Tuesday, June 30, 2009

System Overload

For the last several days, the kids and I, along with Aunt Paula, Nana and cousin Brody have been enjoying the peace and fresh air of the Northwoods. No obligations or appointments, playdates or pressures. Life is good. This is the Johnsons unplugged . . . or is it? Finley has been walking around with a bright purple Prevacid promotional calculator to her ear, even interrupting Nana during a lego-building session telling her, "Hold on, Nana, I'm on the phone." She is constantly "checking her voicemail," and taking calls from her friends Cassie and Dylan from school. (As I mentioned in a recent post, she does NOT go to school, nor do we know any kids named Cassie or Dylan.) She mimics the actions of the adults, sliding her finger across the surface of the calculator, like one would do to scroll through photos when checking Facebook on an iPhone. Dear God, what have I done to my child???
My mom reads a blog about "Pioneer Woman," whose life on a ranch with her kids and her Marlboro Man has become regular reading for thousands over the last couple of years. I think that the reason why is that we all deep down, long for simpler times. But we deny ourselves that, even when the opportunity arises. I am so guilty of that, practically quivering at the opportunity to check my email or Facebook notifications. God forbid I miss one comment on a photo or don't know right away that my old friend from high school is sitting in traffic at this exact moment. And I'm sure I'd be totally out of the loop without the TMZ app on my iPhone. After all, it was crucial that I knew of the deaths of Farrah, MJ and Billy Mays as soon as the news was reported.
I sit here at the laptop, breathing a sigh of relief, now that Tim, Rory and Dad have arrived. Mostly because I have really missed my husband, and realized how much I lean on him without realizing it. But also because my techno-geek (in the most loving sense of the word) brother has hacked his iPhone to function as a modem. Which means I can access the internet from my laptop without having to trek to the local townie bar to take advantage of their free WiFi. Again I say, life is good. Obviously, I say this half-joking. I am as guilty as anyone of wasting an inordinate amount of time on meaningless crap online, convincing myself that it is worthy of my time. Its when it cuts into our face-to-face personal interaction that it becomes a problem. So that means when Finley actually refuses to play legos for fear she might miss a phone call on her calculator, we have a big problem. But for now, she will still go fishing, ride her bike and play with Nana's dogs. She does have voicemail, after all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The pecking order

I think one of the most difficult things about having a big family, or should I say being part of a big family, is finding your place. The oldest gets the most privileges and can do the most for themselves. The youngest gets the most of mom and dad's attention because they need the most care. The toddlers get the most praise because they are constantly achieving new things. But what about that age where nothing new is really happening? What happens then? This is when the "pecking order" becomes very obvious. The other day Finley started sobbing in the car. I hadn't heard what Carter said to her, but by the intensity of her wailing, you'd think it was the most horrible, unimaginable thing ever. When she finally calmed down enough to get the words out, here's what she said . . . "Am I'm the boss of Scout? Carter said I'm not the boss of Scout!" This was what had shook her little almost 3-year-old self to the core. The fear that she was not in fact in charge of someone. To think she might be the lowest of the low men on the totem pole. Horror of horrors!! So I of course explained, as any mother of many children would do that Daddy and I were the big bosses, Piper was the boss of Trace, Trace was the boss of Carter and so on. So yes, she was the boss of Scout. Obviously I say this tongue in cheek, because I want each child to respect to his/her siblings and them all to exist in harmony as equally important and contributing members of this family. (I'm still waiting for the harmony part!) But I do think that there's nothing wrong with a pecking order - that is life. My mom tells the kids all the time that they have to listen because mom is the boss, and that will never change. They of course get a real kick out of it when Nana tells them that she is still the boss of me. And her mom is still the boss of her, etc. Let's face it, there's always someone we answer to, whether its God, our parents, our employer, our children or the authorities. I don't think its a bad thing, it makes us more conscientious of how we behave and often motivates us to be better at what we do. I tell Piper all the time, if you wouldn't be proud to have me hear about something you say or do, that's probably an indication that you shouldn't be doing or saying it. Hey, I'm 32 years old and I still appreciate my Mom's approval. No, I don't need it, but I still like to know that my mom is proud of me. I don't think that will ever change. I know my kids seek that same approval from Tim and I. We have witnessed a good deal of looking for attention from the other kids since Scout's arrival, and we try to reiterate that negative attention is not better than no attention at all. However, I try to be sympathetic to the fact that sometimes being part of a big family means it's easier to get lost in the shuffle when life gets hectic. I know when Finley starts telling me stories about her teacher and the kids in her class that she might need a little extra attention from me, considering she doesn't actually have a teacher or even go to school yet. So I play along, and aske her if she had a good day at school. And for now I'll let her be the boss of Scout . . .

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Full Circle

Cousin Brody giving Scout a kiss

Piper chillin in the hammock with B-man

I have often heard the quote, "Life's a journey, not a destination." I totally agree with the idea behind that, and try to remind myself to stop and smell the roses along the road, because it isnt just about getting somewhere, but also about enjoying the ride as you go along. But it occurred to me the other day that perhaps we are not always moving forward in a straight path towards a destination, but instead constantly circling around. What, you ask, brought me to this moment of contemplative deep thought? True, these moments are rare these days, only sporadically breaking though the sleep deprived mush of my brain that is most often occupied with who has hot lunch, which permission slip needs to be signed, who's running dangerously low on clean undies, are all the Sharpies out of Finley's reach and of course the random Wonder Pets song lyrics. Anyway, Scout was in her bouncy chair in my craft room as I stood folding laundry across the hall. Piper had been given the daunting task of keeping her happy at 5 o'clock in the evening. She was really pulling out all the stops for a less than receptive audience. I looked up to see her doing some sort of interpretive dance around the room, frantically waving a length of ribbon around her, and of course all I could think was "Get In Shape Girl." If you are a woman my age (or a mother of one) you know exactly what I am talking about. This was the 80's, people! Get in Shape Girl was a video (notice I did not say DVD) complete with a mat and a baton with a long satin ribbon attached. And there I stood in my family room (wearing pink spandex of course) dancing and waving that ribbon like a little Jane Fonda. Here I am in my 30s watching an eerily similar scene unfold, and I think - "I've come full circle." This seems to be happening more often with so many things. This week Piper and Trace started their first week of summer camp at the same camp I attended as a kid. I think I was more excited than they were on Monday, because I was filled with fond memories of rope climbing, swimming, crafts and singing. (I had of course blocked out mosquito bites, sunburns, rainy days, and kickball.) They came home singing "Selfishy" and were amazed when I could sing along. These are the fun things as a parent - watching your kids experience things you so vividly remember fondly. Of course there are the experiences you remember vividly that you pray they never go through. Broken ankles, bullies, zits, big bangs, stirrup pants, etc. You get the idea!
I know its been one whole month and one day since I've actually blogged, and my head is hung in shame as I type this. (Actually I'm just trying to hide from the kids.) My days have been filled with end of the school year activities, Trace's baseball games, enjoying being outside with the kids, meeting my new nephew Dominic, having a garage sale and celebrating my SIL Paula's 28th birthday among other things. Now its summer, no more school and schedules, here's hoping the weather soon realizes its June!

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