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.