I have trouble keeping track of tasks (and things, and thoughts, and appointments, but those are other posts). When I delegate a task, I really delegate it. I don’t remember to check if it was done correctly, or really to check if it was done at all. It may as well have never needed doing ever. Both my children and past employees have taken advantage of this.
Once I tasked my boys with folding and putting away their own clothes, I never looked back. They could’ve been keeping porn and weed in their dresser for all I’d know. (I don’t think so though; they are 10. More like candy wrappers and whittled sticks, if I was guessing.)
They were packing for camp and complaining they didn’t have enough T-shirts that fit. “Really? It seems like I can fill a washer load with them.” So I open a drawer of their dresser for the first time since, I don’t know, July maybe.
It’s full. Open another. It’s stuffed full too. And another. Every drawer is stuffed to the gills. Every drawer is randomly crammed full of wadded shirts and shorts and underwear. With no sense of whose is whose.
It became obvious that there was no real fold-and-put-away going on. There was only shove-in-somewhere.
We found at least 15 shirts which no longer fit; that’s just regular wardrobe maintenance. I also found a pair of my workout pants, 4 of Mark’s shirts, 2 of Willa’s shirts, 1 pink sock, 1 pair of Dora underwear, and 7 pairs of Mark’s underwear!
Perhaps the moral of the story could be that kids (and sometimes adults) need a little more checking up on. Some (no parent of 4 I know, but some) might say that they weren’t ready for the task. Even take the responsibility away from them.
Me, my interpretation is that saving even a minute daily in putting their clothes away is worth an extra hour every six months. The bigger savings is really freeing up the brainwaves for remembering to do it, thinking about the best way to do it, thinking about remembering how I need to coach/nag them to do it differently, or thinking about what logical consequence I should impose for not doing it to my standards.
My head is so full of one minute tasks and internal debate about how best to complete them that I usually feel one task away from my head exploding. Standards, who has standards? Is the toilet 20% cleaner than before you swished a toilet brush around in it? Ok, you cleaned the toilet.
I’m going to continue my lackadaisical delegation techniques. Sometimes they get away with saying they vacuumed the hall when really they covered one vacuum-sized swath through it. But I don’t have to think about it.
At least now I know where to look when I can’t find my favorite sports bra- it’s probably in my boys drawer.
After I organized their drawers with them and was leaving with the Goodwill pile, you know what Parker said?
“Hey Mom?! Thanks.”
I must be doing at least something right.
It’s been a long time since I even aspired to have a “done” house, worthy of photographing for a Pottery Barn catalog, or even a Sears catalog. Neither of those styles were ever really my ideal anyway. I was happy to entertain in my Seattle apartments, decorated in eclectic-hand-me-down-pre-hipster-hipterish-thrift-store-garage-sale style. It was a completely socially acceptable style for one’s twenties.
Now, though the standards for homes of upstanding adults in one’s late-late-thirties are much higher, our home is infinitely less inviting. For us to relax and function in, or for us to entertain in. Some combination of more square footage to maintain, many many more responsibilities, not the least of which are four kids, more people’s stuff, less time, less disposable income, less energy, it all boils down to a home that makes me wince every place I look. Mess after mess, stained carpet after stained carpet.
I decided maybe if I just focused on a micro-level, if I just looked for teeny corners of the house that gave me pleasure, made me smile, maybe I could capitalize on the positive, and grow those places. So I went looking for spots in the house that didn’t need decluttering, organizing, cleaning, vacuuming, wiping, patching, painting, replacing, repairing, recarpeting, washing, straightening, airing out, dusting, culling, rearranging, degreasing, opening and paying, or sanitizing.
Somewhere that was even “good enough just for now”.
I walked the whole house. Looked at every inch.
The *only* parts that foster a feeling of contentment:
Once, a long time ago, I was excited to receive mail. Now, of course, 99.9% of our mail is ads and bills. We fetch it from the box only so the mailbox thieves plaguing our neighborhood don’t figure out a way to steal our identifies.
In the late 90s, I got excited when I got emails. They were essentially letters, from my friends, my mom, other relatives. Now 99.9% of my email is ads and bills.
In the late 00s, I loved my Facebook feed. People updated their feed with news (and “news”) about themselves. Thoughts, travels, tidbits about motherhood, stuff that made me feel “connected”, though maybe I really wasn’t. Now most of my feed is ads and amusing Youtube videos and links to persuasive articles about what I “should” do/think- I “should” be grateful for every day, vaccinate my kids, or think before I vaccinate my kids, cut out sugar, and teach my kids accurate words for their genitals. We “should” eat local, or “try” to eat local when we can, or “should” not feel guilty that my kids eat chicken nuggets. I still do Facebook, but it doesn’t feel like a viable method to maintain friendships anymore.
Now texting is the primary method I use to communicate with friends and family alike. But I have also signed up for text alerts for various bank account notifications, coupons, shipping alerts. They crept in slowly. Then, recently, I realized- ads and “business” have again taken over a medium that began primarily as a communication mechanism with the people that actually matter to me. The “ding” is just as likely to be a coupon code for Redbox as a human that knows me.
I’m not going to bemoan the advertisers. They do what they gotta do, and I did let them in. And the library has to have *some* way to tell me my books are overdue (again). But I do know I’m longing for another platform for personnel connection.
There are many more online places now. Pinterest, Instagram, tumblr, Twitter obviously. I have accounts on them all. None of them seem likely to facilitate personal interaction though. I guess I may be reduced to actually *talking* to people. This introvert doesn’t really like such crazy talk. Maybe I can still go back to second grade and find a new pen pal from Arkansas.
I can tell you apart on the phone
I can tell you apart when you hug me from behind
I can tell you apart by patting your head
I can tell which plate on the counter was whose. Auden picked out the onions
I can’t tell you apart in a football uniform, unless I know your number
But I can tell which two on the field are mine; you hit the hardest
I can tell your handwriting apart. Usually
I can tell you apart when you wake up and I’m downstairs underneath you. That one’s easy, only one of you jumps off the top bunk
I can tell you apart when you wake up and I’m still in bed. One of you pees louder
And I can even tell you apart when I’ve been asleep and one of you crawls into my bed to snuggle. You each flop a different way.
Someday you’ll have more separate lives. Different careers and different friends. Different cities maybe. Ten years into this life, you still wouldn’t rather be with anyone more than your twin brother. And I don’t blame you, because you are both pretty freakin’ awesome.
Every time someone asks my kids what they’ve been up to this summer, and this is a favorite question of adults to kids and other adults alike, my kids’ response is “Nothin'” and a shrugging of their shoulders.
I started the summer practicing, and really have always used, an “Embrace the Bored” parenting style. I don’t over schedule my kids (generally). And I don’t feel the need to prepare specific activities for home either. We have plenty of toys, plenty of yard, plenty of books, plenty of craft supplies. Go.
I have a box for our unfolded socks that is labeled “Are you bored? Fold socks.” Translation- don’t talk to me about nothing to do or I’ll find something for you to do. My kids know that mentioning boredom will get them either an instruction to do a chore, a recitation of my motto “Only boring people are bored”, or a lecture on how being bored is a privilege of the rich. Or all three.
Still, I know what irks me about them being ho-hum about their summer is that I wish we’d done more. There were days we lazed around and bickered all day, and I knew we’d be better off getting out, but just didn’t quite have it in me. In practice, “Embrace the Bored” seemed to lead to kids stretched out on couches, clearly bored, but smart enough not to say so. What do bored school-aged children tend to do, I found? Not find a great book to read, but pester various siblings until they find the sibling that yields the biggest reaction. The littlest one, interestingly, is happiest to occupy herself. You can usually find her at the kitchen table, drawing.
I can’t say I’m ready to give up “Embrace the Bored”. I’m not sure why there was not much taking up of interesting projects or play this summer. Perhaps that’s just my point of view. Maybe there was internal processing going on that will bear fruit later, during those hours sprawled on the couch, repeatedly and unfruitfully asking for more screen time (my rule was an hour after your morning chore was done, no more until Dad gets home and we may decide to watch something as a family, may not).
I do wish I’d arranged a few more get-togethers with some of the boys’ school friends. They did play nearly daily with their neighborhood friends. That may have gone a long way to feeling “fun”, more than anything you can pay to go see. But arranging such things is not really my forte, and I was also looking for a job all summer. So I was trying not to commit to anything too far out, such as a camp they could have done with friends. We mostly did family day trips. Even then, some of us like to leave the house more than others. The same kids that complain we didn’t do much this summer have to be dragged out of the house more often than not.
At any rate, all these Nothin’ replies and my usual self-criticism had me feeling some major Mama-guilt about their summer. So I made a list*. Turns out, it wasn’t Nothin’. I had a lot of fun at some of these activities, and I believe the rest of the family did too. Maybe it’s just that the older kids get, the less they know how to do Enthusiastic well. Teenagers are not known for their enthusiasm. Maybe we should have done much less and we’d have gotten over the Bored hump. Maybe many things. My conclusion after some reflection is that we tried to do some fun things, and you win some you lose some. They can choose to believe they had an awesome summer, and they can choose to believe it sucked. Like all things, I can’t control what anybody else thinks.
I will show them this list, though, so in case their teacher asked, they might have something to say. 🙂
*Here, for the record, so you don’t believe what you hear from my kids, is
What We Did This Summer (June – August 2014)
Charter boat fishing off Westport for salmon (SUCCESS!)
Set up, played in, and maintained our 18 ft above-ground pool
Hosted my Aunt Elly and cousin Chris (in his twenties and therefore way cool for all of my kids) visiting from Alaska
Celebrated my Grandpa John’s 90th birthday camping in Corvallis, OR
Returned two weeks later to celebrate his life in memorium
Visited the Flying Heritage Museum three times, including their annual air show and the last flight of the White Knight)
Bought and lit fireworks for the first time
Visited my parents’ home in Port Angeles
Hiked to Marymere Falls
Had Date Night at Diamond Knot Brewery
Attended gymnastics classes
Backpacked up the Elwha River
Camped with family friends at Flowing Lake- canoed, fished, tubed, and attempted waterskiing
Played at Wild Waves
Celebrated Willa’s 4th birthday at Birch Bay Waterpark
Petted animals, ate junk food, rode ponies, and watched the Logger Show at the Evergreen State Fair
Boated with cousins on Lake Sammamish
Celebrated Father’s Day with a ferry ride and drive to Point No Point Lighthouse- fished
Toured Whidbey Island, visiting the Coupeville Arts Festival and toured Fort Casey bunkers and lighthouse
Hosted and attended several bbqs with friends
Hosted a family party for Willa’s 4th birthday
Attended a Glow Birthday Party at Jump Planet
Played at Auntie Laura’s house on Lake Jane twice- kayaked, swam the lake and in her neighborhood pool
Visited the library at least once a week
Swam at Rattlesnake Lake
Loaded and emptied the dishwasher ~130 times
Shopped for, fixed, and consumed ~360 meals and snacks
Dirtied, washed, sorted, and folded ~180 loads of laundry
Read at least one full book geared for adults
Read many many books geared for children
Climbed to the top of Guemes Island with friends
Celebrated Backwards Day
Swam at Lake Washington with cousins at least twice
Caught our first crab
Camped at Blue Mountain with Dad’s co-worker and son
Went to the Fremont Solstice Festival
Played at Edmonds Beach a couple times
Watched the Bothell Fourth of July Parade
Flew to San Diego for a job interview
Swam at McCollum Pool
Spent a couple days watching our road get repaved
Replaced electrical cables in Mark’s truck and got it running again (both boys helped)
Had friends over and played in the pool and Xbox (many times)
Attended eight doctors visits (caught up on all the check-ups and multiple specialist)
Attended three dentist visits (Holy Cavities!)
Republished in honor of World Breastfeeding Week
A Breastfeeding Story
(with plenty of other trivialities mixed in)
The three older children have just left. I am rain-drenched from going outside in a T-shirt and yesterday’s flats to help load them and their three carseats and three backpacks and buckle them in. No, scratch that. I watched my friend buckle them in her car while I distracted her by asking questions about her weekend.
My bi-weekly gift of three hours alone with four months-old Willa has begun. First, pick her up and ask her what we should do first.
Coffee, she says! I pour a cup of the pot Mark brewed at 5am and set the microwave for 44 seconds. I am no coffee snob. What to do while we wait… (because I am so neurotic about efficiency I couldn’t possibly just stand there and talk to Willa- which is how I end up completely scatter-brained and inefficient)… laundry!
Move clothes into the dryer, taking care not to drop them in the cat’s water dish like I always do. Put muddy clothes from Saturday’s rainy park outings into soak. Notice Willa in her bouncy seat is chowing down on her hand.
Yo ho, are you ready for a nap already? Clearly you are hungry, but are you tired also? Not so much looking like it, but let’s try for it anyway. Mama’s got things to do. Three hours, three hours!
Go upstairs. Hmm, the bed is stripped. Because, like I always do, I left Willa naked there this morning, thinking I’m sure she won’t pee this time. And like she always does (and every other baby, and I know this and choose to ignore), she peed. Find some baby blankets, and we lay down. Oh, and find my cell phone.
It’s a source of pleasure and guilt. I often (okay, usually) put Willa down with my cell as amusement. Check email, check Facebook, check blog reader. A triplet of websites each time. It makes nursing even more enjoyable. What’s not to love about lying in my comfy bed, with a warm cuddly baby, reading amusing anecdotes? And if I can hear Mark outside the bedroom taking care of a screaming three-year old and It just took a little longer than usual to get Willa down, honey, well, so be it. (We’ll see if he gets around to reading this post.) I do worry I’m making Willa believe she’s not worthy of my attention, though. Like I should stare at her beautiful baby face and sing her to sleep every time, not just sometimes. My own little Mommy-guilt dilemma that I bash myself with multiple times a day. I know I’m a nutball, I know.
We lay* down. I twist her to her side. She grins at me.
I’ve always been a big side-lying nurser. I like it for being able to leave without disturbing the baby after she falls asleep. I know moms that never master it, which I cannot fathom. It’s so useful. Try it, really, you’ll like it. (Disclaimer: You do not? Okay, do what you like! I’m not saying not side-lying nursing makes you a bad mother. Or not nursing at all! Or not having children at all! Though if you don’t, you probably stopped at the words A Breastfeeding Story. Okay then.) And it’s easier on your wrists/arms.
She whimpers in her sweet Willa way as I adjust pillows and shirts and blankets. Letting me know she truly is hungry. Good, we’ve timed it right. She’s not full-on crying, so I also know she’s not starving.
She latches on easily, begins gulping. Greta asked me the other day why Willa sounds like a pig when she nurses. I suppose she does, a little. At least she sounds like what I imagine pigs to sound like, because I can’t say I’ve spent much time among real live ones.
I launch Google Reader. The light from the phone draws Willa’s attention. I move a pillow between it and her face.
Her left arm flails around until it finds my right thumb. The (second) connection Willa-required for nursing and sleep. Her grasp seems to me a loving hug. I need you, Mama. Not just for food but for tender touch. I am happy to lose my texting thumb to her.
Her eyes close quickly. I have always loved the early morning nap that babies seem to take just after breakfast. Sleep seems to come easily at 9am, and not always so easily at 2pm for that afternoon nap. Time passes. A belly fills, a social media fix sated. A content smile on two faces. Or perhaps mine is more an amused smile, and hers a content smile, or as much of one as a nursing baby can manage with a nipple in her mouth.
Time to get up and
work around the house spend too much time writing a blog entry. I let her hand go, and it does not flail. A sure sign she is asleep. I release my breast from the gentle sucking she has continued. Ease her to her back. Her hand immediately and desperately searches her face. Thumb finds mouth, mouth sucks vigorously. Fingers fan above. The sucking quickly slows. She is fully asleep.
I tiptoe downstairs, remembering my cold coffee still in the microwave, in love with my baby Willa Apple Merigold.
*lay/lie? Enlighten me if you know!
Here’s one of those iconic memories that stick with you forever and define the way you think about somebody, about my dad.
For some background here, my dad is a hard-working man of few words*. He has his opinions, but unless you grill him, you probably won’t know what they are. I’ve certainly seen him angry before, but he’s not ever going to be the one to make a public scene.
I was learning to drive a stick. In a shiny new used Yugo. I was stuck trying to get going from a stop sign. I just kept killing it and killing it. And killing it. After four/five/God-who-knows-how-many tries, about five cars had lined up behind us. This is a major traffic jam in Port Angeles.
A car honks.
My dad gets out of the car. You might think he was going to switch places with me and get us going, but no.
He turns around, slams his fist on the roof of the Yugo, and yells back at the other cars, “she’s TRYing! to. LEARN!”
He then sits back down and I manage to lurch into the intersection and we drive away.
Here’s my interpretation of everything those words meant:
- Everybody’s gotta learn new skills sometime and the world can stand to learn a little patience while they do.
- Why rant when four words will do?
- Don’t give up. Give it just one more try.
- And most of all- I love my daughter and she’s worth sticking up for, even when she’s messing up and good sense might dictate she should probably stand aside. Just one more try.
*Now me, I am NOT a women of few words, as it just took me 293 to explain four.
p.s. He’s a great grandpa too.
Parenting success of the morning: convincing the kids that Pandora’s Tiffany station was actually the David Guetta station that was Parker’s request. (Wednesday being his car stereo pick day.)
Don’t get me wrong, I like David Guetta as much as the next 38 yr-old (probably more); I just felt like some guilty-pleasure Jefferson Starship, Heart, and Peter Cetera. Not sure why my singing at the top of my lungs didn’t clue them in.
On a serious, great-big-thought-leap, it often strikes me as scary, what a parent can get their kids to believe.
As a parent I have been known to use this for small personal gains, such as convincing them that all kids are supposed to make and bring their parents coffee on Saturday. I mean, I think I earned it picking up all your stinky socks and returning them to you clean and matched.
But my mind goes to racism, hate (never modeled by us, intentionally anyway), screaming that other drivers are idiots (some parent in our household not named me), or bitching about the crazy neighbor in front of the kids (okay, me). Kids are so gullible, even those I’m-cool 9 yr-olds.
And I am reminded to use my awesome* parenting power only to brainwash my children that mamas are not garbage cans or coat holders**, that eating sandwich crusts will make you grow big and strong, that collecting aluminum cans from the side of the road is a typical American family activity, and that the University of Washington is way better than WSU.
*in the original sense of the word, meaning “inspiring awe”, not the bastardized meaning, “cool”.
**I consider this one of my actual parenting successes. I don’t care if you’re two, let’s walk and find a garbage can together, I’m not putting it in my pocket. You’re too hot? I’ll help you tie that jacket around your waist, but I ain’t carrying four coats. When I’ve been on field trips with 4th graders (FOURTH graders!!***), I still get asked to carry jackets. Not by MY children. What do I look like? A coat rack?
***[lest I sound judgey, yes all those kids are still wonderful human beings to hang out with. I think how their parents didn’t have clairvoyance on this one issue but did in a hundred ways I didn’t, and I try to learn about those ways as I go about life] Can an asterix have an asterix?
We had such a good time visiting my grandparents and extended family last weekend.
My grandpa couldn’t quite wrap his head around how tall Greta had gotten. He kept assuming Willa was Greta because that was closer to her size in her memory. Saying goodbye, I had them line up to show their relative sizes to him.
This was the opposite view.
They look like 3, 6, 9, and 9 to me! Greta is about exactly between them.
You may have Child-Free Anxiety Syndrome (CFAS) if you:
Get so anxious decideing what to do when you have a couple of child-free hours, debating between taking care of your house (dishes! bathrooms! vacuum! surely you should get be able to get all this done and clean the mildew off the shower tile! the possibilities of a sparkling house are infinite!), yourself (coffeetime and journaling? a bath? sleep?), or your husband (an actual conversation? sex?), that instead you settle on something stupid like Facebook?
This sounds like a silly problem, but in all seriousness, I really do get so anxious about using my time wisely when kid free, that I make myself sick and of course ruin it.
I have been meaning for years to come up with a stock prioritization list.
Step 1: Have you showered in the last 36 hours? If no, cleanse thyself.
Step 2: Have you wanted to cry in the last 36 hours? If yes, sit with coffee and think.
Step 3: How many clean pairs of undies does each family member have? If under three, put in a wash.
Step 4: When was the last time you had sex? Is your husband at home? If it’s been a few days and your husband is at home, do this.
Step 5: Are there any toys you hate, or clothes too small, that your kids will cry about you removing? Bury them in the trash or hide them in the Goodwill bag in the trunk.
Step 6: If there’s any time left, clean something if you feel like it.