New Olympic Sport Suggestions

The news that wrestling will be cut from the summer 2020 Olympics has people reeling across the globe. I’m not one of those people, as I know nothing about wrestling (except that wrestlers wear outfits that look like they were vaguely modeled after old fashioned male bathing suits), but I imagine that for those who’ve made wrestling at the Olympics a life-long goal, this can be upsetting.

With this gaping hole left in the Olympic line-up, I’d like to add some options for the Olympic committee to consider when thinking about which new sport should be represented.

1. Cart Pushing. This would be more dramatic in the winter games, because if pushing a cart full of warehouse store goodies with four kids in tow is a workout, doing the same thing through six inches of salty slush surely requires near-Herculean strength and stamina. I envision this event will be as suspenseful as my old favorite TV show, Supermarket Sweep.

2. Seat Belt Buckling, Toddler Style. Have you ever had to buckle a 30 pound, screaming, bucking child into a convertible booster? It requires agility and poise, and being heavier than the child only gives a slight advantage to the buckler. Competition will be more authentic if held in a public place, like a Target parking lot, so passerby can cast judgmental glances at the athletes.

3. All Day Laundry Marathons. Anyone can run 26 miles with empty arms. Come on. But try going up and down the stairs with baskets full of smelly clothes, dodging Legos that might cripple you, 1,567 times in one day as you locate, sort, wash, fold, and put away clothes and linens for a house full of people.

4. Seal Liner Removal. You know those discs of thick paper that cover, say, a jar of peanut butter or a new bottle of ketchup? They have either microscopic tabs along the edges or a pull-up half-circle that lead a person to believe access to the food within will be simple. I’d like this sport to be added just so I can see if other people really can remove those seals without harming themselves or without the seals ending up in 203 small pieces. Because I can’t.

What would you like to see at the 2020 Summer Olympics?

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Good Question, Child

A few days before New Year’s Eve I thought to myself maybe the kids and I could toast to the new year at midnight. I’d get some bubbly Prosecco and they’d have their sparkling grape juice.  In the end I never opened my bottle at all; it’s still in the fridge, waiting for some time in the future when I might share it with friends. The kids sipped their juice and did a better job at staying awake than I.

Aside from entertaining, I don’t usually have alcohol in the house. I will drink wine when I go to dinner with other adults sometimes, but it’s not something I think about at home for some reason. The kids are aware of alcohol, in that if they know they aren’t supposed to taste it, and have been around my family when beer and wine have been served, but until recently our conversations about alcohol mainly revolved around making sure they understood they weren’t to touch or drink any until they were grown ups.

As we headed into the liquor section at Costco to find the Prosecco before New Year’s Isla asked me, “Remind me again why kids can’t have alcohol?”

So I went into what alcohol does to a person – explained it can make people feel very sick if they drink too much, make them walk and talk funny, cause them to have trouble making the right choices. I told them that only adults were able to understand when they’d had too much to drink, and it was important for grown ups to be aware of that because it was dangerous and illegal to drive a car if they became intoxicated. I said that in extreme cases people died because too much alcohol in their systems was like poison and could kill.

“Wow,” Isla said, her eyes wide. “I wonder why they even make products like that?

You and Your Free Cookies and Mini Shopping Carts…

Dear Grocery Store,

You are close to me, closer than any other grocery store has been my whole life. When I need something, no matter the time of day, you are there for me, like a slightly cold, florescent-lit rock.

Lately I’ve grown a bit too dependent on you, though. Because you never let me down and I know I can return to you when the need arises, I’ve become lazier. When I realize, from my spot in line at Checkout Lane 4, that I’ve forgotten something crucial for my dinner planned two nights away, I shrug and think to myself, “I’ll be back.” Most likely the very next day. Because I have four children who eat alarming amounts of food and I have a tendency to accidentally leave imperative ingredients off my lists. But you don’t judge. Your automatic doors open for me with a welcoming swish no matter how often I go through them. I’ll always find what I’m looking for when I roam your aisles.

Except for the time with the orzo. No orzo for days.

And there was that one time you stopped carrying the flour tortillas I like. The ones that have only have, like, 81, calories. But all was forgiven, because I asked you to bring them back and you did and now we’re okay.

I think we’re okay.

I mean, it’s not a huge deal, and I hate to bring it up, but I need to tell you about the grocery carts.

Maybe it is a big deal. Maybe I’m trying to spare your feelings because I can usually count on you and I don’t want to rock the boat.

All right. I’ll just come out and say it.

I hate your mini shopping carts. I hate them. Normally I like things scaled to a smaller size, even little salad dressing bottles or tiny ears of baby corn, but your child-sized carts have got to go.

When I saw them the first time, I had no idea. I thought, “Oh, how cute. Mini carts. My kids will love them.”

Oh yes, they love them. They love them so much they fight over who gets to push one when we go grocery shopping. Have you ever SEEN a woman pushing a normal cart through a store, trailed by four children who are having a hard time keeping their hands to themselves and wandering off to various aisles? Picture that mildly chaotic scene and then add four metal vehicles of torture.

First, there aren’t always four carts available. So the kids fight over who gets the stragglers with the wonky wheels and missing flags. Other shoppers gawk and I try to find a fair way to divide them while the two youngest boys threaten to brawl in front of the onions.

Second, I have to divide all of my groceries evenly amongst all the carts so no one feels left out. And Jonah thinks that since he has his own cart he’s free to make his own food selections from the shelves, which means we end up with a variety of vinegars and narrowly-missed catastrophes of the broken-glass-jar kind.

Third, without fail, at least one child will get “too tired” to continue pushing his or her cart, which means it ends up abandoned in an aisle and I must put all of that cart’s food into my cart. Until the kids say that’s not fair and I have to redistribute it to their carts.

Fourth, I repeat – have you ever SEEN a woman pushing a cart followed by four mini carts? Okay, that part is actually kind of cute, because my kids are ridiculously adorable. But they cause all kind of traffic jams because they don’t know how to follow Grocery Store Law and keep to the right sides of aisles in single file, and instead congregate in the middle of aisles and do wheelies and generally block every other shopper in the store. Which brings me back to them being cute, which helps them get away with their traffic jams, but it still makes grocery shopping with them take eight times as long as if the carts didn’t exist.

Fifth, the carts are on wheels and have no brakes. My ankles tell the tale by the bruises they bear. Your carts are heinous battering rams, plain and simple.

Don’t even get me started on your free cookies for kids.

Don’t Complain, Lest Someone Assume You Hate Your Children

This week I encountered two situations in which it was implied that I am a horrible person if I do not adore every loud, raucous moment with my children.

In one scenario, mothers who work outside of the home wrote on a message board that stay at home moms who complain about anything related to their children should not have had kids at all. The assumption was that stay at home moms have such luxurious, stress-free lives that any of them who could claim they were worn out, or tired of the screaming going on 16 hours a day, were too selfish to have procreated in the first place. The attitude was, “If you’re going to complain about your life, you shouldn’t have chosen to stay home with your kids.”

The second occurrence was more personal. I received a comment on my last blog post which made it clear the commenter thought I found my children’s lives trivial since I dared try to joke about an evening that was so full of mishaps I had to laugh or I might have cried. Her words stung – she implied I would rather spend time on Pinterest than go to my son’s baseball game. I think most people can read the humor and intent into my post, but for those who also misinterpreted my words, let me clarify for you – I want to be at my son’s games. I love him and am proud of him and wish I could cheer every single move he makes. My blog post was about being unable to cheer every move because I was busy chasing other children. It’s about the difficulties I had one night because my younger children didn’t listen to my pleas that they stay in my sight. I was at the game, but my poor Miles would barely have known it. I was too busy locating and disciplining runaway kids. That does not mean I hate going to baseball games, or that I’m going to stop going to baseball games. It means baseball games, when I’m the only parent keeping track of my four, are stressful.

Moms of any variety work hard, and I’m not going to get into who has it harder, because it’s not a contest. This isn’t about The Mommy Wars. But while it’s acceptable for moms who work outside of the home to complain about the stresses of their office jobs, or the difficulties in parenting while working those jobs, it is apparently completely abhorrent for a stay at home mom (ahem, work at home mom) to utter a single negative word about the stresses of entertaining, feeding, protecting and cleaning up after children all day, every day.

I love my children, but there is nothing easy about this gig. Just because most of the time I enjoy spending time with them and feel fortunate to be able to do so as much as I do, it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to need breaks, or that I don’t have bad days, or that certain moments make me want to scream in frustration, like any other person in the working world.

When I raise my voice to tell a story about how my energetic toddler ran through the home improvement store and I couldn’t get my shopping done, it’s like the waitress complaining to her friends that a kid ran circles around her tables during her lunch shift and she had a hard time getting to her customers. When I write about feeling exasperated when the kids turn up their noses at the dinner I spent an hour making, it’s like the communications coordinator saying she wanted to cry when she was told to go back to the drawing board after her boss dissed the copy in her newsletter article. When I whine that I had to pick up 723 pieces of toy food for the sixth time in two hours while also doing laundry and trying to help another kid with homework, it’s like the nurse who tells her husband at night about the patient who clicked the call button 723 times while she was trying to help other patients at the same time.  My children are precious to me, but it doesn’t mean their behavior is precious 100% of the time. I don’t adore my children any less just because I sometimes need to be alone, or want to get out of the house with people who aren’t going to wipe their snot on my pants. If there are women out there who think it’s fun to clean up after poop accidents, or enjoy it when their young children dash off in crowded places, or are happy to scrape congealed cereal off of hardwood floors for the ninth day in a row, I might suspect they are taking illegal levels of mood-altering drugs.

I love my children. They are, hands down, the most important people in my life, and my work as their mother is the most important work I will ever do. Being a mother rewards me in ways no other job beforehand did – the kids draw me pictures with hearts and families holding hands and fantastical creatures and guns (that’s the boys for you), they tell me I’m the best cooker ever when I make meals they like, and I get an ample amount of hugs and kisses each day. No one ever hugged me when I worked at Express in the mall, I can tell you that.

I get to watch my kids grow, miraculously, day after day and year after year, into incredible people with their own separate personalities and dreams and strengths. Mundane things that adults no longer find magical become amazing again when I get to see them through the eyes of my children – like puddles and daddy long legs and puppets. But I also have challenges unlike any other I found in jobs that earned paychecks. And I sometimes need to complain about those challenges so that someone can tell me everything will be okay, or laugh with me at the absurdity of it all, or just to say, “Girl, I’ve been there, sorry you had a bad day.”

This post was written to participate in Just Write, a free writing exercise put on my The Extraordinary Ordinary.

Parent-Teacher Conferences – When the Parents are the Screw Ups

So, last night we had parent-teacher conferences for Grant and Miles. Miles’ at 6:40 and Grant’s at 7:00.

Only we didn’t.

We arrived at the school, with all four kids in tow, on time, but when we reached Miles’ classroom the sign next to the door said his conference was at 7:00. Hmmmm, curious.

Headed down to Grant’s classroom thinking maybe we just transposed the times only to find his name wasn’t listed on the sign at all. To add more fun to the evening, earlier that day Isla said she thought her conference was that night, too, but no, Zachary and I had it on the calendar for next Monday. But just to check, since it appeared we were all kinds of messed up, we went by her classroom, too, only to discover we’d missed her conference, which had been at 6:20.

Oops.

Luckily the teachers were beyond accommodating. Isla’s teacher squeezed us in at 6:40, Miles’ was at 7:00, and Grant’s teacher stayed late to see us at 7:20. I’m sure she was quite eager to have our attention since Grant recently avoided being suspended. Didn’t I write about that? No? Still digesting the thought of my kindergartener getting close to suspended, but maybe I’ll bring it up later.

This was our first experience bringing the kids along to the conferences, which would have gone more smoothly had Jonah not tried to upend every single toy container in each teacher’s room. Which I’m sure went over especially well considering we screwed up the times so badly (how??).

However, our kids are good students, for the most part, and we had the pleasure of listening to the teachers rave about our budding geniuses.

I’m sure they were wondering how on earth we ended up with such smart kids.

 

Have you ever nearly or completely missed parent-teacher conferences? How did that go over?

Shopping with a Crazed Toddler – The Home Improvement Store

I’m not terribly superstitious, but I totally believe in jinxing. I should keep track of these occurrences because I’m pretty sure I can prove that jinxing exists.

My definition of jinxing: If you say aloud that something is going well in your life, you have just doomed yourself to that very thing going wrong.

Take yesterday, for example. At a moms’ group meeting a local author read to us from her book about surviving and navigation stay at home momhood, and in the ensuing conversation we talked about ways we carve out time to not just be mom.

I piped up and said that while I used to cherish solo trips to Target and the grocery store, I now try to bring the kids with me on errands like that because they like to be with me and they (generally) keep their hands to themselves and their voices below a dull roar. I didn’t go so far as to say my outings will all the kids go smoothly 100% of the time, because that would have made me a big, fat liar, but the implication was that taking four kids shopping wasn’t so bad that I had to stop doing it altogether. Big mistake.

So. Today I had errands to run. After my moms’ group meeting Jonah and I dashed to the grocery store to buy the celery I forgot I needed for the soup I was supposed to make yesterday (we had mac n cheese instead). Wrestled with Jonah a bit to try to keep him in the cart but to little avail. Made it to the checkout only to realize I forgot to get an onion, which I’d also need to make the soup. But, on the bright side, at least I didn’t remember after I’d left the store, right?

Got the onion, paid (only had to chase Jonah once, as he made a dash for the automatic door while I was bagging), drove home, put away the cold food, then got to the bus stop just in time to pick up Grant.

Took Grant and Jonah to McDonald’s for lunch (no judging here – Grant’s teacher gave out vouchers for Happy Meals that the kids could redeem once they read five books), then off we went BACK to the grocery store because I realized I’d failed to look in the lost in found the first time for the mittens Jonah lost on a previous trip. Then trekked to Target so Grant could buy a little Lego set with his own money, which he carried around in a paper cup with his name on it. Jonah threw himself on the floor probably nine times, half of which were when he pretended to slip, and half of which were because he wanted chocolate/a toy/a trigger bottle of bleach and I wouldn’t let him have it.

I should have taken this as a sign that it was time to go home, but no, I really wanted to get to the home improvement store so I could buy some cabinet transforming paint kit I’d seen advertised. Bright one there, Mom! Arrived at the store and, hooray, discovered one cart with a little yellow car cab on the front. Sized for two kids Jonah’s age, but Grant wanted in, too. This meant much pushing and screaming, which I tried to shush during the tinting of my paint kit at my paint counter. Finally had to eject Grant from the car altogether.

At this point I lost all control. Jonah decided he wanted out of the cart, too. And then he decided he was in charge of the shopping mission. As I looked at paint brushes he picked up fragile piggy banks nearby. I wrested one out of his arms and he was off to the tape aisle where he chose eight rolls of duct tape to throw into the cart. I put them back on the shelf and Jonah took off down another aisle, climbing into display bathroom vanities. I followed as best I could, with my nearly six year old child still in the car cart. Jonah reached the check out lanes ahead of me and grabbed two bags of M&Ms which are oh-so-conveniently at toddler height. He threw himself on the floor again as I took them away.

The checkout lady was not amused. She looked down her nose at Jonah and said, “I don’t like whiny kids.” Jonah took that moment to let out a good, long scream, then made a dash for the customer service counter where he found, again at toddler height, stacks of rebate slips. Like a madman on drugs he reached in and grabbed a few, throwing them in my general direction with all his two year old might.

When I went to retrieve the slips Jonah took that as his sign to escape. He took off running down the rows of checkout lanes and then down the middle of the store. I chased as fast as I could, dragging the cart with Grant still inside and trying my hardest not to laugh loud enough for Jonah to hear me. Or any other customers, who might mistake the chuckling, running mom for a deranged person on the loose.

Jonah probably could have done ten laps around the store before I caught him but his curiosity tripped him up – he spied a toy and stopped to look and I grabbed his hood just as he realized I was closing in.

Carried him out to the car. Drove around long enough for him to fall asleep, but he woke up as soon as I took him out of the car.

Jinxed.

I Don’t Understand Why I’m Not Thinner

My lunch yesterday – the crusts from Jonah’s sandwich and a nectarine.

My dinner last night – four soggy french fries Jonah didn’t eat, and half of one chicken nugget.

Why is it again I can’t seem to get to a size 6?

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An Imbalance of Power

Recent conversations between me and Jonah:

Jonah (at 9 am, in sweetest voice possible, with sparkling eyes): Mallows, Mommy?
Me: Oh, sure, honey, you can have some marshmallows.

Jonah: Outside, Mommy?
Me: Okay, baby, we’ll go for a short walk.

Jonah: iPad, Mommy? Angry Birds? Pigs?
Me: Sure, sweetie, let me turn the game on for you.

Jonah: Passie, Mommy?
Me: Right here, little bub, I have three pacifiers for you to sleep with.

And then…

Me: Jonah, it’s time to get in your car seat.
Jonah: No!

Me: Jonah, let’s go sit down so we can eat lunch.
Jonah: No, Mommy, no!

Me: Jonah, all done Angry Birds. Give me the iPad.
Jonah: No! No! No! Pigs! PIGS! MY Hi-Pad!

Me: Jonah, let’s go get Grant from the bus stop.
Jonah: No, no. Mommy go.

Me: Jonah, it’s time for bed, go give hugs and kisses.
Jonah: No! Watch Gumby!

Me: Jonah, do you want Mommy to buy you a car when you’re sixteen?
Jonah: No!

Me: Do you want me to pay for college?
Jonah: No!

Have to take those small victories where you can get them.

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A Boy, a Nickel and an X-Ray – When Your Kid Swallows a Coin

Grant likes to put stuff in his mouth. His fingers, Lego guys, the remote control, and so on. More often than not I’m telling him, “Grant! The only things that should go in your mouth are food and toothbrushes!” but to little avail.

Last week I was finishing lunch at the table when Grant came up to me, a very worried expression on his face.

“Mom,” he said, “I have something to tell you, and you’re going to be mad. I swallowed a nickel.”

At that point either the guilt or the coin traveling down his esophagus (or maybe a little of both) brought on much screaming and crying. He wasn’t choking, but he said his throat hurt, so of course I call the pediatrician’s office, who put me through to a nurse. Said I should take him to the ER. Great. I’ve lost track of the number of trips to the ER we’ve had since having kids. I gave Grant a glass of water to help the coin finish its travels down to his stomach, and after a few sips he stopped all crying and said his throat didn’t hurt anymore. Called the pediatrician back, explained that the boy felt fine, but the nurse still encouraged us to head to the ER to make sure it had gone down completely. And I don’t argue with nurses’ recommendations, as a general rule.

I made hasty arrangements for a dear neighbor to watch the other three kids (because the only thing worse than going to the ER with one kid is going with four kids), and Grant became despondent at the idea that his siblings would see friends while he was at the hospital.

“It’s not fair they get to go play!” he wailed.

“Hey, buddy,” I said, “It was your choice to suck on a nickel. If you don’t want to go to the ER and miss out on friends, you should probably stop putting coins and toys in your mouth. If Mommy had decided to swallow a nickel, then, yeah, it would be totally unfair. But it was your choice, so let’s go.”

Of course, logic like this doesn’t work on five year old boys. More crying ensued.

ER visit was fine, Grant got a nice souvenir copy of the x-ray, showing that nickel bright and obvious at the top of his gut. Doctor gave me the best news possible – we wouldn’t have to stalk Grant’s bathroom habits to make sure the coin came out. He said kids’ intestines are really elastic, and something round like a coin wasn’t likely to get stuck. We only had to call if Grant got a back stomach ache.

Unfortunately Grant was just a little too proud of his x-ray photo, showing it off and bragging to his friends. I’d ask him, “You’re not going to put any coins in your mouth again, right?” and he’d wave me away saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

I’m going to have to hide all the coins in the house.

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