Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I Love You; Even On The Bad Days

Today was horrible. It was one of those days where you just feel like you can’t get ahead. Nothing you do is right for anyone; everyone is a little “off” and your two-year-old is extra two, if you know what I mean.
We had errands to run today in preparation for our family trip to Oregon. I decided to break  tradition and head to Target (I typically avoid that place like the plague because I’m pretty sure they do ritualistic voodoo magic on a daily basis that makes it so you enter into a trance when you walk through the doors and you buy everything you see instead of the hand lotion you went in for) to dig through their ‘dollar spot’ items to find toys for the kiddos to play with during our 13.5 hour road trip. (Heaven help us all)
Horrible happening number one:
I finally experienced one of my biggest mama fears and momentarily lost a child. Guess which one it was? Yeah, that’s right, Samuel sensed a rare moment of simulatenous weakness in both parents and bolted while we were deciding which sticker books to invest a dollar in.
It took him all of two minutes to slip past us.
We split up. We looked down every single one of the surrounding isles. We listened and thought we heard him three or four different times, but it was always someone else’s child. Finally, I told an employee and he asked me for a description and all of a sudden I had this horrible vision of needing to describe my child to the police because it had been two days and we still didn’t have him and that made my mind go completely blank and I couldn’t even remember what I’d dressed him in that morning.
I finally had to just tell him he was two and blond. So. Awesome. That’s a really great description of just about every child in Utah. Still waiting for my Mom of the Year award to arrive.
But then, huzzah! Someone answered his radio call and said they were pretty sure they’d found him, but that they couldn’t coax him out from under the clothing racks. We followed them to the opposite corner of the store where he’d apparently traveled in under two minutes. (how. just. how.) And there he was! My super naughty; beaming blond, who was absolutely bursting with pride and delight at the circumstances which found him surrounded by five to six Target employees who were all giving him love and attention.
Horrible happening number two:
Movie night.
Worst. Decision. Ever. I should have known it was bound to fail from the beginning. Why, oh why did we think it would be a good idea to blow up the air mattress and set up ‘camp’ and simultaneously eat popcorn?
First of all, the popcorn burned in random places throughout the bag. There was no reason for this. My theory is that sometimes God uses literary devices such as foreshadowing in our lives. So the burnt popcorn should have been a clue.
Second of all, I don’t know what you know about 2 and 4 year olds, but they really like to bounce. So. An air mattress. And popcorn.
Thirdly, no two-year-old will ever care about Katniss Everdeen. No matter how much popcorn you offer.
So, we’d settled into a full five minutes of the movie and we’d already told the children about 800 times that we’re not bouncing on the air mattress and we’d already picked up approximately 900 pieces of popcorn that had gone sailing through the air on accounta all the rebellious bouncing and whatnot.
So then Daddy really laid it down thick and told them both that he was about to just send them to bed. Well, that made Samuel cry, but the problem was that Samuel also had his mouth full of chewed up, nasty Oreo that he had been eating at the table, but in order to more quickly get back to his jumping, he’d crammed it into his mouth and clambered up the couch where he now sat, open-mouthed wailing about being told he couldn’t jump. So a big wad of chewed-up Oreo landed on my white ‘we-didn’t-anticipate-children-when-we-bought-it’ couch.
Not to worry! I just bought new fabric cleaner. So we sprayed a ton of that on there. But hang on, it wasn’t foamy. Why? Oh, just because the thing I’d thought was fabric cleaner when I bought it turned out to be fabric protectant instead. Awesome.
Miraculously, Dawn dish detergent did the trick, though, so we were back in business! Or so we thought.
Now Luke was sticky, so he took a chair over to the kitchen sink to wash his hands. While he was busy doing that, Shem and I settled back into the movie for about thirty seconds. Suddenly, we heard a panicked Samuel calling for us. In exasperation, we looked at each other and got ready to complain about not being able to actually sit down and watch the movie when we realized that Samuel’s panic was turning into screams of pain.
Horrible happening number 3:
We both jumped up as quickly as we could. Shem is a champ and got there first and I followed right behind to help assess the situation. Chaos reigned. Shem was so frustrated by this point, that he couldn’t even tell me what had happened. The movie was playing obnoxiously in the background and was creating this horrific background noise that added to the level of confusion and frustration. Shem took our very distraught Samuel to the sink and put his feet under cool water and still couldn’t tell me what happened.
I went to find the remote and turn the movie off and in the (relative) quiet that followed, I finally found out that Samuel had climbed up the chair that Luke had left at the sink; had climbed into the sink and had then turned the water on full blast hot and was burning his feet. He couldn’t figure out how to turn the water off or how to get down, so he was just stuck there with the steaming water scalding his toes.
I took the sobbing Samuel and continued to hold his toes in the cool water while I cuddled him and taught him about the hot water. Luckily, (and also not luckily, because Shem had gotten to him in about 1.3 seconds) his toes weren’t badly burned. It was a very temporary injury which was a tender mercy, because I don’t think my mama heart could have taken much more at that point.
So it was definitely bedtime.
We read stories and said prayers and sang songs and said goodnight and then
Horrible happening number 4:
Shem and I got into an enormous fight because of all the residual stress and mess and disappointment of the night.
It was the worst. I hate fighting with him more than I hate fighting with anyone, and that is saying a lot because I avoid conflict like I avoid drinking floaties in water.
It’s all better now. We talked and kissed (sort of, but not really because we had to speak on the phone while he drove to work) and made up and the day is over and now I get to go to bed. Which, let me tell you, is a very exciting prospect. But before I sleep, I just had to write this all down and get it all out there.
This is life. It’s messy and sometimes it’s ugly and tragic and horrible. Being a mom is the worst and the best all at the same time. Being married is hard and spectacular simultaneously. Some days are just perfect; sometimes everything works out. And some days you lose your kid, spill burnt popcorn all over the living room, don’t finish one single load of laundry, can’t finish ten minutes of a movie, barely save your child from melting his own feet off and end it all in tears because you lost your temper with the love of your life.
But it’s all wonderful. All of it. Even the burned popcorn and the singed toes. It’s all important. It all means something.
I had this moment tonight, while I was reading stories to my babies before bed, where they both laid their little heads on my shoulders and snuggled into me. So quiet and at peace with their world; no idea that this day had been kind of a disaster. And I just thought, “This is why I do this. I do all of this for these moments when the world sort of stops and I get to watch these little lives I’ve created do these spectacular things, or I get to settle in for a really good night-time snuggle, or I get to be the person the little one needs when he’s scaled his feet.”
I absolutely love it. I love this life. I love my husband and my babies.
I love them all; even on the bad days.

The Birds and the Bees and the Zoo

We went to the zoo this weekend! I think it was the first time I’ve taken my kids to the zoo during the day. This last winter, we went to the Christmas event at the Salt Lake City zoo called “Zoo Lights” which was actually kind of awesome because all the nocturnal animals were partying it up since it was night time. But this time we had the bona fide zoo experience and it was pretty fantastic.
We were taking my youngest sister up to Idaho to stay with my brother and his wife for the week and we’d decided to spend the day with them while we were down there. So we found a cute, little zoo in Idaho Falls. It was the perfect size; not so crowded that you couldn’t get close enough to the enclosures to actually see the animals, and not so small that it only had birds and squirrels. (Shout out to CALM, in Bakersfield, CA. Look it up)
We did all kinds of fun, zoo things:
I put my head into the mouth of a lion.
We got to watch and smell the penguins being hand-fed some very dead fish.
The boys rode a tiger.
They also fed some goats, but I didn’t get a picture of that because I was too busy being super concerned that Samuel was playing in the sand that the goats were also pooping in.
And boy, howdy were the monkeys active that day! One of them came right up to the glass to check us out and pretty much scared the pants off of Samuel. (Okay, and maybe also me a little bit.)
But the highlight of our trip came in the form of a quick biology lesson for a crowd of probably 15 children to enjoy.
Samuel is kind of into lions lately, so I’d been looking forward to showing him real life lions. Towards the end of the day, we finally found the ‘big cats’ section of the zoo and rounded the corner to the lion pen. But just as I started to lift Samuel up to see over the wall, I noticed that the daddy lion was feeling kinda lonesome and so he thought it was high time he created some new little lion friends to join he and his lovely she-lion friend in captivity.
These are some of the conversations I heard:
“Mommy, what’s that lion doing?”
“He’s just… giving her a hug, honey. So… Let’s go.”
“What’s happening, mom?”
“Um. I think the girl lion is in the boy lion’s spot, so he’s trying to move her.”
“Dad, is that lion mad at the other lion?”
Luckily, I didn’t have to participate in any of these awkward conversations (and really, it’s probably lucky for the parents around me because I tend to be pretty blunt in these types of situations and apparently a sex-ed lesson wasn’t on the agenda that day) because both of my kids are too short to see over the wall without parental aid! Huzzah for the short gene!
I have never seen a lion enclosure clear out faster.
Lucky for us, the she-lion was NOT in the mood (maybe she’d had a long day.. or maybe she had a headache.. OR maybe she didn’t want to do the baby dance in front of a live audience. Sheesh. He-lions. Can’t live with ’em; can’t propagate the species without ’em.) so she basically threatened to rip the randy lion’s face off if he didn’t cease and diciest immediately and he took her pretty seriously. So we got to see the lions after all.
Samuel was happy. I was happy. The she-lion was happy. We were all pretty much happy! Except, of course, for the he-lion WHO by the way was also forced to stare at the Zebras right across from him all day long without ever being able to taste one.

Swimming Lessons Are a Tool of Satan

Luke started swimming lessons today. And if you ask him about them, he will happily inform you that they were “so much fun!” and that he “can’t wait to go back and swim more tomorrow!”. Which is wonderful! Except for the parts where it’s horrifying.
Disclaimer: these are the first of any type of lesson or group sport or extra-curricular activity I’ve ever had a kid participate in. Luke and I are still journeying through so much uncharted territory together and every time he experiences a ‘first’, I’m experiencing his first right there with him. I thought I had this whole parenting thing down once I figured out how to go grocery shopping with two kids by myself. But then Satan was like, “JK. Swim lessons are coming. Good luck.”
So here’s how it all went down:

10:45- Run down our last minute check list: Diapers, wipes, snacks for the little one, towels, swimsuit and swim diapers in case Samuel is allowed in at some point, sunscreen. Done. Oh. It’s pouring rain? No problem. Samuel and I were actually hoping we’d be sitting beside a pool in just exactly this type of weather today! Swap sunscreen for umbrella. Bam.
11:00-Arrive. No parking available unless I have the driving skills of either Dale Earnhardt Jr. or my husband, which I don’t. Find street parking instead.
11:02- *Rain miraculously stops* Unload both children and all of our junk (sans sunscreen)
11:04- Look around for some sort of sign or person indicating where I should be going. Walk tentatively up to the door. See no sign. Have a vivid waking dream about knocking on the door and having a grumpy old man who is tired of seeing his house used for swimming lessons answer and bark at me that business isn’t conducted at his front door. Back away slowly. Find a sign that says “Pool”. Assume that I should follow that thing.
11:05- Walk into an enormous and very beautiful backyard. Don’t immediately see a pool, but hear children screaming in the background. Feel. Reassured?
11:05and a half- Screaming child gets louder and is very obviously experiencing some sort of distress while simultaneously splashing. Sense of foreboding increases.
11:06- Arrive at the pool! See 4 or 5 kids about Luke’s age. Walk through the gate and glance around at the adults; none of whom seem to be in charge. Spot a woman with a clipboard. Assume she’s probably official in some capacity. Receive no instruction from her, but proceed to assume that Luke can jump into the pool next to his class.
11:07- Luke starts to repeatedly dunk himself under the water because he’s so excited about his new-found ability to ‘dive’. Still no adult has talked to me or asked what my child’s name is. But I trust them all to keep him alive for the next 30 minutes…apparently.
11:08-Pull Samuel away from the pool edge. He’s not super happy about that and tells me, “Mama! I jump!” and I have to explain to him that he’s too young to die, etc.
11:09- Pull out the animal crackers. Wonder if they’ll kick me out for having food near the pool. Glance around for a sign that says “No food”. Don’t see one. Still have no contact with an adult.
11:15-Have the pants scared off me while Luke continues to insist that he has to go under the water every three seconds.
11:16- His teacher saves his life.
11:17- His teacher saves his life again. My faith in her increases.
11:18-His teacher is helping another kid so I’m watching mine like a hawk and having a vivid waking dream where I’m jumping in the pool to save his life in my salmon pink skinny jeans and driving home sopping wet.
11:19- Animal crackers are no longer a worthy distraction. The little one hops off my lap and starts throwing pool noodles around like some sort of wild animal. The grandma next to me gives a friendly chuckle which makes me feel better about my parenting skills. I then point the 2-year-old over to the swing set on the other side of the pool gate.
11:25- Luke practices floating on his back. I cheer loudly, give him a thumbs up and then realize I’m going to be a really embarrassing mom when he’s older. But for now he just beams at me. So all is good.
11:27- Samuel comes back from the swings and wants to “jump” again. I pull out the trusty animal crackers. He is appeased.
11:30- Free swim. The teacher hands Luke a pool noodle, folds it in half and shows him that it will help him float. His eyes sparkle at this new-found independence and I have a mini-heart attack because now he’s just swimming around the pool with nothing but a noodle between he and a watery grave and there are 5 additional 4-year-olds being watched by one teacher.  And now Samuel is bored.
11:35- Luke swims to the deep end. I call his name. He ignores me. I call his name again. He ignores me again. I quickly help Samuel take his shoes and socks off and tell him he can put his toes in the water. He agrees enthusiastically. We walk to the deep end and I ask Luke to please swim back over to his class and then re-fold his pool noodle which was barely keeping him afloat at this point because it had somehow become only one layer of noodle. He feels pretty cool about this whole ‘swimming with nothing but a noodle’ thing. I reassure him that he IS pretty cool for swimming with nothing but a noodle.
11:37- I hesitantly make the decision to let Samuel get into the water.
11:38- I instantly regret my decision when I notice how narrow the steps are. I really don’t want to live the reality of that day-dream where I’m in soaking wet, pink pants. But there’s no going back at this point; Samuel is way too thrilled about being in the water.
11:39- I now have two children in the water while I’m out of the water. Satan is laughing somewhere, I can feel it.
11:40- A nice old man who had been teaching the advanced swim class comes and offers to take Samuel for a swim. He loves it.
11:45- The instructor blows the whistle to indicate that free swim is over and everyone needs to get out.
11:45and a half- I feel like a survivor. Samuel is pretty distraught about having to get out so soon. Some of the adults comment on how much he must love swimming. That ice-breaker enables the lady with the clipboard and I to have our first actual conversation wherein I realize my checkbook had fallen out of my backpack earlier. But she wasn’t worried about it and said it’d be fine for me to pay next time.
12:00- We drive home. I listen to Luke chatter about how much fun he had and tell him how close he is to being able to swim without a floaty and he is genuinely thrilled.
…worth it! In yo’ face, Satan!

Motherhood: Battling the Unmaker

1. Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
2. Toddlers.
I’ve been thinking about the principle of entropy a lot lately. My dad was the king of inventing games and then using those games to introduce his kids to highly advanced theories and scientific principles. We used to play a game called “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Screwdriver” where you basically pick anything in the entire world -theoretical principle, idea, person, place, thing, etc.- and then have a five to ten minutes debate about why your item of choice beats everyone else’s item of choice.
One time, my dad chose entropy. After he taught us what it was, we collectively banned it’s use. Because, hi. That’s cheating.
I started a really good book series a couple of weeks ago. Orson Scott Card’s, “Alvin Maker” series. I just finished Book One: Seventh Son. It’s wonderful and I highly recommend it. The ultimate Boss Level bad guy in that series is called the “Unmaker” which, in my imagination, is basically the equivalent of entropy. It desires to ‘unmake’ everything and turn it into nothing; disorder, chaos. Alvin Maker, if you couldn’t guess, is sort of his arch nemesis.
I relate to Alvin Maker.
Because my kids are tiny Unmakers.

The laundry.
All I want to do is make clean clothes for everyone. And fold them and put them all neatly away. All the tiny Unmakers want to do is spread it all around on the floor, wad it all into tight little balls to see how wrinkly they can make it, and see how far they can throw each individual sock across the room. (Spoiler: It’s far.)
Dinner.Pretty straight forward…I’d like to make dinner. Preferably a dinner that my kids will actually eat, but at the least a meal that I can put in front of them to assuage myself of any potential blame that may come my way right before bed when they inform me that they’re both ‘starving’. The Unmakers? They want to “help”. I’m pretty sure that word is just their way of lulling me into complacency so that they can get up close and personal in order to more effectively destroy the entire kitchen.
Cleaning.My goal: to clean. Their goal: to make new messes while I’m busy cleaning up the decoy messes.
Bath Time.It seems so simple; I’d like to get the kids clean and keep the water in the bathtub. Theirs is more of a three step process. Step 1. Run around butt-neked. Step 2. Either a) stay dirty OR b) dump the entire bottle of baby soap on their heads in an attempt to ‘help’ -there’s that word again- get clean. Step 3. There are bonus points for every liter of water that ends up on the bathroom floor, apparently. Maybe it was a bad call for me to give them a bucket as a bath toy. *ponders*
So, you see…we are at odds my Unmakers and I. They are entropy. I am the attempt at creating order in the chaos. We wage daily battles. Sometimes I lose, sometimes they lose. Mostly, I take my victories while they’re asleep and then I wait for the wakeful state wherein they will promptly undo all I’ve done.

Occasionally I see glimpses of their potential as future Makers. They seem to be Makers-in-training as it were. The older Luke gets, the less entropic he becomes. (Entropic. It’s a word.) From time to time, I can enlist him to engage in battle against the lead Unmaker in our house, and from time to time he successfully resists the urge to get sucked into the alluring prospect of destruction. It’s a beautiful thing.
And I take comfort in the fact that in the end, I will ultimately emerge victorious. I mean, if you think about it…I Made the Unmakers for crying out loud. And I’m Making them INTO Makers. So you see, in the face of all that Making, there’s no way the Unmakers can succeed.
*Adopts this as a new daily mantra and repeats as needed*