Crazed In the Kitchen: January 2012   

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Inmates are Running the Asylum


If you had seen me at the grocery store recently, you probably would have assumed that I’m not much of a mom. I had two obviously under-the-weather boys with me—one in pajamas and one with most of a bright blue lollipop smeared all over his face—who were coughing, sniffling, and sneezing pretty much constantly. What sort of mother, you might have asked, takes her two sick boys to the grocery store?

Well, I’ll tell you what sort of mother—the kind who has been trapped at home for 6 days with those children and who has literally run out of essentials like bananas, milk, children’s ibuprofen, and chardonnay.

I should’ve known what was coming on Friday when both boys started coughing. Saturday morning the runny noses began, and by Sunday we had dug in. We broke out the apple juice and the Disney VHS tapes (Oh, Ariel, it's been quite some time since you and your enormous...er, seashells...have graced our tv screen. Don’t get used to it, honey, I only got you out because the boys are sick). I patiently collected used Kleenexes from every surface in our house. I convinced my 3-year-old that taking his temperature under his arm was NOT as uncomfortable as taking it…well, you know where. I figured another day or so and we’d be back on track.

But this virus was stubborn.

It lasted all week. All week, we stayed home. All week. No Gymboree. No swim lessons. No preschool. No Mommy and Me. No trips to the park, or the library, or friends’ houses. Just me, a toddler, and a preschooler, eyeball to eyeball. All week.

Now, normally, I don’t consider being home with my kids to be a bad thing. I took a leave from my teaching job so I could do just that and I love it. But the thing about my kids is that when they are under the weather, their energy levels don’t seem to change much. Their “lethargy” is the same as other kids’ “hopped up on cupcakes and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.”  The only thing that changes is their mood. So all that week I had two hyperactive, argumentative cranks on my hands. Instead of running around screaming like they usually do, they ran around screaming, then coughed for ten minutes, then pushed and hit each other. Then they wiped their noses on our new couch and started it all over again.

Monday, I tried to rise above. I talked about sharing, about using your words, about acting loving. Tuesday, I loosened my standards: I still prodded them to play with their cars, or their train tracks, or anythingwithoutfightingfortheloveofgod, but I also gave them a few extra hits of their favorite drug—“Yo Gabba Gabba.” By Wednesday, I had Stockholm Syndrome. I lost all hope of personal hygiene and stayed in my jammies all day. I willingly ate hotdogs for lunch (cut into safe, non-choking chunks, of course). I found myself hoarding all the “best” toy cars for our cardboard-mailing-tubes-turned-ramps set up. It wasn’t pretty.

I’d like to say things started looking up at that point, but that night both boys took turns waking up sobbing and clutching their ears. The pediatrician confirmed not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR ear infections, and prescribed antibiotics. The grouchy shenanigans continued at home, and I started looking forward to an upcoming dental appointment as if it were a spa day.

But, as tough as the past week has been for me, I’ve been on the Internet enough in the past few years to know that there are kids out there who really are Sick—with a capital S. Holding my boys while they cried with the pain of an earache broke my heart, so I can’t even imagine the anguish of comforting a kid through chemo treatments, surgery, or invasive tests. The challenges that moms of truly Sick kids face are the Himalayas to my ear infection molehill. One mom who has inspired me is Brandi, at http://www.starringscarlett.com/. Her blog describes the journey her family began when her 2-month-old baby daughter, Scarlett, was found to have a brain tumor that took up half her skull. It’s been a grueling year of treatment, but Scarlett recently celebrated her first birthday and continues to beat the odds she was given upon her diagnosis. I urge you to check out her blog for an amazing example of strength, love, and advocacy for one’s child.
           


Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Don't Think We Could Charge for Admission...


Here's what a tour would sound like, if our house were Graceland:

As you enter the premises, notice the overarching theme of ‘Godforsaken Mess.’ The residents have painstakingly cultivated this look throughout every room in the house, using a variety of creative strategies. Absolutely NO PICTURES, please!

As you stumble through the living/dining room, you will see many signs of the "Clutter" movement--take note especially of the matchbox cars, wooden train tracks, and tiny sparkly valentine stickers strewn across the floor. See how the residents display their quirky senses of humor by ironically placing empty plastic and canvas bins throughout the space! Ha ha! No toys go in there! It seems the residents prefer to store toys under the couches and tables when they are not on display on the floor.

Watch your step as we move into the kitchen, as stray peas or carrots likely have rolled out from under the dining table after today’s lunch. You may notice that the kitchen stands out as the tidiest room of the house, as the home’s main resident spends most of her day here. Despite its relative tidiness, however, we see in here traces of the “Random” method: the Elmo-face digital camera perched over the stove is one example, as is the dusty remote-controlled helicopter resting in a container otherwise holding baby bibs.

As you continue through the house, you will see that the blank white walls of the "Laziness" style stand in sharp contrast to the surroundings. Some attempts at “d├ęcor” have been made—note the lovely new curtains in their original packaging stored carefully in a laundry basket by the front door—but generally the residents seem to adhere to the “Removable Wall Stickers” school of thought as far as decorations are concerned.

Ah, here we are in the heart of the house—the boys’ playroom, a Mecca of “Haphazard Play.” Tread carefully here, as a recently acquired toy seems to have lost its marbles (much like the adult residents of this house), and you are likely to step on one. Oh! How precious! See how someone was pretending to cook a baby doll in a pot on the play kitchen stove! Notice the shelves in the corner housing dozens of store-bought toys, then look to the middle of the room where underpants, empty cardboard boxes, and ripped up pieces of paper seem to have been dropped mid-game. The juvenile residents of the home prefer common household items to toys in their recreational activities, or so it seems.

As you make your way carefully back to the front door, take a deep breath. If you're lucky, today will be a "Mysterious Smell" day and one or even several noxious aromas will drift through the rooms. Step around the extremely large cat disguising herself as an area rug—don’t touch, she’ll bite!—and check your clothes for errant stickers (if you brushed against any surface, you’re likely to have picked one up). Thank you for coming! Stop by the garage, er Gift Shop, on your way out to pick up a souvenir of your visit! A broken toy, perhaps? Mismatched socks? Maybe you’re in need of some college sorority t-shirts and picture frames? You name it, we have it!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Underpants


As I was sitting here earlier, in a quiet house, checking my email, out of nowhere a pair of Thomas the Tank Engine underpants landed plop! on my keyboard. In the second it took me to stop and look around, absolute mayhem broke out around me: "UNDERPANTS!!!" screamed Matthew. "UDDAPATS!!!"" echoed William. They had silently taken all 40-some pairs of underpants out of Matthew’s dresser and were flinging them everywhere, all while screaming and yelling about it. Eventually, the game evolved: At one point, I found William sprawled on the floor in the hallway peering under a closed door. Before I could ask, under the door came the underpants—one by one, each accompanied by an enthusiastic “UNDERPANTS!” As you would probably expect, Matthew then appeared and danced on the pile of underpants, yelling, of course, “I’m dancing on the UNDERPANTS!!!” (Nothing goes un-narrated around here. Nothing.)

I let the underpants fun go on for about 15 minutes. (Obviously, my definition of “peace” is just “not involving Mommy,” which explains why I let each kid have a vacuum to play with the other day. “Peace” and “quiet” are two very different things). I couldn’t help myself—as they played happily with the underpants I mentally started totaling the money we had spent on actual toys for Christmas: the cars, train tracks, electronic gadgets. It wasn’t really all that much, but in that moment it seemed like WAY more than necessary. Why didn’t we just buy them underpants? They hadn’t had this much fun since the day they dug two big cardboard tubes out of the recycling bin.

Finally, Matthew collected all the underpants in his bed, declaring that he would sleep with them "forever." William wandered away empty-handed, whimpering “uddapats” and heading for the freshly-tidied living room, otherwise known as “a clean canvas” to a toddler with a penchant for destruction. And for the rest of the day, I found tiny underpants in the strangest of places: under the dining room table, in the bathroom sink, hanging on the lamp in the living room. It was like some crazy preschool fraternity had had an apple juice kegger in my house and I was the poor pledge on clean-up duty. But despite the mess I consider the whole experience a victory: nothing was broken, I got a chance to check my email, and, most importantly, my two boys had been playing together without arguing for FIFTEEN WHOLE MINUTES. That, I believe, is a new family record.