Thursday, August 27, 2015

Overheard

In just one month our life has completely changed. We've eased seamlessly into the new normal of three kids in school. It's truly a full act in every ring from getting three fed, packed, and out the door to rolling in with three homework folders and backpacks full of playground booty. Rocks and bottle caps mostly. I think my son's backpack weighs more than him when fully packed.

The biggest fight in the morning is getting my daughter to brush her hair. She won't let me touch her hair; only her father is allowed, apparently. Whatever.
Hot mess on Aisle 3
I don't really know how to girl, anyhow. Our morning conversations often sound like this:

Fiona, go brush your hair. 
NO. It'll hurt. 
A bird is going to land in your hair. GO BRUSH IT! 
Yeah, Fiona, you don't want birds in your hair, Owen says.

And she stomps off in a snit.

Did you use the detangler, Fiona? I ask. 
Fiona uses defanger? Owen asks. Come to think of it, that may be just what we need. 

Every time I catch you teasing your brother, I will take five minutes off your tablet time, I tell Fiona. She thought it over and then asked, How many times do I have to tease him to lose a whole hour of tablet time? So apparently tablet time and teasing her brother are equally fun. 

Mom, it's MY cat, Fiona said.
Um, no, it's the family's cat. 
I picked her out. 
Oh, well then, you can start scooping her poop. 
She's your cat, Fiona replied. That's what I thought!

Get away from me, Owen. Are you blind? Can't you see where I am? Fiona wails. Oh, the girl drama.

And "Duh" has become part of her vocabulary. I have a 6-year-old tween. My youngest is also getting over his mommy.

I want to sit next to dad. I've had enough of you, mom, Owen says. All righty. 

I hate gravity, says Owen, who lost his mind when his book bag wouldn't stay on the chair.

Mom, there's no such thing as no, Danny informs me after I decided not to take the kids to the skate park. I tried to keep a straight face.

My sweet boy who used to read to our pets is now taking out his boy energy on them.

Molly, keep your hands to yourself, Owen says as he lightly kicks her.
Don't kick the dog. And she doesn't have hands.

Don't put the cat in a headlock, Owen. 

He also picks up on everything on the radio, unfortunately. After hearing a commercial for a nudie bar that asked "Who wants to see half-naked ladies?", he had this to say:
If they go out without their shirts, they'll be arrested, mom.

Mom, Fiona is doing this to me, says Danny making air quotes with his fingers.
Do you even know what that means? I ask.
No. I turn to Fiona.
Do you know what that means? I ask her.
No. 
So you're both upset and you have no idea why? And I cannot even figure out how to explain air quotes to them.

And, finally, this ... 


Mom, Fiona is saving her cotton candy so that we will whine later.

A common Fiona taunting tactic. A common Danny response. This sums up the dynamic among my children so well.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Keeping it real

I don't want my kids telling tales in school about our nutty little family. I want to be sure that courtesy is extended to them. That is why I took a break from blogging: I was trying to figure out how to best preserve my children's privacy while still keeping it real.

Of course, you still need to know that my household resembles a frat house most days and my children are a hot mess much of the time. The stories that have fallen away are mainly the ones about bodily fluids and behaviors that are considered abnormal for a child's age. (But if you're struggling with an older child who has issues, by all means, private message me and I will spill all!)

We all know and are constantly chided about the dangers of posting about our children on social media. Done correctly, posting about your children is nothing more than a way to keep family and friends up to date and to keep it real with people you trust. All that's required to keep yourself safe online is common sense and judicial use of privacy settings.

Lately, however, I've been hearing criticism and advice regarding how parents talk about their children online. Common parental sentiments that I've seen come under fire include being relieved that kids are back in school, overwhelmed by children's needs, and a bit sad about them growing up.

One writer asked whether teens who see these kinds of posts might wonder if their mothers feel the same way. What are they picking up from what we write, she wondered?

Here's what I hope they pick up from such posts:

Parenting is hard work. Parents deserve to feel overwhelmed, relieved, frustrated, and even sad. Parents always love you but don't always have loving feelings toward you.
 
Children of a certain age deserve to know to a certain extent that these feelings exist. Children deserve to not be the center of the universe and have ever-happy parents circling about them.

I want my children to have a realistic picture of what parenthood is and what it isn't. So what if they know that sometimes mommy needs a break? I'd rather they see me as a balanced human being who models self-care than as someone who was always in a good mood no matter what. That is an unrealistic ideal that they may try to live up to as parents. They need people around them who experience negative feelings openly and deal with them appropriately. My go-to for venting tends to be sharing frustrations in a humorous way. Consequently, my children are fluent in sarcasm and hyperbole. Some people are neither fluent nor amused by these things. I am not responsible for how you react to what I say.

If you're seeing a post about an unpleasant scene in my house, it's because I trust you not to judge and believe that you need to know you're not alone. Those friends of mine on social media are MY friends. Handpicked and grouped by whom I think would like to hear what. I have mom friends and fitness friends and professional friends and some others. I tailor my messages so that a mom friend in the weeds of early childhood doesn't have to hear about my fitness feats or my professional friends don't have to hear gross kid stories. And we all hide things from relatives, don't we? The last thing I need as a parent, or, heck, a human being is to suppress my feelings.

There is an ever growing list of criticisms of parents coming from all directions and most often from other moms.

Don't be sad they're growing up.

Don't dance and sing because they're back at school.

Don't share negative feelings about your kids with your friends on social media.

How about this for a don't?

Don't tell others how to experience parenthood.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Top 5 reasons I am an a$$hole

According to my children, I am an asshole. And here is why:

1. I wouldn't take them to the skate park on a 90+ degree day. They spent 30 minutes there the night before with their friends so naturally they felt entitled to go again the next day. I was informed by my 8 year old that there's no such thing as "No" and that no means yes.
2. I took them to the pool for 40 minutes after dinner. Only 40 minutes. On a school night. They even got to play with friends from school. I'm so mean.
3. I didn't bring any snacks. Clearly, they could have starved to death.
4. I had nothing but watermelon with whipped cream and a cherry for dessert.  Apparently, I am supposed to have a buffet of baked and frozen treats.
5. I let them play on the playground at the pool for 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes. On a school night, no less. The nerve of me.

Ah well. I shall do better tomorrow. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

To save or not to save?

Today's task was cleaning up my desk. I dug out from under a mountain of random kid junk from bottle caps and hair ties to crayon drawings and paper airplanes. The impetus for this effort was a stack of back-to-school forms and contents from three folders mingling with the kid junk. Before I could fill out forms or sort anything, I needed a clean slate.  

With my youngest in kindergarten now, the stream of paper coming home will only intensify. In my experience, kindergarten and first grade are the peak years for copious artwork. Last year my daughter brought home every scrap of paper she stapled or taped together and even saved scraps of paper that she had cut. She made countless "books" and drew dozens of pictures of skyscrapers. In the first three weeks of school, I've seen 10 pages of nearly identical drawings of rainbows, a few pages worth of mazes and dot-to-dot sheets, some math homework, and a spelling test.

I'm torn between saving these priceless pieces of their childhood and using them as kindling for a bonfire. My hesitation for the latter option? I just never know when one of them is going to come back and ask for a random picture that I may have thrown away, which then starts the cycle of hoarding everything so mommy doesn't throw it out. 

I've heard several ideas today:
  • Save everything - If I did this, I'd have to rent a storage unit.
  • Throw it all in a box and go through it later - Um, if I don't go through it when it crosses my desk, I'm not going to do it later.
  • Pick the favorites and throw them in a folder - Solid idea, but, oh, the indecision! 
  • Send them off to far-flung relatives - This is doable. My kids love mail - sending and receiving. 
  • Use some drawings as gift wrap - This is an option for my daughter's rainbow drawings! 
  • Let the kids pick out their favorites - Seriously? My children would keep every scrap of paper they ever put pencil or scissors to. 
  • Take a photo of the work and turn it into a book - My favorite idea so far. I turned blog posts from my kids' first year into a book for them with a self-publishing program called Blurb. Turns out, there's an app for that now. It's called Artkive and it's as easy as taking a picture, adding a note, and saving it to put into a book later. This is a costly option - $129 for 50 images and up to $259 for 200 images. Saving photos and putting them in a book using another service, such as Shutterfly, is also an option.  
  • Throw it all out - As much as I hate clutter, this seems a little heartless.
All these ideas have their merits and work well for many families. But I do wonder ... When I or my children look at all this in 30 years, will these pieces of paper be meaningful to us? Do I want to overwhelm my children with paperwork in the future? (No.) Do I want to dedicate space in my house for this? (No.) Do I ever wish that I had mementos from my own childhood? (No.) Do they or I really need a piece of paper or even an image to assist in memory? 

This afternoon my desk looked like this ... 
 
It was a small victory. My children came home and promptly dropped off a Scholastic book catalog and a piece of origami. At least they put their folders in my Inbox.

 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Overheard

Life is humming along over here. We're in the third full week of school: checking three folders, monitoring three lunch-makers (yeah, I have them making their own lunches), overseeing three morning and afternoon and evening routines. Tomorrow we have back to school night where my husband and I will attempt to hit three classrooms in one night with three children plugged into to their tablets.
 
The older two are making their own lunches. Owen is heavily assisted but still involved in packing his lunch. He's a little gourmand and has packed such items as grapes and raw spinach.  

I'm the taste tester, Owen declares as I'm doing my weekly food prep. Of course you are, dear.

I am hungry, mama. 
I don't have any food right now. 
Then I hear a small whisper behind me ... But you are the food maker.

He's having a great time at school and even picking up some Spanish from a classmate. He keeps telling his siblings "Bad moose." I figured out that he was saying "Vamos." 

Keeping a kid with ADHD on task in the morning is maddening and hilarious at the same time. I send him up to brush his teeth and find him playing with Legos or petting the cat. And he talks so much in the morning. It's as if he's been saving up ideas for 10 hours. Here are a few sample conversations with my ADHD son:

We have to take EOGs this year.
Yup.
I like third grade. We learn new things, like times (multiplication).
Yup. (On the second sip of coffee.)
Yeah. I talk a lot.
(That's an understatement.)
Do you learn more when you talk or when you listen and watch? I ask.
Listen and watch.
Danny, you have two eyes and two ears and one mouth so you should listen and watch twice as much as you talk.

And here's where we go off the rails ...
It's like I have one eye. I can't see my nose.
Uh huh.
Ooooh. What's this?
An empty salsa jar.
Oh, it says middle salsa. What's the lowest salsa level?
Mild. It says mild.

And another ...
Time: 6:45am Coffee level: 0
What's in water?
Um. It comes from rain.
Rain comes from clouds, Fiona chimes in. And a conversation about thunder ensues. Then this ...
How did the world get made? Danny asks.
Coffee level is still zero ... So much talking.

Owen got a new haircut last week.
I have a tent on my head, Owen announces. His father just gave him this haircut ...

I was sounding out words for Owen.
Cuh. O. Buh. What does that say?
Butt. B-U-T-T spells butt.

Danny won't let me have a turn on the rings, Owen complained.
And as Jim was walking to the back yard to sort it out, Owen followed him asking, Are you going to kick him in the nuts? I pray that our neighbor did not hear that!


Fiona has fabulous ideas lately. Our mealtime conversations are quite creative.
What makes a tornado? Danny asked at dinner one night.
Oh, I know, Fiona pipes up. It's a spatula that whisks the clouds around really fast. 
You mean, a whisk? I ask. 
Yeah.
And then the spatula flips the houses over, Jim adds. Oh sure, this sounds plausible. 

And this one ...
Mom, come look how organized my dollhouse is. And look at the attic. That's where grandma lives because she's nuts. She put even put a treadmill in their for grandma. I fear for my future.

Until next time ...

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Honeymoon

All teachers know that the first 10 to 15 days of school are the honeymoon phase. Kids tend to hold it together pretty well for teachers and their peers in this period. It's a period of somewhat blissful harmony. To really know what the year will look like, ask a teacher three weeks in.

I have a feeling the same is true at home. My house is tidier than it's been in years. Notice I didn't say clean. For now, I'm settling for just not seeing kid junk on every surface of my house, including the floor. The kids are keeping their rooms clean. The kitchen isn't constantly sticky and the dishes and laundry aren't backed up.

The kids aren't fighting quite as much, either. Luckily, there aren't enough waking hours at home in the day for full blown Fight Club Mode. But there are still explosions; some I can prevent or fix right away and others that leave me standing there asking "What the hell just happened?".

One day I forgot to start the audio book on the way home and had a three way brawl in the backseat within four minutes of picking them up. They are now within striking distance of each other so there is no longer the hope of physical separation. Pushed play and then ... silence. Whew. That was close. I almost lost a day's worth of serenity that I had soaked up poolside. 

Another sticky point in their day comes when all three tromp into the kitchen with lunch boxes to empty. With two boys who never stop moving, collisions happen. After one collision mid-kitchen, a full out brawl broke out. All I could do was step out of the way and pray that no one's head hit a sharp corner.

Once those bumps are sorted out, the kids head upstairs for one hour of screen time on their tablets. And silence once again. I fix dinner and wait for the inevitable squawks from the boys when their time is up. They still subscribe to the "let's see how long we can whine before mom gives in" school.  Since I've had time to breath in their seven-hour absence, they'll be waiting a long time.

There are signs that the honeymoon phase is giving way to the new normal, though. There's some homework trickling in. It's just minor record-keeping of the reading my son does anyway. However,  I may need to put blinders on my ADHD third grader to keep him on task for one simple question per day about his reading.  

Owen had his first sick day. The next morning when it was time to get dressed for school he was surprised that he had to go. It seems that one day at home in his jammies with mama spoiled the boy.

And today I fear that the dam has burst. It was a first Wednesday of the month and that means early release for them. I picked them up at 1:30 and took them the pool where they fought the entire time. I yanked them out, took them home and tossed them in their rooms with electronics.

Now it is quiet. Just the way I like it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Overheard

I used to write this column once a week. It's been my most popular feature here. Over a year ago, I stopped being able to keep track of the funny and weird things that my kids said.

The kids have been in school for a whole week. I have some of my mental energy back. I'm calmer and have a better memory. A quick update on each of the kids:

Danny is in third grade and actually shares what he's learned at school without prompting. This is stunning because for years we've asked "What did you do at school today?" and gotten a vacant stare and a "Nothing." He's delighted to be learning multiplication. Our dinner conversation has been all math, all week.

Fiona is in first grade. She has a real knack for figuring people out. For instance, she figures out exactly which Lego piece her brother needs and vehemently insists that she needs it. She occasionally uses this power for good. Despite this, she is my easiest kid right now.

Owen just started kindergarten. His teacher says that he is so happy to be there and is doing great. Kindergarten is exhausting, though. He put himself to bed one night this week.

And without further ado ...

Put the blanket behind the couch and the cookbook on the shelf, I tell Owen.
Oh, that's just for Molly. He often puts out blankets and books for the dog and cat.
Molly doesn't read cookbooks, honey.


Owen, your shoes are on the wrong feet.
Mom, did you know that plants need dirt? Um, yes, but your shoes, son. YOUR SHOES!


Mom, Owen is chasing me! Danny wails.
Honey, Owen is swimming in the opposite direction.

Go upstairs, Danny. Daddy is going do a hairstyle, Fiona squeals. My husband braids our daughter's hair and spikes the boys' hair.

Look mom, there's a skunk bird, Owen says. It's black and white. He's talking about the white breasted nut hatches we have in our yard. I like skunk bird better.

Go get a baby wipe for your hands, I tell Owen.
Why? My hands don't wear diapers.

What church are we going to today? Are we going to the eating church? Owen asks. We ate dinner at this church once and it's forever the eating church in his mind.

I'm angry at you. I'm going to stand up now. And he proceeded to stand up on the bench at the kitchen table. I tried really hard not to laugh.

Put that lip back in, I tell Owen. And he immediately tucked his lip back in and continued to glare at me.

Honey, don't ever put your hand in there when the [van] door is closing.
Why?
Because it will pinch your hand.
Fiona pipes up: And then you won't have a hand anymore and mom will have to feed you.

I was reading the kids a book about whining (at their request). 
Are you ever around anyone who whines? the book asks.
No, but you are, mommy, Fiona replies.
Oh yeah? Who?
Me.

B-U-T spells but, mom, but not our butts, Danny says.
You're right. B-U-T is a connecting word. It connects two ideas, I say, trying to steer the conversation away from potty talk.
Yeah, he says, wide-eyed. Mom, this is lemonade. Welcome to the mind of an ADHD 8-year-old. 

Copy me, Danny says.
Copy me, Fiona responds.
No, you copy me.
No, you copy me. This went on for 10 minutes straight. I wanted to poke my eyeballs out. 

Listen to the words I say and do what I say. Right now, you're just listening to the words and doing what you want to do, Jim tells the kids. And why is he still surprised by this?

Mom, Fiona knocked over my tower, Owen declared when his tower toppled over.
No, honey, gravity knocked it over, I assured him.
[GROWL] Fiona did gravity, Owen declared.

Till next week.