One Day I will Come to Your House and Break All Your Stuff

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Dear boys,

I’m proud to be your parent. I really mean that. I would never suggest that having 4 sons as spunky as you are entitles me to a trophy. I’ve enjoyed many aspects of raising you. You’re clever, kind, and you fill my heart with a gladness that I cannot put properly into words.

But boys, listen up. Your destructive tendencies have propelled me to the limits of my sanity. I have been forced to create an imaginary world, a “mind palace” (to borrow the phrase), in which I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and mentally transport myself into a very charming cottage that has been decorated by  top designers from Better Homes and Gardens. This white cottage (with a view that overlooks the ocean) is nestled on a hill amid tall flowing grasses, wild flowers, and a white picket fence. There are no children here. Not a Lego or NERF bullet is in sight; just the soft warm breeze, euphonious waves, absolute stillness and the distant caw of gulls.

I love it here.

I travel here mentally every time you destroy another small piece of what’s left of our home.

Within my mind-cottage dwell warm colors, large windows and white furniture. I own a perfectly designed white coffee table and white fireplace mantle, both displaying high-end glass baubles, vases, candlesticks and artistically placed books.

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Books are silent. And therefore important.

Yes, your antics have pushed me into this fantasy. Then my eyes snap open to reality and I’m standing in 3 inches of overflowed toilet water you’ve managed to send clear down the hallway, after trying to flush down a petrified dead squirrel and yesterday’s underpants.

Your Mama is making a list of everything you destroy. For payback.

Here is your warning:

Quit it. Or else.

Quit it, or one day when you live on your own, I will come over to your house and break all your stuff.

I will show up with a warm smile, a hug and a plate of your favorite cookies. While you are happily eating in your kitchen under the false assumption that Mama is here just because she adores you…(and boy do I)… I will be pouring urine into your shoes. Here’s the beauty of it: I won’t tell you. You’ll just wonder where the smell is coming from until you put your shoes on the next morning on the way out the door to your business meeting.

I will disassemble your lawn mower and use the blade for hacking at your favorite tree. I will boil a roadkill possum carcass in your favorite cooking pot. Then leave it there. I will turn off your hot water heater and flip the electrical breaker that routes to your freezer. Your iPad (or its equivalent in a decade or so). Bathtub. Your eyeglasses don’t stand a chance.

I will hurl a NERF gun straight into the screen of your brand new TV. Oh, it’ll shatter all right. Not even a Sonic Screwdriver will make that puppy work again, I will make sure of that.

While you are distracted with the task of sweeping up the pieces, I will leave grape jelly handprints all over your sofa, carve my name with a pocket knife across your dining table and hide a whole stick of butter in your washing machine. I will put gum inside your dishwasher, bury your electric razor beneath the geraniums and pour orange juice down your air-vent hole. I will unwrap all your popsicles and leave them inside your sock drawer. I will take every single battery out of every conceivable electronic device you own and drop them into your fish tank.

And my retribution won’t be limited to the daytime. Nah. Mama will come over to spend the night.

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As you sleep softly in a warm bed among the haze of lovely dreams, I will be downstairs in the dark, placing a hot iron on your new hardwood floors, just briefly enough that the smoke alarm doesn’t go off, but long enough to make sure they are good and warped. I will un-stuff all of your couch cushions and pour sugar into your DVD player. Lamps will come crashing to the ground, mirrors will break and shoe-sized holes will find their way into your drywall. Anything I can find that is held together with screws, will be unscrewed. I will hide a loaded turkey sandwich in the pocket of your winter coat. I will smear VapoRub across every counter or flat surface you own and rip the last ten pages out of every book you have. Then I will come jump on your bed at 4:13 a.m. and demand a three-course breakfast. Sans the orange juice. (Or eggs. I put all of those behind your furnace grating.)

You may be tempted at this point to stop reading and say, “Holy cow! What a rampage! At least she didn’t damage my car!”

Don’t worry about your car. I scraped it nice and deep with a garden trowel on my way in. Siphoned out the gas too. You’re on E now.

Dear boys, listen carefully.

There is no possession on the planet you could destroy or damage that would make me stop loving you. I will always love you no matter what. You could torch the house and burn it clear to the ground (and at your rate of destruction, you will) and I would still be thrilled to be your mother.

But it will go on the list.

I love you guys,

Mom

P.S. Those cookies that I brought over? I licked them all. I licked them all really, really well.

Related post: 10 Things I Want To Say When My Kids Step On Their Toys

Other Mothers Are Perfect And I Suck

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I envision other mothers prepping three course (food pyramid approved) meals for their children, three times a day…

While I make scrambled eggs in the microwave… three times a day.

I envision other mothers spending a leisurely thirty minutes talking their tot through a gentle diaper change…

While I beg my child not to smear poop on my face as I haphazardly diaper him as we’re rushing out the door to the Mommy and Me (fill in the blank) class we’re inevitably late for.

I envision other mothers having the television removed from the home the instant they learn an impressionable new little human is growing within them….

While I frantically try to figure out how to get to the Netflix Kids app so I can have two uninterrupted minutes to scrub the microwave eggs out of the carpet, and my hair.

I envision other mothers mystically stretching time and completing all laundry, bathing, clothing, feeding, watering (of themselves and their children), cleaning their shelter, and laughing (it’s most certainly a basic need), ALL. IN. ONE. DAY.

While I spread out our basic needs over the course of a week—with the exception of laughing, we do plenty of that.

I envision other mothers prepping a developmentally appropriate art project for kiddo/s each day of the week….

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While I consider arranging our spaghetti (with a side of microwave eggs) into abstract shapes during dinner to be art project enough.

I envision other mothers polishing off thoughtful and inspiring replies to all 55 of their emails, in one hour, and shutting down the computer for the rest of the day…

While I pull out my cell phone, laptop, or tablet thingy 367 times a day in an attempt to get out any response to the 16 emails I have sitting in my Inbox.

I envision other mothers leaving helpful, humorous, and heartfelt posts on their online Mom Group of choice…

While I’m fortunate if I can shoot off an incredibly helpful, ‘Me too!’ or ‘That Sucks!’

I envision other mothers taking an adorable holiday card photo in June, pre-ordering the cards by September, and shipping them out, complete with a tastefully witty ‘Our Year in Review’ letter, by November 29th….

While I post a ‘Happy Holidays’ photo of my child on Facebook on January 3rd, hoping all the relevant relatives see it.

I envision other mothers writing the next great American novel, or blog, during their child’s three-hour naps….

While I attempt to type out ONE SENTENCE as my child simultaneously kicks my typing hand and bites my boob. (I started writing this two weeks ago.)

I envision other mothers being really cool and cutting me way too much slack for all the lazy mom-isms I’m guilty of….

While I have a good laugh with my kiddo, and remember that, hey mama, it’s all good.

Related post: I’m A Good Mother, Dammit, And So Are You

Murphy’s Laws of Traveling With Kids

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Parenthood, I have learned, is all about expectation management. The things that I had expected to be knock-your-socks-off-amazing — childbirth, holidays, and just about every birthday party — were big freaking letdowns. And little things — family bike rides, ice cream on a school night, breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day — were mind-blowingly fantastic.

Here’s my advice: If you want to avoid disappointment, set low expectations. Very low. Because as they say, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And sometimes just when you think things can’t get worse, they do. I learned this (for the millionth time actually) on a recent family vacation when my younger son spent not one, not two, not three, but four days with a never-ending bout of the stomach flu (replete with explosive diarrhea, projectile vomiting, and a trip to the ER). I guess it’s just Murphy’s Law of life with kids: if it can go wrong, you might as well expect it — heck, PLAN on it — and you’ll save yourself a whole lot of disappointment.

1. Your child will get sick the day you leave – likely with an illness that involves puking or requires antibiotics, or maybe both.

2. Flights will be delayed, your luggage will be lost, and the rental car company will have just rented the very last minivan.

3. Your “family-friendly” resort will be overrun with so many rambunctious kids and exhausted parents that no one will be feeling particularly friendly.

4. If you travel somewhere warm, the weather will be unseasonably cold. Meanwhile, back at home, there will be a heat wave.

5. You will forget to pack your kid’s blankie, lovie, or other irreplaceable comfort item.

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6. As soon as one kid has recovered from whatever illness they had, another kid will catch it. Repeat for the rest of the trip until you get home, at which point you will get sick.

7. The kids’ meals at the hotel restaurant will be more expensive than a date night back at home. A couple of margaritas will cost more than your monthly mortgage.

8. You will make multiple trips to Walmart or Target for all the things you forgot to pack.

9. Your kids will be up at the crack of dawn – every. damn. day.

10. Once back at home, however, you will have to drag your kids out of bed for school in the morning, you will have mountains of laundry to do, your credit card bill will rival the GDP of a small country, you will have thousands of unanswered emails to return, your voicemail will be full, and you will be sick with whatever bug your kids had without any vacation time left.

And this, my friends, is why they call it traveling with kids, NOT vacation.

Related post: 5 Tips for Surviving A Flight With Young Children

What Real Love Looks Like

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Dear Luis,

Recently, I haven’t been acting like myself, and I know you haven’t been acting like yourself. We’re tired. Exhausted. Strained. We’re happy, but we’re being pushed to our limits constantly.

You have the weight of supporting a family of four on your shoulders now. You’re stressed and you’re worried. You come home and there are baths to give and babies to put to sleep. You’re woken up early by an alarm clock if you’re lucky, but usually earlier by a baby that won’t let his mommy sleep.

I’m home all day with two young children. I’m running on little sleep. My body doesn’t feel like it’s mine anymore. I watch the hours go by so slowly, while at the same time feel like I don’t have enough time to get anything done. I feel like a failure as a mother and a woman so many days. Why can’t I handle two kids and have dinner on the table when you get home? I worry that you might wonder the same thing.

I’m sorry for all the times I argue with you. I’m sorry for taking my anger out on you. For yelling and accusing. For assuming the worst in you.

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In reality, I’m so thankful for you. For waking up early with the baby. For playing with our children every day. For helping me. For always respecting and supporting my parenting choices. For bending over backwards to give the world to your family.

I know I never mention this to you, but I often fall asleep thinking about the lingering hugs we steal in the hallway. Those hugs, when you pull me in tighter and hold on as if you’ve missed me, tell me that you’re still in love with me. You still want me. We’re still us even amidst this new, sweet, chaotic phase of life.

It’s easy to feel like we used to be more in love before we had children. We went on frequent dates, cuddled on the couch while watching our shows, wrote silly and heartfelt cards to each other, and fell asleep in each other’s arms. That’s love, but I think real love is where we are now. Choosing to continuously show up and sacrifice, to give each day everything we have, even if it isn’t much because we’re beyond exhausted. It’s the unromantic but important things that we now do for each other that mean so much: giving your spouse an extra half hour to sleep while you get up with the kids, or giving the kids a bath so your partner can decompress for a few quiet minutes. Giving up our needs and wants for the babies we’ve made together. And holding each other up along the way. That’s real love.

I hear getting through these baby years can be tough, but I know we’ll make it. We’re not just a couple anymore; we’re a family. You’re my family, my home in a crowded room, and I can’t imagine my life without you. So for every dirty diaper you change, every hour you put in at work, every time you get up in the middle of night…I’m going to remember that these are the romantic gestures right now. This is what real love looks like.

Related post: Why I Won’t Get Divorced