A Dark Day

I live in a constant state of privilege.  I'm (typically) aware of it.  I don't want for food or shelter.  I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to yarn.  I'm a middle class white person.  My kids get a free education from stellar teachers who give many, many shits about them.  No one in the family is dying of any horrible diseases (note to the universe:  that was not a gauntlet being thrown).  I can take a vacation every year. 

And yet. 

So we'll start with explaining that my husband left for a business trip today.  He'll be back by the weekend, it's not as long as some of his previous trips, so yay for that.  But it started out with our 7-year-old waking up this morning complaining of a sour stomach, which I didn't believe and forced him to get dressed because he was going to school right up until he made us believe it by very nearly puking on my husband's feet.  So my husband shoved a trash can in his direction, gave the kids hugs, gave me a wary side-eye and a wide berth, and bolted out the door.

I get it.  He didn't have a choice.  Doesn't mean I'm holding any less of a grudge.

I managed to get the 4-year-old out the door to preschool and take stock of the situation.  Which was this:  I haven't gone grocery shopping in a shockingly long time and had pretty much nothing I needed to give my sick kid that wouldn't make him puke worse.  Even the saltine crackers were stale.  And we're out of AA batteries.  Do you know the importance of AA batteries in a house with children under 10?  DO YOU?!  Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, I'd just send my husband to get some, but, OH YEAH HE LEFT.  I tacked on "going to have to go grocery shopping at some point this week with my disgustingly sick children in tow because I have no choice and that is going to be so much fun, because even shopping with them when they're NOT sick is just the best, and by the best I mean I want to burn the store down" to my list of woes.

As the day wore on, it was clear that I, myself, am not operating at my healthiest level.  I've been fighting some kind of sinus issues for weeks and apparently they were all, "You know what?  We haven't made her miserable on a bone-deep level in a while.  Let's do that TODAY."  So I'm achey and tired and have a sore throat and want to lie in bed all day.  But it's my kid's turn for that.  And I get it.  I'm not begrudging him having a stomach bug.  But it's a Little Thing that made it onto the list.

Then the 4-year-old got home and apparently had yet another bad day at school.  I love him, I love his strength and independence and fierce sense of justice, but I really wish he could just follow directions, be a good listener, be conscientious of his classmates, and not do his own thing for one damn day.  Today was not that day.  Tomorrow won't be that day, either.  That day doesn't exist.  Someday I'll be thrilled about it.  You know, when he doesn't live in my house anymore and I don't have to field phone calls from his teacher while I'm trying to give his sick brother a bath.  Today, it's another item on the list.

And because I started out the day with a heaping dose of parental guilt over not believing my oldest kid about being sick, I finished it off with a second dose by just feeding the youngest some frozen chicken nuggets and fries.  And I made sure it was a double dose by not even clearing off the dining room table for him; I just shoved all the school papers and Transformers and whatever other crap was on there down to the far end so he'd at least not be able to smear anything with ketchup.  Because the dishes are piled up in the sink and I haven't gone to the grocery store and I didn't clean the house over the weekend (I WAS WORKING, GOD...also, I did laundry, does that count?) and I. just. could. not. even.  All this, on the list.

I've already been struggling with backpedaling into a depressive state recently.  I just can't get myself synced with the 4-year-old's school schedule (it's Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other Friday, and WHO CAME UP WITH THAT BULLSHIT?) and sorting my own work schedule around it.  It's made me back into a crappy, short-tempered mom who just wants to breathe for a few minutes because I'm either working all day and after the kids have gone to bed, or I'm taking care of the 4-year-old and then working after they've gone to bed, and it's exhausting and, and, and...

My woe list is long.  If I compare it with the woes of others, it shouldn't be.  I'm not afraid of my home being bombed in the night.  I'm not worried my cancer-riddled child won't wake up in the morning.  I know where my next meal is coming from (the goddamn take out place, that's where).  When I think of all these things, I add to my woe list "feeling broken down when you have no right".

But I do.  I've struggled with this concept for many, many years, but I do have a right to my own dark day.  I get to feel horrible.  My sadness and frustration and anxiety do not take away from anyone else's right to feel their feelings, either.  I get to hate it.  I get to want to cry until I physically can't cry anymore.  I know I normally write funny takes on the day when my husband goes out of town to combat any feelings of inadequacy with humor.  Also, it's a good tool for me.  It gives me a positive thing to do to get through a slightly rougher patch of dealing with young kids on my own. 

This is not a "slightly rougher patch".  This is a black hole for me.  I am done, and the first day isn't even over yet.  My nerves are shot from waiting to hear the 4-year-old start wretching, too, and knowing I'll have to sleep in his room curled around a trash can, waking up every few hours to soothe and clean and deal.  Knowing I have a work assignment I have to get turned in tomorrow and they don't really care what my night was like, because it's a government deadline and they don't move those.  Not eating much myself for fear it'll be me next, and being shaky and cranky because of it. 

I get it's "just" a stomach bug.  I get that I sound like a teenager at the peak of drama season.  But I wanted to share this because I don't always handle things with humorous grace.  Sometimes I don't handle things at all.  I thought about just not writing anything, but just in case some other poor mom (or dad) out there has ever felt completely, and I mean completely, run over by the day or week or month or year you've been dealt, I'm sorry.  I understand.  I'm reminding you to remind myself, we are not bad parents if we have a breakdown and let our kids watch movies all day until we can get our shit together again, or if we snap at them when they don't deserve it because our woe list is COMPLETELY full that day, or if we cry the whole time we're cleaning up our kids and Lysoling the hallway walls (because of course they rubbed on the walls, why wouldn't they?) and eating the leftover frozen nuggets. 

Today will end.  I know that.  Tomorrow will, too.   We'll all be healthy again (...in May).  Right now, though, I'm going to wallow.

A(nother) Walk in the Woods

Best Part About Geocaching With My Kids:  The total joy they exude upon finding a box full of total crap that, to them, is actual, for realsies treasure.

Worst Part About Geocaching With My Kids:  Everything else.

's like we're *trying* to get bitten by a snake.

For those who don't know, geocaching is this...sport?  Game?  I don't know.  It's a thing where someone hides a box of some sort, ranging in size from a film canister to an ammo box, out in the wilderness.  Or sometimes under a Dumpster.  Or behind the steps of an abandoned building.  Really, anywhere that you can be killed in total privacy and your body wouldn't be found for days.  In the box is usually at least a little notepad so other oblivious potential murder victims can sign in and see who's been to visit and when, etc.  Typically there are also little "treasures" -- Mardi Gras beads, plastic animals, stickers, etc., so you can take a wee thing from your find and leave a wee thing in return (we like to leave marbles).  You use GPS coordinates and an online log of geocache listings to go on the hunt and pray like hell you have cell service when you get in the general vicinity of your cache.  And...that's about it. 

For the rural caches, there's typically some hiking involved.  Care to guess who doesn't like to hike?

He calls it being "hard of walking".  He was hard of walking for about three miles round trip today and I heard alllllllll about it.  When dragging his feet didn't work, he tried falling to his knees, crawling, rolling around on the forest floor moaning about his batteries malfunctioning and how he literally (his new favorite word) could not take any more steps, and finally bellyflopping flat on his face, arms flung wide, in utter woe.

(This is the part where I feel legally obligated to tell you I'm a goal oriented person to the extreme.  Like, tunnel vision kind of oriented.  When we're geocaching, it is not about the beautiful views and the gorgeous weather and the butterflies surrounding us, it's about getting to the next cache site RIGHT NOW and by right now I mean YESTERDAY.  Which.  You know.  Doesn't really sync up well with a 4-year-old who is fully immersed in pretending to be a giant robot who doesn't talk and can only take one extremely slow step at a time.  I try.  I really do.  Well.  Okay, on non-geocache days I try.  I'm kind of a horrible person on geocache days and I have to get there right now why in the hell are you walking so slow I could just roll you down the mountain faster than this for the love of all that is good and holy.  I need to work on this.)

While the 4-year-old was putting on a one-man dramatic interpretation of the stages of death, the 6-year-old was fully on board, sprinting ahead, fantasizing about what he'd find in the box, skipping and singing to the woodland creatures.  He even found a tiny birds' nest that had fallen out of a tree and called it his Greatest Treasure Ever.

Can you tell I only brought my wide-angle lens today?

It truly was the Greatest Treasure Ever.  I can't imagine being 6 and finding something that friggin' awesome.  Which is why we spent half an hour looking for the damned thing after he dropped it "somewhere in the grass or maybe the dead leaves and branches".  So many tears, y'all.  So.  Many.  Tears.  In the end, he took a deep, shaky breath and decided it would be okay because a tiny mouse or maybe a bird that fell out of a tree could use it for a house and that would be best.  At least I think that's what he said, the words ran together and were very high pitched at the end there.  Poor kiddo.

So, yes, we found two of the three caches we were looking for (one was hanging off a rocky cliff and while I will do many questionable things to my kids, sending them off a ledge like lemmings is not one of them).  And, bonus, we came home with an FM radio scanner that the 4-year-old believes is some sort of device that can detect bad guys and a booklet of Snoopy stickers.  The downside is that in the process I used many...we'll call them non-maternal words in the direction of my preschooler for which I have yet to apologize, but really, really should, and had to promise to somehow make another nest for our next Make Something Monday that the 6-year-old truly believes will be used as a housing development by a bird (who apparently will have recently lost his house in the divorce and has extremely low standards). 

I'm hiding the next geocache in our basement and the only things in the box will be the ingredients for fudge brownies.  Or whatever that beachy drink was I had at the lake last week.  Or ear plugs.  Maybe all three.

The Art of Making Wind Chimes

So Make Something Monday has been successful thus far in that we have actually made A Thing every Monday.  It does not necessarily always go according to plan, but we get a result in the general category for which we were aiming.  Take, for example, this most recent Monday.

The project was making wind chimes out of washers (you know, the flat metal discs you get at the hardware store).  I don't even know how many months ago, when I was prepping for summer the way a squirrel preps for winter, buying extremely random shit on the internet and confounding the crap out of the FBI ("...I don't know what she's doing, Jed, but this has got to end in a bomb"), I picked up all the stuff we'd need for this project and tucked it safely away in my Summer Craft Preparation Location.

Here's the thing about Craft Preparation Locations.  All the contents of said highly organized and carefully chosen location always, always, always magically move themselves.  But never en masse.  As far as I can tell, each individual item gets massively drunk, grows a pair of tiny legs, and then stumbles off in whatever direction the last guy didn't go.  Thus, I announced it was craft time and then spent about an hour emptying every bookshelf, storage bin and crafting bag I own while the kids sat on the couch avoiding my crazy-eyed fervor.

Also a thing you should think about:  if you make a 4-year-old wait an hour for you to get your crap together and you actually expect that he will still be on the same page with you when you're ready to go, you're on drugs.  The 6-year-old was gung ho, but the 4-year-old opted out immediately.

"But there's paaaaaaiiiiiiiint," I tried enticing him with a sing-songy voice.

"I have Batman.  I'm okay," he assured me in his own flat tone.

Thus, I was a pinch-painter until he wandered by the table 15 minutes later and went, "Oooh!  You're painting!  I want to paint!"  LIKE IT WAS ALL A BIG EFFING SURPRISE.  ANYWAY.  Between the three of us, we managed to coat 239,482,376 washers in all manner of paint.

Please note our extremely detailed precision work.

Break for lunch to let them dry, then flipped them over and coated the backs.  The first round of tears hit around this time because unless one is exceptionally careful, it's nigh on impossible to keep the paint from seeping a bit onto the other side of the washer (you know, the one we SO SUPER CAREFULLY just painted half an hour ago) and apparently if pink squiggles mix with blue splotches it is literally the worst thing that has ever happened to your kid ever (barring that whole "toast for breakfast" episode because apparently you can't figure out how to buy eggs, god).

After we got ourselves back together, it was time to wait for them to dry so we could clear coat them (because objects painted with acrylic + outdoor elements = sad).  Then it was time to wait for them to dry again so we could clear coat the back.  Want to get a kid to be interested in a thing?  Tell them they absolutely cannot touch it for 20 minutes.  By the pitch and duration of the wails they emitted, it's a fate worse than waterboarding.

To keep them from throwing themselves into traffic to escape the boredom of actually waiting for paint to dry, I attempted to institute clean up.  It is amazing how Pavlovian a child's need to poop is when they hear the words "clean up".  Once they were finished "pooping" (kid pooping is similar to husband pooping, I've noticed, in that there are many extracurricular activities going on in that bathroom, none of which involve the actual act of moving one's bowels), they rolled around on the floor a while, poked at the water cups I wanted them to empty...and then they discovered if they smashed paper (or their hands) into the palettes, they could make art they were actually interested in.

Super glad I put so much planning into this activity.

Finally, the thing everyone had been waiting for, it was time to assemble.  Suddenly my help was gone.  They could not even deal when the paint was drying or the clean up was happening because we just want to make beautiful tinkly wind chimes that tinkle beautifully OMFG, but NOW?!  WHEN THINGS ARE ACTUALLY HAPPENING?!  In hindsight, I should have tried to take a nap.  Ain't nothing brings my kids to attention like the sound of my eyes closing.

So whatever.  I put them all together myself, Little Red Hen style.  My wind chimes look awesome.  Final analysis:  I totally recommend this craft to other parents.  Of dogs.

An Ode to Kindness

So I have a thing about traveling alone with my kids.  Anxiety, hyperventilation, a deep need to surgically attach six more arms (leaving the original two free for covering my face and weeping).  The thing is, the kids outnumber me.  Traveling is outside of the routine and, let me tell you, the routine is not to be screwed with.  They go completely batshit insane when someone comes to visit or we go to visit someone, acting like psychotic puppies obsessed with getting attention.  They may or may not eat a damned thing, no matter if they'd beg for it at home.  They push the boundaries more often, because the boundaries are all new and fuzzy. 

I should clarify that it's not all bad.  There are also awesome new experiences.  Their joy is exponentially bigger.  Their imaginations are broadened.  They love having adventures.  They love adding people to their tribe.  They love getting to stay up late and watch cartoons in bed.  They really love getting out of the house.  And out of the routine.  You know, the one we need.

Because of all these things, the good and the bad, I try to take them places.  I need to learn to deal with my crazy brain rather than letting it control me, and they need to learn to function like non-rabid human beings outside of their personal bubbles.  This past week, friends invited us to stay with them at their beautiful home on a lake for a few days and I took them up on it.  I'm proud to say (a) we left it standing (there is that one dent in the wood floor the 4-year-old made with a prized medallion, which was mortifying, but we did not technically knock the house down) and (b) I didn't cry even once.  Oh, and (c) we had a really, really, really amazing time.  Like, the kind of amazing that you keep talking about to your spouse for days even though he probably wants you to actually put a sock in it, seriously.  The kind of amazing that you'll all remember for yeeeeeeeears and use as a bar for all other trips of the same ilk.  The kind of amazing that leaves you with a great big box of homemade cookies and deeply treasured pink hats won at the arcade that will fall to pieces before anyone will dare throw them away.

The main reason I didn't have a meltdown was our hosts.  They were genuinely the kindest, most patient people on the planet.  They have a child, but she's grown and moved out, so my fear of the hurricane that is my herd completely overwhelming them was high.  If they batted any eyes, they didn't let me see it.  They were beyond kind and generous (and patient), but they also didn't let the kids run roughshod.  I didn't feel judged or awkward in the least, even when I had to drag small bodies outside for stern talks. 

I say all that to say this:  I know I'm not doing everything right.  I know I have things to work on.  I know my kids do, too.  I know my hosts know this stuff, too.  But in their acceptance of us, good and bad, without any caveats, they gave me the confidence to keep taking my kids out into the world and they gave my kids a metric ton of love that makes their world better.

Precious (...yeah, we'll go with that) Moments


This week has been the epitome of all of the above.  Make Something Monday was constructing a box fort.  It was awesome.  There were hours upon glorious hours of happy, cooperative, imaginative play happening.  It was one of those stick-with-you-forever kind of days that will hang around with a beautiful, golden haze and revisit you when you're sitting on the porch fifty years down the road thinking about life and apple pie and the meaning of it all. 

Nobody says you have to be "mommy and daddy" while playing house.
Take a Trip Tuesday was a trek to the zoo.  Also awesome.  Curious questions, imitations of animal noises, much extremely loud speculation about all aspects of animal anatomy.  SO CLOSE to being another banner day.

This panda represents my energy level.

And yet.  Being the masochist that I am, even though it's that time of the month right now, I forged ahead with the zoo plan.  This meant frequent restroom stops.  With company.  In the same stall.  The 6-year-old has seen this show before and if he doesn't fully grasp the whole "expelling a horror show of a nest for a baby that mom's body isn't going to use" concept, he's at least learned to stop asking.  The 4-year-old, however...nope.  In a very crowded bathroom, he demanded VERY alta voce, "WHY IS THERE BLOOD IN YOUR BITS?!  DO YOU HAVE A BOOBOO?  CAN I SEE?"  By my estimation, at least 75 women in the greater Washington, D.C., area learned a significant amount of detail about my menstruation that day. 

Walking Wednesday just didn't happen, at least in the geocache sense.  We'd stayed the night with my family in the D.C. area and were going to try and see the Lincoln Memorial, but the weather wasn't great and I really wasn't interested in trying to deal with the whole finding-a-bathroom-on-exceedingly-short-notice issue on the wide open expanse of the National Mall.  (Oh, PS, sorry to anyone who doesn't care to hear about any of these personal details, but pretty much all women have to deal with this and none of us choose to have to deal with it, so, company, join misery in sucking it up.) 

Instead, we visited the Udvar-Hazy Center, which is like an annex of the National Air and Space Museum located out near Dulles, and which has LOTS of restrooms, god love 'em.  We've been many times before and it's always a hit, so I knew that even with me running on empty we'd have a positive experience and head home on a high note.  Which we did.  Kind of.

See, there was this story time thing.  A retired principal from the area, very nice lady, had told us to gather under one of the helicopters at a certain time and she'd read a book to us and we'd do an activity and talk about helicopters.  Sounded great.  The boys were on board.  We arrived on time, sat ourselves down...and then the 4-year-old, who apparently was COMPLETELY DONE after 1.5 full days of amazing behavior, began to slowly roll around the floor mat like a log, chanting "chop chop chop" a la Thomas the Tank Engine's Harold the Helicopter in the middle of this woman talking.

Horrified, I made my way around to his side and scooped him into my lap, the better for hissing threats into his ear.  While I was putting out that fire, the 6-year-old had apparently raised his hand and was called on by the lady.

"What book do you have?" he asked.  She showed him a book about a little girl engineer who designs flying machines.  "Huh.  Okay, but do you have anything by Brad Meltzer?"  Who is, apparently, the only author my son will acknowledge for public readings.  My arms were not long enough to poke him, so I death-glared in his direction to try to convey you will listen to whatever book she is going to read and you will like it and we can discuss other books later.  I'm not sure if you've ever tried to send telepathic messages to your children, but they have EXTREMELY effective firewalls.

Twenty minutes later, after the 6-year-old corrected the poor story lady volunteer 18 times about the mechanical workings of helicopters versus airplanes and also she was skipping words, why didn't she just read all the words, and the 4-year-old managed to end up with his face under my ass and his feet in my lap (but I didn't care, because at least that way he was quiet), it was finally over and I could make a run for it, dragging the two of them behind me because THAT WAS NOT A LIFETIME MEMORY MOMENT AT ALL IN ANY WAY.

Thoughtful Thursday was a recoup day.  I had (...have) some house cleaning to do and it was a rainy, overcast day, so I was hoping everyone would be kind of low key and play in their play room or watch a cartoon or, you know, ANYTHING resembling being a member of the human race who understands appropriate social interaction.  BUT NO.  Thursday it all hit the fan.  Good behavior was completely exhausted and the kids devolved into feral howler monkeys.  After a record high number of time outs, they went from turning on each other to turning on themselves so our thoughtfulness project became "caring for ourselves", during which there was much eye-rolling on the 6-year-old's part and much WTF-ing on the 4-year-old's part ("I don't get it, Mom, I'm awesome.").  But in the end, I felt I'd made a clear breakthrough and a tangible tool for the 6-year-old to use during low self esteem moments.

I managed not to laugh directly in his face when he said "clean" as a self-descriptor.  At least I'm a better mom than *that*.

Life was SO GOOD.  For five minutes.  And then feral howler monkeys again.  I booted them out into the yard, crossed my fingers the neighbor wouldn't call CPS for all the screaming, and did more laundry.


So today I've abandoned all hope.  We did our Free Book Friday, didn't burn down the library (or the theater where the summer reading program was hosting a kids' author), ate lunch instead of one another, and now if I can just change the sheets and think up a novel's worth of apologies to my mother-in-law for when she arrives this weekend and our house still looks like a gorilla with epilepsy just left, I'll call it good.  And if I can sneak into the shower and eat a chocolate bar, I'll let that be the moment I hang onto for this day.

One week down. Only twelve to go. Whee.

I love my children.  I love my children.  I love my children.  I probably, however, should not write about them while they're both serving simultaneous time outs and my blood pressure is still somewhere in the triple digits over some more triple digits.

This week was a lying liar who lied.  It started out so nicely.  The kids were SO well behaved.  Everything actually went according to plan.  There were practically church choirs singing in the background as we went about our activities.  And then.  Wednesday morning happened.

I don't know exactly what started it, but every. single. time. the boys got within three feet of each other, claws shot out, fur flew, blood coated the walls and ceilings.  I separated them, as one does when one is so #&$%ing tired of hearing "MOM!  MY BROTHER JUST--" that one would rather eat glass than walk into that room and mediate one more time.  Then they fussed about being separated.  They fussed because the sky was blue and the sun was shining and their eyes were blinking.  We were scheduled to go on multi-hour road trip to do a little geocaching, visit family and go to my favorite author's book signing, and I sincerely considered canceling it all and hiding under the bed. 

But we went and it was generally okay, so I thought maybe it was just a rough patch.  The 4-year-old did apparently denigrate every room in my aunt and uncle's room when bedtime rolled around (the 6-year-old and I were out at the book signing during all this or I'd have died of mortification).  No one lit anything on fire, though, so there was that.

This is a geocache. 
It is filled with the rejected party favors of your frenemies.
It is still very cool to find.

Yesterday morning we went out to finish our geocaching, having had excellent luck the day before and finding some great boxes.  Our luck decided to abandon us, though, and we found exactly zero items despite hunting for about an hour (did I mention it was the 7:00 a.m. hour, because MY CHILDREN HATE ME AND DO NOT BELIEVE IN SLEEPING IN EVER WTF WHHHHHHHYYYYYYY?!?!).  The 6-year-old declared it the worst day of his life.  At 7:30 in the morning.  New world record, that.

I took us home, fed everyone, even put on a full-length movie in the hopes that some quiet downtime would be like hitting the reset button.  OH, BUT NO.  The nanosecond the movie was over, they were back at it.  I tried interjecting a guided activity, even though I was so tired from being awake since 5:00 a.m. that I wanted to spoon my own eyeballs out of my head.  We did our "Thoughtful Thursday" project and made uplifting bookmarks to hide in the books at the library.  That went well.  And then the nanosecond the project was over...

It was like living the worst possible version of Groundhog Day.  Being half-narcoleptic and not-a-dieting didn't help.  I'll own up to my contributions to the situation.  But you know what my favorite part was?  The way their switches flipped from feral to adorable when their dad got home.  I JUST LOVE THAT.  SO MUCH. 

My solution was to put them to bed early yesterday.  When the 4-year-old fell asleep by 8 o'clock, I thought I had it figured out.  They were just tired.  Okay, I get that.  Me, too.  It was just a long week, that's all.  I knew they'd be better when they woke up today.  Also, my husband brought home a dozen donuts and I fell on the box open-mouthed, because the first week of summer break, that's why, and I knew I'd be better when I woke up, too.


I sanded my eyeballs, regretted every life decision up to that point, and tried to be cheerful.  I tried really hard, y'all.  I was all, "Yay, it's library day!  And we can hide our kindness notes!  And look at that beautiful sunshine!  Today's going to be so great!  Thank god for donuts!" 

We ate breakfast, the kids had play time without bloodshed, everything was on track.  Until I took a shower.  Which is when EVERYTHING needed to be dealt with.  (PS, note to any other parent reading this:  if your children ever rip the shower curtain back and shove their heads into your running shower because their need for a stuffed animal to be in the exact proper place is SO GREAT that it literally cannot wait five minutes, I will alibi you out for whatever you do to them.  Anything at all.  No judgment, full support.)

By the time I got out of the shower, the Eye of Sauron had turned on my home.  The One Ring was replaced by a stuffed horse.  I ignored the distinct possibility that we would not all make it out alive and demanded that everyone be dressed and by the door in five minutes or we would never go to the library again.  Why I thought going to the library at all with the lot of us in that state is a good idea, I will never know.

These are kindness bookmarks.
Not real sure how deep this lesson went on a personal level.

The 6-year-old got himself together admirably.  He found his favorite book series, picked out way more than any mortal being can read in a month, let alone a week, and set about hiding bookmarks.  And the 4-year-old wasn't bad per se, he just spent the entire time loudly announcing, "Look at THIS book!  MOMMY, ARE YOU LOOKING?" to the point where my hissed "Whisper!" became "WHISPERWHISPERWHISPER" until the old dude on the computer gave me the disapproving look.  Which I'm 100% sure was the 4-year-old's plan all along.  We managed to leave the library standing, which genuinely is some sort of dark magic, because the vein throbbing in my forehead alone was strong enough to send off shockwaves. 

We had a brief moment of respite for lunch, because apparently there's some sort of unspoken truce while food is present, but the rest of today has been spent with me alternately yelling, "GO OUTSIDE OR I SWEAR TO GOD--" and, "THIS IS NOT A THING I NEED TO HEAR ABOUT, GO TALK TO YOUR BROTHER, I KNOW YOU KNOW HOW TO TALK WITH WORDS BECAUSE THEY ARE COMING OUT OF YOUR MOUTH AT AN INFINITE AND CONSTANT RATE RIGHT NOW, YOU CAN TELL BY THE BLOOD COMING OUT OF MY EARS." 

Add in a handful of self-loathing downswings involving tears and Cheetos because I've spent so much time being irritated with my kids this week and, that, ladies and gentleman, is how things go even when you plan carefully and make pretty charts.  Or maybe because of it.  I haven't sorted that out yet.

The Road So Far

(To anyone now singing "Carry On Wayward Sons", you're welcome.)

The kids and I have one Make Something Monday and Take a Trip Tuesday under our belt.  They were good days.  The weather was gorgeous, the kids were (mostly) well behaved, missions were accomplished.  Cue my evil genius laugh and steepled-finger tapping.

Well.  Except.  You know how I have all these plans?  Do you know what happens to plans in the movies?  THE SAME EXACT THING AS REAL LIFE. 

I can't get into a whole lot of detail about the thing we made on Monday, but it involved me needing my camera to make a movie.  My camera, in turn, needs a memory card.  I, in turn, need a lobotomy to remember to check that my memory card is actually in my camera.  What with me being lobotomy-less, I loaded my children into the car and drove 20 minutes to this gorgeous, perfect-light filled location on top of a mountain overlooking a valley on a cloudless day...for no @&%$ing reason. 

But I was cool about it.  I was all, "We've got plenty of time, no big deal.  We'll just soak in the view, ease on back home, get the card, find a nice location around our house that won't be as visually stunning but also doesn't involve me strapping and unstrapping a five-point harness again.  Whatev.  No big." 

We load back in the car and as we pull into the driveway, the 6-year-old yelps, "MY CAMERA CASE.  I LEFT IT ON THE MOUNTAIN."  We are now feeling a sense of urgency.  I make him check all around the car just in case, to no avail, so I try yet again to be cool.  I'll have to load and unload children again and tolerate 20 solid minutes of interrogation about how I can forget things if I'm a grown up, but it'll be okay because I'll have the memory card this time and we'll have that nice location after all.  I run in, we do the whole everyone-taking-a-half-life-to-pee-and-refill-cups-and-pick-a-new-toy-for-the-same-effing-ride dance, then AFTER I get the 4-year-old strapped back in, the 6-year-old, who has up until this point been trying to figure out the best way to climb into the car with a 50 pound backpack full of books for a 20 minute car ride, cries out, "Oh, hey!  Here it is!"  You know.  In the car.  Where I told him to look.

Of.  Course.

So I unstrap the 4-year-old yet again and we stick with plan B, which is to hike up the little mountain behind our house and do our project at the top of the field.  As we're hiking, and above the 4-year-old's insistence that walking is SO HARD and when were we going to take a breeeeeeeeeeak and by break I should probably be clear he meant lying down in the dirt to play Hot Wheels for no less than half an hour, I suddenly realize I can hear the construction crew at the neighbor's house building the new garage.  Like, really clearly.  This obviously was not going to work too well with the whole audio part of the movie we were making, so I made an executive decision that we should go all the way around the top of the field so some of the mountain would be between us and the construction.  Total distance is maybe half a mile.  I feel like I don't need to go into a lot of detail about how impressed the 4-year-old was about this.

We did make it to a good location within this century, however, and I had the kids sit so I can check the lighting.  So they did.  About a foot in front of a deer who called BS on the whole affair and took off like she'd been shot out of a rocket launcher.   

Please note that my kids cannot even find a deer THEY ALMOST SAT ON.

After that, however, it was smooth sailing, project complete, all children survived the physical exertion, and I got bonus three thousand something steps on my FitBit for climbing up and down the hill for all this crap.


Do you know what you should never do when you're going full-time SAHM?  Diet.  And I'm not dieting.  Well.  I'm not calling it a diet.  Me and LL Cool J know how it is.  I'm calling it "portion reduction with boredom-induced snacking elimination".  I also signed a blood oath into the cult of fitness tracking wearers and got a FitBit One (which is about the size of a thumb drive and hooks to my bra, so I get to forget about it except for the parts where I check the app for info on my activity like an obsessed hyena, as though I've checked out of my body entirely and didn't know I just walked from the bathroom to the kitchen). 

ANYWAY.  I've been don't-call-it-a-dieting and increasing my exercise for a little over a month and it's worked really well.  I'm chuffed and have lost weight (mostly in my boobs and fingers, neither of which really needed weight loss, so I'm going to have to have a long discussion with my thighs about how it's okay if they cut in line) and have more energy and blah blah blah, positivity. 

Until today.  I took the kids to an aviary and conservatory and we did somewhere around four and a half hours of walking.  (Sidebar:  the 4-year-old had ZERO problems whatsoever walking for four-plus hours, but 10 minutes up the damn hill and he was writing up his last will and testament.  JUST FOR THE RECORD.)  For half of that, I was wearing a bag with an across-the-chest strap because we carried our lunches into the aviary for a picnic.  I was trying to be healthy and financially responsible.  I WAS BEING GOOD. 

FitBit did not care about my goodness.  It only knew it was being smothered by the stupid bag strap and refused, refused, to log my steps as a result.  So when we get into the car to head home at the end of all this, I'm already planning how many cheesecakes I can eat for dinner.  I'm all smug and confident and I know I've surpassed, like, 20,000 steps.

Nope.  I hadn't even hit my regular goal (which is not high, by the way; it's the absolute least I can get away with setting as a goal without being totally shamefaced).  Lack of caloric intake up to that point (stupid effing healthy packed lunch) and walking for four and a half hours with two kids who are not physically capable of occupying a vector on the same plane, let alone in the same direction, added to the overwhelming disappointment over being cheesecake-blocked sent me over the edge.   Never mind a more rational person would understand she could just eat a decent meal anyway, clearly there was much walking and health-consiencing up to that point.  NEVER MIND THAT AT ALL.

I will go ahead and apologize deeply to the good people of Pittsburgh for the horrible things I said about those of you who were on the roadways around 4:00 p.m.  It wasn't your fault.  It was my thighs.  And the tiny computer on my chest.  And my questionable emotional stability.  I love your city.  You're good people.  I just need to readdress my my charts upon charts of planning for this summer to include NOT forgetting necessary equipment and add reminders to always carry an emergency Snickers.  

Do you know what this butterfly is eating?  ANYTHING IT WANTS.  It is my hero.

From Tigers to Wolves (alternatively: How to Ruin A Special Night for 30-Odd Friends and Neighbors)

Tonight my oldest son completed his first year of Cub Scouts.  He and his cohorts put on some silly skits for us, sang a song, we watched an obligatory picture show set to music predetermined to make moms and dads tear up like babies, and cheered for all our boys as they were rewarded for their efforts and advanced to the next stage in Scout-dom.  Super idyllic, super sweet, etc.

Except.  The 4-year-old was there.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the child dearly, but it is a rare occasion indeed when I want to be seen in public with him.  You might not actually want to continue reading from this point on.  Just, really, go forward with your life believing in the sanctity of small town traditions and sweet-faced cherub children doing good deeds, being kind to others, and living wholesome lives.  Because this is the part where a preschooler lights all that on fire.   

During the Pledge of Allegiance (so, you know, nothing solemn or important or anything) he bellowed, "I CAN'T SEE.  WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT?"  Well.  Okay.  He bellowed, "I CAN'T SEE.  WHAT A--HRMPH!"  Because in front of God and everyone, I smothered him.  I'm only confident about the second part of that declaration because once I took my hand off his mouth at the conclusion of the pledge, he finished it.  At the same volume.

He didn't want to eat anything the good people of our town had gone to the trouble to cook.  Except stuffing.  He wanted to eat his weight in stuffing and violently opposed even the idea of any other options.  He wanted to leave the nanosecond the eating part was done (which was only the first half).  When asked to just please stay in his seat, didn't he want to see what play the kids were going to put on, isn't this fun, he announced, "I HATE THIS PLACE."  Same volume.

There happened to be another boy there who was older and a Scout, and when that boy's name was called to come up to receive his promotion, the 4-year-old thought it was for him.  When I explained to him he wasn't even in the Cub Scouts, he flopped dramatically back onto his chair and said, and I quote, "Harumph."  Maybe half volume.  Blessings counted.

I'll just go ahead and say what you're thinking.  "Why didn't you take him outside?"  (I also know you're thinking, "Man, your kid is crappy," with bonus shade, "Oh, you're that parent."  Yep, he can absolutely be a raging pile of cow turds.  And I can make amazingly bad choices with the best of them.  Tell me something I don't know.  We can respectively also not be those things, so shove those judgey pants back in the drawer, yo.)  Every. Single. Time. I got myself geared up to take him out, A Thing was announced (a skit was about to be put on, a song was about to be sung, an award about to be presented) and I had to make a snap decision.  Would it be more disruptive to lay on top of him and hiss "shut the *#@& up" in his ear 200 times a minute, or to toss him over my shoulder with him howling in front of the entire assembly?  I chose option A. 

For the record, I hate option A.  I hate option, B, too.  I need there to be an option C, which involves my 4-year-old realizing he does have volume control and/or situational awareness and results in his getting his crap together.  Or option D, wherein I cuddle him onto my lap and he is content to sit quietly in my loving embrace.  Or even option E, where I go back in time four years and figure out what the hell I ate while he was in utero that resulted in him being born as a feral wildebeest and then definitely DO NOT EAT THAT.  But that's not how my life works, so it was option A.

When an opportunity did present itself, I grabbed all my stuff and stood up.  The 4-year-old, knowing exactly what was coming, yelled, "NO, MOMMY, I DON'T WANT TO HAVE A TALK!  PLEASE, NO TALKING!"  Volume times eleventy hundred.

My solution was to avoid eye contact with everyone else in the hall, all of whose children had behaved angelically and a great many of whom were throwing the both of us some heavy side-eye, and physically remove him.  After a...let's call it spiritually moving discussion with him in the hallway, during which he apologized to me, I idiotically informed him it wasn't me to whom he should be sorry, that he owed every person in there an apology for his atrocious behavior.  And so it is my own fault that he marched himself back into the room and yelled, "EVERYONE IN HERE, I AM SORRY.  I AM SORRY BECAUSE I WAS WHINING.  AND LOUD." 

I am so glad our community worked so hard to set aside this night to be solely focused on those hardworking Cub Scout boys.  SO glad. 

...alternatively, I bet this gets me out of being asked to volunteer for anything ever

Battening of the Hatches

It's been a couple years since my kids have been home with me full time long term.  I worked last summer, so they did "kid camp" (daycare, but the then 5-year-old thought he was too big for daycare so we slapped a different label on it) all day but for some time out for vacation.  They're older now, a hell of a lot more independent, and I don't expect it will be the same level of insanity as it was when they were 2 years and 4 years.  And because I don't expect it, it will be.  I know how this works.

Thus, I have prepared.  Y'all, I have charts on top of charts.  Literally.

I have 70,000 Post-Its and a 50 lb. bag of rocks and a list of lunches (so I don't have to actually use my brain on a daily basis, just every once in a while) and all the crafting supplies on the planet.  I WILL NOT GO GENTLY INTO THAT DARK NIGHT. 

Things That Will Be Happening:

- Every Monday, we're going to make something.  (Get it?  Monday?  Make something?  SHUT UP I KNOW I NEED TO BACK AWAY FROM THE PINTEREST.)  Might be crafts, might be a movie, might be a fort, might be a margarita.  I'm not picky.

- Taking field trips.  On Tuesdays.  The alliteration continues.  In fact, it's a thing.  All week.  I don't really need to talk about it anymore.  (PS, in case you were wondering why Tuesdays specifically, it's because my research shows that's the least-populated day of the week for most of the museums and whatnot we're interested in.  Also, I can hear you laughing about my doing research.  That's not nice.)

- Geocaching on Wednesdays.  Okay, so maybe I need to talk about it.  Walking on Wednesdays was originally the thing, but if you actually call it walking the boys hear "chopping off one's legs at one's knees" and so we'll just stick with geocaching, which they call "treasure hunting". 

- Acts of kindness.  We can do these whenever the moment is upon us, but I've set aside Thursdays (Thoughtful Thursdays...it's okay, I hate me, too) for special kindness projects.

- Library on Friday.  I really couldn't come up with an F that matches anything to do with the library, except maybe Freethinking, but that seemed like I was maybe starting a cult or a commune or something and I really don't want to go down in the annals of history with Koresh and Jones just for taking my kids to the library once a week.

- Vacations!  We've got one full week planned with my parents in Tennessee, a three-day mini vacation with friends in Maryland, and we're working on a long weekend kind of deal with my husband's parents in South Carolina.  I like to call those the "I will give you your weight in cake if you will just behave in front of other people" days.

Things That Will NOT Be Happening:

- Having a 24/7 plan.  I have stuff planned, obviously, but only one of the days during the week is a full-day plan (taking a trip).  One is maybe half day (geocaching, depending on how far we go).  The other three days will involve one activity and then they're on their own.  Weekends are completely unplanned unless we see something we want to go do as a family.  Fear not, all ye who subscribe to the "let them play and be kids and be bored and freeeeeeeee raaaaaaaange" school of parenting.  I carry your card, too, right next to my mom-who-plans-too-much-crap ID.  There will be plenty of booting short people out into the yard and locking the door behind them so I can clean the house and prepare meals and polish the silver.  (And by all of that, I mean eat ice cream and binge-watch something involving curse words on Netflix.  Duh.)

- Inflexibility.  For all my calendars and notebooks and sticky notes, if we wake up on a day I've got marked down to, say, go to an aquarium and the children are throat punching each other at the breakfast table and I'm trying to figure out in which time zone it's 5:00 p.m. when it's 8:00 a.m. in mine, I'm totally cool with locking everyone in their respective rooms instead and buying chocolate in bulk online.  Also, if we just wake up and don't feel like it.  But let's be real, the other scenario is more likely.

- Anything fancy.  This includes cooking with more than five ingredients and wearing makeup.  My goal is to end the summer wearing nothing but freckles (ON MY FACE, perv) and be 95% composed of mac and cheese.

With that, I have clearly thought of everything and nothing can possibly go wrong.  (If the universe is going to light me on fire anyway, might as well earn it.)  Bring on next Monday.  But not at 6:00 a.m., 4-YEAR-OLD.

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