Spring “Break” for Moms

Spring Break.  The phrase that used to be synonymous with fun, sun, and idleness.  Before I had kids.

When I didn’t work outside the home, Spring Break meant long days with my overly excited children, trying to come up with ways to occupy their time so they wouldn’t kill each other or I, them.  The words, “Spring Break” struck fear into my very heart.

Now that I’m working, I was excited about Spring Break.  I looked forward to it, marked the days until I could sleep past 5:30, stay up late blogging or watching movies, go to the spa, get a haircut, go to the zoo.

Psshht.

Here it is, Friday, the last day of Spring Break and I haven’t watched a movie.  This is the only blogging I’ve done, I’ve barely been outside the house except to take my kids to the doctor, I didn’t get a massage or a haircut, and I didn’t take my kids to the zoo.

Side note:  NEVER NEVER tell your kids you’re going to take them somewhere over Spring Break.  Trust me, you’ll regret it.  Something will come up.  A hurricane in Disney World or your sewer will back up and you’ll have to spend the Lego Land money to have feces pumped out of your yard.  Instead, the night before you want to leave, let the kids stay up really late, wake them up early, give them a Benadryl, load them into the car, tell them you’re taking them to the dentist, and drive while they sleep. That way, if your engine blows up on I-95, they’re happy.  No tears or accusations on their part and you’ll be guilt free.  And if, by some miracle, you actually make it to your destination, you’re a hero!

Super Mom

So how did I spend my Spring Break?  Doing all the crap I can’t do while I’m at work.  Making phone calls, scheduling doctors’ appointments, getting my son a pair of glasses to replace the ones he lost months ago, and Spring cleaning.  Oh my, the cleaning.

You’d think that since 10 short months ago we literally had Nothing, I wouldn’t have much junk.  You’d be wrong.  We have loads of useless crap.  Aside from broken motherboards and pieces of old VCRs (mother of a 13yo geek-in-training–and proud of it, I might add), shoes I’ll never wear, purses I’ll never carry, and toys my kids outgrew three years ago,  there are the clothes.

When you have nothing, you take everything, especially clothes.  Well, I took too much.  Doing laundry for 7 people is time-consuming but imagine if everyone has enough clothes to last an entire month?  You know how, when you’re tired from working, you’re perfectly content NOT to do laundry as long as someone has something to wear to school the next day?  (No?  Well, maybe that’s just me.)  So I let the laundry ride.   This week, I had to catch it up.  As I was busy running around town to doctor’s offices and whatnot, I didn’t have time to fold it.  As usual, I dumped it on the couch, with plans to fold it all in one giant Laundry Party (that’s the only kind of party I’m having these days.  *sigh*)  Before I knew it, I had Mount Kilimanjaro in my living room.

Mt Kilimanjaro.

Mt Kilimanjaro. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got out the garbage bags.  I folded and tossed like a madwoman.  Before long I had 5 garbage bags full of clothes ready to go to the Goodwill and still too many clothes to fit in the drawers.  I eyed the kids’ piles of clothes and decided they really didn’t need 3 sets of yard work clothes.  I mean, they don’t even do yard work.  I reduced again.  At this point, I was tossing every 3rd shirt.  Hope they weren’t particularly attached to any of them.

Add to the laundry cleaning up after my highly inquisitive 2yo that likes to paint her body with fingernail polish and dump everything on the floor, especially the contents of salt shakers and shampoo bottles, and refereeing fights between all five kids and you have a very good idea what my Spring Break was like.

I can’t wait until Monday.

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How about you?  You do anything fun for Spring Break or was it as awful as mine?

Related Posts:

Monday, Beautiful Monday
A Day in the Life
And So It Begins:  The Dreaded Summer Vacation

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NaNoWriMo Dropout

NaNoWriMo is exciting.  In the days and weeks leading up to the craziness, the blogosphere is full of “Should I?,”  “I’m doing it,” and “NaNoWriMo Is Stupid/Bad Writing/Not How It’s Done” posts.  Twitter is all, well, atwitter, with the same thing.  Then, November 1 hits.

Now it’s posts about word counts and plot lines.  Writers, not realizing how pretentious and crazy they sound, complaining their characters aren’t doing what they’re told and talking about the lessons they’re learning about themselves as writers.  I wrote one of those myself. (See here.)  Participants blather on to anyone who’ll listen.  When they run out of real people, they take to the Twitter, where anyone who blindly and innocently clicked their “follow” button is subjected to annoying word count updates and complaints about not sleeping.

You can get riveting tweets like this from me by clicking the Twitter button in the sidebar. I'm sure my follower numbers will soar after this post.

After the second week, these posts and tweets start disappearing.  WriMo’s are dropping like flies.  Some choose to simply fade into the background, hoping no one will notice they flaked.  The smart ones write “NaNoWriMo Dropout” posts.  These posts are filled with the deep philosophical reasons that NaNo wasn’t for them, which all boils down to one argument, basically.

“Quantity over quality doesn’t work for me.  I care too much about my writing/characters to rush through it.”

It’s a valid argument and sure to find support from anyone who’s ever attempted to write a novel.  Like I said, they’re smart.  Me?  Not so much.

If Dropping Out was an Olympic Sport, I’d have about 20 gold medals.  You name it, I’ve dropped out of it.  Piano lessons, cheerleading, college, the gym,  watercolor painting,  Atkins/South Beach/Weight Watchers Points Plan/Low Carb/Low Fat/Low Calorie or any other fad diet you can think of.  My justification of choice is my five children.  Nobody argues with that reason.  But I know the truth.

I am lazy.  Nicer people (you know who you are) call me “laid back.”  Psht.  Let’s drop the niceties.   I am LA-ZY.  In keeping with this truth, I should have dropped out of NaNoWriMo a long time ago.

There have been several days this month when dropping out seemed like the right thing to do.  I was behind on my word count.  My story was lagging.  I was too tired.  I wrote through it, and it shows.  Some serious crap flows from fatigued fingers, let me tell you.  But I want to finish this.  I’m sick to death of dropping out of things that are important to me because I don’t want to put in the work.  What is that teaching my dear children, my scapegoats?

“Mommy could have done something, if it hadn’t been for you.”

And there it is.  The reason I’m not writing a NaNoWriMo Dropout post.  Because this mama has something to prove.  To herself.  Her children.  And anyone who says, “You can’t…”

Blasting Through Road Blocks

It never fails. Once I decide I’m going to do something positive in my life, things start going horribly wrong. Save money? A forgotten debt from 1998 suddenly resurfaces. Go to Bible Study? Car tires go flat. Go on a diet? Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around. Start walking? It rains for two weeks straight.  Quit smoking?  The house burns down and the stress rate goes through the roof (if I had one.)

None of these things are permanent. They are simply roadblocks thrown up just long enough for me to lose my resolve and think encouraging thoughts like, “What’s the point? I’ll always be broke, spiritually lacking,  fat, and gasping for breath.”

Who or what is responsible?  Bad luck? Fate?  Murphy’s Law?  Brownies? (Creature, not yummy chocolate heaven, though that would fit in with the losing weight issue.) The Devil? (My personal belief.)  Or this guy?

Gremlins 2 Image via My Existenz

Either way, when I made an official declaration last week to get my house in order, I expected some interference.  I had no idea.

Monday.  The number one goal was to have stress-free mornings with no yelling.  The laying out of things the night before went well.  Aside from a hidden shoe, that wasn’t a problem.  The problem was a faulty awaking apparatus, i.e. my cell phone.  Monday morning it didn’t go off.  Rather, it went off, but it was set to silent.  Luckily, DH gets up at 6:45 (5 minutes before scheduled departure) and woke me up.  I was waking children, making coffee (absolute necessity, no matter how late), fixing bowls of cereal, changing a diaper, and corralling everyone into the car–all while trying NOT to yell.  I succeeded, for the most part.  We left at 7:15.  The middle schoolers were late and I made it in to work with seconds to spare.

Tuesday.  Alarm goes off, after checking it wasn’t on silent the night before, only this time I don’t hear it until it’s well into the snooze cycle.  Still better than Monday–we had 15 minutes before departure.)  I didn’t yell at the kids.  I waited until they were in the car and yelled at DH, who hadn’t done anything wrong.  But them’s the breaks when you’re married to me.   The middle schoolers were late.  Again.  Tardy #2 in week 2, with 5 tardies resulting in ISS (in-school suspension.)  My kids were not happy.  This time I’m 5 minutes late for work.  I was not happy.  But it was a relaxing day at the beach compared to my afternoon.

While waiting in the car line at the primary school, my foot slipped off the brake.  My land yacht lurched forward, hitting the car in front of me–the brand new 2012 Hyundai Elantra the driver had owned for exactly one month.  The damage was light.  My front license plate screws left two small dimples in the bumper.  I thought it added character.  Who doesn’t love dimples?  Apparently, the owner of said Hyundai Elantra.

I spent 3o minutes on the phone with my insurance company (who I’ve only been with for 6 months.  Can you say rate hike?) while all the other moms drove by and stared.  I picked up my daughter, who was waiting with the secretary who had to wait for me before she could leave.  Now I’m starting to ruin other people’s days.

Wednesday.  We get out of the house (no yelling) on time.  Everybody gets to school and work with time to spare.  The ride home is uneventful, aside from the fact I’m praying I don’t see the dimpled Hyundai in the car line.  I don’t.  Is the curse over? Come on, now.  This is me we’re talking about.  We leave for church (35 minutes away) for our monthly supper (yum) and to pick up a working refrigerator.  Did I forget to mention our 2nd fridge of the week wasn’t working?  We got to church–late, of course–and there was no food left for the FIRST TIME EVER in the HISTORY of Wednesday Night Suppers.  Wasted time.  Wasted gas.  But we did get the fridge…and it doesn’t work right, either.  But hey, who needs completely frozen ice?

Thursday.  We leave early.  Work is good.  Then, in my exhausted state, I go the wrong way on the Interstate on the way home.  No biggie.  I just get off at the next exit–12 FREAKIN’ MILES down the road!  By the time I get back to the point I got on the interstate, we would’ve been home.  When I get to my exit, I get stuck by a train for 15 minutes.  I spent almost 4 HOURS in my car on Thursday.

Friday.  Everything goes according to plan.  Surely, this is the end of my trials?

Saturday.  The day I vowed to go nowhere and do nothing.  A little trip to the Wal-Mart surely wouldn’t be a big deal?  The plan was to meet DH at the Wal-Mart and get some much-needed shopping done.  I went to the Wal-Mart and waited.  And waited.  Annoyed, I called DH.  Turns out, I was waiting at the WRONG Wal-Mart.  Grumbling, I got in the car and went to meet DH.  We met and there was a problem.  It’s too convoluted to explain, but it has to do with a weirdly written check from our Electric Company–a donation after our house fire.  Long story short, it was a no-go (3rd attempt, mind you)  and we left, empty-handed and vowing never to return to Wal-Mart again.  Suuure.

Image via ReportYourComplaint.com

After that ordeal, I was dying of thirst.  So I stopped off at a gas station that has the cherry flavoring you can add to diet coke (yummy).  And, wouldn’t you know it?  They were out.  So I bought the darn diet coke, sans cherry goodness, and trudged home, royally ticked off and biting my tongue.

Sunday.  We were up, fed, dressed, and in the car on time this morning.  Then we got stuck behind a train and were 15 minutes late for church.  Now I’m in my pajamas, foregoing the Sunday nap tradition (what if I overslept?!), and wondering what’s in store for the return trip to church for Children’s Choir tonight.  What else does The Devil have in store for me?

Whatever it is, I don’t care.  Because you know what?  I’m not thinking, “What’s the point?”    I’m thinking, “Bring it.”  This woman has had enough cowering, settling, and resigning.  This time, I’m not going to let a few thousand set-backs distract me from my goals.  I can do this.  I am doing this.

The Devil can go to Hell.

A Sick Mama + WebMD = I’m Dying!

Daily Foglifter:  The youngest person ever to die from a heart attack in the U.S. was a 13-year-old boy.

I feel awful.  I’ve had several “attacks” of some sort over the last week.  It’s finally become annoying (and painful) enough to send me to the doctor.  I hate going to the doctor, especially when I have to take the whole crew (5 children!!!) with me.  But it’s got to be done.  As much as I would love to sit in one position on the couch all day, it’s simply not feasible.  Eventually, the laundry needs washing and the groceries have to be bought and made into something edible.  Take-out is expensive and so unhealthy.

I’m sure it’s nothing serious, despite what the WebMD symptom checker said.  According to the hypochondriac’s dream, I’m having a heart attack or a pulmonary embolism.  It could also be angina and the obligatory CANCER.  Every symptom one enters on WebMD returns a possible cancer diagnosis.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Image via Flickr

It could also be panic attacks.  Now that is something I can understand.  Five kids at home, broken air conditioner in 95 degree weather, tight budget, the impending start of the church’s summer program, dieting, kids’ doctor’s appointments, health insurance issues…need I go on?  If that is the problem, at least one of those things have been remedied.  No, I didn’t send the kids to summer camp, but the A/C is fixed.  No more 88 degree house to sit and sweat in.  That will improve my mood, if not my heart attacks/angina/pulmonary embolism/cancer.

What about you?  Do you ever self-diagnose with WebMD or similar sites?  Have you ever got yourself worked up over nothing?  I know I’m not the only paranoid hypochondriac out there.  Help a girl relieve a little of the “stat and comment stress” and leave a comment.  My heart will thank you for it.  🙂

“The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases.” ~Caskie Stinnett

A Chihuahua Striving To Be a Pit Bull

Daily Foglifter: The highest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev** (1707-1782) of Shuya, Russia. Between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 confinements, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. 67 of them survived infancy.

Mother’s Day is this weekend and I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot this week.  We couldn’t be more different.

My mom is outspoken and doesn’t take any crap from anybody.  I can still hear her arguing on the phone with incompetent insurance agents or in the customer service lines of department stores arguing with sales associates who neglected to honor their sales prices or return policies.  I used to slink surreptitiously away, my face burning in embarrassment, hoping against hope she’d let it go.  She never did.  What’s fair is fair.  If you make a promise, you darn well better keep it.  If you have a job to do, you better do it right.

When I was twelve I didn’t recognize my mom for what she was–A champion of the little guy.  My champion.  When my second grade teacher made fun of me in front of the entire class because I still sucked my thumb, I’m sure she wasn’t prepared for the s**t-storm that awaited her when my mother paid her a visit.   (s**t-storm is a word my mom would use and really, there’s no other way to say it without losing a certain nuance.)  The last snide remark she made about my thumb-sucking was when I picked “The Thumbsucker’s Thumb” as my poem to recite in front of the class.  She said, “Oh, well that’s a good poem for you,”  placing that special mocking, contemptuous stress on the word “you” that is impossible to depict in written form.  It wasn’t nice.  I was 8 and understood she was being insulting.  Witch.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/I’d like to say that I’ve inherited this quality.  I haven’t.  I can stick up for myself, but only after I’ve taken too much crap for too long, I’ve had a nice, violent, angry cry, and I’ve literally written down what I’m going to say the next time I’m face to face with the bully.  My mom is a pit-bull.  I’m a chihuahua, tail tucked between the legs, shaking violently, and yipping.  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

The perfect example of our differences played out recently when I took my son to the doctor.  You can read about that, here.  She left me a comment:

as per your request I have kept my comments to myself, But right now I am so disappointed in you that I could slap YOU !

That’s right.  I’ve actually asked her to not comment on The Blog.  I have a very good reason.  She actually commented, “I told you so” once.  That seriously hurts my pride undermines my authority, right?   I know.  It’s petty.  BUT, I don’t care what she posts on Facebook.  So we took the issue to Facebook, a conversation that prompted my dad to call me on the phone.  He was concerned we were mad at each other and actually fighting.  It was very sweet.

Of course I wasn’t mad.  I can’t get mad at my mom for telling me what she thinks.  Good Lord, if I got mad and considered us “in a fight” over that, we would be entrenched in a 30 Years War right now.  We have always argued.  One of my fondest teenage memories of my mom is her hopping over a laundry basket to chase me up the stairs as I squealed.  I had smart-mouthed her one too many times and she’d had enough. She caught me, of course. Honestly, where did I think I was going?  Out the front door would’ve been smart.  Up the stairs?  She totally had me cornered. When she got to me, we started laughing so hard all she could do was lightly slap me on the arm.  I never knew she was so nimble.  The sight of her leaping the laundry basket still cracks me up.  Good times.

While I may not have inherited my mom’s tenacity, I certainly share her pig-headedness passion.  Don’t start an argument with either of us.  We’ll nail your sorry butt to the wall.  Our opinions are law and we don’t believe in leniency, for each other or anyone else.  We actually had a Facebook argument about James Taylor.  Yes, the all-important James Taylor issue.  I hate him.  She loves him.  It got pretty heated.

I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve hijacked a friend’s wall to debate politics.  My poor cousin made an innocent airport security comment and we were on her like white on rice.  She eventually deleted the post.  I was so ashamed I made the New Year’s Resolution of “No politics on Facebook.”  (I know she’s reading this so let me just say, “I’m so sorry, Steph, and I will never do it again.”  And the same goes to you, Kim, if you’re reading this.  And anyone else I needlessly and viciously attacked.)

So I am like my mother, to a degree.  From my mom I have the love of music, but not her talent.  I learned to love John Wayne and Sam Eliot, but not James Taylor.  I learned the secret of the best Red Velvet Cake in the universe, but not the knack for making perfect dumplings.  She designs and builds houses and I design and build cakes. I am a diluted version of my mom, with one exception.

There is one thing I do out loud that she chose to do in secret.  She’s probably not even aware that I know about her secret.  I discovered it a long, long time ago.  I’m not even sure how old I was at the time, but it had to be after 6th grade since we were in our new log home.  I came across some papers covered in my mom’s pretty, elegant handwriting.  I knew it was not for my eyes, but it didn’t stop me.  I read it, hungrily.   I can’t tell you the words.  I can’t tell you if it was fact or fiction.  All I know, as I knew then, is that my mom is a writer. I’d never felt more in awe of her. Or more proud.

Here I am, at about the same age as my mom when I discovered her hidden talent, taking the small, hesitant steps she chose not to make.  I’ve always wanted to write.  I made a promise to myself that I would be a writer.  Is it scary?  Yes.  Is it embarrassing?  Absolutely.  But, you see, I am my mother’s daughter. I made a promise, I darn well better keep it.  I have a job to do, and I better do it right.  I’m a chihuahua, striving to be a pit bull.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.

Thumbs

 Oh, the thumb-sucker’s thumb

May look wrinkled and wet

And withered, and white as the snow,

But the taste of a thumb Is the sweetest taste yet

(As only we thumb-suckers know).

~Shel Silverstein

Escapes

photo of miraj sitar

Image via Wikipedia

Daily Foglifter:  Listening to music assists in pain management, reduces blood pressure, soothes migraines, boosts immunity, enhances intelligence and memory, increases productivity, and promotes relaxation.  Source

A few weeks ago, I received a gift from a reader named Jeff.  After reading my Autism entry, he e-mailed me asking if he could send a relaxation CD to play for my son.  Music is an effective method of relaxation, particularly for those with Autism.  Never one to pass up free stuff, I agreed. 

I will confess that I was a little worried.  When I hear the term, “relaxation music”,  I think of sitars and chanting.  Neither of these things relax me, as I can’t relax when being creeped out.  I had a massage once with some very disturbing demonic chanting.  Completely counter-productive.  When the CD arrived, my apprehension grew when the blurb on the back of the CD case read, “the ideal tempo and rhythm for creative inspiration, massage, yoga, scenic drives, or just winding down.”  At least it didn’t mention meditation.  I don’t have anything against any of these things, I just don’t understand the particular soundtrack people use to do them.

It took a while for me to actually play it.  I usually tune the DIRECTV to my favorite music station (Channel 832, Adult Alternative) or listen to my Playlist on the computer.  I play CDs in the car and since I’m always running late, I never remembered to grab the CD off the desk.

I was feeling really guilty about not listening to it.  Jeff wasn’t pushy.  In fact, he never once contacted me and said, “Why haven’t you mentioned my CD?” or “Have you listened to it yet?”  Of course, that made me feel more guilty.  I immediately put it in my car for the next trip.  And it sat in the CD changer for a week, unheard.

Then, on a day when the kids were being particularly loud and irritable, I remembered the CD.  If it could calm down my rowdy bunch until we got home, that would be high praise indeed.  I turned it on, hoping for the best, preparing for the worst, and was pleasantly surprised.  Not a sitar, singing bowl, gong, or chanter anywhere.  Just a guitar and a piano, playing pleasant relaxing music.    It was playing for a couple of minutes before I noticed the kids had gone silent.  Seriously, not a peep.

I drove for another five minutes when the 12-year-old asked, “What is this music?”

I answered, “It’s instrumental.  It’s nice, isn’t it?”

He said, “It’s making me sleepy.” The other three kids agreed.

DING DING DING!  We have a winner!

This is now my “go-to” CD when the kids are getting rowdy.  They immediately calm down.  They may talk, but it’s in a quieter voice.  I use it sparingly, in fear they’ll acclimate to it, but it still works every time I turn it on. For them and for me.

The CD is  “Escapes” by Jeff Gold.  You can buy or download “Escapes” and more music by Jeff Gold by going to

http://jeffgold.bandcamp.com/album/escapes-music-for-relaxing or

www.jeffgoldmusic.com 

When you enter the code “momfog” in the shopping cart you will receive a 20% discount.  A free download is included with the purchase of a CD. 

“Almost all children respond to music. Music is an open-sesame, and if you can use it carefully and appropriately, you can reach into that child’s potential for development.”  ~Dr. Clive Robbins

Nordoff-Robbins uses music therapy to help over 100 handicapped children learn and to relate and communicate with others.