Days of the Angry Red Chest Bump

It was a day. Nothing special, nothing overly traumatic. Just another day in a long series of similar days, the mundaneness in and of itself more notable than anything.

An ordinary day, yet one that also hadn’t been that great. There were tears and tantrums, struggles over tooth brushing, three different kids with three different ideas for activities that were not compatible with one another. (Play in the driveway! Play in the backyard! Walk down the street to the park!) There were toys strewn everywhere inside and a floor that needed to be swept three days ago.

Of the three, the 18-month old was the crankiest. He acted frustrated and didn’t seem quite sure what it was he wanted. Except he clearly told me that he wanted more scrambled eggs with his lunch. (“Egg. Mo’.”) I filled up his plate, set it on the tray.

He looked at the plate. He looked at me. And in less than a half second, he threw it all on the floor.

I had a moment. (Just another day in a long series of similar days…) The cleaning-up of the scattered-everywhere scrambled eggs was now my job. My teeth clenched. I have a college degree! I wanted to scream, I graduated with honors and now here I am about to clean up this disaster of scrambled eggs at 11:18 in the morning? I have ideas, dang it! What gives?!?

Toddlers throw their food. I get it. It’s not that it overly surprised me exactly. I’ve been through this with two of them before. It’s more that as this all happened, in the span of a few seconds, I had another moment. I thought of all the “you’re going to miss this” phrases tossed out by sweet little old ladies (always sweet and old) as they reflect on this stage of life. They seem to forget the part about bending over for the umpteenth time to clean scrambled eggs off the floor. Cuddles are something to miss. Cleaning up what had previously been a (sort of) clean floor? Not so much. This day was not one to look back on fondly.

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Read the rest over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

These Children are Insane and Other Thoughts at 3 pm on a Rainy Wednesday

I stand in the kitchen and look around as Nolan gallops in circles with a fist full of bright orange crackers. He stole them from the pantry, and is now leaving a trail on a floor that’s already more food scraps than floor. Caden jumps from piece of furniture to piece of furniture, complete with blanket cape and Lego Batman clenched in hand. Brooklyn walks by wearing only underwear for reasons I don't really know.

It’s three o’ freaking clock in the afternoon.

That’s it?! That can’t be right. I blink at the digital clocks on both the stove and the microwave. Could they possibly both be wrong? After the day I’ve had, surely it must be tomorrow by now.

We’ve already done all the things today and I’m not really sure what else I’m supposed to do with these children. I have plenty to do, of course. The checklist in my mind is full of everything from appointments to schedule to straightening the black hole that is our mudroom to actually cleaning up our crumb-ridden floor. But not with these things around picking fights, stealing food, and embracing their inner nudists.

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This morning we attempted to go to the library. Our favorite library. I had to put the kibosh on that after a pathetic half hour spent chasing a shrieking Nolan back to the children’s section about twelve times too many. We drove home and walked to the park to get that energy out but were driven home all too soon by some raindrops and my own overly full bladder. The clock finally signaled lunchtime which was a relief (something to do!) until the four-year old crowd chugged from their water bottles and spit it right back out onto the floor. So then the two-year old copied them. Y’know, just for fun. (Side note: you’d think my floor would look a whole lot cleaner than it does right now.) The confiscation of said water bottles led to tears and screaming. So many tears and so much screaming. The neighbors would have thought I’d ripped someone’s arm off if our windows had been open. Maybe it’s a good thing it’s raining. The twenty minutes on the clock before I deemed it late enough to enforce quiet time dragged and of course quiet time ended far too soon.

I sink to the floor in exhaustion and try to come up with something fun for us all. I hear cushions being ripped off the couch in the living room and spy little feet out the corner of my eye, pitter-pattering to the pantry for another fistfull of forbidden crackers. Another trail of crumbs. I pretend not to see or I’ll have to enforce a consequence. At least it keeps him occupied.

What to do? Play Doh is too messy and doesn’t interest the two-year old for long, we’ve already had our fair share of screen time this afternoon, and I’d prefer the house to not be destroyed more than it already has been today. Two more hours...two more hours…two more hours...

My mind wanders as I think of how I’d really like to enjoy a rainy afternoon. To lose myself completely in a book. To Netflix binge in the full sense of the word, not the two maaayyybe three episodes if we’re feeling daring that make up our parents-of-young-children version of binge-watching now. I’d love to sit in the quiet and listen to the rain outside and really do a whole lot of not much at all.

My thoughts are broken by another shriek, a wail, tears in a couple sets of eyes from an incident my own eyes didn’t see. These kids sure have a different agenda than “quiet” and “nothing at all”. I dole out hugs, try to temper harsh words and arguments with my own attempt at calm ones.

I look outside to see the rain has lightened up. Caden and Brooklyn settle into some sort of pretend play together so I take the opportunity to scoop Nolan up and walk with him in my arms to the end of the driveway to check the mail. (Junk. All of it. So not worth it.) I realize that not only has the rain lightened, but it’s stopped completely. We drop the mail off in the mudroom and velcro sandals on his little feet. He grabs his new blue scooter. Brother and sister somehow sense we are having fun without them and appear at the door behind us.

Nolan abandons his scooter completely and takes off at a run down the sidewalk. Speed is his preferred mode of transportation and he can still get nowhere the fastest by running. I take off after him as Caden and Brooklyn pass us by in a blue and pink blur, speed demons on their own scooters.

“Hey!” a neighbor calls out and raises her hand in a wave. She’s sitting in her garage, her own three year old boy next to her. I breathe in relief as we make our way towards her. A grown up! She must have noticed the rain lightened up and needed the escape, too. We wander over and she asks how I’m doing.

“Uggghhhhh,” I reply. I’m beyond words at this point. We lived through six months of winter but apparently this rainy day is the thing that’s going to do us all in.

She laughs and invites us inside. “Sounds like our day yesterday.”

We kick off wet shoes in their mudroom. Their own shoes and miscellaneous stuff that make up life with their own three kids are strewn around. The kids immediately find the playroom. I find a chair. I look around to see dishes on the counter, toys scattered across the floor, child locks on the cabinets. Feels like home.

We chat. I sink in the couch. Our conversation is interrupted more often than not. Kids run around. They scream. They steal apple slices from the counter and walk around the house crunching them.

I realize that her children are as insane as mine on a rainy afternoon. Good.

Staying Home is Boring

Nothing puts me on the defensive faster than being asked, "Don't you get bored?"

My mind starts to race as I think: Bored?!? Are you out of your mind, of course not!!! Making food, serving food, picking up food, cleaning sticky hands and faces, wiping down furniture, countertops, floors, and little butts, doing loads of laundry, folding and putting away that laundry, playing blocks/farm animals/trucks/reading books/etc., changing diapers and clothes...

That's all before 9:00 am.

But lately I've been thinking about the question, and, well...

I am bored.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things to do. I definitely keep busy. There's a pretty relentless cycle of chores and routine that's required to keep a household with three children under five running. But it’s a fairly mind-numbing list of things to be doing each day. Loading and unloading the dishwasher isn't exactly my jam. And there's a difference between being busy and being bored.

To be fair, I think the "don't you get bored?" question-askers are really trying to ask a different one: "What do you do all day?" Assuming I can’t possibly find enough to keep me occupied all day long as a stay-at-home mom. And that's an entirely different question. I could give a run-down of a typical day's schedule and still feel like it wouldn't truly encapsulate what on earth I spend my time doing.

Read the rest over on the Twin Cities Moms Blog.

Life Lately

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Important Update:

IT'S WARM! 

The last time I posted a Life Lately update, we were literally days away from a blizzard to end all blizzards, one that buried us under (almost) two feet of snow. IN FREAKING APRIL. I'm happy to report that the sun is out, the birds are singing, and the only thing we're digging ourselves out of right now is the sandbox. 

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And not a moment too soon since preschool officially ended last week. As far as I'm concerned it's the first of two Terrible Awful Times of Year until the summer activities begin. (The other being the month of August, after all the summer activities end but before the school year ones begin.) Our calendar is a lot emptier now that preschool, dance, and swimming lessons are all coming to a close. I'm not going to argue with a bit more flexibility but the end of all that structure always feels a bit abrupt. 

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These two look like they grew about a foot since September. It's like I sent babies off to preschool and they returned as Big Kids. I'm sure next year will leave me an emotional puddle on the floor what with Kindergarten looming over us and all, but for now we're looking forward to the summer ahead of us before returning in the fall to the same building, the same classroom, and the same teachers, the only change being three mornings each week instead of two.

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In other News I'm Not Quite As Excited About, Nolan leveled up to a toddler bed.

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If you can't tell from the grin, he's a lot more excited about this new development than either Tyson and I are. 

People have told me I'm "brave" for making the switch and I'm here to set the record straight: NOPE. No bravery here. As IF this were my choice. I would have kept this over-active boy stay in a crib until he graduated high school if it were possible, but he up and went and figured out how to climb out of the dang thing. At the age of two plus a few months he lasted longer than Caden and Brooklyn did, though still not long enough for my taste.

It's actually going pretty well, and in fact much smoother than the twins' transition did, but of course it's not as convenient as dumping him in a crib knowing that he's unable to get out or bother us and would eventually fall asleep. Instead of being miserable about it, I've been claiming the time as my own, sitting in the hallway outside his bedroom with my phone, a book, or my laptop, catching up on messages, reading, writing, or some good old-fashioned online shopping for the hour or so it takes him to settle down and fall asleep.

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In other Nolan news, you may see him around wearing an eye patch. Nothing major, just a little lazy eye we're working to fix. He's only wearing it for an hour a day right now and we'll re-evaluate with the optometrist in September. I should say he's SUPPOSED to be wearing it an hour a day, and while we've had a few good days we've also had some terrible ones. He's not super fond of the thing and waits for the moment I walk or look away to rip it off. I'm thinking of getting some fun patches like these but I don't think even that's going to make him care very much. I've tried decorating his eye patch with stickers and all he wants to do is rip the patch off to see them, and besides sitting in front of a mirror for an hour I'm running out of ideas. 

  It WOULD all be good if just kept your freaking eye patch on.

It WOULD all be good if just kept your freaking eye patch on.

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In house news: I stained our deck! With my own two hands! By myself! Somehow it was really important for me to tackle this project on my own. Partly because this is our third summer in the house and we have yet to buy adult-sized patio furniture. (Of course the kids are taken care of.) Staining our desperately beat-up deck was motivation for that purchase. I guess what works to motivate my kids is also what works to motivate me right now, "If you do X then you get candy!" Except instead of candy it's a set of patio furniture. And I totally rewarded myself with candy, anyway.

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Caden and Brooklyn not only celebrated the end of preschool, but also had their first dance recital this past weekend.

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Preschool didn't do it to me this year, but dance sure did. Being backstage and then watching their show, with their little costumes and the makeup and that HAIR and those grins and all those little attempts at dancing DID ME IN. ALL the feels, that's for sure.

I'm not sure how to explain it exactly, besides this that I jotted down as part of a writing exercise yesterday:

It's strange to be the one behind the curtain. Tears spring to my eyes. They're equal parts sad and happy; both mourning that my time is over (does that sound selfish?) while also feeling so full that my proud mama heart could burst. Wasn't I the one out there just yesterday? And yet look at them, these babies, in their tutus and their bowties and their makeup. It's the beginning of the story for them. They're ready for the magic and the beauty of it all.

I take out my phone from my back pocket as they watch the dancers before them, captivated. I take a few photos and pray one turns out in the dim light. A behind-the-scenes photo of the next generation. Maybe they'll be the ones backstage with tears in their eyes someday.

As of now, Caden isn't sure he wants to continue next year. He loved the costumes and the stage but hasn't been too fond of the actual classes the past few months. He's thrown out trying everything from hockey to gymnastics to focusing on swimming next year. Then he caught my attention yesterday morning when he said that maybe he does want to dance next year, after all.

Of course, I kind of hope he does. If nothing else, Brooklyn will continue on, and I'm so glad we had at least one recital with them together.

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Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything (okay, you won't see any mystery or sci-fi picks on here), watching things that make me think and especially if they make me laugh, and wholeheartedly embrace the podcast. I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening. Here's my two cents worth.

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READ

Other People's Houses
I LOVED this book. It was funny and irreverent, serious and observational. It made me laugh out loud several times - which books don't usually make me do. This book was a somewhat satirical take on modern suburban life, parenting, and marriage focused on the friendship dynamics of a group of neighborhood friends. I'd call it a perfect "beach read": easy to read, funny as hell, and with a bit of a bite.

On Writing
If you're a writer, you need to read this book. Part memoir, part writing manifesto, Stephen King describes both his path and success as a writer and offers writing tips. He touches on everything from grammar to the editing process all interwoven with personal anecdotes. While I found some of his approaches basically impossible in my current season of life (I believe six hours is the number he suggests for reading and writing each day), I understand the purpose behind them. I borrowed this from the library but will be purchasing my own copy to read and re-read each and every year.

This is How it Always Is
The mother in this book was everything to me. Fierce, intelligent, and protective, this novel is all about secrets, family, and the lengths we go to protect those we love. Both Rosie (the mother) and her husband Penn have an intense love for their family of boys, and this novel details their story when the youngest defines himself as transgender. It was a beautiful look at the support a family offers their LGBT child without ending in complete tragedy. 

Britt-Marie Was Here
After Beartown, I put my name on the list for every one of Fredric Bachman's books at the library. This one didn't quite do it for me. What kept me turning (er-swiping) each page was my desire for Britt-Marie to succeed. I found the ending a bit disappointing and the characters fell flat for me. I also had a hard time getting into the setting. Maybe I sound crazy, but I could never quite picture it in my head so I had a hard time really getting into the book. 

Americanah
I wanted to love this book. Ifemelu moves from the chaos of Nigeria to the United States, away from her home and her boyfriend, Obinze, where she starts a successful blog with observations on race in America. I was left wanting...more. I wanted more of Ifemelu, more about her blog. I felt like much of her personal journey and work was glossed completely over. A lot of the book was filled with diatribes on race disguised as dinner party conversation. The dialogue was bizarre to me. While I agreed with many of the points and appreciated the observations and opinions on race in America (and elsewhere), I'm not sure a novel was the best place to do so. To me it felt like an lengthy op-ed disguised as a novel for much of the book.

Everybody, Always
Bob Goff fangirl over here! *raises hand* This book is filled with joy and wisdom and basically charges us to love everyone. What if we spent our lives loving people, even (especially) the difficult ones? His personal stories range from hilarious to unbelievable to flat-out difficult. I find myself thinking about how I can "become love" to specific people or in specific moments, as he so often does in the book. I will come back to this book again and again.

WATCHED

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
The comedians in this show are just as hilarious as the title itself. Jerry Seinfeld drives around with famous comedians and they, well, get coffee. Most of the episodes are a quick watch (20 minutes or less) that Tyson and I find ourselves reaching for on the evenings we're plain old tired. A couple of our favorite episodes have been with Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah.

The Big Sick
So good! We're not big movie people but I'd heard friends rave about this one and I loved it. Funny and touching, it details comedian Kumail Nanjiani's real-life meeting and courtship of his wife Emily. There's disapproving family (Kumail is Muslim, Emily is white), a mysterious illness resulting in a medically induced coma, and comedy throughout. Do it like we did: order take-out, cue it up on Netflix, and make it a date night in.

LISTENED

It's been a struggle for me to keep up with my regular podcasts lately, but I enjoyed this episode from Coffee + Crumbs on meal planning, this one from Jen Hatmaker on a mom spreading love and hugs to the LGBTQ community, and giving more love to Jen for her interview with the Pantsuit Politics ladies in this episode.

Note: any links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links.