Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If Looks Could Kill, Part 2

I believe I wrote a blog by this title a year or so ago. Forgive my lack of creativity here in re-using it, but as you read the following encounter we had today, you will see that it just fit.

Yesterday we went to the Y with a friend. It was kind of a bust. First, the cool indoor climbing playground was closed due to a leak, banishing all children to the “baby room”(as the older kids called it). Next, the super cool climbing tree was closed for some reason. And finally, trying to shake it off and have a good time anyway, we suited up and headed for the fun pool area. My oldest jumped in just as the lifeguard blew her whistle, announcing that the pool was closing so a daycare group could come swim.

My girls lamented the agony they were forced to endure the rest of the day. I felt a little like the parents in the movie, “One Fine Day”. Remember the scene where they are forced to put their children in a public daycare and the kids call them 3 minutes later to find out what heroine is? When I arrived to pick them up, the 5-yr-old was sitting cross-legged on the floor, inches from the door and looking forlornly out the glass. The 8-yr-old confessed that she was about to cry. Their friend actually did cry.

They were not big fans.

So today we went to the Y to swim. I wanted to redeem myself from their less than ideal experience the day before and had to promise repeatedly that they would not be placed in the childcare again. I had a couple sweet neighbor kids with me and my three in tow, so we were quite a little crew headed into the gym. I could almost hear the thoughts racing through the other mothers’ heads as we paraded by….”are all those kids hers?” (and I’d happily claim the other two, by the way).

It was bliss. Everybody was having a great time sliding down the huge waterslide, having swim races underwater, and playing in the splash pool.

Enter stage right a little girl we’ll call Polly. Probably about age four. I spotted her as trouble almost from the moment she sauntered in.

Now, please understand me. I do not say this to brag about how well-behaved my children are (‘cause Lord knows we have our fair share of “special moments”), but sometimes they seem pretty darn good in comparison. Today was one of those days. Every mother needs encouragement once in a while.

Little Polly seemed to have some sort of fixation on splashing people. Not gentle “hee hee” splashing and then moving on. No, this was more the kind of splashing that a large teenage boy would administer, which is okay if she were playing with large teenager boys. It didn’t go over so well with my 3-yr-old and the other small children playing in the kiddie area.

My daughter marched herself right over to me, and with large arm movements and animated hand gestures and shaking of her head, explained (as only a 3-yr-old can do) the great injustices going on at the kiddie pool. “That girl is splashing us in our eyes and we want her to stop. And she took my noodle!”

Now we’ve all seen the mothers who are a little hyper about their little darlings. They rush over to stand up for their child and lay down the law while their innocent baby hides behind their legs. I’ve witnessed this, and can tell you that the moment the mother’s head is turned, the “bully” among the group starts pounding his little fist into his hand, staring down the child who ratted him out.

I do not want to be that mother, nor do I want my child to be that tattletale kid.

So, with this in mind, I calmly suggested to Leighanne that she go back and ask the little girl nicely to please stop splashing her in the face. I told her to just go get another noodle from the supply closet. I enjoyed watching her walk back over to the kiddie area, her ruffles on her little swimsuit bottom bouncing up and down adorably. “I love it when kids can work things out for themselves,” I thought. Reasoning can be effective when resolving conflict even among 3-yr-olds.

The moment Leighanne sat back down on the edge of the kiddie pool, Polly was at it again, relentlessly spraying her right in the eyes with highly chlorinated water, the attack more painful because it was being inflicted by the stolen noodle. It was an ambush. The small kids around her totally at her mercy. I waited, watching Leighanne and the other children hiding their eyes and saying, “stop!” I even heard Leighanne say the word, “please”, and still the attack continued. My child looked over at my, pleading with her eyes for me to intervene.

Alright, I concluded, I must get involved. They say you should make yourself appear bigger when facing a wild animal in order to show your dominance. I was already in a swimsuit, so I had that covered since they add about 15-20 pounds instantly when you put them on. But I digress…

I approached the pool, the splashing torment still in full force.

“Um, Polly? I don’t think the other children like it when you splash them in the face. Could you please not do that anymore?”


“Polly? I would like for you to stop doing that to the other kids, okay?”


“Stop doing that right now.”

As if in slow motion, Polly turned toward me, hands still poised to splash her peers. The look on her face spoke volumes. If I could have been killed right then, she would have had it done without a second thought. I have never been stared down by a 4-yr-old before (well, a 4-yr-old who didn’t belong to me, anyway). In a moment of great maturity and control, I decided I wasn’t about to let her win this staring game. And so it began, she and me, locked in a battle of gazes. I began to wonder if I was allowed to blink or just not smile. Polly was out for blood.

What seemed like minutes later, this delightful little girl threw her swim noodle at me and took off for her mother (who was peacefully enjoying the hot tub 30 feet away). The look she gave me was one that rivals the look our puppy gives my children when they wake him from a nap by putting doll clothes on him.

Drop dead was pretty much the message her eyes were sending me.

Wow. Delightful little child, Polly was. I'm sure my girls will be lining up to play with her at the pool next time. And I'll be ready, too....I've been practicing my cool stare.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

These are Times That Try Men's Souls

If you watched any of the Lord of the Rings movies, you’ll recognize the title of this blog. I took it from the scene in which Gandolf is speaking to Merry, a hobbit nearly overcome with anxiety and sorrow due to the seeming imminent defeat of good in the world. Nothing will ever be the same. Darkness has descended upon every living creature. In that moment it looks as though all hope is lost.

I can relate to this little hobbit and his feelings of despair.

I live with a three-year-old.

We have recently entered that unpleasant season of transition. If she is allowed to take a nap (or I should say forced, actually), her father and I must pay the price around 10:30pm when she is still wide awake and bouncing up and down while we beg her to be quiet and go to sleep, our bloodshot eyes barely staying open. If, on the other hand, we allow her to skip her usual afternoon nap, we must face the dreadful consequences:

A three-year-old who has not had a nap all day.

Every day this week so far, I have found my sweet child collapsed on the floor, the furniture, wherever she happened to land before sleep overtook her at last. She is out cold, dead to the world. It looks a lot like this:

And this:
And then the dog gets in on the action and plops himself down next to the peaceful child. He seems to live for these moments when he is not being poked and pinched and in general tormented by this little person. His eyes seem to say, "ahhh....tranquility. Safety. I can handle her like THIS."

I glance nervously around, weighing my options. Wake her and face the wrath of a 3-yr-old who has not had a long enough nap? Or let her sleep a little longer and choose to pay the piper late that night when she won’t go to bed?

Choosing to pay now rather than later, I begin to wake my sleeping angel. I push back her sweet curls from her cherub face. I kiss her round cheeks. I gently nudge her shoulder.

NOTHING. Mouth open, thumb hanging free (which is the true sign that she’s really out), she continues in dreamland.

Hmm. I move onto Phase 2. I scoop her into my arms and try to situate her limp body onto my lap. I say her name a little more loudly. I tickle her feet and tummy. Still NOTHING.

Okay, the minutes are ticking by and a successful bedtime is growing ever fainter. It is hardly a whisper of a dream at this point.

I call in the troops. Her big sisters come charging into the room, gleeful to administer their favorite waking up tactics on my unsuspecting child. They kind of pounce on her. Zerberts on her tummy, tickling her, pulling her toes, blowing in her ears…you can imagine how this goes over. Pretty much like a pro wrestler at a tea party.


The previously angelic sleeping cherub is now moaning and flailing her arms and legs wildly, eyes still closed but with an angry expression on her face. I can’t say as I blame her, but she pushed me to desperate measures. Her sisters back away, their work here finished.

And so, for the next half hour or so, I try to coax my baby girl into a happier mood. It is not easy. It's a lot like when Samwise Gamgee tries with all his might to save Frodo from the power of the ring. Just when I think all is lost and she has succomed to an evil mood for the rest of the night, sucked in by the power of fatigue, she gives me a small smile. And then, as a prize for all my effort, she does indeed find her happy heart again…right in time for bed. She is all smiles and hugs and kisses and every stall tactic you can think of as we try to put her to bed. She stares at the ceiling and sings to herself, "awake, awake, I'm still wide awake." It's as though she has jet lag and I wonder how on earth 10 minutes of sleeping 3 hours before has recharged her to this extent.

Ahh, these are times that try men’s souls for sure. My comparison to Lord of the Rings breaks down a little here. The bad guy is ultimately defeated in the movie, destroyed forever. Our sweet girl’s dark side returns every late afternoon, still seeking the “precious” (which in this case is a proper nap). Thankfully she is pretty darn cute and bewitches us with her charms during her more peaceful moments.

She is our “precious”, and we will brave the ends of the earth to bring her back to us each night. Even the fires of Mordor (or a tantrum on the floor) won't hold us down.

Do I sound enough like a sci-fi/fantasy geek yet? Two posts in a row!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Harry Potter in My Home

A few months ago, I made a big decision. Some would call it life changing. As a result, I have been met with ridicule by some, embraces by others. Scorned by those who don’t agree, celebrated by those who have been waiting a long time for me to join their ranks.

I have begun reading the Harry Potter series.

I am currently on book 4, and I must admit it is not my favorite so far. However, now that I have entered the world of wizards and magical creatures and owls, I have begun to notice certain things around me. For instance, today I found the 6-yr-old doing this:

At first glance this does not appear to be anything unusual. Perhaps she was simply watching in anticipation the bread we were baking or enjoying the aroma of homemade lasagna cooking in the oven.

There was NOTHING in the oven.

She was merely sitting on the ground in silence, a smile on her face and an intense gaze at the reflection she saw staring back at her in the oven door. Sound familiar, any Harry Potter fans?


This planted a few concerning thoughts in my mind.

Does my child see herself as Harry? Does she think of her life here with us as Harry did, living with his abusive and cruel aunt and uncle? Does she think of me like Petunia Dursely? Michael as Uncle Vernon? Is she staring into the oven door, dreaming about the parents she wishes she were with and of the life she could be having with them?

Then I began re-visiting our different interactions lately. She has been sent to her room a couple times recently. Harry spent enormous amounts of time locked in his room.

She has complained of being hungry at non-meal times and been made to wait. Harry went hungry for days at a time til he figured out how to hide food in his room. (Note to self: check her room for contraband items.)

The other day she pulled a hand-me-down pair of shorts out of her drawer and they were literally falling off of her. Harry suffered the indignity of wearing clothes that were ill-fitting, passed onto him by his obnoxious cousin, Dudley.

The time we went to the zoo this summer, she was immensely interested in the snakes. Harry speaks parseltongue, which for all you uninformed, means that he can speak the language of snakes.

I began to feel slightly uncomfortable.

Perhaps I need to be reading more books about loving my middle child instead of fiction about wizards who stare into mirrors and see their deepest desires. In Harry’s case, he saw his deceased parents, talking and laughing with him. In Lauren’s case, one can only imagine what she saw…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nurses have it Easy

Okay, I know we all feel sympathy for nurses when they have to change bedpans. Gross. Disgusting.

I would say that tonight, I would be willing to trade places with a nurse when it comes to dealing with that side of things. The mess is confined to a single area, they have all the proper equipment for quick and efficient sterilizing, and they're getting PAID!

I write this tonight as a form of therapy for myself. If I do not try to see the humor in the situation, I might find myself in a strait jacket staring at a white wall somewhere, mumbling about puppies and diapers and water hoses.

Here’s the basic turn of events this evening:

We all know when a child is not utilizing the bathroom and instead making use of their pants. They just get this look and kind of freeze in their tracks like a deer caught in the headlights. I’m not a big fan of those moments, but we had one tonight.

I will spare you the details, but my dear baby girl was marched outside, stripped down, and hosed off. Afterward, I took her inside, cleaned her off with wipes, and told her to go get her pajamas.

“Aaaahhh! MOMMMY!”

I look up to see that Leighanne, who I just finished cleaning up, is holding up her little foot.

It is COVERED in dog waste. The kind you smell before you see and look out for unless you’re two.

Sure enough, the dog has felt full freedom to make use of the bedroom carpet. Might I add this is NEW carpet we got just last fall, mere months before Hank made his debut appearance in our home.

I scan the room for more land mines and am none too pleased to find several more random piles scattered everywhere. I pick up my naked child under her arms, hold her as far away from my body as I possibly can, and run her to the bathtub, where I proceed to give her another good cleaning. This is my child who has a very weak stomach, so she is heaving and gagging. I am fully expecting her to be sick like she was just yesterday when the dog used my living room rug for his own purposes. She threw up on my hardwood floors, much to the disgust of her big sisters. Strangely enough, the dog’s messes don’t seem to bother them nearly as much as their sister’s.

But I digress. After her bath, I wrap her up in the towel and begin taking her to my room. Somehow, the Houdini dog has managed to get upstairs unnoticed (probably b/c Michael was busy cleaning the carpet in the other room). This time, he has targeted MY bedroom, and we can’t even walk in because he’s left his special presents EVERYWHERE. Again…this is NEW carpet.

A friend asked me just yesterday if the dog was finding its way into my heart. She asked if I would miss him if he were gone.

I would miss him like my kids miss brussel sprouts and getting shots. Something about having to wear a gas mask in my own home just makes my natural nurturing mama’s affection grow a little dim. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. I would really, really like to test that theory.

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