Thursday, May 29, 2014

How To Be a Mediocre Parent

 Being parents for a decade now has not left us without some tricks of the trade.  Am I proud of these tricks?  Well, I think the jury's still out on that one.  Check back here when the kids are 30 and we'll see how they turned out.  But on the off chance that they aren't turning my crazies crazier, I'll explain them here for your edification.

Parenting Trick #1: Bribery
Sometimes you just gotta go there.  Now I'm certainly not implying that we bribe our kids for everything.  They do chores and hate them just like every other kid in America.  We say "no" to requests like Cheetos on a bed of Doritos for dinner on a regular basis.  But I am unashamed to say that every now and then we just plain bribe them. 

Take potty training, for example.  I'm sure we are all familiar with the "pee in the potty and you get an M&M" trick.  We definitely have done that with all of our non-diapered offspring.  But for Reece, we had to pull out the big guns.  He potty trained in about a week (not because of me--it was peer pressure.)  But after that he just got lazy.  Like if he didn't want to go all the way to the bathroom, he would just let a little know, just to take the pressure off or something like that.  I got tired of making him change clothes.  So, we started bribing him with free apps on the iPad.  Pants dry all day equals new game at bedtime.  Pants wet--sorry kid, sucks to suck.  And it worked!  Instantaneously!  Dry pants all the time now, and we finally phased out the new game business so he is just a normal peeing-in-the-potty human being.  Except for the occasional drops-his-pants-in-the-yard episode.

Parenting Trick #2: Fairies   
Fairies are a great parenting tool!  Of course, there is the requisite Tooth Fairy who we all know and love.  Our Tooth Fairy happens to be a little unreliable at times.  Once she forgot to bring the goods two days in a row.  She finally left a note on the front door (on her way out to her car) with a dollar bill taped to it because she was afraid she'd forget again the next night.  It said something like, "Sorry!  I forgot my fairy key so I couldn't get in.  Just give your mom the tooth today and she will give it to me.  But here's your dollar."  Lame.

We also have a lesser known but equally important Sippy Cup Fairy.  This fairy is in the family of fairies that comes to your house to remove an item that your child has been allowed to have for far too long because you are pushovers.  She is related to the Binky Fairy, the Blankie Fairy, and the Bottle Fairy.  I think there might even be fairies for older kids, like the Holey Jeans Fairy, or the Frozen Soundtrack Fairy.  Maybe even one for husbands like the Shirt You've Had Since 8th Grade Fairy.

But I digress...

This week we really talked up the arrival of the Sippy Cup Fairy.  He was excited to hear that SCF would take his cups to other little kids who need them (aka, the trash.)  And when Reece was ready, we gathered all the "cuppies," put them under his bed, and waited to see what trove of treasures SCF would bring.  That night, SCF flew real fast to the closest gas station because she was unprepared and purchased a flashlight and a bag of taffy.  And it was like Christmas morning!  I'm not even kidding--all the big kids up at 6am to see what Reece got.  

Here he is, ready to leave those cuppies.  Don't mind my husband fixing a chair there in the background.

So that's it folks.  My two parenting tricks for today.  I'm sure there are others, but you'll have to wait until I can think of something better than "Stop That or You're Grounded."  Although that one sometimes works too. 

What will I tell them when they ask me if fairies are real?  The same think I'll say when they ask where babies come from.  I'll tell them to ask Siri.  (Kidding.  Although that thing about the babies did actually happen.)

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Memorial Day Post: Not About Memorial Day

As instructed by my bossy friend Carla, I am writing a birthday post.  Sort of.  You see, from February to May it is "Celebrate All the Things" season.  In that span of time this year we have had:

5 birthdays
1 actual birth
1 First Communion
Mother's Day
1 Baptism
For those of you keeping score at home, this equates to 7,000 parties, cakes, presents, and different times I have to clean my house for guests.  And that doesn't count any celebrations for anyone outside of our immediate family.  In fact, 4 out of 6 of us right now are at a birthday party for my Godson, who was at our house yesterday for a baptism and last weekend for a birthday.  You'd think we'd all be tired of each other by now.  But no, because we are party animals...that's what they call us.  Which leads me to...

 The Great Toy Clean Out of 2014!

A party animal family of 6 is bound to have a lot of stuff, I get that.  But it is out of control.  I have been reading a few articles about toy rotation, and simple living, and the like.  Usually I read these and immediately go to Target to buy stuff to organize all the stuff.  Maybe I am not getting the point. 

Anyway, I finally decided enough is enough.  I can't keep the house clean with all the toys strewn everywhere.  And strewing (that's a word) is the kids' number one fun activity of all time.  Here's how things go on the daily:
If you look closely, you'll see that none of the four children pictured are actually playing with a toy.  Mostly they just strew.  And then play with a dirty sock they found on the stairs and three Shakespeare's Pizza cups.  Oh, and the couch cushions.  Which makes me crazy.

So, because I am tired of them wandering around aimlessly and because I am tired of cleaning up aimfully, I have started The Great Toy Clean Out of 2014!  I am in the process of taking every toy out of every place in the house and storing them/organizing them/selling them/donating them/begging people to take them.  The kids each have one mediumish sized box to use for toys.  They selected the ones they want for the next week, along with five stuffed animals, and everything else gets put away until next Sunday when they can switch what is in their box.  My hope is this will help them to be more creative and less overwhelmed by all the stuff.  

Happy summer, kids!  I took all your toys away...I'm sure they'll thank me one day.  Yep, they'll thank me right into a nursing home.

Which leads me to...

Giant Chinese Hornets

If we are friends on Facebook, which is everyone reading this blog, you might know that we have been overtaken by yellow jackets.  They are in our house and I don't know why or how!  Just when everything is going along swimmingly, kids aren't killing each other, baby is sleeping, cleaning is getting done, boom! yellow jacket!  What the what?!  Three in the basement so far, one in the kitchen, one in the living room, and one in the garage!  

I called two exterminating companies, and apparently, they have not been much help.  The first company I called (whose name I won't mention but rhymes with "Eve's Vest Control") asked me very patronizingly if they were really yellow jackets--maybe I was seeing honey bees or wasps, the bug man told me.  Look.  I know I don't have a degree in insect identification, but I'm pretty sure I can look up a picture on the interwebs and verify my suspicions before I call the exterminator.  Or maybe they were ladybugs?  I'm so confused!

So...the second company sent a guy out who walked the property looking for a nest but was unsuccessful.  He did a general outside and inside treatment.  Later that afternoon, dead YJ in the basement.  Good.  Today, as I was implementing The Great Toy Clean Out of 2014, boom!  Live yellow jacket in the basement!  For the love of God, why?!  Where are they living?  How are they in my basement which has no exits and only two tiny windows that are never opened?!  Why does it never happen when my husband is home?!  It was crawling around on my phone, so I just abandoned the phone, grabbed the baby and ran upstairs.  And I left it there, because I am traumatized.  Unfortunately, an hour later when the rest of the family came home, it was no where to be found.  What a good mom I am.  In my defense, I had an unfortunate babysitting incident involving the little demons (the yellow jackets, not the kids) at a young age and I am forever scarred.  So my stinging insect killing skills are very sub par. 

Right now, I am forcing my husband to stay in the basement until we locate the devil bug because three of our kids sleep down there and it houses the playroom and laundry and I am a chicken.  I can just picture them lurking around corners and in laundry piles, waiting to get me.  I can't live like this!

Anybody want to have 6 gingers over for a sleepover?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Driving Miss Crazy

My number one superpower of choice would be Teleportation.  Numero uno.  Why?  Because I have kids.  And riding in the same vehicle with them (unless it is a train where they are in one car and I am in another) is an exercise in all kinds of torture.

Now, to clarify, I do actually love my children.  Lots and lots.  And I could probably not hate traveling with them if they were all school aged.  Maybe.  But for now, getting in the van with the load of crazies is the equivalent of being thrown into some kind of minimum security prison for annoying people.  There is no escape--I mean, I guess I could throw myself from a moving vehicle, which on occasion I might have considered, but realistically, no escape.  Someone is constantly hollering for the warden or running a tin cup back and forth over the bars.  Fights break out approximately every ten seconds, and they are piping in only the Frozen soundtrack on repeat for all eternity.

We recently drove a million hours to the middle of nowhere Texas for a family wedding.  I got all supermom proactive and made the three big kids binders with road trip activities.  I packed healthy snacks like apples and bananas, audio books to edify us along the way, and a big, happy, positive attitude.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

The problem with this trip was that it literally required us to drive for 5 straight days.  I won't go into the details, but trust me on this.  It was five nearly full days of driving, stopping along the way only to eat, potty break, or nurse the baby.

We were trucking along pretty well until the day of the rehearsal.  I was up most of the night with the baby and wasn't feeling so hot.  You know that yuck feeling you get when you don't sleep?  Nope.  Not just tired.  The stomach flu that ravaged our house when Luke was born finally caught up to me.  So with 6+ hours of driving that day, I found myself puking on the side of Texas highways and slowly losing my will to live.

We drove through torrential rain, fierce wind, and even an ice storm.  All my hopes and dreams of a happy, healthy road trip went out the window right alongside all the vomit.  (Too much?  Probably.)  By the last day, everyone was pretty miserable.  The van looked like a Nabisco factory had exploded inside of it, the kids were at each other's throats, and it was all we could do just to hold on to the last ounce of sanity we had.  I didn't care what anybody ate, or how much, what anybody watched, or how much.  At one point in the trip, Andrew was begging for throwing stars from this weird gas station/weaponry dealer.  Mike talked him down to a bag of Hot Cheetos.  And we actually paid Reece to take a nap.

Good parenting aside, we all survived the trip and are only a little worse for the wear.  So please don't be alarmed if you ask me how my "vacation" was and I start weeping and singing "Let it Go."  PTSD: Post Travel Stress Disorder.  I'm sure it will clear up in a few decades when all the kids have moved out of my van. 
Here we are at the reception...don't we look sane?

Monday, May 19, 2014

When Prayer is Hard

Lest ye think that this blog will only ever be snarky comments and links to inappropriate songs...I mean, that's probably a lot of what it will be.  But let's try something different today, shall we?

I have lately had to come to terms with the fact that my prayer life is not what it should be.  When I was working as a youth minister, I had the luxury of being immersed in the life of faith all the time.  I led prayer groups, praise and worship, retreats, etc. on a regular basis.  And while you can't substitute ministry for personal growth, I often found time to sneak away to adoration or to read scripture in a quiet moment in the office.  And I went to daily Mass...daily.

Fast forward to 2014.  All of my days (and nights) are spent changing diapers, reading to kids, cleaning, playing chauffeur, refereeing arguments, or feeding someone.  Gah!  Why do they need three meals a day?!  Two days ago, I thought I had brushed my teeth, but upon further consideration at 5 PM I realized that maybe I never actually did!  So getting a quiet moment to myself to spend in prayer or to read my Bible is almost laughable at this point.  We make it to Mass on Sundays but lately I have been so tired that I find myself struggling to focus, even when the kids are behaving.  I made some Lenten resolutions that were an immediate flop.  And they really weren't that difficult at all, but I didn't even make it three days!  I did, however, rock a couple of Lenten fish frys (fries?), but maybe that's not the kind of growth I'm looking for.

Now, I am fully aware that I have just made and birthed an entire person, and maybe I should give myself a little grace.  Trust me--relying heavily on grace here at Burns-Party of 6.  But I feel the effects of the lack of prayer.  I can feel all the rough and sharp edges of myself starting to become more prominent, more prickly.

I don't really have a big solution, but I did find a small one that works for me lately.  As aforementioned, I do a lot of cleaning.  And when there are six people in your house and one is in cloth diapers, you will do ungodly amounts of laundry.  I swear the kids just look at an article of clean clothing in their drawer and then put it straight in the hamper on the floor.  The other day I actually started putting laundry from the dryer directly back into the washer.  It was a mistake, but maybe it's better that way--just cut out the middle man.

One of our 47 hampers right now.
I know, I know!  Stop blogging, woman, and go clean!

Where was I?  I think I just blacked out for a second thinking about all the laundry.

Oh as I was folding a mountainous pile, I started to say some quiet prayers.  And then I decided to offer prayers for whichever family member the laundry belonged to.  Just a simple offering, but it felt good to lift up the ones I love to the one who loves us best.  When I ran out of my own words, I just prayed some Hail Marys with that person in mind as the intention.  Kind of like a laundry rosary.  It was nothing earth shattering.  But it is a good reminder; a good practice for me of a quiet offering that may never have been otherwise. 

Way back in Advent I spent a little time meditating on...well, Advent.  I was frustrated about feeling spiritually stagnant.  Frustrated that it all feels like just going through the motions without any real growth.  And in that moment I started to think about the image of a rock sitting in a rushing stream.  All that rock has to do, really, is sit there in the stream.  And over time, it is changed.  As the water runs over and around it, the edges are softened and its shape becomes different.  And I am taking comfort in the fact that it is the same way with us.  If we put ourselves in God's presence, try to live the life He has called us to, there is change.  It might be slow; it might go unnoticed for a time.  But if we are patient, in a few months or years or decades even, we will be able to look back and see that we have grown and changed--that we are more like Him.

See, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
                                                                            Isaiah 43:19 

And just in case you came here for something funny (and you haven't stopped reading by now,) here's Brian Williams and Rapper's Delight.  If I'm ever a news anchor, I hope someone does this to me. 

(And here's the link, in case the video doesn't work on your phone or something weird like that)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

About Sleep

I know, I know.  Another mom writing another post about sleep.

You all know the drill.  Light on.  Light off.  Lamp on.  Water.  Juice.  Water and juice together.  Shirt is wet because water spilled on it.  Have to potty.  Didn't go.  Have to potty again.  Et cetera, et cetera and that's just me!  Kidding (almost.)  But seriously, our three year old has even used the excuses, "I can't sleep because it's too dark in my eyes" and "I can't go to sleep because Andrew is speaking Parseltongue."

 (Mr. Potter--Parselmouth himself--on the right, obviously)

And then there was the time that Reece was traumatized by a Britney Spears song on the radio.  I played the radio during nap for some background noise, and Britney's Toxic happened to play.  Well he was totally petrified and ran out of the room screaming for his life.  I calmed him down and assured him that he would be okay and the song wouldn't come on again because who would play that much old school Britney in 2013?  Midway through his second attempt at nap, guess what song hit the airwaves?  Melt. Down. 

So now that we have added a fourth kiddo into the mix I thought I could call myself at least semi-professional at this.  Luke has been a typical sweet and snuggly newborn.  He sleeps through all the noise and chaos and pretty much anywhere.

Until lately.  At three months old, he has finally decided to make himself known around here.  When he tried that at a much younger age I just swaddled him up nice and tight.  There was no escaping the baby straitjacket.  Resistance was futile, so he just went to sleep.  Woe to the mother whose baby outgrows the good swaddler!  I bought a new one--bigger size to accommodate growing baby legs, lighter weight so as not to overheat his highness in the summer.  But it can't handle the pressure.  Just when I think he's all settled and can't escape, one tiny arm wiggles out.  Fist of victory held high in the air.

(Go ahead, swaddle me.  I will defeat you.)

So I've been trying some unswaddled sleep the past few days.  Because I know you have nothing better to do, let me tell you how that's been going.  Wait.  Maybe I should let you guess.

Did you guess? 

I get him to sleep, lay him down, and then his arms start flailing.  Or else they creep really slowly up to his face to wake him up.  It's weird and uncontrollable.    Almost exactly like Ricky Bobby from Talledega Nights...


And then there's the business of lullabies.  The other night I actually caught myself humming "Talk Dirty" by Jason Derulo, except it was the Jimmy Fallon Ragtime Gals version.  If you haven't watched it, here's a favor from me: 

So we're working on it.  Inevitably just after everyone is securely sleeping there is an earthquake, a barking dog, a Fed Ex delivery, a tornado, or we just have to wake up and pick the kids up from school.  In fact, as I wrote this post, I had to stop twice to put a kid back to sleep.  I keep thinking I'm hearing crying but it is actually just the birds chirping outside.  I think they are Mockingjays, taunting me.

Here's to a good night of sleep, friends!  Tra la la la, tra la la la la...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What Am I Thinking?

"You should write a blog!"

"Do you blog?  No?  I would read it if you did."

So after dozens of comments of that nature (okay 5), here I sit.  All three children in my house are blessedly and simultaneously sleeping away, and I am choosing to tap tap at the keyboard instead of sleep sleep in my bed or clean clean my house.  We'll see how this goes...

Since the three of you who will read this already know me and are my friends, I will skip the introductions (for now) and move on to the really important stuff: how I chose the name of this little corner of the internet.  If you've ever started a blog (and judging by my experience trying to find a domain name, everyone has), you know that it is quite a process to find a name/domain that isn't already taken.  So here are some of the things I tried:

Freckles and Frogs (taken.  last blogged in 2012)
Funny Side Up (taken.  one post in 2003 that said "testing")
GingerMama (because it is a stupid nickname I use for stuff.  taken)
Laughing All the Way
Running With Scissors (this one is a private blog, but it also has a website attached to that name, which has links to Playboy things on it.  So there's that.)
 Maidens and Mullets (this was suggested by my husband based on a funny story involving our kids. Immediately turned down by me, because of all the reasons in the universe, not the least of which that it sounds like it would lead you to pornography from 1987.)

Speaking of which, other blog titles that sound like porn: 
Ginger and Spice
Ginger and Spice and Everything Nice
 (both taken)

More titles I tried just for the heck of it:
Burns Notice (thank you M.H.)
Clan Burns
This Will Be Fun
(all taken)
 and on and on and on forever and ever you get the picture.

So how did I eventually choose Everyone Was Staring?  I know you are sitting on the edge of your seat.  I wanted "Everyone is Staring."  But, again, taken.  The story still applies, though.  When my two oldest children were smaller and I was hugely pregnant with our third, a new grocery store opened near our house.  I said to my husband, "I'll take the kids to the store!  This will be fun!"  Needless to say, it wasn't.  Andrew (who was around 4 at the time) waited until we got to the very back of the store and then proceeded to throw the biggest tantrum this side of the Mississippi.  I had to pull him kicking and screaming through the store, abandoning the rest of what I needed to get just to make a quicker exit.  After we got home and he was sitting in the longest time out of his life, I crumpled into a pregnant, hormonal heap in the basement and sobbed.  Meanwhile, Emma, my oldest who was around 5, wrote me a note that said the following:

Dear Kelley,
I am sorry that Andrew was screaming and everyone was staring at you.

Love Emma

And thus, Everyone Was Staring was born.  Check back here again for more excitement, like my musings on the new season of the Bachelorette, or theories on coffee consumption.  I might occasionally remark on a trip to paradise aka Target or a kid conundrum.  Most likely you will find me here when my floors need a good cleaning, the laundry hamper is heaping, and I feel like avoiding all of that.  So tomorrow.

(Us...a few years ago.  Not the most up-to-date, considering one of our members isn't even close to born yet, but certainly stare-worthy.)

 P.S. Should I consider it a win that in my very first blog post ever I include references to both Playboy and pornography?  I think I will.