Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Not-So-Secret Identity

Walking up to my house this morning, I see my neighbor. We wave to each other. She is a fun gal; last night we were out at Belmont Station, sipping a pint, then a glass, and cackling about all sorts of stuff. Last night we were known as Two Ladies Out For An Evening. Today, however, we just wave and smile and return to our houses, slipping back into our mundane roles as Moms Who Have Just Dropped Their Kids Off and are now facing the reality of Housework and Other Important Tasks.

Now, before you start asking me why I'm typing instead of scrubbing, let me assure you: this is the calm before the storm. Or rather, this is me taking a few moments before addressing The Aftermath, which is the result of Kiddo being home sick for two days and my usual jobs being put off.

Why put off the jobs when he is sick? Well, if you want to know the desperate truth, it is this: after most of the year of having contractors around the house and a little boy making messes everywhere, I want to be able to complete a few chores and have those areas looking nice for at least a couple hours before crumbs begin to hit the flooragain, before three loads are folded and the pile of clothes delivered to his room is met with an "awwww.... I hate putting it away" (just wait until you are eight and get the privilege of learning how to do it!). I need the quiet so I can crank up a cd loud and scrub the bathroom, wiping away the toothpaste spatter from the wainscoting and scrubbing the shower and tub with the sharp, pungent smell of vinegar and water. 

Kiddo wants to earn a dollar vacuuming the bathroom this afternoon, which is highly necessary. Yesterday I'd done some digging with my pants rolled up and before sprinting out the door in the evening, I unrolled the cuffs, only to deposit an acre of topsoil on the Marmoleum. Most was cleaned up, but between the bit that was pushed to the side plus the hair-- all the hair-- on the floor, it is a must for today. If Kiddo decides not to do it, I will, and I will pay myself with a nice glass of ale, thank you. Yes, I rate more for pay than the kid does, but I do an awesome and thorough job of vacuuming, if I do say so myself. I actually get the walls and corners where the spiders set up shop, spinning their webs and leaving the cobwebs behind like ephemeral ruins, destined to be gone so quickly.

Let's not even discuss the yardwork that's calling me. At least the zinnias still look good. Last night a neighbor friend stopped us on the way to the pub and told me that she had been planning to leave me a note. "I walk past your house all the time and I just wanted to thank you for your garden. " Wow! It only motivates me to get out there a bit more often...

But for now, work to do, a radio to crank up. Dishes in the sink are muttering at me from last night, acting like surly neglected children. The house-wide dirty laundry call comes first, getting a load started is of utmost importance. We all like clothes--- at least, it's the law around these parts. Plus, there's dinner to think about..... the work of a stay at home mom is never done, but I might take pictures of the clean areas, just to remind myself that it really, truly happened.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sympathy Soup

Kiddo is busy; "just five or six more minutes of Lego time and then I have soup for you."


"I know, you don't like being sick." In our house, sick means soup. Lots of chicken soup. Chicken soup coming out your ears, maybe. Kiddo, however, doesn't like soup. I'm not sure any kid of mine could not like soup, but apparently this isn't an inherited trait, soup-liking.

In any case, because he's going to have to suffer through a bowl of soup, I tried to get the kind he liked best least disliked and I'm making some sympathy soup for myself. Of course, I will enjoy my bowl of soup in ways he will not, however this is better than heartlessly eating something really delicious, like a grilled cheese sandwich, in front of him. Which I really am craving, but will not indulge in.

A pan of boiling water, a veggie golden-broth bouillon cube, some chopped carrot and celery and a handful of egg noodles. Easy peasy and Kiddo has company in his liquidy lunch. I'll use some special plates, give him a stack of soda crackers and let him go at it. Applesauce will be the treat for finishing.... applesauce with lots of cinnamon.

Kiddo is home, the jazz station is playing Oscar Peterson, the windows are open and the sun is shining. What could be better? Sorry Kiddo's sick, but I'm going to enjoy this moment anyway.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


You know what I like about being my kid's mom? It's that I really know him. Not just the things he likes-- his favorite shows and toys or which kind of Lara bar he'd rather have-- but what he's really about. Who he is, uniquely, and what he needs from me.

Today, the word 'upbeat' came into my head. We've had a good day today, the day before school starts. The guys started work on the windows and it just made sense to head out into the day, to break up the usual daily routine and have some novelty. To be honest, the day hadn't started at all well, but I got that off my chest early on and moved forward. We went out to search for a Thermos initially and I structured the day around it to include lunch at a favorite sushi restaurant--he's getting better with his chopsticks, a trip to the zoo for an hour or so, a jaunt back downtown to buy a Clone Wars thermos (hey, at least Yoda is on it) , a stop at Pearl Bakery for us to share a croissant and a much-needed small latte pour moi, a visit to Powell's to browse ( Must note the new Alan Say book "The Favorite Daughter", a lovely story) , shopping for groceries and a partridge in a pear tree. We took the 4:12 bus home to our little neighborhood and voila! we had just enough down time before dinner and rolling into bedtime. 

Did I talk about school? No. Did I mention anything he might be worried about? No. I let him just lead the conversations and was present with him, delighting in some silly things, hurting my back to help him up high enough to see fish jumping out of the water as they were being fed... it was worth it, the look on his face. He had an Icee of an unrealistic blue color and got the cold shivers in the shade and we snuggled up to warm him and he just giggled. Giggling, too, at the invitation to smell the 'strong scent of the bobcat....uses its pungent urine to mark it's territory'~um, no thanks! It was the light and silly moments that made the day good. Even just agreeing to the crappy merchandised thermos somehow made the day better. It was as though even if I couldn't give him a perfect life or a perfect school year, at least he had something he thought was cool and actually cared about. Even if just using the thermos for lunch is something that makes him happy for a few moments for a few weeks, that's something, right?

Upbeat is how I think we have to be, when we see our kids walking into new challenges. It's okay to empathize, but to also move through that empathetic moment to the "looking forward" moment. Today, when school was mentioned by him, I said that yeah, it's going to be different, and I am so glad his buddy will be in his class. When he complained after dinner about it, I had him help choose the goodies for his lunch box. I want him to be sure to have something to look forward to, and this is one area I actually can have control and offer control to him. The conversation also gently veered to "it will be fun to have recess with your friends again" and "It will be interesting to see what sort of things will be in your new classroom". 

The challenge, I think, will come in a few days or a few weeks, when the honeymoon (if any) ends. I am dreading the mountains of paperwork I will get in the next week or so, and know that life is going to change for our family with the quantity and nature of homework, for him being gone 6 hours a day in instruction.... so I'm going to try to be upbeat for myself as well. Remembering to take care of myself, to take walks, to chant "this too shall pass" when it's him and "it's not him, it's me" when my hormones kick into gear. I will watch comedies, get books on disc to listen to while I work, and avoid NPR for a while-- the war drums make me anxious. This is a time to batten down the hatches a bit, to accept that it's going to be a rough few months as these transitions are, and do what I can to stay upbeat for us. Sometimes, one parent has to lead the charge and guide the family through changes and I'm up to the task. Upbeat to it. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Pre-Season Season

10, 9, 8....  a few days ago, the countdown began. School was starting in a week or so and to add to the chaos, our new kitchen windows (at long last!) would finally be coming in from the factory. This is the last installment of our 9 months of work being done on the house. It's been worked on since January, from the inside out. Our bathroom got a facelift, our garage got new siding, the old boards on the house were replaced, small repairs made, our whole little bungalow now painted a cheery, bricky-orange color. The windows and a screen door for the back are the very last things on our once-long list.

And, of course, the work on the windows would start the day before school begins as well. Just because life is messy and doesn't like to shake out her linens much--  life seems to like things crumpled up and folded on each other instead of lying smoothly. Sometimes, I really do wish I could take  steam iron to Life, press it flat and readable instead of being stuck with so much of it-- gobs of it-- that my arms just feel full trying to gather it all up and figure out what to do with it. 

Enough with the fabric of life stuff... in any case, being that I am a planner to the nth degree and that I have learned that I cannot control people, but I can most certainly, all preschool-teacher-ish, control the environment, that is the direction I usually go in. The devil might be in the details, but if one is examining the details -- really questioning and scrutinizing--one might be able to flush the devil out. Or at least give him less hiding places.

I call this the pre-season season, because much like spring training for major league baseball, this progression to The Season has become its own event. My brain has been humming as my life is filling in the blanks to the question "and then what?" and my days have been busy as I act on the answers.

Here's a great example: the kitchen nook where we eat and do homework is getting a new casement window. Okay, this seems mundane  but it is something to cheer about because I will now have a kitchen window that actually opens easily. (read: without swearing or sweat). That said, the crank of the window needs to be accessible, and so the chest of drawers we've had in front of the old, crappy window must be moved. To where? Good question. How about that spot in the living room, near the door? We can remove that other small two-drawer thing with all our outdoor clothes and put them in the bottom drawer of the chest. 

But the chest has also got a lot of the things we need for homework. What about that? Thus, I begin to reevaluate the homework situation. Like many young kids, Kiddo is easily distracted and so sometimes homework can take a loooong time, mainly because we are looking out the window or the guys (our friendly carpenters) are walking through or we just have too much going on. So~ maybe the dining room is the place to do the homework? The table would face a wall which offers far less visual distractions than the big picture window. (I've had to close the curtains during homework time on more than one occasion.) And if we use the dining table, of course we'll need a protective cover for it, but we'll also need to center it to that wall, so that means we need to move the small 'nature' table we have... but move it to a corner where the stereo speaker is-- hey, set the speaker on part of it and there's enough room for a basket with pens, scissors, glue stick, etc.-- now we have a little area for homework supplies....

And so, all of this unfolds like an onion, layer after layer, moving things to solve one problem and then figuring out what other considerations must be kept in mind. This extends beyond the material as well... because it's  not just the environment that needs my attention,  it's  also the structure, the routines of our day that also need review. For instance, last year Kiddo attended half-day kindergarten, which, in my opinion, was a good choice for our child and our family. But now he'll be in school a little over six hours a day. That's a long time for both of us. I have goals for this winter which I want to work toward:  more walking, prioritizing a few projects, volunteering in the school library again and finishing a very large project there I began last school year. Plus all of that daily housework-type stuff. Plus, this summer I learned a very important thing about Kiddo, too, which is that he does fairly well with schoolwork if you sit with him and help him stay focused. 

That, in itself, means that I have to imagine what our 'after school' time might look like. As I consider the expectations of the first grade teachers (reading 20  minutes a day, for a start), I realize that much of the time between school letting out at 3 and starting dinner around 5 is going to be gobbled up quickly. Lingering to play at school playground, the walk home, a snack, homework... all these things take time. Which means I'll be prepping dinners earlier in the day, no shopping or doing housework or anything like that. Just getting a (likely exhausted) Kiddo from point A to point B with the least conflict, stress or drama possible. 

Honestly, I am expecting a couple of very hard months as Kiddo readjusts to these new expectations. I am expecting we will all go to bed a bit earlier because hard times for our children usually mean hard times for the parents as well. Everyone gets stretched and frankly, stretching hurts a hell of a lot at first. We will be more supple as we roll into winter, but autumn challenges me to think ahead, predict which areas of life will be problematic and to try to troubleshoot as we go forward. 

It's Labor Day weekend and tomorrow is Monday, the last day before all the action starts. We'll be moving more furniture out of the way, the banging and hammering (and swearing, likely) will begin on Tuesday as the new windows find their new homes, then school begins the next day. Our school was getting a new roof this summer-- thanks to those who voted for that bond measure-- and those roofers are working on a tight schedule, so no Meet and Greet with the teacher the day before school. Kiddo is going in cold, but I'll pack him a tasty lunch and hope for the best. 

The Pre-Season is winding up and the Season starts too soon. In the meantime, we are also prioritizing fun. Yesterday we went out to the country for a friend's birthday gathering: Kiddo played ball with our friends' dogs, built forts, and the adults just did what we often do-- hung out and just chatted, catching up after too long. Today, too, we're going to enjoy ourselves. I'm taking Kiddo to the nickel arcade and hopefully the afternoon weather won't be too oppressively hot so that we can enjoy the park on the way home. I'll be trying to schedule some fun into our upcoming days....

Do you have any secrets for helping kids transition from summer laxity to school time? Leave a comment and share your tips with us. We are all still learning, aren't we?