Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's the best of times; it's the worst of times.

I am sitting in self-imposed exile as I write this -- safe in the soft cocoon of my bed, listening to the muted sounds of crashing, banging and shrieking coming from downstairs.  It is the second day of being snowed in at home, and my darling children have morphed into something resembling rabid monkeys.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that my sweet hubby is currently dealing with poo-slinging in the family room. 

I adore my children beyond words -- but I'm coming to terms that the reality of having two young children is a tad different than what I imagined it would be.  I always envisioned myself as a mother with endless patience... I'd wanted to be a stay-at-home mom since I was a little girl, and in my head I saw myself as Cinderella, happily dusting and sewing and talking to the birdies on the windowsill.  My children would be sitting quietly, peacefully making macaroni necklaces with Zen-like concentration.  Occasionally they would spontaneously break into song, and of course, it would be pitch-perfect.  There would be many "pleases" and "thank yous" and general respect for all.  Movies could be made about the perfection that would ultimately be our family life, and I would be frequently likened to Mary Poppins.

Did I have a big ego? Perhaps. Has reality hit me in the face? Definitely! 

Nothing brings reality into perspective like a winter of sicknesses and snow days; this is the third week in a row that Evan's been home from school for multiple days due to snow or illness. Today would have been the perfect day for a Mary Poppins moment, as we were "iced in" and had seemingly endless opportunities for constructive play and "quality time" together.  And although I make a valiant effort to cure everyone's cabin fever by engaging the children in enjoyable activities, it was not destined to be a good day.

The first hiccup in our smooth morning came while I was making breakfast for Clara.  I heard Evan holler, "Mommy, what's this?" from the other room, and ran out there to find him standing atop the computer desk, opening a tube of superglue.  After convincing him that superglue was NOT a good choice of toy, he settled for playing with his Buzz Lightyear pinata, left over from his birthday party.  I ran back to the kitchen to find that Clara had dumped the entire contents of a kitchen drawer on the floor.  I finished making Clara's egg and hoped that she would be occupied for at least a few minutes while she ate it.  She took the egg patty in her hand, screamed, ripped it in pieces and threw it on the floor.  Then she stomped off crying.  I followed her into the family room, only to find Evan sitting in the middle of the floor, pulling off all the little pieces of paper from his pinata and scattering them all over the carpet.  He was delighted with himself and seemed to be under the impression that he was the first person ever to figure out that the little scraps of paper actually come off.

After explaining the gravity of the situation and trying frantically to keep Clara from gobbling up all the little papers (she seemed to find them way more yummy than her egg patty), I was finally able to convince Evan to clean up the mess.  I then took the family downstairs to watch a movie in the basement.  I figured a change of venue would distract them from their destructive play.  After plopping Evan firmly on the sofa and issuing a clear "Stay" command, I started the movie and went back upstairs with Clara to see if I could find her something else to eat.  After sampling and rejecting no less than four different foods, she finally agreed to eat a yogurt and then cheered up a bit.

I returned downstairs to find that the basement had transformed in my absence; Evan had occupied himself by rearranging all the furniture.  Even though the floor is laminate and sort of slippery, this task involved moving a very large sofa and loveseat, and two heavy wooden end tables.  He must have been quite determined, and I wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or impressed.  I decided that in the spirit of picking my battles carefully, I would let this one go and just try and enjoy the new furniture arrangement.  After all, it was certainly a layout we hadn't thought of! 

After about twenty minutes he grew weary of furniture moving and decided to take some packing material out of a box that one of his Christmas presents came in.  There was a rather large piece of styrofoam in it that he wanted to play with, and I assumed he was going to build a castle or some other structure with it -- a parking garage for his Matchbox cars seemed a likely possibility.  He announced that he needed one of Daddy's tools from his toolbox and proceeded to let himself into the unfinished area of the basement where my husband's workbench is.  I followed him in and was cautioning him that Daddy's tools are not for play when I heard a loud crack behind me, followed by a fizz and the wafting, hoppy smell of a good beer.  Clara had stealthily followed me, and she had taken a particular interest in the collection of specialty beers that were sitting in a box against the wall.  My beloved Oatmeal Stout was soaking into the cement, and Clara was going after another beer to see if all the bottles did the fun exploding thing.

I quickly shooed both kids back out to the finished area of the basement.  I noticed that Evan had a rather large vice grip in his hands, but since it didn't have any sharp edges, I quickly assessed that he probably couldn't do too much damage with it.  I closed the door and used one of the sofa blankets to mop up the delicious beer.  I debated shedding a tear at this point but decided there was no use crying over spilled malt. 

When I had satisfactorily mopped up the mess and cleaned up the scattered shards of glass, I reemerged into the finished area of the basement to find Evan wielding the vice like a hammer and punching huge holes in the styrofoam, splintering little fragments all over the floor.  It looked like it was snowing in our basement.  Clara was delighted, and she was gathering up the tiniest pieces and popping them in her mouth like bread crumbs. 

I believe I audibly shrieked at this point -- I'm not entirely sure... it was sort of an out-of-body moment.

I grabbed both children, hauled them back upstairs, and declared that it was nap time for everybody!

Reflecting upon a day like this, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  It is amazing, however, how it can all turn around in the course of a few minutes, with a tender kiss from my child or an unsolicited "I love you Mommy."  A little while ago I had to take a break from writing to put the children to bed, and when I was singing Evan his lullabies, I reminded myself that I will miss these days when the kids get older.  I will miss how much Evan needs me to help him fall asleep... I will miss how much they both need me for everything.  I am grateful for it all -- all the drama and the laughs and even the tears.  It gives my life purpose and dimension, and we are making some crazy memories!!  I suppose I really would rather have it this way -- to be such an imperfect Mommy to my two adorable little monkeys -- then to be Mary Poppins.  After all, Mary Poppins only ever got an hour and a half of fun before her movie was over, and I get a whole lifetime of joy and adventure.  We are so very blessed, and these truly are the best times!
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