Friday, March 26, 2010

What Happens When My Husband is Away

I am having deja vu...I think I have written this post before. 

My husband wonders why I get so stressed out when he leaves the state, forcing me into the role of single mom.  I am sure that any mother, regardless of the number of children she has, could tell you that it is stressful to have to handle the children, the house, and everything else alone...all the time.  (Feel free to post so, ladies...he does read this.)  Yes, many women handle it for hours while their husbands are at work (and, let's face it...the majority of it even when the husbands are home.)  However, there is a certain amount of reprieve when your significant other is home.  Whether it is someone to help bathe the children or clear the dinner table....or even something as simple as sitting out in the living room with them watching that you can bathe the other children and clear the dinner table. can never underestimate the importance of adult conversation.  Trying to spend the entire day translating baby talk (which I really believe is a dialect of either Chinese...or Klingon,) coaxing the toddler to use her words, rather than whine and scream, and explain common sense to a teenager who's interpretation of daily life makes you begin to wonder what planet she (or he) came from (maybe it's an extension of those early years of speaking Klingon, I don't know)...makes you go crazy. 

Yesterday I was lucky enough to have my mother's help through various parts of the day.  I sincerely hope she wasn't scared off, as he has an upcoming trip to Kentucky...where he will be gone for three days.  The children were all in true form.  Before my mother got there, I had to confiscate my handheld mixer from Owen, who was dragging it down the hallway by the cord, as well as the broom from Connor, who was in close pursuit, holding it over his head.  Doors were slammed (and locked.)  Babies climbed on the dining room table.  My mom picked up Jay from Jazz Band, and the older two argued pretty much as soon as they walked in the door.  Connor kicked his brother.  Irelynn bounced off the walls (and at times, her brothers.)  Dinnertime was a cacaphony of sound.  Bathtime was insane, as all three little kids were in the tub, splashing, laughing and pushing each other.  Water flew everywhere.  Owen wanted to lay down.  Connor wanted to dump water on his head.  Irelynn wanted to tickle them.  I think my mother was ready to dial 9-1-1 at any given moment. 

Luckily things slowed down after bathtime.  We put in "The Princess and the Frog," the little ones' new favorite movie, and dimmed the lights.  Not long after, the twins went to bed.  It was the end of a long, energy-draining day. 

I'm sure someday I will look back on these days and laugh.  Someday when my daughter is grown up and realizes I really DID have her best interests in mind and wasn't just out to ruin her life; when my son realizes that you can't always take the easy way out of things; when my youngest daughter has realized that stomping her feet does not help her get her way, and when both my boys have learned to speak English....then I will be able to look back and laugh. 

Until then, though...I shall have to keep the beer fridge stocked.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Maureen + Boot Camp Aerobics at 5am = Ibuprofen and Messy House

So, I've been doing this thing where I get up at the butt crack of dawn to go work out.  I've been very proud of myself.  I work out on the elliptical machine...or the treadmill.  Yesterday I even gathered the courage to go stand next to Loud Steroid Man and lift weights to work on my arms.  (I have lovingly nicknamed him "Loud Steroid Man" because he is about five times my size, lifts ginormous weights, grunting loudly as he does so...every morning.)  I thought today I would go a little easier...maybe walk on the treadmill for a half hour and then tan...because, you know...I deserved it after working so hard. 

As I put my stuff in the locker, a perky woman greets me.  It is 5am, so I crack a small smile, nod, and concentrate on remembering how to tie my shoe.  I notice she is still staring at me.

"Will you be working out with us today?" 

I look around, there are no other women in the locker room. 

"Um...I guess...?"

"OH GREAT!!  We don't have too many women in the class, and I need to meet my four person quota!"  She is practically bouncing up and down.

Now I'm really confused.


"Yes, it's an aerobics class, but I try to switch it up a bit.  Today we're doing kind of a bootcamp thing...we'll do things like jumping jacks, and work on our arms, legs and abs." 

What did I just agree to?  Oh boy.

I walked into the class, and see two older women (old enough to be my grandmother,) and one woman that had to be about my age, maybe a little older.  I'm thinking this can't be too bad, right?  The instructor (bubbly lady from the locker room) had us grab some heavy weights. 

Now...when you are at home, looking in the can fool yourself into thinking that maybe you have lost some weight and that you look ok.  You are also standing up straight...looking at yourself from the best angle...and *maybe* sucking in your stomach...a little.  When you are in a room with mirrors surrounding you, doing jumping jacks...mountain climbers...and a football training see yourself in all your glory.  And it ain't pretty. 

My face was beet red.  My pants kept falling down because I was wearing my comfiest sweatpants figuring on walking, not jumping.  My muffin top was bouncing like crazy.  I at once realized that one, I do NOT look good...and two, I am so out of shape, it's pitiful.  I couldn't make it through the ab sessions.  I wanted to say that I've had twins...and a c-section...but I suppose that excuse is only valid for a year before it expires...and it's been 18-months.  I somehow survived the class, realizing I had no time to tan now, because I actually spent enough time to get a "real" workout...not a half-ass "I went to the gym so I'm gold" workout.

She asked if I would be back next Wednesday.  I smiled...and said "maybe."  We'll see how long it takes me to recover from today. 

So...I guess I can legitimately be proud of myself, at least, today.  You know you've had a good workout when it actually hurts to lift a gallon of milk. 

I will tell you one thing...not much is getting done today.  I'm thinking I might just continue with the class.  It reminds me how far I really have to go...but will also (hopefully) provide me with a way to get there.  Next time, however...I will wear tighter-fitting pants. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Experts, Schmexperts.

There are many studies out claiming that it is beneficial for families to sit down together for meals.  I'm not exactly sure how this is beneficial...and I don't have the time or energy to look up said studies.  I wonder what they base these studies on...certainly not my family.

We have always sat down together as a family for dinner.  Let me give you a brief synopsis of how virtually every evening goes:

We serve the twins first to keep them happy while we dish up the rest of the family's dinner.  They take a few bites, throw the rest on the floor (or at each other) and then begin to rock back and forth violently, making their booster chairs bang against the chairs they sit on.  We, after several attempts, coax the 3-year-old to the table, only to be informed by said 3-year-old that she does not like what we are eating...can she have chocolate milk....and she has to go potty.

We give the boys something else to eat (and eventually throw,) as we sit down.  The teenagers commence a conversation that starts out mildly inappropriate, and quickly turns into an argument.  The preteen girl then spills milk.  Next, as the twins grow anxious and begin yelling, the toddler (who has returned from the bathroom) now leads them in a rousing chorus of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," to be followed by "Jingle Bells."  This involves, for some reason, their hands up in the air, swaying back and forth, and singing so loud it echoes in the room.  Not to be outdone, the teenagers raise their voices, so their insults can be heard over the concert.  I begin glancing at the clock, and rubbing my throbbing forehead. 

Many attempts to get the toddler to eat later, which include the "bite count," and threats of time out...we decide to get the boys into a bath as they have now put whatever remaining food there is on their end-of-the-meal ritual accompanied by the loud "dah-dun!" 

We begin bathing them as the teenagers continue to argue, and the toddler continues to avoid eating her dinner by turning her attention to the teenagers and provoking them. 

I'm not exactly sure what the benefits are to this kind of interaction.  I suppose at least I always know where my children are in the evenings.  I should probably enjoy that now, because I'm sure that will change once the oldest can drive. might be kind of nice to have some of them eat at a friend's house once in awhile...I can see benefits to that, too...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oatmeal Antics

Sometimes I think I should pop some popcorn, and just sit and watch my children.  They never fail to amuse me.  I buy oatmeal in bulk at Sam's Club, as it is one thing that the whole family can agree on for breakfast.  Another reason, newly discovered, is that it provides ample entertainment for the twins if I set the box on the floor in the living room, having dumped the packets out, and get them to toss the packets back into the box.  For some reason...this is the coolest thing EVER.  It keeps them busy for quite some time.

The other morning I made Irelynn some oatmeal, and after removing Connor from the top of the table as Irelynn screamed and held her bowl protectively to her chest, I pulled out the box, and set the twins up with some packets.  They giggled as they tossed them into the box.  Then Irelynn called me to the kitchen.

"How many bites do I have to take?"  She gazed up at me with her Backyardigans bicycle helmet on, swinging her legs back and forth.  This is how we go into every meal...with a bite count.  She cannot eat anything without knowing exactly how many bites she must take to be "done." 

As I tried to calculate how many bites it would take to eat about half of what she had left, I hear a scream...and a giggle...from the living room.

I run out there to find Owen sitting in the oatmeal box...with Connor sitting on his lap.  I remove the grinning boy off of his brother, and try to pull Owen out of the box.  His butt was firmly planted in it.  He started to whine.  Connor started to giggle, pointing at his brother.  I finally yanked the box off of his bottom and set him down. 

Perhaps I should eat oatmeal instead of popcorn while I watch them...the packets are already out on the floor, anyway.  If only I could adjust the volume, I'd be all set.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Deer, quit scaring the kids...

I have found some strange things in my yard before.  Particularly with having never know what might get left out there.  I have even found dead animals before...mice, birds...even an occasional rabbit.  Nothing could have prepared me, however, for our latest discovery...the head of a deer.  Not mounted...just cut off, and laying in our backyard. 

It was the first really nice, warm day of the season.  I took all three younger kids out into the yard (a risk, I know...we don't have a fence, so I knew I'd be chasing children.)  At first, Connor was unsure of the ground.  It was then that I realized the poor child had very rarely been outside.  As he awkwardly stepped onto the lawn, he looked up at me and started this slow, sad whine. He stood on one foot, afraid to put the other one back down on the uneven ground.  Owen, on the other hand, was in all his glory.  His eyes glistened with his newfound freedom.  He took off running...and, predictably, within about 10-seconds, fell flat on his face.  He laughed it off, though, and took off again.  I had to carry the whiny child over to the swingset. 

It did not take Connor too long to decide it was acceptable, and off he went, running across the yard, with me and Irelynn hot on his heels.  It was then that we met our new friend.

"MOMMY!!  WHAT is that???"

I grabbed Connor's arm and held my other arm out to stop Irelynn.  I redirected them, and took a closer look.  Sure enough, it was the face of a deer, staring up at me.  There was an orange DNR tag still stuck to one of it's short, nubby antlers.  Now...I have grown up in a family of hunters, so I am not a stranger to dead deer, or deer parts, for that matter.  However, there is still something about seeing a deer head sitting in your yard that is super creepy. 

Luckily, my brother came and "saved the day," by removing the head from the yard.  Irelynn watched carefully...she was positive that the deer was going to come and get her.  I let her watch Chris take it away (from the kitchen window,) only so she knew that it was gone.  It had really freaked her out.

I am hoping that some large dog had dragged it over from someplace...and that it was not intentionally left there by someone.  We did call the DNR and filed a complaint...they can trace who it "belonged" to from the tag. 

I can never say my life is boring.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Irish Eyes are Smiling

I love that the Imagination Movers are dressed in kilts and singing Irish songs today.  It reminds me, one, that it is St. Patrick's Day, and two, some men should not wear a skirt.  I miss being a child on this day.  My mother would sing every Irish song she knew, and...if we were a little jig.  We were reminded that we were, in fact, royalty, as those with the spelling -mack in McCormack were supposedly decendents of a king.  I look now at my 3-year-old, dressed in a white frilly dress and plastic crown, and smile.  Perhaps she truly is an Irish princess.  I'm thinking I should refrain from telling her, though, as she already has it in her head that she is a princess.

I am ashamed to admit that I have nothing planned for today.  No green cookies.  No green drinks.  Not even a single shamrock displayed anywhere.  The older kids wore green shirts out of fear of being pinched at school, and hinted at wondering what I may have planned for when they return home from school.  I don't know what happened this year.  I always wanted to make this day as fun for my children as it was for me growing up.  I wanted them to be proud of their Irish heritage.  Last year Irelynn walked in the St. Patrick's Day parade.  This year we didn't even go to it. 

I need to put aside my recent bouts of bad luck and get into the spirit, though.  I shall pop in my old Irish CD (although I might have to start with a little Flogging Molly to get it out of my system...we'll work up to the cheery stuff)...and break out some sugar cookie ingredients...and green sprinkles. 

I think I might just have to invite Grandma over, too...because it would not be St. Patrick's Day without some traditional singing and dancing from the Queen of this Irish family herself. 

I wonder if I have some green food coloring and beer...that might help, too....

Monday, March 8, 2010


There are many things I have learned on my journey through motherhood.  I have learned that "selective hearing" really does exist.  Just when you think that you need to take your child in for a hearing test (after he repeatedly cannot hear you tell him important information, or your husband yelling at him to take out the garbage,) you discover that when you lean over to whisper to your husband a suggestion of going to Ci-Ci's Pizza while driving in the van, he has heard you perfectly clearly...even over the screaming babies, his iPod blaring some Greenday song, and the toddler loudly arguing the finer points of the difference between "hitting" and "patting" someone.  I have also learned that toddlers, much like Spock or Data from the Star Trek series, do not understand the figurative or connotative meanings used in human language.  It is best, when explaining things to them, to stick to literal meanings, lest you wind up with a child trying to stuff your cat into a bag, because he heard someone had let him out.  My most important lessons, however, revolve around housework.

One thing I have learned the hard way is that you cannot organize clutter.  You can buy bins, folders, baskets and plastic drawers...but the clutter will not really go away or take up any less room.  You can blame the kids, the husband, and the house...but it won't help.  The clutter will still mock you from the corners, the counters and the pantry.  The only thing you can do is roll up your sleeves and dig in.  And you cannot be sentimental...because in the end, are you really going to be glad you kept every single drawing your child did from pre-school through the 5th grade?  Are they going to care or want to keep them when they grow up?  Nope.  But a few special ones will put a smile on your face every time.

Another thing I have learned is that yes, they really can...and like that.  Letting things go because eventually SOMEONE will pitch in and clean something just means that your house will look like a pig sty.  Because the children honestly do not care.  They do not see the dirty clothes, the spilled milk or the pee that missed the toilet.  Those things will stay there until you clean them...or get angry enough to yell at someone else to clean it.  Subtly hinting that perhaps people should pitch in...or whining that you do all the work will not make the house clean, nor will it change the people living in said house.  It will only make you more miserable.

The most important lesson that I have learned, though, I did not learn on my took actually reading a book (late at night, in small increments because it was the only time I had) written by someone called the "Fly Lady," to help me understand.  I am a perfectionist...not lazy.  The reason things would get so messy at times was because I would get so overwhelmed, and realize I did not have time to clean it "correctly."  And by correctly, I mean not only sweep, but mop the entire floor, scrub the floor boards and wipe down the walls.  So, instead, the floor looked even worse that day, because I avoided it and stressed out even more.  There is a quote from this book that really hit home with me...and I feel bears repeating:  "Housework done incorrectly still blesses your family."  It does not have to be perfect.  And with five children, I will tell you it will never be perfect....and I have learned to live with that.  I have established routines that keep it functional, and relatively the point where I will not be embarrassed if someone stops by and needs to use the bathroom.  I don't freak out when one of the boys lifts the toilet lid and sticks their hands inside.  However, on any given day you will find laundry ready to be folded on the couch, Legos on the floor, and blankets strewn around the living room from children snuggling up under them while they watch "Scooby-Doo."  You will also find piles of computer parts on my husband's side of the bedroom...but we won't go there. 

Do I still feel upset when I see someone make a mess without cleaning it up?  Sure.  Do I still feel like it's unfair that I do almost all of the housework?  You betcha.  However, I have found that as long as I keep up on my routines, and just do what needs to be done, I have much less stress.  The children get off to school without too much drama, the kitchen stays relatively clean, and nothing strange grows in the bathtub.  And I'm ok with that.  I will have plenty of years to make my house sparkle and impress company...but for now, hopefully they will be impressed with my youngest children's technical prowess, my oldest son's guitar playing skills, and my older daughter's beautiful artwork on the fridge.  I know I am.