One year

August 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm (Daily Criteria, Family, Parenthood) ()

All of the sudden, I’m coming up on a year of working exclusively as a SAHM.  At least, apart from a 3 day a week stint taking care of Mr. C.  And growing a new baby.  [Sidenote- I think growing a baby could be counted as a full time job.  Even though I’ve done it while working full time, and I’ve done it while taking care of three and four kids, I still don’t know how women do it.  Compared to the hell of bedrest or constant nausea or threatened miscarriage, I have an “easy” time growing new people.  But I would not say I ever feel like I’m “glowing”, as they say.  Mostly growing a new human seems like a continuous extra load to carry.  People say “Keep the baby in as long as you can- it’s easier to take care of inside”.  I disagree.  Give me a sweet newborn who eats twenty minutes every hour and won’t be set down without crying any day.]

A year ago, I naively came up with a list of daily goals.

If I had a boss tracking those metrics, pretty much every day would generate a “needs improvement” rating.  Today would come up as ~√, -, –, ~√, -. 

Criteria 1:  moving towards an organized home, not away from it.  The boys and I did pick up the main areas of toys, but I was grumpy, and I was annoyed it took so long, and I was annoyed at how I spoke to them to get the job done.  Doesn’t it seem like 6 year olds should be able to separate a floor pile of books, cars, and LEGOs into their respective homes without direction?  It does not seem so here.  Every time we pick up (I’d like it to be every day, but in reality it’s every few days or weekly) we dedicate somebody to books, somebody to LEGOs, etc., until it’s done, and the method still seems mysterious. And, I was asked if they could be paid for it.  We have been giving quarters for help with certain tasks around the house.  Tasks above “regular duties” like clearing your plate, cleaning your own room, setting the table.  I find I’m getting frustrated by the question “can I get paid for that?” for the tiniest little niceties.  I explained that one does not get paid to pick up your own messes that could be alleviated by cleaning up as one went along.  But grudgingly, I admitted if they helped clean up a bunch of messes created by their sister, that might deserve a quarter.  Then from another room I heard them explaining to Greta that she should pick up their stuff and they’d pick up hers, so all the kids would get paid.  Um, points for cleverness, maybe?  But, really?

Criteria 2: Physical activity for all.  Not unless you count walking a couple blocks between our minivan and a Starbucks.  The boys were outside briefly, and I watched them lounge conversationally on the deck.  Cute but not physical activity.

Criteria 3: Homemade food.  Uh, no.  We ate pizza at the mall for lunch, and take-out Chinese for dinner.  I just DO NOT have the gumption to cook these days.  Even the effort to make sandwiches for lunch seems like a big burden.

Criteria 4: Quality time with the kids.  I think I would count the half hour I read “Stink and the Incredible Super Galactic Jawbreaker” to them.

Criteria 5: No major injuries.  I guess it wasn’t major, but the boo boo ice did come out twice, when Parker get a bloody lip during a light saber fight, and when Auden tripped down the stairs.

Here is where I intended to review my year of taking care of my children full time, and discuss a modification of my earlier lofty goals.  But that will have to wait for tomorrow, as my baby is calling me. Happy World Breastfeeding Week, btw.


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Targeting homemade

November 1, 2009 at 4:59 pm (Daily Criteria, School) (, , )

I’ve been trying not to get all riled up by one of the Northshore School District policies.   I’ve already decided that it’s not worth my time to fight the beast about it, but I still lay awake thinking about it one night last week.  So my final therapeutic measure is to blog about it.

The district won’t allow any homemade foods to be brought it for sharing.  On birthdays and special occasions, we are invited to bring in store-bought items.

On the one hand, this policy is more lenient then some schools with a school-wide nut-free policy.  I don’t have to worry about foods I send with my kids on a daily basis.  But at least a nut-free policy serves to protect kids from something that can harm, if the school has one of those kids with the misfortune of a life-threatening nut allergy.

A store-bought only policy for “treat days” doesn’t serve to protect anybody.  The bad-fat-laden, preservative-filled cupcakes that are the store-bought norm are not safe for plenty of kids with allergies.  They won’t get to eat them anyway.  Yes, its safety for those kids can be confirmed by a label.  I’d argue, though, that those foods are not really “safe” for anybody to eat. 

Homemade goods can be labeled also.  Yes, you’d have to trust the parents’ ability to label completely, and minimize crossover contamination.  If a child is really really allergic to many foods, he could choose (or be instructed) not to eat questionable items, or even all homemade.  He probably isn’t getting to eat a lot of the store-bought stuff either and is already used to needing alternate snacks.

I want to be clear- I know having a life-threatening allergy sucks, and I in no way want to make it harder.  I’ve happily dealt with bringing daily snacks to other schools that required no nuts, and I’ve made plenty of homemade foods for people who can’t eat nuts, or eggs, or dairy, or even wheat.  I just don’t understand why being allergic means you’d go more towards store-bought.  In fact, I know if one of my kids was allergy-prone, I’d be baking even more, to enable them to still eat many favorite foods safely.

Making homemade foods (and other non-food items) is truly part of our family’s core values.

 Homemade means to us:

  • More nutritious- and I don’t just mean our treats lack the “bad stuff”.  In a birthday treat, I typically still use at least partially whole grains, and utilize some “add-ins” that add extra nutrition.  And I promise, I do it so the kids don’t notice.
  • Quality time spent together making food
  • That the food maker cares about you
  • Cheaper- almost always, and often significantly
  • More individualized- last year for their birthday, the boys got a spider and a saber tooth tiger cake.  Their favorite animals.

        Happy Birthday P!  Happy Birthday A!

This post might read like it, but I’m really not a Nazi about not eating store-bought treats.  Writing this a day post-Halloween, I really have no room to talk about an abstinence-only policy.  We eat store-bought junk food plenty.  I just think this policy is non-sensical, and teaches kids a sad message.  That store-bought is better- a special treat for birthdays, when in reality it’s not even close to better.

So I told my husband I’d send in apples for the boys’ birthday.  He looked at me like I’d lost my mind.  I won’t, really.  I’m not going to ostracize them as the dudes with the crazy mama.  I’ll buy something sugary.  And I might even eat one.  I thought of something funny, though.  Technically, if we had the apple orchard I long for, and I dared to buck the sugar-trend and brought in our apples, they’d be homemade.  Uh-oh.

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Hippopotamuses- aggressive, known to bite humans, semi-aquatic

July 16, 2009 at 5:55 am (Daily Criteria, Parenthood) ()

In other words, just like us.

Today’s post was going to be a wrap-up of FINALLY finishing AJ’s spider bathrobe today. But I’m not happy with the pics I took earlier, so, it will have to wait. Leaving me with…

Today most definitely felt like a Hump Day.  (no, no pun intended.)  On Monday I was on a “I’m so lucky high”, yesterday we had the fun outing to keep the spirits up, but today… lots of cranky JaRuuds.

Our morning went like this:  GOJ needs attention.  I get out a puzzle to do with her.  AJ gets out a puzzle.  From PJ- “Why don’t I have a puzzle?”- whining ensues.  He picks out Hungry Hungry Hippos for me to get down for him.  AJ wants to play too.  Goes swimmingly for oh, about, two minutes.  Now GOJ wants to play too.  Mama is also enlisted.  General chaos as no rules are followed.  Not that I care.  PJ is not capturing marbles as he’d like.  We rotate the board- he MUST have a malfunctioning hippo.  THREE times.  AJ apparently has Skillz, because he wins with every hippo.  Who knew there was such a thing as being a Hungry Hippo savant?

Moving on- let’s do something NON-competitive I think.  GOJ has been begging to paint for days (translation: getting them out when the art cabinet is unlatched and screaming when I explain we can’t paint right now.  Lots of kids talk at 22 months, but GOJ is not one of them).  The transition in venue and activity doesn’t work.  It’s non-stop- “I need a new paper.  Why does HE have a new paper?”  Why does HE have that brush?”  “Why CAAAAN’T I paint my whole body?”  So, showers around.

That was my attempt at happy times.  Pretty much from then on, they played outside where MJ was painting the house.  Moods stayed similar, but I wasn’t dealing with them.

Now I know.  As Alexander’s Mama (of the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day) says, “Some days are like that.  Even in Australia.”  But the week is headed in a decidedly downhill direction.  Surely it’s not a long-term trend.  Right?  Today kind of broke my bubble because I had been thinking that showering them with my attention would help them feel LESS cranky.  It appears instead that they were happier minimally supervised.  I’m going to chalk it up to learning to go with the flow.


I never intended to keep this up, but I guess I will for as long as it suits me.

No check (let’s put that as a priority tomorrow), check (nice long run this morning for me!), check, check (attempts were made), check.

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July 15, 2009 at 6:04 am (Cooking, Daily Criteria, Transportation) (, )

Generally, when somebody’s not good at something, they try to steer clear of it. 

  • Not good at math?  You won’t end up an accountant.  
  • Suck at cooking?  Take-out and Stouffers for you. 
  • Not crafty?  The need to knit and sew to clothes one’s family went by the wayside, what [thinking through my foggy memory of American history here…], at least a hundred years ago.   Or maybe closer to eighty for the non-well-to-do?  I should ask my grandma.  I’m pretty sure I should know.
  • Hate kids?  Don’t have a kid.  Um, well, some people might make some mistakes there.  Most of the time it works out.

BUT, if you lead an average suburban family life (reality check- yes, that’s where I’ve ended up), you will be forced. to. DRIVE AN AUTOMOBILE.  I suck at it.  I hate the expense.  I hate the environmental impact.  But mostly, I just suck at it.  And I can tell you, I’m not alone. 

I’ve tried to explain why I’m a bad driver before, and it never goes well.  Unlike some, I do know the rules I need to play by.  I use my blinker, give the guy on the RIGHT the RIGHT of way.  The best I can say is I get distracted.  I space out and suddenly I’m on the lane bumps.  Or realize (almost) too late that everybody in front of me is stopping.

Short of moving to NYC, I don’t know what to do about it. 

Of course there are many greener options, but how does one make them work with three kids 5 years old and under, 3/4 of a mile from the closest bus stop?  To get to work, I’ve biked, walked, and ran many times.  With kids, walking or busing is the only option.  Back in my days living in Seattle Proper, I loved the bus.  I HATED bus snobs.  If I still lived there, I’d certainly take my kids on it.  But I cannot see how the current bus system in my town would be much use for an outing of, say, dropping off some library books, going on a playdate, and then picking up some groceries on the way home.  As I’m typing this, I’m considering that it could be useful on some outings, though, so I should look into that further.

So, we are left with: a) some use of the bus, b) walking, or c) not going anywhere.  I shouldn’t have to explain why c is not an option.  We can (and have) walked to the grocery store, and a drug store.  That’s about as far as we can manage, and only for “we just need milk and two other things” trips.

There’s gotta be a better way.  What am I missing here?

p.s.  Using the criteria created yesterday:

  • uncheck (did zero housework except loading the dishwasher),
  • semi-check (picking blueberries counts as fresh air and sunshine, but not aerobic exercise.  Except for the parts where I had to chase GOJ down), Some of our bounty
  • check (here’s dessert), Yum
  • check (picking blueberries), A happy outing

I was disillusioned into thinking

  • check (as far as I know, a day wholly without bandaids)

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New Job, Weekday Number 1

July 14, 2009 at 4:18 am (Cooking, Daily Criteria, Family) ()

I was quite happy with my “first day on the job” today.  No major calamities, and I thoroughly enjoyed cleaning my fridge.  No, really.  I did. 

While swimming, I came up with some criteria for a successful weekday.  Theoretically, we meet these and the family stays happy, healthy, and unbankrupt.  One must have a gauge to measure one’s achievements, right?  And yet not be unrealistic.  I have lofty goals for being a homemaker that involve creative crafts, making own our soap and bread, organizing every square inch of our plentiful junk.  But this list, it’s the core stuff.  The stuff that matters the most and illustrates why I’m excited about staying at home.

Never mind that I just came from a job where I constantly whined about compiling metrics.  I actually like (no, love) keeping stats on anything and everything*, just not being compared with others on unrealistic and nonsensical goals.

Here’s the list:

  • At least one part of the house is cleaner or more organized than it was.  Check.  Fridge shelves washed and re-arranged.  Four loads of laundry folded and put away.
  • Everybody has some physical activity.  Check.  Everybody except GOJ went to the YMCA: big people swam laps, AJ had a swimming lesson, PJ ran around the Kids’ Corner.  My own laps were brief and half-hearted, but I’m counting it.
  • Not resorting to eating out.  Check.  Um, okay, maybe not.  I forgot; MJ went out for lunch.  So almost check.  I’m all for fine dining, but another trip to McDonald’s we do not need, belt-wise or moneybelt-wise.
  • At least one “quality time” activity with the kids.  Check.  Played “Sequence for Kids” and made this yummy garbanzo bean snack.  Full disclosure, the kids weren’t too into eating it, but we had fun making it, and I liked it.  A lot like roasted soy nuts.
  • No major injuries.  Check.  Our worst injury today was GOJ breaking the skin biting MJ’s toe.  She often does that to me when she’s really tired and wanting to nurse, but I don’t know what this bite was about.  She needs some more words; I think life is fairly frustrating to her right now.  The boys did this too- hit the “terrible twos” at the end of one.  The twos themselves were actually quite nice.  Hmm, maybe she’s getting sick.  I hope not.

All in all, a satifsying day.

*I get the counting gene from my Grandpa John.  He comes up with interesting stats like how many nights he’s slept in his RV, or estimates of how many quarts of milk his mother would have made in breastfeeding her ten children.  They knew I had it too when I kept track of my chicken poxes with my most treasured Christmas present at 6 years old- a calculator.

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