keeping sane, laundry, Monday, parenting

Monday morning

From the time I woke up, this day had a verge-of-disaster quality. All three children emerged from their beds with that special Monday morning combination of hyperactivity and crankiness, loudly demanding to be fed and played with and read to and held all at once. The house was a disaster after a busy weekend- how did so many pairs of shoes end up in the living room? (Do we even own that many pairs of shoes? Did they multiply? Why on earth are there so many? And why do three of them seem to be without a mate?) I couldn’t seem to do any of the things that needed doing, and with every passing minute, more demands appeared.

Monday has many evil Mondayish characteristics, chief among them the fact that it has fewer hours than the other days. How else could it be that we wake up at the beginning of a new week and are already behind?

The children kept yelling, and I went in search of coffee. Most Mondays (and many other days), I unwillingly abandon my coffee after just a few sips (hot drinks and young children being a poor combination), and I end up sticking it in the microwave.Zap- 30 seconds- ding! sip…get called into the living room, forget about the coffee…find it an hour later, zap again- 30 seconds- ding! sip…hear the dryer buzz, go get the clothes out, fold and put them away…find the cold coffee an hour later…zap…repeat as needed. Often in a mid-afternoon lull when I go to start dinner, I find that sad, lonely, cold cup of coffee still sitting there. Today was no exception.

Things started out badly when the doctor’s office called to reschedule the Sisters’ checkups – the doctor was out sick today. My request for two appointments back to back took much time and effort to arrange. The office staff were really thrown when I told them the girls had the same birthdate and kept asking me to repeat the birthdates. “And what’s her birthday again? Ok. And what’s the other twin’s birthday? And are those both the same year?”

(It was a lengthy phone call.)

Meanwhile, SuperSam was pretending that Jupiter and Saturn were colliding and was throwing himself into the walls, making exploding rocket sounds. Both Sisters were shrieking and pulling each other’s hair as they fought over one of two identical child-sized armchairs arranged side by side in the living room. The Belle shoved The Bug, who hit her in the head with a book. Wailing ensued. SuperSam yelled, “The Sisters are fighting on the same chair again! No, Sisters, NO!” More crying.

I couldn’t decide whether to pull out my own hair or theirs.

During the Sisters’ morning nap, SuperSam was supposed to put away his markers and stack his toys on the bed in his room so I could help him put them away. Instead, he chose to reenact the classic “12” video from Sesame Street, complete with sound effects and music, self-starring as the pinball.

This resulted in chaos, destruction, and self-injury. It also resulted in the Sisters’ waking up about ten minutes after falling asleep. Brilliant.

Lunch time eventually came. While preparing the food, I ate leftover cream cheese frosting with a spoon and listened to the Daughters of Mary chant the Angelus in Latin on repeat. (Nuns and frosting…clearly I was in a bad place.) Whenever SuperSam started talking to me, I said, “Sshh!” and pointed at the iPad, which was playing the music. (Don’t judge. There are worse things I could have said.) I also spent some time scraping our open-faced tuna sandwiches off the heating element in the oven, where they fell when SuperSam tried to open the oven door and I slammed it shut again. (Fortunately, I had forgotten to turn on the oven, so at least it wasn’t a burned mess.) As I salvaged lunch, The Bug consumed a pink magic marker and The Belle destroyed and ate a ball of fuzz that SuperSam had been saving. He was irate. Upon seeing the sandwiches, SuperSam declared, “I strongly dislike everything open-faced, especially sandwiches, and I am not going to eat any of that.” The Sisters, for their part, scarfed down the sandwiches and smeared tuna generously into each other’s hair.

Then, there was the laundry.

If the amount of peace and goodwill in a person’s life was directly proportional to the amount of laundry she washed, dried, and folded, I’d be all set forever. I am surrounded by endless piles of unwashed things. I never thought I would be the kind of person that would have a laundry day…I used to just do a load every other day or so to keep us in clean clothes. With five people in the house (two of whom wear cloth diapers), I’ve been converted.  I wash everything on Monday. It’s done by Tuesday. Then I do not do laundry the rest of the week (except for diapers and sometimes our running clothes). This is a survival skill.

There’s always laundry. There’s also always SuperSam, who only wears Superman shirts (or, as a second choice, his space shirts). He usually exhausts his supply of five Superman shirts by the end of the day on Tuesday, disappearing randomly into his room to emerge minutes later in a different pair of pants and a different Superman shirt. Once his shirts are gone, he is sad and mopey (and sometimes refuses to get dressed at all). Ever since I instituted Monday laundry day, he has stopped asking every day if his shirts are clean. On Monday, though, he attacks early and often. This morning, he started asking at 6:30 AM if I had washed his Superman shirts yet. If, for any reason, I don’t finish the laundry on Monday (or, God forbid, I have to put it off until another day), he kind of freaks out. I’m not sure if this is normal four-year-old stuff or special SuperSam stuff, but it is a weekly event. When he turns 5, I’m going to have him start doing his own laundry. (I am not kidding.)

At afternoon nap time, I put all the children into their beds and closed them in their rooms. None of them were sleeping, but I didn’t care. I thought about collapsing onto my bed, but it (and my bedroom floor) was entirely covered with piles of laundry. I lay down in the hallway and stared at the ceiling.

“All it takes for Monday to win is for the mama in this story to lie here and not get up,” I thought.
“Admit defeat,” Monday said. “I have chewed you up and spit you out.”
I narrowed my eyes and sat up. “You don’t win, Monday,” I said out loud. “I’m still in this fight.”

I dug through the piles of laundry until I found my secret weapon – my running shoes – and I headed for the treadmill. Forty minutes later, drenched in sweat and renewed determination, I was inspired.

Monday is a tough opponent. Either we are trying to get ourselves to work and are responsible for saving the universe before we go, or we stay home when our parenting partner goes to work and are left in the chaos and muck (and still have to save the universe, too). Monday is a tough day to be a mom, and Monday does not play nice. It will kick you in the teeth and take you down if you let it.

We don’t have to let it. We can fight back. We are stronger than Monday. We just need to be prepared for battle, equipped with things like shovels and fire hoses and rolls of paper towels and superhero capes. We need a battle cry, too, some good fighting words. Something like, “Get thee behind me, Monday. You have no power here.”

We need a Monday Manifesto.
I offer the following as Rules of Engagement.

1. If it’s not bleeding or on fire, it’s not an emergency.

Take a deep breath before you deal with it. There’s time. Better yet, take two deep breaths, and maybe eat a piece of chocolate for good measure.

2. Never fight Monday on an empty stomach.

Coffee first, saving the universe second.

3. Take a bite out of Monday before it takes a bite out of you.

Find something for yourself in the day…stake out your territory, and defend it with your life. Go for a morning run, drink tea while your baby naps, hide in your closet with your newest Us Weekly. Whatever you have to do, do it. This is survival we’re talking about.

4. Remember, someone else’s Monday is as bad (or worse) than yours.

In the middle of my lunch mishap, my friend texted to say that while she was fully occupied for thirty seconds with her older two children, her toddler found a raw chicken heart and was chewing on it. My troubles paled in comparison. I bet yours did, too. Blergh.

5. If all else fails, press on, sister.

Every moment you persevere, Monday gets weaker. You are not going to die, even if you feel like it. And Tuesday always comes eventually.

(Hooray for Tuesday!)

Monday may try to crush us, but it’s just a day. We get 365 of them every year, and over 50 of those are Mondays. Short of sprinkling holy water on the calendar, I’m not sure we can ever rid Monday of its evil Mondayishness. But we can show it who is boss.

Monday chaos raging around me, I stick my coffee cup back in the microwave, put on some good music***, and face the mess head on. Some moments in motherhood are all about just moving forward.

Get thee behind me, Monday. You have no power here.

**Note: Monday does not want you to read this post and feel empowered to fight back, which is why when I tried to publish it earlier today, the entire thing disappeared. I hope you are emboldened by my refusal to keep quiet. Monday, you lose. **

***For a Monday-survival playlist that always motivates me to keep on keeping on, try this.***

frustration, keeping sane, magnificat, Mary, parenting, post office, twins

Destination Post Office

It’s all about managing the situation today. I have one goal: to get to The Post Office. With all three children. By myself. It would be a bonus if we could get to stand outside for a minute during that process.

Starting at 7:30 this morning, I began arranging everything, absolutely everything, to work toward that goal. At 9:53, things were looking good. The Boy had eaten breakfast. I had most of one cup of coffee on the inside of me (and even though I was wearing the rest of it on the outside for a little while, it still counts). Both babies were changed, fed, dressed, and sleepy. I had even showered (!) and was getting dressed while The Boy played in the bathroom floor with his trains. The babies were hanging out in front of a mirror in their bouncy seats, gooing and cooing pleasantly.

(I never fully appreciated before what it meant to be able to close the bathroom door and be alone in there. Any bathroom time I have now is a very public, very carefully engineered experience. Generally, I expect to be rinsing the soap out of my hair while singing to the twinfants and doing a running commentary on the train action offered by The Boy, who is crashing the engines into the wall and yelling, “Look, Mama…what’s gonna happen?”

The Boy: Crash! Whoa! Look at that!
Mama: Whoa! The yellow box car is going straight up the door! Now over, across…oh, my goodness, he just crashed into the green tanker car!
The Boy: Here comes the engine!! Whoo whoo!! Crash!!

If I knew anything about sports, I think I might have a future on ESPN. Too bad there is no ESPN about trains. I’ve learned a lot about those.)

And now, to get to The Post Office…

The babies were generally entertained by our exchange and sat, all four eyes glued on The Boy, until they both fell asleep. I decided that two sleeping babies meant I should stop getting us all ready and just play with The Boy in his room (something I rarely get to do any more, so both of us really need it). The offer of some playtime with me seemed to motivate The Boy to get dressed faster than normal (though I ended up having to pretend to be a “robot crane dressing machine” to finish the job). We managed to put together his giraffe puzzle twice before both girls woke up demanding to be fed again.

Having nursed the twinfants, I set out again to get us out the door. “Son, look at Mommy. I am going to brush my teeth. Then you will need to put on your shoes and coat.” I loaded both babies into their car seats, LadyBug screaming the whole time. At this point, still shoeless and coatless, The Boy lay down on the floor and refused to speak, move or open his eyes. I tried talking, redirecting, joking, tickling, hugging…he was unresponsive. I ended up dragging him around and trying to put his shoes on him. (I am not unsympathetic, but we had to get out of the house.) By this time, Belle had started screaming and was in serious need of a diaper change. The Boy was moaning, “no, no, no,” and I was quickly moving toward a meltdown of my own. I opened my mouth to tell The Boy to get up, took a deep breath, and started singing.

Magnificat, magnificat,
magnificat anima mea dominum…

It didn’t come from deep within my soul. It didn’t feel like a holy song. It just sprang into my brain and out of my mouth, replacing the words of frustration I’d been about to say. I sang it over and over.

Magnificat, Magnificat…

Maybe at this point in the story, there should be a beam of heavenly light that breaks through the ceiling as a beautiful major chord in second inversion sounds. Harps…a string tremolo…maybe some wind chimes? Both babies should stop crying and open their eyes wide, looking cherubic. The Boy should sit up and smile, and say, “Mama, that’s beautiful!” And smiling, I should energetically move everyone toward the car, a shining gold halo encircling my head. I’m pretty sure that’s how the Blessed Virgin looked when she was getting everybody ready to go to The Post Office.

Surprisingly, none of that happened. Piercing wails emanated from both car seats. I rocked the loudest car seat with my foot while pushing The Boy’s arm into his jacket. I kept singing while I brushed my teeth…magnificat anima mea…I carried The Boy into the living room and deposited him on the sofa, then lugged both car seats with their purple-faced occupants out to join him. I hauled Belle out of her seat and spread out the changing pad with one hand, deftly switching a poopy diaper for a clean one right in the living room floor, rocking LadyBug’s car seat with my left elbow. Magnificat. Belle howled as I put her back into her seat, tugged on my own jacket, then picked up the diaper bag, both car seats, and my letters for The Post Office.

Getting there meant everything now.

I nudged The Boy out the door with my knee, loaded the two screaming baby seats into the car, grabbed The Boy and a granola bar from the diaper bag to feed him, and buckled him into his seat. Magnificat anima mea dominum…I checked for keys, phone, and wallet, bucked my seat belt, and backed out of the driveway, still singing, teeth gritted, over a din of crying, unhappy children. How many were there? Just three? It sounded like forty-six.

They all stopped wailing when the car started moving. We were on the way. It was 11:43 AM, and for a split second, it was silent.

I managed to get the letters mailed and even get in a short walk with everybody before lunch. The Boy’s normal good humor returned when we got outside after mailing the letters. Maybe he just wanted to leave the house as badly as I did.

I’m told this stuff is going to get easier. I don’t know about that. What amazes me today is that it is possible now to leave the house with all of them. So what if it took over four hours to run a ten-minute errand? I did it! And I didn’t lose my temper or my keys or any of the children. I survived. I’m calling it a success.