Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lesson #38: Reality Bites

My problem has always been that I get an image in my head of how something will go, and inevitably end up disappointed when reality does not live up to the wonders my mind creates. Case in point: summer vacation.

Here’s how the summer looked in my mind:
The boys outside riding bikes at all hours, playing in the yard as I sat in the shade reading and enjoying the sound of their laughter. Trips to the beach where we would hang out for half the day, happy and sandy, cooling ourselves in the water and munching on snacks. Day trips exploring the area, where we would discover local hidden gems. Messy outdoor crafts and water play and time in the pool. It was going to be so great.

Here’s the reality:
The boys got tired of pretty much every activity we have within a matter of about two weeks. I now have to declare it Outside Time and lock all the doors behind us to make them stay outside so they don’t sneak back in to watch TV and get into snacks. Even then, it’s so hot and humid that they play for about 15 minutes before becoming soggy, sweaty messes and begging to go inside where it’s cool. What about the pool, I ask. They want to wait until Daddy gets home, or won’t go in unless I am going in. What about the water table? The little one won’t play with it unless the big one is; the big one refuses on principle. They beg to go to the beach, one of my favorite summer past times. I would love nothing more than to take them to the beach. However, my mind didn’t take into account this pregnant body. The heat takes its toll quickly, making me sick if I get too hot. I can’t get comfortable on a sofa, let alone a beach. There is no way to position myself on a towel or blanket that doesn’t cause discomfort or indecent exposure. I can’t take a camp chair because, well, I can’t get OUT of a camp chair once I get into one. Not even joking. I had to have my husband help me out of a camp chair as I wobbled back and forth like a Weeble, unable to heft myself to my feet. Then there’s the matter of having to use the bathroom literally every 20 seconds. Packing up two boys and heading to the restroom with them in tow every other minute does not equal a fun beach day. The only thing beached this summer is me; a beached freaking whale. We can’t really “do” the park either, since there is virtually no shade at the parks we frequent. If we manage to get there at just the right time of day there MIGHT be one bench with a shady-ish spot on it, but it is always taken up by one mom and her 57 bags, or by several people’s bags while they buzz around watching their kids. Trips to anywhere are pretty much out of the question at this point in time anyway, since riding in the car brings such discomfort that I just can’t even. And, of course, once we get to wherever we’re going, even if it’s only across town, I often have to hobble around like a 90 year old woman due to the sciatic pain shooting through my butt cheek. Fun times.

The other reason summer vacation is not quite what I saw in my mind’s eye is that boys are like bulldozers on crack. They leave a path of destruction so wide and so long there is no hope of ever repairing the damage. They are loud; they are rough; they break things and spill things and leave crumbs on every surface imaginable. They get into things when I’m in the bathroom; they eat all the cookies (and chocolate chips and marshmallows and sneak chocolate syrup) while I shower; they fight like rabid dogs; they trash their room so badly I can’t even walk in it. They run away and hide on me when we’re outside; they chase the cat; they splash water all over the bathroom. I have to say things like, “WHY is there pee all over this floor?!” and “You have to flush the toilet EVERY TIME you go to the bathroom. EVERY. TIME.” and “Do NOT lick the cat!” By 10am I’ve done enough refereeing to last me a lifetime. It’s probably a good thing I’m pregnant so I can’t start drinking.

Here’s a confession: I used to think that stay at home moms were kind of jerk-y for celebrating the return of school so much. Taking for granted those lazy summer days that the rest of us working moms had to ration like precious  sips of water in the desert! How could they?! Lucky them, getting to spend all that time with their babies; time that my colleagues and I only dreamt of. Now that I have spent exactly 78 very long days in a row mostly alone with both children at the same time, I can safely say that I get it. I so get it. 

Everyone talks about being “in the moment” and enjoying it but I find that being in the moment is what sucks the joy out of my day. Moms of rowdy boys know that every moment brings another mess, another argument, another frustration to deal with, constantly. I spend entirely too much time “in the moment”, stewing about how I JUST mopped the floor and it’s sticky and spotted again; how I JUST gave someone a snack yet they are in the fridge again trying to get another; how they seem to think the floor is a trash can because I have found YET ANOTHER wrapper, cup, plate, trail of crumbs; how ONCE AGAIN the toilet seat is up and there’s pee just hanging out in the toilet waiting to be flushed; how they JUST had their room clean last week and now I can barely walk through it again. It’s exhausting. It makes me tired. It turns me into an unhappy hag. It takes something away from us.

So yes, I get it. I understand now because I, too, long for those days ahead when both boys will be in school all day and I will get a quiet minute, a floor that stays clean for longer than 30 seconds, an errand that gets done in a timely manner, a complete thought passing through my brain. Yet at the same time, I know that once the rush of school begins I will miss them. I will feel like I never get to see them. They will get home at 4:00 and we will play outside for a bit, have dinner, and then it will be time for baths and bed. I will only see them for the 2-3 hours in the morning before school (yes they wake up that early and school starts that late) and the 2-3 hours in the evening before bedtime. I will want more of them. I won’t remember all the things above that make me feel like I am slowly going insane. Instead, I will remember the time we used frozen finger paints in the morning sunshine; playdates with friends; splashing in the backyard pool; the puppet show at the library; playing with spray bottles; visiting the farm stand; making s’mores around the fire; the day we baked banana bread for the first time.

As the dog days of August propel us towards that bittersweet September day when my babies will again have to be shared, I will do my best to celebrate each day from now until then. I will try my hardest to be fun again. I will try NOT to be “in the moment”, but rather to focus on and see clearly the memories I have collected within, around, and between moments. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lesson #37: Love Is A Battlefield

Pat Benatar wasn’t wrong. I bet she wasn’t even talking about romance; she probably just had a couple of kids at home waging the next world war. Think about it: “I’m trapped by your love and I’m chained to your side”. Sounds a lot like parenthood don’tcha think?

My kids don’t hate each other alllll the time but they definitely go through cycles where they constantly bicker anytime they are in shouting-or striking- distance of each other. I’m not sure whether it’s the time of year, the changing seasons or if there’s a full moon coming up, but right now we’re smack dab in the middle of one of their cycles and there’s no end in sight. From the moment they wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night, its one big battle of wills. Whether it’s the 7 year old being overly sensitive and/or bossy, or the 4 year old being purposely destructive or pushing someone’s buttons just because he can, it’s one thing or another.  Every. Second. Of. The. Day.  I might as well start wearing black and white stripes, as many fights as I’m refereeing on a daily basis.

It starts about the time they wake up and start arguing over who gets to lay beside me when they come into my room. This is the most absurd and irritating of all arguments to hear, especially at 6am, because Daddy is already at work at that time so they lay on either side of me which means THEY ARE BOTH BESIDE ME! But whoever gets on Daddy’s side of the bed is the one who is lying “by mom” apparently. The other side of my body doesn’t count I guess.

Toys aren’t even fun anymore. Case in point: Legos. They recently decided they love to fight over play with the slightly larger set we have. That is, until they want the same piece and come to a battle of epic proportions over said piece. It typically goes down like this: they start arguing over the piece, the younger one tires of that noise and goes all primal, smashing the older one’s “ship”, sending him into a screaming, teary rage. This is a bit of a sticky situation in which I find myself a little torn about how to respond. On the one hand, Mr. Destructo should absolutely not have smashed his brother’s work. That was unkind and wrong. On the other hand, Lord Business also needs to realize that Lego creations don’t last forever. You can’t hoard 2/3 of the Lego set on the premise of it belonging to your “ship” that can never be broken, ever.

The 7 year old has recently started expressing that he wants some space. He will often take a book and attempt to sit in a quiet spot to read. Of course, his brother follows him wherever he goes. This continues as they move from spot to spot until Older gets frustrated and starts yelling at Younger and they wind up in yet another epic battle. That battle typically goes down like this: older screaming that he hates having a brother and wants to be ALONE while Younger cries that he doesn’t have anybody to play with and just wants to play. Younger quickly tires of all the words and resorts to aggressively chasing after Older as Older screams “HE’S TRYING TO HURT ME” at the top of his lungs. Another sticky situation as a parent. We all need our space, and I fully support Older being able to move away and have some time to himself. That said, you are part of a family and can’t expect that you can be by yourself at all times. TRUST ME. If alone time were that easy to come by, Mommy wouldn’t have a headache right now. And try explaining to a 4 year old that his brother doesn’t want to play with him because he always breaks his work, tries to hurt him, and won’t listen to him. It’s kind of like explaining algebra to a cat; he just doesn’t get it.

I wondered whether it was that they were both boys, or that they are fairly close in age that was fueling the fires of discontent, but in talking with a few other moms it seems that neither of these things is the case. A friend with boys older than mine echoed my experience of them egging each other on and bickering over anything and everything.  A neighbor with daughters nine years apart in age shared that the bickering starts the moment the oldest walks in the door at her house as well.

Perhaps the changing of the seasons, with one day a summery 84 degrees and the next a chilly in contrast 61 degrees is getting to everyone. Maybe it’s the school year coming to a close and the impending change that is sneaking into their subconscious minds and causing discord. Or maybe they’re just brats. Your guess is as good as mine. I keep thinking about how they’re both going to be in school all day come September and it gets me through the day. Until I remember that by then, or shortly thereafter, I will be the sleep deprived mom of a new baby AND two battling school agers. The cherry on top? I just realized this morning that by the time the 4 year gets through the bratacular phase, the baby will just be entering the bratty years. I’ll have at least one child acting like a giant brat for the next 6 years, and by that time the 7 year old will be a teenager. Dear God. Pass the Xanax.    

Friday, January 30, 2015

Lesson #35: Use The Vacuum

If you have carpets, this is probably obvious to you. If you don’t have carpets and this is still obvious to you, congratulations: the mommy brain hasn’t completely taken over. The force is strong with you. For the rest of us (or maybe it’s just me, sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake), this lesson will save that wee little bit of sanity that’s threatening to fly away at the discovery of the next crushed goldfish cracker or stray Cheerio.

We've had hardwood floors for many years and only kept a vacuum around because the enclosed porch at our old house had carpet and every once in a blue moon we figured it would be a good idea to vacuum it. We also have a dog that sheds more than should ever be possible for an animal. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you could fashion a life sized Dachshund out of all the hair he sheds on a daily basis. Brushing him frequently only leads to even more shedding which makes no sense to me. Anyway, dog hair has been the bane of my existence for the last 13 years and 11 months. That's a long, long time. This dog is almost 15 (what dog even lives that long??!!) and became “our” dog when he was a year old and I met my husband. I cannot stand dog hair and his excessive shedding leaves me battling tumbleweeds on a daily basis. 

My typical floor cleaning routine is to use the Swiffer Sweeper Vac to pick up ONLY the dog hair since the stupid thing will not suck up ANYTHING else, not even a crumb or a piece of dirt. Once I've run from room to room with it, only getting about 50% of said dog hair since it starts dying approximately 2.5 seconds after I turn it on even though it’s been charging for three days, I must then break out the broom and go through the whole house again getting all the crumbs, dirt, cereal, pretzels, popcorn kernels, crackers and other random crap that my kids drop all over the place.

Then one day as I was walking out of the laundry room I spied the ole Hoover sitting over in the corner all “Hey Girl. How YOU doin?”
“Oh Hoover,” I thought, “What kind of game are you running?” 
I stepped closer to examine it and that’s when I spied it. There it was, plain as day: a setting marked Bare Floors. Jesus, Mary and Joseph I've found it! The Holy Grail of floor cleaning! 

This is the exact text that I sent my husband that day:
I've had a breakthrough. Usually I hate doing floors because I have to Swiffer to get the dog hair and it always loses power before I am done. THEN I have to go through AGAIN with the broom and get all the crumbs and crap the Swiffer doesn’t get. Well… We have this magical little machine that can do both AT THE SAME TIME! It’s called a vacuum and it’s my friend.”

Yes friends, that day will go down in history. It will forever be known as The Awakening. OK maybe not, but it seriously makes me happy that I can go through my house ONE TIME and when I’m done the floors are actually clean. Not sorta clean, not almost clean but actually bare. No lingering dog hairs or dust. Nada. There is something really satisfying about sucking all the dog hair out of that little space between the fridge and the counter.

Oh, and I also have a little “helper” in my house. He’s about 3 feet tall and his helping usually runs more towards the Lucy in the candy factory variety than the actually helpful variety. But this neat little jobbie is just perfect for a little helper! It takes about 90 years for him to vacuum a one foot by one foot area, so mama gets a break AND doesn't have to clean! Score!  

It really is the little things in life. Don’tcha think?