Holiday exhaustion

I’m not really sure what I’m doing awake right now (other than typing this) – because it’s a late, late 10:20pm and last night I was fast asleep by this time. I don’t really think I should be so tired – I mean, I’ve been getting a good 8 hours of sleep at night – oh no, wait, that is really a lie. How can it be good sleep when the 70-pound gorilla climbs in by midnight, blocking my ability to lie on my right side? (Well I could lie on my right but that risks getting my face hit once or twice throughout the night by a flailing arm.) And then, by 2 or 3 or even as late as 4:00 am, the curly-headed one patters up to the bed with his worn-out “blue blankie” and stands there breathing softly until I open an eye, squish the gorilla over as far as I possibly can to the right, and welcome “little man” on the left into the bed as well. Then for the next couple hours, I wake up intermittently wondering if I can still breathe….wondering if my arm is wet from sweat or if there was a pull-up malfunction on either side….wondering if it could please, please be time to get up because my back is killing me and I would like to just stretch a little bit. So…..even if it’s a good 8 hours in bed….it’s rarely a “good” 8 hours of sleep!

But most of my tiredness is the whole holiday weekend. There’s nothing like sugar and fun and anticipation and sugar and friends coming over and sugar and shorter naps and later nights and sugar to really throw everyone off.  I saw this photo on the “Proud Pretty much sums it up!Single Mother” Facebook page the other day and it made me smile. Sometimes I really feel this way – it’s been a long week at work, I can’t wait for Friday and a break….and then I remember….I’m a mom – the weekends are usually busier than the week – it’s 24/7 kids!

Weekends are also the time when it hits you that you’re “single” mom and that all the care of the kids falls on me. There’s no break from them from 6 am when the gorilla rolls over until 9 pm when the curly dude finally crashes. And when I spontaneously decide to do something – like take the boys down to an Easter Egg Hunt at my “home” church in Waynesburg – it’s all me (well, me and the very nice DVD player in the van!). And when the doors open and a hundred kids are all set free upon the lawn, it’s just my set of eyes on them. My thought? — “yep, there they go! I’m just going to trust the volunteers around the perimeter that they’ll block any attempts of my guys to escape onto the streets!” And we all did fine with only one panic moment when I couldn’t find Noah for all of about one (very long) minute! Fortunately, Seth’s runs were more like take 10 steps forward, trip on something and spill eggs out of basket, stand up and place eggs back in basket, start running forward ten steps…trip…..repeat.

I wasn’t the only one tired out. Micah had plenty of gross motor play – tackle football, wrestling, egg hunt after egg hunt. He does very well while engaged, but has had some nice meltdowns in the car as we transition from one excitement to the next. This morning’s fit of taking off his seatbelt and spraying apple juice around the back of the van resulted in 90 minutes of “quiet time upstairs” once we got home this afternoon. For the first time, there was not a complaint out of him – no “how much longer?”….no sneaking downstairs to devise something he just had to tell me….no begging for TV. Clearly he was ready for a break. And Noah was ready to play alone with his new toys and Seth was asleep within seconds of being put into his crib tonight.

Check. Holiday weekend done. Thank goodness it’s Monday tomorrow :).

Saving the world

I’ve seen a few “writings” in the past couple weeks about “What I Should Teach My Son” or “What every Girl Needs to Know”….or more along those lines of what’s the right/best/perfect way to raise your children. It stems from the recent stories of violence particularly in our teens. I know these articles have valid points and there’s probably a couple more really good parenting books I could go read.

But it’s had me thinking a bit about what I “need” to do to raise my three sons.

First, of course, it would help if I knew how to tie a tie.  I hope there’s a YouTube video out there somewhere to teach them how to shave (because I already see a bit of hair on Micah’s upper lip and that’s a bit disconcerting so early). There better be a guide to understanding their blossoming humor (other than acknowledging that most of it stems from body parts or the bathroom).  I could use “A Boy’s Guide to Obnoxious Noises” and “How to satisfy your teen’s voracious appetite.”

But when it comes down to it – what I most want to teach my sons is exactly what I would teach a daughter if I had one….and that is – how to be a Superhero!


What is it about a Superhero?  Well, they’re amazing. Incredible powers – they’re strong, they can fly, they can make water turn to ice, they can run super fast….they’re “so cool.”  But they are also totally compassionate. They spend their day helping people.  Hmmm, all that power and what are they doing? Saving people. Repairing buildings. Fixing roads.

I want my sons to have the feeling that they can save the world – and the heart that makes them want to. So if I see them just once, if ever so briefly, be a Superhero – I will be very happy.

Mommy Caps (for sale)

I don’t wear hats. I don’t have a this-hat-fits-nicely head. But I wear many (way toocaps-for-sale many hats) in my work and in my life. I’m that sales(wo)man in “Caps for Sale” with a whole stack of caps on my head. But unlike him – some days I’d love for the monkeys to steal all my caps and just leave me sleeping soundly under the tree.

Work hats aside, there are plenty of “mommy” hats for me.

There’s the Mean mommy. I’m the one that makes the boys pick their clothes off the floor and put them in the hamper….and then come back and get that forlorn sock that escaped and put it in the hamper too. That’s the mildest form of Mean Mommy – I come in raging-lava, steaming-head form too.

Fortunately, mean mommy is often countered by Loving mommy. Somehow the phrase “give me lovings” has entered the house and it means, “Mommy, I’m hurt/sad/scared ….and just need a hug” or long to still be able to fit on your lap since I’m only 6, though over half your body weight. “Lovings” are good. Lovings are safe and healing.

There’s also the I’m very tired mommy. She’s the one that is not handling the time change well because her “night owl” body clock is fighting the Spring Ahead while still having to rise at a most awful early morning hour. This Mommy snaps at the slightest thing, like wanting to play with the “bestest mask ever” that I made in daycare two months ago and just sighted in your office and had forgotten about but would now really like to play with despite you yammering on and on something about “no, it’s time for bed.”

Very closely related is the I had a very long day at work mommy who would do just about anything to have 10 minutes to herself when walking in the door, but since she picked up one boy one the way home from work and is anticipating the hungry cries of two other boys about to enter the door, she just moves into the “I’m very tired mommy” mode.

One of the best is the Playful Mommy. She’s “awesome,” she’s “cool,” she’s “the bestest ever.” I like this mommy personally. I’d like to spend a bit more time with her. She wrestles, she plays hide-and-seek even though she hates the game, she throws footballs in the living room and chases you around the inner running track lanes of the house. She’s just so much fun, but too often pushed aside by those other mommies and just not around as much as some poor guys would like.

Naturally, there’s also

The Chauffer Mommy – which lesson, game, sport, school, playground are we going to today, my dear?

The Chief Cook and Bottle Washer Mommy – You will not have chicken nuggets for dinner again, my young jedi, despite your wily mind-trick attempts.

The Shopping Mommy – bread, milk, chicken nuggets, pull-ups, chicken nuggets, little mocha for me, chicken nuggets…

The Dreamily Romantic Mommy – my how beautiful and angelic they are….so peaceful….so asleep… so….whoa! what’s that smell?….aw, Seth, not again!!

This week though, we’ve been visited by the Sad Mommy whose heart is heavy with news of a missionary family who just lost their precious toddler daughter after being in Kenya for only five weeks. And I look at my boys and I think – how could I ever handle losing one of them? How could you cope with the what-ifs – what if I had done something different?  So I become the scared mommy….the protective mommy….the quiet mommy… the oh-my-goodness-life-is-so-fragile mommy.

And I realize I have what I have today and only today. A boy who beams with pride for finally receiving his martial arts gi, a squirrely sprite whose eyes twinkle as he flies off the edge of the couch into my arms, and a huggable little elf wrapping himself around my leg. My three sons.

Hold them tight – no matter which cap is on the head.

Martial Arts and the “Real-Time” Mothering Failure

I have decided that “real-time” parenting is just too difficult. I would like a playback reel, a coach….maybe the SuperNanny. I mean, if split-second decision making was in line with my personality, I would have become an emergency room doc, not a primary care physician who sends the sick ones off to the hospital.

And I’m pretty sure that Micah is going to be the one kid that I never figure out – and therefore keep making bad in-the-moment decisions. We worked hard the past couple weeks on a “star chart” to earn his gi uniform for Martial Arts class. I was impressed –

The star chart...apparently got a little crumpled in my rant???

The star chart…apparently got a little crumpled in my rant???

we’ve never had a behavioral chart work before. He actually brushed his teeth in the morning. He put on his clothes without being asked. When he did a really kind thing (rare….but happened) to one of his brothers, he would look up at me with a great smile – and I would nod – and he’d run to the fridge and put a star on the chart. It was idyllic. So you know what that means.

We talked for days about finally getting the uniform at class on Wednesday. I even brought my big camera along. I was ready to be so proud. Yet, I strode out of the building in silence in front of him thirty minutes later….fuming and emotionally choked up with sadness.

He wouldn’t get out on the mat. He clung to my arm. He pretended like he was going to decide to out and join the class. The teachers cajoled him. I urged him. My friend encouraged him. But finally, I declared “you know, I would rather spend time with Noah and Seth and get to put Seth to bed, then to sit on this couch here with you.” And off we went.

I gave myself plenty of good pats on the back for remaining calm….and then Dragon Mommy reared her head the moment we were in the sound proof car! “What do you mean you don’t want to go to class? What was that all about? You worked so hard to earn your uniform and then you just sat there? What’s going on? What are you doing?!?” Now any parenting book will tell you that this method is 100% guaranteed to fail…..and I know that 100% as I talk….but it’s definitely more for my benefit to ramble on because clearly he’s not listening to me….until my rant turns to “I’m not going to pay money to sit there on a couch! I’m not going to pay money to sit around for flag football or soccer if this is what it’s going to be.”  Huh – had no idea that was such a powerful phrase. Mentioning his favorite sports sure got his attention.

Yes, not so proud of that moment. Frustration makes you do crazy things. I was ready to be proud of Micah. He was not ready for the excitement. I wasn’t ready to see that he was not ready. This kid is so complex, I go nuts trying to think through the psychology of it all (….afterwards ….). I think I get one piece figured out, he pulls out something else. I just don’t keep up so well in the real-time with him.

But still.

I was ready to be proud of you.  And you blew it.  You see, it’s all about me.

Me trying to figure you out.

Me wondering why you hide so much behind my skirt (which would make sense as a saying if I actually wore skirts).

Wondering how much do I push?

How much do I wait for you?

How do I encourage you?

How do I build your confidence but not self-centeredness?

How do we dance the joy of morning snow forts amidst the clash of evening wills?

How do we navigate the still waters and the crashing waves?

You push and I pull.

You pull and I push.

We win. We lose.

I haven’t figured this out yet….but I’m still here….for the next round.

4 year-olds’ Bestest Day Ever

Hurricane SimulatorWhy?!?

Hurricane Simulator

I was at a conference in Florida last year and just had to grab a picture of this “opportunity” when we walked past it in the middle of a small mall. I mean, really, who would want to get into a “hurricane simulator”?  I feel like my life is a hurricane half the time (or possibly much more than half the time). I think I’m in current need of a “boredom simulator” or at least a “sleep simulator.”

Fortunately, this week was a bit of a slow-down compared to the past month. With my brother giving the example of taking off work on each of his (Eight!) children’s birthdays (and spending the day as a family), I began years ago with my boys to spend their birthday with them. Micah calls it “my I can do whatever I want day” and I keep correcting him that “Mommy still has veto power.”

So Monday was Noah’s day and I can’t even begin to describe how nice it is to be attending to just one boy at a time. And it was beautiful to not have to rush to get anywhere but to follow his lead. No real agenda – other than me getting coffee, of course. Since he wanted coffee cake from Panera, we went there….and even sat down to eat. He thought that was “awesome.”

His chosen “event” for the day was to go ice-skating and he was giddy with excitement. I almost blew any chance of having a future Olympic skater, though. At first, he was given hockey skates that were too “slippy” for him and he couldn’t move a foot. Then he fell and bloodied his nose – and I had no tissue or anything with me on the ice….and resorted to the inner lining of his coat (I should probably wash that thing!). By this point, I’m berating myself for not being better prepared as a parent and having a helmet on his head, when he yells his foot is hurting because he had on two “right foot” skates. Sigh – eventually we got sorted out and had a nice time. I even woke him up on the way home to make him eat ice cream…teeth-chattering in 40 degree temps, face smeared with “Chocoholic chocolate chunk” and hands beyond the worst definition of sticky! Good mommy.

Though the main part of the day seemed to flow well, I just felt like I was doing a lousy job. Kathy and I always have helium balloons (one for every kid) in the living room on a birthday….and I awoke in bed that morning in panic realizing I had forgotten this (contemplating the lifelong trauma I was inflicting on him – “it all started when my mom forgot my birthday balloons….”). I also completely forgot to make a cake for the actual birthday, despite making two for his party two days before (“…and then no cake – no candles – no singing!!”). And I completely exploded at Micah at the dining room table and dragged him upstairs for a break from his incessant pestering and acting up. So in my nice little world of “perfect mothering” (of which I never attain), I was falling fast from my little pedestal. I was failing on one of the most important days of Noah’s year. And yet, he lay in bed that night and said “this is the bestest birthday ever, right?”  I smiled and said “that’s right.” So who’s the better judge?  And why can’t they stay forever four – when the “bestest day ever” is easy and uncomplicated?

And who volunteers to remind me that no matter how many mistakes I make in a day – sometimes, it’s still the “bestest ever”?