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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.

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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.

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.

Pooped

27 Oct

Whine: Brother Bear is downright surly this morning. So hungry he can’t sleep and so sleepy he can’t eat. A real ray of sunshine.

Cheese: The only cheese I have today is the Kraft single he just threw on the floor.

Brother Bear woke up an hour and a half early from his two hour nap this morning. I left him in his bed, hollering “MAMA!” like Will Ferrell asking for meatloaf* for a while, then gave up all hope of any respite and retrieved him. His crocodile tears dried instantaneously, he pointed to his fluffy backside with a smile and said “Poop.”

I remember when I was pregnant with Big Sis and the nausea of changing my niece’s poopy diaper almost pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t even do it and had to beg my sister for mercy.

Pre-kids me was such a wimp.

I have officially changed so many poopy diapers that the act leaves me completely unfazed, regardless of severity. Yet poop remains my single greatest enemy. Yes, poop.

Poop has derailed many a naptime, taking what was once my only breather for the day (and by breather I mean alone-time with my piles of laundry) and turned it into a moment-by-moment battle against EHS (Exploding Head Syndrome). Because the baby who pooped himself awake after only 30 minutes is just a wee bit touchy.

Poop has ended playdates and caused more than one premature and hasty exit from a swimming party.

Poop (or the lack thereof) has hijacked family vacations– from splashing in the lake to sitting around the potty and waiting for the blessed event. Waiting. Crying. Begging. Pleading.

Poop, when discovered in the planter box by our front door (which apparently makes a great litter box for cats on the go), can maybe, possibly push one mama over the edge.

I’m just gonna say it: Today has been a particularly poopy day. Literally.

And I am not myopic enough to think that my life is the hardest. Shoot, my life doesn’t even begin to qualify as hard. I know that. But there are just days when living in the moment. . . well, it stinks. And even as I put my feet up and soak in my self-pity (for lack of Calgon), I know that another moment will come along soon and I’ll be smiling and laughing and hoping my kids never change a bit. But not this moment.

In fact, if a yellow school bus showed up and I could send them off for the day (or two. . . or three), I probably would. And I would hope they have lots of hand sanitizer there.

UPDATE: Mr. Dad just went to change another stinky diaper (#3 for today) and found not one, but two pennies in there.  Sigh

*I would post the clip from Wedding Crashers because it sounds just like my son, but it has some non-family-friendly language in it, so feel free to find the clip yourself if you are so inclined.

**In the time it took me to write the last two paragraphs, Brother Bear found a glass jar to shatter on the kitchen floor. Which I left sitting there while I strapped the kids in the car and headed to pick up Big Sis from school.

***This post is dedicated to all the mothers out there who aren’t sure if they can make it ’til bedtime (which is at, like 5:45, right??). I’m not sure either, but we’re in this together. For a much more encouraging take on all this, read THIS.

I’ve Got the Joy

15 Sep

Whine: I have been very successful in getting myself to bed earlier in the last few weeks. Unfortunately this is not the same as going to sleep earlier. Not at all. Lying in bed awake for hours at a time does not quite give you the same restful feeling as it would if you could actually convince your brain to go to shut the heck up and go to sleep.

Cheese: I am a lot better rested than I was six years ago today, as I had been up for two straight days trying to convince Big Sis that she really did want to enter the world and not stay in utero forever.

I remember waddling into the tiny, cramped room with Mr. Dad at my side. I remember oofing myself up onto the naugahyde exam table. I remember the cold feeling as the sonogram tech prepped my belly. I remember crying softly as she said, “It’s a girl.”

The first thing we did before we even finished the appointment was choose our firstborn’s middle name. It would be four more months and a melodramatic delivery room monologue (you’d be amazed how persuasive one can be mid-labor) before I we picked a first name. But from those first minutes of knowing we were having a daughter, we both knew one thing. We were filled with Joy.

And Joy she is and has been.

Kisses from an adoring Brother Bear.

Don’t get me wrong, she has her moments of unjoy. In fact, it’s her extreme happiness when things excite her (like a cardboard box or the number 10) that makes her extreme displeasure (having to stop what she’s doing to eat dinner or getting a pink balloon instead of a red one) so difficult to bear.

See what I mean?

She is also a tiny bit of a crazy person. I often come into the room and notice that she has hung necklaces from the ceiling fan. Or tied all the pull-toys in the nursery together to make a parade (those knots are a booger to undo). Or she tells me from behind the shower curtain as she takes a bath “Mommy, wait, I have a surprise for you.” then proceeds to drench me with bathwater and laugh maniacally while I scowl like a drowned cat. And as much at those moments as I might want to sigh violently and wonder when school starts, I love that crafty little brain of hers.

This pretty much sums her up. A dainty ironman ready to (gently) kick some butt.

School finally did start for her last week. My baby’s in kindergarten.

I wasn’t sure how this would all play out for me because Big Sis is doing a 3-day program at the same school she’s been going to for preschool. So in reality kindergarten is no different for us in location or schedule than it was last year.

But my first clue to my fragile emotional state was the night before the big day when I couldn’t get my First Day of Kindergarten sign printed which was all Mr. Dad’s fault, of course, (I mean, not technically, but still) and I wasn’t going to be able to appropriately capture her fist day and have it on film forever and I started sobbing hysterically and couldn’t stop. Then when  my sister-in-law swooped with my precious sign after a late-night trip to Kinkos and I could barely get the ‘Thank you’ out of my mouth before I was sobbing again, I knew we were in trouble.

Drop off the next day went fine. I managed to keep all the crazy inside and get my little sweetie shuffled into the waiting arms of her new teacher. I made it out of the building and headed to work. Where I did no work. Unless having a four-hour case of cry hiccups and sobbing your way through staff meeting counts as work. Which, since I work at a church, it kind of does.

This makes you cry, too, right?

Big Sis is rocking Kindergarten. She’s joined a soccer team because (her words) “I am really good at soccer.” She makes her own turkey sandwiches and (her words) “Saved Brother Bear’s life the other day.” She has started reading and writing–even sometimes on paper–and she can add and make patterns. I don’t know how, but we’ve seemed to fast forward  from the day (yesterday, right?) when we were teaching her that a cow says “moo”. But then again, it seems like she’s been a part of our life forever because I can’t really remember what it was like without her.

Sweetness

And we have our moments. Moments when one or both of us is frustrated that things did not go according to plan. Times when we both want to call the shots. But that’s mostly because, as Mr. Dad likes to point out as we’re locking horns over the correct way to frost a cupcake, she’s my little me (only smarter and way cuter).

She is my little light. Generous and kind, she runs to welcome her friends with a pair of open (sometimes suffocating) arms. She mother-hens her brother and younger cousins. She often shares her top bunk with Lil’ Sis as they giggle into bedtime. She reminds me to be content with what I have “Mom, don’t be jealous of Aunt A, it’s ok that she has a bigger bathtub”. She’s the one that has given me my dream job. And in a few years when we are locking horns over trigonometry homework or the appropriate length of a skirt (ankle, right?), I want to remember just how grateful I am for this joy she’s given me down in my heart.

We both look shockingly young, don't we?

 

Tension Headache

18 Aug

Whine: My shower and I had an altercation yesterday. I’ve got a pair of goose eggs and a big ol’ scrape on my forehead to show for it.

Cheese: You should see the other guy.

Well now my head hurts and the only 60 minutes of the last 10,080 that I’ve had alone I spent scraping my dizzy and crying self off the floor of my shower. Go ahead and laugh, I know you’re going to.  It IS a little funny.

After I called and scared the you-know-what out of Mr. Dad “Hey honey, I’m home alone and I blacked out in the shower and hit my head and I’m bleeding [sob] but don’t worry about me I’ll be ok [sniff] I pulled myself together. OK, fine, I called My Mommy, too. But then after she came and kissed it and made it all better, I was really, really mad. I wasted all my kid-free time icing my stupid lumpy head.

I was really mad about those precious 60 minutes because I don’t have any to spare. I love having my kids at home with me all day every day for summer vacation even though I still have to work at an actual job that does not have a summer vacation. It’s very hard to plan lessons and stamp out playdoh at the same time. Not impossible, but difficult. And messy.  So can you see my problem?

That’s good. Because my vision is still a little blurry.

I’ve spent the summer negotiating, bargaining and just plain making-it-work. I’m working at home, working at night, working while small people are climbing on me like a jungle gym. I’m not sure this was what my boss had in mind when she said I could work Flextime.

But we also went camping yesterday. We pitched our tent between the foot of my bed and the dresser and waited for the bear attack to come. It did eventually come, but it was a very polite if not somewhat distracted, bear, followed by a bear cub who just wanted to tackle everybody on the floor. Then we caught and fried up some fish for snack–our stream spawns the orange whole wheat kind. I cooled off with some refreshing water from my sippy canteen.

Then I slipped away from camp to a place where there was good cell reception (South Living Room) and made a few calls. I had just enough time to shoot off a few important emails before they found me and dragged me back to the woods.

And that has been my summer in a nutshell. Play, work, lock myself in the bathroom, repeat. One minute I’m racing my kids around the house inside my suitcase and laughing my head off, thinking I’m a pretty fun mom with really fun kids and hoping summer will never end. The next minute I’m breathing into a paper bag because I have about ten deadlines and the stacks of unwashed dishes are  mocking me from the kitchen counter and there’s no space or alone time in sight and school doesn’t start for another three weeks how in the blue blazes am I going to survive three more weeks????

And when that day finally arrives and I ship Brother Bear off to his first day of preschool don’t you think I am going to feel really sad and have second thoughts because he’s so fun and just a little guy, after all? And when Lil’ Sis run straight into her classroom with her friends and forgets to kiss me goodbye, don’t you know that I’m going to be imagining that this is how it’ll be more and more every year until it’s college and she won’t need me at all?? And when I walk Big Sis in that door and I suddenly realize that I am sending my baby to kindergarten, don’t you think I am going to ABSOLUTELY FREAK THE HECK OUT AND POSSIBLY MAKE A SCENE IN FRONT OF ALL THE OTHER PARENTS?

Then I will wipe off my splotchy face, pull myself together and head to the first staff meeting in months where none of the agenda involves turning on Veggie Tales or distributing animal crackers. (Although my boss does get cranky around snack time. Oops, that’s me, not her.) I’ll sit at my desk and complete actual tasks without too much juvenile interruption.  And then I’ll feel really, really guilty because for the first time in a long time I’ll feel like the non-Mommy version of myself. And I’ll like it.

But then I’ll pick them up and see their faces and hear their stories and squeeze them as hard as I can and be really glad they’re home. Until tomorrow.

This whole I’m-a-mom-and-also-still-a-person thing is a real pain. When I’m not 100% mom 100% of the time I feel guilty. When I’m not getting my work done the way I want when I want, I feel guilty. When I’m sitting on the couch watching DVR and sipping a glass of red wine, I feel guilty (but a very relaxed guilty.)

It’s a hard balancing act. One that requires dedication and flexibility. Skill and grace. Whine and Cheese. No wonder I have a headache.