Shell of the person she once was

Everyone knows children change you. But in my case, I’m ruined. Ruined, I tell you!

Wanna know eight ways in which I am totally wrecked now that I have kids?

8. I can’t do just one thing at a time.
It’s simply not possible any more to just read or cook or go to the bathroom. I have to run over mental to-do lists and gauge how long I have before one of the children loses it while I try to read, and I must dodge in front of the baby to snatch whatever crumbs he finds while I try to cook food for the family plus several special requests for the older child. And the one time this week I went to the bathroom without holding someone, yelling at someone, listening carefully for someone, or preparing to go stop someone, I was done and washed in 30 seconds flat. I used to use the office restroom as my locked-door-where-nobody-can-see-me-close-my-eyes-and-breathe-for-ten-seconds haven. Now I hold my breath and rush through so often that force of habit made me miss this week’s only solo effort.

7. I can’t ignore bugs.
I’m not a bug person. I paid my brother to collect bugs for me when Biology class mandated a bug murder-and-display project. But now that I have children I can’t let a bug go by without stooping down to check it out, point out its details, and wonder about its diet. Sometimes Peanut asks about a bug, but more often I’m distracting one or both boys from all manner of childish b.s. and need to point them to something unusual. So critters who used to make me shudder are now members of my emergency “please-let-me-make-it-through-today-and-I’ll-give-money-to-local-entomologists” toolkit.

6. I have amazing biceps.
Two children with long-term separation anxiety issues equals 5 years of lifting heavy weights. They don’t fit with the rest of my body at all, so I’m freakishly distorted now (aside from the typical post-pregnancy distortions none of which have I escaped).

5. I can’t see a garbage truck without looking around excitedly for a child.
It doesn’t even matter if I’m away from my own children. When I see or hear a garbage truck I get all frenzied hoping I can make someone appreciate this amazing (huh?), unusual (what?), scintillating (who are you?) sight.

4. Slightly more embarrassing is my new, post-child reaction to fire engines.
I grin and wave and talk excitedly about the differences between a pumper, tiller rig, rear-mount aerial ladder, and snorkel truck. Last week I went for a walk without the boys and realized only when I saw the reactions from the firefighters that I was waving and smiling while completely alone.

3. Clients seem a lot more reasonable.
After negotiating cataclysms in which sandwiches were cut rather than left whole, adults removed shoes from a comfortably shod child, protein is poison and little bodies claim to need only sugar to survive, and waitstaff are tipped heavily for the mounds of food on the floor beneath high chairs, clients who want a quicker turnaround or want additional iterations seem downright fair even when they don’t say, “please.”

2. I can’t vacuum without warning the household, even if I’m alone.
Every child goes through vacuum issues. Mine adore the vacuum and fight over who gets to be held aloft to steer with me. If I ever turn on the vacuum without making sure its dance card is properly allocated, I don’t hear the end of it for days. So I warn the cat about the noise and ask who wants to help. Even if it’s 11:00pm and nobody around me cares.

Everything is different now, but the biggest change, the most significant reason I am ruined now that I’ve had children:

1. I cannot pass by even one festive decoration without stopping and grinning. I didn’t even know I had it in my heart that is two sizes too small, but I’m fascinated and entranced by twinkly lights. Glitter makes me giggle. Streamers lighten my day. And its all their fault. As infants they made me look up. As toddlers they made me explain why. And as adults, they’re gonna pay.

Because I’m wrecked. They’ve ruined me.

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Twilight zone parenting

You know the ads make it look so cute. Babies make every scene adorable. Preschoolers make every moment lovable. Together they warm hearths and hearts.

So I was in potential heaven this weekend. In the kitchen, baking my favorite chocolate cake recipe for my mom’s birthday, listening to “Wait…Wait…Don’t Tell Me” on the radio. Gorgeous day outside, decent night of sleep…you get the picture.

Except that at each key moment in the broadcast, Peanut pushed a button on some infernal singing toy that blasted crappy kids’ music over the top of a clever and topical NPR rejoinder. And each time I measured and poured, the baby nursing in my sling reached out of his faux sleep to grab a fistful of goop.

The zen that used to be cooking, as most parents can attest, is now the zen of cooking and listening and showing and sharing and cooking and observing and correcting and cleaning and cooking and listening and ignoring and pretending and listening and watching and for god’s sake not blinking and sighing and listening and explaining and spilling and cursing and apologizing and crying and drinking.

Or something like that.

Turn your head and laugh

For the first time in a long while, my Monday jaunt to the local produce mecca was a solo venture. I usually walk or run there, with at least one child, so I’m limited in time and volume—I can only buy what I can bring home in the stroller and only what I can grab before one or both lose their patience with obscure veggies.

So I brought home a lot more than I normally would have, including selections from the bulk bins. Grains, beans, nuts. And I let Peanut try several before dinner. Raw peanuts, spicy pumpkin seeds, tamari sunflower seeds, cinnamon almonds.

And while I washed and peeled and cored and sliced, P was making a mess.

“Peanut, please, please, please. I know you’re a wiggly guy, but can you please eat and then go play? It’s important to me that you don’t play with your food because of the mess it makes.”

“Mom, it’s just really important to me that I play with my nuts. Because it’s important to me.”

I did a double take before I realized he meant the almonds.

I know that some day soon (next year, according to a mom with three boys) he will mean what I thought he meant. Until then, I still laughed really hard. Because I am a fourth grade boy at heart.

Where does he get this?

If any of you are responsible for the following, please let me know. You’re not in trouble. I just have no idea from whence sprang these delightful additions to his four-year-old repertoire:

“Mama, want to see my new axe?”
“You have an axe?”
“Yeah! Come on!” He takes me to the living room where he upends his scooter, spins the front wheel and holds a one-inch plastic firefighter hatchet to it.
“I just need to sharpen it so I can you.”

In the middle of a conversation, he checked his naked wrist and said, “If you’ll excuse me I have to catch a bus.”

He has proclaimed that we need to play “Safety!” From what I have gathered from days of changing rules, safety means we need to rescue something. From imminent danger. Often by squirting pretend poison on it. Maybe it should be called “Safety: as seen from the quarterback’s perspective”?

I’m pretty sure the preschool isn’t modeling axe sharpening. Squirting poison to save something is not in any of our books. And I genuinely can’t remember the last time I excused myself from a conversation to catch a bus.

Where is this kid getting this stuff? I don’t even have tv as an excuse. His British accent is from Kipper. His Southern accent is from a trip to his great aunt’s. But wtf is up with the grinding stone, poison-based rescue, and interrupting bus schedule?

Repost: Laws of Motion, Child Sized Version

(repost, as in “to post again,” not as in “offensive follow-up to a parry,” of musings from February 2009)

First Law: net inertia. Subjects at rest tend to stay at rest until you settle in. Then they spring into action, usually of the death-defying (or at least social-convention-defying) sort. Conversely, subjects in motion will tend to stay in motion until such time as you enjoy their motion. Then they will stop.

Second Law: F=ma. The relationship between the force needed to cajole a small person into even the most pleasant task is Force=(minutes needed to perform task without small children)x(age, in years, you feel after the task is complete). Exempli gratia, force required to put on child’s shoes=(.25)x(57)=14. Units may vary. 14 minutes, 14 different techniques, 14 different pair before they finally agree to leave one on, 14 threats to leave without said child if they don’t put on their flipping shoes NOW…

Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You get dressed, they glitter paint the cat. You prepare breakfast, they remove all the tape flags from your research books. You strike up a conversation with the clerk at the market, they strip down naked and run away laughing.

You don’t see how those are equal and opposite? You must possess logic and reason, then. Ah. You must not have children.

When are the robots coming?

Seriously, a robot could do this job.

I will soon be replaced by an old school tape recorder…each morning press the button and hear:

Good morning sweet thing…Peanut, honey, that voice is a little loud for so early. Can you please…honey, please be gentle with the cat. Peanut, furniture is not for banging…Please brush your teeth. Please put down the seat.

Please eat your breakfast. Honey, that’s what you asked me to make, so eat it or make your own breakfast. Babe, please keep the food on your plate not in your hair. Please face your food. Please put your legs under the table and face your food. If you’re done, get down. Peanut, playing with your food means you’re done, so please get down…Okay, then eat…Fine. Get down….Then EAT!

Please get your clothes. You’re right…don’t get your clothes. I’m faster at getting clothes so I’ll just go get them for you…what? You’ll do it? No way. Please don’t dress yourself or I’ll get so, so, so angry. Oh, dear, no…. Love, you need a jacket. Fine, don’t wear it, but choose one just in case.

Sweetie, whistles and megaphones are outside toys. So are bicycles. So is that fishing pole and hockey stick. Would you like help choosing an inside toy? Please come outside if you’re going to throw the ball; in the house we roll balls. We roll balls inside, P. Peanut! Roll the ball or go outside, those are your choices.

P, jumping off the couch is okay, but jumping off the cat tree is not. Sweetness, please listen to me: that is not safe. If you jump off the cat tree you will get hurt. I’m not going to say it again…I’m sorry you got hurt, but I told you not to do that. Mommies know what can hurt you. We make rules to keep you safe not to irritate you. Yes, I know rules are irritating. So is enforcing rules.

Please eat your food. Please face your food. Please stop that. Please help me. Please listen. Please wash your hands. Please put that away. Please stop yelling. Please answer me. Please listen. Please answer me. Please listen. Please answer me. Please eat your food. Please face your food. Please make better choices. Please…ppppppplllllllzlzzzzz rhskf kdmnewik sdofnm rrr rojmksdfnk r r r …

Even the damned tape recorder broke doing that shit every day.

you and me both, buddy

Me: Peanut, please take off your clothes for bath.

M: Pea, it’s bath time. Please take off your clothes.

M: Peanut. You’re in the bathroom with your clothes on. What’s the deal? I’m asking you patiently. Please take off your clothes.
P: Mommy? You’re boring.
M: You mean it’s boring to hear the same words over and over.
P: Yup.
M: Well, gotta tell you, bud. It’s boring to say something over and over. Tell you what. You listen the first time, and I won’t have to say it again.
P: That’s still boring.
M: Well, you’ve got me there, buddy. Having rules and being clean and getting naked is boring.
P: No it’s not! Watch! Naked is fun.

Holy handful, batboy!

Oh, boy, do we have a handful and a half living in our house.

Thankfully, the past few weeks have been quite enjoyable. Sure, we’ve had age-appropriate struggles and nonsense and frustrations, but totally in proportion to what normal children dish out. Nothing like the batshit insane we often endure (barely) here at Chez Nap (see for instance the popular posts that involve my child being a bit off-the-charts in general), or that they have handled for many more moons over at Bad Mommy Moments.

This weekend, when gently instructing Peanut on the reasons we do not jump on the furniture in our house, he told me, “Don’t worry about me, Mommy. Just worry about yourself.” I usually give a gentle but firm lecture about respect and ways that we talk to other people before leaving the room to laugh my ass off, but I didn’t make it. I burst out giggling, and then called Spouse over for a conference. I had heard those words before. Directly out of my alleged partner’s mouth. So that Peanut announcement, though saucy, was not entirely his fault.

Today, though, while we were climbing at best of the neighborhood’s awesome rock parks, he told me, “Look, Mom, I’m almost four and that’s older than you, so just climb your rock and let me do my day.”

Um….so torn…want you to grow up. Dig the independence. Absolutely groove on you pushing back. But dude? That rock is several stories high, and covered in moss and rain. Also? I’d leave you here in a heartbeat after a comment like that if I hadn’t already invested quite a bit of care and hypervigilance and patience and reason and what was left of my sanity over the past few years. If you didn’t have so damned much Mama Equity in you, you’d be on your own.

So instead I played along. “Well, yes, almost-four is older than almost-forty, so you’d better go to college and get a job and find an affordable house and get a mortgage and pay your way, because otherwise, I’m gonna be the boss for a few more years.”

His answer? Predictably: “Just worry about yourself, Mom. Don’t worry about me.” Would that such a thing were possible, dude. Before we left for the rock park, I was thinking “four down, twenty to go.” But we all know I won’t stop worrying (or butting in) after another 20 years. Sweat equity, patience capital, and sanity stakeholding and all.

Arsenic and old babies

Peanut: I’m eating the apple and the seeds.
Me: I wouldn’t eat the seeds if I were you, P.
P: Why?
M: Because they concentrate arsenic, a yucky chemical that can hurt your body. Eating one seed won’t matter, but don’t try to eat them, please.
P: Why?
M: Not good for your body.
P: [pause] Maybe we could name the baby Arsenic.
M: It’s a nice word, isn’t it?
P: Yeah. Can we name the baby that?
M: Probably not, P, because I want to name the baby something nice, not something that will hurt people.
P: Why?
M: Well, when the baby is little, we don’t want people to worry that it might hurt them, and when its big we don’t want people to worry that it might hurt them. Arsenic can hurt you, so nice word but not a great name.
P: Can we name the baby Hitting?
M: That’s a little more direct than arsenic, but no.
P: Why?
M: Nice names, not hurting names.
P: Maybe we could name the baby Pretend Hitting.
M: Maybe.

This week in mass confusion

Peanut: Mommy, I’m making duds. Do you know what a “dud” is?
Me: Something that doesn’t work?
P: No. Something that works really well. Not “dud.” “Duds.”

later…

P: Mommy, do you know what “mashed” means?
M: Smushed?
P: No. Something that is really working. Mashed. Really working well.

later…

P: I’m doing a mash.
M: Oh. Does that still mean you’re doing something well?
P: Yup. It’s so mashed it’s not going to be terribled.

Oh my heavens, I think my many careers in words and wordsmithing might be over. Clearly I don’t understand words as well as I think I do.

Dear chemists…

I’d like to request a baby shampoo feature, my chemist friends.

Would you please find a way, between the chemical-free, safe, healthy, organic, SLS-free, all-natural shampoos in phthalate-free bottles and the chemical-filled, fragranced, toxic, cancer-causing shampoos in BPA-enhanced bottles, to create one that keeps small children from screaming as though their heads have been severed whenever said shampoo is applied?

We’ve tried Little Twig, California Baby, Nature’s Baby, Jason Organics, Dr. Bronner’s, and (on vacation) Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. All must have lye and sulfuric acid as hidden, secret government-mind-control ingredients, for my son screams as though the skin is being burned from his scalp. Even before it touches his head. That’s some strong acid.

While you’re at it, chemical wizards, could you work on the water, too? We have the same problem with any water applied to the child’s cranial area.

Please do not suggest that the problem is with the child. This is America. We solve our problems with technology and ingenuity, damnit, not with behavioral shifts.

Thanks for your better living through chemicals, y’all. Glad I could come to you with this issue and know you can apply your knowledge, skills, and multinational conglomeration dollars to saving our ear drums, heartstrings, and sanity.

Toodles.

Dr. Jekyl and Ms. Hyde

Today’s installment of awesome mom/terrible mom:

Peanut: Mommy, get this damned thing out of my way!
Me: Well, you put that damned thing there, so you move it out of your own damned way.
P: Oh. Yeah. [moves the damned thing and goes about his business.]

My New Year’s resolutions were going to be to let him handle more himself and to swear more. Looks like I have both covered.

Full of surprises.

The days I expect to go by without incident are constant battles of spirited-intense-intelligent-feisty small-person will versus spirited-intense-intelligent-feisty parent will. Hell on wheels trying to be gentle and only rarely succeeding is the baseline around here.

But when I think things *should* be tough Peanut makes me laugh and relax (as he did last year when we spent eight hours shopping in a holiday marathon totalling more than the rest of the year combined, and today when we needed extra supplies for tomorrow’s bake-fest of multiple goodies) He’s patient when I least expect it; giving, sweet, and loving not necessarily when i need it, but when I really appreciate it.

I laughed at several proclamations in the car and stores today, surrounded as we were by people trying their best to cram 4,000 things into their day, and doing a pretty poor job of holding it together—including “I want to have pfefferneuse every day if it has protein!” and “don’t worry, Mommy, if they don’t have healthy rice cereal we can make the cookies out of healthy oatmeal.”

My favorite, though, which had other people in the way overcrowded supermarket laughing:
P: I see candy corn!
M: Yes.
P: I think I want some.
M: Not today.
P: Well, for Halloween.
M: Halloween is 10 months away, so we’re set on candy corn for now.
P: 10 months?!?!?
M: Yup.
P: I can wait.

Take that, parenting experts

Let’s not bandy about the word precocious. Let’s not say anything about the apple falling from the tree. Let’s just say you parenting dorks and your stupid games are making me feel like an ass.

Me: Hey! I just heard that all the animals in the zoo are out roaming around and they’re hiding in someone’s mouth! Let me use your toothbrush to check your mouth to see if they’re in there.
Peanut: Mommy, we don’t put animals in our mouths because they have germs that can make us feel crummy. And did you know this? We use our eyes to look and sometimes a telescope.

Next day
Spouse: Gee, I can’t remember how to brush my teeth. Peanut, can you come in here and help me? I don’t know how to do this.
Peanut: Daddy, you went to college. You know how. And I saw you brushing today. Are you telling me a true story?

Next day
Me: Hmm. I’m feeling pretty fast today. I wonder if I can brush m teeth faster than you!
P: Mommy, we don’t brush quickly. We brush carefully. Are you feeling careful today?

Good luck, my friends who are in labor even as we speak. This might be genetic.

Happy Halloween

P: [standing in doorway with blank look]
M: What do you say?
P: [whispers] Happy Halloween
M: [loudly, beaming] Yes, Happy Halloween.
P: [now ready for a full discussion with candy-wielding stranger] And Happy Mommy and Daddy Home Day. And Grandma’s coming, too.
Candy Stranger: Here you go. Happy Halloween.
P: Thank you.
M: Great job, bug.
P: Why they no say you welcome? Are they not nice?

sigh.

Happy Candy Day, everyone!