The Witching Hour

It’s a coincidence that I am writing this just as Halloween approaches. This will be my first Halloween trick or treating with the boys and I’m pretty excited about it. Mostly excited about eating the candy that Monkey will surely forget about. I imagine that we will go to about 5 houses before I get sick of it and go back home. We got Monkey a pretty cute Halloween costume. In the true nerdy spirit of the Topping household, Monkey is dressing up as Yoda. It’s going to be adorable.

But today’s post isn’t actually about Halloween. If you have children, you read the title of this post and you knew exactly what I was talking about. The witching hour, for the uninitiated (and because I’m typing this in said witching hour, stay uninitiated as long as you can for God’s sake), is an hour around supper time where your children turn into the spawn of Satan.

It’s not that bad, you think in your glorious ignorance. You are wrong. It’s the worst. This hour is the number one reason that there is no way in the world that I will ever be a stay-at-home mom. There isn’t a single thing that doesn’t go wrong.

Let’s start with today. Our witching hour begins precisely at 4 pm, which happens to be 75 minutes before Brian gets home. The opening credits for a television show begins (because by the end of the day, I’m ready to let Food Network parent my kids) and both boys lose their minds. Eggs wants to go down for another nap, but with bedtime at 7 pm, a nap at 4 is inadvisable. Monkey wants supper, but that’s not for another hour or so. So I fill both boys with snacks. Today it was raspberry jello.

But, oh no, Monkey doesn’t want jello. But he doesn’t tell me that. He just takes a bit and then runs away to spit it into his hands and smear it on the living room walls. Eggs, on the other hand, loves the jello. Problem is that he wants to eat it faster than he is physically able. He chokes on the jello. And because he has a sensitive gag reflex, he throws up. Red bile all over the carpet.

Okay, so I grab a new snack for Monkey, clean up the wall, clean up the floor. While I do this, the kids head over to the TV. We have a long TV stand with 3 drawers because they don’t make childproof TV stands and they want you to attach your television to your brand new wall, which is super unreasonable in my opinion. Anyways, they have pulled apart the three drawers by the time I’ve cleaned up. But not just pulled everything out of them, pulled them out of the stand. And not just pulled them out of the stand, but pulled the rails out as well, tearing long gaping holes where the screws are supposed to sit. One piece of furniture destroyed.

It is now 4:15.

To be honest, I’m ready for the day to be over. Actually, I’m ready for the sweet embrace of death because it has been a long day. So I put them in their rooms so I can try to fix the stand and sob because I used to have nice things once upon a time. And then I go to sit back down and step in the wet spot from Eggs’ vomit. A cheerio grinds under my other foot. So I decide to vacuum.

Partially because there is a colony of cheerios living around the exersaucer. And partially because I know my boys are terrified of the vacuum and if you can’t take joy in the little things, I don’t know what to say to you. I pull the vacuum out and suck up all the cheerios as my children cry in both terror and in grief for the loss of each and every cheerio they threw on the floor instead of eating.

The vacuuming done, I go to comfort the children. I hold Eggs because his sobs have turned into gags, but this sends Monkey into a full blown tantrum because he wanted to be held first. Once Eggs is calm, I go to Monkey who doesn’t want to be on my lap now because he’d rather be smacking Eggs in the face, who is now screaming once again.

It is now 4:30.

Wait, where is the snack I brought up for Monkey? Oh, he’s crushed it between two shelves that he managed to pull off of the bookshelf, sending the contents of blu rays to the floor. I clean up the crumbs, put the shelves back up, and check each case to make sure that none of them have shattered.

The boys are screaming again. Don’t know why this time. Probably because they are hoping that the next time I go to school, I drive my car off the high level bridge.

Because I’m dead inside, I just let them cry until…

It is now 4:45.

We go downstairs to wait for Brian to get home. Because there’s nothing like screaming children to greet you at the door. The change of scenery calms them for 51 seconds. Then they realize that is where the food is. But not just any food. They want chocolate. At least Monkey does. And because he knows where the chocolate chips are kept, he tries to sneak into the pantry to get them.

But I’m smarter than an almost 2 year old. I’ve hidden them. But that doesn’t go well. He screams at the empty spot in the pantry, alerting his brother to his presence. Eggs follows the sound and finds the dog dish where he starts choking on dog food. Cue the vomit.

It is finally 5.

Brian will be home in 15 minutes. So what do I do? I hide in the bathroom.

 

This is the witching hour. Apparently a combination of tiredness and hunger, this is the equivalent of WWII here. A living nightmare where it may only be an hour, but you have aged at least 7 years from 4 to 5 pm.

And there is nothing to do with it except endure. Until they stop being like this, which I estimate to occur sometime around 2030.

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Bye Bye Bacon

Last night I made a rash decision. I was lying in bed, waiting for sleep to take me, when my mind wandered to something a new friend at school had talked to me about. She is a vegan and had tried out veganism for one month back in the spring (I think?) and hadn’t looked back. A month, she’d figured, but it lasted even longer. I applauded her discipline and thought nothing more of it. I can’t go without meat, I thought. Bacon, turkey, burgers, meat sauce, chicken fingers… No way. Same with dairy and eggs (but only in baking). As if.

But then I looked at my diet. Not deeply. I just seemed to notice it ever since my friend and I had that chat. Dinners at home only had meat in them about half of the time. Where do I get most of my protein? Fast food. I’m embarrassed to admit it, let me tell you. I can see a pattern, though. My cravings for fast food come when we have had mostly-veggie dinners at home and I happen to be out of the house. And that is dangerous.

Brian has been living a lot healthier the last few months. He works out five times a week, he tries to eat better. He only drinks pop on Fridays. Me, on the other hand, has a bag of chocolate covered almonds that I don’t close because I stick my hand in there so often.

I’ve always used food to self-medicate. It’s a cheap, easy way to reward myself when I’m having a rough day. Problem is that every day is a rough day by my reckoning. Boys had dirty diapers? I deserve some chocolate. Boys didn’t nap at the same time? I should probably have some Coke, for the caffeine of course. Bad traffic on the way to school? Maybe I should grab a donut. Line too long for a donut? I’d better get two so that next time I don’t have to wait. I am so bad for this.

But Brian said something last night that stung. Something I shan’t repeat because it sounds cruel without the context. But it reminded me that I have an obligation to my family to take care of myself, something I haven’t been doing.

So, as my friend suggested, I am trying something new. Until December 1st, I’m going to do my level best to live as a vegetarian. No meat, fish, or poultry. I’ll still use animal products like honey, dairy, and eggs. And if someone asked me to give up wool, I might poke them with my knitting needles. But for the next nearly six weeks, I’m going to try something different.

I’m curious to see what this does to my fast food habit. And I wonder what effect this will have on my body and demeanor. But I’m actually excited about this change. Probably won’t be by tomorrow, but that’s why I’m putting it in writing. Now all my friends know and can bully me into not ordering chicken fingers if we go somewhere. Though, this doesn’t mean that I want anyone to cater to me at all. If you invite me over or if you come to my place, there will be meat on the menu. I just won’t partake.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

With Thanksgiving

It’s dark in my living room tonight as I sit at the computer. Brian is putting dishes in the laundry as we listen for any indication that our boys aren’t sleeping. We are both filled with great amounts of food. The boys’ backpacks are ready for day care tomorrow, now carrying the requisite winter equipment. All of my most pressing homework is done, though I could always stand to get ahead.

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It’s snowing outside. The little flecks sparkle around the halo of street lamp light. It’s too early for winter and we weren’t prepared. The scramble begins for winter tires and snow brushes. The highways were frozen for Thanksgiving (see above)–a weekend full of travel–but our tables were still filled with loved ones.

The snow quiets everything. The honking of the migrating geese is gone. The chorus of frogs in the pond near our home has long been quieted. Even the train is muffled beneath the blanket of white.

It is here, at the birth of winter, or the death of fall if that is your view, that I am thankful. Thankful for the deep quiet before I head to bed for the night, which is something I had never realized that I needed so much until after I had children. Thankful that there are children to break up the silence, children who are healthy and relatively happy. I’m thankful that my two boys are growing and learning and changing every day. At the same time, I’m thankful that they stay the same in some ways, that I can enjoy the little moments with them. Those moments where I admire the locks of hair that curl around Eggs’ ears, or watch Monkey sign “please” when he wants something, or seeing them pet the wary dog.

I’m thankful that we have a balance between busyness and rest, something I worried that we wouldn’t have when I started school. I’m even more thankful to be in school, and with a husband that supports me 100%. I’m thankful that I get this second start so late into my twenties and that it’s something that I enjoy.

This Thanksgiving is different than every other one I’ve had. Things have changed, which is bittersweet. Gone are the days where my cousins and I gathered around the basement of my grandparents’ house and played pretend. Gone is the kids’ table, the nicknames, the bickering. It’s been replaced by polite conversation and card games. But the past is still there, under the surface. Then someone brings up a memory and we are giggling about the time my brother didn’t realize he was texting my aunt, not our cousin. Or when we pulled each other in the little wagon.

Now there are new kids at the kids’ table. New little people riding in the wagon. We watch from the couches, the same way our parents watched us. It’s strange. It’s wonderful. We talk about jobs and children and the Blue Jays in between interruptions of cries and sticky fingers and the pat, pat, pat of children wanting to ask something.

My twenty-seventh Thanksgiving is very different from before. I wouldn’t change it, though I wouldn’t say no to a quick trip back to my seventh or seventeenth. Just for a day. Just for an afternoon. Just for a dinner.

This Thanksgiving is over. In five years, ten year, fifty years, I’ll be looking back to this weekend the way I look back now. I’ll be thinking about grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles with a drifting kind of heartbreak after they are gone. I’ll be missing the glee on the faces of my children as they were pushed around in the wagon. I’ll forget the things we talked about and the way that Monkey’s hair waved like wheat as he steered his way around the pool table. I won’t remember how Eggs was just learning to stand.

There are a hundred Thanksgivings behind us and another hundred ahead (give or take). Don’t forget to be thankful. Because they are only the same for a season. And seasons always change.