Contest Time!

Dec 14 2010

Most of the time, when I talk to moms with fewer than five kids, they follow up their stories of feeling overwhelmed with a statement like, “and I only have two children.”

I’ve never felt, though, like five kids gives me a corner on the overwhelmedness market.  (For those of you who think I made that word up, I did.  It’s pronounced overwhelm-ed-ness.)

My hand to God, I was overwhelmed when we had one child.  I was overwhelmed when we had three.  And I’m overwhelmed now.

Here’s a universal truth: any number of children is overwhelming.  (Well, unless your names are Dave and Judy and you had my husband, Greg, as your first child.  Then you weren’t overwhelmed because he was easy-peasy.  But you were a touch overconfident about how good you were at raising him.  So God gave you Jeff.  And then you weren’t quite so self-congratulatory.  Let that be a lesson to any of you who’re currently thinking that parenting is cake.  God will get you.)

As I was saying, any number of children is overwhelming.

If you couple children with Things You Have To Do, then you’re sunk.  Overwhelming is knocking on your door, and, frankly, he’s not waiting for you to answer; he’s kicking it down.  The good news is, you can laugh in Overwhelming’s face.

In the span of 4 hours on Saturday morning, Greg and I took 3 kids to Nutcracker rehearsal, 2 kids to Christmas program rehearsal, 3 kids to a Christmas open house, 2 kids to a birthday party, and brought 3 extra kids home for a playdate. That’s, like, 13 kids, and I only have 5 so I’m not totally sure how we accomplished that.  I’m almost positive some of the kids overlapped in there, but don’t make me tell you who or when, OK?

That’s my overwhelmedness story from this weekend.

I thought it would be fun if we played a game on this blog.  I haven’t done this before, and it could be a total flop, but bear with me.  (I almost typed “bare with me.”  That would’ve been embarrassing.)

My friend Sally mentioned recently that she likes my blog.  Well, I like Sally!  But she also said I don’t post often.  That’s true.  I’d like to fix that, and I’d also thoroughly enjoy interacting more with you, my seven readers.

A contest of sorts is the perfect solution, yes?  Yes!

Today, we’re going to play “I’m more overwhelmed than you are.” All participants are welcome. Please do not think you need to have 5 or more children to play.  You simply have to feel as though overwhelmedness is part and parcel with your life and to have the desire to laugh in its face.

As you may or may not know, I cleaned out my purse recently.  I emerged a wealthier woman, having found several gift cards with balances still on them.  Prizes!

You’re playing for coffee.  I feel like that’s appropriate since caffeine is one of only five known antidotes for overwhelmedness.  (I made that up, too.  There probably aren’t four other antidotes.)

Anyway, you’re playing for coffee.  That’s right, coffee!  And not just for the Starbucks gift card I found that has $1.55 left on it.  Oh no.  You’re playing for the $20.00 Starbucks gift card I found AND for the $1.55 gift card.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, that’s $21.55 in Starbucks coffee just in time to use them as Christmas gifts.

This contest will be judged by my fabulous sister-in-law, Kim, and by my friend, Sally… the one who likes my blog… if they’ll have me.  As two of my seven readers, I feel it’s important to include them.  I didn’t actually ask them to be judges, and I don’t have any idea what criteria they’ll use.  That just makes this all the more fun for me!

The winner will be selected from comments to this post and announced on this blog no later than Monday.  Comments submission deadline is this Saturday.

Good luck!

Poop Nuggets

Dec 13 2010

Cai, age 4, spends most of his nights crawling in bed with me.

I’m happily married to my husband.  We share a bed.  To repeat, happily.

My dad reads this blog, so that’s enough detail on that.

So, why, if I share a bed, would I say that my son crawls in bed with me, instead of with us?

For two reasons:

1. 4 out of 5 children prefer me in the middle of the night.  They don’t seek out their father.  They come find me.  Cai appears at the edge of my side of the bed, and then he sleeps on me.  Yes, on me.  He’s my active sleeper.  At times, I have just a Cai foot or knee thrown over me, but most of the time he chooses to sling his entire torso over mine.  He does all of this from my side of the bed.  At no time does he stray onto Greg’s side.

2.  Greg sleeps like the dead.  Really.  He’s the guy in college who left his entire dorm standing outside in the freezing cold in the middle of the night during a fire drill because the flashing strobe lights and blaring sirens didn’t  wake him. If that didn’t work, a sleepy child doesn’t stand a chance.

So lately Cai spends most of his nights crawling in bed with me.

Last night, he crawled in bed with me 4 different times.

I’d like to point out that good parents don’t allow this.

I never slept with my parents.

Greg never slept with his parents.

Our parents enforced appropriate rules with their children.  They were sympathetic to bad dreams and other causes of midnight wandering  (the time I went a’sleep-walkin’ to the garage and relieved myself in the dog dish comes to mind), but they always took us back to bed (sometimes after yelling, “Don’t pee in the dog dish!”).

Greg and I both learned good sleep habits.

But something went awry.  Greg certainly can’t be blamed for my poor nighttime decisions.  He’s too busy sleeping.

So why in the world would I allow my child to sleep with me?

Because I have one driving force in the middle of the night, and that’s to sleep.  Oh, dear God in Heaven, I just need to freaking sleep.

I wasn’t always this way.  I used to have nighttime discipline and enforce rules.

I took the long view.  If we take the time to train them to sleep now, we’ll reap the benefits of full nights of sleep later.  Right?  Right.

Sadly, the children wore me down.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped believing that a full night of sleep is possible.  I’m like a sleep refugee.  I take what I can get when I can get it, and I don’t spend a lot of time or energy mourning what I can’t have.

These days, if a child wants to fling his oh-so-hard noggin’ right into my rib cage at 3am or elbow me in the back at 4am, I have to evaluate… is this affecting my sleep?  If so, how much?  I’m only waking up every 5 minutes?  So that’s 5 minutes of sleep I’m getting at a time?  Hm.  Sounds good to me.

Besides, if I didn’t allow kids to crawl in bed with me, I’d miss their nighttime exclamations.

Like last night, when Cai sat bolt upright and yelled, “Poop nuggets!” at the top of his lungs.

And then fell back onto the bed, slammed his knee into my bladder, and started snoring.

Seriously, who wants to miss moments like that?

Not me.  Life’s too short to miss out on the funny.

The Little Things

Dec 11 2010

Aden, age 8:  Can I have a snack, Mom?

Me:  Yes.  You can have a banana.

Aden, banana in hand:  Hey! Look, Mom!  I listened!

And then, making a belittling brush-away motion with her hand against her chest, Aden followed up: I always listen to the little things coming out of your mouth.

My gratitude knows no bounds.

A terrible, awful, very good day

Dec 10 2010

I was 2.5 hours late to work yesterday morning.

I took a kid to a doctor’s appointment in the morning.  The appointment was a half-hour long and an hour round-trip from home, so part of my delay to work was planned.

Then, just as I was headed out of town for my 22-minute commute to work, my husband called.   Whenever a conversation starts with “Where are you?” you know there’s a hovering shoe waiting to drop.

He had locked his keys in his van.  Did I have mine?  If so, could I bring them to him?

Considering the number of times my husband and other family members have bailed me out of similar situations… car out of gas, keys locked inside, child bleeding profusely from the head because his sister pushed him onto the sharp edge of the car door and needs to go to the hospital for stitches… you know, the usual… I really needed to return the favor graciously.

Unfortunately, I didn’t seem to have my keys to his van with me.

My purse is a black hole of debris.  I couldn’t be certain I didn’t have the keys, but I hadn’t seen them for at least 3 weeks.  In a fit of courage, I upended the purse on my passenger seat and dug through the refuse.  Sure enough, no van keys.

I turned my car around and went home to find my keys, my white horse, and my cute little knight-in-shining-armor number.

After a half hour of hunting, I couldn’t find any of the above.

Instead, while running around the house, I sneezed.  Which caused me to simultaneously bite my tongue and pee my pants and trip on a pile of laundry in my room.

Yes, it’s true.  I’m that awesome.

After 45 minutes, I called my husband and asked him to rescue himself.  He’s clearly better at it and more qualified than I am.  He bought a rod (seriously, that’s what he called it) at Home Depot and jimmied himself out of his problem in less than two minutes.  Sometimes, you just need a rod.

On my way to work for the second time, I drafted a list on a piece of paper that I unstuck from underneath a McDonald’s happy meal box on my passenger-side floor mat.  Don’t worry — I only wrote when I was stopped at red lights.  Since all the lights were red on the way to work, I had lots of time to work on my list.

I titled it “How to Not Lose My Poo.”  Except I didn’t use the word poo.

On the list: 1) Clean out my purse. 2) Clean out my car. 3) Clean my room.

I started to feel better.  I am Hannibal from the A-Team.  I love it when a plan comes together.  A well-ordered list is but the first step of a well-executed plan.  I may not have learned much in my 37 years, but I’ve learned this:  I can bitch at my family when we all get home at the end of a terrible, awful, no good, very bad day.  Or I can do something productive, dare I say listy, to make it a terrible, awful, very good day.

List in hand, I moved on to execution.  I had to figure out how to do three whole list items (items that had been on my mental list for months) while also feeding my family dinner, helping three kids with homework, breaking up fights, and reminding our twin 4-year-olds not to ride our 12-pound dog.

I called my father.  I told him that I was about to lose my poo and asked if he could come over to spell me on kid-duties so I could work on a List.

My father is a former Marine.  He understands the value of the List.  He found his white horse and shining armor and he came over at dinner time.

I cleaned my purse.  I cleaned my car.  I found my van keys.  In my car.

My loving husband found his shining armor and cleaned our room.

My kids did their homework with Papa.  The 4-year-olds didn’t ride the dog.  The children only put themselves into two or three dangerous situations.  My dad cleaned my kitchen.

The laundry room is a much bigger mess than when we started the evening.  I’m sure there’s some sort of a mathematical algorithm that shows that when one area of my house is cleaned another area necessarily becomes equally dirty.  But I don’t care. Because we did it.  We made it through another day.  Maybe even in a healthier place than when we started.

It was a terrible, awful, very good day.

Dear Nicky’s Mom

Nov 22 2010

Dear Nicky’s Mom,

Thank you for sewing the tear in Aden’s stuffed leopard.

The tear I’d promised to fix.

Approximately 4 weeks ago.  Or maybe 5.  Or maybe 6.

Imagine my surprise when Aden rushed to me after school with a huge grin on her face and told me that her leopard was fixed.

“Oh,” I said neutrally.  “Did someone fix it for you?”

“Yes!” she responded. “Yay! Yay! Yay!”

“Who fixed it for you?” I asked.

“Nicky’s mom!” she said enthusiastically.

“Who’s Nicky’s mom?” I asked.

“Nicky’s in my class,” she responded.

“Did you ask Nicky’s mom to fix your leopard?”

“Yes!”

“I thought I was going to fix it.”

“Whoops.” Aden said.

So, from a mom who doesn’t meet work deadlines to fix torn leopards to a mom who spends her free time making little girls’ dreams come true… you have my appreciation and gratitude.  And a teeny, tiny bit of horrified embarrassment.

Sincerely,

Aden’s Mom

A Birthday, A Monster, and A Murder

Nov 21 2010

Today was my son Ian’s 11-year-old birthday party.

I made a terrible faux pas.

Ian’s birthday is close to Thanksgiving.  Like anyone with a child whose birthday is close to a holiday, I try to make his birthday special by not allowing the holiday to bleed all over his special day.  Ian’s birthday isn’t about turkey or pumpkin pie, cornucopias or fall leaf decorations.  This year, Ian’s birthday is about turning 11 and being a boy.  Being cool.  Blaring rock music and playing football with his friends.

That’s why I was so excited when I found a green monster cake at the grocery store.  Technically, I suppose it breaks my Separation of Holiday and Birthday Rule.  I mean, I have to admit that grabbing a premade cake is a holiday inspired shortcut to allow me more time during Thanksgiving prep.

And, granted, it’s not a three-tiered, homemade, fondant-covered masterpiece like my sister-in-law Kim made for my eldest daughter Abby on her 11th birthday.

But Ian’s a boy.

He was a zombie for Halloween this year.

Last year, he was the victim of a spider that was sucking the life out of him.

Which clearly made him feel joyful.

And the year before that, he was a vampire.

In short, polkadotted fondant’s going to be rather under-appreciated by him.

Which is why I didn’t spend a lot of time feeling bad about taking a Thanksgiving week shortcut with a store bought cake.

Especially a store bought monster cake.  Because monsters are cool and scary and awesome and perfect for 11-year-old boys who want to be zombies and spider victims and vampires.  Right?  Can I hear an “amen?”  Amen!

Imagine my horror when I arrived at home with my special find, transferred it to my cake plate (hey – it’s store-bought, but I can pretend I made it) and looked closely at it for the first time.

And discovered…

… that it was Oscar.

Of Grouch fame.

The green monster from Sesame Street.

The show for preschoolers.

Yes.  I bought my 11-year-old son a preschool cake for his birthday party.

Oh, the horror.  The way my heart fell.  The way I knew I’d failed my son.  But only for a split second.  Because we moms are resilient problem-solvers.

I did what any semi-creative mom would do in the same situation.

I slaughtered Oscar the Grouch.

I committed a grisly, premeditated Sesame Street murder.

Some drizzly red icing and a well-placed knife and I was back in business.

The boys?  They thought it was AWESOME.

Phew!

Delay Tactics

Nov 5 2010

Cai and Cael, age 4, are honing their “don’t let Mom leave” skills.  It’s a virtual rite of passage in childhood, employed most typically at bedtime.

Previous attempts have included the usual childhood gambits.  The desperate thirst for water.  The unbearable urge to pee.  The terror of the dark.

All of these worked for a while.  Mostly because I’m kind of a sucker as a parent.  I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering if my children really are terribly thirsty, parched like a veritable desert, wasting away from dehydration as their callous mother reclines negligently on her chaise sipping wine and eating cheese.

Inevitably, I get the kid water.

However, like the best circus dogs, I can be trained.  Eventually, I remember to get those wily kids a drink of water before they go to bed.  I know… clever, right?

So, kids being kids, they adjust.  They learn new skills and new techniques.  Privately, they draw up their strategic plans complete with objectives, action items and success indicators.

Their latest plan?

Conversational Sidetracking

It goes something like this:

Kiss.

Hug.

Sing the Nite Nite Song.

Me: “Nite nite, boys.  Mommy loves you, loves you.”

Now, of course I know there’s going to be a conversational breakout attempt here.  So I say this as I’m walking to the door to leave, trying to give myself a leg up on getting to the hall-side of their closed door.

It’s really more like: “Nite nite,” …walking to the door… “boys.” …standing in the doorway… “Mommy loves you,”…. scooching my rear out into the hall… “loves you.”… and, if I did it just right, I barely get my toes and lips out of the way of a closing door.

Sadly, the boys have caught on.  So right when I’m to the word “Mommy” they start in.

Cai: “Hey, Mom?  Um, um, um, …”

And this is my favorite part because I love to hear what comes next.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out from their perspective.

Like earlier this week when Cael said: “Hey, Mom?”

And I said: “Yes, Cael?”

And he said: “Your lips smell nice.”

And I laughed.  Funny, yes.  Sweet, definitely… I mean, I know enough to treasure comments about my lips from my little boy because I realize that when he’s 14 he’ll rather die than acknowledge that his mom even has lips.  But an actual success in the Delay Mommy column?  Not so much.

Me: “Thank you, Cael.  Good night.”  The door closes.

Nevertheless, sometimes they are successful.

Like last night.

Cai: “Hey, Mom?  Um, um, um, … your grandma died.  But, but, but, um, not my grandma because she’s regular.”

Target engaged!

You didn’t seriously expect me, the mom who falls repeatedly for “I’m thirsty,” to walk away from my child’s attempts to understand death, did you?

I walked back in the room and sat on the boys’ bed.  (I bet this is a success indicator on their strategic plan.)

Me:  “Yes, Cai Cai, my grandma died.  But not yours.  Do you have questions about that?”

Target locked.

Thus ensued a long conversation about death, particularly about when it happens (“we don’t know the timing, but we hope to live until we’re very, very old”) and to whom (“everyone will die someday, but hopefully not for a long time, so let’s try not to worry about that”).

At the end of our discussion, Cael summed it all up as follows:

  1. We die when we’re very, very old.  (So much for my “we don’t know the timing” explanation, but I do like his version better than mine.)
  2. Mommy’s grandma died because she was very, very old.  (Not really, but whatever.)
  3. Daddy’s grandma is still living because she’s only a little, tiny bit old. (She’ll be 90 next week, so again with the whatever).
  4. Cael’s and Cai’s grandma isn’t at all old.  (Congratulations, Judy!)  So she’s just regular.  (Regular apparently being the opposite of old).

Mission accomplished.

(And I loved every minute of it.  Shhhhh…)