Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chaos Theory

The other day, Charlie walked through the door after a long day at work to be greeted by the sound of half a dozen toddlers crying.

No, we haven’t acquired more children, but the ones we do have were lounging cozily on the couch with me as we watched thirty minutes of whining, sobbing, begging, wailing, laughing, running, jumping, spilling, and potty training. On screen, there were clothes everywhere, toys everywhere, booster seats everywhere, crumbs everywhere, art work everywhere…you name it, it was everywhere.

I’m speaking, of course, of Jon and Kate Plus Eight.

“How can you watch that?” he asked. “It’s constant chaos!”

This is true, but here’s the key: it isn’t my chaos. Watching eight kids tear through someone else‘s house is a bit like watching a hurricane barreling across the screen of The Weather Channel (another program I find relaxing). You flinch a little, then remember with a relieved sigh that last you checked, you didn’t live in Toledo, Kansas. It’s a little like waking up from a bad dream to realize you’re snug in your bed, no? Likewise with Jon and Kate, poor bastards: you can stand transfixed from a distance. The ultimate rubber-necking. (And now I hear he’s cheated. Don’t believe it. But I suppose that’s neither here nor there, in regard to this entry.)

And anyway, I have enough of my own chaos to keep me busy this morning. Why, you ask? Because I decided to watch a two-hour Medium last night, and didn‘t get to bed until after midnight. Yep, my life is in such delicate balance that going to bed late will disturb the whole equilibrium, setting a domino effect in motion. Or should that be a butterfly effect? Since I nearly failed Ecology in the Real World 101 in college, I had to look it up. My sister, the Ph.D in Important Things Sciency (that sounds saucy!), will be proud. Anyhoo, Chaos Theory is defined thus:

In mathematics, chaos theory describes the behavior of certain dynamical systems – that is, systems whose states evolve with time – that may exhibit dynamics that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. As result of this sensitivity, the behavior of chaotic systems appears to be random. This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future dynamics are fully defined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved, this behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos.

Ok, so I fell into a temporary coma at “In mathematics…” but here’s what happened in English:

First, I slept in. Yep, didn’t roll out of bed until 6:30 am. Which, in a roundabout way, led to the kids missing the school bus. Because they were still eating their Fruit Loop-Lucky Charms combo (more on that later) when the bus rounded the corner, winking at us as it disappeared. To my credit, I must say this is only the second time they’ve missed it all school year.

So that meant I had to get dressed. Quickly. And get Toby dressed. Quickly. And get out the door with the kids to drive them to school. Which, unfortunately, meant I was there to observe first-hand how every other child entering the school was holding a sweet bouquet of flowers.

Why would they be...shit.

Teacher Appreciation Day. I had forgotten. And here’s the clincher: just like I had forgotten last year, too. How is this possible? I remember all the cards on Valentine’s Day. I remember to put the kids in running shoes for 2K run days. I remember Christmas parties and field trips and even to hand out quarters for Popcorn Fridays. But teacher appreciation? Completely alludes me. Pretty soon the (somewhat scary) PTO women are going to think I make a conscious decision not to participate. A sort of exercise in civil disobedience, if you will. So I’d like to say for the record that I do appreciate my sons’ teachers.

But not quite enough to make a special, frantic trip to the florist. Sorry, guys.

But I drove home determined to redeem myself as a mother. My two sensitive, studious little boys were going to be the only students not presenting their teacher with a half-dead, pink-dyed carnation today, but by God, when they got home, they were going to be greeted with homemade Honey Granola as their after-school snack. I mean, they won’t want that, of course. But do you ever have moments where you suddenly think: my kids don’t eat enough wheat germ! No? Well but see, you probably remembered Teacher Appreciation Day. Those of us who didn’t tend to have these sorts of confidence-crushing thoughts. (And they usually occur the day after I allow the purchase of Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms.)

So Toby and I returned home and I got out all sorts of wholesome ingredients: oats and dried dates and cranberries and walnuts and flax seed and…damn. No honey. Yesterday, I had gone to the store for almost two weeks’ worth of groceries, and that’s the one item I forgot.

So back into the car Toby and I go.

We ended up making Banana Oat Breakfast Bars first. Yep, that's an egg shell that fell in. Don't worry...Toby fished it out.

And the thing is, when they get home, they won’t understand why they’ve been punished this way. They’ll say, “What’s this?” with a plaintive wail, and so I’ll put something else in front of them, probably the carrot-carob cookies I found in Better Homes and Gardens, and they’ll wail again: “Wait! These aren’t chocolate chips!” and I’ll lovingly explain to them that because I forgot Teacher Appreciation Day, they must eat wheat germ. Because that makes sense.

And I’ll feel a little bit better.

And hey, maybe I’ll make their teachers a batch, because somehow, this must be their fault, too. And the best part is, I bet I can save them for next year! You wouldn’t believe the shelf life of these types of things…it must have something to do with the whole wheat flour or the local pollen in the organic honey.

Off Topic side note: For those who have asked about Pitstops For Kids, it's going very well! And if you have reviews, don't be shy! Submit them! I also recently had an article on four additional pitstops featured on a great travel site called www.deliciousbaby.com, which you can check out here. Yes, that's a little Nate and Calvin in the photo. I think Cal was Toby's age!
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