Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Have a seat.

My daily routine is pretty much exactly that.  Daily.  Routine.  Our family does pretty much the same thing every day, which, I am told, is good for kids.  They should have consistency; know who they are going to be with, know what to expect from each day, thus allowing them to live without fear of emotional upset.  Well, we have taken this to heart, so much so, in fact, that the girls have developed their own special breakfast routine, and as consistency is the backbone to stability, they are careful not to pass this particular routine up on a day to day basis.  It happens every morning, without fail, in the exact same way.  And try as I may to disrupt or redirect it, the girls are holding fast to this routine that they so desperately need to ensure their stability.  It begins, I'm sure, from the moment they wake up.  While they may not be actively engaged in this routine at this moment, I know at least one of them is already thinking about it in her tiny little groggy morning head.  We do they normal morning things - go potty, get dressed, put pajamas away - and then, as I call for the children to gather at the table for our normal morning meal of hot waffles, scrambled eggs and fresh squeezed orange juice (or cold cereal and the rest of any open juice boxes left in the fridge, but that's not the point), the spectacle begins.  There are five chairs at our table, as there are five people in our home.  One has a booster seat strapped to it, so this chair is perpetually dibsed by the baby.  The brunette has tried on occasion to oust the baby from her rightful place in the booster seat, but she usual ends up getting stuck and conceding.  So now, we are left with four chairs remaining, an ample amount of fine seating for two children to choose from.  This, however, is not the case.  There is one chair with a clear view of the television, and unbeknownst to me, it also has magical powers and is made of gilded fairy wings and can fly.  And this is the chair of choice.  It must be said, that we do not watch TV while we eat.  Rarely, it will be on during a snack, but not ever during meals, so it surely must be the mystical qualities of this chair that make so desired by my children.  The brunette wastes no time in the mornings; she is often awake first, dresses herself, and even has already gotten a jump on the Barbie bucket before the rest of us have managed to drag ourselves out of bed.  The blonde, however, requires maximum assistance in the morning, and the brunette is fully aware of this.  As soon as the blonde rounds the hallway corner, slightly disoriented and still a little asleep, the brunette, in waiting, leaps into the magical chair.  The blonde, roused now by the glare of the fluorescent kitchen light sees her sister sitting the chair of choice and howls "NO(OOOO)!  I wanted to sit there!" as she collapses in anguish to the floor.  As a fair minded mother, I tell her "Blonde, your sister was there first, maybe tomorrow if you move a little quicker you can sit there."  Now, this happens every morning, so you'd think I'd just stop trying, but I say it anyways, just so I don't feel like I haven't used an opportunity to teach fairness.  "But I wanted to sit there!  She always sits there!  I never get to sit there!  I wanted it first!" cry cry cry.  The brunette bides her time quietly, soaking in her sister's misery.  I remind the blonde that we have such and such today, so please just sit somewhere so we can eat breakfast.  The blonde crawls, heaving herself to the table, and manages to get herself into the chair beside the chosen one.  Big sniffles, muttering under her breath, general melodramatics.  "Brunette, " she says beseechingly, "I really wanted to sit there."  The brunette ignores the plea and busies herself with the baby.  "MOM!" the blonde cries out, "I really wanted to sit there!"  I, in the interest of upholding my previous statement, and also because I don't really like this much whining before my coffee is ready, reiterate to the blonde that her sister was there first, it's just a chair, deal with it.  More howling, fading to whimpers and a quivering lip.  Then, the climax and simultaneous finale to the routine, the brunette turns to her sister in her time of desperation and cheerfully says "you can sit here if you want."  The blonde meekly thanks the sister, and they trade seats.  Every morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Let's talk about listening skills.  Listening skills are crucial for...well, probably anything.  You have to listen to your boss at work so you know what job needs to be done, you have to listen to your teacher at school so you know what is expected in the classroom, you have to listen to the weather report to know if it is safe for you to stand in your yard with a flagpole.  Basically, being able to listen to people is important for gaining understanding of what you should or should not be doing, whether for your safety, or for productivity.  My problem is that my children have yet to acquire this skill set.  Frankly, I'm not even sure if they have mastered hearing, let alone listening.  A glimpse, if you will.  A trip to the store is in order.  I say (calmly in a regular voice) "We are getting ready to leave, please put your shoes on."  Simple instruction, simple task.  I was audible, I was clear, the statement was obviously directed to the children, as I was both standing in front of and looking right at them.  And yet, no response.  They continue to put Barbie's shoes on and off, rather then their own.  I take it in, and adjust, this time squatting closely, and speaking louder (not shouting, just commanding) "Blonde and Brunette (I use names so there is no confusion as to who I am talking to), we will be leaving the house soon, please put your shoes on."  I even try to help out by placing the shoes in the line of play, so that on the off chance my stern voice was still not loud enough, they may see the shoes and get the hint.  I wait, they pause, see the shoes, and cleverly twist their bodies so the shoes are hidden from sight without having had actually acknowledged their being there.  Hmm, I am now beginning to feel the bubbling of frustration creeping up in my neck, that kink that shifts your face from patient mommy look to stiff, but not quite scary look.  New tactic, I remove the toys from the immediate area so there may be no distraction, turn their faces with my hands (nicely!) so that even if they are not looking at me, they can still at least see me, and say again, this time through loosely clenched teeth "Blonde.  Brunette.  Shoes.  Feet.  Now.  Please."  Of course I still say please.  "Ok."  Yes!  They put their shoes on, albeit leisurely, but at least they are completing the task at hand.  The blonde, now aware we are going somewhere, asks me "Where are we going?"  I reply (in a regular, clear voice) "Just to the grocery store for some milk and stuff for dinner."  Easy reply, clear voice, uncomplicated information.  "Huh?" she says.  "The grocery store for some milk and stuff."  I streamline, as well as up the volume to a louder, but reasonably indoor voice.  "Huh?"  Are you kidding?  You asked a question, you should listen for the answer, I just told you twice.  The kink.  "The grocery store."  There.  "Huh?"  What!?  Now I just skip over trying to collect myself and respond appropriately and say "GROCERY STORE" in the voice you use to talk to either a 95 year old or a Japanese tourist.  I even nod my head a little and make hand motions to allude to pushing a grocery cart.  Satisfied?  "Oh. Ok."  We get in the car, everyone is buckled, make it to the store and get what we need.  My husband calls while we are here, and he asks if I will pick up some ice cream for later. (Here I need to explain that my husband and I like fancy ice cream, and we like it by ourselves after the kids are in bed.  It is delicious and unwasted on slurping hooligans who only eat two bites and leave the rest to melt.  Don't worry, they still get ice cream, just not fancy ice cream.)  I I discreetly reply to him in hushed tones that I am with the kids and if they see me go down the ice cream aisle to the fancy ice cream case they will freak out.  I even back away from the cart a bit and park it in front of some coloring books so they will surely not be paying attention to what I am saying.  He understands, and we agree it will be retrieved by him at a later time (judge me if you want for being this sneaky, but I do NOT want to share Ben and Jerry's, and neither would you if you saw how my kids eat ice cream), and I hang up.  We get in line, load the conveyor belt and the blonde says "Mom, you forgot to get the fancy ice cream that Dad called to ask you for."  Well, I guess her actual hearing is fine, after all.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The happiest place in the world

Last week our family wrapped up a seven day vacation in Disney World with my husband's family.  Now, I love a vacation, but as anyone with children, well, let me rephrase that, as any mother knows, a vacation with small children is no easy feat.  There is the packing - an outfit for each day, plus extras for accidents, spills, and all the other unforeseen yet somehow unavoidable messes children tend to get themselves into.  Then there are the pool accessories, which alone use up a good half of the suitcase (inflatable anythings NEVER fold up as small as they came in the package), and the myriad of toiletries and diapering items.  If you can manage to get all of this into one suitcase (ha, good luck), you are still left with the backpack/diaper bag, which gets filled to the brim with snacks and sippy cups, spare pacifiers (which will be lost on the second day anyways), and as many wipes as you can shove into one of those travel cases and still keep it mostly closed.  Oh, and of course, the stroller(s).  A lot of stuff, but with some packing finesse (and a huge sigh of relief that we get to drive all this junk in our car instead of trying to check it and claim it at the airport like we had thought back in Colorado - bonus for moving to Florida!) you get it and most of the kids in the car and on the road.  Wait, where's the baby?  Just kidding, but you should know that, because who actually forgets their baby?  Right?  Anyways, you make it to the hotel, get the key, dump the junk in the room, do the potty rounds (you always do the potty rounds before you leave a place with a clean potty), gather the backpack junk, spray sunscreen flames into the kids' faces (noting that next time you will spray it in your hands first and then rub it on), load the stroller and head to the parks.  Awesome!  We made it!  The castle!  The balloons!  A princess!  Happy music!  Happy children!  Yes, let's get in line to ride our first ride!  In line!  It's moving!  "Mom, I have to go potty."  Hmm, we did the potty round before we got here, but it's the first day, and they were probably just excited to get here, so you exit the line, locate a bathroom, do the bathroom thing, jump back in line.  On the ride!  So much fun!  Girls love it!  Exit the ride, head towards the next attraction, and the other child pipes up "I have to go potty."  You gently remind the child that the next time she sees you taking her sister to the bathroom, she should ask to come too so you don't have to go back twice.  Child nods, back to the bathroom (you have already mentally noted it's location and proximity to attractions for future visits) and back to the rest of the family.  Little do you know, this bathroom dance has set the tone for the rest of your vacation.  Any time you get in line for anything, someone will need to go, so you try to stay ahead of it by asking if there is a need any time you pass a bathroom, but of course, no one needs to go until the bathroom is four miles behind you.  You try to stay positive, thinking you'd much rather make a few trips to the bathroom than change clothes because of accidents, but soon, it is getting ridiculous.  The bathroom trips are showing up before and after every attraction, and at least four times during meals.  Like, take a bite, take a kid to the bathroom, come back, take a bite, take the same or another kid to the bathroom, come back, take another bite, and so on.  You have found exit paths out of half of the rides, and know where every single toilet in every single park is located, as well as which ones have a short sink for kids because "that is so cool!  A sink my size!", which is cool, as it cuts out the balancing-your-child-on-your-knee-to-reach-soap-and-wash-hands dance.  The husband offers to take over a trip or two, but you know he does not like bringing the girls into the men's restroom ("men are gross, I can't take our daughters in there!") so instead you decide to push through knowing this will give you great leverage over many battles to come ("remember how often I had to take all the girls to the bathroom?").  By the fourth day, you are starting to feel like you are on a tour of Disney bathroom extravaganza, and contemplate "forgetting" the water bottles in hopes of eliminating a bathroom stop or five, but no, it is hot outside and you are a good mom, so you fill up the water bottles and review bathroom locations for the park of the day.  You have accepted it.  It will be happening.  Frequently.  On the upside, you have not had to use any of the spare clothes, and frequent hand washing may not be such a bad thing, given you have seen at least eight children with their fingers in their noses (one of which was your own) and a few questionable sticky bits on ride railings.  Not so bad.  The vacation continues smoothly, bathroom breaks and all, and everyone has a good time.  Before you know it, the last day has come and all of the junk you brought, plus all of the new junk you have acquired, miraculously fits back into the car and you are on your way back home.  You ask the kids if they had a good time - "Yes!  I liked the princesses!  I liked the rides!  I liked the ice cream!  It was so fun!"  Good, you think to yourself, a successful family vacation leaving everyone with happy memories.  "And mom, I liked the little sinks in the bathrooms, too!"  Disney never disappoints.