The Unremarkable Worth Remembering

This afternoon I was one of those mothers at the grocery store. My boys were too loud. They were running all over the place, getting in other people’s way. Nothing I said – “Stop yelling! Don’t do that to your brother! Stay by the cart!” – produced any discernable results in them.

But honestly, I didn’t much care. Those boys – they were a joy to watch in the aisles of Safeway, 5pm-hyper and all.

One was a bandit. (A “fwendwy bandit,” said his brother.) He ran ahead of the cart on his galloping horse. He stopped to tell passersby “I’m a bandit!” and to ask, “Wanna see my bandit moves?”

(You do, by the way, want to see his bandit moves. They’re amazing.)

The other was a ninja. He spent most of the grocery trip holding onto the cart, which, according to him, was actually a bus. He’d step down, though, to display his ninja moves to our fellow shoppers whenever his brother was doing the same. And he’d come down to engage in the occasional (less occasional as the shopping trip wore on) tussle with his brother, the bandit.

They were loud, but they were loud with laughter and shouts of “Yaw, hawsie!” and “I’ll get you, you bandit!” They got in people’s way, but they also smiled and said hello. They spoke to people with openness and excitement. They danced and showed off their moves.

They made a friend in another ninja-minded little boy and told the boy’s mother, “Our baby ate a ladybug.”

It's true.

It’s true.

When we got home and I’d unloaded the groceries, they called me outside with great excitement. They were having a moon party for me! (!!!)  They squealed and jumped up and down and told me how they’d made a volcano that erupts in all different colors (“Watch it erupt, Mommy!”) because this was a moon party! They showed me the dance they’d been working so hard on, because this was a moon party! They clasped hands and bounced around the patio together and invited me to join in. As I left, they gave me pretend chocolate.

They came in a few minutes later, shrieking on and on and on that the moon had fallen from the sky. What a thrilling development! It was the perfect way to end what one boy described as “The best day ever!” though it most certainly was not.

Later, they told Daddy that next time they’d have a moon party for him.

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Ours was such an unremarkable afternoon and evening – grocery shopping, playing outside for a few minutes, putting away food and putting it together.

Yet, they included so much I want to hold onto. The bright eyes, the squeals, the gallops, the excited faces – these are the moments worth remembering.

Messes, Monsters, Thunder, and Wasps: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 29) and One Hot Mess (Vol. 3)

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

Today I’m linking up Seven Quick Takes with Jen and Takes 1, 3, 4, and 7 to be specific with Blythe’s One Hot Mess. (If she’s doing it this week.) Double-duty.

—1—

We’ve been busy this week, preparing for the baby’s baptism party to be held this coming Sunday. We had more than the average amount of party prep on our plates this time, given that until just a few days ago, every room in our house looked like it was staged to be photographed for Blythe’s One Hot Mess link-up.

Seriously – It was bad. There was the junk, there was the laundry, there were the boxes upon boxes of my mother-in-law’s things that hadn’t been gone through. There were the heaps of dust gathering on and around said junk, laundry, and boxes.

But! After a week of behaving like a responsible, party-planning mother (read: mostly resisting bloggy temptations), we’re very nearly there on the mess front. Just a couple more boxes and a bit more junk (okay, and a lot more dust) to go, and we’ll only have the “normal” amount of boy-wrought destruction. Which, though offensive to the eyes, doesn’t take much more than a whirlwind picking-up session to remedy. The end is in sight.

So I’m sneaking in a quick blog post. How about some of this week’s scenes from our home?

—2—

Yesterday morning I walked into the kitchen to the sound of roars and growls and shrieks of laughter. The boys were half-standing in their seats (a posture that is most definitely not allowed at the table), clawing at each other and at us. I expected to see Brennan looking agitated, but nope! He was cool as a cucumber. “I gave them Muenster cheese,” he said.

Aaahh, yes. Muenster cheese. So easily understood as “Monster cheese” and therefore taken as an opportunity to act like monsters. One bite transforms you into a monster, the next turns you back into a boy. And so on and so forth. You knew that, right?

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—3—

The other evening I had a far less endearing experience in the kitchen.

We were in the middle of a big thunderstorm, so loud you wouldn’t think anything could be heard over it: Bang! Rumble… CRASH!

Yet I was hearing quite a lot besides the thunder: My eight-week-old son was screaming because… I don’t know why, exactly. He’s eight weeks old. He screams. My two-year-old son was screaming just for the fun of it. (I’m sure of that one. He looked delighted with himself.) And my three-year-old son was yelling about “Did you know that storms can make trees fall down, Mommy? Mommy! DID YOU KNOW THAT SOMETIMES TREES FALL DOWN IN STORMS?”

All of this was going on while I was attempting to assemble a sorry little dinner for the boys. I stood at the counter with my back to the noise-makers, “Rumble… CRASH! Waaahh! Aaaah! TREES FALL DOWN IN STORMS!” and I couldn’t get the stupid dollops of peanut butter onto the stupid crackers without the blasted things crumbling in my hands. “Bang! Waaahh! TREES!”

My brain could no longer take the sensory assault. I yelled something really charitable, like “OH MY GOSH! What in the world do you think you’re doing? I can’t take it any moooore!” I think I even waved my hands in the air to emphasize that I really was losing it.

Loveliness. Pure loveliness.

—4—

Later that evening, again in the kitchen (which is pretty much where I live), I was trying to nurse the baby. I should have been sitting in the rocker we keep in there, but par for that day’s course, I was distractedly walking around. (Poor, neglected third baby – he gets far too few peaceful, focused feedings.)

All of a sudden, I noticed it: an ugly-looking bug that I thought maybe could be a wasp.

I had to get it. I wouldn’t be able to rest peacefully knowing that that thing was flitting around the house, capable of terrorizing my boys.

But I had to nurse the baby. The poor little guy was so fed up with interruptions that he’d LOSE IT if I set him down to go hunt a wasp. Hm. I’d have do both.

I scurried to the broom closet, grabbed the fly swatter, and scurried back, eyes darting around looking for the maybe-wasp – nursing the whole while. I half chuckled at myself as I moved around the kitchen while nursing my son and holding a fly swatter in the air, stalking a bug which I wasn’t even sure was a wasp.

Then I saw it. On the floor. Right there.

I hastily set the kid down and then WHAM, got the sucker. It wasn’t a wasp after all. I sighed and wiped up the mess as quickly as I could, then I picked up my son and resumed nursing him. Poor, neglected, third baby…

—5—

Okay. Out of the kitchen and back to the sweetness.

Do you know how cute it is to hear this slow, metallic dragging sound, followed by a THWACK and a bunch of little-boy giggles? Very cute. And unnerving at first. What could make that sound? What could cause so much giggling?

Rest assured. It’s just the sound of boys playing with their measuring tape. One boy holds onto the thing while the other pulls the tape out as far as he can, and then – yes – lets go. Drag, drag, drag, THWACK! Furious giggling.

Once I resigned myself to the fact that, yes, they might hurt their fingers and no, that’s not such a big deal, the whole situation was really pretty enjoyable. Go ahead – get your children a tape measure.

—6—

Even more sweet, the other evening I came downstairs to find all of my guys putting on a little “parade”. One boy had a kazoo, another had an improvised noise maker, and Brennan held the baby, bouncing him and making a marching tune from silly little noises. They marched around the first floor in time to the tune – the boys very serious about the whole business, Brennan’s eyes dancing with the silliness of it all.

A moment before, I’d been flustered and rushing and… oh, how that little scene did my heart good. I love my guys.

—7—

Last night I made a late trip to the grocery store so I could do the party shopping without all three in tow. I took the baby while Brennan put the two bigger boys to bed. At first it all went fine – the baby looked around until he drifted off to sleep. Peaceful. Productive.

Then he woke with a little start and everything went right down that hill. Fast. The poor guy seemed so unhappy to wake up in such an unfamiliar and over-stimulating place that he lost it. Once I realized that some vigorous back-and-forth cart pushing wasn’t going to do it, I took him out of his car seat and carried him. Which still didn’t work. I hurried through the rest of the trip as he continued to scream. When I got up to the check-out lane, I started throwing items onto the belt as quickly as I could. One-handed. I was moving fast, but I’m sure it was obvious to all that I needed help.

And then somebody actually stepped forward and… helped.

The gentleman behind me in line, who had thrown me some sympathetic glances a few minutes earlier in the dairy section, started unloading my cart. My very, very full cart. I almost objected – it’s definitely my nature to want to do things myself. I don’t want to need help.

But I stopped. I let that kind man empty my cart for me while I focused on calming my baby. Soon enough, it was working. I soothed, baby relaxed, and my cart was emptied – then loaded – before my eyes. A few minutes later, the same gentleman handed me my bags while I loaded them into my van (to the background music of baby boy screaming, once again.)

How nice. How nice and helpful in that moment, how nice and sweet in my memory. Thank you, Mr. Kind Gentleman In The Grocery Store. You made my day.

These Days

It never ceases to amaze me how dramatically different one stay-at-home-with-the-kids day can be from the next. And how very, very difficult it can be to predict what kind of day you’re in for. Yesterday, for example, we had a really nice, quiet day. Everybody was in a sleepy kind of pleasant mood, nothing happened to stress us out, and the boys both took long naps. (That’s right, both of them! Even the almost-three-year-old who almost-never naps anymore.) Today, though, it was all exasperation and not listening and rising blood pressure. Me with them, them with me, me with all the stuff flying around in my mind.

This morning I was trying to handle all the normal breakfast and dish-washing and diaper-changing and potty-emptying duties, while also trying to make arrangements for a family party this weekend and a visitor this summer. And purchase four plane tickets to visit my husband’s family in Minnesota. And respond to my choir director about my summer schedule. And make my grocery list. And purchase birthday and Father’s Day gifts online. And research car seats so we can get a new one before this weekend. And (though I know I shouldn’t have been thinking about this one, with everything else I had going on) plan out a bunch of posts I want to write for the blog. Oh, and deal with an ant infestation by first wiping them up, then spraying them with poison and flipping out every time the boys approached them, then cleaning all the dead ants and poison spray off the floor, and then repeating the poison/flipping out steps when the ants returned.

All while a boiler repairman walked in and out of my house.

So I was going a little crazy, you know? And I was also feeling guilty because I’m sure to my boys, it looked like Mommy was just sitting at her computer, ignoring them for the heck of it. It’s not like I can explain parties and visitors and tickets and schedules and, and, and… to two toddlers. All they saw was distracted Mommy, typing and mumbling, and then screaming every time they walked on a certain piece of floor. Poor guys.

This evening we were pretty much back where we started. My husband was working late and I was (as usual) unsuccessful in getting the 20-month-old to bed. (My boys will NOT go to bed for me. Me, who takes care of them all day long and who puts them down for their naps. To them, bedtime is Daddy Time. Which is nice, except when Daddy’s working late or – GASP! – away on a trip.) Anyway, my feeble little brain had had enough. So I strapped the little one into his high chair in front of the television (hoping he’d fall asleep if confined), I walked into the kitchen, and I turned off the lights. I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t notice me. After a while, my older son walked in and said, “Mommy, are you mad for me?” (Heartbreaking, right?) I pulled him close and replied, “No, sweetie, I’m not mad at you. I’m just tired and I want to sit still in the quiet and read and write for a little bit. Okay?”

This afternoon, I had planned for us to go to the grocery store, but around 2pm (with no naps in sight!) I surveyed the boys and the house and myself and decided that we all needed a break. So, out with the groceries and in with the playground. We arrived to find it totally empty, the sky gray and threatening rain, and a lovely, brisk wind whipping around. It was perfect. The boys were thrilled to run around and play. I was invigorated by the wind. And I was delighted to see my little guys look like such boys – scraped knees, pink cheeks, sweaty foreheads, tongues sticking out in concentration. My older son kept coming over to me with a huge grin on his face. He said, “You’re a nice mommy,” and “You’re a good mommy,” and “I wuv dis.”

Playground Slide

Like I said, I’m always amazed at how different one day can be from the next, even when so many of the days’ characteristics seem the same at a glance. X amount of sleep plus Y preparation can equal loveliness one day and angst the next. Some days these boys fill me with wonder; some days they make me want to tear my hair out. Some days have peace and light; others the gloom of depression. Et cetera.

So often it is so hard for me to see my way out of whatever kind of day I’m having. But they all come and go, don’t they? I need to be better about keeping that perspective on the hard days. And I need to do a lot more of what I did today: stop, survey the damage, and do what I can to get us – all of us – away from it.

Playground Climbing

Oh, and that repairman? He came to clean out the boiler but (thank you, Lord!) caught a potentially-dangerous problem while he was at it. So he had to replace a couple of parts. This is how he described it to me afterward:

Him: “So, you see this part here? Usually when these things go, they leak a little bit. But even though this was really corroded, it wasn’t leaking. So if it had gone, the pressure would have built up and up and…” (His eyes got big and he made a funny face.)

Me: “Are you saying… the boiler would have… exploded?”

Him: “Well, now I don’t like to use that word.” (But he made the funny face again.)

Me: “Okay…”

Him: “Do you watch ‘Mythbusters‘? You know that one where they have a water heater under too much pressure and it takes off like a rocket? Well, your boiler wouldn’t have done that.”

Good to know.

Recovery Mondays

Ah, Recovery Mondays, how I love you.

A little under a year ago, I was frustrated with how my weekly rhythm of activities seemed to always leave me stressed out and feeling behind. So I did what any good Type A personality would do: I made an extensive list of absolutely everything I wanted to be doing and then I set up an ambitious schedule to cram it all in. In order to make it all add up on paper, (1) I underestimated how long it would take to do my tasks and (2) I was overly-optimistic about how well my children would cooperate. Brilliant, right? I’m sure you can guess how that one worked out.

Well, when that exercise served to make me feel even worse about myself and my home- and schedule-management abilities, I had a blessed little epiphany: I needed to take the idea of realism to the extreme. I contemplated my daily responsibilities and how they made me feel. Bit-by-bit, I came to understand that I don’t actually dislike many of my tasks, I just don’t like to do them in a rush, or without sufficient preparation, or all-at-once. Also, I am slow. For the sake of my mental wellbeing, I need to account for my slowness in my scheduling.

So I started to formulate some general principles for managing my schedule and my home. Here are the former. Maybe later I’ll write about some of the householdy stuff too. If anyone cares. (By the way, this is the first time I’ve actually typed these things up. I’m not that Type A.)

  1. Mondays are for recovering from the weekend. They are for resting and getting the house back into good working order and sitting still to think about your calendar and your grocery list. They are not for play-dates or doctor’s appointments or errands. They are most definitely not for grocery shopping.
  2. Tuesdays seem like a nice day for grocery shopping. But only if you’ve written a list first.
  3. Whatever day you do go grocery shopping, do not plan to cook dinner. Either stick it in the crock-pot first thing in the morning, or pick up a rotisserie chicken while you’re at the store.
  4. Also don’t plan to cook dinner on days you’re running a lot of errands or spending all day at a play-date or outing. Make liberal use of the crock pot. Or ask your husband to bring home carry-out. (Though at our house we try to limit carry-out to once every two weeks or so.)
  5. If you have a long, busy day out of the house, plan to stay home the next day. The little guys will need quiet and rest. You will too.
  6. Do not plan to get anything accomplished after the boys go to bed at night. Despite your long to-do list and your best-laid plans, you will be too tired. Sit still and read your blogs and don’t feel guilty about it.
  7. Weekends are for quality time as a family, parties and other social stuff, sleeping in, and big household projects. They are not for everyday household chores, save the most basic of dish-washing duties.
  8. If you’re planning a party or getting ready to go on a trip, do as much of the preparation as possible a few days in advance. No matter what, the day-of will be very full and stressful. Limit the last-minute tasks so you have the wherewithal to enjoy your event.
  9. Try to limit your activity on Saturday evenings so you don’t resent getting up for mass on Sunday mornings.
  10. The weekend thing in #7 goes especially for Sundays. Be sure to make a concerted effort to enjoy and appreciate your loved ones on Sundays. Don’t do activities that feel like work to you. Rather, do activities that bring you joy, even if (like gardening or writing) they may seem like work to someone else.

Anway, these principles are mine, tailored to my personality and my circumstances. You can’t have them. (I say lovingly.) Or rather, you can have them if you want them, but you probably don’t, because they won’t fit you like they fit me. But, if you’re feeling anything like I was about a year ago, perhaps you could do something like I did back then: take a pause and evaluate your daily responsibilities and how they make you feel. And then be über-realistic about how you might approach your schedule to minimize your stress.

Just a thought from me, sitting at my kitchen table, on this rainy, quiet, lovely Recovery Monday.

Kitchen Table