When Momma goes on a business trip

You should never go away on a business trip, even if just for a night. It seems to have a way of altering the universe of boy children in seemingly imperceptible yet powerful ways.

It starts the moment you walk in the door. For example, if the business trip happens to be to Hershey, and the boys “recommend” that you bring something back to them, there’s always the “Xtreme Hershey” extra large candy bar in the aisle at Rite Aid on sale for $1.50. (Please note, this is so much cheaper than the $8 plastic cars filled with 3 pieces of Reese candies purchased at Hershey World on the first business trip last year when you had to buy one for each of FIVE boys!) And this works as a fine exciting gift when you hand it over upon arrival. But do not expect them to hear the words “It’s for after supper” as you go out to unload the car. Within 2 minutes, it’s devoured by raptors, who thankfully did hear the second half, “It’s for you all to share.”  Amazingly, mouths dripping with chocolate juice were open wide in wonderment at the sudden cause for Mommy’s “outburst.”

Parenting – it’s always something.

And then comes the evening bedtime routine, during which the poor Mommy encountered an odoriferous 8 year old who thinks “it takes too long” and is “too boring” to adequately wipe; the 3 year old who peed through the pull-up and soaked the bed while lying there before falling asleep; the dog who pooped on the kitchen floor while trying to deal with the first two issues; followed by the discovery that the 6 year old had peed on the carpet right outside the bathroom door (because why?). Well, that discovery occurred shortly before realizing that the stench in the 6 year-old’s room emanated from the pile of dog poop on the comforter (from when?). I confess that my tired brain did not “remain calm” very well that evening. I may even have used a pretty “negative tone” with the sad-eyed boys haphazardly trying to help me clean up a bit. By the time I got the last one into bed, I officially tendered my resignation as CEO of the household and have decided to begin a search for a small tidy cottage with a fireplace and a cat.

It’s always something.

Bedtime the next evening, I spied a small scab between the shoulder blades of the three-year-old. Moving him into the light for a closer inspection revealed a happily attached and voracious tick. I hate ticks. I detest the fear of Lyme disease. I have learned to calmly smoother and remove these predators, but I hate them. I search madly for some antibiotic cream for the bandaid. I pretend it’s no big deal. I tuck the anxious one back in bed and vow to check all over that dog!

It’s always something.

And if the messes aren’t enough, there’s the aggressive behavioral side effects of sleep deprivation accompanied by lovely eye-rolling from Super Tall Guy, the whine for attention from The Little Guy, and the bouncy antics of Mr. Ornery alternating with total melt-downs to contend with. Add in the explosion of a stealth pull-up that made it into the washer and fifteen minutes of wiping up millions of tiny gel balls and you’ve just topped off the “Mommy dared to be away for a day” consequences.

That hotel room sure was nice. Fluffy pillows. Remote control. Quiet. Good solid quiet. Wonder when the next business trip is. Or if there’s a nice tidy cottage in the woods somewhere.

Yes, sometimes life with boys is crazy and I wouldn’t change it for the world….well, maybe we could tweak a few things!

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When “Good Night, I love you” is enough

Sometimes it’s okay to say “Good night, I love you” and just walk out of the room. Probably best to inhibit the desire to slam the door and just keep a soft tone of voice. Hard, but better.

Because sometimes an “I love you” is all you can muster. You know you love them but at the moment you are just downright impatient, uninterested, and definitely not feeling “the love.” You are frustrated, angry, and too tired to care. At the moment, you just want to sit on the couch, pick up a book or turn on the TV and just have 5 minutes of peace and if at all possible, a smidgen of quiet.N Apr 2012wp

Their bellies are full (or full enough even if they don’t think so). Their teeth are brushed (for at least 20 seconds of the recommended two minutes). They may or may not have jammies on, but the pull-up is in place and that matters more. The house is warm (compared to the 48 degrees it hit when the polar vortex crashed through the area again this winter). And they are over-tired thanks to your desire to take them for a “nice night out” for their basketball award ceremony (note to self: they are still not old enough for evening activities!).

They are whiny. They are miserable little guys. They refuse to lie down. They refuse to settle. They are throwing pillows at each other. They are jumping on their beds. They are screaming that you don’t care about them. They are threatening to ignore you for the next 10 sleeps (if only he would carry through on that). They are currently not the most lovable creatures on earth. Far from it.

It is absolutely okay to walk out of the room.

It’s likely that they really will make it through the night without the requisite twenty minutes of Go, Dog, Go. They might not actually die of hunger or thirst as bemoaned since they could easily walk the ten feet to the bathroom sink for a cup of water if really necessary. They can probably cover their bodies up themselves without requiring your expertise at billowing the blanket – it’s really not that difficult.

The guilt hangs in the air.

I keep walking.

Best that the last words out of my mouth were “I love you” rather than the myriad other phrases streaming through my brain.

Sleep well, my dears.

Love you.

Top 10 Things I Shouldn’t Have to be Doing! (…at my age!)

In case you’re wondering, the boys are almost 9, just 6 and almost 4…and I am 45. Really, at these ages….

  1. Walking past an odd smell over and over again on the third floor. Wondering what Mr. Ornery got in to during his most recent “time-out”. Mind boggling. What is that smell? Ah-hah! A decaying banana.  Nice. Almost as good as the moldy apple under my sister’s desk!!
  1. Cleaning poop out of a bathtub after a rapid evacuation by the innocent siblings and a drippy wet march to the third floor for showers.
  1. Picking up the pile of dirty clothes located precisely 1.33 feet away from the laundry basket placed strategically near boys’ bedroom door to receive said dirty clothes.
  1. Buying Mr. Clean Magic Erasers to scrub off colored and marked-up walls, including the inked initial with a circle around it (…and Mr. Ornery wants to know how I knew it was him who wrote on the wall!).
  1. Cleaning out the washing machine of the million-plus white pellets that erupt from a washed diaper that mysteriously ended up down the laundry chute rather than into the garbage pail.
  1. Retrieving the bottle of bath soap from the basement for the millionth time after it disappears down the laundry chute again and again….along with the little green army men, the Matchbox cars, the cup to rinse boys’ hair, the bouncy balls, the flash-light….pretty much anything that will fit down the hole. I keep wondering when a kid will consider if he will fit down the hole!
  1. Scrubbing blue toothpaste spots off the sink, the shelves, the walls and the floors of two bathrooms on a weekly basis.
  1. Putting plastic tape over a 3 inch hole in the bedroom window that somehow happened to have a toy “computer” go through it.
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  1. Stooping over to pick up Lego pieces from every single floor space of the house! Every single day! Several times a day! Why do you have to pull their teeny tiny hands out of the teeny tiny arms?!?!
  1. And the number one thing I shouldn’t have to be doing  — washing poop off the walls (bathroom, bedroom, radiators…). Yep. Nothing else to add. Shouldn’t have to be doing this….IMG_7325

 

 

 

 

 

 

BONUS: A bonus had to be added the day after this post was written – because I can’t even make this stuff up! Super Tall Guy in the back of the van discussing a scab that just came off his knee and how blood tastes like metal. Next thing I know, I hear, “Try it, Mr. Ornery. Did you like it?” “Whoa!! Wait!!” I exclaim, “Did you just give Mr. Ornery a taste of your blood?!?” “But Mom….I dabbed it on the end of the coffee stirrer to give it to him.” “Hm, yum.”

I’m silent. I really can’t make this stuff up….nor do I have any ability to predict their next disgusting move. Lord, help me.

Why getting to know each other matters (based on a horrific example)

There is such a sad story from my neighboring community this weekend – a 22-year-old mother was found dead on her bed and her 10-month-old baby dead nearby in the living room. Her cause of death is unknown and his is suspected to be a result of dehydration and starvation. The story is not yet complete and details are still unfolding, but the family and the neighborhood is reeling. And the neighbors who live in the same apartment building are wracked with guilt.

My soul aches since hearing the news. I fall asleep thinking of a little boy crawling around on the floor searching….searching for food….searching for water…searching for his mother….crying out for someone to help him. And though his cries were heard, the incredible weight of them, the life and death significance of them were not known until too late.

“If I took the time to get to know her I probably could have helped her” said a tenant in the same building as quoted in the newspaper story.

His remorse hit me. We have gone too far. We have let too much distance exist between us. When parents are afraid to reach out for help, we are letting them down and we are putting children at risk. When people worry that their neighbor will “call child protective services” against them, we are pitting family against family. When we lose a sense of community and of watching out for one another, we become isolated and lonely and we cannot thrive.

We need to change. We need to reach out to each other. We need to carry each other’s burdens. We need to take the time to get to know each other.

I am parenting three young boys. I’ve made a point of meeting my neighbors. I let a nearby friend know that she’s number one back-up call in emergencies since she’s the one closest to us. I’ve talked to my children about what to do if x, y or z. I sincerely thank friends who offer help whenever needed and I reciprocate the offer, pausing to look them in the eye to solidify our agreement. I frequently think about the community that surrounds my family and whether I’ve built up enough of a buffer base for my children.

Last week, my middle son turned six years old. His birthday party was attended by three

Cupcakes decorated to match my son's typical drawings.

Birthday cupcakes decorated to match my son’s typical drawings.

boys from his day care center, one boy who used to attend day care with him, two boys from his prior kindergarten class, one boy from his new kindergarten class, one boy from the neighborhood, and two boys from friends of the family. I looked around the room with a smile as they sang Happy Birthday To You, off-key. My son’s net is wide. There are many connections. There need to be for him to know that he is loved, that the world is full of good people, and that there are people who will come if he cries.

Every child needs love and protection and a wide, wide net.

Take the time to get to know one another. It just might matter.

 

 

 

 

I need to let more mistakes happen

One of my greatest fears is the fear of failure. It’s likely what drives me so passionately toward my goals. It spurs my drive for perfection. It underlies 32 years of education and schooling. It is a fear that forces constant forward motion and yet can limit new experiences. I fear making mistakes. As I let the dog out tonight, I remembered sitting on the back stoop of my house years ago listening to a colleague in my medical practice explaining a mistake I had made in ordering a medication. The patient was okay now. She just wanted to let me know. Thankful for her honesty, I learned a great deal from that mistake.

It was too cold to go sledding. Mr. Ornery was tired and got too cold to hang in there. coldMaybe it was because he wouldn’t – or he couldn’t – stop lifting snow up to his face to savor each mouthful. Maybe it was because it was barely into the teens and the wind chill was brutal. The little guy couldn’t handle it either and I shortly declared it “time to go” despite having spent a few minutes with the neighbor kid who joined us on the hill.

Mr. Ornery sat in the snow and refused to move. Mr. Ornery threw his gloves far from himself. Mr. Ornery “walked” down the hill on his knees, plodding along at a pace that slays a parent. Mr. Ornery removed his hat, his scarf, his gloves, his coat and finally slid out of the shoulder straps of the snow pants which then rested along his ankles as he proceeded to waddle along the sidewalk.

Mr. Ornery’s mother went ballistic. She was cold. She couldn’t handle it anymore. Fingers numb, carrying sleds, repeatedly beckoning the 3-year-old to keep walking, she couldn’t stand the sight of Mr. Ornery dropping items of warmth and picking them up only to drop them again. She couldn’t stand that he was clearly being obstinate and obnoxious and ornery! Clearly.

She slammed the door shut upon entering the house. She pulled off boots and snow pants tossed them across the kitchen floor. She picked up that Mr. Ornery and held him sideways stomping all the way upstairs. Super Tall Guy and The Little Guy kept their distance….but followed the excitement to the top. Depositing him into the boys’ bedroom, Crazy Mama yelled, “You better stay in there until you can figure out how to cooperate!!” before closing the door. Like that helps.

Crazy Mama sat on the top step and sighed deeply, catching her breath. Super Tall Guy wrapped his arms around the back of her neck and said, “We all make mistakes, Mom. It’s okay.”

I wasn’t sure if he was talking about my mistake in my over-the-top response or the antics of an angry 5-year-old, but he was right. We all make mistakes and it’s okay. I opened the door.

I don’t let the boys know that often enough. I don’t make it “safe” enough for them to experience mistakes and failures. And if I don’t figure it out soon, eventually I will be instilling in them the area that I struggle with the most.

eggAnd I knew this when I moved the kitchen rug the other night. Roxy dog had really been licking at it earlier. I couldn’t figure out why. Mr. Ornery was helping me make his cake for his birthday the next day and had gotten out three eggs. Apparently, there had been a fourth egg which had tumbled to the floor and while I wasn’t looking must have been hurriedly covered up by the kitchen rug (which is still in the laundry…sigh).

Why? Because Mr. Ornery was worried that Crazy Mama would yell at him. That Crazy Mama would get mad and cart him upstairs to his bedroom on the very night that he was beyond THRILLED that she was letting him bake with her. Mr. Ornery was worried that he had made a mistake and the consequences would be too great for him to pay that time. Hiding the evidence seemed to be a better option.

I know that I want my boys to be able to make mistakes. I want them to fail and to learn. I want them to “shake it off” and move on. I want them to see that it is the joy of trying that matters. I want them to be brave. (And I want them to clean up after their mistakes too!)

I need to model that. I need to tell them about my mistakes and how I learn from them and plan to do better. I need to show them my mistakes. I need to laugh at mistakes more often. And we need to encourage each other to let our kids make mistakes. And we need to help each other be okay with kid mistakes as sometimes kids’ innocent mistakes are the spark that ends in abuse. We need to let kid mistakes be just that…an “oh man!” moment for growth and moving on.

But as Mr. Ornery wouldn’t confess to the two little piles of poop on the bathroom floor earlier today until direct questioning…it’s clearly not “safe” enough for him yet.

I’m still making mistakes. Still learning. And so are they. One great loving and learning failing family!