The Daily Grind

I always worry my blog seems like I'm overwhelmed and tired all the time and that I complain too much, talk about poop too much, and generally sound strung out. Some really nice people recently told me that it's not so, that all moms can relate to my reality. Well, last night I was feeling pretty tired and didn't accomplish as much as I wanted but I just felt so spent. It's not lack of sleep, I just feel like the noise and busy-ness of my house sucks the life right out of me by the end of the day. I thought about it today, when I was feeling refreshed.

I was remembering a marathon I watched a long time ago. (I don't remember if it was the Olympics or what - I was a young girl.) It was a women's race. This runner was coming into the arena/track to run her final lap and finish the race. She was so exhausted that she became disoriented and for lack of a better word, loopy. Her coaches/teammates were desperate for her to finish but they could not touch her so they gathered around her, trying to use their voices to communicate what direction she needed to go to cross the finish line. After looking to me like a crazy person off their meds, she finally crossed the finish line and immediately collapsed.

This is often how I feel at the end of the day.

Like I've been running a marathon which has stripped me of all my physical and emotional energy. I no longer care what I look like, who is watching me, or how much sticky is on my person. I just cross the finish line and collapse. I am delirious and make no sense. I am in need of someone who can lead me to bed. Forget the victory lap, I'll use my extra time to sleep, thank you very much.

And this is how I often feel on a normal day. Doing the normal daily grind. Even without the "Dog eats dirty diaper and smears it on the rug" or "Wind blows through van and begins to litter the entire parking lot with mom-van trash" headlines of my life. (These things happened to me today. Aaah!) But somehow the spectacular is in the daily grind. It's on mile 17. Somewhere in the middle of all this running someone makes a memory. Gives a hug. Loves each other. And feeling like I have no brain cells left is worth it somehow. So to all the moms out there in the trenches, keep on running. Wipe a nose better than you ever have before. Read a book with commitment. And for heaven's sake, if you have a dog, keep your poopy diapers far away from them!


The Black Garbage Bag

I truly try to follow through when I say I'm going to do something. If I tell someone I'll call them, or let them borrow something, or promise something, I try to do it. But one thing I often fail to do is follow through with the terribly threatening punishments I announce to my children.

Like, "If you don't _________, I'm going to _______." Fill in the blanks yourself.

Sometimes I forget. I will send someone to their bed for a talking-to and forget they're there until much later. Usually I remember what I'm supposed to talk to them about but the moment has definitely passed.

But usually I don't follow through because, I admit it, the children are winning much of the time. I know if I really do take away such and such because they didn't do this or that, then the crying and wailing that will ensue requires of me a whole new set of procedures to deal with the new problem. Thus, I am giving them extra chances just to preserve my sanity and my ear drums.

I want to be one of those moms who is not affected by their pleas, yet also I do not want to be remembered as a big breasted Scandinavian nanny who is expressionless and six feet tall with a big ugly mole on her face. I'm going more for the Mary Poppins singing all the time and making cleaning a game persona. And love. I want to love them.

But a few days ago I had hit my limit and decided to see what would happen if I actually followed through with one of my empty threats. It was clean up time. And of course, no one was cleaning up. They sit on their bed, fiddle with a dirty sock, get distracted, leave the room for way longer than necessary to "go potty" while I work circles around them and try all the Barney tactics. "Clean up, clean up..." and "Who can make a basket with these toys?" and "Wow! Good job!" You know, all the things you try to muster up when really you are just wondering how they got so darn lazy. Anyway, I told them that if they didn't get busy I was going to get a black garbage bag and put everything on the floor in it.


The immediate response was "No! Don't do that!" but no actual cleaning to show me why I shouldn't do this. I gave them five minutes. They cleaned up for about 30 seconds. (This was mostly directed at my 3.5 and 5.5 year old.) I decided it was time. I got the bag, while saying loudly, "I'm getting the bag!" (I was actually enjoying myself and on a small power trip at this point.) I dramatically opened it up with a big swoosh through the air and loud plastic noise. I walked into the room, and put about 2 items in the bag and the crying and wailing began.

It was not the kind of crying I expected though. It was as if these children had been separated from an appendage. I expected anger and frustration when instead I got huge tears, hurt feelings, pain and suffering. These are the same toys, mind you, that they throw on the floor, step on, take outside and leave in the elements, draw on, you name it. Yet when they went into the black garbage bag it was as if my children were losing a piece of their soul.

It was hard for me not to laugh. But I kept it up. "I'm sorry, now that they're in the bag, you can't have them back for a week." They cleaned everything else up very quickly, while sniffling and whimpering. Lesson learned: Following through on your threats can actually be entertaining. And they really began to pick up their things after that. Even Jackson, who was just hanging out in his room, sat crying on his bed because I was putting his sister's toys in a big black garbage bag. Oh, the emotions. It was totally worth it.

I will sing songs. I'll get out a spoonful of sugar. I'll ride a carousel in the park with my children and dance with penguins. But when necessary, I will not be afraid to get out the big black garbage bag and make good on my threats. Because every once in a while the mean terrible nanny must rear her ugly head and remind these children who wears the ugly mole in this family.


Sweet Pea

"Where the heck is my pickle fork? I can't keep anything nice with you kids around here."

My college room mate had these cool party napkins with this quote on them. (Only it didn't say "heck" but I'm trying to censor the blog for obvious reasons...) We of course thought it was really funny with it's retro picture and the whole nine yards but I can truly relate to it now. Today I woke to the sound of breaking glass. I truly can't keep anything nice around here.

With the addition of the dog to our J train last summer, my home has gone from "can look somewhat like the residence of a white trash hoarder" on occasion to "can look somewhat like the residence of a white trash hoarder and smells like a dog". The dog doesn't really smell all that often, but when she does I fear becoming one of those homes that you want to hold your nose when you walk in. I'm pretty paranoid about it. I would not mind bathing the dog, except that it would involve getting wet and the children getting wet, which in my mind becomes something that eats up approximately 90 minutes of my day. (Oh, and the dog has chewed through the hose so it becomes even more difficult...) So I leave the dog bathing to Jimmy. And when he doesn't do it, I take her outside and dump baking soda on her. We should NOT be pet owners.

So in an attempt to make the house smell a little better, I bought one of those plug in air fresheners...the wall flowers. I fought masking the smell, but I figured maybe these people whose homes I go to that smell good...maybe they're masking something and I'm just assuming their house is clean and fragrant and that they've got it all together. They could have a bird cage full of poop in the back for all I know. So bring on the wall flower.

It works pretty good until your 2 year old unplugs it from the wall, and your 8 year old, trying to be helpful, plugs it back in upside down. It slowly drips into your basket of Christmas books and into your husband's bible, which had fallen off the chair and into the basket of books. I smelled something strong and just thought the thing was doing it's job. When really, it was just $ down the drain. Or into the books.

Now, every week when we sit in church my husband opens his Bible, which has now truly become a fragrant offering, and wafts the pages in my direction, and the "sweet pea" smell goes up my nostrils it reminds me that I really can't keep anything nice. And the saturated pages also remind me that I have been given a gift. The gift of lack of control. Pretty much everything I do gets undone. Anything I try to control becomes a loose cannon. And nothing makes your life more exciting and fun. You could never do a scientific experiment in my home because to start an experiment, you need a "control". There is none of that here. We are a runaway train full of dirty kids, dust, missing pickle forks, love, laughter, and the strong scent of a fragrance thingy gone bad. All aboard!