Saturday, October 24, 2009


I know it's been forever since I posted. Please read my very first post again... I never claimed to be able to do anything regularly. I'm the girl who gets back out of bed a few nights a week to brush her teeth, remember?
The kids' school pictures came home in the backpacks a few days ago, and the next day I spent some time putting the 8x10s in the frames like my mom used to, layering the new one on top of the old. And of course I got them all out, lined them up on the table, and compared fall to spring, year to year.
This is Ben's first year, so there's just the one, in a brand new frame. He looks so sweet and the photographer managed to get such a nice smile from him. Abby has 7 - two for each school year - and it's obvious that in some she would let me do her hair and pick out an outfit. It's also obvious for which ones she insisted on wearing something... unique and styling her own hair. I've been choosing my battles carefully, and picture days, like clutter removal, only get about half a military style effort from me because they are who they are and I love them for that. If their personality and little rebellions are preserved forever in a picture, that's okay. Better, actually, to have that permanent reminder that they are unique and special than to have perfect cookie cutter images year after year, and memories of how much we fought and argued.
Elliott is up to eleven photos. Eleven pictures of that round face, that unassuming smile, those big brown eyes that see everything and judge nothing. Yes, I sat there and cried. It didn't help that just days before this he had commented that he would be moving out when he was 18 which was only 8 years away. Wow...
I also have a tradition of taking a picture beside a landmark in my house that will always be with me and won't change size - the grand piano. So that you can have your own moment of tearful, "oh they are growing up so fast" reminiscing, here are the First Day Piano pictures, starting in August 2004.
While I love sharing these pictures because of the way my kids have grown,
I do ask you to please ignore the piles of stuff and clutter that seems to change a little from year to year but is always present. If you think that an entire summer would be enough time to get the piano ready to take one picture, please read the previous post - I just get used to the summer schedule when bam it's fall...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Baby on Board

I put all three of my children on the school bus this morning. What a milestone! What an amazing day for them! What an opportunity for me!
What bunk.
I did the typical things I took pictures, I waved and blew kisses and gave air hugs, I went back inside and made coffee and cried for awhile, and then I pulled myself together and did some laundry.
I comtemplated a shower, decided against it and played on the computer for about an hour, sorting through the 1,497 emails I haven't gotten around to deleting or putting in the right folder, checking out what's what on Facebook, snooping in my friends' profiles.
Drank some more coffee, switched out the laundry, sat on the porch and listened to the birds and read a couple chapters in a book I had forgotten I was reading.
Drank some more coffee, went to the bathroom ('cause by then I really had to with all that coffee...), wandered around the house some more and decided that I needed a list.
Lists are critical becuase I don't handle change well - I don't adjust to new schedules and big events by preparing for them weeks in advance, never have gotten the hang of gracefully transitioning to a new anything, and as a result each school year starts with me a little dazed and confused.
So I made a list.
And then tossed it.
Just for today, I sat around and did nothing. I figure if I don't adjust to things gracefully, I might as well go all the way. I took a nap in the lawn chair on the porch. I did dishes and laundry, but very slowly. I did take a shower, but not until 2:30. Mostly I just sat in the dining room and listened to the dogs snore.
It was wonderful. I might do it again tomorrow. I'll make a list next week.
The kids came home full of excitement about their first day, recess, lunch, PE, library books, their friends, and I listened and loved hearing about it all, even if it was from all three at once. As I write this two of them are asleep on the couch and one is staring vacantly at a video no one really wanted to watch. Their tummies are full of snack and their brains are tired from absorbing all the first day stuff, and the house is almost as quiet as it was earlier today, but it's that different kind of quiet. I enjoy them both.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yo Mama Wears Combat Slippers!

We recently went shopping in search of summer play clothes. There's a Goodwill about 45 minutes away that I like: some of the items on the racks still have the Old Navy and Gap tags attached. Not that my children read labels, but they are decent clothes that have never been worn, and at such a great price that I don't really care if they wear them to catch frogs. The kids had been saving their allowance and begged me to let them pick something out. I agreed as long as I got the final say - no games with missing pieces, no giant trucks or cars, nothing we already have three of. Off they went to the toy section, and I was left to browse for size SF shorts for Elliott. (SF = short fat. Sorry buddy, you're lookin' more like your mama every day...)
Less than 10 minutes later, I was not the least bit surprised to hear a sales person yell in that general direction, "Y'all take them off! Don't be goin' around here like that! Y'all'll break somethin' and yous payin' fer that!" (Those double contractions are my favorite - why mess with consonants?)
I sheepishly turned towards the toy section only to be mowed down by Elliott and Abby on roller blades, Ben in hot pursuit hollering, "Find some that fit me! Elliott, HELP ME!" I resisted the urge to clothesline them and grabbed arms instead. As if they were born wearing wheels, Elliott and Abby spun around with me and headed back to the toys. I stood patiently and listened as the employee scolded me for leaving them unattended and them for skating in the store, and I only had to swallow a giggle once when she squished a record FOUR words together: yallotta. Context: yallotta be ashamed of yourselves. I'm giggling even now.
Once we got our dressing down and I glared at the kids (couldn't speak, too funny) I looked over the skates. As I would expect from this particular neighborhood, both were in great condition, and were $7 a pair. The kids were thrilled, except of course for Ben. There wasn't a pair that fit him, they were all too big, and he performed the contortionist act I like to call Saddest Kid in the World. He bends over at the bottom of his ribcage, dangles his arms, and tucks his head into his belly. If you can manage to get low enough to see his face, his bottom lip is sticking out far enough to serve as a landing strip and his eyes are pinched shut. I really do think theatre is in his future.
I told him I knew he was disappointed, but we did have a pair of roller blades at home that no longer fit Abby and maybe we could get those out and see if they fit him. Also, that meant he could keep looking for a different toy and his siblings were now stuck waiting by Mom. His tiny spine rolled up ever so slightly, and I could tell he was mulling this over (or struggling for control), and within a few seconds he had disappeared into the toy section again.
Now before you chew me out for leaving them alone in the toy section, let me remind you this is a Goodwill store, not Sears, and the toys are less than 10 feet from the clothes racks I was searching through. Not only that, but we were the only ones in the store because it was a Friday morning, and everyone knows the good stuff gets put out first thing Saturday. Okay, maybe that was too much information about my shopping habits... I am what I am - cheap.
Okay, so where do the combat slippers come in? Well, we don't have any pavement near our house unless you count the highway we live on. No sidewalk, gravel driveway, wood planks for a front porch, no where to skate.
Except the dining room, kitchen and back hallway.
Elliott and Abby have been wearing their skates nonstop since they got them. The moment they get home from summer school, the shoes go flying and the skates go on, and the hallways of my house become danger zones for my toes. Oh they try to stay away from me, but for some reason the need for them to be very very close to me when I'm getting snack or fixing a meal or even just doing dishes increases in direct proportion to the damage they could do to my feet.
Okay, lemme' splain something here: for those of you who don't know, I have the toes of a 90 year old woman. I have osteoarthritis in my toes and ankles, and have had this since high school. I manage it pretty well by wearing decent shoes, but having my piggies squished, even just a little, by a pair of roller blades worn by a 90 pound kid is enough to cause a flare that can last for days. And it's not like I have size 11 gunboats - I have tiny little size 6 feet that I keep tucked under me most of the time. The wheels find them anyway, and the kids always feel bad. Not bad enough to remember to stay away, but they do get lots of practice saying, "Sorry Mommy!"
So here's the pictures of our latest obsession. They do everything in skates. They even pour milk, eat bananas, and zoom through the house carrying very full cups of Kool Aid wearing skates. I'm getting a lot of practice just being patient. I'm also trying to figure out a sweeping/mopping device that could be attached to the back of the skates... I'll let you know when my informercial will air. Billy Mays would be the perfect spokesperson.
Elliott pouring a drink; Abby trying to remember the houseplant is not the wall, and will not support her weight.

Abby playing restaurant with Ben (his favorite game - he's the chef, she's the carhop, I was the customer because Elliott wasn't hungry); Elliott learning to stop in the back hallway. The bag of cat litter survived skating practice because I moved it. Didn't change the cat box, just moved the bag... not my job. Can't make me do it. Don't care how bad it gets. Not my job...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Star is (seldom) Bored

We have a budding performer at our house, and we are routinely provided with dinner and a show. She eats faster than her brothers, and then exits stage left to rehearse her latest production. The CD player comes on and for those of us who eat at a normal pace - or slower in Ben's case - are entertained with a variety of songs and and glimpses of costumes as she parades through the living room, blithely ignoring our request to let us finish dinner without interruption.
I offered to use the camera to tape a performance, and she prepared one, and (drum roll, please)
Heeeeeeeeere's Abby!

In case you missed it, the song is called Apples and Bananas, and the cards are the different vowels that change in the song.
Notice how this production was important enough to clear a path on the floor. With three kids' worth of toys and stuff in the room, and a mom who is finally fed up with the maid status and has quit cleaning up after them, I honestly had forgotten that the carpet was yellow.
Her next act requires mom to learn how to stitch several small video clips together, because a few costume changes and a reluctant brother were involved. When I get that done, I'll post it. Don't wait up.
Seriously, I do love these performances. She's so confident, so coordinated, and so stinkin' cute. I hope she always feels like a star, and that she never runs out of things to show us. It's that spunk and character that is going to get her through life with flying colors. Go ahead, watch it again, I know you want to.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Soccer Mom

I was thrilled when all three of the kids said they wanted to play soccer this spring. We’ve been out of gymnastics for over a year (not impressed with the quality of the program for Abby’s age group) and karate for about 8 months (Elliott just didn’t want to go back after football was over L) and Ben is finally eligible to play and coordinated enough not to break a bone, so I signed everyone up. My hand only shook a little as I wrote the triple digit check for the enrollment fees, and when we got home I immediately went to the web sites looking for cheap kids soccer stuff.
Oh, and I signed up to coach Ben’s team.
Well, not intentionally, of course. I know how ridiculous I look trying to do anything athletic, and how little I know about soccer. I signed up to be a Parent Helper, which I thought meant cheerleader. Unfortunately no one else signed up to do anything, which I totally understand, so the little check mark I made by Parent Helper kind of got ignored. I can appreciate the situation the coordinators found themselves in – they had paperwork on someone, why not just make her the coach? They subscribe to my favorite axiom, which is that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
I realized, after a little self-examination and some desperate questions to the coordinator, that this would be okay. There are two other boys and two little girls on Ben’s team, and three are first time players. At this age, they mostly just kick the ball up and down the field and try to avoid running into each other… or not. It’s more comical than competitive, and more fun for everyone.
I had to get approved by the state Youth Soccer Association first, and that involved a questionnaire online, a criminal background check, a couple of coaches’ meetings and an evening clinic.
There were several moms and lots of dads at the clinic, more than 50 of us crammed into a small conference room one evening, and to my surprise the State Soccer Coach (yes, that’s his real title) had a giant bag of soccer balls and cones and yellow jerseys by the front table. Surely this wasn’t going to be a hand’s-on type thing, was it? I can kick the ball around with my kids but with a whole bunch of coaches watching my fat jiggle… wow, I don’t know about that. Plus I’d been drinking coffee all day and I wasn’t really PrepAreD to do any hopping or jumping or even reacting quickly (if you’ve had more than one child and know what Kegels are, you know what I’m talking about…). But this is only a three hour clinic and there are only 8 or 9 balls in the bag so perhaps there are plenty of volunteers for me to avoid any activity. I should have sat in the middle in the back (I didn’t because of the whole coffee thing… that’ll teach me.)
So Mr. State Coach bullies us through What Not to Do with Soccer Players - don’t make them run laps, don’t make them stand in line - and finally got to What To Do with Soccer Players (let them learn by playing the game). He’s a funny guy but I’m sure he was a drill sergeant, perhaps recently retired. He had a hard time not saying “what the hell” and an equally hard time substituting ‘freakin’ for the other f word. He marched around the front of the room, charging towards the front row when there was a point to be made.

“What do kids, 5 6 7 8 9 10 year old kids, what do kids want to do? Why do they come to soccer practice? To do freakin’ PE stuff? They don’t like the PE teacher for a reason! Why? Why? Because the stuff they do is freakin’ boring! Now I’m not coming down on PE teachers, but you coaches, you have a chance to do something fun! Not the freakin’ PE stuff, don’t make ‘em do that. You have a chance to help them play soccer! And they learn to play soccer how? How? How do you learn how to do something? How do you learn something new? Can you learn how to play basketball by watching a freakin’ video? No! You have to have the ball in your hands! You have to be on the court! You have to bounce it and run with it and shoot it through the hoop! So how do kids learn soccer? By playing soccer!”

Then he gave us a 5-minute break. When I came back (I wasn’t the only one racing to the bathroom but I was closest) he was instructing everyone to move the chairs against the outside walls. Some of the younger dads were bouncing a little like they really wanted to do something other than listen to Billy Mays Amazing Soccer Instruct-o-matic, and sure enough, the bag of balls got dumped on the floor. He had instant volunteers as those energetic few souls practically dove for the balls. I was just not that eager to show off that I can indeed stop the ball without falling over, so I stood off to the side and watched. They played Simon Says and some other games while dribbling and passing, and I got some great ideas for things to do with my team, so it was a productive workshop, and I didn’t have to kick the ball in front of other people even once.

Until practice a week later. That night I was PrepAreD, if you know what I mean, and we actually had a good time. The kids are really well behaved, one of the moms agreed to be my assistant coach (bless you, Kandice!), and the parents treat me like I know what I’m doing, so things are great.

Our first games were yesterday, and all three kids’ teams won. I think soccer may be the game for us – we’re off to a great start, anyway. We were at the park from 12:15 until 4:45 yesterday. I remembered snacks, water bottles, change of shoes, layered clothing, lawn chairs, and the camera. I forgot batteries and sunscreen, but really we all needed the vitamin D and the camera held out. Here’s the pictures – enjoy! J And think of us every Saturday until May 9th, lugging our stuff to the field. I promise to remember sunscreen.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Survivor: The Madison House

Well, we're all still alive. Even Don. When the first wave of boys arrived for the sleepover, the noise level increased and Don announced that he would be in the back room until it was time to get pizza. I clucked like a chicken, and he raised his eyebrows as if to say, "and your point is...?"

The boys had a great time, and I only had to turn into Mean Mommy a couple times. I learned last year that you have to explain the rules as violations occur because if you do it at the beginning of the party they are not listening to you anyway. Rule #1 - if you can't do it at school, you can't do it here, so dropping trou and farting on someone is not okay. Rule #2 - the upper bunk has a weight limit of three boys, and there is absolutely no wrestling up there. Rule #3 - You may not induce someone to pee during the night by sticking their hand in warm water. I do not want to wonder what the wet spots are in the morning. (I actually cannot believe this myth is still going around; some things never change.)

This year the legos came out quite early, so I can honestly say the boys got at least 4 hours of sleep. The politics of legoland were intense this year, and I got some video with my awesome new camera (thanks, mom!). You can hear some of the bargainning that I found pretty interesting (did you know that green helmets are more valuable than space backpacks?), and then the big event - the DUMPING OF THE TUB. Enjoy! :)

We did have a family event to celebrate the birthdays - Sunday was a Crown Center day with lunch at Fritz's Railroad Restaurant and shopping at all the cool toy and candy stores.

Elliott chose to spend some of his birthday money at the toy store. He bought more legos.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Newest Project

This is a special day for me, and I hope you’ll humor me by subjecting yourself to something else I’m writing. Last week I started a new blog and today is my launch date. It's also my birthday, but that's purely coincidence. :)
It’s completely fiction but based loosely on the long-distance relationship I have with my wonderful friend Jennifer. I’m excited to throw some of my creative stuff into the ring, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.
I figured out a while ago that I am an author, not just a writer. Writers can get things out of their heads and onto paper or into the computer and feel great. Authors need the feedback from an audience to complete the process, and I live for feedback. I love the hurrays and I take seriously the constructive comments as well. It’s all part of the process for me, and it would mean a lot to me if you would take a little more time from your busy schedule. And hopefully laugh, too. Thanks so much for all your love and support.

Here it is: The Adventures of Gwen and Nancy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Boy Toys

Last year, we had a sleepover party for Elliott's 9th birthday. This was the email and pictures I sent to the friends and relatives who were anxious to know if I survived:

So Elliott started asking for this sleepover about two weeks ago, and I envisioned 24 screaming monkeys tearing up my house. Only 8 were invited, just 6 could make it, and they were pretty civilized for 8-9 year old boys. They played Xbox and Playstation, ate pizza, and got out the dress-up gear to play fire and rescue. One boy would lay on the dining room floor and the others would crawl in, yelling emergency-sounding stuff, and drag him to safety. Glad I mopped.
I thought 11pm was a good time to put in a movie and have them pick a spot on the floor. They brushed their teeth with not a little grumbling and the expected amount of spitting and bathroom humor. Just as I thought things were going to quiet down, I hear one voice call out the summons that ensured no one would sleep: "Guys! Elliott's got more Legos than I've ever seen in my whole life!"
The unmistakable sound of a giant tub of Legos being dumped on the floor quickly followed: it’s a little like shaking a box of shattered light bulbs, and a little like hundreds of plastic nails being sprinkled on a metal floor. Unless you’ve heard it, you can’t quite understand but you never forget that sound. By 2:30 am they had quite a city started, and were trading each other cool items like a spaceman's backpack for a knight's helmet. By 4:15 everyone had their own "tricked out" vehicle, a horse and knight, and a variety of space ship parts. The battle for land rights (space to lay out their plastic lawn or landing strip) had settled down. At around 6 it was decided that the landing strips and horse pastures could be reorganized around the two boys who had succumbed to sleep with their vehicles stored protectively under their arms. And at 8:30, when I asked who wanted waffles and sausage, one small voice said, "I guess we have to clean all this up now, huh?"
Elliott very proudly told the guys that the Lego collection was a gift from his Uncle John, who "rocks out loud." John, you’re the hero of the party, dude. :)

It was apparently such a success that we are repeating it this year. This year, all the fourth grade boys were invited. Wish me luck. Or better yet, just shoot me now...

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Un-Sorority

In the last few weeks, courtesy of this amazing thing called the Internet, I’ve been bombarded by my past. Yes, it has been my choice to put my name out there, which is strange considering my self-confidence is at an all time low and I really have so many things taking up my time that the thought of keeping up with all these new ‘friends’ pushes the insanity button a little. But I think that the stages my children are going through have much more to do with it than anything in my own mind. I’m watching them establish friendships, have fights, rush to check caller ID when the phone rings and then fight over who gets to pick it up… I especially watch my daughter, and she’s approaching that point in her life where Queen Bees and Wannabes are established. I have been reflecting on my own life as I contemplate helping her navigate this social ocean. Will she glide through on a cruise ship or cling to a life raft? Will she have one or two friends, or will she have the sisters she’s always wanted?
I was on a life raft, but it was the one hanging on the side, still attached to the fancy cruise ship. I knew lots of kids in grade school and junior high, but I never belonged to a group. When I was young my family focused on the ways I was unique, special. I was the only grandchild on both sides of my family for several years. I remember Kindergarten being quite a shock – you mean I’m not the center of the universe? There are other kids in the world? And they play together… what is that? Can I just read a book, please? It’s very noisy here and I’m not in charge, so I would like to go home now.
Actually I wasn’t that smart or that confident. It was probably more like I sat at my desk and observed the chaos and had absolutely no idea how to jump in. Jumping in would be rude, and I might look silly, and they might not like me, and… and there lies the heart of the matter really. Not knowing how to jump in and make myself welcome, I singled myself out, and have been doing that ever since.
I had one friend at a time, sometimes two, but the girls I hung out with individually were not friends with each other. Carrie, Cindi, Christy, Heather, Angie– all extremely different people. I had something in common with each of them, though. Carrie was my intellectual friend, Cindi and Christy were my music friends, Heather was my little sister friend, and Angie was my alter ego – the super cool chick I wanted to be but didn’t have the right parents. The one time all of us got together was a birthday slumber party, and the only thing I remember about that night was splitting my knee open on the sidewalk when we decided to go jogging. In February. In Nebraska. High school wasn’t much better. I had music friends and boyfriends, but still no group. Didn’t find the group in college either – Rush was a bizarre exercise in futility since hair, makeup and current fashion have never been high priorities for me. I found myself standing alone near the fireplace at darn near every house I went to. Sigh. Residence hall life was okay, and I met some awesome people, but I never felt like I was part of the group there either.

I still don’t have a group – I have the two friends I’ve had since high school (Jennifer) and college (Sandy), and I have some mom friends through school and scouts. At church there are several amazing women I consider friends. I go out for dinner or coffee once a month with a small group, but I don’t get together with them any other time. My mom didn’t have a group – I don’t recall her ever going out for a girl’s night or hanging out with more than one close friend at a time. Is my daughter destined for that too? Am I worrying waaaaay too much about something that is absolutely no big deal? Probably. But here’s why I think it’s important to worry about it at least a little.

A lot of my friends have their own groups – it seems like every time I stop by one friend’s house, the same women are there, baking cookies or scrapbooking or just hanging out drinking coffee. I have not been invited to one of these gatherings officially, but they wouldn’t kick me out if I had time to stay. I just don’t seem to have time to stay.
I did have an encounter one time that left my confidence dented. I had stopped in at a friend’s house to drop off some hand-me-downs. Her group was all there, and I didn’t plan on staying but she offered me Diet Coke and the kids had started playing so I sat down. One of the other moms made a comment and it caught my attention, so I asked her to explain. She stared at me for a full minute in the silence of the room and then snorted and said, “Oh, I shouldn’t have said that. I forgot you were here.”
My friend apologized profusely as she walked me out to my car, saying it was really no big deal, they just didn’t want rumors to get started, etc. etc. Whatever. It was a swift kick-in-the-gut reminder that I’m not part of that group, and probably never will be. The control freak in me wanted desperately to know what was going on, but the other parts of my brain just couldn’t care. I wasn’t really crazy about these women anyway, so it just didn’t matter what they spent their time and energy gossiping about.
But it still kinda bugs me that I don’t have a group at all. I want the camaraderie, the feeling of inclusion, that feeling of being known and liked anyway. I want that for my daughter as she grows up. I want her to have several people she can count on to love her and care about her and help her through the tough times ahead. I want her to enjoy the company of lots of people simultaneously because there’s safety in those groups. Two girls can easily get separated by a boy or a disagreement. One girl is… well, alone. And sometimes lonely. Abby is still young enough to have plenty of friends and not care too much about who’s in and who’s out. But that will come soon. And there’s protection in the pack.

I don’t wish for her to be a Queen Bee unless she’s the queen of being super nice to everyone. (I never quite mastered that skill; sarcasm is fantastically funny but doesn’t win popularity contests. I’m better at sarcasm than almost anything else, and I try to play to my strengths.) I just want her to be happy and comfortable and popular for the right reasons. She’s sweet and caring and considerate and funny, and I want her have a bunch of BFF’s that she can pal around with, who love her for those things.

I made fun of the varsity cheerleaders one day in Science class. They were all heading down the hall for a pep rally and I blurted out, “Let’s observe the herd in its natural habitat.” Everyone laughed, but it was a comment made out of jealousy, really. Not that I wanted to be a cheerleader, I just wanted the group. And now that’s what I want for Abby. Good news – she looks adorable in a cheerleader’s uniform. Even better, she cares more about the girls she’s cheerleading with than the cute uniform.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Busy is a Choice

I told myself I wasn’t going to post when I was irritated, but this just blew me away. I’m supposedly on the Do Not Call list, but you still get calls from charities. I got a phone call one afternoon last week from a company that sells subscriptions to support a national charity – a wonderful reputable one, actually. I have supported this in the past, because I did have a magazine I wanted to renew and they had it available so, great. I no longer need the magazine – the babies are all grown up. And now I do not have time to read magazines. I wish I did – there are a bunch that I would love to peruse over a cup of coffee. I just really don’t have time. And that’s what I told the telemarketer.
Unbelievably, he came back with, “Really? You don’t even have time to keep up with current events like with Time magazine? We have a great deal on that.”
I said no thanks and hung up, but then I started thinking and I got furious. How dare this person question my statement? I said I didn’t have time, and that meant…
well, that meant I don’t make the time for that particular activity. Everyone has the same number of hours in every day, it’s what we choose to do with them that matter.
Okay, so what do I do instead of choosing to read a magazine?
I picked a Tuesday to track my daily activity to find out what happens to my time. I scribbled everything on a notebook that I carried in my back pocket, and here’s the translation as close as I can get it. Of course, I embellished as I translated. Can’t just not explain some of this stuff…

(6:33 am) Shower, dress, pluck eyebrows, decided even eyeliner is too much trouble, but moisturizer w/ sunscreen isn’t
(6:54 am) Get Elliott & Abby up, dressed, fed
Start one load laundry
Feed cats and dogs
Check backpacks, write in assignment book, make one cold lunch
Find new shoelaces, replace broken one while kids brush teeth
(7:47 am) Run to bus stop with kids
Pick up three pieces of trash from easement, put away scooter
Re-hang coats on racks, take one to laundry, pretreat stains
Convince wood-burning stove to light again (saves on propane)
Clean up cat food from dog getting into it, scold dog and feed cat again
Make coffee, check email, check list for today
Drink coffee, eat banana, enter Scout popcorn information on computer
Put laundry in dryer
Make a phone call regarding an email, get answer and reply to email
(8:20 am) Wake Ben, get him dressed and teeth brushed (he doesn’t eat in the morning – more proof that he is a clone of his father)
Start car so it can warm up
Find Ben’s shoes (flashlight required)
(8:54 am) Drive to preschool, get him checked in, hug him several times, escape
Drop off books (1 read, 1 unread) at library, use their quiet bathroom, look quickly at self-help shelf and decide it’s pretty hopeless, and a book that I don’t have time to read is not going to make any difference, leave
Drive home, pack a lunch for Ben, pack food and find cleaning supplies purchased last week for Clark, check bank balance online, start another load of laundry
(9:59 am) Drive to Clark’s (87 year old neighbor, I clean his house once a week), put food in his fridge, clean bathroom, sweep and mop kitchen floor, do laundry, chat with him about the inauguration, clean kitchen counters, sort his old newspapers to take to recycling, hug him, leave
(11:22 am) drive to preschool, wait for train, listen to NPR show until callers start (love news, can’t stand the callers), get to preschool, apologize for being late, gather Ben’s papers and coat
Drive to grocery store, shop, drop coupon folder, grab broom from clean up station and sweep them all into a pile and toss them in the trash
Drive home, unload groceries, find a place on the fridge to hang Ben’s picture (waffle prints, w for waffle and wait and water and wiggle…)
Sit with Ben while he eats lunch, read him Naughty Nicky, find some workbook activity pages for him to do
Put away groceries, wash apples, warm up a cup of coffee, put another log on the fire
(12:41 pm) Check email again, eat ham, cheese, hardboiled egg, large glass water and three Girl Scout cookies, reply to four emails, forward one, and check new church website for changes and additions
Change out laundry
Check the activity pages Ben did, read Hooway for Wodney, find a web site for him to play on
Sweep and mop kitchen floor, bundle up again to go feed and water chickens (roosters actually cooperated today)
Bring in eggs and 1 armload firewood
Rearrange fridge to accommodate eggs which have piled up – text two people to see if they want eggs
Fix printer – Ben tried to print and paper jammed, reprint page and watch him play one game
Drink some coffee while staring into deep freeze, waiting for dinner to magically appear; take out chicken and hope for the best
Fold one load laundry, put Ben’s clothes away, take sheets off bunk bed and sit for a few minutes to repair beloved stuffed animal that dogs fought over
Take box of stuff to car to take to Goodwill tomorrow, bring in another armload of firewood
Answer phone call, clean counters and drink coffee while chatting, take notes on follow-up activities that result from inability to say no to caller
(3:03 pm) Get kids off the bus, listen to their day, unpack backpacks, prepare an apple with peanut butter, a bagel with cream cheese and a pack of popcorn because they couldn’t all want the same thing…Allow them to watch 45 minutes of television so I can make three more phone calls about soccer stuff and put away supplies from yesterday’s cub scout meeting
(3:59 pm) Turn television off and start chores – Elliot brings in firewood, Abby puts away some clean dishes, Ben gathers laundry and they each have a trash can to take out
Homework (Elliott) and play time (Abby and Ben)
Sort through mail while helping Elliott and watching Abby’s fashion show and admiring Ben’s Lego creations
Cut up chicken, marinate for stir fry, rinse dishes and start dishwasher
Eat 2 more girl scout cookies and drink a glass of milk, hide cookies in back of cupboard, rearrange cupboard and throw away stale crackers (why can’t saltines come in smaller packages?)
Fold laundry, put away, watch tomorrow’s weather and a little news (see, I do keep up with current events)
Scoop litter box, walk out to field to dump the bucket, wash hands, arms and change shirt (grossest job in the universe…)
(5:05 pm) Answer phone call, look up information online, pass on to caller, accept thanks for being a lifesaver
While online, look up more science projects for next week’s scout meeting and make list of supplies, email a mom about doing snacks, email Cubmaster about belt loops, make phone call verifying rental hall for Pinewood Derby
Add logs to fireplace, go to kid’s bathroom to get sawdust out of eye, clean toothpaste out of sink and pick up toys and towels while I’m there
Find several things in kids’ bathroom that would be great for scout meeting, put them in a bag (and hope I can find them next week)
Put books back on the shelf in story corner in the boys’ room, take stuffed animals back to Abby’s room, remember a birthday while I’m in her room and pick out a card, sign, address and stamp it
(6:14 pm) Make dinner with lots of help, put ice on Ben’s head from fighting over the stepstool with Abby, send Abby to time out, put dinner on the table for Elliott, argue with him over watching tv since Dad isn’t home, give in, watch some bizarre kid turn into a bunch of different aliens while eating, get Abby out of time out, serve her and Ben dinner
Retrieve cat food dish from outside, scold dog, feed cats again because they are all hungry and meowing loudly every time I walk into the kitchen
Unload dishwasher, Abby and Ben help (sort of – I have no idea where the salad tongs disappeared to…)
(7:04 pm) Read library books
(7:33 pm) Answer phone, go to computer and add three things to the church meeting agenda on the 22nd, check email again, reply to two, forward two to someone who may know the answer ‘cause I sure don’t…
(8:28 pm) Straighten toys and put sheets on bunk bed while kids play rock paper scissors to decide who gets to be last in the shower
Cycle kids through the shower and brushing their teeth, getting pajamas on
Put logs on fire, sweep around fireplace
(9:15 pm) escape to my own bathroom to catch up on note taking and have silence…
(9:19 pm) break’s over… Ben is screaming again, remove his game from Elliott’s DS
Sit on bed and review the day with each kid (sometimes this is a dog pile, sometimes I get individual time, tonight is a dog pile)
(9:41 pm) warm up a cup of coffee, rinse dinner dishes, put in dishwasher, answer phone, walk Ben back to bed, take Elliott’s DS away, get Abby a drink, take notes on phone call
Get online and complete Kidsafe enrollment so I can help coach Ben’s soccer team, fix printer again, write several things on grocery list
Check weather, respond to email
Walk Ben back to bed, cover Abby up, take Elliott’s PSP away
Drink entire bottle of water I was supposed to be sipping on all day, email soccer coordinator about Kidsafe enrollment, print scout activity instructions
(10:41 pm) Put log on fire, take Ben’s DS away from Elliott, sit with Elliott until he tells me what’s bugging him so he can go to sleep
(11:09 pm) warm up coffee, check email one last time, check other websites I try and keep up with, get great fire station fundraiser idea from one and make notes, look over calendar for rest of week, look on craigslist for soccer stuff for kids
Type church minutes from last meeting, add one more thing to agenda
Look for insurance bill Don asked me to mail and pay it, hunt for his stamps and give up, go get one of mine
(11: 48 pm) Be glad Elliott and Ben are finally asleep, prepare and eat whole grapefruit because it sounded good, watch last few minutes of CSI:NY
Brush teeth, sit down with this list and translate!
(1:29 am) Done. Going to bed.

Looking back one week later, that was almost a typical day – Don being out of town means some things I don’t normally do like chickens and catbox are added in there, but for a Tuesday, that was pretty accurate. Could I have read the magazine instead of watch tv at midnight? Maybe, but why work that hard? Besides, if my husband isn’t home and I can watch a few minutes of Carmine Giovinazzo…
So Mr. Telemarketer, I suppose I do have the time to read a magazine, but I don’t want to. All the things I do are for my kids and my community, and I’m going to have plenty of time when the kids are grown to sit around and read. I’ll subscribe then. (If your children are older, could you please reassure me that I will have time to read… someday?)

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Not Paranoid, Just Very Observant

It may surprise some of you to know that I am a gigantic scaredy cat. Yes, an even bigger chicken than the chickens in my yard. (I'm actually terrified of the rooster, and not real crazy about the hens, either.) But wait, there's more! I'm afraid of...
  • heavy traffic in construction areas
  • food poisoning (my husband calls this salmonoia and it drives him crazy to see me washing the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher and giving two day old leftovers to the dogs, but I can't help it - I would rather have a root canal than throw up)
  • having car trouble at night
  • being pregnant again
  • never being pregnant again
  • mice (and living in this house, that's a problem because despite the presence of four cats, the mice are everywhere, I just know they are)
  • weddings (getting humiliated at one makes you want to avoid them)
  • surprise parties (control freaks do not like surprises, even good ones)
  • that someone will turn me in to that "What Not to Wear" show and that snotty woman will come in and throw away all my soft warm comfy clothes
  • that the SLE has done more damage than I have time left to repair
  • not spending enough time with my kids
  • spending too much time with my kids
  • opening up on the internet like this (it's really good for the author in me, but the paranoid crazy woman wants to go around unplugging everything)
  • the house burning down and I won't be able to get the Steinway out (speaking of unplugging everything)
  • being fat for the rest of my life
  • never ever finding a decent hairstyle
  • Don being in an ugly work/motorcycle accident (fainting when they ask you to identify body parts is really not cool)
  • someone snatching my kids (although they might bring them back in minutes, offer me some cash and their condolences...)
  • roller coasters and any amusement park ride that makes you go around in circles or up in the air
  • and of course, flying

Some of these are legitimate fears that involve my family and health, and some are irrational and can be traced directly to my control freak status. My goal for the year is to banish my fears, both real and silly. I recently read several books that I would recommend: Ask and It Is Given by Jerry and Esther Hicks, The Law of Attraction by Michael Losier, and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The premise of all three is that you create in your life the things you focus on, whether positive or negative. You perpetuate your own misery if you want to, but you can also psych yourself up by being grateful and appreciative of everything. I'm inclined to buy into this, because I do this with parking spots all the time. Anyone who has herded three easily distracted children across a busy parking lot can empathize with me. Before we get to the store, I see myself driving into the parking lot and pulling into a spot very close to both the door and a cart corral, and I say a quick thank you to the person who left the spot for me. It works almost every time. Almost, because the activity level in the car has a lot to do with my ability to concentrate. The presence of electronic devices like Nintendo DS and MP3 players seems to correlate positively to my ability to find a great spot, but that's a purely unscientific study.

I'm using the law of attraction to analyze my fears. Does this mean that Friendly the rooster is psychotically evil because I think he is? No, he's just being a rooster, protecting his hens. Does he know that I'm afraid of him, and act accordingly? Of course. So since Don is out of town this week and I have to feed the chickens and gather eggs, how do I prevent puncture wounds and peck marks? By convincing myself that the rooster is smaller and dumber than me, carrying a baseball bat and wearing gloves and two pairs of jeans. I will feel invincible and maybe they will leave me alone like they leave Don alone. Don feels invincible all the time. Once last summer, he got up in the night because the rooster was crowing which usually signals that something got into the coop. He went out in his boxer shorts and work boots and convinced a 4 foot black snake to find a snack elsewhere, came back in and went back to sleep without so much as a mosquito bite. If he had been out of town that week the snake would have eaten well. But if I feel invincible, and keep telling myself that I'm impervious to rooster spurs, and convince myself that I have every right to go in there and get the eggs and dump some feed in the tub and clean the waterers...

Wow, I'm kind of going to have to spend a long time in the coop. Maybe I'll call a neighbor to help with the chickens and I'll focus on my fear of food poisoning first. Yeah, that sounds good. I have a stomach lined with steel, just like the rest of my family. I do not have to eat the leftovers but they can safely be fed to the family. The dishes are perfectly clean...

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Fly on the Wall: Mom

I love listening to my kids when they are not talking to me. Here are some conversations I’ve overheard lately.

Ben: Do you smell brownies? (He’s been in and out of the kitchen all day asking to lick the spoon. Now he’s looking for accomplices)
Elliott: Yeah, mom’s making some.
Ben: She’s making those little ones with the white stuff and the cherries. (said in that dreamy voice that only a 5 year old can make sound perfectly innocent)
Elliott: Yeah, those are good.
Ben: What’s your favorite part of those things? Mine’s the frosting. Or maybe the cherries.
Elliott: Are you playing this game or what?
Ben: Don’t you love those cherries? No, I don’t want to play anymore. Let’s go see if mom will give us some cherries!

Abby had been on a sleepover, and Sunday after church we picked her up. It was quiet on the way home until…
Ben: Abby, did you know we had church this morning?
Abby: Yeah.
Ben: And we did Sunday School without you?
Abby: So?
Ben: And then we did church and we did that thing that Elliott can do but I can’t do and I can’t remember if you can or not.
Abby: What thing?
Ben: That thing where you get the little snack and the tiny little cup with the juice in it. Can you do that?
Abby: Oh, you had Communion. Yeah, I can do that.
Ben: Why do you get to do that and Elliott gets to do that but I can’t do that until I’m… well… I don’t know how many I can be until I can do that.
Abby: ‘Cause you have to understand that it’s God’s body and God’s blood and it’s serious.
Elliott: It’s symbolic.
Abby: Yeah, it’s not blood, but it’s still serious.

Abby: Deck the halls with hows of holly, fa la la la la la la la la!
Ben: I wanna sing that too – start over!
Abby: Okay, but you don’t know the words, so repeat after me. Deck.
Ben: I don’t wanna repeat you I know the words, just sing it!
Abby: Okay, Deck the halls with hows of holly…
Mom: Honey, it’s boughs of holly, bough is another word for branch, and holly is a very pretty winter tree.
Abby: Okay. Deck the halls with vows of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la.
Ben: Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Abby: I want to sing it myself, Ben, okay? You sing quietly in your head.
Ben: But I know the words, I can sing it loud if I want. DECK THE HALLS WITH VOWS OF HOLLY, FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA.
Abby: Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la. On we now, or they will feral, la la la la la la la la.
Ben: What are the words?
Abby: Okay, let’s start over. You repeat what I sing, okay? Deck!
At this point mom had to leave the room…

Ben: Elliott. Elliott. Elliott. Elliott! Elliott!
Elliott: What?
Ben: Isn’t it so cool that robes come with pockets?
Elliott: Yeah.
Ben: You can put so much stuff in your pockets if you want to. Like cars, and Pokemon, and Bakugon, and Diego legos. Look at what I have in my pocket, Elliott. Elliott! Look what I have in my pocket!
Elliott: Yeah, cool.
Ben: Isn’t it cool that robes come with pockets? Elliott, isn’t that cool? Elliott! Elliott!
Elliott: Mine doesn’t have pockets.
Ben: Oh. (Long pause) Mine does. Do you want to put some stuff in my pockets? They’re pretty big. Elliott? Elliott? Elliott? Do you want to put some stuff in my pockets? Do you? Elliott?
Elliott didn’t answer, he had finally fallen asleep. Ben gave up about eight minutes later.

I think because they don't want anything from me, I'm able to just listen to them when they talk to each other. I can hear their personalities and discern their roles in the family. Elliott is focused on his own thing but recognizes the fact that having siblings means at least he isn't alone all the time. Abby is the teacher and the joiner - she tries to get everyone involved as long as they do it her way. Being the only girl, she has that luxury. Ben is the persistent follower when they are all together, trying to be a part of everything and not wanting to miss out. He's got quite the personality, but as the youngest, he's eager to hide it in order to fit in.
I'm going to miss the conversations between them the most. Soon, I know, they will figure out that I can hear them, and soon they'll all have their own lives outside the house. I hope they remember how to talk to each other, how to enjoy that. I hope that someday, some holiday far in the future, I'll be able to listen in again.