In Perfect HARMony

20 Jan

Whine: I fear that if Lil’ Sis kept a diary, today’s entry might be entitled, “Another Day, Another Pool Noodle to the Face”.

Cheese: Lil’ Sis is no shrinking violet. I suspect Big Sis will very soon rue the day she noodled her sister.

My kids have been playing together peacefully for the last 5-7 minutes.

This means in the last 5-7 minutes I have not had to say any of the following things:

*No wrestling on top of Mommy.

*We don’t stick our bottoms in each other’s faces when we’re not wearing underpants. (Got your underpants on? Different story.)

*Why is your lunch behind the dresser?

*Put that skewer down and go jump on the trampoline.

*Stop arguing over which Bible story we’re reading. Mommy’s already chosen Cain and Abel.

Do you understand how LONG 5-7 minutes is in the world of a mother?

In 5-7 minutes you might be capable of returning not one but TWO text messages! In 5-7 minutes you might be able to sneak in half a cup of cold coffee. In 5-7 minutes (and only if you’re lucky) you might be able to read (another) article deailing the virtues of last-night’s episode of Sherlock.

I wish I could tell you how to find this far-off utopia where kids play as if their siblings are actual human beings and where their toys become tools of imaginative delight rather than harbingers of destruction. But I’m a mother, not a magician. The best I can do is give you a few pointers and wish you luck.

Hint #1-This is the most important one. Do NOT, under any circumstances attempt to use, or even enter, the bathroom. For any purpose. Even something as minor as brushing ones teeth will immedialy result in conflict. Or injury. Most likely conflict-related injury.

Hint #2-Feeding yourself is out of the question. The preparation of sustenance of any sort will cause immediate dietary needs in your offspring. Even if they are ouside and cannot hear you open the refrigerator to make your kale and spinach salad topped with sunflower seeds and balsamic, they will sense the preparation of food and immediately race to the kitchen and wrap their mewling, writhing bodies around your legs until you stop and throw them some processed cheese food and a half-gallon of milk.

Hint #3-Attempts at personal correspondence are also unwise. A surreptitious text message (or two)may slide by them, but emails, facebook messages or heaven forbid, phone calls will result in immediate danger to all involved, possibly death.

Hint #4-Do not attempt to document Peace Time in ANY way. Indulge yourself the pleasure of watching your progeny enjoy each other as you always dreamed they would. Pat yourself on the back for producing such civil children, then get the heck out of dodge before they spot you. Do not attempt to take pictures or text anyone about this miraculous occurrence! The only proof you’ll get of this moment is in 20 years when your kids realize that there are people in the world that are WAY more annoying than their siblings.

Your best strategy for preserving your glorious 5-7 minutes is to remain as motionless as possible without looking relaxed and/or asleep (these are, of course, instant beacons of invitation for disruption). Do the dishes stealthily. Avoid any sudden movements as you fold laundry. Avoid eye contact from behind the page of a boring book and enjoy both of the [boring] pages you get to read. Then, around Minute 8, pull yourself out of your blissful solitude, grab your Clorox wipes and pull up the number for Poison Control because I guarantee you’re going to need them.

My Little Light

10 Jan

Whine: I haven’t had any Whine and Cheese in 518 days–no wonder I’m so hungry.

Cheese: Around here there are always plenty  of Whine and Cheese to go around.

I bet you guys thought that since my kids are getting older and more people-ish that they weren’t giving any more material to write about.

I bet you thought that moving into our faaaaahhhhncy new house meant I totally got my act together and didn’t need our time together anymore.

I bet you thought I had outgrown my need to share the minutiae of my daily disasters with my 100 closest (electronic) friends.

Of course you didn’t. You know me better than that.

The truth is, this little blog got too heavy for me to carry for a while. But now it’s becoming too much of a burden to keep it on the shelf any longer.

So I’m back.

Lots has changed in the last 518 days. Differnt house, different job, different car.

Lots has stayed the same in the last 518 days. Same cast of characters. Same circles of endless hijinks and tomfoolery. Same desire to let the light I find in my days shine out–and hopefully make someone else’s days a little brighter.

I’m not sure what A Little Whine and Cheese will look like in the next 518 days. But I know I can’t afford for it to stay empty.

Thanks for supporting my time off and for encouraging my return.

Letting Go

3 Aug

Whine: I’m feeling a little lost today. I have more to do than I am humanly capable of and I keep waiting for the movie-style montage where I just knock it all out, complete with a motivational soundtrack.

Cheese: I found some chocolate mini donuts and locked myself in my bedroom to eat them. Thank God for Hostess and Kwikset.

The sweet gum tree in our front yard is dead. Last year’s heat bonanza combined with some benign neglect on our part sealed its fate. Early this spring, a few optimistic tendrils ventured out from the middle of the branches, but by the time we returned from vacation, we knew it was time to do the humane thing and take it down.

So we’ve got a guy coming next week to do the deed. He came by the other day to make arrangements. Unfortunately, Big Sis caught wind of what was going down and immediately registered her displeasure. She spent the better part of an hour running through the stages of grief. Bargaining, blame, violent and random bursts of hysteria.

I sat and tried to talk her through it all. At one point, she looked at me and with a plaintive tone befitting an overacted made-for-tv movie, asked, “Mom, why is letting go so hard?”

The irony of the whole episode was that by the time the man comes to cut down the tree that stands in front of our house, we won’t even live here anymore.

Because we’re moving.

When?

Today. Next week. In a few months. It’s complicated.

We’re moving into Kiki and Papa’s house this weekend, clearing all our stuff out next week and putting it in storage. Then Mr. Dad’s brother and his buddies will move in and we’ll look for a house and move in. Hopefully.

It seems cattywumpus and overwrought, but it’s actually a pretty good set up for us. We get to keep our house and the boys will pay us rent and we’ll take our time finding a house that will fit this three-ring circus a little better.

Except we are now at the stage of the game where I actually have to deal with the fact that it’s happening. Which means facing two things I really, really hate: packing and saying goodbye.

I’ve been cycling through my own stages of grief. Bargaining, blame, violent and random bursts of hysteria. (I wonder where she gets it from?) I got in my custom-made shower yesterday and couldn’t distinguish between the water and my tears, sobbing, “This will be the last shower I ever take in here.”

Mr. Dad is completely befuddled by the whole thing. He keeps trying to tell me that this is what we decided to do because it’s for the best and that everything is going to be just fine. Which is when I tell him that I KNOW that because this whole thing was my idea but it doesn’t stop me from crying hysterically through the (last) bedtime stories and goodnight kisses.

“They’re just feelings,” I tell him, “and they have to come out. ”

“Feelings?” he asks blankly.

It’s a good thing he’s so handsome.

So I got to thinking about why all these tears were ekeing out at odd and inopportune moments and I realized that the letting go thing isn’t so straightforward.

First, there’s the sadness of saying goodbye to the house where I brought all my babies home to. This house has been our only home as a family. And it’s hard to picture making new memories anywhere else.  Not to mention saying goodbye to my neighbor and her sweet little girl, who my kids love with the love of a celebrity stalker, waiting at the window for her car to pull up in the driveway.

Second, there’s the fear that this is the worst idea in the history of ideas. (Which is saying something since someone invented the Pajama Jean.) I mean, we love this little house. What if there’s no other house that we ever like and/or agree on? Or what if there is and it’s more than 1.2 miles away from our relatives? How will I ever borrow sugar/cake pans/spare ovens if we’re so far away?

Third, and this is where it gets really difficult, I found myself with a whole slew of regrets. All the dinner parties I didn’t host because my house was never clean. All the announcements from Brother Bear’s birth that I just found, addressed and sealed but not mailed. All the times I let the kids’ brains turn to jelly in front of the tv instead of making more memories because I was just overwhelmed by it all.

And I think that not having a new house to visualize is actually good. Because instead of projecting a “better, more productive, more organized future” onto a new space, I have to come to terms with the reality of the life I’ve lived in this house the last nine years. Let’s just say that most of it wouldn’t be featured on Pinterest.

So what is the measure of my house the last nine years? Is it my junky medicine cabinet filled with expired Baby Tylenol? (The contents of which conveniently just got relocated to a sink full of water today by Brother Bear.) Is it the closet full of unfinished craft projects? Is it nine years of constantly battling my raging disorganization and pack of occasionally-feral children who couldn’t find a dresser drawer if their lives depended on it?

It is. Because that was part of our life.  We played here. We made gigantic disastrous messes here. We came up with some of our worst ideas here. We lived here.

And I hope that in the process of moving and unpacking (and my kids getting older and less destructive) that we find our ways of living  to be more conducive to civilized company. But I also know that wherever we go, I want our house to be lived in, loved in, wrestled and tickled in, created it, fought in, read in, and been together-ed in. And so I guess I’m not too worried, because if they’re going with me, I think we’ll be fine.

Kitchen Floor Campout

HUG

8 Jun

Whine: When I went get Brother Bear out of bed this morning, he sulked at me and shouted, “NO! Daddy do it.”

Cheese: I said, “Fine” and walked away knowing his Daddy was already gone for the day. Joke’s on you, Mr. Crabbypants.

 

<em>Hug</em> [Book]

Brother Bear has this book called ‘HUG’ by Jez Alborough.

On the third  page (are they still considered pages if they’re made of cardboard?), the little monkey Bobo is sad. I always stop at this point in the story and ask Brother Bear why Bobo is sad. And he always says, in a very sympathetic and soft voice, “He’s sad. He wants his Mommy.” (In fact, he says that in every story when a character is sad. It’s a universal problem, really.)

As Bobo continues to walk through the jungle he sees all the other animals hugging their Mommies and he gets sadder and sadder. Until he hears someone shouting his name from above. He looks up and sees (Spoiler Alert!) his Mommy. He shouts her name, runs to her and he gets a big hug.

The last page is my favorite, it shows Mommy and Bobo walking away holding hands. She says “Bobo” and he says “Mommy”. I always use the last page as an excuse to sneak a big hug.

Only this last time when we read it, it went a bit differently. When I asked Brother Bear to name the characters on the last page I pointed to the small monkey and Brother Bear said, “That’s Bobo” and then I pointed to the larger one and he said, “That’s Daddy.”

He said it with just the tiniest hint of rebellion. As if he knew he was rewriting a much larger script than the one glued to the backside of a cardboard book. I tried to argue with him, but he remained committed.

Things around here, they are a’changing.

Bye, Bye, Baby Boy

Now instead of snuggling we play cars. In fact, he’ll come find me and say, “Mommy! Play cars!” And I have no choice but to obediently follow him to his room so we can fill up all the cars with gas, then race them down the Fisher Price ramp and back up the green elevator with the bell. And while we play I listen to him chatter about all the cars and if I listen really hard he sometimes tells me things about what’s going on in his brain. Which is super cute, I just wish his brain could tell me why he smells so bad all the time.

Yesterday while we were playing cars, he toppled over and bonked his head. He immediately threw himself into my arms for about a half a second. Then he jumped back up and rubbed his head. I said, “Do you want Mommy to kiss it?” He shook his head no, rubbed the spot a little more and said, “All better.”

That sound you hear? That’s the sound of my heart breaking.

The shirt seems redundant at this point.

But a few minutes later when a teetering tower of blocks knocked me on the hand, I pulled it back and said “Ouch.” He reached over, grabbed my hand and gave it the most tender little kiss.

Gah. I think I’m going to need a hug.

 

*hug*

The Swim Test

26 May

Whine: School is out for the summer. I am now the mother of a first grader, which is frightening on so many levels.

Cheese: There’s a whole summer ahead of me, plenty of time to face reality. Later.

Yesterday was our First Day of Summer Vacation. Wahoo! Except I spent the morning wandering aimlessly around the house and the afternoon losing Brother Bear over and over again at Chuck-E-Cheese. So I asked for a do-over and we tried again today with much greater success.

Today we headed to our local YMCA and its pool. When we walked in there was a group of senior citizens on the side of the pool doing, you guessed it, the Y-M-C-A.  Apparently the Silver Sneakers class decided to exercise poolside today. I was so tempted to go over and join them, but I wasn’t brave enough to do the Zumba in my swim suit.

Brother Bear and I alternated between walking the perimeter of the swim area and stopping back at our lawn chair for snacks. Which suits me just fine as I prefer not to actually get wet at the pool. Don’t get me wrong, I love to swim, but I spend most of my time shuttling people back and forth to the restroom, so I prefer to stay dry.

Lil’ Sis stayed in the shallows and practiced her ‘moves’. Watching her brought me back to my early swim days, where I felt like a ballerina and a mermaid and an acrobat all rolled into one.

I made five trips to and from the restroom with various children, then foiled Brother Bear’s attempt to climb up the stairs to the water slide and passed him off to Mr. Dad, kicking and screaming.

Big Sis begged me to come to the deep end with her and “catch” her while she jumped in. She’d jump in and I’d turn my head to avoid to the splash. Then she’d doggy paddle over to the side and wait for me to push her soggy seat up onto the ledge so she could jump in again. I tried to make her get up by herself, but she turned all spaghetti legs on me every time, so I just kept pushing her up there.

But then the lifeguard blew his whistle to invite anyone who wanted to take the Swim Test to come over. You have to pass the Swim Test in order to use the water slide or to swim in the deep end without an adult. Sophie marched right over and sat down with the other Swim Testers. No fear. No doubt that she could swim.

The lifeguard said you had to swim or dog paddle the length of the pool, then tread water while he asked you some questions. I watched as all the other, older, taller kids easily made their way down and hopped out of the pool. Big Sis sat on the stairs waiting her turn. Then he called her and she flopped in the water and started paddling.

My eyes were locked on that little pink puppy. I wasn’t worried she’d drown–the lifeguard was right at her shoulder. I just didn’t know if she could actually make it the whole way. I wasn’t sure that her shaky dog paddle could get her that far. I held my breath when she stopped mid-way, hoping she wouldn’t stop or give up. But she got her breath and kept on paddling along.

But then she had to tread water, and I’m pretty sure she had no idea what that meant. But there she was, kicking her feet and keeping herself up as the lifeguard asked her questions. I walked over to her. And he’s looking at her, waiting for her and I realize that in order to pass the Swim Test she’s going to have to get out of the pool. By herself.

Crap.

She throws an arm up there and heaves her body, only to slide right back in the water. Next, she hoists her knee up on the side and hangs there a second before realizing she can’t quite get the rest of her body to join her. I’m standing there, helpless, just waiting to see if she’s up to the task. She tries a couple more times. All the other kids have passed their swim test, so both lifeguards are standing there now, watching her. The other lifeguard says “Look. Do it this way. Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee.” So I squat down and repeat the mantra “Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee. Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee.”

And I’m squatting there, watching her, not being able to get through to her how it’s done and memory after memory flash back to me. Of Big Sis not being able to climb up the stairs to the slide while all her friends are scaling walls and furniture, not to mention the stairs. Of having to push, convince and cajole her into trying to pedal a tricycle. Of the struggle of these motor-skill milestones and how I hope she’s not going to be the one who can’t keep up.

And there she is in the pool, still trying to get out. I tell her that if she wants to stop and try another day, that it’s fine, but that she won’t pass the Swim Test today. And she’s tired and there’s been no breakthrough, so she scooches over to the stair and hops out.

I tell her we’ll have to work on it this summer, and not to worry because she’ll get it if she practices enough. But honestly I’m having visions of pushing that polka-dotted bottom up out of the pool about 200 times before she figures it out. Which is OK, but that might be a lot of Swim Tests to not pass.

So we go back to the deep end where (since she didn’t get her Swim Test Wristband) I am instructed to always be within arms-reach of her. And she jumps in, with gusto. And of course, she splashes me in the face. As I wipe the drops off my face, I watch her swim to the side of the pool.

And then in one fluid motion I see: Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee. She’s standing up beside the pool.

I yell to the lifeguard. I want him to see that she did it. He comes over and looks at her, but indicates that it doesn’t count since it wasn’t during the Swim Test. And I want to look at him like he’s crazy, because I don’t care about the stupid Swim Test. I only want him to know, want someone to know, that after all that wriggling and slipping and struggling, that my girl got out of the pool. Just like that.

And now she’s snoring on the couch next to me, completely wiped out from her moment of triumph.

It’s gonna be an awesome summer.

There is no Off-Season for Me

16 Jan

Whine: Mr. Dad has taken over the TV yet again to watch a Really Big Game. Which happens to be Really Big Game #4,238 of our marriage. That’s a lot of Really Big Games. And I’ll tell you a secret, we don’t win them all. Which is why I’m skilled in the arts of both CPR and Tai Chi. (Ok, not Tai Chi, but that would be cool.)

Cheese: We have been married long enough (4,238 Really Big Games, to be exact) that Mr. Dad knows he has to be super-dad for a little while before he transforms into a mindless sports-watching machine. So I enjoyed listening to a rowdy game of hide-and-seek from the other side of a locked bedroom door.

This post is dedicated to that brave and selfless group of women known as Sports Widows. These women weather the ups and downs of every sports season with grace and  aplomb. Sports Widows earn their name from the endless evenings and Saturday mornings and Sunday nights and random Wednesday afternoons they spend holding down the fort alone so their husbands can follow their dreams of watching other people play sports.

Are you curious about your status as a Sports Widow? Read the signs and symptoms below to discover if you, too, belong to that most-honored group.

You might be a Sports Widow if…

…there’s a line in your budget labeled ‘Sporting Events’ and it’s larger than the line labeled ‘Shoes and Clothes.’

…the only time you’ve heard your husband threaten to ‘rip somebody’s head off’ was in regards to a made-up sport.

…your best chance for seeing your husband would be to catch him in a crowd shot on the TV.

…you can use the ESPN ticker like a Weather Channel for your husband’s moods.

…your supply of commemorative plastic cups outnumbers both your casual and formal drinking glasses.

…getting ‘dressed up’ for your husband means changing out of his team jersey t-shirt and into his team polo or oxford.

…after a particularly hard loss, people who are not fans of the team or sport call with their condolences.

…in your husband’s opinion, the Sports Hug is the only legitimate man-hug.

…you’ve only ever seen your husband Sports Cry.

…when your alma mater plays your husband’s you root for his team because it makes life easier. For both of you.

…you feel very guilty, but you wish the team would lose in Round 1 of the playoffs so you could have your husband back. (At least until the next sport starts up.)

…your husband spent part of your wedding reception listening to a football game.*

…your husband spends more time writing a trash talk post for his fantasy football message board than selecting your anniversary card. (And don’t even think about him writing in it. He signed it, didn’t he?? Didn’t he??)

…you have ever travelled across the country so he could do a ‘live draft’.

…you know what a ‘live draft’ is.

…you know all the names of the local sports radio hosts because you listen to sports radio… when you’re alone.

…your second-hand sports information outweighs that of most grown men.

…you routinely use metaphors like “hurry-up offense, call an audible, and zone defense” to describe routine domestic events and wonder why the other mommies don’t know what you’re talking about.

It might sound like I’m complaining about my lot in marriage, but Sports Widowhood isn’t all bad.

Mr. Dad pretty much always owes me one (how do you think I got him to approve this post?) and when he’s gone at the game, I get the remote to myself. And I like to pretend that his passion for sports is simply a metaphor for how he feels about me. Because that makes sense, right? Either way, some of the sweetest friendships I’ve formed happened while waiting for our boys to come home from the game.

Those same  boys who sometimes surprise us by having those rare ultra-meaningful man conversations sandwiched between analyzing stats and complaining about the refs. Or who stop on their way home from a out-of-town game with a new dining room table they picked up (without prompting) from Pottery Barn Outlet. (Yes, I said Pottery Barn Outlet.) Plus, there’s something to be said for watching Mr. Dad coach the kids on the proper team cheers (Heeeeeyyyyyy, Sic ‘Em, Bears!) and dressing Brother Bear up so they walk around in matching outfits all day.

Besides, it could be worse, at least he’s not into NASCAR.

Yet.

I would like to apologize now to my future daughter-in-law/sports widow for letting it start so early.

*For the record, Mr. Dad did NOT even think about doing this. Mostly because we got married in June — well before football season.

This post is dedicated to my own band of Sports Widows, who have made this job a lot more bearable. Good thing they’ll never know how much fun we have without ’em, right girls?

Hardcore.

The Best Part

5 Jan

Whine: It’s a pretty bad feeling when, as you’re prepping for dinner and shooing a busy, fussy toddler out of your way and you suddenly realize that you may have neglected to feed certain busy, fussy toddlers any lunch.

Cheese: Do Costco samples and a churro count as lunch?

For me, the Worst Part of the day has always been the first five minutes. Always. I have a reputation in my family and in former workplaces as being something of a grump before 9am. Three kids and lots of long nights later, I am getting a little more morning resilient. I still snarl and roll over when little someones show up beside my bed before 7am, especially if they happen to be honking the bicycle horn my mother gave them for their birthday (can you tell I still haven’t forgiven her?) But in general, I manage to keep my torrential anger pent up long enough for me to get to the shower where I refuse to exit until I am feeling somewhat civil.

But then I head out to the kitchen and retrieve that shiny silver can with the big red letters. I pop the top and. . . sigh. The Best Part of my day.  I have said the words “I love you” to my can of Diet Coke. Out loud. More times than I can count.

I run the gauntlet of my day, dodging snotty noses trying to use my shoulders as a hankie. There are moments flying at me from all directions. The moment when I peel a screaming toddler off my shoulder and send him into the forced labor that is the Ducky Preschool Class. The moment when Big Sis informs me that my oven is a rectangular prism. The moment when I do the math and can’t figure out how $X(income)-$10X(expenses) = any grocery money. The moment when I lose my cool in an ugly way with a tender-hearted six-year-old over a few misplaced toys on the living room floor. The moment when Lil’ Sis gets dressed all by herself and comes out with her shoes on the wrong feet again, toes sticking the wrong way in their Cindy Lou Who socks and sandals. Trashing the kitchen as I make a meal, two-thirds of which I will most likely send right down the garbage disposal after disapproving glares, stuck-out tongues and the customary two-bite peace treaty.

My actual job, I have figured out, besides surviving each and every day, is to sort through all the moments. Acknowledge the Worst Parts by cleaning them up, or facilitating apologies or apologizing myself. And it’s tempting to get stuck and stop there. Or to frantically try and grab all the Best Parts by scrambling for the camera or holding my breath so I don’t accidentally blow them away, hoping that if I hang on hard enough I can make the Worst Parts go away. But what I really want to do is live in All the Parts and then just say thank you.

 

Thank you.

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