{they called me} Carrots!

Posted By on September 25, 2015

Halloween costumes have been a serious topic of conversation around here lately. The school allows kids to wear a costume for the day, but only if happens to be a character from a book. That alone causes enough stress to prompt weeks of deep thought and plans. Add in the need to try and walk the line of unique but not too weird, and it’s now a daily around the dinner table.

Miss E has pages of pages of ideas, all waiting for approval on what level of parental involvement I’m willing to commit to, but MJ has been a bit more lackadaisical about the topic. This, of course, drives E nuts. She would like to know what each and every family member is going to be dressed as, soon as possible, please and thank you very much, Mother.

With October quickly approaching, I finally decided to appease E and start prodding the rest of the family for ideas. There are only so many nights to procrastinate the construction of a costume, after all. The usual characters all drew wrinkled noses and flat nopes from MJ, so E and I put our heads together to think of as many redheaded characters as we could, hoping one would peak her interest and be relatively easy to pull off.

Ariel, Merida, Strawberry Shortcake, Annie, Jane Jetson, Daphne, Jessie from Toy Story, Pippi Longstocking (I was gunning for this one, personally) . . . Not a smidge of interest.

Miss E has been reading the Anne of Green Gables series recently and it’s become one of her favorites. The other day we were sitting around and talking with MJ about the most recent encounter with someone that had reached out to caress her hair while exclaiming about the gorgeous color and E pointed out that she could be just like Anne. MJ was confused, having never heard the story, so I pulled up a clip of that scene from the movie – the one where Gilbert Blythe pulls Anne’s braid and calls her Carrots. Both girls cackled with glee as the Anne cracked her slateboard over his head and after I turned the clip off, they kept laughing while imagining up a Halloween costume for MJ where she would carry a cracked slate and poor Tater could be Gilbert.

(My apologies if you have absolutely no idea who Anne is. Get thee a copy and read immediately.)

Of course, MJ quickly lost interest in the idea and went back to noping all costumes. Even when we wised up and started coming up with characters with all the hair colors of the rainbow. She is nondiscriminatory about shooting them down.

It is funny though, how the phenomena of the red hair is alive and well in this household, still, after all these years. The addition of ZZ to the mix has done nothing to help the curious strangers wondering where it came from, or the boundary challenged ladies that reach out to touch it as though the orange color will actually feel different than . . . I don’t know . . . hair? Perhaps they think it gives off some sort of youthful spell, taking them back to when their hair color wasn’t printed on the front of a box.

I’m terribly curious to see how it all plays out as ZZ grows up from the cherubic baby he is now into a loud, rambunctious, gangly-legged, sometimes-snot-nose kid as his brother is now. I have a hard time picturing us being stopped in stores so people can marvel at his hair when he is at that stage in life. MJ makes me wonder, too. Are there still people out there that reach out to touch the teenaged redhead’s hair? Do they still do it despite the ridiculous invasion of personal space and serious creepy factor?

And how much am I going to have to worry when she grows up and decides to embrace her hair color for Halloween? ZZ, not so much. But MJ? Not ready for that.

(I’m looking at you, Poison Ivy, skimpily dressed Ariel and Jessica Rabbit.)

Cold Tea {and finding my words again}

Posted By on September 20, 2015

I made a cup of hot tea with honey in it thirty eight minutes ago. It’s cold and funny tasting, thanks to steeping for a half hour too long. My throat hurts, two kids have a disgusting cough, and the baby is teething so hard right now that he was nearly scraping the paint off E’s metal bunk ladder earlier. That’s why my tea is cold, by the way. Three trips back up the stairs to settle the miserable baby, placating him with the pacifier he doesn’t want because his mouth hurts too much. The bright side to that cold tea and three trips up the stairs is that I probably burned off the cookie I ate while making the tea in the first place.

. . .

It’s been long enough that I avoided hitting publish on pages of true gibberish, fueled by lack of sleep and full throttle stressful days, that I suppose a bit of an update is in order. Mid summer, I was flying solo, filling our days with adventures to pass the time while M was gone for work over a month. He came home and we finished off summer as best we could, squeezing in road trips and camping and theme parks aplenty. In an instant though, we hit mid August and he had to pack up to fly to the other side of the world again. Unfortunately, he needed a bigger suitcase this time, taking all the essentials that he would need for nearly an entire year.

Yep. A year.

I tell that to the other moms around here and see the pity in their eyes. Except the military families, who hear of his daily phone calls and planned trips home to visit and comment on how nice that all is. And that’s what I keep reminding myself, how good we have it. Sure, it really blows to know that there is a baby here growing up and school kids that could really use someone other than their mother helping with homework, but we do have it good. The old me of seven years ago, slogging through 15 months of a deployment with that sweet new baby? She would have loved to have what we have. Although, she didn’t have four kids to drain every ounce of energy she had, but still . . .

. . .

So. Here we are. Nearly six weeks in, counting down to the first visit home, and desperately needing it. This particular stretch has been rough and there are so many reasons to pick from, all joining in to keep kicking me each time I stumble a little. The transition back to school for the kids was a welcomed one, but even welcomed changes bring tired mornings and new routines, endless lunches to pack and outfits to fight over, homework to check and friendship battles to lend kind words about. All without having that rock to lean on, that extra force behind these lines.

The girls are each stretching their wings, making me smile through my fury as they pick textbook battles for their ages. Miss E has been flexing her vocabulary muscles, prompting endless discussions of words and meanings and how you most certainly don’t speak to your mother the same way you speak to your friends. MJ still loves her sleep in the mornings and that seems to be our biggest battle, along with harnessing the waves of first grade emotions that often catch both of us unprepared. Preschool started for Tater and so far it is the most welcomed outlet for his constant need to be busy. I just drop him off on those mornings crossing my fingers he lets loose enough to not be even more of the ball of energy once we get home. I love that child to pieces, but he is following his sisters’ footsteps and proving that ages three and four are indeed the worst. Which, of course, makes me vow to cherish the years I have before ZZ hits three. At ten months, he’s glad to speak his mind and is rather keen on forging his own path, up and up being the preferred direction.

. . .

I have endless short stories, rants and rages, hilarious tidbits and horrible late night rambles just sitting in my drafts folder waiting for me to give them a run through for any hint of being unreadable due to all that exhaustion. Someday, perhaps I’ll set them free. I’ve missed having the will to record even the most mundane hours of our days, missed having that bit of our story down for when I wander down memory lane years in the future. I’ve missed it enough that I’ve left my tea cold this whole time, fingers flying over the keys and rushing to get through something, anything, before someone calls from upstairs again. The washing machine is spinning, the dishwasher is humming, lunches are packed and I can actually walk through the house without tripping on any toys. I should be . . . relaxing? I don’t know. Sleeping, perhaps? Whatever it is that I should be doing instead, I doubt I’d be as happy. Words. I’ve missed words. That sounds ridiculous, but I haven’t a bit of room to care on that front.

Rock {that} Scramble {up the mountain metaphor}

Posted By on July 10, 2015

Two nights ago, I was busy calling off plans and scrapping all sorts of preparations. We were supposed to go hiking in the morning – yesterday – and my kitchen was strewn with water bottles and sandwich fixings and comfy pairs of socks. All of laid out for an early rush from the house in order to make a special ranger talk on wild animals in the national park before heading to the top of a mountain. Yet, there I was at 10pm. Three kids were still wide awake, having spent the entire evening in trouble after a day that made me want to quit.

You can’t quit motherhood.

Not even for a single minute.

They lay fidgeting in their beds, mostly furious that I had canceled our fun plans. Vowing to be better, to help and clean and fold every stitch of laundry, they pleaded. When I stood firm, they sulked and then took turns coming out of their room to remind me how terrible of a day I was having. There was nowhere to clock out and I resigned myself to having a repeat of the terrible, no good, very bad day for eternity.

Yesterday morning rolled around and proved that if you think it, it will come. Another terrible day, full of crying and stomping and yelling and wonderment at selectively deaf ears. We ate dinner around a sullen table, all weary over doling out and receiving punishments. I seethed about it over the phone, wanting validation that our children were indeed tiny hellions, bent purely on trampling every bit of my spirit. Instead I got a dash of sympathy and a smidge of pep talk. Tomorrow would be better. Make it better. Make it so.

And so I did.

This morning, all those water bottles were filled and sandwiches made. Socks were put on, and taken off, and put back on, and lost, and found, and put back on again. There were six confrontations over appropriate hiking clothes, five disagreements over the proper method of hair brushing, four spats about what constitutes a healthy breakfast, three issues regarding personal space, two time outs for personal space violations, and one door slammed over the color of a backpack. I loaded the car amidst a cacophony of whines and groans and protests to every request I made.

But still.

We made it out of the house.

And as I sit here tonight, tired feet and in need of a shower, I’m happy. Happier than I’ve been in quite a few days. There was a smile on every face, growing bigger with every breath of fresh air all day. The dinner table tonight was full of happy chatter and stories from our day. There was laughter.

I faced that mountain and owned it.

Owned every rock and tree and overblown metaphor there was.

Proper Planning {prevents awesome discoveries}

Posted By on June 24, 2015

Every once in a while, one of my complete screwed up fails of parenthood leads to a wonderful discovery. They aren’t always big, earth shattering discoveries, but they’re often completely precious in their own way. We’ve had glorious adventures as the result of getting lost, epic conversations as the result of missing an alarm and starting the day late, and – as shown true from last night – complete game changers thanks to forgetting to plan for dinner.

I’m a terrible planner. Horrible. The three words that set my blood pressure to rise more than any others are “What’s for dinner?” So, with M being gone the last week, I’ve slipped so far down the slope that no one around here is surprised when I simply bring out the cereal bowls. I did give it a valiant effort, though, I really did. There was meat thawing and a whole grand plan for Taco Tuesday. Everyone was excited and looking forward to a big of normal on the table. I even agreed to take everyone to the pool for a while after dinner, provided we sat down to eat early enough.

And then, 5pm rolled around . . .

The meat wasn’t thawed. I had forgotten to buy sour cream. And every single one of our tomatoes had gone rotten. There was to be no Taco Tuesday. And the inmates were none too pleased about it.

Swooping in to save the day with my trusty pizza ordering app, I claimed that surely we’d still be able to go to the pool. After all, it never takes more than 20 minutes for our pizza to show up on other days. Except, on this day it was going to take a solid 45 minutes. And the inmates began plotting their mutiny over not being able to get to the pool.

A slip’n’slide, kiddie pool and popsicles saved me from sure demise. Everyone was happily belly flopping and splashing when the pizza car finally showed up. They ran back and forth, dripping all over the picnic table, mouths smeared with sauce, completely forgetting about the pool. Watermelon and popsicle stickiness was washed away with each turn down the runway. For two hours, their evening was golden and everything a summer childhood should be.

In the midst of all that, all the shrieks of joy and laughter, was the greatest discovery. ZZ has always loved water. Baths were his happy place since the very beginning, and his limited pool time had been the best ever. But the slip’n’slide? That little strip of plastic, surrounded by endless sprinklers of water, became the Most Amazing Place Ever. Forgetting about all the other places to explore, and all the pieces of grass to eat, he stayed on that thing for nearly an hour. Free as could be, he’d crawl from one side to the other, screaming with happiness, letting the sprinklers spray him everywhere. Water directly to the eyeball? Laughter. Up the nose? Laughter.

With all that joy we found, I may have to go ahead and screw up dinner plans more often in hopes it will work out this well.

Go Smug Yourself {when life fights back}

Posted By on June 17, 2015

There’s something particularly jarring about coming home from vacation, shoulders nicely freckled from days on the beach, to grass as high as kneecaps, news of a burst hose that flooded the backyard, a hot water heater in need of replacement, and a 48 hour window of time before half of the team jets off to another month in Singapore.

The man deserves his credit, he really does. In those 48 hours, battling a cold and vacation exhausted (because really, we all know a vacation with four kids along is really just as demanding as normal, but in a beautiful place), he busted his ass. There’s a shiny, new hot water heater that will not leave me cursing as I rinse my hair with ice water. Odds and ends were taken care of, little items on the To Do list checked off carefully to make sure they were the tasks I literally couldn’t do myself.

The lawn stayed up to our kneecaps because I insisted I would be fine. “I’m supermom, I can handle it!” I repeated over and over in convincing him to stay in the house and spend that time with me instead. The physical presence that simply can’t wrap halfway around the world trumped a beautiful lawn. I kissed him goodbye in the early hours of the morning, smugly positive that I could totally handle this. I run this place solo all the time with ease! What on earth could go wrong if I just add in cutting the grass? And a dangerously mobile baby? And kids that were just on vacation getting attention from grandparents?

Smug will only get you knocked down to size.

It was grossly hot and sticky when I pulled the lawnmower out of the shed at 8am. The baby fussed and began to cry over the monitor as soon as I plugged it in, so I paused to set him up with a little shaded tent over his pack’n’play while the big kids hung out near him on the front walkway. Across the lawn I went, making it only one pass before I would have to stop and empty the bag, spilling wet clippings all over myself in the process. Somewhere around my third pass, the baby decided he was done with his cage and let everyone know. Miss E earned all of her gold stars by scooping him up and taking him inside to play.

With the other two watching me still, I did two more passes, the mower sounding angrier and angrier with every step. As I came to a stop by my garbage bags to empty it, I saw E signaling frantically from the living room window and pointing to the baby’s bottom – that’s apparently where she draws the line of helping Mom out. Turning back to the mower, I saw wisps of smoke spiraling upwards. Saying a great many words Tater and MJ thankfully couldn’t hear over the roar, I shut it off and stomped across the yard.

An hour later, with the baby happy and clean, I went out to kick the mower and clean up my mess. The yard looked like a drunken monkey had run through it with a broken reel mower, missed sections everywhere and a wavy maze of lines. When I came back in the house, I set out to find someone to come out and just do it for me. Suburbia, and its third of an acre lots, has the perk of quick service. Our neighborhood has a message board, so I went to that first, asking if any college or high school kids had a mower and wanted to earn a little money. Instantly, I had a reply and we set a time for him to come over and see if he could manage it. I pat myself on the back for fixing my problem with such ease.

That triumph was only short lived.

The time in between then and the appointment was filled with battles over . . .

not being able to go to the pool immediately (MJ)

not being able to go to the pool alone (E)

not wanting anything to do with anything because everything is horrible and evil and mean and noIamnottiredIhatenapsnapsaretheworstevezzzzzzzzzzzz . . . (Tater)

not bashing skulls, fingers, toes, arms, legs, noses, cheeks, mouths, every last part of the body because being mobile is the best thing ever and every place must be explored including these steps that look mighty fine to climb on. (ZZ)

I’ve often said that being in a car with all four of them is a lot like having four radio stations on at once. Now, I’ve decided that trying to parent all of them is a lot like throwing a handful of bouncy balls in a room full of china. You just can’t catch them all, and something is going to break. The question is if it’s going to be them or your nerves. (Having a seven month old that went from nothing to crawling, standing, climbing steps and getting into everything in just a few weeks will certainly fry a few nerve endings right out. There is no way in hell any of the other ones were this intent on their own demise from curiosity this early in the game.)

Eventually, with two pouting girls on the couch, one napping buddy and one baby in a straightjacket, the doorbell rang. Joyfully sure that this would be the best thing all day, the answer to keeping our house from looking like it belonged on a foreclosure listing, I leapt up to answer it. Confused, I stared through the glass a minute before opening it up to shake hands. Politely smiling was a gray haired gentleman, white socks pulled up to his knees, peering over his glasses. He was eighty-five if he was a day.

For ten minutes he stood in my doorway, jawing away about adorable kids (who still sat scowling on the couch), beautiful flowers (thank you very much), terribly high grass that is a pain to cut when it’s full of clover (no shit sherlock) and how unbearably hot it was out. Wrapping up his visit, he made a sweeping gesture across the lawn and proclaimed that it would be far too much for him to cut, especially since he would have to push his mower from his house a mile away, and he hoped I could find someone to take care of it.

That . . . was not the strapping, young, college lad I was hoping for.

After that encounter, I decided to literally drown my sorrows and finally take the kids to the pool, crossing my fingers to have a few more prospects waiting when I checked my email next. There was a flurry of bathing suits and towels and pool toys and snacks and water bottles, all ending in a pile at the bottom of the stairs. One by one, I slathered sunscreen on my freckled offspring, finishing with the palest baby in the land as he squirmed and wiggled as much as possible. Finally, finally, finally we were on our way . . . along with five hundred of our closest neighbors. The pool looked like a cartoon, stuffed so full to capacity that turning from one side to the other meant bumping into someone. The kids didn’t mind too much, and if I tried to stop thinking about the ratio of pee to water when there were that many kids present, I actually enjoyed myself a bit as well. We splashed joyfully for a solid twenty minutes before . . .


Because, of course. A bit of thunder to close the pool for thirty minutes was definitely what the day needed.

Along with all five hundred of our neighbors, we trudged out of the pool area and headed home. MJ promptly fell flat out on the sidewalk, E got stung by something, and Tater refused to walk. That is the scene I’m going to want videos of in thirty years so I can finally laugh about it, because I certainly wasn’t laughing then as I pushed an overloaded stroller and carried an overgrown six year old howling in pain.

It was nearing dinner time when we got home, so after there was a pile of wet bathing suits on the floor and everyone was carefully separated in the house according the what level of bad mood they were in, I dug through the refrigerator for the easiest meal. Pulling the jumbo pack of hot dogs out, I decided to make them on the grill. ZZ sat with his face pressed up against the sliding glass door as I stood on the patio and dusted off the various floof from the trees that had gathered on the lid. I cranked up the propane, turned on the burners and hit the ignite button.

click click click click

click click click click

click click click click

I cursed for the hundredth time that day, cursed myself for thinking to use the grill that I am deathly afraid of lighting in the first place.

click click click  WHOOOOOOSH!

That sucker lit so hard that the lid blew open and flames leapt out. I screamed loud enough to be heard in the next county (and possibly peed my pants a little). Inside the house, ZZ jumped back from the window and busted his head on a chair leg as he fell over.

All for hot dogs.

Which I ended up burning anyways.