The Silly Way

Dec 18 2010

Last night, I drove my kids home from a party “the silly way.”

Can we go the silly way?  Mom, can we, can we?  It’s FUN!

For those of you who don’t spend a lot of time in my car, the Silly Way is any way other than our usual route.

In the summer, the Silly Way runs just slightly out of town for a side-trip to see cows grazing in a field.

In the fall, we drive by the scary Halloween house.

Now that it’s winter, we venture out almost daily to look at as many Christmas lights and decorations displays as possible.

I’m a total sucker for the Silly Way.  I mean, sure, it’s a waste of time in an era when we feel compelled to rush to accomplish the next thing.  But I get weird little tidbits about and glimpes into the minds of my children when we take those few extra moments to go a different way.

All month, Cai (4) has been singing his original song called “Beautiful Lights.”  He does this in a clear, high falsetto voice that would do justice to the boys’ choir at St. James’ Cathedral in London.  The lyrics are “beautiful lights, beautiful lights, beautiful lights,” etc., etc. and so forth into infinity.  His siblings believe it’s the most irritating song on the planet.  I think it’s so sweet that it makes me cry.

Last night, we saw this display at a neighbor’s house:

You know who that is, right?

So did Cael (4).

Look, Mom, it’s Santa and Mary!

All the kids seemed to agree with Cael’s interpretation.

Maybe I should be concerned that my son is mixing his secular and religious characters.  Maybe I should care that Mary, the Mother of God, is hanging out with Santa Claus instead of holding sweet Baby Jesus.  I mean, Santa may once have been St. Nicholas, but now he’s the harbinger of all materialistic evil, right?  That’s no company for Mary.

Besides, “Santa and Mary” is not the route we usually take to the Christmas story.  That’s kind of weird.  It’s a little bit irreverent.  And it’s silly.  All of which means that I like it very much.

This Christmas, my family is talking about Baby Jesus.  Again.  Like we always do.

This Christmas, we’re waiting and wishing for our visit from Santa.  Again.  Like we always do.

And sometimes, we’re going to do things the Silly Way at Christmas time.  We’re going to make up our own songs and rhythms.  We’re going to see our faith and our secular world hanging out together.  We’ll find that we either irritate people or they agree emphatically with our strange conclusions.  And, frankly, either one is OK in my book.

As for my family, we’re doing this life the Silly Way.

And, oh, it’s FUN!

Three Fun Things

Dec 17 2010

According to Cael, age 4:

“Our noses are good for three fun things:

  1. Sniffing (pronounced ‘thniffing’)
  2. Eskimo Kisses
  3. and Picking”

I couldn’t agree more, Cael.  I couldn’t agree more.


Dec 15 2010

What fantastic entries in the Overwhelmedness Contest, ladies and gentlemen!

I am deeply impressed with the messes you all have made of your lives through the simple acts of being thoughtful parents, hard working employees, and community volunteers.  Ain’t it grand?

The smartest thing I did all week was to bow out of judging the contest.  My sincere and public apologies, Kim and Sally.  You have your work cut out for you.

I won’t waste your time by recounting all of the fabulous stories about sleeping with chickens, double-kid infections (I mean, I’ve heard of double-ear infections, but this one’s new to me), secret collisions with semi trucks, blog-comment-posting while at 1st grade Christmas programs, and a child’s attempts to remove her mother’s nipples.  Reading the comments is worthwhile, and I’m quite certain you’ll find something in there to make your life look calm and relaxed.  If calm and relaxed appeals to you.

In the spirit of Christmas (or the holiday of your choice), I will leave you with two gifts.

The first is technically a regift, complete with new wrapping paper and bow.  My loving brother posted an “actually” correction to my last blog entry, in which I stated that “caffeine is one of only five known antidotes for overwhelmedness.”  I think his gift of knowledge and hope is worth the repost here:

You were pretty close about there being 5 antidotes for overwhelmedness, Jeff writes.

Um, thanks, Jeff.

There are actually 6. After Coffee, the others are Sleep, Laughter, Lists, Exercise, and Alcohol.

You can even combine them, but some combos are more effective than others.

For example, Coffee plus Lists is a powerful overwhelmedness-reducer.  However, Coffee and Sleep don’t play nice together, and Exercise plus Alcohol can also be problematic.

For the ultimate overwhelmedness-eliminating experience, I highly recommend getting drunk on Kahlua, laughing at someone far bigger than yourself, getting knocked out, then dreaming of making lists while riding a recumbent stationary bike.  And to be clear, by “highly recommend” I mean “strongly caution against.”

See?  Regifting is fun.

My second gift to you is the gift of schadenfreude, which is defined as “pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.”  You have given me such schadenfreude in your overwhelmedness comments, that I feel the only appropriate way to thank you is to give you some in return.  Schadenfreude reciprocity, if you will.

My Christmas list used to include things like jewelry and books and make-up and magazines.  Since having children, my gift requests have changed to cries for help, desperate pleas for acts of service.

My number one most desired gift this year is stove-top and oven cleaning.  Here’s why:

My husband’s number one most desired gift this year is childcare for our 4-year-old twins so he can clean the garage.  Here’s why:

That stain on the foam mattress in the bottom center of the picture?  Dog pee.  We’re that fantastic.

This weekend is our Christmas open house.

Yep – I actually invited people over here.

I will be locking the garage door and praying to God no one finds the key.  (Did you hear that, God?)

My house will look like this:

That’s pretty much the extent of my Christmas decorating.  I had to work really hard to take that picture from an angle where things looked clean.  Here’s a picture from further away:

Oh, who am I kidding?  That’s pretty clean for us, too.  But it’ll be even cleaner at the open house.

I’ll spend all day Saturday cleaning and cooking.  I’ll hire my middle schooler and her friends to babysit to make that possible.  This is after I hired my friend’s mom to preclean the house this week; somehow, it’ll need recleaning by the weekend.

I’ll put clean, dry towels in the bathroom and stock it with soap and toilet paper.  I’ll hide my stove-top under an enormous skillet and double-burner griddle under the guise that that’s their place in the kitchen.

And then I’ll pretend our house always looks immaculate.  And that we always have soap in our bathroom.  And that I did it all without help.  (How does she do it?)

You won’t tell, will you?

Happy Schadenfreude, from me to you.

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.