29 January 2012

My Plan vs. My Family's Plans

My plan: spend the afternoon organizing and setting up a workable desk space for myself.

Their plans:

Mom, can you give me a high pony?
Can we make my habitat model now?
Will you teach me how to ride my bike?
Honey, will you print these documents for me?
Mom, I'm hungry!
Mom, c'mere! I want to show you this app, and my new fort.
Mom, where do I put all this stuff from cleaning out the car?
Mom, I left my script at Janet's!  We have to get it!

And wouldn't you know it, the one kid who needs to do his homework is flying under the radar, staying conveniently out of sight, perfectly happy that five other people are occupying my attention.

* * *

I don't think that desk thing is going to happen for me today.

I'm not sure it will happen ever.

* * *



27 January 2012

7 Quick Takes: Volume 48, The "Thank You, Jesus!" Edition



Today's quick takes are brought to you by the Mad Dash Dance.  On the way to school this morning I needed to make sure we (my kids and I) had the following seven items:

~1~

One completed 4th Grade Mission project.  Did you know that the Mission San Antonio de Padua was the location of the very first Catholic wedding in California?  Or that it was the first Alta California mission to use fired tiles on its roof?  Or that this mission was particularly known for beautiful music?

I knew all that!  Thanks to my 4th grader, anyway.

~2~

One signed 7th Grade homework tally sheet.  Oh, and one 7th Grader, who has been home sick for two days, so it wasn't quite the slam dunk you'd think it would be not to leave him behind.

~3~

A small baggie with 6 homemade chocolate chip cookies in it, for the 2nd Grader to give to her teacher and the teacher's aide.  Because we made cookies last night, and Lady E wanted to share.  ♥



~4~

Art pieces for the 6th Grader to put up in his classroom.  Open House is this weekend, and since we haven't been back at school for very long, my kids don't have as many projects to display as their classmates.  So my son's 6th grade teacher told him he could bring in some of his art from home.  Here's one of the pieces we brought.


~5~

My computer, so I could squirrel away in a cafe and do some work while waiting for the kids Noontime Dismissal.  With my errands and such, it doesn't make much sense to go back home for a half day, so I had to make sure I had everything I needed to maximize my productivity while sipping a latte at Peets.  Hmmmm.  Maybe putting the kids back in school has some perks I hadn't figured on.  :)

~6~

One application to the Oakland School for the Arts, due today.  

~7~

And the one thing I didn't leave the house with: something that starts with the letter 'J'.  

Image Credit: http://www.printfection.com/shop/alphabet

Friday is Sharing Day in Kindergarten, which isn't quite a habit for us yet.    So of course, it occurs to me just as we enter the classroom. And there are all the other Kindergardeners, walking in with their seemingly unharried mothers, happily clutching their J items and snickering into their red school sweatshirts about Little T's scatter-brained mommy.   I swear, they were snickering.  Meanies.

Meanwhile, I'm helping the 4th grader schlep a two-part mission, while also carrying two large art projects, Little T's backpack, two Kindergarten readers that somehow came out of the backpack, and an errant sweatshirt, and I'm thinking to myself: "I remembered every other damn thing we needed, so why do I feel like such a loser for not having made sure Little T would have something to share?"  I told my daughter that when it was her turn to share, she could say:  "I brought Just Me."  

Lame.

I ran down to my car and started tossing things all over the place looking for the letter J.  An old wooden sandal...some stamps (oooo -- I needed stamps for those pesky bills I have to mail today! Score!)...dried up markers...an empty Rubio's cup...books, books, books...lots of drawing paper covered with very skinny girls with very large heads and Anime eyes...does any of this start with J???  And then I saw it, stuffed in the bottom of a dingy yellow bin, sitting in a little nest of crumbs and discarded wrappers: a very beat up Baby's Bible, with the spine weakly taped up with ineffectual scotch tape.  Bingo!  A book about JESUS!  We have our J item!  

I ran back up the stairs and into the Kinder class.  Breathlessly, I knelt down next to Little T and said:  "Here's your J item to share, honey!  It's a book about Jesus, and Jesus starts with J!"  She smiled a big wide grin, nodded her head vigorously, and said: "Oh!  Cool!"

THANK YOU, JESUS!

* * *

Please visit our host, and click through to a few of the other Quick Takers.  

And I hope you have a jovial, jazzy, jocund, jaunty Friday!  May you be neither jaded nor jinxed nor jittery!

Signed,

Just Me

26 January 2012

How?

We are back at school.  One of my kids hates it.  Let's call the kid Pat, for the sake of this blog post, a non-gender specific name, and let's go with she as the pronoun to refer to Pat, just because.

So Pat is miserable.  She is a smart, kind, funny, generous, well-grounded kid, and she is miserable.  She loved homeschooling...or so she says now, looking back, never mind that some days, getting her to participate in a modicum of school-like activities was challenging to say the least.  But I knew this transition would be toughest for her, of all the kids.

So she's truly miserable.  It's only a little over a week into the new arrangement, so we can still give it time and still play the wait and see game.  But here's the thing.  She's really miserable.

And if there's one thing we moms hate, it's seeing our kid miserable, suffering, struggling to make sense of what seems like the senseless.  One interesting wrinkle is that a handful of folks at the school have said things to me -- not aware that Pat is miserable -- that kind of tell an opposite story, that she's doing better than she's leading me to believe.  That doesn't really surprise me, as I think I would exaggerate to make a point, were I in Pat's shoes too, and not all exaggeration is falsehood.  So there's that.

But again.  Miserable.  After school, we have the sobbing, the gnashing of teeth, the questioning: "Why did you do this to me???"  We have literally hours of homework to slog through.  We have devastation and despair.  We have tears and sadness and frustration.  

I've tried many, many words to soothe the misery and help the poor kid out.  Words are falling flat for now, and I'm left with only words for myself, a mantra that isn't quite working yet: Be patient.  Be encouraging.  Be hopeful.  Wait for my words of wisdom to sink in, to show themselves to Pat as true.  Be patient.  This too shall pass.

So now, My Dear Internetters, I turn it to you: How do you best support a child who is miserable, when you cannot change the situation creating the misery, or at least cannot take him or her out of it, and when the child in question is highly, highly resistant to your efforts?

I want Pat to know she is loved, that she can handle this situation, that we are here to help, that the school is here to help, that good things can come out of bad situations, that she and we will prevail.  I want her to face this challenge with all the support necessary to overcome it.

But how?

Help.  Please.  I need some rockin' good ideas.

* * *

24 January 2012

A New One

"Everyone get your lunch boxes out and finish your food!"  It's a common refrain on the way home from school, sometimes followed by a tirade about the hungry children in the world, depending on how feisty I am feeling.  The kids have given me every excuse in the book for why they didn't eat the lunch I packed.  I got a new one today:
I didn't eat that cutie today because I love cuties so much, and it's so beautiful, that I wanted to save it!
Oooooh-kaaaay.  So, you didn't eat your food because I gave you food you love?

And you won't eat your food if I send something you don't like either.

Looks like you will only be eating lunch on the weekends then.

* * *

23 January 2012

Three Morning Morsels

Parenting is like riding an endless pendulum set between hair-pulling frustration and spirit-soaring inspiration.  Within the space of 15 minutes, a parent can find herself along many different points on the pendulum's path.  Take this morning for instance: frustration, reprimand, surprise, and gratitude, all in the space of a car ride to school:

* * *

On our way out the door this rainy morning, I double-checked the raincoat status of my young charges.  Lady E's response: "It's in my bag!"  15 minutes later, at school, I discover that by "my bag" she meant her soccer backpack, not her school backpack.  Whuck?!?!  So...Lady E...when I asked if you had your raincoat, you thought I was just confirming that you were leaving it behind in the backpack we were not taking with us to school???  Again: WHUCK?

* * *

Car trips to and from school, as the last week has reminded me, are fraught with arguments.  Lots of bickering, sniping, and hurling of insults.  Lots of general nastiness.  Last Thursday, as I circled around a local bakery after school, searching for a parking space so I could take my kids in to get a treat, the general nastiness was in full effect.  And bing!  The light bulb went on.  No bakery.  No treats.  No rewarding this behavior.  I set a decree: Henceforth, I will not be taking my children for any after school treats until the car rides to and from school are devoid of meanness.

They were not happy.  As I drove away from the bakery, bitter that I was not going to get an afternoon latte, the kids were silent and sullen.  It was an improvement on the bickering.

Friday: no treats.

This morning: before I had even pulled away from my house, the verdict was in: no treats.

And then I got a shock.  When I said "Remember guys, we won't be going to get any treats or snacks until I don't have to listen to car-fighting anymore," my oldest child said: "That's a really good solution, mom."

Huh?  You -- my teenager -- think I had a good idea?  REALLY?  Wow.

Proof that sometimes I know what I'm doing AND that what I am doing works.  Sometimes.

* * *

Little T is learning to read.  Her older sister sat down with her the other day and read one of Little T's kindergarten readers with her.  This morning, she told me that she remembered reading those "decodables" when she was a K-er.  She said:
I remember sounding out the word P-O-N-D, and saying puh-ah-nnn-duh, and figuring out how to do that.  And Mrs. Payne said: 'Very good Lola!  That was very good!'  And I got two stickers in my book that day!
What a great memory to have.  I do not remember learning to read, but it seems that my daughter remembers the moment she was handed the keys to words and sounds and books and stories.  It started with a pond, a great teacher, and a couple of stickers, and she hasn't looked back since.  Thank God for teachers like Mrs. Payne and for memories like that one!

* * *

Parenting, like my kids, makes me dizzy.

* * *


20 January 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 47



Hello Friday!  Love ya' baby!  You look fabulous--what's your secret?

Here are some quick takes for your perusing pleasure.  Please visit our lovely host and sample some links to other quick takers.  And a little comment here and there wouldn't kill ya'.


~1~

Every year, we say we are going to have our taxes done early, and every year, we end up being big fat liars. This year?  Taxes DONE.  In the words of my 5 year old: BOO-YAH!


~2~

So yeah, the kids went back to school.  I am sitting in an empty house, blogging with abandon, and reeling from the tornado that is my house in Getting Out The Door For School mode.  Returning to school was a big decision.  The thing about big decisions is that they aren't usually clear cut.  There are pros, there are cons, and sadly, there is no great big neon sign pointing to the right answer.

THIS is what I need!
photo credit: Being Alexus
I loved homeschooling.  It was damn hard, and it didn't always go well, and there were plenty of days when I felt certain I was accomplishing little more than ensuring the livelihood of my childrens' future therapists.  But the kind of education we all enjoyed, and the "off the grid" lifestyle, and the moments of radiance, all of that made it great.

So why are they back at school?  It's complicated.  It's part financial -- I can work if they are in school and increase our income; it's part administrative, as in the school administration changed and the whole place is moving in a positive direction; it's part preparation, for the different directions my older kids want to go.

I do wish big life decisions came with some kind of assurance, a certificate or something that would officially decree that THIS WILL BE GOOD.

Lacking that, I'll just have to wait and see.  Hate that.


~3~

My 11 year old son is getting ready to apply to the Oakland School for the Arts, a public charter school for grades 6 through 12.  Students are required to apply and audition in their chosen arts area: his is visual art.  We toured the school a few weeks ago, and he really, really, really wants to get in.  There is no question that he is talented, but we have no way of knowing what kind of talent he will be competing against for the open slots.

I want this for him.  Bad.

Wish him luck!  Say a prayer!  Send positivity out into the universe!  Say another prayer, because that vague positivity stuff is a little wishy-washy if you ask me!

And come on.  Look at this.  I mean, really.  I ask you.  What other decision could they make?  Really. Am I right?  Of course I am.



~4~

My other son begins rehearsals next week for A Midsummer Nights Dream.  That's by Shakespeare, you know.

This production is put on by The Greenwood Players, a group made up entirely of young people.  Students in middle and high school direct and act, create the sets and costumes, design the programs, and handle all of the logistics, and my kid gets to participate for free.

And so today, the recipient of the Faith in Humanity Restoration Award goes to the amazing kids of the Greenwood Players.  You are an inspiration to the rest of us, and a lovely antidote to the news of the day.


~5~

Funny text mishaps:  I wrote a text today to let a friend know what time I would drop by to give her something, and accidentally wrote: "I'll be on my way to pick my kids."  After re-reading it, I got a little chuckle, imagining myself at the school saying: "OK, I'll take that one...and that one...but definitely not that one...hmmm, who else do I want today?"  Maybe I could come home with a whole new set of 5!  That might be interesting for awhile!

And that of course made me think of the time my phone autocorrected another text of mine that was supposed to say:

"I will have kids with me."

to 

"I will have LSD with me."

Wow!  That sure would be a game changer!

What's your favorite autocorrect story?  And if you haven't seen this site, then I suggest hiding from the children (this is definitely not kid-friendly content) and get ready to laugh so hard you'll cry, spit, snort, and possibly pee.


~6~

We watched Super 8 for our family movie night a few weeks ago.  That was a great movie.  Did y'all see it?  If not, do yourself a favor and rectify that situation.  Heart, humor, terror, and an alien.  What more do you need?


~7~

I can't think of a final take, so I'll leave you with a photo of one cute newly-minted Kindergartener:



Look out world!  Little T has been unleashed!

16 January 2012

Things Change

It's garbage day here at Casa Airy5.  That used to mean mayhem.  But children get older, and garbage day doesn't signal delirium around here anymore.

* * *

Every morning, I get up before the kidlets and sit on the couch strategizing about how I'm going to survive the day.  It's a golden quiet time for me.  Little T is always the first one to get up, and as soon as she does, my solitude endeth.  She demands cuddling, breakfast, attention, conversation.

But children get older.

This morning, I heard the tell tale thuds on the stairs as a sleepy Little T made her way to the living room. I prepared for the end of solitude with my usual dismay.  But did she immediately smash up right next to me and begin making demands?  No.  She did this:


And my heart did sing.

Things change.

Halleluia.

* * *

The Question Before Us

From Martin Luther King Jr.'s final speech, April 3, 1968:

That's the question before you tonight.

Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job?"

Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as pastor?"

The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?"

The question is: "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?"  That is the question.

* * *


* * *

Text and video of MLK Jr.'s "Mountaintop" speech can be found here.

* * *

15 January 2012

When You Have A Noisy Family...

...your five year old will say, after a particularly loud and lively car trip: "Someone owes me some quiet!"

Also, when you have a noisy family, and you attempt to soothe your 7 year old's disappointment over not being able to go with the bigger kids to a Saint Mary's College basketball game by saying, "You wouldn't like it! It's super crowded, really noisy, and you probably wouldn't be able to see over the people in front of you," she will say: "Yeah! It's just like our family! I can do that!"

In the immortal words of Russell Brand in Bedtime Stories: she's got a point there.

Also, when you have a noisy family, your head spins a lot.

* * *

11 January 2012

Why I Can't Solve the Fruit Problem

So I decide to follow the suggestion from wifemotherexpletive and keep my fruit in a large bowl on the dining room table.  I head to the dining room table and see that it's covered with stuff: the CD collection my spouse started culling through on New Years Day...art projects (damn the art projects!) ...newspapers ...folded laundry waiting to be whisked away by the Laundry Fairy (whose name is Bruce) and tucked into dresser drawers ...several sticks carved into extremely sharp weapons by my 11 year old ...and a whole bunch of other stuff.

I can't put my fruit bowl there.

But wait–I CAN put my fruit bowl there if I just organize stuff a little bit!  So I head to the closet where we keep games, DVDs, and CD's, thinking I'll just put the un-culled collection back where it goes.  Step one in making the table a proper fruit bowl spot.

I can't get to the closet door.  There are too many soccer backpacks, soccer balls, sweatshirts, and puzzle pieces in the way.  And a great big bin full of wooden train tracks and building blocks.  Damn Thomas.

Ooooooh-kay, I think; I'll just go out into the garage and re-make a space for the soccer backpacks.  So I head to the garage.  Being in here reminds me that I need to address the laundry pile.  Yesterday, my kids cleaned their rooms -- which I had asked them to do because after folding mountains of laundry, I couldn't bring myself to go into their rooms and put any of it it away.  I could have asked them to put their own laundry away, but I knew where that would end up: folded laundry dumped into already disasterous rooms willy nilly.  I figured I could still make them put it all away, but after their floors were once again in plain view.

When my kids clean their rooms, I have one refrain: "Just because it's on your floor doesn't mean it's dirty!  Fold that stuff and put it away!  I don't want to waste water and time re-washing clothes that don't need it!"

And I sort of believe them that they separated the clean from the dirty, except that when I look at the pile of so-called dirty clothes on the floor of the garage, and when  I contemplate that a mere 24 hours ago, I had straightened up in here and done all the current laundry, I have to fight the urge to stab the 1-800-GOT-GYPSIES icon on my phone's contact list.

OOOOO-KAY!  Get some laundry going and THEN make space for the soccer crap.  Empty the dryer.  Fold the finished load.

But wait.

I can't put the folded laundry on the laundry table because it's piled high with coats and jackets, the coats and jackets I pulled off of the hooks and nails that grace the walls along the narrow steps leading from my kitchen down into my garage.  I did that a few weeks ago, because I was tired of the cluttered coat and jacket look and because they are forever falling onto the floor, where people step on them with dirty shoes, landing them in yes, you guessed it, the laundry pile.  But I haven't found a place for the coats and jackets yet!  So...I had to shove all that stuff to one side and make room for the folded laundry.

Back to the task at hand.  Or rather, back to whatever is currently interrupting me from the task at hand.  Move wet stuff from washer to dryer.  Start washer up again.  Curse the children.  Step back, sort the remaining dirty stuff into baskets.

I turn my attention back to making space for...something...what was it?  Soccer crap!  That's it!  Ooookey-dokey...where can I put that stuff?  If I just rearrange this pile of extra chairs, maybe I can stack the backpacks in a nice neat row next to them.  Should I sell these chairs?  Finally recover them?  Donate them?  I give many precious minutes over to this issue.  I tried giving them away on Freecycle a few months ago and the people who said they were going to come get them flaked on me.  Plus, I'm afraid the Goodwill truck will reject me; sometimes Goodwill denies larger furniture items, and I don't want a repeat of that ridiculously frustrating experience.  What the heck, I'll try to sell them for a few bucks.

To sell them, I need to take pictures of them.  To do that, I need to get them into the kitchen.  To do that, I need to set up a staging area in my kitchen.  To do that, I need to clear off my kitchen table and take out all the recycling that's been piling up.  To do that, I need to take a little break and have a snack.  Thank God the fruit bowls are right there in easy reach on my kitchen counter.

So you see, I can't solve the fruit bowl problem.  I can't solve the problem because of art projects, CDs, soccer backpacks, Thomas trains, mountains of laundry, coats and jackets, shabby chairs, bags of recycling, and finally because of children.

I can't find a good place to keep my fruit bowl because I have children.  Which is why 1-800-GOT GYPSIES is in my speed dial.

* * *



10 January 2012

Today's Burning Issue



What to do with the fruit?

I have a small kitchen and many children.  I also have a fruit problem.

Because of the many children, I usually have lots of fruit on hand, especially bananas.  Often, we go through all that fruit quickly.  Right now, my method of storing fruit is to stick it all in bowls on my counter, usually one or two, sometimes three medium to large bowls.  They take up lots of space on my counter.

I bought one of those metal wicker hanging baskets once and had it clanging around in the kitchen for a few months before I had to confront the fact that there really is no good place to hang it.  All of the possible places are either too close to a bright window (sun and heat: no good for fruit) or too close to a traffic lane.  That was a bummer.  For me anyway, but not for some lucky Goodwill shopper.

So what do I do with all the fruit?  It takes up space, sometimes goes bad, and generally looks cluttered sitting there on my counter.  When we are out of fruit, which is rare, I like my kitchen much better than when we are stocked.

Is there a creative solution?  Or should I just start feeding the kids canned and frozen fruit so I can have my counter space back?

* * *

Aren't my burning issues compelling?  Tune in tomorrow when I discuss What To Do With All The Coats!

* * *


07 January 2012

Even Children Get Older

And I'm getting older, too.

See this picture?



I can't convey the nostalgia this picture represents for me and my husband.  He took the kids out of the house today so I could sort socks -- which takes longer than fathomable -- and sent me pictures from their adventures.  This one, of our littlest, got me.  Caught in a rare resting moment, sipping on the hot chocolate I sent along with them (which, as it turns out, was their lunch; oops), she makes me happy just to look at her.  I look at this picture and I know that despite our yelling, despite our particular brand of dysfunctional family, we are giving these kids a good childhood.

But that's not what gets me about this picture.  It's the background.  Because I can see where she is, at exactly what point along the trail around Lake Anza she is sitting.  And it's a spot as old as the memory of my courtship with Rick, a spot I first came to know because of this other being we used to take care of:



To see my kids there, at the same spot we used to, in former childless days, toss the tennis ball into the lake for a tireless Chelsea to chase, the same spot we brought our wine and cheese in what we had no idea was the most carefree time in our lives, floods me with emotion.

Time whooshes by.  Cherished dogs die, children grow up lightening fast, middles thicken, hairs gray...it takes my breathe away.   Ever feel like you can't catch up?  Like the world is speeding by and you've been too busy sorting socks to notice?  Well, actually, I don't usually sort socks, hence the need to spend a good part of my afternoon doing just that, but something else then, something that takes up your time and keeps you from seeing what's happening right before your very eyes.

The older I get, the more I realize how complicated life is, and how much we need to cling to the simple, to the good dog, to the thermos cup of hot chocolate, to the hike in the woods, to the little tiny person who will not be tiny for more than a blink of my eye, to my spouse, the only other person in the world who truly understands our own version of complicated.

Socks and beer and a quiet house have rendered me a little mushy today.  In about an hour, they will return, back from a place that someday will have as much meaning for them as it already does for me and their dad.  Approximately three minutes after they return, I will be irritated with over 50% of them and wishing it were still quiet here.  But right this minute, I can't wait to grab them when they come in, smell Tilden Park in their hair, and hold on to simple, uncomplicated love.

* * *

Who Knows?

Maybe the new look will inspire me to write something.

Crazier things have happened.

* * *