Thursday, June 27, 2013

When the Children are Away....

My children are out of town.

That's right, for six days and five nights my husband and I are officially child free! On Saturday we will fly to Texas to reunite with all three of them but for now I'm alllllll allloooooooneee.

And I'll tell you what -- IT'S FANTASTIC.

Going from having three very young children to having no children for the week is kind of like how it feels when the power goes out. The enormity of the role that electricity has been playing in your life is overwhelming and you struggle to remember how to do the most basic things. You know how during a blackout you keep going to turn on the microwave and then you think, "Oh, that's right that's electric too!" and then two minutes later you find yourself thinking, "Maybe I can just look up how to deal with a blackout on the internet?"

That's exactly how I feel with my kids away.

My husband and I woke up that first morning and had FORTY-FIVE MINUTES during which we had absolutely NOTHING we needed to do. There are no pancakes to make, no diapers to change, and no buses bearing down the street demanding fully-dressed students to be waiting and ready at the curb.

Which means that it was time to make conversation. 

" how are you?"
"I'm good. Did you sleep well?"
"Yes, I didn't make any mistakes at all."
"Heh. [LONG PAUSE] Heh."

What can I say? It's been a LONG time since we've had to do this.

After a while David headed off to work and I found myself just kind of wandering around. The very first thing I did was to clean the whole house. I mean, I cleaned the nooks and crannies of the stove, I cleaned behind the washing machine -- I CLEANED THIS HOUSE.

And it was incredibly satisfying, because I knew it would still be clean 20 minutes later.

Sometimes the little things mean a lot.

After cleaning I was back to my wandering. I'd see a squirrel in the backyard and then I would run to get the kids to come see it only to remember, "Oh right, no kids."

That whole first day was pretty much defined by how much there were no kids in my house.

On Day Two I kind of stopped with the wandering and decided to optimize the days I had left by putting my mind to enjoying my momentarily single existence:

  • I went shopping -- just wandering the aisles of stores, looking at stuff, and then even trying things on. I didn't buy a single thing but it was really enjoyable.
  • I imagined that I'd listen to lots of curse-laden pop tunes or Satanic speed metal or other such kid-free selections, but what I found myself craving in the car was TOTAL SILENCE. I would just drive around going nowhere and just enjoy the sensation of no one saying "MOOOOOOMMMMM!" at all. HEAVEN.
  •  I went and got a two-hour massage with a gift certificate someone had given me in 2008.
  •  My husband and I started remembering how to talk about things other than bowel movements, and we stayed up past our bedtimes watching multi-hour 'Mad Men' marathons and heading out to fancy grown-up dates before which I both brushed my hair AND shaved my legs.
  • Also, for the record, I'm still looking for my $(%*ing keys...

I'll be glad to have my kiddos back on Saturday but until then I'm committed to making the most of our time away -- laundry free, stress free, and CHILD-FREE!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Good Old Summertime

Summer is here and with it comes a host of splendid things. There are barbecues and swimming pools and long days where the kids can play outside right up until bath time. There's just a whole host of seasonal fun!

But there is one thing that summertime brings with it that is less desirable:


Unstructured time is much like regular time except that it moves at approximately 1/96th of the pace.

During the school year our week is tightly regimented. There are drops-offs to get to in the morning and pick-ups to make in the afternoon. For the little ones there are music classes, weekly playdates, and a host of pre-planned daily activities that give each day an easy-to-follow routine.

And that is a good thing.

In summertime, however, that structure falls completely apart. There's no school to build the day around, friends we normally see on a regular basis are traveling, and classes are out of session. All of which leaves us with approximately 14 hours a day that we need to fill.

When you have three little kids in the house there is really no expressing exactly how slowly FOURTEEN HOURS can move.

I armed myself way in advance in anticipation of the long days ahead.

I bought puzzles, filled the tires in the bikes, and purchased mega-tubs of sidewalk chalk. I cleaned out the yard, planned baking projects, and laid in mountains of blocks and arts and crafts material.

All of which got us through about three days.

So from here on, we are just kind of slogging along.

We wake up in the morning and Dad handles breakfast. Then I try to have an activity planned for the morning. We head to the pool for a couple of hours or maybe take a trip to the park before heading somewhere for lunch. 

Which brings me to yet another horror of the unstructured time of summer. EVERY TIME YOU TURN AROUND it's time for another meal!!!

So we eat out for lunch so that I'm down to only providing dinner and snacks. 

All this activity takes us through nap time. Nap time is a wonderful time because it buys me at least two hours. My oldest no longer naps, but he does engage in something called "quiet time". The rules of "quiet time" are simple:


Nap time comes to an end all too soon which gives us AT LEAST four hours to fill until Daddy comes home.

It's 3pm. I gather the children in the yard. I turn on the hose and lead a merry romp through the water. We laugh and we frolic about, full of all the joys that summer has to offer!  Then my big guy has to go to the bathroom, so I take him inside, at which point my two other kids tire of the water and, unguarded, come into the house and begin dragging their soaking selves from room to room, leaving a trail of dirt and damp in their wake. 

I drag them into their bedroom, change everyone, get them in new dry clothes and then consider what to do next.

It is now 3:17pm.

Only 3 hours and 43 minutes to go! Who wants to play "You run around while I sit still and time you" again?!

No one?


As I move about the world with my kids in tow during the summertime I often pass similarly harried-looking Moms, dragging their kids behind them.

I make a point to make eye contact with them, and inevitably we exchange a slight nod of the head and share a weary smile,  acknowledging a simple but shared truth,

"It's Summertime, Mama, It's Summertime."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Summer Breakin'

I've been preparing for several weeks for having all three kids home all day for summer break.

I've been imagining family outings to the zoo, picnics on the lawn -- maybe even super fun overnight campouts in the backyard -- since April or so.

Our first day of summer break was Monday, and Mondays always start with Mommy and Me music class with my two younger kids. I figured I'd bring big brother along and then we'd all head out for a glee-filled morning at the playground and some lunch before naps.

I laid out this plan for the kids on Sunday night.

Immediately there were some objections.

From the two-year-old: 

"I want the green egg to shake!!!! THE GREEN EGG!!!" (pointing angrily towards brother) "If he comes he'll take it!!!!"

I spent several minutes assuring him that I would protect his right to the green egg with my very life.

From the four-year-old:

"I will NOT NAP! Naps are for babies! I WILL PLAY QUIETLY!!"

Dude, fine, as long as you promise not to wake up the other kids. We'll sort it out tomorrow, OK?

From the 16-month-old:

"NO! NO! NO!" (No, at this point is basically her "Aloha" -- it means "Hello," "Goodbye," and "Nice to See You" -- so I ignored her)

By late evening we had arrived at "The Great Music Class Accord of 2013" and we were raring to go.

We got up the next morning, had breakfast, and my husband left for work (please take note of this detail as it shall come into play momentarily). 

By the time I'd packed a bag of sand toys and sunscreen and gotten everyone dressed, it was time to head for the car -- the joys of Music Together awaited!

As I headed out to open the minivan a horrifying vision flashed before my eyes.

It was of the last time I'd seen my car keys.

I was making muffins with the boys the day before when I looked up to see the baby rifling through my bag before making off with my keyring.

My hands were covered in batter at the time, and I thought to myself, 

"That could end badly -- I should probably put a stop to that."

Yeah, I didn't actually put a stop to it.

And so it was that half an hour before music class was to begin I found myself tearing around the house in a panicked search for where my baby might have hidden my keys.

This enterprise was interrupted by a knock on the door.

It was my neighbor reminding me that street cleaning was starting in five minutes.

The children, sensing my distress, sat quietly as I searched.  

Right. Of course I'm lying.

The children, sensing my distress, decided it was a perfect time to begin shouting demands for juice at me and/or take the time to pummel their siblings about the face and head as part of an ongoing dispute about whether or not the red train was, in fact, 


As I watched the minutes tick by, I accepted that the only locatable key to the minivan was the one in my husband's possession. I then remembered that his parting words had been something along the lines of,

"I've got an important client meeting this morning...."

So I did the loving and reasonable thing and chose not to bother him at the office. 

Right. Of course I'm lying. 

I called his phone 8 times in a row (our secret marital code for, "Pick up! Someone is bleeding profusely!") and then proceeded to sob hysterically until he agreed to drop whatever "important job thing" he was doing and come home.

As I awaited his return I crafted an elaborate dissertation detailing the reasons I should not get a parking ticket JUST THIS ONCE because I had such a good excuse.

Unfortunately my carefully-prepared arguments were never to find an audience, since at the time the parking enforcement officer arrived I was busy responding to the following statement from my two-year-old:

"Um, I think the baby pooped on the floor."

I'm not even going to go into detail, but suffice it to say that he was, in fact, correct.

By the time my husband arrived home, music class was a long-forgotten dream and I was sitting rocking in the corner clutching a $75 dollar ticket in my hand and begging him to raise the children alone, thus allowing me to move to a small hut in Guam.

Summer break is off to a great start, folks!

Right. Of course I'm lying.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Place of No

As my youngest enters full-on toddlerhood before my eldest's 5th birthday, our house faces a host of challenges. 

There's the thing where you have to feed them THREE TIMES a day EVERY DAY.

There's somehow getting them all to sleep at roughly the same time EVERY NIGHT.

And then, of course, there's trying to bring ALL OF THEM back in one piece from EACH AND EVERY outing you undertake. (For me, this week, that involved calling to the nice fellow selling ice cream at the park, "Could you catch that little blonde girl over there for me and hold onto her for a minute? Her brother should be out of the bathroom anytime now.") 

I'm finding it a bit of a challenge to stay on top of all the moving pieces.

As a result, I find myself over-reliant on the word, "NO". It's become my personal mantra. It's my "word of the day" every day and my go-to incantation morning, noon, and night.

I say NO a lot.

  • No! I'm not awake. Please stop jumping up and down on my sternum.
  • No! We're not having waffles. Eat your eggs!
  • No! You can't have dessert after breakfast!
  • No!!! Your sister's eyes are not a toy.
  • No, we're not going to the park; we're going to the eye doctor
  • NO! NOT MY HAIR! Ow. Ow. Ow. Let go!
  • No, don't bring your lovey into the car, you'll lose it.
  • NO. NO. NO. Please don't throw airplanes at my head while I'm driving.
  • Oh-No! Who put this Pop Tart in between the couch cushions?
  • No, you cannot slide one more time - you already slid four more "one more times"!
  • Nooooooo, I don't have any more snacks - your brother ate them all already - please stop rifling through my bag!
  • No, I don't want to eat whatever you found on the ground over there. 
  • NO! NO! NO! Don't give it to your sister either!
  • No, you can't have three doughnuts and a Matchbox car - we just came to the store to get toothpaste.
  • No, I'm sorry I don't want to play a 17th game of "Don't Break the Ice"
  • NO, we're not having ice cream for dinner, that was just that one time when I was too lazy to cook!
  • No, Daddy's not home yet! Let me call him again...
  • No! No! No! I beg you to stop hitting each other with cars and go to sleep!
I haven't done the precise calculations but I have to estimate that there are days when I say the word "No" roughly a thousand times between breakfast and bedtime.

It's an avalanche of No's. It's a cavalcade of No's. It's a non-stop NO all-the-time parade around here. 

Which on some level I recognize is reasonable. I mean, the main aspect of my job at present is to stop my offspring from doing harm to themselves or others for the majority of their waking hours, and that is naturally going to involve a good deal of redirection.

But still, I'm trying to work on curtailing my use of the word. I'm attempting to find times to say YES, even if it's just as simple as, 

"YES, you may have that car, if you agree to stop pounding your brother."


"YES, you may have a doughnut, but we're going to keep it as a snack for later."

or even

"YES, I can see how much joy pummeling me in the face is giving you, but let's both pummel this nearby stuffed shark instead, shall we?"

These are small steps toward turning the tide of NO, but it's a work in progress. I've still got plenty of No's in my arsenal -- I'm just trying to dole them out a bit more judiciously.

As in:

"No, please don't pour your entire cup of juice onto my keyboard, kid -- I'm trying to blog here..."