When Things Go Missing

Let me tell you a story about when things go missing. I’m not talking about little, day-to-day stuff like you set your keys down on the couch instead of the table, where you always put them, and then after some brief confusion you find them. I mean those times when you are completely baffled by the disappearance. This is a story of one such mystery and the happenings behind it.

Jane was preparing to do a load of laundry and asked if I had any bras that I wanted washed. “Yes,” I replied, “they are in my delicates bag which was sitting right in front of the hamper.”

Now, I should probably take the time to explain how we wash our “delicate” items or the story won’t make much sense to you. One of our loads of laundry is the “delicates” load. That’s when we wash sweaters, dresses, anything that should be washed in cold water, and our bras. Since bras are bad about getting wrapped tightly around other objects or snagging sweaters if the hooks come undone, Jane and I each have a mesh bag that we put our dirty bras in. This also makes it easier for us to extract them from the load and hang them to dry. Now that you are up to speed on our laundering habits, let’s return to the story.

Jane returned from our bathroom and reported that the bag wasn’t there. She checked the hamper and it wasn’t there either. So I began the search for the missing bras. I checked our bathroom, all the hampers, our bedroom, our closet. I stood blankly in the hall. I checked her room and her hamper. I returned to stand blankly in the hall. I checked the hall bathroom and even looked in the boys’ room and checked their hamper. The bag was missing.

Jane didn’t seem particularly concerned. She kept distracting me, asking whether she could go to a movie opening with a friend that night. Exasperated, I finally said, “I’m not going to talk about that movie! Do you understand that at least a hundred or hundred and twenty dollars worth of bras is missing?! We’ve got to find them. Where could they be?”

All of the logical places had been checked. They were not anywhere that anyone who had any business messing with the bag could have put it. That left one likely culprit. Hal.

I started checking cabinets. I looked under his Thomas train table, behind the treadmill, in the play kitchen. I just knew that he had decided to play with it and it could be hours before I finally found it in his pajama drawer or maybe the back of the refrigerator.

Asking Hal if he knew anything about it would be fruitless. The only chance to spark his memory on the matter was to show him what I was looking for. I asked Jane to bring me her bag. She went into her room and after a brief moment, I heard “Oh” and then a brief pause followed by a slightly puzzled quiet question to herself: “This bag had both of our bras in it?”

I entered her room to see her pulling the bag full of dirty bras out of her underwear drawer. Neither of us could figure out what would possess her to pick the bag up from the bathroom floor, assume they were clean, and put them away in her drawer.

Over the next day or two, I mulled over the mystery from time to time. Between the two of us, we eventually figured it out. The previous Saturday, I had anticipated that she would be washing a load of delicates so I put my mesh bag in front of the hamper. Soon after that, I noticed two of her sports bras sitting on my bed. I didn’t know why they were there but assumed they were dirty and she was preparing to wash them. So… I put them in the bag, on top of all of mine.

She didn’t do the load that day. The following day, she was dressing for a volleyball game and called out that she didn’t have any sports bras. I grabbed the bag and walked into her room. Tossing it on her bed, I said, “I guess you’ll just have to wear one of these.” In my mind, it was clear to all involved that they were dirty.

When we returned home from the volleyball game, she saw the bag on her bed with one of her sports bras on top, assumed they were clean, and put them away. Why would she assume they were clean? Simple. The bras are hung to dry in my closet. If she doesn’t promptly collect hers, I often throw her bras back into her bag, which was hanging to dry with them, and then I… toss the bag on her bed. She then sees a bag of bras on her bed and puts them away.

Each of us made reasonable assumptions based on the information at hand, yet our actions alone – no mischievous intervention from a four year old involved – resulted in the bag effectively disappearing.

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The Adventures of Hal

We had dinner at Chick-Fil-A tonight. Our local restaurant hosts “Spirit Nights” for various organizations. Tonight was for Destination Imagination, an activity that Daryl is involved in. A friend and her kids were there as well so we ate with her and her son while her daughter waited tables to help with the fundraiser. Jane stayed home and Daryl was, ironically, at his Destination Imagination practice.

Hal was a little wound up by the time we sat down. As he bounced on his chair, our friend commented how much she enjoyed reading about his antics on Facebook and on this blog. This kicked off a rapid-fire retelling of several of his more colorful tales from her and her young son, all centered around poop.

First, a favorite of our friend:

Jane and Hal were arguing about something that I don’t recall now.
Jane: “I am not going to argue with a four year-old.”
Dad: “You mean you are going to stop arguing with a four year-old?”
Hal: “Doodie Poopie bottom!”
Jane: “Yes.”

Then they talked about the time he rode his tricycle down to the neighbor’s house without permission. When I started to panic that he was missing, he rode back up and calmly announced, “I pooped in my pants.”

Then there was the day I found Hal in the bathroom, donning a pair of the blue latex gloves that we would wear while scrubbing the poop out of his underwear. When I asked what he was doing, he patiently explained to me that Sobo-be-nye-nye, his imaginary friend, had pooped in her pants.

I don’t know if Hal was listening and wanted to give them some firsthand exposure to his adventures or if it’s just not possible for an hour to go by without him entertaining those around him. Fortunately, the new tales do not involve poop. We sincerely hope to have permanently moved beyond those particular adventures.

Hal headed off to the play area while the rest of us sat around the table and talked. At one point, a lady approached our table, pointed at my husband, and said, “Excuse me, but your son is stuck between the slide and the wall.”

We all popped up to where we could see. Sure enough, Hal had managed to wedge himself between the slide and the wall. His face was already red from having been running around and now he was starting to look slightly panicked. His dad walked in and started talking him through it. Most of the dining room was now watching. One man asked me if he was trying to talk him through it or if he couldn’t figure out how to get him unstuck. I told him that my husband was the type of parent that makes a kid get himself out of a situation he got himself into.

Eventually, Hal was freed and resumed his running around. When he returned to the table, he was hot and sweaty and extremely thirsty. First he tried my lemonade but it was empty. He loudly proclaimed himself thirsty and then tried to stick a straw in Jane’s cup that I was going to take home to her. “No, that’s Jane’s,” I said. He loudly proclaimed himself thirsty.

That’s when he reached across the table for the other cup he saw, which belonged to Mary, our friend’s daughter who had finished with her volunteer work and was gathering her dinner before heading off to softball practice. Mary pulled it back and I told Hal that it was hers. He loudly proclaimed himself thirsty.

Now, there’s something you need to know about Mary. And about us. We are not a family that is overly concerned with germs. We will drink out of each other’s cups, share food off the same fork, even share a toothbrush if the situation is desperate enough. Mary is not like us in this regard. She is not the least bit interested in swapping germs with anyone. At all. Period.

Before I had the opportunity to find a solution to Hal’s parched problem, he had reached for the cup again and managed to get his lips on her straw before I pulled him off.

“Mom,” said Mary. “I need a new straw.”

So… I stole her straw and put it in Jane’s cup and then let Hal drink some of Jane’s tea, the whole time wondering what Mary thought of me giving Jane a straw that both Mary and Hal had touched. Oh, well. When you live with Hal, you do what you gotta do.

A Tale of Two Tuesdays

My husband was out of town last week. Being a single mom of three kids is no easy task, even if you do have friends and family to help you out. Let me tell you how last Tuesday went.

I got up before 6:00, feeling the pressure to get all four of us out the door on time so that no one would be late to school. I dropped Jane off about 7:20 and Daryl shortly there after. As Hal and I climbed out of the truck at his school, I realized that in the chaos of leaving the house, I had not verified that he had his backpack. He did not.

I didn’t have time to drive home so I warned him to be careful and not have an accident or spill food or fall in mud because he didn’t have a change of clothes. Then I drove to work, parked, and thought about the day ahead of me. That’s when I remembered I had a presentation to make at 10:15. I glanced down at my usual attire of jeans and tennis shoes and knew it wouldn’t do.

As I pulled out of the parking lot to make the 15 minute drive home, I thought, “Well, at least I can get Hal’s backpack.” Which I did. Although I left my cell phone sitting on the shelf where I had set it while changing my pants. And then I drove right past the preschool with the backpack.

Work greeted me with a voicemail from a coworker informing me that the presentations had moved up. They were starting at 8:30. We could be on as early as 8:50 and they wanted the slides delivered by 8:00. It was 8:28 when I got the message. With a sigh, I put my yogurt back in the fridge, grabbed my presentation, and rushed off. The morning had not gone well.

My sister-in-law picked up the older two from school. I got Hal and met them at home. We had about 10 minutes before we had to head to the elementary school for Open House. At one point, I found myself standing outside the library with a third grader who desperately wanted to buy a book from the book fair, a preschooler who was trying to run off, and a tween telling me that her volleyball coach said she had to have her knee pads at practice, which she had left at home.

I was texting the coach, explaining that she would be very late if we had to go back for the knee pads, when the phone rang. I answered it and found myself talking to the lovely woman that watches Hal while we practice bells. She was trying to coordinate an alternate plan for the next night when another call came in. It was my sister-in-law, who had arrived at the school and wanted to know where I was. I rushed directions without saying hello, told the church lady I’d call her later, sent Daryl into the book fair, told Jane to grab Hal, finished the text, and then tried to take a deep breath as I grew a few more grey hairs.

I would later leave the school to drop Jane off at volleyball practice without saying goodbye to my sister-in-law who was still looking for me. So then we met at my house, where I brought home Sonic hamburgers for dinner. When we finished eating, I had to load the boys up so we could pick Jane up from practice. By the time we got back home, it was past bedtime, no one had practiced their violas or taken showers, and I was exhausted.

Let’s just say that Tuesday was representative of the week as a whole.

This Tuesday, I woke up sometime after 6:00 and rolled over to cuddle with my husband through a couple rounds of snooze on the alarm clock. I padded around in my pajamas and played with the kids as they got ready for school. Sometime after they left with dad, I got in the shower. A lazy and relaxed start to the day.

After work, I met Jane and my husband at the school for TAG Open House. I stayed to look around with Jane while Daddy picked up Hal from the preschool and then Daryl from an after-school activity. Then I dropped Jane off at volleyball and, again, picked up Sonic for dinner. (Their hamburgers are half-priced on Tuesdays. We cook veggies at home for the sides.)

We ate and took care of a few things before my husband headed into town to get Jane. I tried to get the boys to take care of their chores. When my husband got home, I gave Hal a bath while he conducted Daryl’s viola practice. Everyone was tucked into bed sometime fairly close to their bedtime. I don’t feel exhausted.

The difference between the two days is remarkable. The evenings were about the same in complexity yet I grew no new grey hairs tonight. There is nothing, in my mind, dishonorable about being a single parent. But this right here was a vivid illustration on the value of a two-parent household. Being able to share the load again has me skipping with joy. Welcome home, honey! I am so glad you are here.

Casper, the Friendly Disciplinarian

Jane has reached the age where she quickly hides whatever she is doing anytime I unexpectedly walk into the room. It doesn’t even matter if she’s doing something wrong or not. The phone gets tucked under the blanket. The Kindle gets hidden behind the bathroom cabinet. The hands go quickly behind the back.

Yesterday, I walked into her room and the paper she was writing on was suddenly turned upside down and her hand was placed firmly over it.

“What are you writing?”

“Nothing.”

“Yes, you are. What are you writing?”

“Nothing. It doesn’t apply to you. It’s nothing.”

Jane’s mother is an insanely curious person. Being none of my business does little to quench the curiosity. I sat down on her bed. “Who is it to?”

“No one. It’s nothing.” At this point she crumpled the paper up and clenched it in her fist. Oh, boy, now the curiosity was racing.

“If it’s nothing then why can’t I see it? Who are you writing to?”

“Myself. I’m writing to myself and it’s nothing.”

At this point, the mother part of me realized that she was very uncomfortable and I shouldn’t push. She wasn’t acting like she had done something wrong. She just seemed embarrassed. The curious part of me idly wondered if I might be able to sneak in and find it after she went to bed. “Ok, fine. If you don’t want me to read it, I won’t.”

She pressed the paper back out on her table and picked up the marker she was using. I walked out the door, wondering if I could live with not knowing what she was writing.

Today, I asked her again what she wrote about.

“Do you want to read it?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“OK. You can read it.” She left the room and returned with the paper ball, which she threw at me with a smile. I read it and started laughing. Her father, grandmother, aunt, and her aunt’s boyfriend were all around the table. With her permission, I wadded the paper up and threw it to her dad, who read it and then wadded it up to throw it to her aunt, and so on until everyone had read it.

I got her permission to share it here after telling her that I found it very creative and a cute attempt to motivate herself. Before I share it, you must know that Jane has an imaginary friend named Casper. She knows he’s not real. At least, I think she does. Here’s the paper:

casper_discipline

In case you can’t read it through the wrinkles, it says “Make your bed or you aren’t allowed to txt for 20 days!! I mean it! Love, Casper”

Her bed, by the way, was very nicely made this morning. I guess I need to take a page from Casper’s playbook. The threat of a texting ban was obviously effective.

What Beneath A Pillow Lurks

Underneath a boy’s pillow is a mysterious and dangerous place that only the bravest of parents should dare to venture.

I have found quite the variety of items under pillows over the years. The most common, by far, has been candy. There is a bear pillow that is still waiting for me to figure out how to unstick the blue candy cane that is matted into its fur after Hal tired of sucking on the candy during the night and tucked it under his pillow for safe keeping.

When Daryl was very young, I came to tuck him in and he said, “You can give me a hug, but don’t put your hands under my pillow.” That, obviously, caused me to do just that, revealing his candy stash he planned to consume that night.

The Nintendo DS has been a recent sub-pillow dweller, although we appear to have resolved that issue. I have extracted quite a few books, toys, flashlights, even pen and paper.

All the candy and toys in the world couldn’t have prepared me for last night, however. My natural hugging of a tucked-in child causes my hand to sweep under the pillow. As I hugged Hal, I thrust my right hand under the pillow and was stabbed!

“Ow! What in the world??!!”

I pulled one of Daryl’s jumbo thumb tacks out from under the pillow. “You have got to be kidding me! What were you thinking, Hal? Do you have any idea how much this would have hurt if you had stabbed yourself in the night? Look! I’m bleeding. This was a terrible idea!”

He looked suitably abashed and gave me extra-tight squeeze hugs in an attempt to make amends. I never expected to injure myself tucking my children into bed. I think I might start wearing heavy duty rubber gloves and searching the bed before I go in for the hug.

Bee Nests, Dog Snores, and Busy Mice

My husband has been away for several days now. As a ridiculously light sleeper, I find his absence typically means more restful nights since there is not another body moving and breathing nearby.

On night number one, Hal entered my room after I had fallen asleep, announced that he was scared, and hurriedly climbed into bed. I listened for a possible explanation for his fear and settled on the rather loud wind blowing outside. I assured him that it wouldn’t bother him and held him tight for several minutes. Eventually, I gently told him it was time to return to bed.

NO!” His reply was so forceful that it surprised me. “There is a bee nest in my bed! I can’t go back in there!” He sounded panicked.

“Honey, there’s not a bee nest in your bed. You need to go back to your room to go to sleep.”

With a voice full of command, he insisted, “You go in there and look! There is a bee nest in my bed!”

“Ok. I’ll check your bed but you come with me.”

I carefully checked his bed and found only some broken rubber bands. When I said so, he gestured to another part of the bed and told me that he had been sleeping over there. I checked that part of the bed and confirmed that all that had been in his bed were the rubber bands. He then told me that he had one on his wrist that was not broken. It took me several tries to get my fingers under the too-tight rubber band on his wrist to break it lose.

A humorous aside: As I told this story to my husband on the phone the next day, the term “bee nest” came up repeatedly. Eventually, he interrupted me and asked, “Are you saying that he thought there was a penis in his bed? Hal has talked about the bee nest repeatedly and every time, I have to fight down the smile as I hear “penis”.

Back to my nights… Night number two found me lying awake, listening alternately to the dog snoring at the foot of the bed and Jane coughing across the hall. I eventually yelled at the dog to startle her awake but could not bring myself to disturb the sleeping girl.

You would think that I would be extremely tired moving into night number three and you would be right. If you think this would make me retire earlier, then you overestimate my good sense.

Around midnight, I lay in bed reading, knowing I should stop. Before I could act on that knowledge, I heard a rattling sound in the bathroom. I listened for a couple of minutes, trying to pretend I didn’t know what it was.

I’ll need to back up to that morning for you to understand the sound. I was sitting in the bathroom. Reading. (Give me a break… it’s a really good book!) Anyway, I was sitting there reading when something caught my eye. I looked up in time to see a small field mouse scurry under the door, across the floor, and behind a picture leaning against the shower, waiting to be hung on the wall.

When we installed the new shower, we had to install it on a raised platform to account for both the drain hole and the water pipes not being where they needed to be. The water pipes come out of the foundation and now angle across the floor under the shower. There are two notches cut in the platform supports for the pipes. One apparently had enough room for a mouse to pass through.

When I came home from church, I noticed a large nut sitting in front of that hole that I was fairly certain had not been there before. I strongly suspected that that nut was what was making the rattling noise at midnight. More specifically, it was likely the little mouse trying to move the nut under the platform.

I once had a rather traumatic experience of a mouse running across my head as I lay in my bed. With that memory, I knew I couldn’t sleep wondering about the mouse. As I switched on the light in the bathroom, I saw the nut rattle as the mouse disappeared under the platform.

With a sigh, I headed to the kitchen to prepare a mouse trap with some peanut butter. By the time I got back to the bathroom, the mouse had resumed its ridiculous attempts to pull the nut through the small hole. It darted back to safety and I carefully laid the trap nearby.

Back in bed, I thought about how loud a mouse trap is when it triggers and about how mice don’t always die immediately. I relived a moment nearly two decades earlier when I had listened to the squeak of a caught mouse and been unable to put it out of its misery. I also worried about the mouse ignoring the trap and coming into the bedroom. Sleep, I was sure, was not coming soon.

The rattling resumed shortly after I climbed back in bed. When it stopped, I got up and turned on the light. The nut, to my shock, was gone! I could believe that a squishy mouse could get through that hole but surely not that fat nut! Then I saw the trap. Licked clean of all its peanut butter.

This time, I used a toothpick to carefully push the peanut butter deep into the mechanism of the trap.

Eventually, I managed to drift off into a fitful sleep. I was dreaming about dealing with the mouse when a loud THWACK! woke me up. Confused, I lay awake wondering what had interrupted my slumber. It slowly dawned on me that the noise was most likely the trap. A quick check confirmed that I was right.

Finally, maybe I could sleep peacefully. As I lay there, waiting for sleep to return, the coughing started across the hall. And I was fairly sure I could hear faint snoring from the dog asleep on the couch. It was now well after 1:00. My alarm would go off in just over four and a half hours and I was nowhere near sleep. I was pretty sure the day would be a Mountain Dew day.

Stuff-Messer’s Rehabilitation Program

Hal has a problem messing with other people’s stuff. His curiosity consistently gets the best of him. I was recently sitting in my bathroom and I could hear him moving around in my room. I called out to him.

“Hal! What are you doing?”

I got the standard reply: “Nothing!”

“Oh, yes, you most certainly are doing something. What are you doing?”

“I’m messing with your stuff.”

This cracked me up because he knew that the next phrase out of my mouth would be “stop messing with my stuff!” He hears it a lot. The admonition does no good, though. He still regularly, daily messes with other people’s stuff.

Daryl bears the brunt of the messing. He has to share a room with the serial messer, after all. This means “Hal, stop messing with your brother’s stuff” is the most common version of the refrain.

The single most often messed-with item is Daryl’s Nintendo DS, which he just got for Christmas last year. Hal’s desire to play with the DS is so strong that he began to hide it under his pillow. He’d get up in the night to try to play with it in his bed when no one could see him. He’d hide with it during the day.

We had tried everything we could think of to get him to stop. We tried timeout. We tried denying him special opportunities. We tried spanking. Nothing stopped him. It didn’t even cause him to hesitate or hold off for a day. We were catching him with the DS every single day!

On one particular day, my exasperated husband asked me “What are we going to do about Hal and Daryl’s DS?” I didn’t have an answer. The situation seemed unsolvable. “I honestly don’t know, honey.”

That night, I went into their room to tuck Hal in bed for the night. He was laying on his stomach and did that telltale shuffle and flop that kids do when they are trying to hide whatever they are doing. I told him to get up. He moved. Reluctantly. I lifted his pillow. I saw the DS. Then I saw red.

I wanted to rage. I wanted to shake some sense into him. I wanted to get through to him that this had to stop. I’m pretty sure I yelled as I grabbed the DS. I headed down the hallway to give it and the responsibility for finding a new consequence to my husband. When suddenly, inspiration struck. I was still angry but I had just thought of something we hadn’t tried yet. Something that was bound to work.

What is the best way to teach someone to respect someone else’s stuff? Perhaps take away their favorite stuff? I grabbed a trash bag and returned to his room. I began to grab his most favorite possessions and put them in the bag. His “sleep bee” (bumble bee pillow pet), his Pooh-bear blanket, his huge stuffed caterpillar, Dug (the talking dog), his lullaby lightning bug, his cowboy boots, his Green Bay Packers jersey, Mr. Fuzzy (a stuffed seal), his Battat airplane, and more. I filled the trash bag while he wailed and cried. And then I sat down on his bed.

“Hal, I’m not going to throw these things away.” His crying settled down. “I am taking them away and you will not have them for two weeks. You have got to stop touching Daryl’s stuff, particularly his DS, without permission. If you touch his DS during that two weeks, you will have to pick something out of this bag to give away. We will give it away and you won’t have it anymore. It will be gone. And then your two weeks will start over again. Each time you touch his DS, you will lose something out of the bag. But if you go two weeks without touching it, then you will get all of it back.”

That was a week ago. So far, everything that was put in the bag is still in the bag. We appear to have achieved success. He’s not moping around, pining for his missing items. He’s actually started playing with things he didn’t used to play with. But not Daryl’s DS. And while he’s not talking about the bag’s contents, I’m fairly sure he’s still thinking about them. And eagerly awaiting their return.