Thursday, August 30, 2012

A little yearning and being on the other side (again)

Today I went to N's school for a Girl Scout rally, of sorts.  A couple other troop leaders and I talked to kindergartners, 2nd graders, and 5th graders (with maybe a smattering of girls from some other grades) about Girl Scouts.

N has gotten to do some really neat things as part of Girl Scouts (especially since I took over as leader), and so I am pleased to be able to share this with other girls and hopefully help them have similar experiences.

But while we were at the school, I remembered how much as a teacher, I ABHORRED interruptions to my instruction.  It pissed me the hell off because it was a distraction to the students, it got me out of my flow, it put me behind in my lesson.  And I thought I only felt differently about summer break now that I'm a full-time mom and not a teacher.

I also realized how much middle school suits me.  Talking to the 5th graders was pleasant.  Talking to the kindergartners was torture.  They wiggled.  They wobbled.  They asked questions that were not questions but statements of fact or opinion.  When I asked if anyone had questions, one little girl raised her hand and said, "On Max & Ruby, Ruby is a Girl Scout."  I didn't burst her bubble to inform her that 1.) that wasn't a question and 2.) Ruby is a Bunny Scout, not a Girl Scout.  Those technicalities would have gone over her 5-year-old head anyway.

Afterwards I just hung out in N's classroom (where I decided that 3rd graders are about the youngest group I would care to teach).  There was less than 45 minutes until school let out, and I didn't want to drive home to have to drive back for car-rider line.

Sitting there, watching the students, I felt that longing to have my own classroom.  The longing to be educating kids other than my own (because I'm not their "mom" they would be more apt to listen).  The longing to be using my head to plan lessons and converse with colleagues.  The longing to be part of something outside of my own house and family.

Ah, there is always a but.

I just don't know if I can do it.  I'm simply not the same person I was when I taught, and I don't know if that will make me a better or worse teacher.  I don't know that I want the constancy of the work.  But I don't know that subbing (and not planning or having a say in how things are done) will satisfy me either.  It will on a time/flexibility level, but not on an intellectual level.

I thought by almost 39 I was supposed to know what I wanted to be as an adult.

Not so deep thoughts

Here is what has been running through my mind lately.....

*I love my children, but I hate watching them play Kinnect video games.  Or any video games.  Video games are just not my thing.  Nor is watching tv.  I can handle a movie....occasionally (although I have rarely finished a movie with the kids because someone always needs something during it requiring that I get up and miss various parts).

My kids, though, like me to watch them play video games.  So I do.  Sorta.  Blogging at the same time about how much I dislike watching them play video games.  Of course, I have to stop typing repeatedly to help them fix the Xbox or just now.  This is so their daddy's area of expertise, and I generally tell them to do it with him.  But some days, I'm not so lucky.

*I miss waking up gradually, especially now that I am stepping more firmly into middle age.  I miss stretching my limbs, yawning, laying in the half-wakefulness of the morning.  Being awoken from a dead sleep at 6:00 am every morning and having to get up immediately, tripping down the steps in a fog, is not cool.

*Nutsedge grass sucks.

*I am really, really glad I have 3 children because it makes me really, really done with whatever phase we've just finished.  It is a nice not linger with sentimental weepiness about not ever having another baby.  And I don't want a puppy either.

*My arm muscles look really quite good since my friends and I switched from at-home bootcamp to at-the-gym bootcamp.  I'd be lying if I said I don't make muscle poses in the bathroom mirror.

*Having children means constantly hemorrhaging money.  And while I am glad that we have the funds to cover things, it still sucks to have to take chunks of that hard-saved money and pay for bills.  I don't have to worry how I will pay bills, but I do worry about how long it will take me to recoup savings.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The "Talk"

We have blow-outs in this house.  Not between me and D, as we are adults who know when to back the heck off.  The blow-outs are between me and the kids:

*Me and N when she fidgets and putzes and gets cranky when learning a new piano piece and wails, "This is too hard!" and is generally uncooperative.  (Being a complete arse when she would never, ever dream of being this way with her piano teacher.)

*Me and G when he continues to pester his siblings after I have repeatedly asked him not to do so.  When he smacks M in the back, ignoring his younger brother's cries to stop.

When D and I first saw the movie Mystery Men, he told me I am Ben Stiller's character, "Volcano."  I get my panties in a twist, lose it (especially when dealing with completely irrational people) and then I'm ok.

But I don't particularly want my children to be as I am, the "ticking time bomb of fury."

So what happens after mommy loses her shit is that I calm down and N or G calms down and then we talk about what happened.  I apologize for becoming so angry but explain why their behavior frustrated me.  We, more or less, "kiss and make-up."

The other day after a blow-up with N over piano practice, we went up to her room and, I believe, screamed into her pillow a few times.  When she came downstairs, she asked if she could go into the basement and watch tv.  I agreed.  Then she said, "When you get done, will you come down and have The Talk with me?"  I said, "The Talk?"  She replied, "You know, when you say your sorry..."

When she said this, it kinda pissed me off.  That I'm the one saying "I'm sorry" and coming to her to see if she is ok.  That she expects this to happen.

It also saddened me.  That I blow up in the first place, necessitating "The Talk" afterwards.

So we talked, and I told her I don't like that I become so frustrated, but I do.  Because she doesn't behave the same way with me as she does with her piano instructor.  Because she always becomes frustrated with a piece of music as she's learning it (and takes it out on me), but then feels proud of herself once she knows it and can play it well.

Through our talk, it became apparent that her behavior was mostly due to getting an orthodontic appliance earlier in the day and feeling worried that her friends at school would make fun of her.  So we talked about that.

And then we gave each other a kiss and hugged.  After dinner she had a good piano practice with a good attitude.

I've continued to mull that talk over and all the various "talks" we've had.  It hurts my parental pride a bit to say I'm sorry, but at the same time, I know that it is this consideration and communication that   keep relationships mostly satisfying.  And I hope that my family, as the kids grow, is one in which we can disagree but remember that we love each other and we've got each others' backs.  That none of us is perfect.  That sometimes "volcanoes" do occur and it isn't the end of the world.  That we forgive each other for being human.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Learning from more motherhood experiences...

Here's what I learned or was reminded about motherhood this summer.


1. Motherhood is a sacrifice, but I can only speak to the sacrifice of stay-at-home mothering.  From my experience, I sacrifice my sanity and my intellectual mind.  Kids who come from homes in which there is constant fighting between parents have emotional issues.  The same can be said of mothers who stay at home with their kids and listen to children bicker and scream and make demands all day long.  It is emotionally exhausting.  M will holler, with his index finger pointing at my face, "You in bad mood!!!" when I fuss at him for something or ask him to do something he does not want to do.  Most of the time I think to myself, "Yes, I am in a bad mood, and it stems a great deal from my children not cooperating with what I asking them to do then screaming at me that I am in a bad mood."

The intellectual sacrifice is that I am unable to read or write or have an uninterrupted adult conversation.  I think in terms of potty and superheroes and Justice clothing.  

Being a stay-at-home mom is worth that sacrifice.  I wanted to make it eight years ago, and I still want to make it now.  

But it is an absolutely exhausting role.   


2. I've read things written by psychologists about how if a parent gives a child 5-10 minutes of their full attention a day it will often make the kid less demanding.  This has NEVER happened in my house.  Whenever I do things in which I am spending time with the kids and not being distracted by housework or email or whatever, I find that the kids just want (and expect) more and more and more of me.  


3. There comes a point where it is nearly impossible to find something that all your children will enjoy, which is probably the MAIN REASON why summer is such a royal pain.   OR if there is something they will all enjoy, there is an upper limit age-restriction.  

At the local science museum, the children's play area is supposed to be for kids 7 and under.  The problem is that I'm not going to allow N to walk around the rest of the museum while I am on the 1st floor with the boys (not that she would want to).  Nor does she just want to sit next to me and do nothing.  But she also really doesn't want to play in the little kiddie area.  

At a local children's gym, they have preschool open gym....but N is too old to attend.  On the weekends, they have it for older kids, but I worry that G and M would be run over by bigger kids.  

At the pool this summer there were occasions in which N was at the 12 foot jumping off the diving board, G was in the 3-foot and M was in the kiddie pool.  I was popping ibuprofen in anticipation of the whiplash I would have from my head being on a swivel the entire morning.  

Even though N is BY FAR the easiest of the kids because she is 8 years old, having her go off to school means that the boys can play similar games, watch similar tv shows and do similar things without being bored to tears and whining.  And I don't feel guilty that she is being bored to tears.  She is learning and being stimulated and around children her own age.  


4. My kids popped out of my body with the personalities/temperament already laid in place.  My personality---the curmudgeonly, loud and excitable person I am---is not going to change.  For better or worse, they have this momma with whom to contend.  I love them.  I tell them what I like about them and that I love them.  I sacrifice my career and money to be with them during their formative years.  I try to share with them some of the things I love to do in life, in the hopes that they will find some pleasure in it too.   I try to educate them, expose them to all sorts of adventures and experiences.  But I fail them every day as well.  That is life.  That is motherhood.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Obsessing about food

After gestational diabetes and the measuring/fretting I did over every morsel that went into my mouth (which contributed to my OCD becoming a real and true disorder rather than a personality quirk), I really have to be careful when it comes to food.

It is so, so easy for me to obsess about it.  Although I probably should measure portion sizes better, I'm truly afraid that it will set me on an unpleasant path of withering down to 112 lbs (which looks gross on a gal who is 5'7").

Right now, I'm battling an obsession about food that stemmed from reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. (As usual, I'm way behind the rest of the world in reading this.)  I was pretty stunned by how much I didn't know about the various food chains.  I have been buying from a local CSA for a few years now, and switched to organic milk in 2007, but after reading the book I decided I am only purchasing grass-fed, locally raised beef.

Over the past year or so, I've cut way back on our consumption of meat/poultry.  While we are certainly not vegetarians, we probably eat at least 3 meals a week that are meat-free.  Since I've cut back so much on our meat purchases, I've rationalized that we can splurge a bit to purchase beef that I feel comfortable eating.  Read that book and you'll never look at the meat department in the same way.

I found myself starting to get a little undone with fretfulness about where I was buying my food and whether it was all organic and how much it was processed and how much sugar it contains.   I was feeling guilty when buying certain healthy foods because it wasn't in season (so is being shipped from across the US and making a large carbon footprint) and it was probably sprayed with pesticides.  I was flogging myself internally a bit over not making more stuff from scratch and sometimes buying foods with more than 5 ingredients.  (THE HORROR!!)

Suffice it to say, I had to have a little intervention with myself.  A person could drive herself nuts over food purchases.  I decided that it is a little ridiculous and such a first world problem to be stewing over  things to such an extent.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Sometimes I'd love to be a fly on the wall and see how other people, other moms I know, really live.  Not to judge, but just to pick up tips.  Or possibly to make me feel better about myself....that I'm not the only loosey-goosey out there.

Homeschooling and chores got me thinking.....

I have friends who homeschool their children, and I am amazed that they are able to do so and keep their mental faculties in check.  I sometimes feel guilty because I have zero desire to homeschool my children (although I keep it as an option in the back of my mind if the boys don't adjust well to public education and all the required sitting).  I like my kids, but I do best when I am with them in doses firmly wedged between weekdays when they are at least 30% somewhere 2-3 days of preschool.

The other day I was thinking that some of the ability to homeschool successfully has to be based on the way a parent disciplines their children and generally runs their household.  A pretty tight ship, I would imagine.  Since the folks I know who homeschool do so in part because of their strong Christian faith, I suspect that this faith also plays a role in their firmness, their ability to keep their children participating and cooperative with homeschooling without waging war on a daily basis. (My presumption is that they don't wage war....maybe they do?)

My faith is wishy-washy.  My belief system is in god, and that's about all.  I believe in a higher power, and the not important.  And this pretty well sums up how I run my house.

A post on FB also got me thinking about my kids' chores, or lack thereof.  I don't really require, at least at this point, the kids to do much.  Part of this is because during the school year, I expect N to do her school work and practice piano.  Getting home at 4:15 and going to bed at 8:15, with meals and bedtime preparations thrown in there, doesn't leave much time for her to sweep or vacuum.  And partly it's because.....well, that is sorta my job right now.

I'm still trying to get my kids to remember to flush the effin' commode after they do their business.  And wash their hands.

Once they get a handle on these basic skills, I'll feel like we can move onto more difficult things.  Like scraping plates.  

The longest "job" I've ever had

It occurred to me yesterday that being a stay-at-home mom is the longest job I've ever had.  After college, I was an editor at an online publishing company for 5 years, then a 6th grade Language Arts teacher for 4.  In February 2013, I will have been staying at home as long as my first two "careers" combined.

I feel that I'm burnt out, but my burn out is mostly with summer....the endless fucking summer.  I suspect that once school begins and the season begins to change and I have a routine back, I will snap out of this funk.

Still, I know that I don't have the energy, motivation or patience that I did when I first began this "job" 8.5 years ago.  Although I feel a tremendous amount of guilt that I lack the enthusiasm I felt when I was a mom of only 1 child, I think in some ways the kids are better for it.  I don't think I did N any favors by being completely obsessed with her and "in.her.face." constantly.  There's something to be said for children understanding that their parents have their own personal needs and interests outside of the kids.

Despite this burnout, I don't want to work outside the home....not for another few years and probably not on a full-time basis until the kids are in college.  I don't think my mental state, my stress level, my patience, would be any better if I spent all day away from my kids, in the classroom working with other kids, and then coming home to my kids, attempting to meet all their needs and then managing the teaching-related stuff I'd have after hours.

And financially, it simply doesn't make sense for me to pay for childcare just so I can go make minimum wage at Old Navy and know that I am away from my children so that I can fold clothes, which I will then have to do at home later on, after my shift is over.

Over the past 2-3 weeks, I had had at least 3 dreams in which I'm fretting over what job I will get because in the dream I've just been let go from another job.

Clearly, I've got a lot stirring under my cap.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

The final week

Today begins the last week of summer break for N, and I'm feeling a little sad, which shows just how f*cked up my mind is.  How many FB posts have I written about my kids driving me bonkers over the entirely too long expanse of time between early June and mid-August?

Maybe it's the PMS talking, but I feel guilty and just plain down in the dumps.

Guilty about not being a better mom, more kind and loving towards my kids.
Internally weepy because my girl is entering 3rd grade and is half-way through her elementary school experience.
Regretful that this is my last year with G before he starts kindergarten (and because I had G and M so close, I feel like I missed so much of G's toddlerhood).
Troubled that my personality is so....pessimistic (even though it always has been).

Why isn't it enough that I meet their basic physiological needs (laundry and feeding them mostly healthy stuff) and open their minds (reading to them and taking them to the zoo and science center and generally doing what I can to ensure they become decent people when they grow up)?

Why can't I give myself credit for NOT losing it 80% of the time?

My kids love me, in spite of (or maybe because of) the flawed person I am.
It sucks that I can't be as forgiving of my failings. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Some time in the mountains

In late July, the 5 of us spent a few days in the mountains with my brother, my SIL, their 3 kids, and my parents.  I can't say it was quiet (there were 6 kids there, ranging from age 2-8), nor was it relaxing (kids again), but it was fun and made for some great memories!

We stopped by the Cumberland Gap briefly on the way to the mountains.  

 One foot in KY and one in VA.

Our first full day in the mountains we did a motor tour and some all-family hiking.  Shockingly, we saw no deer.  It is impossible to keep 6 kids quiet without near fatal doses of drugs (not that I tried or researched it or anything).

Somehow, M managed to get tired even though Mama was packing his arse around most of the time.

After we recovered from hiking, we played mini golf.

Our cabin was nice.  D took some beautiful shots from the deck.  

One afternoon, the entire gang went white-water rafting, or as G called it, "canoozing."  

Fun in the cabin. Thank g*d for the game room.  

Our last day was busy with morning hiking, a visit to the aquarium and some toe-dipping in the river late afternoon. 

G did not cover his eyes for the aquarium as he did at the dinosaur exhibits and historical museum in our town....only his ears this time. He heard a sound upon walking in that freaked him out.

The last round of musical beds in this family

Up until about 2 weeks ago, M was still sleeping in the toddler daybed (converted from his crib).  When he started climbing in bed with me and G (my old twin bed from when I was a kid) during nap time, I knew it was time to just get on with it and get him into a big boy bed.  He will be 3 in October, but he is way younger than either of the other when they got their big kid beds.  (So young, in fact, that he doesn't even understand the coolness of getting a big boy bed and refuses to sit on it so I can snap a photo.)

D and I had numerous discussions about what to do in the boys' room regarding beds.  We had eliminated the possibility of bunk-beds.  Although they look nice and are space savers, we didn't want to spend that much time or money in our local emergency room.  We had discussed converting the crib into a full-size bed for G and letting M have my old twin, but we decided this would open up a world of fights ("I want the big bed!"  "NO!  I want the big bed!), and lord knows, they already argue enough.  Purchasing another twin bed was our choice.

Our home is certainly no Pottery Barn Kids, but I wanted to find another bed in at least the same wood tone as my childhood bed, since we also have a large dresser that matches it in the boys' room.  I wanted things to look sorta coordinated.  

I began my bed shopping on craigslist, since I really didn't want to spend a gazillion dollars on a headboard/footboard since we knew we'd have to purchase a mattress too.  I saw a posting for a maple twin bed, $60, being sold near my home.  

Imagine my shock and surprise when I clicked the link and saw......

MY CHILDHOOD BED.  The EXACT same childhood bed I slept in my entire childhood that is now upstairs in the boys' room.

A phone call, a short car ride, $60 later (ok, considerably more than that because we ended up buying 2 new mattresses since the ones on G's bed were almost 20 years old, AND then I purchased some vintage Incredible Hulk sheets and brand new Avenger sheets for the boys), we have this:

Their beds are sandwiched next to each other for numerous reasons---
1. So we can all snuggle together to read books before bed.
2. So I can lay in the middle and touch both boy as they fall asleep. (The crack isn't the most comfy place but it is better than being the middle of a G & M sandwich on a twin.)