Summer Camp

Daryl was showing considerable reluctance in packing for summer camp. His sister finally grabbed the list of required items sent by the camp and headed into his room to help. We heard her instruct him to find his Bible, a pen, a notebook, a flashlight…

“Ok, you need six pairs of socks.”

“But I’m only going to be there for five days!”

“You need an extra pair in case you have an accident.”

Daryl adopted an indignant expression. With considerable heat, he responded, “I am not going to have an accident.”

“I don’t mean in case you pee in your pants. I mean in case you slip in the mud or something!”

“Oh. Ok.”

Across the hall, my husband and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Later that night, shortly after all the children went to bed, I went through his suitcase to verify he had everything. Six pairs of socks, five shorts, six shirts, pajamas… wait.

“Daryl! You are not taking these winter pajamas! Are you crazy? Don’t you have some summer pajamas?!”

“No!” he called from his room.

“None?”

“No!”

I called my husband, who was at the store. “Please pick up some pajamas for Daryl. He’ll look like a fool wearing these.”

I continued to dig. Socks, shorts, shirts, pajamas, swimsuit, towels, shoes… Where is his underwear?

“Daryl!”

“What?!”

I walked into his room and flipped on the light. “You plan on wearing any underwear while you are at camp?”

“Oh. Sorry.” Reacting to my glare, he protested, “But it wasn’t on the list!”

I grabbed six pairs… just in case he has an accident, you know… and returned to the living room. His toothbrush was in a little bag but there was no toothpaste. Daryl is very particular about toothpaste. It can’t be mint or cinnamon, which rules out most of what we have in the house. We had just purchased him a tube of “acceptable” toothpaste earlier in the day.

I called my husband back. “Where’s the toothpaste you bought?”

“I don’t know. I gave it to Daryl.”

“Stay on the phone while I ask him where it is. Just in case you have to buy another one.”

Daryl’s recollection proved faulty. I had to move the suitcase and the sleeping dog to dig through the cushions of the couch, where he thought he had left it. I found a ten pound barbell under the cushions, but no toothpaste. I searched the surrounding area and then instructed my husband to buy another tube.

My final search through the suitcase revealed that Jane and Daryl had mistaken the Aloe Aftersun lotion for sunscreen. The boy hates sunscreen anyway. I can only imagine how upset he’d be to put it on every day and still burn to a crisp. Maybe the counselor would notice the problem. And wonder what the heck is wrong with his mother, most likely.

I’m glad I decided not to trust Jane’s packing assistance. It makes me wonder if I should go through her suitcase to see what’s missing.

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The Evolution of a Snazzy Outfit

Hal found a clip-on tie in his dresser this morning and announced his intention to wear it. When I saw him next, he was wearing his Power Ranger pajama bottoms and a white undershirt with the tie clipped on.

“Mommy, where are my shirts with all the buttons on them that I can wear a tie with and that are just for me to wear? Where are the shirts with all the buttons?”

I led him to his closet, where he selected a blue button-down shirt. I then left him to his dressing choices and resumed my breakfast.

He returned in a few minutes, claiming that the shirt was too big. I helped him button it and explained that it was supposed to be tucked in. When he prepared to do so, I asked, “Are you really going to tuck it into your Power Ranger pajamas?”

“Oh! No.” He smiled sheepishly and hurried back to his room.

As I was rinsing my breakfast bowl, he returned. “TA-DAAA!! What do you think of these pants?!” His voice clearly indicated that he thought he was dressed to the nines.

He had tucked his shirt into a pair of polyester workout pants with stripes down the sides. I stifled my laugh just barely better than Jane did. Then he walked up to me and fingered the tie hanging from the collar of his shirt.

“Mommy, can you tie this into a bow tie like Daddy wears to church?” I gotta agree. A bow tie is all he needs to put this outfit over the top. Bow ties are cool.

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The Case of the Cursed Pajamas

I was in Hal’s room tonight as he got ready for bed. It is supposed to be very cold so I recommended he wear his fuzzy, footed monster pajamas. He agreed. Last night, he had worn a hand-me-down pair from his cousin but when I went in to wake him this morning, he had only been wearing his underwear.

“Where are your pajamas?” I had asked. “It’s way too cold to be sleeping without pajamas right now.”

He had shrugged me off, saying he felt like sleeping that way. All of my kids have strange notions on sleeping attire, so I thought nothing of it.

Back to this evening. As he struggled out of his shirt and I located his fuzzy, footed monster pajamas, he began to speak in a very nonchalant voice, as if what he had to say was of only middling importance to him.

“I am waiting for that pair of tajamas to dry. They have water on them.”

“What pair of pajamas? Why do they have water on them?”

I turned to where he pointed and saw the pajamas that he had been wearing the night before, tangled up with a pair of underwear, resting on a pile of books at the foot of his bed.

As I reached toward them, I could tell that they were not wet because of water.

“Hal! You peed in these pajamas! And you’ve let them sit on these books all day! Look,” I said as I lifted the top book, “This one is ruined. Come on, you need to carry these clothes. Let’s go.”

“NOOOOOoooo!!!! I don’t want to lose these tajamas! NOOOooo!” he cried.

Suddenly, everything fell into place. He thought we were headed to the trash can, not the washing machine. When he asked to wear the hand-me-downs the night before, I had said, jokingly, but maybe it was too subtle for a four year old, “Ok, but if you pee in them again, we are going to have to get rid of them because they are bad luck.”

I said that because he first wore them at Mimi’s house and had an accident that night. We washed them and as soon as they were folded, he wore them again. And peed in them again. Prior to last night, he had had two accidents in nearly a month and both times had been while wearing this cursed pair of hand-me-down pajamas.

Make that three accidents and no dry nights with these pajamas. I have become the opposite of a baseball player who refuses to change his “game winning” socks. I do not trust these pajamas. I think they may encounter an accident while they are in the washing machine. These things happen. Our washer has been known to eat things.

The Best Christmas Ever

Our Christmas tree is still up and decorated. In fact, Hal just turned the lights back on today. The first week after Christmas was spent out-of-state, visiting family. The next, out-of-town to celebrate our anniversary. The most recent was full, first with a funeral and then with resuming school and work. I am telling you this so that you understand it is still Christmas at this house, and thus not inappropriate at all for me to finally get around to blogging about the best Christmas ever. I was too busy enjoying it to write about it at the time.

Christmas 2012 did not get off to a particularly auspicious start. The 11:00pm Christmas Eve service was wonderful, don’t get me wrong. We all attended in our pajamas, including my husband in his footed smiley-face PJ’s that I had just given him. That drew a few looks.

No, the service that heralded the arrival of Christmas Day was nice and the drive home was uneventful. I was worried about what such a late bedtime would do to the day, but not too much. The problems started when we got home. Hal did not want to use the bathroom before retiring to his bed and a tantrum ensued.

Once all the children were settled, I needed to wrap just two or three presents and stuff the stockings. That took well over an hour. I finally went to bed around 1:30 or 2:00 and wondered how late the children would let me sleep.

Not long, as it turned out. A serious thunderstorm moved in by about 2:30, waking Hal. I stumbled into his room to comfort him. I struggled for a long time before I got back to sleep. The wind picked up and a loud metallic thwacking sound woke me around 5:00. I asked my husband if that was the new roof coming undone.

“Probably.”

“Do we need to do anything about it?”

“Like what? I’m not going out there in this.”

He had a point. Besides, the old shingled roof was still under the metal of the new one. No way I was getting back to sleep, however. I lay there listening until the sound changed to something bounding down from the roof. And then silence.

“There,” my pragmatic husband said, “It blew off. Happy?”

Before I responded, the next strip of the crown began to rattle. Sleep was a distant memory by this point.

Things improved once I gave up on sleep, though. My husband had once again managed to slip something under my pillow undetected. He hates wrapping, so this has become our new tradition. I already knew I was getting a Kindle Paperwhite, but I still don’t know when he managed to slide it under there.

As I passed through the living room, I saw a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in my stocking that I had not put in there the night before. So he hadn’t forgotten about my stocking either – another nice surprise. I added the toppings to the breakfast strata started the night before and put it in the oven.

Then it was stockings and presents time. Hal passed out the stockings, such a good Santa’s helper. All of them distributed gifts. Just like last year, though, there were no names. Last year were numbers and they’d have to ask me which number was whom. This year, they were letters. Perhaps this will become a new Christmas puzzle. As they heard who was each letter, I asked them what the formula was. I gave them a hint that I couldn’t put the appropriate leter on Daddy’s gifts because it was a duplicate of someone else’s. Daddy figured it out (2nd letter of their middle names). No one else did.

Jane unwrapped four nested boxes, each wrapped individually, before uncovering her mp3 player. Daryl received a used Nintendo DS, given to us by a friend to give to the kids. He immediately declared this the best Christmas ever.

And so it was, but not because of the gifts. When we were done unwrapping, we ate the strata. And then… then we just were. Most Christmases would have seen the hustle and bustle of preparing for a long trip. We would have been packing suitcases and piling into the car to travel the four hours or so to relatives in Oklahoma.

But Oklahoma was forecast to get hit by a blizzard. We had decided the day before that we would delay our trip by 24 hours. We had no idea how life-changing that decision would be.

After breakfast, we just enjoyed ourselves. We set Pandora to play Christmas music. People tried out their new electronics. We played some games and worked some puzzles and read and ate and relaxed. And shouted in excitement when we looked out the window and saw snow! Snow, on Christmas Day, in Texas. No one even changed out of their pajamas, except to go play in the snow.

I looked up at my family at one point and wondered, Is this what Christmas is like for other people? Christmas has never been a relaxing time for me, not even in childhood.

As a child, I remember opening presents at home and then almost immediately leaving the house to go… somewhere. Christmas Day usually included 2 or 3 extended family gatherings. The usual routine was to head over to my maternal grandparents’ house for lunch and Christmas with my mom’s family. At some point, sometimes before lunch and sometimes after, mom would drive us to my paternal grandmother’s house and we’d have Christmas with my dad’s family. Mom would then pick us up and we’d have dinner and Christmas at my step-dad’s parents’ house with his family.

It got even more complicated when I married. My husband brought with him Christmas obligations to his dad’s family, his mom’s family, and his step-dad’s family. Some families adjusted to celebrating Christmas on a day other than the 25th, but we usually still had at least two places to be that day, often more.

Shortly before we had our first child, we decided that we wanted to be able to attend our own church’s Christmas Eve service. That meant attending worship and then hitting the road, arriving at my mom’s house around 2:00 Christmas morning.

When the kids arrived, my husband began to agitate for change. He wanted to celebrate Christmas at our house. I wanted to avoid hurting people’s feelings. The compromise that stood for years was the Christmas Day travel. This allowed us to worship at our home church, open presents at our house, and still make it to Christmas obligations back home. I had been trained to believe that the right thing to do was to cram everyone in, jumping from one place to another, making sure we made an appearance everywhere.

This time, though, we actually found ourselves with no family meeting on Christmas Day. We still planned to travel that day, so suggested to my dad that we celebrate that night. And then we got word of the weather. There was no problem changing plans with dad. No reason we had to travel that day. No place to be until 6pm the day after. Why not stay home? It was such a novel idea for us.

The experience was ground breaking for me. Earth shattering. Tears-down-the-face significant. I sat at the table, watching my family just exist, with no place to go, no obligations to meet, no phone calls or appointments or errands, and I cried. My husband looked at me and smiled.

“Do you need a hug?” he asked. I nodded and he rose from the table.

“I’ve never had this before,” I said into his chest as he hugged me tight. “Not ever, not once in thirty-eight years. I’ve never just stayed home and relaxed on Christmas Day. This is amazing.”

We didn’t have to speak the words then or now, but we know what we are doing next year. The 26th is soon enough to travel for family. The peace of Christmas will descend on our household again. It is the only day that we can truly just be still and be together. I never understood how special that kind of time is. But now that I’ve experienced it, I am not giving it up.

Sleepless Nights and Logical Consequences

I was blissfully asleep when soft sobbing across the hall awoke me. I glanced at my sleeping husband and briefly considered waking him so that he could go comfort the child. Most likely, Hal had rolled away from his blanket. All I would have to do is go in there and tuck it back into his hands. To get my husband to do it, I’d have to shake him awake and explain what’s going on. No, I decided, I will get back to sleep quicker and with less fuss if I tend to this myself. I glanced at the clock as I got up. 2:30.

When I entered the boys’ room, I found Hal standing in his bed, holding his blanket. So much for that theory. The sobbing was getting stronger. Soon it would be all-out crying. “Hal, what is wrong, baby?”

“My tajamas are wet!”

“Did you pee in them?”

“Yes! And not just a little bit!”

I reached out to touch his pajamas. Sure enough, his fuzzy footed monster pajamas were dripping wet. As was the blanket, the pillow pet, the sheets. Everything. I sighed. “You didn’t go potty before you went to bed, did you?”

He admitted tearfully that he had not. My husband would make him carry the wet items to the washing machine. I knew from experience that that would cause me considerable grief and delay my return to bed. Natural Consequences, Logical Consequences, none of that mattered to me right then. The voice that urged the best parenting move for long-term gain was ruthlessly shoved to the back of my head. My decision making was centered completely around getting back to sleep as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, this boy was soaked. I peeled off his clothes and walked him to the bathroom. Walking naked to the bathroom is not what sleepy four year-olds like to do in the middle of a cold night so he screamed and cried all the way down the hall. I began to wipe him down with a wet washcloth.

The crying was loud enough to wake Daddy, who soon appeared in the bathroom doorway. “What happened?”

“Hal peed in his bed. Not just a little bit. He peed a lot. I mean, A LOT.”

He addressed Hal very sternly, “Hal? I asked you if you went potty. You said you did. I said, ‘I don’t think you did. Are you sure?’ You said you were. You even said, ‘I went potty earlier. Didn’t you hear me flush?!’ And I warned you, didn’t I? I told you that if you wet your bed, you’d have to carry your sheets to the washing machine and take a shower.” A shower? No! When am I ever going to get back to bed?!

We returned to the bedroom where Daddy flipped on the light! Poor Daryl! He started gathering up the sheets while I helped Hal get another pair of pajamas on. Then he told Hal to pick up the bundle and carry it to the laundry room before heading down the hall himself to get paper towels and cleaner. I found myself staring at Hal, who was staring at the bundle.

In a tired voice that dreaded what was coming, I tried to encourage him, “Go ahead and pick it up.”

“It’s too big!”

“Honey!” I called out, “He says it’s too big and it’s going to get his pajamas wet.” Please let’s just take care of it so we can get back to bed!

“Well, I guess he better take those pajamas off then, huh?”

With yet another sigh, I helped him back out of his pajamas. Daddy returned with the cleaner, which I took and he shepherded the wailing child to the other end of the house. I cleaned the plastic bed cover and then looked for new sheets. Oh, yeah, I decided to store all the sheets in Jane’s closet. Brilliant.

When I entered her room, she looked up at me. Of course. She hadn’t been able to sleep through all the mayhem. I grimaced at her and felt around in the closet for some sheets. By the time I got Hal’s bed made, Hal was wailing in the shower. I finished up quickly and turned the light back off.

As I practically ran back to my now cold bed, I heard Daddy joking with Hal. He had kept his temper the whole time. He had sternly enacted the consequences that had been promised, but never got angry. “Are you ready to get your pajamas back on?”

“Yes!”

“Do you want to take another shower?”

“No!”

They both laughed. Daddy hugged son and then helped him back into his pajamas before carrying him to bed. He then crawled in beside me and, with a brief “Goodnight sweetheart,” returned to the wonderful world of slumber.

I was destined to lay there awake for another hour and a half. In the morning I learned that Daryl had slept through the entire ordeal. Jane was tired. I was exhausted. But you know what? Now, when we ask Hal if he went to the bathroom, he only says yes if he actually did. Otherwise, he stands up straight, fesses up, and heads off to the toilet. I guess one sleepless night was worth it.