Mother’s Day Is Just The Worst

I saw all of your lovely pictures on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. There were a lot of nice breakfasts and brunches and early dinners. Plenty of hugs and kisses and homemade cards and pretty flowers. There were naps granted and lots of quiet time. One of my mom friends even got to read a book! It looked really nice. You all looked really nice.

I was excited yesterday, Mother’s Day, because the shower I took was long enough that I got to shave my legs. Well, from the knees down anyway. Not my whole legs. No one has time for that! But still, for a day that’s supposed to be all about me, that extra-long shower felt pretty luxurious. Sure, I had to let Millie watch a fifth episode of Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse in exchange but I say, “WORTH IT!” (Maybe. I don’t know. That show is really, really terrible.)

Mother’s Day has to be my least favorite holiday of all of the holidays. (And, that’s saying a lot because I find Halloween to be a giant all-around pain.) Mother’s Day is loaded with a weird combination of unrealistic expectations and forced relaxation. Like, for some reason I just expect that my kids will suddenly be more considerate and thoughtful and less screechy because it’s a special day for ME! Less bickering over the iPad and more playing Lego nicely with one another. Less hitting and more hugs. Fewer tantrums because the wind is blowing too hard and more general acceptance that I don’t control the weather. Surprisingly, that doesn’t magically happen. Also, there’s nothing more conducive to relaxation than everyone telling you repeatedly to “just go relax!” as the dishes pile up and someone spills a drink all over the kitchen table and you realize someone else showered with the curtain outside of the tub and everyone is fighting while all of next week’s prep is being ignored so you can sit in the bedroom and listen to your husband yell, “CHILL! OUT!” at the kids.

Such a special day.

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The high point of my Mother’s Day: brownie and ice cream consumed around 10:00 in the morning on Friday. It was all downhill from here.

My Mother’s Day weekend started on Thursday, when I sent Bob off on a weekend away with some of his high school friends. Now, in hindsight, the timing of this trip was probably ill-advised. However, the date was settled on back in September of last year and Bob deserves a weekend away and a break from the drudgery and some fun every once in awhile. He pledged to be home mid-day on Sunday so I got over all of this pretty quickly.

But, on Friday afternoon, I discovered something so awful in Millie’s bedroom that I don’t know if I can even adequately describe the horror. It rivaled the Great Poop Incident of 2013 only… it was pee. There was some sort of a horrible, absolutely tragic series of potty accidents followed by a completely misguided attempt to cover up what happened and then 24 hours passed before I realized that things were… wet… everywhere and it all resulted in me standing in the middle of her room cry-yelling, “WHY? WHY? WHY? WHYYYYYYY?” Millie, unfortunately, has not been able to answer that question because every time I ask her what in the sam hell happened in there, she politely requests to “talk about it later.”

Two things that made this situation worse: 1. Millie rarely has accidents and 2. the entire floor of Millie’s room was absolutely COVERED with stuff at the time this all went down. Despite our best efforts (asking nicely, cajoling, bribery, hollering), Millie’s bedroom closely resembles a pit of despair and garbage. She hoards anything and everything in her room so when she had an accident(s), there was TREMENDOUS collateral damage. I spent Friday, a good portion of Saturday and even Sunday sifting through the belongings I picked up off of her floor for anything that could be salvaged.

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Definitely not garbage. Must be kept. Do not throw away! Might smell a little like pee.

The good news? Millie’s room is finally picked up! The bad news? I sent an email to my dad asking him to bring their steam cleaner with him when he visits next week for… “unfortunate reasons.”

I haven’t even begun to recover from what I witnessed. I have a feeling it will be some time yet.

On Saturday morning, Charlie didn’t ask for breakfast when he woke up so the emergency red light emoji immediately started flashing in my brain. When he got dressed but also wanted to lay back down in bed, I knew it was all over. He was vomiting before we even hit 9:00 a.m. Now, normally, a stomach bug while solo parenting would send me into a bit of a panic but not this time. With what I had lived through the day before in Millie’s room, a little puke could barely make a dent in my armor. I set Charlie up with a floor bed to minimize damage, plopped a tiny screen in front of his face, refused his requests for food and got to work wiping down the house to prevent the spread of whatever he had.

Not to bright side Charlie’s stomach bug but having him out of commission meant relative peace and quiet for the other two kids who play together nicely. That gave me an opportunity to make progress on Millie’s “situation” and work on getting Charlie’s room ready for his new bed. Combined with a delivery of wine and cheese from friends Saturday afternoon, my Mother’s Day weekend was awful but manageable.

Then, on Sunday, with Charlie feeling better, the kids all started fighting again before I even swallowed ONE SIP of coffee, Bob had not arrived home yet, the house was getting trashed and everything was becoming awful rather quickly. My friend, Jenn, texted me Mother’s Day greetings and by the end of our messaging, I got the impression that she was actually putting her phone down and backing away slowly, like I was a bomb about to go off.

Bob arrived home with a funny card and some chocolate and flowers and that all helped but our kids were AWFUL yesterday. WE didn’t even want to hang out with them. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Now, leave me alone.

Anyway, it’s all over now. Except for the stomach bug. That’s not over. Millie woke up this morning, asked for the barf bucket and then promptly went back to sleep for FOUR hours.

A mother’s job is never done, amirite?

First Line

I’ve had a pin attached to my bag since last summer. The pin commemorates the centennial of the National Park Service, which was founded in 1916. Rightly, the NPS filled 2016 with much celebration and our family delighted in exploring new parks and participating in some of the special events taking place during such a special year.

My discovery of the National Parks really began when I moved to Washington D.C. in my twenties and embarked on a job in the city. I spent many lunch breaks strolling the National Mall, weaving in and out of tourists visiting the various memorials and monuments. Witnessing the construction of the National World War II Memorial was especially moving. After Henry arrived, he became my constant companion on these walks. I would swing by his daycare, two floors down, sweep him up, plop him in the stroller and off we would go.

As our children have grown older and with our move to Richmond and now Northwest Virginia, our National Parks exploration has expanded. I will forever refer to this time of our lives as The Battlefield Years. We’ve hit a lot of them. Like, a lot-a lot. In our various visits to Gettysburg and Antietam and Appomattox and Cedar Creek and Harpers Ferry and Petersburg and Yorktown, we’ve never – not once – had a negative experience. We have always been met by extremely competent and friendly park employees excited to share their knowledge with us, with our children.

I’m always left in sort of a state of awe after a visit to one of our national parks. It’s hard to believe that such an opportunity exists for us. To revisit so easily a part of our country’s past that’s preserved and protected solely for our enjoyment. That people work so enthusiastically and doggedly to fulfill that mission. That for $20 (and a musket for Charlie from the gift shop) we get to see, and get to show our children, what it was like to live, to fight, to survive in an era when this country was filled with so much turmoil. (There’s also ALWAYS nice potties and access to snacks in a national park. I won’t downplay how important bathrooms and a constant stream of sustenance is to a successful family outing.)

Charlie’s biggest dream is to become a park ranger and I’m pretty sure nothing Henry and Millie could ever do could top that. Sorry, you two! It’s really impressive how you became Secretary of State, Millie, and how you became President of The Lego Group, Henry, but Charlie’s a National Parks employee living in a tent on a fire tower in Wyoming with only his binoculars, a typewriter and some CLIF bars so he wins. You’ll both just have to try harder!

We’ve barely even tapped the breadth of the National Park system either. That’s one of the driving reasons for my camper obsession – so we can head west and visit as many parks as possible with the kids. There is so much to see! and to do! I want to go to ALL THE PARKS. (But, I definitely need the camper to make that happen, Bob.)

That these parks are so accessible in an era of budget cuts and funding issues is amazing. That large swaths of pristine land is preserved and prevails in an era of destructive environmental practices is amazing. That a staff of dedicated park service employees are such champions for their landscapes is amazing.

I’m a big fan, is my point. I’m like a National Parks groupie. I’m John Cusack, standing outside their gates with a stereo held above my head blaring, “In Your Eyes.”

So, it was with profound disappointment that I read about our new administration’s gag order, to include all social media posting, covering the Department of Interior and, thus, the National Park Service. Although such orders are not necessarily unprecedented and will hopefully be lifted, the focus of the orders on climate change information amounted to a blackout of scientific data. (You can read about the details from a reputable outlet here.)

This seemed retaliatory in nature and was instantly met with subversive tweets from social media managers at a variety of national and state parks and agencies in direct defiance of the gag order.

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I mean, come on. This is fantastic! These park rangers are not having any of this. They are amazing. Especially that last one. I like the cut of your jib, US Fish & Wildlife.

Additionally, several alt-Twitter accounts have popped up recently to better disseminate information about legislation and actions that may negatively affect the parks but which the parks are no longer allowed to report on.

The response from everyday Americans to the assorted National Parks’ Twitter accounts was extraordinary. I followed all week as tributes popped up to the work the NPS was rather slyly engaged in. I was delighted to see a spotlight shone on the parks and people that I consider to be such treasures. Also, some people are really, really funny.

Some of my favorite tweets from the past 10 days:

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(A reference to Mirriam Webster and Teen Vogue’s coverage since the election.)

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(#leslieknopeforpresident)

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Image: Captain RibMan / John Sprengelmeyer

I’m going to need that last one on a t-shirt. And, a tote bag. Also, a commemorative pin. Quite possibly, a tattoo.

Making Memories

Nothing signals the arrival of that most magical time of year quite like me yelling at my kids to stop messing with the Christmas tree.

Millie and I decorated the entire tree this year while the boys were at school. We saved a few of Henry and Charlie’s favorite ornaments for them to hang when they arrived home. Which was a fun process for all of approximately four minutes before all three of them started rearranging ornaments (NOPE) and then started dropping things through the branches of the tree for fun (SUPER NOPE). Ornaments were falling, kids were fighting, my patience was quickly evaporating. So, naturally, I hollered at them to CUT! IT! OUT! with the tree (I might not have used such judicious language).

Then, like some kind of rookie, I wrapped all of the presents super early. I was really proud that I was winning my Christmas to-do list but my eagerness was rewarded with the kids digging into the pile of precariously stacked presents under the tree, searching for names and shaking boxes (“DEFINITELY LEGOS!”). Some of the wrapping paper on the oddly-shaped presents started to rip and, listen up, I certainly didn’t spend three afternoons locked in my bedroom watching The Good Wife reruns just to have my kids destroy all of my hard wrapping work. So, naturally, I hollered at them to STOP! TOUCHING! THE PRESENTS! (I might not have used such judicious language).

I’m so happy my kids will have such charming memories of a warm and loving holiday season to reflect back upon when they are grown.

There is glitter wrapping paper mixed in there and let it be known that glitter wrapping paper is always, always a bad idea.

There is glitter wrapping paper mixed in there and let it be known that glitter wrapping paper is always, always a bad idea.

I spent a lot of time this year carefully selecting presents for the kids that I thought they’d really enjoy (as opposed to just grabbing random things from the clearance endcaps at Target). Some were requested (LEGO! always, until the end of time), some will be a surprise (Snap Circuits!), some are throwbacks (Rubix Cube! Twister!) but there’s an awful lot of thoughtfulness and love and time and effort and money underneath that tree. I mean, I learned how to replace the ribbon in an antique typewriter for Charlie this year. They better appreciate it, is my point here, because I took my gift game up several notches. If any of my children look even REMOTELY disappointed with their presents on Christmas morning, I swear I will do a Real Housewives table flip, walk out the front door and find another family to celebrate with.

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I don’t want to brag or anything but Bob casually mentioned he was going to take the kids to the Walmart in West Virginia on Saturday so they could pick out a few things to wrap and place under the tree for me. You can probably guess my delight. Obviously, Bob and the kids are taking just as great care in selecting my presents as I took in selecting theirs. I can’t wait to unwrap my new spatula!

ALSO, Bob turns 57 years old today! Happy birthday, husband! Hope you treat yourself to a little something extra special from the cafeteria at work because I’m pretty tuckered out after all of the tree policing, present wrapping and kid hollering.

Having two December birthdays in our family, one five days before Christmas and one five days after Christmas, I can definitively state that pre-Christmas birthdays are rough. Everyone is in stressed out, frantic, pre-holiday mode. By the time Henry’s birthday rolls around on December 30, the holiday work is all over and we’re in more of a celebratory mood. Bob explains every year that he was never supposed to be a December baby and was actually born five weeks early. He also claims that he was dropped on his head as an infant by his sister and, coupled with his premature birth, offers it all up as an excuse whenever I question some of his purchasing decisions (the BB gun, the bow and arrows, the slingshot, shopping at a West Virginia Walmart on Christmas Eve). Anyway, every year I try to make Bob feel special on his special day. I’m not sure if I always succeed but I’m pretty sure he should just be grateful that he didn’t have to plan for, budget for, shop for or gift wrap any of the presents underneath the tree.

In other news, our basement renovation is scheduled to begin the first week of January. That means, we need to have everything currently located in our basement located somewhere else entirely within the next two weeks. We’ve been planning this project for a solid year so you’d think that we would be on top of the basement clean and clear but you would be wrong. Procrastination is my superpower which means we’ll be spending Christmas Day hauling things up and out of the basement and placing it all… somewhere else. I just assume we will chuck things in every available corner of the house, which means I’ll have to step over a camp stove and seven empty suitcases just to crawl into my bed at night. The boys are really going to enjoy the loveseat and ottoman we’re adding to their room!

To summarize, EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING ALL AT ONCE.

Also, you cannot watch this without smiling and dancing a little in your chair. You can try to resist but it’s futile. CHRISTMAS, LET’S DO THIS.