Blue Day

Look! It's Blue Day again, but not "Style Your Hair and Put Make-up On" Day
Look! It’s Blue Day again, but not “Style Your Hair and Put Make-up On” Day

It was a typical morning. The beds were made, boys were dressed, I got myself ready and headed to the kitchen to join the family for breakfast. That’s when it all changed. One simple, seemingly harmless observation was all it took.

“Hey! You’re wearing a blue shirt and so is Daddy – did you guys plan that?” I asked Son #3 who was busy eating his cereal.

He paused, mid-shovel, looked down at his clothes, then gasped, “I’m wearing blue, too!”

“Yes, that’s what I just said.”

“I’m wearing blue and Daddy is wearing blue!”

(do I not get credit for stating that very observation ten seconds ago? Nothing? Not even a nod?)

“I’m wearing blue, Daddy is wearing blue and so are you!” and he pointed to Son #4.

“Yes, it’s almost like you planned it. Is today Blue Day?”

“So, Daddy is wearing blue, I am wearing blue, that brother is, but NOT THAT BROTHER.”

“Right, like I said, lots of us are wearing blue today.”

“I have blue on my shirt, see?!” piped up Son #1, clamouring to be included in this momentous occasion.

“But it’s not ALL blue, like Daddy and me,” retorted #3.

“It’s blue. Right. Here,” #1 shot back.

“That means one, two, three, THREE of are wearing blue.”

“And me,” #1 angry-whispered, not willing to back down.

Me: “I’m wearing a blue shirt today, too, but it’s not the same shade.” (What? Why was I still engaging in this conversation? Somebody stop me).

#3 glances at me and shouts, “Hey! You’re wearing blue, too. That means, one, two, three, FOUR of us are wearing blue.”

Are you even hearing me? Maybe they can’t see me. Wait, Bearded Husband just rolled his eyes at me, so I’m definitely visible.

#2 Son strolls into the kitchen.

“Wait, that brother has blue on his shirt so that means, one, two, three, four FIVE of us have blue on. But only me and Daddy are wearing the same blue. ACTUALLY, he has some blue on, too. So that means, one, two, three, four, five SIX of us are wearing blue today. But only me and Daddy are wearing the same blue.”

#2 shrugs and exits kitchen.

#4 randomly shouts out, “NooooooOOOO,” just to be controversial, then struts out of the room.

This will not do. #3 throws his arms up in the air in exasperation, “But it ISN’T.

I’ve lost track, what were we debating? Is it hot day? Did I put pants on? I’m so confused.

#3, “We all have blue on, it’s like it’s Blue Day.”

Yes, yes it is.

———


giphy

 

 

The Brother Commission

If you think kids aren’t organizing, you are sadly mistaken.

Brothers, gather round. Our agenda for today’s meeting is quite full, so we should get started on time. Keith, I believe we talked about not bringing our light sabres to these discussion groups. If you feel that strongly, then you should have added that to today’s agenda.

Item one: Play Time.

We are only partway through winter and the novelty of our Christmas gifts wore off weeks ago. Let’s face facts, Mom isn’t exactly bringing her A-game when it comes to our recreation time. We all heard her recent rant about it not being her “job” to “entertain” us and if we are “bored” there’s “dusting” we can do, followed by some muttering about that’s why she gave us brothers. So we are on our own. At least until Daddy gets home.

Everyone loves a round or two of Toilet Tag, but let’s workshop it a bit to make it more fun. No, Keith – you know weapons are not allowed. Keep thinking.

Let’s hear from Littlest. His attention span is the shortest so he will likely leave before we adjourn.

Brilliant! Underwear Toilet Tag. So simple, yet so effective. Same game, but in only our underwear. All in agreement? Motion passed.

Ok, technically the Chair does not recognize Littlest again, but to avoid a tantrum, let him speak.

Another home run idea! Underwear Basement Balloon Soccer. It combines two of our favourite things: physical aggression and pantlessness. Pass him a gummi worm, he deserves it.

I move we continue to workshop this skivvies theme. All in favour? Great, let’s do this.

What else is better in underwear? Speak slowly, the five-year-old is taking minutes.

Restaurant

Pet Store

Train Station

Sibling Sandwich. Someone is going to have to get Mommy on board with us using the couch cushions. She wasn’t thrilled when we made that labyrinth last week and then “forgot” to put them back.

Air Hockey. Probably to do with aerodynamics, further study is needed.

Hide-and-Seek. I think we all remember last Thursday’s unfortunate incident, so a reminder to steer clear of folding doors.

Puzzles

Breakfast

Snack

Lunch

Snack. Yes, Keith, both snack times will be proposed.

Dinner. Let’s agree to keep working on Daddy regarding this one, he’s so focussed on “hygiene”. I think Mommy has just resigned herself, so she’s a potential ally.

Listen, we need to adjourn for Snack Time. Sorry, Keith, for now, keep your pants on.

No, YOU Must be Busy

Picture it. My living room, mid-winter, a playdate with a few girl friends and their preschoolers. I was on a maternity leave with our fourth baby and needed to vent.

“Four boys. Are they all yours?

Wow. FOUR boys – you must be busy.

You know, I’m getting a little tired of being asked that. What? Since I have all boys they must be holy terrors that run me ragged? I don’t think I like the implication that having male offspring automatically means I live in a zoo. Humph, I bet if I had a mix of boys and girls I wouldn’t get asked that. I bet if I had ALL GIRLS no one would say that to me. Sure, I have temporarily misplaced a son in grocery store. And there was that time that I couldn’t find one of them in the library, but that’s because they are little, not because I have too many or that they are boys.

Ok,  they are MOSTLY good boys.
Ok, they are MOSTLY good boys.

When strangers gawk in disbelief that I can smile while carting my four young sons around, I feel defensive. THESE ARE GOOD CHILDREN. They don’t run out into traffic, they haven’t broken any bones (yet. There was that gash to the head during a game of Naked Run, but come on, every kid does that).

I’m not some freak show that people can just come up to me and comment on my procreation. I WON’T BE YOUR DANCING MONKEY.”

My friend slowly sipped her coffee, placed her mug down and calmly asked, “well are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Are you busy?”

I pondered this question for a few seconds, lowered my eyes and quietly answered, “Yes.”

“So, maybe they are just honouring that fact and in a round-about way giving you a pat on the back.”

“Yeah, well… MAYBE YOU ARE RIGHT.”

——-

This is why we need friends, people. To talk you down from the ledge, to tell you that your sweater is looking a little frumpy, that your eyebrows need attending, that your house is “clean enough”, and that maybe, sometimes you need to just settle down, Crazy.

Love, With a Side of Passive Aggression

Gathering together to enjoy a meal is a powerful pastime. It brings people closer, allowing us to pause from busyness and share stories or solve problems as a family. If not for Family Mealtime how would we know that a classmate at school can burp the entire alphabet? If we didn’t eat dinner together we’d never know about the time our seven-year-old’s class put a whoopee cushion on the music teacher’s chair. I still don’t know who broke my hairband, but we did find out who keeps forgetting to flush. But most importantly, how would we teach the boys about passive aggression?

Allow me to explain.

After a lovely meal that everyone enjoyed (as always) and praised their doting mother (me) for cooking from scratch, the light-hearted banter transitioned into Family Devotion time. It began with a simple question: How can we show God we love Him? and the answers were as follows (I wrote them down as soon as I could for the sake of accuracy).

What’s for dessert?

We’re having Halloween treats, remember?

Let me try that again, “How can we show God we love Him?”

By not saying “shut up or stupid”.

By not hitting.

Asking before you take someone’s Lego that they were only putting down for a minute to go use the washroom.

This line of response was deteriorating quickly into a laundry list of sibling infractions – they started throwing everyone under the bus.

Stop waking up so early.

Not arguing about sleeping later.

Not arguing about having no clock in your room. Ahem.

Not whining about taking off your shoes by yourself. (that was mine, I confess)

Not poking people.

Not peeking at your birthday presents.

Not breaking toys and then they are broke.

They were volleying their thinly veiled digs back and forth at a rapid pace. I tried to change the tone of responses and frame it more positively.

Maybe say ‘sorry’ if you break something?

Yeah, and not staring at people when we’re at the table.

Keeping your feet off someone else’s leg. (that was Bearded Husband, he really likes his personal space)

Not pitching a fit when it’s time to get in the van. (me again)

Letting me someone else empty the top rack of the dishwasher instead of always calling it first because it has less dishes.

Or how about not always taking the seat closest to the TV every time?

"Letting me off the swing when I said I was done"
“Letting me off the swing when I said I was done”

I’m sure God appreciated the many specific examples we generated. And that we followed it up by holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” like we do every mealtime. Scouts honour.

Mom’s McSpiral

It’s date night with one of my favourite little people. Despite my attempts to go to anywhere else, that mini-human is sure to chose the Golden Arches. And thus begins the strategic planning to eat healthy despite being in this fast-food nexus.

Tastes like happy, but wit an aftertaste of regret.
Tastes like happy, but with an aftertaste of regret.

Okay, I’ll go there, but I’m going to eat a quick snack beforehand so I’m not ravenous and succumb to temptation.

No time. No problem. I’ll just get water and a salad.

Well, maybe not a salad. A wrap – yes, a veggie wrap. That’s a good choice.

A veggie wrap is almost like eating negative calories, so I’ll get a small pop instead of water. Wouldn’t want to seem too self-righteous to my dear, sweet french fry-eating child.

Mmmm. French fries. No. 

Since I’m not ordering fries, I’ll get the chicken wrap. That extra protein will satisfy any cravings I might encounter.

A chicken wrap, easy on the dressing. They custom order, right?

I wouldn’t want to seem too choosey, so I’ll take it the way they prepare it.

Seems a shame to get the grilled chicken. I’ll get the crispy. All those veggies still make it healthy. Mostly.

A chicken wrap, small pop. That’s it.

Those fries just came out of the fryer. So hot and fresh. 

No. I’ll just snag a few when the little guy isn’t looking.

He'll know. He always knows.
He’ll know. He always knows.

He’s always looking. I think he counts the total before he starts eating.

I’ll get my own, to keep the peace. But just a small.

A chicken wrap, pop, and fries. 

How much is that chicken wrap?

A cheeseburger is pretty low-cost. We do live on a budget. I’ll just get that. It’s for the children.

Saving some serious money not getting that over-priced chicken wrap. I think I can get the medium fries. 

Yes, I’m ready to order: cheeseburger, medium fries, and a small pop, please. 

Wait, it’s the same price for a larger drink? Well, then it seems wasteful not to upsize.

How am I paying? 

With my dignity, thanks.

The Super Effect

Mommy, I have a snack?

No, Little, it’s almost dinner.

But I SUPER hungry.

I SUPER not want to listen to you.
I SUPER not want to listen to you.

——-

Daddy, I have a popsicle?

They’re for after dinner.

But I SUPER want it now.

——-

I have a drink?

No, Little, it’s bedtime.

But I SUPER thirsty.

——-

I SUPER want a piggyback ride.

——-

I SUPER want to play the piano

It’s not your turn, buddy.

——-

I play on your iPhone?

No.

But I SUPER want to.

——

You take my shoes off, Mommy?

You can do it yourself.

But I SUPER not do it.

——-

I be excused?

You’re not done your food.

But I SUPER done eating.

——

I’m just going to start using this strategy, too. Sorry, I’m not doing yard duty, I SUPER don’t want to.

Nope, I SUPER hate cleaning toilets.

I’m just going to stay in bed, guys, because I SUPER love sleeping.

——–

What do you feel SUPER passionate about (or SUPER want to avoid)?

 

Aches, Pains, and Ginger Ale

I had already pushed my luck and stayed up later than I should have. Just as I was drifting off to sleep sometime after midnight a little voice cried out, “Mommy!” I hopped out of bed to discover my third born quietly crying in the bathroom. He was tired, hot, and the light was “too bright”. I comforted him and tucked him back into bed only to be beckoned once again a mere twenty minutes later with more tears.

This good-natured almost-five-year-old rarely complains. I did my best to find out what was bothering him and then he drifted back to sleep. This is where is all becomes fuzzy. At some point in the wee hours of the morning he succumbed to a stomach bug. My Bearded Husband and I agreed long ago that this clean-up was my department (don’t worry, he takes care of vermin and clogged drains) so he sweetly asked me for help when he discovered our boy covered in sick. It always amazes me how I can be yanked from a deep sleep and jump into decisive and efficient action. Not bragging, I’m really surprised at myself every time. I cannot recall how often this scenario repeated, but by 6AM I knew I would not be able to be an effective (or pleasant) teacher with so little sleep and a potential conduit of “bleh” coursing through my body. I called in my last remaining Family Care day.

When I got up for the first time that day (or was it last? I was so confused) my body cried out at the injustice. I tense up whenever one of the boy is sick so my entire upper back was knotted and turning my head was a challenge (just stay out of my peripheral vision boys and the world is your oyster today). I had that queasy feeling you get from pulling all-nighters, but those supply notes weren’t going to write themselves. In fact, I wrote them twice. Once for the wrong day, and once for the correct one.

We muddled through the start of our day surprisingly well. My little guy kept down his toast and ginger ale and seemed to be on the mend. Mid-morning, however, he had that drained and pasty look and told me he was cold. Nothing a good cuddle couldn’t fix, right?

He's a twitchy sleeper, that one.
He’s a twitchy sleeper, that one.

I gladly wrapped my arms around my boy and we sat quietly on the couch together looking at the family portraits on the wall. “I wish I was sick every day so then I could always get to have pop,” he told me just moments before he drifted off to sleep. On my lap. Curled up and snoring. That hasn’t happened in at least three years. My neck started to ache, my left foot fell asleep and I had an itch I couldn’t reach because my arm was pinned under my boy who all too soon will turn five.

And it was completely worth it.

Celebrating all of you who are the special someone to someone little. Or big.

It’s Not Colouring Without U

You colour with me, Mommy?

Sure, Little.

I get the Elmo colouring book. Sit at the table. No, in this chair.  I colour this page and you do it with me, okay?

You got it, bud.

I'll colour all the eyeballs. Not creepy at all.
I’ll colour all the eyeballs. Not creepy at all.

It’s okay you can’t reach the page, Mommy, just hold your arm really benty. Yes, just like that. But don’t stop colouring. (Big Bird needs to be half-complete by the end of this, just like every other page in this book.)

No, like this. LIKE THIS.
No, like this. LIKE THIS.

You use the pink. Axshly, you all done with pink. I use that. Here’s a blue one. Why are you stopping? Move your colourer like this. Kay, I do this page – you do the grass. Blue is fine. BLUE. IS. FINE.

 

I'm just going to fix this for you.
I’m just going to fix this for you.

Move over, but don’t leave. I do it. Why aren’t you colour? No, I do it myself. I do it myself. I DO IT MYSELF.

Dinner time, please put your colouring things away, Little.

I all done now. You do it, Mommy. 

 

Mine turn?

Moms tend to claim that we get Mother’s Day because labour is the worst. It’s pretty bad, but I’ll tell you the real reason: bath time.

I quietly tiptoe upstairs on a Saturday for a little relaxation in the tub. My expectations are not high, just 15 minutes or so to soak and unwind in the calm ambiance of the bathtub.

Alone.

I clear out the hodge podge of bath toys and turn on the water. No need for bubbles, I know this won’t be a long soak (see how resigned realistic I am?).

No time for the water wheel today
No time for the water wheel today

Just as I get in a little face peeks through the door (how did I forget to lock it?) and chirps sweetly: “I, too?”

I tell Little that it’s just Mommy’s turn.

“I soon?”

Sure, you’re next. Close the door.

He pulls the door shut and I presume he goes off to play. That is until I turn on the hot water and hear a muffled tiny voice ask, “mine turn now?”

No, not yet.

I now realize he is standing right outside the door. Any time I make any noise he inquires: “mine turn?”

No, just rinsing my hair.

“I turn now?”

Nope, just dropped my razor.

“I go now?”

No, soon. Still bathing.

“Mommy, me go? Now?”

Pretty soon.

“I go?”

That was just your brother flushing a toilet somewhere else in the house.

“Mine turn? Mommy?”

Nope, toilet again.

“I come in?”

I think a brother just got a drink.

I keep my head under water hoping for the illusion of isolation, but fun fact: you can still hear someone opening and closing all the dresser drawers. Repeatedly. With vigor.

I pretend not to hear the slamming and convince myself I won’t discover my underwear strewn around the room. Or on his head. Or both.  I’m pretty sure I hear him nosing around in my jewellery box, but those macaroni necklaces will just have to sacrifice themselves for my inner peace.

The sound of the water draining from the tub is like a rally cry. He scurries back to the door to ask one more time: “Mine turn? Now?”

Yes, Little, your turn.

Thrilled, he strips himself down (something he has vowed to be unable to do, I won’t forget that slip-up, you’re on your own now with your coat, buddy) and clamours into the tub.

That lobster looks suspicious
No bath is complete without a lobster

“I no need soap, Mommy. No wash my hair.”

Apparently, Little has learned that sometimes tub time is not about the bath itself.

——

Bath time – is it a family affair at your house or a peaceful oasis?

The Matter of Pants

When people learn that I have four boys they usually respond with a shocked look and some sort of astonished reply about how I appear mostly sane. Life with four boys is busy and full of toilet humour, but in so many ways I am grateful. I am not sure I would be cut out to raise a girl. The clothing and hair options paralyze me with fear. When I change my baby niece I am overwhelmed with the decisions involved: Are these tights? Is this considered a dress or a top? Should I be combing her hair? What’s the protocol here?

Boys are simple, at least so far. There aren’t nearly as many choices – pretty much everything matches jeans. Usually our biggest controversy is whether or not you can wear a navy shirt with black pants (no, you cannot). However, even within this simple state, complications and issues arise. Socks can feel “too socky”. Pants can be “bunchy”. A shirt cannot be worn because it just isn’t a favourite. Currently it is our four-year-old who is struggling with these apparel horrors. These deal-breakers have caused us to be late for school, church, even the toboggan hill. So I sat the boy down and said that sometimes you just have to tough it out and wear something that isn’t your favourite because that’s what people do.

They aren't jeans, but I can tolerate them for a trip to the park.
They aren’t jeans, but I can tolerate them for a trip to the park, I guess.

Our morning routine had improved immensely since this chat. He was managing his clothing options quite well and I kept my expectations for matching and rotating shirts low. Then Sunday morning hit. He only had two pairs of clean pants that he could tolerate. When he asked me if he matched I discovered a giant hole in the knee. I explained that those pants were goners and “you need to be a big boy and wear the jeans you don’t like as much without crying. Later you can change and we can see what we can do about your pants.” Off he went to change. As I passed by his door a moment later he was getting dressed and I could hear his little voice saying, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry.”

It broke my heart.

It broke my heart just that little bit. I didn’t go and sob quietly in the washroom, but I was proud and sad at the same time. I was smiling as my eyes welled up. I finally understood that all of his upsets about pants this fall weren’t really a power struggle or an attempt to get my attention. As ridiculous as it sounds, pants really matter to him. He doesn’t care about brand or how they look, but some pants are favourites and some are not. He cannot even explain it, he just knows. And now I do.

That afternoon I took my sweet boy to the store, just the two of us and he sat in the cart and we giggled and talked and I could just listen to him. He sat in the cart. As I wheeled my third-born around the store it occurred to me that even though he can print his name and dress himself and is learning to read, he is still little and likes to ride in the cart. And pants matter to him.

I don’t want to forget this: that even though I might not understand why something is important, the person matters. Taking the time to value what’s important says, “you count, I care about you, you are loved.”

If pants matter that much to you, then they matter to me.