Why My Children Are Tougher Than I Am

Yesterday we returned from our weekend road trip to discover that summer, hot on the trail of a much anticipated and notably delayed spring, had arrived.  According to my thermometer, it was ninety-one degrees.  According to the frizz in my hair, it was muggy.

Suffice to say, it felt more like August than May.

The key difference between this day and a ninety-one degree muggy day in August, though, is the fact that the yard remained lush.  Grass that just had been cut needed to be cut again.  Although in need of watering, new blooms adorned our perennials.  Everything was green and vibrant and sultry, rather than browned and burnt out and sultry.

After dinner the girls and I headed outside so I could water the plants.  Reese walked barefoot through the yard as I unwound the hose.  Kerrington happily splashed her hands in a dishpan of water that I had set on the patio as I dragged the hose to the side flower bed.

Then Kerrington got up to walk -- arms aloft for balance -- and beelined for the hose reel that's adjacent to the patio.  Her feet were moving much too fast, and I watched her trip, roll, and knock her forehead directly on the side of the patio.

And this morning the poor baby looked like this:

If you squint, her cut almost looks like it's in the shape of Texas.  It also seems to be as large as Texas, especially given the amount of sideways looks we received this morning when we ran to the grocery store.

I've been dabbing Neosporin on her forehead, amazed at how unaffected she seems.  If I had a bruise and scrape the size of Texas, I'd be letting everyone know.

When I was a kid -- especially during summer -- my knees perpetually were scraped and scabbed.  I thought nothing of it.  Now that I'm an adult I've lost this toughness.  Right now I have a scab the size of a quarter (okay, a dime) on my left knee, and gosh, it hurt when I was kneeling on the floor to give the girls their baths last night.

My children are much tougher than I am.

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Short and Sweet: Road Trip

An observation about traveling with young children in 100 or fewer words:

Like many people, we're taking advantage of the extended holiday weekend to visit family who live out of town.  Yesterday it was 12:17 p.m. when I fastened the kids' seat belts and officially pulled onto the road.

It was 3:39 when Kerrington finally fell asleep for her afternoon nap.

It was 3:54 when we arrived at our destination.

Typical road trip.

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Lamb and Pork

Title:  Lamb and Pork

Subtitle:  What our kids have been cooking for dinner these days.

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Not That We're Competitive

Our family is a little competitive.  Just a tad.  We don't always compete over significant matters, either, as evidenced during our conversation while cleaning up the kitchen after dinner tonight.

Reese:  "Have you ever opened the dishwasher with just one finger?  Because I just opened the dishwasher with just one finger."

Joel:  "No, never with just one finger."

Me:  "Me neither.  But I have opened it with my foot."

Joel:  "And I've opened it with my elbow."

Me:  "Really?  Well, I've opened it with my eyelashes."

Joel:  "Once I looked at the dishwasher and it opened."

Me:  "Once I just thought about opening the dishwasher and it opened."

Joel:  "I don't even need to think about the dishwasher for it to open for me."

Me:  "That's because I was the one who had thought about it."

Note that Reese, the originator of the conversation, appears nowhere in the remainder of the dialogue.   Poor kid.  It's hard to dance with the best.

Not that I'm competitive, though.

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Losing Sleep in the Name of Research (Part Two)

Some of you might recall that Joel and I have lost sleep in the name of research.  Now that Kerrington is one year old, her longitudinal sleep study is halfway over.

If you're new to Pink Dryer Lint or need a refresher, click on the original post that details this, um, experience.

Considering that this week marks the fifth time we've participated in the experiment, I've grown accustomed to the watches.  I rarely forget to click mine or Kerrington's when we go to sleep.  My pace when filling out the paperwork has improved.  I've trained myself to stop looking at the clock when I'm trying to fall asleep at night.

We're making progress.

Yesterday I visited a lab on campus for a quick test of Kerrington's attachment to me and her reaction to strangers.  She played on the floor with an assortment of toys while I joined her.  Then, in increments of three minutes, different stimuli were added or changed.

First, a researcher -- a sweet, fresh-faced grad student -- entered the room and sat in a chair quietly.  Kerrington eyed her, glanced at me, looked at her again, back to me, and finally refocused on her toys.

Then, the researcher and I engaged in conversation.  Again, Kerrington watched our exchange, pivoting her head back and forth between us as if she were witnessing a tennis match.

Next, the researcher got down on the floor and played with Kerrington, showing her blocks, teaching her to tap the xylopohone, and talking to her gently.

The following stage was the crux.  I left the room for three minutes while Kerrington was left alone with the researcher.

Let the crying begin.

I stood in the annex behind the one-way mirror while two researchers observed and filmed the interaction.  (This, I suspect, is the closest I will ever come to a legitimate interrogation room.  I need to convey the experience to my oldest daughter.  I think she'll be impressed.)

Kerrington's face grew red and scrunched as her mouth opened wide in silence before the cry emerged.  The researcher picked her up and rubbed her back.  Kerrington reached her arms toward the door.

The time was up.  I reentered the room, said her name, and just like that, those tears stopped.  The test was over.

Now I'm sure that the researchers were looking for elements that I didn't notice or heed, but for me, the take-home message is this:

Right now, I have a small window in Kerrington's life where my mere presence makes all things better.  I hope that this lasts a while.

We moms can stop tears just by showing up.  That's research-worthy.

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We've Got a Walker

She's rolled.  She's crawled.  And now she walks.

Kerrington started taking steps before her birthday, but they were isolated ones.  Her first step was witnessed by Reese and a dear college student who was at our house for dinner.  (If a baby takes a first step and the parents don't see it, does it still count?)

Over the next weeks, she'd take two or three steps at a time and then happily revert to crawling.  Gradually her stamina increased to four or five steps, then seven or eight, all the while extending her arms for balance.

Today, there seems to be no limit.  She's crossing the room.  She's navigating her way down the hallway.

Go, little biped, go.

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How To Clean a Microwave

Given my recent extended cleaning sprees, I thought that I could share a household tip.  The easiest way to clean a microwave is to fill a small microwave-safe bowl with water, add a squirt of lemon juice, and then microwave it on high for five minutes.  Keep the microwave closed for a minute or so after the timer buzzes.

The steam loosens any caked-on splatter.  The lemon freshens.  All you need to do is wipe the microwave clean with a damp cloth, no elbow grease required.

* This method was tested when I returned from church today.  I accidentally exploded leftovers in the microwave while rushing to feed the girls before the little ones napped.  Worked like a charm.


Slammed Door + Hand = Bad Combination

Quarter to eight is the time when our girls always are getting ready for bed.  Teeth are brushed, pajamas are pulled over heads, and lights are shortly out.

We had an exception last week.  Reese overturned the normal end-of-the day routine when she slammed her finger in the door between the garage and our hallway right before her bedtime.  I heard the cry before I saw the damage.

The door was shut completely.  Her finger was pinned, and there she stood, crying and shaking, as Joel opened the door to release her bruised and bloodied pinkie.

I don't know how doctors and nurses do what they do.

We headed straight to an urgent care center.  After two ice packs, a steep dose of Tylenol, an X-ray, a thick gauze bandage, one kind doctor who performed magic tricks and doled out generous amounts of stickers, and a good report (no broken fingers), Reese and I headed into the parking lot for our drive home.

It was over an hour past her bedtime.  She commented on the darkness and admitted that she was tired.  During the drive home her head slumped into the side of her booster seat.  She unconsciously drew her thumb to her mouth for comfort.

She'd been through a lot.

"You know what, Mom?"

"What, honey?"

"I'm kind of sad that I'm not going to be able to play on the monkey bars at recess tomorrow."

That's exactly when I knew that her recovery was going to be a quick one.  Very little gets in between our girl and the monkey bars.

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Short and Sweet: Lost in Your Eyes

Today's insight into why I still love 80's music in 100 or fewer words:

Like her sisters, Brooke has beautiful crystal blue eyes.  Before her nap today I scooped her in my arms, gazed at her face, and said, "I could get lost in your eyes, kiddo."

The only thing that stopped me from bursting into a rendition of Debbie Gibson's 1988 power ballad was Brooke's response.

"Mommy, I could get lost in your hair.  And in your teeth.  And behind your ear."

Oh, Brooke, you could take me to the skies.

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Playing Doctor

While her little sister napped and her older sister was at school, Brooke seized the moment of uninterrupted time with me.  We played doctor.

She always was the doctor.  I always was the patient.  I received seventy-three shots.  In spite of this, it was quite an enjoyable time, especially when she brought me a pillow, covered me with a blanket, and told me that I'd feel better when I rested.

Precisely when I settled my head down and thought that I could get used to this kind of treatment, she yanked the blanket aside, ordered me to sit up, and took my blood pressure by attaching the cuff to my ankle and tapping at my knee.

She's still in training.

Yet, one thing that Brooke is certain of is that God heals our boo-boos.  She's the girl who loves band-aids.  She's the one who announces "it blooded" when pointing to a scrape on her shin.  She's intrigued with injury, it would seem, and her intrigue is coupled with a simple and solid faith.

"Jesus makes you better, Mommy," she says as she pats me on the head, wedges the thermometer in my mouth, and places the stethoscope on my forehead.

Isn't that the truth?

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Tales of a House Rental

One of the perks and oddities of living in a university town is that we rent our house during several weekends each year.  Most often we rent to alumni who return for football games, but we also rent for other special events like this past weekend's graduation.

Despite the fact that we had been handed a sizable check, I questioned our judgment the first time we handed over the house keys to people who had been strangers a mere five minutes ago.  Will they trash the house?  Throw a keg party?  Rummage through our personal stuff?  Steal my kids' toys?

When we returned home at the end of the weekend and discovered that the house was no worse for the wear -- and that the guests even had piled the used sheets and towels in the laundry room -- we were pleased.

So, we've kept renting.

Prepping is the most difficult task.  The goal is to have the house appear as if you don't live in it, which is no small feat when you do.

We clear off all dressers, stow away toys, remove personal effects like the pictures and calendar on our refrigerator, and rid all clutter from counters.  Every surface is dusted, scrubbed, and tidied.  I take the food out of the refrigerator, wipe down the refrigerator shelves, and then restock.

Knowing that our renters would arrive at 3 on Friday, Joel and I raced the clock to dust, vacuum, and prepare every bed with fresh sheets.  Working against us were Brooke and Kerrington, two powerful mess-making entities who could undo in seconds what we had labored over for minutes.

Sliding glass door sprayed with window clearer and wiped?  Check.  Then Kerrington licked the door and rubbed her face back and forth along the glass, creating arcs of smeared saliva.

Kitchen table scrubbed?  Check.  That is, until Brooke pulled a Tupperware of noodles from the refrigerator and ate them at the kitchen table without the use of a plate, a fork, or a napkin.

Cleaning a house when you have kids present is like brushing your teeth while eating an Oreo.

Yet, it gets done.  Roughly three minutes before the doorbell rang, everything came together.  I visited each room one final time to admire its pristine state, thinking, I wish that I could live in a house that looks like this.

When the guests arrived we showed them around, handed over the keys, piled our kids into our crammed minivan, and drove to our destination.

Originally, we had planned to stay at my brother and his wife's house, but this option fell through earlier this week due to extenuating circumstances.  Joel scrambled to find a back-up plan.  As a campus minister he works with dozens of students, and three of them were willing to let our family stay at their apartment for the weekend.  They just had left town at the end of finals week.

We've known these three students for several years.  They regularly visit our house for dinner.  They play with our daughters.  They've helped move heavy furniture.  I love these guys.

It's a bit of a mess, one of them texted Joel on Friday.

A truer text never has been sent.

We arrived at the apartment and assessed the situation. It was bleak.  Joel contacted one of the roommates to ask where their vacuum was.  The response:  "If we have a vacuum, it's probably in the basement."

Let's dissect that statement for a moment.

If we have a vacuum...  As in, "Considering that I don't know whether we own a vacuum, you can safely assume that the floors haven't been vacuumed since we moved in last August."

Brooke was afraid to use the downstairs bathroom.  And the upstairs bathroom.

There seemed to be an infestation of ants.

A gallon of milk that had expired in March was still in the refrigerator.

Our survey didn't take long.  We packed up the kids once again, opted to eat dinner out, played outside at a park until bedtime, and then headed back to the apartment, set up air mattresses, and tucked the girls in for the night.

At which point Joel and I sat down for a minute, looked the place over, and figured the best course of action.

We started cleaning.

I tossed expired items from the fridge.  Joel bought and set up ant traps.  I emptied the trash and recyclable containers.  We scrubbed toilets, cleaned mirrors, wiped down sinks, gathered trash, tossed bath mats and kitchen towels in the washing machine, and scrubbed the kitchen floor.  Joel found the vacuum in the basement.  I cleaned the microwave and the laundry room.

That apartment has never looked so good.

Now that it's the end of the weekend, we're back in our own house.  I just finished wiping down our kitchen and bathrooms to clean up after our own renters, and as I type I hear the rhythmic sound of the washer and dryer upstairs.  Just four more loads of laundry, and it'll be like the rental never happened.

After this weekend, I must say that our house never has looked so good.

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Three Hundred Sixty Five

It's birthday season in our household.  In less than one month, we celebrate the birthdays of four out of five family members.  I'm the one outlier who was born in March.

Ultimately, this clustering of birthdays means that from mid-April to mid-May, I never take this banner down.

It's one perpetual party.

And today's specific celebration zeros in on Kerrington, our littlest peanut, who has been with our family for 365 days.

In one year she's grown from this swaddled bundle:

to this bright-eyed little little one who not only colors on our screen door with chalk, but also attempts to conceal the evidence by eating the chalk when finished drawing with it.

She is such a keeper.  We can't imagine our world without her.  Happy birthday, little one.

And tomorrow, we can take down our banner.

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Turning Three

She thanks me when she gets a greeting card in the mail, even though I wasn't the one who mailed it.

She sings the wrong words to the "I Love You" song, repeating, "You love me, you love me, we're a happy family," no doubt revealing her assurance of her rightful place as a well-loved member of our household.

She changes her outfit multiple times each day.

She appreciates when I put "paint polish" on her toenails.

She plunks herself down in my lap, nuzzles into me, and listens with her head tilted as I read book after book aloud to her.

She never seems to notice when her mop of light hair falls into her wide blue eyes and obstructs her view.

She is delightful, and today she is three.

 Happy birthday, Brooke.  You are amazing.

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Fees and Tickets

My daughter's kindergarten class had a field trip to the public library about a month ago.  She signed up for her own library card, and in her large six-year-old penmanship, wrote her name on the back of the card.  Just her first name, that is.  Who needs last names when you're six?

That night we returned to the library, checked out a hefty canvas bag-full of books using her new card, and then proceeded to leave that bag of books in the corner of our family room.

Time passed.  The end of the semester fell into its typical frenetic pace.  Life happened.  Pneumonia happened.  I never thought of those books again until I noticed the canvas bag lurking in the corner this morning.

This afternoon I paid the public library $15.30 in late fees for a stack of books that we never read.

Do you still send email reminders when books are nearing their due date? I asked the librarian, hoping that she'd realize that I was a first-time offender, waive the fee, and instead issue a stern warning.

Yes, they still send reminders.  It just so happened that when Reese used her own card, no email address was listed with her name.  And email reminders are the vital lifelines that have kept all of our previous trips to the library in the black.

Earlier this week, in fact, email was helpful to notify me that I had an unpaid parking ticket from the morning during the last week of classes when Joel and I needed to swap cars.  I had driven our van (sans parking pass) to the commuter lot where I park, and within one hour, the parking pass-less van had been nabbed.

Although I don't love that I've shelled out nearly $24 in the past week to pay for mistakes, it happens.

My goal is to prevent it from happening again, and thanks to a newly reconfigured library account for my daughter -- this time with my email address listed -- we're headed in the right direction.

Especially when I remember the parking pass.

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Observations from the Week

A few posts ago I wrote that I had been walloped with the mother of all colds.  Edit that.  I actually have been walloped with pneumonia.  The diagnosis was a relief since it legitimized why I felt so crummy.  I'm now five doses into a potent antibiotic, and am hoping to start feeling better soon.

My observations from the week:

1) Kids really have no clue that you're sick.  I carted all three girls to the doctor with me, so they physically saw me engage with a medical professional.  They've witnessed me carry a box of Kleenex from room to room.  They've heard my extended coughing jags.  Despite this, Brooke still tries to climb on my back and spur me to crawl on my hands and knees around the room as her horsey.

"Mommy's not feeling well," I say in response.  She merely looks at me and says, "Oh."  (pause)  "Can you get me a snack?"

2) Expect a degree of chaos.  As I was lying on the couch in a feverish haze, Brooke pushed a chair over to the kitchen counter, climbed onto the counter, and rummaged through the upper cupboard.

I was oblivious.

This is when she -- the child who has had so few accidents since being potty trained -- had an accident.  An accident while standing on the kitchen counter.  The exact area of kitchen counter where we keep our bowl of fresh fruit.  The kitchen counter directly above one slightly ajar drawer, a drawer open just wide enough to catch anything trickling off a counter.

It wasn't pretty. 

When I told my dad the story, he asked what she had been searching for in the cupboard.  I told him she wanted a toothpick.

"She's not even allowed to have a toothpick," he added.

Astute observation, yes.  But obviously my parental observation skills had been brought down a notch considering that I had a child standing and peeing on a kitchen counter, so the toothpick was the least of my concerns.

3) Rest, rest, rest.  My mother-in-law has been visiting the latter half of this week, and her help has been invaluable.  I've worn sweats all day.  I've napped.  I've finally slowed down, and this is such an important lesson to learn.

So, on this Saturday before Mother's Day, let me wish you good health, genuine rest, and above all, clean kitchen counters.

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Guest Post on The Mommies Network

Mom Blogger Spotlight: Robin, Pink Dryer Lint 

I began blogging last June.  With my newborn baby -- our third daughter -- cradled in my arms, I paced the family room floor, hushing and rocking, back-patting and spit-up wiping, and ultimately, coming to an unlikely middle-of-the-night conclusion that it was time to launch a blog.

As I look back, it’s clear that this was one of my better impetuous decisions.   After all, considering that I was sleep deprived and hormonally unstable I could have opted to do something equally rash but much less productive, like getting a drastic haircut or eating a regrettable amount of chocolate.

So in the haze of nighttime nursing sessions, Pink Dryer Lint was born.

Like a new parent with great intentions and little experience, I questioned my competence and purpose when blogging.  Was I doing it correctly?  I remember conducting a quick Google search on “mom blogs” and feeling deflated when it yielded over one hundred million hits.  What could I possibly add that hasn’t already been said about motherhood?

But herein lies the beauty of writing about motherhood: it doesn’t need to be novel to be meaningful.  It simply needs to be relatable.  Perhaps the best compliment I’ve received is when other women say that they see themselves – their lives – in my writing, even though their immediate circumstances may be vastly different from my own.

Given this, I’ve used Pink Dryer Lint to write about everyday moments that occur in a household with children.  I’ve written about tantrums, discipline, potty training, sleep deprivation, loneliness, fullness, and my inability to string coherent thoughts together.  I’ve documented notable moments like the first morning that my oldest daughter climbed onto the school bus and was whisked off to kindergarten, and the last evening that I settled into the rocking chair to nurse my youngest.  I’ve written about my intense aversion to yogurt and how my children, ironically, are drawn to it like moths to a flame.  I’ve shared about my relationship with God.  I’ve devoted an entire blog post to snot.

Really, not too much is off limits.

I’ve discovered that if I navigate each day with an observant eye, there will always be something to write about.  Kids are ripe with good material.

Plus, I’ve often been able to make better sense of life through the process of writing.  Motherhood, much like life, is messy.  You’re faced with hard decisions, stretches of repetitive minutia, and occasional identity crises.  (I still have sporadic moments of disbelief when I contemplate the fact that I have three children.  I’m the adult?  When did that happen?)

Blogging has been cathartic.  It’s provided an opportunity to sort out what I’m thinking, to pinpoint what I’m feeling, and to capture moments that I otherwise would have forgotten, like the day when my oldest daughter jumped off a trampoline in an attempt to reach a tree branch that was over fifteen feet away.  (She’s not yet skilled at judging distance.)  Or the afternoon that the two older girls asked – pleaded, actually – to blow bubbles, which in their vernacular meant that they wanted me to blow bubbles until I was lightheaded from oxygen deprivation while they ran through them in the yard.  Or, the day when I began to fill the bathtub, got sidetracked, and well, I’ll let you imagine the rest.

Just like any mother would acknowledge, life is busy.  During the mornings I teach college speech and writing classes, during the afternoons and evenings I stay home with the girls, and once the children are asleep I grade essays, prepare lessons, and answer email late into the night.  I often feel pulled in multiple directions.

Blogging, amazingly, has helped to ground me.  It reminds me on a regular basis to focus on what’s most important.  It prompts me to reflect on the whole gamut – the raw, the mind-numbing, the eye-opening, and the breathtaking moments that constitute parenthood -- before I blink and these little girls have managed to get all grown up on me.

That, of course, will need a whole additional blog post.

So, the next time that you’re removing pink or blue fuzz from your dryer lint trap, remember that it’s just one of the many ordinary pleasures that comes with this season in life.

Connect with Pink Dryer Lint: Facebook Page

Originally posted on The Mommies Network
Thursday, May 5, 2011

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Abstract Art

Title:  Abstract Art

Subtitle:  I've been told by the artist that this is a boat, a princess, and another boat.

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Almost the End (and a blog post you MUST visit)

It's the twenty-sixth mile of a marathon.  It's when your husband wipes your brow, focuses his gaze on your strained eyes as you labor in the hospital bed, and encourages you to keep pushing.

It's finals week.  So close to being finished, just not quite there.

Slightly dampening my ability to navigate the stacks of final student essays and e-Portfolios with coherence and fortitude is one key issue: I've been walloped with the mother of all colds.  It's downright ungodly.

The sinus pressure alone brings tears, but the coughing, the aches, the excessive use of Kleenex, and the pink eye (yes, I've contracted conjunctivitis) makes me want to sleep for two straight days.  Or, if I were a celebrity, to admit myself into the hospital and treated for exhaustion so I could still sleep for two straight days but also be the recipient of food wheeled on a cart directly to me, food that I didn't need to prepare myself.

And when a girl thinks hospital food sounds like a good option, she's in need of some help.

That being said, there's no better help for cloudy-headed misery than deep laughter, and this blog post did just that.  I laughed.  I coughed.  I laughed.  I coughed.  It moved me, really.

It's an older piece that I read quite some time ago, but one entirely worth revisiting.  The title alone had me at hello.  Really, you've got to read this, and take her advice -- don't skip the video, which is like a train wreck.  You simply cannot look away.

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