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"God help us, it's almost summer!"

How is it possible that these children are going to be out of school in a matter of days? How?? Don’t get me wrong, I am literally dragging can to make lunches each night at this point, and thank God for the blessed teachers who have stopped giving homework because Lord knows this mama is basically over checking math facts and quizzing vocab words. But isn’t there a place that these little people can go until fall arrives again? Because quite honestly, it’s May 24th and I already want to staple all of their mouths closed.

“Shivonne, aren’t you overreacting just a bit?” some may ask.

Um, no. And go kick rocks, by the way.

So, Wyatt has taken to baby talking. Not just acting whiney, but all-out baby talking “goo goo ga ga” crap. That is, of course, when he’s not screeching at the top of his lungs like a little girl, mooing like a cow, or singing the ABCs… which I’m daily regretting having taught him. And then there’s the fact that this kid is CONSTANTLY talking about food being in my boobies and hugging my uterus with a weird kind of fondness in his eyes. This child, in his best baby talk voice, is asking if he can go BACK INTO my belly and be a baby.

Have I don’t something to traumatize him? I mean, is it possible that there is some kind of psychological damage that’s been done? Did I nurse him too long? Because honestly, what child asks to re-enter the womb? It’s creepy and disturbing… especially when he pats my chest and tells me he loves my “bellies” so much because they’re just so squishy. And then he thanks me for having them… because it was obviously my choice.

Yeah, these are things that could end any day now and I would be quite fine with it.

Cameron, on the other hand, makes me want to staple his mouth shut for multiple reasons. First of all, the kid is majorly obsessed with particular things for a few days at a time and can think of absolutely nothing else but his momentary fixation. Pokemon cards, bay blades, planting his 2x2 foot garden, fidget spinners, fit bits, geocaching… whatever the fad for that second is the only thing he will speak of for days at a time. It’s kind of like living with a redneck Kardashian, minus the nude selfies (thank you, Jesus).

Secondly, I would like to staple Cameron’s mouth shut because, for those brief moments he isn’t obsessing over things, he sits there with his mouth hanging open as if he’s trying to catch flies. He will quite literally sit like that and drool until someone tells him to close his mouth! My husband and I have affectionally labeled this “Resting Doofus Face”. (I know, we are horrible people… and yet we manage to still live with ourselves.)

My 11-year-old came home the other day and was telling me all about a girl in his class who “has the hots” for him and how they’re practically dating. I mean, I tried to be excited I guess, but really, all I could think was that this poor female child must be blind and deaf because no one could possibly be drawn to the drooling and all this obsessive prattling about boring stuff. It’s just not possible. So, until I’m proven wrong, this girl is nothing more than a figment of my son’s imagination – someone he has invented because he needed one person in his life who wouldn’t constantly nag him to close his mouth.

Then there’s Taylor. The girl child who talks incessantly about NOTHING. I cannot fathom saying so many words in a single day without having accomplished a single productive conversation. It’s incomprehensible how much she talks about back-handsprings and bracelets and her hair! Seriously, is there nothing else in her head? Is there nothing else of importance that happens on a day to day basis? Why would she think that anyone cares to hear her tell them 17 times in a row how surprised she is that her new shorter hair will still go up in a ponytail? Like, oh my gosh, right?

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I simply cannot and will not feign excitement at one more cartwheel. I just can’t. The quality of my life desperately depends on me walking away from her when she jumps for joy and wants me to do the same when she manages to flip or flop for the 274th time in a single afternoon. And it keeps her alive that I have restraint enough to walk away from her when she repetitiously states the obvious every few seconds.

“Wow, it’s raining.”

“Wow, it’s still raining.”

“Hey, did you see it rain?”

“Is it supposed to rain tomorrow?”

“I like rain.”

“Oooo, it looks like the rain may start back up again any second…or maybe just sprinkle…or it could thunderstorm…no, I bet it’ll just rain…”

This makes me want to throat punch her. She sees me working on bills or talking on the phone or choosing songs for church and THESE are the moments she talks the most about nothing. And the sad thing is, even if I gave her my undivided attention 24/7, it wouldn’t come close to being enough. So, I try to hide from her until she leaves for school each morning.

Except school is almost out! There will very soon be NO MORE hiding. There will just be minutes and hours and weeks and months of quality family time, filled with nothing but stupid talk. Babyish whines. Repetition. Drool.

I can only pray for patience so many times before all that’s within me is gonna hit the fan, so God help us all this summer. You, me, and all of these wildly loud and ridiculous children. God help us.

#TeachersAreOfficiallySaintsInMyBook

 

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Redefining Greatness

           Each summer, I have high hopes of achieving greatness in motherhood. And each fall I realize that greatness is highly overrated. Sometime in August I become very okay with mediocrity and the whole “just keep them alive” method of parenting. (It’s okay to judge me if you must. I’m far too tired to care anyway.)

            I start out the summer being a “Yes” Mom. I tell the kids they can have the second popsicle, that they can use the playdough without supervision, that they can stay up late to catch fireflies. And by August I am back to my “No” Mom self, swiftly denying all access to Dad’s tools, things that require all of my batteries, nail polishes/paints/anything that stains, and all things that are sugar-based.

            I’m unsure why I feel that each June will be different than the last – that my children will have matured magically in the previous 9 months, that they won’t fight incessantly, or that they won’t suck my love for summer away once again. But each summer I test out my re-found optimism, only to realize that it doesn’t quite fit in with me and my special needs family. Because in a home filled with our specific kind of nuts, we don’t have the strength for continual optimism.

            No, in our home, we have roles that we hold tightly to – ones that don’t allow for much deviation from out callings. We have myself, The Enforcer – I’m the rule-setter, consequence-maker, and death-glarer. We have my husband, The Worker – the one that is gone all day and then gets to play with our spawn, giving him the extra title of The Fun One. Then there’s my oldest, The Bully. He’s the one that taunts, teases, and pinches the minute my back is turned. But its okay, because my next oldest is The Tattler, also known as The Instigator. She is the reporter of all things (necessary or not), the one that loves to hear her own voice, and the little shadow that begs to be pinched so she has something else to tattle about. And finally, we have The Toddler. He’s 2, he tantrums, and he’s supposed to be my “normal one”.

            Yeah, optimism is quickly replaced by realism each and every summer. But before you think we are too pessimistic for your taste, let me give you a glimpse into one particularly warm July day…

            The Toddler woke promptly at 6am, ensuring that he could start his energetic throwing of toys before the heat became too great. But hey, since he wasn’t throwing the toys at the dogs or the television, I continued to pay bills and do laundry before the Bigs woke up… which was naturally 20 minutes later. The rest of the morning was spent reminding children to do their morning routine, the very same routine they’ve been doing every day for years. I stared at their shocked faces when they were informed that yes, indeed, their underwear needed to be changed every day. For always.

            We did daily homework assignments to ensure that no one became stupid over the summer… this meant that I spent an hour arguing with The Tattler that 10 +23 does not equal 1023, all the while The Bully wailed that he couldn’t understand his story problem: “Billy had 18 apples and gave Tommy 6. Tommy then gave 3 apples to Judy. How many apples does Tommy now have?” Meanwhile, The Toddler ate all the crackers and screamed every time a commercial interrupted his Paw Patrol marathon.

            We finally finished all the assignments and my bills got paid (sort of) so we promptly got ready for The Tattler’s library program that morning. Only, where was my phone? I had it earlier while I did the banking, but where was it now? No worries… we found it a half hour later… in the refrigerator, courtesy of The Toddler.

            We were the family running into the library drenched in sweat, A) because we have no air conditioner and B) because we are incapable of attending any library program on time. I don’t know why and I no longer have the motivation to care. I handed my middle child over to the sweet ladies in charge as I avoided the irritated glances at their watches. The Bully began looking for a new book while The Toddler attached himself to a handful of cars at the train table.

            I sat anxiously, waiting for the inevitable tantrum that The Toddler throws each and every time we enter the library. It’s the place where he had his first injury (last summer, banged lip off the train table, bled all over their carpet), where we screamed bloody murder in the bathroom for ALL to hear (two summers ago, while trying not to smack his head off the toilet paper holder as I had to nurse him in the bathroom because I was asked not to nurse him in the children’s section), and where he continues to dominate all the toys because by being the baby of the family, it’s basically survival of the fittest.

            That day was no different. I watched in slow motion as my small child grabbed a toy away from a sweet little boy with Down’s Syndrome. The boy tried to get his toy back, but my child in turn hit him with the toy. It was like I was moving through jello, unable to run through the sea of scattered toys fast enough, when the other boy began to scream a high-pitched wail that was not only warranted, but appreciated (because, hey, it wasn’t my kid screaming for a change).

            I promptly grabbed up The Toddler, apologizing profusely as I handed my purse off to my oldest. I ran my now-screaming baby out to the parking lot as he hit and kicked, flapped and hollered. Outside it was a balmy 831 degrees and my child’s sweat was making it impossible to hold him as he raged. And, as I fought to control a person 1/4th my size in the public library’s parking lot, a police officer pulled up alongside me.

            “Everything okay, ma’am?” he asked with concern.

            Sweat dripping into my eyes, making my hair stick to my running make-up, I tried to smile as I responded, “Oh, of course! Just a bit of a toddler tantrum is all!” I made a slight attempt at a chuckle, but it ended up coming out as more of a maniacal laugh than anything.

            Twenty minutes and a two walks around the block, The Toddler was still being a jerk, but it was time to go in and claim my daughter from her program. It was then that I looked down and noticed that, amidst the struggle with my youngest, my wide-necked t-shirt somehow had managed to be pulled all the way down, underneath my left boob. I had talked with our local law enforcement and walked two blocks with my one of my breasts completely hanging out. (And no, I didn’t feel a breeze, thanks to my super unattractive full-coverage mom bra.)

            Defeated and repositioned, I threw my kid over my shoulder and marched through the library to claim The Tattler. The sweet librarians once again eyed me with fear because my child’s screaming was interrupting their announcements. I forced a smile and said something clever like, “Kids, what do ya do, right?” before grabbing all of my children and running-not-running for the door.

            We arrived home just in time for The Toddler to take a nap, which means that he pulled his weenie out and peed through his crib like a boss just before drifting off. But I didn’t care. The pee would still be there when he woke up and there was no way that I was going to wake him to change his sheets. So I turned the fan on him in an attempt to dry up some of the wetness, like any mediocre, realist mom would do.

            I came back down the stairs to see The Bully pinning down his sister as he wrenched her arm behind her back. Grabbing him up by the scruff and then swatting his bottom, I sent him immediately to his room. The Tattler proceeded to tell me that her brother had just pinned her on the ground and wrenched her arm behind her back. (Yes, thank you for stating the obvious. Would you care to do any other work for my eyes, like tell me the color of the walls or describe to me my own outfit?) But because I still had just a smidgen of Good Mom still in me, I refrained from the sarcasm and reminded her that I had just taken care of the issue, assessing her arm as we talked.

            It was then that I noticed the dog poop on the floor. Just because of life.

            Meanwhile, The Toddler was awakened from his nap by a mooing Bully who refused to calm himself down. Not that it mattered, because we had a church event to leave for and there was still the whole pee incident happening upstairs in the crib.

            All bodily secretions sufficiently cleaned, we managed to make it to the church on time. Naturally The Toddler proceeded to push down another baby in our church and scream at the top of his lungs when redirected. To keep the peace, I put him in the nursery's pack-n-play for a time-out. However, The Tattler proceeded to inform me that I was a bad mother for just leaving him to cry without getting him out. At that point, I gave her one of my infamous death glares, reminding her that she was insanely out of line and should probably keep her well-researched parenting advice to herself.

            The Bully sulked in the corner and refused to talk to anyone, The Tattler cried for being glared at, and The Toddler’s screams could still be heard 3 rooms away. It was then that a sweet friend of mine from out church mentioned that I should get my youngest checked for autism.

            Tears welled in my eyes, not at the thought that my son could have autism, but at the fact that I had already asked his pediatrician this very question and was assured that he was completely NOT autistic – leaving 2 options: He was either a terrible child, or I was a terrible mother. Either way, the tears were there and I did my best to hold them at bay while I made small talk and acted like everything was fine.

            We left the event early because… well, because I have kids.

            Upon arriving home, I noticed that the temperature had cooled ever so slightly, so I told the kids to play outside. And as I stepped through the grass to set my purse on the patio, my foot got stuck in a hole that one of the dogs had dug and my ankle painfully rolled until I heard a snap. Since I was in my own yard and there was no sense in holding back anymore, I cried until I couldn’t breathe.

            Terrified, The Tattler ran inside and got me every ice pack we own. The Bully attempted to keep The Toddler from crawling on me like I was a jungle gym… because normal toddlers take crying as a call for playtime, apparently?

            My husband arrived home minutes later to me sitting in the yard with ice packs surrounding my swollen ankle. He saw my puffy eyes and listened as I told him about the library and my boob, the police and the wrenching of the arm, the poop and the pee, the church and the hole. I told him that I was a bad mother, incapable of achieving greatness.

            After sending me to my room to recover, The Worker/Fun One played with the kids in the yard. I heard them laughing and following directions. No one pinched or peed on anything. No one screamed or tattled. Everyone just played. In the distance I could hear a dog vomiting, but I didn’t go downstairs to clean it up. It would inevitably still be there in the morning.

            Two weeks later, I went on vacation with my kids, my parents, my brother and my nephew. I did a lot of sleeping and a lot of unwinding. The Toddler only peed on things twice and my parents took over when The Tattler and The Bully got into it. I relinquished my crown as The Enforcer for almost 9 days and found myself laughing with my children. I even got to be The Fun One a few times!

            So, as August has begun to wind us down to those last few moments of summer, I am okay with my mediocre status. I realize that it doesn’t make me a failure to not reach greatness each summer. It’s okay to say “No” and to hide the hammer and nails and to take naps when The Toddler finally goes down for his afternoon sleep. It’s okay to reclaim my batteries and make bedtime earlier. And it’s certainly okay to be The Fun One sometimes.

           But whatever the role, whatever the situation, whatever the daily liquids I get to scrub… I can rest easy, knowing that I kept them alive for one more summer. And that, my friends, is greatness redefined.

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To All Parents Everywhere Who Hate Summer Vacation

           My kid has ADHD.  My kid has RAD.  My kid has ANY mental health disorder.  My kid has a sibling and those siblings won’t stop bickering EVER.  My kid has an indoor voice of a megaphone.  My kid has the attention span of a gnat.  My kid is impulsive and needs to be watched 24/7 to ensure the safety of ALL THINGS.  My kid wakes up at 7:30am for school and 5:00am for EVERY FREAKING DAY of summer vacation.  My kid expects me to make each meal and snack with fairy dust and unicorn tears.  My kid is “BORED”.

            If any of these statements ring true to you, then just let yourself say these words: “I hate summer vacation with a passion, and that DOESN’T make me a bad parent.”

            Ok?  Feel better?  Of course not, because it’s still summer vacation.  But here’s the thing… you’re allowed to love your children and still wish for them to be out of your presence for 8 straight waking hours.  I don’t know when this Mom-Shaming thing became such a societal duty, but I was a fairly typical, well-behaved, non-psychotic child, and my parents STILL locked me out of the house with a bottle of water and 3 hours worth of sunscreen greased over my face and neck.

            How, exactly, does needing to clean the house, do your work, and keep your sanity equate to being a bad parent?  I refuse to apologize that the thought of taking all 3 of my insane children to my gynecologist appointment scares the living crap out of me.  Nor will I say sorry for hating grocery day during the summer.  All the complaints over vegetables, all the pleading for junk food, all the chasing one another down random isles…. Seriously, what’s not to love, right?

            For all of you who enjoy your children all day, every day, I commend you and your patience.  You are beautiful people on the inside.  But I don’t think it makes anyone an ugly person if they don’t enjoy those moments with the same level of enthusiasm (AKA disgust).  So why point fingers?  Why feel guilty over needing to accomplish your own tasks in life without 2,358 interruptions?  Why engage in jealousy over your neighbors’ apparently perfect lives?  (PS, your neighbors’ scream, too… they just have better insulation in their home than you do.)

Photo by www.dailymail.co.uk

Photo by www.dailymail.co.uk

            Yesterday was the kids’ last day of school.  It was a half-day.  That sucks already, right?  Because before my daughter’s shoes were even off her feet, she was petitioning someone to entertain her.  I told her that there were 4 walls just begging to keep her company if she was that desperate, and we call those walls Her Room.  Naturally, she was less than impressed with my humor.

            So, in order to keep the children occupied, my husband gave them yard work.  And before you Parent-Shamers gasp that we didn’t take our children to the park and for ice cream on their last day of school, know that I simply don’t care.  There.  I said it. 

But anyways, when I had finished my indoor cleaning (which consisted of picking up EVERY THING that had ever been in my children’s rooms or book bags that was now on my living room floor), I took the toddler outside for some sunshine.  And just as I looked over, there was my 10-year-old RAD son, having my 8-year-old RAD daughter hold a stake while he attempted to drive it into the ground.  WITH AN AXE.

            Tell him not to use the axe?  Sure.  Hide the axe in the locked garage?  Yeah.  Already done that.  A LOT.  But here’s the things about some children (especially those with RAD):  They don’t listen.  It’s shocking, I know, because it’s so much easier to blame the parents.  But as my son was coming down towards my daughter’s head with the sharp blade, I screamed as loudly as I could (over the weed-whacker, over the tractor, over the barking dogs) and my son simply said, “Oh, sorry.”

            We were 6 hours into summer vacation and I was already DONE.

            One hour later, I was being yelled at by two very ballsy children because one’s headband was destroyed and the other’s arrow was busted… items that were left in the yard or on the floor where the dogs and toddler play.  It was then, after hearing them argue for hours and the attempted manslaughter incident, that I calmly screamed at the top of my lungs that THEY were the ones responsible for their broken items – not the person who had spent the afternoon following them around cleaning up after them because we had company coming over!

            Not that they would be deterred.  This morning they have been equally as angelic.  My 8-year-old has turned into a diva, apparently.  No longer does she yell “STOP!” to my son, when he does all he can to tick her off.  No.  Now she does this lovely little number: “STOP-AAA!!!” (complete with eye-rolling and her hip jutted out).  Like we live in the Valley and she’s 14.  Like I’m going to listen to that all summer long without cutting out her tongue.

            And my son, who touches EVERYTHING that is not his on a minute-by-minute basis, creating contraptions with Dad’s tools, unsafe climbing apparatuses, and breaking apart the toddler’s toys to make “new ones”, he thinks that I’m going to allow this to go on for 3 straight months.  Like he’s Bob Villa or something.

            So, once again, I will say it loud and clear:

            I hate summer vacation with a passion, and that DOESN’T make me a bad parent!

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Board Game Blues

     Summer is officially here in the Costa home. The children are frolicking, swimming, and biking, while the parents are sweating, mowing, and accomplishing a whole lot of nothing (mostly because of the bickering, screaming, and crying that occurs during the frolicking, swimming, and biking). Although the first day of summer passed a couple weeks ago, for my children, the first day of summer has been declared today, July 2nd. I'm aware that this is the chosen day for celebrating this joyous season because we have officially hit the "I'm bored"s. Nevermind that we have a sand box (the bane of my existence), a swimming pool (better described as a large dog bowl), a newly constructed fort, bikes, toys, and 40 acres on which to play hide-and-seek, tag, or Red Light Green Light. But none of this matters to my kids, because today is July 2nd, and that means that all of our belongings no longer exist because we are simply "bored".
     When I was a kid (we had to walk barefoot to school in the snow, uphill... both ways??), we were content with rolling down a grassy hill, climbing trees, and kicking a ball back and forth. The 1980's were obviously the good ole days, whereas now, children need things that require batteries and constant adult supervision. However, I don't believe in spending $20 in batteries per week, and I certainly am not a clown (despite my kids' belief that I was put on this earth solely for their precious entertainment).
     So, after the third "I'm bored" of the morning, I had a brilliant idea! Since they're few and far between, I decided to act on it quickly before I lost all motivation. My idea was to make a board game for my kids. (Feel free to be envious of my awesomeness for just a few moments.) I used my super-creative noggin to make the board out of manila envelopes, getting out my yard stick to make sure the lines on the board were straight, using my very best hand-writing the entire time. I was elated, knowing that my game was free, didn't require batteries, and it would be tailored to the needs of my kids, making it educational AND fun (this will all be in the commercial, have no fear)!
     Four hours later, I was getting rather antsy, recognizing that the task I undertook was a bit larger than I originally had thought. But at least the kids were excited about it. They anxiously asked when I would be done so that we could all play it together. The little kid in me was starting to bounce around in her seat as well! And as I put the finishing touches on the game, I had the kids decorate the game cards with stickers and stamps. The "I'm bored"s were starting to wind down in the anticipation of playing Mommy's homemade board game. And then, just as we sat down to play, Daddy went outside to set up the new pool (a slightly larger dog bowl), causing both kids to jump up and put on their swim suits, running from my game board without a second glance. Four hours or making a game for those little rug rats and now I feel like the last person picked in dodge ball!
     So, since no one wanted to play with me, I put my inner little kid in time out and moved on to making supper like a real adult, grateful that no one was fighting or proclaiming boredom at that moment. Oh Summer, you creator of fickle children.... (But I'm totally playing the game by myself after bedtime tonight either way!!)

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