Friday, January 29, 2016

January Joy

I’ll admit, I’m having a bit of a rough month.  January and February are like that for me; the days are short, tax season is looming, and the gleeful anticipation of the holidays are behind us.  What do we have to look forward to?  Spring break.  In APRIL.  Lord, help me.

These are the months in which I most struggle with self image.  I startle myself every time I catch a glimpse in the mirror.  Who is this wrinkled, wrung-out, pudgy woman?  Why is she so pale?  What is wrong with her hair?  As my pots of makeup and jars of potions on the bathroom counter increase in number and their effects on my visage decrease, as it gets more and more difficult to gain strength and maintain fitness (not to mention lose my spare tire), as my breasts sag and my hips stubbornly refuse to slim, I am realizing that Sisyphus is my spirit animal (spirit Greek myth?  Is that a thing?  I’m making it a thing.)  Push that boulder of self-hatred, self-doubt, and negative self-image up the hill.  Let it roll back down, feel free for a minute or two, pick it back up and roll it again.
It’s not healthy, so I’m focusing on counting my blessings, as one does.  I’ve also come up with a new strategy: instead of photos like this, where it’s obvious that I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and I had a hideously large mimosa with brunch…

At the Seattle Opera last Sunday

…I’m going to surround myself with photos like this, in which I look fabulous:

Taken at an auction in November

We’re not sleeping because Prince Frederick is a fucking tyrant.  Tony and I took the side off of Freddie’s crib a couple of weeks ago in the hopes that he would sleep in it.  Not like, sleep more in his crib, but sleep at all in his crib.  After two weeks of feeling so tired that I probably shouldn’t have been driving, we have relented.  My philosophy with regards to my children has always been “I get to win,” but not this time.  This time, Freddie wins.  Freddie sleeps with us and will likely do so until he has all his teeth.  His mouth is in no hurry to develop, so that could be until he’s six years old or so.  My guess is that, at this rate, he’ll get his last baby tooth when he loses his first baby tooth.

Yep, that’s my bed.

Okay, so maybe it’s not helping my mood that one of my “strengths” is hyperbole. 

Right before the popcorn fight that resulted in popcorn EVERYWHERE, including the goddamn light fixture

The bigger kids are getting busier all the time.  We are invited to a minimum of two birthday parties a month, they take ninja gymnastics classes each Saturday, they have swim lessons twice a week for the next two months, and they still expect to be fed three meals every. damn. day.  In addition to my normal workload at the office, I went ahead and built myself another (unpaid) job by organizing a much-needed after-school program at Charles’s elementary school.  And when I get free time, I like to… ha ha ha ha ha!  I have no free time.

Ninjas climb ropes at lightning speed.

Trite as it is, these kids are worth the stress.  Some days, they’re like three small Tyrannosaurus Rexes, eating their way through the cupboards, fridge, and freezer, leaving a swath of destruction in their path.  Other days, they are sweet as sugar, playing nicely together, building elaborate train tracks or fighting imaginary foes as a team.

All in all, January was filled with joy.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Big Kid Files

The other morning Charles said, “Mom, I’m the only one in our family who is thin.”  And I said, “What about me?” in mock horror.  He just looked at me like I was crazy.  The kid is, it turns out, old enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.


For Christmas, my in-laws gave me a lovely box of handmade chocolates.  They were so good and even though they were in a one-pound candy box, they were really stuffed in there.  There had to have been nearly two pounds of chocolates that tasted remarkably similar to See’s Milk Bordeaux.  I might have cried a little bit at their sheer beauty.

I limited myself to one or two chocolates a day for approximately two days.  No, eighteen hours.  Okay, maybe one or two throughout the day on the Saturday after Christmas (when I received the chocolates) and then another one or two in the evening after the kids were in bed, and then another one or two on Sunday.  There were still so many!  It was the never-ending box of chocolates!  Heaven!

On the Sunday after Christmas, Tony and Jamie went to a friend’s house to watch football while Freddie napped and Charles and I read stories and played with the new Christmas toys.  Then Freddie woke up, so I went upstairs to snuggle him for a bit.  After Freddie was good and awake (this was during about a month of crankiness due to the appearance of two molars, so it was a bit touch-and-go with waking up for awhile), I called to Charles to come upstairs and snuggle with us.  He arrived and gave Freddie a big, chocolaty kiss.

I think you know where this is headed.

I asked him if he’d had one of mommy’s chocolates and he nodded his head. 

“How many did you have, Charles?”

“One.  No, two.  I’m sorry.”

“Okay.  Those are mommy’s chocolates and you need to ask before you eat one.  I forgive you.”

Later, I discovered that he had consumed THE ENTIRE BOX.  At least a pound of delicious, delicious handmade truffles.

He wasn’t even sick to his stomach.

I have since decided to hide all chocolate from my children.


You might think that since I have all boys, I have escaped the daily fashion crises that mothers of girls deal with.  I’ll admit, the problems are usually uncomplicated; Jamie has a hard time deciding which “footies” to wear (he got several new pairs of footie pajamas for Christmas, and he rotates through his collection every day of the week) and neither of the boys has more than one pair of shoes or boots.  However, Charles is DEEPLY concerned about which pants match which shirt and can I just tell you that his opinions on matching are DEAD WRONG?  For a while he would wear all one color (black pants and black shirt or dark jeans and dark blue shirt) and now he wears only pants that “go” with his favorite shirts.  I’ve tried to apply years of matching colors and styles to his daily dilemmas about clothing, but logic and experience mean nothing to Charles.  Jeans that look great with a certain shirt “don’t go” and cause prolonged weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I came up with a couple of solutions.  First, I bought Charles more pants.  Now that the variety is greater, he has less trouble “matching” or whatever.  Second, we made a deal that resulted in more more TV for the kids (that’s the kind of deal they jump at).  I figured out that the fashion problem was a symptom of a larger issue: too much time in the morning.  Time to complain about clothing choices, time to stall before brushing teeth or donning shoes, time to bounce off the walls.

I’m not big on screen time, but in order to restore some sanity to my mornings right before tax season, I instituted the following program for both Charles and Jamie:

1. Get dressed
2. Eat breakfast
3. Brush your teeth
4. Do two pages in your workbook
5. Watch a 22-minute episode of one of your shows on Netflix (Ninjago, Clone Wars, Rescue Bots)

The boys have to have the first four items done by 8 am in order to earn the show and they have to agree on the show.  Any arguing and the deal is off.

In the three weeks since we have adopted this morning routine, fighting, fashion crises, tantrums, and yelling on my part have diminished considerably.  Plus, they’re learning.  Sure, they’re watching TV, but they’re also working through their workbooks.  Compromise: it’s what I do.

It’s just possible that I won’t disown them before the end of tax season.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

One Thing

Freddie, as all 18-month-olds do, has reached Chaos Level: Expert recently, becoming a master of happy-shrieking, good-natured destruction.  Jamie, on the other hand, has reached the pinnacle of the Fucking Fours: angry defiance, extreme tantrums, and huffy pouting over such injustices as having to wear shoes or brush his teeth.  Charles is distracted and lethargic; he only wants to do what he wants to do.  Ninja class, reading, LEGOs: yes.  Chores, homework, participating in family anything: no.

The kids are inside almost all the time this time of year – the outdoor excursions end quickly and always demand immediate application of hot cocoa and snacks to offset the calories burned sustaining life in the just-above-freezing “so cold my toes are falling off!” arctic weather here in Northwest Washington.  Consequently, toys, costumes, crayons, and snack droppings are scattered among wet boots and discarded gloves ALL OVER THE DAMN HOUSE DO WE LIVE IN A FUCKING BARN and I can barely keep the three of them and any friend who comes over from tearing each other’s eyes out in shocking displays of acute cabin fever.  I’m campaigning to buy a trampoline so that when these boys are literally bouncing off the walls, I can send them out to bounce off each other instead.  Tony does not think a trampoline is necessary.  Tony thinks a trampoline will take up too much room in our yard.  Tony is not often home with these fire-breathing monsters.

When I’m not home making meals or holding my wee Tasmanian Devil because his teeth hurt and he simply MUST be held at all times or reading stories or negotiating truces between dueling brothers, I’m at work or ferrying children to and from their activities.  Also the gym, I go there a lot.  I won’t say it’s my “happy place,” but it is my “without children” place and I always feel better after I bust out a few quick miles on the treadmill or sweat through a boot camp class.  Despite this, my house stays relatively clean and organized, the laundry done, the dishes clean.  In fact, you might walk in and think to yourself, “Wow!  This place is amazing!  How does she keep things so clean and organized?  And her hair is awesome, too.  What is her secret?”  (As long as I’m dreaming, let’s make it good, shall we?)  (You would not actually think any of those things.  But you might think that things could be SO MUCH WORSE than they are.)  (My hair looks awful.)

First secret (it’s not a secret): I have a housekeeper, who is fantastic.  She comes every other week.  I think we can all agree that two weeks is long enough for a house with two adults, three boy children, and a dog to go to shit, but for at least a day after she visits, the floors, bathrooms, counters, and mirrors are all sparkling clean.

Second secret: The One Thing Rule.

The One Thing Rule is where I look around at my house/life in disarray and I ask myself, “Self, what’s one thing you can do to make it better?”  I don’t aim high, oh no.  I aim low, and I usually find that the one thing I can do right now to make things better is minor, like wiping up the table after breakfast or clearing the mail and newspaper detritus from the counter or starting a load of laundry or cutting some vegetables for dinner or organizing the pile of hats or making myself a cup of coffee and raiding my secret chocolate stash.  Then I do that one thing.  Often, when that one thing is done, I have time to ask myself again, “Self, what’s one thing you can do to make it better?” and I see yet another spill I can wipe up or I think of the meat I can take out of the freezer for dinner or any number of things that I immediately notice as I look around.  I continue to ask myself what one thing I can do until I either run out of time or I look around and feel better about my life and my house.

In the aggregate, all of these little things I need to do cause stress.  They’re overwhelming.  I look around and I can’t see the end of all the picking up and the putting away.  Feeling messy and disorganized leads me to feel like I’m sliding into mediocrity, which leads me to think such super helpful and inspiring stuff as “Why do I even try?” and “You’re never going to have a nice house” and “YOU ARE FAILING.”  I think we can all agree that no one wins when we pursue that line of thought, so I just ask myself “What’s one thing you can do to make it better?” and then I do that one thing and then I feel a small sense of accomplishment.

Yesterday, my one thing that I could do was to put something away in the garage closet (yes, we have a closet in the garage.  It’s just as stupid as it sounds).  Junk started falling on me because it’s a fucking closet in the garage and so of course it’s a convenient place to toss anything you’re too lazy to put away correctly.  I got cranky and frustrated with the mess that NO ONE CARES ABOUT BUT ME (seriously, do we live in a barn?), so I decided that one thing I could do would be to reorganize the boxes of gift bags and ribbons I had on the shelves (the source of much falling junk in the closet).  It took me ten minutes, which cut into my gym time a tiny bit (I ran faster to make up for it), but the closet is organized now.  I also threw away a bunch of garbage and moved some boxes around so I can walk around the entire car when it’s parked in the garage.  I can’t pretend that anyone else even noticed, but it made me feel much better.

The One Thing Rule works best in the afternoon or when there is plenty of time to burn before the next event (dinner, bedtime, etc.).  It does not work well when you’re trying to get out of the house in the morning and you know that life would be easier later if you just started the dishwasher/put in a load of laundry/prepped dinner for that evening.  There’s never enough time before work to do these things, so I don’t even bother.  I use the One Thing Rule when I have a few minutes of “spare” time and sometimes I even do just the one thing I can do with one hand, since Freddie is often in the other hand.

Go ahead.  Try it.  Just one thing.  It could change your life.