Is There A Doctor In The House?

One recent Saturday morning shortly after seven, as I lay in bed reading and delaying getting up, an eerie sound started up in the boys’ room. It sounded like some sort of special effect from a science fiction movie. Before I could identify the noise, it was punctuated by a robotic voice menacingly declaring “Exterminate! Exterminate!” The music continued and then the voice cut in again and so on.

I soon heard the rustling of sheets and sleepy voices mumbling to each other, first softly and then at a near shout when it became clear that neither wanted to get out of bed. “Turn it off!”…”You turn it off!”…”You are closer!”…”So?! I don’t know how!”…”But I’m on the bunk bed! Just do it! Hurry!”…”I don’t know how!”

Then there was the sound of someone stumbling out of bed, some bumping and exclamations, and then the Dalek and his background music desisted. Some slight rustling as the vanquisher returned to bed. And then silence.

I turned to my husband and smiled. He smiled back. “That was awesome,” he laughed quietly. And, indeed, it was.

You see, that Dalek was ours before it was taken without permission. It had sat placidly in our bedroom not threatening anyone for well over six months since we received it for Christmas. If you press on its head, it will project the time on the ceiling. Pressing its head while the alarm is going off will also act as a snooze and we both continued to smile as we could guess how the boys had likely quieted the Dalek.

Sure enough, ten minutes later, it started up again and the entire situation played out much the same. Only this time, the young bottom-bunk dweller opted to retire to our room after performing his duty so that he couldn’t be tasked with silencing it again.

The next morning, the Dalek greeted us shortly after seven. And again the next. One night, as I tucked the boys into bed, I picked it up and said, “You know, when you guys took this from our room, you fiddled with it and turned the alarm clock on. You need to figure out how to undo it.”

They shrugged me off. I, in turn, shrugged them off. They had dug themselves into this hole and we found the Dalek not merely amusing, but pretty helpful, guaranteeing that our boys would be roused shortly after seven each morning.

After a week or so of this, I went to tuck the boys in last night. Hal looked up and pleaded with me, “Mommy! Will you please, please take that Dalek out of here?!”

“No,” I said, “I rather like it being in here. It does a good job of waking you guys up at 7:15.”

“But I don’t want to wake up at 7:15!” Daryl protested. “I want to wake up at 8:15!”

“Please!” begged Hal. “It scares me. Please?!”

His tone was genuinely that of a scared little boy. I got to thinking about my reaction when I heard that alarm the first time and firmly told my husband he was to never enable the alarm. And how much I had jumped when someone had nevertheless inadvertently turned it on.

I took the Dalek out of the room.

My husband was waiting for me at the dining room table for our budget discussion. I set the Dalek down in front of him. He looked up at it and burst out laughing.

I smiled.

The Dalek had been a gift. One that we had suggested we’d enjoy – mostly because we were after the projected clock. That feature worked but not the way we had intended. The gift, however, has not gone unappreciated. This past week gave us all the enjoyment we needed.

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Mother’s Day… Just More of the Same

I had a crummy Mother’s Day.

Moms aren’t supposed to say that but there it is.  And I wasn’t alone, trust me.  Moms all across America were having crummy Mother’s Days.  I know because I ran into a couple of them.

My husband and daughter rose early to go prepare breakfast at church.  In honor of Mother’s Day, I got to pick the menu but it’s not quite the same as getting served breakfast in bed.  Especially since their early absence meant I got to rustle the boys out of bed and get them ready for church on my own.  That’s about like most Sundays except this time, they had been out very late the night before and wouldn’t get out of bed.  Exasperated, I attempted to employ Mommy Guilt:  “Come on boys!  It’s Mother’s DayCan’t you please do what you are supposed to do without me having to fight you?!”

That met with limited success.  Still, we got out the door earlier than usual – mostly because I dragged myself out of bed earlier than usual.  Sane moms like to sleep in on Mother’s Day.  I am no longer sane.  I had a long list of responsibilities waiting for me at church:  I needed to replenish the papers in the children’s worship notebooks, teach Sunday School, practice bells, and perform in three different bell pieces, oh and check with a number of other people about upcoming events.  Then my daughter called asking me to pick something up at home and also get some milk from the store.  I didn’t get to church on time.

That meant I was rushing around trying to take care of everything.  In the midst of all that, my husband reminded me that the older two kids had a recital at 2:00 in the afternoon.  So much for fixing tacos and watching Dr. Who after church.  More on the recital later.

As I sat at a table, snarfing down my breakfast (which, I must say, included a cup of my favorite yogurt purchased especially for me by my husband and daughter), a friend walked in with her two kids.  Jane looked up and cheerfully wished her a Happy Mother’s Day.  She smiled in that sweet, ironic way that we use when we appreciate something but still aren’t happy.

“Thank you!” she said, turning to glare at her kids. “You are the first person to say that to me today.”  She then went on to rant about her allegedly unappreciative children as they stared sullenly at the table.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist or even another overly taxed mother to recognize that she wasn’t getting a great start to her Mother’s Day.  I tried to calm the nerves and lighten the mood, which didn’t work too well since I wasn’t exactly starting from a happy place myself.

Before long, I was attempting to teach Sunday School, which I had not prepared for, which meant I knew I was not making it particularly exciting for anyone and I had no clue what was coming next since I hadn’t read it ahead of time.  Then I went to practice bells with such a jumble of nerves that I just felt like nothing was clicking.  I didn’t play well and Hal was pouting because I wouldn’t let him go out to play.

I encountered yet another mom a short time later and attempted to wish her a hearty Happy Mother’s Day.  She rolled her eyes at me and indicated that none of her three children had yet said those words to her.  Must be something in the water, I said, telling her about the earlier mom.

“Well,” she clarified, “My oldest did send me a text.  That’s all she could manage.  I ranked high enough for a text message, not a face-to-face or even a phone call.”

“I got tagged in a selfie on Instagram taken in our bathroom this morning,” I said.  Although, to be fair to my daughter, she did remember to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day before I got out of bed too.  Still, the selfie tag was distinctly odd to me.

It was, of course, difficult to settle into the Worship service with so much going on.  I didn’t get to watch my children sing in the children’s choir because I played bells for one of the songs and then stayed trapped behind them for the other.  Turns out that Hal had remained on the pew anyway and neither of his siblings had thought to drag him up front.  He still expected me to give him the gum I had promised him after he sang… even though he didn’t sing.  That resulted in a quiet, prolonged fit next to me.

The boys and I were able to leave the church shortly after 12:30 but Jane and her Daddy had to clean up from breakfast.  We didn’t have much time before the recital so I reheated some leftover pizza that we all ate quickly while my husband baked the cookies we needed to provide for the reception after the recital.

Now, I suppose many people think it is sweet and endearing to have a solo recital on Mother’s Day.  I’m not one of those people.  At least, not anymore.  I get it.  Moms love their kids.  They like to see their kids perform.  But, it’s a lot of work to find clothes sufficiently dressy for them to wear.  And I’ve been attending these recitals for eight years now.  There’s only so much scratching through Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that one woman can handle.  Yes, I love to watch my kids play but a recital isn’t just about them.  It’s also about all those other kids too, who, I’m sorry, in my stressed out state, I really don’t care to listen to.  But I have to sit quietly with a pleasant smile on my face and clap at the appropriate times.

It was just one more obligation in a day full of obligations and responsibilities.  I was tired.  I was stressed.  My time was not my own.  The one day when I should have gotten to set the agenda, I did not get to.  And that was my biggest problem with the day.

Things improved when I got to the reception.  We sat down with some friends we don’t see often and just talked.  The one nice thing about parenting a teenager is getting to talk with the parents of other teenagers and receive confirmation that you are not alone.  That that sweet girl smiling at the nearby table secretly turns into a witch at home just like yours does.

And eventually, we went home.  And after I took care of some church business and some volleyball business and some laundry, I finally got to start my day roughly how I wanted it to go, sometime around 5:00 in the evening.  We fixed tacos together and watched an episode of Dr. Who, while I folded laundry.  And then the boys went to bed reasonably easily and Jane retired to her room and then we watched Grey’s Anatomy while I folded more laundry and drank a glass of Orange Moscato.  And my husband didn’t even get upset when I knocked over his favorite tumbler, shattering it on the floor.

Stone Age

A coworker today told me that I’m living in the Stone Age. He said this when he found out we don’t have cable. Actually any TV reception at all.

We watch our TV from Netflix and Amazon Prime via our Roku box. I hear that’s how the cavemen did it too. My coworker, on the other hand, recently upgraded from taping his shows to using a DVR.

I depend heavily on my smart phone. It serves as my alarm clock, cooking timer, stopwatch, address book, calendar and day planner, email portal, to-do list, notebook, map, GPS, dictionary, camera, video camera, newspaper, reference book, casual gaming device, and more. I even use it to make phone calls from time to time.

My coworker, the Renaissance Man that he is, doesn’t have a smart phone. Actually, he doesn’t have a cell phone at all. Or a computer. No internet at home. What separates sophisticates like him from stone-agers like me is apparently not technology at all but merely whether you have access to catch the Super Bowl this weekend.

As much as I love watching big beefy guys crash into each other, I think I’ll just stay in my cave. Besides, I can get a pretty good idea how the game is going by watching my Facebook newsfeed. On my phone. While watching Dr. Who on my Roku. And all the commercials will likely be on YouTube by Monday.

Mommy Comes Home

For awhile before my husband got a C-PAP machine to wear while sleeping, I was in the habit of wearing earplugs to bed. I am a hopelessly light sleeper and he snores. The earplugs took some getting used to mostly because the silence was truly deafening. It was like total sensory deprivation. When I would remove them in the morning, the sound – even of a quiet house – seemed so… rich. Intense. Almost too much.

Returning to my boys in my house after spending a week in Washington, D.C. felt much the same. While the trip had its frustrations and its own sources of exhaustion, it was basically a get-away. Jane was a pleasure, my time was largely my own. No one was screaming or bouncing off the walls or acting out. It was a reasonably quiet, reserved vacation.

Within minutes of entering the house, I was on sensory overload. The boys were still hyped up from their own vacation and seeing Mommy again pushed them over the edge. The dog was also excited to have the clan reunited. She was running around, jumping and licking, and in general adding energy to the room. My husband was trying to show me the gifts he had purchased. I was handing out my gifts to the boys. Jane was making plans for the evening.

When my husband left to take Jane to meet her friend at the theater, I found myself alone with children I had grown unaccustomed to wrangling. I managed to sort the dirty laundry from the suitcase into piles on the floor before retreating to the bedroom and closing the door. I called my mom but she was at volleyball and unable to visit. The noise in the living room was ratcheting up louder and louder. It seemed wise to investigate.

The scene that greeted me literally made me dizzy. The boys were prancing around the room, laughing and giggling, waving their arms in the air. They almost looked like natives dancing around a fire. When they saw me, the hilarity redoubled. The real shocker wasn’t their activity though. No, it was their attire.

They were wearing our dirty laundry. Each was wearing either my shirt or Jane’s. Under the shirts, they had layered swimsuits and bras to give themselves the appearance of breasts. The strutting and dancing was performed with chests thrust forward and calls of “Look at me! Look at me!”

I wondered why I had thought my husband was being so generous to me when he said he’d run Jane into town. I was too tired and overwhelmed to yell or laugh, either one. I just pulled the undergarments off the hysterical boys and in a fit of desperation asked, “Who wants to watch Dr. Who?!”