In which there is just too much to do

On Fridays, Steve drops the girls off and comes home.  I go back to school, get Sophia and drop her off at her advanced study class at another school.  I come home for a little while, then run back to pick her up, then back to their regular school to get Madeline.  It's non-stop driving.  But a recent Friday wouldn't end with the driving rush, we had much more to do.  

After school, we had to pick up dresses from the seamstress who had been closed the prior two days due to snow. That meant if the dresses didn't fit, there was no time for further alterations since I needed the dresses Saturday morning.  I also had to squeeze in manicures for two girls because A) I promised B) pageant girls "need" nails.  And, after that, we had to head off to Sophia's birthday party at the bowling alley and then, if it hadn't been enough already, get to the Sheraton before 9 pm to sign-in and get our numbers and info packet for the pageant/talent show my girls were to be in on Saturday.

I could manage all this, right?  After all I am the management. 

Well, the day started off okay, but around 1 o'clock Steve got a message from school saying Sophia is sitting in the office waiting for us and where were we?  Steve rushed out the door and I called the school secretary back and gave her a good laugh by saying, "Sorry, but we just wanted Sophia to know her place. Oh, and yes, Steve is on his way." No harm in occasionally forgetting a child, we have two others.

After school I told the girls we had a busy afternoon and they had to get right into the house to try on those dresses so we could move, move, move.  I pulled into the driveway, ran into the house and had the dresses in my arms but no girls.  I turned around to find two girls out sledding on the hill their dad made in the front yard.  What hurry?!? 

I hauled them in despite many loud protests.  I quickly got them undressed and redressed and you guessed it. Sophie's dress did not fit; and in fact, didn't look altered at all. More worries!  I went in the kitchen for a pin from the drawer and ... 
found my dishwasher had leaked over the entire kitchen floor. I bellowed to Steve  that we needed him now and then rushed around to get towels enough to sop up the ongoing mess.  Poor Steve, I left him to manage that one as best he could. 

I got girls into party clothes and threw a hairbrush into my purse. I headed to the nail salon at which there was no parking. After waiting  for almost an hour to get started (all the while looking like a fool by doing hair in a nail salon),  I got to wait an hour longer to get done then rushed home like mad. Still on time though, if only barely. 

Moments later Steve and I hustled everyone into the car for the party.  We stopped to get pizza and arrived just as the first guests also arrive.  Twenty-three 8- and 9-year-old guests and some parents, some bowling, cake, games, presents, thank you's and out the door to the hotel.  We signed in and sat around while the girls grabbed the stage for a little practice session.   Alex fell asleep and whew, we made it through the day. Victory!

Saturday dawned bright and early... and was a wonderful day full of fun and new friends and two little girls very proud of themselves.  But it was a long day. A very, very, very long day. Maybe I'll blog the details another time, it would take pages in itself.  I can't recall a day in recent memory with quite as much excitement, activity, and rushed details. 

Unfortunately, I woke up Sunday with screaming pain in my stomach. I spent much of the day altering between trying to clean the house and laying around curled up in a ball holding back the tears.   I try to cancel the party but this lead to more tears (Sophie's, not mine) and ultimate rescue from a wonderful husband who agreed to make dinner.  And, good grief, I still hurt though the stomach ache was finally gone.  My ribs hurt, my side hurt, I felt bruised and achy and had no idea why.  My best guess is that lovely son number one, who mostly insists on sleeping in our bed, must have kicked me in his sleep. Either that or I had an acute kidney infection, and since that was pretty darned unlikely then I guess I don't know what was going on with me... but I do know I was not 100% .  

To make things worse, I did not win any Mother-Of-The-Year awards for making Sophia clean her room on her birthday. Naughty Mommy. It's very true when they say that moms can't get sick.  There simply isn't time enough in the schedule!

And my bonus for Sunday?  There were drums. Yes, drums. 

To erase any doubts you might have regarding my fitness as a mother, consider this one.  I agreed to let Sophia have a drum set for her birthday.  She had asked for over a year, maybe two, and I gave in.  All day with the drums and I thought my head would burst. It was fun to see them play around, and especially fun to see Alex play... but seriously, I need to have my head examined concerning this decision. Maybe they can examine what's left of it after all the chaos and noise. 

Steve made the dinner, which was great.  Since we used paper plates and plastic cups and utensils, clean-up was a breeze. So we ate delicious sloppy joes off of paper plates and our birthday celebration was uber-casual.  What can we conclude from all this?

I love paper plates. I love my children and apparently--  I love chaos and over-scheduling.  Either that or I'm a complete nincompoop.  When my aunt walked in to my house that night  and saw the drums, she exclaimed, "Drums?! Oh you are a fool."   Fool?  I don't know, but on weekends like this, she might just be right.  Bottom line: I think I'll just lay around in my pajamas from now on and watch TV all day.

Who am I kidding? That could never happen. But I do know that the older the girls get, the more hectic and chaotic life becomes. I know we need to stop sometimes and just relax, have a family game night or watch a movie. It's a bit silly, but seriously, I am going to have to 
add it to my list of things to do:  

  1. relax
  2. slow dow
  3. try not to forget children

If I don't find a way to schedule this, I may just end up with an ulcer.  Or, maybe I already have one.  Either way, what I need tonight is a glass of wine and some calgon.  I think I'll eat cake too.

As I wrap this up, I glance at my calendar, the next two weeks are pretty much packed.  I'm  free on the seventh though, so I pencil it in:  



So help me, God

I am the management. I create the schedule, assign the tasks, check the progress of the team. I am the CFO, the cook, the housekeeping staff. I run interference. I am the chauffeur. I provide the tools and oversee the work. I take notes. I am the secretary and the gopher. I am the staff-nurse. I am the critic and the audience. I am the one who writes the script and fills out the cast. I am on call 24 hours a day. I work for free. But I am not the Boss.

Today has been tough. No school which meant bored kids, bickering kids. And, it means they will still be in school next July when I am ready to hit the beach after this long, cold winter. We have a pageant on Saturday, a birthday party on Friday night, a family dinner on Sunday.

The pageant has taken the better part of a month to prepare for. Seriously. Four costume changes each, multiple routines (Oh, yes, I am the choreographer too.) Too much work, all mine. Forcing extra piano practice sessions and dance practice sessions on top of our already overly full schedule of dance, piano, theater classes, schoolwork and life. Fitting in trips to have dresses altered, nails done, superfluous activities galore.  I have not a minute to spare it seems.

The girls have insane amounts of homework lately, and on top of that extra work from their advanced academic program. Research projects. MLA documentation. Ridiculous expectations. And one who tells me at 9pm tonight that she has a book report due tomorrow. not. yet. started. 

Cake. Games. Prize bags. Cupcakes, juice. Did I remember to buy her a gift? Keeping track of who can come, who was invited. Almost forgetting the neighbor's kid. Birthday parties are not exactly a breeze.

I have wash in the washer, wash in the dryer, clothes folded on the bed. There are dishes. The floors need washing. Boots, hats and gloves are multiplying by the front door. Get two together and end up with fifty. They multiple exponentially and without restraint. The trash, which I have taken out twice already, is overflowing in the kitchen.

I am overwhelmed.

Sometimes I envy the working mom. Drop those kids off at daycare and with no one in the house all day, it stays clean for hours, if not days, at a time. My house doesn't stay clean for mere minutes. I can leave a room spotless, and return to disaster. When someone asks what I do, I sheepishly answer that I am a stay-at-home-mom. There's no shame in it. It is work.

But staying home is also a luxury. Steve works hard enough to allow me to maintain a place in the home. Being here for the kids, guiding their every step, loving them through every mess, every spat, every dirty dish and every bedtime argument. Staying home allows me to be the general management, even when it feels like mere maintenance

                               Management. It's what I do. 


Everyday magic

My sink is magic. I kid you not. It can make things disappear; it can make things appear.  I doubt the previous owners of the house knew they were installing a magic sink. It certainly wasn't in the realtor's description when we bought the house. 

              For Sale:  Family-sized, 1 and 1/2 bath, four bedroom garrison colonial. 
     Needs work. Previous owners taste awful, so here is an opportunity to impose 
     your own style. Unfinished basement. Huge living room, additional family 
     room, open dining room to kitchen designed for comfortable gatherings. 
     Bonus: magic sink.   

No, I'm fairly sure it didn't say that.

 When I walk into my kitchen, all day every day, there are dishes in the sink.  I usually empty it first thing in the morning, loading everything into the dishwasher.  Whew! That's done.  I sweep the floors, sometimes run the steam mop, clean the counters etc.  Not like I didn't do it the night before, it just always needs doing again in the morning.  I sit down with my coffee and check my email.  I return to the kitchen for a refill.  VIOLA!  

Dishes in the sink.  How did that happen?  Empty it again. The dishwasher is usually full by now, so I put in some detergent and turn it on.  I might start in on cleaning the toy room now.  Back into the kitchen to fill a cup for Alex.  VIOLA! Dishes in the sink again. Okay, now I have to empty the dishwasher just to get these in.   Done. Go do something else for awhile.  And  later, as I pass through the kitchen again, maybe getting some food and water for hungry dogs... VIOLA! 

My word! It is  like magic, there were no dishes and now there are dishes.  I look around, seeing no one who could have possibly put them there, and I marvel at the amazing abilities of my mystical sink. 

But that's not all it can do.  Things disappear. Spoons mostly. Sometimes forks.  A dishrag.  I think the sink takes these items as payment or tips for it's daily routine performances. 

And after dinner, the kids carefully trained to be told not once, not twice, but fully three times before clearing their plates-- I empty the sink and load it all into my dishwasher. Again, the job is done. Fin.  

Until an hour or so later, when I walk by and find the sink has once again astounded me, against the odds, and mysteriously produced  another pile of dishes.  They sit there waiting for me to remove them. I do. But as I do this, I know that overnight that sink will once again perform producing not one, not two, not even three, but a sinkful of dishes for me to marvel at in the morning.                       

Yes. It must be magic. 
If this post sounds like your house... 
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I'd like to eat too.

  Some days- No, most days, I eat standing up at the kitchen counter.  By the time I get food served onto plates for the kiddos, I barely have time to take a bite before the, "Mommy, I need" and the, "Mommy, get me" begins. 

 Two finicky girls, a finicky husband, and a toddler who eats on his own schedule don't make the family dinner special in our house, but I do think it is typical for the modern mom. No candles, no table cloth, paper towels instead of napkins most times, paper cups too; it's all a matter of inconvenience just to try to get everyone to eat at the same time. And, I might add, I am not a great cook so I rely heavily on prepared foods.  Yep, I am one of those moms.  

  Tonight I am sitting down eating Ramen noodles an hour after the kids have had their dinner.  By the time I got past  getting one milk, getting one juice, cleaning the little man's  mac and cheese from the floor  ("Mommy, I dropped my soup," he says like it's a game),  filling his "baby juice" bottle with OJ (the only beverage he will drink right now), fetching a spoon for the one who won't eat noodles with a fork, getting the butter, and the "Mooom, I need the salt too"--   You get the picture, by the time I have the requests completed, my food is stone cold and I've only managed three bites from my plate as I run back and forth from counter to table to fridge to counter to cupboard to table to--  Where Am I?      Right. Dinner is over, and I am sitting here with fried noodles that microwave in three minutes.   

  One daughter is doing homework, one is playing piano.  The little man is asleep on the couch behind me.  I am sitting here, saying Hello to you.  Saying Hello and eating my 30 cent noodles.  And, you know what?  They're good.  The rush and hassle of my family dinner hour?  All good. 

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Dear teacher please stop giving me homework

How is is that my children's homework ends up being my homework? I don't relish the idea of looking up the pony express or how many fruits and vegetables you are required to have by the federal government if you follow the new food pyramid.  No, I don't want to do this. I want to spend my online time researching things that are far more useful and relevant to my life, like why the price of Dunkin' Donuts coffee keeps going up and how many people I know are on Facebook right now. 

But I keep finding myself pulled into the homework vortex. 

I do not recall as a kid 
A) having as much homework as my children have
B) having any homework that required my mother to participate. 

Oh sure, there was an occasional trip to the library or dash to the craft store... but definitely nothing more than that. 

I have had to sit and format my kid's bibliography of five sources in MLA documentation. This kid is in fifth grade!  But it's not just the over-reaching things that are assigned to mom; it's also the mundane.  I have sat and watched my child in tears because she was assigned another "review" of some basic, long-since mastered skill.  Here, Students, I couldn't think of anything new to teach, so do these 110 long addition problems tonight. That's just tedious, and it's borderline cruel. 

Dear teacher, once a skill is mastered, move on. 
Dear teacher, if you are not covering it in class, it probably shouldn't be sent home as homework. 

I have a friend who has a degree in child psychology and holds a position with the Massachusetts school department. She is adamant that homework has been proven to be useless; claims that after six hours of institutionalized learning, the child brain can handle nothing more and it needs the break.  I have friends with teaching degrees who insist that the extra hours at home enforce the skills learned during the day. I guess I fall somewhere between these two positions,  and would go so far as to say perhaps it needs to be weighed on a case by case basis.   

If the child  is learning arithmetic with fractions, then send home a few problems for reinforcement.  Color in this map?  That's just busy work.  And I think I know why they send home the busywork:

Teachers are accountable too. The unions, the school administration, and even we parents--  expect results. Sometimes those results are hard to quantify though testing or class lessons. So, it is quantified by depth.  Not how far did you go into teaching the kids this subject-- rather how far did you go into completing this book? And this one? And this one?  

So, often what cannot be completed in the classroom, is sent for completion at home. I think this is usually built into the lesson plan before the year even starts.  

I got a notice from my girls' school that said middle school children who fail to complete homework will be given detention. And further, that, "piano, baseball, dance class, etc are not excuses." While I think it's great that there is some threat of punishment to scare the kids into being responsible, I also know that sometimes other parts of life get in  the way.  The letter really angered me. If a child is really into good, healthy extracurriculars then those activities should certainly be allowed time and a place.  The notice from the school did not cite a threat to the kids who came home and ate Doritos and watched TV...  

I have been the mom who, after school, rushes to the store to get kids shoes or some other outgrown necessity. I have come into the house, herded them out of school clothes and into others, then back in the car for lessons.  I have been the mom who comes home at 8 pm, exhausted from doing family things, and possibly still needing to make dinner... and still need to assign who gets into the bath first.  It's days like these that the kids need a  homework reprieve.

My oldest  daughter had one teacher who did the most brilliant thing.  Every Monday, she sent home the homework for the week. She simply said to have it in by Friday morning. Her philosophy was that this enabled the kid's to learn some time management skills, and for families to work around lessons and other schedules.  I loved it.

I do wish more teachers would utilize the "assign Monday, due Friday" format.

And, I do wish they would assign it to the kids and not mom.  MLA is not exactly something I've memorized.  

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