29 September 2013

Making Annoyance Look Like Enthusiasm Since 1998

I've been a mom long enough to sigh inwardly (and often not-so-inwardly) when my littlest person asks to "help" me make a meal.  This morning, it's french toast.

I didn't really want her to help.  Makes it take longer.  It's messier.  Not efficient.  Etc.

But because good moms let their children do messy, inefficient things, I said yes.  This time, the sighing stayed inward, and I managed to make annoyance look like enthusiasm.

Which is good, because looking enthusiastic for a mere two minutes made it possible for me to remember that her version of "helping" means taking the eggs out of the fridge.  That's it.  Because after that complicated task, she was completely wiped out and all done helping.

Win-Win!  She got to "help," and I got to do 99.9% of the process by myself!  As a bonus, I am reminded just how much of mothering is about delivering academy award-worthy performances.

* * *

26 September 2013

I Figured Out How To Talk To My Teenager!

Which, as it turns out, is the same exact thing as figuring out WHEN to talk to my teenager.  I have figured out that as long as I stay up waaaaay past my bedtime, conversations between me and my oldest son go very well.  It's that whole circadian rhythm thing he's got going on, or it's a quiet house, or it's that he knows I'm exhausted and unlikely to strike.  Or something like that.

Whatever the case, in the past few weeks, almost every interaction he and I have had has been fraught with tension, spiked with conflict, bubbling with resentment.

Except that every few nights, when I've already overstayed my welcome in the waking world, just as I'm about to head to pillow land, there he is.  Calm.  Thoughtful.  Reasonable.  Interesting.  Talkative.  Not pissed at me.  Wanting to spend time with me.

Teenagers are exactly like toddlers, and I do not mean that as an insult.  To the teenagers or the toddlers.  But I think I'm headed into a new phase of not sleeping.  With the three and under set, I never slept because someone always needed something in the middle of the night.  With the 14 and older set, it appears I will not sleep because the middle of the night is the only time he will need anything from me.  And all he really needs is for me to be there.  

I'm here, kid.  I'm here and awake and I love you.  And I even like you when you are like this.  Calm.  Thoughtful.  Reasonable.  Interesting.  Funny.  Sweet.  Peaceful, even.  The boy I know.

Tonight, all the stuff I've been nagging him about lately, all the stuff he has been fighting me tooth and nail on, all of it came right back to me, from his own lips, describing what he wants to do differently, what he knows about himself, what he wants for himself.

And a few nights ago, we watched a movie from 11pm to 1am.  Why did I agree to this?  Because he wanted to watch a movie with me.

I must remind myself that I do not need to worry.  All will be well.  I'll sleep when I don't have teenagers anymore.  In eleven years.

I got this.

* * *

25 September 2013

I've Got My Eye On You

Yesterday, I peeked through a little window of 8-almost-9-year-old discontent.

Today, that view expanded a little bit when I picked up my phone.  Said 8-almost-9-year old had used my phone to take a picture, and then she changed my lock screen to this:

Scares the bejesus outta me whenever I pick up my phone.

I think she's basically saying to me: "I'm watching you.  Be very, very careful, because I. Am. Watching. You."

Creepy, right?

* * *

24 September 2013

And How Does That Make You Feel?

Here's how I know my 8 year old might be experiencing a wee bit of trouble adjusting to my new work schedule:

"Mom, Big Bear is more than my stuffed animal.  He's my therapist."

* * *

23 September 2013

I Know, Right?

About five years ago, I was talking with a young woman I'd recently started working with, and she was asking me questions about marriage.  She was dating a guy who, when they first got together, expressed a disinclination for and a distrust of marriage.  So she was asking me things like "How do you know when you've met the right person?  How do you know when it's time to get married?"  We had a long conversation over lunch one day.

However, this post isn't about lofty subjects like soul mates, and life choices, and big A-HA moments.  This post is about how during our conversation I kept getting completely thrown off by her use of the phrase: "I know, right?"

She freely sprinkled "right?" into our entire conversation.  This was new to me.  I had been raising small children for a few years, and had been out of the work force.  I was very up on lingo to describe bowel movements...not so much on lingo being used by pretty much everyone else.  It was incredibly disorienting, this feeling that I was having a conversation with someone and yet I didn't understand all that much of what she was saying.

Now?  I use it all the time.  Just did a moment ago in a text to a friend.  Here's the thing: I always feel like a poser when I use it.  Because every time I say it, or type it, I remember that first time I ever heard it, and just how confused I felt.

Young woman: "I know, right?"

Me, in my head: "What?  Right?  What's right?  What do you know?  I'm so confused...are you asking me if you are right?  Is that like the opposite of wrong?  How, exactly, am I supposed to respond to 'I know, right?'"

Language is so confusing.  Just when we think we know what's going on, these young upstarts come up with new phrases and all this jargony jargon.  Those of us no longer in the Generation of the Moment just have to hold on as best we can and hope we (a) understand what's going on and (b) don't sound like complete dorks when we participate in the conversation.

So all you young upstarts, remember:  Your elders don't want to be left behind, but we might take a bit longer to catch on.  Right?

19 September 2013

Designs By E

Once again, taking TV out of the equation has yielded boundless creativity.

I was super bummed out last night when my two little girls behaved so abominably at the grocery store that they lost their The Middle privileges.  Even as the words escaped my exasperated lips -- "If you keep fighting and being mean to each other, you will not watch The Middle tonight." -- I was regretting them, knowing as I do that enforcement is a bitch.

Of course.  They kept fighting.  Kept being bratty and mean.  Kept being those kids you see at the grocery store and silently thank the Lord they are not yours.

No, these two are mine-all-mine, and mine, the distinct pleasure of enforcing the consequence.  It was awful.  Oh, the whining, and pleading, and stomping, and thrashing!   Oh, the indignation, and disbelief, and horror, and insult!  Oh, the injustice of it all!

I just had to grit my teeth and keep telling myself that good mothers (a) enforce consequences, (b) do not slap whiny children (mostly), and (c) drink red wine in moderation (mostly).

And so the evening continued down a dreary path, until Lady E finally turned her attention away from pleading with me to change my mind and towards her aspirations to have her dress designs featured on ModCloth someday.  (You're welcome, ModCloth, for the unpaid advertisement.)

The Middle makes me laugh, but these designs make me happy happy happy:

Yay for no TV!  Yay for creative kids!  Yay for sucky consequences and silver linings!

* * *

16 September 2013

That Aristotle...

Today, I am thinking about that crazy cat Aristotle.  Because he said this:

We are what we repeatedly do. 
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Word.  What I've been thinking is that if you substitute anything for the word "excellence," you have the secret sauce for a good and happy life.

Compassion is not an act, but a habit.
Love is not an act, but a habit.
Laughing is not an act, but a habit.
Patience in not an act, but a habit.

Or, perhaps more apropos for a tired mama:

Not yelling is not an act, but a habit.

Either way, if I am what I repeatedly do, then based on this weekend, I am a driver, a sigher, a facebooker, a junk-food eater, a yeller, a striver, and a soccer mom.

I'd like that list to look different.  I'd like to delete some things, add some things...I'd like to have some different habits.

I'd also like to be a blogger.  So according to Aristotle, I must, in fact, blog.  Habitually.

See?  That's why he's a great philosopher!  He says true stuff!

What habits are you after this week?

* * *

10 September 2013

Make a Difference. Make Food.

Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and make guacamole once in a while, you could miss it.

Yes, I stole that line from Ferris Bueller.  I only steal things that are truly great.  And when my daughter wanted guacamole last night, I sighed inwardly because I was "too tired" and "too busy" to make homemade guacamole.

But I did it anyway, and it was the best thing I've done in days and days and days.  The chopping.  The mashing.  The taste testing.  It was all simple and lovely and wonderful.

Make a difference in your life.  Make real food.

* * *

09 September 2013

Another Cautionary Tale, this one with a side of mortification

Mornings are my own personal experiment with chaos theory.  I don't enjoy them.  They are, each of them, little vignettes of failure and regret.

It's not the hour.  I enjoy quiet, peaceful early morning hours.

It's not that I have to go to work; I love my job.

It's that I live with all these other people, who need to arrive at various educational institutions with bright shiny faces, full warm bellies and lunch boxes loaded with nutritious and tasty goodness.  It's that they need to be wearing school uniforms.  Clean ones.  It's that on any given day, a few of them have soccer practice, and a few of them have early release days or late start days, or a change in the carpool, or forms to hand in, or projects to bring with them, or picture effing day.  This one needs hotdog money and that one is clamoring about free dress and that one yonder has a stuffy nose and this one I just tripped over needs her rat's nest of a hairdo transformed into a proper little Catholic schoolgirl coif.

This morning, all of that reduced me to tears and silence.  The tears are commonplace.  The silence, however, freaked out the kids.  I don't usually find myself at a loss for words when it comes to giving lectures.   Come to think of it, the silence freaked me at as well.

So I resolved that tonight, before my five offsprings' heads drifted down to, crashed into, or haphazardly landed upon a pillow, they would produce for me every article of clothing they each required for the next day: school clothes, soccer clothes, sweatshirts, socks, underwear, shoes...the whole nine.

This is where the cautionary bit begins.

Let me be a lesson to you.  Do not assume that basic messages are penetrating your children's skulls.  Do not -- ever! -- be afraid to repeat something you think for sure they must know.  Go ahead: be that broken record.  Annoy them.  Let them roll their eyes.  Let them say "I KNOW mom."

Should you choose not to heed my advice, you could be one of the players in this little morality play:

* * *

Mom:  "I am starting a load of laundry in a few minutes: bring me what you need for tomorrow.  If you don't have clean underwear in your drawer, bring me some to wash."

Daughter: "It's OK, mom.  I'm wearing underwear."

Mom: "Right.  I mean clean underwear for tomorrow."

Daughter: No words.  Just a quizzical look.

Mom: "Very funny.  Yes, dear, you do wear clean underwear everyday."

Daughter: "WHAT???  Are you KIDDING ME?? That is NUTS!  I wear them for a week!"

At this point, a sound sort of like being enveloped by a wind tunnel drowns out any other sound.  At least for the mom.  Howling through the tunnel are phrases like: What the--  and How the hell--  and You are effing kidding me!! and Have I taught her NOTHING??? and What kind of mother--

We're talking shades of Mr. Kurtz here.  When the howling scream subsides, the mom, unable to even look at her beautiful child, sternly sends the daughter to the laundry room to get clean underwear.

The daughter, meanwhile, and without the vortex of horror clogging up the mom's ears, can be heard completely melting down, and complaining to anyone who will listen, or anyone forced to listen by virtue of proximity, that her very, very mean and not nice mother is making her find clean underwear.

The mom lies on her bed, wallowing in abject failure, and wondering where it all went so horribly wrong.

Another gem wafts up from the living room: "Dad!  She wants me to find clean underwear!  She's CRAZY!"

There were other, even more embarrassing gems.  This is enough.  This is too much.  This is my sad little tale, and you should redeem my utter failure by telling your kids the obvious, every chance you get.

* * *

My kids are in for the following extensive lectures this week:

Eat food.
Do homework.
Brush teeth.  All of them.  Really.  Twice a day.  Really.
Pee when you need to.  Also?  The same for poop.  Every time.
Broken Glass?  No bare foot dancin'.

* * *

There.  Now don't you feel better about your parenting?

* * *

04 September 2013

I've Missed My Little Blog Community

As you might imagine from yesterday's post, life has transpired in such a way that writing for this blog has taken a serious back seat to other concerns.  That's been OK with me, since the only ways I could fit more into my days would be to clone myself or develop a meth habit.  Cloning seems complicated.  And I like my imperfect but intact teeth.  So no fitting more stuff in for me.

But posting yesterday -- a brief post that poured off my fingertips because it had to -- was good for me. The kind comments, both here and on the AIRY5 Facebook page, and the private messages friends sent have helped.  They also made me cry, but tears help anyway.

Thank you everyone, for being the best a blog can be: a community.

* * *

03 September 2013


I started an exciting and interesting new job.

My five children are now in three different schools.

I have a newly-minted high school student with his first serious, real crush.  I'm dealing with it, with a modicum of success, via red wine.

And I have a mother in decline.  I am not dealing so well with that, red wine or no.

If I didn't have the new job and the five children and the one real, new crush, I would focus solely on the mother in decline, and it would be hard enough, and I would be so sad all the time, and I would not know how to handle anything.

As it is, I am adrift, lost, a mess.  I cannot be anywhere without needing to be elsewhere.

My beautiful mother.  My kind, behind-the-scenes, nothing-but-kindness mother.  My full of good words mother.

What can I do?

* * *