Mother Road Warrior

DSC00604That’s right, I’m not afraid of a little snow.  I just returned from a harried, slippery, 4-wheel drive jaunt to the High School.

Real clothes?  Who needs them.  I’ve got my kid’s student council sweat shirt,  complete with coffee splash, to keep me warm.  Bedhead? Check.  Bra? For the weak.  Travel coffee mugs are for wimps.

My sixteen-year-old daughter’s assessment of my “First Snowy Day” look?

“Poor White Trash Clown”

Glad the car didn’t break down.

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Five Times My Kids Made Me Cry…Incident #5

This incident involves all five children in a craven act of destruction and sibling solidarity.  It also involves me and the telephone – a bad combination when paired with parenting.

It was an ordinary day.  I sent the children to the basement to play while I cleaned up lunch. Sometimes it’s lonely in Mommy Land so I decided to call my friend for a few minutes of adult conversation.  I guess I lost track of time.  It was getting along towards nap time and I hadn’t seen or heard a kid for a while. Better check on them.  With my friend still on the line, I went down the basement stairs and landed in three inches of standing water.  I’m not sure, but I think my friend heard my scream without the aid of the telephone.

The children, squealing with glee, didn’t even see me. Two were having a water fight with bathroom cups. One lay with her arms and legs in the water doing the elementary back stroke.  One ran in from the other room, flying feet first through the air and landing with a splash on his butt.  And the final insult … one was sailing a boat.

The bathroom faucet was running full throttle with a sock plugging the drain.  Water spilled over the counter and into the hall.  Splash and play time! Who needs a water park when you can make one in your own in your basement?

Thankfully, their beds were above the water mark and they spent the afternoon on high ground.

Motherhood is filled with life lessons.  That day, I learned to use a shop-vac.

Five Times My Kids Made Me Cry…Incident #4

While on vacation this past week, my mother-in-law reminded me of this repressed memory.

One of the kids outgrew his shoes and needed a new pair. Grandma was out for a visit so we loaded up the kids in our 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon for a trip to the mall.  (The Vanagon alone is sufficient material for a future post. Stay tuned.)

I wheeled the baby and the two year-old in the double stroller and the other three kids, seven and under, held on the to sides of the stroller as we made our conspicuous way up the mall. The nice lady at the shoe store fit my six-year-old with a gleaming new pair of tennis shoes.

This intolerable turn of events was unacceptable to his four-year-old brother.  He took one look at his brother’s fantastic new sneakers and let out a howl that stopped the mall traffic in their tracks.  He proceeded to throw a screaming tantrum of epic proportions.

“ME get new shoes.  Me no WANT him’s old shoes  ME WANT NEW SHOES!!!!”

With the exit door in my sights, I continued my slow and steady procession towards the Vanagon.  I could see the glares, the shaking heads, the tsk-tsking in my peripheral vision.  I pressed on.  Finally, we made it to the parking lot.  As I strapped and buckled the kids into their assorted seats, I noticed the perp wearing one shoe.

“Where is your other shoe?”  I asked

“Me thwew it away” he said with pride

I refused to be defeated by this brilliant yet diabolical move.  I squealed the Vanagon around and sat rattling at the curb while Grandma entered the mall on a search and recovery mission.   She successfully secured the sneaker from the third canister.

This child is now 6’6″ and a college track athlete. He receives an endless supply of new athletic shoes which he frequently gives to his older brother, further proving that God has a sense of humor.

Five Times My Kids Made Me Cry…Incident #2

Syringe 5 with drops.

This one’s a doozy.

One morning, I returned home after a PRAYER MEETING (this fact gains significance after you hear what my kid did) to find my ten year-old daughter sitting on the couch.

“Where’s your brother?” I ask

“He’s out riding his scooter” she replies

I think this a bit strange as it was 40 degrees out and not the best scooter riding weather, but whatever… he’s a kid right?  So I go into the kitchen to do a little cleaning.  As I am taking out the trash, I see the scooter leaning against the wall in the garage.  Hmm.  I go back to the couch-sitting daughter.

“When did you last see your brother?” I ask

“I don’t know.”

Detective Mom springs into action. Let’s see, I left for my meeting at 8:30am, it was now 10:30am. That means he had been MIA for 2 hours.  I started to feel a little nervous and called the neighbors to see if he was there.  Nope.  I rode my bike around the neighborhood calling his name.  Nothing.  I called Hubby at the office.  After some heated deliberation, (my crying, him saying “he’ll turn up”) we decided to call the sheriff.

The deputy took a full description and requested a recent picture of our son. They instructed me to stay at home by the phone.  My neighbors and their kids took to their bikes scouring the neighborhood and nearby library.  My husband, dressed in his suit, walked the small paths in the woods as the police cruiser drove up through fields and open areas.

I sat on our front step, praying, trying not to imagine the worst.  In 1989, Jacob Wetterling was abducted while riding his bike in a town just north of us.  He was never found.  Jacob was eleven, our son had just turned twelve.  I felt a rising panic.  I didn’t want to become a news story.  After an agonizing two hours, the sheriff called.  They had spotted our son walking along the highway near our neighborhood.  He was on his way home. I cried with relief as the police car pulled into our driveway with our son in the back seat.

The story he gave us was that he had decided to go for a hike.  He planned ahead and packed his school back-pack full of water bottles. Hydration is important, right? After a stern lecture from the cop, yelling from Mom and Dad, laughter from the neighbors, and sneering from his sister, we resumed our daily life.

I returned to the kitchen and noticed my calendar, open on the counter. A large SHOTS with the perp’s initials was clearly written in for 1:00pm.  It was now 12:45pm and we could just make it.  As I mentioned this fact, the perp went ballistic.

“NO, NO!!! I DON’T WANT SHOTS!!! NOOOOOOOO”

Ah, now it all made sense.  He had hatched this diabolical, yet poorly executed plan to avoid getting his shots. Well, not on my watch, Mister.

I hauled his sorry little butt to the car and turned up the radio to drown out his cries. I dragged him through the lobby of the clinic and into the exam room, ignoring the wide-eyed stares of the other mothers.  I sat, reading a magazine, as he quivered and pleaded for mercy. Innocently, I asked if they had a few more shots they could give him.  Unfortunately, the perp was up to date.  Too bad.

This incident inspired me to form a new calendar code system.  Now, no one knows what’s about to happen but me.  It’s better this way.

Bringing Prohibition Back for the Holidays

Not alcohol prohibition – are you kidding?

A few years back, I proposed and miraculously implemented a cease and desist from all screen entertainment beginning with Thanksgiving Day and ending on New Years Eve.  When I say miraculously, I mean I got my husband to agree to it.  The kids, of course, violently opposed my proposition.

When I was in third grade, my parents built a small cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  Small is the operative word here. My dad was a man ahead (?) of his time when it came to TV.  He hated it.  He did everything he could to prevent us from watching it.  When they built the cabin in 1973, Dad insisted that it be TV and telephone free.  My sisters and I were allowed a record player; a concession my parents likely regretted due to our love for Donny Osmond. “Hey…there…lonely girl” 

As my children entered their teen years, I found it increasingly difficult to compete with the computer, cell phones or TV for family time.  There was always a game to watch, a message demanding an immediate response or a loud cable show making a grab for their attention. Being my father’s daughter, I blamed it all on the media and devised a plan to prohibit screen entertainment for the greater good of the family.  As I presented my case to my husband, I pulled out all the stops:  the kids are growing up; they will soon be gone; we won’t be able to get back the time; will we really remember all the sports games we watched together?  He’s a sentimental guy and had coincidentally (wink) just eaten his favorite dinner.  He agreed.

On the first Sunday afternoon of our Prohibition, they sat griping at each other.  My husband was actually experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, wringing his hands in the kitchen, not sure how to eat his sandwich without the soothing images of the gridiron. I suggested a card game and dove for the laundry room under a barrage of shouts and dirty looks.  It was ugly.

Eventually, their total boredom forced them to action.  After school, the kids began to grudgingly discuss their day and their homework.  The older ones advised the younger ones on techniques to master certain classes or assignments.  They got into baking and decorating Christmas cookies. They blew the dust off the board games and cracked the rule booklets. Shockingly, they completed a puzzle. We parents had time for a media-free glass of wine by the fire.

Lest you think I’m a complete tyrant, we did have some exceptions to our Prohibition.  Facebook/texts could be checked once a day for 10 minutes.  We watched our traditional movie on Christmas eve.  My husband listened to a football game or two on the radio as he did stuff around the house.

Do we do this every year? No. Will my children do this with their children?  That remains to be seen.

Halloween – Takin’ Care of Business

The arrival of Halloween signifies the formation of a temporary division within our family’s corporate structure – the Department of Candy Management and Distribution (DCMD for short).  I am the Executive Project Manager.  I work closely with my team of professionals to develop a strategic plan for the timely and effective distribution and reduction of seasonal candy acquisitions. The stakes are high; the family’s dental health hangs in the balance.

When I started in this position, my favored approach as the DCMD manager was to assume the role of the Candy Cop.  The Candy Cop rations candy to the team – one piece at a time, after meals and for quality job performances. As I gained valuable experience, I concluded that the job of Candy Cop was bunk.  All the whining, pleading and phony promises from the team led to disunity and strife.  To restore order, The Candy Cop was forced to cut off distribution, which in turn led to more whining, pleading and phony promises. The arrival of Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter (the Motherlode of Chocolate) reduced the Candy Cop’s effectiveness and increased the candy inventory resulting in even more whining, pleading and phony promises.  The temporary assignment morphed to a permanent, year-long position with hazardous job conditions. Not only was the Candy Cop crabby and irritable, but she was in grave danger of losing her girlish figure due to the hypnotically enticing aroma emitting from plastic Halloween buckets. It was often impossible to resist, especially during the day while the team was away at school.  Just ask the dog.

The team hard at work in the boardroom

Instead, as an experienced DCMD manager, I adopted a superior approach to the inventory reduction problem – the Feeding Frenzy. To speed up the process and reduce my numbers, I give the team (crazy-eyed sugar fiends) permission to eat all they want for one night only. Of course, I first take my cut. Almond Joys? Mine. Snickers Dark? Straight to the pocket. MilkyWay Midnights? Come to Mommy. After that, the team is free to cram any amount of candy into their gooey little mouths in the allotted amount of time.  All sorting, counting, and trading is permitted as I recline by the fire, sipping a hot beverage and enjoying the perks of management.

When bedtime arrives, it’s over.  The team stumbles off to the showers with instructions to brush their teeth and eat a Tums.  I sweep the up the remaining inventory, depositing all rejects and wrappers in permanent removal receptacles. I return to the couch. Another successful year with the DCMD. Belly aches are a small price to pay this kind of job satisfaction.