Keep your hands to yourself.
But mom, she touched me first!
BOTH of you keep your hands to yourself, then.
I was just sitting here and she reached over and…
That may be. But from now on, you’ll both keep your hands to yourself. And your feet. And anything else that is attached to your body.
What about toys?
You also need to keep those to yoursel… Wait. Who threw that?
It was an accident! I was just looking at it and all of a sudden, it flew out of my hands and…
A book just “flew” out of your hands all of a sudden?
KEEP BOOKS AND HANDS AND FEET AND EYELASHES AND EVERYTHING TO YOURSELF. Do not touch one another for the rest of the drive. Do not throw anything. Just sit there and relax.
Daddy says he’s relaxing!
Yes, I heard him. I’d like to relax, too, but it’s hard when you’re both…
WHO THREW THAT??
*stunned silence from the backseat*
Sorry. It flew out of my hand.
Nick! Seriously, that could have hit one of the girls and…
But they started it!
Thank you, babe. I appreciate all your help here.
I love a parade.
My husband does not.
Hence, on Memorial Day, in the interest of marital harmony, instead of attending our small town’s local parade and snapping pictures of adorably red-white-and-blue-clad children waving tiny American flags as they watch Boy and Girl Scouts and marching bands and Elk’s Lodge members and collections of veterans merrily stroll by — possibly tossing candy or maybe beads (wait, wrong parade) — we pledged to spend the day “as a family” and, at some point, talk with our daughters about Memorial Day and what it means.
And if I wanted candy, I had to rummage through the candy bowl in the dessert cupboard.
(Beaded plastic necklaces, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen around here.)
Today’s other highlights included eating lunch outside on a delightful, cloudless, 70-degree afternoon, riding bikes, listening to the girls’ gleeful shouts as they ran about barefoot with the neighbors, making virgin and leaded strawberry margaritas, eating hamburgers and corn on the cob (see: Memorial Day), sitting by a roaring fire in the fire pit and crossing our fingers that the 4-foot flames wouldn’t melt the telephone/electric wires above, and watching our adorably red-white-and-blue-clad girls practice cartwheels and handstands.
We also did take a moment to actually discuss Memorial Day, as well as who in our own family has served in the Armed Forces: their great-grandfathers, their daddy’s cousin, their Grandpa Ray. When Ella and Annie peppered us with questions about Grandpa Ray’s military days, we set up a Skype chat to ask him personally.
And so, glorious weather and delicious burgers and bike riding and chocolate aside, the best part of our day, hands down, was Skyping with Grandpa Ray, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, and hearing about his Air Force career and service. We’re so grateful to him, to those who served but never made it home, and to all those who have served, and continue to serve, our country. Thank you so very much.
Yes, that’s a virgin margarita in the photo. Skyping makes them thirsty.
Lettuce in! It’s pouring!
Ella started walking to school by herself this year. It’s a 3-minute walk through our (very friendly) neighbors’ yards to the school, which sits across a street that’s watched over by our beloved crossing guard, Mrs. H. I don’t worry that Ella will make it to school (if I really did, she wouldn’t be walking…), but especially after watching her slide off of a few snowbanks and into the side of the road this winter, I wanted to make sure she was getting there on time and safely. Since I didn’t want to bug the school secretary to check on Ella’s whereabouts, but since Ella didn’t want me accompanying her to school (second-graders can be wicked independent, y’all), we agreed upon a compromise: she would phone me when she got to her classroom.
What do you call the winner of the cow beauty pageant?
The Dairy Queen!
For a while, she phoned dutifully. But after the New Year, something changed and the calls stopped coming. At first, I was sure that she was deliberately ignoring my instructions – after all, how could she possibly forget when we’d discussed it three minutes earlier?? There were a few ugly weeks (complicated by some general issues with lying) when she’d promise to call, no phone would ring, and I’d bust it over to the school, partly to check on her, and partly to maybe embarrass her a little into calling. (Feel free to copy my parenting anytime.)
Much wringing-of-hands later, I finally discovered that she was becoming so engrossed in her daily classroom routine, she legitimately spaced out on the phone call thing. Long story short (and why did I not think of this sooner???), I put a “Call Home!” note in her take-home folder — the one that she’s required to check as soon as she arrives to her classroom — and that seemed to fix things.
But what’s really made a difference has been telling a joke.
What do you get when you cross a parrot and a centipede?
Up until about a month ago, the folder-note would prompt Ella to call home, but it was still clearly an annoyance for her. I’d bid her good day and tell her I loved her, but she’d remain quiet on the other end or would even answer brusquely (“OKAY, Mom!”). Then one day, quite randomly, I decided to tell her a joke when she phoned. She was obviously startled and took a moment to even laugh at the joke. The giggle did come, however, and then – get this! – she actually told me she loved me back. Right there on the phone! With her teacher and classmates nearby! Which is crazy, because although they see Ella reach for my hand every time she walks with me, and although she runs up to hug me each time she sees me in school, she might still have been keeping her love for me a secret. Better not to get too mushy at 8:30 a.m., anyway.
Since then, I’ve had a new joke ready to go every time she calls (this is not an easy feat — Google and I are on a first-name basis), and her laughter and occasional I love yous (she makes me work; I only get one if she really likes the joke) absolutely make my morning. It’s not often that I can look back and say, Yep, as a parent, I totally nailed that one, but in this case, I totally nailed it – not only because I succeeded in getting her to call home, but because she and I now have a special moment to look forward to every day.
Plus, who doesn’t like starting off their day with a little bathroom humor?
Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl when it goes to the bathroom?
Because the ‘p’ is silent.
Part of her Mother’s Day gift to me. I’m on the left, telling her a joke over the phone. We prefer to go barefoot.
“Mama, I’ve got an idea!”
“I’m going to drink as we play this game.”
Sounds like how a lot of sorority parties start.
“Every time it’s your turn, I’m going drink!”
I like how you’re already preparing for college.
“I’m actually just really thirsty.”
Do I get to tell you when to drink?
“No. I’m just going to do it.”
Do I get to chant things like, DRINK! DRINK! DRINK!
“What? Why would you do that?”
Just looking out for your future.
“It’s your turn, Mommy.”
CHUG. IT! CHUG. IT!
“Stop! I’m only going to drink when I want to.”
Not giving into peer pressure. I like that.
I’ve landed on Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Poetic irony.
Nothing. I owe you $130. You can save it to put toward your future therapy sessions.
As seen on Facebook:
Hey! So have you ever come home and entered the kitchen only to have your daughter say, “Mommy – I think somebody did something in here…” and then you look over on the counter and notice that there is a puddle of wet, red glop at least 2″ thick by 2′ round? And then you see that a the pulpy red mess isn’t human or animal but is actually watermelon guts, and at first you think, “Holy crap, the dog must have jumped up on the counter and clawed his way into the watermelon…” but then you notice that the melon has a clean slice running down it (and why would a dog crack into an unscented, unopened watermelon??) and you realize, “Holy crap, that watermelon must have had a rotten spot and it became so spoiled that it just burst itself open and exploded its insides all over the counter”??
And because it was a *rotten* watermelon, the insides aren’t spongy like watermelon is supposed to be, but are instead all congealed and gelatinous and now oozing all over the entire counter and onto the floor? And also because it was rotten, the entire kitchen is now enveloped in this thick, gag-inducing SMELL… OMG THE SMELL… And you’re actually concerned that maybe you won’t be able to clean it up because your stomach is bottoming out but if you don’t, who will? because your husband is on an airplane and it is STILL LEAKING AND SMELLING and you have a piano student coming to the house in 30 minutes?? So you hike up your If-Mama-Can-Wipe-Butts-And-Catch-Puke-In-Her-Hands-Surely-She-Can-Clean-This-DISGUSTING-WATERMELON-AWFULNESS pants and manage to get rid of the mess?????Anyone? ANYONE???
No? Well. It was SOMETHIN’ ELSE. Truly.
The joys of motherhood just overfloweth in my kitchen, lemme tell you.
Annie wasn’t wearing her coat when I arrived to pick her up from school. Normally, I’m an if-you-don’t-want-to-wear-your-coat-that’s-fine-but-no-complaining-if-you-freeze-to-death kind of mom, but for some reason — maybe because it was a little chillier than normal? — I told her to please put on her coat for the walk home. Well, it must have been a rough afternoon in kindergarten, because there was NO. WAY. she was putting on the coat. She was too hot. She didn’t need it. It would make her backpack uncomfortable. Tantrum mode, right there in the school lobby.
Admittedly, it wasn’t that cold out, so I could have backtracked on the coat thing. And, if she’d been even the tiniest bit reasonable, or polite, or just not a screeching maniac, I might have rescinded my directive. But when you do the full-body I WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU dance and thrash around on the lobby bench and yell loudly at me about HOW UNFAIR I am, well, let’s just say that I don’t care how nutty my original request might have been: the gauntlet had been thrown, and that coat was going to be worn, sohelpmeGod.
I played it cool, didn’t raise my voice, only gave her one or two you-are-embarrassing-me-KNOCK-IT-OFF-AND-STOP-BEING-A-LUNATIC looks before I sat down on the bench beside her and — totally pulling out one of my awesome parenting strategies — proclaimed that we could just wait here for as long as it took for her to put on her coat. About three minutes into the wait, however, as she continued to freak out beside me, and after I’d checked my email and Facebook twice, I realized that I was the one being punished and that I didn’t want to sit on this freakin’ bench anymore — I wanted to go HOME. So, parenting strategies be damned, I got up and told her I was leaving (wait — another parenting strategy, holla!) and, lo and behold, Annie both followed me AND grudgingly put on the coat.
Given that she scowled and stomped and whined for the duration of the walk, and considering her lovely display in the school lobby, I decided that a brief time-out was in order when we arrived home. I instructed her to sit on the stairs and, in a couple of minutes, told her that I would tell her when she could get up.
As I was taking off my own coat (chilly outside), I heard Ella’s voice from the kitchen. She sounded fairly perturbed, so I headed that way pretty quickly… And then the smell hit me… (See above: Facebook disaster.)
According to the comments I received, this apparently has happened to other people, which made me feel slightly better — but also made me feel horrible for them, because I totally mouth-breathed for a good 10 minutes while I cleaned up, and I imagine they must have felt similarly disgusted.
At first, I just stood looking at the mess, because how in the HELL do you clean up piles of gelatinous watermelon??? You can’t pick it up with your hands (OMG). You can’t use a sponge. You can’t sweep it away. You can’t even call the dogs to come help, because if it was rotten enough to explode into your kitchen like an angry gremlin bursting out of an egg, surely it was gross enough to cause canine dysentery or something. More than once, I actually said, out loud, “I don’t know what to do,” which was really comforting to Ella, who stood feet away watching the disaster ooze all over the counters.
I finally decided that the only way to fix it was to use paper towels to push the goo into a bowl, then dump the bowl into the sink, and repeat the process (many, many, OH SO MANY times) until everything was gone, then run the disposal like crazy and disinfect the counter a few hundred times. All while not breathing through my nose because throwing up would definitely have made the situation more complicated.
Did I mention that I had a piano student arriving at the house in 30 minutes? Yeah. Good times.
At long last, the mess was contained and I’d stopped dry heaving and I went to get Ella a snack. It was then that I noticed that Annie was still seated on the steps in what had become the longest time-out in history. Not sure which parenting strategy that was.
I’d love to say that, since then, Annie hasn’t pitched a fit over her outfits again. But that would just be silly. I will say, however, that since then, no watermelons have entered the house, nor will they anytime soon, unless they’re accompanied by freshness guarantees and nose plugs.
The joys of motherhood very literally overfloweth, indeed.