Sunday, February 20, 2011

I'll race ya!

He may only be three, but I totally get him.

I'm discovering more with each passing day that my youngest son is a lot like me. Again, he's only three, so that could all change, but as I observe him in new situations - I see myself.

Take, for instance, a new preschool science class I enrolled him in on Saturdays in February. Each week, he joins other pint-sized people to learn some basic science concepts like magnifying images, measurement, and our senses.

My boy is hilarious because he listens to the teacher's instructions and then announces, "I have to tell my Mom!" He runs over to me and gives me the low down. I send him back to join his classmates. And the cycle continues.

He usually has a comment or two to share with his teacher, which makes me smile because my two older children, in the same situation, would have clung to my leg or insisted I stay by their side, or just plain cried to have to participate.

And I grin as I think, "Finally! An extrovert! I gave birth to an extrovert like me!" I can't tell you how relieved I am to have someone else in the house who isn't scared to pieces to walk into a room full of people.

Instead, is practically energized by it.


So I admire his ability to converse and share his thoughts openly, taking part in the activities and even having a solution now and then.

But this week in science class, they played a game.

I saw another trait come out that was eerily familiar.

A competitive spirit.

The children were playing red light/green light, and the winner each time received a card with a picture on it (it went with the sense of sight concept...hang with me here).

He was a trooper for the first several attempts. But he's a little guy - the class is for three- to five-year-olds, so he is on the low end of that spectrum and he got beat repeatedly by some older kids. Well, he really wanted a card. So much so, that after about game five, facing defeat yet again, he turned around with a frustrated look and stomped over to me.

"I'm not playing anymore. I never get a card!" he whimpers.

I respond with, "If you don't play, you'll never get a card."

As if a light bulb came on, he marched back to the starting line.

Still no win, but he seems willing to try again.

At this point the teacher is noticing some inequality as one little girl sits with three cards while three wee ones are cardless.

She decides to give anyone who doesn't have a card a hefty head start.

Finally, my kid has a shot.

But he positions himself poorly and comes in second.

"I'm not playing!" he announces as he runs to me, trying desperately to hold back the tears.

I tell him he has a good chance now, there's only two of them that get the head start.

He grudgingly heads back to his advance starting line.

This time he wins.

Oh, the JOY!! He grabs the card and runs to me, waving his prized index card with a blurry black and white picture glued to it with the kind of pride only a three-year-old could exhibit.

He was so mesmerized with his trophy that his late start on the final run didn't even bother him.

As relieved as I was to see him finally win a card, I was hit with the realization that I was watching myself...

Because I've never played anything believing I would lose. Even as crazy impossible it may have been to win a race or game, I rarely recall a time when I thought I couldn't possibly win. Why play if there's no chance of a win?

And losing...well, there better be a shoulder available to cry on, or...I have been known to get mad and throw things.

Sure, I have the mentality of a preschooler.

So be it.

The boy and I will thrive on competition.

And when we do win - hey, we're extroverts. So we'll throw the best parties.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Just make the music stop.

This is a tale of good intentions gone bad. Very bad.

Months ago, I had heard about a wonderful little program offered at our local home improvement store where children can come with their parents on a given Saturday and build something from wood - a train, a car, a basketball hoop. This particular weekend, the craft of choice was a Valentine's music box.


Yeah, that's what I thought.

Until I naively scurried into the store with three children, thinking one parent could pull this off.


Each child is now armed with a bag of wooden pieces, a hammer, and the tiniest nails known to man.

We try to find a place amidst the swarm of children to spread out and build our masterpieces. But the crates that line the aisle are much too high for small children, so every tiny tot is plopped on top of them. Not exactly conducive to workspace.

I eye a low shelf near the floor and guide my children toward it. It's an appropriate height for them, but I'm cramping up as I try to stay in a squat position.

At any rate, we rip open our bags and are ready to get started. I grab the instructions and am immediately confused. I begin to feel a tinge of panic.

Child #1 is already demanding to know what to do first.

I tell her to wait while I read the instructions...after all, we'll want to do this right.

Child #2 is wiggling with anticipation, trying to convince me to just hand  him the bag, that he knows what to do.

Right. You know what to do. Without reading any instructions. You are certainly a MAN in training, aren't you?!

Child #3 is simply happy to bang on everything in sight with his new pint-sized hammer.

I pound in the first nail and hand it over to Child #2 to finish.

Ditto for Child #3.

Child #1 is livid that she gets no attention.

An employee comes by and asks if we need help.

Glorious! I thank her and request that she help Child #1.

At some point said employee departs and Child #1 is whining.

Meanwhile, nails are in the wrong places, wood is split, and Child #3 has wandered into the shelving unit, bonking his head repeatedly on the lumber above.

Child #1 bellows.

I glare at her and through clenched teeth I bark, "There are THREE of you and ONE of me!"

I receive a disapproving look from another mother nearby.

Yes. I am failing at motherhood at this moment. Thank you for pointing that out, ma'am.

I go back to trying to construct three music boxes simultaneously. It is a losing battle.

I look up to see a father and his giddy son set up shop next to us. Literally within minutes the boy is happily holding up his perfectly designed music box.

I am annoyed.

Because I look down and see three boxes - none of which were put together properly. Child #3's is still virtually in pieces. Child #2's has a lid that doesn't close. Child #1....well, she was kind of on her own, so it's a shambles. Another employee comes by and gives her a brand new kit to take home. Yeah, it was that bad.

I hang my head and fight back the tears. I really wanted to watch the excitement in their eyes as they built something beautiful with their own hands. I really wanted to pat myself on the back for broadening their horizons, challenging them while at the same time cheering them toward a sense of accomplishment.

Instead, we walked out with three heaps of junk. Because Mom was outnumbered and frazzled.

As we march back to our vehicle, I vow never to return. But my children insist on going again.

I can't imagine why! They enjoy seeing their mother at her worst?

And as if the guilt I felt wasn't enough, I am now enclosed in a car with three incomplete music boxes. Which means all three are playing the music - and cannot be shut off. And the music is horrifying.

It sounds like the dramatic underscore of a scene in a Lifetime Original Movie. It plays over and over.

It is haunting me - I am certain I hear it say, "You - are - a - bad - mother - You - are - a - bad - mother..."

I just want it to stop. 

We're headed home and Child #1 says, "Mom, can we go to McDonald's?"

Without even an ounce of hesitation, I shout, "YES!" and crank the wheel toward the golden arches that will redeem me.

So sure, three mangled music boxes may have proved I am an unfit mother. But three Happy Meals certainly turned things around!

Later that day their father managed to salvage the pathetic music boxes and patiently helped our children finish constructing them the correct way.

I was grateful that joy returned to their faces, but I'm still not a fan of that horrifying tune. It's such a harsh reminder of my ineptitude, and I simply don't want to star in a Lifetime Original Movie. Let's face it, it never bodes well for the mother figure in those shows.

The next building project is in two weeks. They're supposed to make race cars.

I'll send their father.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Marvelous Menu...Kid Chaos.

I'm not really much of a cook, but I have befriended two amazing cooks who are teaching me the wonder of flavors and textures and all the goodness that can come from a kitchen.
One has a wonderful blog of her own -- chock full of yummy recipes -- and it has made my life a little easier because when I want to meal plan, I just go to her blog and cheat. (It's listed in the right column of this page - diary recipe addict - so you, too, can cheat.)
Sometimes I expect a bit too much of myself, however. Case in point: Wednesday.
I had aspirations of cooking up a storm. Dinner would be fantastic.
At 2:30pm, I am whipping up some 'quick' cookie bars to top off the meal I will soon prepare. But with a 3-year-old's activity level, even throwing those ingredients in a bowl - and note, I made them bars not cookies - because that's too time consuming! - is full of interruptions.
Things get crazier an hour later when my two oldest children arrive home from school.
Herein is where I develop a new-found respect for my foodie friends. They too have young children. And yet they cook glorious, gourmet meals virtually every night.
How is it possible to cook like that and still be a mom? Here's a peek into the two hour time span from 3:30-5:30 in my house on Wednesday:
Menu: Smokehouse chicken with potato bundles and steamed carrots. 
The recipes read like a dream. I'm salivating through the entire meal preparation process.
But the children are home from school, and as usual, are ravenous. But I prepared. I had their snacks ready and waiting on the table. However, it wasn't enough food for them so they're begging for more.
I have to stop the numerous food projects I have going at the moment and get them more snacks, but not the kind of snacks that will ruin their appetite for this divine meal I'm making.
My 1st grade son needs to paint 100 hearts on a t-shirt to wear the following day for the 100th day of school, so he's in the corner of the kitchen with heart-sponges and acrylic paint..and I cringe because his little brother insists upon hovering over him and I have visions of red paint handprints dotting all my walls if he gets too close.
Of course this is also the time we must start homework, so I'm reviewing spelling words, setting timers for reading...
Meanwhile, my 3-year-old wants his Spiderman suit on. But he's potty training so we need to use the toilet before covering ourselves up in a full-body suit. This is never a short process.
The other two children are now crying for attention, wanting help with homework and begging to use the computer to do whatever it was they were doing at school on the computer today.
I say no to the computer. I get a tantrum.
I ignore it and go back to meal prep. Within minutes Spiderman proclaims, "I need to go poopy!" Another long process.
Successful toileting and he wants his candy reward. Done.
I go back to meal prep and two oldest children want to go outside to work on their fort. I let them go. It is frigid cold out there, but I want them OUT.
Soon they are bellowing from the door for me to put on boots and help them break up ice chunks outside so they can continue to shovel their cave. I run out quickly and fulfill their request only to be asked to finish their 'igloo.' Uh, nope. I have chicken on the stove, gotta go.
Tantrums ensue. Again, ignored.
I come inside and Spiderman wants to play cars. I sigh.
Then by the grace of God, I hear the garage door. Father arrives home. YES!
He plays cars with Spiderman while I finish getting food in the oven only to be interrupted by the sound of door slams and two children crying at me for being so cold that they need heat and blankets and how could I be so cruel to let them go outside in such frigid temperatures and why didn't I tell them to come in or not to go out because it is so cold?!?
I'm in the midst of chaos...
And then all those kids eat -
are the carrots.
Thursday night: Frozen pizza and mac & cheese.
I'm not even kidding. I admit defeat.