The Tooth Fairy Sucks

We tell our kids about the tooth fairy. It’s just one of those fun things we do, although we don’t take it very seriously. Since he stays up later than I do, my husband plays the tooth fairy. I’m usually asleep in bed before Beta actually manages to fall asleep and since she’s the one who’s losing all the teeth right now, it makes life easier.

Except the Tooth Fairy keeps forgetting to show up. The first time this happened and Beta came downstairs disappointed in the morning, we said, “Oh no! Were you awake really late? Because the Tooth Fairy won’t come unless you fall asleep early.”

She admitted she had been up late. “I was just so excited about the Tooth Fairy coming and giving me a coin, I couldn’t fall asleep.” She tried her best to fall asleep the next night and my husband made a note to remember to go up there and take the tooth. It all worked out and Beta found a coin under her pillow the next morning. That was a close one, we told each other.

This last tooth, however, we failed miserably. My husband forgot the first night and without prompting, Beta blamed herself. “I was awake too late! I’m going to have to go to bed really early tonight so the Tooth Fairy will come.” My husband felt horribly guilty.

Next morning, Beta slept in. I quietly asked my husband in the kitchen if he had remembered the Tooth Fairy. He cringed. “No! I forgot! What are we going to do?” I thought a second, then went to his office and grabbed the coin and headed up to her bedroom, hoping she was still asleep. She woke up when I entered and I approached the pillow and, while slipping the coin underneath it, told her “Good morning! Did you sleep well?”
“Yeah,” she answered sleepily. I cast around for a way to distract her so I could slide the envelope containing her tooth out from underneath her pillow.
“Well, why don’t you go get dressed?”
“Okay. But you have to turn around so you don’t see me get out of bed. I don’t want you to see my underpants!”
I gave her a confused look. “What? Aren’t you wearing Pjs?”
“I am, but you might see them and it would be embarrassing.”
I thought for a moment. “Alright. If you turn around and face that wall, I’ll turn around and face this wall while you get out of bed.” She did and I quickly snatched the envelope and crammed it under my shirt. She then got out of bed and I opened her blinds.

“Oh!” I said suddenly, as if a thought were just occurring to me. “Did the Tooth Fairy come last night?”
“No,” she answered sadly. “I didn’t see a coin.”
“Oh. Well, did you look carefully?”
“I did but I didn’t see one.”
“Why don’t you look again?”
She moved her entire pillow and there was the coin. She smiled happily and took it into her hand. “I must have looked before she had time to come. Or I didn’t look in the right spot because here it is!”
I smiled at her and agreed that must have been what happened. Then I headed to my room to stuff the tooth into my underwear drawer until I could sneak it downstairs to where we keep all the kids’ teeth. They’re one of the millions of things we’re planning on keeping to hand out to the kids when they pack up to move out.
When I went back downstairs to the kitchen, my husband whispered, “Did you get it?” I nodded and told him what happened. He looked relieved. Crisis averted. Disappointment averted.

We’re beginning to wonder how long it will be until my kids figure out that we’re the ones who are forgetting and not some mystical being who is simply waiting for you to fall asleep before taking your tooh.


You can have it all, except your sanity

The previous edition of the Economist had several articles about the gender pay gap (and gender pension gap) and included many suggestions to remedy it – and to not make things worse (bonus article: getting the housework done). The goal, essentially, is to encourage both men and women to stay in the workforce, working the same number of hours, saving the same amount for retirement while having at least 2 kids (the ideal is to increase the birthrate) and getting both maternity and paternity leave for these.

It’s worthy goal, but it does fail to address one problem: logistics.

Say you have a family of five, mom and dad both work outside the home. Kids are ages 8, 5, and 3. It’s Monday morning. You need to get 5 different people to 5 different places, all at the same time. GO!

In some places, this might not be impossible. In Germany or Finland, the 8 year old could get himself to school and then one parent each takes one child to day care/Kindergarten. In Finland, since school doesn’t start until age 7, they could conceivably be in the same place.

But here in the US…If my husband and I didn’t both work from home, we would both have to commute 30 minutes at least to get to the nearest town where work is. And since we would be commuting along with everyone else, make that 45-60 minutes commuting.  So let’s make that the case for our theoretical family. Let’s say they have to be there at 9. Well, the local elementary school doesn’t start until 8:30 and they don’t want you dropping your kids off until 8:20 (unless you pay for before and after school care and there’s room). So the two oldest have to go there and get dropped off at 8. Other parent takes the 3 year old to daycare. It’s 7:30-5:30, so we’re good on time.

Then mom and dad go to work. But wait! Kindergarten gets out at 11:30! It’s only half-day in my town. Someone needs to pick up the 5 year old. Oh, and there is no after school care for Kindergarten because the rest of school is still going on. I forgot to mention that. Maybe 5 year old should go to private school which, like day care, has hours from 7:30-5:30. That costs more though. This shit is getting expensive: $300 a week for private school for the 5 year old, $200 a week for day care for the 3 year old.

Then school still gets out at 2:30 for the 8 year old, but that’s okay after school program will keep him until 5:30.

But wait! Work lasts until 5:00! Commute is 30 minutes without traffic! With traffic it’s 45-60! How are they going to make it there on time? It’s not physically possible! Who is going to watch the kids? Who is going to cook dinner for that matter? We eat at 6 because it’s a well known fact 3 year-olds turn into pumpkins at 8pm. Whiny, cranky pumpkins who hate everything. Can these two parents get dinner on the table for their whole family and get their 3 kids, who have also just come home, fed while they themselves haven’t had a break? And then homework! And then bed! And after school activities!

This would be hard with just two kids, but I think three kids is where everything really starts to break down. It’s not a problem that can be solves with state funded maternity and paternity leave, or guaranteed daycare spots or even before or after school care. With three kids, it becomes necessary to have someone who dedicates a large portion of his or her time to managing the family: getting everyone from Point A to Point B and maybe occasionally having a nice drink at Point C, which is located at a convenient distance from point A.

Either that person is going to have to cut hours back to part-time or just surrender and become a stay at home parent. It doesn’t matter WHO does it, the mom or the dad, but someone pretty much has to, otherwise you go insane.

We manage by both working from home and homeschooling our kids. Our toddler goes to “preschool” (more like a daycare) three days a week so we don’t go insane.

My sister managed with two kids both parents working full-time with her husband working the regular 9-5 job and she worked overnights at the hospital on the weekend. Since shifts for nurses are 12 hours, she’d work Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights to be full-time, my youngest nephew went to daycare on Monday so she could sleep and she’d be up in time to pick oldest nephew up from school and then get youngest nephew from daycare. It was about as much fun as it sounds. It worked, but my sister and her husband pretty much never saw each other and after a few years, working nights lost its appeal. You can file this under the “flexible work hours” the Economist recommends.

So, yeah, while eliminating the wage and pension gaps and increasing the birth rates are all well and good what we really need help with is managing the time gap. How exactly are two parents supposed to fit everything in? Will someone come around and plan out the logistics of modern day family life?


Urine has become a constant in my life. Not so much from the older kids, who have learned to control their bladders reasonably well, but Gamma (number 3 for those of you keeping track) is absolutely hopeless.

He’s about 90% potty trained. At preschool, I would say he’s 100% potty trained. Except for that time we extended his day so that he stayed there through lunch. That pissed him off, literally. He peed through one pair of pants after another until, when I came to pick him up, he was wearing his last pair of clean pants, no underwear and a borrowed shirt. That’s the great thing about penises: they’re like hoses and can pee any direction you want them to.

An accurate depiction of Gamma

More than any other child I’ve been around, Gamma has used this to his advantage. For a while, he was peeing into his toy trucks and wheeling them around afterwards (or until I saw it and put a stop to it). He would pee into the shovel of his small front end loader, fill it up, wheel it over to his dump truck and dump it out in to it, spilling no small amount of urine on the floor in between.

How much urine can a lego hold? Ask Gamma, he probably knows. He’s turned his potty into a de facto urinal by straddling it and made it worse by taking out the bowl insert and straddling it again. Risk factor increase of urine spilling times three, at my estimate. He stands on the edge of the bathtub and pees into it instead of going to the potty. He stands on the counter of the bathroom and pees into the sink. All of these options are apparently way more fun than peeing into the potty.

Peeing outside is fun, but he apparently prefers our concrete steps to any tree. This is annoying as hell and we try to prevent it any time we see it.

My husband says the next owner of our house is going to spend most their time wondering what that smell is. I’m hoping they just assume we must have had cats. It’s a bit less embarrassing than a creative, potty-training boy.

Pregnancy Update

I’m still pregnant. I have a little over 3 months left, yay, but so far I’m feeling fine. We learned a while back that it’s going to be a boy, news which threw my daughter into a tizzy and it took her a few days and trying to steal the ultrasound pictures to come to terms with. Alpha was happy. Originally he wanted another sister, but after we had some friends over who have 4 boys and a girl, he changed his tune and told me how much fun it they must have all the time with so many brothers. So that’s clearly his goal: MOAR FRIENDS!!!
Beta has accepted things since then and enjoys cuddling with the baby (my belly) and keeps telling me what the baby likes or what the baby wants to do.

She is really into the baby. We’ll see if she’s as into when it’s born.

As far as the baby is concerned, he’s doing really well. He’s very active and enjoys kicking me all over. Everything came up normal on the ultrasounds, aside from the fact he refused to turn so the tech could get one specific measurement on the heart. Stubborn, I guess, or overly comfortable.

Things are definitely getting more difficult as things progress. Now once I hit 11,000 steps in a day I can tell without looking because my belly starts to ache and complain. Going to the gym is no longer enjoyable because I”m not increasing the weights I lift. To the contrary, I’m decreasing them in many cases. But I’m trying to keep going and usually make it there 2 times a week. Things keep getting in the way and I ended up taking two weeks off due to a horrible cold. I’m pretty sure it turned into bronchitis after a while because I ended up with a cough I couldn’t shake. Thank goodness for my asthma medication.

Weight gain front: I’m doing well. From my lowest weight in the pregnancy, I’ve gained 10 lbs. From my starting weight, 6. This is fantastic and I’m quite happy about it. I hope I don’t go too crazy in the last 3 months and ruin it all since my goal is not to gain more than 20 lbs. so that I lose the weight I gained pretty immediately after giving birth.

Annoyingly, I keep running into the the notion that since I’m pregnant, I shouldn’t be doing anything. One of my friends is the worst offender and hanging out with her gives me a huge headache because of it. She spends her time urging me to eat up because I’m pregnant, asking me if I need to rest or sit down and offering to pick up my daughter for me because, hey, pregnant people shouldn’t be doing heavy lifting, right? Gaaah. She’s probably just trying to be nice, but she should know by now that my daughter is one of the lighter things I lift. When I told her how I was trying to pull the creeping ground ivy out my yard because it’s taking over, she called me a crazy pregnant lady because obviously I shouldn’t be doing that. It drives me nuts. When my belly aches, I take it as a sign to sit down and rest because physical discomfort is generally a sign of needing to take a break, pregnant or not. But I don’t view pregnancy as a 9 month break from real life, especially not with two older kids running around.

In some ways, I’ve grown positively manic. I feel like I have a long list in my head of Things We Need to Get Done Before the Baby is Born…and I started this list when I was about 3 months pregnant. But this time I know the baby is going to be born in winter. I know that it’s important to get shit done outside so that when spring comes, things are ready and we don’t have to be stressed. I know it’s important to get our kitchen done and to have things  organized and ready so I’m not all stressed trying to figure out where things are.

The fact that we’re homeschooling makes me feel this pressure anymore. I’ve got to keep the balls in the air as best as I can and prepare as much in advance so the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

Fingers crossed, anyway.

I’m getting dumber

It’s time to face facts: I’m getting stupider.

When I was in college, I would read a lot of blogs on economics because I was an economics major. A lot of the posts discussed things I was learning in class and tied them to current events or current debate, which made them interesting. Then there were the posts that just discussed markets in everything or different cities, which are always interesting. I still read these blogs, but more and more I find myself skipping posts discussing actual economics in exchange for the ones about other topics–parenting, food in Singapore, books, whatever. You know: the ones that are always interesting if you’re not interested in economics.

It’s not that I don’t want to read the economics-heavy posts; it’s that I can’t concentrate on them. I try. But my mind wanders. I get up and do something else and when I come back, I just scroll past. My brain no longer has the time or energy to devote to topics that are now only marginal to my every day existence.

When Brian Caplan–hands down one of my favorite economists–wrote his book about parenting, I lapped it up. I even pre-ordered that book and it stands as my number 1 parenting book to this day. It’s the economics of parenting–but written in such a way that a sleep deprived new mom can still understand it. In other words, no math.

Maybe I’m just out of practice. It takes a lot of effort to concentrate on something boring. If you have to do it for a grade, that gives you motivation. But I have no external motivation to concentrate on blog posts that deal with the ‘difficult aspects’ of economics, even if it came to me fairly easily before. In my Money and Banking class, I was the only one who understood how the interest rate works to control money supply and I tried explaining it to my friend (a mom returning to college to get her degree). My teacher overheard and told me, “You’re good at school. You should do more of it.”

But I was sick of school. I’d been doing it since I was 4 years old. I wanted to get my degree, get out and do something else. I briefly considered getting a masters degree in economics, but the expense and econometrics (something I wasn’t sure I’d do well in) hung over me. Why take out tons of debt without any guarantee that I can pay off?

But all the same, I feel sad I’m getting stupider, that my brain no longer has the energy to read something more challenging than Jane Austen. I started reading the Gulag Archipelago, but stopped because Solzhenitsyn’s writing style bothered me. Too conversational in some ways. I figure if I’m ever stuck in an elevator for a long time, I’ll finish it then.

My Kids Believe in Santa

Apparently telling your kids about Santa is controversial these days. I do it. Why? Because it’s fun. And sometimes, I like to have fun. People who are against telling kids about Santa raise the argument that telling kids some dude goes into their house and gives them presents while flying in a magical sleigh pulled by reindeer is not only creepy, but also lying to them. My response to this is: considering all the other ways you’re invariably going to lie to your kids while raising them, you’re picking this one to make a stand? Really?

In the long run, it doesn’t matter one bit if you tell your kids there is a Santa or not. If you want to tell them there’s a Santa, DO IT! If you don’t want to waste your time (and give all the credit to an imaginary person), then DON’T! Either way, it’s not going to turn them into a serial killer or make them cynical. Growing up and realize that their parents aren’t perfect is going to make them cynical. Not learning there is no Santa.

My parents told me about Santa when I was little. I believed it until I was 5. Then I started noticing my older sister and brother kept accurately telling me what I was going to get for Christmas so I finally asked my mom if there was a Santa Claus. She said no. I wasn’t upset at all. At least not until I tried to tell my friend down the street. She refused to believe me and kept insisting that there was a Santa Claus. I kept insisting that there wasn’t. Eventually they moved away, but I now have the satisfaction of knowing that eventually she found out that I really was right. Since then, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to just shut up and not be right.

My husband also grew up believing in Santa Claus. Or more specifically, Joulupukki. Joulupukki lives in Finland in Lapland. Every year on Christmas Eve they have Joulupukki reading letters and taking phone calls from kids on the television. You can even fill out a form online somewhere (I’d look it up, but I’m lazy) and give Santaland an address and name and they will send you a letter from Joulupukki. In other words, Santa is a big fricking deal in Finland.

Onko täällä kilttejä lapsia?

Telling our kids about Santa/Weihnachtsmann/Joulupukki gives Finland that extra edge of cool in the language and culture race in our household. When Alpha went to Finnish preschool while we were visiting over Christmas last year, they discussed Joulupukki and that was the only word he ever actually said while at Finnish preschool. Other than that, he was completely mute. But JOULUPUKKI IS BRINGING HIM PRESENTS, MAN! That has to be acknowledged. Then Joulupukki showed up at his grandparents house on Christmas Eve (presumably while on his way to hand out presents to all the other kids out there) and personally delivered presents to everyone. Alpha was beside himself with excitement. Beta was confused.

This year, they’re both excited. They know about Joulupukki and they know about getting presents. This is actually the first year it has firmly registered with Alpha that he can request presents and get them. He’s asked for a scooter, which we bought (one for each child). Then he changed his request and asked for a fire scooter. I have no idea what it is, but he gave me a long monologue about how he could ride it in the street because he would be “sehr sehr sehr sehr sehr vorsichtig” and if a car came, he would be able to go REALLY FAST. I told him I didn’t think there were such things as fire scooters. He insists that there are. I think he’s going to be disappointed tomorrow.

But he’s convinced there’s a Santa. The crazy thing is that we haven’t even put forth a lot of effort to convince him of this. Society has done most of the work for us. And it’s not a “be good or Santa won’t bring you any presents on Christmas” thing either because unless you’re actually planning on NOT giving your kid anything for Christmas when you say that, that’s a really ineffective way to discipline. They’ll learn that either a) you don’t mean a damn thing you say or b) that Santa is on their side. As far as my kids are concerned, Santa just comes and brings them presents because he’s cool like that. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected their behavior. Today my son decided he needed to clean up all his toys so that Santa wouldn’t step on them and hurt himself or break his toys. I told him that was a really good idea.

So whether or not you tell your kids about Santa or believe yourself, have a Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten, hyvää joulua!

In Search of ‘Normal’ Homeschoolers

I need to find some normal homeschooling friends. Desperately. I’m sure they’re out there. I’m in a homeschooling “network” of about 400 hundred people, so you’d think some of them would be more on the normal side. The problem is sorting having the tenacity to go through of the weirdo ones and still be around for the normal ones.

What do I mean by normal?

Well…one homeschooling mom decided to start a group to help her 8 year old daughter find some friends her age. So she sent out a message saying “Although Sally [not her real name] adores her younger brothers [being about 4] and loves playing with them, some times she also likes to play with kids her own age….” What the hell. Of course she wants to play with kids her own age! What kid doesn’t? I’d be concerned if she only wanted to play with boys half her age. Why so defensive in the beginning? Would anyone actually read an email saying, “My daughter wants to make more friends in her age group. Let’s get together!” and conclude that Sally hates her brothers and wants them to die painful slow deaths?

This kind of pro-active defensiveness seems to be common in homeschooling groups. Mention Halloween or Easter or any holiday that traditionally revolves  around candy and you get a chorus of “Although I hate the candy part of it…” Sigh. Yes. We know.

Along with this are the little reminders tacked on to group events or celebrations to bring a “healthy snack to share with all allergens labelled!” I’m fine with labeling the allergies bit; I’d be pissed I was chowing down on something only for it to turn out to have lobster in it and end up covered in hives. But why do they feel the need to tell us to bring a healthy snack? Are we adults or not? Can we not decide for ourselves what is healthy? One mom brought cookies to an Easter Egg Hunt (oh, sorry, Not Easter Egg Hunt. I referred to it as an Easter Egg Hunt when RSVP-ing and got promptly corrected by the leader that it was strictly secular and had nothing to do with any religious holiday whatsoever. I resisted the urge to immediately schedule a random egg hunt in September), but I guess that was okay because they were gluten free and, as everyone knows, gluten free makes it healthy. I spend most of these events resisting the urge to bring Doritos and a can of cheez whiz. Non-organic, of course.

OMG, that’s pasteurized? Don’t you know how bad that is?

Lately they’ve changed the rules and decided that if people don’t want to do potluck (probably because all the rules make it too much of a pain in the ass), you can also just bring food for you and yours. Uh, thanks?

It’s not so much that people do these sorts of things, it’s the way they go about it: completely pompous. It’s not about what they do so much as it is about how they present themselves to other people. The last thing any of these women want is to be revealed as the only mom there who let’s there kids eat sugar and who things pizza pockets are a healthy entree. And it annoys me.

I’m not sure if meeting normal homeschooling parents would help in this regard since this behavior is common to all women. We had one of DH’s co-workers over and grilled food. I commented to his co-worker’s wife that Beta could eat 4 hot dogs in one go and didn’t even care if they were cooked. She replied, awkwardly, “I bet Billy could too, but I usually don’t let him because of all the preservatives and nitrates in hot dogs.” She must have seen this meme going around Facebook, I guess:

I base 99.9% of my parenting decisions on facebook memes. Fact.

Uh, thanks for insinuating that I basically want my kids to get cancer, Mom Lady. Sheesh. Way to suck all the fun out of grilling.

So while most of the mommy population seems to have this problem of covering their mommy-asses whenever they say anything, ever, it seems like it’s more common among the homeschooling population. This is probably due to the fact that the homeschooling population is self-selecting. Of all parents, which ones do you think are going to be most likely to decide that public school is inadequate for their children’s needs? Ones who feed their kids 12 hot dogs a month, cancer be damned, or those whose kids would be hard pressed to recognize a hot dog? So I’ve decided to try and recruit my less militant friends who are on the fence about homeschooling. This is going to make me super annoying, I know it. It probably won’t work, either. But I want my kids to have friends. Preferably friends where I don’t feel like the other mothers are constantly outraged at how I raise my children and therefore will never let their kids play at my house and would really prefer it if they didn’t hang out with my kids at all, but they can’t actually say that because that would lack the appropriate passive-aggressiveness they’ve become accustom to. They could always stick a smiley face at the end of the email they eventually write to break the news; everyone knows no one can get mad at you if you put a smiley in there :).

Maybe I’ll start a Meet Up Group: “Normal Homeschoolers.” After all, everyone knows that if you want to get the really militant homeschoolers, you label your group “Gifted Homeschoolers” because everyone who homeschools has gifted children. Homeschoolers have one hell of a bell curve.

(As a post script, I’m basically trying to summon up the courage to keep going to homeschooling things in the hopes I will meet some kindred spirits without getting too discouraged and quitting all together)