I can’t do my homework anymore*

September 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Since the second day, my first graders have rebelling against their math homework.  I have to say I feel their pain.  Their homework is nothing interesting.  Always math, always counting and writing patterns.  It’s only a slight variation on the homework from the same curriculum that they did in kindergarten.

Back when I was a kid, homework started in the third grade.  I loved it.  I remember sitting at the dining room table, proud and important.  “No, I cannot play with you, little sister only in kindergarten.  I have Homework.”  Third graders are a little more able to manage it themselves.  At least I assume, not having ever parented one.

The first week, homework went the same way as last year.  The boys would do it as prompted, with a bit of whine and quite a bit of sloppy.  In pen or crayon or pencil, whatever utensil they dug out of the art cabinet.  As far as I know they were never instructed differently.  I’d read them directions as solicited while cooking dinner.  Or Mark would.  I didn’t look at the finished product.

Then lo and behold, it started coming back.  About once a page, groups of squares were counted incorrectly, colored red instead of yellow, penmanship of numbers left something to be desired.  Hmmm, a new ballgame, this first grade thing.  Where one not only has to do the work, but do it neatly and correctly.  One hundred percent.  All the errors were marked with red ink for them to correct and return.  All of it had “Use Pencil” written everywhere.  Well, well, I thought. Expectations have changed for my big first graders.  Hopefully redoing it will show them that.

Then I went to “Curriculum Night”, which, back in the day, was called Back-to-School Night.  And got some schooling.  Apparently I’m expected to check over the homework for errors before they turn it in.  It seems the teacher is picturing us sitting next to the boys as they do it.

Now I don’t know.  I don’t want to be one of those parents- second-guessing the teachers at every turn.  But I just am not sure this is part of my parenting duties.  I don’t sit still for twenty minutes at home ever.  Unless I’m nursing.  Or reading aloud, I suppose.  OK, or in front of the computer.  I sit with the laptop a lot longer than twenty minutes.  But I’d rather fight with them about setting the table, not if their eights were legible enough today.  Choose my battles, as They say.

Having the final say-so on when the homework is “good enough” sets up a precedent that the onus is on me, not them.  It counteracts the independence in the school routine that I’m trying to set up.  I guess in some respects I resent children having homework at all, before they have the maturity to complete it with minimal supervision.  I have to put a caveat in here that of course, if they were having trouble with a concept, I’d be happy to work with them on it.  But that’s not the issue here.  Already I’ve seen in the last week of me trying to look it over, without being too conspicuous or demanding, that they look to me for approval.  I’d like them to approve it, decide if all those fives look like fives.  Not be secure in the knowledge that Mom will tell me if there are actually six hexagons, not five.  Or even if I just tell him that there’s a problem that needs further attention.  Learning to check one’s own work is almost more important than the actual learning at this point.  At least in the world according to this Mama.

Mark says if I don’t believe in it, don’t check their work.  But then I worry that they won’t do as well as the kids whose homework is perfect.  And, when it comes done to it, I’m also worried that I’ll be labeled a “bad parent”, who doesn’t care enough to take the time to have interest in their children’s schoolwork.  That’s not the case, at all.

Am I neglecting my parental duties if I don’t make sure my first grader’s homework is done correctly?

*Name that artist

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TGIF?

September 26, 2010 at 3:48 pm (Parenthood)

Since starting first grade, the boys have acquired an awareness of that most special time of each week: the weekend.  Thursday we had a conversation at the dinner table that went something like this:

Parker: When does the weekend begin?

Dad: For you it starts as soon as the last school bell rings on Friday.  And mine begins as soon as I finish work Friday.

Parker:  Does Greta have a weekend?

Mama: Sure, she gets a long weekend.  (Because her preschool is three days a week.)  She has TGIW.

Auden: But, Mom, you don’t have a weekend.

Parker: Yes, she does.  For her, every day is a weekend!

HAHAHAHAHAHA!  Uh, no.

This Mama’s Saturdays and Sundays aren’t any more relaxing than Monday to Friday, this is true.  Of late, none of her days are relaxing.

I still find myself looking forward to the weekend, even as a stay-at-home mom.  No school lunches to make, no kids to drive to school, no homework to supervise.  Unscheduled time to talk to the older kids, hang out with Mark in the evening and not worry about his 5 o’clock, my 6 o’clock alarm.  But by Sunday night, I’m happy for a school day.  It’s nice to fold laundry in the peace and quiet of only two children.  See some of the other mamas, coming and going at schools.  The rhythm of a week remains because of the family I support.

What doesn’t change, weekday or weekend, is the venue.  I now find it hard to go “off the job” when I’m constantly in my “workplace”.  I might try to chill out on the couch for a bit, but my eyes stray to the cobwebs, the piles of paper.  I consider the email I should write to the teacher.  I remember there’s laundry to be moved along and I’m up again.  When I had a full-time job, I could somehow ignore it all when tired.

Today, my weekly rhythm is disrupted, and I’m annoyed.  The boys are off at their Grandpa’s, and Mark decided to head to the mountains.  So, here the girls and I are.  Just like any other weekday.  If Greta wasn’t battling a bad head cold, I’d plan something fun.  But instead, we have the (sick)wellness visits I managed to score on a Saturday, which just adds to the weekday feel.  It’s also the second Saturday in a row I’ve been in solo charge of the kidlings.  Not that I’m counting.  It’s not a usual occurrence, and it’s taken a toll.  Today every part of me is longing to be in charge of only myself, just for a bit.  It will happen tomorrow, I will make sure of that.  But I will have to leave the house.

If you’re a SAHM, how do you find relaxation at home?

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Tuesday’s ten things thankful

September 22, 2010 at 12:00 am (Gratitude, Parenthood, tens)

Ten things I love about my life right now, the kid-version (ignoring the myriad things I don’t):

§ My adventuresome eater Parker.  At a recent dinner with my Chinese American step-mother-in-law, he grubbed on cod cheeks, duck, scallops, and gigantic Hood Canal shrimp spicy-fried with the shell on.  You’ll notice a complete lack of vegetables.  My little carnivore.

§ Hugs in the morning.  I make a concerted effort to drop what I’m doing and greet each child as they wake up.  Pretty much the only time I drop everything for them all day.  I ask them how they slept, tell them I’m glad to see them and I’m glad to have them in our family.  I hope they remember this as adults.

§ That it turns out my boys don’t really want to live with my sister.  Recently they’d asked to move in with her.  They went on and on about how great it would be.  Mainly due to her recent purchase of a brand new SUV, but also due to the fun times had there, the good food, and the lively attention from their uncle.  I know, a mama has to grow thick skin.  But on the day this was mentioned, I was already vulnerable.  When Harry the Tarantula sheds her exoskeleton in favor of a larger skin, she hides in the back of her terrarium until she hardens.  That’s what I did that day.  Not only would any child insisting he wouldn’t miss you break any mama’s heart, but their choice of my sister hit me where it counts.  She’s always been what I long to be- vivacious, good at making friends, good at sports, generally popular.  Now add to this list financially-secure and seemingly handling motherhood with ease.  Basically, the boys unknowingly set off a tailspin of insecurities.  Now of course my sister has her own set of insecurities and probably (maybe, is it wrong to hope?) her child will one day ask to live at our house.  At bedtime that night, one of my boys was expressing thankfulness for something or other about the way we do things, and I asked, “So maybe you don’t really want to go live with Alison?”  “Huh?”  They did not even remember wishing aloud to move.  Molting process complete.

§ Kid logic.  Auden and Parker are working on a routine of homework folder out and lunch boxes to the counter directly after school.  I check out what has to get done this evening, and stash the folder sideways next to the pencils canister until homework time.  Last night Auden whined, “Mooooom, whyyyy do you always put my folder here where I can’t find it?”  Me: “Well, I need to counter space to cook dinner, and if it’s always here then you know where it is, right?”  A: “N0-0-0 (making it a full three syllables), I don’t like it there.”  Me: “OK, we need to have somewhere to always keep it so you can always find it.  You pick the spot.”  So Auden picked, and now we keep his homework folder across the kitchen, on top of the refrigerator, underneath all the layers of half-eaten bags of chips, bread, and anything random that I’m keeping away from little ones.  It requires a stool to get it for him.  Which he’ll also have to fetch across the kitchen first.  Seems a less worthy spot than next to the writing instrument he needs and reachable from the spot he sits to do it, but, it’s not my homework, so who am I to say?  And it might not be obvious, but I don’t mean that question sarcastically.

§ Choosing cuddles in the morning over TV.  Greta woke up and crawled into bed with Willa and I yesterday.  I let her know that her brothers were watching TV downstairs.  Instead of running down as I expected, she snuggled closer to me under the covers.  Morningtime is one of my favorite times with my children.  It’s before they wake up enough to fight with each other.  I’ve grown to love the smell of pee-filled diapers and binky breath in the morning.

§ Willa’s coos and early laughs.  And what she find laughable.

§ Discovering that swaddling consistently gets a 9pm to 4am stretch of sleep out of Willa.  Lest you hate me for this, I assure you I did my time.  The twins didn’t give me this respite until they were well over one year.  For months and months I survived mainly on one hour snippets of sleep.

§ Exploring the difference between real and pretend.  We gave Greta a play kitchen for her birthday.  Without me realizing, she filled up the sink with water to do the dishes.  Of course this involved ferrying water in cups between her room and the bathroom, sloshing a fair amount on the carpet in the process.  But why would she think that her kitchen had to have pretend water, when my kitchen gets to have real water?  The lack of true plumbing was apparently no clue to a three-year old.  Having the kitchen in her room has meant Greta is sometimes off playing alone in her room, and I think three is the right age for that.  But she often asks for company, so I was up there drinking my breakfast smoothie.  I had to explain why I do not want to re-blend it in her pretend blender that really spins.  Though it moves, it doesn’t actually blend.  Nor is it watertight, my dear.

§ When Auden plays waiter in Greta’s kitchen, he calls me “My Ma’am”.

§ That Greta, who can’t say the word, refers to the day of her birth as “Happy to Greta”.

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A Camping Alphabet Post

September 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm (AJ, Family, GOJ, MJ, PJ, School, WJ)

I’m the volunteer “librarian” in Auden and Parker’s class.  Last week’s theme was alphabet books, which inspired this post on this weekend’s camping trip with Auden and Parker’s school.

A is for Auden, my favorite babysitter for Willa.  He’ll willingly sit next to her while I do things like go to the restroom or fetch water.

B is for Bailey’s, what I’m drinking in my coffee this morning to recover.

C is for coffee.  Which I needed Saturday morning and did not ever get.

D is for downpour, of the long-lasting kind.

E is for eagle, an animal our family is constantly on the lookout for.  It’s actually pretty amazing how often we can spy a bald eagle around here.  Me, I forget to look up, but the generally boys have less to pull their eyes downward.  Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

F is for fort, that the boys and friends had ever so much fun making.  Bonus for mom is the exhaustion that carrying huge driftwood logs all day entails.

G is for Greta, a girl of her own mind.  You know how you see moms walking away from their children, saying, “OK, I’m going now,” and the kid eventually runs to catch up?  This does not work with Miss G.  I can get out-of-sight a hundred feet away, peek to look back, and Greta is still squatting to look at rocks, completely unconcerned for her safety.

H is for Heather has a Headache.  When the sun appeared at noon, we were beachcombing with no sunglasses or hats.  Within an hour, I had a headache from squinting.  Within another hour, I had a really bad headache and was dragging four children back to the campsite so I could puke in the bushes in peace.  I certainly have experience with the combo of camping and throwing up, but it’s supposed to also involve whiskey and a rocking good night beforehand.

I is for insane, my mental state when I agreed Mark should go down to the Husky-Nebraska game from the camping spot.  Had I calculated between tail-gating, driving, traffic, and the game itself I’d be left alone for EIGHT hours with four kids of widely varying interests and walking speeds, I would not have said “Oh sure, honey, you’ve wanted to go to a game forever.”  Or more realistically, as he really has wanted to go forever, we would not have gone camping.

J is for just barely, the way I held it together.

K is for Krispy Treats, our contribution to Saturday night’s potluck.  (Parker’s contribution- I couldn’t think of K.)

L is for living room, where we had our cosy fire on Saturday night.

M is for Mark, who was a sight for sore eyes when he returned from the game.  How grateful I was at that moment that I am not a single mom.  Sometimes I love my husband because he’s my Man, sometimes I love him because he’s Help. Picture “Oh, Help” as asked for by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

N is for new friends.  All the craziness was worth watching my boys develop friendships with kids they will know for years to come.  And I met some very nice parents, also, although I had to get past my anxiety that they were all wondering what in the world I was doing there with four children by myself and beholden to their help.

O is for Oreo.  What is a mother to do to contain her four children while she vomits?  Give them Oreos in the tent!  Crumbs be damned!

P is for Parker.  Parker, who loves life to its fullest, then crumples and still needs his Mama’s fullest attention.

Q is for quit, which is what we did Saturday evening.  I have never made the decision to come home a day early from camping, but in this case- best decision EVER.

R is for Ranger Dave.  A very nice guy invited to give an instructional beach walk.  What happened instead, however, was a sit-quietly-at-a-picnic-table-listen-to-me-ramble.  My children were not amused.  School on a Saturday?  Too much to ask.

S is for Survivor Games, which Parker played with fifty other kids from his school.

T is for tent.  Thank goodness for rain flies.

U is for Urine.  Middle-of-the-night urine in sleeping bags, daytime urine puddling in shoes.  Urine, urine, urine.  Greta did not once use the actual campground bathrooms the entire time we were there, if that’s any indication of the clothing changes we had.  Though I’ve considered her potty trained since last January, I finally put her in a pull-up around the time I started throwing up.

V is for van.  A mini van is to be celebrated when packing up camp in the dark rain can be done by throwing it all in the back without rolling a camp pad or stuffing a bag.

W is for Willa, my sweet sweet easy baby.  Oh my goodness how I love this little (big!) bundle of fleece in my lap!

X is for the pedestrian X-Ray, which we did not need to examine the fish spines we found on the beach.

Y is for yurt, which we were not staying in, unlike many of the families.  But now we know how to spell it!

Z is for the zealous love that I feel for this camping family of mine.

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Time time time, see what’s become of me

September 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm (Time)

Motherhood is feeling pretty hard today.

But instead of actually talking about the true issues before I have any idea how to handle them, I’ll talk about something else that I can’t fix.

Back to the subject of time, and the lack thereof.  I recently read a blog that, I’m paraphrasing here, suggested working moms really can have it all- as long as you properly prioritize and say no to the things that don’t matter.  Oh, and set time limits for yourself when using the internet.  Now, I’m pretty sure this was meant to be encouraging.  And if it were true it would be.

But what did I take from the writing?  If you can’t get it together enough to be organized and divide your time into precise fifteen minute segments, then you’re just a whiner.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t like constantly prioritizing my life into “the most important things to get done today”.  Sometimes I just want to do what I feel like doing.  Which is why, at 3am this morning, I started organizing the box of cards I keep just in case somebody has a birthday, or dies, or has a baby.

What happens to me over and over and over again is that I try to prioritize and start with paying the bills and clearing the dirty dishes off the kitchen counter so that more food can actually be cooked, and I end up dusting a top shelf after I decided to put away a dish on it and realized it was filthy.  For instance.  It’s a You Give A Mouse A Cookie problem.  Or a symptom of ADD, I’m not sure which.  If I don’t interrupt my own tasks, a child does.  I’m paying the bills and somebody needs clean underwear.  Twice.  Trying to prioritize my life ends up taking way too much headroom and creating guilt when I’m not doing the-most-important-thing-right-now.

The whole dilemma takes a lot of enjoyment out of doing anything.  I alternate between trying to prioritize my days exactly right, and giving up and doing whatever I feel like it because I can damn it.  Hence the 3am card organizing.  I don’t have any answers for myself.  It does strike me that there’s probably a happy medium.

What I do know is that time management continues to be one of the most profound issues I struggle with as a mother.

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Newborn hats!

September 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm (Uncategorized)

In honor of not really being a newborn anymore. Two months old today!

Smiles
Can you believe the CHEEKS on this girl?

Before Apple was born, we weren’t sure that she was a she.  Though she was born in July, the list I had for homebirth supplies had “hat”, and I was bound and determined to have hats available.  But, my search for a cute gender neutral hat quickly came up short.  There are literally NO unisex hats I’d want to spend my money on at the mall.  It’s kinda like how it feels when I try to find myself a pair of flattering pants.  But that’s a whole different problem.

I also couldn’t think of a knitted hat design that I wanted to do before I could do it up in gender specific cutsie-ness.  But then finally it occurred to me- I could sew hats.  And I could make them from shirts that no longer fit me.  Free!

I started out making a homemade pattern from a couple of hats I had.  But I didn’t love those hats, and surprise, I didn’t love the hats that came from using them as a starting point.  Googling for a pattern actually yielded little help, until I found a pattern on this website, for a very cool craftivism project that sent these newborn hats to Haiti.  I coincidentally already happened to read her blog.

As a veteran knitter but not a veteran sewer, I love discovering how fast one can turn something out, especially if one is not too particular.  I’m a perfectionist about some things; sewing is not one of them. 

So, in less than an hour, I turned this
orange shirt vm into this Could she BE any cuter? My favorite shirt, made into my favorite hat.  I always loved this shirt.  This particular picture is from the camping trip in 2003 that started Mark and I’s relationship.  I love the symbolism of creating a hat for Willa out of its material.

Followed by Green hat (another favorite shirt) and Go Huskies (for Daddy).

I love that by some easy sewing I was able to create Willa some hats that aren’t the typical commercial baby colors.  Who says babywear has to be boring?

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Making friends

September 14, 2010 at 11:29 am (AJ, Parenthood, PJ)

Grade school marks a big change in making friends.  In preschool, my kids were friends with my friends’ kids.  In grade school, they make friends who have parents I don’t know.  Who may or may not have similar parenting philosophies.  I may not even know the child himself.  I don’t know how I feel about that. 

On the one hand I generally think diversity is good- if my kids are exposed to different ways of dealing with conflict or serving a snack at a friend’s house, they can learn new ways to do things.  And see what doesn’t work if they end up watching a friend get yelled at.  But, does it really work that way?  At six, are they discriminating enough to take the good and throw out the bad?  I’m not so sure about that.

In any given room of kids, Parker will find the silliest and most exuberant kids (besides himself, that is) and go talk to them.  It doesn’t really matter to Parker if that child was planning on gaining a new friend that day.  He has absolutely no social awkwardness.  According to him, if he wants you to be your friend you will be.  Never mind that this is the complete opposite of the way I think.  I’ve known people I really would’ve liked to be friends with but have no idea how to approach.  I could take a lesson from Parker- the approach doesn’t always matter- you just do it.  At any rate, Parker’s chosen friends in kindergarten were not, shall we say, the teacher’s pet type.  More like they were the kids that the teacher goes home saying, “I’d have such a great class this year if I didn’t have to deal with ____.”

I was surprised last year in kindergarten that some of those frustrating kids actually do have great parents.  See how judgmental parents can be- including myself?

Auden seems to have fallen a little closer to his mother’s tree in the making friends department.  As best I can gather, the friends he made last year chose him.  One was a domineering young lady who told him one day she was his girlfriend.  This was in February.  He spent more time making her Valentine than the rest of the class combined.  A week after Febrary 14th I found all the Valentines he’d made, hidden in his room.  Upon delicate questioning, I extricated the story- he’d been embarrassed to give his “girlfriend” the Valentine, so he left them all in his backpack.  A few weeks later when told him she was no longer his girlfriend, he faked sick because he no longer had anybody to play with at recess.  Broke his mama’s heart, the whole situation.

I didn’t actually start out this post to talk about my children’s possible friend hiccups, though.  Or the lack of control I have over the choosing of said friends.  All I can do there is trust they’re smart and they’ll learn from their experiences.  I meant to discuss my potential hiccups with their friends and parents of their friends.  I have to say, dealing with calling one of their friend’s parents for a playdate fills me with dread.  Will they think it’s weird for me to invite their child to my house without knowing me first?  Should I invite them to meet us at the park first?  Will they want to spend their time standing at a park making small talk with me?  I’m not even at school to know the relationship between the kids.  Does their kid even like my kid?  Do I want this kid to like my kid?

I can’t be the only one that doesn’t know “the rules” here.  At what age do you switch to letting the kids talk on the phone to arrange a get-together?  I have to say my kids are still blissfully ignorant of the ins and outs of phone conversation, and that’s mostly fine with me.  I don’t need them begging for a cell phone yet.  I know they know our phone number, but I don’t know that they would actually know how to dial and call us if they needed to.  They also don’t have a full grasp of calendaring and what days they might be free.  For now I know I need to take care of the details. 

At some age that I don’t want to even think about, I suppose one lets their children visit homes of friends they haven’t met, let alone the parents.  But what age is this?  Ten, twelve, twenty-three?  No idea.  Obviously it can be whatever we’re comfortable with, at least until our kids are legal adults.  But I also worry if I’m too comfortable with letting my kids go, I’ll be judged not protective enough.  Am I overthinking this?

A good part of my anxiety goes back to my own troubles with making friends.  Parker begs me, over and over, until we call people who I’m pretty sure don’t want to get together with us.  I HATE feeling like I’m trying too hard to make friends- my uncool middle school self.  So I waffle and deflect his requests and explain I’m waiting for them to reciprocate the last playdate months ago and generally make excuses.  Like my former neighbors, for example.  Parker idolized their kid, who’s eighteen months older than him.  This kid thought Parker was okay when he used to live across the street and was convenient, but now that they live miles away, I don’t think he cares.  When they’ve come back to check on the house (they rented it out), the kid hasn’t barely responded to Parker’s excited greetings yelled across the street.  Parker has yet to notice that fact, though, and keeps asking when he’s going to come over.  Parker came home from the second day of school and wanted me to call the friend he’d made that day.  Um, no honey, I’m not psyched up to do that yet.  And just how would we find the phone number of one of the thousand Jacob’s at XYZ Elementary?

If you’re into labels, it’s probably obvious here.  Parker is an extrovert, his mama and dad, and his twin are introverts.  He gets misunderstood sometimes here at the JaRuud household.  One definition is that an extrovert get “recharged” in life by spending time with people, and an introvert recharges by spending time alone.  He’ll have to put up with us, and drag us kicking and screaming into having a social life.  It’s good for us.

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What I love about fall Sundays

September 13, 2010 at 11:29 am (Uncategorized)

§ Pumpkin Waffles for breakfast.

§ Popcorn and apples on the couch, watching football.  Not microwave popcorn, real popcorn with butter and salt, in a big metal bowl.  The whole family jockeying for advantageous positioning to get the best-buttered big handfuls.  Clamoring to get the next crisp green apple eighth, as soon as Dad’s knife cuts out the seeded piece.  This I remember from my own growing up, and the re-creation of this childhood weekly event sparked this post.

§ Falling asleep on the couch in front of said football game.  There is nothing like the background noise of Seahawk fans cheering to put me to sleep.  This one is a rarity as a Mama, but it happens sometimes.  My love for football extends only as far as the familial feel it gives me, not to actual following of the games.

§ Not being so freakin’ hot anymore.  Some would say Seattle’s summer this year lacked heat, but it was still too much for me.  That Willa baby is a heater!  I really should move to Alaska.

§ Some sort of exercise in the cool fall-leafed woods.  Today’s involved watching Parker on his first mountain bike ride.  My parents, visiting for the weekend, were cringing as Parker started off, locking up his brakes down the trail’s steep beginning.  I was pretty sure he had it.  And he did.  And he ran his bike up that hill coming back.  That boy is growing up.  I’ll miss many things, but twenty years from now I don’t think I’ll miss the whining that is sometimes involved in getting back to the car.

§ The leisure to spend extra time cooking dinner.  Having dinner late because I thought I had all the time in the world to cook it up, but instead time got the better of me again.

§ Kids that nap and older kids that can take care of themselves and ensuing adult activities.

§ That great Sunday in October when there really are more than twenty-four hours in a day. 

§ Crafting on Christmas gifts and still maintaining the delusion I can finish all that crafting before December 25th.

Happy Autumn!  (Well almost.  I have a friend that tells me I’m a Season Pusher.)

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Part I: Games, rambling negativity

September 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm (Parenthood, PJ)

I’m going to try a new thing- writing posts in the half an hour I’ve carved out between when Mark goes to work and the rest of the family wakes up.  Oh, but it’s hard to find time to myself these days.  Between getting up for school and a baby who sleeps great except for that one all-important “ahhh-the-kids-are-asleep-now-I-can-say-hi-to-you” hour, my self (and my marriage, but that’s another story) is getting neglected.  It’s okay, it’s temporary.  But wow am I enjoying my coffee in the dark and QUIET this morning.

Do you want to know what you should NOT do on the first day of the second week of school?  Here’s one for you.  A classic Heather example of parenting gone wrong.  I happened upon a couple of hours yesterday with Parker alone at home.  Oh, yes, and a baby who wanted to be asleep, I was sure of it, but she kept waking up every twenty minutes and screaming.  So one child who communicates with words.  A rarity.  Parker asks if I will play a game with him.  A good idea, I tell him, except first I have to get dinner in the oven… fast forward twenty minutes.

[Forgive me, this whole post would be MUCH better with pictures.  But I’m not going to warrant it with the time that would take.]  Then, we go to the game… well, it’s not a cupboard.  It’s the weirdest architectural feature of our house.  The entryway is two stories high, but they added a closet at the door that’s ONE story high.  As you go up the stairs, to your right is a carpeted square about 3 feet wide that is the top of the closet.  All alone.  I can never figure out what to do with it.  Leave it vacant?  No, any square inch of horizontal space in our house gets utilized by somebody I will not name for piles of magazines, unopened bills, articles torn from newspapers, well-intentioned lists on the backs of envelopes, usually an overdue library book we can’t find, etc., etc.  Uncovering the strata of a neglected pile that’s been dumped into a box and shoved on his desk is like an archaeological dig.  [I will not try to say I never create paper piles, but they are not quite so haphazard and usually of one type of paper.]  So, anyway, no. 

Perhaps combine the weird with another object I can’t find a place for- the kitty litter box?  I’ve thought seriously about it.  But, since this is the spot your eye goes while sitting in the living room, no.  One year I placed the Christmas tree there.  Not so easy to get it there, but kept it away from children.  Everybody thought it looked odd though.  And it did.  [If I had a picture, I’d love to put it here.]  My last idea for The Square has been a game cupboard.  The older kids can manage to reach part of it, but it keeps younger kids from getting into the little piece games.  And we have so many games and puzzles, I could never find a place for them.  Place I Don’t Know What To Do With, meet Things That Never Fit Anywhere.  They’d been there a couple of years.  Problem was, they were just stacked there.  When you wanted the game that was ten games down, you either 1) methodically took each game down and set it on the steps until you reached the desired box, or 2) you pulled on the desired box, hoping it would magically come sliding out while the boxes above remained stacked.  Kind of like that trick of pulling out the tablecloth with all the dishes staying on the table.  I generally picked option 2, and then at least a box would inevitably fall on my head.  And often open, spilling game pieces down the stairs.

So, back to Parker, who wants to play a game.  We’ve gone to the stairs to pick one out.  Instead of seizing the alone time, I pick *this moment* to decide- this storage method for games is not working.  In fact, it’s suddenly driving me batty now that I look at it.  Never mind I’ve been ignoring this fact every time I go up and down the stairs for years.  How about let’s first move ALL the boxes to the top of the bookshelves in the family room?  I am met with less than enthusiasm but I press on.

Now, are the top of the bookshelves empty?  Of course not!  Are they dusted?  No way Jose.  Is this coffee table free to stack boxes on?  No, it’s covered with folded clothes.  [Which, let me just complain here since this is becoming a whiny sort of post anyway- I never fold clothes and then just leave them in piles.  My husband will fold and leave piles covering the entire family room.  I should be grateful he folds at all?  Perhaps.  But honestly I’d rather he not fold at all.  Somehow he can sit and watch TV between two piles, but I can’t relax until the couch, at least, is cleared.  And maybe I didn’t want to do that chore before I relax.  But I know where he gets it from.  This particular time the coffee table was covered with clothes because my mother-in-law had been over the day before, and she folded our clothes and left them in piles.]

So I press on.  I begin to take game boxes and find room.  Move wine bottles and boxes of Photos From Before Photos Lived On My Hard Drive from the top of the bookshelves to the floor.  Implore Parker to help.  Parker, instead, did what I imagine any kid would do.  He started doing a puzzle.  Did this irk me?  Of course!  “Help me, Parker.  Can you hand me that box?  Pleeeease?  If you help me, we can play a game faster.  No, no, no.  Don’t take out more than ONE game.  NOOOO, don’t open Monopoly!”  Remember the girl baby we all love, who wasn’t sleeping well?  She is crying.  I ignore it just long enough to make me decide I’m a Horrible Mom (about three minutes).  Change her, feed her.  Leave her sleeping, kind of, hopefully.  Continue moving boxes and asking (actually whining at) Parker to help.  I repeat these three things- moving boxes, feeding or bouncing Willa, and cajoling Parker without success… for the full time we have alone.  Somewhere there in the middle we eat dinner alone together, which was a bright spot.  He told me all about which people, including some new ones from school I’m happy to know about, will be coming to his birthday party in May.  Eventually Mark returns and I am in full sweaty annoyance.  Pretend you can hear a nagging mom here:  “This house is a disaster!  It’s so cluttered everywhere!  No one will help me.  All the kids want to help Mark, not me, unload from his errands.  Why will they help him and not me?!?”

A mess
Token photo, in which you can see very little of what I’m talking about

Aaack, I just realized I was supposed to be in the shower eighteen minutes ago!  Half hour blogging is impossible!  So, in the end, we never played a game, Mark put the kids to bed, and I finished moving the games.  Grumbling.  With a night’s sleep I have a lot more clarity about the numerous ways yesterday could’ve gone better.  We WILL play a game today, Parker, I promise!!

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