Saturday, June 26, 2010

Voyage - Day 19

Controlled Chaos, if there is a more nonsensical oxymoron, I am unaware of its existence. Yet, unbelievably, I stood in the midst of that very paradox on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. To a certain degree, motherhood is largely instinctive, I can't explain how I knew when my babies were hungry, or sleepy, or bored, I just...knew. There is no list of standard operating procedures, each child is an individual, and the tricks and techniques for governing and guiding each child is unique. That said, some things just come naturally, others, not so much. I encountered a situation for which I was completely unprepared, the solution so counter-intuitive, so insane, it was brilliant. My boys had been at each other's throats for days, the bickering was so intense I was actually considering duct-tape and gorilla glue...when my friend was unfortunately stricken with a decidedly unpleasant illness. Her two children were left with nowhere to go and nothing to do during her hospital I decided the least I could do was to entertain her babies for her. She has a boy around Ethan's age and a girl the same age as Noah. Wednesday, we went to the movies. I worked some bad juju and managed to take 6 people to the free summer movie, with popcorn, candy and soda, for $13.00. You might ask how I did that, just message me and I'll share the details. It wasn't as cool as Jesus feeding the 5000, but it was quite handy, if I do say so myself. Amazingly, the kiddos paired off, and left just Aidan for me to entertain. The addition of other, non-familiar kids made for a precipitious drop-off in the level of bickering, arguing and overall annoyance. I enjoyed it so much, that I decided to press my luck and invite said kids over to hang out on Thursday as well. We painted, we did puzzles, they Lego Rock Banded, they took a picnic lunch to the sand dunes to eat and play nerf war. It was so simple and yet genious. One would think that adding more children to a house that was already filled to capacity would create exponentially greater levels of chaos, and unbelievably, it had the opposite effect. I am thinking of adopting...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Voyage - Day 17

Today was a sprinkler park kind of day. Surprisingly, it's quite warm here in sunny Florida. Warm may be a bit of an understatement, like saying Joan Rivers has had some minor cosmetic procedures. She looks as if her face was in the dryer a bit too long. Joan, if we can see the immovable joint/seams in your skull, the skin has been pulled too tight. You don't look young, you look like a cheap halloween decoration. I would be scared if she popped up on a front lawn in my neighborhood.

My friends and I decided that the local sprinkler park needed a visit from our combined passal of children. You would think, living near the ocean, that we would spend all our time there, but, truthfully, the surf can be rough, and it's rather large, so it makes keeping an eye on your kids tough. We go as a family, but then the ratio of adults to kiddos is 3:2 which makes safety much more realistic. Plus, and I wouldn't have known this before becoming a Floridian, the surf is so intense that you really can't swim, you just sort of bob around and get slammed to the sand by the huge waves. It is a beautiful sight, the sheer immensity, the power, but it ain't a kiddie pool. So, like I said, we figured our kids would get wet enough at the Sprinkler Park.

The day began with a thorough sp-effing. I slathered my little crackers with spf 70. Did you know that they can't call sunscreen waterproof anymore? They label it "highly water resistent." For some reason, I find this humorous. Anyway, I made sure they were completely covered in high quality sun protection. I don't want my babies to endure the burning, blistering and peeling that characterized my own childhood. Sun protection wasn't all that great in the 70's. I am told that I once posessed the ability to tan...kryptonite, who knew? It took quite a while to get ready, to amass the snacks and towels and pack the giant cooler...all the important stuff. I met up with my friends and their kids at the park, we looked for a picnic table that wasn't reserved, and off-loaded our hoard. (summer fun requires massive levels of accoutrement)

We partied in the water, which smelled of chlorine and Deltona Municipal Water Supply-funk, but that did nothing to "rain on our parade." A fun time was had by least, until the thunderstorm found us. The kids argued that they were already wet, so playing in an electrical storm wouldn't be a stretch. I assured them that although I find their company quite stimulating, the addition of lightning would be downright electrifying...and, frankly, I don't want a bunch of tiny Frankensteins joining Joan Rivers to decorate my lawn!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Voyage - Day 16

Father's Day. It's the day we celebrate fathers. Arbor Day. Ironically, not the day we celebrate arbors. In fact, we don't actually have a day to celebrate arbors, which are leafy bowers made from lattice work or overhanging branches and vines. That is a disappointment. I would welcome the chance to celebrate such things. I suppose it would be awkward to have a "Tree Day," would the shrubs be jealous? What about weeds, would they demand a holiday too? Weed Day would start all sorts of chaos... Back to Father's Day, I cooked my buns off. It was a day of spectacular culinary achievement. On Saturday night, as I put the finishing touches on my macaroni salad, I thought of my own mom, who stood in the kitchen on many nights finishing the preparations for a holiday cook-out or picnic. I remember being a kid, and not understanding the look of abject horror that slid across her face at the mention of the word picnic. You see, for children, picnics are wonderful, what could possibly top the opportunity to consume food in the out-of-doors, free from the tyranny of table manners and napkins? We lived for the freedom to throw our plate away instead of taking it to the sink, to drop crumbs at will, to ignore vegetables in favor of chocolate cake and watermelon. What we did not know was the hours of preparation required to "throw a few things in a basket and head to the park." I don't know, perhaps we conjured up a mental image of a special conclave of gnomes that stole quietly into our houses the night before picnics and made mounds of macaroni salad (only slightly likely to give you a nasty case of mayonnaise induced food poisoning,) baked cakes and cookies, cleaned out smelly coolers and packed all of the claptrap required for such an outing. On most occasions, our family looked like the Clampetts, minus the old lady in the rocking chair tied to the roof. (I would have loved it if we could have swung the old lady thing, that would have pushed the classy-level over the top.)We had half the house stuffed into the car... Once we arrived, mom would get all the food set out, dad would grill the hot dogs or other assorted processed meat-like products, (they're all essentially the same, made from lips and butt holes, according to my mother, not sure if I buy that, how do you manufacture anything from a hole?) And we'd consume massive amounts of picnic fodder. Following the gluttony, my brother and I would escape to the woods for a great game of "find the one poison ivy plant among the thousands of harmless species," while my dad fished or hiked. My mother, on the other hand, then had to clean up and re-pack all of the comestibles. Picnics and cook-outs are fun for everyone, except mom. It's hard enough to cook the meal in your own home, who the heck wants to stick it all in baskets and tupperware and coolers and bug-proof screens and haul it to somewhere else, to set it all up, dirty it all, and then clean it back up, pack it back into the car and haul it all home at which time you can unload the car and unpack it all and then wash all the dishes and utensils. WHO CAME UP WITH THAT SYSTEM? WHO WOULD DO THIS ON PURPOSE? The answer is simple, moms. Moms are the gnomes that manage to make all of this seem worthwhile, who stay up late and get up early to make all the dishes they are known for, the special ones that are deceptively simple, and yet only she can make it taste just right. They delight in knowing that their children have tasted macaroni salad whilst sitting on a picnic table bench a woodchuck urinated on just moments before they all arrived. They love the sound of dirty, sticky-fingered kids, playing in the creek and eating a slice of watermelon. For these brave women, it is all worth it. That was a long rabbit trail. Let me just say this to sum up, I have a new appreciation for my mom, and all the hard work she did, without complaint, to make our childhood rich. We didn't always have the newest or the best, but we never lacked for the really important things, like picnics and cookies and baseball games and Popsicles and summer nights on the porch. I am the mom now, and I find myself in the kitchen making food on a Saturday night, not because my family wouldn't eat a sub from Subway, but because I know they love my cooking, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But, back to the subject of this particular post: Father's Day. It is a wonder to me, every time I look at my children, to see glimpses of my husband in them. I delight in knowing that Ethan's gifting for leadership (aka bossy-ness, if you ask his brothers) came from Shadric. I love watching Noah compete athletically, and see the intensity that mirrors Shadric, or his feet, which look just like my dad's. I adore Aidan, with his little-man logic, knowing that his ability to analyze systems with great acuity is just like his Papa's. They are, to a large degree, products of their parents, of Shadric and I, and our parents before us. They are uniquely themselves, entire persons, and yet, somehow, attached and drawn from us. It is a miracle, the beauty of life, and yet a curse, I daily pray that our positive qualities will be handed down to our boys, and that they will eschew our more negative traits. I am grateful for my husband, who parents with great wisdom, and a much cooler head than I. It is a blessing to have shared so much of life with him, and to have made three wonderful boys together. Father's Day is important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the simple fact that true fatherhood is a vanishing treasure, and when it is found, it deserves the highest respect and all the fanfare it can be afforded. It is also important because my children are developing a sense of themselves, and we are all defined not by ourselves but by the nature and the character of the relationships we form with others. My husband's fatherhood is defining the very "self" that our children will cling to in their adult years. This is a fundamentally essential connection. Our children will be the better for having had a father who loved them and taught them and disciplined them. Our culture would tell us that fathers are no more then temporary donors of biological material, but that is an unfortunate lie. Fathers are architects of character, building the foundation for a successful adulthood, their contribution cannot be minimized or glossed over. Children are in desperate need of fathers, and they cannot be replaced by educators or by more material posessions or by better social programs. We are witnessing the results of the decline of fatherhood, and it is a deeply horrifying picture. So, today, I want to say thank you to my husband, for loving me, for leading our family, and for undertaking the heavy task of building and discipling the next generation of men, and for being brave and courageous enough to stand for what is right and pure and good. I am amazed by you, you are a blessing to me and to our children. I am thankful for my own father, who has loved me with an unconditional love, who has supported and encouraged me throughout my life. I love you, Papa. While I celebrate the blessing of God in my life and in the life of my children, my heart cries out for those children who have not known the love and support and care of a father. Happy Father's Day to all those patiots of the nation of morality and character, who daily do battle with our declining culture in their fight to raise godly children and to supply future generations with a moral foothold. You are valuable, you are important, you are essential.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Voyage - Day 13

Revelation: Florida is hot.
Correction: Florida is obscenely hot. We are not just closer to the sun then everyone else, we are the first colony built directly ON the molten surface of the sun.
Secondary Revelation: Florida becomes infinitely more calescent when the Air Conditioner is broken.
Chapter 1
The only fate worse than being incarcerated in a sweltering house on a torrid Florida day is doing said time in the big house with three hot children. As if being in a house that was bordering on 90 degrees was not enough to induce a DVT and a febrile seizure, just factor in the acrimonious attitudes of my children and I was at a boiling point. My children's peevishness was eclipsed only by my own irascibility (that one was for you, Sherry!) and splenetic misanthropy. In other words, the kids were crabby, and I was crabbier, it was some bad juju up in there.
Chapter 2
Did I mention that it was hot? Well, it was, and I was irritable. It was like the worst day of PMS combined with the day all the world ran out of chocolate and the only thing available to wear was a pair of irregular pantyhose from the clearance bin that have a third leg (I always wonder what they mean by "slightly irregular") and you have a big zit, right in the middle of your cheek that you can't get rid of, even with the strongest, most powerful zit creams on the market, and it mocks you every morning, as if to say "Here I am, I am strong like bull," it's Mount Zitlympous! Don't laugh, the zit thing really happened... Sorry, back to the story, there was no way I was cooking in that kitchen. We got ready in our jungle of a bathroom, I swear, there were parrots and snakes in there...and made our way to the local Perkins. I realize that I have mentioned elderly persons and their penchant for dining at that particular establishment previously, but even I was shocked when we entered the restaurant, it was a convocation of the ancients. I am not lying, I swear I saw the ghost of Wilford Brimley hovering over the tables, smiling upon those sweet little diabetics eating their sugar-free pie. We were in Zeus' Library, and we were packing three of the most clangorous lads ever to walk the earth. The only sounds in the room were the quiet clacking of ill-fitting dentures and the scraping of spoons against tiny bowls of cottage cheese and creamed corn. We fell for their scheme, "Kids Eat Free," which is a clever way to lower the median age of the patron to at least 70 (thus lowering their insurance premiums.) Now, after a stressful, sticky day, I was going to attempt to keep the cacophony to a minimum and prevent my children from having an unfortunate encounter with the business end of Edna's cane, what fun. We managed to eat, barely. Getting to church was a relief, it was cool there, adult people were talking (in complete sentences, I might add,) and my kids went to a special class, taught by deaf-mutes who weren't bothered by their ceaseless chatter. It was heaven.
We were fortunate, a dear, sweet friend loaned us a window mount air conditioner. Shadric and I installed it in our bedroom using high-tech materials like duct tape and trash is so indescribably ghetto-fabulous. We had a family camp-out. Did I mention how much I detest camping? The kids thought it was the best thing ever, so we celebrated by consuming copious amounts of microwave popcorn and soda. The bright side of this story? The fix-it man is coming tomorrow, and that is more wonderful than I can convey. I might cry when he arrives. I am thinking of surprising him with floral arrangements and a tray of assorted smoked meats. (Do you think that's overkill?)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Voyage - Day 11

For all the time I have spent concocting elaborate plans for summertime entertainment, it appears that, like all convoluted problems, the solution is less complicated then I first surmised. Ostensibly, my children would prefer to engage in plain, creative, FREE pursuits, rather then engage themselves in anything so trite as a second rate animated film festival. Through all of the preceding months of boredom and infighting, a solution floated quietly at the edge of my cerebral radar, eluding me, dancing at the borders of my conscious mind, a broken down thought-car on the berm of my cranium...Paint. The one activity that can send the most sensible and organized mother into a frenzy of panic and despair...PAINT. It's no surprise that the first four letters of that word are P-A-I-N. Had I known that this colorful, viscous substance had the power to mesmerize my offspring for prolonged periods of time, holding them captive, containing their never-ending energy and desire for inane bickering; I would have purchased stock in Sherwin Williams and gone through whatever 12 step program might have helped me come to terms with the potential risk to my clean and "UN-Jackson Pollack" style sense of home decor. Nevertheless, I was out of solutions today, having awakened on this Monday morning with a headache, one that was miserably centered, like a pulsating orb of doom, equipped with the strength of 1000 white-hot suns, behind my right eye. Like the coward I am, I staggered from my lair (also known as my boudoir, when I'm not lumbering forth from it like a constipated yak) and summoned the mental energy required to pour "Froot Loops" into bowls and add milk (They have to spell Froot like that because there is no actual Fruit involved in the production of said cereal.) But I digress... After my healthful breakfast of Excedrin Migraine and Dr. Pepper (At least I managed to consult a Physician...don't judge me.) I stumbled back to my bed, and after applying a heating pad to the right side of my head, which resulted in some highly attractive 1st degree burns, I managed to pull myself together in time to realize that we had missed the free movie. I was scrambling for an excuse that would hold water with my truth-sniffing-mutant-bloodhound children, (to no avail, I might add. The older they get, the harder it is to come up with believable lies on the fly.) Suddenly, through the pass-through into the dining room, my oculus (I use the singular, because my right eye was still slightly suspect at this point,) alighted upon a brand new, pristine roll of white art paper! I was thrilled, as I declared today "Art Appreciation Day." I sent them to their rooms to dress and brush their teeth, (on account of the Froot Loops.) Meanwhile, I raided all of my art supplies for those beautiful, magnificent little squeezee bottles of acrylic paint. By the time they emerged (like little bloodthirsty lions, waiting to pounce on my lack of planning and forethought) I had a homemade art studio set up in the dining room. I was prepared to sacrifice the cleanliness of that room for my dignity, (it was an easy choice, I have precious little dignity, and I wasn't about to give that away, even to avoid having to scrape paint from every conceivable surface...) This discovery made my day, they leapt into action, providing me with enough material to wall-paper my foyer. I made the rounds every few minutes, complimenting in excruciating detail, each and every artistic offering. Noah produced a surprisingly realistic undersea scene, and he worked with great concentration. I was aghast, nary a bick was bickered. Ethan preferred to concentrate his artistic fervor in the area of his current passion, his guitar. Part of me believes that he participated just to humor me, but I'll take it. Aidan, my dear little chap, was the most entertaining of all. He painted, with all of the furor of Pablo Picasso, a lovely impressionist rendering of our chihuahua, Stuart. You can tell that it was Stuart, not by the use of teal, red and royal blue for his legs, but by the bizarre angle of the too-large ears. He also painted a picture of the bass guitar he hopes to one day play, he has dubbed it "Blue Sol." But, my particular favorite was a picture of Jesus walking on the water. Unfortunately, my pride was unfounded, as my interpretation was unceremoniously contradicted by his explanation of his work. Apparently, that was not Jesus walking on the water, it was a Giant Panda looking at a whale and a giant squid, with the intention to fight to the death. Part of me was relieved, because it looked like Jesus had giant Mickey Mouse ears and was severely overweight... Needless to say, "Painting Time" was a smashing success. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves, including Mom. I went with the adage "Always leave them wanting more..." so I enforced clean up in time to have a late lunch. Everyone was so thrilled with their work, the harmony and repletion spilled over into a time of luncheon and reading. It was a good day. I am quite fatigued, it is late, however, after a last lingering persusal of the days artwork I have arrived at a few noteworthy conclusions. First, I will definitely allow painting to become a regular part of our weekly activities. I love the idea that they were able to coexist harmoniously for a short while, and that they used their creative super-powers for good, instead of devising ways of tormenting each other. It was like a tea party between Superman and Lex Luthor and Margaret Thatcher. (I don't know why I used Ms. Thatcher, I had no idea who else appeared in the whole Superman thing, can we just let that slide for today?) Secondly, I found a remarkable similarity between my children's paintings and those rendered by the elephants of Thailand. Apparently, there is a market for such artwork, a thriving community of boobs willing to pay ridiculously large amounts of money for pachyderm paintings. Fortunately, I am lacking basic "Art Scruples," and am not above forging Dumbo's signature.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Voyage - Day 10

It was a quiet day aboard ship, no mutiny of which to speak. I always worry when it gets too quiet. My kiddos are rather pinkish right now, which is what happens when they spend the night with their darker complected friends. They were in the pool, and, like all offspring born of "skim-milk-skin" parents, they burn like champs! No blisters or anything like that, just a light pinking of shoulders and noses. I know what you're thinking, how irresponsible of you, MOM! I apologize, they were swimming after 5pm, and I forgot to remember that the sun would come up the next day like a blazing disc of hell and scorch my children's hides. Needless to say, or perhaps, needfully said, (I wonder if it is just my progeny that become slightly wonky after sun exposure) my boys returned to the Metzner ranch in rare form, like DMV employees, they were cranked! Perhaps the unique combination of sleep deprivation and over exertion and chemical fumes from the chlorine joined forces to create a race of small, demanding mutants with pink skin. I offered sacrifices to placate them, food and beverage, but was forced to resort to tossing them into the rack at 8:00pm, which, according to children is akin to blasphemy. I blew kisses and left the room to a chorus of (sing it with me now....) "But MOO-OOM, it's not even DARK yet!" The soundtrack of summer: The calypso favorite, "MOM, he took my ______!" The R & B classic "He Busted A Cap In My Butt...Dang Nerf Dart." The always inspirational "I'm Bored, There's Nothing To Do!" And, my personal favorite, "The Snack Drawer's Empty, What Can I Have For A Snack?" I was anticipating that the mutants would have returned my normal children to me by this morning...I mean, if someone plied me with food and rubbed aloe into my neck and shoulders and put me to bed, I would be eternally grateful. But that's just me. They awoke in the same frame of mind...i was taking a number and preparing to spend the day at the DMV (it would have been a relief.) They are browning nicely, though, like little biscuits of destiny. Aidan actually tried to get out of going to church by using the classic line, "I can't go to church, Mom, I have a sunburn, and I won't be able to worship God NAKED." If I had a nickel for every time I heard that one...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Voyage - Day 9

It all began so innocently, a well cooked meal, full of brain developing nutrition...and love (I always put in the love.) Fresh green beans, real mashed potatoes (not the kind that come from the steam-bag thing, not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just saying,) swiss steak with homemade graby (it's graby because Aidan's alphabet did not include v's until he was 6, he felt that v's were pretentious and superfluous.) ...oh, and biscuits. We sat down to dinner, and the normal chaos ensued; it's like a nomadic band of auctioneers, who also happen to be starving, have stumbled upon the ultimate Vegas buffet. After the sheriff and I restored some order to the town, you know, reminding them that the food does it's best work when it's actually inside them and not flying through the air, either because they lack basic table manners or because they flicked it at another offender as a way of reminding THEM that their tables manners were lacking. Dinner is the ultimate test of parental listening skills. If you're diligent, you can divine important information about your children's development. Of course, that is, assuming you are able to filter out the torrent of completely irrelevent information and the other ridiculous verbal diarrhea which may or may not have some deeply camouflaged nugget of truth buried therein. Sometimes, an account of a playground scuffle is just that, the equivalent of a good fishing story, meant to entertain, and not a revelation. Other times, it's a priceless glimpse into their psyche, a momentary lapse in the defenses, a brief opportunity to scale the walls and see what's really inside the tree fort of their little boy minds. And frankly, sometimes, I just wish I hadn't looked. Meanwhile back at the ranch, we are eating the wonderful meal I had prepared, and I somehow manage (for those who know me, you'll realize the forthcoming incident is not all that uncommon for me....) to dribble gravy down my boob; ON THE INSIDE OF MY SHIRT. What's a mom to do? I had to wipe it! My two oldest sons were instantaneously grossed out. Noah crops up with this little gem, "Mom, they're not boobs, they're called BREASTS." Ethan decides that now is the moment to share a story about Bible class and the Breastplate of Righteousness. Aidan, however, wins the prize for this week's most interesting dinner discourse...and I quote, "well, I prefer to call 'em 'CIRCLES OF WONDER'." My husband choked, and he wasn't even eating, my eyes just got round...we weren't quite sure how to proceed. Aidan just gives my husband his fist, for a victory hand pound...I think we've all had enough dinner.