Student Humans

I’ve often seen service dogs, or dogs that are in training, wearing little vests that tell people they encounter what they’re up to.  They ask people not to pet them, or to give them some space, or other things that save their handlers having to make explanations 20 times a day about why you can’t pet their dog, or why they are, in fact, allowed to take their dog into a place that otherwise wouldn’t allow them.  They’re kind of like the “Student Driver” signs on cars — they let everyone know that the erratic driving they might witness is for a good reason and they might want to put their patient pants on for 5 minutes.  They’re different ways of kindly saying, “Important stuff is happening here. Try not to freak out.”

I’m thinking of inventing the same thing for my kids.  Little vests that they could wear which would remind people, “I’m learning to be a grown up human, but I haven’t finished my training yet. Please be patient with me.”  Or, “I’m just being a kid, please leave me be.”  Because I think we all forget.  I think we spend a lot of effort trying to get our kids to “behave” or “quiet down” or “settle down”, when they’re just being kids.  Don’t get me wrong — part of learning to be a grown up human includes practicing sitting still on the bus, waiting patiently in line and being quiet in a restaurant.  They should be working on those things.  But they’re just practicing and learning, and we adults, I think sometimes we forget.

So I think I’ll invent little vests, or maybe hats, that remind the people they encounter to remember that they need a little more space, a little more patience, and sometimes some special consideration.  I could use the reminder, too, since my kids hear “Hush!”, and “Sit still!” more from me than from the rest of the world combined.

The lost day

I had a plan.  (I always have a plan.)  The dog sitter was coming at 8:30 to pick up Bailey, Dan needed to pick up the car, we would have some last-minute packing to do, we all needed to have breakfast, and Dan and I each needed a shower.  I set my alarm for 7:30, with a goal of leaving the house at 10:00, but I really wanted to be on the road to Salzburg by 11:00.  We’d have a busy morning, but not a crazy one.

But, things did not go according to plan.  Dan, who was in charge of packing for this trip, left everything until the last minute.  The morning became a flurry of tracking down boots (Dan had packed two right foot boots in two different sizes for Liam), finding winter clothes and accessories not yet unearthed from last winter, and keeping the kids out of piles of semi-organized but as yet unpacked clothes.  But the last-minute packing was to be the smallest of our delays for the day.

Running only a little late (the 10:00 departure time was now impossible, but leaving at 11:00 was still a reasonable goal), Dan left to pick up the rental car from the other side of central Vienna.  And then he came right back, because he realized that he had booked the car for the wrong dates.  A somewhat frantic Germenglish phone call to the rental car company later, and he was off again, with a new car reserved.  Except that when he got there, it wasn’t there.  They had arranged to have the car brought over from another location (at the airport) but it wouldn’t be there … until noon.

Our schedule was quickly slipping away.  But Dan managed to get the car, install the two rented car seats, and get back to us by shortly after 12:30.  We were late, but it was still manageable.  We could still arrive by late afternoon, with time to relax before dinner.  We gathered up our things, got the shoes on the kids and went downstairs to pack the car … only to discover we had the wrong car seat for Benjamin.

We’ve run into this before.  B is quite small and light for his age, so when we reserve the correct seat for him and also provide his age, they second-guess us and provide him with a booster (appropriate for a bigger child, but also technically ok for a 5 year old).  Of course, he saw it and was so excited to have a “big kid” seat, so I was the most unpopular mommy (and wife) when I insisted we take it back and switch it for a regular car seat.

Of course, the original rental place didn’t have an appropriate seat, so we had to pick it up at yet another rental location.  The one *they* had was too small for B, though, so we had to switch Liam to the new seat and put B in the one that had been “Liam’s”.  Sigh.

At this point, we were exhausted, starving, and still in Vienna.  What’s another 40 minutes, though?  So we stopped for lunch.

At 3:45, we were finally all in the car, strapped into appropriate seats, fed, and on our way.  Nearly 6 hours after we had planned to leave.  6 hours late for a just-over-3-hour trip (really, closer to 4 hours with several bathroom breaks).  We could have almost driven to Salzburg and back in the time it took us to get out the door.

In all, it felt like the day that we didn’t have on our trip.  Instead of a leisurely drive, stopping as we liked along the way, we instead started out tired and wishing we were already at our destination.  Instead of having time to play and shop for groceries when we arrived, it was a stop at McDonald’s for dinner and then nearly straight to bed.

This was a hard one.  I try to be flexible.  I try not to let circumstances, mistakes or other frustrations take away from my experience of the moment.  I try to stay mindful of the fact that although our day did not go as intended, nothing actually bad happened.  I try to remember that we will remember this as a great, fun, relaxing trip, and that if remember the day spent watching tv and wandering through Vienna at all, it will probably be with humor.  It truly was a fine day.  At the end, we were safe and happy and where we wanted to be.  But this was a tough one for me in terms of staying positive and choosing to be happy.  I managed, but it wasn’t easy.

Infinite patience

Friday night is family movie night at our house.  Each week, we take turns picking a movie, and we all cuddle up with some popcorn and enjoy.  Last night, being Friday, was movie night.  Dan, who went into the living room after dinner to start the movie downloading, had a moment of temporary insanity and clicked “ok” on the prompt for the Apple TV update.  That was around 7:30.

002I made popcorn while Dan got the boys in their pajamas.  The update wasn’t done, so we decided, in an effort to keep the kids happy and entertained while they waited for their movie, to start up the Wii and play for a little while.

Every few minutes, we checked on the update.  Still not done.

Eventually, after a long while, the kids got tired of the Wii.  They started to make up some games to play.  Liam chased a plastic golf ball around the house while B practiced some acrobatic manuevers with his stuffed Angry Birds.  The update STILL wasn’t finished.  When they got tired of their new games, we snuggled in the tent and pretended it was a boat.

By the time it was finished, the update had taken over 2 1/2 hours.  That was 2 1/2 hours of waiting, for two boys who wanted to see a movie they’d been looking forward to for days.  And, during that entire time, we didn’t hear a single frustrated word, not a single moment of unhappiness.  There was no whining.  They were utterly patient and unflappably cheerful.

It was kind of astonishing.  We just had a fun evening, spent playing together.  (In fact, I think the adults were much more frustrated than the kids — I think I rolled my eyes at Dan every time we checked the update and it STILL wasn’t finished).  I don’t know if maybe we just got lucky, but it occurs to me that the evening reminds me of so many moments we’ve had when we’ve been travelling and things haven’t gone as we planned, or when waits have been longer than we expected (or wanted).  My kids have a lot of experience with not just being patient, but with making the most of a less-than-ideal set of circumstances.  (If we can have fun during the ski lesson from hell or enjoy our day that included a flat tire on back roads with no cell reception and two soaking wet kids, then we can manage almost anything.)  My little guys are pretty amazing.  I was so impressed not just that they took the delay in our evening in stride, but that they managed it so happily.  They did better than I did.

Finally, the update was finished, and we loaded up Finding Nemo (which neither of the kids had seen before).  20 minutes later, B, who was fairly traumatized (I forgot how scary that movie is) insisted we turn it off.  We finished our evening with the 7-minute-long Mater and the Ghostlight and the boys were in bed a few minutes later.  (Total wait time for movie: 2 1/2 hours; total movie watching time: 27 minutes.)

The evening was definitely not what we expected, and, as it turned out, the movie was far from the focal point.  I got to spend my evening enjoying the company of my family, playing with my kids, and being impressed with my boys (yet again).  It was a great night.

I may actually be Supermom

Oh, I am tired.  What a day.  It was a day full of very nice things, but I am worn out, and I have given of myself to a fault . . . which is not new, but the grace with which I did it definitely is.


The first part of my day was normal:  feed kids, change diapers, try to make naps happen, play games, clean up, help make more messes, overfill the washing machine, clean the soapy water off the floor, keep the dog from eating B’s snack.  Normal Thursday.

078Then I took the boys to the park with a friend who has two kids (one a few years older than B, one Liam’s age).  Oh my.  I’ve taken B and Liam to the park together before, on my own, but the addition of other children that they know added an element of chaos that I was not expecting.  Liam is also big enough now to require being entertained in his own right (I can’t just stick him in the stroller the whole time).  It went just fine, but it really wore me out.  B was trying to keep up with his older friend, and they got in to all kinds of shenanigans together (I’m not sure B’s shoes will be dry for tomorrow) and he learned important lessons (i.e, if you let go of the chains on the big-kid swings, gravity takes over in short order).  And Liam had a lot of fun trying to keep up with B (thank goodness he can’t walk yet).

Then we all went to dinner (my friend and her husband, their two kids, plus all of us Calles), and halfway through Dan gets a call from his uncle.  Who is here.  To see us.  (This is the first we’re hearing about it.)  We knew he was in Austria, but not having been able to coordinate a visit with him before he left, we figured we wouldn’t see him at all.  Surprise!  So, Dan goes out of the restaurant, leaving me with the boys, to figure out a way to rendezvous with his uncle, who does not have a working phone and who is planning to drive back into Vienna to see us immediately.  “Back” because he drove into Vienna earlier today to see us, showed up at our door, and when no one was home (see park story, above) decided to walk around Vienna in the hopes that he might run into us.  When that didn’t work, he drove back OUT of Vienna, borrowed a phone from someone and called Dan.

Dan was in and out of the restaurant for the rest of the meal, looking for his uncle, who is planning to meet us at the restaurant.  His uncle shows up just as we’re leaving, and we say goodbye to our friends and go back to our place.  We show him around and visit for a few minutes, but then I have to go put both kids in the bath (together, which I haven’t done before) because Dan has a Skype appointment.

So, we make plans to meet up with his uncle tomorrow.  And then I put the boys in the bath, get them both clean, get them both out, get them both dressed, get puked on by Liam, get him clean and dressed again, get Benjamin a bottle, feed Liam, put Liam down, get Liam back up and then get him back to sleep.  (At which point, Dan joined me to brush Benjamin’s teeth, but then Benjamin asked that I read him his story before bed, and he’s so sweet, and we got so little one-on-one time today that I said yes.)

I got a little grumpy with Benjamin at one point in the bath when he was splashing Liam and wouldn’t listen to me and stop, but otherwise, I did all of this and didn’t even freak out.  I’m not even mad or frustrated with Dan.  (Really.)  I think I may qualify for sainthood.  I haven’t tried walking on water recently, but maybe I should give it a shot.  (Or maybe I should wait and see how tomorrow goes, first.)