… In Which I Try To Sun Myself In The Backyard While My Children Play

The news has been devastating lately, and this weekend I needed an escape. Since I still don’t feel comfortable going anywhere while Coronavirus is lurking, my own backyard “escape” was the best I could do. Bad idea … bad, bad idea.

With my beach towel, glitter pool float (makeshift pool chair) and sunscreen in hand, I set out for the backyard. “I have good news, boys!,” I declared. “Go ahead and fill up both pools, get out all of the sprinkler toys, and let’s have a little water fun in the backyard! Mommy’s going to get some sun, and y’all just have a good time. There’s only one rule: don’t get Mommy wet.” I felt very confident that I was a super-fun mom until my five-year-old, who at times can be more mature than I am, said, “That’s a terrible idea, Mom. Someone always gets sprayed in the eyes with the hose. Everyone gets mud in the house, and we’ll all have to take baths.” “Oh phooey,” I thought. You see, I describe my parenting style as “I live and breathe for you. You’re all I think about. I would die for you in a heartbeat. Now get away from me.” I thought water fun would occupy them for hours and leave me basking in the glory of the sun. I was wrong.

Once I convinced everyone that my plan was pure genius, I poured myself a big glass of Sauvignon Blanc and headed outside. I found the only unoccupied spot approximately one foot away from where my golden retriever likes to do her business. The Beverly Hills Hotel this was not. However, with my ‘60s playlist and the smell of suntan lotion, I felt like something right out of “The Graduate,” a tanned sun goddess who had just returned from the tiki bar.

Now, the sun isn’t usually my thing. I’m not what you would call a “beach person,” and I have a history of lasting approximately 10 minutes in the heat before waving the white flag. I’ve often wondered what people actually do at the pool or beach all day long. It’s a slap in the face of the modern advancement called air conditioning, if you ask me. But with the retro tunes and the drink in my hand, I was beginning to understand the strange attraction people have to the sun. “Maybe it’s time to get out some baby oil,” I thought to myself. “Who cares if I end up looking like a fried pickle? Life’s too short!” Don’t worry, I came to my senses and realized life would be a lot shorter if I marinated myself in baby oil.

My youngest came over to me out of concern. “Take off your top,” he said (He’s three). “What!?,” I said. “Take off your top, or it will get wet,” he insisted. I talked him down, but I worry about him in college with a line like that. About that time, I see something flying through the air towards me; it’s a gift from my oldest son, a large black beetle wrapped in dirty underwear. I honestly didn’t want to know where either came from, so I politely declined the gentleman’s gift.

While dealing with the tighty-whities beetle, I hadn’t noticed that my youngest had turned my pool float into a wave pool. Apparently he had found delight in shaking the float over and over as to watch my fat jiggle. Awesome. I no longer felt like a sun goddess, which was good because about that time I had to play defense. I saw a soccer ball fly right past my head just in time to hear my middle son yell, “I’m the king of wet balls!” I didn’t even have the chance to giggle before I looked over to see my youngest using our concrete patio as a urinal. “Nooooooooooo…,” I yelled with fear and disbelief in my eyes.

As I was explaining to my three-year-old why we don’t relieve ourselves on the patio where we like to eat, my middle son noticed ants on the fence behind me and waged a full-on war. It wasn’t bad enough that he was ending them with the hose’s brutal jet function, but he was yelling insults while doing it. “Nobody cares about you” and “You were NOT invited to the party” were two of my personal favorites.

I tried to salvage my day in the sun, and I headed back over to my pool float. My oldest ran past me and cut me off, jumping onto the float. At that moment, my middle son’s attention shifted from ants to brothers and he yelled, “Hey dump truck! Don’t steal a lady’s comfortable spot!” I decided right then that if nothing else came from that day, that I was still winning because of my son’s chivalrous gesture. Now we’ll work on his vocabulary.

I’ve learned my lesson, and I won’t be sunning in the backyard anytime soon. The next time I need an escape, I’m going to an adults-only pool. From that day I took away nothing but a headache and a boy-shaped tan line on each leg. My tan lines don’t exactly scream desirable bathing beauty, but they do mean I’m loved. I’ll take that.

The Cure For Boredom

Lately, I have noticed that children are bored. They are discontented, uncomfortable with free time and unsure what to do with Saturdays that are not filled with sports, Sundays without church and school days without the classroom. A life with no vacations, no parties and no pools has these young ones perplexed. These children do not live in my home.

The Riney boys have never made boredom’s acquaintance, and for that I am equally grateful and exhausted. People have often commented about how “busy” they are. Yeah, thanks. This week I decided to follow the boys around, so I, too, could be privy to the goings on of their minds and the activities that fill their days. If your children come to you saying they are bored, here are some options for them:

  • Play NASA by using the seesaw to “launch” your little brother.
  • Play doctor’s office. Pretend you can only talk in zipper sounds, you burp shoes and your dog used to be a human before she was cursed.
  • Play “The Rolling Game” in which you take turns rolling down the bed, trying to knock the youngest child to the floor.
  • Cuddle the dog. Kiss her before you lick her, because licking her before kissing her would be ridiculous and gross. Obviously.
  • Play flu clinic. Give your brothers flu tests by sticking Q-tips up their noses.
  • Clean your room. Wait until it’s past bedtime. Pretend you are a cat and spend a full hour carrying each individual toy in your mouth to the toy bin. Meow.
  • Bark “Jingle Bells.”
  • Wash the car. Use a mop. Drag the mop through the mud each time you bring it to the ground. Put it back on the car. Curse the mystery dirt.
  • Remove brick from the fireplace. (There are clearly too many.)
  • Watch Bob Ross make “happy, little trees.”
  • Put away laundry in your dresser. Insist that you only be given the exact same amount of shirts and shorts. Stuff all nonessential articles of clothing under your bed.
  • Use fabric from Mom’s curtains to make a flag for the tree fort.
  • Practice making Chewbacca noises by gargling with water.
  • Try to flush an entire roll of toilet paper. Watch the bathroom flood. Run around the house while singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
  • Watch “Mary Poppins.” Convince your brother that if he believes in himself, he can jump into the painting in the living room.
  • Stare at clouds, read in the tree fort, sleep in, watch cartoons and just enjoy these yummy, slow days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Eleventy Hundred

We are adjusting nicely to our “new normal” at the Riney casa, and things have fallen into a doable rhythm during our quarantined days. I’ve discovered the joy of home improvement. After refinishing and painting our old dresser, I discovered I am a genius, a renewer of all things, a gifted phoenix of discarded furniture. My fingertips are transformative, and I breathe new life into antiques. My family now finds me entranced, staring at walls, cabinets, tables and the like, dreaming of what gifts I may bestow upon them. I’ve painted so many things green, my husband has named the color “quarantine green.” I don’t have a problem; you have a problem.

My sons have been surprisingly obedient when it comes to their schoolwork. They are enjoying their Zoom meetings and the freedom found in working from home. They read in the tree fort, create art on the patio, take the computer in the sandbox … yep, they took the computer in the sandbox! It’s crunching as I type this.

My oldest has been very busy. He has spent his days trying to create a robot to rub my back (Go right ahead, son. Of course you can use those batteries and old cords.) and has been collecting treasures in an old shoe box. The other day he found a real dinosaur bone in the side yard and was beside himself with excitement. He made me promise that we will take it to a museum when they reopen. In unrelated news, our neighbors had barbecue ribs the other night.

My middle child has adopted the early-morning routine of a retiree. He wakes early, comes down the stairs, turns off the porch light, turns on the living room lights and makes me a cup of coffee. He’s five. The youngest spends his days outside, and to be honest that’s where he belongs. He’s a man of the woods, untamed and virile. I found him barking at the trash truck yesterday. The other night when we finally got him out of the dirt and into the bathtub, I heard my oldest mutter, “The eagle has landed.”

We’ve been playing lots of board games. It can be challenging at times to play with my middle son, as he has apparently inherited my patience. During game time, he displays the temperament and understanding of a young Archie Bunker. But most of the time, he is just a doll, the most affectionate and loving of all three. He covers me daily in compliments like, “You’re so warm and fluffy” and “Your face is prettier than your leg” (Notice he only said one leg, so I can assume I’m rockin’ one very good-looking gam).

But he’s not the only sweet one, I had another child recently give me a long, loving hug … followed by a flatulent with which he then proceeded to lock me in the room. Before shutting the door, he looked me in the eyes and said, “Smell the love.” Romantic. You’re welcome, future daughter-in-law.

They really are such good boys, and this time at home has brought them even closer together. Last week they went on an intense dinosaur hunt in the backyard, the goal being to catch “just a mid-sized herbivore.” They grabbed their backpacks, filled them with snacks, dinosaur books and tools and headed out on their mission. They dragged a dog crate to the backyard, placed within it a bowl of ham, propped the door open with a broom and waited for the creature to emerge. “Get into position” they all yelled as they climbed into the tree fort to wait. The bushes began to move, and it was like the opening scene in Jurassic Park. They caught a golden retriever.

My husband is really wonderful about encouraging imaginative play. He’s such a sweet man. When he noticed that they were digging for dinosaur bones, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to make a lasting memory by letting our boys borrow a tool that belonged to his grandfather. This tool just also happened to be large and sharp and every mother’s nightmare. After he returned to his desk, proud of the special moment he shared with his sons, I spent the afternoon running interference. I’m happy to say we only lost one tree branch, everyone’s digits are still in place, and I only saw actual sparks once.

All in all, we’re doing great. We’re so encouraged by the good we see in the world, and we’re really enjoying this time at home. The house is a mess, things are “off,” and we certainly don’t look our best. But, we’re healthy, we’re together, and, for that, we’re filled with joy. These crazy boys of mine are growing up way too fast, and we won’t always have dino hunts in the backyard. I’m going to soak up every last smelly, messy moment of this. I hope you’re doing the same.

God Bless,

Meghan

 

The Bachelorette: Quarantine Home Edition

It’s been five weeks now that I’ve been living under the same roof with these three young bachelors, and I still can’t decide which is my favorite. Tonight, they are treating me to a very special date, and hopefully my preference will be made clear.

The towheaded one is a sophisticated fellow, and he has asked that I wear my hot pink blouse with my leopard skirt. He thinks I would look fancy with a pink scarf donning my neck like a Hitchcock Grace Kelly. Who am I to disappoint? The eldest of the three gentlemen has suggested I wear red lipstick, diamond earrings and a fancy updo to complement my outfit. The purple eye shadow he has chosen completes the look, and I’m now ready for my big date.

It’s 6’oclock on the dot, and the doorbell has rung. Very punctual … I like that. They each greet me at the door with a pink rose — a nice touch — and they are dressed impeccably. (I learn later that the youngest one almost came in the buff, a bold and confident move). The eldest seems to be wearing his sweater backwards, a unique style that says “I don’t care about the rules of this world.” The towheaded one tells me I look beautiful, and my heart skips a beat. The youngest gentleman saunters in last and asks, “What happened to your hair?” He doesn’t care for the updo, and I appreciate his honesty. I admire a man who knows what he likes.

The waiter, who is mighty cute, seats us at his best table, and the towheaded bachelor pulls out my chair, a gesture that does not go unnoticed. The dinner begins with a reading of the wine list, while the sounds of jazz standards coast through the air and the glow from the candlelight illuminates the three handsome gentlemen before me. The waiter brings us baguettes and butter, and the youngest grabs the whole stick of butter off the plate and takes a bite. His savage ways intrigue me.

We all order steaks, medium well, with mashed potatoes and asparagus. The youngest drinks his milk with wild abandon, letting it splash on his face. His entire, uncut steak hangs from his mouth like a hockey puck. His caveman soul sets him apart.

The eldest entertains us with knock knock jokes throughout the meal, and the towheaded one keeps his cash on the table as if to signal to everyone, “I’ve got this.” Now it is time to pay, and the three gentlemen play a fun trick on the waiter by hiding in the curtains and jumping out with the money. What a gas! The towheaded one announces, “I’ll pay for dinner,” to which the eldest replies, “I’ll pee for dinner.” Oh, he is a hoot!

Now, off to the movies; it’s just down the galley kitchen. When we arrive, the theater employee — also very cute — informs us that the show will begin in 10 minutes. He points us to the arcade where we play the crane game and skee ball. My dates are all so competitive, and the youngest will throw a downright fit if he loses. He doesn’t care who’s watching; I admire his intensity. The gentlemen buy me Junior Mints — they prefer Skittles — and we head to our seats in preparation for the feature presentation, “Father of the Bride.” How did they know my favorite movie? How thoughtful!

As the feature begins, the towheaded one crawls in my lap; what a dear! He kisses me up the arm like I’m Morticia Adams and, at one point, sucks on my elbow. But who am I to question how someone shows affection? The eldest must be getting jealous. He has made his way to my lap, as well. He has asked that I rub his tummy … must have been the candy. Since, we’re getting more casual, I decide to get more comfortable and take down my hair. The youngest looks over at me, puzzled, and mutters, “Your hair doesn’t look stupid anymore.” Playing hard to get, eh?

We end the evening with one rousing game of “Is It Chocolate or Dog Poop on the Blanket”? Good for such laughs! What a wonderful evening. In conclusion, I’m sorry to say my choice has not been made any clearer. They each possess admirable qualities, and I’m equally enamored with them all. I like being their best girl, and I’ve decided to keep them all to myself for a little bit longer.

I Have a Confession

I have discovered the key to my quarantine contentment, and it’s not what you’d think.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized that the isolation and repetition of this quarantine were beginning to get to me. My nerves were frayed. The signs were subtle at first, like letting my sons eat fried rice in my bed while watching TV, but then became more obvious. I thought making a dog food catapult actually sounded like an okay idea. I ate a bag of my sons’ cookies, left the wrapper out and blamed the children. I told the boys to go find pictures in the clouds and told them not to come back until they found Boris Karloff.

I decided it was time for a change, a time for self-care, a time for green smoothies and long walks. About the time I had my fourth spinach-stuffed sweet potato, my body put its foot down. Feeling ill for days — and having tried every remedy under the sun — I dug back into the comforts of my childhood and ate a giant bowl of queso with a Coke. Eureka, I was cured! It’s probably because my body said, “ Whoa, boys … let’s lay off the stomach for awhile; the arteries need our attention now.” Nevertheless, I felt better, and I had a choice: I could either eat melted cheese every day, or I could delve into the nostalgia that gave that meal its healing properties. (Spoiler alert: I chose the path with less chins.)

And thus began my “Totally ‘90s Quarantine.” I have transformed my very existence into a Sunny D commercial. My children are eating Trix and Cocoa Puffs, while I bounce around my living room with purple hand weights to ‘90s aerobics videos. We’re watching the T.G. I. F. lineup, “DuckTales,” and “E.R.”. I’m drinking diet drinks and spraying air-popped popcorn with some sort of butter substitute spray, and it’s all glorious. At this rate, I should be rollerblading past your house soon.

I came of age in the early ‘90s when everything was sunny, neon, and fun! If it didn’t take place on a beach, it didn’t happen. It was the world of “California Dreams,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and “Saved By The Bell,” a world full of puffed paints and scrunched socks. My childhood soundtrack was Janet Jackson mixed with a healthy dose of smooth jazz. There wasn’t much that couldn’t be fixed by a saxophone and a steel drum. If that didn’t work, Enya could put you right in an instant.

I’ve discovered — or rediscovered — that ‘90s workout videos are my jam. I dare you to be sad while working out with Elle Macpherson in the rainforest. When a spandex-clad Denise Austin tells you to “Burn that butter,” you obey. These videos are so perfectly uncool, and that’s what makes them so fun! When did everything get so serious?

I tend to feel things deeply, overthink everything, philosophize and pontificate, but sometimes I just need to smile. That time is now, and my “Totally ‘90s Quarantine” is doing the trick. Who knows … if the world gets any scarier, I may just squeeze myself into my old ESPRIT jumper. I hope it doesn’t, but at least you’ll have that to look forward to if it does.

Let’s Go Over Some Rules

Dearest Sons,

Since it seems we are going to be contained in this house together for the foreseeable future—and because I think I may have actually roared today—I have decided it is time to, once again, review some rules of civility. By civility I simply mean if you would like to see more than the back of your bedroom doors, you will need to do this.

1. Don’t eat, lick, or mouth anything other than the food I serve you. I should not have to utter things like, “Quit eating my blanket,” “Don’t lick the dog,” and “We don’t eat out of the trash.”

2. Immediately following my hours-long cleaning, vacuuming, dusting, and floor-polishing is probably not the best time to attempt to eat popcorn using a chip clip. Why I still have hair chip clips is beside the point. I was a teenager of the ‘90s, and some things are harder to shake than others.

3. I understand that you may not always like what I cook, but that does not give you an excuse to eat chips all day and then tell me you aren’t full at meal times. Yes, my own cooking is making me physically ill, as well, and I believe my body is starting to reject it, however it is what we have. Do not make me tell you about starving children one more time. There are buzzards circling our house because my spirit is dying.

4. I should never walk into the room and see you drinking out of a wine glass. I don’t care if it’s just La Croix. It’s weird, wrong, dangerous, and just visually disturbing.

5. We, as humans, brush our teeth regardless of what we are doing that day. That is all.

6. I don’t care if you found a balloon in the closet; we do not play with balloons, EVER! They are the devil’s playthings. They lead to nothing but fighting, crying, loud noises, and potential choking. Years ago, y’all got a balloon with a string wrapped around the ceiling fan in our bedroom. Now, if we would like some extra air in our room, dad and I have to give the fan a running start like we’re hand-starting a prop plane.

7. Dragging your little brother around the house by his feet is not “playing train.” I don’t care if you call it the “Baby Express.”

8. FLUSH

9. When I’m in my room and you ask me if I would like my door shut, I will assume you need to talk to Jesus about what you are about to do.

10. When I’m working out in the living room, I don’t need your help. If I had wanted to do goat yoga, I would have signed up for it years ago.

Finally, know that dad and I love you with our whole hearts. When all of this is over, we will know each other even better, treasure these moments together, praise God for his grace and immediately order a deep cleaning.

Love,

Mom

A Pet’s Ode to Coronavirus

For years at the back of the door I did stare,

enduring the taunting glare of the sun while going nowhere.

Then you came along, and my people came home!

I stashed away my readers and closed my tome.

I am FREE, a wild beast of the outdoors once again;

We walk and eat all day, and then it begins again!

The humans say you’re frightening, but to me you’re quite alright;

Is it possible, after all these years, why they’ve finally seen the light?

The children leave full sandwiches out for me to enjoy,

as well as crayons, fruit snacks, stuffed animals and the occasional plastic toy.

I ponder my sudden luck as I savor each hors d’oeuvre;

It’s about time that I finally receive the treatment I deserve.

Now, excuse me, I must resume my morning cuddle in the warmth of the sun.

While you’re hoping this will be over, I’m hoping it has just begun.

Coronavirus Lessons: Who Really Needs Pants?

In this time of uncertainty and fear, one thing has become abundantly clear in the Riney household and that is the complete indispensability of pants. The comfort of being properly covered is seemingly lost on these three sons of mine, and the result is a lot of flesh. While I am appropriately suppressing my Carona-induced stress through a combination of baking, praying, and soft pants, my children have embraced their “new normal” as their “new nudist colony.” I’ve seen things … things I can’t unsee.

When you live with four boys—I’m including my husband in that count—your gauge of what is socially acceptable changes. Your judgment is clouded by your primal need to survive, and you begin to allow things that haunt your dreams. These three young boys who emerged from my womb are bound and determined to destroy everything in their sight. These are the loves of my life and also the reason I will never own a black light.

I’ve grown very accustomed to spills, unnamed fluids and mystery stains. Water has become like air to me. My youngest son can pour out an entire bottle of water onto the rug in front of me, and my pulse does not change. I confess that I have actually convinced myself that a sloshed-around La Croix is akin to deep cleaning with club soda.

Due to our Coronavirus quarantine, we’re living in the backyard these days. Our neighbors wake to the sweet sound of me shrieking, “Quit licking your brother!”, “Dog poop is NOT a toy!”, “Is it bleeding?” and “Cover up your bits!” If you’re lucky enough to be one of our neighbors, please don’t call CPS. I assure you they’re perfectly safe. I’m the one at risk.

Growing up an only child, I would dream about my certain future … a family of one—maybe two—girls. We would giggle while we baked in matching red gingham aprons while listening to classical music and musing about our favorite parts of “Anne of Green Gables”. Let’s just note that while I’m typing this, all three of my boys are making flatulent noises on my body. It’s a glamorous life, folks.

My oldest is seven now, and with time comes wisdom. I’ve learned how to handle even the most trying situations with threats and bribes grace. Though I still find myself fantasizing about the pioneer times when you could tie little Ezekiel to a tree while you finished the laundry, I am growing accustomed to this boy life. At this point I’m only a loud whistle, a poisonous dart, and an industrial-strength carpet cleaner away from having this whole parenting this figured out.

So, to all those moms who are in the same boat during this crazy time, just know you’re not alone. We’re going to make it, and we’re doing the best we can. Don’t forget to laugh … and lose the pants.