Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kids, Cleaning, & Chaos

There’s a quote that says, “Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens and happy kids.” On any given day, I can promise you that 80% of that quote is accurate in our household. The whole “happiness” thing is usually hit or miss. But I think the concept is spectacular! Spending time making memories with your kids is more important than keeping a clean house. And it is a rule I have chosen to live by. Not that I necessarily want to spend more time with my kids, but I so badly don’t want to clean, I’ll gladly use them as an excuse to avoid the task! I’m only kidding. I love playing games with them. It keeps me young. My self-image, however, has taken a bit of a hit. I never get to play the beautiful princess—I am usually relegated to the role of “Big Ugly Witch” (which I must say I’ve mastered over the years). I also really enjoy hide-and-seek, which we play for multiple hours on end, everyone using the exact same hiding spot every…single…time.  And although it can be a bit monotonous, every 5th time or so I shake things up by hiding under the blankets on my bed and get a good 10 minutes of quiet before they find me and I’m back into the fray. The kids usually choose to hide under piles of clothes and toys, if that gives you any indication of just HOW messy our house is on a daily basis.
                  I often think I have the messiest house on earth. I recently found that MUST be true when our 4-year old took it upon herself to clean the bathroom. Charli (who is learning about money by earning little allowances for helping out around the house) left to use the restroom and never returned. So, like a good mom, I set down my bon-bons, got off the couch and went to look for her. She was drying off the countertop of what appeared to be someone else’s bathroom. It was so clean! No toothpaste globs in the sink. No soap scum around the knobs. I was amazed…until I learned just HOW she cleaned so thoroughly. Let’s just say Michael’s toothbrush probably tasted a little funny the next time he used it.

That was almost as surprising as the time I walked into MY bathroom and found Charli standing there holding a towel and wearing a deer-in-the-headlights look. I was hoping she had cleaned it too, but I was very wrong. Our conversation went something like this:

                  Me: What are you doing?
                  Charli: I wanted to use your big girl potty.
                  Me: Oh, okay! But why are you holding that towel?
                  Charli: Sometimes when I pee, it goes down my leg.
I quickly hung Jim’s towel back on the rack, helped her wash her hands, and had a prompt discussion on proper wiping technique. (Jim, if you’re reading this…I’m sorry.)
                  I guess I’ve come to grips with the fact that my untidy house will never look like Martha Stewart’s, and I’m ok with that. There is nothing I would rather do than spend all my days hanging out with those rugrats. But hey, maybe if Martha had little kids at home she’d spend more time playing with them and less time playing the stock market!  J  Just a thought…

Monday, July 28, 2014

That Guy I Used to Have Time For

You know you’re a mom when your Friday night consists of eating popcorn in a fort made of formerly-peed-on (but recently-cleaned!) bed sheets and stained couch cushions.

You know you’re a mom when you’d rather be there, eating with your kids in that fort, than any other place in the world.

You know you’re a mom when your husband enters said fort and replaces the juice box you’re drinking with a glass of wine. And you suddenly remember just how much you love him.

I’ve had several “marriage experts” tell me that after having kids you can’t put your spouse on the backburner. Well, three kids and 16,728 diapers later (yes, I did the math), sometimes I forget that little piece of advice. They say to remember to do the little things like leaving love notes. I guess I can do that. Or have conversations about things other than bills and kids. Well, now my mind has drawn a blank. What did we used to talk about? And finally, try to look nice for one another, or more colloquially, don’t “let yourselves go.” At this point I start to think that these marriage experts must not have kids. Do you know how much effort goes into looking nice for your spouse? My average night’s sleep, which consists of about 4-5 hours, requires more makeup than any store carries in order to cover up the bags under my eyes. After nursing 3 kids, my bras need special reinforcements. My waist-line has taken a serious hit, so wearing anything but sweatpants is out of the question. And IF I get to take a shower, that means I’ve used up my 15-minute allotment of alone time for the day, which leaves no time to do anything with the bird’s nest on top of my head. So it generally hangs out in a matted clump at the base of my neck. Try to look nice? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Once upon a time, we had a date night planned. Needing more than 15 minutes, I decided to use the TV-babysitter so I could spend some extra time getting ready.  I was nearly finished and feeling good. Then Charli walked in. She looked at me and ever-so-innocently said, “Mom! You look so pretty. Can I go to Wal-Mart too?” Four years old and she has already mastered the backhanded compliment. But hey, if it’s good enough for the folks at Wal-Mart it’s good enough for me!

I don’t doubt that I need to show more love and affection to the wonderful man in my life, who is currently enjoying a tea party with our kids—British accent included. He is an incredible dad and a wonderful husband. Now, I’m no marriage expert, but here are just a few things that have worked for us:

   1.     On a date, don’t forget their real name. It’s not quite as romantic when you accidently call your husband “Dad,” even if that’s how you refer to him 99% of the time.

   2.     Hold “hannies” (most adults refer to them as hands) whenever you get the chance. Even small acts of tenderness can help keep the flame alive.

   3.     Laugh. A lot. Which is easy when you have kids because they give you some great stories. Like the time I was trying to get Charlotte to eat her banana and her 4-year-old response to me was, “It’s quite bland. I couldn’t possibly eat it!” Yeesh…I’m in trouble.

   4.     Sneak in a nice kiss whenever you can. You spend most of your days stealing all kinds of unpleasant kisses from your kids: the snotty-nose kiss, the covered-in-drool kiss, and the sneeze/cough kiss. Every now and then it’s nice to share a smooch with someone who has a more sophisticated sense of kissing etiquette.

At the end of the day, there’s no magic key to a successful marriage. It’s hard work. Every day. It’s a lot of love, a little give-and-take, and remembering to do the little things. On that note, I think I’ll leave now and swap out my husband’s cup of tea for an ice-cold beer…

Monday, June 30, 2014

Parenting Fails

I feel like most of parenthood is based on trial-and-error. Why do you think I have 3 kids? If I screw up the first one, I’ll just try again with the others. My odds are pretty good that at least one of them will turn out alright. But I’m primarily talking about parenting techniques. My greatest ideas usually turn out to be just another tally in my “Parenting Fails” notebook.  I spent an entire afternoon making a chore chart for Charlotte, as a way to help her earn a tiny allowance, thinking I can help teach her about money from an early age. She seemed pretty excited until she realized she, in fact, did NOT like doing chores and refused to lift another finger. I asked her how she was going to buy the things she wanted from the store, and she gave me a 1-word response. “Daddy.”  Fail.

             My lessons on money were going nowhere so I decided to switch my focus to “real life” lessons. Whenever we play games, I always let her win because I love seeing her excitement and laughter. But in real life, you don’t always win, and I wanted to teach her that. We can’t have 4-year olds running around with big egos! Right? Or maybe it’s my ego that needs a little help. You can only lose Go Fish to a kid so many times before you start feeling like a failure! So I wanted to set things straight. One day she and I were playing air hockey and I saw my opportunity. I was NOT going to let her win. Ten minutes into the game, I still hadn’t scored a single point and was getting frustrated. I realized, however, that I wasn’t making my point when I looked up to see Charlotte cowering under the table, saying something about me hitting the puck too hard. She put down her mallet, walked away to play tag with the other kids, and left me standing there yet again, having lost to a 4-year old. Fail.  Like I said before, it’s all about trial-and-error and learning from your mistakes. Trying to teach her how to lose gracefully clearly didn’t work out. Next time I need to pick a game I can win.

Other Parenting Fails:

Telling Charli if she didn’t brush her teeth, they would all fall out. She spent 30 minutes brushing every single tooth that night.

Telling Michael, “Charli doesn’t want to wrestle right now. Go play with Oliver,” only to look over and see Michael laying on top of Ollie, pinning him to the floor...triumphant in his win over the 7-month old.

Telling Charli to be honest because there is NO lying in our house. In a 4-year old’s mind, honesty is easily confused with brutal criticism.

Helping Michael identify different parts of his anatomy because he thought it was funny to call everything his “butt.” Note to self: don’t teach a 2 year old the word “penis.” He thought it was hilarious and spent the rest of the day running around playing with his crotch and yelling, “My penis!”  The librarians didn’t appreciate that.

I chalk these up as parenting fails. But these fails are frequently the things that (later on) make me laugh the most. Kids are such innocent, hilarious, mischievous, entertaining little urchins and more often than not, when I think I’m teaching them, they are actually teaching me. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

These "Precious Angels" We Call Children

            When I was growing up, I remember thinking that my parents were relatively cool. Reality, however, came crashing down around me at the age of 12 in a manner so scarring I still have nightmares about it.  It was at my 6th grade basketball game. The lack of halftime show inspired my dad to show a side of himself I didn’t know existed. He strode down the bleachers and proceeded to lead the crowd in a cheer. He and another dad spent the next three minutes (or what seemed like 10 years!) chanting “Be Aggressive,” complete with attempted-cartwheels and exaggerated hand 
gestures—I. Was. Mortified. It was at that moment I realized just how much power a parent truly holds.
            They have complete control over you because as a pre-teen, you’ll do just about anything to avoid embarrassment in front of your friends. At the mall, my dad would threaten to hike his pants up above his belly button, grab our hands, and start skipping if we stepped out of line. That was a fate worse than death. But how great for him! He didn’t have to yell and get angry. He got his desired results and enjoyed every minute of it. I swore that when I had kids I was going to do the same thing. And now it’s my turn.
            Ok, so I don’t think my kids are old enough to understand the embarrassment factor, but I can plan ahead, right? What I didn’t anticipate, however, was that kids could humiliate their parents just as badly, if not worse. That precious “innocence” people so often talk about when referring to children is just a way to sugarcoat the fact that kids have no filter and say whatever comes to their precious little minds. I almost choked the other day when some nice lady knelt down to talk with Michael at the grocery and he kept poking her face yelling, “Ouchies!” He was referring to her acne. What do you say to that? Hey! Maybe he’ll be a dermatologist!? What makes these unrestrained outbursts even worse is that young kids have one volume. I BET YOU CAN GUESS WHAT THAT IS! So when Charlotte so delicately screamed, “Woah! Did you see that big lady in the green shirt?” in regards to the corpulent MAN who just passed us, you can be sure it was heard by everyone within a 100-yard radius, including Mr. Ponytail.
            When these comments are directed towards other people, many times you can apologize your way out of it with a kids-will-be-kids kind of mentality.  But occasionally these little angels target you, and there’s nowhere to hide. We were at the McDonald’s playplace and Charlotte ran off without finishing her meal. At the top of the tallest slide she starts screaming, “Mommy!” Of course, in a place like that, when you hear the word “Mommy,” everyone stops what they’re doing to see if it’s their kid in need. So, now it’s dead-quiet and Charlotte continues. “Please, Mommy. Don’t eat all of my food!” Everyone starts looking around to see what horrible mother would do such a thing. I started looking around too. No way was I owning up to that one! 

            So for now, I’ll continue paying my dues. But they better enjoy this while it lasts, because once they’re old enough, I’ll be leading the cheers, skipping through malls, and being the embarrassing mom I’ve always dreamed of!

Friday, April 25, 2014

When Life Gives You Poopy Diapers...

   My parents taught me to give one hundred percent at everything I do. College taught me I can squeeze by with eighty. You simply make up for the rest with improvisation. I think when Charlotte was a baby I gave this whole motherhood thing 100% and probably more, but I’m on kid #3 (what’s his name again?) and just don’t have time or energy to be an over-achiever. Once you have multiple children, each day is really just a battle for survival, and improvising is your greatest weapon.

   I wish that I were always calm and relaxed, but my husband will certainly attest to the fact that I am neither of those things after a long day of crazy. I have, however, learned how to just go with the flow. Kids have this uncanny ability to ruin any set plan you may have, testing your flexibility and creativity on a daily basis. They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And that is what I (try to) do. Except…life doesn’t give me lemons—instead I get poopy diapers, temper tantrums, and more vomit than I care to think about. When Charlotte was running a fever the other night, I was fumbling around the kitchen at 3am for a medicine cup. Of course I couldn’t find one. Eventually giving up, I poured her Tylenol into a shot glass instead, and tried not to laugh as I watched her shoot it down. Not my proudest moment, but I had to improvise. I was making lemonade. Or the other day after Michael pooped in his diaper and I realized I didn’t bring any backups…I had to use Oliver’s diapers instead. If there is an award for squeezing a 2-year old into 6-month diapers, I win. It wasn’t pretty, and I was praying to the good Lord above that he didn’t poop again because it would’ve ended up in his shoes, but we survived to tell the tale. 

   In the end, these “stories of survival” make for the biggest laughs. With no sleep, no shower, and usually half of a cold meal eaten, I consider it a parenting win if I make it through the day with my shoes on the right feet. But I live for the laughter. I live for the craziness. These days are flying by too quickly and I don’t want to waste a second of it stressing out about things that are beyond my control. Instead, I’m going to make lemonade.