To One Day Poop in Peace

There is a dream held by mothers out there. I’d say fathers, too, but I feel like this phenomenon mainly happens to moms. The dream is to one day poop in peace. I’ve heard murmurs, whispers among older parents, who speak in hushed voices about the days to come. Empty nesters who know what life is like to poop in peace.
Last night, not one, not two, but all three of the kids came a knocking at my bathroom door.
“MOM! (insert tattling on sibling here.)
“I’m in the bathroom.”
Then child two, “MOM, do you know that…. (insert factoid about something said child is interested in)”
“I’ll be out in a moment.”
“Mama, I want to read you something!” says child three.
“Please. I just want to go to the bathroom. By myself.”
“But mama, I want to talk to you privately.”
“I’m in the bathroom.”
“Okay, I’ll wait.” (Sound of the bed squeaking as he climbs on top to get comfortable in order to wait for me doing my business.)

One day, moms, our dreams will come true. We’ll poop in peace and, who knows, we might even be sad about it and miss all those interruptions. (But, probably not for long.)

*Editors note, I actually wrote this in 2015, but forgot to publish it! But, don’t you worry, I still have yet to poop in peace.

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Pillow Fight

Not to dash any dreams, but this post is not about scantily clad teens jumping on their beds, smashing each other with pillows. Just wanted to make sure of our expectations before going any further.

We just had to have a family meeting over pillows. Freaking pillows, people. My kids began an epic battle at bedtime. A lot of fingers were pointed. There was some raising of voices. I think one of them might have even whispered a curse under their breath at another. Not an F bomb or swear word, mind you, an actual curse of the, “May you awake with a spotted pinky toe” variety.

It all began when my 12-year-old decided to make his bed. (This, in itself, could be a momentous post.) He has a boy scout getaway weekend and I told him he wouldn’t be going if he didn’t clean his room. It was, hmmm… out of control? Gross? Ridiculous? An episode of “Hoarders?” I’m not really sure what is the best way to describe it. It was not clean, in a way that a room can only become by having two boys under the age of 13 living in it. I digress. I came home and to my surprise, he’d actually cleaned his room. He pointed out, rather proudly, that he’d even made his bed with the new bedspread and sheets we’d bought him. (He’s apparently too old for Superman sheets and wanted a more “mature” look.) I was impressed. And, sadly, that feeling only lasted a couple of hours.

Just before bedtime, we began to hear a lot of shouting and righteous indignation coming from down the hall. Apparently, in the room cleaning, my youngest son had lost his pillow. And by “lost,” I mean his siblings stole it. 20180111_212236 His pillow had been replaced with one of those oversized pillows people use to prop themselves up with on a day bed. After an interrogation fitting of “The Closer,” we finally got out some version of the truth. The two older siblings turned on each other, each eager to get the better deal from the D.A. or, in this case, the  D.A.D. The victim, meanwhile, hid it out in his room.

From what we discovered, it seems that while my older son was making his bed, he employed the help of his big sister. She pointed out that her brothers had multiple pillows and she had no pillow. (During her testimony, she repeatedly stated, “I’ve been sleeping on a cat!” (It’s a cat pillow and she’s never complained until now. She even had a  couple real pillows, but always rejected them for the cat.)) So, if what her brother says is to be believed, she took her youngest brother’s pillow and replaced it with the day bed pillow from her other brother’s bed.

I’m not sure if the older two thought no one would notice, or what, but our youngest most certainly did. We tried explaining the situation to them. You don’t take what’s not yours. If it were $1 instead of a pillow, you could more easily see the problem.

Gah! You all have pillows. Use the pillow. Sleep with the pillow. Don’t take your brother’s pillow. The end!

I can tell you with confidence, this scenario never, ever presented itself when I played house and imagined having kids when I was little.

The Outhouse Incident

My brother and his family are up visiting from Michigan. It’s been nice. He and his wife and five of their six kids snuggled into our cabin with the five of us and our mom. Lots of beds and zero working bathrooms. The outhouse has been busy.

My husband and I are constantly messing with visitors regarding the outhouse.

“Did you remember to flush?”

“Who clogged the toilet?!”

Things along those lines. In our outhouse, we have a slew of hand sanitizers, feminine products and toilet paper rolls, which we jokingly store on the handle of a plunger. We also have one more item, an item my brother discovered on the second day of his visit.

He had been outside with his daughter. She had complained it was kinda stinky in the outhouse. (Hey, you have 13 people using one outhouse for a few days, it’s bound to be a bit ripe.) So, my big brother thought he’d be helpful and spray some air freshener he saw on the shelf next to the hand sanitizer. (The can on the far left.)

He tried pushing the nozzle to spray it, but it wouldn’t budge. He tried again, pushing the handle even harder. This time, a safety clip came shooting off and the can began forcefully spraying all over the outhouse. About the moment the safety clip shot off was when my brother discovered his mistake. This was not air freshener.

It was – as you may have already guessed – bear spray. And it was everywhere. All over the walls. On the toilet seat. In his coffee cup he had been holding at the time. And, of course, in the air.

He came inside for help. After a long bout of laughter and our mother immediately posting the above photo on Facebook with a remark about how he grew up here and should know better, my brother and I proceeded to use a mix of paper towels, snow, wet wipes and some 409 to scrub the surfaces. And we coughed. And coughed some more. At no point in this scrub-down did either of us think to put on gloves or, perhaps, a face mask. Nope. We just scrubbed away. It took a while – and we had to work in shifts so neither of us would be overcome by the fumes – but we eventually cleaned it all up.

When we went inside, we did what you do after cleaning up a big mess. We washed our hands and faces. I cannot tell you how wrong wrong WRONG of a move this was. You see, what we didn’t know is that bear spray is made with an oil base that – for a lack of a better word – reignites the fire of the spray on every surface it touches. Our faces. Our hands. Every surface turned red. Angry red. Our faces looked like opposite Santas with skin of white and beards of red. And it burned. It burned. The teenagers began googling what to do. Advice number one – don’t try to wash it off with water. Oops. It said to wash with milk or oil and definitely don’t even think about putting lotion on. Oops again.

Imagine – if you will – slicing an onion. You tear up. Your eyes burn. You have to walk out of the room for a minute. Now imagine that happening. All over your eyes, your face, and your hands. And you can’t walk away. The sting follows you. Oh – and hey – even if washing it with water would help – we’re in a dry cabin so there’s no escape.

After the burning finally went away, we realized someone would have to make the inaugural run to the outhouse… post incident, that is. Remember that scene with the onions in your eyes? Now imagine your sensitive tush pressed against the toilet seat with remnants of pepper spray on it. Yeah. It was, um, a warming experience. Not to mention it wasn’t until a few hours later that we remembered we should probably change the toilet paper rolls…

We thought the pain had passed. Until the next day. Turns out, even if you soak in milk, the fire reignites with every wash. Even your hands sweating is enough to light the flesh flame. You know what else it doesn’t wash off of easily? My brother’s coffee cup. I was drinking from it the next day, trying to figure out why my throat was suddenly burning so much. Yeah… I got a new cup.

To bring this story to its close, I have to share one more fun fact. At the State Fair this fall, my mom bought my brother a gift we thought he’d like. She finally was able to give it to him yesterday. The timing was perfect.

I’m fairly certain my brother will not be forgetting this vacation any time soon. And surely, he’ll be the butt of all pepper spray jokes for some time to come.

Sir, You’re in my Splash Zone

Tonight was Back to School Night at the school where I teach and where my children have all gone to school.  It was all going well. That is, until I opened my mouth. If you know me or have read many of my blogs, you know I’m all too familiar with embarrassing moments. And believe you me, this was one of them.

To accommodate parents with more than one student, we offered two sessions. The first session went fine. We had a rather full class of parents eager to learn about what little Johnny or Jenny was doing in their school day. Sure, I stumbled over a word or two and accidentally admitted my dark secret that I have horrible handwriting (a subject I teach their children…) but overall the session went just fine. And then came the second session.

The second session had only two parents. Each parent sat at their child’s desk. Normally in a presentation, I would stand. However, since these folks were sitting at ridiculously small desks – knees to nipples – I thought it would be less domineering if I sat on a stool. And then there was incident number one.

As I went to sit upon the stool, careful to tuck my dress (let’s look professional now!) under my bottom, I inadvertently pushed the stool slightly off kilter. And I tried to sit. I think you see where this is headed. Too bad I didn’t. As I was stumbling/sitting/falling, I quickly pointed out, “Oh, wow! I thought I saw a black bear out there!” And pointed to the window where their children were playing outside. In my defense, I really, truly, no lie, thought I saw a black bear cub, which turned out to be one of my own students dressed in a black jacket, bent over and crawling on his hands and knees. My mistake. Oh, and no one said anything about my near fall. I wasn’t so lucky in the next incident.

Moments later – just long enough for my face to slightly pale from its bright red, I decided to up my own game and go for the gold. I spit on a parent. Yep. You read that right. He was sitting in the front row and as I was explaining what to do if your child was too sick to come to school and you still wanted us to send them schoolwork, I full on spit on this poor dad. You know, “Say it, don’t spray it” style. And the worst part was he totally saw it. I mean, he saw it coming. He watched this large glob of saliva leave my mouth, make its upward trajectory and then arch down to his arm which – THANK GOD – was covered by his jacket. We had just discussed gravity, so I guess this could have been another teaching moment. However, he started laughing. And then I started laughing and then talking, incessantly. I said something like, “Oh my. I just spit on you!” And then I tried to wipe it off him. And then I continued with my verbal diarrhea: “You are in my splash zone. It’s like a Gallagher show in here!” before continuing on, desperately grabbing my notes to get us back on track. Side note: know your audience. I don’t think any of these parents are even old enough to remember Gallagher. If you weren’t around for the 80s/early 90s, he’s the comedian who would smash watermelons on stage, drenching his audience in goo. You know, kinda like what I did to this guy tonight.

So, yeah. That was me introducing myself to my students’ parents. I’m sure they are walking away super confident in the lady teaching their class. Who knows, maybe they’ll have a good sense of humor and send their kids to school tomorrow with an umbrella, just in case there’s another shower.

Watching the Turkeys

My brother has a family of turkeys that live in the green belt behind his home. Every morning, they are in his lawn, seeking breakfast in the grass. Normally, they are already in the lawn when I get up. This morning, I had the pleasure of watching them arrive. At first, I saw a slight movement from the side of his lawn. And then, here came this little baby turkey. (Chick? Are turkey young called chicks? I don’t know, I’ll have to ask my best friend. She has a flock of them. Wait. Is it a flock of turkeys? It’s a murder of ravens. I know that one because it’s super weird. A menagerie? Whatever. I digress.) This little bitty turkey just waddles his/her way onto the lawn – eager to investigate. That one is followed by mama, who I can only describe as regal. She is a real beauty. And then, two more little chicks (yeah, I’m sticking with it now) follow her out onto the lawn. Mama gracefully struts through the grass, looking for unsuspecting bugs, calling for her babies when she finds something, and continues to forage across the lawn and into the neighbors property.

It’s been a while since I’ve stopped to watch the turkeys. It’s like this thing you know is happening – an everyday ritual – but it just happens in the background while you continue to stress about whatever the day’s given stress is. Or, sometimes it’s not even that day’s stress. Sometimes it’s something that happened weeks or months ago and you’re still going over it in your mind. Or maybe it’s your mental to do list and you’re planning your stress in advance. Whatever it is, there’s no time for turkey watching.

Last summer, I took a job as an elementary school teacher. When I started this blog, I had just left a job teaching high school journalism after our funding ran out when our grant expired. Every job I’ve ever had (journalist, teacher, advertising executive) has some with its own degree of stress. But nothing – NOTHING – stresses me more than being a mother. It’s not the same kind of stress as fearing that you’ve somehow screwed up an account for a client, or the stress  of not having a lead story for that night’s news, or the stress of not knowing if a student is truly grasping a concept you’ve been working on all quarter. No, motherhood is full of its own special stresses. Stresses like, “Are my kids growing up to be productive members of society?” “How do I get two of the three kids to point A and the third to point B at the exact same time, despite the fact they are 15 miles away from each other?” and (recently) “Will this lice infestation ever end?!”

Stress is something mamas (at the least the human ones) are good at. And if we can’t find something to stress about with our kids, we can just wait a moment because the next stress is right around the corner. But, the turkey mama – she doesn’t worry. She doesn’t stress. She just is. The fact that I got to watch her this morning with her three chicks is not lost on me. It’s the simple things – God showing me how to take a moment and relax. To smile.

I’ve been reading the same thing a lot recently in my morning devotionals – the same message but in different verses:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

Or, especially fitting for today: “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27

So, today, I’m watching the turkeys and I’m taking note. Worry less, watch more. Don’t stress over the small things. Except the lice. But that’s a different story for another day.

He Called Her, “Sasquatch”

Yesterday, while waiting for a birthday party to begin at one of those big trampoline places that gouge you with their hourly rates and force you to watch legal warning videos showing you, via stick figures, how your precious child could easily break every bone in his/her body, before having you sign a waiver saying you won’t sue them if the inevitable happens, I witnessed something that has left my head spinning ever since. And, no, it wasn’t from the trampolines.

I was waiting at the entrance with my 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. As we watched through the glass doors for his friends to arrive, we saw a group of teenage boys entering the building. The door opened, and they trailed in, one hormone-oozing kid after the other. There was a teenage girl perched on a bench directly by the door. She seemed to be their age. One of the boys, I didn’t catch which one, startled me enough to look up when he saw the girl and, in passing, as if he was not just brutalizing her with his words, uttered, “Hey, Sasquatch,” at her. She immediately got up and walked out of the building, through the same door this squad of boys had entered. I stood there, flabbergasted. I was torn. I wanted to run after her and say something consoling. To tell her that she didn’t have to take that. And I wanted equally to run after that boy and yell at him in front of his friends, in front of everyone and tell him what a complete and utter jerk he was. I wanted to make him feel as small as he was trying to make her. I turned to the left and watched him and his friends pay to get inside. I turned to the right and watched her get in the backseat of what I assumed was her parents car.

And I did nothing.

I contemplated my options. I thought of ways to get the boy to give me his mother’s phone number without letting on to my plan to call her and tell her how awful he’d just been. I thought of things I could say to him and his friends. Should I take the stance of outrage and have him pass me off as just some crazy mom? Should I try to level with him and tell him that what he says actually matters? Should I tell him that it’s kids like him that make other kids cry at night, take their own lives?

I did nothing.

I watched him pay. I watched his friends pay. I turned back to the right to see if the girl had already driven away. I wondered whether she’d cried or just added it to the list of times she’d been made fun of. I wondered if her parents would see she was upset. I wondered if she would open up and tell them.

I looked back to my left. The boys were gone.

I looked down. There was my 14-year-old daughter – not that different in age from the girl who’d just been dubbed, “Sasquatch.” There was my 11-year-old son – not that much younger the boys who had just cruelly called the girl such a name. There was my chance.

I asked my children if they had heard or seen what had just happened. I told my daughter never to take that. Never. To tell the kid to knock it off. Something. I never want her to feel what that girl felt. That rejection. That shame. That embarrassment. The same things I felt for years, at the hand of a boy in school who has taken to calling me “Old Yeller” for years. And for years, he and his cronies barked at me, just to drive the point home. I got it. They didn’t have to say it. I was ugly as a dog.

For years, I came home crying. My mother told me I should pray for him, ignore it. I did both. Nothing changed. He was a year older than me and, finally, in my 6th grade year, I was free of his tormenting when he went off to junior high. I had one blissful year. Until my first day of junior high. Bent over the water fountain, I felt him standing in line behind me. I stood up and he said it. “What’s up, Old Yeller?” No. This time I wasn’t going to take it. I was not going to start a new year, a new school with the same old pain. And before I could even think it through, I replied with the words that changed my future, “Wow. A whole year went by and you’re still using that same old material? Huh.” And I walked off. I changed my future. I took his power.

My daughter is in her final year of middle school. She comes home with stories, experiences and sometimes tears. Sometimes she opens up about what her classmates said or did. Other times, she doesn’t. I’ve always taken the approach with my kids of, “turn the other cheek” and “just ignore them.” But this. This kid and this one word, “Sasquatch” just burned inside of me.

“Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” I quote that scripture from James all the time to my kids. But this seemed like God’s righteousness. That one of his children was hurting – from the stinging words of another child.

My son is approaching the middle school years himself. He tells me on a daily basis what the other kids say and do. He’s still sharing, thank God. And thank God for my son’s spirit. He doesn’t take part in name calling… except to his siblings. But I wasn’t taking any chances. I asked him if he’d ever call someone that name. Of course, he said no. I pushed him further – if you ever hear a friend call someone a name STEP IN! Don’t just let it happen because you don’t want to look uncool. Say something!

I told my kids – this is the kind of thing that leads kids to kill themselves. Bullying. A single word that can cause so much pain.

My prayer is that her parents will see this. My prayer is that his parents will see this. That they’ll talk with their children about the words they use. They’ll make sure their children know that this is not right. And that the girl – who I know nothing about – will  brush off this experience and stand tall, knowing that one word does not define her.

 

Midnight Triage Parenting

It was 12:58am when I heard the knock on my bedroom door. I can tell you this with certainty, because I had to hit the “home” button on my phone so I could have a modicum of light as I navigated the dog-filled carpet from my bed to the door. (Only one dog was nearly stepped on.) It was a rushed walk, as my 10-year-old had informed me through the closed-door that his stomach hurt and he thought he was going to throw up. His younger brother had a bout of tummy unease over the weekend, so this was a legit concern.

As I opened my bedroom door, I found my middle child laying in the fetal position, rocking on the floor. “My stomach hurts. My stomach hurts!” He was wailing. I got him up and told him to head to the bathroom. I feared I knew the next act in this nausea play.

And that’s when I noticed my oldest child’s bedroom door was also open. She looked at me from her bed and cried, “Mom, I don’t feel good. I have ninety-six nine.”

What? My midnight brain has no idea what this means. I have to ask her to explain.

“Ninety six nine!” she sobbed, “on the thermometer! I have a fever!”

Oh. 96.9. Okay, brain, let’s do math in the middle of the night, shall we?(I feel like midnight mental math should be deserving of a cookie or at least a sticker or something.) The average body temperature of a human is 98.6, meaning she does not have a fever.

Here comes the midnight triage parenting. I imagine this scenario is a lot like those scenes in the old TV show, MASH. (Awesome show, by the way, I totally loved it. And, a former boss once referred to me as “Radar,” which I definitely took as a compliment.) In MASH, when a chopper would arrive full of injured soldiers, the doctors and nurses had to decide – who needs the most help at that very moment?

So, there I stood at – let’s go with 1:00 am, since it probably took about two minutes to climb over the dogs, open the door, make out what my child was moaning on the floor and head down the hall. It’s 1:00am and I have not one but two kids now telling me “I don’t feel good!” You know what case made it to the top? The potential vomiter. My 10-year-old son was told to head to the bathroom, while my 14-year-old daughter was told to go to bed. I told her (I hope compassionately) that she did not have a fever and that sleep was her best option. And yes I meant it. And yes, she had to go to bed.

Then, I turned my attention to the 10-year-old, got him calmed down, and what felt like nine years later, back in bed. At that point, I was wide awake. Just me and my mom guilt.

I should have tried to treat my daughter, too.

I should have been nicer. What did I say?

I should have patted her head and told her she’d feel better soon.

I should have offered her a cool rag for her head.

So, instead of slipping back to sleep, I laid there thinking of all the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. And then… I tried to shift my thinking to the fact that I needed to count my blessings. My youngest was feeling better, my middle one was falling asleep and my oldest appeared to already be asleep. And, we can check “first back to school illness” off our list.

When it’s midnight and you’ve just woken up by a sick child, you are forced to make decisions. Those decisions grow exponentially with the number of kids that are awake and needing your attention. And boy can those midnight decisions be difficult!

What about you? What do you do during Midnight Triage Parenting? How do you handle it when more than one is sick?

 

 

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