Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Winter of Our Discontent

The cruel Los Angeles winter has hit us hard here at Dictator headquarters.

For nearly a month, we've been trapped inside as the icy rains* of misfortune have raged around us. But, judging by recent events, it would seem that Winter decided to save the worst for last this year.

Allow me to take you through the past week day-by-day.


Determined to get a jump on the week, first thing Monday morning I attack the gigantic pile of laundry that has been piling up for several days! I've written before about my relationship with laundry, but in case you missed those entries I'll just sum up:

My relationship with laundry, much like Snoodie's relationship with naptime, is very, very hostile.

Our washer/dryer is located in a detached garage, which adds a degree of difficulty when the icy rains* come. On wet days, in order to clean a load of laundry, I must first attempt to occupy both children with activities that I can only hope will amuse them for the duration of my outing.

This done, I squish out across the soupy lawn. Inevitably, a few socks come loose from my basket during the journey, and I watch them float across the lawn. I know they are lost to me until the dry season comes and I find them moldering under the swingset, so I continue on without them.

I hastily throw handfuls of laundry into the washer, toss in some detergent, and hit the 'on' switch. That done, I wade back across the lawn to comfort whichever of my two sons has inevitably harmed himself in some way during my sixty-three-second absence.

This process repeats itself a half a dozen times throughout the day as I switch loads and eventually bring the clean (though no longer dry, thanks to the icy rains*) clothing in from the cold.

Time to fold? 

Don't be silly! Not with Snoodie the manic un-folder roaming about! Nope, folding will have to wait until 8:30 or so when I've gotten both kiddos into bed. No worries, I should be finished by midnight at the latest!

*LAUNDRY!* (shakes fist angrily at the heavens)

So, that was Monday.


Time for a little fitness! There's a brief break in the icy rain*, so I decide to pop the kids into the double stroller, put on my iPod, and like Fergie says, start "workin' on my fitness". Snoodie happily devours treats from his snack trap and Crink makes adorable, "Yay, I'm outside!"  noises as I make my way up the hills of Beverlywood in an attempt to convince my butt to reduce itself in size.

Everything's going swell until I hit the final straightaway for home and pick up speed, like a horse heading back to the barn. I'm moving so fast, in fact, that I don't see the uneven section of sidewalk in front of me... until I hit it.

The stroller stops dead, but I, sadly, do not. Instead, I go flying over the handlebar as the stroller jackknifes like an out-of-control 18-wheeler, sending kids, blankets, water bottles, and sippy cups flying in all directions.

Cars screech to a halt and passers-by rush to render aid. Luckily, the kids have not been harmed in the "episode". Snoodie's only concern seems to be the retrieval of his snacks from a concerned stranger, and Crink maintains his usual good-natured calm throughout. I dust myself off, right the stroller, thank the Good Samaritans, and limp back towards home with my bruised calves and ego in tow.

Yeah, Tuesday wasn't great.


I don't want to talk about Wednesday. It's too soon.


Oh look, it's raining the icy rains!* Time to head to music class! I pack up the boys and we head off to groove to hits like, 'Trot, Trot to Grandma's House' and do a little recreational egg shaking. Due to every human in Los Angeles' go-to rainy day driving methodology (apply brakes at random intervals while honking angrily), it takes us almost forty minutes to make it to class. We finally arrive and find a parking space, and only then do I remember that music class is over for the session.

I bring the children home. Tantrums ensue. Naps do not.

*WAH-WAH* (Bassoon sound effect indicates the overall failure that is Thursday.)


Time to round out ye olde horrible week with a trip to the accountant to do our taxes!

Taking a cue from Thursday, Friday delivers the old switch-a-roo. We arrive at the accountant's only to discover that when I had called to confirm the appointment the receptionist misheard me and cancelled it instead.


But since the kids were already with a sitter, my husband and I decide to go out for impromptu sushi and cocktails.

OK, Friday wasn't all that bad.


Please see Wednesday.


Ah, look, it's a fresh round of icy rain*.

Just as things are looking their darkest in this dark, dark week, suddenly there is a glimmer of light.

My husband, sensing that I have been perilously close to changing my name to Celeste and relocating to Guam without leaving a forwarding address, leads me to the kitchen to reveal a surprise gift.

The gift of clean laundry without exiting my house!

Yes, that is a brand new washer/dryer.

*cue celestial choir of angels*

Take that week from hell!  And while we're at it, take that icy rains*!

(Of course, I'm only kidding icy rains*.  I beg you to go away. There's no way I can make it another week.)

* Please note: The term "icy rains" may be used in the greater L.A. area to denote any rain that occurs when the outside temperature dips below 65 degrees.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Or Else...

I have an ultimatum problem.

My problem is not, in fact, related in any way to the Bourne Ultimatum.

Let me back up.

This weekend in Los Angeles, it rained the rain of FOREVER. By Sunday morning, my husband, David, and I had been trapped inside with our two marauding minis for over 36 hours, and we were getting more than a tad shack wacky. Some time after our ninety-four thousandth game of, "I make a tower, you knock it down," we decided that remaining dry was deeply overrated and made a break for the car. Off we drove, straight to our local fast-food franchise for some quality time at the indoor playground.

Once there, all four of us happily stuffed our collective maws with ill-advised salty treats. Snoodie joyously chased his fellow rainy day refugees around the enlarged hamster habitat with unbridled glee as Crink worked on fortifying his immune system by crawling happily about upon the sticky and garbage strewn floor. It was smiles all around for the first time in days!!

There was only one *tiny* problem. The door leading out of the play area was stuck open.

This meant that the children were free to wander forth from their designated containment area and into the main restaurant, thus placing them in imminent danger of being trampled by fast food patrons rushing towards the register in their relentless quest for fried foodstuffs.

Every time the slide dumped him out by the open door, Snoodie would make a break for it. The first two or three times he escaped I dutifully got up from my seat, chased him down, and deposited back in the playroom.

But for some reason, when I went to collect him about time number four, the following phrase suddenly came out of my mouth.

"Snoodie, if you go through this door one more time, we are going home!"

Yes, I had presented.......................the accidental ultimatum.

As soon as it came out of my mouth I regretted it.

You know how they say that, in court, lawyers should never ask a question that they don't know the answer to? Well, here's another rule: a mom should never pose an ultimatum unless she's willing to accept the consequences.

And the fact is, I wasn't willing.

I really, really did not want to pick up my two delighted children, pack them screaming into the car, and drag them back to our poorly constructed playroom with its dripping walls of doom. I didn't want to forego merry trips down the slide for grumpy repeated viewings of "The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse". And, perhaps most importantly, I didn't want to stop eating inappropriate quantities of french fries.

And yet there was Snoodie, heedless of my accidental ultimatum, heading for the open door yet again.

As he sailed happily through the opening I realized I had two distinct choices:

a. Make good on the ultimatum. Retain my authority. Assure an afternoon of shared homebound misery.

b. Stay at the playground. Ignore ultimatum. Abandon any pretense of authority over my offspring and embrace the destiny of the woman who sat next to me on a recent plane trip home from Florida and said, "If you don't stop that, you are going to get it!" to her young daughter roughly nineteen thousand times during the flight. (For the record, her daughter never got anything except maybe a gnawing sense that perhaps her mom hadn't really thought through the whole 'parenting' thing too carefully).

I chose "B" people. I chose "B". I just couldn't bear to leave our plastic-y and vaguely pestilent wonderland behind, and so as I caught the fleeing Snood once more I knelt down in front of him and said in my best stern Mommy voice,

"Mommy doesn't like it when you leave this door!"

He nodded his head, took this in with appropriate reverence and replied,

"I like cookies!!!"

before dashing back towards the slide.

I returned to our formica booth, slumped down next to my husband, took a long pull of milkshake, and comforted myself with the knowledge that the Snood was probably too young to remember today's ultimatum-related mishap.

The way I figure it, I've got a good six months before his cognitive skills reach the level at which he will be able to really understand that I'm totally punting after an accidental ultimatum.

Which means I've got exactly that much time to master one very simple rule:

Think Before You Ultimatum

Or else.....

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I grew up with sisters.

I mean, I have a brother, but as he was the only boy amidst the four siblings, I don't have any real experience with brothers.

Can you recite this entire book from memory? I can!

My lack of experience in this area has become of special concern to me considering that I've recently given birth to a second son. For those of you keeping track at home, this means that in my life - it's brothers rising.
And so, I find myself scrambling with no small degree of desperation to understand the mystical world of brothers before my boys begin to really interact. At present their relationship consists almost entirely of long periods of mutual avoidance, occasionally interrupted by brief episodes of violence (like, say, when Crink touches the Snood in the bathtub and is rewarded by a strong stiff arm that knocks him back into the water.)

(NOTE: We are actively working to correct this situation, please do not contact child welfare authorities until further notice.)

My husband has a younger brother, and I decided that, as part of my research into all things brotherly, I would attempt an analysis of their relationship. This lead me to some fairly disturbing conclusions.

I should say as a point of reference that I talk to both of my sisters every day. And I mean we talk. We discuss our careers, we delve into our deepest personal concerns, we bemoan our problem areas, we dream of what the future holds for our children, and yes, we mull over the ill-advised plastic surgery choices of The Real Housewives of Fill In the City. Basically, if I've thought about it, you can be fairly sure that I've talked it through at length with one or both of my sisters.

My husband and his brother? Not so much with the talking.

While I recognize as an absolute fact that my husband and his brother love each other deeply, it would appear that both feel that their brotherly connection is best expressed via tagging pictures of various animal posteriors on Facebook with each other’s names.

Not to say they don’t talk at all. About once a month I'll ask my husband if he's spoken with his brother recently. The conversation that follows goes something like this:

HUSBAND: Oh yeah, we talked a couple of weeks back.
ME: Oh, yeah? How's he doing?
HUSBAND: Pretty good, I guess.
ME: What did you guys talk about?
HUSBAND: Oh! He got the new Droid phone. That thing is really cool.
ME: OK. I was wondering more if he is doing alright after the fire that burned his house to the ground?*
HUSBAND: Oh, yeah. I don't know. We didn't really talk about that.

And it’s not just the two of them, either. The more I talk to brothers about their brothers, the more I realize that their love just takes a different form than its sisterly equivalent. Beyond the lack of communication, there is the constant reminscing about a shared history of assaults. When I've asked men I know about growing up with a brother almost all of them recounted fond childhood memories that, had they not happened between siblings, would likely have involved extensive criminal charges.

I stood by slack-jawed as male friends laughed at misty water-colored memories such as…

the way my brother used to use his feet to launch me across the room onto this mattress. One time we missed the mattress and I crashed through the end table and broke Mom’s favorite lamp! And my arm!
that summer I figured out I could dangle my brother by the feet off the upstairs porch! Looking back that probably wasn't so safe. But good times I tell you…
…Oh my God! The time that my brother tried to convince me to get in this trashcan that he was going to throw off this bridge. That would have been so awesome...

This is what I have to look forward to, folks.

Cain and Abel - trendsetters

With two “high-spirited” boys 19-months apart my full-time job seems destined to become lying awake and worrying about what plots the two of them might next be hatching against each other. Study suggests that our current bathtub hijinks are mild compared to the several decades of brother-on-brother warfare I have to look forward to.

At least I’ll have my sisters to talk it over with.

* some details may have been mildly exaggerated for effect.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Unseemly Vote Begging

Short Fat Dictator has been nominated as a funny mom blog, thus making us blush with prideful delight and, more importantly, allowing you to exercise your long-neglected clicking finger!

If you would like to you may vote here:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Lesson Learned

Well, hello there!

Just stopping in to let you know that this week's blog will be one from the files. Now, I would like you to ask me why, please.

Hey, thanks for asking! It is because, in lieu of tending to my offspring, this week I shall be boarding an airliner and flying far, far away in order to sip fruity cocktails on the beach with some of my best girlfriends.

Which is very, very good news.

In the meantime I ask you to content yourselves with this revisiting of a upsetting incident from my child-rearing past.

*from JANUARY 2010

I make a real effort here on the blog to steer clear of doling out parenting advice. I don't think of myself as a child-rearing expert (and, come to think of it, neither do my children!), but every once in a while, an incident from my personal experience seems such a 'teachable moment', if you will, that I feel compelled to pass it along.

Let me be clear right off the bat that today's entry will contain some disturbing imagery. You know how on Facebook that time women were posting about what color bra they were wearing? And how that forced you to picture people you never wanted to think of undressed in their 'dwear? And how that made you feel kind of deeply yucky on the inside? Well, today's posting will inevitably cause some similar discomfort. But if sharing my personal truth can save JUST ONE other person from walking this tragic path, then it will all have been worth it.

"The incident" as we'll call it, happened last Thursday morning. I'd taken the Snood to a largish department store to pick up some housewares. The morning was going surprisingly well, with nary a sign of my impending doom on the horizon, as Snoodie chilled out in the shopping cart, while I got my shop on with all due success.

As we made our way toward the check-out line I noticed a handicapped restroom right off the shopping floor (a detail that will soon become important - please make a note of it) and, deciding that pregnancy qualified as a certifiable handicap, decided to duck in. I set Snoodie down with strict instructions NOT to lick the walls and settled down to take care of business...

...which was just around the time that I managed to recall Snoodie's newest preferred pasttime - opening doors.

As my boy made a bee-line for the handle, I put on my best firm mommy voice and informed him in no uncertain terms, "Snoodie -DO NOT OPEN THAT DOOR!"

But it was to no avail. Before the words were even out of my mouth, Snoodie's hand had reached up, turned the handle and flung the door wide with a self-satisfied grin.

I sat there, mid-stream, and stared out the door - watching as the faces of smiling shoppers took in the scene and transformed into masks of horror. There was nothing left for me to do but cover my face in shame while simultaneously praying for a spontaneous fatal heart attack.

Eventually, a kind-hearted soul from the blender aisle took pity on me and came over to help Snoodie shut the door. I wrapped up my efforts and informed Snood that we were going home to research military schools that would accept 15-month-olds, before gathering what shreds of dignity I had left and exiting the bathroom.

I wheeled my purchases towards the cashiers, ignoring pitying glances from my fellow shoppers, and managed to check-out without further incident.

And then I went home, pulled out my list of "places where Snoodie and I are no longer welcome in Los Angeles" and made another entry.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In it.

Ah, marriage.

When young girls picture married life, my guess is that they focus mostly on the positive stuff: romantic evenings snuggling together on the couch, laughter around the dinner table, lazy Sundays lounging hand-in-hand in the backyard as the children frolic nearby...

What I can all but guarantee is that these dreamy imaginings do not include the weekend that my husband and I just shared.

Things started to go hard South on Friday morning. David usually gets up with the kids (having determined, after some careful research, that he would rather spend the mornings with two tiny maniacs than me, if I've been awoken before seven.*) but Fridays are, by contractual arrangement, David's morning to sleep in.

So it was that I found myself ungluing my body from the sheets at 5:45am when I heard Snoodie start to whimper from his bed.
I have a long-standing policy here at SFD of refusing to discuss poop. Mostly because I fear that, if I were to begin discussing it, I would never be able to stop.

So, let's leave it at this. What I found when I opened the door to the boys' room made me briefly consider simply gathering up David and the children, walking out the front door, and purchasing an alternate home far, far away.

There had been...digestive difficulties. And it was bad. It was very, very bad.

Using some tried-and-true parenting methodology, I grabbed a pair of scissors, cut Snoodie's PJs off, and dunked him directly in the bathtub for a Silkwood-style hose down. By the time David awoke, there was no shred of evidence of the crapstorm that had dominated the morning. We made it through the rest of the day without incident.

Then came the nighttime.

We'd just put the kids to bed and were, for the record, snuggling on the couch when the crying started. And it wasn't so much "the crying" as it was "the wailing."

We rushed into Snoodie's room to find him rolling about and clutching his stomach in agony. David went into soothing mode and I took to the internet to Google 'stomach pain in toddlers'. By 9pm I had a diagnosis! Snoodie was suffering from either
  • Appendicitis,
  • Intestinal Parasites,
  • Rift Valley Fever. (While RVF is typically only found in sub-Saharan sheep, Snoodie's symptoms were compatible enough that I left it on the list.)

I rang up the on-call Nurse and engaged in the following conversation:

NURSE: Is your son's breathing labored?
ME: It is hard to tell because he is crying so hard.
NURSE: Does he seem confused?
ME: Well, with the crying it is hard to say.
NURSE: Is he disoriented?
ME: OK, have I mentioned the crying? It's like, really intense.

Abandoning further attempts to reason with me, the nurse advised me to bring Snoodie in. So, at 9:45pm I threw a winter coat over Snoodie's PJs (Did I mention it was 36 degrees and POURING here in Los Angeles?) and headed for the ER, leaving David behind with the sleeping Crink.

Having half-parked my car under the red 'EMERGENCY' sign, I made a highly cinematic dash through the pouring rain with the shrieking Snood in my arms. I sailed through the doors and stood, dramatic and dripping, waiting for teams of nurses to burst forth from back rooms to assist us until a kindly Dr. Ross type arrived to gently lift the wailing Snood from my arms and heal him with his gentle, yet hunky, doctor ways.

That did not happen.

Instead I was waved over by a throughly disinterested man at the front desk who took my information and instructed me to join the broken mass of humanity in the waiting room.

Attempting to choose a seat away from those who were most actively bleeding, I settled the Snood on my lap to wait.

45 minutes later we were called in to see a nurse. He took Snoodie's temperature, (98 degrees) blood pressure, (whatever blood pressure is supposed to be) and weight (36 pounds, which makes him exactly double Crinkles, who just weighed in at 18 pounds - isn't that ADORABLE?) and declared that Snoodie's vitals were A-OK.

I tried to scan the nurse's eyes for hidden concerns about Rift Valley Fever, but could detect nothing more than a slightly bored aura of general irritation before we were herded back towards the waiting room with promises that a doctor would see us "at some point".

Noticing that few of the heavy bleeders had been seen, my heart sank. I cuddled Snoodie (who was now shouting, "NO OWWIE DOCTOR!" in a panic) back on my lap, and the waiting resumed.

At which point there arrived on the scene a fellow who announced himself at the desk as "Krazy Tony". When queried about the nature of his ailment by the desk attendant, "Krazy Tony" bellowed,

"Dude, I am full-blown intoxicated!"

Then, in another corner of the room, a fist fight broke out.

I scooped up the Snood and, scanning our hacking, bleeding and now brawling co-patients, decided that whatever Snoodie's malady, it couldn't be worse than this. The front-desk guy raised a half-hearted objection to our departure, but I didn't stop long enough to listen. I beat it back out into the rain storm and sped for home, where David and I took turns watching the Snood for the rest of the night.

For his part, Snoodie slept comfortably and after a few loud farts, seemed all but cured.
Unfortunately, David and I slept almost not at all, which left our immune systems dangerously exposed. At 6am the next morning I was awoken by my beloved saying,

"I've been puking since 4am, can you get Snoodie?"

Fighting every natural urge, I arose from bed. Both boys were cranky and sickly, and we all limped through breakfast before settling down for some listless tower-making in the playroom.

At which point I realized I was dying.

No longer able to hold my head up, I laid down on the playroom floor and allowed the two boys to scamper around my prone self. Occasionally, Snoodie would stop whatever he was doing, look at me quizzically and exclaim,

"Mommy sleeping!"

I would do my best to groan in acknowledgement, thus letting him know that I was still alive, before slipping back into semi-consciousness.

At 10am a shaky-looking David arose from the bed. Despite being an advanced shade of green, he took up a spot on the couch, set the Mickey Mouse DVD to "Play All - Repeat", and took over as I dove back into bed praying for the sweet release of death.

Our day continued in roughly the same fashion, with the two of us alternating at three hour intervals, one "taking care" of the children while the other shivered in bed.

By 8pm, we had both kids down for the night and finally found ourselves in bed together, lying side by side amazed to have survived the day.

David turned to me and said, "It's times like today, when we're really in it and we make it through the day that I really just feel MARRIED. Do you know what I mean?"

And I have to say, I knew exactly what he meant.

*PLEASE NOTE: All of the people who tell you that having a baby "will make you a morning person" are dirty, dirty liars.

(Back up)