Spinning Plates

It’s been a rough couple of days for this mama, and frankly I’m pretty proud of myself that I haven’t curled up in a corner to ugly cry for an hour or drink heavily.

We spent the weekend in Iowa visiting my brother-in-law and his family. Aside from the 5+ hour car ride each way, it’s always a lot of fun for the kids and adults alike. The only time I nearly lost all of my shit this weekend was when I actually had to tell my son, “There is no way you can ‘accidentally’ bite someone’s butt!!” A weekend with minimal fighting (except for accidental butt bites) was actually pretty refreshing. Maybe my 3 nephews, 2 dogs, a basement arsenal of Nerf guns and all the sports equipment one could ask for are the key.

But coming home after a weekend of fun, late nights and long car rides, getting back into “real” life is as much fun as a case of The Gout. (More on that later.) Monday hit back… hard. I had one of those “spinning 12 plates at once” kinda mornings. It didn’t end well, as you will see.

spinning plates

I made my way to First Born Male Child’s (FBMC) room. I didn’t smell sulfur, so I went in. He was out cold, but after a calling his name a half dozen times, he stirred and muttered that he was up. Then he rolled over and went back to sleep. *sigh* I’d rattle his cage a little later. [Spins plate.]

Young Son (YS) was slightly easier to wake up after digging him out of his nest of covers and getting some of his better ticklish spots. [Spins plate.]

I stumbled downstairs and started the coffee, the blessed elixir of the morning. Amazon Warrior Princess (AWP) hurled herself out of her room, crazed hair and all, ready to attack the morning. YS sauntered downstairs bleary eyed and declared it to be a cold lunch day. Crap. Usually the rule is that hot vs. cold lunch has to be decided the day before. I didn’t feel like fighting and told him to start getting the stuff ready. [Spins plate.]

Now to wake up FBMC. I called upstairs. No answer. I called again, this time with an edge to my voice. Nada. I bellowed up, this time with nostrils flaring. It elicited a feeble, “what?” from him. “OHMYGAAWWWDDDD!!!! GET UUUUPPPP!!!” I heard muttering and shuffling around and hoped for the best. [Spins plate.]

AWP patiently hands me her pancake wrapped sausage on a stick she has gotten out so I could nuke it for her. “You got it sister. Way to be on the ball!” [Her plate was spinning just fine.]

Meanwhile, YS is assembling his lunch. “What do you want for breakfast, pal?” He huffs back, “I don’t KNOW! What IS there?” Because you know, breakfast food is such a freakin’ mystery! Every. Single. Day. “How ’bout PB&J?” I asked. He was down with that, so I doubled up the ingredients for my sandwich making. [Spins plate]

I realized I hadn’t heard anything from upstairs recently, so I called up, “Are you dressed???” I heard stumbling around, “no…” The vein on my forehead started to throb, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!! GET DRESSED!!!!!” I heard mumbling related to my lack of patience and overall parenting skills. [Angrily spins plate.]

coffee f bomb

Dear Husband (DH) finally comes downstairs. He was going to be leaving for 9 days in China in a little while, so he was oblivious to the building chaos since he was deep in Travel Mode. My surliness spiked as I contemplated the 9 days of being the only adult in our house. *sigh* I refilled my coffee and poured him a cup. [Spins plate.]

FBMC finally emerged from his room, still wearing his T-shirt he had worn to bed and pants he’d probably had on the day before. I didn’t want to know about the underwear. It pained me, but this time I let it go. I asked him if he’d fed his fish. He trotted back up, fed his fish and then proceeded to go back up and downstairs about a half dozen more times to get other “important” things he’d forgotten, like his favorite eraser. By this time, my blood pressure in the yellow zone and going higher. [Plates were starting to get wobbly.]

“Please get yourself some breakfast. You don’t have a lot of time!” This was answered by the same, “What IS there??” I got from his brother. (Why are my children trying to kill me by a million paper cuts???) YS cheerfully chimes in, “You could have eggs from IIIOOOWWWAAAAHHH!!!” Oh yes. Iowa eggs. My brother-in-law has 4 free-range chickens,

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and he’d sent some eggs home with us. FBMC had seen how they were collected and how non-pristinely clean they are when not purchased in a cardboard box from the store. “CHICKENS POOP EGGS! I’m NEVER eating anything with eggs again!!!” Once we reminded him that most of his favorite desserts had eggs in them (his whole reason for living,) he had to go think about that for awhile and reconsider his position on the matter. So when YS evilly suggested Iowa eggs as a breakfast option to see if he could make his brother explode, I may have given him my best “stop now or you will never touch an electronic device for as long as I’m alive” look. It must have worked, since he hunkered down and started shoving his PB&J in his mouth. Wise choice, young man. [More plates were looking wobbly.]

I don’t even know what FBMC ate for breakfast, since that was when the woman who cleans our house twice a month decided to walk in…a half an hour EARLY. (Yeah, I know…first world problems.) Normally she’s a welcome sight, but on a day like this one, she was the last thing I needed. The first of the plates started crashing as all momentum I had built came to a halt as she hauled her supplies inside. She started cleaning around the chaos and rearranging things I hadn’t had a chance to put away yet. (Why is it I spend more time cleaning for the cleaning person than any other time??) I started seeing stars and felt a small stroke coming on. [Crash! Crash!]

At that point, I looked at the clock: 3 MINUTES UNTIL THE BUS!!! SHIT!!!!! Shoes and socks were not on, coats and backpacks had walked off and hidden. I went into full-throttle yelling maniac drill sergeant mode. YS managed to pull things together while I ran outside and gave the bus driver the signal to wait a second. I went back inside only to find FBMC freaking out because his shoes were still WET from whatever hell he had gotten into while we were in Iowa! WHAT?!? Where were his other shoes?!! DH sprang into action and ran upstairs to find some while I shoved YS out the door to get on the bus. FBMC was going to miss it. Goddamnit! [Crash! Crash! Crash! SHATTER!]

The cleaning person had gone off to hide in a bathroom and clean. I figured she was in her own private hell, since let’s face it. YS couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn when he pees since he uses the “freestyle” method.

My stress level hit critical mass and I lost my shit. I think I may have sucked out all the air out of the room. FBMC finally got the hint that he needed to hustle and pulled himself together. We ran out to the garage only to find the Mom Mobile had been parked in. Okay. Where are the keys to DH’s car??? We roared down the driveway while I was giving FBMC an epic ass chewing for messing around and whatever other rants that came to mind.

I reached the entrance to the subdivision and finally got myself calmed down. This was not worth it. Really. Why am I such a freak? A couple miles down the road I apologized for being a lunatic and told him I loved him. Let’s try to do better tomorrow. He agreed and apologized as well. [Cue swelling feel-good music.]

This healing moment was short lived as I turned on the left turn signal, which started blinking rapidly. Fanfuckingtastic. Guess I’ll have to get that fixed too while DH is away. A few blocks later I nearly got t-boned by an irate woman who couldn’t see my dysfunctional turn signal. Excellent.

By the time I arrived back home, DH was working away in his office maximizing his time with WiFi before the car came to take him to the airport. I went upstairs to check the kids’ rooms to strip beds and re-clean what they hadn’t so the cleaning person could do actual real cleaning. (It’s madness.) I found a flashlight hidden under FBMC’s bed. BINGO! I KNEW he was staying up reading! Well, at least that answered one question.

I went back downstairs to say good-bye to DH. As we hugged, he must have been thinking that his 14 hour flight was looking pretty luxurious and peaceful compared to this morning’s private hell. I would agree. Off he went and I felt further deflated.

I’d like to say the day got better. I guess it sort of did since I had a clean house for all of 3 hours until the boys came home. I tucked AWP in her room with the iPad and let her have at it. This mama needed a nap. After the boys got home the rest of the evening was the regular crap of homework, dinner, and bedtime routine. Sweet freedom. I lived through the day. Tomorrow would be better. I went to bed early.

Well, not so much. 12:30 AM: “MOOOMMMM!!!!” I go into YS’s room and was hit with a giant wave of barf smell. I turned on the light. It looked like the morning after a frat party. [Cue dry heaves.] I got him washed up, every piece of bedding off and in the washing machine, re-made his bed and put him back to sleep with a bowl.

I crawled back into my own bed, only to have insomnia for the next 2 hours. I tracked DH’s flight. He was still over northern China and hadn’t landed yet. I’m sure at that point the plane smelled only slightly better than YS’s room had. At least we were both suffering, albeit hemispheres apart. Misery loves company.

I know we all have days where everything goes off the rails, sometimes more epically than others. But it’s those days where I find myself filled with the most self-doubt and self-loathing. Why can’t I hold my shit together longer like a normal person? I need to revisit my “3 Gs” of the new year: Gratitude, Grace and Goodness. I need to be grateful for what I have, give others more grace to be human and make mistakes and really notice the goodness around me. What if my mother witnessed my days like this? Surely I would get the saddest, most disappointed head-shaking look imaginable. I wouldn’t blame her.

Tomorrow is another day. Gratitude. Grace. Goodness. I can do it.

Oh yeah. So “The Gout.” My brother-in-law has been suffering with a case of The Gout. Now please note, it’s not “gout” — it’s “The Gout.” Sorta like “The Plague” is it’s own official thing. It brought back memories of my grandpa. I don’t have a ton of them about him, but I do remember this: he religiously took his “gout pills” every day. He would shuffle over to the cabinet by the stove, get down this big old-school amber glass apothecary jar

jar

and take his daily gout pill. “I don’t ever want to get The Gout again!” (In case you don’t know what “The Gout” is, it’s a form of acute arthritis that is caused by uric acid crystals building up, usually in your big toe. It’s excruciatingly painful and your foot feels like it’s on fire.) After he took his pill, he would shuffle over to his favorite chair, unlace his dress boots that he wore every day (along with suspenders and a long-sleeved dress shirt) and read the paper.

redman

That or he’d head out to the garage through the squeaky screen door and have a chew of Red Man chewing tobacco, of which he always had a not-so-secret stash of in the backseat of his car that forever had a not altogether unpleasant molasses-y smell. Over 30 years later and I still remember.

Maybe that will be my 4th G. Don’t get The Gout.

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Child Car Seats are from Hell

Recently I had to take the mom mobile into the dealer to have some work done on it. Normally, I try to suck it up and wait if it’s not too long, but this was supposed to take 4 hours. Waiting to have work done on your car is about as fun as getting work done at the dentist. Add a 3 year old to that scene, and it’s like getting that dental work done sans Novocain. So that meant I had to get a ride home and back again from the dealer, which included wrestling with with Amazon Warrior Princess’ car seat. Multiple times. [Insert whimpering here.]

Since I was going to have to take her car seat out of the car anyway, I had the brilliant idea that I could take this opportunity to move her into a bigger car seat. I had one stored in the basement from when my youngest son was her age, and I couldn’t remember why I never liked it. But I lugged it upstairs anyway.

carseatNow I know others will back me up on this, but I’m beginning to think there’s some plot that car seat and automobile manufacturers are colluding to see if they can send parents over the edge when it comes to car seat installation. If you look at the online videos of how to properly install a car seat, it looks as easy as making a simple cup of coffee. The perfectly made up mom, deftly plops the car seat in, click, click, click, tug, tug, tug, wiggle, wiggle and voila! Away she goes, not a hair out of place.

When I presented her with the new seat-of-honor, AWP squealed with delight. This snazzy model had a cup holder — only the cool kids get their own cupholder. She immediately plopped herself in and tried to buckle herself up. Problem was, the straps were set for someone half her height. Ah ha! NOW I remembered why I hated this thing: adjusting all the straps required an advance mechanical engineering degree and the hand strength of a professional milkmaid, both of which I lacked. After referencing online manuals, employing the use of a pliers and plenty of cursing and sweating while fending off an impatient preschooler, 30 minutes later I had conquered the beast. AWP got herself a juice box for the cupholder, took her place upon her new throne in the middle of the kitchen and was content. Have at it, sister.

 

Now when I was a kid, child safety seats weren’t really a thing. I had one when I was really little, but it was this big, black vinyl behemoth that I could climb out of and was rarely used. In fact, it wasn’t until I was learning how to drive that anyone really used seat belts in our car (except when we were on long car rides on the highway, the logic being bad accidents only happened at higher speeds.) Heck — when I was in kindergarten, my dad even built a wooden box “booster” covered in carpeting so I could sit in the middle of the bench seat up front and could see over the dashboard of our Oldsmobile 88. This was also before airbags, and I’m guessing I wasn’t buckled up then either. They should have just put a cape and go-go boots on me — hello projectile kid.

Luckily safety in general has come along way since I was little. Kids wear sunscreen in the summer, helmets when they bike or rollerblade and are buckled into an age-appropriate car seat or booster in the car. But did you know that according to the NHTSA, on average 46% of those car seats are installed incorrectly??!! Honestly, it’s not for lack of trying either. As parents we can only do the best that we can with the information available to us. And sometimes that gets overwhelming, confusing and nearly impossible.

So by the time I dropped my car off at the dealer, wrestled the old car seat into the porter’s hamster-powered car after moderate cursing and struggling, I was pretty much a wreck. The poor porter, who I think started shaving last week, looked pretty worried. He kept his hands white-knuckled at 10 and 2 and silently prayed that the crazed woman next to him wouldn’t go completely feral. As the landscape on the ride to our house turned somewhat rural, I think I heard him whimper, as I think he was listening for the sounds of banjos playing or something. We finally made it home, and I wrestled the car seat out of the back once again, leaving a trail of crushed goldfish crackers, fossilized french fries and God knows what else behind on the seat. I’ve never seen someone so relieved to pull out of our driveway. I’m guessing that was a really high-stakes game of Rock-Paper-Scissors back at the shop when the porters had to decide who was going to pick me up again the next day.

I guess the moral of this meandering story is that we can only try our best as parents to keep our kids safe and secure. We somehow managed to survive our own childhoods with our parents who were doing the best that they could. Our kids will too with a little luck, YouTube how-to videos and a screwdriver (the tool and the cocktail.)

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