Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trading Spaces-- Reflections from Laurel (my mom)

My mom recently came to watch my kids while Dave and I went out of town for the weekend. During that time she not only found time to keep my four kids happy but also found time to write about it. So here is a guest post from my mom, Laurel:
I am not a blogger.  Blogging is a time sink. I have never felt a compelling need to do an emotional core dump on paper—until yesterday. But yesterday my life was different. I woke up at my daughter, Karen’s house, instead of mine. I woke up to her life instead of mine—to four children instead of my normal, quiet, simple existence. …and I woke up to a new understanding of why Karen blogs. Blogging isn’t just a time sink. Blogging is therapeutic. It is an amazingly effective way of making order out of a world that feels completely out of order and chaotic.

I vaguely remember that having six children of my own, ages ten and under, was chaotic. But the memory is very vague indeed…sort of like the way we forget about the reality of childbirth until labor actually starts the next time. I remember that the house got messed up more easily, that more laundry needed doing, that the noise level was quite a bit higher, that there were more places to go and more food I had to cook.  But, other than those sort of things, having children wasn’t much different than the life to which I have become accustomed in recent years. Wrong.

Day 1 at Karen’s: We get home from the airport just before the two older kids get off the school bus and back home. Chaos doubles. Jared hurries to get ready for cub scouts while Camryn discovers that Jackson has opened the hamster’s cage and allowed Fredricka to escape. Not a big deal. One little hamster against four of us in pursuit. The hunt would be easier were it not for the fact that they have a three story house. 

Karen runs Jared to cubs—Camryn and I are the search party. A half hour later Karen comes back to get Camryn for her dance class. I make up the search party. A little while after that Karen drops Jared back off to join me in the search and goes back to pick up Camryn from dance. The hamster was no where to be found in the music room where he and his cage reside on the main floor…or the living room or family room or kitchen or dining area. We knew this after probing under the stove and through the closets with the end of a broom. Likewise, the hamster was nowhere to be found upstairs in any of the bedrooms. Camryn, however, was sure she was on to something later that evening when she announced, “We have a clue!”  I asked her what the clue was.  She opened the fridge and said, “Hamster pee in the fridge.” I looked, and although the substance at the bottom of the fridge was highly suspicious, I doubted that even a hamster as smart as Fredricka could manage to get in there. So I called Jared in for a second opinion. He opened the fridge and said matter-of-factly, “Yep….definitely hamster pee.” In reality, the fridge clue didn’t aid in finding the missing pet. It turned out that Fredricka had managed to find her way downstairs into a bathroom closet and had happily made a nest in a pile of shredded toilet paper. Jared returned the mini-beast to its cage and life was happy again in Porterville. On a happy note, Karen later determined that the clue in the fridge was actually some spilled canned milk. All is well—I can eat again without feeling queasy.

Jackson, on the other hand, definitely requires more than four people to keep track of. He wanted some juice with his lunch, so Karen poured him a small cup. He was happily occupied eating at the bar while Karen was sitting at the kitchen table busily engaged getting some work done on her computer for Cantico and I was not-quite-so-happily searching for some superior interest rate on homes. Both of us were within 10 feet of Jackson the entire time—so much for my theory that Jackson does what he does because he is running wild downstairs while Karen hibernates upstairs in her office. To make a long story short, Jackson invented a new taste sensation:  ½ half bottle of apple juice, to which you add all your left over mash potatoes and generous handfuls of Chex cereal. Top the concoction off with a steak knife dropped into the murky substance for good measure. My frustration when I glanced up to see the disgusting mess was mitigated by my admiration for the dexterity he was using to add additional Chex mix through the little bottle opening. All of a sudden Karen’s stories of finding the phone in the cereal box or dish cupboard made much more sense.

I have observed even in the few days that I have been here that Karen is not one to be easily defeated or even outsmarted. If keeping track of Jackson is critical to one’s success as a parent and Jackson excels at escaping—especially now that he is so dexterous at climbing out of his crib—there must be a solution.  I was dumbfounded when I went to put Jackson to bed and saw he had a “crib tent”….a very stylish version of what amounts to a “toddler cage.” It is made of heavy-duty white netting and curved supports—kind of like a dome tent—and attaches firmly to the crib. Once the intended creature is “in the cage” you zip it closed (from the outside of course) and said baby is confined until such time as you deem it appropriate to release them. Magical! Crib tents are the boon to bedtime that car seats were to car travel. The amazing thing is that she has Jackson convinced he likes it. I rocked him and read him four stories at bedtime—okay, I read “Are You My Mother” three times until I couldn’t handle it another time and finished off with a different story, said prayers with him and put him down in his crib. I covered him up and he pointed up and said, “Zip it, Zip it!” No problem, Jackson. Your wish is my command! Silence in the house until the next morning when Jackson is perfectly capable of making it clear that he is ready to be let out. I don’t know why the heck I didn’t have such a thing when my kids were little. Maybe I would have had a few more.

Speaking of baby accessories…I was never really into the baby-food thing as a mom. I sort of went from “nursing baby” to “sit-in-the-high-chair-and-stuff-finger-food-in-yourself” stage. However, that isn’t an option here since Addy is a nursing baby whose mom left for four days. Enter in an invention second only to the Crib-tent. Its called a Bumbo and I don’t know exactly how to describe how wonderful it is to someone who has never seen it. It is basically a cleverly molded plastic seat that is miraculously shaped in such a way to support a baby as soon as they are strong enough to hold their head up. No flopping from side to side or slumping over. It sits on the counter or table in front of you and holds the baby in the perfect position and angle to stick little spoonfuls of food in. In fact, if you picture a little baby bird with its beak open ready for dinner you can picture what Addy looks like in the Bumbo. It's quite adorable and almost makes it enjoyable to deal with the whole rice-cereal-mushed-fruit-and-veggie stuff. Combine the Bumbo with the Baby Bjorn, the ExerSaucer, the Jumperoo, the Floor Gym, the Motorized Swing, the Bouncy Seat, The Co-Sleeper, Latch-System Car Seat (which is a huge improvement on my generation of car seats), the single stroller, the double stroller, etc, etc, and I’ve got this kid covered! Ignore the fact that it took hours of training to know who to use them all.

Yesterday morning Camryn woke up to find that the Hamster had gone AWOL yet again. This time Jackson was safely locked in his crib tent so we realized that after eight months the hamster had figured out how to let himself out of his cage when we weren’t looking. A frantic search ensued before school, but to no avail. The children left for school totally distraught with grief. I on the other hand, had a much more pragmatic outlook. One escape constitutes a crisis. A second escape constitutes stupidity on the part of the rodent and elicits very little compassion for the creature from me. The search after school was equally unproductive. By bedtime Jared had come to grips with the fact that his pet hamster might be permanently gone. It seemed to me the situation had only a few very stinky alternatives:  1) The hamster would die somewhere in the house…a stinky alternative, or  2) The hamster would NOT die somewhere in the house, but would continue to run freely around doing what hamsters do best…making yet another very stinky mess all over the house. Neither alternative looked particularly attractive when we headed to bed last night with the hamster still missing in action.

This morning Jared woke up bright and early, went downstairs and looked for the hamster. Apparently the hamster liked the familiarity of the downstairs bathroom closet because during the night he had returned to his previous nesting haunt. This was much happier alternative, but definitely not a stink-free scenario. Now Jared has to come home and not only do a thorough cleaning of the hamster’s cage (way overdue, by the way) but he has a good collection of “hamster souvenirs” to clean up all over the downstairs. All this reminds me that however superior hamsters are to mice, rats, etc, a rodent is still a rodent!

Jared shouldn’t feel too bad. While he is cleaning up after the hamster, Camryn and I can clean up after Jackson. The boy has a fun pastime… he takes every toy he can find and hucks it over the top balcony three floors down to the back lawn. The mystery is that no one seems to see him do it, but the evidence down on the ground is undisputable…the only thing Jackson loves more than Curious George is hucking things!

Well, I will give up this blogging pastime for the time being and get back to the more pertinent realities of life like cooking lunch, changing diapers, putting in laundry, doing dishes, sweeping up the floors…  Gosh…maybe I should change places with Karen permenantly!

5 comments:

Emily Laing said...

Oh my gosh!! I love it! Really, when my dad came to visit he asked me point blank if I spent all my time in the kitchen. Yes, Yes I did. 3 meals, 3 snacks and that is why my kitchen is never clean.

Ranell said...

I take full credit for both the crib tent and the bumbo ... really, they were my idea! Not like I invented them or anything, but I suggested them to Karen, and they work like magic! (The bumbo is even borrowed from Natalie whose 'bum' was so big she would get stuck in the bumbo, but she loved it all the same.) I'm glad they make Karen's life easier, and I'm glad they made your life easier while you were here.

Oh, you didn't write about how you made treats and drove them all the way across town to my house (I was really impressed you knew how to get here ... oh, wait, Jackson probably showed you the way.)

You're a great mom to come and take over Karen's hectic life for her so she could get away! We're going to Hawaii in November and I'm looking for a babysitter for my 3 rascals ... are you up for the challenge? ; )

Ranell said...

I take full credit for both the crib tent and the bumbo ... really, they were my idea! Not like I invented them or anything, but I suggested them to Karen, and they work like magic! (The bumbo is even borrowed from Natalie whose 'bum' was so big she would get stuck in the bumbo, but she loved it all the same.) I'm glad they make Karen's life easier, and I'm glad they made your life easier while you were here.

Oh, you didn't write about how you made treats and drove them all the way across town to my house (I was really impressed you knew how to get here ... oh, wait, Jackson probably showed you the way.)

You're a great mom to come and take over Karen's hectic life for her so she could get away! We're going to Hawaii in November and I'm looking for a babysitter for my 3 rascals ... are you up for the challenge? ; )

Ranell said...

Woah, somehow my comment posted twice, I'm not sure why or how. I'm not trying to take over the comment page or anything ... but it will make Karen and Laurel happy to all the comments left on this page, won't it?

Greek Goddess said...

Well written, guest mommy-blogger. I just had to mention, that last night my son grabbed our two (?!)copies of "Are you my mother" off the shelf and made my husband read both of them. We tried to tell him it was going to be the same story, but he wanted it anyway. So your story made me smile. Wish I had a mom closer by. My parents currently reside in Kiev (building the temple there) and my in-laws are temple presidents in Recife, Brazil. So no grandparents around for us. :( Boo hoo. Karen is lucky to have you!!!