If it weren’t for that “cheeky little engine” Caveman would be glued to my leg 24/7.
Thomas from the “Island of Sodor” is the center of all Caveman’s routines. And nothing, I mean NOTHING, can disrupt them.
At bedtime, I must cram myself into Caveman’s mini-bed and listen to a CD of Thomas stories.
And Caveman has other bedtime rules that must be obeyed. I know I may not leave the bed until the first story on the CD is over. Believe Me, I’ve tried. Caveman responds by grabbing Me by the hair and forcing my head back on the tiny, infant pillow we share.
Last night we were following all the procedures: I was wrapped around Caveman and listening to our CD, when I heard a high-pitched shriek coming from the Family room and…
Mini-Me: “YOU MESSED ME UP!”
Mini-Man: “Okay, go ahead. I won’t do it. Start again.”
Then I hear Mini-Me counting and making a disgusting, slurping noise.
Mini-Me: “seventy-nine (slurp), eighty (slurp), eighty-one (slurp), eighty-two…”
I’m listening to her count when suddenly I hear Mini-Man yelling out miscellaneous numbers in a monotone voice.
Mini-Man: “Fifty-eight, ninety, twenty-four, thirty—”
Mini-Me: ” Come ON! I’m telling! MOM! MOM! MOM!”
Now the first Thomas story is not over, so I know I can’t respond to Mini-Me’s cries for help. That would be breaking the rules, and Caveman would punish me for that.
Instead, I grit my teeth and wait until the bell rings on the CD, signaling the end of the first story. And like Pavlov’s dog, I respond appropriately to the bell by giving Caveman a kiss goodnight and turning down the lights.
I hurry into the Family room to find Mini-Me hopping madly around with a Tootsie Pop in her hand. Mini-Man is lying on the sofa with a smug look of satisfaction on his face.
Mini-Me: (furious) “MOM! He is messing me up! Tell him to STOP!”
Me: (tired, exasperated) “WHAT is the problem?”
Mini-Me: “I’m counting how many licks it takes to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop, and HE keeps making me confused!”
Now you would think that counting the licks is just a commercial-inspired game, but to Mini-Me, it’s serious business.
Like Caveman’s obsession with Thomas, Mini-Me has her own obsessions. And one of them is trying to outdo characters on TV. That owl, or a new slick Tootsie Pop pusher, is taunting her into trying to solve the big mystery.
Mini-Man is far more cynical than Mini-Me. Age has spoiled him.
Mini-Man: “Mom, she is driving me crazy. Tell her she can’t do it. Tell her to give it up.”
Me: “No. She can count if she wants. Don’t interrupt her.”
So Mini-Me begins to count again. Mini-Man gets off the couch, throwing a smirk at me that says, “she’s all yours,” and goes to his room. I know he has beaten Me, which might have been his plan all along. He’s crafty that way.
I finally take the Tootsie Pop away from Mini-Me, jot down the number of licks she is on, and put the sucker safely away so she can continue her quest tomorrow.
So ends the day.
In my bed I listen to the now quieter sounds in the house. Caveman’s CD is playing Thomas’ “Theme Song” over the baby monitor. Man is tapping the keys of his computer. And Mini-Man is strumming his guitar and singing off-tune.
I pull out my phone and go through all twitter posts @leannrimes. Then I pull one of the books from the large stack that I MUST flip through in order to fall asleep and realize I have my own routines, my own obsessions.
I wonder what has caused all of these quirky behaviors? Why is the Family so weird?
But like the answer to the Tootsie Pop mystery, the Family may never know.
“Mini-Man has a lacrosse game in the Outer Banks,” Man said in his matter-of-fact way. What he really meant was he would take Mini-Man on an overnight trip to the beach and I would stay home with the other two non-lacrosse players.
I was envious. I wanted to watch Mini-Man play lacrosse. Also, going on a trip with Mini-Man and Man means quiet. While they can speak, they both are perfectly content not to. I mean, here I was left with Mini-Me and Caveman. And there is never peace when those characters are around.
And we would be at home with nothing planned, so we would need to manufacture our own entertainment.
Of course I had nothing to fear. Mini-Me immediately came up with a plan. She usually does.
Mini-Me: “We can have Girls’ Weekend. We’ll just do girl stuff.”
Me: “But what about Caveman. What can he do?”
Mini-Me: “He can be one of us. But just for this weekend.”
I wasn’t sure how Caveman would become one of us,” but I was flattered she felt I already had the part down. Caveman would have to improvise.
Mini-Me broke out dance music and an old mic with no chord. Her bed became the stage on which we sang and danced hip-hop routines. We took turns performing while one of “us” flicked the lights creating a strobe effect. When a slat on the bed broke, I didn’t scold. We three just moved on to the next activity.
Mini-Me: “Let’s not eat real dinner and just have popcorn and brownies. We can watch Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Mini-Man NEVER let’s me watch that movie.”
So we did.
Caveman really enjoyed being one of the girls. He liked dancing and flashing the lights. And he’d sit through the PBS News Hour if it meant eating popcorn and brownies.
In our threesome, Caveman was the clownish male character, Mini-Me was the zany blonde, while I was the uninteresting brunette. But that was fine. I, like any lackluster sidekick, enjoyed abandoning my responsible demeanor to get mixed-up in their crazy antics. And in the end, like in any good sit-com, we uncovered a truth that we hadn’t realized before.
When it was time for bed, Mini-Me made a keen observation…
Mini-Me: “Caveman is fun.”
This is an unusual comment since Mini-Me is usually wailing because Caveman has destroyed the paper cup she transformed into a puppet or some other precious creation. Caveman is a pro at infuriating Mini-Me and then skittering gleefully away.
“Caveman wants to include everyone,” she continued. ” He doesn’t care who you are.”
And it’s true. Caveman’s ability to bring everyone into his everyday adventures is remarkable.
We might all be in the backyard and Caveman will discover some slugs. He’ll poke them, hold them and then grab some leaves to cover them. And then, to anyone who comes near
he’ll say, “You try?”
You can’t say no to his sparkling smile and sincere invitation, so you take the slug he has thrust into your hand.
“You try” is Caveman’s pat phrase. He says this when eating a cookie, throwing a ball into the neighbor’s flowers, or getting off the potty. He just wants someone, anyone, to experience his everyday pleasures.
And that’s the ticket, isn’t it? The three of us didn’t go on the cool trip. We didn’t see the lacrosse game or the beach. We never even left the house. It was just we three. And that was company enough.
I obviously have no business wearing this shirt.
I save this costume for the rare occasions when I’m in public, alone and away from the Family. In it, I am transformed. I chat with stressed-out strangers in store check-out lines. In fact, I let these people cut in front of me. No big deal. I do this kind of thing all the time. I am full of good deeds and simply ooze bliss.
But in reality….
I am the Oscar-winning star of my own daily drama. And clearly my mini-deeds have not accrued many karma points.
It started when Caveman decided to paint his cave. He did not use markers. He did not use crayons. Instead, he used the contents of his diaper.
His bedroom looked like scenes from Manson’s Helter Skelter, only stinkier. Dark foot prints trailed in a non-sensical pattern on the floor. And small, smeared handprints covered the walls and back of the door.
Kiefer Southerland, real-life star of the TV show 24, would have screamed. He ain’t seen nothing like this in his career at the Counter Intellingence Unit. And he has real weapons at his disposal. I’m unarmed.
So,did I scream? Not initially. I just gasped at the sight of Caveman lying naked in his bed. He was asleep and camouflaged with mud-like streaks across his face and body. And his feet looked like he had walked through a hot blacktop but the tar remained.
I finally did scream, but for good reason. I needed Man to come help me clean up.
Me: “Please come up here. I’m in Caveman’s room. And bring a mop and lots of Lysol.”
Thank Gaawd Man is not squeamish. He quickly joined the team and together we got rid of all the evidence. Caveman’s room was even cleaner than the day before.
And so the day continued. At pick-up time I was exhausted and asked Man if he wouldn’t mind leaving his office and getting Mini-Me at school. He, again, was part of our special forces and retrieved her on time.
I then went to pick up Mini-Man exactly 15 minutes later. And that’s when the action started.
I should have known something was up when Mini-Man jumped into the car Starsky-and-Hutch-style and told me to “Go! Go!” Suddenly his teacher appeared at my window holding a math workbook with dozens of yellow post-its sticking off the pages.
Teacher: (smiling knowingly) “I just need him to make some corrections over the weekend.”
Me: (temporarily calm, even without wearing the t-shirt) “I see. He will definitely get it done.”
We pulled out of carpool line and onto the road. And that’s when the real Me started yelling.
Me: “Are you kidding me? What is this about? You are sooo lucky that teacher doesn’t kick you out of the math group.”
Leave it to Mini-Man to not respond. Sometimes we trade places and he’s the adult. He knows if he just looks regretful and is quiet he will force Me to stop lecturing.
Me: ( a little more quietly) “You are just going to have to get it all done this weekend.”
Later that night I went to Mini-Man’s bedroom to check on him. He was dead asleep. That is until I decided to adjust his pillow.
He woke up , but instead of getting mad he said in a muffled voice, “I love you, Mom.” He must have been dreaming about some other Mom. The Dream Mom who cooks great dinners and is calm when faced with frustration.
Or maybe he has come to terms with the fact that his real-life Mom is a spaz.
Let’s face it. Real-life Mom wears t-shirts in order to become the person she wants to be. She tries to do good deeds but is not always successful. And the good karma stuff, she’s hoping someday that will come.
But for now, GOOD KARMA, NO DRAMA; well, that’s just a slogan printed on a t-shirt . And that shirt has gotten enough wear and needs to be passed on. Maybe to some other person in need of the perfect disguise.
I think it’s because being super busy gives me an excuse for not doing the boring stuff in my life.
For example, there is a pile of laundry that needs to go in the wash and I am just too busy to do it. If Mini-Man has to wear shorts to school and its 36 degrees, oh well.
And my car is full of empty Chick-Fil-A kids meal boxes and half-empty sippy cups. It needs to be cleaned but when will I find the time?
You see, I have offered to help at my children’s school, and that is far more important.
More important to me, that is.
For one, Caveman will have to go to the babysitter and his sitter is AWESOME. She’s working on potty training and I am ready to leave that one to her. She’s obviously a pro because Caveman makes less mess in the bathroom than anyone else in The Family. And he is very cute when he excitedly says, “Flush!” at the end of the process.
And, I know at school I will actually get a “thank you” for helping. I will feel appreciated. And I’ll get to talk to the teachers and they are ADULTS. I mean the real deal, not just a bagger or check-out person at Harris Teeter.
Now, Mini-Man is less enthusiastic about my being a super volunteer…
Me: “I’m going to help your class create a newspaper. I’ll be at your school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
Mini-Man: “No…No!No!No! You have to tell them you can’t. You are too embarrassing, Mom!”
Me: “Well, too bad because they need help and I’m helping.”
Mini-Man: “Okay, help, but don’t say anything like ‘you all’ or ‘okay folks’ or anything. In fact, you may not talk at all. And you definitely can not give homework. They will hunt me down and kill me if you do.
Me: “Well, I’m going to have to talk. But I think we can get the work done during class time.”
At that point Mini-Me interrupts the conversation. Normally, Mini-Me gets told she has GOT to work on her manners. However, this interruption is welcomed.
Mini-Me: “You’re coming to school? Yeah! What are you going to wear? I like it when you have your hair down long and NOT in a ponytail.”
Mini-Me is remembering the times when my hair is actually washed and brushed. She likes Me like this.
Me: “Well, I’ll do what I can. You can help me.”
Mini-Me is thrilled with this idea and starts jumping around.
It’s then that I realize she will probably have Me wearing either my yoga pants with high heeled boots or one of my old bridesmaid’s dresses, depending on the image she wants me to portray (that is, either Cool Mom or Really Glamorous Mom).
But I’m okay with all this. I’ll let her design an outfit for me.
Because this week I am just too busy, and I just don’t have time for that sort of thing.
And so does Mini-Me.
I thought I needed to take my daughter ice skating so that we could bond. You see, Mini-Me had been getting on my nerves and I needed to show her I can hang out without scolding her.
Ice skating was not the answer.
In this freezing, dimly-lit cage of a place, crazy pre-pubescent boys in hockey helmets went whizzing by. “You Spin Me Round” by The Chipmunks blared and disco lights flashed over the fake ice.
Mini-Me was in heaven.
Me, on the other hand, was not enjoying the scene. Keeping an eye on Mini-Me as she tried to dance, jump, and spin “round, round, like a record, baby” was enough to cause a complete freak-out in Me.
Me: “You are spazzing. You are gonna knock your skull on the ice. Calm down, and slow down. I do NOT feel like going to the Emergency Room today.”
Mini-Me: “Watch this!”
Me: “YOU have GOT to be CAREFUL! You have only skated once, maybe twice before. You do not know how to do these tricks.
Mini-Me: “Do you think I’m better than you?”
Now, here you would think I would want to encourage my child and say something nice like, “You are a wonderful skater.” After all, I am an adult.
Me: (with smug smile) “I think I’ve been skating longer than you, honey. I’m better.”
Mini-Me: “No. I mean when you were my age. I would be better than you, right?”
Me: (slight pause) “So, what you are asking is if we went back in time to when I was your age, would you be a better skater.”
Mini-Me: ” Yes. I think I would be. Watch what I can do.”
And at that moment Mini-Me totally rocked out. Throwing her head back, she began singing and using wild whole body gestures to the song, “Boom, Boom, Pow,” as she moved dangerously through the skate crowd.
I think she thought she really was back in my day, at my ice skating rink. And we were having an ice skating dance off. Mini-Me was in her own rock-n-roll fantasy.
And then she rocked right into the wall.
Me: (awkwardly scurrying to the side wall) “Oh my gosh. Where are you hurt?”
Mini-Me: (big tears in eyes and fake ice all over her backside) “I-I-I’m okay. My arm just hu-hu-hurts.”
The time warp was over. I was back to my proper mother self. I pulled Mini-Me up and gave her a big squeeze.
Mini-Me: “So, you think you could have done that when you were my age?”
Me: “Not in a million years.”
We went home and both took children’s pain medication. I told everyone how awesome Mini-Me was at skating and how I couldn’t believe she did so well without ever taking a lesson.
I let her be the best. She was the star.
Before going to bed, Man had to get a full recap of our adventure.
Man: “She’s pretty coordinated. I’m not surprised she did well.”
Me: “Yeah. She did…But, I can skate backwards.“
Here’s how I found out…
Man: (smiling) “So, tomorrow’s a big day.”
Me: (frowning) “Yeah, I can’t believe you have an early-morning meeting. You have GOT to plan better. Now I have to get all three kids to school and I said I’d bring Caveman in early so the teacher could help get him into school.” (Caveman becomes absolutely primal when he has to go to school. Thrashing, biting, pulling hair-it’s ugly.)
Man: “What else is going on tomorrow.”
Me: “I don’t know. I need to get Mini-Man a haircut. He is starting to look like those scary guys who sit outside RiteAid. And, I think I have to conference with his teacher. Why? What else is up?”
And then it dawned on Me.
Me: “I can’t believe I forgot our anniversary. I’m sorry. I’m just preoccupied. We should NEVER have gotten married in January. (Of course it was Me who insisted on the month and day). It’s too hard to remember with so much going on.”
Man: “It’s okay.”
Now Man and Me do not usually do full-on celebrations of anniversaries. Cards are exchanged. We go to dinner. No gifts.
But of course, this year HAD to be the year Man went all out.
During the bedtime routine, Man tucked an envelope under Me’s pillow.
Me: “Aaww, how cute. Should I wait til tomorrow? No, forget that. I want to see it now.”
Inside the envelope was a sweet card. Not like the usual ones Man gives that are funny but full of innuendo. And the message Man wrote inside went way beyond the standard,” I love you and I’m glad you still put up with me.”
Me: (reading aloud) ” Pack your bags for an overnight trip with target departure on Friday at 4pm.”
Now most wives would be brought to tears because of this considerate gesture. Me was brought to tears, but for different reasons.
Me: “I can’t believe you did this. Now I feel horrible. I forgot our anniversary. I am the worst. I am sooo lame.”
After much reassurance that Man is okay with being forgotten, I fell asleep… Only to be awakened a few hours later by Mini-Me who had awoken from one of her bad dreams.
I don’t even ask Mini-Me about her dreams anymore. The last one she described involved characters from iCarly and was extremely complicated.
I now just put Mini-Me back to bed and hope someday The Family will all get some sleep.
And maybe I’ll even start remembering the important events in my life. Don’t count on it, but I’ll keep you posted…
So, I read this book entitled Organizing the Disorganized Child by Martin L. Kutscher & Marcella Moran in response to last weeks’ freak out session on the Mini-Man. The interchange went something like this…
Me– “So, is all your homework done?”
Me- “You mean, ‘Yes Ma’am.’ Let me see it. Hmmm. It looks like you have math word problems. Where are they?”
Mini-Man-“Yeah, I forgot ’em.”
Me-“What do you mean? How are you going to turn them in? If you want to skip 5th grade math you have to turn in all assignments.”
Mini-Man-“Oh. I think I left them at school”
Me-“Are you kidding me? ‘Oh,’ is your big response? Don’t you care? You are the one who said you wanted to be in 6th grade math. You’re gonna get kicked out if you keep leaving stuff at school. You have GOT to get it together!”
Deep sigh- frustration somewhat vented but big mother guilt for yelling now in place.
After doing yoga to try and reach some epiphany, I decided to go to the bookstore and get a Mocha Java. I browsed all Self-Help and Parenting sections and finally came across Organizing the Disorganized Child. While there is no longer a Panic Room to escape to, I was able to lock myself in my bathroom and read.
Here are my comments along with Chapter Titles:
1. How Did My Child Get So Disorganized? – I skipped this one since my high school yearbook staff determined I was most likely to be… lost. I’m guessing being disorganized is in the genes.
2. What Is My Child’s Organizational Style? – One can be a visual, or spatial, or chronological organizer depending on how he answers some questions about how he thinks about past events, categorizes items and finds those items. I never really pinned down the Mini-Man. He seems to fit in many boxes or maybe none at all. However, the author says it’s OKAY to not fit in one box. I really like that answer!
3. Choosing and Setting Up the Supplies – This chapter rocked! It refers to a kid’s backpack as the Black Hole, where things go in but they don’t come out. And then it gives pictures and names of different products ie: backpacks, planners, folders, and notebooks, and how they might help your student not lose things in the Hole. It also has pictures, something I appreciate. It shows examples of different work stations and why they work for different people. The chapter also gives you a shopping list to take to the supply store with you. Yippee-Shopping!
4. Getting Work Home, Doing It, and Returning It – This chapter is why I bought the book. It describes the whole process of successfully: recording assignments, getting work home from school, how to complete the work and in what time frame (how many breaks Mini-Man may actually take). It then describes how the kid gets the work back to school and turned in on time. The chapter also gives you questions to ask your kid to determine what products or what part of the process is working or not working and why. I like this because I am often at a loss of words, make that parent/child appropriate words, with the Mini-Man.
5. Super Study Skills–I must admit I didn’t read this chapter. Mini-Man and I are just not to this level yet. I would love someone who reads it to comment.
6. The Morning and Nightime Routines– All will appreciate this one. While I don’t like being told I have to wake up 30 minutes earlier than I already am, I do get that it’s probably necessary. I also get the idea that no one (especially Mini-Me) should go back to her room once she has left. There always seems to be a last-minute urgent need for Mini-Me to bring some Webkinz animal, old bottle cap or piece of wrapping paper with her to school. And of course there is time spent explaining to Me just why it is crucial to bring these items for her survival of the day. Now I get this. I shouldn’t go back to my room either. I just might realize I haven’t brushed my hair yet or my shirt is on backwards.
Too bad Tardy isn’t a place. Mini-Me and Me would fit in perfectly.
Well, reading is as far as I got. Next week I intend to put the plan in action.
I’ll keep you posted…