Thursday, July 30, 2015


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.
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?

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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hearing voices

Going back to work was always in the loose plans my husband and I had for the day that Mommy's Super Awesome Preschool and Camp ended and elementary school took over. In fact, my daughter asked me this morning if I was going to get a job.

"You said that I could go to gymnastics when you get a job," she reminded me. Sigh. I did say that.
I've been home full time for six years. No pay, no vacation, very few positive job reviews. It's been yoga pants and pony tails, Diet Coke and Luna Bars, noise and mess and very little sleep. Some days my biggest victory was keeping the kids alive and the house from burning down. 

What I have done is save my family thousands of dollars in child care costs. And by pursuing work that allows me to be a parent first, I can continue to save us money. In fact, I did the math on putting three kids in after school care and camps - nearly $16,000. Even if I worked part time in an office, we'd pay for care during school breaks. Intersession camps alone would cost us about $8,000. 

And still there are voices in my head (and my living room) saying that's not enough.

There's a voice in my head that says I'm a burden because I don't put money in the bank, yet the proof of my financial contribution is there for the calculating.

There's a voice in my head that says I need to be productive with my new freedom. My house should be cleaner. My husband shouldn't be helping with the laundry because I have time to do it all now. Meals should be more elaborate than the usual taco and pasta nights. That pile of fabric isn't going to sew itself, chica. Those baseboards are dirty. That bathroom needs to be painted.

There's a voice in my head that says I should really do something productive before doing something for myself such as exercise or have coffee with friends. See, I need to earn those things, the voices say.
Where did this notion come from that cold, hard cash defines your worth? Why do I, after eight years of parenthood, still feel like I'm "just a mom"? No matter how many mom voices chime in on how we are "enough" the thoughts are still there. Theories and comments welcome.

That said, I am taking baby steps in crafting this new phase. I don't want to struggle to fit work and exercise and housework into a busy a family life. Is this unrealistic? I think not.   

Monday, July 27, 2015

Day One

Today I barely spoke to anyone for seven hours. Except for my husband who called me 5 minutes after leaving for school with all three of our kids and opened with "You won't believe this ... " After removing my heart from stomach, I sat for an hour not watching Curious George, chatting with my sister and fighting the urge to be productive.

I did not tell anyone to stop wearing their comforter around the house like a ceremonial robe.

I did not beg anyone to get dressed or, for the love of God, get their shoes on. (Although my daughter's teacher met me in the hall at pick up with the shoes my daughter forgot to wear to dismissal.)

I did not once say "No toys in the kitchen" or "Sit on your bottom" or "Keep your hands to yourself."

I did not talk to anyone while I was in the bathroom.

I did not have to slog through blanket forts and toy mazes.

I did not say "No, we're not buying that" 50 times in the grocery store.

And now that I think of it, I can't remember cursing at all today.

I haven't blogged in over a year for reasons I don't fully understand. Lack of mental energy, though, tops my list of theories. Somehow, when they were little, my mental energy was more intact while physically I was utterly exhausted. I have lots of excuses, but no regrets about my blogging hiatus.

Obviously, my thoughts are turning to what is next for me. I am in that fuzzy place between what I want to do and what I can do right now to lend financial support to my family. I am also in that anxious place of wanting to do everything right away: start my business, clean and declutter top to bottom, repaint bedrooms and bathrooms, sew and knit through my entire stash of fabric and yarn, distill my early blogs into some sort of book, and write. (Yes, I am sort of committing to being "back." Blame my sister who said I should start blogging again.)

So what did I do today?

I swam. I biked. I let Molly dog convince me to rub her belly for 20 minutes. I began to write. I ate lunch. I took a nap. I went into a store, alone, got what I needed and left.

Today was that day. The day I wrote about years ago while slinging an infant and two toddlers around. The day that seemed a mirage. The day I would actually attend to personal hygiene before greeting my children in the kitchen, make breakfast for only myself and gather only my own belongings and get in the car.

That one day has turned into day one of the next phase.