Monday, November 29, 2010

And for my next trick, I will have a temper tantrum.

I lost my cool this morning.

It's not the first time I've ever lost my cool as a mother. It probably won't be the last time.

I'm not proud of it, but at least I have the courage to admit it.

Today was the first day back to school after the wonderfully long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, so I expected a bit of chaos. I expected a bit of scrambling to get out the door.

Really. I should know better.

Nonetheless, one of my sons couldn't find his school shoes. But it's not like we have designated cubbies just for shoes. A coat was missing. But it's not like we have designated hooks just for kids' coats in the mudroom. A lunchbox couldn't be found. But it's not like we have a refrigerator in which to keep lunchboxes.

Ahem.

I looked at one of my boys and said, "You forgot to put your belt on today. Where is it?"

"Dunno."

"Did you look in your top dresser drawer?"

"Yep."

"Was it there?"

"Nope."

The belt is a required part of the school uniform. Without it, he most likely will get a demerit, as he has been warned by his teacher (who I adore and fully support) several times not to forget to wear a belt.

I took a deep breath and continued, "If you forget your belt, you'll probably get a demerit, you know. She's already given you enough warnings."

He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well I looked and I couldn't find it. So write me a note or something."

Feeling uber-frustrated, I marched up the stairs to grab my cell phone. In the privacy of my bedroom, I vented to Bill. "UGH! What is it with these kids? NOBODY ever knows where anything is, because they just expect me to find it for them! Now I'm supposed to write a note to protect him from getting a demerit? I don't think so! Let him get a demerit! Then he'll learn!"

I was full of righteous indignation, and my thought process as I stomped upstairs to turn off the bedroom lights that my children NEVER remember to turn off was something along the lines of, "As if I'm going to help him find his stinkin' belt! Again! Like I do at least 3 times a week! Ha! Hope he likes that demerit, and the corresponding punishment that goes along with it! That'll show him!"

There was NO WAY I was going to look for his belt.

"Mooooooommmmmm!!! I can't find my coat!" another one of my children whined to me from the lower level of my home.

Figures.

Just breathe, Clare. Breathe.

As I continued walking from room to room turning off lights, I was in my son's bedroom and I decided to look in his top dresser drawer. Nestled among his socks, in plain sight, was his belt.

Of course.

My blood pressure was rising as I descended the stairs. "Look what I found?" I said as I dangled the belt in front of my boy's eyes.

"Oh. Yeah. My belt," he said, as nonchalantly as possible.

"Did you even look in your drawer?" I questioned, somehow knowing exactly what his response would be.

"Yep. It wasn't there. Thanks Mom."

Before I could even process what had just happened, another son looked at me and stated simply, "Mom, I can't find my backpack."

It was at that moment that I felt like I was failing my children in a crucial area. Responsibility. As in, they have no idea what it is.

Yes, they are kind children who are generally well-behaved, (save for the occasional flatulence incidence in the car) and most of the time they exercise good manners. They care about others. But when it comes to being responsible, and remembering where they have put their things?

Where have I gone wrong?

Well, I know exactly where I have gone wrong, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Back to the moment wherein my little boy innocently stated that he did not know the whereabouts of his backpack.

My limit had been reached.

I. just. couldn't. take. another. request.

As I stood in the mudroom, I spun on my heel to face my children. I stomped my foot. "REALLY?!?" I shouted. "WHY AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO EVER KNOWS WHERE ANYTHING IS AROUND HERE?"

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bill standing nearby, as he was helping with backpack and shoe retrieval. I may have mentioned it a time or twenty, but Bill is the Zen Master of parenting. He is rarely rattled. He would never stomp his foot in the mudroom and have a tantrum. He reminds me frequently to breathe and slow down. I love him for it.

The look Bill shot me as I began my tantrum was all, "Dude, Clare. Breathe. Chill out. It's just a backpack." But the look I shot back at him was all, "Dude, Bill. I'm going to tantrum. Because I'm fed up. So mind your own biz."

I know it's illogical, but tantrums are illogical. And everyone else around here (except for the Zen Master himself) has tantrums, so can't I have one every once in a blue moon?

Don't judge me, non-tantrum-havers. I don't need your smugness. Every Mom loses her cool every so often, and I'm still learning.

I plowed forward with my diatribe, "LIKE I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TO AROUND HERE AS IT IS! NOW I HAVE TO FIND ALL YOUR STUFF FOR YOU?!?! NONE OF YOU ARE BABIES ANYMORE! YOU SHOULD KNOW WHERE YOUR STUFF IS! AND IF YOU CAN'T FIND IT, THEN IT'S YOUR OWN FAULT!"

Aaaand Scene. Tantrum over.

I love my children. I love being their mother. I love my job as a stay-at-home mom. But I struggle with where my hand-holding ends and their personal responsibility begins. I don't want my boy to get a demerit, so I find his belt for him. I don't want them to be without a lunchbox, so I chase my husband's car full of children as it pulls out of the driveway, waving the lunchbox in the air. I don't want their Nintendo DS to remain missing, so I search through the house with them, as they cry, "My DS is gooooooone!"

After my tantrum ended, I felt guilty. It's not that I felt bad about what I said, rather, I was disappointed in how I said it.

I am a work in progress.

When we were all in the car and driving to school, I finally spoke. "I'm sorry, you guys. I shouldn't yell. I'm always telling you guys not to yell, yet, there I was, yelling. But what I said was true. You have to take better care of your stuff. Dad and I can't do everything for you. You have to learn to be more responsible."

Responsible. The Word of the Day.

"Okay, Mom," was the general consensus of the kids.

"Okay, Mom," is a phrase also known around these parts as, "Yeah Mom. Whatever you just said went in one ear and out the other. But it sounded important, so we're just nodding and saying, 'Okay, Mom,' so that we can end your lecture."

As I drove the route to school, with the kids singing along to Christmas music on the radio, I suddenly realized that I was very cold. Freezing cold. Then it hit me. I forgot to wear my coat. The outside temperature registered in the 20s, yet I was wearing nothing but a sweater.

I forgot to put on my coat.

How irresponsible of me.

Man, I hate it when irony slaps me in the face.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cut it out.

I just knew she was up to something.

Perhaps it was the sneaky little way she skulked out of the room, all tiptoe with her head peeking over her shoulder to see if I was watching.

Which I was, out of the corner of my eye.

We were in our home office yesterday morning, my youngest child and I. I, of course, was multi-tasking, up on a ladder, measuring where to hang the new curtain rod I had just purchased, while I was simultaneously chatting on the phone about the happenings of the day with one of my besties, Amy, while I was simultaneously keeping an eye on my daughter, who was sprawled out on the floor of the office, on her tummy, clutching crayons in her 3-year old hands, and coloring pictures of the recent trip she took to the zoo with her beloved Daddy. The last time I remember glancing over at my little girl, before Amy and I became engrossed in conversation again, she was coloring a scene of "Daddy and the big, gray 'ew-a-fant''. A pair of child safety scissors sat the on the floor next to her crayons, and she carefully used them to cut out each scene that she completed.

Amy and I wrapped up our conversation and said our good-byes just as I saw a 3-year old tush tiptoe out of the office and run down the hall to the powder room.

"Hey girlie, what are you up to?" I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer.

"Nuffing," she quickly responded.

"Nothing?" I repeated, raising my eyebrow, instantly knowing that, "nothing," totally meant, "something".

I am no stranger to this rodeo.

I went back into the powder room that she had so hastily run into moments earlier, and I scanned it, looking for signs of 3-year old foul play.

Hmm. Nothing.

Until.

I looked in the trash can and found a large clump of curly hair.

Brown curly hair, that coincidentally matched the exact shade and texture currently on top of my daughter's head.

Scissors + a 3-year old + a distracted mommy = UH. OH.

Not knowing what to say for several seconds, my mouth dropped and I just stared into her big brown eyes as I held the clump of hair in my hand. Finally finding my words, I simply said, "What. Did. You. Do?"

Busted.

She crumpled into a heap of 3-year old sobs as she threw herself down on the floor. "I CUTTED MY HAIRRRRRR!!!" she wailed.

I wagged my finger in her face and said firmly, "NO! You know that scissors are only for paper! Paper! Not hair!" as the sobs continued to wrack her 3-year old frame. At first, I couldn't tell where the hair was missing off her head. She has shoulder-length chestnut curls that, at the moment, were wild around her head. As I examined the back and the side of her head, I couldn't find the chopping-off point, until I turned her around, and saw it. Very short pieces of hair where a large lock of brown tendrils had once been.

Of course.

Why wouldn't it be the piece located front and center on her forehead?

Nothing more needed to be said. The guilt and remorse were evident as I ushered her little body off to her 3-minute tenure on the naughty step. When the timer was up, I got up in her little face and asked, "So? What do you have to say?"

"I sorry that I cutted off my hair, Mommmeeeeee!!!" she sobbed.

I reminded her of the scissors rule, told her I forgave her, and hugged her. As she pulled away from me, her eyes were red with tears. "I'm not pretty anymore!!!" she cried.

It was like someone punched me in the gut.

Not pretty. As if pretty were everything in the world. As if I would ever think that.

As if it mattered at that moment.

I have been raising sons for a total of 10 years now, and pretty is nothing to them. Of course I compliment my sons in many different ways for many different things, but pretty is not on their radar. But when I had my daughter, the word, "pretty" just became part of my everyday vocabulary. Rather than being an adjective to describe her, however, I use it a term of affection.

"Hey pretty lady!" I say to her when she puts on a new dress.

"Pretty in pink!" when she put on a brand-new shirt.

"Look how pretty you look in your new bow!" after a trip to the accessories department of Target.

Am I inadvertently, with my words, raising my daughter to think that pretty is everything? That she is somehow less of a person because her hair is now, in a word, different? All these things crossed my mind as I sat on the floor with her and hugged her after the naughty step.

"No way!" I said. "You are beautiful!"

Choosing my words carefully, I continued in the simplest way I knew to explain to a 3-year old, "You are a nice person, and you are a good girl. You help people, and you care about people. Mommy and Daddy and The Brothers love you. That makes you beautiful."

Within seconds, she was smiling again as she scampered off to find her next adventure.

My beautiful girl, missing clump of hair and all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The candy thief.

I have a hypothetical question for you.

Imagine you are searching for your boy's favorite sweatshirt.

Hypothetically.

You have looked in all the usual, obvious places, like, oh say, the designated hook in the laundry room, which is oh-so-perfect for hanging a favorite sweatshirt. But no, you peek in the laundry room and the hook is there, on the wall, proud and tall. And sweatshirt-less.

You look in the playroom. You look in the family room. You look in the bathroom. You look in the pantry. You look under the kitchen table. You look in the garage.

No sweatshirt.

It is time for your boy to leave for school. Feeling frustrated from not being able to find the sweatshirt, he declares that it is, "STOLEN!" and you suppress your laughter out of sensitivity for your child. Because yo. It could happen. There are street gangs devoted entirely to the favorite-sweatshirt-stealing business. They will sneak into your home and leave all your valuables untouched and make off in the night with your sweatshirts as their plunder.

Heed my warning and lock 'em up, people. Lock. Them. Up.

Finally, your boy shrugs his shoulders in disappointment, and puts his second-favorite sweatshirt over his school uniform. It will have to do for today.

Hypothetically, of course.

As his hypothetical Dad loads up his hypothetical car and takes your hypothetical son and his hypothetical brothers off to hypothetical school for a hypothetical day, you, the hypothetical mother realize that the sweatshirt situation is now bothering you. You know you just saw it a day earlier, and the fact that it is missing starts to bother you. The missing sweatshirt is stuck in your craw.

So you continue your search.

You put yourself in the mind of a boy and you think, "Hmm. If I were a shortie, where would I stash my stuff?"

You go up to your child's bedroom and you survey the area, but your initial scan does not reveal the sweatshirt's location. As you complete your search of the dirty laundry basket, which does not produce the favorite sweatshirt, a lightbulb goes off in your head.

You remember that your boy was reading his brand-new copy of, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth" last night while wearing his sweatshirt! Perhaps he got too warm while snuggling under the covers, shed the sweatshirt and it made its way down the tight crevice between the wall and his bed.

As you look down there, you feel a sense of triumph. The sweatshirt! It has been found! Mother of the Year Award goes to YOU! YOU! YOU!

Until.

You yank the sweatshirt up by its blue arm, and what you see down the side of the bed pops your triumphant bubble of happiness.

You see this.



Hypothetically.

Halloween candy wrappers. Down the side of the bed. By the dozens. Eaten upstairs covertly.

Not cool.

You think, hypothetically, that if your child was home from school at that moment, a punishment would be imminent. Why the need for sneakiness? After all, you are not stingy doling out the hypothetical Halloween candy. It sits in a big, hypothetical bowl on top of the hypothetical refrigerator, out of the reach of hypothetical little hands, but nearby and ready to be passed out for a little dessert after a hypothetical meal has been eaten, or as a hypothetical small snack.

So why the need to sneak it up to his bedroom?

Why? Why??? WHY????

Because.

That's just what kids do. I'm sure I did it. It doesn't make it right. But it does make it so. And your hypothetical child probably snuck his favorite candies in a stash up to his bedroom to keep it away from his hypothetical brothers and sister, who ALWAYS eat his candy. Hypothetically.

You, as the hypothetical mother are in a pickle. What do you do? Your hypothetical boy is a good boy, and rarely runs afoul of the laws of the house. Hypothetically speaking, he is an active boy, and loves to exercise, so that is not a problem. Do you pretend you haven't seen this? Do you allow your child to get away with the candy dash-and-run? Does a candy dash-a-run precede a life of crime? Or is it just what it is? A candy stash.

My head hurts from all this thinking.

Hypothetically, of course.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Word up Wednesday.

So many bloggers do "Wordless Wednesday" posts, and while I love the posts and I love the concept, I just don't think I can go all wordless on you. After all, I really like words. Words are fun. Remember? Scrabble is my jam. 

I like words so much that I lost my voice for about 5 days straight over the last week, and it just started to return this morning. Several days ago, I started to get hoarse as a result of a head cold, and then, because I enjoy talking so much, I lost my voice. But did that stop me? No. Instead of resting my vocal cords, I just kept talking.

I know, I know. SHUT UP, WOMAN, AND REST YOUR VOICE.

Nope. It's not like I'll let a silly little thing like not having a voice stop me from talking.

I digress.

This morning when I drove the kids to school, my car said that it was 29 degrees.

2-9, yo.

I live in the Midwest, so I don't know why I'm always shocked when it gets really cold again. Nevertheless, it always does, and I love the Midwest; therefore, I deal with the cold happily.

Dare I say I like cold weather? Because I do. Not all the time, but it's November. It's supposed to be cold. And who doesn't love a big, chunky, warm, cozy sweater in November?

Yeah. Yeah. I know you want to pelt me with your mittens and hats and snow boots for waxing all poetic about cold weather.

But my children refuse to accept that it is cold outside, so I spent the wee hours of this morning arguing with my shorties that YES, you have to wear a coat to school. YES, you should zip up said coat. And NO, a short-sleeved shirt and a thin sweatshirt is not appropriate for the drive to school.

Hypothermia ain't hip, kiddos.

You know, if they just accepted the fact that I am the all-knowing around here, things would run a lot smoother on a daily basis.

Needless to say, there was plenty of whining and maybe even a few tears, and stomping-of-feet, and an almost-forgotten lunch box and school project, and more whining before we got out the door this morning. By the time I wished them a, "Love you! Have a great day!" as the minivan doors slid open and they ran out towards the school doors, I was a bit frazzled, to say the least.

And what makes the frazzles go away on a cold, November morning at 8:15 a.m.?

Why a Target run, of course.

Since you are already well aware that Target is one of my happy places, I'll save you my usual gushing. But if I loves me some Target on a random day of the week, just imagine how much I love Target in November and December.

**cues chorus of angels**

Because Target at Christmastime?

I have no words. It's just that good.

So, after having used WAY too many words and tangents to get to the point of what I'll now just call my Word Up Wednesday, here's what made me happy today.


I can't tell you what made me happier. A cup of salted caramel hot chocolate from the Starbucks located INSIDE of my Target store, (Target and Starbucks. A perfect marriage.) or the fact that they put my hot chocolate in a one of Starbucks signature red Christmas cups.

Squee.

I had a difficult time prying my daughter away from this.


But it's not like I tried that hard. I'm a huge sucker for Christmas tunes. Even if it is only November 3.

Happy Wednesday.

Whether it's hot, cold, rainy or sunny where you live, or your sweethearts are having a whiny day or a well-behaved day, may you find happiness in the little things.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Poker face.

My least favorite part about parenthood?

Cleaning up barf.

Without getting into too much unnecessary detail, let's just say that I am on clean-up number four for the day as of the beginning of this entry. I cleaned it up five times for another one of my children last Thursday.

Blech.

Double blech.

I know it could be worse. I know in essence, I am very lucky at this moment. My boy just has a run-of-the-mill case of the stomach flu. I could be sitting in a hospital room with my child as so many worried parents are this morning.

My internal dialogue this morning consisted of, "Quit your whining, Clare. It could be worse," as I was on my hands and knees, grumbling to myself as I sprayed Resolve, and cleaned up sick off the carpet.

For the fourth time today.

And counting.

What you don't know about me, is that I have shards of brilliance. I decided put blankets all over the floor in our family room, so that if my son couldn't make it to the bathroom in time, VOILA! The blanket would save me a clean-up. A blanket! The ultimate vomit catcher! I am brilliant!

Except for when my child, in his sprint off the couch, managed to land on the 12 inches of carpet NOT covered by a blanket.

Oh shards of brilliance, why are you so fleeting?

When you become a parent, it's not like all of a sudden you grow this iron stomach. It's not like you're all, "Oh. Someone just barfed/pooped/bled all over me. That's cool. No bigs." Of course you learn to deal, and you grit your teeth, and you breathe through your mouth instead of your nose, and you try so fervently not to let your child see that you are utterly grossed out. Of course it gets a little easier as the years go by and the experience kicks in. Of course your compassionate, protective, mother's heart breaks for your child when he/she is sick.

After all, it's not their fault.

Barf happens.

And it's crucial to keep a poker face through the whole thing.

Because it's your job.

For all the wonderful, you can put up with a little yuck.