I Should Be…

 

I should be writing but…

I’m doing an emergency load of wash for Big Sis, who HAS to wear her green pair of pants today. I’m researching ideas for Little Guy, because he wants to ENTERTAIN everyone at the science fair this year. I’m helping hubby go door-to-door passing out flyers for the cub scout food drive because it was pouring too hard when he took the scouts out on Saturday.

I should be exercising but…

It’s raining…again. The treadmill sounds like it’s dying. I’m bored with my playlist. My workout clothes are now too small. My sneakers pinch my pinky toes.

I should be cooking better dinners but…

That huge bag of fish sticks is going to get freezer burned if I don’t use it up. The more effort I put in, the less everyone eats. My knives are dull, I can’t chop anything. I’ve gotten used to putting dinner on the table in less than fifteen minutes, thanks to Uncle Bens microwaveable rice. I hate cooking — I hate spending any amount of time in my kitchen. I hate my kitchen.

I should be doing laundry (the dishes, picking up) but…

There are only two more episodes of the latest Netflix addiction to watch. I’m drowning in my stack of TBR books – paperbacks and Kindle. It’s my turn on Words By Post (I play 12 games concurrently.) No one is home, it’s quiet and I don’t want to ruin the silence by running all sorts of chugging machines.

I should be promoting my books/brand but…

Does anyone really see it anyway? I feel like I’m pimping myself out – it’s way too uncomfortable. I’ve spent my life avoiding attention, so “Hey, look at me!” is not a concept I’m familiar with. I start helping other authors promote their books instead. I start one-clicking MORE books for my TBR pile while I’m on Amazon. I spend time talking to Disney and Tolkien fans, instead of potential readers, on Twitter.

I should be enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day but…

I’m herding Big Sis out of the steamy bathroom–where she’s spent the last 45 minutes using up my hot water. I’m listening to Little Guy’s latest “what if” story that involves dogs that can talk and walk on two legs, when he’s supposed to be sleeping. The dog waited until I sat down to tell me she really has to pee. When I got up to let the dog out, the cat stole my spot on the couch.

 

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

Counting Down To Summer Vacation-Can We Stop The Clock?

Help Button“Mommy, how many days until we get out of school for the summer?”

Pshhh, ages and ages. I check the calendar. Less than six weeks. Okay, don’t panic. Don’t let them see you’re scared. Where the heck did the time go? It seems like just yesterday I was doing the ‘back-to-school’ dance all through my blissfully empty house.

Back in September I had just submitted a book proposal to my publisher. I had a clear cut schedule of the days I would write, my day to volunteer in the kids’ classrooms and a day to run errands. I had everything neatly written in a calendar. I had a system. I had a plan.But once the kids get out of school for the summer, my plan gets turned on its ear and I need to push myself that much harder to get my word count in each day.summermeme

Now don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my kids. I’m a little obsessive about getting out of the house with them and making memories that they’ll be able to share with their own children some day. My own mother suffered from agoraphobia while I was growing up. This meant that she preferred to remain in the safety and comfort of her own home. It meant my sisters and I had to look for things to occupy us within our neighborhood. We couldn’t afford summer camps. One week out of the summer, our friends’ mom would drive us each morning to bible camp. So when my kids start to utter a whiny “I’m bored”, I probably take it a little too personally.

Last year I spent a lot of time tweaking and scheduling so that I had camps lined up for both littles–at exactly the same time. Makes sense, right? I actually got a decent amount of writing in that summer. This year I went with a different approach. I consulted the kids and let them choose the summer camps they wanted to attend, not giving a flip whose landed on what week. So, while most weeks are filled with some sort of camp (mostly of the three hour variety), only one week has them going at the same time. Which means that I’ll drop one child off for a fun day or afternoon filled with activities, socialization and some sort of take home craft to display, and one child will remain with me…bored.kidsbeingbored

Which brings me back to the ‘pushing myself’ bit. And the obsessive mom trying to make sure her kids are having fun. I wish I could say that I am flexible enough to write whenever. Midnight, and the rest of the house is asleep? No problem! But my creative brain turns on about six AM and turns off about…aw heck, five PM. So yeah, I’ll be the dork mom on the playground, sitting at the picnic table with my laptop, hoping that if my child falls off the equipment, they can drag themselves over and somehow pull me out of my scene in order to let me know we need to pack up and head to the emergency room. I’ll get hateful looks from the involved moms who remembered to pack snacks, apply sunscreen and actually chat among themselves. But the alternative is forcing my kid to find something to do at home, which gives me mommy-guilt hives that I refuse to deal with. It’s a trade off.

Will I do this every single weekday during the summer months? Heck no! They’re only young once. Just as I get obsessed about needing to fulfill my word count, I also dig in my heels and find excuses not to write. If the weather is gorgeous, I’ll pack ’em up and head to the beach. Maybe take a ferry ride across the sound. Ice cream is always a great way to make summer memories, especially if we’ve had to drive a bit to get to someplace we’ve never tried before. The zoo is always a favorite destination. All work and no play makes a dull mom. And I may come out of it with another book, but I’ll have lost the memories my kids spent making with everyone else. It’s all about striking a balance. I’m trying to let the kiddos take the reins this year and hoping that we all get what we want out of this summer vacation. And trying not to panic.

I need to embrace this quote, this summer.

I need to embrace this quote, this summer.

 

A Writer Mom’s Special Day

momsdayI was told to bring a book to bed last night, to read in the morning. I was not allowed to get up until I was served breakfast in bed. Now given that the kids know chocolate is my favorite food in the world, I was a little nervous about what to expect on my breakfast tray this morning. However, the actual menu was a lot tamer than the one I had imagined. Toast, marionberry jam and strawberries. And they figured out how to use my Keurig machine! I wish I’d had a camera to capture their expressions as they carried it in. They were so proud! I’m choosing to ignore that they put four packets of sweetener in, when I use half of one. I carried on like it was the best coffee I’d ever had. Because seeing those little faces grinning so big, it WAS the best coffee I’d ever experienced.

Nope. This was not their actual creation. ;)

Nope. This was not their actual creation. 😉

Little Guy couldn’t wait until Mother’s Day to give me my gift. At school they’d made seed paper hearts that could be planted in the soil and would grow all sorts of wildflowers. He also couldn’t wait for ME to plant my own seeds. He did it for himself yesterday, when I wasn’t looking. And then set up his own fairy garden–right.on.top. Sigh. Gotta love his enthusiasm.

Hubby thinks my restaurant choice for Mother’s Day was a bit odd. But hey, he’s a last-minute-reservations kind of guy and he was shocked that no one else had made reservations yet for this place. It’s an Irish pub in downtown Seattle, very close to Pike’s Place Market. The best part? It’s supposedly haunted! How cool is that? We’ve never been. I’m dying (is that an insensitive choice of words?) to check it out. Spirits, you’ve got a believer in your midst, come out, come out, wherever you are!

Doesn't look so scary, huh?

Doesn’t look so scary, huh?

So while today promises to be chaotic and full of adventure, I treated myself to a blissfully quiet lunch at a garden cafe yesterday, followed by a stroll through the local nursery. I snagged a Star Blooming Jasmine and a dwarf raspberry bush for my ever-growing collection of plants that may or may not live to see this time next year. And while I spent some quality time by myself (not writing!), Hubby took the kids to the mall – a place he avoids like the plague – because Big Sis told him exactly what I wanted for Mother’s Day and was able to guide him to just the right stores. God bless this 10 year old – she KNOWS how to shop! Even hubby was impressed.

Did I mention the weather was absolutely perfect?

Did I mention the weather was absolutely perfect?

All you moms out there… birth moms, adoptive moms, grandmoms, fur baby moms, moms of the heart and dads filling in as moms AND dads… all of you, enjoy your special day. Heck, enjoy every day with your loved ones. Make memories and show them all how much you love them. And now I’m weepy…again. I’m a walking Hallmark commercial today. And I’m off to have cuppa number two (with a bit less sweetener).

The Second Child Syndrome

Big Sis and Little Guy

Big Sis and Little Guy

I was weeding out paperwork over the recycle bin the other day (read: tossing kindergarten homework) when I realized something. I’d put together a box – a big put-together-style box from Staples of adorable artwork and first writing projects, etc from Big Sis. Starting in preschool and going through first grade (because, truly, after that it’s just not quite as cute anymore).  But I had never done the same thing for Little Guy.

Yep... facepalm moment.

Yep… facepalm moment.

The only thing that is saving me in this situation is the fact that I am slightly behind on the paperwork weeding. The stuff I was doing before? That was just to clear off the kitchen table. But the desk, the filing cabinet, the microwave cart? Well, let’s just say I hope to have a boxful for him once I get all that sorted through.

But this leads me to examine what other things I’ve slacked on with the youngest that I went all out on with the oldest. She got Mommy and Me classes. He did not. She got story times at Barnes & Noble. He got… a couple of them. She got trips to the toy store and the bookstore to buy awesome new things to play with. He got…to play with the hand-me-down toys and listen to the chewed-on, colored-over picture books.

I kept a journal with each of them, including milestones from their first three years. (Though his is decidedly thinner.) And I did manage to take as many (if not more) photos of him as I did with her. Though that could be because I’m obsessed with documenting the cute moments and camera phone technology is a lot better now. 😉 But I swear we only dig out the digital camera for our one family vacation per year and Christmas morning. So, thank God for those cameras in our phones!

When Big Sis was a baby, it was just the two of us all day. I saw everything. I marveled at all the changes, all the milestones. Do you know who caught Little Guy rolling over for the first time? Big Sis. She had to tell me after the fact. I missed it.

Double facepalm moment.

Double facepalm moment.

Life goes fast. They come home so tiny and helpless and then the next thing you know, they are tugging their hand out of yours and telling you not to embarrass them in public. (Sorry, kiddo – I’m your mom – it’s my job.) I think a portion of today is going to be spent weeding through paperwork to get to the cute stuff. I need a reminder of my Little Guy when he wasn’t quite such a pro at reading and writing. When he couldn’t count to one hundred backwards or list dozens of random facts about the presidents. I need to make sure I’ve got plenty of memory-joggers to keep me company when my Little Guy is all grown up with little guys and gals of his own.

Geez, even this photo is several months outdated. I tell ya, I'm slacking!

Geez, even this photo is several months outdated. I tell ya, I’m slacking!

Throwback Thursday & How I Earned My Gray Hairs

Moms, tell me you can relate. Some days your kids drive you so batty that you send them to bed early just to stop the insanity! And then later on that night, you sneak in and watch them sleep — because you need that little reminder of how sweet they can be… even if it’s only when they’re sleeping.

Don't ask... half his blanket was shoved up his pj top. I just don't get him, sometimes. ;)

Don’t ask… he had a stuffed animal shoved up his pajama top. I just don’t get him, sometimes. 😉

That’s me, this evening. The final straw with Little Guy was when he loaded a pencil into his Nerf gun and attempted to shoot his sister with it. Sorry, pal, you’re done! But before I head off to pour a glass of much-deserved wine, I thought I’d post a few Throwback Thursday pics to remind myself of happier/funnier times.

Devil horns... cute coincidence or baby villain in training?

Devil horns… cute coincidence or baby villain in training?

Okay, I can’t really complain. He’s six years old now and when I pick him up at school, basketball practice, birthday parties, etc, I get the fiercest hugs a mom could ever hope for. His sister gave that up ages ago. I will gladly cherish those hugs for as long as possible!

Red ink pad smeared across the face takes several days' worth of scrubbing to disappear.

Red ink pad smeared across the face takes several days’ worth of scrubbing to disappear, in case you were curious…

I do have to say that, most of the time, I can laugh about the trouble he gets into almost right away. Of course we haven’t had to deal with any baseballs through the windows or trips to the principal’s office, so I guess we’ve gotten off easy so far. Fingers crossed and knocking on wood.

Never a dull moment

Never a dull moment

I turned his music on (he likes to have the local classical station playing in the background while he sleeps), flipped on his nightlight and kissed him goodnight. He hollered after me as I shut the door: “Why do you always have to be the boss of me? I’m not tired, I’m just sad! I said, I’M NOT TIRED!” Uh huh. And then he was out. Seriously. In about five minutes. Not tired, my big butt!

wipedout

Sweet dreams, Little Guy (and Big Sis). Time for my glass of wine and a good book.