Chaos Engines

If you don’t have kids, it’s hard to explain what amazing chaos engines of mess they truly are.  Let me paint a small picture for you.  It’s spring of 2015.  We have decided to sell our condo and move from Cambridge to the woods of northern Westchester, NY.  Part of this process involves cleaning and painting our condo before it’s up for sale.  Painting means we have to get out for a couple days.  We have 2 kids, trying to navigate them and a crew of painters would be virtually impossible, so we get a hotel room for a couple days to let the guys work, and the place air out.

The kids are pretty psyched about this turn of events.  A hotel visit probably means a pool (in this case it did)… it probably means staying up late and watching movies (it did), and it probably means lots of snacks during a disjointed weekend with no schedule.  My then 2 year old, now 3 year old, Vera, was pleased with this entire arrangement.  I don’t think Vera’s first words were “I’m hungry”… but they are a frequent refrain.  We’re not even unpacked in the hotel room and a chorus of “I’m hungry’s” is calling out to me.

Red being a consummate professional, has packed a bag of snacks for just such an occasion.  Vera peeks through the choices looking for something optimal, and lands on a sleeve of saltines.  Dropping two suitcases and a shoulder bag to the ground.  I open the saltines for her.  She instantly grabs two handfuls of saltines, crumbling a third of the half dozen crackers in both her hands across the ground in front of her.

“Honey, don’t make a mess,” I intone… settling into the couch next to her.

“Sorry daddy,” she says in sweet tones as she settles into the chair next to me to munch.  Big sister Lucy doesn’t want saltines so she’s pouting.  Vera is munching happily as a growing pile of crumbs and cracker spills around her onto the chair.

“Can we go to the pool?” asks Lucy.

“The pool, the pool daddy!” exclaims an excited Vera, who starts jumping on the chair, and is now grinding cracker into the fabric with each jump.  She also drops a cracker or two in her exuberance.

“Give us a few minutes to unpack girls,” I reply.

“Ok Daddy,” says Vera sitting down and grabbing more saltines.  Not content to minimize her mess radius, Vera gets up from her chair with 3 broken saltines now stuck to her behind.  She walks towards the back of the hotel room, trailing saltines in her wake… a pile of broken crackers lies on her chair, and the floor.  Those crackers never stood a chance.

 

On a side note, if you’re keeping track, we just ran out of dish soap.  I guess it’s time for another palette!

Country Mouse

(written originally in the summer of 2015)

I live in the burbs. It’s a new thing. I did grow up in the burbs, but I quickly found the city and never went back. Until recently that is. Now I live in the burbs again. My new burbs are not the same as my childhood burbs though. There were no horse farms where I grew up. There were no mountain ranges. At least not in my town. The houses were closer and there were more of them. Stores were closer. Everything was closer. Now I live in a house at the foot of a mountain. It’s not a big mountain, but it qualifies.

Why do I live in the burbs next to a mountain? That’s a common question these days. Both from people who already live where I live now, and from old friends who live in cities. That’s not an easy answer. There are different answers. I wanted quiet. I wanted space. I wanted fresh air. I wanted Lucy to ride her bike in front of our house. I wanted a house. I wanted the drive to visit family to be under 3 hours.  I wanted all these things but I’ve only lived in cities for the last 25 years. Do I like it? It’s only been a couple months, but I think so. Red told me she’ll be able to answer that question in 3-5 years. We’ll circle back in 2019.

It’s been a long six months. Once we decided this was happening (moving to the burbs and all), there’s been a lot of new ‘to-do’s’ on our to-do list. People say moving is one of life’s big stresses. It’s probably true, but over the last 15 years we’ve done it so frequently that we’re actually pretty good at it now. Red and I moved several times around Brooklyn… and then from Brooklyn up to Cambridge… and then several moves in/around Cambridge… and now we’re back, living at the foot of a mountain an hour north of New York City. I guess one of the reasons for this move was to hopefully stop moving for a bit. We’ll see. Anyways, the to-do list for moving is no joke.

We sold our place in Cambridge. This involved storage units, and cleaning, and real estate people, and cleaning, and fixing things like broken pipes, and painting, and still more cleaning. We bought a place at the foot of a mountain. We moved our stuff, our kids, our dog, our fish. We said goodbye to good friends. We moved in summer so Lucy could start school on time in a new town. School’s a big deal when you’re moving with kids. At least, it should be I guess. Yeah, I think it should be. Anyways we did it. Now here we are living at the foot of a mountain by a lake.

There’s a lake not far from our new house. Actually, there’s three. Our lake connects to two more, and if you get yourself a canoe or kayak, you can paddle from end to end of all three. I’ll have to get myself a canoe or kayak soon. We took the dog down to the lake this morning. Does Lexy like the burbs? Hell yeah, Lexy likes the burbs. Lexy is the family dog and she recently turned 17. Crazy right? She’s been with Red and I since the beginning. She’s moved through all our moves. She likes the burbs. No question. She likes our yard, she likes our back yard. She likes the lake. Lexy seems pretty pleased with country living.

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So what’s the verdict for a family of city mice transplanted to the country? The jury’s still out, but I’m optimistic.

Update –

So I wrote this entry months ago, and never posted it.  I came back to it because on Monday we had to say goodbye to Lexy.  She was an old dog.  A few months out from her 18th birthday, Lexy had been struggling a lot lately.  Well, anyways, we had to say goodbye. I’m sad.  I lost a friend.  I lost my first, and to this point, only dog.  I’m happy she made it to our new home with us.  I’m happy she got to run in the grass and scamper by the lake.  I’m happy our girls got to know her… our first ‘baby’ before the real babies came.  Her absence feels glaringly loud right now.  I will miss her.  Goodbye Lexy dog.

Bests and Worsts

So, this is basically going to sound like me giving myself one big pat on the back, but what I’m about to transcribe was a very genuine moment provided by none other than Little Miss.  For those of you who know her, you know that LM comes with a lot of sass.  And by a lot I mean A LOT.  She has a comeback for everything and combined with her weird and wonderful creativity and intelligence, well, it all equals up to sass.  As others of you who are close to me know, we have our struggles.  She is entirely demanding in a way that is hard to explain.  She is very well behaved and a good listener but she talks constantly, and asks for things constantly, and has to be encouraged (and I use that word politely) to spend any time entertaining herself.  It can be a real emotional drain.  But alongside that same temperament comes a sweetness that is pure.  It almost seems naïve but I prefer to think of it as wise and selfless and truly loving.

The story I’m about to share requires some background and here it is:  Sometimes we are good at gathering for family dinner, recently not so much.  For one reason or another (end of summer, back to school transition, Jim’s travel schedule) we just haven’t been able to meal plan, grocery shop and have the energy to present and serve a dinner.  The kids have been eating whatever I can throw together and we’ve been eating tuna, soup, cereal, frozen meal, etc..  This week we’ve had two family dinners.  We’re on a roll.  One of the things that Lucy reminded us to resurrect at our family dinner is a game in which we go around the table and talk about our “bests” and “worsts” of the day.

Me:  My best moment was feeling good at my job.  My worst moment was a 45 minute tantrum thrown by my last client.

Jim:  My best moment was a good morning at the gym.  My worst moment was a work problem.

LM:  My best moment is having this family dinner right now (and my heart melted).

Sisters

LMJ has just taken off with her communication.  She is beginning to have rudimentary conversation and what is about to follow is 1) not articulate to anyone except maybe me and hubby, although once translated it makes perfect sense and 2) about the longest train of thought she’s had.  Also important to the context is that LM has just started preK in a public school and while the transition goes well there is a lot of additional emotion coming from all sides and, although LM is always dramatic, her tears are bountiful right now.

Me:  The babies on the bus cry “wah wah wah”.

LMJ:  I’m a baby.

Me:  No, you’re not a baby; you’re a…

LMJ:  Big Girl!

Me:  That’s right.  You’re a big girl.

LMJ:  Babies cry.

Me:  That’s right.  Babies cry.

LMJ:  LM’s a baby.

Hahahahahahaha!  She was not trying to be funny – just literal.  And, as a side note, I condone crying at all ages for many reasons.

Sleepy Time Line Up

My daughter has recently developed a strange fixation on the arrangement of the stuffed animals in her bed.  I like to think that my daughter is normally a pretty even-keeled 4 year-old.  She has her moments, of course, but for the most part she’s pretty laid back.  But the girl is obsessed with her stuffed animals.

Kiki has 7 different stuffed animals that she must sleep with every night.  This may sound like a harmless situation.  It may even sound adorable to picture my sweet little angel surrounded by soft and fuzzy stuffed animals while she sleeps.  It’s not adorable.  Let me tell you why.  My daughter is weirdly obsessed with how the stuffed animals are arranged.  She gets genuinely frantic about it.  Here’s a typical conversation that can be heard in my daughter’s room every night after we turn out the lights.

Kiki:  (voice quivering in panic)  Can you straighten my friends?

Me:  I did.  They’re fine.

Kiki:  But did you do them like I like?

Me:  Yes.

Kiki:  Camabear first, face up?

Me:  Yes.  And then Camadog.

Kiki:  Face down?

Me:  Yes.

Kiki:  And then Nala?

Me:  Yes.

Kiki:  Face down?

Me:  Yes.  And then Purpy face down too.

Kiki:  (panicked again)  But what about Rainbow Dash?

Me:  She’s on the end.

Kiki:  Where’s Minnie?

Me:  (UGH!)  She’s right beside you on the other side with Mickey next to her.

Kiki:  (starting to cry)  No!  Mickey first and THEN Minnie.

Me:  Ack!  Sorry.  I’ll switch them.  There.  GO TO SLEEP!

It’s weird what kids decide to obsess about.  What do your kids obsess about?

#1 Mom

We all have days as parents when we feel like we just aren’t getting it right.  I’m happy to say, that today was not one of those days.  Today I’m feeling like I really earned that #1 Mom coffee mug I might get on Sunday.  Here are 10 reasons why today I rocked the Mom gig.

  1. I got my daughter dressed, fed, and to school on time.
  2. I took my daughter to two different playgrounds for lots of fresh air and exercise.  And we walked to the grocery store.
  3. I helped my daughter make cards for her teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week.
  4. I had lots of undistracted conversations with my daughter today including one in which we discussed what might happen if you picked up an ant and threw it really high into the air.
  5. I was patient ALL day.
  6. I pushed my daughter on the swing when she asked me to even though she is fully capable of swinging completely on her own.
  7. I read books to my daughter for an hour and a half straight.
  8. I managed to get my daughter to eat multiple servings of fruits and vegetables with no fuss.
  9. (This one is HUGE and almost NEVER happens) I made it through the entire day without tv time.  She didn’t even notice that she missed her tv time.
  10. I did all of this on my own because Hubby is out of town.

There are always things we wish we did better, but don’t forget to take time to celebrate all the little things you do right.  Happy Mother’s Day!!!!!

Smart phones

Hi blog world!

It’s been awhile.

If you’re on any kind of social media, I bet you’ve been privy lately to the post(s) about moms being on their smart phones too much.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Read this (I’ll wait):

http://4littlefergusons.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/dear-mom-on-the-iphone/

Apparently it was written in 2012, but it has made it’s way into the “news” recently.

Well, I read it.  I’m a mom who is often on my iphone.  And I got pissed.  Mostly for what this response says (please read it or you won’t really understand the rest of this blog):

http://www.remakingjunecleaver.com/dear-mom-telling-me-to-get-off-my-phone/

I mostly agree with the author directly above.  Why “mostly?”  Well, first of all, I think her version of their day before and after the park is probably inflated.  I am a SAHM and have been for almost five years and I love my children so much, but our days are not sunshine and moonbeams.  I do a lot of wonderful things with them everyday, but I am certainly not “on” for the entire day, all day, minus the time we’re at the playground as the blog above is suggesting.

And I am definitely on all sorts of technology way more than I should be throughout the day, but that’s more because of my desire to stay connected to the outside world and to have adult conversations and interactions.  I’ll be completely honest with you (as I don’t think the second author above is doing)…I don’t *like* doing “kid stuff” that much.  I don’t think playing with dolls or figurines is super fun.  I don’t like making forts.  I don’t like pretending to be characters.  I don’t even really like play dough (although I tolerate it more than I do some other things).  I don’t think this makes me a bad person, and I don’t think it makes me a bad mother either.  I read to my children – A LOT – because I enjoy books and I really like reading.  We dance because that’s another thing that I like to do.  But, most of the time when I’m home with the kids, they are either playing by themselves/together or I “set them up” in an activity (get out the art supplies, give them the play dough and accessories, fill up the water table and make sure all the pieces are clean, etc) and then I go and do one of the one million things that needs to get done (cooking, cleaning, laundry, making shopping lists, organizing clothes/changing out clothes for the new season, writing Mother’s Day cards to the grandmas, etc).

My to-do list is so long that I often can’t even think about all the things I need to be doing.  If you count all of our house projects, the daily and weekly maintenance chores that have to happen inside and out of the house, the tasks that school sends home (this week was teacher appreciation week and we had a list of things to do for that), navigating the parks and rec offerings and signing the kids up for that, calling back the multitude of doctors we all have, figuring out why that weird charge was on the credit card, calling the insurance company AGAIN to try and sort stuff out with them, filing the mounds of papers we let go because of everything else in life….I mean I have only scratched the surface.  I could – quite literally – go on and on.  But that would get depressing for me and boring for you.

When I’m wasting my time on Facebook or NPR or looking at all the emails I haven’t taken care of yet, I mostly don’t feel bad for my children who are blissfully playing and enjoying life, I feel bad for me because I’m ignoring the endless sea of things I have to do because sometimes it’s almost easier to ignore it than it is to try and conquer it.  Right now, at this very moment, there are so many things I could be doing (and my kids have been in bed for quite some time), but I’m choosing to write this blog instead.  See what I mean?

Awhile ago, I posted this on my FB page:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bunmi-laditan/im-done-making-my-kids-childhood-magical_b_5062838.html

I am nearly 100% with the author of that one.  I don’t have a single memory of any adult actively playing with me from my childhood.  We played by ourselves (my sisters and I) or with friends.  I think I turned out alright.

My point is that not only do you not know what the rest of the day has been like for the “mom on the iphone” at the park, but her day may NOT have been all about her kids (as the second author suggests).  And so what?  She’s still allowed to be on her phone, and you’re still not allowed to judge her.  If she’s anything like me, she’s trying to get shit done while her kids are having a blast at the playground.  Just like I’m trying to get shit done while they’re squealing with glee while at the water table or when they both climb into the crib and play “house” for a half an hour.  So, if I’m wasting my time on social media, I don’t feel bad for my kids who lead a life where they get to play pretty much all day, everyday, I feel bad for me because I’m not getting the shit done that needs to get done.