Category Archives: Family

Snow Day…I Mean, Week

“Are you ready for the kids to go back to school?” the cashier asks me.  I know she’s just doing her job, making small talk, but as my three kids swarm around the cart, two of them arguing about god-knows-what-this-time, I reply “Yes!” with enough enthusiasm that it embarrasses me.

You see, there has been a much larger winter storm around here than we normally get, and the kids have been out of school for an entire week.  It goes like this:

Monday:

It’s President’s Day, and the kids are out of school! Yay!  I still need to try to get some work done, but I’ll at least be able to snuggle with them on the couch while I write, and then take them out to play in the snow later.

Tuesday:

Neat, the kids have another day off! I will cherish this one just as much as I did yesterday!  After all, the school will surely not be closed for a third day in a row.  Who wants to play Life?  And build a snowman?

This is Mr. Fuzzy!  Yeah, we don't have the greatest snowman-building snow.

This is Mr. Fuzzy! Yeah, we don’t have the greatest snowman-building snow.

Wednesday:

Okay, I’ve seriously got to get some work done.  Working from home is awesome,  except that nobody seems to realize you actually have to work.  I’ve relented to far too much video game time already, and they are still bored.  I knew when I became a parent that it was my job to keep them clothed and fed, but why is it my job to keep them constantly entertained?  Somehow, they’ve decided it’s too cold to play in the snow all of a sudden.

We get the automated call that school is out again tomorrow.  I groan audibly, not even bothering to hide it from the kids.

Thursday:

As soon as breakfast is over, the girls are whining (again) about how bored they are.  I respond by shipping them off to their room.  I have a paper and a presentation to do that I’ve been trying to get done all week.  Fortunately, the girls share a room and LOVE to build forts.  I don’t care if they use every single blanket they own (which they do, and it’s a considerable amount) and build a castle out of it, as long as I get this done!  My stepson has never been under the illusion that I’m cool, so he’s perfectly content to spend some time alone in his room.  By 2 pm, both my paper and my presentation are completed.  We celebrate with a trip to the library.

“You probably have school tomorrow,” I tell the kids on the way home from the library.  “It’s already four and they haven’t said they’re closed yet.”  They whine and moan, but I’m not really sure how I feel.

At seven, my phone rings.  I hit the speaker button so the kids can hear the robot lady’s voice say, “There will be no school tomorrow.”  They jump of the couch, shouting and dancing.  I smile a little.

Friday:

I take the day off.  We spend the morning watching TV and playing board games.  When the girls leave to go to their dad’s for the weekend, the house feels so empty I don’t know what to do with myself.  I sprinkle some salt on the sidewalk and wish for more snow.

Not my car, but it may as well have been!

Not my car, but it may as well have been!

 

 

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If You’ve Ever Wondered Why I’m a Nervous Wreck…

Please note:  This was meant to be posted before Christmas.  I got pretty far behind with the kids bringing home stomach bugs, the passing of my dear Cutie Cupcake, and then of course preparing for Christmas.  It seems a bit less relevant now, but it would be a shame to waste it! 🙂

Wednesday, 6 a.m.  The dread sets in as soon as the alarm on my cell phone goes off.  It’s one of those ringtones that sounds pretty pleasant when you listen to it while you’re wide awake, but is horribly annoying when it actually wakes you up.  I usually wake myself up by thinking of all the things I need to do for the day.  It’s really not a good idea.  I know that I will need to walk two dogs (who can’t be walked simultaneously) and wake up three kids all pretty much at the same time.

As I pass by my son’s room, I see that there’s no light under his bedroom door.  No surprise.  His alarm is set to go off before mine does since he’s such a slow poke in the mornings, but as usual he has turned it off and gone back to sleep until I blaze into his room and roust him.  One of these days I’m going to get really mean and douse him with a bucket of water, but for the moment I’m still too nice.  One dog goes out, while the other whines that he wants his turn.  My eldest daughter is up and dressed, all on her own, but she’s whining (again) about how tired she is.  We are all tired, I tell her, but it never sinks in.  I start trying to wake up the youngest, who’s 5.  I can’t seem to get her trained to an alarm clock.  The hulking hunk of Hello Kitty colored plastic on the corner of her dresser can be blasting beeps that can be heard all over the house, but she will still be snoring peacefully.  I can come up to the side of her bed, however, and ask her quietly what she dreamed about, and she will be wide awake and chattering in a moment.

Her kindergarten class is making gingerbread houses this morning, and they asked for volunteers. When she presented the flyer to me last week and said, “Will you be there, Mommy?” well… How could I say no? It doesn’t matter that an elementary school is the worst nightmare of an antisocial germophobe; if big blue five-year-old eyes ask you to go, you go. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, even though one little boy insisted on eating ask if his decorations before they could make it onto his house, and one little girl insisted on licking each decoration.

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I realize when I get home that I had promised her a pretty dress to wear to her holiday recital tomorrow night, but I never went and bought one. I tear through the girls’ closet, feeling like the worst mother ever. I come up with a glitzy black number that her older sister wore three years ago, and hang it with shaking hands at the foot of her bed, simultaneously hoping it’s good enough and reminding myself that it must be good enough.

Oh, crap. We’re supposed to make treats for the Girl Scout holiday party.

I pause here for The Middle. This is the one pleasure I allow myself that I actually DON’T feel guilty for. Two reruns are aired back-to-back at lunchtime, and I bask in the glory of their dysfunction daily.

When the kids get home from school, the evening chaos begins.  Trying to orchestrate three children in their homework and their chores while also finding time to make dinner is simply not a calm process.  We try to squeeze in some down time on the couch somewhere among baths, packing backpacks for the next day, deciding who’s eating school lunch and who finds school spaghetti deplorable. Oh, yes, and baking cakes for Girl Scouts.

At some point I collapse into bed and fall asleep while visions of undone chores dance in my head.

Thursday, 6 a.m.

For the first part of the day, suffice it to say we can just repeat the first couple of paragraphs for Wednesday.

After a few cups of coffee, I’ve cranked out the rest of my paper.  I click save just in time for my husband to remind me we need to go to town and run some errands.  This pretty much means the rest of my day is shot, because by the time we get back home it will be almost time for the kids to get home.  Did you know that around 3:30 every vehicle that comes down our road sounds like a school bus?  True story.

Fortunately, there’s no homework today so we can get straight to icing the cakes we baked for Girl Scouts.  The girls each want to do it themselves, independent little things that they are, and I eventually let go of my OCD and just let them have at it.  Sure, you can put sprinkles on it.  Dump the whole darn container on there for all I care, as long as they’re done and I can shove them back in the fridge.

It’s time to get ready for Claire’s holiday concert.  I always make a much bigger deal out of these things than need be.  Always.  I get on my best sweater, actually bother with putting on makeup between shouting at the kids to stop fighting already, and try to explain to Violet why camouflage snow boots might not be the nicest attire for her little sister’s concert.  I get Claire into her sparkly black dress (which she was thrilled with…phew!) and the black tights I’d grabbed at Walmart when we ran errands.  Then I have to remind her incessantly that no, you simply cannot carry around our giant furball of a cat while you’re wearing black.  Several lint roller sessions later, we’re finally ready to go.

You know how on Black Friday you see lines of people waiting to get into stores?  That’s what our elementary school looks like at 6 p.m. the night of a concert.  The smart ones get their early to grab their seats so they don’t have to be standing at the back of the gym like they did last year.  We get a decent spot on the bleachers near the stage, but once the kindergarteners file onto the stage, I can just barely see my daughter over the top of a poorly placed microphone stand.  Next year we’re leaving 45 minutes early instead of 30.

Back at home, the kids undressed and coerced into bed, I fall asleep on the couch watching my favorite show and wake up with an undeniable craving for chocolate chip cookie dough.  After arguing with myself about it for awhile, I haul my pajama-clad self into the kitchen and start baking.  Fast forward half an hour and I’ve eaten enough cookie dough to satisfy my craving and make me feel incredibly guilty.  I leave the mixing bowl in the sink to soak overnight.  I’m ready to curl up in bed and read until I fall asleep with a book on my face.  It’s been a long day, just like all the other ones.  As I settle back into my  pillow, I realize my son doesn’t have any clean pants for school tomorrow.  Sigh.

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Making a Snow Decision

So, it’s been snowing here. That means curling up in front of the fireplace, drinking hot cocoa out of mismatched mugs, and coloring pictures of Elsa and Anna all day, right? Nope. It means white-hot raging Facebook debates about whether or not the kids should be going to school tomorrow. It would make an excellent drinking game, really. Just take a shot every time someone says ‘snow’ or ‘school closing.’ You’ll be drunk before you know it. This fluffy stuff on the ground also triggers several bread buying debates on social media, and you can see my opinion on that here.

There are two schools of thoughts in this debate:

#1 – There is not that much darn snow on the ground. The roads are a little wet and there’s a dusting of snow in the grass. Get over it. The kids should be in school, and we shouldn’t waste snow days on this.

I have to agree with this. It’s really not that bad out. And since I work from home, I need the kids to go to school so I can get my work done. Otherwise I’ll be curled up in front of the fireplace, drinking hot cocoa out of mismatched mugs, and coloring pictures of Elsa and Anna all day.

#2 – The wet roads will freeze overnight. The curvy country roads aren’t safe. We should be more concerned about the safety of our children than anything else. The people who want to send their children to school just want a free break from their children.

I have to agree with this stance as well. I do put the safety of my children above all else, and I would much rather they be home safe than stuck on a bus somewhere. It’s funny, though, because I lived in Colorado for the first twelve years of my life. We had to go to school when it snowed or else we would never have any school at all. When we moved to Illinois, we laughed at the school cancellations that blared across the news the moment a flake hit the ground. In Colorado, we almost always went to school, and it was fine.

Except that time when it wasn’t. The snow had been falling heavily and the high winds were drifting it across the road. None of this was unusual, but the bus was having trouble plowing through it all that day. As we approached the house of a kid whose name I can’t remember, he said, “We’re going to get stuck at my house.” His place was nestled between two hills, and the wind had filled that little valley with enough snow to build an army of yetis. His prediction had been correct. The entire busload of kids piled off into his house. I remember the long line of kids waiting to use the phone to call their parents and let them know where we were. The weather was so bad that the majority of us had to spend the night, and extra food was brought in on horseback. The news team made it to the house shortly before my dad was able to pick us and the neighbor girl up in a borrowed truck, and we were on TV that night throwing snow balls at each other.

So what’s the point? Well, we were okay, so it all ended up fine. But my mother was terrified. I was a bit miserable sleeping on a stranger’s living room floor. I remember it well enough that I can even describe the shirt I was wearing that day (red, with a black horse’s head, and its mane was made of Christmas lights. Hey, it was the 90’s.) It’s a nice conversation starter, but maybe it is better to be safe than sorry. For the moment, it looks like I’ll be loading the kids up on the big yellow bus in the morning. But I just might have some cocoa for them.

IMG_9368 copy

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Mom’s the Rotten Egg

“Last one in is a rotten egg!” one of my kids screams as they all scramble into the backseat of the Subaru.  Then the debate begins on which one is truly the rotten egg.  Is it the last one physically in the car?  Or the last one to get buckled?  I settle the debate: “Mom’s the rotten egg.”

“No! You can’t be the rotten egg!  I love you!”  My littlest one can be sweet to a fault.

But, being Mom, I really am the rotten egg.  I’m first one up in the morning, but I’m the last one to bed.  I’m the last one to sit down at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table.  I’m the last one to be ready to go when we’re on our way out the door because I’ve been busy getting everyone else ready.

I’m okay with being the rotten egg though.  Parenting is tiresome, frustrating, and sometimes even confusing, but I can’t imagine not doing it.  So when the kids are racing across the yard, I’ll gladly stand back and be the rotten egg.

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Why I Still Shop at Hobby Lobby

Don’t get yourself all up in arms over birth control rights just due to the title of this post.  I’m not here to talk about whether employers should have control over their employees’ reproductive rights (they shouldn’t) or if people should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies (they should).  I’m not here to spark a debate about what your religious beliefs are (your business, not mine) or what my religious beliefs are (my business, not yours).  I’m here to talk about how to get craft supplies when you are in desperate need of crafting therapy.

Okay, that’s a bit of a joke, but still kind of true.  (Truth makes it funny, though.  Right?  Right?  *crickets chirping*)

Here’s the deal:  When I’m not writing, or cleaning, or taking care of the kids, or studying, or catching a little bit of shuteye, I like to craft.  Sometimes that involves scrapbooking, or cross-stitching, or sewing.  Most recently, my favorite thing to play with is polymer clay.

Carrot Cake from Athena's Dream.  www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

Carrot Cake from Athena’s Dream. http://www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

As I stepped through Hobby Lobby’s doors last night, I remembered the snort of derision someone gave me in a recent conversation when I had mentioned I had been in that much-debated store.  I know that the flames have died down a bit, but it is obviously still a relevant issue for people.  But here’s why I still shop there:  They are a local store.  That’s it.  There’s the magic for me, right there.  I could get clay on Amazon or Etsy, but if I shop at Hobby Lobby I know I’m supporting other local people.  Despite what their corporate office has had to say about healthcare, Hobby Lobby still provides me with the instant gratification of a hunk of clay in my hands and the knowledge that I’ve supported a local store.  Sure, there are Hobby Lobby stores across America, so you can’t technically call it a local business, but there are local people that work there.  That’s the part I care about.

I think we let the media get us so riled up about one little corner of the picture that we forget to see the rest of it.

So yes, I will continue to shop at Hobby Lobby.  And I will enjoy it.  And I will make cute crafty things when I get home.

Happy Pumpkin Pie Earrings from Athena's Dream.  www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

Happy Pumpkin Pie Earrings from Athena’s Dream. http://www.facebook.com/athenasdreamjewelry

You can find more of my craftiness at my Facebook page for Athena’s Dream Jewelry and Crafts.

 

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The Big Red Button of Life

I did it.  I pushed it.  Twice.

How could I help myself?  It’s round, and red, and says, ‘Do Not Push on Pain of Parenthood’.  But once you push it, you can’t go back on it.  You’ve created something that you can’t stop and you can’t control.  That’s a pretty powerful force.

They will grow up, fall in love, get their hearts broken, fall in love again, go to college, get jobs, get married, and probably push that big red button themselves.

There will be so many other things about their lives that I can’t control, such as who they like, who they hang out with, and what they hear and see when they aren’t with me.  Sometimes even when they are with me.

It’s best that I accept this indomitable force right now instead of wondering, later on down the road, just how it all happened.

So good luck, kids.  You’re going to need it, especially if you ever push that big red button.

Big red button

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The Tragedy of the Working Mother

You’ve been there, haven’t you?  You’re rushing home from working late, hoping to squeeze in a little quality time with the kids somewhere between a thrown-together dinner and a high-speed bath before bedtime.  Your best friend calls.  “Oh, by the way, [insert name of stay-at-home mom here] says that her little girl is already counting to 50!  And she’s potty trained!  It’s a good thing she gets to spend so much time with her.”

It’s like someone just handed you a guilt trip right through the phone.

As a mom, I’ve really tried to deal with my guilt.  I always felt like it would really be best for the kids if I stayed home, but I couldn’t afford it.  I’ve slogged through life with my kids in one hand and my guilt in the other, and needed several more hands for cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and maybe stealing a little time to read.  Or, heaven forbid, sleep.

For awhile I lived as a single mother.  I worked late many nights, and by the time I got the kids picked up and back home there just wasn’t enough time for everything.  I didn’t teach my babies sign language.  They never went to pre-K because the schedule didn’t jive with my work hours.  Violet absolutely refused to get a head start on numbers or letters before school started.

My youngest just started kindergarten, which is what got me thinking about all this, about all those other mothers who stayed home with their kids and gave them such an advantage over my poor children.  Claire is the youngest of three, which means she has always just been part of the chaos of a big family instead of a brilliant youngster with a dedicated mother.  Would she be behind?  Would she suffer?

Then I got her test results from the beginning of the year.

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You see those blue dots?  Those blue dots are my child.  MY child, who’s pre-school education mostly included a lot of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while I was getting ready in the morning.

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You see that dot?  The one so far up there that it’s almost off the chart?  That dot means that I’m not a bad mom.  That dot means that somewhere along the lines I did something right.  That dot means that the weekend trips to the library and the discussions in the car about everything we saw around us actually meant something.  That dot means that I don’t have to feel so guilty.  And neither, fellow working mother, do you.

 

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The Life and Times of Bunny Blanky

Without bothering to do any research on it, I would say the majority of us grow up with some kind of security item.  I had a blanket that my great aunt made me, and I used it until there were big, gaping holes in the poor thing.  Linus from Peanuts said he would turn his blanket into a sport coat when he got older so he never had to give it up.  “Comfort objects” are mentioned in The Giver.  My oldest daughter absolutely adored her pacifier, which was incredibly difficult to get her to give up.  My youngest daughter, however, has Bunny Blanky.

While I was pregnant with my first daughter I cross-stitched a baby blanket, with a cute picture of a bunny in pj’s sitting on the moon.  She liked it, but the only thing she was really, truly attached to was that dang pacifier (thank you, hospital staff, for not asking me if it was okay to give this addictive drug to my child).  I made another cross-stitched baby blanket when I was pregnant with Claire, but this time with a scene from Peter Rabbit.

Ignore how awful I look.  I'd just had a C-section.

Ignore how awful I look. I’d just had a C-section.  Claire came a couple weeks early so I was still working on Bunny while in the hospital.

Claire was not a very happy baby, but from the very beginning there was something special to her about this blanket.  She spit out pacifiers like they were poison, but as she got into her toddler years her bond with Bunny Blanky only grew stronger.

I had to have some rules about this, though.  It sounds mean, right?  To tell your child she can’t take her most precious item to the pool?  Or to the grocery store?  Well, do you have any idea how long it took me to make all those stitches?  Bunny Blanky is pretty much irreplaceable.  Besides, it would make an odd looking business suit at her first job interview.

Bunny Blanky isn't as young as he used to be.

Bunny Blanky isn’t as young as he used to be.

Claire is 5 now, and just started kindergarten.  She is used to the rule about not taking Bunny anywhere with her, but as soon as she gets off the bus she wraps her arms around him and tells him how much she missed him.  She even made him a Valentine’s card this year.  Bunny has been washed many times (often when Claire isn’t at home, because according to her he takes f o r e v e r to get clean).  When a thread works loose, Claire is devastated until I fix it.  She knows she has to get rid of her clothes when they don’t fit her anymore, and has asked me countless times if she’ll have to get rid of Bunny since her little feet stick out from under the bottom edge now.  (I always tell her no.)

Am I concerned?  Well, no.  I still have the cow pillow my mom made me when I was little, and the teddy bear Santa gave me in 1st grade, but the cow lives on a shelf in my closet and Fudge Bear has made his way to the room my daughters share.  Claire will only give up Bunny when she’s good and ready, and it’s nice to know that she feels the love I put in all those stitches.

 

 

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Tea for Three, Please

You ever decide you want something, and you get so obsessed over it that you just can’t stop until you have that precious object in your hands?  For some people it’s a puppy, a baby, or that fabulous job with a corner office, but for me it was a tea set.

I’d been thinking about buying a tea set for several years.  My two daughters had a pretty good mishmash of several plastic tea sets that no sane person would ever put their lips to (except perhaps after a really thorough washing), but I wanted a real tea set.  One in which I could serve real tea, maybe with real little cookies (because the plastic ones aren’t very appetizing), and my girls and I could act like ladies.

I suppose I’d been waiting until the girls were old enough, but what really gave me a kick in the pants to go for this was this sneaking suspicion that my 8 year old was pulling away from me, perhaps encroaching on the pre-teen grumpy-with-attitude hormonal thing.  I didn’t think I would ever write words like that at the ripe old age of 8, but there it is.  I decided a tea set would be a great way (excuse?) to sit down with my daughters and make sure we stayed super close.

So, like anyone looking to buy crap they don’t really need, I headed for eBay.  I spent hours poring through listing after listing of tea sets.  I found new ones, old ones, extremely expensive ones, and a few that were pretty darn cute.  I finally settled on this one.

Our fancy new tea set

Our fancy new tea set.

The picture really doesn’t do it justice.  (The lighting in the dining room is pretty awful.) It’s a gorgeous gold with little Victorian couples, and the bottoms say Western Germany.  It was easy to decide on this one when I showed it to my girls and they said, “Oh, it’s so BEAUTIFUL!  Can we have it?  Can we can we can we?”

The day after it arrived we sat down for our inaugural tea party.  The girls voted to have a hot cocoa party though.

Hot Cocoa Party

Complete with a sugar bowl full of marshmallows.

Sugar Bowl of Marshmallows

We sipped our cocoa with our pinkies in the air and called each other m’lady.  It was, in short, just as fabulous as I imagined it would be.

We didn’t have any cookies this time, but I imagine the next tea party will involve a baking party immediately beforehand!

 

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Top Tips for Writing

It’s difficult to get all my work done sometimes.  There are so many distractions.  I need to be on my computer a significant part of the day if I’m actually going to have a successful freelancing business, but somehow I find myself outside weeding the garden or playing a rousing round of Go Fish with the kids.  I’m getting a little better at focusing, though, so here are my

TOP  TIPS FOR WRITING

6. Rig up some sort of system that will send you some nasty electric shocks every time you wander off to Facebook.

5. Encourage your spouse to play video games.  Then you won’t feel guilty about not spending time with him/her. Plus he/she will lose track of just how much time you’ve spent on that computer today.

4. Wear a hoodie, so you can put snacks and candy in the pockets.

3.  Wear earbuds.  These will deter people who may try talking to you, as well as drown out the sound of the kids watching the same episode of Phineas and Ferb for the umpteenth time.  Also very effective for pretending you didn’t hear, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”

2.  Get super comfortable.  My dad’s rule when I worked for him as a kid was to always get comfortable first, and I still abide by this.  The more comfortable you are, the less likely you’ll be to get up and run just one more load of laundry.

1.  Get a cat, and make sure it’s on your lap.  This kind of goes along with “get super comfortable”, because when you have a cat on your lap you can’t get up.  That’s the rule.  Really.  Just ask the cat.

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And yes, I was supposed to be writing when I made this.

 

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