The Bureau

March 19, 2015 at 12:46 am (Uncategorized)

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. 

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Looking for peace and serenity

February 22, 2015 at 11:23 pm (Family, Uncategorized) (, )

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:

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The evolution of written connection

February 13, 2015 at 3:04 pm (Uncategorized)

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 [20]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.

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What Shall I Teach Them Next?

October 10, 2013 at 5:36 am (Parenthood, Uncategorized) (, )

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?

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the closest I can come to a related stock photo- G and her first time with a sandwich (and thus first time avoiding all crusts)

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Child-Free Anxiety Syndrome (CFAS)

July 17, 2013 at 8:40 pm (Uncategorized)

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.

Something like:
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.

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Sometimes I need this reminder

June 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm (Uncategorized)

Things which are never a “waste” of time:

  • Sleeping when one is tired
  • Rocking a child, however old she gets
  • Hugs
  • Ten minutes with a cup of coffee to plan the day
  • Looking into the eyes of one’s lover
  • Slowing down (or stopping) when one is ill
  • Asking a friend or family member how their day is going, and *listening* to the answer
  • Heading outside, breathing fresh air, and getting one’s heart rate up
  • Enjoying the taste of food
  • Showing one cares by reaching out, whether by letter, email, Facebook post
  • Saying thank you

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Thanks 19

November 22, 2011 at 7:15 pm (Uncategorized)

Though, I’ve said it before, today I’m feeling thankful for where we live.

Auden and I just made a list of animals we have seen through Bothell and Kenmore to and from school: donkey, bald eagle, deer, coyote, falcon, squirrel, cow, goat, sheep, crane, horse, crow, dog, cat, rabbit, chickens. Children are so observant!

(for TODAY!)

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If you can’t find it,

November 6, 2011 at 11:04 pm (Uncategorized) ()

look in the car.

I’ve been putting off vacuuming out the car for about three weeks now. Ever since Greta spilled an entire bowl of Peanut Butter Panda Puffs AND ALSO an entire bowl of Life one morning.

Compared to how bad it could be, I think I do pretty well for somebody that carts four kids around for an hour a day. But eureka, I did find quite a few items I’d been thinking we were running low on. No, turns out they were just all in the car. Here is my inventory, to make you feel better about the state your car is in:

10 jackets/sweaters/fleeces
6 of my “good” spoons
2 sippy cups
1 plate
2 bowls
5 hats
~10 books
Countless other random toys, and a full bag of garbage.

Ah, feels better!

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Thanks

November 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Everybody seems to be doing 30 days of thankful November, so why not hop on the bandwagon? I’m nothing if not a trend follower, right? Except in fashion. My clothing style leaves much to be desired. It’s hard to look good when you aren’t willing to spend any money or time on shopping (or fitness). Anyhoo.

Today I am thankful for the furnace guy (I just realized you could think I meant that kind of serviceman, but no, I do not.). For the first time since last spring, we have heat! Turns out you actually have to replace the furnace filter for it to keep working. It’s only been truly cold inside the last 10 days or so (while we were waiting for our appointment), but it was enough to make me seriously happy for WARMTH today.

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Looking for Bugs

September 14, 2011 at 1:36 pm (Uncategorized)

My kids have been playing Slug Bug incessantly since they learned it at Summer Camp. Why yes, it’s as annoying as it sounds. We play International Federation Rules: when they see one, they put their hands on the ceiling and call “Slug Bug on ____”. I have a WISE camp counselor to thank for that.

Talking through the rules, refereeing fights about who saw one first, and comforting Greta when she gets “slugged”, all while operating a potentially lethal object? Oh yes, I love it. They do abide by Mom-imposed Slug Bug black-outs, but then they’re back at it.

Yesterday I was Slugged* 18 times on the way to school. Eighteen, I thought! How could there be 18 Bugs just getting to school? Either:

1) We drive by a VW dealership. No.

2) We were driving past a group on their way to a NW Beetle Convention. No.

3) Our morning drop-off circle is way too (*@ long. Well, yes. I just Google-mapped it at 13.8 miles. We all 5 pile out to drop off Willa, and all 4 pile out to drop off Greta, and sometimes 3 of us pile out again to get coffee, and 2 jump out at the curb at elementary school, and finally lonely me walks into work. But also…

4) My children are really good at finding things. I will choose to believe 4 .

Children have a way of focusing singularly on looking, without their minds wandering to “what should we have for dinner?” and “don’t forget to call so-and-so”. Before he was 2, Auden had $29 in his savings account that he “earned” himself. He found it in three separate incidents on park outings with his dad. I love remembering that about him, not because it was so cool he found money, but because he was so proud to find something he knew his dad valued. He was just as proud to point out aluminum cans on their walks (which Mark picks up and recycles). These days it’s VW Bugs. In the recent past, it’s been bald eagles and license plates.

As adults, we’d be better off spending more time looking and less time doing.

Greta is getting better at finding Bugs first. To her advantage, she’s closer to the front of the car. When she sees one first, oh how she giggles with glee! I love that newly four year-old giggle! She wants SO much to be first in life, after spending four years mostly in third. She runs ahead to be first everywhere we go. And she is Crushed when she’s not. Crushed with a capital C because that disappointment, and the crying and frustration that goes with it, it stops everybody’s day in its tracks.

I don’t always hate Slug Bug. I do play sometimes. Unsurprisingly, they’re much better at it than me.

But yesterday while we read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing? Parker asked me what “slug” (as a verb) means. [Sidenote: I have to say, I remember that book as much funnier than it is. I realize the whole premise is that Peter’s brother Fudge is an annoying pest to have around, but I recalled it being more about his laughable antics than about the older brother getting away with telling him to Shut Up and the mother being a total push-over for allowing both kids’ behavior. Perhaps I should stop re-reading books from my childhood and ruining them for myself.] “What?” I asked. “You’ve been playing Slug Bug all summer. You know what “Slug” means.” But he didn’t.

I realized, this whole time, they haven’t even known what the “Slug” in Slug Bug meant, or that the “traditional” method of Slug Bug involves hitting. Isn’t that ten kinds of awesome?

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