Atten…TION!

Oct 12 2009

My dad is a former Marine.

There were lots of Marine-isms in our house growing up.

We marched.

We know the Marine Corps Hymn.

We can “sir, yes, SIR” with the best of ’em.

We know the difference between a rifle and a gun.  As in, “This is my rifle. *grab rifle* This is my gun. *grab your boy parts* One is for fighting.  One is for fun.”

And we can salute.  Both ways.

I’m pretty sure my mom’s really excited that I have a blog right now.  (Never think your children will stop embarrassing you.  You’ll just be disappointed.)

Anyway, every now and then my dad would bring us to AH-tehhn-SHUN!  You really have to clip the “shun” off short for it to be authentically Marine.

None of that has anything to do with what I’m about to tell you, other than the word attention.  Of course, it might explain a bit about past posts.

I call Aden, age 7, the Mix Master.  She is supremely gifted at just the right blend of sweetness, charm, manipulation and backhanded compliments.  She leaves the listener wondering, Did she really mean that?  Is she saying what I think she’s saying?  Did she just manage to deliver the perfect insult couched as a compliment so we can’t bust her?

Aden’s a genius.

Lately, she’s been repeating one particular phrase.

“Mom, I love you so, so, so much.  Thanks for paying attention to me.”

Gee, Aden.  I love you, too. At least I know that part of the response.

Am I supposed to respond to the attention comment, though?

I don’t know.

On the one hand, it would probably be a good idea.  A direct response could provide her with new information while being a supportive and sympathetic mommy.

Yes, I know I don’t pay enough attention to you.  Bad news is, that’s not likely to change anytime soon.  Good news is, you’re in great company as none of your siblings gets enough attention, either.

Minus the sympathy, I guess.

On the other hand, it may not be the greatest idea to confront this head-on.

I spend an extraordinary amount of time training my kids to ask for what they need.  Part of this is a desire to teach good communication skills, but a bigger part is that I patently suck at subtle communication, so I’m reluctant to positively reinforce it.

To kids who complain, “I’m thirsty,” I say, “That sounds uncomfortable.”  Funny how all five kids know how to procure water now.

To kids who whine, “There are no cups,” I respond, “I wonder how you’ll solve that problem.”  And then they do.

And so, I suppose to kids who say, “Thanks for paying attention to me,” I’ll just say, “You’re welcome.”

Actually, I think Aden and I started this exchange about six weeks ago.

I’d love to tell you how it’s working out, but I haven’t really been paying attention.

Monday

Sep 21 2009

It started with the jam.

I tried to open it, but the lid was glued to the jar.  A rubberband, I thought.  I searched the drawers in vain.  Oh, I found one, but it was in use, bundling unsharpened pencils to keep them from infiltrating the writing utensils drawer.  You probably think it’s no big deal to unbundle the pencils and use the rubberband.  That’s because you’ve never sent 3 kids all at once in search of pencils for homework time, only to turn them back time and time again saying every time, “Find a sharpened one. Does this one have a point? No. Find a SHARPENED one.”

I knew that taking that rubber band off of the pencil bundle was a bad idea.  It would make for infinite trouble later.

So I expand my search.  I have an underweight toddler who wants jam on his toast, dang it.  I’m practically saving a life.

I go to the room where we keep my desk.  Don’t I have rubber bands in here?

The bus is late for my 9 year old.  He’s been standing by the front door for 10 minutes straight.  I’ll give it a few more minutes, and then I’ll have to call the bus service.

The desk drawer is locked.  As in, with a key.  Which means someone’s been playing with the key.

I can’t find the key.  Where’s the #$%@ key?

I find the key.

Can’t make it work in the lock.  #$%@.

I make it work in the lock.  Must be because I use my magic word.  #$%@.

No rubber bands in the desk.

Have I mentioned that I’m in my bathrobe with a towel on my head?

I break down and take the rubber band off of the pencil bundle.  Still can’t get the #$%@ jar open.

Shoot.  Maybe the magic word doesn’t work as well as I hoped.

I try to talk the toddler into eating jamless toast.  I don’t try my magic word on the toddler.  (Kudos to me.)

I try to comfort the crying toddler.

Bus is really late.  Have now made my 9-year-old stand by the front window for 15 minutes straight.

I find scant jam in the bottom of another jar in the back of the fridge.  I hope that the white cloudy stuff mixed in with the jam is butter and not mold.  I taste it; it seems OK.  I feed it to the toddler.  Hoping I won’t pay with an ER bill later.

I call the bus service at 20 minutes late.  They assure me the bus is just “running late.”

I wait downstairs, knowing the bus will arrive any second.  I don’t go upstairs to dry my hair, find make-up, put on clothes and jewelry, get the boys’ bears to take to daycare, get their clothes or any of the other myriad details I need to do.

Commence 20 more minutes of “the bus will be here any minute.”

I could write an entire blog of bus mishaps.  They involve my special needs kids, missed pick-ups, wrong drop-offs, drivers not knowing my kids were on the bus at all, letting my kids off with adults the driver didn’t know at the wrong stops, etc.

These are all going through my head as I call the bus service and try very hard to keep my #$%@ together.

The bus service operator actually calls the bus driver this time.  Turns out, the driver wasn’t running late the first time, had already been to our house, etc.

School started 5 minutes ago.

I’m still in my bathrobe.

Now, I have no idea how the bus thing happened, since we’ve been waiting for the bus now for more than 40 minutes from before the time the bus was to arrive.  It’s possible we just missed it; after all, there was jam involved.  But it’s also a new driver’s first day.  So who knows?

I try to be nice.  I swear I do.  But I just can’t help saying, “I hope you’ll understand when I call next time that the bus is late if I ask you to actually call the bus to find out where they are, because waiting this long thinking the bus is coming when it’s not is really not OK.”

At this point, the bus service (probably having similar visions of the bus happenings around our house) offers to send a bus.  I ask how long it’ll take.

I know.  I’m super, uber dumb.

They say “just a few minutes.”

I get a call from work.  We have a board member flying in this morning.  I gave her my cell phone to call in case anything happened with her flight.  Sure enough.  Her flight is late.

My twins are arguing over a blanket.

I ignore them and walk outside so our board member doesn’t know I’m at home with screaming children.  I think I pull it off.

I spend the next twenty minutes hoping (a) my twins aren’t killing each other while (b) trying to make arrangements for a late airport pick-up which involves no fewer than three additional phone calls amidst the blanket-yelling, and (c) ironically hoping that the bus doesn’t actually come while I’m otherwise occupied… I just can’t stand the idea of not seeing my son leave and then having to call the bus service to make sure he’s on board.

Never fear.  The bus has not arrived.

The dog, however, has escaped and run away.

I call the bus service.  I explain that we’ve now waited for the bus for over an hour.  That school started 25 minutes ago.  That I’m 45 minutes late for work.  That my boss, while kind and understanding, shouldn’t have to have me late to work because my son’s bus service isn’t working.

The bus arrives five minutes later.  My son departs.  I manage to smile at the bus driver; I hope it looks sincere, because her first day is #$%@.

Somehow, during the last 45 minutes, I manage to run up and down our stairs in short bursts, acquiring everything I need to get myself presentable for work.  I can scrub the booger and jam tracks off of my pants in the office bathroom.  I hope I remember.

I load twin toddlers in the car.  During one of the calls to work, I mitigate the blanket fight with chocolate chips.  Those are usually poop-in-the-potty treats, but I had to bring out the big guns.  I’ll pay for the counseling sessions for their eating issues later… I hope that the counseling bill arrives after I’m done paying off the ER bill.

The dog is still wandering the neighborhood.  I haven’t even bothered looking for him.  I’m apathetic about his well-being.  Keeping my children alive and fed is about all I can handle.

Mondays. #$%@.

Sex Ed

Sep 18 2009

Once upon a time, when Abby was 5 years old, she was playing in the bathtub while her dad supervised.

I was in the other room, which provided me with an excellent eavesdropping opportunity.

Here’s what I heard:

Abby: “Daddy, where do babies come from?”

Lengthy Pause


Greg: “Beth?! I’m going to need you for a minute!”

Well, tonight was payback.

Ian, age 9, and I were reading a book titled A Dolphin Is Not A Fish.  This book was for homework and provided by Ian’s school.

Each page contrasts the differences between dolphins and fish.  For example, “A dolphin is not a fish.  They do not breathe the same.”  And “A dolphin is not a fish.  They do not swim the same way.”

Toward the end of the book, we read, “A dolphin is not a fish.  They do not have babies the same way.”

Great.

Fortunately, Ian assured me this was very old news to him.  Whew! I totally escaped this one, I thought gratefully.  Until my son felt compelled to explain.

Apparently, fish have babies from eggs…

…whereas dolphins poop their babies out.

My turn.

My Boobies Is Called Peacocks

Sep 17 2009

Cael, age 2, said that to me today.

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“My boobies is called peacocks.”

“Your boobies are called peacocks?”

Ever since Abby was little and used to pronounce Clifford (of Big Red Dog fame) “bulls*&t,” I find it’s always good to clarify with toddlers what exactly they’re saying.

“Yes, Mom.  My boobies is called peacocks.”

I still wasn’t totally sure we were on the same page, though.  “Can you show me?”  I asked.

Sure enough, Cael lifted up his shirt to show me his peacocks.

Hmmm.  Interesting.

Only much later did I realize that, in our effort to correct body-part naming,  Cael had managed to confuse the word “peacocks” with the word “pecs” (as in pectoral muscles).  Whoops.

Miling on the Inside

Sep 16 2009

Sometimes, we all do things we’re not proud of.

For example, I just ended that sentence with a preposition.  Not proud of it.  Nevertheless, I press on.

Crap! I did it again.

Speaking of things we’re not proud of (which we are, because I just brought it up), I attended the opening concert of the Miley Cyrus world tour this week.

In the arena, filled to the brim with SCuh-REAMING little girls, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had a Buh-LAST!

This goes along with all of those posts, most of which have been written only in my head, on Who I Really Am vs. Who I Wish I Was.

I wish I was a patron of the arts.  I wish I took my well-behaved and angelic children to art galleries and the opera.  I wish I insisted that, if we MUST watch TV, then only PBS or the Discovery Channel were allowed.  I wish we vacationed in Yellowstone and Washington DC.

My parents did all of those things.  My husband’s parents did all of those things.  We were educated by thoughtful, caring grown-ups who had an appreciation for life-long learning.

Sadly, something misfired. (With me; not with my husband… he still wants to spend time at the Smithsonian, so he’s good.) Even though my parents raised me overseas, steeped in Asian cultures, exposed to people with different ideas and various beliefs, I still managed to Americanize myself to the point where

I thought Miley Cyrus was AWESOME.

I’d tell you that I took Abby to the concert as her indulgent, long-suffering mother, hoping that the activity would draw us closer together.  The indulgent part might be true.  The draw us closer part is always a happy byproduct of hanging out.  But the long-suffering part is just false.   It was way too much fun for that.

Ms. Cyrus is an excellent entertainer.  Her dancers were amazing.  Her band was spot-on.  The special effects were… special.  I totally get why Abby loves this girl.  It was just kick-in-the-pants fun.

Apparently, I can wish away about who I’d like to be.  Then sometimes I’m faced with who I am.  Heck, life’s too short to pretend to be someone I’m not.

My name is Beth.  (Hi, Beth.)  I love Disney vacations and roller coasters.  I think it’s funny when my twin toddlers pee on the pitcher’s mound in the field next to the one where their big brother is playing soccer… and then play in the mud they made.  I think homemade crayon drawings with “I love you, Mom” written on them are better art than that I’ve seen in galleries and museums.  My floor is so dirty that I tell people not to take their shoes off at my house; I’m too afraid of what might squish between their toes.  I enjoy popsicles and ice cream sandwiches… and I just found out that I love Miley Cyrus.

I know you might be too embarrassed to be my friend after reading this.  I want you to know that I understand.  Do what you need to do.

Conversation with a Junior Higher

Sep 9 2009

I had a conversation with my junior higher this week.

It went like this:

“Amber asked me if I have a cell phone.  I was, like, ‘yah.’  Then Jason asked me if I have a cell phone, and I was, like, ‘yah.’  Then Maria asked me if I have a cell phone.  I was, like, ‘yah.’  Then Aaron asked me if I have a cell phone, and I was, like, ‘yah.'”

Did you catch that?

My junior higher actually talked to me.

What are you going to do about that?

Sep 9 2009

Here’s my very best parenting tip.

“What are you going to do about that?”

Whenever your kid presents you with a problem, a complaint, a conundrum, this is the response that (a) teaches your kids responsibility, (b) shows your kids that you believe in them and in their powers of reason and abilities to problem solve, and (c) is a total, parental cop-out and time-saver.

I love it when being lazy also makes me a good mom.

Sometimes, I’m uncomfortable with the power my children ascribe to me.

I am omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.

Never was that more clear to me than last night, when Aden gave me power over the entire Realm of Pretend by saying, “Uh oh, Mom.  My pretend butterfly wings are wet.”

Of course, I responded with, “Wow, Aden, that sounds tough.  What are you going to do about that?”

“You have to pretend dry them, Mom.”

“Why can’t you pretend dry them, Aden?”  I can’t believe I’m arguing with my daughter over who’s going to pretend do something.  My laziness has probably hit a new all-time low.

Aden looked at me like I was stupid.  “Because the pretend dryer isn’t safe for butterfly kids to use, Mom.”

Shoot!

She trumped Lazy with Safety.

She gets smarter every day.