Friday, July 22, 2016

7 Under 8: Our Family Vacation

It's been a few weeks since we got back from family vacation. Honestly, it's taken me this long to recover.  There were 8 adults and 7 kids, ages 7,7,5,5,3,2,1. When they are all together they’re like a wild tribe of savages that have never experienced civilization, and we adults are the western explorers looking at them with wonder. Family vacation is like our own Indiana Jones exploration, a week of observing this wild population known as The Cousins. Here are some notes from my log. 

Travel: We left in the afternoon, two Cousins journeyed with us so that we may begin to acclimate to our week of research. They were smaller in stature than us, but looked similar. One talked non-stop, the other talked and sang with a mixture of their language and what we surmised to be gibberish. Then they both fell asleep. When they awoke, they demanded snacks and toys to entertain them, and we complied. We provided them with some toys we’d purchased at the Dollar Tree, and they were astonished, never having seen something as luxurious as a ninja that sticks to a window. 

Stopping for food was interesting. They seem to be unfamiliar with restaurants, or at least restaurant etiquette. They believe staying in one's seat is optional, as is eating. And when annoyed, they have no qualms about sharing that, as seen here: 

When we got to the hotel, two of our fellow researchers were there with two native Cousins of their own. The four Cousins embraced and screamed, running around the hotel room in what appeared to be delight in seeing each other. For ease and consistency we have decided to reference them by birth order, the eldest being #1, the next being #2, and so forth, ending with the youngest being #7. 

We decided to venture to the wading pool at our hotel. All the natives pushed all the buttons in the elevator, never having seen technology of this caliber. Number Seven said hello to everyone we saw. Upon entering the wading pool area, all four of them ran in different directions. Number 2 was an excellent swimmer, with the others ranging in skill and confidence. Numbers six and seven had more confidence than skill and would have drowned had we not intervened. Numbers Two and Four said "watch this" one hundred times. Number Seven asked my partner to hold him up in the air again and again, and he laughed in delight. What a strange request! Was this a customary ritual in his village? 

After a rousing swim session we agreed to retire upstairs. I laid down with Number 7 to demonstrate to him our way of sleeping. He was unaccustomed to sleeping in this manner, and preferred to lie perpendicular to me with his face on my back to sleep. Once he’d fallen asleep I moved to the other bed, but his brother joined me there. His brother’s preference of sleeping was to thrash about all night. Neither my partner or I awoke rested.  
Number Seven particularly enjoyed the hotel phone. 

The next morning we went downstairs to take breakfast. Though there was no waitstaff, the natives yelled out their food choices. We realized that they were expecting us to prepare breakfast for them! In our culture we would not request another to prepare our food, especially requesting so in this demanding nature, but we obliged since their customs were clearly different. Once we fixed their food and delivered it to them at the table, they each decided they actually wanted a different choice instead. We came back with another round of breakfast for each, so that they might sample all the Country Inn and Suites had to offer. After providing this lovely modern American experience, we started back on our journey. 

Day 1: We arrived at our destination in the afternoon. When all the Cousins saw each other, they participated in a great greeting and demonstration of strength by each taking turns picking each other up. Then they ran in circles screaming what must have been shouts of joy. They went to explore the pool. Some were more comfortable than others, and one yelled “I can’t swim!” in despair, before swimming across the pool on her own. We noted that male Cousins will urinate anywhere, while the females are more discreet. 

Day 2: The boys awoke early, despite being up late last night. Our senior researcher took Numbers Six and Seven out to the beach, where they proceeded to throw shells back into the ocean over and over. And over and over. They also greeted each dog they saw with a wave and a hug. 

Later the bigger Cousins came down to the beach and ran in the waves, then went back to the pool before going in for lunch. Not having an understanding of meteorology, there were tears and stomps when it started to rain. Perhaps they thought it would never stop? One of our team introduced a new board game and that tided them over until the rain stopped. Today we noticed that these people have boundless energy, though they need no protein, fruits, vegetables, or alcohol! When we offered them hot dogs at dinner, they put tiny flags in them, clearly not recognizing them as food items. 

Day 3: Cousins protest sunscreen vehemently. Does this tribe have some mutation in their DNA that renders their skin unburnable by the sun? The two brothers that were in our care were particularly fond of cheese crackers and cheese puffs, and were more impressed with these than the ocean. Though there was the entirety of the sea before them, they sat in the sand with a box of cheez-its, alternating putting their sandy, salty hands in the bag. 

Additionally, they are not conditioned to smile for a camera, preferring a more candid scowl. You'll see even one of our researchers began to take on this same look. 

This evening we set about trying to get some nice pictures to document the experience. While it went much better than last year's attempt, it was not perfect. Maybe Cousins do not have the technology for photography in their village.  Clearly the photos they value have tears or dance positions in them. 

After pictures the Cousins enjoyed a game of eating mystery jellybeans. Some were regular flavors we're accustomed to, like strawberry and coconut. Others were unusual flavors like grass clippings, booger, and baby wipes. We are accustomed to different cultures enjoying different delicacies, but what we found unusual was that the Cousins didn't like the flavors we found unusual, yet they still ate them. They gagged and spat them into the sand, and then went back for more. It was a custom that they all found disgusting, yet they all voluntarily participated in. (Perhaps that's how other cultures would describe our Black Friday?) 

Day 4: Someone must be crying at all times. Cousins seem to have a sixth sense about them that notes when one stops crying and prompts another to begin. Reasons for these outbursts vary, but may include it's raining, it's about to rain, it's hot, it's cold, someone has a toy they want, they don't know what they want for lunch, we stopped having fun for 5 minutes, someone asked if they need to pee, or it stopped raining. When anyone says something that Number Seven doesn't like, he pretends to fall asleep. Even if he's in the pool. 

Day 5: We took Numbers 2, 4, 6, and 7 into town. We visited such attractions as a Pirate Museum and Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and saw several places of historical significance. But their favorite was eating pizza at lunch and shopping in the pirate museum gift shop. Number 7 particularly enjoyed the trolley that took us around town, and he waved and yelled "I riding!" then promptly faked falling asleep when anyone looked or waved at him. He is a small, strange creature. 

Day 6: Cousins also have some eating rituals that are unusual. At a restaurant, they will ask for a specific food. Insist upon it. Beg for it. Promise they will like it. Then, once it is presented to them they will take one bite and declare they no longer like it. It is these times that they've been served the largest portion in the history of time. 

Number 7 prefers to wear an oven mitt while he eats at home, but does not take it out with him to restaurants. He will also try to fit every piece of cereal that's in a cereal box into his mouth at once.

They eat with such wild abandon and passion that they care not where food may land! They care not where food trash lands either. Perhaps they have servants who clean up after them? Certainly no one lives among such trash.

They also have unusual methods for sitting in chairs. Here you will see Cousins 4, 5, and 7, none of them seated on their hind quarters.  You'll note that Number 5, on the left, is royalty. 

Day 7: Cousins played in the sand. No one wanted to get buried and everyone wanted to dig, then everyone wanted to get buried and no one wanted to dig. 

Cousins consider accessories to be clothing, and clothing to be accessory.  

For sport, they enjoy arguing, running, screeching, and full contact wrestling. 

Here we captured a short video of their customary inside ritual that they participate in nightly: 


Once they warmed up to the idea of taking pictures, they also enjoyed experimenting with perspective. 
Numbers One (front) and Two 

Numbers 3 (front) and 4

Tomorrow we shall leave for home. We are exhausted, but we have observed much about this culture and are grateful for the chance to learn more about them. Until next year....

Saturday, June 25, 2016

An Almost 5 Year Old

Tomorrow my big kid wakes up even bigger. He'll be 5. Five! That's like official big kid status. I know it's cliche, but it doesn't feel like it's been a year since his last birthday.

This year he started being able to pronounce his Ls. He says "LLLLLLeigh Ellllllen" and "LilyAnna" and "little" and "Legos" with intention and emphasis, and while he was quite proud of himself at first, now it's a natural part of his language.

He loves knock knock jokes, and he thinks they're all funny, even when no one else does. Examples include "knock knock" "Who's there?" "Chair" "Chair who?" "Chair bear wear". Rousing. He sometimes talks about himself in the third person.

He still loves BeYoYo more than anyone. He's protective of him and lets me know when there might be danger. One day the boys were playing together in a store and he started screaming "Mom! Mom! Beyoyo is OUTSIDE!" and sure enough BeYoYo had walked right out on the sidewalk. When I thanked him for letting me know, he puffed up with pride and walked a little taller. He also occasionally hits him for no reason.

He wants to know everything about everything. He asks questions about dinosaurs and human bodies and animals and bugs and nature and machines. He's curious and likes to explore, and he's happiest when he's outside. This summer he got his first bee sting and spider bite.

He knows how to write his letters, and he can sound out a few simple words. He likes school, and he doesn't want to leave his current school to go to pre-k in August. He likes art and centers best, and he seems to be naturally good at math. He's into super heroes and Ninja Turtles, and this year he sold a lot of his toys and worked to earn money to buy a $100 Ninja Turtle lair. It sucks, but I was proud of him anyway.

This year he played soccer and swam on the swim team. He was the smallest on both. For the end of the year circus program at school, he was a strong man and a lion. He rode his first real coaster this year, and he loved it.

When we see someone standing by the road with a sign saying they need money, he wants to stop and give them money or food. But he does not want to give them his toys.

When we're at a store he wants to know what "island" a particular item is on. When he brushes his teeth he calls his gums "gutters". He sometimes talks about the superhero "Iron Peetriot" and he calls naval oranges Mabel oranges.

A special treat for him is getting to stay up late, riding in a parking lot without buckling up, sleeping in our bed, playing with cousins, sweet tea, watching He-man, or eating Fruit Loops. He asks for a "snack lunch" and he loves it when I make his food into art. He talks and talks and talks and talks, and he has some great expressions. This morning he woke up before 6am to tell us that tomorrow is his birthday. Like we could forget.

This week I continued our annual tradition of asking him these questions. Here's what he says now.

 How old are you? 
"Four and a half and three quarters"
What’s your favorite thing to do? 
"Eat cheez-its"
What do you want to be when you grow up? 
"Nobody, cause I don't want to grow up."
What’s your favorite food? 
"Cheez-its and pepperoni and goldfish"
What’s something you’re good at? 
"Playing games"
What makes you laugh? 
What’s something scary?
Who’s your best friend? 
"Hudson T."
What do you like to do with your family? 
"Go to Maher's house"
Where do you like to go? 
"Toys R Us. Or Goodwill, or the frift store"
What do you like to learn about? 

Happy 5th Birthday, Boy. Here's to this year being great. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Birth Control, part II

Our neighbor's house is for sale. They've been renting it and the owners have put it on the market. All the neighborhood kids play together, so we've joked about intentionally sabotaging viewings by misbehaving in the cul-de-sac to scare potential buyers away. We haven't actually done it, of course.

BeYoYo is cutting four teeth, so he's been having some diarrhea. (See last week's post on birth control.) The diarrhea is causing some gnarly diaper rash, and his poor bum has been blistered. We're using plenty of butt paste and it's clearing up, but I've also let him be pantless outside to air the whole thing out.

On Saturday he and I were playing outside on the front porch, painting a Mother's Day stepping stone for my mom and letting his butt air out. A potential buyer was at our neighbor's house standing on their front porch. I was pretending not to listen to them, but they were on the phone to someone saying they couldn't get in to see the house. Just then, I heard a pttttthhhhh. Out of nowhere there was a shitsplosion on the front porch. BeYoYo was just as surprised as I was.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Disentary

There was no warning. No stomach grumbling, not the smallest whine. Just a noise and it was everywhere. And he was in the perfect position so that very little got on him, although a little did splatter on the stepping stone. Happy Mother's Day!

I was paralyzed. Did this really just happen? Of course The Husband was not home. The first thing I could think to do was to take a picture to prove to him that these are the things his angel children do when he's not around. I knew no one would believe just a description of this yearbook-worthy event. Then I got it together enough to pick BeYoYo up and take him in to the bath (again). When we came back out the defecation station remained on the porch, but the perspective buyers were gone. Was it something we said?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Why I'm A Good Mom (And Why You Probably Are Too)

Dare I say it? I don't mean to brag but I'm kind of a good mom. I know culturally we're not supposed to say that out loud. We're all supposed to have mom guilt and professional/personal guilt and wife guilt and pinterest guilt all the time, but I also think it's okay every now and then to say we're doing okay. Now, do not for one minute confuse this for a post of me claiming to be a perfect parent. Somewhere I think we got tripped up in the land of facebook and instagram and pinterest and photoshop that there are perfect parents out there, when we know that's just not the case. No one gets it all right all the time. I fail at something every day. But dang it, mamas, we're getting A LOT of it right. And if your kid comes home with a test that they worked hard on and they got A LOT of it right we'd be proud of them. So let's be proud of us.

When I was pregnant with BeYoYo I was wanting some white cheese dip something fierce. So I asked my midwife if I got some white cheese dip that I knew was pasteurized and I heated it really hot to kill all manner of bacteria if I could have some. She said, and I quote: "There's probably still a higher chance of food born illness, but some pregnant women do cocaine." Suddenly a few bites of melty cheesy goodness didn't seem so bad.

This has become my parenting mantra. It's all about perspective. If there are no perfect parents, then the good enough parents are good parents. Being a good parent is all about changing our perspective and lowering our expectations. In real life no one would like Mary Poppins because she'd always be showing all the other nannies up all the time. People who are imperfect are relatable, and according to that rule I must be VERY relatable. Plus if I was a perfect parent I'd never get a chance to show my kids about grace and forgiveness and apologizing and all that other BS I hate having to show them. So, let's change the expectation about what it takes to be a good mom. Trust me, there will still be plenty of room for mom guilt, even when we lower the standards a bit. We will probably still fall short, even once we've changed the rules. Here are some of the things I sometimes get caught up in thinking it takes to be a good mom, minus the things I know are good enough to meet my kids' needs:

I'm a good mom because I feed my children exclusively organic, locally sourced, sustainable food. 
I'm a good mom because I breast fed my kids when they were babies.
I'm a good mom because I listen to every word my children utter.
I'm a good mom because I never leave my kids with other caretakers.
I'm a good mom because my kids have the trendiest, itch-free name brand clothes.
I'm a good mom because I show up to every school function.
I'm a good mom because I am continually playful and never cross. 
I'm a good mom because I put oxybenzone-free, organic, vegan sunscreen on my kids.
I'm a good mom because I change diapers as soon as they are wet. 
I'm a good mom because I never yell (until I've asked nicely 15 times first).
I'm a good mom because I have the coolest and safest, state of the art transportation.
I'm a good mom because I make elaborate craft projects to appreciate my kids' teachers.
I'm a good mom because I talk to my kids about politics and the environment and green house gasses.
I'm a good mom because my kids have a clean, organized, stress-free house.
I'm a good mom because I wash dishes as soon as they're dirty. 
I'm a good mom because my kids witness a really perfect marriage.
I'm a good mom because I fold and put the clothes away right after I do laundry.
I'm a good mom because I remember to send a healthy, allergen-free snack on snack day.
I'm a good mom because I greet my kids every morning with a smile and a song.
I'm a good mom because I sing love songs to my kids.
I'm a good mom because we make it magical through adventures each day.

So tomorrow, pour those Lucky Charms a little higher, and pass your kid some Deet while you're looking under the bed for the missing shoe that might be a little too small but we're going to make it work for one more week. Hold your head high and remember your kids are lucky to have you. We're good enough moms!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Birth Control

Yesterday BeYoYo took a longer than usual nap after The Boy's soccer game. At one point I heard him talking on the monitor but then it was quiet again, so I figured he'd fallen back asleep. When he woke up for real, I went up to go get him. I was on the stairs on my way up when I could smell what happened. It was stanky.

I opened the door of his room and was assaulted with the smell of poop. It was like a thick cloud pushing me back out of the room, and BeYoYo laughed at my physical reaction. I asked him if he poopooed, and he smiled. I pulled up the back of his shirt to look (why?) and saw poop not only in his diaper, but also up his back and on his shirt. Gag.

We don't really use his changing table anymore because he's Frank the Tank, but I needed something that could be washed easily, so I carried him at arm's distance to it. When I laid him down on the too-little changing table I noticed there was also poop on his hand. A lot of poop. On his hand. Dried. I think he'd done the ole poop scoop during nap. GAG. He laughed at my gag. And then I saw poop on his chin. GAAAAG. He looked like some Lifetime story of a feral child raised by wolves and never socialized with humans. In the movie he'd walk on all fours and forage with the pack for meat and shelter, and the pack would love him like their own. I think they'd call it Beyoyo's Journey.

I called The Husband on speakerphone. It was a code brown situation.

Where are you??
-On my way home.
But where?
-About to turn on our road. Why?
BeYoYo played in his poop at nap and I need reinforcement.

I wiped the poop butt and tossed the diaper. I pulled off the shirt and shorts and tossed them in the laundry. I wiped off his back, and carried him at a distance to the tub. He cried that he wanted his brother in the bath with him, but I didn't dare add anyone to this bath.

The Husband came in to help. He asked what I needed.
"Well, someone needs to empty the trash in his room. And open a window! And pull the cover off the changing pad and put it in the wash. Do you want to do that or bathe him?"
"What about the sheet?" he asked.
"I haven't had a chance to check it yet." I told him.
-"I'll bathe him" he said, clearly weighing his options.
"Okay.... And there's poop on his hand and his chin" I added as I walked out of the bathroom.

I went in his room and took the trash out first. I turned on the fan and opened a window. I tossed the changing pad in the hamper with his clothes, and went to the bed. There was poop on the quilt. There was poop on the sheet. There was poop on the pillowcase. I stripped it all off and tossed it in the hamper, and took the hamper down to put in the washer. The Husband finished washing him and put some fresh clothes on him. Then The Husband sprayed Lysol everywhere he could think of and lit every candle in our house. So then it smelled like Lysol and fresh meadows and vanilla and autumn breeze all at once. And also poop.

Several hours later our neighbors came over to grill out with us. I was taking my neighbor upstairs to show her something and The Husband yelled "don't let her go up there! It smells like poop!"

Here is my lesson for the day: if you think you might be ready to have children, light a bunch of candles with competing scents until you've got a migraine, and don't let your neighbors into parts of your house. Once you've got that sensory scenario playing out, imagine what it would be like to clean up someone else's poop from multiple surfaces in your home (it's not true when people say it's not as bad when it's your kids). Then invite two small monkeys in to run around while all of this is happening. If you don't feel like you're ready for this scenario, please practice safe sex. It could happen to you.