Sending Mixed Signals

Oh, my poor kids! Some days I feel like I should be putting aside money, not just for their college tuition, but also for the therapy they are going to need to make it in the world as fully-functioning adults. Yeah, I know… “Cut yourself some slack, Jenn. Every mom makes mistakes.” Anyone else do these?

Teach your child not to lie.     Then after a few missed nights of reading, you encourage them to “fudge” an entry or two on their reading log. “But Mama, that’s lying to the teacher!” She wants to see you did your best and you want to show her your best. So just write it down. Bad mom! Last Monday Little Guy brought home a poem and was told he wouldn’t get credit for learning it (thus moving on to the next poem with the rest of the class) unless he’d read it out loud to at least two family members per day. Those listeners were to sign the back of the poem and comment on his reading. I dug it out of a stack of papers today as I was getting his stuff ready for school. So, you guessed it, we “fudged” a weeks’ worth of entries. Bad mom!

Foster independence.     Suggest the kids make their own lunches. It’s good for them, right? But then you find them throwing nothing but granola bars and cookies (with the occasional piece of fruit) into their lunch bags. So you take the task back. They have more free time in the morning and you don’t have to police their actions, so there is more peace. Confession: the biggest reason I took back lunch-making was to be able to go through the pantry to toss in items that the kids refuse to finish. You know the snacks that have sat there for months, and are close to expiring, because something cooler came along? You won’t eat this at home? You’ll eat it at school. (Or, more likely the case, throw it out at school where I can’t see them do it.)

Limit their screen time.     Kids should play and spend time being kids. Get outside and run around in the fresh air. But then it’s winter in Seattle… rain. All.The.Time. They want to stay in and play on the Xbox, the computer, their tablet. They’re whining about how bored they are. But give them the Xbox, the computer or the tablet and the house goes silent. I can get some work done. No one is bugging me. It’s a terrible and beautiful thing, this peace that comes over the house. Hubby tries to reason that video games improve hand/eye coordination. But do they really???

Treat everyone equally.     I try to make sure that both kids have chores that they are capable of completing. I avoid separate bedtimes so that Little Guy doesn’t feel so…little. But here’s where it gets tough: sleepovers. She gets invited over to her best friends’ quite often. He has never been invited to a sleepover. She could have a friend come over and the girls have no problem keeping the level of crazy at a slow boil. He might be able to do that too. But I’m too scared to give him the opportunity. I think “two 8 year old boys running loose through my house” and gray hairs start pushing their way through my scalp. He says “it’s not fair!” and he’s RIGHT! So instead of allowing him to host a sleepover, I stop letting her host them. Selfish mom, much?

Too many sweets is bad for you.     Oh, but it’s okay for mommy to have her own “chocolate drawer” in the kitchen — that no one else is allowed to touch. And then the morning after allowing Little Guy to bid on (and win) not one but TWO cakes at the Cub Scout blue and gold banquet’s cake auction, offering to let them eat cake for breakfast. What kind of mom does this? A mom that has two huge freaking cakes that need to go… need to disappear… like, yesterday! Next year I’m just going to hand over my money to help the pack and not even bid on the cakes.

Parenting is tough. Get the kids through another day and we can call it a win. At least for now. Lecture them on the evils of alcohol and then sit down to enjoy a glass of wine. Hey, our parents sent us mixed signals of their own and we turned out okay. Sorta. How about you? Do you send your kids mixed signals? Are there any biggies I missed?

Motherhood: A Balancing Act

mom_hectic_morning_webThis gig is hard, man! The back to school routine of getting them up, washed, dressed, fed and out the door with their homework and lunches — sometimes we are right down to the wire. Okay, most times. Yesterday Little Guy had to buy lunch because he didn’t have time to make his own. Yeah, that’s another thing adding, rather than taking away stress to my morning. He wants to make his own lunch. Why it kills me to let go of control in this one little facet of school prep, I will never understand.

Then the other half of the school day. Getting them to do homework. Wheedling. Cajoling. Bribing. She insists on setting her own schedule. He can’t understand why I won’t let him read a comic book during reading time. The teachers want my signature on everything from school lunch menus to nightly homework assignments — just to prove that I’ve seen it. OMG! I’ve seen it, already! Don’t care. Stop giving ME homework. I put in my thirteen years.kids-fighting

It’s a wonder I don’t start drinking the minute we get home about 3:30, instead of waiting until the kids have gone to bed. Hey, chill out. I’m a one-glass-of-wine kind of girl. That’s all I need to find my happy place. Well, that and a good book. Or a good Netflix binge. Just some valuable, non-mom ‘me’ time to counteract the fighting, the arguing (I swear my oldest has a career in law ahead of her), the broken windows (tools, brooms… if it isn’t actually his, Little Guy will eventually break it). I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to wanting to run away every once in a while.

And because we need it, because we’ve earned it, sometimes we’re given that teeny little glimpse of mommy perfection. Just enough to keep us from completely losing our shit. I started to write ‘going bonkers’ and realized that just doesn’t say enough. Call a spade a spade, am I right?

After fighting with LG for days to read his just-right books, I offer him a deal. I’ll cut his reading time down to twenty minutes if he agrees to read the book he got out of the school library. The timer went off at twenty minutes and he asked (I kid you not!) to keep reading. And at 40 minutes he announced he’d finished the book. Cover to cover. That is my amazing second grader! I felt like the quarterback doing his dance after a fifty-yard touchdown. happy-dance

The night everyone raves over dinner, asks for seconds, cleans their own plate and doesn’t ask what’s for dessert. Walking in to find that Big Sis is voluntarily cleaning her bedroom. Not just shoving it under the bed but making piles to donate, recycle and toss. The love notes I find in the shower, when they’ve used up my supply of Aqua Notes I keep in there for when inspiration strikes. Random hugs, even when I’m not wearing a really fuzzy pair of pajamas. God, I live for those moments.

I’ll go in tonight, after they’re asleep. Slide the DS out from under its hiding place under his pillow, and the Kindle out from under hers. I will watch them at their most vulnerable. Eleven and seven and still clinging to a cherished stuffed animal as they snore softly and drool all over their pillows. I’ll take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. Before the crazy starts all over again the next morning. Eh, it may be a different crazy. After all, it’s a different day. And the good moments will be different too. A check and balance system that keeps me on my toes. Because some day I’ll be the grandma, and they’ll be coming to me for parenting advice. Oh yeah, you better believe I’m gonna drag out every embarrassing memory from their childhood I can possibly think of. That’s balance for ya!cutesleeper

Surviving the Holidays

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Ah, Christmas. That special time of year. Great food. Holiday traditions. Memory making. Spending time with family and loving every minute of it. But does it always turn out exactly the way we want it to? And do we REALLY enjoy all the time spent making sure that the rest of the family has a great Christmas?

Here’s my honest opinion on this holiday season:

cookiesI hate baking. But Christmas cookies (and fudge, and brownies, etc) are something the kids love to make and deliver to the neighbors and close friends. Maybe I’m getting OCD in my old age, but watching the kids make a huge mess on the kitchen table with flour, frosting and 50, 000 different types of sprinkles gives me hives. We’ll still do it, because they love it and I love them. But…Christmas stress.

alvinI used to have so much fun, the first couple of years, with Alvin, our Elf on the Shelf. But that sucker arrives the day after Thanksgiving and stays through Christmas Eve. That’s a whole lot of Alvin antics to plot out. And with the kids getting older, and not playing with toys much anymore, Alvin’s bag of tricks is sadly depleted. Little Guy is seven years old and still believes that Alvin is magical. So I struggle to come up with inventive ways to delight him each morning. And that leads to…Christmas stress.

stockingsWe needed new stockings this year because the names were becoming unreadable on our old ones. I found some at Target and bought each of us our own color. I figured if I ended up not having the nerve to attempt to glitter glue our names on them then at least we’d know whose was whose by color. I ended up attempting the names. They came out pretty good – until I realized I wrote Big Sis’ name on MY pink stocking. And then, while they were nowhere near dry, Little Guy managed to ruin every single one of them. My fault for leaving them on the kitchen table to dry. We have brand new stockings, less legible than the ones I threw away for that very reason. Next year I will pay big bucks to get some professionally personalized stockings. And save myself some huge…Christmas stress.

One day? How about a good FIVE weeks?

Now everyone is home from work and school for the next two weeks. I planned a mini-vaca for a few days after Christmas. But for now I’ve got to keep them all entertained, keep the house from getting trashed, keep the kids from killing each other and keep myself from hiding at the bottom of a bottle of wine until after the New Year. I hate Christmas stress!

Please tell me I’m not the only over-achieving, Martha Stewart screw-up. Anyone else have holiday horror stories they’d like to share? Bring me a Christmas giggle or two. I bet it bring everyone who reads this post just a little bit of Christmas cheer to know they are not in this alone.

Giving Myself Permission To Be A Kid

300003aLast summer I was under deadline to finish a book. This past fall I signed a new contract that kept me busy through April. Then in May I got the bright idea to submit a story for a collection whose deadline was ridiculously too close for comfort. Deadlines = stress. They also create a crazy writer mom – just ask my kids. Sure, they love when I order pizza for dinner. But they prefer to eat that pizza with a loving, snuggling mother, not a distracted animal who may or may not bite.

I had planned to write a Christmas anthology over the summer. A self-imposed deadline this time. I also have three different series at various stages of plotting, inside my head. It can wait. It can all wait. My ideas aren’t going anywhere. In fact, the longer I wait, the more insistent they will become to jump out of my head and onto the screen. Anticipation can be a good thing.3000038

Instead of writing this summer, I am giving myself permission to take these precious few weeks off. I’m going to spend time with my kiddos. I’m going to look at life through their eyes. Yeah, I’ll still do laundry and cook dinner. Can’t get away from some adult responsibilities. And I’ll take advantage of other adult perks–like being able to drive us to our next adventure.WP_20150621_003

I think we’ve gotten off to a great start. We’ve created fairy gardens for the front yard. We built a sand castle and discovered a hermit crab and some freaky gelatinous substance that may or may not have been alive. We’ve charted new trails at the park that must be explored. We rode the Ferris Wheel on the Seattle waterfront. And we went out for ice cream.icecream

The kids are signed up for some summer camps. Last year I would have used this time to hole up in a coffee shop and write my heart out. This year I’m recharging my creative batteries. I have no idea WHAT I’ll do with my free time. But it will be relaxing and fun and something that I can look back on once I’m in my writing groove with fond memories, knowing I made great use of my time. A blanket, my Kindle and a quiet trail in the woods – perfect! Watching the dog stick her head out the car window in absolute bliss while we go for a summer drive – even better!

When the kids go back to school and I go back to work, the creative juices will be flowing. I’ll have all kinds of new memories to be able to use in one of my books someday. And maybe I won’t take on quite so many writing projects for the following school year. Because, like my children, I’m not a big fan of Crazy Writer Mom either.

How about you? What are your big plans for this summer? Anything that is making your inner child jump up and down with glee?