Friday, July 29, 2011

Have Kids, Will Travel

My parents are headed to Savannah with my niece and nephew in tow, and I feel my anxiety level building by the minute. With four kids in five years, my life is inevitably really loud and fairly chaotic. I mean, I'm no Octomom or anything, but you can imagine three boys wrestling while an 18-month-old tries to get in an ankle bite is a tad stressful. Thankfully I can bear fun-filled chaos and really only start to feel my sanity slip away when whining and fighting dominate the day's background noise.

My parents, on the other hand, rather enjoy their quiet, wrestle-free existence, and I can't say I blame them. My dad more than paid his dues when he raised a son and a headstrong daughter who spent the first nine years following her parents' divorce being pissed off at the world, and I can vouch for the fact that my stepmom brought up two quiet, calm kids. My stepbrother isn't afraid to speak his mind but does so in a very level-headed, diplomatic kind of way, and my stepsister is a soft-spoken mom balancing a nursing job with raising two very cute kids. Her kids, however, tip the scales of calmness in a decidely different direction than my zoo crew.    

So needless to say, I'm anxious to see how this whole scenario pans out. I will relish having a house full of noise, but my parents may have to hide out on my back porch in order to stave off anything from migraines to panic attacks. I really hope my stepmom is bringing some bourbon in case of emergencies. I've always said there really is no way to explain the phenomenon of three boys in three years to an outsider, but I truly hope that in staying with us, my parents get to see the fun nuances of our lives. Each of my kids is such a beautiful little enigma, and I want now more than ever for all of their grandparents to appreciate that in them. Living far away from family means that there is less time for them to absorb all of the joy that comes from watching my kids grow. I really hope the noise doesn't drown out the unique splendor of living in a house full of aspiring greatness. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sleep? Is That Like a Necessary Thing?

Coffee has been a truly essential part of my life since 2004. Before I graduated to the hard stuff, I recall choking back gas station cappuccino in college and thinking I had a pretty hard lot life because I had to stay up three nights in a row every time midterms or finals rolled around.

Little did I know that true sleep deprivation takes place slowly over time. It's not a three day caffeine bender followed by two days of sleeping till noon and then partying like a rock star to celebrate the end of the semester. It's a tedious chipping away of your sanity. It's kid puke in the middle of the night. It's a toddler in tears at four a.m. because she peed out of her diaper and woke up cold and cranky. It's bad dreams, requests for water, and cries of I'm hot! I'm cold! It's dark! I'm scared!

For the past three nights, it's been an 18-inch sliver of space for my slumber. I use the term slumber very loosely. Picture me teetering on the edge of one side of the mattress with a hot, restless (albeit cuddly) little monkey glued to my back. Picture a beautiful but inaccessible oasis of space in the middle of the bed and then a five-year-old just beyond that area who is determined to shove my husband off the other side of the bed.

We decided long ago to let our kids into our bed if they ever wandered in because Jason wanted them to feel like they could come to us for comfort when they needed it. I don't disagree with that sentiment to this day, but I don't think we knew we would have four kids when we made that call. We certainly never anticipated we would have two in the bed more than one or two nights in a row. In fact, it's actually unusual for us to have that situation for three nights straight.

Maybe this is my grown-up version of midterms (except now I chug Maxwell House Columbian roast in the mornings instead of gas station French vanilla cappuccino in the middle of the night). Maybe there is a celebration of some sort looming aroud the corner. Only instead of celebrating the end of the semester, we're celebrating a good night's sleep (which these days falls under the "at least five hours" category). Instead of sleeping till noon, we'll let the kids play computer games when they wake up, and we'll sleep till 8:00 a.m. (True rebellion for thirty-something parents.) Rather than partying like rock stars with kegs at the nearest frat house, we'll party like rock stars with movie night and Diet Dr. Pepper. It will be epic. Trust me, the world isn't ready for that level of debauchery.   

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why? Why? Why?

I am working hard to get into the minds of my children as they plague me with a variety of the persistent questions beginning with the word "why?" I welcome the word when it is followed by innocent, inquisitive words like "did The Fresh Beat Band get a new Marina?" But as they get older their questions get harder. I had to explain cancer last week, and their devoted prayers to baby Wynn McBrayer have opened up a great deal of questions about life and death and why God just won't make that sweet boy's arteries grow. Some questions I don't have answers for, but I always try to be honest and admit when I don't know.

Some days the "why" is an endless, annoying, whiny, high-pitched tirade of "why does he get more computer time? Why does he get juice first? Why does Scout get to stay up while we're resting? Why are boogers sometimes brown?" Sometimes when I offer them bonus points for picking up toys, I'm presented with the question, "Why does he get to pick up more toys than me?" Seriously? Five seconds ago you were throwing a tantrum because I asked you to pick up any toys, and now you want to file a complaint about being denied the right to pick up more?

My solution is usually to usher them off to their beds for some much needed rest and regrouping while I tend to Scout or relish in the all-too-short moments of quiet. As I sit here, I have my own list of "whys" I would present to the world if it was still permissable and socially acceptable for me to adopt a childish disposition. Assuming you'll play along with me and indulge me to pretend such is the case, here is a list of my questions. Imagine them spoken in a frustrated tone that fully conveys the injustice I feel.

1. Why do I provide my daughter with a delicious lunch followed by S'mores Goldfish only to have her methodically feed them one by one to the dog?

2. Why did God choose to give me such a big mouth that all too often has one or more of my feet shoved into it?

3. Why didn't my husband and I come up with the solution of a secret signal when my filter starts to fail years ago? I could have been spared so much embarrassment. (I can't reveal our new trick for fear you guys will catch on while we're in the middle of a conversation.)

4. Why does my husband have better hair (and eyelashes) than I do? Such a waste. I mean, he can't even put mascara on. Well, I guess he could if it was Halloween or he was living a double life as a tranny. Maybe I can convince him to try it out just one time to satisfy my envious curiosity.

5. Why can't someone invent some kind of cream or non-invasive procedure that restores pre-pregnancy boobs? I'm just saying. Potential millions to be made, people.

6. Why do I always, always, always have some disgusting, sticky, unidentifiable food substance in my hair at all times? Seriously, I've ceased to be embarrassed about it when people point it out. Maa...that's just ravioli again.

7. Why can't it be automatic for mommies to accept playdate invitations to the pool or beach with a "Yes, I'm attending, and I'll be wearing a modest tank suit today." This declaration could spare mommies who dared to bare the shameful title of Hooker Mom in a Bikini. Thank goodness my closest friends and I have developed a rapport that warrants this information essential and provides it without fail or judgment. I have gladly donned my two-piece in order to save a friend's dignity when she found herself swimming in a pool full of tank suits AND one full coverage surf suit.

Tomorrow will bring on another onslaught of whys from my little ones, and I'll tell you I'm secretly glad to be able to respond. What a joy it is for me to have their trust and desire for my opinion. I hope my relationships with them remain strong and honest as they grow because I know their questions for me (and my questions for myself) will only get harder as the years progress. What is your "why" question today? I would love for you to share.