Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thank Goodness for Microwaves and Beer

The last couple of weeks has been building up to this moment.  There have been ups and downs...exhausting moments...and while last night was not necessarily the worst of it...it did pretty much sum up the frustration throughout the duration of my husband being gone.

I attempted to make dinner.  That was my first mistake.  Why, as a single mother, was I going to try and cook something from scratch?  Perhaps it was the altruistic side of me that wanted to prove that I am capable of doing this...I do not need to resort to fast food or macaroni and cheese.  I am going to feed my kids a healthy, home-cooked meal.  I was going to make a healthy version of fish and chips...where I made my own breading from grinding toasted multigrain bread.  I made the chips out of sweet potatoes...which took me nearly an hour to peel and try to slice with the side of a cheese grater, because I did not have the proper appliance for slicing vegetables into paper-thin slices.  Connor watched for awhile.  The older boy had to be brought down to watch the other little ones so my mother could hold Connor. 

After stopping here and there to deal with issues with the teenagers, I finally got the sweet potato slices into the oven.  My oven has been acting up for awhile now, but I've managed to somehow make it work by adjusting the temperature and keeping a close eye on the food.  This was not a night I could make it work.  I opened the door to find smoke billowing out...the bottom tray of chips were charred...the top tray not cooked at all.  The smoke alarm went off...I still had to bake the fish.  I had now been in the kitchen for almost two hours.  My mother came in and fried the rest of the undercooked sweet potatoes in oil, while I started some macaroni and cheese, which I should have just done in the first place.  The fish didn't have the same issues...but we did end up microwaving some of them. By this time I was ready to snap if a child came in one more time asking if dinner was ready...or what that burnt smell was...

We sat around the table.  Owen squeezed some macaroni between his fingers and slid down from his seat.  Connor proceeded to switch seats and eat Owen's macaroni after I told him he needed to eat his fish (he had already shoveled down all of his macaroni.)  Irelynn asked how many bites she had to take.  The older two poked at their fish as though they were examining some sort of crime scene evidence. 

Needless to say, dinner was a bust.

Then came the frustrations of trying to get the teenagers to help clean up after dinner (I get the strong impression that doing dishes ruins their lives somehow.)

After a few attempts, we finally got Connor down to sleep.  Owen was getting tired, and tried to snuggle up to me...I bent down to kiss him, and he jumped up, making contact...hard...with my lip.  My teeth cut into the inside, and I could taste blood.  Brilliant.

My mother managed to find one lonely can of beer in the basement fridge.  Upon getting the last child to bed, we split the beer into two mugs.  The phone rang...and I thought it might be my husband, calling to wish me a good night and perhaps apologize for making fun of my predicament earlier.  No...it was the instant alert system for the public school system...due to inclement weather, the kids will have no school the next day.  They had already had a long weekend, because they had no school that day, either, due to President's Day.  Awesome.

We ended the night with a toast to endurance.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Camel and the Business Trip

Men do not understand the phrase, "the straw that broke the camel's back."  If they did, they would understand that the real reason we had a mental breakdown when the glass of milk spilled was not because of the milk, in and of itself.  We are not crazy, overly-sensitive, highly emotional beings that cry over spilled milk.  In fact...it is quite the opposite:  if a man had to endure what a woman does on a daily basis, he would have several mental breakdowns before 8am.  However, a man does not "get it."  Unfortunately, when explaining the process of one of my meltdowns, I turn into Bill Cosby, circa 1983.  My eyebrows raise.  The corners of my mouth turn down.  My voice becomes much more animated...much like Bill's descriptions of his own wife, when dealing with his children.  I begin to time-stamp the events of my day.

"6:02am:  I wake up with the boys."

"6:35am:  I break up a fight over a wooden choo-choo train and a dinosaur, after the choo-choo train makes contact with Connor's head."

My voice starts to get higher.

"6:46am:  I argue with the oldest girl as to whether or not a jacket is necessary in 18-degree weather and remind her that the younger girl is still sleeping so take the headphones out of her ears and stop yelling."

"6:59am:  I drag the teenage boy out of bed and remind him he has fifteen minutes to get ready and get to the bus stop."

I pause to note his reaction.

"7:45am:  I wipe yogurt off of the walls, the floor, and both boys."

I could go on, but you get the point.

Now, this is a typical day.  My meltdown usually occurs somewhere between the older children arriving home from school and post-dinner chaos. 

Currently my husband is away on a business trip.  This has been the longest one yet, spread over two weeks and three states.  Luckily my mother has been here to help with the children, and offer emotional support.  I do not have to time-stamp the day for my mother.  We have this understanding...woman to woman...mother to mother.  All it takes is a nod...a hug...and one of us breaks out a couple bottles of beer. 

Over the course of two weeks we have gone through rounds of sickness.  I lost my voice.  The oldest girl had episodes of dizzyness so bad that she nearly passed out.  Connor got an ear infection.  Both my mother and I managed to throw our backs out (at different times.)  The boys have not slept through the night since my husband has been gone.  Our patience is wearing thin. 

Everyday I am juggling children's medications, figuring out meals, breaking up fights, deflecting teenagers' snarky comments, and using my mad almost Kung Fu-like defense skills on two toddler boys who do not have a father to wrestle with right now.  I have numerous bruises on my arms and legs.  The older kids have been quite underwhelming when it comes to helping out while he has been gone.  It is amazing how quickly they can disappear and hide when things get messy or chaotic downstairs. 

When my husband comes home...Owen will inevitably throw his dinner on the floor...and I will say something clever, like, "that's it.  I'm joining the circus.  Don't call me, I'll call you," and my husband will then ask me, "what's your problem?"

I will calmly look at him and say, "do you remember me talking about the straw that broke the camel's back?  Well, the camel's back broke about a week ago, when she tried to remove a jumping boy off of his sister's bed.  She also lost her voice, and didn't get any sleep.  Then that camel had to carry around two 25lb boys, juggle doctor's visits with screaming children, make sure the little camels got all their medication at the proper time, and make last-minute runs to the store for posterboard and printer ink because someone forgot to mention they had a project due the next day.  There are only two things that can cure this poor, beaten animal that is foaming from the mouth (which may or may not be a direct result of being bitten by a toddler):  put it out of it's misery...or let it have a vacation.  Even one night would be good.  A full night's sleep can do wonders."

If my husband is wise, he will not upset the camel.