Sandra Tayler

When Toys Cry

Today I’m tending my niece-to-be (My brother is in the process of adopting her)I’ll call her Belle. Belle actually spent the night last night since it was their anniversery. Gleek and Belle were both delighted, they are best friends despite a year age difference. I was exhausted. Like many kids who have been through the foster-care system Belle has behavioral issues. Nothing serious, she just requires extremely stable parenting because she’s used to a parent who moves to her every whim. Nothing I can’t handle, but it is tiring.

But there is one thing that has been driving me nuts ever since Belle arrived. Gleek and Belle spend lots of time playing pretend games, and for whatever reason the toys they play with spend a lot of time crying and calling “Mom!” I keep responding to what sounds like a major crisis only to have two cheerful little girls look at me like I’m nuts. Then they tell me “Go away, we’re playing.”

Unfortunately because of the behavioral issues, I pretty much have to check every time. With Belle, intervention is always necessary to resolve conflicts, particularly if Belle’s conflict is with Gleek. Gleek responds to attack by fortifying her position and hauling out the big guns. The big guns may be yelling or hitting or even occasionally biting. In short when they play nice it’s great, when they fight I have to get there as fast as possible before there is blood.

So I’ve been spending today in a fairly high-vigilance state. Fortunately my brother will be coming to pick Belle up this afternoon. I like Belle. I love the way that Gleek and Belle play happily together for hours on end. I love seeing how happy Gleek is to have Belle here. I’m just tired and I wish the toys would stop crying.

Swallowed

Well I’ve achieved another parental rite of passage. Gleek swallowed a toy. Okay, it was a piece of a board game, but it is still a new experience for all involved. I’ve had kids eat crayons before, but those are at least semi-digestable. Fortunately the gamepiece in question was a small round glass stone, unlikely to get stuck or to cause damage on the way down.

Gleek was very concerned about the turn of events. Her eyes were about twice their normal size and she kept touching her throat as if she couldn’t quite believe it happened. Toys aren’t supposed to do that kind of thing. So now I have a lap-Gleek who needs reassurance that All Will Be Well.

What amazes me when I think about it is that I’ve been a parent for over nine years without once having a child swallow a toy. To read the warnings on toy boxes it seems as if toys are just lying in wait to jump down small throats. But if I’m inclined to feel smug about my former record I only have to remember that there are many many parents in the world who’ve never been to the emergency room to have objects removed from a child’s nose.

Strawberry Kids

Today we went to a relative’s house to pick strawberries. All the kids were thrilled to go. And once they got there Patches stayed interested long enough to eat a strawberry and tromple plants. Gleek picked a dozen strawberries and wandered off to play. Link did the same thing, only he picked about 20 berries. Kiki loved it. She picked baskets full. And then she was really excited that we had enough to make strawberry jam. I could tell that the jam-making would have to begin the moment we got home or I’d be pestered unceasingly. This necessitated a trip to the grocery store for a few supplies.

Taking all four kids to the grocery store is not on my favorite-things-to-do list. I usually have to plan ahead and get myself in a journey-not-destination frame of mind. I also try to cultivate a spirit of calmness for when the fail to do what they said they would (I’ll stay right by the cart.) This frame of mind was not going to happen today. I needed to grab the groceries and get home so Patches could go down for his nap. We got in and out in 30 minutes, not to bad for a 10 item shopping trip with four kids. While we were buckling back up in the car Kiki said “Mom why are you mad?”

I explained to her that I wasn’t mad. I was just wearing my Business Mommy Face because Things Needed Done.
“Oh. I don’t like your Business Mommy Face.” She thought a moment more and added. “I made a promise to my (future) kids that I would always be a nice mom. But mom’s sometimes HAVE to be mean, don’t they?” Hallelujah! She gets it!

We arrived home and hauled kids, groceries, baskets, and strawberries all inside. Then Kiki and Link ran off to a neighbor’s lured by the promise of swimming. So much for strawberry jam.

Real Life Nature Programs

This evening I was out in my backyard doing my usual tour to see if anything was suffering or dying after the heat of the day, when I heard a strange noise. My first thought was that it was a frog. Since I live in a desert state, a frog is really really unlikely so I tried to locate the source of the sound. It was a hummingbird. He was hovering a foot over our wisteria vine and making little dips along with a chirping noise.

Then as I watched he flew 20 feet upwards and then in a long swooping glide passed only a few feet above my head and back to his high altitude. He dopplered me this way several times while I just watched in amazement. This was obviously some sort of mating display. At the end he perched on my wisteria seeming very pleased with himself indeed. It was like a nature video in my own backyard. If Mr. Hummingbird manages to convince a female of his prowess, then maybe I’ll get a nest in my yard too.

Another amazing feat of nature I got to witness recently was while I was hiking during my recent vacation. Howard and I kept passing branches which had large webbed clumps stuck to them. We both associate webs with spiders and so we steered really clear of the clumps figuring that we didn’t want to meet any spider who could make a clump the size of an orange. But later on there was a clump right next to the path and I leaned closer to take a look. It was full of caterpillars! Lots of them, they were all wiggling back and forth to spin this little community home. As I watched, a wasp flew up, bit one of the caterpillars, and flew off with it. Again, something out of a nature video.

Really amazing stuff nature. I think we should have more of it.

Patches

Patches has recently gone through one of those developmental leaps. The ones where suddenly your kids is doing a bunch of stuff he wasn’t even capable of yesterday. The fascination with the garbage can seems to have waned (Yay!) to be replaced by a fascination with climbing on top of the table to forage. He’s started luring me to the pantry to point at the cheerios. He’ll hand me a cup and shove me toward the fridge. No chance of this kid starving, if I haven’t fed him recently enough he lets me know.

He’s also begun carrying cars with him wherever he goes. They roll on just about any available surface and go “vrrrrrrr” Where did he learn that? Perhaps is observational, he certainly lights up for any kind of engine noise. We live in a cul-de-sac with no less than three deisel trucks and any time he hears one of those things arrive or leave he runs to the front window to watch. We watch helicopters and planes too. In fact, he’ll hear them and start looking for them before I even notice that there is a noise.

He can point to 6 or 7 body parts, he knows how to say night night, blow kisses, give kisses, and hugs all on command. He can follow one step commands. He loves shoes. If he finds shoes they have to go on his feet even if they don’t belong to him. Watching him try to walk in Daddy’s boots is hilarious. Mostly he falls over.

He loves snuggles and has the biggest happiest grin in the world. Now I’ve made myself all teary and I want to go hug him. But I won’t cause he’s sleeping. Plenty of hugging time in the morning.

New World Order: Update

Since We’re three weeks into summer vacation and into the New World Order (I talk about it a few entries back, I don’t know how to link to it.) I thought it would be good to take a moment and reflect on how well, or how poorly it is going.

I think it is going well. The kids have stopped complaining about the amount of stuff they have to get done in the mornings and they’re getting it done fairly quickly. Not a single item belonging to Link or Kiki has ended up in jail, and most of the time I don’t even have to remind them to pick up. Big success there.

Unfortunately the Jail box is filling up with Gleek’s toys. I’ll say “Uh oh, your barbie is going to jail if you don’t put her away.” Gleek will respond with no distress whatsoever “I want her to go to jail.” She has yet to want something out of jail enough to do an actual chore. There have been a couple of occasions where she has scrambled to put a special toy away, but mostly she’s content, happy almost, to see them imprisoned. I think this means she has too many toys. I figure I’ll stick to the system, eventually we’ll get down to the toys she really cares about and she’ll keep them picked up.

Or she’ll start playing with everyone else’s toys.

Hmm. This could be a serious problem. Already a major source of contention is when Gleek sneaks into the room belonging to Link and Kiki and “borrows” things sans permission.

I’m not going to borrow trouble. In the spirit of saving energy (or maybe just flat out denial) I’m going to Wait And See.

Perspectives

Today I had to give Patches an emergency bath because Gleek had peanutbuttered him. (gloppy layer, all over) Since I didn’t want to reward this behavior I refused to allow Gleek to join him in the tub. She sat on the toilet and watched. Then she very deliberately took a roll of toilet paper and threw it into the bathtub. I was livid. I came down on her like a ton of bricks, finally at the end of the tirade I wound up with the words “Why would you do a thing like that?”

Teery little eyes looked into mine and a small sad voice answered “I wanted to make it clean.”

I am reminded once again that adult motivations do not easily apply to children. She had no idea what happens when toilet paper gets wet. One of these days it’ll stick in my skull and I’ll stop scolding kids for the wrong things.

A life full of blessings

I sometimes wonder why on earth I got handed a life so full of blessings. I came from a wonderful stable home. I have great parents. I don’t fight with my siblings. I found a soulmate and got married when I wasn’t even looking for one. I’ve had kids exactly when I wanted to and didn’t have them when I didn’t. (Yes that’s right, four kids on purpose.) I did have a couple of years needing fairly major medical intervention, but I’m beyond that now and my health is really good.

Why should I have so much when others suffer so much? A good friend and I had a conversation about this. Her life has been quite different from mine. Her belief is that there have to be people who have lives like mine so that everyone else can know what to work for. That doesn’t quite seem right to me. It doesn’t seem to even out the unfairness any. But then when was life ever fair?

What I think is that it doesn’t matter what cards you are given. What matters is what you choose to do with the cards. I’ve been dealt a really good hand. That means I have a great responsibility to give to others. Every blessing I have, I need to share. This means I need to stretch myself more. I cannot help others if I don’t know who they are or what they need.

Surviving

After my last three entries chronicling one unbelievable day I had a friend ask me: “How do you survive all those kids?!”

The answer is that most days aren’t like the one I’ve just described.  Most days have maybe One of those caliber of events.  Some days have none at all.  The quiet days aren’t the ones that I tell about in here because they aren’t as amusing to tell or to read about.  I don’t often tell about the times that Kiki grabs Patches and takes him out into the back yard to play quietly for an hour.  Or the times that all four kids play quietly in the sandbox without getting sand-in-the-hair.  Or the times that Kiki runs off to a friend’s house, Patches naps, and Link and Gleek play quietly with duplos while I nap.  These kinds of things happen just as frequently as the other kind, I just don’t tell about them as much.  I probably should, because those are the moments when I have time to watch my kids and love them and realize exactly why I put up with all the annoying stuff.

And then there is all the really cute stuff.  Just last night Gleek came down the stairs into the office where Howard was playing music while he worked.  She stopped on the stairs and began doing a little bobbing dance.  “I like this music!  It has dancing in it!”

I like my children.  They have Joy in them.