As the school days wind down, my to-do list at home grows longer. There are so many things I want to complete before the kids are home and we are off running on our summer excursions. One of the dreaded tasks on that list is cleaning out each child’s bedroom. Conventional wisdom tells me that I should give them each a giant garbage bag and have them do it themselves, however I know those bags would come back half full after 15 minutes to the joint chorus of, “I’m done!” So I went in myself armed with a whole box of garbage bags, a serious vacuum cleaner, and an iPod set on shuffle (who knew Maverick was into 80’s metal bands?). I dove right in and was amazed at all of the trash treasures stowed away in their rooms. I found everything from hoarded candy to secret Lego creations to an attempt at a haiku poem. There were nine rolls of tape, five stray socks, three billion Pokémon cards, and one school uniform shirt that had been missing since November. While I picked up gum wrappers and balled up tissues, I couldn’t believe that these amazing little people could let three relatively small spaces get so messy. As my mind conjured up charts and incentive plans to ensure spotless bedrooms in the future, I took a breather and sprawled out on the carpet while listening to a little ACDC (again, thanks Maverick). From my new perspective, I no longer saw a mess. Rather, I marveled at the pop star posters, sports memorabilia, friendship photos and favorite toys that customized each room. Each item told a beautiful, intricate story about my kids’ personalities. Conventional wisdom would say that is worth listening to. This time I think I will.
Bedtime can often be the witching hour around our house. We frequently ask our kids multiple times to get their pajamas on and get in bed before the task is actually completed. We have tried every trick in the book to encourage them to comply eagerly but rarely do such antics work. Perhaps we just provide such a great life for them that they just can’t bear to shut their eyes and miss one moment of it, but I highly doubt that. It’s more likely that they are exercising their expert stall tactics, perfected over years of practice. Whatever the case, many battles have ensued over lights out around our house. Last week, Rocky was protesting his bedtime by giving me the silent treatment under the covers in his bed. Hmmm…seemed like the perfect scenario to just let it lie given that it was indeed his bedtime, but much like men and women are not supposed to go to bed angry, I could not leave the room with a sad kid. Looking around the room, I spotted Rocky’s favorite basketball hoop hanging off of his closet door and got an idea. I picked up the ball and told Rocky he had one chance to make a shot of my choice, from anywhere I chose in the room. If he missed, he would try the shot again the next night…but only one shot per night. He would then choose my shot as well. I saw his eyes peek out from under the covers. Game on. That first night he missed his shot from the top bunk leaning against Giant Stuffed Lion. I missed from over the door. The next night after shower Rocky yelled for me to join him in his room before bed…it was time for our shooting match. He sunk that shot from the top bunk and I airballed it from behind the door. Five days later, he’s on his third location and I’m still stuck on that shot from behind the door. Over the last few days, I have learned to embrace the fun at bedtime and save the battles for the court.
Today marks my 67th blog post. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for sticking with me for the past days, weeks, and even months. I hope you have been able to easily relate to my tales and laugh at my blunders, but most of all see how taking one moment each day has allowed me to connect with my kids in a way I would have otherwise missed. I have learned so much on this journey thus far, and found great personal rewards. While your kind comments and replies to my posts have been overwhelming and often kept me writing, my greatest joy has been the response from my children. They love our connective moments as much as I do and I could ask for no greater gift. Since the kids will be home for the summer in less than a month, I’m going to cut back on my posts to one day a week to allow for more ‘moments’ and less time at the computer. Moving forward, I will post on Tuesdays and believe me, if history repeats itself, these kiddos put out some choice material in the summer. So, until next Tuesday, thanks again for reading and continue to enjoy your own moments when ordinary suddenly becomes extraordinary.
There are only 22 days left of school, yet Rocky is still struggling to get into the classroom every day. He complains of too much homework, bad lunches and not enough time with his friends. When we were walking out the door to get in the car, he refused to go. As a mom I wanted to throw my hands up, but somehow I gently coaxed him into the back of the car. During our six minute drive to school, the other kids chatted away, but I could see Rocky’s sullen face in the rear view mirror and my heart sank. I pulled up into the drop off lane and told the other two kids to have a great day, but asked Rocky to stay in the car for a few minutes. I then parked in the lot and asked him to jump up into the passenger seat. For the next ten minutes, we chatted about the ups and downs of daily life and how to deal with the challenges of school. We then talked about all he had to look forward to after school was out including camps, travel and outdoor fun. During that time, he had pulled out my coconut scented lip balm from the center console, spreading it over his lips and fingers and making the car smell like sweet summer. Those 22 days had seemed like a million miles away, but that beautiful aroma of summer made him realize it was truly just around the corner. His mood turned around and his smile finally returned. With a little extra time from mom (and some help from a familiar summer scent) it was easy to turn his day from bad to beachy.
Last weekend, spring had finally sprung. The sun was shining, bikes were out, and laughter was bouncing throughout the neighborhood. After being cooped up for one of the longest winters on record, we were all ready to get out and enjoy the beautiful day. I had stepped inside to get some drinks for the kids when I heard Maverick and Rocky making a commotion in our laundry room. Curious as to why they would be stealing away from the precious sunshine, I peeked inside and got a glimpse of Rocky’s bleeding toe. He had been propped up on the washing machine and given a clean cloth to stop the flow, but I could see it was definitely a doozy. Through the tears, I put together that Rocky had stubbed his toe while running down the driveway and didn’t want anyone to touch his injury. Maverick went scurrying for the first aid supplies anyway, returning with several wound washes and toe bandages. Rocky flat out refused treatment and the negotiating had gone back and forth until it was obvious that he was going to become a senior citizen before that toe was fixed. I slipped out of the room and made a beeline for my “motivational cupboard.” I immediately reached for the jellybeans when a bag of Rocky’s favorite Doritos caught my eye, so I grabbed those too. Returning to the laundry room, I told Rocky he could pick either treat while Dad worked on his toe. In typical kid fashion, he said he wanted both treats…at the same time. As Maverick cleaned and bandaged the toe, I fed jellybeans and Doritos into his mouth (while trying not to gag). Seeing my repulsive reaction to his customized treat made Rocky laugh…just long enough for his toe to be fixed. Two days later he was having a particularly tough day at school, so while I was there for a volunteer event, I dropped a mixture of Doritos and jellybeans into his locker. In times of peril for my kiddo, it feels amazing to make it all better simply by finding his sweet (and salty) spot.
Cricket was just five months old when we decided to try for another child. We believed having our children close together would ensure a tight sibling bond that would cement their relationship for life. A month later we were pregnant and our jaws dropped when the eight week ultrasound revealed it was twins. Hmmm, we wanted them close together but that close? Wow. Years later our theory regarding closeness in age equaling a tight sibling bond has not quite worked out the way we had planned. Bickering and squabbling often echo off the walls of our home and we seem to be constantly refereeing an argument between the siblings. The other night, I sat on Cricket’s bed and tucked her blankets up around her head as I do every night. Her face seemed sad and I knew she had something deep on her heart to share. When probed, she told me that she was so tired of her brothers being mean to her. As tears streamed down her cheeks, she gave examples of stolen toys, interrupted conversations and invaded spaces. I told her how I too was once a victim to the crummy antics pulled by a menacing brother. Much like Cricket with her brothers, I explained how I often shed tears over the unjustness that happened in my own household and how I couldn’t wait until my big bro left for college. I then explained that a funny thing happened when he went away to school…that menacing brother actually became cool. He was (and still is) my ally, confidant and friend. There was definitely a look of disbelief in Cricket’s eyes that such a thing could ever happen with her brothers, but I told her to hang on and be patient. After I kissed her goodnight, I walked away thinking that my idyllic home with three children who were close in age and best friends had not quite turned out the way I had imagined…yet.
Heading out to restaurants with my kids these days can be hit or miss. Many times they sit nicely and use their well-practiced manners, while other times they beg to play on my phone and continually complain about earth-shattering boredom. So when we were invited out to brunch with our extended family a couple of days ago, I was a little nervous as to how the kids would behave. The sea of people in the waiting area of the restaurant was not a good indicator as to how the experience was going to go, yet somehow my kiddos withstood the 30 minute wait to be seated without any major incidents. As we were sitting down, the waitress handed out children’s menus to my kids. Rocky stuck his hand out like a traffic cop and told her that he was old enough to order off the adult menu and politely declined. While the waitress looked on, I debated with Rocky the merits of the children’s menu (crayons, games, kid-friendly food, and cheap prices) for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, Rocky just flat out told me that he was old enough to make the decision and didn’t want that kids’ menu. After he placed his order from the adult menu, Rocky got out of his chair and came to sit on my lap. It was if he wanted to feel what it was like to be a grown-up, but enjoy the benefits of being a kid. I didn’t mind one bit. It was nice to give him a taste of adulthood (in the form of supersized chicken fingers) then allow him to find his way back into the lap of childhood luxury.
Ever since they were little, our children have repeatedly asked us when we were going to have another baby. Despite our adamant proclamation that this was never going to happen, they had a beautiful baby designed in their minds right down to the blue eyes and tiny toe nails. As they got a little older and realized that life was pretty good without yet another diapered sibling stealing their toys and parents’ attention, they decided to make it well known that there would be no more babies in our household. Taking it even further, our twin boys proclaimed that they never wanted to get married and have children of their own. In typical nine year old fashion, the idea of having a wife and family totally grossed our son Sport out. However, just a few short weeks ago a beautiful baby boy came into the world. As their very first cousin, the kids were extremely excited. We showed each of our kids how to gently hold the baby so as to support his head and keep him comfortable. When it was Sport’s turn, he was a complete natural. He continually bent down to kiss the baby’s soft forehead and caress his chubby cheeks. When the baby was fussing a bit, I leaned in to help and heard Sport softly singing to him so I quickly backed away…he had this. As a parent, there is pure joy in experiencing the moment when gross becomes great.
It was utopia. That one magical night per week where we didn’t have any sports practices or academic obligations to keep us from getting home right after school. We had a nice family dinner, and then the kids worked on finishing up their homework. It seemed early, but selfishly I was ready to send them up for a shower and bed thinking I might actually catch a little of my favorite TV show and get in some extra relaxation time. My suggestion of starting the bedtime routine was met with defiant protests and all three kids darted down to the basement, cranked up the music and started running laps. So much for settling down for bed. With the floor below us vibrating from the music, Maverick and I decided to head downstairs and check out the party. My feet had barely touched the basement floor when I was pelted with a green playground ball just below my right earlobe. I quickly grabbed the ball and fired back at Rocky as he raced around the corner. We all unanimously agreed that Dad would be “It” in our spontaneous game of ball tag and ran for cover. Like Olympic athletes, we dove, lurched and hurdled out of the way to avoid being tagged by one of Maverick’s precision throws. Finally, the game came to an end and when I announced it was time for a shower, miraculously, there were no complaints. After tucking everyone in and kissing them goodnight, I felt happy, reconnected and calm. That night, the kids showed me that sometimes relaxation doesn’t always show up in the form of a favorite TV show or self-time, rather it may just pelt you beside the head.
About 15 years ago, I recall sitting in a church pew behind a nice looking family. The mom sat between two of her teenage children with her arms sprawled out around both kids. Throughout the service, I noticed that the mom would occasionally rub one of the kids’ backs or straighten one of her boys’ short hair with her fingertips almost as if it were a reflex. It struck me how natural these gestures were and how they seemed so endearing. I remember thinking how that must be a sign of the strength of the relationship between that mom and her kids, then made a mental note about wanting the same for my future family. Yesterday, Cricket came downstairs after a long rest and landed right in my lap. At ten years old and more than 75lbs, her lanky limbs seemed to stretch on forever and bony bum felt a bit uncomfortable on my lap…but I hardly noticed. She launched into a funny story about her teacher at school; riveting us all with her dynamic voices and enthusiastic hand gestures. As she was finishing up, I realized that throughout her story, I had unconsciously been scratching her back and braiding her hair. Much like me, I was sure Cricket hadn’t even noticed what I had been doing. As I got up to leave the table, Cricket begged for me to sit back down and continue rubbing her back…she had noticed after all. There are days when I wish I could give my kids everything, but then I realize that much of what they need lies right in my own loving fingertips.