Auntie in Jersey: The Final Frontier

Previously on The Real Aunties of New Jersey: Adella and Ian hit head-up against a nigh uncrackable crossword and scribbled right through it. Nap-times overran the placid schedule of the day with unstoppable surprise attacks, screams and coffee showers. THE HOUSE is previewed and survived. And ague overtakes the home.  

Auntie in Jersey Day Seven - In which Snot monsters are quelled, tantrums are held, and bonus aunt points are achieved

After quelling the snot-monster-toddler beast's distress at his father's departure, I felt pretty good going into my final full day of auntiedom. Of course no victory is long lived in a house of young lads... I managed to evade most of the cross-fire and a decent portion of the gum-soaked spittle of Sam's post-purse spelunking excursions, I'm happy to report. But mmm, my hair is definitely Polar Fresh at the moment.

Once Sam was reunited with Parent (in the form of mommy), Braden had turn at tantrum bat. This one I believe was related to Ian having gotten three waffles when Braden only got the peanutbutter and marshmallow toast he'd asked for instead of waffles. I'm not entirely sure how things went down, but I do know that it was certainly "unfair," my sister is a big "idiot" (.... aaand my five-year-old-younger-sister-self rejoices with a hearty chorus of "nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah big sis" while my grown up "ask not for whom the bell tolls" self cringes), and that the imbroglio resulted in some form of screaming time-out. The time-out was our prelude for Braden's throaty-breakdown duet with Sam a bit later. That one really brought the house down I assure you (although nobody was yelling "encore" exactly!).

Ian, I am glad to report, actually did his remaining homework and bragged about how he had eaten all three waffles and was now going to eat Braden's toast because he was soooooo hungry. I feel like such a turn coat getting along well with the elder sibling/tormentor. I am the survivor of younger-sibling-hood! Surely there should be more solidarity. But, hey, Ian's at that age where non-parental adults are, like, the coolest thing ever and Braden's at that age where I'm sooooo not the boss of him. I adore Braden. He entertains me to no end with his randomness and goofy imagination. I don't mind at all that he seems to have this gut-reflex to be contrary and "mean" sometimes (since telling me that I don't even know anything about anything actually doesn't hurt my feelings for some reason - possibly because I agree I pretty much don't), but he's maybe at his questioning authority/loving-one-second-spiteful-and-reproachful-the-next phase, so I'm giving him as much space as he needs on that one. He seems to get ornery if I take his side, so I'm staying neutral on the brother-battles. 

Nap-time remained a dictatorial force in our lives, alighting on Sam just as we arrived for lunch with uber-aunt Angele. After a proper fuss, Sam passed out, causing us to have quite the extended lunch to ride out his nap time. He bobbed in and out of drowse until we picked Braden up from a play date later that day. It was actually quite pleasant - almost a full couple of hours of sheer "adult" time, punctuated only by the plaintive sniffles of a febrile snot-monster. 

The evening was a bit of a coda to our morning. First, a repeat of my pinnacle achievement with separation-anxious baby. Second a breakdown trio (oh yes, we added textural voices for the grand sob-fest finale). Some people purporting to be experts are always going on about the salutary nature of family meal time, but I am somewhat skeptical. Dinnertime typically tends to be the Final Battle of the evening (penultimate battle, perhaps, since there is inevitably the bedtime aftershock).

This time, it was a fight between brothers over what constituted egalitarian "sharing" of the Wii. Ian, incidentally, could be a lawyer with his eely-wiggle-words and technicalities... well, except that he's preternaturally good with numbers so there are actually useful fields open to him. Braden, for his part, could win a confusing-self-contradictory-but-mildly-sympathetic-if-he'd-stop-getting-mad-when-his-brother-is-punished-for-tormenting-him screaming contest. Sam would be close in the running, but he has some training to do. He points and screams well, but lacks some of the nuance that really gives the crown to Braden. 

All of this, naturally, came to a head while Rachel was standing over an open flame, wielding a sharp knife, and desperately trying to forestall Sam (exceptionally clingy because he wasn't feeling well and prone to tantrums any moment he was not in his mother's arms) from scaling up her legs and plunging himself into the fire while she made dinner. After some careful flame-avoidance maneuvering, I managed to extricate the snot-monster, leaving some room and background screams for disciplining the older two boys (with slightly less fear of a jail sentence at the end).

The Wii got offed, they got sent to their rooms in a very tense counting-to-ten, a picture frame "was broken" during the upstairs raging, and Sam continued to sob inconsolably until he was replaced on his mother's lap.

Earlier during that same dinner time, I'd managed to snatch Sam from the flame and steel death trap, and waited out a crying jag until he and I collapsed comfortably on the couch. There's nothing quite so ariose as the creamy silence at the end of a "good" cry. Since the other two boys were temporarily playing nicely, it was a pleasant little detente. I even - wonder of wonder's - heard Ian telling Braden "good job!" and "you did that" with a - I am not making this up - pat on the back (sure, he looked back at me and whispered "actually I did that, because he can't play this game" but that was almost sweeter... in a way). The armistice lapsed upon sight of mommy. New rule: If Rachel wants to come into the room and not have Sam glom onto her, she must wear a mask and disguise her voice! 

Daddy Ryan made it home seasonably early compared to nights prior. He was unsurprisingly dead (having not slept since, roughly, The Clinton Administration), but deftly stepped in for the final naptime gambits. Or so I assume. I was actually reading some kind of Star Wars Lego manual/collector's guide to Ian in his room. He has a little door hanger that he made in class that says "Don't come in, I'm reading with the grinch" on one side. I am not the grinch in this scenario (I clarified). Any one other than me and maybe mom owes him a dollar for each time they come in when this sign is up. This has yet to be enforced, but I imagine it will involve high-decibel "negotiations" and a few broken toys. Oh, and by "read to"... well there was some reading, some conversation and some eight year old boy leaping around the bed in dinosaur underoos, just narrowly heeding my request that he avoid kicking the wall next to his sleeping brother's room... But it was fun.

He gave me quite the compliment, saying that he wished it were last Monday, because he'd gladly endure a whole week of school (school is not his favorite) instead of having Aunt Adella leave on Saturday. Hells yes, Cool Aunt status achieved and I didn't even have to buy any one alcohol (although I suspect Ryan and Rachel could've used a shot by the end of this week)! For five minutes! On this trip! Lord knows if any of them will even remember me by next. But that just adds to the excitement, right?

Today Daddy Ryan is on the job and getting his cuddle time in on the couch (with maybe a little bit of extra napping) with Sam. Ian popped down briefly to locate the Kindle Fire and has subsequently vanished. I'm off at four for yet another delightful episode of travelling. Not that I'm the awesomest aunt-goddess in the universe, but I am still totally uncertain how my sister stays sane with what help I provide. I'm having a hard time imagining her juggling the kidsanity on her own next week. But then again, she apparently is some kind of super-hero, so I'm sure she'll make it work! Yeesh. 

Perhaps with a little help from the kids?

Auntie in Jersey Day Seven: Fiery Kindles, and an Unheralded Departure

While I took a "short" walk that bled into a longer walk around one of the many lakes in Mountain Lakes (possibly on a "mountain" or something... as if they had proper mountains on the East Coast HA), Daddy Ryan had his chance to do his own disciplining and room-sending. It must be the weekend! I'm sure he was grateful for the chance to catch up with Rachel on exasperation. Not sure of the details, but as of 8:00 a.m. this morning, the Wii was on suspension for the rest of the day (a poor patsy in a game of fathers and sons, no doubt!).

I'll say, he put in a great showing as the passing "It-parent" for Sam. I believe Sam has figured out that, while mommy requires a lifting chauffeur (me), Daddy can still lift him at will. This makes Daddy a highly desirable element, even discounting for the limited-time-offer quality that a working dad brings to the equation.

Fortunately, the Wii debacle was at least marginally mitigated by mid-morning swim lessons. Both boys moaned and groaned and thrashed about a bit over this horrible development (oh no, not leaving the house! Not going in a pool!!), before having a splashing (har har) good time. I got to wait with Sam and the parents from a viewing deck above that was just shy of the Amazon.

Swimming was followed by a highly exciting lunch escapade. This once again slammed straight into Sam's nap-plans, but this time Sam had Daddy's king-sized bosom in which to bury his weary head. We went to one of those waffle house type places that's custom-made for family fun, great eats, and hoppingly busy on a Saturday (read: introvert's nightmare and a mommy's desperate last ditch hope).

Of course, there was a twenty minute wait and Rachel did not think that it was exactly a turn of luck that Ryan had had the foresight to buy the boys Doritos and Twizzlers from a YMCA vending machine. If you want to test the tensile fabric of your relationship I suggest the following: acquire some kids, then find the nearest vending machine. If you can survive that ensuing battle of healthy-kids-parent versus parent-wielding-dollar-bills-and-whining-kids, then you are truly meant to be together... but you may also experience some very heated moments in the meantime.

Of course, there were also some very serious tempests in tea kettles over the absence of the Kindle Fire in the back seat of the car; also heavy accusations of parental stupidity and the horribleness of such a quagmire as a waffle place with toys in the waiting area. Naturally, the kindle fire complaints happened just two hours after Rachel had gone ahead and bought a second kindle fire this morning so that both boys could avoid the "sharing" discussion in future. Her gesture was, perhaps, under-appreciated, all considered.

Lunch petered out in take-home bags and boy-spats, and we were on our way home for me to pack and the boys to locate the beloved Kindle Fire. I am proud to say that, despite never having touched a Fire before, I managed to fix an arcane problem involving the start and volume buttons, so I feel that the momentary quiet of the afternoon - and the total non-reaction to my announcement that I was leaving - were all my doing. Ian, who was certainly torn between addiction and "cool aunt liking" did manage to pull himself away and hug me goodbye. I exigently excused Braden from his goodbye duties after his mom had dragged him about halfway across the floor to bring him to me (this may have been more for self-interest in survival than a gentle heart granting that respite, but well... I already know I'm no kindle fire, so it's really ok). Sam was sleeping and Ryan was buried underneath him, so my goodbye to the household was fairly curt and easy.

I was blessed with an easy trip home an surprise up-bump to economy plus, which I have to admit makes a huge difference. 

Things I have learned from my time in Jersey:

(1)  singing to a crying baby isn't necessarily effective for soothing the baby, but it is oddly soothing for my when I'm holding one. I noticed this some time yesterday during the day of many gnashed baby-teeth and mucousy tears;

(2) Obviously, I "don't even know anything about anything;"  I may be pretty darned cool, but I am not a kindle fire (even though I now know how to fix one if it's broken, which has got to make me a few steps cooler!);

(3)  I love my nephews. I don't just like them, I don't just think they're cool (although they are), or that they're fun to be around (which they can be), but I love them. Even when they're sniveling bratty selfish little creatures, a tiny strip of  velcro in the recesses of my soul is thoroughly latched into them in all their glories and travesties. I am really going to miss them. 

(4)  I really like my sister - of course we love each other, and in her teens, we were very close. She brought me along to hang out with her friends, snuck me into high school dances, and tried her darndest to dress me "appropriately" for the trends of the time. As you'd expect, I wanted to be just like her, until I smacked up against those identity crises of my teens. As she went the straight and narrow path towards a classical kind of success and family, I puttered with every-but. I flitted from foreign lands to factories and everything odd in between.  And I still loved her, but I don't know that we had much to talk about sometimes. I didn't get relationships, marriage or babies, and she would possibly have been disgusted by some of the oddities of living with artists/drop-outs/screw-ups in a post-nuclear-family-delusion-of-novelty. But as our twenties mellowed into thirties, it's just amazing to me how much I get out of our conversations and how much we have in common. It was such a great opportunity to have those moments with her squeezed in between the insanity. 

(5) Oh yeah, Skyfall (which I saw on a really crappy monitor and over horrible sound on the plan, but didn't suffer from this that much) is a fabulous Bond movie. 

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