Last Sunday we drove a few hours east in search of sunshine and death-distraction (did I tell you how our 15-year-old Lab has been diagnosed with a failing heart and a mass in her throat that may or may not be cancer? Did we want to subject her to a biopsy and treatment, they asked us, and we chose Shitty Answer #2 of the Potential Shitty Answers to that question and said no we did not) and we found ourselves in a place called Moses Lake. It turns out that Moses Lake is where every single person on earth goes on Memorial Day weekend in order to camp in the gritty sand dunes and ride ATVs, but we found some quiet, lovely spots too.

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I love that the boys are getting old enough so that we can do spontaneous trips like that. I mean, I know it’s technically possible with babies and toddlers but the logistics alone always preemptively drained me of my will to live. Traveling with the two of them isn’t exactly a soothing spa journey complete with a hot stone massage, but it isn’t quite the clenched-jaw white-knuckler it used to be, either.

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I do have a question that’s somewhat related to the recent experience of sharing a small hotel room—for the fellow parents in the crowd, how do you deal with Extreme Kid Craziness? Riley and Dylan constantly get in this mode where they’re playing and giggling and having fun but the chaos and volume control is off the charts. They’re screeching and carrying on and generally acting like rhesus monkeys on bathtub crank, and I find myself saying the same useless things over and over: Come on, guys. Calm down, now. Hey! Guys! I’m serious, you two need to quiet down RIGHT THIS MINUTE! and eventually I yell at them or do the 1-2-3 thing and send them to their rooms and later they come out all contrite and it all starts up AGAIN.

It’s like they don’t even listen until I totally lose my shit, and half the time I am nearly crazed with frustration because they aren’t paying attention, and the rest of the time I wonder if I’m the one that needs to chill because jeez, they’re just playing.

I don’t think I’m wrong in wanting to be able to curb the insanity, but I sure can’t seem to find an effective way to do it. I’d like a solution that doesn’t involve my eyeballs detaching themselves from my skull with the power of my mighty bellow, so if you have ideas, I am listening.

Not that I can hear anything over this goddamned racket, that is.

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Pete
Pete
11 years ago

Hotel with a pool, or drugs (for you, not them)

Cara
11 years ago

I’m not sure if it would apply to your boys, but I’m reading the book Simplicity Parenting right now and its really striking a chord with me. After watching the struggles for some of the kids in my life, I think there’s alot to his recommended parenting style that I’ll preemptively include in mine. Though, for the record, I am trying for balance around TVs and computers (for the adults, my kid is still an infant) not a ban. My husband would probably file for divorce if I tried to ban them.

jenn
11 years ago

First off – sorry to hear about your dog. We lost our black lab of 11 years back in December right after we moved here to NC from Detroit and it was really fucking horrible, still is actually.

About the child craziness, I’m sorry to say that I have no effective advice. I have one 3 yr old son and he is constantly bouncing off the walls if I don’t constantly redirect him. He has his calm moments but they are few and far between. My ongoing dialogue with him is “Chill Out. Calm Down.” I feel like a broken record and, like you, I wonder if this is just normal. The other moms I’ve discussed this with seem to think it is – for boys anyway. Aren’t we lucky we didn’t have girls :/

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
11 years ago

Poor Dog. One of our dogs will be 14 this year, he is covered with warts and fatty tumors.

KKF
KKF
11 years ago

Great picture of your three boys! So sorry to hear about dog’s situation. It’s a tough situation, no matter what.

About the boys, I have neighbors with similarly rambunctious kids, and I’ve often wondered how they travel. I figure, as a bystander, energy is normal from kids like that. Let ’em run a little long on the leash and then if it’s crowded or late, bring the hammer down. Vacation means letting go a little and in the hotel, if they’re going bananas (and if the front desk staff hasn’t appropriately set the cranky old people on the other side of the hotel) just keep ’em from breaking stuff and shut it down at night time. Call ahead and let the front desk know you have a strong, energetic family. They’ll appreciate the “warning” and be better able to accomodate all of their guests.

KKF
KKF
11 years ago

p.s. if anyone ever complains about your kids, all you EVER owe anyone at most is a single apology. No shame. If they’re snooty, screw ’em. If not, they communicated, you received. Deal = done at that point.

Rachel
11 years ago

The energy is normal, but they also need to know that Mom or Dad are serious whether they’re yelling or not. Our kids never had much of a problem with this because they knew that the next thing coming after the first announcement that it was time to settle down was punishment (a little, carefully discussed swat, or a restriction from privileges), and not an escalation of parental emotion. Because they knew this, the actual punishment almost never had to happen. We could take them anywhere with only very rare issues… they were the kids in restaurants whom strangers would approach with praise about their behavior. (They behave fine now, too, but at eleven and fifteen that’s more normal. :) )

I realize that this is not a popular point of view… but you asked. :)

Rachel
11 years ago

To clarify re: my kids: just reread that and wanted to make it crystal-clear that the punishment only happened if they *didn’t* settle down when told to do so. If they did, all was fine and happy. :)

Carmen
11 years ago

I’m sorry to hear about Dog. That is indeed Shitty.

As for the kid question, I can recite “calm down, tone it down, chill out” repetitively all the live long day and it makes little to no difference, really. The ONLY thing that works in our house is to actively distract with something else. A game like Guess Who, or a book to read. If I don’t hand over a Distraction on a Silver Platter, nothing happens. I wonder when that phase will end? They’ll eventually listen to us, right? RIGHT?

moojoose
11 years ago

Holy crap! I grew up in Moses Hole! Next time you want to make that escape, I can recommend some MUCH better, quieter lakes in the same area. I always feel bad for people that go to M. Lake for their first go at Eastern WA summer because…well, it’s not that great and there are so many other great ones. Anything in the Sun Lakes area or Steamboat Rock is great. I personally love Billy Clapp Lake because it stays cold enough that nothing grows.

But, the banshee kids in the hotel, oh GOD do I feel you. Ours a little older, so we can explain “Hel-LO, other people!” but the best I can figure is if we haven’t been able to sufficiently exhaust them before returning to the room, then we turn to the exciting escapade of “Hey! Who wants to go find the ICE!” (Looking back on my childhood stays in hotels, we seemed to always have a bucket of ice that NO ONE used, so maybe my parents were onto something there.) Personally, I’m more distressed by the “how do 4 people with completely different sleep schedules all go to sleep in one room?” problem, myself.

MinnieK
11 years ago

I don’t have kids, so I am completely talking out of my ass here, but maybe you are taking too long to show them the consequences of their actions. Instead of taking time trying to convince them to calm down, maybe you should go straight to 1-2-3 when they act crazy. My mom did that (pretty inconsistently) but I’m guessing two girls are probably not as rhesus monkey-like as two boys. (Although, we were only a year and two weeks apart – and that was my mom’s personal version of hell. The only parenting lesson I know for sure – child spacing is important!)
And I’m sorry about your pupster. We are facing our own crappy options with our aging and ailing 11-year-old Rottie mix. It sucks.

danielle
11 years ago

Ahh the craziness of boys! I myself am surrounded by 2 of them (4 & 6) and am in a similar predicament. I have completely cut out television until after dinner, but that leaves more time for shooting, fighting and all out trying to kill each other. I do the 1,2,3 also but you are right, after they are sent to and released from their rooms, it inevitably starts all over again. I think it is just 2 boys together and we have to just deal with it. When my husband comes home and really gets them riled up, I have to leave the room cause I just can’t stand it! Deep breaths, I think this is just the way they are…..sigh….

Rachel
11 years ago

And I’m terribly, terribly sorry about your dog.

Karen
11 years ago

I am retired and have lived in Central Mexico for several years now. And quite honestly, I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen/heard a child scream, cry, yell, be rude, or generally lose control. I have absolutely no idea why – diet, environment, parenting, who knows. But someone needs to figure it out, bottle it, and sell it to parents in the States. These kids may be poor – but the are well behaved, healthy, and usually happy.

AndreAnna
11 years ago

I’ve never stayed in a hotel room with my two children.

That should give you an indication of how the thought makes me want to cry.

Linda
Linda
11 years ago

Sorry, I just realized I made this sound like it was all about how to keep the kids mellow in a hotel. I MEANT how do I deal with their insanity on a regular basis, like every single day around the house etc. We did actually manage to keep them quiet in the hotel, as I am suuuuuuper paranoid of bothering other people.

kim
kim
11 years ago

After living through getting a call from the hotel manager that my kids were running in the room and making too much noise and “people are complaining” (I was there: they weren’t out of control: the guy was an asshat)- I’m now paranoid in hotels about noise. And yes, I know what you mean about the constant noise, chaos that only ends when I lose my shit. I often think I should just start out losing my shit but I suppose that goes in the “bad parenting” column and shouldn’t be a goal. Sometimes nothing works – distracting them with other options is my usual trick but it doesn’t always work. Putting them in different rooms (from each other) sometimes helps – but then my youngest will find ways to amuse herself quietly which may or may not include doing things like “making an experiment” with all the spices in the kitchen.

Taube
Taube
11 years ago

A) Schedule. B) Zoloft. C) Get away from your own children whenever possible. For whatever amount of time possible. To either have fun or do nothing, but not to run errands or pay bills or whatever.

LOVE the picture of the little one peeking out from behind the chair! : ) : )

Jessica
11 years ago

I don’t have a solution to the loud, but I will say its the #1 reason I just don’t think I could be a SAHM. I only have one born child (the second will be born this month), but even by herself she’s just too loud for me. I only work part-time, but its essential to my sanity to spend time around quiet adults.

Donna
Donna
11 years ago

My black lab has tumors everywhere, for the low price of 400 bucks we could find out if they were cancerous, or we could just let it go with no treatment. They removed 4, but I did not have them biopsy because even if it is cancer, I’m not giving her chemo and all that crap because she’s been too good of a dog for me to make her sick deliberately except if it would cure her which it wouldn’t.
Having just spent a weekend with my daughter and her family, husband and 4 kids, 15 – 3 years, I got nothing for keeping them quiet. The three oldest went fishing, but in the room it was chaos. I am much quicker to spank than they are, so they behaved around me mostly….
I loved the pic in the room, I didn’t see Dylan at first, lol, it’s a lair!!!!

Kizz
11 years ago

I am so sad to hear about Dog. I was faced with the same choice in 2009 over a neuro issue and I went the way you did. Getting a diagnosis wasn’t going to change treatment. I miss the crap out of that dog every day, even though I love the stuffing out of the new one. Please give her a hug and a big kiss on the snout for me.

Jas
Jas
11 years ago

I’m so, so sorry to hear about Dog. Sorry I have no advice about the rambunctious boyos, the only noisy kids I have access to are nieces and nephews, and I let the parents deal with them.

ssm
ssm
11 years ago

Nothing. I can do nothing. My boys do the exact same thing, and that’s what helps: nothing. Great advice, from me to you!

M.A.
11 years ago

Oh, so sad about Ashley (right?) I’ve been reading you since shortly after you got her. I don’t have children — my neurotic dogs ARE my kids — so I am especially sad to hear this. I’m so sorry, Linda. *sniff*

Em
Em
11 years ago

I’m so sorry to hear about Ashley. (I learned her name when you posted a clip of JB singing to her, whenever that was!) No kids here, but my dogs act kind of like Riley and Dylan when they play, so this post resonates with me as a weird hybrid issue. Just wanted to chime in with Dog sympathies.

Leslie
Leslie
11 years ago

So sorry to hear about Ashley. We had to put our 14 year old Ashley look-alike down last summer….she had a cancerous tumor on one of her front legs and arthritis in the other three and the only treatment for the tumor was amputation of the leg….simply not an option for a dog who loved to run and chase tennis balls and Frisbees. There is not a day goes by that we don’t miss her but we take solace in the fact that she had 14 great years and brought our family so much joy. She will let you know when it’s time….

MaryPoppinSertraline
11 years ago

I am a Nanny by trade, and have dealt with a particular family of cracked-out rhesus monkeys for the last four weeks, so perhaps I’m qualified to offer What Has Worked for Me:

(DISCLAIMER: My methods are unorthodox at times, but suitably Machiavellian.)

1) Playing “Cemetery”: Have kids lay supine with eyes closed. Tell them they can’t open eyes, move, speak, or giggle; until you return to “raise them from the dead” by touching them on the forehead. Anyone who breaks the rules has to wait longer to be a zombie. Dispense gory treats for continued quiet, shuffling zombie behavior.

2) Less macabre? Enlist kids to help clean the house, with atypical but age-appropriate and chemical-safe chores: I delegated shining glass windows and doors/stainless steel appliances, scrubbing walls and baseboards, washing down wood tables and chairs, sweeping/mopping/vacuuming- ANYTHING except “Pick up your toys/books/clothes” etc. They were eager to please, scrambling to outdo each other, and worked for a stunning length of time EVERY time suggested. (What is the sense of having dwarves, if they don’t WORK??) ;)

3) [Suggestion redacted- Fun, but might be too controversial, on second thought.]

4) If truly out of hand to being beyond the pale, especially with physical fighting involved, institute “Isolation”. This differs from time-out, in that essays (or rote pre-determined sentences) are written out by school-age children, outlining the offense and why it can’t happen again. The papers get shown to the parents. The kids DESPISE this, and hasn’t needed happen more than a few times. Younger children able to verbalize are recorded on a cell phone, in question-and-answer format, with the recording played for parents. Again, DESPISED. Now, Isolation only needs suggested, and they calm right down!

That should be a start, anyway. Readers, please don’t shoot the messenger! War is, after all, hell. :)

Jessica
Jessica
11 years ago

I’m so sorry to hear about Ashley (who fought for the LAW!). That’s no easy choice.

Lori
Lori
11 years ago

No advice but… a few weeks ago at our regular Friday night happy hour the adults were laughing a bit too loudly. Apparently. As my 3yo neighbor came over and – complete with hand signals – told us to “simmah, simmah, simmah down”. Her mom wonders out loud where she heard that.

Carla Hinkle
Carla Hinkle
11 years ago

I find myself yelling at my kids when they go nuts more than I’d like. I’m not at all sure what to do about it (though I LOVE the Isolation idea). Some things I try: 1) put them somewhere they can really go nuts & it doesn’t matter (not always possible) 2) feed them; I am always surprised when a crazy-acting child turns out to be hungry; or 3) lay out VERY SPECIFIC consequences and apply them quickly and dispassionately. #3 is very effective but (surprise!) very difficult for me to do. I’m working on it.

Rosie
Rosie
11 years ago

Hi.

Can we be bff’s while I am in the WA (like I was last weekend with my 8,5, and 1 yr old spawn trying to make the b.e.h.a.v.e and be.quiet while at the in law’s).

But really, best of luck – lemme know how it works out.

XO –

R

Holly
Holly
11 years ago

So sorry to hear about your dog. We have an 11 year old lab in a similar situation. No fun.

We are about 30 min out from Moses Hole, nice to see you on this side of the “Evergreen State”!

I have a six year old and a four year old who sound soooo similar to your kids! I don’t really have any advice, sorry, but I want you to know I TOTALLY feel ya. I swear it’s the closeness in age. My bro and I are eight years apart and NEVER behaved like my two kids (I think my parents would have killed us). Hotels terrify my because I really don’t want to be that family either…I just know that when we have our good days they are really, really good and those warm fuzzies tend to outweigh the days where I want to strip down, put a pot on my head and march down main street dancing….

Love your blog.

KarinP
KarinP
11 years ago

I don’t know, but if you figure out how to calm your kids down…can you please blog about it and let the rest of us desperate mothers know? I have two girls and let me tell you the screaming chaos isn’t any less with girls – its just less physical and a higher pitch, thus I’ll be most likely deaf by the time they reach college, if not before. As I like to say, we have two volume levels: loud and louder.
Good Luck.

Denese
Denese
11 years ago

Is it still cabin fever you’re experiencing? Maybe their craziness will be easier to handle once it starts raining less and you can send them outside, get a little vitamin D therapy yourself. I live in Eugene and I’m a daycare teacher (10 two-year-olds all damn day) so I feel your pain.

One thing I do with my kids, that I hope is a helpful idea for you, is let them lose their shit once or twice every day. Set a time limit, advise them of a super fun activity on the other side of crazy time, let them know that anyone unable to stop the crazy will need to take a body break with a stuffed animal (also known as “time out” in certain circles) until they’re ready to act like a human. Go crazy with them then set the calming-down example. Maybe if it’s a regular thing then they’ll be able to learn how to control their emotions all day so they won’t be driving you batty.

We also say a ton of shit like “inside voice please,” “only walking feet inside,” “please make a better safer choice,” “please don’t yell, I can only hear your nice talking words,” etc.; phrases I KNOW I am saying hundreds if not thousands of times each day. Do they listen? Fuck no. Kids are crazy. They’ll grow up. Are you watching So You Think You Can Dance? Shit helps me deal.

Jill
11 years ago

I have nothing to help, except that you are a saving grace today, as it is 8 AM, and all I can think of my 2 and 5 YO boys is “OMG there are 12 hours until bedtime and if they don’t kill each other, I will EAT THEM today, because that has to be the only way to calm them the F down since I have tried EVERYTHING else every hour of every other day of my life.”

KC Brown
KC Brown
11 years ago

I am sorry to hear about your dog. I worked in vet clinics and I’ve seen alot but I think you are making the right shitty choice for her if that is any consolation.
As for the monkey kids mine are to young for me to really relate personally but I remember spending a family reunion with my cousin and her 4 crazy boys and my mom telling me, you know the passive agressive style of telling someone else what to do by telling someone not involved, yeah I’ve got that family :) “I wouldn’t let you kids ignore me like that, just get down on bended knee and put your hands on the shoulders and talk to them.” I know having them repeat back what you said helps. I second the clear consequenses and disspaisonate follow through also. However that is really hard to do when you are also trying to cook, make a bed, do laundry, or write! I know why it doesen’t always happen.
Beautiful pics of the family

Lisa
Lisa
11 years ago

I’ve got 2 boys (2 & 4) and the noise/craziness/rhesus monkey chaos is increasing by the day. I know it will only get worse from here on out for the next few years. I’ll keep reading these comments and hope someone has some magic advice, but it looks like we’ll just have to pack up and move to Mexico!

Robin
11 years ago

I read a good book called “Stop Reacting, Start Responding,” on the advice of Moxie.

http://proactiveparenting.net/

The author points out that instructions like, “calm down, chill out, relax,” actually MEAN NOTHING to children. You have to model it, then show them explicitly what to do.

I’m sorry. I didn’t like that answer, either. (But it’s really helping)

This is where being a parent is the hardest, I think, because not only do you have to be endlessly patient, you have to be creative too. You have to come up with a different activity that’s calm and focused and totally appealing to rhesus monkeys on bathtub crank.

The book’s awesome, though, and easily read in one night. To prepare you for the next day’s chaos.

Good luck!

Jenny
11 years ago

If Taube hadn’t pointed him out above, I would’ve completely missed Dylan in the hotel photo. Soooo cute!

I’m really sorry about Dog. She’s very lucky to be in your family.

k
k
11 years ago

Haven’t tried it myself, but my kids kindergarten teacher has them stand next to each other and go through a short routine of exercises – jumping jacks, jumping up and down, shaking out their arms, etc – and calls it “getting the crazies out” it’s possible it only works because it comes from the teacher, but it’s worth a try.
My 6 yr old talks about it -“we were out of control today at school, so Ms. H had us get our crazies out”
Worth a shot

Redbecca
Redbecca
11 years ago

Someone mentioned hunger, but I know those boys can’t be hungry all the time (yet – they aren’t teenagers going through a jumbo box of Cheerios and a gallon of milk each in a week yet!), but we’ve also noticed our 3yo gets to serious wild child mode when he is hungry.
Also burning out the energy. Sometimes they just need to MOVE. My husband is terrible at getting kiddo moving in the evenings after he gets him from daycare and some days kiddo is just a little monster. We play chase around the house (“I want mommy run” occasionally and that seems to help.
Have you considered hamster balls? :)

And I’m sorry about Dog. No easy choices there but less stress for her sounds the way to go.

H
H
11 years ago

I’m very sorry about Dog. We made that decision about a year ago and we miss him terribly. At the end, he was an old codger with some very specific quirks. As much as I love our new dog, I miss the cuddling I used to get from an old “guy” who was always happy to just chill out.

Enjoy her while you can, I know you will.

dorrie
dorrie
11 years ago

I can’t beLIEVE you are asking for the assvice, but here is my two cents: they aren’t listening and responding to you because…oh God I can’t believe I am going here, but…they know that there won’t be follow through until the tenth or so time you ask them to do it. If you put the hammer down the first time (time out, whatever), they will first of all be shocked as shit and probably freak out but after about the fifth time will respond right away because they know you mean business. And man, I am REALLY sorry about Dog. She is good people.

Lawyerish
11 years ago

Oh, I’m so sorry about Ashley. I’m glad I got to meet her last fall — what a sweet, loving dog.

Kate
11 years ago

I give our girls ‘loud time’ so for 5 or 10 min a day they can go crazy, bounce, scream, whatever that isn’t breaking something. I can then tell them to save it for loud time and I engineer loud time to be some good time for us all.(never in the car!)

Jo
Jo
11 years ago

My experience does not uphold the “put the hammer down the first time and they will get it right in the future” principle stated so often everywhere. I have religiously- seriously- put the hammer down with the dreaded time out and the pre-dinner crazies come right back with my 2yo boy and 3.5yo girl. I have not had time to do the research to figure out when that whole “hammer down” thing actually works for them developmentally but it is NOT at these ages. Or my monkeys. Distraction works- but the whole point of this discussion is how to not have them be crazy when you’re trying to do something else (like make dinner)- right? Maybe it’s that they’re hungry. Or that the sugars from their pick up snack (fruit, or goldfish or whatever- it does not matter) are hitting them. I don’t know. It sucks though and I haven’t found a solution either. The repeated requests to calm your body down, take a deep breath, use your inside voice, play just on the rug where you might not die don’t work either- no matter how loudly they are made. It blows.

Christine
Christine
11 years ago

I have no advice on the kids, but my parents used to send us outside like wild animals; hopefully now that it’s a little nicer in your neck of the woods you can do the same.

Oh poor Dog and poor you guys. Sorry you’ve been hit with a fair amount of suck lately.

bessie.viola
11 years ago

So sorry about Dog. We had to put our family Sheltie to sleep last March, and I still miss him every time I pull into my parents’ driveway. Sucks.

Re: craziness: the only thing that’s working with my 3 year old, Madeline, is taking things away. And it’s taken her several weeks of that to catch on to the fact that we really WILL follow through and take away tv/movies or, the ultimate low blow – PRINCESS DRESSES for a day.

Also, it SUCKS to follow through because of the garment-rending that happens afterward, but that’s what time-out is for right?

(Help. Am clearly scouring your comments as well).

Laurie
Laurie
11 years ago

Sorry to hear about Dog/Ashley – I’ve always enjoyed seeing her in your photos. I lost my nearly 16 year-old golden retriever recently, and it’s been a very rough several months without her. But I do take comfort in knowing that friends/coworkers understand my loss was no small thing, and am so proud that she thrived in my care for an extraordinarily long time. I was lucky to be one of the people who absolutely knew for certain that the time had come – the very moment it did, and I know that doesn’t always happen, but I wish it for you.

Ani
Ani
11 years ago

I’m sorry to hear about sweet Ashley. I have loved her from afar for several years now. When she tells you it’s her time to go, make sure you listen. And fill her heart with unconditional love for her journey.