Sight Unseen

I put in a new pair of contacts this morning. To those of you lens wearers, you know that contact lenses come in varying lengths of wearability. Some are monthly, some are weekly, some are daily. I’m more of a “wear them until you can no longer identify solid objects” kind of a girl. Since I just throw them in the case without any rinsing, you can imagine how fuzzy things get. Once in a while, I’ll lose a lens, and that will speed up the process of replacing them. Obviously, my optometrist loves me.

When I went to put my contacts in this morning, however, I noticed that the lid to the right lens compartment was open slightly. I looked inside only to find that there was no lens there. Then I checked the left compartment. Empty. My heart started racing. This has happened before, but of course, only after a night of overindulging on wine. After a moment’s reflection, I was sure this didn’t happen, as I had been in bed by 8:30 reading the night before. I looked all over the bathroom counter for signs of runaway contact lenses. There were no remnants. I checked Justin’s case. Could he have mistaken my case for his? Nope.

And then, as a three-year-old screaming blob ran by the bathroom door, I had a sudden revelation. Harrison has been spending an awful lot of time in the bathroom now that he’s potty trained. At least seven times a day, I have to clean up some new experiment in there. (I’ve long since given up constant supervision in the bathroom, because inevitably Ella will need to be in there with us and there’s just not enough space. Also, watching your kid pee gets old after about the 300th time.) So, I decided to investigate:

Me: Harrison, did you open Mommy’s contact lens case?

H: Yes I did.

Me: (out of pure curiosity) Why did you do that?

H: Because I thought it might be a little bit dirty. So I cleaned it.

Me: Honey, you don’t need to do that for Mommy. Where are the contact lenses?

H: <blank stare>

Me: You know, the little things that Mommy puts in her eyes so she can see?

H: I washed them too.

It is unclear to me where exactly those lenses ended up, but I’m assuming they took a trip down the drain. I do, however, think that my eye doctor will be impressed with Harrison’s concern for my eyewear’s cleanliness.

What’s Really Important

It has been a terrible morning. Harrison took over an hour to eat his breakfast. I had to chase him around the house to get him dressed. Ella decorated the house with a stack of diapers. She pooped like four times before we left the house. I am frustrated and exhausted and its only 9am. Sometimes, though, you need to look back and find something beautiful to hold onto. Sometimes, that’s the only way to get through the day. I found a snippet in my memory this morning, and here I am, still breathing, still smiling, because I can remember the good in the midst of the bad.

Several weeks ago, we decided to take a trip to the playground with our friends Terri and Olivia. Olivia and Harrison are about the same age. Because they are three years old, they do not necessarily always play well together. But I’ve noticed that Harrison is a bit different with Olivia than he is with his boy buddies. It’s with a slight twinge of gentleness that he interacts with her. His voice is softer and sweeter. He still steals her snacks, and she still doesn’t like to share her toys with him. Terri and I sometimes have to intervene to prevent arguments, but on this hot sunshiny day, we got to witness something truly great.

At the playground, there is a nice little path into the woods. It simply leads to a side road, and the kids like to venture down it because the residents at the end of the road have chickens that they can harass. All three kids (Ella toddling slightly behind the older two) were racing down the path in mirthful giggles as Terri and I meandered behind them. And then I witnessed something that made my heart explode. Harrison stopped, and turned to Olivia. He said, “Oweeveea, may I hold your hand?” She obliged, and they continued on the trail, hand in hand.

This was such a big moment for the mother of a little boy. I witnessed my son ask a female for permission to have physical contact. I saw him show respect for another person’s body. To some, this may have been a small gesture of good manners, but to me, it was my son’s first step towards becoming a good man.

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Lost on a Mountain in Maine

This may come as a surprise, but I took the kids hiking the other day. After my recent post about loving camping so much, it was kind of odd that I chose such an outdoorsy activity. However, the mountain we were to be hiking is more of a hill, and I’d done it before, so I thought it would be a perfect adventure.

I had posted my intentions to take this hike on Facebook a few days prior, and so several friends all from different social circles told me they might be interested in coming along. Unfortunately, that day was also the day I chose to drop my brand new iphone. I dropped it off for screen repair on the way to the mountain, so it was like the olden days, where I couldn’t actually contact anyone. This alone nearly gave me an anxiety attack, but I pushed through.

Ella is at the age where she COULD still fit in a baby carrier, but I know her well enough to know that she would abhor the idea of being strapped in. I didn’t even bother, and assumed she’d be just fine. You know what they say about assuming things. I ended up carrying Ella most of the way up the mountain, which is only a .2 mile hike so I just figured I was getting an extra arm workout in for the day. She happily munched on a giant marshmallow while being toted up in my arms, and Harrison was a real trooper, climbing right along beside us.

We reached the summit, and had our lunch. Rather, H and E spilled ham and cheese and goldfish crackers all around the great outdoors while I frantically tried to keep nature clean and prevent my children from falling off of a cliff all at the same time. It was truly a magical experience.

On our way down, I noticed that I could go one of two ways. I *thought* I was going the same way we came up but it turns out that we veered in the opposite direction and were headed down the back way. I figured this was no big deal, as I had just seen a woman with a jogging stroller go the same way. It couldn’t be that bad, I thought.

How hard could this be? We are up. We want to go down. Down we shall go. I kept this mantra up for TWO HOURS, you guys. I had my poor children stranded in the woods for TWO hours with no cell phone. Because I’m a stellar parent, I forgot that Ella’s ears, being that she has tubes in them, are very sensitive to altitude changes. It didn’t dawn on me until after we endured forty five minutes of crying that she was in severe pain. Any parent knows that when your kid is that upset you cannot concentrate on anything else. Like getting off a mountain.

We were so lost. I tried to take several different routes, but we kept ending up at the same trail marker. Harrison kept chiming in, “I think we’re lost, Mommy.” Somebody get that kid into college quick. He’s a real thinker. Finally, I found some people. I asked if they were going to the parking lot, and they replied that they were, however they were going the “long way”. I think they could tell by my frazzled state, and Ella’s tears, that we weren’t up for the long way. They kindly gave me their map and told me how to take the shortcut. Unfortunately, I cannot read a map to save my life, especially if I don’t know where I am on that map to begin with. I thought I found this alleged shortcut, or at least, some sort of path on which to walk that I believed was taking us someplace.

Well, that shortcut took us right back up that damn mountain. Luckily there was a wild turkey up there, which distracted Ella from her ear pain. She almost ran off with it, but I caught her just in time to head down the way we came. For real this time. We happened to walk a lot more than .2 miles to get back down, but we finally did. The moral of the story is, do not go hiking with me.

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The Great Outdoors

I hate the outdoors. I hate bugs. I hate dirt. I hate being dirty. I hate when my hair smells like a campfire. I don’t like to be cold. I don’t like to be hot. This is why I surprised even myself when I agreed to go camping with my husband and our two children for their first tent overnight.

I have no idea what possessed me to take the chance to do such a thing-I had a free pass to stay home with Ella while the guys went and did their thing. We could have stayed home and watched chick flicks. We could have painted our toenails and eaten chocolate. We could have remained clean. Instead, I packed up just enough stuff to MAYBE get by out in the wild for one night and we all jumped in the car.

Actually, we took two vehicles. We weren’t sure if Ella would make it, as she’s only a year old. The plan was for me to take her home if she couldn’t sleep in a tent. I somehow managed to ride in the car by myself while the rest of my family went off in the truck-this is a luxury I don’t usually get to enjoy. It was a great start to the trip.

Once we arrived to the camp grounds, we weaved through the little tiny roads that lead to each site until we found our own little spot. I knew things wouldn’t be ideal when both of our cars barely fit there-with no room to spare. Before I had shut my car door, my sandals were filled with dirt. It was going to be a long day.

Then Justin took out the tent. I was imagining a small little shelter with just enough room for the four of us to line up our sleeping bags one beside the other. I should have known better because we didn’t have sleeping bags.

The tent turned out to be a palace. Think Harry Potter at the Quidditch tournament. You go in and a whole house is set up in there. I am not joking you, the tent Justin purchased had THREE rooms. I did not even know that tents came with rooms. So that foiled my plan of sneaking out early with Ella. She’d have her own room (a luxury she does not have now in our house) and her pack and play fit in there with room to spare. Never mind the sleeping bags; A queen sized air mattress for us, and a twin size for Harrison. Crap. It looks like we’re staying. It took forever for us to explain to the kids that they couldn’t wear their shoes in the tent, because they’d track dirt in. So naturally, when Harrison climbed out of the tent shoeless, he made a point of jumping in the dirt (how could you not? SO MUCH DIRT outside.) and smearing his socks in it. He should have just said, “THERE, Mom. So what about my shoes??”

Justin had the grand idea of bringing a beach ball for the kids to play with. Our campsite now had exactly 3.6 square inches left of walking space, what with our palatial tent, three camp chairs, two cars, a picnic table, and a grill. For the first fifteen minutes, Harrison routinely threw the ball into the surrounding campsites, as there was no more space to do so at our site. We let that happen until Ella began running off into the woods on her own to chase the ball. Harrison, we knew would come back. Ella, not so much. To divert their attention, we brought out some snacks, which we ate at the picnic table. Do you know what happens when you eat snacks at a picnic table? Your snacks get dirty.

After eating a few salt and pepper chips (although I don’t know if it was pepper or dirt on them), we took the kids on a walk. I had seen three playgrounds on location as we drove through, so I thought we’d be in for a grand time. We stopped at the closest one, and let the kids do their thing. Harrison and Ella love slides, so of course, Harrison went for the biggest one there. He flew down the big blue plastic chute and, I kid you not, face planted into the dirt (which was everywhere. There is dirt everywhere when you camp.) and cut his face in two places.

We returned back to our site with no further injuries, and prepared for dinner. In other words, Justin prepared for dinner while I supervised the kids running around in the dirt. I mentioned before that we had three camp chairs. Two of them were for big people, and one was for little people. If you do the math, we were one chair short. In the big book of parenting rules, probably the first rule is that if you don’t have enough for both kids, no kid should have it. Well, we broke that rule, because, hey, we were in the great outdoors, too busy getting dirty to worry about fairness. The chair was fought over until Ella decided that perhaps she’d like to stand on a rock instead of a chair. This put me at ease because the rock wasn’t going to fall over like the chair did when she stood on it. Except I was wrong. The rock didn’t fall over, but Ella did. On her head. So now I have two kids with cuts on their faces. And dirt in their hair. And in their fingernails. And on their feet. Clearly, camping is far too dangerous for the Clark family.

We somehow made it to bed that night after s’mores (you know, where you roast a marshmallow on a stick that’s been on the ground, in the dirt?) and a series of hysterics from Harrison who insisted he use his flashlight even though it wasn’t quite dark out yet. I enjoyed approximately two hours in my nice big queen air mattress, fully clothed, before I was beckoned from the other “room” to help Harrison fall asleep. Oh! I lied. I wasn’t fully clothed. I had no socks. Who brings socks camping? Everyone besides me, that’s who. Freezing and resting on a nearly deflated air mattress, I lay awake listening to the rain. Which was perfect, because I had to pee. Surely, I thought, it would be morning soon, and then I could get out of the tent without waking up the wee ones. But when I checked my watch, it was only 3:22 am. All I could think about was how my feet were covered in dirt, and how the kids didn’t brush their teeth, and that I was still wearing my freaking bra. You can’t take off your bra when you’re camping, because what happens if you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you run into a stranger?

Throughout the night, Ella woke up and cried several times, probably because I didn’t pack her warm jammies. She, however, did have socks on. Harrison’s antics continued routinely as usual (he doesn’t sleep well at home, so why would camping be any different?!) Naturally, he insisted on sleeping in just his underpants, because that’s normal when it’s cold and you’re sleeping outside.

Luckily, we all survived the night, most of us wide awake, and made it home in time to shower before we turned into swamp people. I think my next camping trip will be to the Marriott. Alone.IMG_0198

The Beach

So, you’ve probably read some silly blogs about moms trying to get out of the house on time to go someplace. Or you’ve been a mom trying to get out of the house on time. I’m here today to tell you about one of those moms (me) trying to go someplace (the beach).

I have to admit that going anywhere with two toddlers in the summer is usually a lot easier than going out in the winter. You have a lot less clothing to deal with, and, it just seems like you can pop everyone in and out of the car with seamless ease and grace. That is, unless you’re going to the beach. I am not sure how much crap is reasonable to take to the beach, but I’m thinking they should have a weight limit at the entrance, just like they do at airports with baggage. That way you can tell your kids, “Sorry, guys, just Mommy’s beach chair and a towel can make it through this time. Maybe next trip we can bring your fifteen buckets and seven shovels.”

Harrison started the morning off this way:

Harrison: Mom, can we go to the beach now?

Me: No, it’s not open yet.

Harrison: There’s no gate. We can go anytime.

Me: Crap.

I did my best. I did. When I went to get Harrison dressed, he suddenly had a strong aversion to bathing suits and refused to wear his swim trunks. I assumed it was because he is new to the underpants thing and wanted to wear them. I was going to even compromise and let him wear underpants beneath his swim suit. That didn’t fly. So the kid was going fully clothed to the beach. Worse things have happened.

When I asked him to put his shoes on, he kept asking which was his right and which was his left foot. I knew it didn’t matter what I said because he was just stalling. He then decided to take his left shoe off. Seven times. SEVEN TIMES.

During Harrison’s valiant attempt to either A) learn to put his own shoes on, or B) drive me insane, I was dressing Ella. Naturally, once I had her all ready to go, I smelled the smell. And there we go, having to change her diaper. It happens anytime we’re in a three foot vicinity of the door and within five minutes of leaving the house. The kid likes to last-minute-poop.

Although my child was finally outside the house, I knew I wasn’t in the clear. He was standing on the front step, looking around as I buckled Ella into her seat.

“Mom? Where are we going?”

I turned around in complete astonishment. The child who couldn’t wait to go to the BEACH, who packed his toys to go to the BEACH, who didn’t want to wear swim trunks to the BEACH was now asking where we were headed.

“The beach. We’re going to the beach.”

“Oh. Do I like the beach?”

“Yes, you love the beach.”

“Did you pack me apple juice?”

“Yes.”

“Do I like apple juice?”

Had my son suffered short term memory loss the moment he left the house? What on earth was going on?

Once we were on our way to the BEACH, Harrison requested his apple juice in the car. I was not surprised to find out that he would have preferred to have his juice in a cup instead of drinking it out of a straw from a pouch but luckily this turned out to be a learning experience. On the ride over, Harrison demanded I explain exactly how straws work. I made a measly attempt at explaining atmospheric pressure, but I think it was lost on him.

So the next time you’re wondering why a parent is late, you can assume he or she put someone’s shoes on a half a dozen times, changed a few diapers, explained some scientific theories, and probably packed a lot of good snacks (including apple juice) before leaving the house.FullSizeRender

Mediocre

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I’ve been looking back at my life thus far, and also, I have been trying to figure out what I do with all my time in the present. I can come up with only one word to describe my thoughts and visions: mediocrity.

My parents always made me out to be this smart kid. I think it was one of those things, where if they said it enough, that’s what I would become. In one of the loads of crap that my mother dumped on me to “save”, I found my old report cards. What the hell? I was a B student. Most of the time. Yeah, there were some As in there, but not as many as I thought I’d find. This pattern dates way back to kindergarten where As and Bs were replaced with E for exemplary or S for satisfactory. And that’s what I was. Satisfactory.

Then I took a trip down memory lane to reminisce about my friendships. And I was a good friend. But I wasn’t a great friend. I often made choices that served myself, or my goal for popularity (the superficial kind, not the real kind) that really made me the kind of person I wouldn’t want to be friends with forever. For a short time, maybe, but not forever. Instead of putting my heart into these relationships, I just did a good job.

When I became a teacher, I started out with full force, and I continued on with that hunger to do my best for a long time. But the babies came. And then the new evaluations. And the new curriculum. Every.Single.Year. I got tired of making fantastic lesson plans when they’d be obsolete by the time I was ready to implement them. I got tired of the changing rules and to be honest, when I got home from work, I didn’t want to sit down and figure it all out. I wanted to pay attention to my kid. No longer did I want to be the best; I was ok with being an effective teacher.

So we made my dreams come true, and I was able to be a stay at home mom. I had it all planned out. I was going to have activities! There would be enrichment! Playdates at the Clark house would rock. My kids were going to be cultured and well behaved and generous and kind. But the reality is that most days, I’m staying afloat. It’s all I can do to not scream and cry in frustration. If Harrison needs me, Ella needs me more. If I make heart shaped sandwiches, they want pancakes instead. If I DO plan an activity, somebody falls asleep before we leave the house. In all my efforts, I am simply just hanging on.

Don’t get me started on being a housewife. Yes, I make the bed every day. And the laundry gets done. But I don’t cook. And if I do, the smoke alarm perks up and goes on full alert. Even if I sweep several times a day (which I do), my floors have little pieces of cheese and smears of peanut butter on them. My windows have tiny fingerprints and tongue prints. Yes, my kids lick the windows. Often, when Justin gets home, I’m sitting in the midst of legos and stuffed animals. I’m in yoga pants and my makeup drawer hasn’t been opened for a month. I’m in survival mode.

I’ve decided to publish this because I think some other people might feel the same way about their lives. And you’re not alone. I also wanted to share this: I woke up yesterday morning with a promise to myself-I was going to change. Not myself, I’m not changing myself. I’m going to change my view of myself. Every moment I question my worth or my efforts, I’m just going to give it a little more. I am good the way I am, but I want to be great. I don’t want to look back another 30 years from now and think about my regrets. I can’t do it all perfect, all of the time. But I’m promising myself I’m going to do better.