I wake up in the morning to the sounds of the kids screaming and fighting and Josh telling one child to stop doing something to the other child. I decide waking up can wait a little while. Repeat three times. Remind myself to be thankful Josh is home in the mornings. Once the kids are playing outside, I get up and fix myself breakfast. Now that I know they’re not inside to see me eating sausage and chocolate donettes, it’s safe to eat. I’m greedy with snack foods when I’m pregnant. Don’t ask me to share my breakfast meat or my processed mini chocolate frosted sugar cakes. Josh leaves for work around 10 am. Emmie is watching cartoons on Netflix, and Gareth is running back and forth from the computer to the printer, bringing me the coupons I’ve printed to go with my grocery list. For about 30 minutes things are fairly peaceful in our messy house. When the kids go outside to play in the backyard I can take a very fast shower without having to get out every other minute to break up a new fight. They’ll probably still be fighting in the backyard; I’m just oblivious to the screams while the water is running. I feel guilty for thinking that and get out of the shower, so I’ll know if something terrible happens to the kids. I wonder how far a kidnapper could get in five minutes. I decide I probably don’t want to know the answer to that, and I finish getting dressed. I’m wearing actual clothes before noon–better than yesterday’s time. I go outside and “read a book,” meaning I open a book, set it down, and go swing Gareth until it’s time for lunch.
Lunch is cold pizza, which I previously convinced the kids is much better and more exciting than warm pizza (“It doesn’t burn your mouth!”), so I don’t have to do any work to feed them lunch. I ask Emmeline a question. She tells me a lie. I wasn’t mad originally, but now I am, so I punish her. She tells me the same lie so many times she can’t even remember the truth anymore. I give up and send her and Gareth to their rooms for rest time. I burst into tears because my whole life revolves around my family and right now it feels like it bears no fruit. Gareth is worried because I’m sad. He is extra obedient and goes potty without fussing. He helps me pick his toys up, the whole time asking me, “Your baby giving you trouble Mommy? Why you sad, Mommy?” I leave the room to put something away, and when I come back I trip over the baby gate and land with all of my weight on my right knee. Ouch. More crying. Gareth is now too worried to move or ask questions, so he just sits there and waits for his story. I read to him, and he doesn’t protest at all when I close the door for naptime. I go to read the same story to Emmeline, but she’s chosen a page out of her Usborne Human Body book about lymph nodes. So I read that and show her where to feel her lymph nodes. She thinks it’s the coolest thing ever. Being her mom is a rollercoaster ride, but she’s a great kid.
I sit down to eat my (not cold) leftover pizza for lunch. It was a gesture of love and goodwill from Josh last night, along the lines of, “I love you. I’m sorry you’re sad. I’d offer to take you and the kids out to dinner, but that would probably make it worse. Would pizza help? At least you wouldn’t have to eat leftovers.” Josh calls to check on me, since I may have blown my fall out of proportion. He encourages me about the kids, tells me how he can see such a difference in them and that I’m doing a good job. He ends the phone call with, “Don’t forget, Emmeline is a very difficult child. She’s smart and spontaneous but she’s very stubborn and difficult to parent, and you get the brunt of that.” Sometimes the best encouragement is hearing someone else affirm that the thing you think is really hard actually is really hard.
Mid-lunch I hear, “Mommy, I pooped!” from Gareth’s bedroom. He’s filled up two sticker charts now with all of the times he’s peed in the potty, but number two is still a no-go. I get him cleaned up and send him back to his room. Now that he’s convinced I’m feeling better, he gives me a little more trouble this time, so I bribe him with two jelly beans, I mean, “rewards for obedience.” I finish cleaning his underpants, and I don’t know whether to be thankful that at least his poo is generally well-formed and easy to clean, or if I should feel sad that I’ve reached a point in my life where “well-formed poo” is something to be thankful for.
After two hours of alone time, we’re all feeling better, so we take our afternoon snacks outside. Everything is going well for a few minutes, then Gareth sees a bumblebee and gets nervous, so he comes to sit with me. I reflect on the fact that I’m no longer the family member most scared of bugs. Even though he doesn’t have me beat by much, and I was just as thankful for the cuddle. Emmeline comes up and wants to hold the bumblebee. I tell her, “Bumblebees sting. Never pick up a bumblebee.”
She runs off crying, “Mommy told me I can’t hold the bumblebee! She’s so unfair!”
Gareth decides to be offended on Sissy’s behalf, shouts “Rude Mommy!” And stomps off after Emmie. I give up on outside time and tell them to come inside. I get Emmie started on some phonics worksheets. The more independence I can give her, the better it goes. So I go back and forth between her and the dirty dishes for about 15 minutes, until her attention span runs out. She doesn’t have a lot of patience for reading; she just really loves doing worksheets. She reminds me, “We haven’t done our science school about the stars and planets!” I go pull up the online sample of Apologia’s elementary Astronomy textbook. I’m trying to figure out how long I can drag out one sample lesson about the sun, because she loves this book so much, and we don’t have 60 dollars to spend on a science book and accompanying worksheets right now. (I’ve learned this about Emmeline: anytime something comes with worksheets, get her the worksheets.) I’m partly wishing I hadn’t shown it to her–I should’ve known this would happen. But she’s so cute when she’s learning something about science. I say, “Tell me what you learned about the sun today, Emmeline.”
She answers, “I learned that if I look directly at the sun it will burn a hole in my retina, and I’ll go blind and I won’t even feel it happening!” She said that with the excitement and enthusiasm of someone who will probably want to try it on her little brother later. For now, though, she just wants to find her magnifying glass so she can burn a hole in a leaf. I remind her not to be disappointed if it doesn’t work. When I’m in charge of science experiments, they basically never work. Unfortunately Gareth lost the magnifying glass. He also lost one of my workout DVDs. No one wants to help me look for these, so science is over. I look for my missing, case-less DVD and stew about the fact that I get no respect. I then remember Josh never answered a question I asked him earlier. I text him again, hoping he can feel my unspoken rage burning a hole in his phone. OK, so I’m not really mad at him, but it’s a good time to sulk and be angry about the great injustices of my lot in life.
I think about how Josh told me he wishes he could read a summary of my day in three or four paragraphs. It’s that or do laundry, so I sit down to write. I get up once to break up a fight, once to make sure they’re actually playing not suffocating each other, and once to help Gareth get to the potty and sit there with him while he plays with himself. (Josh told me not to worry about it. Apparently it’s part of little boys’ potty training learning curve, and I’m not supposed to freak out about it. Here’s to self-discovery!) By the way, he did tinkle, so he got another sticker and a jelly bean. We sang his special song (the 20th century Fox theme) while we put his sticker on his chart. He’s now three stickers away from his second potty training prize, and still no number two. But on the bright side, even though Josh is working late tonight, I don’t have to fix dinner because we still have leftover pizza. Pizza twice in one day will have the kids declaring me, “The BEST MOMMY EVER!” Forget all that other stuff we did today. They’re just in this for the junk food.