Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Best Intentions

Since I returned from my trip to Malaysia, I haven't had that frazzled, frustrated, one second away from a nuclear meltdown reaction to all of the nutty things my kids do. But they are working overtime to get me back to that point.

Zack caused me to call Poison Control for the first time in my life yesterday. He had gone in the front yard to play and I was inside, feeding Darcey, which I spend about 27 hours a day doing. He comes back into the house a little bit later, soaking wet, saying that he had been in the water. I'm thinking a neighbor had a wading pool set up and he had climbed in, but when I start probing for details, I realize that it was not a pool he was in, he was, in fact, playing in a neighbor's water feature in their front yard.

My emotions are vacillating between being angry at Zack for climbing into their pond, angry at myself for not watching him better, and angry at the neighbors for owning such a tantalizing yet dangerous decoration. It only took me about one second to drop any anger at the neighbors, after all, they are perfectly within their rights to own a water feature in their front yard. That freed up some emotion for a nice amount of guilt and embarrassment.

While I'm putting Darcey down and telling Zack to find some clean clothes, the phone rings. Naturally, it's the neighbor. Inwardly groaning that I have to confront my embarrassment head-on so quickly, I answer and say "I bet you're going to tell me that Zack was playing in your pond. I am so, so sorry." She says yes, but then goes on to say that she's not worried about the clean up, she'll just wait for the water to settle so she can get all of the bark out of it (oh, it's just getting worse and worse!) - she's more worried because she treats her water periodically with half a container of bleach, and her daughter saw Zacky drinking the water.

I take her recommendation and call Poison Control. The fact that I have to go through an automated menu takes me by surprise ("If your child drank poison, press one...") but I'm quickly connected to a man who listens as I explain that my 3 year old drank outdoor water treated with bleach. He says that the bleach is so diluted that it is not a concern at all. I can't get away that easily, though, as he tells me what really is the concern - the bacteria in the water, which could cause vomiting or diarrhea. Although, you'd think the bleach might take care of that, right? Anyhow, I was advised to keep him hydrated if he does get sick, and take him to a doctor if it doesn't go away on it's own.

I call my neighbor back and leave a message on her machine with the Poison Control information and another apology and plea to let me come and clean the mess. So far Zack is fine, and I'm not worried about him getting sick. It's probably what I deserve.

It's such a shame this happened, though, because I was planning on having a pretty good day. My parents had taken Brad and Noah to the Discovery Gateway Children's Museum on Tuesday, and the house was so quiet and peaceful with just Darcey and Zack here that I was able to actually accomplish something, for the first time in months - I made 5 1/2 quarts of freezer jam. So on Wednesday when they were all going to go on a hike at Sundance, I was looking forward to more of the same. I think it's one of those things where expectations are made and then not met, which causes more pain than if there had been no expectations at all.

The boys had a great time on the hike. The very best part of the hike was the dead deer they saw, which described in excruciating detail. They talked about seeing into it's head, and it's ribs and other bones, and how there were tons of flies on it. They also mentioned that they liked the waterfall, that they got a little bit lost trying to find the trail at one point, and today I got to hear about how fun it is to pee anywhere you want. The whole world is a bathroom, as my mom said. They enjoyed it so much that they went back today to do it again, although instead of hiking up the mountain and taking the chair lift back down, they might go up the chair lift first and walk back down. While they are out, they'll be keeping an eye out for my dad's glasses that somehow fell out of his pocket, and a new stick for Noah, whose previous stick broke, causing great anguish.

Later that afternoon, I got to put my Judge Judy skills to work. Noah had been eating a popsicle in the backyard and came in the back door without the stick. I asked where the stick was and he said that he threw it in the outside garbage can. I found this highly suspicious, so I asked him where the garbage can was. He said, outside by the sidewalk. I asked him if he walked from the backyard, around the house, threw away his stick, then went back into the backyard to come in the house from through the back door. He said yes. I asked him to tell me the truth, where is the popsicle stick really? In the garbage can, he said. I said, So if I go out there and look in the garbage can, I'll find your popsicle stick? Yes, he said. I invited him to go on a field trip with me to the garbage cans but he told me to go by myself. (Rather rudely, I thought, but that wasn't the battle I was fighting right then.)

I checked every trash can out there, which were all empty as it was trash day that morning. There was nary a popsicle stick to be found, as I had suspected was the case. I went back in the house and asked Noah to tell me where the popsicle stick really was, and he angrily refused. I told him that he was going to have to go to his room , which he readily agreed to, as if that would somehow avoid the whole sticky situation. I followed him upstairs, where he buried his head in his blanket and screamed at me, and at life in general I suspect. I tried to talk to him but he wouldn't say anything, so I told him he was welcome to come out of his room when he would tell me the truth.

Eventually he had been quiet for a while so I went back up for another round. He started asking me if he told me the truth if I'd be angry at him. I told him that I'm angrier that he lied to me than about the final destination of the popsicle stick, and that I might be angry when he told me but that I'd be angrier if he didn't. I told him that I knew what happened to the stick but that I really wanted him to tell me himself. Finally, he did tell me, like I suspected he threw the popsicle stick over the fence into the neighbor's backyard.

We had had an incident of this at the beginning of summer, and I thought my lecture at the time was enough to stop this from happening again. It was a different neighbor, fortunately. The original popsicle stick neighbor was also the cat-and-duct-tape incident neighbor, as well as the throw rocks at their children neighbor. They are beginning to think that living next to us is not a good idea, so now we are more evenly distributing our children's bad behavior around the cul-de-sac.

Why is it ever a good idea to lie? You just always, always get caught, and whatever you were lying to avoid ends up being a better circumstance than where you end up after you've lied and been caught. Haven't all of these politicians and Hollywood stars and other criminals' examples taught us anything? Well, they might have taught me but they haven't taught my kids yet.

My mom told me a funny story about my brothers who, when they were teenagers, decided they didn't want to go to church with my parents but promised to attend a different ward's meeting. My mom was suspicious and told them to bring home a program from that meeting. When they got home, they claimed that they had run out of programs by the time they got there. So my mom asked who spoke. They rattled off some names. She asked what they spoke about, and again answered about the talks that people had given. Of course, what my mom knew that they didn't was that it was Fast Sunday, so there wouldn't have been any talks at all! She just let them run with the line, the hook in their mouth, and then started reeling them in. Ah, it's that kind of masterful parenting that I can only aspire to! I feel like I got a glimpse of that kind of brilliance in my own popsicle investigation today, but I still bow at the feet of the master.

(In my brothers' defense, I'll tell this little tidbit about myself - I was an atrocious liar as a kid, and that's basically the reason I forsook a life of darkness and turned to the light. I would go as quietly into the kitchen as humanly possible and lift the lid of the cookie jar so slowly and carefully so that I wouldn't knock the lid against the ceramic jar, take out a few cookies, and then replace the lid. I was as stealthy as a cat. Or maybe, as stealthy as a walrus, I'm not sure how quiet I actually was because every single time I did this my mom would call out from upstairs to put the cookies back, or something along those lines. Caught every time, I was. I'm not any better at lying now, which is why I try not to do it at all. There's just nothing worth lying about. Except for ordering two dinners and telling the waiter that it's not all for me...)

The dead deer made an appearance at dinner that night. Not literally, of course. Noah says, "You should have seen the deer, mom. It's head popped off and you could see it's bones." Could this unappetizing description possibly be the reason that Noah didn't want to eat his dinner? Of course not. In the case of that night's dinner (Cajun Chicken Caesar Sandwiches from the terrific Saving Dinner cookbook), he actually liked the food. I think he didn't want to eat it merely out of habit, because that's just what he does every night. He's got a reputation to uphold, after all, and if he starts eating without a fit then what kind of a wuss would all of his friends think he is? The dinnertime arguing is a delicate spice for his meal. It's probably a better flavor than the dead deer.

I'm trying so hard to hold on to this calm, peaceful feeling that my vacation left me with. I handled all of the incidents calmly, I didn't yell and almost didn't want to, which is a good thing. But I'm starting to feel a little worn out. Zack's a worse sleeper than my newborn daughter, and that is super-frustrating. He fell asleep after 10:30 last night (1 1/2 hours after I put him down) and woke up at 2 a.m., Darcey woke up at 4, and Zack was awake for the day at 6. Seriously, my 2 month old is waking up less than my 3 year old!! The injustice of this kills me, but I'm trying to stay calm despite all of that. And not exasperated. Or irritated and annoyed. I think I'll go take a nap.

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