Unhelping Around the Home

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Exhibit A

For years I have thought of karma as God’s sense of humor.  It now seems to me that my kids are also in on the joke.  Check out these pants.  Do I respect the efficiency of fusing your pants and underoos into one removable set like a human banana peel?  Oh yes.  Do I also respect the fact that collections of said sets are left hidden amongst the balled up dirty socks?  Oh no.

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I agree that it can be annoying to try to figure out what to do with that one ever-present sock that continues to reappear but never seems to have a match.  Again, high-five on your creativity.  However I feel like there could be better options for this sock that don’t involve the silverware drawer.  Maybe you could put it in the clothing drawer dedicated to lonely singles of the sock world?  Yes – I have that drawer and yes the other sock was in it.

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I get it.  I said “use a chip clip on the bag after you finish eating” when I should have said “don’t do that utterly ridiculous thing you know not to do because we have discussed it repeatedly and you keep ruining our food.”  My bad.

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This is a shout out to the spouses of the world.  I discovered this stale cracker crime scene one day too late.  Thanks so much babe for helping scientists confirm that the inability to correctly utilize a chip clip is in fact dominant in the human genome.

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Ok so you did blow your nose per my request.  But there’s this very small part of me that feels that perhaps – and to be clear, I’m no expert here – just maybe you could have opted for a couple less squares of TP??

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Your unhelp with regard to feeding the dog has not gone unnoticed.  With that said, I would like to mention that we typically put the food in the actual dog bowl as well as the actual dog mouth.  We also give her actual dog food.  Beyond that, I think you did it just right.

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As we all have moments of noteworthy unhelpfulness, I wanted to wrap this up with one last pic that involved the whole family – yours truly included.  I would love to tell you that this was staged, but this work of art was totally legit.  We had fallen into (and tripped over) this ridiculous collection many times.  Every shoe size living in this house was represented in varying degrees in this mountain of footwear.  How could my OCD have failed me so deeply and allowed it to occur?  If you look in the background, you will notice the real bonus of this pic.  There are TWO shoe racks in the background and both have space.  Since the time of this photo (taken a few months ago), I have added more shoe racks combined with an exponential increase in meltdowns on my part.  Amazingly the problem has been mostly resolved.

Please hear me on this because it only works if you apply both parts of the technique.  You cannot just rely on shoe racks.  A constant reinforcement of the mommy meltdown plus the addition of too many shoe racks to justify any further excuses is the best way to achieve any level of shoe organization.  To expedite the process, I suggest integrating disappearing Xbox remotes and the refusal to make cookies.  This works on a personal level as well because you create an inner sense of guilt that is akin to “Oh crapola.  I want to leave my shoes here but I have to pick the damn things up since I just hollered at everyone for leaving theirs in the same spot.  Plus I want cookies.”  This is the only scenario I seem to have addressed with any level of effectiveness.  The others continue to be shining examples of the countless ways unhelp is incorporated into our daily lives.

If you are needing tips on how you can learn to unhelp more around your own home, I strongly recommend that you ask your kids for actual help.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but I can assure you that this is the fastest way to witness optimal unhelping techniques.  Spouses and partners are also great teachers in this department, but don’t be afraid to look in the mirror either.  You, too, have the power to sabotage food storage, house cleanliness, and the general basics of staying organized.  If you can recognize the mere seconds it would take to do the job right, and then do absolutely nothing with them instead, you will be well on your way.  Best of luck.

***MoJo***

And That’s How the Birthday Party Went from DIY to OMG

Few things have the potential to spice up your kid’s 10th birthday celebration quite like the unwelcome realization that you apparently purchased balloons that should have been placed in the bachelorette party section of the local grocery store. I was concerned when I removed the first deflated version from the package, but perhaps it was just my imagination??   My husband blew up a balloon and showed me the result with the animation of one passing the salt.  Unable to comprehend why he wasn’t seeing what I was seeing, I just stared at him blankly and finally shook my head no.  Then my son ran in beaming with pride that he had also blown one up!  Despite personally having the equipment, neither of these guys was paying attention to the obvious style of the decor.  I wasn’t about to have those things waving back and forth in front of our house, so I explained that the latex was too thin and the dogs might eat it if they popped and also maybe I had read about a recall notice in the past couple of hours since purchase due to radiation contamination.  I could see confusion in their eyes, but I grabbed the balloons and redirected them to other tasks.  There would be no suburbia Latexgate.  Goodbye bachelorette balloons.

Despite the absence of the salacious address markers, the doorbell began to light into action minutes later. My husband was occupied with setting up kid-appropriate party stuff on the back patio, so I hurried to the door to greet and introduce myself to multiple sets of parents.  As all small children are sent to this planet with an innate sense of optimal embarrassing timing, my two-year old naturally understood that it was the ideal moment to decide that pants were no longer her thing.  She shuffled after me pushing her little jeans below her knees like a mermaid on a mission.  “So nice to meet you as well!  We should get the kids together for summer!  Yes my other kid usually wears pants!”  Enjoy it now small one because someday I will be in charge of selecting your graduation and rehearsal dinner video pics.  You’ll wish you had opted for pants then!

Drop-off time came and went, the tidbit child ultimately agreed to don some shorts, and the older girls cranked up the decibel level and headed to the patio. I had come up with the very clever idea to have them make their own fairy gardens.

Two quick notes on fairy garden parties:

  1. It is so easy and will save you tons of money to DIY this event at home.
  2. I recommend that you plan a two-hour + party to do this.

Allow me to add a couple more notes for you to ponder:

  1. The idea that DIY parties are cheaper is mega crapola, you get to clean your home in a big way before and after your party, and there is a strong chance that parents will leave your home with the impression that you raise pantless toddlers.
  2. Two hours is the perfect length of time as long as everyone leaves early – say around one and a half hours. Beyond that, you need an alternate activity.

Lucky for all, I had thrown the idea together over a couple of days, was totally unprepared for anything beyond gardening, and did not have an alternate activity planned. And then right on cue, a Texas thunderstorm appeared.  Within a few brief minutes, the skies went from somewhat cloudy to extremely menacing with growling thunder.  My husband and I rushed to relocate the girls and their mini-gardens.  He herded the girls to safety as I moved some of the gardening items to the new super cool shabby chic party spot we unaffectionately referred to as the garage.

While crossing through the house, I heard someone banging loudly on the front door. We were more than halfway through the allotted party time but punctuality isn’t my bag either baby so no judgement.   I opened the door to find the brother and mom of one of the party attendees in front of our home.  Maybe they had heard about our super cool garage party theme and were there to perform a prison break on the girls’ behalf.  I wouldn’t have blamed them, but it seemed unlikely given that this particular mother had been a close friend of mine for years.  Also who wouldn’t want their kid to play “Pin the Tail on the Oilspill!”

As surprised as I was to see them there at that time, that didn’t hold a candle to the shock I felt when I heard these words – “There’s a tornado over there.” The son turned and pointed past the street, and I could see the funnel cloud in the sky behind him.

I have lived my entire life in an area prone to unpredictable weather, but until that point, I had never seen a funnel cloud in person, and I definitely hadn’t seen one in person with a dozen other people’s’ children playing in my home. We raced inside and corralled everyone into the large closet under the stairs.  (When you hear that everything is bigger in Texas, they are actually referring to the closets.)  We hung out for a few minutes, joked around with the girls to keep it light, and ultimately headed back out for cake and whatever else for the remaining minutes.

To be totally honest, I’m not really sure what we did from that point on. I was so rattled by the whole thing.  I had mistakenly believed that Wizard of Oz theme parties were reserved for huge Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, and Cher fans, but clearly this was not the case.  In hindsight, I should be thankful because it did effectively fill that open alternate activity spot.

The truth is that it really scared me. I am still trying to figure out how to show my gratitude to my dear friend for coming over to warn us to take cover.  I recognize that her daughter was with us, so mama instincts will always kick in, but she and her sweet son still put themselves at risk to protect all of us.  We had been oblivious to the tornado.  As it turned out, our local warning system did notify us of the impending threat – twenty minutes after it passed – but that is how it can be with tornadoes.  The latest  technology makes educated assumptions, and then life happens however it happens.

Above all, I think the key point to remember is this – anyone can go roller skating (except ironically for me because my ankles vote no), but how many people can schedule a three location party (patio, garage and closet all in the same time slot – WHAT?!?!!?) AND bring in a real live tornado to kick it up a notch???  So stick that in your bouncy house!

And you thought DIY stuff was lame. Not here baby.

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This pic was taken by a neighbor who had the time to get the shot given her lack of other people’s small humans in her home.

***MoJo***

The Trash Can Band

On average, my kids tend to be relatively happy when I pick them up from school (perhaps because they are leaving school), but every now and then, they have something extra exciting to share, and I can see it in their eyes before they even open the car door.  A couple of days ago, I saw that very look on my daughter’s face.  She jumped into the car with a massive grin so big it would have made the Joker envious.  I thought maybe it was Free Kitten Day at school, but of course that wasn’t happening until next week.  And then she revealed the big news. “Mom!  I got into the Trash Can Band!”

Naturally, I burst into laughter.  It was my instant reaction, and of course anything that makes her that happy makes me extra happy (excluding cutting her own hair or shirt, indoor basketball / indoor moon sand, and that time they got the sock stuck on a window ledge fifteen feet high).  I wasn’t trying to make fun of her or step on her feelings, but her smile disappeared and twisted into a hurt grimace in an instant. My heart broke when I saw her face fall.

Far be it from me to recognize that the best way to improve an initial misunderstanding is to go with a different approach, so I dug myself further into the emotional rabbit hole.  I went for levity yet again – my go to defense mechanism when it comes to diffusing an uncomfortable situation. I explained that I wasn’t teasing her by laughing, but I hadn’t been aware of her love of the trash can musical arts.  To the surprise of no one in the universe, she became angrier and it devolved from there.  I switched to overt and clear validation of the “Well that’s so exciting!” and “I’m so proud of you!” genre, but she had already tuned me out and the moment – the joyful happy “I can’t wait share this with my mom” moment – was gone.

Kids are like rubber balls that bounce right back.  She was onto a different topic and back to normal before our car had even made it back home.  I, on the other hand, continue to wrestle with it days later.  I keep trying to get that excitement back. I want it for her. I want it for me.

How long will this keep circling around in my mind?  Her birthday is a couple weeks away, and I will probably end up buying her a metal trash can and drumsticks. I have visions of purchasing all of Amazon’s Oscar the Grouch paraphanalia because no one appreciates the magic of trash cans more than that surly muppet. Maybe I’ll switch from an SUV to a larger truck designed to move and empty dumpsters. Given the amount of garbage my three kids have left in my car over the years, this may be a logical vehicle change anyway.

Raising kids is like aiming for moving target.  Sometimes you are spot on, and sometimes you just miss the mark.  All I can do is try again, and hopefully I will get it right the next time.

That’s it from me for now.  Ironically, today is garbage day, and I have trash cans of my own to tackle.

***MoJo***

There Is Only Room For One Lunatic In This House and I Called It First

 

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Remember pinwheels?  These cheerful little treats have been sold since the days when marketing departments felt that giving childhood goodies names like ding-dong and ho-ho was a good plan.  To be fair, they didn’t have urban dictionary, and I’m doubtful that those specific terms had truly spread their wings at that point.

Each morning, I drop the big kids off at their respective schools and then head with my smallest to her daycare.  We don’t put her in daycare because my husband and I both work to pay the bills and our companies prohibit toddler companions.  It’s strictly due to our shared love of strep throat, ear infections, and the judgement of other parents who choose alternate lifestyles. 

Our few minutes en route to said daycare consist of driving directly toward the rising sun, fighting with sunglasses that won’t stay on the face of a two-year old, and proving once more that there are zero placement combinations for my car’s sun visors that will cover the two-inch square of sunlight perpetually aimed at my child’s face.  Redirection is my technique of choice, so I make sure to have little snacks in the car to keep her occupied.  Thus enters the pinwheel onto the scene.

As with every cloudless morning, my toddler was angry about the sun’s ongoing assault on her retinas.  I reached back and passed a pinwheel into her small hand.  She was instantly appeased and my eardrums were given a momentary reprieve.  That moment was not to last because she went from sedate to hysterical one minute later.  She was so upset that I was concerned that maybe I had unintentionally handed her a roll engulfed in flames.  Thankfully I remembered that I had left that one at home.  But why was she so upset?  What in the world was going on?  She was so distraught that I had to pull the car over to stop whatever was terrorizing her.

I parked, jumped out of my seat and rushed to open her door.  There was no blood.  No broken glass.  No barbed wire.  Just a two-year old with tears streaming down her cheeks pushing a pinwheel into my face.

And then I saw it.

IMG_20170608_143538_01Someone had taken a bite out of my daughter’s pinwheel.  But who could have done this?  The other kids were already at school by the time I had handed her the freshly unwrapped treat.  No rogue animals were roaming the vehicle.  And given that my little daughter had a chewed on pinwheel in her hand, crumbs around her mouth, and sugar and cinnamon on her clothes, I knew that it couldn’t have been her.

Many people don’t believe in mother’s intuition, but I can assure you that it is a very real thing.  Mine snapped on in an instant.  I understood exactly what had happened.  The pinwheel had taken a bite out of itself.

For whatever reason, this particular pinwheel felt the need to pull a cruel prank on my child.  It had also tried to trick me into thinking that my toddler had taken the bite herself and then forgotten about it, but I would not fall into its trap.  I was no fool.

So I did what any rational mother with a limited supply of pinwheels would do.  I took the maimed roll from my distraught child, turned to face the other way, mashed the thing back into a shape moderately close to a circle, and placed it back into her little fingers.  She was elated to be given a “new” pinwheel and the world began to spin once more.

With the exception of the rare bowl of ice cream my husband and I attempt to tiptoe past our kids (with zero luck), I truly enjoy sharing all that I have with my children.  But being the craziest person living under this roof has always been my thing.  I am confident in my cutting edge techniques on making comments and choices that don’t just border on being nonsense – they are straight up bonkers.  But here she is infringing on my position as top lunatic, and she’s only two.  This kid has raw talent you just can’t teach, and her skills are increasing at an exponential rate.  Although I called it first, I think perhaps my reign is at its end.  I am being out-crazied by my toddler.

***MoJo***

Mother’s Day – A Day of Relaxation (Unless Of Course You’re an Actual Mother)

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Image Credit – My Endless Laundry – You’re Always There for Me

Moms aren’t typically allowed to voice these words, but thankfully Hallmark has authorized me to tell the responsibilities of the adult world to stick it and do whatever I want – reality be damned!  So here it is…

Mother’s Day can be a mother of a day.  This “holiday” has been a major source of stress for me for years.  It’s yet another thing jammed into an already maxed out calendar.  I have to shove aside an endless list of ongoing tasks (that surprisingly never manage to include items such as “relax at the spa” or “eat bon bons while being dramatically fanned by a beefy dude with a palm leaf” or “do absolutely nothing”) in an attempt to focus on people who are important in my life.  The problem is that even though I really do aim for a special weekend for all, the whole Mother’s Day scene inevitably becomes a balancing act that I fumble through with striking ineptitude and extreme frustration.

I genuinely want the extraordinary moms in my life to understand how precious they are to me.  I dream about doing something amazing and special and wow-worthy so they might get a sliver of a glimpse at how incredibly much they mean to me.  Sadly the odds are uncomfortably high (and not ever in my favor) that I was unable to scrape together enough time or energy to shower every day over the previous week, let alone put together all the required parts of a grandiose plan that would adequately display my sincere love and appreciation.  To give you a sense of how fantastically together I am on the personal planning front, I can share that I am currently quite excited because my Christmas cards that should have gone out five months ago may at last be in the mail sometime in the next few days.  Or weeks.  Or sometime in June.  Probably July.  Ideally at the latest by Christmas of this year.

And then there’s my own Mother’s Day.  If that’s going to be an actual thing, I will probably need to plan that, too. The mamas also residing in the Land of Reality know what I’m talking about.  Should I make a reservation in advance somewhere fancy or should I save time and just call Denny’s or IHOP to confirm that they haven’t instituted a dress code since last Mother’s Day?  Do I buy my own gift and have my husband tell the kids to give it to me to reinforce the importance of honoring significant people in your life?  Should I just glue my own popsicle sticks into the shape of a frame and declare the holiday complete?

This isn’t intended as an indictment of my family or some narcissistic need to be put up on a pedestal for a day.  I donated that thing to Goodwill years ago because nobody ever used it, and we needed the space for our dust-covered treadmill instead.  At least we can stack laundry baskets on that thing.

I’m blessed with beautiful loving children whom I adore (even more so after caffeine and doubly so when they refrain from doing age appropriate nonsense that makes me want to lock them in Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs) and a husband who is pretty fantastic when it comes to most things related to house, kids and family life.  He’s not perfect, but we wouldn’t be a good match if he was.  He’s human but he’s a kind man, a wonderful man really (except when he’s really not, but again, we are a quite alike in that department).  In addition, he genuinely tries to modify his approach when he recognizes that something he does or doesn’t do upsets me.  There is a strong possibility that a significant portion of his willingness to change may be directly correlated with the tone and/or volume of my request, but nevertheless it is clear that he sincerely wants me to be happy and feel appreciated and loved.

I needed to talk to him (I snapped) so I decided to share my feelings (I went over the freakin’ edge) and told him (I totally flipped out) before (minutes before) the Mother’s Day weekend began that the way we had handled the weekend in past years was hard for me (it drove me utterly bananas).  I explained that it made me truly happy to plan and buy and do year after year for our moms but that happiness came to a screeching halt when with the planning and buying and doing year after year was on my own behalf.  It was two-fer – hurt feelings with the added bonus of getting to do extra work in the guise of “celebrating” my day.

One day later, he had come up with ideas and options and had even made phone calls to actual humans at real places that served food that wasn’t necessarily prepared on a griddle!  (In all fairness, my favorite meals are prepared on a griddle, and I sincerely believe that breakfast should be legally designated as the best dinner option in the universe.  Also dessert should be the first course, but I digress.)

The funny part is that the moment he started talking about options and ideas based on the places he had called, I no longer cared if we went anywhere at all.  It was like a switch flipped and the hurt feelings were gone.  I realized that the only thing I had truly wanted was to feel worthy of a little effort just for the sake of saying thank you.  We all want to know that we matter to someone and that this someone sees and loves and appreciates us.

As mothers, we show our love in countless unseen ways every day.  We work and cook and shop and clean and volunteer at school and help with homework (on concepts we have to teach ourselves again in spite of our foolish beliefs that we would never do them again after we graduated).  We arrange everything under the sun and do projects and intervene and drive and drive and drive.  And the list goes on.   Sometimes you are rewarded with a hug and sometimes you are rewarded with a headache.  But those hug moments make every bit of the madness worthwhile.

This past year was a challenge for many of us, and on this Mother’s Day,  I am reminded that I am thankful for the moms who have helped me to survive and to flourish.  I have amazing mothers in my family (moms, grandmothers, sisters) and countless others who continue to catch me whenever I fall and help me up whenever I fail.  They are my partners in laughter and tears and worst of all – tee ball.  I celebrate all of you.  I am in awe of you, and I thank you for the endless ways you inspire me to be a better spouse, parent, daughter, sister and friend.

As for my own Mother’s Day weekend… Well it began with the sweet sounds of my son waking me with these magic words – “Mooooom, the dog threw up in the laundry room.”  To be precise, the dog threw up four times, and it wasn’t only in the laundry room.  Since that little gem of a starter, I have attempted to tackle a pile of laundry so high that I needed a Sherpa and an oxygen tank to help me reach the summit, dealt with an early morning accident in a bed, removed five thousand sticky pieces of rice from hair/clothes/table/floor, cleaned the dog yard, gone through the thousandth round of school papers, scoped out some work items on the list, muddled through several temper tantrums (including my own), and various other reality activities so many Mother’s Day cards tell you that you don’t have to do because it’s your special day!!  (I have two main theories on those particular cards – 1.  They are written by someone who is not an actual mother but is an actual moron.  2.  They are written by real live mothers who pee their pants laughing when card companies agree to print the cards because they know that other real live moms will get the joke since being allowed to stop your grown up tasks is how being a mom on Mother’s Day or your birthday works NEVER.)

But this is also how my Mother’s Weekend went…  After the dog barf scenario (that my sweet husband helped clean up and actually didn’t want me to deal with at all), all my children gave me big fat hugs and told me that they loved me as they wished me happy Mother’s Day.  All except the littlest who became quite angry and insisted on wishing me happy birthday instead.  She is nothing if not committed to absolute accuracy even when she is absolutely inaccurate.  In between rounds of temper tantrums, we were able to spend time with one of my precious moms and some of my amazing sisters and their (our) families whom I adore.  Before and after the various rounds of cleaning, I’ve had lovely conversations with other important mamas and will be seeing some of them in the next few days whenever we can make it happen in a no stress kind of way.

Ultimately I got the breakfast I really wanted – breakfast tacos made by someone else and wrapped in paper.  It was a dish-free dream!  Science has yet to determine the cause,  but dishes appear throughout the day in our home – even when paper-wrapped tacos are directly employed to combat the problem.  Thankfully, my husband and kids did the dishes took care of them.  We all did some laundry and I took some time to myself to write this.  We went out to dinner and are shutting down for the night.  I just sang “Baby Mine” to my youngest child – my darling angel who will turn on you in a moment’s notice if you mess with her and quite often even if you don’t. It has been a low-key beautiful day and it has unexpectedly been exactly what I wanted – laundry and all.

My point is this – I should have told my family how I felt a long time ago. I wanted them to just get it, to know how to prove to me that they saw me, to understand that a small plan requiring a little initiative by them and no effort by me would make me feel very valued as a mom and a wife.  But I never said it like that. Actually I never said it at all.  Not even to myself.

I’ve never been short on words, but I have felt like I have been unable to find my voice for quite some time.  Maybe this is the start of my finding it again.  I wanted my family to see me, but I finally recognize that I needed to see me first.  We often feel so small, but we are doing spectacular things. We are literally creating the future. Each of us shapes the life experiences of every person we contact.

You matter and you are valued.  There is no day on any calendar that will ever be able to convey how precious and treasured you are.  Hold onto the hugs.  Eat dessert first.  Vote for pancakes for dinner.  And if you can, find your voice.

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And this is the magic and why it’s all so worth it!

***MoJo***

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