Work with me, please.

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1. “Can I play with Legos for reading time?”  Jay’s voice had hesitancy and hope in it at the same time.  He knew I would say no. Reading time is for reading.  But that wasn’t the kicker.  A few nights before, he’d had a tantrum about not having enough reading time.  Hubby had let him stay downstairs past bedtime to finish watching a movie. In my mind, lights still go out at the usual time. Having the privilege of staying up later to watch TV means you sacrifice the equivalent amount of reading time.  It would have been expecting too much to remind him as a 6.5 year old about that tantrum, and I was too tired to explain the irony of his question. I left it at “no” (with maybe an eye roll.

2.  “I want to be the kind of mom that dad is.”  That gem came from Mae. Whew boy!  That was her way of saying that she wants to be a fun mom, which I am notoriously and unashamedly not. I thought to myself, “Well, you’d better marry a cooking, cleaning, homework-checking, bill-paying, hair-doing, appointment-making woman.”  I’m fully aware that there are some men who take on the same or similar degree of household management for which mothers are known. However, they were not my first thought.  She’s 10. She has lots of time to become enlightened. I wish her the best of luck!

3. “It’s not my fault I wasn’t paying attention.”  Ok then. I’m still processing that one.

4.  “I have a question I want to ask the Internet.”  When I was 10, I was annoyed that I lived in a home that didn’t have a complete encyclopedia set.  We had a partial set of Brittanica knock-offs that my mother started by trading in Greenback stamps at the grocery store. The store discontinued the offer before my mother completed the set. Using a “real” encyclopedia meant a car trip to the library or an aunt’s house.  Mae’s statement was a sharp reminder of how much the world has changed.

One of the wonders of children is their ability to make you see things in a different way. My kids continue to challenge me to think, rethink and unthink.  It’s good for me.

Me vs. Them

On February 21, not even two week ago, our washing machine was repaired.  The technician replaced a broken pump because coins had found their way into the pump and cracked it.  He found $0.83 inside the pump.  How much is $0.83 worth?  Well, $0.83 can get you $295.60 in washing machine repairs.  Not exactly a bargain.  Actually, the cost was $310, and fortunately, I had a coupon for 10% off the cost of labor.

I called a family meeting with Hubby and Dem Kids. I had the $0.83 in one hand and the broken pump in the other.  I showed them how pocket change had cracked the pump and thereby costed us the equivalent of 4 nights at the movies or 16 pizza nights.  Of course, fingers were pointing in every direction to peg the owner of the change. Frankly, I didn’t care to whom the money belonged (for the record, ahem, I use a wristlet and I keep change in one section of it).  I just asked that they check their pockets when they undress at night and check all pockets when doing laundry. That’s reasonable, right? 

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Well, my little show – and – tell was for naught.  Since then, as I’ve move clothes from the washing machine to the dryer or out of the dryer, I’ve found a drum tuning key, money clip, and penny.  Three different occasions where either Hubby or the kids started the wash. 

What the what?  What did I say after finding the tuning key and money clip?  “Remember to check pockets . . . .”

I know they don’t listen to half of what I say and forget the other half.  But, gee whiz, who doesn’t like money and saving money?  As a matter of fact, Jay asked if he could have the $0.83 the day I told them about the repair.  Ok, he’s only six and a half, so maybe he doesn’t get the irony. 

So, I’ve got to think of some clever way to help everyone remember to check pockets.  And, I need to save the next appliance repair coupon I see . . . just in case. 

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Roasted veggies pureed into sauce for lasagna with brown rice pasta

I haven’t blogged in so long that I’m struggling to remember what it was about it that I liked so much.

I took a break that I didn’t plan. I just didn’t feel like it. Or rather, I felt like doing other things. Like playing Ruzzle. Work kicks my mental butt most days. By the time I get home and get through dinner and homework and preparing for the next day, my brain is not good for much other than Ruzzle.

I’m expert at giving myself permission to not do things that I genuinely don’t want to do. My elders mistakenly and repeatedly labeled this as “stubborn” throughout my childhood. I didn’t have the correct term for it then either. Today, I’m calling it self-care.

So, this brings me to a recent commitment I made to myself. My attachment to sweets and junk food had gotten out of hand. I eat a lot of healthy stuff and I was probably eating an equal amount or more of unhealthy stuff. For the 28 days of February, I modified my food intake to eliminate white flour, white sugar, and fried foods. In other words, I broke up with cookies and cake and french fries. We’ll get back together at some point, but it’ll be a healthier relationship. No more abusing my waistline.

I cut out meats too with the exception of a roasted chicken drummette one day because I’d tried a different seasoning mix for the kids, and I wanted to see how it turned out. Watching Hubby and Dem Kids enjoy pizza, burgers, etc and especially preparing such foods for them was less difficult than I expected. I survived lunch with coworkers who were enjoying all kinds of deliciousness. I made it through birthday and going-away celebrations with more strength than I thought I had.

There were many, many times when I felt I was eating food accessories (grains, vegetables, nuts, beans) instead of food. I allowed myself a small amount of cheese and eggs to have some sense of indulgence. On several days, I made simple, meatless dishes that I enjoyed and would be willing to have again.

My mantras for this year have been “find a way” (thanks, Diana Nyad) and take care of yourself. This experiment gave me the opportunity to practice and internalize both. I’m confident that I’ll have more self-control when it comes to food. As a reminder and to refresh the commitment, I plan to make this a tradition and try some version of a modified diet every February.

Now, if I could apply this to Ruzzle, I’d really be doing something.

It’s a Wrap

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Well, that was fun, one of the best summers I’ve had in a long time. It ended for all intents and purposes when Mae returned to school today. She saw one of her classmates from last year as we were walking into the school building. She promptly ditched me and went about her business. I think she said bye, but I’m not sure.

Jay has two more weeks of camp, and I expect a similar ditching from him when his school opens after Labor Day. Over the summer, his attitude matured more than his body. He’s still a sweet kid over all but he developed a smart mouth somewhere along the way this summer.

Ahhh, it was a sweet summer. We rested, we took it easy. I took it easy. That’s unusual for me. I did it and I’m proud of myself. I read at home, not just on the train during my commute. I did only one day of yard work. The yard was plain and boring, and I was ok with that; fortunately, Hubby kept the grass at a decent level.

I baked for no reason or special occasion. I even took naps on a couple of days. I started the summer with a plan for the kids to have 20 minutes of study time per day. I wasn’t a stickler about it, so they had 20 minutes most days. And, most days, I didn’t check the work to see if it was correct. Bless their hearts, they didn’t complain much. They acted like studying during the summer was normal. Mae especially surprised me because her summer workbook was all math. I asked her to focus on fractions, multiplication, and division. She struggled most with fractions. Still, every time I suggested that she go to the multiplication or division sections of the book, she said she wanted to keep working on the fractions. That’s my plucky girl.

She and Jay enjoyed their camp at Jay’s school. Since it’s Mae’s old school, she got to see some of her old classmates. Jay is easy; if there are Legos available, he’ll be fine. I thought for sure Mae would be bored out of her mind. Nope. Day after day, she told me camp was fun. In fact, she didn’t have a meltdown until the last day. Some girls yelled at her because she bumped into one of them. She thought they were being mean to her and she said they had been mean to her before, for no reason. I could tell from some of her daily reports that she’s still learning how to pick up on the social cues and keep her distance from children who don’t like or accept her. Otherwise, it appears that she got along with her fellow campers ok.

The kids had swimming lessons, and Mae had Tae Kwon Do and Jay drum lessons. It was manageable, no overscheduling. We actually had several free Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes both in the same weekend. That was a beautiful, lovely, awesome thing.

One of the best parts of summer was that Mae had no hypersensitive reactions to bug bites. Like the doctor said, she outgrew the sensitivity (it appears). This was the first summer since she was about 3 years old that the mysterious brown spots and sores did not appear.

We all needed that relaxed break; last school year was grueling. I think I’m ready for 4th and 1st grades. Deep breath in . . . .

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Here’s to another satisfied birthday kid. Jay’s party went well yesterday. He and his friends had fun, and the staff were so helpful. I actually spent a lot of time talking to other parents and relaxing, so much so that I missed a lot of good pictures.

Jay had asked for a Ninjago cake. I stressed for a few weeks about how to pull that off. I looked at lovely Ninjago cakes online that were in the shape of the Ninja Lego men, brightly colored fondant draped elegantly to depict the characters’ costumes. I envied those bakers. Fondant scares me. I’m not ready for it. I thought about star-tipping one of the Ninja, but I visualized myself cramped over a cake for a few hours, ending up with a severe case of carpel tunnel syndrome. Then, someone suggested an edible print-out. Bingo! It was so easy and fast, and he was pleased with it — always the ultimate test.

Before the party, he had his first drum lesson.  He had fun and he wants to continue with the lessons, which I think is great.   What I like too is that the lessons are at the instructor’s house.  Yay!  I’m excited that Jay chose something that is unrelated to Mae’s interests.  Sometimes, it seems that he likes what she likes because she likes it and he’ll stop liking something if she doesn’t like it or shows no interest.  I have a feeling the drum lessons will be different.  I’ll ask her to encourage him to practice because she’s great at motivating others, and I think that will help him stay focused.

I’ve been making it a point lately to preach to them that they have to help and support each other.   This is the first weekend that they are responsible for their own laundry.  So far, they have moved their clothes downstairs, into the washer, and then into the dryer, using teamwork.  I just listen carefully and intervene if necessary.  I have to particularly listen out for the bossy one, Mae.

Love her like I do, I know Mae can be slippery, which came out most recently this weekend. She’d been suspicious of the Tooth Fairy since Jay lost a tooth several weeks ago. She lost a tooth at camp on Friday and didn’t tell me about it. She placed it under her pillow Friday night to test if the “Tooth Fairy” would bring her a gift. I walked into her bedroom Saturday morning and she pulled the tooth from under her pillow with a flourish. “Aha! I told you.” Yep, she proved herself right. No question, the Tooth Fairy does not exist outside of this house. I am she. Then, she proceeded to think out loud about what I should give her for her tooth. “Should I get candy or money or . . . .”

Erck! (FYI, that’s the sound of a car hitting brakes hard.) I explained that now that she knows there is no Tooth Fairy, she can’t expect to collect on a lost tooth. I thought that would be a short conversation. Not with this child. No, not this one. So, then I explained it this way: The Tooth Fairy leaves gifts. A giver decides whether and what to give; there is no entitlement. I added that she’s a nine-year old allowance-earner and she can buy herself whatever gift she thinks the “Tooth Fairy” would have or should have given her. She’s grown out of the make-believe, so she can grow into more independence. Since we were having a frank conversation, I told her that Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are fake too. Done.

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It’s a good thing I’m not the type of person who panics easily. I should be freaking out about being told today at 6:45 pm or thereabouts that Jay’s martial arts-themed birthday party on Saturday (less than 48 hours from now) may be without a martial arts instructor. The party scheduler didn’t know that the usual party instructors will be participating in a tournament this weekend.

She said she’s trying desperately to book one of two possible substitutes. Hey, a lot can happen in two days, right? I do wonder about the capabilities of the leftover instructors who aren’t participating in the tournament. Does that mean they suck? Would six-year olds notice? If I can fit into Mae’s uniform, maybe . . . .  Well, the scheduler is going to call me at noon tomorrow and give me an update.

This is our first week back from vacation and then I was home sick on Monday and Tuesday, so I’m still getting my energy back and adjusting to our summer routine. Jay and I both picked up some crud. The pediatrician asked me if Jay had had any recent “exposures.” I said, “Between the zoo, pool, water park, beach, and hotel, I’m sure he was exposed to something, but I don’t know what.”

During vacation, my work piled up and I worked last night and I’ll work tonight to get caught up. I had three great colleagues on standby to babysit help my clients. However, the Lovelies left “urgent” voicemail messages despite my out-of-office greeting and disregarded my email auto-reply asking them to contact my co-workers. Ah, to be valued so much that they would have no one else but me!

I don’t feel like being panicky right now. I chose calm for today. I think better in this state. I have too much to do for home, self, and work and not a lot of time to get it done. Like, I have a hair appointment tomorrow after work and I need to shop for and bake a cake for which I still need to decide upon a recipe.

Woosaaaah . . . .

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If my kids had to choose between me on my best day (e.g, letting them eat candy cereal for breakfast on a school day) and their dad on his worst day (e.g., making them leave the TV to do homework), I’m sure they would choose him. And, it’s all good. He’s a gem and they — we — are so lucky to have him.

I’m glad they have a choice. It’s one I didn’t have. I enjoy watching and hearing them cherish him, and I’m proud of him for being worthy.

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