Friday, August 30, 2013

The Glass Is Always Full

It's not that I had a particularly bad day today.

I didn't, really. Nothing extremely bad happened, and by that I mean that we have reached this point, where the boys are in bed, everyone has been fed, we are all safe and fed, and there are no impending disasters.

And yet... yet today would not be considered what I call "an easy day."

Last night Steve spent the night in his new place, which is not too far away. Change isn't always bad, but it's always change, and it takes time to adjust.

One of the boys wet the bed, and it wasn't the one I'd expect. I discovered this later in the day, after the mattress had the chance to soak everything up.

I didn't get a job today. Again.

But I did get to see some of the jobs I applied for previously re-appear on the boards. Meaning that whoever was in charge  looked at my application and decided NOT that they were better off hiring a better applicant, but that they were better off hiring NO applicant.

This includes the job as a lunch lady at a nearby school.

Steve and I had a talk about issues surrounding the divorce, and while it wasn't a horrible conversation, it was tense and emotional, and after he left I cried, as I do every single time.

The refrigerator suddenly began leaking water from someplace in the freezer, because what I need now is a broken fridge leaking water all over my kitchen. It occurred to me that I have no idea how the thing is even hooked up. I switched the ice maker off, which stopped the water pouring out the bottom, and vowed to clean under my fridge soon because it's gross down there.

I didn't write the thing I told myself I was going to write today.

I spent 20 minutes arguing with Andy about who was going to use my ipad. (um, me?)

It took the boys forever to get dressed for karate, even though I gave them 45 minutes of heads up.

I lost my car keys just before it was time to leave for karate. After yelling at the boys to hurry up because it took them so long.

In the car, I started thinking.

I used to know some people who were just so pessimistic. Nothing was ever right for these people. Life was, and for some of them is still, a series of unfortunate events. "Why do I have such bad luck?" they moan. I knew a lot of these people in High School - which is to be expected, teen angst and all. Also, I feel that at that age, kids haven't always learned to take responsibility for what happens. (I broke my arm! Dude, you were skateboarding on a wall.) In college I knew a few, too. Some of these people are still this way.

I decided I could very easily be one of those people if I didn't snap out of this really soon.

I've read that we make our own luck. Not by actually doing anything, but with our state of mind. If we can see the good stuff, then we are happier, feel luckier. And to be honest, other people are more likely to smile at you and be nice to you, completing a sort of cycle, when you smile and don't radiate discontent and gloom.

So I started making a list of all the things that went well today.

Nathan lost a tooth.

Andy and I had a really good time sitting in bed playing a hidden object game.

Before that, we went grocery shopping and also had a great time.

I had a nice talk with a local 12 year old who was excited to show me his Magic cards. One was from as far back as 1994. Which, I think, is just about when my friends were all playing Magic. I never understood it, but still loved that this kid was playing.

Tonight, after dinner, I had a glass of wine.

The boys helped me clean up after dinner.

I don't have to get up early tomorrow. For anything.

Some people see the glass as half full, and some see it as half empty. But if you look at things from the right point of view, it's all going to be OK, which is way more important. I feel better now that I've thought about the positives. I feel more in control, more satisfied. More empowered. The glass is always full. It's half liquid, and half air. And air is better than nothing.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

School, Day 1

 This year, everyone is in the same school. Because of how our schools are broken up by grade level, this won't happen again until Andrew is a freshman in high school.

Nick is in the 3rd grade.
Nate is in 2nd grade.
Andrew is in Kindergarten. For two and a half hours every morning.

 As you can see, they all have different attitudes about going back.

I think it's going to be a great year.
School-wise, anyway.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Golden Age of Giving Up

When kids are young, parents and caregivers feel the need to be around them all the time. This is so that the toddlers won't get into anything dangerous, or accidentally walk out of the house and down the street, or try to give themselves a bath. And before you laugh, in my house growing up, all three of those things happened with one kid or another within a short period of time, before anyone realized the kid was missing.

At some point a decision is made, and the child can suddenly play by himself. He has the freedom to go outside in the yard if he wants, or to play in one of the upstairs rooms while I make a lasagna.

The boys have had a number of friends over as part of our "Oh, No! Summer's Over!" scramble to have fun. I don't plan anything. I just let the kids run around or play upstairs, checking in periodically, and other than that I just let them be.

I was patting myself on the back for my laid-back parenting style, letting them develop their imaginations, get some exercise, and have some good old fashioned fun instead of either video games or structured 'play." Way to go, me! And I realized a lot of it had to do with the age my boys are at this particular moment. Still young enough to want to play pretend, and not too young to be out of sight unsupervised.

Parents. Here is some free advice: never congratulate yourself. There is always a catch.

Mine was when I realized there was black marker all over the inside of the boys' closet. And when someone decided to make a frog trap with peanut butter and a box, by placing a box on the front stoop with a lump of peanut butter on the bricks next to it. Which melted in the hot sun and because a lump of slimy... Do frogs even eat peanut butter? Also, someone decided he needed sugar for this trap, and sugar was sprinkled all over my kitchen counter (previously clean.) Also, there was an incident with a huge stick hitting someone in the eye while they were playing a game called "Invasion."

The result was that, forty minutes after patting myself on the back, I asked the boys if they wanted early screen time. Just so they'd sit still and stop... doing... what they were doing.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

They Say It's A Virtue

I have never been a patient person.

Now, I don't like thinking of myself as the kind of person who rushes over everyone to get through the door first, or who shouts "spit it out!" when someone is having a hard time getting to the point. I would hate to think that, in traffic, I'm the one with my hand on the horn.

I'm not. Usually.

Over the years I have developed a kind of restraint.

I especially don't want to be the kind of person who is impatient with my children. They are children. They are learning. And they need time to be able to stand on their own feet before they run.

I'm not talking about things like putting shoes on the mat, or forgetting to close the refrigerator door. Hello, those are just manners. I'm the mom, and I can point those out immediately with a little reproachfulness in my voice.

It's the other things.

This summer, I asked the boys to do 4 homework pages a day. 4 pages. Of math.

On one hand, that's a lot.

On the other hand, it's only 4 pages.

Nate spent 3 hours doing those 4 pages today.

He got most of the questions correct. It isn't that he's having trouble with the actual math. It's just that he spend most of  his time either banging his fist on the table, singing to the ceiling, or moaning "It's not fair! I'm BAD at MATH!" The whole reason I make then do things like this is so that they learn how to use their brains, how to think through a problem. When kids are young, I think they don't always do this naturally. They want you to help them. That's code for 'they want you to tell them the answer.'

While Nate was doing this, I was cooking and folding laundry and generally wishing I had a stick to poke through one of our brains, because I was sure we wouldn't both survive it.

I feel this way often when practicing piano. All of the boys do the same thing. I open the book to what they are supposed to play. Usually it's a silly piece called something like "Summer Wind" or "Grandmother's Lace." The boy will sit down, stand up, sit down. Then he'll just sit, staring at the music. Then he will take a deep breath, and place his hands above the keys.

Then he will look up, squinting at the printed notes, just to make sure they haven't changed. He looks down. He moves his hands to the correct keys. He looks up. He looks down. He moves his hands up a few notes. Then down too many notes. Then he looks up at the music again. He looks down. He takes a deep breath. He shakes his head really fast. He finally picks a note to play. He plays it with the wrong finger.

"Nate, use your two."

"Aahhhhhghhhh!" he yells, slipping his behind off the chair and onto the floor.

And the whole process begins again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What They Believe

In the years that I studied psychology and / or education, I learned that just because children don't ask questions doesn't mean they understand a subject. If you withhold information, they will simply make something up so that it will all make sense in their heads.

For example, when I was a little girl, we drove into New York every day from our home in New Jersey, because NY was where I went to school. We took the George Washington Bridge, and there was a toll which, at the time, was a dollar. I asked my mother why we had to pay the toll, and she told me that, if we didn't pay the toll, the bridge would fall down.

What she meant, of course, was that the money collected at the toll went to repair and fix up the bridge so that it would remain standing.

What I understood was that, if you were to step on the gas at the tollbooth instead of paying, the bridge would collapse as you crossed over it to prevent you from getting to the other side, bringing down countless other commuters with you in the process. I spent a lot of time worrying that someone else would try to not pay the toll and the bridge would crumble beneath us as we crossed, or maybe as we sat in the endless traffic, innocent victims. We would plummet into the Hudson River, which was dangerous, dirty, and full of giant octopus-type monsters. I knew this because, even though we could swim, my parents had both told us we couldn't swim in the Hudson, because there was stuff in it.

Another example of kids filling in information: In the car yesterday, Nick asked if people could eat cactus. (Because sometimes, just sometimes, kids will ask you questions like that from out of nowhere. And as the mom, I know everything.)

"Duh! Yes!" said Nate, who was obviously more than a little irritated at the simplicity of the question. "Because people drink water, right? And where does water come from? Cactuses."

Nate (and Nick) central Park, April 2013
Really. I have no idea where he got that.

Monday, August 19, 2013

No Formula

Have I reached middle age? Am I in trouble now? Is this the crisis everyone warned me about? I'm an adult, but I'm moving backward. I'm going back to people for help when I should be standing on my own no matter what. I feel like a student left back a grade, until I learn how to write.

puck 2013
The thing is, there are no grades, no A's and no F's In the end, no one will be there to judge my performance, and so what if they do? I'll be dead. I may as well just go ahead and live things my own way, best I can. I should spend time with the important people, do the things that we love doing, and sing all my old favorites until we're sick of hearing them.

cape cod 2013
A life is not a job, so the job I get will not be my life. I'll get one sooner or later, but there's no sense stressing about it. This is the time I have with my kids, the last lazy week of summer. We should use it well.

Andy & Gunther 2013

Nick 2013

Nate & Gunther 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Real Staycation

After I dropped the boys off and went home, I faced days of being alone.

I have never lived alone. I grew up in a big house, which was always full of people. In school I had roommates, and after school I had housemates. I have lived in a house with three rambunctious boys for years. I am accustomed to noise.

I would like to say that I didn’t know what to do with myself, but that would be untrue. I immediately set out to do the things that I can only do when the boys aren’t there. I did a lot of laundry. I washed the icky mattresses the boys have used since giving up night-time pull-ups. I slept in until after 7am. Every. Single. Morning. I sorted through all of the boys toys, putting some aside for goodwill and throwing broken ones in the trash.

I even got to go out and meet some friends to go over music without worrying about leaving the boys behind. I spoke to at least three people on the phone without interruption.

I woke on Friday at almost 8am. There was no rush to do anything at all. All three pets descended the staircase with me, asking to be fed. The house was quiet, and had never been so clean. I felt as though I had some control over something, and that all would be well. I left to buy groceries feeling very zen.
And then, before I could go through the file cabinet, or clear out the art drawers in the kitchen, or get to the outside toys at all, the boys came home.

They brought with them four loads of dirty, sandy laundry, some of which is still sitting in Wall-E suitcases in the living room. They immediately asked to be fed, as they hadn’t had lunch. They were cranky and needed baths. By the time dinner rolled around they had managed to cover both the bedroom and the toy room with various cards and toys and blankets, and I had tripped over the same pair of shoes in three different locations.

That, my friends, is what a real staycation is. And mine was over.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Last week, Steve rented a house down in Cape Cod, and on Monday I drove the boys down to join him.
The house is the same house we stayed in a few years ago. The kids were much, much younger then, and I remember being pretty nervous about the steep stairways.
The house itself is just fantastic, with tons of bedrooms all jumbled together. They’re all kind of stacked together, as though someone created them separately and then picked them up, one block at a time, not looking to see if the next room was a hallway or a bathroom or a bedroom. It’s the perfect beach house.

Nick, Cape Cod, 2013

Cape Cod 2013

I was only there for a day, but managed to get a lot in. We went to the beach, we went for a walk to the windmill down the street, we went out for lobster - thank you, Lillian!. The next day we went out to breakfast at The Pancake Man! 

Sand Sculpture
Cape Cod 2013

The Pancake Man
Cape Cod, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gimme a Head With Hair...

Nick, August 2013
Yes, we did this.

For the record, he asked me to.

After a few hours, and some teasing from his brothers (I told them to stop) Nick took them out, saying he thought it felt strange.

I honestly don't have strong feelings about Nick having long hair, except that I think it's his head, and he should feel comfortable in it. I do want it to be neat, though. And these pigtails? They re much neater than his usual mess of tangles.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mommy Fail

Nate was reading a new library book to us at bedtime. It was a book called Odd Duck, and it's about ducks. Story ducks, you know, who act like people, but who are ducks, all the same.

At this point in our story, the Main Duck was meeting the New Neighbor Duck, who was, as luck would have it, different. One might even say, odd.

The book said: But one thing was for certain.

Nate read aloud: But she knew one thing. He was Korean.

And that's when I cracked up laughing. I think Nate was embarrassed. He placed his hand over my mouth. "Laugh with your mouth closed!" he said.

But I just couldn't! I kept picturing a Korean Duck.
Nate, Cape Cod, 2013

Sunday, August 04, 2013