The Biggest Birthday Gift...Definitely Not the Best

A few weekends ago at the gym, Keith could not persuade me to work out with weights because 1) I wanted to finish re-reading a book while getting some mileage on the treadmill and 2) I just don’t want to work that hard. Ever. So, that is where my mind has been recently: NOT the treadmill, but on what has become one of my favorite parenting books, The Connected Child, authors Purvis, Cross and Sunshine. I have marked nearly every sentence as being of vital importance. Yes, I highlight while on the treadmill. I am a multi-tasker by nature, and, with my growing brood, efficiency of time is a must. Oh, it looks as if I were intoxicated while reading…and I have to pause the treadmill so often to pick up the dropped utensil that the experience doesn’t even count as cardiovascular exercise. Anyway, I bring it up because the book wraps up by talking about being emotionally present. The example given shows how a spouse can be emotionally present, or absent…and how we can be fully present for our children as well.

If a person is emotionally present, he: isn’t tangled up in his own needs, responds fully to you in your moment of tragedy or despair (which is the way I feel at 5:30 on most days…and some day’s I’ve reached that point by 7:02 A.M.), is a safe audience and an eager cheerleader for you, truly hears your concerns, encourages you to be the best you can be.

I list these for two reasons: 1)We all need reminders of how to be fully present to our kids and spouses. 2) I’ve been told this blog is too harsh on my husband at times. What! Okay…maybe. When I read the example of the emotionally present spouse and the list above, I immediately thought of Keith. Not waving my finger in the air in a “he should be this for me” way, but with a relaxing sigh in a “I am grateful and honored to have a husband who is this for me” way.

But before I fully redeem Keith, let me make sure that boy is good and run over.

Hmmm, I was going to list the many horrendous faults of my beloved, but I can’t think of any (well, not many) that I would change. So, maybe he leaves his boxers in the exact spot where he undressed, but seeing them reminds me to be less neurotic about the neatness and order of this house. Instead of being angry or jealous that he gets to sit with the kids in the short time between lunch and nap, I should join him. Forget the kitchen! God fearfully and wonderfully made Keith just the way he is. And, all of those tiny flaws that my flesh loves to point out are actually the reasons I fell in love with him. Well, plus the fact that he was the most godly man I knew. Ahhh. I’m so sweet, right? I know.

Okay, I have to tell one not-so-tiny and very horrible thing. And, although it occurred 10 years ago, I think of it every year on my birthday. With the celebration of that event coming to a close, indulge me for a moment. Six months into our marriage, Keith apparently had forgotten everything he learned about me during our 4-and-a-half year courtship. I arrived home one evening to find our small table topped with my birthday gifts and my least favorite cake, a store-bought birthday cake. Inside his careful and creative wrapping of Walmart bags were 3 items from my week’s grocery list: 2 oven mitts and rubber gloves for the kitchen. Oh, that’s not all he gave me that year. He did make me save the biggest for last, which was concealed by a giant black trash bag. Underneath? A new mesh laundry basket, which was another item on my grocery list. Wait! My gift was inside the laundry basket. Ta da!!! He had picked up all of his dirty clothes for me. Are those great presents or what? Worse? He actually thought they would be. And not just merely acceptable, but he was beaming with pride as he watched me open them.

I am totally serious. Keith gave me a laundry basket full of his dirty clothes for my first birthday after we were married. Whatever you are thinking, multiply it by about a thousand.

If you read my birthday post, you know he did a better job this year. But I may forever jump at the chance to tell that story.

In addition to checking off the list of the fully present spouse description, he also does my dishes. All of them. I wake up each morning to a kitchen that is ready for my tornado-like food preparation amidst the 3 life-draining leaches who sometimes will not give me an inch to breath and other times require a harness just to stay within my vicinity.

Let me brag for a moment if I may. He is well qualified in his career field and could have a great job (um, cha ching) in the big city, but he chooses to stay at good ole Yamaha just 3 miles down the road from our house. It may as well be at our back door. With a non-existent commute, most days we get to see him before work, during lunch, and no later than 5:30. With the exception of the last few weeks during which he took care of 2 turtles for his boss who was in Japan. Turtles who nearly ate us out of house and home by the way. I did get to see him at lunch but only as he ran through the kitchen stealing produce not only from the frig but from my plate as well. Some of you may think I’m crazy for wanting him here so much. Why not scoot him out earlier so we can party?

Well, the show at our house is more like a circus in training. We are far from being ready for public viewing. While I, the ringmaster, know what I’m doing, I need some backup from the person with more God-given authority. Although I read Water for Elephants, I'm not sure if that would be the general manager or the owner. Either way, Keith is that guy. Besides the fact that the voice of Daddy weighs far heavier than the voice of Mommy, he demands that they respect me…or at least act as if they do. Plus, instead of just repeating whatever request they are ignoring from me, he’ll say something like, “Okay, kids, Mommy just said to _____, so you need to ______ or receive the consequence.”

The first two weekends we were home, he took all 3 kids to the park alone so that I could rest and get groceries in peace.

If we have to take separate vehicles anywhere, he always offers to take the kids with him, giving me a rare moment of driving solo. On the boys' first trip to Krispy Kreme for instance, I set my cruise control on the minimum posted interstate speed, taking full advantage of my chance to act as the DJ in my own vehicle.

Even though he is clobbered by 3 tiny bodies who are screaming excitedly about their day, doing anything to get his attention, he repeatedly shakes them off one after the other until he reaches me. Why? "Mommy always gets the first hug," he tells them. Um, and kiss. Usually several of them...while we ignore their attempts to climb up our legs. Not gross. Just the way it should be.

Okay, I could go on, but you get the picture. I mean, all the stuff I have said previously about him is absolutely true…like his leaving me for worse than dead in the airport. But in the end, WHO HE IS far outweighs any goofy or even hurtful mistakes.


Dora is Gender Neutral, Right?

In the week or so since the last update, this household has undergone a multitude of changes. Oh, how I wish I had the time to share all of them with you.

The laundry room, which is now stocked with a mask, rubber gloves and tongs, can no longer contain the mass of clothes that get shuffled through on a daily basis. It has not only oozed out into the hallway but has also taken over entire rooms of the house. This is even with the help of 3 little laundry elves. Yep, I have relinquished control over much of this never-ending duty. The kids are allowed to fold, hang up and put away all of their own garments. They love it! And, of course I love it...until I open a drawer. Yikes! However, I have come to the conclusion that clean clothes are more important than neatly organized clothes. At least for the kids. When do chores stop being a prize that is fought over and become a burden? Oh, and since I was informed that Keith has unfolded his neatly folded boxers for the last 10 years, I've decided I am no longer folding any of his clothes. I put nice stuff on hangers, but the rest gets tossed into a basket for him to NOT fold before he stuffs into drawers.

My white leather retro belt has found a new home in the van. I’ve had to pull over while driving several times to use it. Although there are instances I would like to use it for a needed or deserved spanking, especially when the sibling rivalry has reached its climax in those close quarters, our discipline approach does not include it. The soul purpose of this accessory is to reinforce a seatbelt. Yes, on occasion one of the kids doesn’t want to get in or stay in a carseat. Shocking, I know.

After making Ivan go commando (Again! I am horrible.), I just restocked his drawer with a plethora of Avery’s Dora undies. I mean, it’s Dora, not a princess, and I picked out the ones that, at a quick glance, could pass for a boy’s. When questioned by my decision, I told Avery we were sharing, which won her over and I’m pretty sure made her feel like the greatest big sister ever. Oh, and Ivan did the little naked happy dance of a 3-year old when he reached for a fresh pair the next day and saw them. In the end, I think that was good parenting. Maybe?

Garris is learning to share, a huge feat seeing how he used to attack those who mistakenly picked up one of his favorites. I’m not certain whether it’s the result of time and his realizing the object isn’t being given away…or the result of the nice “Rewards” charts I fixed up. Each child has 2 chores plus 3 skills, like sharing…or using an “inside voice” for Garris. He is so loud. Ivan’s chart lists “Seated at meals” because the boy’s got ants in his pants. Avery is working on breathing and using her words when she gets mad. We are so much alike that Keith is literally scared. Anyway, the charts. For now, I’m not so much marking it with little Xs or checks, but using it as a visual reminder for me and them, pointing to it when we address a named issue. While we haven’t even discussed a “reward,” Avery is positive she’s getting one and is meticulous about the checking off on hers. Oh, that girl! Hmm…I think I might like my own chart as well.

My naptime perils continue with little change. About once a week all kids are in their beds simultaneously, not raising too much of a raucous, for one hour of the 2-hour afternoon rest time. Other days I am not as lucky though and one or more requires my attention or physical presence the entire time. For instance, one day I stood guard watching a child who I had sequestered in the laundry room. It was my last move before hunting down some type of harness you see used for the electric chair. Most days his limbs require outside interference in order for him to lie still long enough to drift off. But this particular day every muscle, down to his little toe, was wiggling. Even in the laundry room, my prisoner found a way to play with the doorknob and a tiny scrap of lint. I couldn’t even stop him! I was just amazed. I know there must be a solution. He can’t be the only child to exhibit this behavior during naptime. Before the change of location, he was rolling his body on the floor after I removed or blocked off all toys. Froggy hop, inch like a worm, twirl, hop on one foot…all of it from wall to wall in a successful effort to stay awake.

Thanks to Keith’s toothbrush in the kitchen towel drawer, I have been surpassing my daily goal…usually. I’ll admit 2 days this week they received one thorough cleaning, which occurred before bed. So, I need a new one. A goal, not a toothbrush. A daily shower is a tad ambitious, so I will not even dangle it in front of me as if it were a goal I could attain. It’s not happening. Let’s just go with more than 2 per week. If not for me, at least for my husband…and the kids…and maybe my gym gals…oh, and pretty much anyone downwind from me. Last week I took those 2 showers on 2 consecutive days. Woo hoo! Wait…should I celebrate that or be embarrassed by it? Who cares! I took a shower 2 days in a row!!! Not sure that has happened since before we left for Ethiopia. Wow, my life is really coming together.

At this point, I am more likely to sit on the toilet seat at the gym than on one in my own house. Of course, I keep Clorox wipes in every bathroom and use them several times per day. But with my aged bladder that was once crushed by the weight of a baby for 9 months…plus the fact that my potty breaks are limited with 3 destructive forces surrounding me all the livelong day, the urgency with which I run to the toilet does not allow time to clean a space for me to sit…and sometimes not even the time to check if the space is indeed clean. Better safe than sorry, right?

Oh, Keith has shown them how to use the toilet courteously: lift seat, aim, pee, wait, wait a little longer, wipe rim with toilet paper, put seat down, flush. Wow…right? I am one lucky gal. But, urine…on the seat…isn’t the worst thing I might encounter. Need I say more?

If I come across as sounding too negative, I have not given you an accurate picture of our family. So, my next post will be 98% positive. Get ready for some good stuff.