Just in case you were wondering what getting ready for a trip is like when you have kids.
When you have kids you wait.
You wait for babies to wake up, kids to eat, shoes to be found, shoes to be put on, shoes to be discarded, new shoes to be found and new shoes to be put on. You wait for really, really, long stories to be told, one last swing, three hundred million tricks to be performed and kids to fall asleep.
When you have kids you wait.
In theory during all this waiting I could focus all my love and attention on my wonderful children. (Three hundred million tricks people!?! I ran out of attention long before we hit 500,000.)
In theory I could practice zen like patience and being calm. (Hello, my name is Jessie, have we met?)
In practice I take pictures.
Taking pictures looks just like focusing all your attention on your children but really it’s the camera that is focused on the kids while your brain focuses on lighting and composition. As an added bonus, with the wonders of digital photography, zen like patience is completely unnecessary as you can just click and click and click some more.
Now pulling out a camera when forced to inactivity is my default mode.
Today I was waiting for Jane.
I wait for Jane
all the freakin’ time often. This time I was waiting as she crossed a foot bridge at my parents’ house. The bridge used to be a Billy Goats Gruff bridge. Now, partially under construction, it’s more like the tightrope at the circus.
Jane was not impressed.
Falling off the bridge would have dropped her a maximum of two feet into shallow water and mud. I was unimpressed by her drama and sat down to wait.
Of course that really meant that I sat down and started taking pictures.
Balancing her way toward me with all the flair and high drama of a real tightrope act, she caught me snapping a photo.
“MOM! THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR PICTURES!”
I’m not sure she was correct on that. It sure seemed like a good time for pictures to me. But it became quite clear that it was most certainly not the time for laughter.
Note: If you are going to laugh at children in the throes of high drama, I highly recommend hiding your face behind a nice large DSLR camera rather than the smallest smart phone on the market.
Jane has been using a scoot bike for the last few years.
A scoot bike, for those of you who are not familiar, is a bike that has no pedals/gears/etc (some people call it a balance bike). Kids can learn to balance and steer while they push themselves along on their feet Fred Flintstone-style. Jane was a master scoot biker but until this last week was completely unwilling to make the transition to *gasp* *shudder* *panic* …pedals.
But, this week, she, with help of a ridiculous purple Disney princess endowed bike (thank you Grandma Mary) was convinced to give the pedals a try – sans training wheels. There was panicking. There was whining. There was moaning. There were two really unconcerned and unhelpful parents because they had seen her navigate the downhill slope of our terribly rutted gravel driveway on her scoo
t bike and she was going to be fine as soon as she tried it. Twenty min. later Jane was riding a real bike.
An hour later she called me out to watch.
Personally “Mom, watch me!” inspires feelings of dread and desperate wishes to have something, anything, else to do. But not this time. This time I was excited for her. She was riding a real bike. With pedals. It’s a big milestone. I willingly went to the driveway to watch.
Foolish, foolish mother…
“Mom, count how many times I can go around the circle.”
(the circle being the small paved area in front of our two-car garage.)
Foolish, foolish mother.
I was still proud of her.
I was still proud but the novelty had worn off.
I sent Clara for a camera so I would have something to do.
“NO! You didn’t’ say thirty six, this is thirty six.”
“Oh, I just counted in my head.”
“That doesn’t count!”
“… thirty six….”
Foolish, foolish mother.
“MOM ARE YOU STILL COUNTING?!?!”
“Aren’t I good at bike riding?!?!?”
“… seventy… three…. *yawn*”
I started daydreaming about setting time limits. As in, “Yay! You learned something new, I’ll be encouraging that new skill for the next five min and then I’m moving on. Ready… Go!”
This is right about when Clara, also bored out of her skull wanted to show off her bike riding skills too. Complete chaos ensued. Bike crashes, screaming, fighting, gravel needed to be brushed out of palms, the whole nine yards.
The dust settled, and there was Jane, still riding her bike and also demanding the entire driveway to herself.
“Fine. You can have the whole driveway but I’m not watching anymore after one hundred.”
My feelings of pride were lessening, the novelty was gone and my encouragement was getting mighty thin.
Foolish, foolish mother.
“Aren’t you going to keep counting?”
Moral of the story: “Watch me” never, ever, ends well for the mother.
Ivy is going to be in middle school next year.
I’ve heard that children lose their brains around this age. Ivy’s pretty smart though, maybe it won’t be so bad. I’ve even been told she’s good a conversing with adults…
Ivy: “Do you know ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson.”
Ivy: “I don’t.”
Ivy: blink, blink… blink, blink…
Me: blink, blink…
Ivy: blink, blink… blink, blink…
Me: “Why do you ask?….”
Temporary brain loss.
Wish us luck.
I’m the terribly unsentimental mother who says the appropriate things about the priceless pieces of artwork given to me on Mother’s Day and then leaves them on the table for everyone to look at. I do this knowing full well that they will be ripped, spilled on, chewed on by a cat or eaten by a dog if we just wait a few days and then I can burn them guilt free in the wood stove while no one is looking. (Stop. Don’t judge. Don’t judge until you’ve been buried in your own flood of priceless artwork that required each kid less than two minutes to make. And if you are, and you’ve kept every paper your kids have given, kudos to you. And please be careful, those stacks of paper you are saving are no doubt reaching fire hazard level.)
But this year my Mother’s Day gift from Jane draws my eye every time I walk by it. I think about it almost daily when she and I are having discussions. It’s taken up residence on the wall in my office rather than someplace the dogs would chew on it’s popsicle stick frame. It is truly the most memorable gift she’s ever given me. It might even be a keeper.
Not because it’s so cute, or because I want to remember just how little and cute Jane was in the picture when it was taken or because she did such a nice job decorating it. No. It’s a keeper because I shake my head in incredulity every time I pass it.
“I love you because you let me have what I want.”
If you know Jane or you’ve been around here enough you may have gathered that she’s convinced she is something of a princess. This is not a character trait I try to encourage, quite the opposite, but I seem to be having limited success.
John saw her gift to me and jumped up and down going “OOO!!! OOO!!! You are the one giving her what she wants!!!” attempting to lay the root cause of our princess child’s behavior at my feet. I rejected that assumption and I have a story to prove that I do not in fact let her have what she wants, a morning story…
Here is how basically every school day Jane has ever been a part of has gone.
Me -“Jane, it’s time to get up and come down stairs and have breakfast.”
Me- (A bit later) “I’m making oatmeal/eggs/waffles for your sisters do you want some.”
Jane- (with a wail of despair) “I don’t know what I want!!!”
Me -” Okay, well come down and eat something before you run out of time!”
(Then yesterday’s chosen clothes are no longer fashionable/comfortable/fit and she has to find new clothes. I encourage her to hurry so she has time to eat.)
Me- (eventually) “Jane your oatmeal/eggs/waffle/food of some kind is ready.”
Jane- (exasperatedly) “I don’t want [insert any food item here] and I need (socks/pants/shorts/some other shirt/a ponytail)!”
Then she goes and finds socks/pants/shorts/some other shirt/a ponytail holder while her sisters eat their breakfast, put their shoes on and get in the car. Occasionally I give her a count down of minutes remaining and remind her about eating.
Jane finally appears at the door. Then she cries about something. Anything really, actual substance for cause of crying seems totally unnecessary. Crying is followed by demanding to know where her breakfast is, citing that all she really wanted was eggs/oatmeal/last night’s leftovers. I ignore all this and push her out the door handing her a granola bar to eat in the car.
Then I drop them all at school .023 seconds before the bell rings and the older kids get out of the car yelling at Jane for making them late – again.
It’s super fun.
90% of the school days this year Jane has run out of time to eat at home, demands to be allowed to sit and eat some random breakfast item at a time when we should be leaving and instead grumpily eats a granola bar or some such item in the car on the way to school.
Recently when I tossed a granola bar into the back seat she lost it.
“Why don’t I ever get breakfast? I don’t understand why this keeps happening over and over and over and over and over and everyday I don’t get breakfast and everyday all you feed me is a granola bar.”
All I could do was look at Ivy in the seat next to me with wide eyes and the two of us burst out laughing. (That didn’t make Jane feel better btw – put me in the terrible mother camp for that one, but it was early and I don’t do anything well early.) “I’m not sure either Jane, I’m not sure either.” I finally got out through my laughter.
Now everyday I look at that… “you let me have what I want.” and smile.
Maybe it’s her way of wishful thinking, if she believes long enough, and claps hard enough it’ll come true. In the meantime I’m going to keep it on the wall as a reminder that this girl may always, deep down, know that she is a princess no matter how the world treats her.
This evening while talking with Ivy, who is 11 going on 16, the subject of bedtimes came up. Specifically, my bedtime.
I go to bed at midnight. This seems slightly early for my night owl standards but fairly manageable considering I have to get the girls to school in the morning. Ivy, however, was appalled.
I was informed under no uncertain terms that she goes to bed at NINE o’clock and that is PLENTY late.
I, always arguing for my night owl ways, pointed out that there are many things, many things that I do after she goes to bed. I work out, I blog, I read books, I write books (shameless plug), I even, occasionally, clean the kitchen (really, super-duper occasionally).
Ivy, while eating the dinner I made her, then demanded to know what I do all day if I do all that after she goes to bed.
I responded with what I fear were wild, crazy, mom eyes and arm gesticulations around the house. “Everything else!”
“Well,” said Ivy in a voice dripping with the confidence of the young, “you should just try and get more done during the day.”
And then I looked at my beast of a to-do list and died a little bit inside.
Of course I didn’t let her know that, I just told her to hurry up and finish her dinner so she had time to play before it was her bedtime.
Jane squished her finger in the door.
Not a mangled bleeding smash but a decently painful squish. She came to me, crying and holding it. I did the concerned mom thing, “Are you alright? Let me see it?” Jane did the woeful child thing and sniffled as she held out her, seemingly fine, hurt middle finger.
Then she looked down at her middle finger extended toward me and cried,
“I’m soooorrryyyyy! I think I just swore at you with my finger!” and collapsed face down on the bed.
It was good that she was face down in a pillow while I worked on controlling the middle schooler trapped in a mom’s body thing so that I was able to get back to the concerned mom thing by the time she picked her head up. I gave it a kiss and told her not to worry about it and that her finger was going to be fine and that was the last we heard about it for a few hours.
Later the subject of swearing with your finger came up again. That was when my suspicions were confirmed. The kids might learn things like reading and math facts at school, but the real learning happens on the bus on the way home. Jane relayed the story of the boy on the bus telling her all about how to swear with her finger then looked at me with a grin and said,
“Mom, wanna see me swear with my face?”
Middle schooler in a mom’s body showed right back up. “Well, Yeah!”
“Just kidding Mom,” Jane said with a laugh, “You can’t swear with your face.”
I walked into the kids room and Jane stopped bouncing on the bed. She put on her saddest face, hung her head and in a voice of woe and despair she said:
“Mom. Here is the truth. I got distracted by playing with Clara because I’m in the habit of playing with Clara and then I forgot about my work and now I’m not going to have time to do the fun things.”
I nodded sympathetically and gave her a hug, it was the truth.
Jessie’s Tip Of The Day
If you want to catch raccoons in a live trap use marshmallows. Marshmallows are non-messy, non-stinky, and any extra can be eaten on your way back from the live trap and few animals other than raccoons are willing to crawl into a scary cage for a little, white, sugary pillow.
Because…if your daughter ate all the marshmallows and you end up using canned dog food, even though you know it’s a terrible idea, then you’ll probably catch a possum early in the night. After evicting the possum with it’s weird clingy toes from the trap your mother will “helpfully” run off with the flashlight to scare it away. Instead she may accidentally chase, it at twelve times the speed a possum normally travels, three quarters of the way around the house back toward the trap you are resetting for the marauding raccoon. Making the chances of your raccoon trap being successful much lower.
In conclusion, hide your marshmallows from the kids and never let your mother hold your flashlight.
P.S. My mom would like you to know she had to edit this for me.
P.P.S. She’s a much better editor than flashlight holder.
Clara, what’s your favorite…
Color – I have couple, teal, blue, green, yellow and purple.
Animal – I have couple, dolphins, bees, foxes (I just like the look of them) and ummm what are they calllled, manatees.
Bug- Bees and earwigs. *laughing* NO I don’t like earwigs!! And that’s when I knew this was going to be interesting…
Food – Lots of stuff, like pizza, spaghetti, kielbasa, the skillet you make, ice cream and candy.
Clothes –Skirts and t-shirts if its summer, but in the winter I like to wear long sleeves, long pants and socks cause I like skating around the house. And that’s where we diverged from list making into a much more interesting conversatuon…
Dog – I have couple… *big breath* Trip, Storm, Goose, Digby, Cooper (poor Cooper has been gone for years but glad he still made the list) Rosie, Birkie, Buzz, Turk, Bailey, Ruby.
Cat –Gypsy, Cassie, Fiona, Baby, Pester, Ginger, Blacky and Oreo (It seems our youngest cat didn’t make the cut and the last three are kittens her friend’s family “might” adopt. Makes you wonder what Simone did to her recently).
Person – You, Dad, Jane, Ivy, Grandma Grandpa, Grandma Pat, Grandpa Al… Like all my grandma’s and grandpas and aunts and uncles. Lola, Lucy, Brent, Rachel, Macy, Evelyn, Joe… I cut her off around here before she listed everyone she knew.
Me: Do you know what favorite means?
Me: What’s it mean?
Clara: You really like them.
Me: Does favorite mean one or lots?
Me: So, most people think favorite means the thing they like the most.
Clara: Yeah… but I can’t choose.
Alright then. Moving on…
Thing to do –A couple… Like two… Swim and we play on the playgrounds, oh three, and play on the computer, or ipad or phone… or do arts and crafts… I can’t choose!
Thing to do inside – Annoy Ivy. Great…
Thing to do outside – swim
Chore – *laughter, lack of eye contact* Ummm nothing. – Oh! Clean the pool out cause then you get to be in the pool.
Time of day – Two. I like how we are numbering the favorites now. Dinner time when it’s close to dark out. And in the morning and at midnight. And how that doesn’t cut down on the number of things what so ever. Or make them factual. She’s a monster in the morning and she doesn’t ever get to stay up until midnight.
Place to go – Umm couple… Like to Florida, to the beach, to Lola’s and to the Cambridge Elementry and the pool house at Lola’s and where I saw the kitties at Lola’s. Lola is Clara’s best friend, can you tell? Also she likes going to school? Judging by her morning behavior, I’m totally suspicious of that.
Song – I don’t really have one… I like… Katie Perry, or Lady Gaga but I don’t like Lady Gaga as much as Ivy. Who does really?
Flower – Three I doubt it. Like the ones that go and are like in the summer… SCILLA! One Ummm what are they called, they are in the summer and some of them have white petals… Oh yeah, daffodils Two and tulips Three and the roses with not a lot of petals cause the ones with tons of petals-*makes a disgusted face* uh ehhh! Four. I’m totally with her on her rose feelings though.
Farm Animal – Horses and goats. What? That’s it?
Thing about school – Couple things, recess, snack time – cause she usually reads a book to us, and um um um um I don’t remember. And this Clara is why favorite implies one thing. A thing you like enough that you remember it.
Friend – You know… You know… Lola! Yes. Yes we do know.
Movie – I don’t have one. Believable.
Thing to do with Ivy – Annoy her. Me: How do you like to annoy her? Clara: By going like, “Ivy , Ivy, Ivy” and if she says “What?” I just keep saying, “Ivy, Ivy, Ivy…” This explains a lot of the yelling that I’ve been hearing lately.
Thing to do with Jane – Annoy her and play legos. Me: How do you like to annoy Jane? Clara: Go, “Jane, Jane, what’s that, what’s that, Jane, Jane…” This explains the rest of the yelling I’ve been hearing.
Thing to do with Dad – Couple things, not annoy him. If only that were true… Go to parks with him, play in the garage and make obstacle courses and help him build like sailboats. That would be a reference to the two pieces of wood she nailed together 3 years ago and dubbed a sailboat.
Thing to do with Me – I don’t know, watch movies. And if you wanted proof that I’ve been a bit stressed and cranky lately there you have it. Like what kind of movies? We don’t watch very many movies. Selkie one maybe? The selkie movie was Song of the Sea which was beautiful and she cried through half of it. Again, were you wondering about my general attitude lately?
Book – I don’t have one. This answer bothered me far more than the previous one. You can not like me but no favorite book?!? Tragic!
Meal – Breakfast. I think she’s losing steam.
Thing to do in the car –Color and annoy people. Me: Can you not annoy people on the drive tonight? Clara: Ok, but its what I love to do!
When you get older what kind of problems do you want to help solve? This required further explanation. Her eventual answer: “No.” She creates problems, she does not solve them.
What do you want to do when you are grown up? – Have a lot of cats. But if I get a husband he would have to do the cat litter boxes. This is where I almost swallowed my tongue trying not to burst laughing.
Anything else? – Candy!- Sour candy! I think that might be it… oh wait my favorite kind of fruit is… I have couple… lemons, limes, apples, grapes, pineapple, watermelon and peaches. Oh, and pears!
But that was all yesterday…
Today Clara turned eight!
Happy Birthday to my girl who has all the favorites!