Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Traveling at the speed of kid

By Karrie McAllister

I realize it’s generally frowned upon to drag children through airports while mumbling profanities at your husband. But keep in mind that he is walking happily ahead of you, carrying only a backpack and you are weighed down with 2 carry-ons, a doll, and a kid on each hand.
Plus I’m pretty sure I was holding a coloring book in my mouth.
The reason for the hurriedness is that we weren’t comfortably early for the flight. But not late, either, mind you. So after leaving the ticket counter, the race began.
My husband walked like a normal person.
We barely slid along like a three-headed bag lady.
And after a few “hurry ups!” my calmness had gotten the best of me, and right there in the airport the gates of motherhood opened.
“Don’t tell us to hurry up. We’re SLOW. We’ve got junk galore to carry and they’ve got little legs and if we don’t get everything packed so they’ll be happy then I guarantee your trip will be even worse than this lecture in the middle of the security line!”
Or something like that—refer back to the profanities mentioned in the first sentence. Stress and airports do funny things to generally nice people.
Thankfully whatever I said must have worked, and after spending an eternity at the security gate taking off and putting on all of those little shoes (why oh why would I ever make them wear lace-up shoes on travel day?!?) we were again one big happy loaded down family, sitting helpless in the big airport while our children ran amok and flirted with strangers.
Alls well that ends well, but when you think about it, that little story can be translated to just about anything in a life with kids. Or at least my life.
Kids are slow. They have tiny legs, wandering imaginations, and all-purpose stubbornness when it comes to doing something they’ve been told to do. They stop, they fidget. They investigate beautiful art and strange looking people. They reach for things they shouldn’t and for the life of them can’t seem to walk in a straight line.
And this all takes time. My husband, being the working one of the family, has a job where he only talks to adults all day. It’s a fast-paced job, with emails and meetings and cell phones and paperwork. So it should come to no surprise that he is a rather fast-paced person. 71% of his days (that’s 5 of 7 days—I did the math) he’s at his job working as quickly as he can.
Likewise, 100% of my days (that’s EVERYDAY – no math required) I’m at home struggling to be as slow as my kids.
And I’m a little afraid to announce that I’m getting used to it.
I used to think there was some space-time continuum between the house and the car, because it seemed like no matter how fast we tried to get shoes on and buckled in carseats, it was a good ten minutes later by the time I actually put the car in Drive. But now I am all the more wiser and realize that time and space are doing just fine—we are instead traveling at the speed of kid.
With kids, I fully expect to spend twice the time it would take me by myself to do even the easiest tasks, like stopping at the post office or taking a walk down the street.
And someday, when my kids are all off in school, I might be able to pick up the pace a little. But until then, I’ll enjoy the chance to stop and stare at beautiful art and strange looking people yelling at their husbands in the airport.

“That which does not kill us, only makes us drive to the store”

By Karrie McAllister

Nietzsche stated, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
And looking back at our last few weeks, I can only pray that this applies to my children. Recently I made a very poor parenting decision, one which resulted in hysterical children and a spontaneous trip the store.
So I have to ask myself, are my parental blunders strengthening my children’s character, or am I just scarring them for life?
Let us examine the occasion that brought about tears and unbelievable guilt: Art class gone very, very bad.
I am a firm believer in the arts, and when the chance came for my kids to take local classes in creativity, I practically glue-sticked the paint brushes in their little hands. Week after week, I talked it up, praising their work like any good mother should. Sure they had simply spent an hour smearing paint around, but they were so proud of what they made.
And so was I.
When “clay week” rolled around, they worked especially hard. Of course my daughter churned out some excellent sculptures; her birds had beaks that weren’t coming out of their backs and butterflies with symmetrical wings.
But when I saw what my son created, I nearly cried with delight. Somehow, someway, out of the hands of a tiny rambunctious redhead that are usually busy sword-fighting or pulling his sister’s hair, came magnificent works of art—purple giraffes and even anatomically correct birds.
Together they had created an animal magnum opus! Their very own masterpiece zoo!
The art teacher told me and the other parents in the class to bake the clay at a very low temperature to harden it, and so that very afternoon I warmed up the oven so I could forever preserve these timeless treasures.
Oven on, art in. Phone rings. My mother.
Gabbing away and not paying enough attention, I started to smell the ever-so-faint odor of melting crayons. And with the pit in my stomach and my stomach in my throat, I opened the oven door to find the colorful and liquid remains of that zoological masterpiece.
“Gotta go, mom, I just totally melted the kids’ art projects.”
And even though their ears were completely tuned into the TV at that time, they heard me say those words: I melted their art.
For what it’s worth, they took it pretty well, or as well as two small kids could accept the fact that their mother just turned their hard work into a waxy puddle.
Devastated and bawling, I did the only thing I could think of. I hugged them tightly and cried right along with them. The three of us wailing together, and I promised them I’d make it better. Somehow, someway, their art would return.
Even then, as I was planning the trip to the craft store, I thought that even if I couldn’t save their art, I could save someone else’s.
Trying to avoid the moans in the background I quickly phoned another parent in the class. No “hello,” no “hi, this is Karrie.” Nothing cordial at all, just “DO NOT PUT YOUR SON’S ART IN THE OVEN. IT WILL MELT. Your child will cry and you will feel absolutely miserable. And then you will promise them that you will drive almost an hour to find modeling clay even though you have other things to do.”
Between her laughter and my kids’ crying, I didn’t know what to think.
I did, however, know what to do. I ended up buying more modeling clay for them, and we stayed up late making dinosaurs, birds, and hippos wearing underwear and backpacks (or at least I think what they were. I’m really no great artist myself.)
And alls well that ends well, but did they learn a lesson? Did they get any stronger?
I only know what they said to me when they finished their creations.
No “wow,” no “thanks, mom.” Nothing cordial at all, just “DO NOT PUT OUR ART IN THE OVEN!”
I guess I’m a little stronger too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Is there a nurse in the house? Oh wait, she's sleeping.

By Karrie McAllister

It seems like only yesterday I was writing about avoiding germs...
But today, let me provide you with a dazzling visual:
I have not put on makeup in two days. My eyelids are barely supported by the new set of purplish luggage that now rests beneath them.
I have also been wearing the same sweater for the last few days, only because it’s warm…and it has pockets. Two of them—one for clean tissues, and one for not-so-clean tissues.
I have wiped more noses than I can count. And despite the fact that I took a few semesters of science in college, I have given enough doses of cough syrup to have finally mastered English to Metric conversions -- so long as it’s only ½ or 1 teaspoon. (FYI: 2.5 and 5 ml, respectively.)
As you may have guessed, the cold and flu season has finally reared its ugly, coughing head in our home. And while I personally haven’t been hit yet, I’d be fibbing if I didn’t wish I could take some nighttime medicine so maybe, just maybe, I could get a good night’s rest.
Call me na├»ve, but I never really thought I’d have to play Nurse Mommy for so long. Of all times for kids to take turns, taking turns being sick is not what I bargained for.
Being an only child, I was the only one who got sick. And when I was better, quiet time was over, the daytime gameshows were turned off, and life as we know it resumed.
No one ever told me that multiple children would mean multiple days of exhaustion.
A sick daughter on Saturday heals by Monday, only to have the younger brother slip into a feverish frenzy on Sunday. While he’s feeling better come Wednesday, daughter is back on the couch whining for “juuuuuuuice” in a tone that mimics a dysfunctional siren.
Meanwhile, on Monday, sister is ready to play and the brother has taken over the couch, control of the TV and box of tissues. Likewise, on Wednesday, sister is down for the count and brother is sitting on her, ready to wrestle.
(I realize that the previous paragraphs sound somewhat confusing being out of chronological order, but it’s about all my brain can handle. The take-away message is that I have been losing my mind with discipline and decongestants for too long.)
The daytime is only made worse by what happens when the sun goes down, for that is when I start cursing my highly sensitive maternal ears. Every tiny sniffle or cough, every deep breath or fidgety roll and the radar turns on.
Ears perked and eyes wide, I sneak into their rooms again and again to check on them while my husband snores continuously, completely oblivious. And even though he’s been sleeping through nighttime noises for years and I shouldn’t be surprised, on about my fifth trip down the hallway, I’m stomping like an elephant to test his nighttime ears.
It never ceases to amaze me how a child hacking up a lung won’t wake him, but a tired and angry wife mumbling and plodding heavily will spring him out of bed…
But spring out of bed he begrudingly does, and for the rest of the night, the care-givers follow the advice of the patients. We take turns.
Once all the comforting is done and we get our few minutes of sleep, day breaks and it’s time to begin again.
I am weary and worn, and would like nothing better than to sack out for a quick nap, but it doesn’t take long before the sickies are calling for their nurse again.
“What can I get you? Drink? Snack? Medicine? Blanket?” I ask, desperate to comfort my children.
“Just some hugs, Mommy.”
Even the weariest nurses, with their same old dirty sweaters and foggy brains, can handle that prescription.
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