30 May 2013

The Must-Est Must Read Ever

The school year is ending.  Out with a whimper.  It would be a complete throw away, if not for this gem:

Jen Hatmaker: this will go down in history as the greatest capture of the end of the school year of all time.  Thank you, from the bottom of my so-over-it, tired-of-hiding-from-the-Kindergarten-teacher, down-with-literacy, down-with-projects, cynical-ass heart.

(Also?  I cannot believe I read a negative comment on this post!  Are there really, truly, humorless people in the world?  How very sad!)

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29 May 2013

Perspective, or the Lack Thereof

A friend in need called me today.  This post isn't about her trials and tribulations, but about how my call with her led me to bit of comeuppance.  Feel free to commiserate if you recognize yourself in this little narrative.

So I took my dear friend's call right at the moment when I needed to go move my car.  There are free parking spaces around my office, but they are time limited, so those of us who work here have to move our cars during the day, if we want free parking.  I myself go with free whenever possible.

I listened with compassion as I walked the short block and a half to my car.  Then, I listened more, as I sat in my car, opting NOT to talk and drive, but choosing instead to give her the time and attention she needed to get through a moment of crisis.  We talked for about 20 minutes.  I did not once look around to see if anyone had seen me get in my car and then tried to wait -- in vain -- for me to vacate a premium 4-hour free space.

After we hung up, I pulled out and went in search for another free spot.  Twice, I saw people get into their cars, and I quickly pulled my car around to claim their soon-to-be-empty spaces.  Twice, the people who got into their cars instead started talking on their phones.  I waited and waited for the first guy, gave up, and spied the second guy.  Score!  I waited and waited for the second guy, and finally gave up, driving away disgustedly and muttering to myself: "Why do these people all need to talk on their PHONES for crying out loud?!?!?!?!"

Seriously, self?  Do you really have that short of a memory?

Apparently, yes.

* * *

The third guy was much more reasonable.  Got in his car and drove away.

* * *

28 May 2013

Fantasy Island

I crave quiet.

As a mom of five, I am used to lots and lots of noise, probably more than most people.  And yes, I suppose I have a pretty high tolerance for it.

But lately, noise of all kinds is just making me so tired.  Traffic noise.  Too many kids at school drop off.  Sirens.  Door slamming in my office building.  The radio in my own car.  The volume of Toy Story the other night; the rest of the family claimed they could barely hear it.  Bickering children.  Singing children.  Even, on my more stressed out days, happy children.  Even my email seems to be shouting at me sometimes.

I have been saturated by noise, and I kind of can't take it any more.

Accordingly, I will spend precious minutes tonight researching silent retreats I can neither afford nor have the time to attend.  A middle-aged woman can dream, can't she?

You know you're getting old when your fantasies are full of small austere rooms, no technology, and healthy foods.

I swear, this is my children's fault.

* * *

26 May 2013

How To Take A Nap

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Repost: If You Give A Kid A Cookie

Today, whilst much laundry and cleaning takes place, I am posting a re-run of one of my most popular posts.  Originally posted on August 23, 2010, this musing is part rant, part cautionary tale, part blatant stealing.  And all truth.

If You Give A Kid A Cookie

If you give a kid a cookie, she's probably going to ask you for another one.

You'll think she's cute, so you won't see the harm in giving it to her and you'll say yes. When you give her the second cookie, she'll start to get that crazed look in her eye.

When you see that crazed look, you'll decide it's time to divert her attention, so you'll ask her if she wants to ride her bicycle in the back yard.

When she says yes, her older sister will want to come too, but first they'll both need to change their entire outfits, probably into something that includes a boa, and they both will need shoes.

You won't be able to find their godforsaken flip flops, so you'll have to take the time for socks and shoes that tie. Your own lunch will grow cold while all of this shoe business is happening.

When their shoes are finally on, they will change their minds and want to take a bath instead. They will want to wear their bathing suits in the bathtub.

When you squash this request like a rolled up New Yorker on a fat mosquito, they will both start wailing. You will respond by forcing them to go outside and play.

While they are outside playing, they will decide to climb the Magnolia tree. They will fight over who gets to go up first. You will spend a few minutes pondering just how much your neighbors curse you every time they hear screams wafting from your backyard.

Your older kids will hear the commotion and run outside to take over the tree-climbing. They will knock over smaller children on their way up. More screaming will ensue.

You will hide inside for awhile, until you are sure your neighbors are about to call CPS. Just in time to stop the neighbors mid-dial, you will storm outside with a couple of cans of whoop ass and look around for a few likely recipients, who will have scattered and are now hiding. At least they are quiet.

You will go back inside and discover that in the very short time you have abandoned your Kitchen Command Post, the kids have helped themselves to the cereal, with most of it landing on the floor. You will crunch your way over to the broom, cursing short people all the way.

You will ask a kid to sweep up the floor, and he will respond as if you have asked him to chop off, deep fry, and eat one of his fingers. You will not take kindly to this, and will give him a piece of your mind.

When the kitchen floor is clean, you will serve lunch. The youngest will be full of cookies and will leave her plate entirely untouched. The older kids will each object to a different item on the menu. You will deliver the When I Was a Kid We Ate What We Were Given speech, prompting you to marvel that they can all roll their eyes at the same exact time and with the same degree of disgust. You will spend their lunchtime trying to get them to stay in their seats, eat their food, and not fight. You will fail.

You will wonder if lunch is a contact sport in other people's houses too. You will become momentarily overwhelmed by just how ineffectual your parenting is. You will step into the hallway and bang your head repeatedly against the wall, until five little voices announce that someone is at the door. They will stampede to the front door, fling it open so that it crashes into the book case, and pour out of the house, like clowns out of a VW bug, looking for the non-existent visitor. It will take you a long time to corral them back into the house and back to their lunch plates.

When they are finally finished eating, they will disperse to create five different disaster zones in various parts of the house. They will be intensely focused on the task at hand for 7 minutes, long enough for you to go to the bathroom and take one bite of your long-cold lunch.

All five of your swarming children will now decide that they deserve to watch a movie. You will say yes, sweet Jesus, yes, but you will have them clean up the day's activities first.

You will expect them to object and you will not be disappointed. It will not matter that the house rule is to tidy up bedrooms and common areas before turning on the television -- they will stall and complain and bitch and moan and resist and will not comply until faced with the usual ultimatum: if things aren't cleaned up in ten minutes, there will be no movie at all.

At some point in the next ten minutes, the youngest will mess her pants, the oldest will tease and torment the fourth born, reducing her to tears and causing you to wonder if he (the oldest) will someday land in jail, and the other two will pick this moment to color-categorize the entire lego set in one small corner of the house. A nice impulse, but a time-consuming one that doesn't actually fall into the Clean Up Your Room and the Common Areas in Ten Minutes column. They will not understand when you thank them politely through clenched teeth and re-direct them to the 8,632 crayons on the dining room floor.

When the rooms are finally...well...clean is maybe a stretch, but at least less hazardous than before, they will fight over which movie to watch, until they notice steam coming out of your ears and wisely decide to shut their pie holes and settle on a movie. There will be a few more scuffles over who gets to sit where, and finally, an exhausted air of inactivity will settle over the living room.

After about 13 minutes, a kid will come in and ask for a cookie.

And if you give a kid a cookie, you better be sure there is plenty of red wine in the house.

* * *

Thank you, Laura Numeroff, for the wonderful series that inspired this post. Your books are treasures in this house.

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24 May 2013

7 Quick Takes: Web Gems

I used to wish I had an extra hour or two in each day so that I could keep up with laundry and housecleaning.

Well, towels, socks, and clean bathrooms be damned, now I want those extra hours for discovering new things on the internet!  I am experiencing a renaissance of sorts, a re-discovery of the power of the web for GOODNESS and LIGHT.

Coming from a curmudgeon like me, this really is quite something.

To celebrate and spread my newfound Web-Wonder, my first 7 Quick Takes post in quite awhile highlights seven worthwhile ways to spend some time online, things to read, watch, or snort at.  Enjoy!

#1: A Catholic Quick Take: This week's reason to love Pope Francis.  Honestly, as if eschewing royal garments and red shoes weren't enough...if riding public transportation didn't do it...if living simply didn't just take the cake...now he steps out there and says just the most beautiful thing ever.  This man is holy.

Go read.  I'll wait.  Come on back after.

#2: A Colbert Response to the Catholic Quick Take Quick Take (3:50 minutes)

Honestly, as if I didn't already find him hilarious and brilliant...this man, this Pope of Basic Cable, is delightful.

#3: A Commencement Time of Year Quick Take (12:46 minutes)

Remember: when everyone is super, NO ONE IS.  Even in a Super Suit.

#4: A Reality Check Quick Take (1:14 minutes)

#5: An Awesome Education-Related Quick Take:

My work has allowed me to learn an awful lot about the amazing and wonderful things happening in the world of Education these days.  Take a look at this fantastic graphic.  For all of us who hope our children do well in school, I think deep down, this is what we really want for our kids...everything else can fall into place if they have these things:

This graphic comes from User Generated Education, as seen on Educator's Technology's website.  Visit them to learn more.

#6: A Random, But Inspiring Quick Take (14:32 minutes)

#7: The F-Bomb Quick Take...simply because I resemble that remark.  I wish I knew who to credit for this gem...I only know I grabbed it from a friend's FB page.

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As always, thank you to our 7QT host, Jennifer!  As always, please visit other 7QT-ers!  As always, please leave 7 Quick Comments to encourage and pacify the blogging world!

Happy three day weekend to all!

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22 May 2013

Where IS That Lady?

Picking up my kids from school is becoming a huge bummer.  Apparently, they are not able to get themselves and their backpacks loaded into the minivan without an impressive amount of bickering and screaming.

It's embarrassing and exhausting and I hate it.

Today, for what feels like the brazilianth time, I asked them to stop fighting.  They did not.  For the brazilianth time.

Weary and distressed, all I could say to them was this: "This family needs a little more kindness."

Little T, all six years of her: "What we NEED is a little more mommy-ness around here!"

* * *

That's not going to make a working mother even more weary and distressed AT ALL.


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20 May 2013

Parenting 101 Turned Upside Down

On the way home today, my daughters were talking about a girl at their school who is...challenging.  This child has had some rough patches in life, and she "acts out" quite a bit.  She lies, she accuses people of things, she creates drama.  She can be a bit tough to take.

I think every school has one.

So my littlest pipes up from the back seat: "I can't believe 'Mary' actually likes 'Susie'...I mean, really!"*  Keep in mind, my littlest one is six.

I felt the hackles on the back of my neck rise.

I will NOT have mean girls.  Will.  Not.

So it's a teachable moment, right?  I'm always up for a teachable moment.  Here's what I said:

Girls, listen to me very carefully.  I expect you and your brothers to be kind and gracious to everyone.  Everyone.  Remember, people who are mean and bratty are usually that way because they are sad about something.  You have to remember that and be compassionate towards them.  I don't want any of you to ever say mean things about anyone.  

The briefest of pauses...a mere pregnant beat in the air.  And then the oldest pipes up from the middle seat:

"Mom, are you sad?"

Ohhhh, the laughter and hilarity that ensued!  That made them laugh the whole rest of the way home.  Little stinkers.

* * *

In this, and many other ways, my children seem to defy Parenting Advice.  They're slippery folk, these five little beings.  I try various techniques designed to raise good and happy citizens, and they find a way to skewer them.  When I'm giving my best "this is why we aren't buying processed food" speech, one of my younger ones will look at me and say: "Mom, you should just chillax."

* * *

On the soccer field this weekend, another mom was talking about how her first child was such a great eater: the first born always liked healthy food, never snacked between meals, has always been willing to try new tastes, etc.  This mother naturally assumed it was because she had done such a good job of developing her child's tastes, and providing smart boundaries for snacking and eating.

Then she had her second one.  Everything was different with this one: no natural tendencies toward healthy eating, tons of surreptitious snacking, a raging sweet tooth.  She had to confront the possibility that she just got lucky with the first one, and that all her careful efforts were not the decisive factor in her first kid's great eating habits.

We decided that all this effort we put in to making the right decisions and "raising 'em right" was a big fat waste of time, and that we could probably just phone it in and get very similar results.

* * *

Maybe we should all just chillax.  Chillax and cheer up, or the sneaky monkeys will skewer you.

* * *

*names, of course, changed.  Susie, in this case, is the girl who can be mean; Mary is just an unwitting pawn in the story.

17 May 2013

Whatever Gets You Through The Night

This is what did it for me last night:

When you get to that moment, and you will, when you're within spitting distance of bedtime but entirely unsure if you'll get there with your dignity or your vocal chords intact, remember:  you can do ANYTHING for 20 more minutes.

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06 May 2013

You know you have a big family when...

...you're primary visceral reaction to a child breaking a bone is annoyance.

Closely related to: You know you have a big family when another parent expresses far more compassion and concern for said child than ever occurred to you.

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