I’ve been at this parenting gig for awhile now. Not long enough to call myself an expert, but definitely long enough to feel like I’ve got a handle on a few things. Of course, I’ve got a teenager now, and a tween right behind him, so on any given day I pretty much feel like I’m winging it in some way or another.
Besides that, however, I’m pretty sure I’m nailing this motherhood thing. AS IF IT’S HARD!
Every once in awhile, though, I’m thrown for a loop, and it’s usually by something fairly benign. Sometimes the old lessons that I feel like I should have mastered come back to bite me in the backside, and I find myself back at square one, looking at all these small people and wondering why there are so many of them and what on this side of heaven could they possibly want from me?!
My 11-year-old is currently obsessed with making slime – making homemade slime in one of my tupperware dishes. And what does one do with homemade slime, you might ask?
Well, I asked the same question and I got “the look”. You know…the look that kids throw your way that make it ten shades of obvious you are completely clueless to anything really important in life. It’s the look that says you should probably just go ahead and give up, because clearly you are failing at life.
“You play with it, Mom,” she answered, and I felt like I needed to apologize for even asking the question. “It’s very satisfying.”
Then she had me stick my hands in the slime and squish it around, and…okay yes, the way it rolled through my fingers was kind of satisfying.
Then she took her tub of slime to her room, and I stared at the aftermath and felt my blood begin to boil ever so slightly, because making slime is a messy endeavor. It involves Borax and shaving cream and glue, and then you throw in food coloring, because obviously. And you top it off with glitter because everyone knows that the world spins on an axis of glitter.
The agreement we’d struck in this whole “slime making” ordeal was that she had to clean up after herself, and she did that as well as any 11-year-old would, which means there were faint streaks of shaving cream spanning the width of the table, half dried drips of glue running down the sides of the chair, and Borax crystals crunching beneath my feet.
But the piece de resistance was the glitter that now permanently resides in the cracks of my table. My brand new table. The table that Lee and I spent actual dollars on for the first time in our adult lives. Every table before this one was a hand me down. The last table was in such bad condition that it became a hazard to anyone who attempted to sit at it.
But this new table is a gem, and now it sparkles. Hot pink sparkles, to be exact.
My initial reaction was indignation. I mean, how dare she?! Why couldn’t she be more careful? WHY DID SHE NEED TO MAKE SLIME IN THE FIRST PLACE?!
So many questions, none of them with decent answers, and as I set to trying to remove as much of the glitter as I could the two year old came tearing by me, belly laughing at the top of her lungs while her brother chased close behind.
“Hi Mommy!” she yelled as she ran past, and then she crashed into the end table where someone had left a cup of lemonade, which immediately spilled and scattered across the floor I had mopped just moments earlier.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to erase all the glitter, and silence all the noise, and dump slime over all the heads, then drink wine and eat ice cream and wallow in my own self pity.
I opened my mouth to let out a sigh of frustration, but then I caught her eyes. They were big and wide, and full of toddler remorse, and it stopped me in my tracks.
I felt suddenly so foolish because hadn’t I already learned this lesson 100 times over? Don’t I know that these children don’t keep – that they grow and suddenly they’re not into slime, but boys and makeup and trendy clothes?
I knelt down in front of her and gave her a big hug, squishing her soft cheek against mine because it sinks in and feels so sweet. She threw her arms around my neck and squeezed hard, then kissed me straight on the mouth.
“I wuv you!” she yelled, then off she ran again while I pulled out a rag to mop up the lemonade that was sure to make our feet stick for days.
[Tweet “And now I’m sitting at my table alone, remembering once more that babies don’t keep.”]
And now I’m sitting at my table alone. The kids are all in bed, and I’m here typing out the story of a day when I had to relearn the lesson that babies don’t keep, and that spilled lemonade isn’t worth losing my cool.
And while I write, the table sparkles in the glowing lights, flecks of pink glitter lighting up the cracks right in front of my eyes.
I find little appeal in letting small water creatures nibble away at my calloused feet. Can we just agree that that’s gross and call it a day?
Here’s the funny thing, though – sometimes motherhood feels like you’re living inside that tank being nibbled to death by tiny fish.
We’re on day one of spring break, and I’m already exhausted. We chose to stay close to home this year both to save money, but also so that we could host two players from the FC Liverpool team who are visiting the States for a tournament. Sounds fun, right?
Except I basically tortured my children today by forcing them to clean on their spring break. It seems I’ve obliterated my chances for that Mom of the Year title…maybe forever.
They scrubbed toilets, pulled weeds, cleaned gutters, and made a half-hearted attempt to help me get some of the fallen leaves out of the flower bed.
And they were NONE TO HAPPY TO OBLIGE!
In between these torture sessions chores, I forced them to turn off electronics and move their bodies. You know…interact with the real world. Enjoy the perfect Florida day. Anything that didn’t involve a screen.
By noon we were all basically sick of one another. I was annoyed with their attitudes, and they were devastated at what can only be chalked up to a loss of all their freedoms.
This was when I gave my mom speech. That super motivational tome about all their many privileges, and how disappointing it was to be met with such ungratefulness. A real pep talk. I laid it on thick, then let the words sort of hang in their air for a few minutes until one of them skulked over with a weak “Sorry, Mom.”
The other two followed suit somewhat reluctantly. And Annika went on screaming because it was past her nap time, and she doesn’t give a flying flip about my disappointment.
The rest of the afternoon found the children much sweeter, but it seemed my mom speech backfired somewhat as now all the children wanted to be with me. Like, physically on my person. They wanted to be held and snuggled and played with and SWEET MERCY I HAD THINGS TO DO!
Little by little, though, their “I love you’s,” and “will you play with me’s” wore me down. Like the fish in those tanks, they nibbled away at my frustration until they’d all but smoothed it out. (Well a couple of them, anyway. One of those kids of mine is more like a leech, latching on and sucking the very life out of me most days.)
So all that to say, spring break is off to a great start. This staycation thing was a super idea. Saving money is just so much fun.
My fingers might be dropping a little sarcasm right now.
The rest of the week should prove to be more enjoyable. We have plans – real plans. Actual plans that involve leaving the house!
And so I shall continue to swim in this tank of my life, being slowly nibbled at by all these small people living with me. It’ll either smooth me out completely, leaving me refreshed and renewed…or it’ll kill me.
(Who else is on spring break right now? Are you having fun, or are you choosing to torture your kids like me?)
Life is very full these days. From sun up to sun down, each moment of my day is parceled out in not so generous sums, and I’m slowly working my way to next Thursday when I will release all the strain, shut my eyes, and sleep for four whole days.
Lee and I leave next week for a much needed getaway. We’ve both been under pressure, me with two major book deadlines, and him with a hefty travel schedule. And in between all that we have these four little people who offer heaps of patience and grace (well, three of the four are offering patience. The baby is terribly demanding…).
And so it is that I stumble through each day, moving from one task to the next with little time to stop in between. This has, naturally, led to a bit of distraction, upon which my kids have capitalized and exploited in the most unfair of ways.
It seems they’ve grown quite thrilled with their ability to scare me. Normally it’s not that easy to make me jump because they’re loud, and they’re not really that good at waiting quietly in the shadows. Little giggles give them away, and so I’m usually prepared for their delighted BOO! I feign shock, and we all laugh.
HA HA HA!
But two things have occurred in the last few weeks: The first is the above mentioned distraction, which has left me vulnerable to attack. I’m all caught up inside my head, constantly sifting through all the thoughts that bounce around inside my overworked brain.
The second is that these kids of mine have become somewhat adept at hiding. I should be proud because they’ve really upped their game. But lately I find myself mumbling each time I round a corner, “If one of you jumps out at me I’m going to drop kick you into tomorrow.”
Mad parenting skillz.
This little game of scare-the-pants-off-mom rose to a whole new level last week when Lee was out of town. After a long day, I put the kids to bed then headed to my bedroom where I spent an hour after bedtime cleaning up, trying to find my floor under all the clothes that had buried it.
Around 10:00, I made my way to the kitchen to grab a drink before closing down the house for the night. Just as I rounded the corner, Sloan stepped out from the shadows with a whispered, “Hey there!”
Friends, I’m not a cuss word kind of girl. In general four letter words do not fit very nicely on my tongue, so I don’t often say them save for very rare occasions. This was one such occasion.
I swung my fist through the air and yelped “AAAAAHHH – Whaaaaaat the H$#@!”
This was the moment that Sloan slid to the floor in laughter while I clutched my chest to make sure my heart started beating again.
WHY WAS HE NOT IN BED?!
WHY DID HE DO THAT?!
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT CHILD?!
These are questions left unanswered. And honestly, I blame his father for everything that is wrong with him, and all the other ones like him.
“Oooooh my gosh, that was SO funny, Mom!” Sloan squealed, rolling on the floor. He sat up and wiped his eyes. “I mean, I literally scared the H-E-L-L out of you!” he laughed.
I tried to brush it off and be all, “Well, I mean ‘Hell’ isn’t really a bad word. It’s a place. A place. It’s a noun, cause it’s a place!”
“Not the way you used it,” he said, cackling now.
Since that day, it appears that the kids are on a quest to make my life a living H-E-L-L by jumping out at me at all times during the day, forcing me to prepare myself each and every time I round a corner. People of the world, I do not have time for these shenanigans!
This morning I got up early and let the dog outside. As I walked back into the house, Landon stepped from behind the curtains. “Hello,” he rasped in his little morning voice, and I screamed bloody murder. It’s really a testament to my INSANE self control that I didn’t end up punching him in the tiny little freckled nose.
He, of course, fell over laughing, then stood back up and wiped his eyes.
“Aw, man,” he said. “I thought I was gonna get you to say the “H” word again. Or maybe even the “SH” word this time.”
Join me next week for my online seminar: How to Be an Awesome Mom in Two Easy Steps.
Be aware that if you see me in public, and I appear to have a nervous tic, it’s because life and my psycho children are all conspiring to make sure I end up in an early grave.
I hear this question every so often, and my first response is, “Super glamorous. I am practically famous. My office smells of rich mahogany.”
That’s a total lie.
Right now my office smells like a dirty diaper because it sits just outside the baby’s room, and I desperately need to empty the diaper pail. Nobody knows my name (except the twelve of you who consistently still read here – thank you!), and if you call yoga pants, a rumpled t-shirt, unwashed hair, and blood shot eyes glamorous then you’d make at least a portion of that statement true.
My life consists of fitting it all into the cracks of my day. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King shares his writing schedule with his readers. It consists of writing three – four hours every day, allowing him to finish most manuscripts within three months.
That’s almost like my schedule, only the complete opposite. Every morning, I wake up at 5:00 (except when I don’t), and try to make my brain write pretty sentences before coffee. Sometimes I am quite successful. Other times I just scroll through Facebook for an hour, kicking myself for not sleeping longer.
I wonder if Stephen King gets lost in Facebook when he’s procrastinating?
I wonder if his office smells of dirty diaper?
With school beginning this week, I’ve found that those cracks in my day have become a bit more narrow, but at least they’re predictable. With a twenty-minute mid-morning snack break, and an hour for lunch, I’m quite certain that my productivity will skyrocket this school year.
Because we writers love penning our words with the shrill shriek of children in the background. It really helps keep the mental juices flowing in an orderly fashion. My lunch time writing usually goes something like this:
Sit down and stare at the screen.
Try to remember where I was going with that last paragraph. Know in my heart it was probably going to be brilliant, but now it’s gone forever.
Get up and investigate the crash that just came from a bedroom.
Sit down and stare the the screen.
Try to remember what I was thinking about before I got up.
Get up and dig dog food out of the baby’s mouth.
Sit down and stare at the screen.
Try to remember what this book is about.
Get up and yell at the kids to quit fighting gently remind the children to play nice.
Sit down and stare at the screen.
Open Facebook and tell myself it’s research.
When the kids finally fall asleep at night, I usually flop onto the couch longing for nothing more than to shut my brain off and watch a little mindless television. Sure, TBS – I’d love to watch Legally Blonde for the 4 millionth time.
But then I remember that pesky deadline, and all the work that needs to be done in the next twelve months, so I pull out my computer, open up the file and stare at the words, then wait for them to stop swimming around on the screen. When they don’t, I sigh and pull myself up again for a mighty search through the house for my glasses, which magically disappear any time I need them.
When I finally locate the wily spectacles (why were they on the back of the toilet again?!) I set to work. Nighttime is for editing because the brain is too fried to write stories.
Unless those stories are blog posts about what it’s like to be a writer.
If I’m lucky, I crawl back into bed around 10:30, and I pick up a book because good writers must be readers. At 10:42, I fall asleep reading, dropping the book on my face in the process.
That’s my favorite part of this writerly life.
I sleep soundly most night, except for the ones where I see characters and outlines in my head all night long, at which point I toss and turn and clench my jaw until 5:00 rolls around, and I pull myself from bed again.
Only to have forgotten every single thought I’d had through the night.
What’s it like to be a writer?
I get to wear yoga pants, drink endless cups of coffee, and stay home with my kids. Glamorous?
But pretty dang cool, nonetheless.
My novel releases this spring, and I can’t wait to share it with you! In the meantime, I’m busy putting together a couple of ebooks to share with my email subscribers, and will hopefully have a little site redesign done sometime this fall. I’d love for you to sign up so I can keep you up to speed on all the exciting things coming down the pike! If you’re interested, just leave me your email address in the little box to the right and click Sign Me Up!
Lee is out of town for four days. That’s important to know before reading further.
It started at midnight on Saturday night (Sunday morning?) when Tia came into my room complaining of a headache and stomach ache. I gave her some medicine, then nestled her in bed with me, and while she slept I stared up at the ceiling fan, mind spinning.
She’s been complaining of headaches off and on for a week, coupled with a bloody nose now and then for good effect. By 1:00 am, I’d convinced myself that she was suffering from all manner of diseases, and I’d also run through the episode of Little House on the Prairie where Albert dies after a sudden onset of bloody noses.
I scooted closer to her to listen for steady rhythmic breathing, and I finally drifted into a fitful sleep around 2:00.
Annika woke me up at 5:30 ready to go. She was in no mood for more sleeping, so I finally resigned myself to a long day and dragged out of bed. I was leading worship at church, so I needed to have everyone ready and out the door by 7:45 anyway.
I showered, but didn’t wash my hair because who has time for that, while they watched TV. Because it’s easier to let them watch TV than to ask them to be productive.
After a bit of shoo-ing, and insistent hand clapping, I managed to get everyone into the car, dressed and semi-put together. We were half way out of the neighborhood when Landon spoke.
“Mom, I’m hungry. I didn’t get breakfast.”
I cracked open a box of donuts at church and shoved one in his mouth…and my own because I didn’t get breakfast either. I let Annika take a bite of my donut because she stared at it so intensely I couldn’t say no. Did that donut contain peanuts?
No idea. Maybe? She survived, so we’re good.
I asked Tia if her head still hurt and she said no, so I’m glad I lost a night of sleep over my unfounded fears.
DARN YOU, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE!
I put my nine and seven year olds in charge of watching their sister while I practiced for that morning’s service, and I left my eleven year old in the church kitchen alone to work with scalding hot liquid as he prepared the pots of coffee that would be waiting for everyone when they arrived.
Minutes before church started, Landon leaned over to show me one of his teeth twisted around and stuck in a stomach wrenching position.
“Can I go pull it?” he staged whispered. I nodded, and I sent Tia to the bathroom with him to help. Together they worked the tooth out in the church bathroom, and he returned to the sanctuary with it in a little baggie. Then he spent the next ten minutes dabbing the hole in his mouth with his finger and showing me the blood.
Jesus be near.
After church, we came home and as I set Annika on the floor I caught sight of a lizard scurrying across our floor. He’s been hiding in the house for days, but he’s an elusive little bugger. Also, he’s not so much a lizard as he is a small, black dragon. He somehow manages to disappear every time we go hunting for him.
I feel semi-certain that he is hiding inside one of our chairs, but I try not to think about it for very long, otherwise I start imagining him creeping up behind me while I watch TV and karate chopping my neck, knocking me unconscious, then taking over the house and inviting in all his Rambo lizard friends.
Clearly I need more sleep.
The kids spent the afternoon in the pool, and I forgot to put sunscreen on them, so they got sunburned.
Landon asked to play the game of LIFE with me while his brother and sister played at friends houses. I obliged, and despite actually trying to lose, I still managed to beat him by about $250,000. (If you know Landon, you’ll understand why sometimes it’s easier to just let him win rather than deal with the consequences of him losing). He cried, and I sighed.
And while we played, Annika managed to find a stray piece of paper on the floor, which she ate a portion of before I discovered her and dug it out of her mouth.
I fed them leftover meat and stale chips for dinner, and at 6:00 realized Annika hadn’t had any solid food all day. Sundays are hard, and schedules are off, so she’d only had bottles. No wonder she was watching us eat like a rabid Velociraptor.
I put them all to bed dirty, and just as I turned out their lights a thunderstorm rolled in, and everyone came tearing out, eyes wide, full of fear, because my first born has conditioned the other two to believe that any cloud that produces lightening is a funnel cloud.
I promised them that if any of the clouds started spinning, I would retrieve them from their beds and we’d take shelter in my closet. Then I sent them back to their bed despite their tears and protests. Meanwhile Annika screamed in her crib because she took such a long, late afternoon nap that she was absolutely not tired at 7:30. I put her to bed anyway, because I was tired at 7:30.
Finally, blissfully, they all fell asleep. By 10:00, it was silent in my house. I fell into bed, and let slumber wash over me. While I slept, I dreamt I was on a Merry-Go-Round that started spinning uncontrollably while a woman with a raspy voice barked instructions repeatedly over the loudspeaker in German.
I interpreted her yelling to mean I should hold on tight.
When I woke up I was clutching my pillow, clenching my jaw, and the room was spinning.
Ten hours and fifteen minutes after taking off from Munich, the plane finally began it’s approach into the Atlanta airport. I couldn’t even really feel excited over the sheer exhaustion of it all.
Ten hours is a long time.
I’d finished writing a chapter in my book, written the beginnings of a short story, read for quite a bit, and watched three movies, because somehow zoning out to the tiny television screen felt the least like trying to slog through quick sand.
Sandwiched between my husband and a very kind young German man, I’d shifted and squirmed through most of the flight, because I can find neither comfort nor sleep on an airplane. It’s a terrible curse to not be able to drift to sleep in any position but fully prone.
One of the movies I watched had a bit of suspense to it, and at one point, when a shark leapt out of the water and almost bit the main character’s head off, I yelped and accidentally grabbed the arm of the kind, young German man. Lee fell over into the aisle laughing while this poor fellow confirmed his suspicions that I was a crazy American. I tried apologizing, and he smiled politely, then shifted as far away from me as he possibly could.
As we made our way down, the runway in our sights, I offered Lee a small smile. “Almost there,” I said, and he nodded in return, equally numb.
We raced toward the ground, waiting for the wheels to touch down on American soil, and then WHAMO!
It was one of the roughest landings I’ve ever experienced in an airplane. I suspect the pilot had his own feelings of numbness to contend with, and perhaps he got tired of the slow descent and decided to just throw that sucker down and be done with it.
As the plane shuddered and bounced under the weight of a quick landing, I gripped the armrest. I almost grabbed my new German friend’s hand, but I noticed he had tucked his hands under his legs in self defense. Poor fellow.
A few minutes later, the plane rolled to a stop, and my grip loosened as I realized we’d made it safe and sound. The plane didn’t barrel roll into the gate like it seemed it would in those first few moments after slamming to the ground. We had arrived. We were home.
I didn’t realize our landing would be a metaphor for reentry into every day life.
It’s amazing how a getaway can revive a person. Last week away was fabulous from start to finish. I loved every minute of it, and if I’m going to be completely honest, I didn’t really miss the kids until the day it was time to go home. I simply relished in the freedom of kidless-ness. There were many moments when I wished that the kids were with me. Each time I explored a castle, I wished I could share the experience with them, because I knew they’d love it.
But I never once wished I was back home.
When we finally landed in Tampa, though, Lee and I were beyond ready to get home and see the children. This was our slow descent. It felt like it took forever for our wheels to hit the ground, but finally we were there, and the return hugs and snuggles we got were worth every minute away.
The first night was sweet and fun as we shared our trip with them, and they shared their week with us. My mom not only survived, but she did a slam bang job of holding the house together in the process. She deserves a few extra jewels in her heavenly crown for last week, for sure.
We went to bed that first night, and slept soundly, then woke up and WHAMO! No more slow descent. Arguments, homework, notes from teachers and homeroom moms listing out 8,462 things that needed to be done before the last day of school, soccer try outs, practices, and incidents that occurred while we were gone that needed to be addressed.
It’s like we fell out of the sky and slammed back into real life, and last night Lee caught my eye after we finally managed to get them all in bed. His wide eyes matched mine, and we sort of just stared at one another for a long minute before starting to laugh.
“I guess there’s no easing back into this, right?” I asked. Lee shook his head and raised his glass to me.
“To Germany!” he cried.
To Germany, indeed. I write this now after a restless night with a kid who had nightmares and ended up in our bed…on top of me for the the most part. The same kid woke up with a gushing bloody nose that I got to deal with before a sip of coffee crossed my lips.
Welcome home, and thanks for dropping in, I thought to myself when I got them all on the bus, but there’s a grin behind the thought, because I wouldn’t orchestrate life any other way than this – crazy, and busy, and brimming with love.