Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Insomnia and the Microwave

It is three in the morning and I am wide awake. As a confirmed insomniac, I knew getting up and getting something done would be far less torturous than laying in bed wide awake mentally listing things I should get done. Blogging was the least noisy thing I could think of and the chihuahuas thought they had died and gone to heaven when they saw me coming down the stairs wrapped in a down comforter. Then I microwaved a DiGiorno Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread Melt and they pretty much lost their little walnut sized brains over the whole experience. Lap Dog Nirvana.

Speaking of Digiorno Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread Melts, they are my new food obsession. If you haven't tried one yet, I recommend that you never do because its like crack. Be smart. Don't start. I must say that one of the advantages of my mystery illness that made me drop sixty pounds inexplicably, is that I can consume insane amounts of calories at any time of day and feel like I'm doing something good for my body. I have gained 15 pounds back and been feeling much better and I'm sure that at some point I will feel compelled to curb my caloric intake but for now the microwave is my best electronic friend.

Speaking of my microwave, I just discovered many of its previously unknown talents. I was standing there waiting for my flatbread to melt and since I really had nothing else more pressing at three AM, I decided to be useful and change the little lightbulb that had burned out on the underside. I swear that bulb burns out weekly. Then I noticed that there is a feature where you can program it to turn on and off every day at a set time so I followed the annoyingly slow scrolling instructions and set the night light timer. Then I realized that you can program the scrolling instructions to scroll faster so I did that. Then I saw the help button, so what the hell... let's see what help this appliance offers. Turns out you can tell the microwave exactly what you are cooking and it will magically sense how long it needs to cook for. Genius. Queso dip? warmed to perfection. Ramen Noodle Soup? I'll never use the stovetop again. Frozen leftover lasagna? a no brainer. I almost feel guilty that I have owned this thing for four years and never even knew it's skills. It is now also set to remind me when it is time to pick the kids up from school and it promises to use it's quieter less irritating beep to do so. Years from now when Jack has children of his own and he realizes what a pain in the neck it is to leave the house at just the right moment so as to avoid the hellish elementary school traffic jam but to also avoid losing a child to heat stroke, and he thanks me for being so lovingly diligent on my carpool day, I will give full credit to the microwave development department of General Electric and then celebrate the moment of parenting success with a bag of popcorn that has no un-popped kernels but is not scorched at all.

Okay, now it is four am. I'm doing pretty good with this whole time killing thing. Feel free to quit reading at any time. I'm sure the rest of this post will be far less scintillating than my love affair with the microwave. Although before you abandon me completely, please take a moment to push the help button on your own Spacesaver 3000, because heaven knows, we could all use some help anywhere we can get it.

Speaking of help and parenting success, I have been reading every parenting book I can get my hands on lately. Like most moms I'm just figuring it out as I go along and mostly raising these children with the good old method of trial and error. Of course, just when I get something figured out, the child grows up out of that phase and then the next child is so completely different that whatever I learned the first time around is totally useless. I was recently reading a book called Nurture by Nature where it uses the Myers Briggs personality types to help you figure out how to parent each individual child based on their unique personality needs. I have always been a big fan of personality tests. If you are not familiar with it, google it. Or ask your microwave. I'm pretty sure mine completes full psychological inventories. Basically, everyone is one of 16 types. Some combination of the letters ENFP or ISTJ. When you do the test and then read your profile, its almost creepy how well they know you. Like they have been spying on you or reading your diary or interrogating your microwave (okay, I swear I will let the microwave thing go now). I am an ENFP Jack is an ISFJ. This of course makes him almost exactly opposite of me. Ham is still too young to really accurately peg but I guarantee he is much closer to me than Jack is. Its been a huge eye-opener to recognize the different needs of different members of the family. For instance, I thrive on change. If a routine develops, I go out of my way to change things up because to me consistency is boring and I instinctively dismantle structure. The problem is that ISFJs of course thrive on structure and consistency. This would also be a good time to mention that I married an ISTJ, who is my EXACT opposite. I had no idea I was going to end up with a house full of schedule loving, promise logging, variety-detesting people. When I look at the times that Jack has had a lot of melt-downs, its always a time when a lot of things are changing. Even good things. So here I am trying to be a super cool mom creating all kinds of fun new experiences and changing things up all of the time so that everyone's creativity can flow and no one has to be enslaved by repetitive monotony, and then I find out that certain people will probably stop pooping their pants and throwing tantrums in public if I just set a damn schedule and stick to it. So I have gritted my teeth and instituted some strict timelines and chore requirements and what do you know... everything is running much more smoothly. I didn't realize that when I say something like "Hey Jack, I'm going to let you stay up an extra hour tonight." or "I know I usually only let you get one thing at McDonalds but today you can have a Happy Meal!" What he is hearing is "Hey Jack, your whole world can crumble at any moment and you can't rely on any of your cherished rules, but I hope that Kid's Meal toy is worth all of our sanity!" Okay, Its not that bad, but you get the idea. I realized that I am doing him no favors by changing the rules. ever. Its just who he is. I have also realized that unless I am totally prepared to follow through on something, I can not even mention it. Statements such as "wow, the weather is cooling off. I bet we can start going to the park again soon." will inevitably result in the following harassment: "When are we going to the park? You said we were going to the park. Lets go to the park right now. Park. You promised. I want to go to the park. Its cool out, so were supposed to go to the park. When are we going to the park? We never go to the park even though you said we would go to the park. park. park. park." Then theres Abe who is like, "hey, screw the park. Lets just empty the toy box and play with the dogs and check out what the microwave can do at three AM, and by the way, that Happy Meal was the bomb." Okay, he doesn't actually use the English language to communicate all of that, but we are clearly on the same page.

It got me thinking about how life is all about picking your priorities. We can never make everyone happy all of the time and as a parent and spouse, we actually end up more satisfied when everyone else's preference gets met first. I find that most of the time my guiding parenting principle is the question "What will inflict the least amount of emotional damage?" And then I go with my gut. I figure that between that effort and a lot of time spent in prayer begging for the well being of my children, The odds are in my favor that these boys will grow up to be well adjusted adults who will eventually thank me for going against my grain and picking them up from school at exactly the same time each day.

I have read that human beings are hard-wired to blame their parents. For example, I had the happiest, most loving childhood known to human kind. My parents provided for me in every way and my mom in particular raised me with a sense of fun and faith and instilled in me a sense of self worth that is absolutely priceless. But when I think about my childhood, whats the most salient memory? I was enrolled in Weight Watchers at age 9. (Mom, if you're reading this, I SWEAR I am over it and I'm so sorry to have just posted that on the world wide web, but the good news is, you are the only one in the world who loves me enough to still be reading this post this far down, so technically, thats still just between you and me and the other fatties from 1986.)

As I mentioned earlier, Jack has had some bumps in the road with keeping his underwear skid free, much to my dismay. I have tried a number of different tactics to incentivize him in this matter. Prizes, rewards, beatings, you name it. Then the other day I noticed that it had been a while since he had been in the restroom so I urged him cheerfully to go in and do his business. The kid looked me in the eye and said, "What kind of prize am I gonna get for it?" To which I replied, "Jack, you are going to get the best prize of all. You are going to get a freaking sense of self respect and the knowledge that you are not a disgusting freak who is six years old and okay with the sensation of feces on your own ass." Yeah... Not my proudest parenting moment. Sometimes the ability to hit the nail on the head verbally is a skill I wish I didn't have. John overheard and he was unimpressed with my harshness as well. It was true but it was mean. These are the moments Jack is likely to blog about in thirty years.

My point is, I think we all do better with slightly imperfect upbringings. If we raised our kids perfectly and never had inappropriate moments, I'm not sure how prepared they would end up for real life. Thats what I keep telling myself anyway. I am so thankful for my family. it boggles my mind that I should be so blessed to even know these people. My parents, my siblings, my husband, my kids, my friends, my microwave. I am blessed.


Kara said...

wow, thats a long post about your microwave... I thought that until I actually read the whole thing and realized it wasn't just about your microwave.

First of all, I have never changed the lightbulb in my microwave in the 4 years we have lived here. You must use yours waaay more than me. ;) Either that or all the extra curricular activities your micro is performing is taking a toll on those lightbulbs.

I want to read the most current parenting book you have been talking about with the different things the kids should do at certain ages. I have never thought about which of my kids rely on consistency all that much... I think that would be Cameron and Ava though. I am one of those that really likes consistency and hates change, and would do so good on more of a schedule, but I also hate the thought of restricting myself to a schedule. Ironic huh? I think inevitably though, I pretty much stick with doing the same things every day, the same stuff from McDonalds, the same stuff from the grocery store, more than I really realize. :) My kids hate the grocery thing... especially Madison... she gets really tired of the same food all the time. She is definitely your personality type. :) Ok, end of my life story comment.

When are you gonna come over and clean my house???

Marolyn Haws said...

I laughed until I cried. You are a gifted writer. One note of clarification. They do not even HAVE Weight Watchers for children, however, I probably did look into it. I know. I tried to transfer my body image problem to you. Thank goodness you have been able to always see past my foibles and you became fabulous anyway. And I don't mean that with any implied sarcasm. You are truly fabulous.

Kramer Boys

Kramer Boys