Thursday, August 30, 2012

Musical Card Land

Today I went to the card store to pick up a few cards. Six cards to be exact.

I remember when I used to be able to take my time, leisurely searching for the perfect card for everyone on my list. Now, when I take Alec and Chase with me, I'm lucky if I manage to get cards that are even for the right occasions, let alone the perfect cards.

I entered the store with Chase in the stroller, Alec right next to me, and my card list in hand. I didn't waste any time getting out the goldfish snack for the boys. That should at least get me through four cards.

Wrong. Half-way to my first card, Chase decides to dump all his goldfish out of his bowl onto the stroller tray. I pause to pick up the ones that had landed on the floor. When I look up I don't see Alec. I have a moment of panic before I hear about 17 music cards going off. I have found Alec. He has found Musical Card Land. I avoid making eye contact with the other customers as I help Alec find the homes of at least ten of the music cards. I let him keep some to keep him entertained. This buys me enough time to get one card.

Now Alec is tired of the cards he has and wants new ones. I tell him he can stay in Musical Card Land while I look for my next card. I quickly grab a second card while he is entertained. Did you know that Musical Card Land is a better babysitter than TV?

Time to find the third card on my list. Chase has finished his goldfish. He now wants a musical card too. He picks a Mickey Mouse card that does not make music. He is not happy. He wants Mickey Mouse to make music. We head back to Musical Card Land to search for a musical Mickey Mouse card.

After finding something that will work, Alec claims he has found the perfect card that he wants to get for Grandpa. I have to explain to him why Grandpa might like something other than a Justin Bieber card. Alec reluctantly gives in, having no clue who Justin Bieber even is. Chase is now tired of his card. I still only have two cards.

With a new musical card for Chase, and Alec on the hunt for another perfect card for Grandpa, I am able to get two more cards from my list. Now I'm up to four cards. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I only need two more cards.

Alec has found a new card for Grandpa. It is a Goofy card. This will work. One card left!

Alec is done with the music cards. Chase has somehow managed to pull at least ten cards off the shelf. I have no idea where they came from. I begin searching for their correct locations. Alec decides Chase needs the stroller shade down. Chase does not want the stroller shade down. They begin to argue over the stroller shade. I can see the looks I am getting. As the boys argue over the stroller shade, the stroller begins to rock back and forth. I manage to grab it just before it crashes into a giant display of Christmas ornaments. Yes, Christmas ornaments. In August.

At this point I decide it is time to go. I grab the closest birthday card I can find. Great Aunt Gertrude will just have to be happy with whatever the card says. I head for the counter to pay.

While in line, I look at the last card I have grabbed. It has a monkey wearing underwear on its head. Oh least it wasn't a Justin Bieber card.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Five Glorious Hours


It sure doesn't seem like it's been three months since I was frantically forming my Summer Survival Plan. But here we are nearing the end of August, and the kids and I have managed to survive.

Even though neither of my kids are officially going to real school this fall, this is still a very exciting school year for me. This will be Chase's first year of preschool. This means that for five glorious hours every week for the next nine months, I will be child-free!

I love my kids, but I can barely contain my excitement for those five glorious hours. I am overwhelmed by the possibilities of what I will be able to do... I can read a magazine. I can finish a cup of hot coffee. I can make a trip to the grocery store and actually remember to get what is on my list because I won't have the distraction of a 2-year-old pulling down every item from the shelves (and I'll make it home without any extra items that may end up in the cart from said 2-year-old). I can blog. I can clean the house (though the probability of this one actually happening is not very good). The possibilities are endless.

As much as I love summer, I am anxiously awaiting the start of the school year and those five glorious hours of me time. Here's how I can tell that the first day of school is just around the corner:

1. The amount of TV my kids watch is directly related to how many days are left until school starts. The closer school gets, the more TV they watch. After being with them all day almost every day this summer, it has become all too easy to just say, "sure, you can watch one more show." I just can't help myself. It's like an addiction.

2. That neighborhood kid (you know the one) is basically living at my house (and every other house in the neighborhood except his own) now. He is just as ready for school to start as I am, and he has become like an extra child to all the neighborhood families because he is bored at his own house.

3. I am suddenly finding myself fearing all the crazy new pig viruses and flus that are out there now. It's just a matter of time until my kids will be spending more and more time indoors, trading these germs with all their friends.

4. I keep catching myself turning my head the other way when I see one of the kids do something they shouldn't do, just so I don't have to yell at them yet again.

5. I have football fever. And Bachelor fever. And Grey's fever. There aren't many TV shows that I watch on a regular basis, but I still have a few guilty pleasures. I'm definitely ready for some good Steelers games and the start of my Fantasy Football league (let's go Team Yinz Double YOIs!). I am anxiously awaiting the announcement of who the next Bachelor will be. And I can't wait to see which of Seattle Grace's best surgeons will make it out of the woods alive.

Which ones will make it? The Grey's Anatomy season premiere is September 27!

6. Any attempt to make a last-minute back-to-school purchase is a failure because all the book bags, pencils and notebooks have been replaced with Christmas decorations.

7. I am desperately trying to cram in all those things I planned to do over the summer. One more playdate, one more day at the pool, one more bottle of wine on the deck with Chad after the kids have gone to sleep...

Are you ready for the school year to start? What signs do you see that summer is coming to an end?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Are We There Yet?

My GPS will tell you that it takes 6 hours and 17 minutes to drive from my house to my mom's house. I will tell you that a "normal" trip, factoring in traffic and two kids under the age of 5, takes closer to 8 hours. The trip that I just made took almost 10 hours. And Chad did not go along this time. So it was 10 hours of me driving over the river and through the woods in a van with two boys and a dog. Now my kids are pretty good travelers, but this trip was definitely some kind of a test for me.

Hour 1: The boys are set up with their stuffed animals and their DVD players and are super excited about going to see Grandma and Grandpa.

Hour 2: It's pouring rain. Alec asks if we are there yet. Chase is tired of watching his DVD.

Hour 3: Their DVDs are over, and since I am the one driving I can't get them a new one. Alec asks if we are there yet. Good thing I brought lots of snacks.

Hour 4: We stop for gas. Alec asks if we are there. We go to the McDonald's next to the gas station. I take the dog out to stretch and relieve herself, and then the kids and I go in to go potty and get a snack. We come out to the car to find that the dog had not properly cleansed herself, and there is now dog poop all over the passenger seat of the car. Fortunately I had put a towel down, and also fortunately she stayed in the same seat. I load the boys in the car and crumple up the towel. Why does the dog only ever have poop issues when Chad isn't with me? This must be my payback for Chase's bathtub poop incident with Chad.

Hour 5: The dog is now clean, and the boys are once again situated in their seats with a new DVD and strawberry banana smoothies.

Hour 6: Good thing we stopped because now we're in stop-and-go traffic. Chase gets bored with his DVD and starts playing with his headphones. The headphones lose. He begins singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He goes on to sing every song he knows to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle.

Hour 7: We're still in stop-and-go traffic. Did you know that you can get a really good leg work out, just by moving your foot back and forth between the gas and brake pedals for two hours straight? Alec asks if we are there yet.

Hour 8: It was not a good idea to give a 4-year-old who gets carsick a strawberry banana smoothie on a long car ride. Time for an unplanned second stop to clean up the car and the kid as best as possible. Good thing I had an extra case of wipes in the car.

Hour 9: No more traffic, but we're all ready to be there. Chase has not stopped talking or singing or whining since he broke his headphones three hours ago. It's amazing how many songs can be sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, including Old MacDonald and a Chase original, Bookie Bookie, which is basically the same word repeated over and over to the Twinkle tune. I'm sure you could sing it right now if you really want to. Alec is still looking green but keeps telling me he is hungry. We'll try animal crackers and hope for the best.

Hour 10: We finally arrive with no more incidents. Alec asks if we are there. I can finally give him the answer he wants to hear. I had called my mom to warn her that we had a dog towel, car seat pad and Alec's clothes that all needed to go in the washer as soon as we got there. She must be so glad to see us.

Considering I actually survived the trip to my mom's, I figure I passed the test. We had a really nice visit, and the trip back home was very uneventful and took only 8 hours. I did not get the boys smoothies.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Four Ways to Scare Mom

As parents, we have endless things to worry about: Keeping our kids healthy, keeping them safe, keeping them from picking their noses in public…

But on top of all the day-to-day worries, I have found four things that don't just worry me... they scare the living you-know-what out of me.

1. A missing crayon. Chase loves to color. And for the most part he’s pretty good with crayons and markers. But he’s two, and I know all too well what can happen if he gets a hold of a crayon while he’s unsupervised. Furniture and walls – especially the light-colored ones – are like an artist’s blank canvas to a 2-year-old. So when Chase is done coloring and we put away the crayons, I have a moment of panic when I can only find 23 out of the 24 crayons.

Let's see... I have Burnt Sienna, Hot Magenta, Neon Carrot, Outrageous Orange... But where is the Atomic Tangerine? CHASE - get back here!

2. One (hyphenated) word: Uh-oh. Basically, "uh-oh" in 4-year-old translates to "Oh s#!%" in adult language. When I hear Alec yell "uh-oh," I know that it can mean anything from one of my boys spilling a cup of milk to one of them flushing his brother’s favorite stuffed animal down the toilet…or anything in between.

3. A missing marble. Similar to the missing crayon, but for a very different reason. My boys love the game Hungry Hungry Hippos. If you’re familiar with it, you probably already know that it contains 20 marbles. When I put this game away and realize that we only have 19 marbles, I feel a sudden panic similar to that of the missing crayon. The difference between the crayon and marble is that with the crayon, I need to worry about what part of my house was destroyed, but with a missing marble, I need to worry about which child ingested it or shoved it into his (or his brother’s) ear, nose or an even worse part of the body.

Look at all these marbles....and I'm pretty sure there is a corresponding body part in which a child can find to place each one.

4. Silence. Silence can be a wonderful thing when it comes to children. Those first 10 minutes after the kids are in bed are absolute heaven to my ears! No one is whining, yelling, crying, singing or making gross noises with their armpits. But silence can also be a very scary feeling. If you have or have had young children, I’m sure you know the feeling… You go to fold a load of laundry while your kids are happily playing. At some point while you’re folding, you subconsciously realize that the kids are being nice and quiet. When you’re done folding you now consciously realize that you haven’t heard your kids in a while. It is in that exact moment when you realize that the house is TOO quiet. Why is it too quiet? Probably because your 2-year-old has found the missing crayon...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Every Other Minute

The other night I was at an event with Chad, and I was talking with a lady who has grown children. She said to me, "Oh it's so nice when they're grown up."

I can't even begin to tell you how relieved I was to hear this. After hearing person after person tell me to enjoy every minute of my children while they're young, it was so refreshing to hear someone who is happy with grown children. It's almost like people are saying that once children grow up they can't be enjoyed anymore. I really hope that's not the case! I'd like to think that with every age, from birth through adulthood, there are good things and bad things, moments to enjoy and challenges to overcome.

Last night I had a long battle with Alec, which was the result of him losing his bedtime book after he procrastinated way too long. During this battle, he cried and screamed at me. He yelled threats at me, warning that, "If you don't read me this book I'm going to follow you out of my room and be noisy instead of going to sleep!"

Once he had finally calmed down, I lay with him as he fell asleep. I normally don't do this because if I'm in the room with him at bedtime he usually doesn't stop talking, telling stories, playing games, etc. But based on the book battle and his behavior, I knew how tired he was. So I stayed in bed with him and watched him fall asleep. And after he was asleep I lay there for a few more minutes just watching him.

During the minutes when I was snuggling with Alec and watching him fall asleep, I can guarantee you that I was enjoying every second. I was completely focused on the precious 4-year-old boy snuggled right next to me.

And there are plenty of other times when I fully enjoy every second of my boys. When Chase climbs into my lap and curls up with me, sucking his thumb and twirling his hair. When the boys and I are playing an exciting game of tag and all giggling, squealing and smiling with pure joy. When I watch Alec trying to help Chase with something.

But during the ten minutes of screaming and yelling last night, I can't say I was enjoying every minute. And honestly I really can't say that I enjoy every minute of parenting at all. I mean, I do enjoy being a mother, and I love my boys unconditionally. But do I always enjoy them? Absolutely not. In fact, too much of any good thing can become unenjoyable very quickly.

Take pizza, for instance. Pizza is a great food, and most people love it. But imagine if you had to eat pizza (or a different favorite food if pizza's not your thing) for every meal of every day for the rest of your life. Sure some days you could have pepperoni, some days you could have plain cheese, and other days you could go wild and have supreme. But no matter how much you love pizza, if you were on your 400th slice and someone was telling you to "enjoy every bite," I'm pretty sure you'd want to shove the pizza in that person's face. I know I would!

So when someone tells me to "enjoy every minute" with my young children, I have to resist the urge to tell them where they can shove their pizza. Because for every minute of snuggling, there is a minute of yelling. For every minute of thumb-sucking, there is a minute of crying. For every minute of playing there is a minute of fighting. For every minute of one boy helping his brother, there is a minute (ok - ten minutes) of that same boy beating his brother up.

A moment that I am enjoying watching Chase sleep

Another Chase moment that is not as enjoyable

I'd say I enjoy about every other minute of my kids at this young age. And I'm ok with that. Because the moments I don't enjoy just make me enjoy the other moments even more. I never would have enjoyed that snuggle with Alec as much as I did if it weren't a fight to get there. Sure I would have enjoyed it. I mean, what's not to love about a sleeping 4-year-old?! But the battle to get there made me appreciate it so much more.

A moment where I am enjoying Alec lick his first beater (when he was about 2)
A moment later (when I took the beater away from him) I wasn't enjoying him quite as much

Who knows... Maybe twenty years from now I'll look back at this post and want to kick some sense into my younger self. Maybe I'll wish that I had enjoyed the yelling, the crying, the arguing and the fighting. Or maybe I'll look at my grown children and enjoy every minute of them as adults...well, maybe every other minute.