One of the hardest things about parenting is the constant observation. My 30s are really all about me having essentially no idea who I am and trying to figure out who I am, trying to reconcile the 20s me with some imaginary future responsible adult me. Why this coincides with parenthood I have no idea. But I do think a journey of self discovery has got to be easier without a 2-year-old asking, “What, Mommy? What happened? Why did you slam on the brakes?” or “But why did you hit your toe on the chair leg?” or “Why are you trying on all your pants to see if any of them fit today?”
The other day Dave took the boys to the beach, so I took advantage of being almost alone to blitz clean the house (yes, that’s right, me time now means all I want to do is clean – sometimes the future adult responsible me comes to visit). A sweet 4-year-old girl from the roving neighborhood posse chose that time to want to play with Henry. When I told her he wasn’t home, she proceeded to stand on my front stoop and stare into my house. I continued on my cleaning flurry, but it certainly wasn’t helped by this little observer elf standing at my door, occasionally calling out my name as I ran by with a load of laundry (“No, honey, Henry’s not back yet, you’re standing right there on the stoop, don’t you think you’d see him if he walked in?”). I know she’s only 4 and doesn’t understand that this was my only time all week in my own head but for pete’s sake LEAVE ME ALONE. Of course I didn’t say any of this but just let it fester inside until she inexplicably decided to ring my doorbell and run away which caused me to do my best unintentional impression of an insane angry lady, running out the door and yelling, “Don’t do that! It’s not funny! You may think Ding Dong Dash is funny, but it’s not!” (Yes, I’m considering the possibility that I could do the impression of the angry lady because I am the angry lady.) But really, why can’t she go watch her own mother for a change?
Today was a day when Henry whined about nothing for 20 minutes, and then at Minute 19 Eli would start whining, and back and forth so it was this completely seamless whine. It was a lot of whining about stuff that didn’t make any sense to me, like Henry seriously sitting on the counter with tears in his eyes because the “water is going away” in his oatmeal. “Yes, honey, that’s because it’s oatmeal. That’s what happens – the oats absorb the water and make oatmeal!” Henry: “Now the water’s! all! gone!” “Yes, honey, that means it’s DONE! Now it’s OATMEAL! YAY!” Then some sobbing from Henry. (They’ve slept enough, but were probably hungry, and Dave’s out of town, which always makes them tweaky.)
From 10 to 11 Eli whined constantly and I have no idea what he was saying. I kept trying to calmly say, “I can’t understand you when you whine” and he kept at it. I think he was actually saying something about how he can’t talk any other way. Then Dave called, and of course Unavailable On-the-Phone Mom totally pushed him over the edge, and he started shrieking, finally culminating in him starting to pummel me, which apparently made him feel much better because then he started to laugh hysterically. Kids are such noxious balls of emotion sometimes I don’t know whether to run, hug them, or spray them with cleanser.
So I did what any self-respecting mom would do. I said, “Do you want a brownie?” and after a skeptical, “What’d you say?” he heartily accepted and he ate it happily and I got some more school work done and now he’s lying happily on the rug listening to music and playing with his diggers.
Thank you, Target, for solving one of my more annoying organizing issues. I could not figure out what to do with the boys’ stuffed animals. It’s not like they have an outrageous number of them, but I could never figure out where to put them. They usually ended up on their bed, where I would carefully (why do I bother to do anything carefully?) arrange them, and they would all give up the ship and leap into the crack between the bed and the wall. I’d usually leave them there because, frankly, at least they were neatly shoved in the crack and weren’t making a giant mess in the center of the room like everything else does. But the boys do play with their animals a lot, and would often want one particular animal that was shoved way down deep on sedimentary layer #1. And really it wasn’t much of a system. I Googled for “stuffed animal storage systems” and didn’t really see anything that would work. It was a lot of nets that hung from the ceiling and would hold five bears, or giant bins (or huge-ass frog furniture things) (on second look I see that it’s not a frog but just a big green fuzzy thing, the giant bin is a frog, however) that would take up lots of floor space and which Henry and Eli would surely dump out (they’re big on dumping) and never, ever put away.
And then! Behold! Target! While wandering through the store yesterday with my usual random and disparate list, I came upon this rocket ship stuffed animal holder (I can’t find it on the website, you’ll just have to go to the store yourself if you want one – it was with the stuffed animals in the toy section). It had everything I wanted: hangs on the wall so it doesn’t take up floor space, is not dumpable, is cute (it kind of looks like something Haba would make and sell for $50), and the boys actually like putting their stuffed animals in it, because they can pretend they’re all on the way to the moon. And it only cost $9.99 (I had actually looked around our house for a solution because I’m trying not to buy things like this, but it was totally $9.99 well spent; I never would have been able to assemble anything that worked as well from our house castoffs).
On another Target note, while we were there, Zuzu started to cry and I wanted to nurse her. It suddenly occurred to me that there is absolutely no place to sit down in Target (except I guess for the dressing room?). I finally found a place in a display of a fake nursery. We climbed up on the little pedestal and I nursed her in the display glider. It’s nice they had it on display because it really wasn’t very comfortable and it would be good to know that before buying (though I suppose it would have been more comfortable if someone had finished assembling it – it was missing an arm, which was lying on the floor next to it). No one seemed to care that I was putting myself on display while breastfeeding, but then at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday every other single person in Target is a mother with a 2-year-old and an infant, so they were probably just annoyed that I situated myself in the pretend nursery before they did.
While sneaking chocolate chips in the kitchen today, one fell out of my hand and rolled into the dining room, landing at Eli’s feet. Which pretty much blew my cover.
The Bad Seed is back. Two days ago he was riding his scooter around my driveway (scooter? that’s what those things are called, right? the two-wheeled skateboardy thing with a big handle?) (worst description of an object ever, sorry). I gave him stinkeye the whole time, and Henry very helpfully told him, “I’m not allowed to play with you ever again for the rest of my life!” To Bad Seed’s credit, he burst out laughing, and in a good-natured “kids say the darndest things” way, not in an evil “bwa ha ha ha” way.
But then yesterday he actually rang my doorbell and asked if he could come over and play. I said, “No, Henry needs a snack” which makes little to no sense but I decided that Bad Seed is just a kid and so maybe it’s not nice to say, “Hell, no, and never ever again you little twerp.”
Right before school started, I suddenly got a bee in my bonnet about plastic baggies and not wanting to use them. Of course once I looked there are a ton of people on Etsy making their own fabric baggies. I got some from Gnomeclothes because they are all cotton fabric (no vinyl – it seemed a bit counterproductive to go to the effort of ditching plastic only to use vinyl). I was also kind of skeptical – could these keep the snacks fresh? It’s been a few weeks now, and I went back and got more. I love them! They are adorable, and it sort of makes each lunch like it’s filled with little presents (though the first day Eli opened his lunch, he said, “What’s in here? Oh! It’s a SHIRT!”). And I feel much better not using plastic bags. I did have some small plastic containers that I was using, but you can fit things into the lunchboxes much better with flexible bags than with hard containers. I have some of the Gnomeclothes baggies that close with Velcro, some that fold over like the old-style plastic sandwich bags, and some sandwich wraps (which fold all around the sandwich (or whatever) and close with Velcro.
I need to look in the mirror more often. Or realize that if I put my hair in a ponytail bun at night, before bed, in the dark, and then sleep with it, that in the morning I will not look like Helena Bonham Carter in A Room with a View. Even if it feels like it looks soft and romantic. Instead, it’s really just lopsided and sloppy. The look will say something more like Exhausted Psychopath.
Taking Charge by Sonia Levitin, illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith
This is one of those children’s books where the author clearly understands kids (and sort of makes me feel like I don’t). I like the book ok, and I think it’s a nice story, but there’s something about it which seems to resonate deeply with my boys and their friends. It’s the story of Amanda and her family who live about a hundred years ago or so (more? I’m not good at that kind of thing). Their grandmother has an accident and the mother goes to take care of her, leaving Amanda in charge of chores and of her littlest brother, Baby Nathan. Baby Nathan continually gets into good-natured trouble, and Amanda is exhausted trying to deal with him. Finally she makes him a boy doll and a horse doll, and those keep him occupied so that she can get things done. Throughout, there’s also the thread of Amanda not wanting to ask for help, of proving she’s responsible enough to handle it all, until finally she’s faced with a situation where she has to ask for help. I don’t know if it’s the kid-in-charge aspect which speaks to the boys, or Baby Nathan’s misadventures, but they want to hear it again and again and again.
You’d think I’d have diapering down by the third kid. But who knew that diapering girls would be different than diapering boys? I kept using my standard modified tri-fold on Zuzu, and she was going through six outfits a day because she was peeing out of the diaper cover. With boys, you just make sure the business end is pointing into the cloth, and you’re all set. Didn’t realize that there was a seep issue with girls. So now I’ve changed my technique to the bikini twist (not sure why it’s called this, since it would make a mighty unattractive bikini) (not that any cloth diaper would be especially flattering as a swimsuit) and that seems to have solved our problems. Phew! I wasn’t ready to switch to disposables! But I also wasn’t loving the constant outfit changing.
A freshly-made bed has a lifespan of approximately three minutes in this house.