It all started with a sandwich.
Grilled ham and cheese with a side of potato chips, accompanied by a cold can of Dr. Pepper.
I just needed 20 minutes.
The morning had been challenging, but I was proud of myself for maintaining an upbeat attitude and tending to the children with a patient heart, even though one was feeling under the weather, one was grouchy and whiny, and one was a boy with 50 hands and a penchant for the dramatic.
Oh! And I can’t forget the one that was kicking me from inside my belly. There was that one, too.
Here, Betsie (not sick) is crying because she WANTS to take medicine. Rebekah (sick) is crying because she DOESN’T want to take medicine…
If I could just join my husband in the living room and regroup over my sandwich and some Jimmy Fallon, I knew I could handle the rest of the long summer day without snapping.
Speaking of long summer days, what is UP with long summer days? At 8:00 p.m. when we start bedtime, my daughter always asks “Why are we going to bed when it is still morning?!” And I’m like “Morning, my dear, was at least 3 days ago…”
Anyhow, my sandwich.
I wanted to spend some alone time with it and treat it right. The baby kid was still safely tucked inside me and the grouchy kid had gone down for her nap…
that left two kids, the slightly sick kid and the boy-kid.
So when my son asked if he could play with his camo war paint, I felt I had struck gold. “Yes!” I answered brightly, “but you have to do it on the porch.”
The kitchen erupted in cheers and, after retrieving 3 tubes and one palette of paint from the craft cabinet, two sets of feet scampered out of the house.
“Take your shirts off!” I yelled, right before the door slammed, leaving my husband and me in utter silence.
Us and my sandwich.
We proceeded to eat our lunch and every once in awhile the children knocked on the living room windows to show us their progress.
Gideon painted a beautiful necklace on Rebekah. I clapped from my chair and gave him a thumbs up.
Next, he painted his belly.
I gave an exaggerated laugh and waved to show him I thought it was super funny.
Then Rebekah came and showed us her completely painted legs. They were bright green, just like the Incredible Hulk.
I genuinely laughed this time. “That’s pretty awesome…” I said to my husband, so happy the kids were having fun…
and that I was eating my sandwich.
But just as we were finishing and Mr. Gore was preparing to return to his office, Gideon stuck his head inside and said “You know what would be perfect? Some feather hats.” He looked at us expectantly, and before I knew it, Mr. Gore and I were crafting Indian-type headdresses out of construction paper and tape. The kids were in and out now, gingerly opening the screendoor with their painted hands. I don’t know how many times I said “Watch out!” and “Don’t. touch. anything!” Every five seconds, at least.
Finally, we joined them on the front porch to give them their headdresses. They looked pretty fierce and were so pumped…
So you know what happened next…
Visions of a summertime blog post started dancing merrily through my head: “Surviving Summer: How to Keep Little Kids Occupied While You Eat Your Sandwich”.
I would fill it with brilliant ideas for making it through these lengthy days, complete with anecdotes and action photos and everything! I ran to get the camera for the first idea on my list: give your kids war paint and let them loose. While you eat your sandwich.
That’s when I noticed the doorknob felt funny. Looking down at my hand, I noticed that it was covered in paint.
“Well that’s not cool…” I thought to myself.
I looked around me for the first time.
Our completely white front porch was a war zone.
“Oh man…” I muttered.
But I needed to snap those pictures, so I decided to deal with it later. I followed the kids through the yard, taking unscripted pictures of them prowling in the grass like sneaky warriors, hiding next to a tree from passing cars…
“Well, this might have been kind of messy, but it was fun,” I decided in my head. Totally worth it.
But as I walked back into the house, I looked more intently at the damage they had left behind. Tubes of messy paint were lying on a white blanket I had drying on the porch rail. The white door was covered in handprints, as were all five white rocking chairs, and camo footprints on the concrete showed me just how many times they had come in and out of the house.
And I started to admit that maybe this hadn’t been the most brilliant idea after all.
But then I saw my little warriors sitting under a shade tree, talking and laughing, and I changed my mind again. Yep. Worth it.
But then I had to change my mind again when they came to the door five minutes later, whining and saying they were ready to wash the paint off.
No stinkin’ way, I thought.
It was at this point that the genius-that-is-Mrs-Gore remembered how difficult it had been to remove this paint from Gideon’s face the last time he’d used it…and it had just been on his face, and I had been smart enough to supervise his application.
Today, however, their entire bodies were covered in paint, thickly, from head to toe.
You know, because I had been eating a stupid sandwich.
Sighing again, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to get a head start on the clean-up. Then maybe I could let them watch a movie until their little sister woke up from her nap.
And this, my friends, is how the rest of the day went (and keep in mind that, in my 3rd trimester state, bending over to administer ONE bath to ONE kid pretty much exhausts me)…
- I emerge from my air-conditioned cave, barefoot, in my maternity leggings and tank top, and start hunting for a water hose.
- I finally find it clear on the other side of the house and across the gravel (ouch!) driveway.
- I turn on the faucet and get sprayed in the face with water shooting out of either side of the hose.
- That’s when I remember my expensive camera is still around my neck.
- I return to the backyard and walk straight into the spray from the sprinkler that is apparently hooked up to the waterhose. Camera still around my neck.
- I react like I’m getting shot. (I don’t like to play in the water…)
- The kids crack up. I tell them to play in the sprinkler and wait for me.
- I go inside, dry off, put my camera up and retrieve a bar of soap.
- I return to the backyard. Both kids are gone. Rebekah is screaming in the front yard that she “can’t find me!!”.
- I yell for them that I’m in the backyard.
- Gideon joins me and I start lathering his body with soap. Rebekah is still screaming. She obviously can’t hear me.
- Gideon immediately gets soap in his eye and starts running through the yard like a madman, screaming shrilly at the top of his lungs. I chase him with the hose, trying to wash the soap out of his eyes. He runs away from me while begging for me to help him.
- I catch up and start spraying him in the face. He stops crying, mostly because he can’t breathe.
- I leave him the hose and run to the front yard to find Rebekah. She is now screaming IN THE HOUSE, dripping paint and water everywhere, and all I can think is that, if she wakes up the baby, I will lose my cool.
- I drag Rebekah out of the house, through the frontyard and into the backyard where Gideon (whose eye still hurts) has taken up running and screaming again.
- I go ahead and lose my cool anyway and start Mommy shrieking that if they don’t calm down and learn to listen I’m going to “wear them out” when we get back in the house.
- I realize that that is the first time I’ve ever said “I’m going to wear you out” and that our naive family has moved into the legit realm of the parenting world. Old-school, yo.
- I look up and see that our neighbors are enjoying their afternoon on their front porch.
- I start laughing and skip a little so they’ll think we’re having fun.
- I scrub the first layer of paint off of each kid as Gideon continues to wail about his eye and Rebekah hysterically laugh/cries like she does when she doesn’t want to be in trouble.
- I realize with a sinking heart that they’re still very green and brown and black.
- I dry them off and carry them to my bathtub, warning them that if they move, play, or touch anything, they will die.
- I start using wet wipes to clean their faces. Another layer comes off but…
- they’re still green and brown and black.
- I leave the bathwater running while I dash to the computer room to google “how to get face paint off”.
- First answer: wet wipes. Next!
- Second answer: baby oil or cold cream or butter. I don’t have baby oil or cold cream.
- I retrive a softened stick of butter I happen to have on the counter.
- I return to the bathtub, tell Gideon to stand up and I start greasing his body down with butter.
- The kids crack up.
- I’m not laughing yet. Mostly because I’m using dairy products to get my kids clean. I didn’t see this one coming.
- Rebekah tries to lick Gideon’s leg because she “loves butter!”
- I continue to scold them for screaming like “banshees” in the backyard and tell them the police might have come. Rebekah reminds me that I was “screaming like a witch.”
- She is right.
- Another layer of paint comes off, but they’re still covered in it.
- I dry them off with dirty beach towels, put them in their swimsuits and banish them to the front porch.
- I try not to look at the crime scene that is my master bathroom.
- I call Mr. Gore and instruct him to come home with baby oil, shampoo and popsicles! A.S.A.P.
- I hang up the phone and hear Gideon crying. He got bit on the finger by a turtle in the yard. Of course he did!
- I retrieve alcohol and cotton balls and a bandage and take care of his finger.
- Rebekah falls asleep on the front porch.
- Betise wakes up upstairs.
- Mr. Gore comes home from work for the day and I immediately burst into uncontrollable tears. “I just can’t do it all!” I wail.
- Mr. Gore starts feverishly cleaning the house.
- I retrieve Betsie from her bed. She has taken off her wet diaper and dropped it in the floor and is naked and crying.
- I take her to the rocking chair and we cry together for 15 minutes. Well…I do.
- I get Betsie dressed and we go downstairs, our tears wiped away.
- I scrub all of the paint and dirt out of my tub with the heavy-dutiest cleaning agent I have.
- I put Gideon back in the tub, slather him down with baby oil, and watch in wonder as the last of the paint wipes off. Then I fill up the tub and scrub him like he’s never been scrubbed before. He’s clean!!!
- I dry him off. He apologizes for “being mean” and I say “me too”. We hug and make up.
- Betsie comes into my room. She’s naked again. I put a pair of training panties on her.
- I fetch Rebekah for her bath. I slather her down with baby oil and wipe the remaining paint off of her.
- Betise climbs onto a stool next to me and tries to climb into the tub with her sister. She is naked again. I use my body to block her path, and she starts playing the drums on my backside.
- As I fill up Rebekah’s tub, I take down her braid and notice that I missed something. Her hair is streaked skunk-like with green and black paint. Perfect!
- I wash her hair with my shampoo. Paint pours into the water like I’m rinsing out a sponge.
- I rinse her hair, drain the water and clean the tub again.
- I wash her hair again. Paint still pours into the tub. I rinse her hair and the tub again.
- I wash her hair again, this time before filling up the tub. No more paint.
- I fill up the tub again and scrub her down. She’s clean!!! But the tub is somehow dirty again.
- Betsie comes back, still naked, and starts making fart noises by blowing on my calf with her mouth.
- I dry Rebekah off, give her some more Tylenol for her renewed headache and glance at the clock…
Inexplicably, it is 5:30 p.m., and even though I still need to clean the house, take a shower, powerwash the porch and make supper, I confusedly emerge from this agonizing time-vortex of summertime horror a little sadder, a lot wiser, very grouchy and…
I’ll take anything but a sandwich.