Category Archives: Parenting

Barf Duty: Should My Kids Stay Home Today?

I think one of the hardest decisions I have to make as a parent of school-age children is whether they are sick enough to stay home from school or not. It doesn’t sound that difficult, I know, but if you’ve been there then you know what I mean.

First of all, I swear at least one of my children has a complaint every single morning. They are either too tired, or they’ve coughed once, or they imagine they have a stomachache because they’re hungry. If I let them stay home every time they said they didn’t feel good, they’d be home all year long.

Now, if I do decide to let them stay home, inevitably they feel absolutely fine just a couple hours later. Fine enough that they are hanging on me, begging for snacks or another round of Go Fish even though I’ve explained that I need to work. Fine enough that I ought to take them to school, but I never do. Fine enough that I think I made the wrong decision.

Of course, then there are the mornings when I have leaned the other direction and sent them to school anyway, only to get a call from the nurse a couple hours later to come pick up my puking and/or feverish child.

There’s no way to win.

And that’s why I told my youngest that she was going to school Tuesday morning. She had already stayed home on Monday with a bellyache, and of course she spent most of the day playing, singing, running in the house after I told her not to, and in general enjoying herself far too much for a sick day.  No vomiting, no fever.

So when she complained of a bellyache Tuesday morning, I didn’t worry about it. I mean, she was fine, right? She got up and ate her weight in Cap’n Crunch, as usual, and seemed alright. Our normal morning routine is to spend any extra time before the bus comes cuddling on the couch and watching TV, and when we sat down she complained of her stomach hurting. Again, I assured her she was fine.

And then Cap’n Crunch exploded all over my living room. Seriously, if you haven’t ever seen a lake of well-used crunchberries spreading all over your living room floor, then I don’t advise it. It came pretty close to beating the Double Projectile Vomiting of Cocoa Puffs Incident of 2010. (They both stayed home that day.)

Of course this was two minutes before it was time to go outside for the bus, so I was racing back and forth between mopping up puke and making sure my other daughter was at the bus on time.

So what was the universe trying to teach me here? That I should just let my kids stay home any time they’re under the weather? That there’s a reason I don’t eat kid cereal? (Cause really, I don’t even want to smell that stuff anymore.) Or maybe just that it’s impossible to always make the right decisions as a parent.

All I can do is scoop up the barf and move on.

sick day

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It’s Worth It

I settle into my burgundy leather office chair and pull myself up to my desk.  I love this desk.  It’s solid cherry with an attached hutch, which it gives it that study-carrel-at-the-library feel.  (I like that feeling, cause I’m a nerd.)  We even moved my desk recently so it would be at a ninety degree angle to the bookshelf, and give me just a little bit more of that secluded feeling when I’m working.  My laptop is open, my journal and ball point pen at the ready for any side notes I need to take, and my betta in his desktop fish tank has been fed.  I am ready to start writing.

Suddenly the MIDI version of the Scooby Doo theme song on loop starts playing in my left ear, rather loudly.  My comfy chair becomes slightly less comfy as my six-year-old decides to make it into a loveseat.  I remember why the no-sound-on-video-games-being-played-outside-your-bedroom rule was established.  I’m on a roll though, feeling creative and productive, and enjoying her company as she slowly puts my leg to sleep, so I let it go.

It doesn’t always work out this well.  There are other days when the  kids seem to forget that I work at home, and think I’m simply at home.  On those days, I have someone at my shoulder every five minutes asking for a peanut butter sandwich, or complaining about a sibling.  It can make it pretty darn hard (or impossible) to get anything done.

I started working from home so I could be with my kids more often.  Sometimes I find that I am with them too often.

But today I came back to my desk after a short break and dove back into editing the current chapter of my upcoming book.  Right in the middle of a sentence I find that someone has typed “i love mom.”

Yep.  It’s worth it.

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Filed under Family, Parenting, Work, Work-at-Home Mom, working with children

Summer Writing…or Lack Thereof

Hello.  My name is Ashley O’Melia, and it has been at least three weeks since my last writing session.  You know why?  Summer break.  Oh, it isn’t a break for me, not by a long shot.  No, summer break means my kids are home all the time to ask for snacks, fight with each other, and basically keep me thoroughly distracted.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my kids and I love spending time with them.  Cereal in the living room while we have a My Little Pony marathon on a Wednesday morning?  Well, who could resist that?  Spontaneously deciding to bake chocolate chip cookies on a Thursday afternoon?  Heck yeah!  But all of this means that my writing schedule has been thoroughly, utterly blown off course.  And I NEED a schedule.

So after far too many days of floating along and promising myself I would do it tomorrow, I finally sat down at my computer this afternoon to write.  I edited the first chapter of my most recent novel.  I hated it.  I attempted to write a funny and poignant blog post.  It was humorless and pointless.  I did some freewriting.  I usually do this on my laptop because my brain can’t keep up with my typing speed.  I didn’t even save it.

So here’s to another writing session tomorrow (hopefully).  Here’s to finding the time to take for myself and write all the horrific drivel possible in the space of an hour, just to get it out of my system and dig back down to the good stuff.  Here’s to that moment when my brain says, “Oh, so THAT’S what you wanted me to do? Okay, cool.”  Here’s to recognizing and appreciating that moment when it happens, whether I’m at my desk, squashed under a pile of children on the couch, or hiding in the basement.  Here’s to summer writing.

Portrait of romantic young woman writing in a diary lying down over the grass. Relax outdoor time concept.

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Filed under Family, On Writing, Parenting

Why Smartphones and Tablets Aren’t as Antisocial as We Think (or at least they don’t have to be)

My daughters, whose birthdays are only a couple of days apart, both got tablets this year as their gift from us. I worried about this, as we stood in the desolation of a middle-of –the-week Best Buy. A blue shirt couldn’t be seen for miles in the sea of sober grey displays of electronics, so I had plenty of time to contemplate the decision.

Was the price right?

How were the reviews?

Are my kids ready for tablets of their own?

What will I do when they shut themselves in their room and never wish to snuggle with me again in preference for their new electronic lives?

But we bought them anyway. The girls were thrilled, of course. After putting every parental block imaginable in place, I waited for the mind-numbing solitude of personal electronic devices to take over my house. I waited for the realization that I hadn’t seen my kids all weekend because they had been blissfully enveloped in the world of My Talking Tom, Subway Surf, and Agent Alice.

I know what you’re thinking. Just tell them they have a certain amount of time on the tablet, and that’s that. Yes, I can do that. Yes, I will and I have done that with all sorts of electronic entertainment, such as their Nintendo DS’s and television. But that’s not my point. Have you seen those pictures of a couple out at a restaurant, each of them on their smart phones and not talking to each other? That’s the kind of lifestyle I fear for my children: one where they are so involved in their screen time that they forget about face time. The time limits I set are only going to apply while they’re under my roof, after all.

Here’s what really happened: Once I had their tablets all set up and ready to go for them, I found myself in the middle of the couch between two girls. They were each on their own tablet, but they were doing something unexpected: continuing to interact with each other and with me! They talked to each other about the games they were playing. My youngest had (with my permission) downloaded a coloring app and wanted me to play it with her. My oldest talked to me in detail about the mystery she was solving on Agent Alice, and asked me to help her find clues. In short, we were spending just as much quality time together as we ever have.

Tablets and smart phones don’t have to be as isolating as we often think. The incident with my daughters made me think about how my husband and I interact around personal devices. Imagine its Friday night. He’s on his iPad, and I’m (most likely) reading. Sounds like two boring parents who have nothing better to do and nothing to do with each other, right? Wrong. He’ll be watching YouTube and sharing his favorite videos with me, or shopping for campers on Craiglist and telling me about them. Even though I’ve been called ‘inaccessible’ while I’m reading before, he knows that he can stop me any time he wants to because I’m more than happy to step back out of the fictional world to spend some quality time with him.

In short, smart phones and tablets (and anything else) are what you make them out to be. You can use them to keep yourself separate from the world, or they can be a whole new conversation starter.

happy mother holding her child

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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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Filed under Family, Holidays, Parenting, Uncategorized

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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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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