hiking shoes for 5, stuffed animals for way more than 5, camp dishes and utensils, paper towels, toilet paper, a hefty supply of hand sanitizer, and a thousand other things.

We spend the weekend killing mosquitoes, peeing in bushes, toasting droopy hamburger buns over a campfire that blows smoke in our faces, and getting dirt wedged semi-permanently into our fingernails and toenails. But we also fall asleep to a cricket concert and wake up to an avian serenade. We pick dandelions and track ladybugs. And with sticky, grape-juice-colored fingers, we steer matchbox cars through sand pits and stick tunnels.

So I go. And it’s worth it. Despite the 27 loads of burr-laden laundry that always come home with us.

Does your family camp? Got any favorite ghost stories? And marshmallows — yea or nay?

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“X” is for miXed bag … See more Xs at Jenny’s on Thursday.

Jenny Matlock

Help Wanted

April 23, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Lollipop | 29 Comments
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It happens every day. At 2:42 p.m. Or thereabouts.

Mommy loses it.

It starts just after I pick up Lollipop from school. We pull into the driveway and tumble out of the car in various stages of undress. Because somebody couldn’t make it the three minutes home without shedding their socks. Or headband. Or pants.

Counting …

… my …

We burst into the house like the prelude to a fireworks show. Pop! … Pop! … Pop! … Only instead of smoke and color, we leave behind backpacks and sticky lunchboxes. Torn wisps of a junk-mail envelope. Acorns. Shriveled dandelions. A collection of seeds and a few slimy tissues.

Then somebody wants a snack. Goldfish. No, Cheerios. No, goldfish and Cheerios. Not the Honey Nut kind, the other kind. In the green bowl. No, in the yellow bowl. The other yellow bowl.

Then somebody else wants goldfish and Cheerios and it’s not fair that he got them fiiiiiiiiiiiirst.

Then somebody needs a bottom wiped. Or a booger extricated. Or a mosquito bite calamined.

Or a Barbie dress buttoned.

Or a marble removed from a matchbox car.

Or a marker lid fished out of the dog water.

Or a sticker unstuck from the kitchen table.

Or a pencil sharpened.

Or the yucky brown spot cut off the banana.

Or some batteries replaced.

… chaotic …

… blessings.

Or some pretend-cupcakes put in the real oven to pretend-cook.

Or a stamp for a letter that may or may not be a blank sheet of paper.

Or more goldfish and Cheerios in the yellow bowl (no, the other yellow bowl) that is now lodged under the couch. Between a giant dust bunny and the very last shred of my sanity.

And I invariably say something like, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, just go play outside!” Or “My ears can’t take it anymore!” Or “Mommy needs QUIET!” Or “Just go and watch TV and leave me ALONE for 5 minutes!”

And I think Did I really just order my children to watch television?

I hate that it comes to that. What’s more, I hate that it comes to that so often.

Tiny hands tugging on my shirt, always tugging.

Demands, some polite, yes. But some … not.

Shrill voices trying to out-shrill each other for my attention.

Tears. Fighting. Noise.

Mess.

Laundry that’s fluffing. Again.

Dinner that’s half-cooked or over-cooked. Or PBJ … again.

Mommy who’s grumpy. Again.

By the time my husband walks in the door, I’m ready to lock myself in our dark closet and curl up with my son’s yellow blankie. I crave silence. Darkness. Sensory deprivation. Recharged batteries. Sanity.

Oh, sweet sanity.

Help Wanted: How do you negotiate the blessing that is a chaotic family? How do you keep a fingernail’s hold on inner peace? And how many times have you locked yourself in a dark, quiet room?

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“W” is for Help Wanted … See more Ws at Jenny’s on Thursday.

Jenny Matlock

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