Just What He Deserved

I know it was bad timing, but I couldn’t help myself.  I flung open the bathroom door as my husband was helping my son brush his teeth before bed, broken baby-doll stroller in hand.

“I told you to be gentle,” I said, using my firm, I’m-not-playing-around voice. “Now your sister’s stroller is broken.  You are not allowed to play with it anymore.”

My son does not like to be told he was wrong and he really does not like to be “yelled” at.  The fact that I did both immediately set him off.  Had I taken a moment to think things through, I’d have known it would be better to have this conversation in the morning after we’d both had a good night sleep.  Instead, I got him all worked up right before bed–smart move, Mom.

“Oh yeah? Well, you’re the worst mom ever!  You know what I’m gonna do?  I’m gonna…”.  My five-year-old let me know exactly what he was going to do, using every “bad” word he has learned from kindergarten this year: stupid, hate, and everything in between.

“Stop,” I said.  “We don’t talk like that.  I’m just letting you know not to touch the stroller any more.”

My son takes after me in that he always wants the last word.  He dropped his toothbrush and stepped back from the sink, about to continue his tirade when the back of his legs bumped into the toilet bowl and he fell in with a splash. Into the water he had just peed in.  And hadn’t flushed yet!

His eyes grew round as saucers as he realized what just happened.  The look on his face was priceless.  My mind momentarily considered my next moves, but I didn’t have to think about it for long.  The sight of him sitting in the toilet was hilarious.  I couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, I think you got just what you deserved,” I giggled, breaking the struggle the had ensued just moments before.

My son seemed relieved that I wasn’t mad about the toilet incident and started to laugh, too.  I took his hand and helped him out of the toilet, grabbing towels off the towel rack for him to stand, dripping, on.  As I peeled off his wet clothes, discarding them in the bathtub, we replayed with words and laughed about what had just happened.  After a quick rinse in the shower, he pulled on clean pajamas, finished brushing his teeth, and was ready for bed.

“I’m serious, though, no more rough-play with your sister’s stroller,” I said as I gave him a goodnight hug.

“Okay, Mommy,” he replied, hugging me back.  “Best Mommy ever!”

One point for Mom!  But I think the toilet deserves to be named MVP.

 

OLW 2017

OLW.

One Little Word.

Ever since I joined the TWT Slice of Life writing community last March, I’ve been reading about other people’s OLW. Over the course of the year I gathered that it was a word chosen and a “theme” for the year, both personally and professionally.

Just like the March SOL challenge kept calling me, so has OLW.  So I’m doing it.  I made a list, narrowed it down, and settled on my own One Little Word for 2017:

CONNECT

This year I want to put my energy into meaningful connections.  Connect with myself.  Connect with my husband and children.  Connect with friends, old and (hopefully) new.  Connect with the teachers and students I work with.  Connect new learning to old learning.  Help others connect.

Connect.  We’ll see where this goes.

CONNECT

 

The Heart of a 5-Year-Old

At the beginning of winter break, my 5-year-old son took a momentary break from his Christmas-induced, self-centered, present-obsessed state and asked me, “Mom, can we set up a stand to give homeless people things they need like food, clothes, a job, money, and other stuff?”

My mommy-heart swelled as I replied, “That’s a great idea, Buddy!  But instead of making our own stand, I’ll call Grandpa and see when his church is making dinner for the homeless again.  Maybe we can go help, too.”

And that is how Buddy Boy and I ended up helping serve dinner to over 100 homeless people the day after Christmas.  I glanced in my rear-view mirror on our way and saw my 5-year-old boy beaming with a smile that stretched from ear to ear.  “I can’t wait to help the homeless people!” he told me in an excited voice.

We pulled into the parking lot under the interstate downtown where different groups serve dinner four nights a week at a location called The Lord’s Table.  There were benches and tables set up in a fenced off area of the parking lot. The gates were wide open, and there were several people inside the area setting up the serving tables while the line of people who came for dinner started getting longer and longer.

“How do we know who are the homeless people and who are the workers?” Buddy Boy asked as we got out of the car.

Caught off guard, I had to think for a moment about how to answer his innocent question. “Well, the homeless people are the people who come through the line to get dinner.”

The food was set up and ready to serve: hot rice, beef and vegetable stew, fruit salad, buttered bread, and cookies.  Buddy Boy and I were given the job of handing out sandwiches and oranges for people to take with them for later.  As each person came through the line, Buddy Boy picked up a sandwich, looked him or her in the eye, and asked, “Would you like a sandwich?”  The best part, though, was watching everyone’s response to his simple question.  Without fail, each person perked up upon seeing and hearing Buddy Boy and his sandwiches.  Most people gave him a big smile and a hearty “thank you.”  He was like a warm light in the cold and rainy night.

After the last meal was served and the area was cleaned, Buddy Boy and I got in our car to head home.  A few of the last people who came for dinner were still in the parking lot, sitting on the curb eating or talking in small groups.  As we pulled out of the lot, I saw Buddy Boy watching them out his window.

“I wish I could give them a job,” he said, his voice twinged with sadness.

“Me, too,” I murmured.  “Maybe someday you’ll have a way to do that.  But for tonight, at least we know that everyone who came had a hot, healthy meal and they have a sandwich they can eat for breakfast in the morning.”

He thought about that for a minute before asking, “Mommy, can we come back with Grandpa every time?”

My initial thought, as I looked at the clock that read 8:50, was no, it’s too late for a school night.  But as I thought about the evening, about Buddy Boy’s genuine desire to help others and his ability to give people going through tough times a reason to smile, I thought to myself maybe one late night a month isn’t that big of a deal.  As I thought about how I hadn’t once heard a selfish word come out of his mouth the entire evening, I thought to myself maybe one late night a month isn’t that big of a deal.  And as I thought about the person I want my son to grow into, I thought to myself one late night a month isn’t that big a deal.

“We’ll come again, definitely,” I finally answered.

What Is She Thinking?

I wish Baby Girl A could talk.

She actually talks quite a bit for a toddler less than two weeks away from her second birthday.  She talks way more than her older brother did at this age.  And she talks enough to let you know exactly what she wants.

But she doesn’t talk enough to explain why she wants what she wants.  And that is why I wish Baby Girl A could talk more. Because I would love to know why she insists that the Rhino Monster Truck must stay in the fridge.  Every time I take it out, she finds it and clearly tells me to put it back.  But she doesn’t tell me why.  I’ll probably never know.img_0562

Hair

About 90% of the time I wear my hair in a pony tail.  Not only does it keep it out of my way, but it is also the quickest and easiest way to tame my not really wavy, not truly straight, super-thick hair.  I prefer to wear it down, I think it looks better, but as a working mom-of-three small children, I rarely have the time to straighten it during the rushed and hectic mornings at my house.

This morning was one of those rare occasions when everyone was dressed and ready to go, and I still had a few minutes before I needed to leave.  Gleefully, I plugged in my flat-iron, telling my not-quite-two-year-old twins, “Hot!  Owie!  Don’t touch!” and proceded to straighten my locks into submission.  I was almost done when I found

THREE

GRAY

HAIRS

hiding underneath the hair at my left temple.  “Is that what I think it is?” I whispered out loud, leaning in to the mirror for a better look.  Sure enough, that’s just what it was.  One gray hair for each of my children.

I quickly finished up and managed to make it out the door on time, but I thought about those three gray hairs all the way to school.  Am I a little sad, perhaps yes.  But I decided that I’m a little proud of them, too.  I’ve given birth to three children–two of them at the same time–and pour my heart into being the best mom I can for them.  I traded my sporty red Bug for a silver mini-van.  I also work full time, helping teachers and their students live up to their full potential.  Yes, I’ve earned those three gray hairs.

That said, I hope I don’t earn any more any time soon.

The First Day

This morning we all got up earlier than usual.  For the past few weeks I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to push back bedtime in anticipation of this day, knowing my not-so-little boy would usually still be asleep when the 7:50 bell rings on his first day of kindergarten.  I had planned to wake him up at 6:50, but I hate waking up a sleeping child.  I finally did at 7:00 this morning. Sure enough, the first thing he said was, “I’m still sleepy.”

He groggily climbed down from the top bunk and made his way to the bathroom and then the table for breakfast.  I fed him his Cheerios and strawberries while he watched a cartoon on the iPad-I didn’t want to argue about feeding himself today.  I just wanted to make sure he ate, because I was worried he wouldn’t eat anything on his own during lunch at school.

All too soon it was time to leave.  He insisted on riding his racing bike with his new clip-in pedals, which meant we had to bring his regular shoes to change into at school.  My husband and son left on their bikes, as they will for the rest of the year.  But since it was the first day, I wanted to be there, too.  I put the twins in their stroller and we set off separately to meet them there.

When we got there, my husband was locking up my son’s bike and said, “I forgot his shoes at home.  I’ll be right back.”  The kindergarten playground on the front of the school was a circus, full of parents and children waiting just like us.  I snapped some pictures of his big smile to put in his scrapbook and chatted with other parents I knew while we waited.  A few minutes later Dad was back with his tennis shoes and I walked with him to the end of Ms. Cook’s line.

A preschool friend was at the end of the line, and the two boys played and laughed together in line, waiting for the other classes and parents to clear out of the way.  Finally Ms. Cook started to lead the line towards the classroom door.

“Can I have a hug, Buddy?” I asked.  With a playful smile he stretched his arms out and jumped into a big hug, hanging his full 53 pounds from around my neck.  I gave him a strong squeeze back, then set him down on the ground. “I love you.  Have a great day!”

“Okay, Mommy,” he smiled and followed his line into the school.

And then he was gone.  I was left standing in a sea of parents who had also just sent their children into their first day of kindergarten.  Some were crying, some were laughing.  I was doing neither.  The noises faded away as I became momentarily lost in the slide show of memories playing in my mind of my son over the past five years.  His contagious laughter, smile that lights up the room, boundless energy, and passionate curiosity.  My heart was full of love, pride, and, I’ll admit, a little worry.  I said a silent prayer that he would have a good day and then did the only thing left for me to do.  I left.

Rotten Tomatoes

My childhood friend and I were sitting on my patio, watching and listening as our boys played together for the first time.  The first time they met, they were 8 weeks and 4 weeks old.  But since my friend and her husband are teachers in Cambodia, they hadn’t seen each other since then.

Looking at them, I couldn’t help but notice that they are complete opposites of each other.  My son, Colton: tall for his age, dark brown curls, tanned skin, fearless.  My friend’s son, Britton: short for his age, blonde, fair skin, and timid.  And yet, they were getting along beautifully.

“Do you want to pick tomatoes?” Colton asked.  Colton hates tomatoes, but he loves to pick them for anyone else who wants to eat them.

“Yuck!  Tomatoes are disgusting!” Britton replied, sticking out his tongue to emphasize his point.

Colton’s face broke into a look of pure joy; his smile stretched from ear to ear.  “That’s the spirit!” he declared emphatically.  The two of them ran off, laughing together, leaving my friend and I laughing over the exchange.  Where do kids learn these sayings?  It really is amazing!

Do I Really Have a Cold in August?

I stare longingly at the bottle of Nyquil, beckoning me from the medicine cabinet shelf behind the mirror in my bathroom.  I want to twist off the top and down the nasty green liquid that leads to eight hours of blissful sleep, despite the sinus pressure pounding in my head.  But I won’t.  Because the girls still wake up to nurse at night.  And Baby Girl A only has one kidney and I have to be careful about the medicine she ingests.

I sigh and close the cabinet door. You guys better take really good care of me when I’m old, I think to myself.

If I had a dollar for every time those words crossed my mind or mouth, I’d have so much money I wouldn’t need them to take care of me when I’m old!

Deep Thoughts

Last week I was in a bad mood and feeling sorry for myself.  I was supposed to go to my friend’s bachelorette party, but my son had a State Cup BMX race so he and my husband wouldn’t be home to watch the twins.  And everyone else I knew capable of and willing to watch two 18-month-olds were unavailable:

  • my parents–in Hawaii
  • my parents-in-law–in Canada
  • my best friend–in Alaska
  • my sister-in-law–taking her boys to two different baseball tournaments at the same time
  • my niece–marching in a parade with her cheer team

So it looked like I was going to be spending Saturday evening at home instead of out with my friends, again.

I tried to not let it get to me. You haven’t seen these friends in months, anyways, I told myself.  So what if you miss another dinner with them? You can go next time.  They understand. But it wasn’t working.  I was cranky.

I’m a normally happy person. But Thursday night, after the kids went to bed, I was anything but happy.

“Hey, you okay?” My husband asked.

“No! What I want you to say is, ‘You know, you work really hard and hardly get any time to yourself.  You never get to go out with your friends.  You deserve to go wine tasting, sit in a hot tub, and go to dinner with your friends.  The weather is going to be bad at the race this weekend anyways.  We’ll skip it so you can go to the party.’  But you won’t, and I’m bummed out about it.”

My husband looked at me for a moment.  “You’re right, you do deserve to go.  Do you really want us to skip the race so you can go?”

“Yes! No!  I don’t know. I already told them I can’t come anyways.”  I dragged the basket of laundry to the couch and began furiously folding clothes.

“You know what you need?  Some Deep Thoughts!”

I love Deep Thoughts.  Not many people enjoy them as much as I do.  But I was determined to resist my husband’s plot to cheer me up and continue to revel in my self-pity.  I continued to take my emotions out on the laundry as my husband opened The Lost Deep Thoughts: Don’t Fight the Deepness by Jack Handy and began to read:

If you lose your job, your marriage and your mind all in one week, try to lose your mind first, because then the other stuff won’t matter that much.

My mouth involuntarily broke into a smile and laughter came pouring out, cracking the shell of the foul mood that had encapsulated me all evening.  What is it about Deep Thoughts that gets me every time?  With each one my husband read, I felt a little lighter and a little happier, a little more like my normal self.

Probably the saddest thing you’ll every see is a mosquito sucking on a mummy.  Forget it, little friend.

Now that is sad! Yes, being a parent is hard.  Having twins makes it harder.  But the truth is that I’m very blessed.  Thank you, dear husband, for giving me back my rose-colored glasses when I drop them.

I Saw Him!

“We don’t want to be late because we want them to take the kids again someday!” I reminded my husband, trying to prod him along as he woke up from his nap on the beach and put on his shoes.

That morning my parents had picked up all three kids for the day so that we could have a day to ourselves.  When my husband asked me what I wanted to do, I said, “Something we can’t do with kids.”  So we decided to have brunch at our favorite restaurant and then hike down to the beach.  Yes, we go to the beach with the kids, but we don’t get to take a nap or read a book at the beach when we’re with the kids.  And that is just what we spent the afternoon doing–my husband napping and I reading.

As I was repacking the backpack–water bottle, sunblock, book, towel–I heard a woman farther down the beach give an excited scream.  I looked her way and saw that she had jumped out of her beach chair and was scanning the ocean excitedly.

“Did you see that?” my husband asked.

“See what?” I responded.

“That orca!  It came up out of the water about 150 feet from the shore.”

“Are you serious?!?!” I exclaimed.  I felt a lump form in my stomach as that feeling of wanting to go back in time and do something differently washed over me.  I have lived in Seattle for almost 11 years, and ever since I’ve moved here I have wanted to see an orca.  And now I missed my chance because I was too busy being responsible and hurrying to get home on time!  If only you were more relaxed and not so worried all the time, I berrated myself, then you would have seen the orca like everyone else on the beach!

“It was right over there,” my husband gestured towards the water.  “It’ll probably come up again.”

I kept my eyes on the ocean, scanning from left to right for any sign of the orca surfacing again.  If it came up again, I was not going to miss it this time.  Please, please, please, I silently prayed.  All thoughts of the time vanished as I stared at the white caps being whipped up by the blowing wind on this sunny, but windy, afternoon.

“There he is,” my husband said, pointing a little to our left.  I followed the direction of his arm, and…I saw him!  For just a few seconds he came up to the surface before diving back down again, his massive tail gracefully slipping into the water before he vanished.  The lump in my stomach melted away, replaced by a warm energy that rejuvenated my body and mind, eliminating all  of my negative thoughts.

I jumped to my feet.  “I saw an orca!” I shouted happily. “I can’t believe it-this is incredible!”  My husband smiled as me, not quite understanding how seeing something so briefly could make me so excited, but glad that it did.

As we hiked back up the bluff to our car, our beautiful day away coming to an end, I decided that I am going to try to spend more of my energy enjoying the present moment and less energy worrying or stressing over things that need to happen.

But in case you were wondering, we were only 20 minutes late to get the kids.