Found this gem in the bathroom tonight.
DrDE tlow = DIRTY TOWEL
“Parenthood: That state of being better chaperoned than you were before marriage.” —Marcelene Cox
Found this gem in the bathroom tonight.
DrDE tlow = DIRTY TOWEL
“Parenthood: That state of being better chaperoned than you were before marriage.” —Marcelene Cox
I could have renewed my driver’s license this morning, while the kids were at school. But I had editing to do and I love my quiet/coffee/home-alone time. Plus, I thought, the kids would get a kick out of helping me on the errand. I could teach them about licenses and the responsibility that comes with driving a car and … lines.
I’m an idiot.
I picked the kids up from school and the first thing we did was eat out—this allowed everyone to use the bathroom and everyone to fill their stomachs, and as a bonus, they felt as if it was a treat. So, they were happy.
Next up, the DMV.
“Just drive down 27—it’s the new building on the left,” Andy said.
I did exactly what he said and somehow ended up at the police department. The woman in front of us was, shall we say, in distress. After I noted the bars over the windows and the fact that everyone was carrying a gun, I said to another woman behind me, “This isn’t where you renew your driver’s license, is it?”
She said no.
We left. I answered lots of questions. I loaded everyone back in the car. I called Andy.
“Why would you go to the police department? You need to go to the other new building,” he said.
“What’s the building called?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. He looked up the address. “1098 Monmouth Street.”
Turns out it was the County Clerk’s Office and wasn’t far. I drove, parked, unloaded the kids, found “DMV” on the directory and we waited in line, for about 20 minutes.
“Are you here for a renewal?” a woman asked, when it was our turn.
“Yes,” I said. “My driver’s license.”
“You’re in the wrong building.”
At this point I had already threatened the loss of and given back the promise of fruit snacks once home to the kids about 12 times.
“What?” I asked.
I needed to be at the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, on York street. Not the County Clerk’s Office on Monmouth street.
I loaded everyone back in the car. And drove to the courthouse.
This time, I had to parallel park the minivan. And once inside the courthouse, the kids had to walk through a metal detector, which James tried to go back and forth through three times. Thankfully, the officers were kind and awarded the kids for being somewhat reasonable with gold Junior Sheriff Deputy stickers.
We walked down a hallway and down a staircase to another hallway where there was a really.long.line.
And so we waited. The kids begged for candy from one of the four snack machines next to us. I didn’t have enough change. We waited. The boys couldn’t leave the flexible line divider thing alone. I scolded. We waited. We played Simon Says. We waited. The kids spotted a water fountain and I tried to bribe them with water, saying if they were good in line we’d visit the fountain when we were done. We waited. A bench freed up and the kids sat. Well, Sophie sat and the boys started a wrestling match with each other. I scolded and gave them my phone to look at pictures. We waited.
We waited and waited and waited until we were called and the woman behind the desk asked me if the address on my license was current and I said “yes” and then looked at my license and realized it was not (we moved years ago) and I told her so and then she asked for proof of address, such as a piece of mail.
I considered crying.
Thankfully, my checks have my current address and that sufficed.
Next I spent an entire minute explaining to Owen why he couldn’t be in the picture with me. I smiled against the blue backdrop, while all three of my kids were on the floor around my feet, done with the day.
I got my new license.
“Do you want to see it?” I asked Sophie.
I’m an idiot.
“Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car.” —E.B. White
It’s 11:25pm the night before I turn 35 and I feel like I want to physically reach out and press against time. Slow it down. Stop it, for a moment, for many.
I have been so lucky in my life and I have such high hopes for the future. I should also note that not a single birthday has bothered me. Except this one.
I have some theories.
At the YMCA when I option in my weight and age on the elliptical machine the age given is 35. From here on out, I press the up arrow.
Then there is the little matter of the little black boxes next to the different age demographics on various forms. For years I’ve been ticking the 25-34 box. Come tomorrow, I’ll be checking the 35-44 box.
Please don’t mistake this for an essay on feeling old. Thirty-five is not old. Rather, this is an essay on the passage of time—the ever-swifter passage of time.
Ten years ago, when I graduated to the 25-34 demographic, I was living in a lovely old townhouse in Mariemont with my good friend Jenna. We would go to work, come home, heat up frozen veggies in the microwave for dinner, drown them in spray butter (I know), and follow that up with large bowls of ice cream while watching “Sex and the City” out of order on DVDs we found at the library. I was an editor at Popular Woodworking magazine, looking for misplaced commas and building the most uncomfortable Windsor chair ever built while writing about craftspeople who built the most beautiful things. I was planning on marrying a guy I had dated since my sophomore year of college at The Cincinnati Observatory, a place I also volunteered. Thursday nights at Arthur’s with friends were some of my favorite nights. I listened to Patty Griffin constantly. I was lighter in weight as well as in years and the future seemed so far, so bright, so bold.
And it has been bright. And it has been bold. But now, as I think about my next 10 years, everything feels more settled. And there’s comfort in that, but weariness, too. Some mornings, I laugh on the inside at my face in the mirror. I laugh at this universe that thinks I’m capable—old enough—to be married, with three children, in a house we owe and owe and owe for, paid, in part, doing work I second-guess myself on all the time.
I am told this is normal.
That said, hope for brighter and bolder hasn’t been completely lost. After the one (or three) slices of French strawberry torte I plan to eat tomorrow I have big plans for my relationship with the machines a the Y. I will keep submitting my picture books, even though I’ve been submitting for six years now. I figure there’s still hope when the rejections still sting. The hopes I have for my children are most intense and they are also the reason I most want to slow down, back up, retreat, pause. And yet, at the same time, I can’t wait for them to march through all their years and experience all of everything and so I try to remain present in the now, the 35 and one day, the 35 and two days, and so on.
It just feels not so long ago that I was in the newly-married-new-parent demographic. And before that, the young-adult demographic. And before that, the teenager demographic. Truly, it all seems so recent.
I can think back 30 years, to when I was 5. I remember my blue tricycle with the white plastic basket and my Strawberry Shortcake sheets and the feel of our concrete front stoop. Thirty years from now, I’ll be 65. 65.
And last time I checked, weren’t my parents 35? No?
Age, time—it’s a funny thing, something birthdays inspire thinking about.
Once, while on a road trip with friends, we were playing “Would You Rather” with each other in three different cars, via walkie-talkies. All the questions, of course, were ridiculously fun and then it was my turn. My question: “Would your rather live a great life and die at the age of 25, or live a horrible life and live to be 100?” (I am quite skilled at awkwardly turning light conversation into serious talk.) It’s an impossible question, dependent on so much.
Here I am. Ten years beyond what was then, on a highway with friends so many years ago, several years away. And it’s been great. So my expectations are high, for all the good and not-so-good that will fill the little black box next to 35-44.
“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” —Henry David Thoreau
“Mommy, when we came out of your tummy you gave us a birthday!” —James, thinking deep thoughts, almost two hours past his bedtime
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” —Mark Twain
I’m at my wit’s end.
Owen is completely trained—day and night.
James James James! No. 1, great. No. 2, refuses. He hides and then comes to us, hands covering his eyes and whispers what he’s done.
We have tried e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. For months. Many, many months.
We’ve tried charts—three different charts—each with different goals and rewards.
We’ve set the timer for every 15 minutes for days at a time.
We’ve sat with him, reading book after book.
We’ve let him sit in the living room, watching TV.
We’ve tried a small treat for each attempt.
We’ve let him go naked at home, all day long.
We’ve tried padded underwear, smaller underwear, bigger underwear, an array of different character underwear.
We’ve tried peer pressure. “Sophie does it! Owen does it! Everyone at preschool does it!”
We’ve purchased the toy he wants most and placed it, still in its package, on a shelf above the toilet. For weeks he broke my heart, holding it while trying to go.
We’ve tried having long talks with him after an incident.
We’ve become frustrated with him, showing him our frustration.
We’ve made cheerleaders out of Owen and Sophie—they sit with him or they dance in the bathroom while he sits or they sing silly potty songs to make him laugh.
We’ve tried the potty training DVDs (Elmo, Daniel Tiger, etc.).
We’ve tried the potty training books (all of them).
We’ve tried putting him in charge—letting him pick out the underwear, the treat, the reward. Letting him make his own chart and help set his own goals. Letting him ask us what he needs from us or, at the least, letting him tell us what’s working and what’s not (it’s forever, “I don’t know”).
And now I don’t know. I don’t know what else to do.
He’s 3. Very much 3. He’ll be 4 in May.
We’ve had some small triumphs. He earned the toy, in the package, just last week—and then promptly lost it.
And then there was tonight. I saw him get up and hide in a corner. So I jumped up, picked him up and carried him to the bathroom. He was furious with me. I took a deep breath, and remained calm. I talked in a soft, low voice. I asked him questions, like I always do.
Me: “What are you feeling right now?”
James: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Are you afraid?”
Me: “Is it easier standing up?”
The questions got more graphic from there—I will spare you.
After about 40 minutes of the two of us sitting in our small half bath, with Owen and Sophie bopping in every once in awhile with cheers of support, he went. He was so pleased with himself. Knowing he was close, I had told him we’d go straight from the half bath to Target, where he could pick out a new train. I knew he was close, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. I thought he was over the old toy he had earned and lost. And this was something I never do—the very thought of it was a treat.
It was 7:45pm. Bedtime is 8pm. Andy wasn’t home, which meant me piling all three kids into the van in 21° weather, navigating our icy driveway, getting everyone into Target and negotiating a reasonably priced toy.
I let Sophie and Owen pick out something small, too, which again, is something I never do. But they have been so supportive of James, and they have been so good playing with each other while I spend a ridiculous amount of time with James in our little half bath, as they did tonight. They deserved a treat, too.
The trip went so well, with little complaining—even over the cart seating arrangement. James, clutching his new train, promised, over and over, to not have any more accidents.
I felt like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders.
We got home, well past bedtime. I wrangled everyone into pjs. We brushed teeth. Turned down beds. The whole bit.
And then James covered his eyes with his hands and whispered, “change me.”
I inwardly screamed. I stared at him, mouth set, making no noise. Inside, I was losing it. Inside, I was a tired, frustrated, defeated mama who would just like to go one day—one day!—without cleaning up someone else’s poop.
He lost his new toy, which I felt terribly bad about but he didn’t fight me at all—he knew he couldn’t keep it.
I told him he could earn it back.
But we’ve done this already, with the other toy that sat on the shelf above the toilet for weeks.
So now what? He’s working to earn two toys back? When does it end?
People say to give it time. But we’ve been doing this for more than a year now.
That’s not normal, is it? I mean, what’s normal in parenting, right? But seriously, that’s not normal.
Help. Please help. Not with stories of how you potty trained in a weekend (those stories aren’t real, right?) but with tricks, tips, ideas.
(And thank you.)
“The story of a mother’s life: Trapped between a scream and a hug.” —Cathy Guisewite
It’s February. Our Christmas garland is still hanging on our front porch.
Ever see the Everybody Loves Raymond episode titled “Baggage” (season 7)? In it, Ray and Debra return from a weekend trip and temporarily leave their suitcase on the staircase landing. Weeks pass with them both refusing to carry it the rest of the way, believing it is the other’s responsibility.
Their suitcase = our garland.
Everything else in our house Christmas related is packed away—the indoor decorations, the tree, the outside lights, the taped-to-the-bookcase Christmas cards—everything.
Except the garland.
Andy graciously, selflessly and in only a slightly (mostly) Grinch-like manner hung all the outdoor lights and garland. “It’s for the kids,” I told him when I handed him our new Dyno Seasonal Solutions St. Nick’s Choice Professional Pole for Hanging Lights, 16-Feet, which I ordered on Amazon this year.
I, in turn, took over all the indoor decorating.
After Christmas, I put away all the indoor decorations.
He took down and put away the Christmas lights but for some inexplicable reason, not the garland.
When I remind him of what he’s done and what I’ve done in regards to why he should take down and put away the garland, he’s quick to point out how he carried all the large Christmas bins all the way down from the attic.
I then remind him that I’m the one who shoved all the too-small clothes and extra hangers and beach towels out of the way on the attic stairs, creating a path so he didn’t fall and die. And then I remind him how I’m always the one to create stair paths all the time and it’s something no one gives me credit for, ever.
THEN he brings up the tree. The tree he says he had to trim in the house because I always pick one that’s much too tall, which I say he wouldn’t need to trim in the house if he had a better understanding of how tall our entryway is when we’re out in the field. THEN he says every year he’s the only one who does the lights and then I remind him that he doesn’t let anyone else do the lights because we don’t “push them in far enough” or something along those lines. AND THEN he says the kids help both of us hang up the ornaments so I shouldn’t get credit for that. “Help,” I say. “Yes, they help.”
Every weekend we make an idealistic to-do list of which we accomplish about 20 percent, on average. Every weekend since January 1 “take down the garland” has been on the to-do list and yet it never gets taken down.
Some days it was -5°. I get that. No one should be taking down garland in -5° weather. But this Saturday, it was 56°.
“If you want it taken down so badly, take it down,” he says, reminding me of how he took the tree out to the curb on our town’s tree recycling day, carried the decoration boxes back up to the attic and took down all the outdoor lights.
And then I remind him how I made our Christmas card list, updated all the addresses, ordered the cards from a friend, addressed and mailed them. I remind him how I did 95 percent of the Christmas shopping and 98 percent of the Christmas wrapping. (He reminds me of the “help” I had wrapping from the kids.)
And round and round and round we go.
And there our garland sits, for all to see, 40 days after Christmas.
“It’s growing on me,” he says. “I kind of like it.”
“We are that house!” I say. “We are totally that house.”
“So TAKE IT DOWN,” he says.
“It’s YOUR JOB!” I say.
And round and round.
I let him read this. “This isn’t even a fight!” he says adding something about “understating my arguments” and then adding something about how “it’s not even an argument.”
“Then what should I call it?” I say, changing the title from “The Garland Fight” to “The Garland.”
“A standoff. But it’s not even that! I just haven’t gotten around to it.”
“So … tomorrow?” I ask.
“Maybe,” he says.
“In the early years, you fight because you don’t understand each other. In the later years, you fight because you do.” —Joan Didion
This morning James ran into our bedroom in a flurry, ripped open the blinds and screamed, “IT’S MORNING TIME!”. He then turned on the radio, switched on the lights, jumped on top of me and yelled, “GET UP, LAZY BONES!”.
And it wasn’t just this morning.
It’s every morning.
Boundless energy, that boy has—boundless.
“No human being believes that any other human being has a right to be in bed when he himself is up.” —Robert Lynd
Owen, crying: “Can you figure out what I need?”
“You know that children are growing up when they start asking questions that have answers.” —John J. Plomp
Sophie spent the night with her cousin Colleen at Nini and Pop Pop’s house over Christmas. So tonight, it was James and Owen’s turn to spend the night at Nini and Pop Pop’s. My parents asked the boys if they wanted to spend the night together or separate and they said together (everything is together these days, including their clothes, which they love to match).
This worked out well, as Andy was in Columbus all day and Sophie and I had a baby shower to attend.
Lovely Danielle is due in March!
Sophie’s next request: the aquarium.
Once back outside, we watched the snow fall on the Ohio River.
And then: Dinner at Bravo. All she really wanted for dinner was to sit in a high chair (bar stool). (Halfway through talking about it, she realized, with hilarity, that “high chair” sounded an awful lot like she wanted to sit in a “highchair.” We used the phrase “tall chair” then on after.) She got her wish and so much more. Newport’s Bravo does have tall chairs, which overlook the kitchen. We got to watch everything being cooked. And (I had no idea they did this) she was given a small ball of dough to form into any shape she wanted (she chose five “snowballs,” one for everyone in the family). Marissa (at least I think that was her name, it was loud when I asked her) was in charge of making and cooking all the bruschettas, pizzas, etc. She cooked Sophie’s snowballs, in the wood-fired pizza oven. Sophie watched them rise and brown, and was thrilled.
We drove home slowly, in the snow. Once home I discovered my parents had my house key (we switched vehicles). And both our front door and back door were (for once) locked. So I tried the cellar door—thankfully, the basement door at the bottom of the steps was unlocked, and Sophie laughed with great joy at the oddity of entering our house this way. Once inside, and having fed Tucker, both on our own, we immediately put on comfy clothes. I started a fire and she curled up on her new bean bag couch, a gift from Grandma, and we watched “The Little Mermaid,” which I had ordered online earlier in the week and which she had been waiting patiently for, as she had never seen it.
My mom just emailed me. “They went to bed at 8:00 and fell asleep before I hit the bottom step. They were on their best behavior all day.”
Today was so nice.
I could spend a paragraph writing about how much I love Owen and James but truly, I feel it’s unnecessary. I love them.
But I also love and crave one-on-one time, with all my children, too.
And this has been a tough year for me, with two three year olds. It’s, well, chaos. I don’t think even the sleep-deprived nonstop first six months was chaotic as this has been. There was more control to their infancy—there was a schedule and when they cried it was OK because that’s what babies do and everything—they and all their things—stayed put, unless I moved them.
Now. Now it’s just chaos.
And today, I could have fixed that chaos a bit. A bit more, I should say, as we’ve deemed the year 2014 as the year we put our house (and lives) back in order. But instead, I spent it looking at fish. And making dough snowballs. And breaking into my own house. And remembering how sweet and funny and kind my little almost 6-year-old is, and how much she shines when, every once in awhile, the wonderful, beautiful chaos of being a big sister to two 3-year-olds is removed.
I’m so good at seeing the beauty in the chaos once removed. Now, I just need to learn how to recognize the grace while in the thick of it.
“If chaos is a necessary step in the organization of one’s universe, then I was well on my way.” —Wendelin Van Draanen