Friday, January 20, 2012

McDonalds Rescue Heroes!!!

First of all, I have to admit that the boys and I spend a lot of time at McDonalds. A lot. Before you judge, keep in mind that I've been primarily single-parenting my two little guys for the past 3 1/2 years, given hubby's work schedule. Every weekend. By myself. In an area of the country where it rains pretty much all the time. With two little boys, who are only 1 year and 2 1/2 weeks apart and no involved family anywhere nearby to give me a break. Ever. OK, I'm done justifying, because here's the thing about McDonalds restaurants...

They have TUBES! Bright-colored, loopy tubes and slides and climby-ramps. Bouncy tunnels and little rooms with soft mats where kids can wrestle and jump around. See-through bubble compartments that look like spaceships with steering wheels.

In other words, McD's provides a space where two little boys can completely exhaust themselves, while their always-exhausted mother can drink coffee and restore her sanity.

Yes, they're disgustingly dirty. I've seen the T.V. shows. And, there are far too few parents who enforce the sock rule, which sometimes makes me gag a little bit. But, I pack around the hand sanitizer, insist that we always take a bath or shower on the days we hit a McD's, and cross my fingers. Besides, isn't exposure to germs supposed to help kids build up their immune systems? I read that somewhere, and I'm going with that one.

So, my little guys have been coming to McDonalds since the first one started walking. At the ripe old age of 9 months. Sigh. We even have nicknames for the different McD's around town. There's "The Wet McDonalds", because the roof used to leak when it rained. Then, there's "The Mall McDonalds", which has the coolest rope net to climb on, but is usually way too busy to provide any sort of Mommy recovery time. This brings us to "The Ferndale McDonalds", which is just up the highway a bit, and has the best ramp tower. Finally, The Dirty McDonalds", because once we went there, and every single table was dirty. I swore I'd never go back, but the boys talked me into it, and everything was clean that time. Must've been under new management. Plus, it has the coolest tubes, bar none. I know how cool they are, because I once had to climb up in there to save my 3-year-old, who had gotten lost and stuck and was crying to be rescued.

Which brings me to the "Rescue Heroes" topic. Finally. Any parent, who has spent as much time as I have at McDonalds, has probably had to climb up the tubes to rescue her child at one time or another. I have had to perform 3 rescues over the years. The afore-mentioned one, which occurred at "The Dirty McDonalds", as well as 2 rescues at "The Mall McDonalds." Which is why, until my boys reached the ages at which they would no longer need rescuing, I always wore comfortable clothes for our McD's visits.

Today at McDonalds, it all came full circle. My boys were playing like maniacs, as usual, when I heard a pathetic little voice calling out, "Mama? Mama? Can't find you, Mama!" I looked up and saw a cute little boy, about 3 years old, waaaaay up on one of the ramps, tears streaming down his cheeks. About a minute later, a harried-looking Mom showed up, looking up anxiously and calling to her little boy, "Come on down, honey. Can't you come down?" "I can't, Mama. I lost up here." (By the way, this Mom must've been a McD's newbie, because she was NOT wearing comfortable clothes. Not even close. There was no way she was going to be climbing up those tubes in her cute little skirt. No way.)

At that, I hollered for Spencer and Foster and told the worried Mom that my boys would climb up and help her little guy find his way back down. (I actually had no idea if they'd do it or not, at least not without some complaining about it first, but I hoped they'd grab onto the opportunity to do something heroic. Fingers crossed.) As it turned out, they were incredibly excited to help out the little guy. My heart was bursting with pride as they grinned at me and said, "Sure, Mom. We'll get him down!" and streaked up the tubes to the rescue. They were awesome. They led him through the tubes, helping him climb up the ramps by pulling on one end and pushing on the other, and they even slid down the slide with him, saying encouraging things all along the way. I'd like to say that the grateful Mom squatted down to thank my boys for their kindness, but she just stalked away with her kid. Sigh. It didn't seem to faze either of my boys, though. They were so proud and excited, in fact, that they led a second little lost kid out of the maze of tubes about 30 minutes later. And, that little boy's worried grandparents thanked them effusively. I just beamed.

My boys. Rescue heroes, indeed!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Life is fleeting. Don't forget to live it.

Last week, an amazing, creative, charismatic little 10-year-old boy in my community suffered a critical injury while practicing acrobatics in his bedroom. He lived for only 2 days, before his family had to make the impossible decision to shut off the machines which were keeping him alive. I can't even imagine the depths of the grief his parents must be feeling...I just can't even go there.

So, when we woke up to the first real snow of the season, yesterday, and my boys wanted to go sledding, we dropped everything and went. I whooped it up with those little guys for 2 1/2 straight hours. My bad ankle throbbed so badly it had its own heartbeat, but I didn't care. We must have made 40 trips up that hill! Ouch.

And, when my little guys wanted to build a snow alien, we made an awesome snow alien, with crazy sticks for hair and pine cones for eyes. A little creepy, actually, but quite cool.

Then, when they wanted to gang up against me in a snowball fight, even though I had pulled some sort of tendon in my wrist snowshovelling the driveway, I was all over it. Tired and in pain, but nothing could have stopped me. (By the way, I can still take them both in a snowball fight, even with a messed-up wrist. Two against one....doesn't matter. Oh, yeah.)

And, when we woke up to even more snow and a bonus day off from school, today, we did it all over again. This time, hubby was able to join us on our adventure. With his work schedule, our family days are few and far between, so it made the hours we all spent together that much more precious. And, since we spent most of those hours flying down a hill, covered in snow, laughing our asses off, it was time spent well. Living life to the fullest. Appreciating every moment. My cheeks still hurt from laughing. (As for my wrist and ankle...that's a whole different kind of hurt. But, I wouldn't take it back for a moment.)

So now, as my little ones are drifting off to sleep, I will sip my glass of cabernet, elevate my throbbing, swollen ankle, put a brace on my throbbing, swollen wrist, and snuggle into bed next to my hubby to watch something silly on T.V. And, I will thank my lucky stars that I was able to spend such glorious days with the people I love most in the world, and that I can wake up tomorrow and hug them and kiss them and appreciate them and continue to make beautiful memories with them.

Because, heartbreakingly, some people aren't able to do that with the ones they love...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The cure for a crying fit is...math?

It's almost 9pm on a Tuesday. Normally, both of my boys would be sound asleep in their own rooms right now, and I would be: 1) Passed out from exhaustion, or 2) Enjoying a nice glass of cabernet while watching something brain-numbing on T.V. As it turns out, I was planning on option #2 this evening, because the hubster went over to his buddy's house for a little male bonding, and the new season of The Biggest Loser started tonite. But, as I relaxed on the couch, sipping some red and munching on Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop popcorn, I heard little footsteps and sniffling noises approaching down the hall. There was Foster. He looked up at me, miserably, bottom lip trembling, and then burst into tears and flung himself onto my lap.

"Mommy, I feel so, so sad." (sob, sob)

"What's wrong, honey? Why do you feel sad?"

"Because you gave away some of our stuffed animals! I love ALL of my stuffed animals, and you gave some awaaaaay......" (louder sobbing)

"Well, honey, we gave away some of our stuffed animals at Christmastime, so that kids who don't have any can have some animals to snuggle up with at night. You have a lot of stuffed animals to snuggle up with. You're really lucky."

"I know, but I really, really miss my stuffed animals." (renewed fits of sobbing)

Now, before you think I'm a terrible mother who cruelly snatched beloved toys from the arms of my devastated little boys...I donated maybe 10 stuffed animals that neither boy ever even looks at any more, let alone plays with. I doubt that Foster could even come up the identities of any of these donated stuffed animals that are now the cause of so much drama... Still, I felt a twinge of guilt at his sadness, I'll admit.

Then, the sound of new footsteps came down the hallway.....Spencer, of course.

"What's wrong with Fos? Why is he crying?"


"Well, sweetie, I know that you're sad, but it's a school night and time for bed. So, let's go snuggle up with some of your other stuffed animals, OK? Spence, it's sweet that you're thinking about Fos, but time for bed for you too."

Off we went down the hallway...

By the time I got Fos to his bed, he was crying even harder than before.

"Now I'm really, really sad about TWO things. I'm sad about my stuffed animals AND I'm sad about Cosmo dying last Christmas. I'm SO SAD!!!" (bwaaaaaaaaaaaaa.....)


So, we went through some deep breaths to calm things down, but he had himself really worked up, and I just didn't feel right walking out and leaving him in such a state. Was I being manipulated? Highly likely. I'm sure it happens every day. However, this is really unusual behavior from him, especially at bedtime, so I just wasn't sure what was really going on with my little guy.

Next thing I knew, Spence appeared at my side.

"Mom? I know I'm supposed to be sleeping, but I'm really, really worried about Foster, and I think he needs me." (How precious is that, I ask you? I almost pee'd my pants with joy at big brother being so sweet to little brother, especially since that's pretty unusual behavior around here as well.)

"Honey, that's really nice of you, but I think you need to head back to bed." (louder wailing from Fos)

"Well, you see Mom, I really think you should let me sleep in here with Foster for a little bit. I think I can make him feel better. You know we used to share a room." At this, Fos sits up and hugs his brother, and, for a change, his brother hugs him back.

"Mommy," said Fos through his sobs, "You always say that the most important and wonderful thing is our family, right? Please let Spence sleep with me."

So, I let Spence grab his blanket and pillow, and I said he could stay in there for a little while to cheer up Fos.

"Can we do quiet talking, Mommy? PLEEEEEASE?????"

"OK, but if it sounds like you guys are getting crazy in there, I'm going to send Spence back to his own bed right away. And, only 10 minutes of talking. Then, it's sleepy time for you both."

"Thank you so much, Mommy. You're the best Mommy in the universe!!!" (accompanied by more sniffing and sobbing from my youngest, of course)

"Yeah," I thought to myself, "I don't think your teachers are going to be thinking I'm such a terrific Mommy tomorrow, when you're both so tired that you lose your minds all day at school..."

Anyhoo...I headed back to the living room to finish my glass of wine, and I immediately heard giggling from the room. So, I did what any self-respecting parent would do...I tippy toed down the hallway and eavesdropped outside the door.

What was making my little guy, who had been sobbing his heart out only moments before, giggle with happiness, you ask?  Math. Yes, math. Spencer was firing addition problems at him, and Fos was adding them as quickly as he could, laughing like crazy every time he got them wrong. Which was a lot. He's only a first grader, afterall.

So, Fos didn't need Mommy hugs and deep breathing to get over his bout of sadness. He just needed his big brother to do some math with him. Who knew?

Now, I need to go get Spence and tuck him into his own bed, with extra kisses for his kindness to Fos. And maybe I should write a nice little note to the boys' teachers for tomorrow, just in case...