Give Napping A Chance

Feb 29 2012

I had the crud last weekend.

I don’t know about you, but around here everyone knows that the crud is a cat burglar who ransacks my house, steals my patience and grace, and leaves behind an unreasonable state of mama mind wherein I forget that I actually like my children and that I wouldn’t give them away to the first traveling salesman who offers me a trip to a day spa, a fruity cocktail and a real, breathing, live-in maid named Mercy.

In other words, I’m a true delight when I’m sick. I’m practically a sunbeam. The kind of sunbeam that sneaks unfiltered through that hole in the ozone layer and fries everything it touches with its laser-hot madness. Sweet joy.

When I’m at the end of my mama rope, I find I sometimes have to go to extremes to find a fix. On Sunday, for example, I decided to give napping a chance.

Now, I’m not a good napper. My personality is too jittery, my mind is too full, and my list is too long. Also, I never know whether I should sleep with my pants on, which feels like a serious lack of nap commitment, or try to snooze in just my panties and a t-shirt, which makes me fear that Nap’s going to brag to all his friends in the locker room on Monday. And to make matters even worse, I suffer from severe Nap Hangover when it’s over; when I wake up, I’m sluggish and light-sensitive and generally an unlivable, useless lump for hours. In short, I’m an embarrassment to nappers everywhere.

So when I decide I need a nap, it’s because I’m truly Done. I can neither lift my eyes nor my patience a single second more.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the best mental place on Sunday to undertake the kind of delicate family negotiations that are required when the mama needs a nap. At the point I need it most, the nap is most destined to fail due to my inability to communicate a basic message like SERIOUSLY. GET OUT. I’M TRYING TO NOT EAT YOU ALIVE. Instead, I say nothing.

For example, Sunday’s naptime attempt resulted in:

  • one kid and one husband in bed with me to “keep you company, Mom, ’cause we don’t want you to be lonely”
  • two kids laying on my bedroom floor sneaking television episodes of Gold Rush Alaska on the Discovery Channel
  • my dad stopping by the bedroom to chitchat and ask me how I was feeling
  • and one kid splashing in my bathtub

Like the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz, I could’ve fixed all of this if I only had a brain (or the power of speech). So now that my head isn’t stuffed full of straw, I thought I’d assemble a proactive list of responses so that my biannual naps might result in, oh, I don’t know, SLEEP.

Next time I try to nap, I shall post the notice below.

‘Til then, I’m happy to tell you I’m on the mend! Thank you for filling my inbox with your kind wishes for my good health. You sure know how to lift a mama’s spirits.
Beth

……….
ATTENTION: FAMILY
POSTED NOTICE REGARDING YOUR MOTHER’S TEMPORARY ILLNESS

Mommy is sick and tired. Literally.

Also, Mommy lost her poo. Not literally. (If you find any literal poo about, you should tell Daddy right away.)

Since Mommy can’t use her nice words or her nice sounds or her nice face, Mommy’s having a nap. In her room. Alone. Which means without anyone else. Including you. Even if you’re going to be very, very quiet like the quietist mouse. Even if you just need one thing from the bathroom. Even if Mommy won’t care. Still alone.

Mommy will be back from her nap when she can find her nice words, her nice sounds, and her nice face. They’re hiding somewhere. Probably with her poo. FYI, it will take Mommy at least an hour to locate everything because Mommy is old and old people’s brains take longer to reset.

While you’re waiting, here are some important things to know:

Mommy doesn’t know where the dog is. Mommy doesn’t care where the dog is. Wherever the dog is is fine. Whatever the dog is eating is fine. Whatever the dog is pooping on is fine. If you’re worried about the dog, you should tell Daddy.

Mommy doesn’t know where your unicorn pillow pet is.

Mommy doesn’t care that your brother hit you. Daddy cares. A lot. You should tell Daddy.

Yes, you can have a bandaid. You can have all of the bandaids.

Yes, you can have a snack. You can have all of the snacks.

Yes, you can have a treat. You can have all of the treats.

Yes, Mommy’s sleeping.

Yes, right now.

Yes, Mommy’s still sleeping.

How to Catch the Common Cold

Feb 27 2012

Guess what’s fun?

Writing while hopped up on Nyquil!

Who’s with me?

No one?

Fine. I’ll write this myself, then.

I suppose it was inevitable, with five kids at four schools, that I would catch the crud. And, as much as I like to think that I’m realistic and hard as nails the 3-day-old fossilized Cheerios that are probably permanently adhered to my kitchen table, apparently I’m a Pollyanna when it comes to illness.

No matter how often I get sick, I think I’m immune. Whatever the kids have, I won’t catch it.

*cough**copingmechanism**cough*

Personally, I blame Southeast Asia for my attitude. I mean, grow up there navigating street vendor food carts (so, so seriously delicious), breathing Jakarta’s secondhand exhaust (that’s when you inhale vehicle fumes that someone else pre-breathed for you – mmmm!), and courting malaria (had it and kicked its butt – booyah), and then see how you feel about the common cold. Ppfffsshh. The common cold can bite me.

The common cold bit me.

Stupid common cold can’t take a joke.

Last week, I was in contact with no less than 11 grody little children. I know that’s true because I just went through last week’s calendar and cross-referenced grody littles with my appointments. And, just to be clear, “grody littles” in this case are defined as anyone under 4 feet tall with body fluid running unchecked from somewhere.

Two of those grody littles were mine. And, as my nurse friend, Gloria, used to say, “If it’s wet and it’s not yours, don’t touch it. Unless you’re a mom, and then you’re screwed.” Truer words, Glo. Truer words.

And here’s my proof.

Recently, Cai decided he hates kisses. So thank God he came with a super-needy twin brother, because I do NOT hate kisses, and I’m not ready to be done kissing my 5-year-olds, and if he didn’t have a twin brother who still wants to snuggle all the time and says, “I’ll give you a kiss, Mommy,” I’d be a completely pathetic whiner-beggar. I’d plea, “PLEASE kiss your mama, Cai! Just one kiss? I’ll pay you a nickel.” And – you guys – I do NOT want to be that mom. Because someday I’ll say, “Where did you learn to pay for kisses?” And my kid will be all, “I learned it from YOU.” And that is going to be hard to explain to the parents of the neighbor girl who was caught necking with my kid in the broom closet for a nickel.

Where was I? (My train of thought will beat you, Nyquil! Just watch.)

Oh, yes. Colds. Grody littles. Proof that being a mom is wet and gross.

Recently, Cai decided he hates kisses, and he’s fortunate to have in Cael a twin brother who regularly throws himself on the mama kissing grenade. But Cai also has a very well-developed sense of humor which he uses to tease his mama with almost-kisses and then with brilliant, modified poetry like this:

Missed me! Missed me!
Now you hafta poop me!

Because everyone knows that the only thing better than rhyming “missed” with “kissed” is throwing out “kissed” altogether and replaced it with a poop joke. Doy!

Obviously, I can’t put up with that level of taunting and teasing, though. I mean, I’m only human. And super competitive. And so, last week when I was taunted thusly, I morphed, like the Hulk, into the Kissing Monster. And I chased my green-boogered kid down. And I kissed him at exactly the same time he morphed into the Saliva Monster and slimed me with spit. Buckets of spit. That flowed into my mouth. Which made me want to yarf.

It turns out that yakking like a cat trying to dislodge a hairball and making little mewling almost-vomit sounds does NOT kill the common cold before it takes root and steals your weekend. I assume. Because somehow, I caught it. And it stole my weekend.

Here are the morals of our story:

  1. No matter how hard you wish to be rubber, sometimes you’re glue and the common cold doesn’t bounce off – it sticks to you.
  2. Kissing is gross and dangerous.
  3. Kissing is always worth it.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Cold and Flu Season full of every kind of Monster joy,
Beth


No, I don’t have it figured out. YET.

Feb 24 2012

I don’t know how the two 5-year-olds snuck huge battle sticks (read: tree limbs) into our van without my knowledge.

FYI, I also don’t know how those chunks of granola bar found their way into my undies that one time, either. While I was still wearing them. So I guess life is full of little mysteries.

But anyhoo…

I didn’t know I had two stick-wielders in my van until we were on the road and the battle began.

THWACK!

THWACK!

giggle giggle giggle

THWACK!

Oh my gosh. One day into my commitment to give up no and a reenactment of the Civil War – brother pitted against brother – was raging in my back seat.

Oh, that NO wanted to escape SO BADLY.

“Nuh. Nuh… Nuuuuhhhhh…” I stuttered.

THWACK!

giggle giggle giggle

THWACK!

I swear I know other things to say besides no. I mean, I’m clearly not a person who’s often at a loss for words.

Like stop. How about STOP?!

Or HANG ON.

Or names. Names would’ve been good. CAI! CAEL!

Or LISTEN UP.

Or NO ONE ACTED LIKE THIS WHEN I WAS A KID. WE WERE RESPECTFUL.

Or WHO WANTS A COOKIE?

Instead, I froze.

“Nuh. Nuh… Nuuuuhhhhh…”

THWACK!

giggle giggle giggle

THWACK!

And then I handed my boys a whole lot of wiggle room on a giant platter of wishy-washy.

“Hey, now! That’s probably not a very good idea,” I said. Convincingly.

I was assured by twin voices that smacking each other with tree limbs was, in fact, the BEST IDEA EVER.

“Yes, it is” they chorused.

And I couldn’t even say, “No, it’s not” so I went with the much more articulate “Nuh uh.”

Which they countered with a forceful “Yes huh” all while staying fully engaged in the combat at hand.

THWACK!

giggle giggle giggle

THWACK!

“Nuh uh times ten.”

“Yes huh times twenty!” they yelled with enthusiasm.

“Nuh uh times one thousand,” I replied desperately.

“Yes huh times more than one thousand.”

They know how it works. Obviously. But I am their mother and I have been playing this very mature game for a LONG time. And also, I needed the thwacking to stop before a window or an eye got smashed. Those are hard to replace.

“Nuh uh to infinity which is the BIGGEST,” I said and then followed up with the all-powerful, “and I win! So HA!”

“Oh yeah?” answered Cai. “Well, you don’t win because I say, ‘Yes huh times GOD.‘”

“Whatever, Cai.” I find that modeling the use of appropriate words is an essential parenting tool, really. “And anyway, you can’t say GOD because God isn’t a number, so you’re disqualified and I still win.”

“I can, too! I can say God ’cause even if God isn’t a number, God is the BIGGEST OF ALL.”

Craaaaaaap!

You know what? Kids who are smarter than their parents ruin everything, you guys. And, by ruin everything, I mean I hate losing.

And you know what else? Parenting without no is like running with one leg tied behind my back.

And you know what else? Everyone’s eyes and all of my windows are intact. But not because I did anything useful.

And you know what else? I’m glad it’s almost the weekend. Because I clearly need a few days to:

a)  remember how to pull my car over and take sticks away from smarty-pants five-year-olds, and

b) rehearse a list of non-no responses while another grown-up is home, carrying an emergency kit stocked with eye patches and easy-access bottles of No.

It might be a long weekend.

Wish me luck!

 

It’s like a 2 hour vacation.

Feb 23 2012

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,

Any number of kids is a lot of kids.

But here’s another truth that’s important to share. A truth you will understand if you have any number of children. (Or if you have no number of children and you’re just, you know, conscious and notice stuff.) A truth that stands the test of time.

One child less than the number of children you usually have is a vacation.

Tonight, Greg took our two big kids away. Something about dinner and homework and a weird scheduling thing and not enough time to come home between dance and karate and pretty please, Greg, take both of the bigs and I promise I’ll stay awake late and hold your hand for, like, 15 minutes.

15 minutes??

Minimum.

Deal!

What can I say? Greg’s more motivated when I put out.

In short, I just got a two-hour vacation with only three kids!

Tonight, I donned my Super Duper Short-Order Cook Cape ’cause I was feeling giddy and accommodating what with my unexpected vacation and all.

My three littles ate scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, baked beans, ranch dressing, graham crackers, filler-laden microwaved pizza bites, Chinese leftovers, and chocolate chips for dinner. Then they played outside. Happily. The whole time. Because this is vacation and miracles happen on vacation. 

As my babies scampered and gamboled in our fresh, clean, sunny (see? vacation miracle!) Oregon air, I made myself crêpes lightly drizzled with honey and garnished with frozen blueberries that had only the slightest hint of freezer burn. And I ate my dinner in peace while I read Cooking Light magazine and a somewhat trashy novel about shapeshifters.

Frankly, folks, if that isn’t a vacation for a mama of five kids, I don’t know what is.

That is all.

Except this:

Here’s wishing you respite, whatever form it may take.

xoxo,
Beth

 

Lent. I give up.

Feb 22 2012

I haven’t participated in Lent for at least 13 years.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’VE BEEN RAISING KIDS AND I BARELY HAVE TIME TO WASH MYSELF. If Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for Easter, well:

Basically what I’m saying is, I win at Easter.

Take that, Lent.

But this year, in the most gigantic piece of proof EVER that my kids are getting older, I found myself with, like, 5 minutes to contemplate Lent. And to think that maybe it’s time to participate again. And to ponder what exactly I might give up.

OK, press the pause button on this post.

I know that everyone who reads here isn’t all Jesusy and stuff. And even the Jesusy people may not be from a Lent-observing tradition. So I’m going to take just a minute to explain. Skip on through if you’ve heard this before, but, for the not-so-Lenty among you, let’s deconstruct Lent. In other words, what is it? And why bother?

According to Google, which we all know is the very best place to get religious information, “Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection.”

Lent starts today and continues for the 40 days (not including Sundays – after all, we don’t want to get all crazy) until Easter. In practice here in the States, it’s the time when each participant fasts from something specific to himself or herself. Facebook, traveling by car, mojitos, nachos bell grande – the more creative you are about what you give up, the more Lent points you’re awarded. Minus the part about Lent points, which aren’t a real thing but which would totally make it WAY MORE RAD. (Someone put me in charge of Lent next year. Seriously.)

The truth is, Jesusy people in America freestyle when it comes to Lent. We like to participate for loads of reasons. Sometimes to feel closer to God, sometimes as a spiritual discipline, sometimes to draw attention to a cause, and sometimes because our best friends in the whole entire world, Caffeine and Chocolate, come to us in our dreams dressed in red riding hood cloaks with cloven hooves and horns on their heads and tell us with maniacal grins that they own our souls, and we wake up screaming and sweating and longing for big, hurking cups o’ Joe and entire bags of Hershey’s nuggets. Lent – it’s a high church synonym for Caffeine and Chocolate Rehab.

At its center, though, Lent, like other cultural and religious observances, pulls us into community with each other and ties us with thick cords to our historical roots. It makes us stop for a season to reconsider who we are at our core. It forces us away from the insignificant things that entangle us and turns our eyes to examine what’s relevant, what drives us.

At its best, Lent isn’t about deprivation. At its best, Lent allows us to work in concert with Love to refill our souls.

So. Press play.

There I was. For my 5 free minutes. Contemplating Lent and my role in it. My mini-fast, if you will. My entanglements. My distractions. And how I might be part of something bigger than myself for the next 40 non-Sunday days.

I thought about giving up Caffeine. And then I laughed until I cried until I passed out from sheer terror. I came to petting my coffee cup and telling him not to worry, that mama’s not going anywhere. It was a special time for us.

And then I thought about no.

No.

No.

Nnnoooooo.

That word.

The word no.

And what if I just… let no go?

What will happen?

I don’t know!

I almost dismissed it. I almost said no to abandoning no. Because giving up no is silly. And giving up no when you’re a mother of five children is ridiculous and undoubtedly impossible.

But then I thought about the power of no. I thought about the way I use no every day to short-circuit conversations with my kids. I thought about how my kids are now 5-13 years old, which is certainly old enough to deserve explanations for a negative response. For example, I wonder whether, instead of saying “no more treats,” I can muster enough brain power to reroute the no into an opportunity to teach. “One treat is enough for now because I love you and it’s my job to help you learn healthy eating habits even though mine suck. Let’s talk about having a treat after dinner.” And can I say that 76 times in a row which is what it’ll take?

And you know what? The more I thought about it, the more I remembered how much I LIKE Ridiculous and Impossible. They are fun guys! AND IF I GIVE UP NO, THINK OF ALL THE LENT POINTS I’LL GET!

I’m giving up no for Lent.

Which will either be an amazing opportunity to engage my kids – and Love – on a deeper and more intentional level, or it’ll be a complete train wreck. Heh heh.

Either way – Lent? I give up.

Starting…

NOW!

 

On Being Faceful

Feb 21 2012

He said it several times throughout the meeting, the Asian gentlemen with the thick accent. He was earnest and sincere every time.

“It’s about being faceful,” he said. “We must be faceful to do the work we are given.”

I don’t think it’s just because words and writing are my air and water that I latch so tightly to special turns of phrase. I suspect, instead, it’s because I’m human that I recognize that sometimes certain words are oxygen. I breathe them in and they transfer to my blood and pump through my body to power my heart and my mind.

“It’s about being faceful,” he said. He meant faithful, of course. He meant that we must be faithful and diligent and steadfast and obedient to our purpose. But what the gentleman said was, “It’s about being faceful. We must be faceful to do the work we are given.”

And the idea of being faceful hasn’t stopped coursing through my blood. Heart to brain. Brain to heart.

Because being faceful, to me, is less do and more be.

Being faceful is like standing in the sun on a perfect spring day. And closing my eyes. And tilting my head up. And moving by feel until the sun shines full in my face.

Or this: Being faceful is about closing my eyes. And tilting my head up. And moving by feel until life and love shine full in my face.

I’m beginning to suspect that being faceful is a truer and deeper and wider way of being faithful. I find myself feeling free to embrace both the me who is the faithful worker bee and the me who is the faceful worker be.

I say a prayer over each of my children every night. And then I use my thumb to lay a cross on their foreheads. The mark is only a symbol; there’s part of me that knows that. But there’s the other part, too; the part that puts into that brief brush of skin on skin my deepest hopes and longings and fears and love.

And I didn’t realize until this very moment that the prayer is what I meant to tell you all along. It just took writing this far to find my way.

The prayer, in essence, is this:

May Love bless you and keep you.
May Love’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May Love be faceful to you and give you peace.

When I pray for my children – when I mark my kids with a cross and with my kiss – it boils down to this: In birth and in death and in the rocky and gorgeous life that is between, I’m trusting Love to be faceful. I’m trusting Love to show up. I’m trusting Love to be the center. The purpose. The whole point.

And, of course, when I trust Love to be faceful to my children – for there’s no greater trust for me to give – I’m trusting Love to be faceful to me. And when I trust Love to be faceful to me, I can be faceful to the work I’m given.

 

The Tooth Fairy Intervention

Feb 18 2012

I think the Tooth Fairy might have a problem.

Now, I’m not saying she’s drinking too much or doing drugs, but there are some warning signs, and I just wouldn’t be a very good friend if I ignore them and assume all’s well. Since you may be friends with the Tooth Fairy, too, I thought we might talk about our experiences and decide together whether we need to intervene.

I’ll go first.

I met the Tooth Fairy seven years ago when my oldest baby girl lost her first tooth.

Abby and I placed that wittle baby tooth in a precious, embroidered bag under her pillow that night, and my baby girl fell asleep.

In a shower of glitter and gentle enthusiasm, the Tooth Fairy arrived. I admit I was starstruck. After all, I waited a long time to get to meet her. I was her biggest fan when I was a kid, so when I finally had a kid of my own who warranted a call to the Tooth Fairy? Well! Ecstatic probably doesn’t describe my excitement. So you can imagine my delight when I learned that the Tooth Fairy was as charming in real life as I’d envisioned.

Her hair was immaculately coiffed and her tiara perched perfectly upon her head. When I invited her to rest awhile and join me for tea, she politely agreed. We were careful to situate her gossamer wings so they flowed gently to the sides of her chair where they brushed lightly against her azure gown. And, as we sipped, she told me tales of the children she visited. She talked about their sweet lashes closed in sleepy surrender. She spoke of whispering happy dreams in their ears. And when our tea was gone, she slipped upstairs to take Abby’s tooth and leave behind a dollar and a darling handwritten note.

The Tooth Fairy was a wonder. She was a delight.

Abby, of course, was overjoyed the next morning, holding the evidence of fairy magic in her two slightly chubby hands. We read the fairy’s note together, and she smiled. And so did my heart.

Fast forward seven years and dozens of teeth, and I feel like the Tooth Fairy and I are old friends. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice at first her gradual but steady decline. A forgotten note here, a late arrival there. Nothing to complain about as an isolated incident, you understand. I mean, there was that one time when she showed up smelling like Doritos and Corona, but I dismissed it. One lapse doesn’t necessarily mean anything, right?

But this last time? This last time caught my attention.

‘Cause Cai lost his second tooth yesterday. A fit of the violent wiggles and that sucker popped right on out of his mouth. Victory!

We put him to bed with his tooth tucked under his pillow, safely ensconced in its plastic, Ziploc sandwich bag (which everyone knows is just as special as an embroidered tooth bag) and then he fell asleep.

You guys, I think it’s clear that Greg and I did our part. We celebrated with the kid who made a new hole in his head. We kept track of that tiny piece of human ivory as it was handled by two five-year-olds all day long. And we made sure it ended up under the pillow.

Then we waited.

And then we waited.

And then we waited.

And the Tooth Fairy didn’t show.

The tea got cold. I got tired. I went to bed.

And this morning, I was awakened to the voice of Cai yelling, “SHE DID NOT COME! The Tooth Fairy DID NOT COME.”

In my drafty t-shirt, I sprang from my bed and raced to Cai’s room.

Sure enough, it appeared that Tooth Fairy DID NOT COME. There was my poor boy’s wittle tooth all alone in that Ziploc bag without a bit of money in sight. No money and no handwritten note.

Then it hit me. All of the little Tooth Fairy failings. All of the warning signs I’ve ignored. All of the nights she forgot to take teeth with her. All of times we’ve had to cover for her by telling our kids, “Well, you know the Tooth Fairy has bad aim. That money could have landed anywhere in the house. You can’t just check under your pillow; you have to check under ALL of the pillows.

Sure enough. After looking nearly everywhere else, Cai found his coins in a pile under a pillow in my room.

OK. I’ll be honest. I secretly suspect that the Tooth Fairy sometimes arrives at our house ONLY AFTER she hears the cosmic cries of “the Tooth Fairy DID NOT COME.” I think she shows up with bedhead and morning breath in a drafty t-shirt and hurriedly sprinkles money in random locations. And then she pretends like she did it on time.

You guys, I know this post might come across as harsh and critical. I promise you I don’t mean to publicly malign someone as upstanding as the Tooth Fairy who’s done so much good for so many years. But I really think she might need some help. An intervention. Or perhaps just a week-long trip to a spa where she can sleep in and wash herself.

So, spill it, y’all. Hiding the truth and covering up for her helps no one! Has the Tooth Fairy been acting out of character at your house? And, more importantly, do we need to meet somewhere for coffee and pedicures just so, you know, we can discuss this issue in depth? Because I don’t know about you, but I am committed to getting to the bottom of this.

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Beth

……….

February 24, 2012 Update:

You all make me laugh and laugh and laugh. I LOVED every one of your Tooth Fairy confessions both below and on the Five Kids Facebook page.

In lieu of our well-deserved coffee and pedis (which turned out to be sadly impractical because you failed to all move to my neighborhood this week – boo!), I’m donating $50 in your honor to the Medical Teams International Mobile Dental program which provides dental care to kids and adults who lack a way to pay for treatment. Check out Oscar’s story here.

Fiddy bucks is a small gesture. I know that. But I also know you. I feel like I really do. And I know that even more than laughing about the Tooth Fairy’s failings, we mamas want our kids – and our neighbors’ kids and our neighbors’ neighbors’ kids – to be healthy and happy so they can grow up to laugh through life with us.

Thanks for sharing pieces of your life with me. Community really does make a difference.

Beth