Relishing the Boring Stuff – What the Hell?

My addiction to Disney movies is not something I’ve ever tried to hide on this blog. So, it should come as no surprise that this blog post is inspired by one of my all-time favorites: Up. The beginning love story sequence makes me cry. Hard. Ugly, shoulder-shaking, snot-sucking crying. It’s bad. I don’t even have to be looking at the screen. As soon as I hear the music, I know what’s happening, and I start to cry right around the time that they are in the doctor’s office. Again, regular readers will know why. There is just something about the whole movie that gets me. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had students like Russell, or if it’s because the love between Ellie and Carl is timeless, or if it’s because I’m just a sucker for Disney movies.

Anyway, there is one line in the movie that hits home with me every time. Russell is talking to Mr. Fredricksen about being a kid and says, That might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.” (Don’t send me a nasty email if I misquoted that a bit. I’m not so good at quoting movies; that’s my husband’s claim to fame.) As a mom, I try, at the very least, to make each day fun. They’re not all smash hits, but if we laugh and smile and spend time together, then I’m happy. The rest of the tribe seems to be, too.

I see all of these moms on Pinterest and Facebook planning these elaborate day trips and play dates, and to be honest, there are times when I wish I had the creativity and the patience and the time to do half of those things. I envy their energy and their enthusiasm and their eagerness to be perfect moms. But, then I stop and wonder if that just makes their kids expect every day to be a grand gesture. Would they even appreciate the “boring” things that our family does? That’s when I realize I’m glad that we have that boring stuff. That’s the stuff of real life, and that’s what makes our family… well, us.

I like our nightly pillow fights and tumbling shows. I was thrilled when the big kid asked to help me make a chocolate chip banana bread yesterday, but “this time without the volcano.” I love knowing that I’m going to get the little guy out of his crib each day after his nap and see his smile and answer that daily question, “Daddy home?” And the next daily question, “Brother home?” And the one after that, “Turtle game?” We may have our boring routine, but there is comfort in that schedule. We know we will be together and play each late afternoon and evening. We know the Phillies game most likely will be on after bath time. We know we will make our wishes and read our books and talk about our days, head-to-head on the pillow. I even love knowing that we go to our favorite family dinner spot so often that they know what to bring us to drink and that we don’t need menus; knowing that we can leave with a screaming little guy without insulting anyone is kind of awesome, too.

So, yes, the boring stuff is the stuff I will remember the most. And, I hope it’s the stuff our boys will look back on and remember with fondness. We may not have done something awesome every day, but we did spend time together, as a family. When I figure out how to pin that and update that, I will. In the meantime, I’ll check out what those other moms are doing, and for once, I’ll be able to think I may just be doing something right. What the Hell?

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Another Injury – What the Hell?

My boys are not delicate flowers. If they were, I’d be very concerned because I was a tomboy and I don’t really know how to do quiet games and sit still for long periods of time. Unless it’s to read a book, but I’m usually scribbling furiously in the margins or taking notes or highlighting or writing as I read, so that doesn’t really count. Anyway, because of their rough-and-tumble natures, my boys look like they’ve been in some sort of horrible accident. At any given time, I can find a bruise, a brush burn, or a scab with little effort.

I’m starting to worry, because as they grow older and bolder, their injuries are becoming larger and much more noticeable. My immediate family at least has learned to stop asking, “Oh, honey, what did you do?” and start asking, “What did you do this time?” And, bless my pediatrician because he looks them over and says he’s glad we are so active and outdoors so often at our house. I haven’t had to worry about a call from CYS yet, thank goodness.

But, I am noticing that the boys are starting to be more daring in their escapades. The five year old is climbing trees and jumping out of his clubhouse, which is attached to the swing set. He won’t yet jump off a swing, but I’m sure that’s going to happen soon. He is running and jumping into the swimming pool, going down the slide into the water, and, just recently, flipping off the diving board. Most of these activities are harmless and there is always a throng of people ready and waiting to catch him, ask him if he’s okay, or pick him up if he falls a little too hard. He has more bruises and scrapes to prove his bravery, but I don’t make it a point to tell him that they are badges of honor; though, I know at some point in his little boyhood another rough-and-tumble kid will tell him that’s what they are. I don’t curb all of the flipping and running and jumping, but I’m certainly not going to make it a show of honor yet.

The two year old’s latest trick is to jump off the love seat and land on one of our bean bags. We now are on our second set of bean bags because the first set is as flat as pancakes from the big kid’s shenanigans. We use them as buffers along our hearth, and it’s a system that is working well so far. The problem with the little guy’s jumping routine is that he sometimes doesn’t jump out far enough from the love seat, and I’m afraid he’s going to hurt his leg. Last night, though, he was launching himself so far that I used a second beanbag as a “safety net.” I was having heart palpitations because my baby is turning into an acrobat before my very eyes, and I wasn’t ready for his bravery to kick in yet.  Chalk it up to yet another way he’s growing up that Mommy isn’t ready for. When he slid down the indoor slide right into his brother’s head while I was picking up toys (I really can’t take my eyes off them for a second at this point), there were a few tears but no blood. I felt better because the big kid wanted me to rub his noggin and check his head, and the little guy wanted my husband, his Nuk, and his Lovey.

I guess these boys are growing out of their Sesame Street toys and Little People play sets. We are moving on to tumbling mats and trampolines soon, I fear.

I will patch up the skinned knees and put Aloe on the brush burns for as long as they want me to. I will hug them and hold them when they get a little too wild. I will warn them to “Be careful,” even though I know I should save my breath. I’ll willingly offer them comfort after a tumbling accident as long as I can. But, when the day comes that they don’t come running to me with an injury, I will not be able to handle it. Somebody will have to give me a hug because all I’ll be able to think is, “What the Hell?”

I Can’t Work From Home – What the Hell?

I really thought this would work. I thought I’d be able to work at home with the help of a babysitter and save gas money and time. I didn’t have the guts to try it out until today, and I didn’t even try it out at home. It’s not going to work. Not until they’re both in school, full-time. I can just tell.

I brought my five-year-old with me to my parents’ house, where I’ve been camped out doing my new freelancing job for three weeks anywhere from 7:00AM – 4PM. It’s a perfect arrangement: I sit at the beautiful handmade desk in the den, I have access to a fully-stocked fridge (ah, remember those coming-home-from-college-days?), I can go to the bathroom whenever I need to (teachers and stay-at-home moms and dads understand why that’s a luxury), and I get to bask in the sunlight that comes streaming through windows that don’t have baby smudges all over them, making me feel guilty about writing instead of cleaning.

I knew he was going to cramp my style when it took twenty minutes longer at bedtime last night because he was telling me all about the toys at my mom’s house. (Why is it that we always refer to houses by the females that live in them?) He wanted to show me the new race track and the new game, and he wanted me to help him figure out which cars work better on the shark-chomp obstacle course. When he went on and on about the awesome ball flinger, I knew I’d be in for an interesting morning of *trying* to work.

I normally am seated and working by 7:50 on days when I leave our house at 7:30. Today, I didn’t get my butt in the chair till 9AM. In the car, he asked me what his dad was up to and if he got the new container he’d been waiting for. He slyly said, “It sure would be nice to see if Daddy needs some help.” I agreed and said we could check after his appointment this afternoon – which is why I chose to conduct this work-from-home experiment today – but, he said he didn’t want to “miss anything.” When we got near the exit, he asked what the plan for breakfast was. He knew we were within 200 yards of McDonald’s. Now, he loves McDonald’s. I think he lives for the afternoons when my grandmother picks him up from preschool and takes him to play in “play land” and eat that happiest of meals. However, he does not like to eat McDonald’s breakfasts; it took me one second to figure out that he was trying to get me to stop and get breakfast for his dad, thereby ensuring a visit to our feed mill. So, we had to stop and get food. And deliver it to the mill. And check out what was happening. And ask his dad how the cats are doing.  And…

When we finally got to my parents’ house – two minutes away from the mill, to be exact – I got the grand tour. It isn’t as if I actually grew up in this house, or anything. But, I let him show me around and treat me as though I’m new here. When I had him all settled, I asked him what he wanted to eat. He had informed me at bedtime that he would just eat and get ready at my mom’s, which I thought would be better because I wouldn’t have to wake him up so early in the morning. And then I had to actually follow through with that plan this morning. Getting breakfast and juice and cleaning up crumbs took a great deal of time. Not to mention the fact that I had to get the vacuum to clean the chair and floor because he managed to get food everywhere. *Note to self: blueberry buckle is one of the crumbiest breakfast items.

When I finally sat down to check email and news feeds and trends, I heard, “Mommy…” a dozen times in the first fifteen minutes. Did I see how big that blueberry was? How did I know where to find the plates and cups since he hadn’t shown me? How long until we leave and go for lunch? What am I typing? Is it okay if the dogs bark, or does that bother me? How many people live in this neighborhood? What do I do if my battery dies? How long have I had that computer? Do I know how to make blueberry buckle?

I answered with ears on him and eyes on my screen, and when I couldn’t concentrate, I read other blogs and checked Facebook news and answered him because I knew if I turned away from the laptop completely, he’d go in for the kill. Mommy, when can you play with me?

He lasted until exactly 10:12AM. By then, I had endured more questions and comments and sighs than I probably should have. At one point, he stood beside me and bumped my elbow to show me a toy; I think he figured out I could glance at him and see what he was showing me more than I could answer him, so he didn’t even try verbal communication.

And then, it hit me. I can’t work from home because of my boys. And that’s a good thing. They want to play with me and talk to me and show me things and teach me things. They are so used to BEING with me that they don’t understand why I don’t close the laptop and engage with them. I have taught them they are more important than the screens on all of our devices, and they can’t stand being in the same room with me if I’m paying more attention to a screen than I am to them. So, I can’t be a work-from-home mom. And, I’m okay with that. In fact, I think I’m more than okay with that, because I just might be doing something right, after all. What the Hell?

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Where Does It All Come From? – What the Hell?

Trying to clean the house with these boys in it is like trying to keep an ice cream cone from melting in 95-degree weather.  You get so close to keeping it all cleaned up, but then you turn around and there’s a mess in three different places.  At least with the ice cream cone, you get a sweet treat and feel at least a little satisfaction.  With cleaning, you just feel like you should go bang your head off the wall for fifteen minutes because it would be more productive.

The one place that always seems to have dirt is the entryway.  I have a very nice, handmade rug there for little hineys to sit on and be comfortable while putting shoes on and off, and secretly that rug was supposed to keep the dirt in one central location.  You put your shoes on while on the rug, and you take your shoes off while on the rug.  How hard is that?  But then one realized that he doesn’t have his iPad.  And then the other realized that he doesn’t have his Thomas.  And the first one realized that he still has his shoes on while trying to find the iPad, so he kicks them off where he’s standing; I swear that makes more of a mess than keeping them on while on the great iPad hunt because he slams them down once they’re off, which forces all of the dirt and grime and boy-stuff out onto the floor, rather than just having quick footprints from Point A to Point B.  And then the second one realized that it makes lot of noise when you slam your shoes down on the floor, so he does it too.  As hard as he can.  A dozen times.  AAAAHHHHH!

Another place that always seems to be filthy is the refrigerator door handles.  The little one can barely get the door open, and he has this nifty trick of grabbing the handle with his left hand, putting his right hand dangerously near the hinges, and sort of swinging until he gets the fridge open.  This means there is a trail of handprints left behind because he “slid” down the handle, PLUS two foot marks on the lower freezer door because that’s his ending point.  Similarly, the big one opens the fridge whenever he wants something, which is almost always, and he seems to have to grab the handle five times until he finds just the right spot to hold on and get the fridge to open.  That’s five sets of handprints for every one time of opening the door.  That’s not good math if you’re me.

And then there’s the front of the dishwasher and the floor around it.  I’m pretty sure that if you are my child, you had to agree to the condition that you cannot put down your plate or cup or flatware until AFTER you’ve already opened the dishwasher.  So, anything on said plate, cup, or flatware now is being fashionably worn by the front of the dishwasher and the floor.  Oh, and there’s a good chance that you then step in the mess on the floor and continue walking to whatever your destination was in the first place, so there is a trail of sticky or wet footprints from the kitchen to somewhere in the house.  Thank you, dear children, for making me so lucky that I get to play treasure hunt every day for the offending feet.

Oh, and who could forget the actual toys themselves?  If we have a toy that isn’t covered in milk, Silk, juice, or what-is-this-curiously-sticky-substance-that-smells-like-old-socks-and-is-the-color-of-tar, I’d be totally shocked.

My favorite dirty spots are the windows.  You can tell which child is the culprit, of course, judging from the height of the finger art.  They don’t just use their fingers and hands, either.  Sometimes I get lip prints and nose prints and face prints.  Oftentimes, I get trails of Cheerio-covered fingerprints the entire length of the window.  They’re sticky and a little too greasy for being caused by a boy and his Cheerios, and when they’re really fun, they have tiny grains of the Cheerios stuck in them, for extra scrubbing power pleasure.

I love our boys, and I still wouldn’t trade them for the princess-following, everything-pink girls that so many of our friends have.  They just mess up our home and make my cleaning job infinitely harder than it needs to be.  I don’t know where all of the dirt and grime associated with them comes from, but I can tell you that every time that I clean, I find myself saying repeatedly and with gusto, “What the Hell?”

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My Baby Doesn’t Want Me – What the Hell?

It happened the other day.  We were grocery shopping, and he started to get very agitated and kick his legs.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “Mama move.  Daddy push.”  I wasn’t allowed within three feet of the cart handle.  Then, we went out for lunch.  I tried to get him out of the car.  He thrashed around and said, “No!  Daddy get me out.”  My baby doesn’t want me anymore.

This may not seem like that big of a deal.  It’s normal for a boy to want to be with his dad.  He doesn’t see his dad as much as he sees me because of my husband’s hours, so I expect him to run to the door as soon as he hears his dad’s truck hit the gravel on our driveway and yell, “Daddy hooooome!  HI, DADDY!  HI, DADDY!”  There are nights when he sits in his own chair for two whole minutes before he has to be on his dad’s lap to eat supper.  It’s like he can’t get close enough to my husband sometimes.  I think it’s adorable (and, there seriously is nothing sexier about my husband than when he’s balancing our two year old on his lap, cutting meat into tiny bites, and trying to eat his own supper all at the same time), and every time that I see my husband sharing these moments with our boys I know that I picked the right man with whom to have these amazing boys.

But, now that our son chooses his dad over me every single time, I’m starting to feel those pangs of knowing that he’s growing up.  Our baby is our last baby, and he’s not such a baby anymore.  He fell down the other day but didn’t come running to me for a hug and a Mommy Kiss.  I don’t baby our boys and I don’t make a fuss every time they fall down, but he fell hard, and that’s usually when he needs me.  Not that time.  I had to grip the armrest of the couch to stop myself from going over to him and forcing him to hug me, just to make myself feel better.  Hug me, dammit!  Don’t you know you’re still supposed to NEED me?

I never wanted more than two children.  And, when we weren’t even sure if we’d be able to have one child, I thought two seemed like an impossible dream.  Now that it’s a reality, two really is a good number.  It makes dining out in booths made for four just perfect.  It makes traveling in the car much simpler.  It cuts down on Disney World hotel rates, from what I’ve heard.  At this point, I don’t know if we’re EVER going to make it to Disney, but that’s a subject for another post.  With two kids, they can’t gang up on my husband and me.  My husband bathes one while I put clothes away with the other one, and I get jammies on one while my husband bathes the remaining one.  Two-on-two works for pillow fights and dodgeball and waterballoon fights and everything else we do on our crazy nights together.  So, having two kids works perfectly…

… until the two kids grow up and there aren’t any more babies left.  For the past five years, there’s been a baby who wants and needs his Mama.  When the bigger one started to need me less, the second one appeared.  I always had someone to snuggle, someone to hold, someone to kiss and hug and mother.  The pain of the bigger one always wanting to be with my mom and even proposing moving into my parents’ house so he doesn’t have to say goodbye to them was less severe because I knew our baby still loved me most.  And now he doesn’t.  What the Hell?

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Cleaning Day – What the Hell?

I’ll admit that I don’t do heavy-duty housecleaning as often as I should, but we do the weekly routine of light dusting and vacuuming and steam-mopping pretty well. I keep up with the laundry and dishes because there is no alternative, and I clean the kitchen counters and table several times a day. The Department of Health and Children and Youth haven’t been here yet, so things must be acceptable… or at least clean enough.

Today was one of those days that I set aside for heavy-duty cleaning. I have been dreading it for weeks. I know that I’m going to be stuck inside cleaning while everyone else is out having a day date or playing in the backyard or doing anything other than helping me clean; and, I absolutely think that they should be since the boys are so little. It just leaves me with a lot of the work. And a lot of time to complain about the work while I’m doing it, so it’s a good thing little ears are not here to hear me.

I had planned on cleaning our whole first floor – kitchen, playroom, den, walkways, dining area, and laundry room – today. I started by putting away the 900 million Thomas the Tank Engine parts and all of his friends’ parts and asking the boys to put back any toys they got out during the day, and five minutes later the toys I had just cleaned up were everywhere. On the floor. On the couch. On the end tables. Ugh! By lunch, there were more toys out than I thought we owned. I only had sat down to eat breakfast, and I had been picking up and organizing for four hours, but there was the tornado of toys yet again. What the Hell!

Part of my heavy-duty cleaning days consists of sorting toys into “Keep” and “Yard Sale” piles. All of the toys that I recognize from some form of a kid’s meal immediately get tossed into the trash, if I haven’t seen someone playing with them within the past day. It’s important to note that I never broadcast my heavy-duty cleaning days ahead of time to our five year old because I know that he has caught on to my toy-trashing plan and will sit and play with all of the toys that still faintly smell like nuggets or fries because he wants me to think that he still likes them and wants to keep them. He doesn’t even know where they are until I find them and sort them, but he wants them, by God!

Similarly, all of the not-from-a-fast-food-joint toys that I know nobody has touched in the past few weeks get put into the Yard Sale pile, and again, the phenomenon of “Keep that. I love that. I play with it all the time” starts up in full force. My favorite memory of this is the following…

Me: I haven’t seen you play with this. What is it?

Five Year Old: I don’t know and I don’t think I have all of the pieces.

Me: Let’s throw it away, then, if it’ missing parts.

Five Year Old: But I want it. We’ll find them. It’s SO fun.

Me: You don’t even know what it is!

Five Year Old: But I know it’s fun. I can tell.

After a day full of finding all of the parts to toys and putting them together and figuring out which ones to keep, putting them in the appropriate toy bins, and gluing those that we are keeping but need a little TLC first, I had two minutes to dust, wash windows, vacuum, move furniture, clean curtains and blinds, and put out the Fourth of July decorations. I got one room totally done today. ONE! What the Hell?

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So Different – What the Hell?

I love our boys. I cannot remember life without trucks, cars, Ninja Turtles, Thomas the Tank Engine, and dirt. I was so thrilled just to be blessed with two pregnancies that I didn’t even worry about whether we would need to buy pink or blue until I realized the second time around that it would be important to determine the sex of the baby; I either would need to hire movers to come and haul out all of the clothes and toys I had stashed away after our first son was born so I could begin making room for dresses and tutus, or I would need to start laundering the ungodly amounts of onesies I had hoarded. (Okay, I don’t really know what I would have needed if we had had a daughter, but judging from friends with daughters, I would be in a pink princessy haze right about now.) But, I was thrilled to learn that baby #2 also was a boy. I have a boy. I know how to do this. We won’t need to buy clothes or toys ever again!

Boy, was I wrong! Baby #2 entered this world a bruiser and hasn’t slowed down yet. A full two pounds heavier than his older brother at birth, our younger son has been his own man since we first laid eyes on him. And, of course, he didn’t fit into many of the clothes I had ready and waiting for him. Size wasn’t the only difference. He had squawked so loudly when he made his grand entrance that nurses came to make sure everything was okay. He spent his time in the hospital crying in such a unique way that the other families in the maternity ward knew right away that it was that “big baby.” Baby #1 only cried in the hospital when we tried to bathe him and put him in his car seat for the first time. Oh, isn’t he cute? That’s THE cutest cry we’ve ever heard. You know, silly first-time parents think that even the crying is adorable. And that first poopy diaper? Precious!

By the second time around, though, you think you know what you’re in for. You’re expecting to not sleep ever again, only wear clothes doused in spit-up and drool and God-only-knows-what-else, and never clean your house again. You know how to measure formula in the middle of the night without any lights on and not spill a single drop while bouncing a screaming baby and praying that he’s not really waking up the entire neighborhood. Car seats and high chairs and strollers and Pack ‘N Plays that once seemed like you needed a degree in rocket science if you ever had any hope of using them correctly are now operated with one hand.   I got this!

And then we realized this tiny creature was getting to be evermore different from our first tiny creature. This one had a little giggle instead of a deep belly laugh. This one loved tummy time instead of screaming like a banshee if we even attempted to put him on his belly. This one only puked every time he ate sweet potatoes instead of every time he ate. Every. Time. This one did an adorable Army belly crawl instead of refusing to crawl until he was up on his hands and knees like the poster child for infant mobility. This one loves to take naps and asks for “Night, night time” instead of forcing you to drive up your gas bills and put hundreds of miles on your car just for a fifteen-minute reprieve. This one is fiercely independent and stubborn instead of letting you talk logically and show him how to do things. This one throws the most unholy tantrums you’ve ever seen, complete with kicking, thrashing, hitting, screaming, crying, and banging his head on the floor. Wait. What the Hell?

Oh, yes. The tantrums. We didn’t have these before. We don’t know how to handle this. We don’t know if we need to buy him a helmet, put him in a padded room, or start looking for an expensive therapist. Mother of God, how does one child create such noise and mass confusion? What could possibly cause him this much stress and frustration? The trains aren’t staying connected when he pushes them across the floor. He can’t find the milk cup that is two inches from his hand. His mother stood up and walked to the bathroom when she should have been pushing the truck. It’s Wednesday and the sun is shining. He doesn’t need a reason. He just loses it. And then we want to lose it.

It’s funny how two children from the same parents can be so different. We haven’t changed our parenting style, and he certainly didn’t learn this from his older brother. The only logical conclusion I’ve been able to reach is that we got the wrong baby at the hospital. I just don’t know which one is the wrong one: the sweet, sensitive child or the impatient, irrational child. Either way, we are stuck with this tantrum-throwing beast that we love with all of our hearts and who causes his older brother to look at him, shake his head, and mutter, “Oh, that kid,” while I look at him and think, “What the hell?”

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