How Mommy Nobel Peace Prizes are Won.

“I’m having a bad day.”

“I’m having a bad day too.”

“Wanna join forces and do something really difficult together?”

“Sure! Let’s be sure to take on something so challenging that it will surely be physically impossible for us to accomplish it with the quantity and ages of children that will be accompanying us.”

“Perfect! I’ll pick you up at noon.”

We didn’t actually say that, but we should’ve.

Not-Crazy-Renee and I were happily (sadly) each at our own home with our own children, brooding about different things. It was Friday, and somehow we decided that five kids and two mommies in the middle of the woods was better than going it alone at our separate houses.

So I took Renee to a hiking location that she’d never been to before, whose particular parking place in question was in a quite sketch location (across the street from what is nearly certainly a chop shop – I promised her van would be there when we returned – and crossed my fingers just in case), and we set off on a 2 1/3 mile hike with a 9 year old, two 5 year olds, a 2 year old, and a 6 month old – and a couple nets and jars for tadpole catching.

This doesn’t seem like a fantastic idea.

And let me assure you. It’s not a fantastic idea.

There were moments. Oh, were there moments.

There were bugs in the eyeballs…poison ivy everywhere…

“The pond smells bad! I wanna go!”

“I’m so tiiiiired. I just CAN’T keep up.”

“I can’t walk any further!!”

“DO NOT WALK RIGHT THROUGH THE POISON IVY SON HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?!”

<wails>

<scrapes>

<muddy hands / knees / hair>

“YOUR HAIR IS HANGING IN THE MUDDY NET!”

“I NEEEEEEEEED A WET WIPE I CAN’T BE MUDDY ANY LONGER!!!”

<screaming sleepy baby>

“Okay it’s time to put down the frog. Put him down. Push him out of your hand. Put down the frog. NO DON’T PUT YOUR ARM IN THE POISON IVY TO PUT THE FROG DOWN —- DROP THE FROG!!!

“DO. NOT. DRAG. YOUR. BROTHER!”

There was a moment, one mile from the van that was hopefully not chopped, where we both looked at each other with that look that we were certain there was no probable way that we would make it out of this hike with all five children and two mothers still in good working order. She had a baby on her front and a tadpole catching kit on her back, I had a toddler on my shoulders, and there were STILL three whiny children completely surrounding us on the ground.

We needed a white flag.

We. Were. Done.

But we did make it out. Amazingly, that last mile went shockingly well. And so, we rewarded ourselves RICHLY.

As we collected our reward, the backseat piped up, of course. “Can we have a cake pop??”

“No. This is a Mommy-Reward-Only trip to Starbucks.”

“Reward for what?!”

“For taking you children into the woods and not losing our MINDS. (Or at least if we did, finding them again before we left.)

We all went back to my house and had a grand poison ivy wash party in the bathtub.

And then I shooed my neighbors away, told my kids to knock themselves out playing iPad (literally if they wanted to I really didn’t care), and I took a shower and edited the photos from our epically disastrous hike.

Except I quickly discovered that I didn’t take any photos of the screaming, hopeless, Oh Dear God how are we going to get out of here moments. And also that children are never more beautiful than when they’re physically nowhere around but you’re quietly enjoying editing photos of their pretty faces.

Like for instance, this photo. I was helping some child with some emergency and Renee needed to put a fussy baby back into the Ergo. So what did she do? She handed fussy baby to my kid for a minute so she could reposition the baby carrier. And somehow, magically, it worked for a hot minute.

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They’re so quiet and it’s so adorable and still. You’d never know that Noah just screamed “OWWWW!! He’s sitting on my firehose!!”

Or, that just a minute after taking this picture,

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Noah saw a pack of gummies, forgot he was holding a baby, grabbed the gummies with one hand and started opening them with the other hand, thereby leaving no hands and arms around the baby in his lap, letting the baby flay out onto the dock.

“Hold the baby Hold the baby HOLD THE BABBBBY!!!”

<wails from baby>

But you’d never know it from the pictures.

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(With regards to this event, Ali had the following conversation later that night with Chris…

Ali: “Noah was holding Joshua but then he forgot to hold him because he decided to eat some gummies and Joshua fell and almost hit his head.”

Chris: “That’s okay. Noah doesn’t have a lot of experience holding babies yet.”

Ali: “Yeah and when he has held babies before, it was on the soft couch. And there weren’t snacks around.”)

(Moral of the story: It is child endangerment to let five year olds hold babies when snacks could become visible.)

Also. Child quarrels are so much more adorable when had in the woods…and also when photographed with NO SOUND.

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And little explorers look much more Indiana Jonesish when you can’t hear the Mothers yelling, “Come back! It’s time to come out of the cave!!!” Because we really didn’t want to crawl in after him.

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(And, if photographed just so (aka accidentally out of focus), children can even look like ghosts of children past. How much would you freak out if you looked in a small railbed tunnel in the middle of nowhere and saw this.)

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When reviewing photographs, you just remember the thrill of exploring new worlds and old civilizations – not the overwhelming feeling of HOLY-CRAP-PLEASE-DON’T-LET-THOSE-GIANT-CAMEL-CRICKETS-JUMP-INTO-HER-HAIR.

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And then sometimes you’re distracting all the kids so that your friend can attempt to catch a frog…or tadpoles…or just rinse out the giant clumps of mud the children collected in the tadpole-catching-nets. And somehow, the lighting is just perfect and the children are all smiling and…

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…and then you realize that your friend is actually doing some sort of AMAZING dance behind your head to get those children to smile. But whatev. Nothing matters but this tiny perfect second in the middle of miserable chaos.

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But the best picture I captured on that unforgettable, delightful, fantastic, can’t-wait-to-do-it-again hike was a particularly beautiful bonding moment (and might I say, at an exceptionally nice angle) between Not-Crazy-Renee and Noah, while they both desperately searched for tadpoles.

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Yes. The pictures always make the trauma worth it.

Marketing 101: A Crucial Skill For Parents.

Last Wednesday night, Ali had her Awanas awards ceremony. Noah had his Cubbies banquet the week before, and I remembered the agony of trying to get him to sit still through Ali’s ceremony last year. It negated any ability I had to celebrate my oldest child, and I had no desire for a repeat.

So Chris and I decided, with no input from any children, that we would split ‘em up – Chris would go with Ali to her ceremony, and Noah and I would go elsewhere. Anywhere, as long as it didn’t require him to sit still and quietly for over half an hour.

We thought we had this handled. It made sense. It was a good solution. Who could complain?

Well.

Kids talk.

Ali assumed that Noah was coming to her ceremony, so she decided to help us out and excite him about the prospect.

“They have ICE CREAM on the PLAYGROUND afterwards!!!”

Noah doesn’t like ice cream. When we go get FroYo, he gets a cup full of toppings. But her excitement had won him over. He could not wait to go to Ali’s ceremony to get ice cream which he would most definitely not eat and hand to me to hold while it melted down my arm.

So Chris informed him. “You’re not going to Ali’s ceremony. You’re going with Mommy.”

BUT I WAAAAANNNA!! THEY HAVE ICE CREAM!!!”

Why God made children’s brains to not grow logic and reasoning until they’re 25 I will never understand. I guess so we could commiserate with His constant eye rolls at us.

So I decided to spin it. Because that’s what parenting is. And I’m pretty sure that’s what the Spin Doctors were referring to with their name – what amazing parents they were.

(Also now we know who they were really referring to as “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”)

(By the way I’m totally making this up and am certain to be contacted by The Spin Doctor’s senior care nurses for my libelous statements about their music. And now about their age as well.)

(Holy Crap I just googled them and did you know they released an album last year?! Pardon me while I take a break and listen.)

(Okay I’m back. They definitely sound tired from all that spinning.)

So anyway. I pulled Noah’s sad, despondent face up in the palm of my hand and said, “Actually, buddy, you and I are going to go on a date.”

 He immediately stopped his moping and his eyes grew seven sizes.

“A DATE?????”

He’d never heard the term used before except with regards to the magical place that Chris and I leave for when they’re with a babysitter. He knows we get dressed up and depart with giant smiles on our faces and come home late. This date stuff has to be fantastic. OBVIOUSLY.

He was insatiably impatient for the rest of the day. At one point, he yelled upstairs to me. “HEY MOMMY! What are you DOING up there? I’m ready to go on our date!!!!”

We met up with Chris, dropped Ali off with him, and set off on our special night.

Noah picked Firehouse Subs for dinner, because the kid loves himself the meatballs out of a meatball sub, and he knew he didn’t have a chance at convincing me to take him to McDonald’s, date or no.

Then we went to Sybil Temple, because I needed a picture of it for Picture Birmingham. While we were there, he found a “secret passageway” leading out of it. He was most certainly the first to discover that back stairway.

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At first I had him convinced to go to the Sunset Playground so I could take pictures and he could play, but then he spotted the Little Mall and wanted to go there. So we compromised – we’d do both.

I took a few sunset photos,

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he even allowed me to take one of him,

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And then we went to the Little Mall, where he played happily at the train table in the toy store, because as all parents know, the train table at the toy store is infinitely more fun than one’s own train table. Because 1,001 other kid’s germs make those trains SO much more delightful.

As we were leaving the Little Mall, he spotted a kiosk selling Starburst. Because it was a date, and I was paying, I bought them for him – under one condition: That he would let me get a picture of us arm-in-arm.

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And then we went home.

We did nothing out of the ordinary – nothing special that we wouldn’t have done as a family on a random night out. I did absolute zero to deserve any accolades or extra appreciation.

But Noah didn’t see it that way.

He thought it was pretty much the most special night of his life. And I had no idea the word “date” would carry so much weight. If I’d known, I would’ve used it to exhaustion years ago.

That night, after he had to get out of bed for that last bathroom visit, he peeked his head into my bedroom door, smiling adoringly.

“I really enjoyed our date tonight, Noah.”

He skipped back off to his room, yelling as he did, “Loved it!!”

Chris and Ali got home a few minutes later, but Noah was already asleep. Chris went to check in on him, and without opening his eyes or moving from his deep-sleep position, Noah said,

“On our date we went to Firehouse and then to Sybil Temple and then the sunset playground and then the little mall and then a tiny store where Mommy bought me Starburst. It was so much fun.”

The next morning, I fixed breakfast (i.e. poured the cereal.) Ali sat down at the kitchen table to eat hers, and Noah said, “Hey Mommy. I want you to come out on the porch with me for breakfast.”

I carried our cereal bowls out, and saw that he had already been out there. He’d set up a breakfast nook for two, moving the table and a chair over to my favorite spot, the porch swing. On the table were a pile of five Starbursts for each of us.

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Then he said, “Oh wait. I need to make them fancy.” and rearranged them.

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Several times that day, he told me that we needed to date again soon. And I got more unprovoked hugs than I’ve ever gotten in my life.

A few days went by, and we were all driving by Sybil Temple. It made Noah realize that we’d gone a whole 96 hours without a second date. He grabbed my arm and said,

“Hey Mommy. Tomorrow night. You. Me. DATE.”

So, fellow parents fighting the daily battle of illogical offspring: Spin. Spin your parenting well. Use their inability to properly apply deductive reasoning to your full advantage. Turn the mundane into the extraordinary by just a tiny bit of marketing. You’ll get a few more hugs for it, and maybe a lot less whines.

For my Wistful Future Self.

A few weeks ago, I shared this video on Instagram. This is Noah’s current favorite phrase to me, thanks much to Farkle from “Girl Meets World.”


(You have to click it to finally make it stop…or it’ll just continue in an eternal loop.)

(As a note, I tried to get him to say “Hellllllooooo GiANN!!!” to the babysitter the other night but Noah told me, “No. NO. I…I just…I could NEVER do that.” So it’s nice to know I’m special.)

Anyway.

This moment made me realize that I rarely video my kids anymore. I don’t know why – I just don’t. I tried that one second a day trend last year and I made it to January 9th before giving up in frustration. Video is just not my strong point.

But, I don’t want to be sad one day that I don’t have their adorable little kid voices recorded – you know, when I’m old and empty nesting and telling other frantic frazzled freaking out moms, “You be sure to enjoy EVERY MINUTE!! It goes by in a flash!” and they flash their middle finger at me.

Yeah.

Anyway. Noah has been kind enough to take matters into his own hands – to help me remember him as he is now forever. He’s learned to audio text me from his iPad. And I figured out how to save them onto my computer.

Sometimes, his messages will remind Future Me of the phrase that was the soundtrack of my life.

And sometimes, his  messages will remind Future Me of how long he could draw out an interruption of, say, me teaching his sister math, just to tell me…

(And then, you know, I feel all the guilt for being frustrated for math interruptions when all the kid wanted to tell me was that he absolutely adored me.)

And then some of his messages are so fantastic, so wistful, so delightful, that they will be the very ammunition that makes me tell that poor young mom to enjoy EVERY MINUTE.

Because I will miss being worshipped endlessly like this when he is a college student who never has time to call his Mom unless he runs out of Mac and Cheese.

But Noah does not, however, leave me hanging in this flux of eternal sentimentality. He doesn’t mind at all reminding me of what else he might like to call me.

But who knows. Maybe I’ll be so crazy that I’ll wish for that one day, too.

Surely not.