Monday, August 25, 2014

Cicada, Bacada, Pitata...

Curtis is not good with names. We've known this for a really long time. It's been a running joke. His pick up line is, "Hey, what's your name?" But now, I believe he is setting the stage for the future. He knows he won't remember names, so if he always asks, maybe people won't know he's actually dead serious. Oh Curtis!! You know my name. Silly. He comes from a long bloodline of Smith men, who, don't remember names. As children, my grandfather would exclaim, "Well hey there Leroy!" everytime we walked through his front door. He does it to my kids. We all loved it, laughed, thought of it as an endearing nickname. Knowing what I know now, I'm pretty sure it's because he had no idea which child we were, maybe didn't even know which son of his we belonged to even. Kind of makes me love my grandfather even more...very clever. I went to grade school with a Kuechler, in fact, she and I were inseparable for a while (and maybe still now), yet my father never once pronounced the name right (Keeth-ler).

Therefore, I don't blame Curtis for calling Dakota, Bakota. Or a cicada a bacada...though it has somehow morphed into pitata. Our puppy, the one we named Berry? He called her "Grape" for  a while. Still slips up every now and then. Pronouns evade him, everything is a "he" for the most part. He has already begun his great grandfather's habit and makes up nick names. Mitch has become Mitchy-boo-boo. He carries his name ineptitude proudly. He confidently calls people, pets, insects, things by the incorrect name. I hope he does this for the rest of his life. It makes it seem more of an adorable characteristic, rather than making him seem ingenuine or, even worse, ignorant.

Perhaps, it was his trouble with names. Perhaps it was his young age. Perhaps it was his lack of encountering anything like it before, but Curtis' confident, yet incorrect name calling provided one of my more entertaining moments in parenting. We were walking around the Loose Park pond. I had seen her coming from afar, and mostly took note because it was 90 degrees that day, and she was wearing the full nun garb, habit and all. As this elderly nun walked past us, Curtis loudly and proudly says, "Mom, is that a witch!?" Oh Curtis.
You know Curtis really likes you, not if he remembers your name, but if he offers you a "princess kiss". It happened one night that Matt was home alone with the boys. Curtis offered him a kiss, which Matt gladly accepted. Curtis proceeded to climb up and kiss Matt directly on the mouth, then began turning his head side to side for a prolonged amount of time. Matt, a bit surprised by the interaction, asked, "What was that, Curtis!?"

"It's a princess kiss, dad." Look out lucky ladies (or gents), you have a pretty intense kiss coming your way.

Curtis is an extrovert. He will likely become a salesman or politician. He is a breed very different from Matt or I, as he does not mind attention or meeting new people, in fact, he thrives on it. On more than one occassion, his infectious smile, his out-going ways, and his love of the ladies, has eased a potentially awkward situation. Such as one of his uncles bringing his "little friend" to Sunday dinner for the first time. 

One afternoon, Curtis came into the front yard, very distraught about the shirt choices I had provided him. He was crying. Contemplating hitting me. Red faced. Angry. Frustrated. Three. You know the type. Then, our neighbors appeared from around the corner, on a leisurely stroll. He spotted them and the transformation was instant. He turned to fave them, huge grin, waving, complete happy composure, "Hi guys!! Whatcha doin?" Unbelievable.

He enjoys music, takes my phone to listen ALL THE TIME. Specifically, the song "Come With Me Now" which he repeats in his incredibly accurate Batman voice. His dance moves are impressive. The boy has muscles, and great control of them. His pirouette is damn near flawless. Sometimes, it feels like he is in constant training for his future. Like he's already adapting skills to cover his poor name recollection. He's perfecting dance moves to attract the ladies. He is putting on that game face to make a sale, or induce confidence from people. I may have underestimated our 2nd child. Perhaps his intelligence does not match that of his brother(s), but his people skills are pretty much perfect.

Admit it, you too, love Curtis. He might even be your favorite.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chess. Not Checkers.

I cannot remember to what it referenced, but a co-worker of mine once said, "life is a game of chess, not checkers". I laughed when I heard this little euphemism, as I have often felt this way; always trying to stay multiple moves ahead of my figurative "opponent"...aka "life". In fact, it's a skill I pride myself in, and usually enjoy. Predicting my "opponent's" next move, trying to trip it up, forcing things to lean my way; a big huge chess game, mine for the manipulating at any given moment. I think some people have a term for this style of thinking: "control freak". Lately though, it feels as though I am playing a constant, challenging, irritating and even futile game of chess with this aspect of life called, child rearing. 

 I can remember the moment my opponent began beating me. I remember it, like it was yesterday. Every detail is burned into my brain. It's a day I reminesce about often, a day that brings a smile to my face, and sometimes even a tear to my eye. This day, is November 23rd, 2008. The day my oldest child was born. You bring that sweet, amazing gift of a child home, and think, "What next? Wait, what have I done!? This is another human. One who's survival is completely dependant on me, and who's success will be largely affected by every one of my decisions. #%*&!" At that moment, you have lost any and all control. You will successfully predict moves, avoid being captured, and perhaps even win a piece or two, but conversely, you will get cornered. There will be moments when you feel it, that rising fear, that feeling of helplessness, defeat: check. 

 For the moment, I am in check. I am in check from so many pieces, for so many reasons, that I am not even 100% sure that we haven't reached checkmate. My opponent has so many players on the board. Each child and their health is a seperate pawn. That's 8. The puppy. That's 9. Kindergarten and all the things that come with it, like carpool, fundraisers, school supplies, uniforms, schedule changes. That's 14. A new job. That's 15. Childcare. That's 16 or 17 or 18 (depending on the given moment and situation). The household, keeping it clean, organized, functional, running, non-vermin infested from the filth of 4 boys plus pets. That brings us somewhere near 20. Sounds to me like life is cheating...there are only supposed to be 16 pieces on each side. Currently, we have 2, the King and Queen. I guess, techinically, we are still in play. And, if I am to be more accurate, we do have a few pawns floating around, mostly in the form of family, that get promoted every once in a while, to become key players. Without them, we would have surely been in checkmate, at least 3 kids ago. 

Last night, after a long day of carpool rejection, I walked in the front door, ready to take on my four boys. I had already decided, no matter their moods, I would not get irritated by them. First, dinner. I step foot in the kitchen, Curtis and George immediately begin crying for gum. They're obsessed. "No, it's dinnertime." As I try to close the pantry door, I feel resistence. I look down to discover Mitch with a death grip on the door. "You!!!? Already!? You're not supposed to obssess about the pantry door and cry when it closes without resulting in a snack. Not yet! YOU ARE A BABY." Strategy change. Must provide appetizer and get children out of kitchen. Chips and guacamole outside on the picnic table it is. Phew, time throw the Costco Chicken Fettucini Alfredo in the oven for 45 minutes, and set the peas out to thaw. As I do this, I'm thinking, next I will feed the dogs while dinner is cooking. I will then get Mitch a snack. I will then blow bubbles with the boys. I will then walk the dog around the yard so she poops outside. I will have left the boys unattended in the yard too long, so I will have to work in a bath. Ok, bath can happen after dinner. Mitch usually poops after dinner, so he will go in first and for only a short time. After he is done, I will run upstairs and gather everyone's underwear and pajama's. When George and Curtis get out of the bath, Brock will go in. The 2 toddlers will watch TV and I will give Mitch his bottle and put him to bed. I will then wash Brock and convince him it is bedtime. While they are walking upstairs, I will let the puppy outside to go pee so she doesn't do this in the house while brushing the kids' teeth and reading the night time story. I will hope George has not grabbed my toothbrush and either chewed on it himself, or worse put it in the toilet, during his briefly unsupervised stent upstairs. Oh, perfect, I went to the dentist today, so my brush isn't up there! But now I need to schedule a 1.5 hour appointment to get a crown on my perma-baby tooth. Why don't I just put my toothbrush up where he can't reach it every night? Wow, that should have happened a long time ago. I will call Matt who is still out of town at some point. After they are all in bed, I will take the puppy out to make sure she poops. I will follow up on carpool emails. I will double check Brock's school supplies. I will load the dishwasher and pick up the house. I will email more people to make sure I have nanny coverage for Kerry's maternity leave. I will reschedule the cleaning lady to come on a day that there aren't 6 kids in my home. Perhaps, I'll blog about the cute and funny things Curtis has been saying lately. 

 Dinner is ready. I make their plates. Brock and Curtis don't want this dinner, they wanted pizza. They saw me put something in the oven and naturally assumed it was pizza. Boy, did I throw them for a loop. Mostly, the above mentioned plan happened. What I didn't foresee, was the dog will have pooped and peed by the time I get downstairs from the baths. My cleaning lady will basically quit because I tried to reschedule her to make her life easier. I will have made no headway on the carpool situation. I will forget, yet again, that my toothbrush is downstairs, and just forgo brushing my teeth for the evening...I left the dentist at 4pm, how dirty could they really be? I will remember that I am missing the "Wet One's" refill wipes for school. Damnit, no idea when I will get those. How did I miss that!? I only went 5 different places to collect his 11 measely school items, and still had to order the 5 boxes of Eight Count Crayola crayons! I do think I have maternity leave covered, so that's good. I need a cleaning lady, this house cannot function without one, cue groveling to my Spanish-speaking maid. Thank goodness, she will come next Thursday. I really need to meet with a financial advisor, because a bigger house would help, right? Right!? 

 I'm tired. I'm unsure of what I even accomplished today. I'm unsure how I will manage to avoid my opponent's ever looming capture of my queen, or worse, king. I really have no idea how my child will get to and from school, will he like it, will he make friends, I wish I could be more available. I really love him. I have enjoyed life so much more since that fateful day that I began losing this chess game. In all of this madness, not once did my actual child cause the stress, or put me in check. Those guys do nothing but make me happy. It's the child-rearing, and the many activites required to enrich and develop these little beings into functional, successful and most importantly, happy individuals that creates the stress. 

 And, lastly, to be clear. Though I intensly prefer winning. I ALWAYS enjoy a good game. I'm still in it, and one of these days, the tides will turn. My opponent's pawns will all make it to the other side of the board, and will be come kings (and perhaps, queen's in the case of Curtis) and begin forming a game of chess for themself. Bear with me, the chess analogy isn't perfect, it's a new style. Break away chess. Until then, check.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Snug as a Bug.

Perhaps it's a weird thing to discuss, or say, but when pregnant with Brock, I told Matt, that I could never love anything as much as I love him. To me, this is logical. I chose Matt. He chose me. We were not forced to be together. Though you create your child, there-by forming an incredible, amazing, loving bond, it is not the same as the husband-wife one. Your kids will grow up and become their own person someday. They will love someone else, more than they love me. It's the circle of life. So, it was with this mentality that I planned, and looked forward to an extended vacation with my one and only, O'Laughlin boy. I imagined these 6 days to be wonderful.  Full of adult conversation. Freedom from the hundreds of obligations that fill my days because of my 4 dependents. Sleeping until I wake up of my own accord. Eating and drinking when and what I want. In essence, a window back into those days "before children".
I quickly learned, there is no such thing as going back to the "before children" days, because, well, those children exist. I think it took more planning and coordination to leave 4 children at home, than is does to take 4 children on vacation.  I am sure my family and nanny were tired of emails, going over the plan and schedule. I had more than one panic attack, and had to have my friend and fellow mother of 4 young boys talk my down from cancelling the trip all-together. I cleaned and stocked the house. Found a puppy sitter. Scheduled activities. Despite all of this, once gone, I had still not fully covered all my bases, minor details had gone unexplained, such as Mitch's eating schedule.

Don't get me wrong. Matt and I had a fabulous time, once he got over his bout of food poisoning and I got over my ruined outfit on day one of vacay. We rented bikes and rode across the Golden Gate Bridge. We enjoyed a sundae with the best hot fudge I've ever experienced from the cafe in Ghirardelli Square. We watched a bartender make at least 20 Irish coffees in less than 60 seconds, and sampled one too. We watched the baby seals play in the water, leaping out only to piss off their elders. We saw people swimming in the bay, viewed Alcatraz from afar, ate at Cioppino's on Fisherman's Wharf, took a selfie at the bottom of Lombard Street, rode a trolley. We stumbled into a restaurant called The Grove, and ate there twice it was so good. We saw people on drugs who saw...well, I'm not real sure what she was seeing. We watched a man take hundreds of dollars from gullible people betting on street games. We visited a winery. Then attended my cousin's beautiful wedding at another winery.

I showered without interruption. I brushed, blow-dried and even straightened my hair. I applied make-up twice in less than 5 days. I did sleep in. I spent wonderful, quality time with my husband. I enjoyed our conversations. But, I missed my little boys, the entire time. It turns out, for all the inconveniences, hard work, time, and energy that those little humans require, they, in turn, fill me with joy. I am now incomplete without them. Despite what I have been telling myself, or perhaps society has been telling me, all along, I don't actually need a break from the full time job of "mom". A nice evening out is more than enough to recharge my engines. I wanted to FaceTime them everyday. I enjoyed texts. I felt horrible, and helpless, and cruel when my baby had a fever and pain from teething. When my 2 year-old woke up and vomited. I felt bad for Matt's cousin who was trying to keep everyone alive, fed and happy. Something that required so much work on her part, but is near effortless for Matt and I, at this point. I know my children inside and out. I know what each cry, laugh, whimper, word, expression means.
I also learned that I don't need nearly as much "quality time" with my husband as I thought. Despite feeling as though we are pulled in a million directions at home, constantly splitting time and duties, Matt and I do a pretty fantastic job of staying close. Though I loved the uninterrupted time with him, it didn't feel necessary, or even new. We get all 4 boys to bed, every night, by 8:30 at the latest. This gives us 2+ hours together, nearly every night. We {I} text all the time. Email. Go on dates, almost weekly. We hang out with friends and family on the reg.
This vacation affirmed everything I have always felt to be true, but doubted because of society's implications. Not everyone needs a vacation from their life. Hard work can be fun, especially when it is for your favorite people in the world. Kids may make things more complicated, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. They also make experiences more enriching. The entire trip, I would find myself viewing things through my children's eyes, wondering what they would think. Next trip, they are coming. And perhaps, a nanny too. The best of both worlds. But as for now, I am home, and my boys are sleeping. Snug as a bug in a rug.

Now, Matt just needs to come home, for all balance restored. I already miss him...