Sunday, January 23, 2011

Whether to Laugh or Cry

When Mike works a lot the mood in my house changes quite a bit. Normally we're pretty happy-go-lucky, and we all get along pretty well. Mike and I are careful to give each other a bit of private time when we're both home, like to take a twenty-minute nap in the middle of the day, or to disappear to check our favorites online. The kids are wonderful, don't get me wrong. But there are three of them. The oldest is five. And none of them requires very much sleep.

Mike is often on call for work...he works in HVAC and in the middle of a bad PA winter, emergency heater repairs are in high demand. Sometimes he is on call and doesn't get called at all. Other times, like this weekend, he is working more hours than a normal - or an overtime - weekday. The thing is, after a few days it gets really hard to stay sane and be with the kids full-time.

It's like camping.

You know.

Intense. (I'll be here all week)

The kids (and I) get kind of cabin-fevery after a day inside and taking them out is challenging with all their winter gear. We have to go out, though, so we don't go insane, and often when we do they're (and I'm) already a little wild around the eyes from the aloneness of having just one adult in the house. I admire single parents, for sure. I have no idea how I would do it all on my own.

This past Saturday I packed up the kids and we went to my parents’ house for dinner. In the car on the way there the older two started arguing and I shushed them, told them to be quiet until we got to Grandma and Pop-Pop’s. The car was calm for nearly a minute before the baby (Jo is 14 months now) grumbled, “Mommy” in this gravelly kind of caveman voice. It sounded like “Mah-MEH.” Two seconds later she said it again. “Mah-MEH.” It was only after the fourth or fifth time that a pattern became evident. She wasn’t babbling so much as she was chanting.

“Mah-MEH (pause) (pause) Mah-MEH (pause) (pause) Mah-MEH….”

Gage caught onto the rhythm and joined her.

“Mah-MEH” Two kids, in perfect rhythm.

Lila was not to be left behind.

“Mah-MEH (pause) (pause) Mah-MEH.”

Three kids, showing more rhythm together than any one of them has shown individually in their short little lives.

“Mah-MEH (pause) (pause) Mah-MEH (pause) (pause) Mah-MEH….”

Me? My eye was twitching. My chest was starting to get a little tight.

“Mah-MEH (pause) (pause) Mah-MEH (pause) (pause) Mah-MEH….”

“WE’RE HERE!” My voice was shrill with obvious relief. “We’re here! We’re at Grandma’s! GET OUT OF THE CAR!”

I thought that was a close enough risk to my sanity for the night – I thought I was in the clear. Certainly they’d gotten their crazies out. That’s why I said “Sure” when my mom asked if I wanted to go to Target after dinner. (Where, I might add, I was pushing the cart and reciting my ongoing monologue of ‘Jo, sit in the seat. Gage, don’t walk in front of the cart – you’re going to get bumped. Lila, I said hold onto the cart. Jo, SIT!’ when an older gentleman thoughtfully – not rudely, but interestedly – observed: ‘It’s like herding cats.’)

They did it to me again on the way there, except this time about Cornland.

What, you’ve never heard of Cornland? Before Saturday, neither had I.

We were driving past a big park surrounded by fields, and, admittedly, in the fall these fields grow row after row of corn. But it’s the dead of winter and there’s not a cob to be had.

Lila randomly yells from the backseat: “Gage! We’re in Cornland!”

Gage, the self-imagined ever-cooler big brother, glances disinterestedly out the window before quietly answering: “I can’t hear you, Lila.”

Lila: “Gage! Gage, I said, we’re in Cornland!”

Gage: “What?”

Lila: “Gage!”

Gage: “Yeah?”

Lila: “We’re in Cornland!”

Gage: “What?”

Lila: “Gage! We’re in CORNland.”

Gage: “What?”

Me: “Lila! Lila, he can hear you!” Next to me my mom is laughing.

Lila: “No, he says he can’t! He says he can’t hear me! Gage! We’re in CORNLAND!”

Gage: “What?”


Me: “Lila, I promise he can hear you. I can hear you VERY well and he’s even closer.”

Gage: “I can’t hear Lila.”

Lila: “CORN! LAND!”

Me: “WE’RE HERE! We’re at Target! GET OUT OF THE CAR!”

However much I need a vacation, I love these kids. Man, do I love these kids. And man, do they love their Mah-MEH.