It's kind of different around here for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that I am now the only adult living in this house. One, lone adult with three active boys. And two cats and a dog.
This means that I am the only one to clean up the messes, to dole out reminders, and to break up the fights. I am also the one to fix things, find things, and fetch things. I'm not saying that things were evenly spread out when there were two adults, but what backup there was is now gone.
I realized something needed to change because they have started going back and forth from this house to Steve's new place, and they are still not able to pack what they need. When I pick them up they aren't even wearing what I packed. Winter is coming, and they will need to be able to get their own stuff together, like coats, gloves, hats, clothing, books...
One afternoon, after a particularly stressful session of getting dressed for karate, one that involved hitting (not by me) and a lot of yelling (by me), I made the decision to step back. "I'm not keeping track of your karate gis any more!" I declared. "When you take them off, you need to put them where they go. If you don't and you can't find them, you will have to go to karate without whatever it is you can't find."
The next day I wrote their names in all of their things. The karate gis now have their names in them. So do their underwear. So do their socks. I now know exactly who leaves their socks in the car or the hallway.
I still dole out reminders, and still make myself responsible for giving the boys enough time to get their things together. BUT, I'm letting go a little. I'm letting Nick run his own bath. I'm letting Andy get his own snacks. I'm letting all three boys pick out their own clothing.
This is not a foolproof plan. For one thing, the boys don't always do what they are supposed to. I can send them up to get dressed and twenty minutes later they will be naked wrestling under Andy's bed. Beyond that, I have given up controlling every little thing, and there are many little things I didn't realize (until now) needed controlling. Such as when Nick runs his own bath, he needs to turn the water off before it reaches the very top of the tub. Also, he needs to use less than half the bottle of shampoo for bubbles.
The boys dress themselves but they don't always take the temperature or fashion into account. Nate tries to wear shorts every single day. On school picture day, Andy wore the blue, short-sleeved, button down shirt with the lobsters on it, with a blazer, plaid shorts, and Nate's old brown shoes with ankle socks. Today Nick wore bright blue sweatpants, his old T-ball shirt, and a cashmere sweater he got for Christmas.
Beyond all of this, Andy has taken the direction for getting things himself as an invitation to meddle in anything he finds. He opened the plastic bag in the back of the car keeping the storage net contained. He also pulled the tab on Steve's inflatable life-vest, making a huge noise and inflating the vest in less than a second.
It's going to be tough, but right now the boys are helping me clean up after dinner, feeding the pets... it won't be long before they can pack their own bags for overnights with their dad and remember what they have to do for homework.
I had a better photo of the boys in the tree, taken not long after this one. Seconds later, maybe. It was on my camera. I know it was on my camera because I had viewed it later, and showed it to the boys. It was the one I was going to use on this blog, and maybe post to a fall/facebook album when I had more than two good shots.
This morning I uploaded the photos from my camera to my computer.
And see, this is where things get strange and technological and stupid. Each time I transfer the photos from my camera to the computer, I get a few photos that just turn up black. I mean, they show up in iphoto as black squares, like someone forgot to take of the lens cap. Except I have a point 'n shoot and there is no lens cap, only that techno thing that opens when you turn the camera on, and closes when you turn the camera off.
Until now, I attributed the black squares to the camera thingy just not opening when I took a shot. But if this was the case, then the photos would show up ON THE CAMERA as black squares, too, right?
So anyway, I uploaded photos this morning, got a bunch of black squares, and deleted them.
Then I switched views, saw a few more and deleted them also.
By the way, I also deleted all the photos from the camera, figuring they were on my computer.
And then I went looking for my favorite shots, AND THEY WERE GONE!
Seriously, the tree one was cute. But there was also a really good shot of Nate carrying Frank up the porch steps, Frank looking seriously tolerant and Nate looking a little scared... And it's gone, too.
So this happens. That's the bad news.
But I now know that this happens, so that's good news. I can now NOT delete photos from my camera until I'm sure all the nice and cute shots have made it. It's just.... SO not fair!
That tree climbing shot, I tell you... You should have seen it.
When Nick was born, I moved this dresser into his bedroom. It was one of the dressers we had when I was a kid. It used to be cream with gold detail, but after I spilled a tube of magic bubbles on the top, it got scraped down to a natural wood. It's a great piece of furniture - still sturdy, still working.
I shared this dresser with my sisters. I can't even remember what was in it. I think it was in my room, and then maybe in Anne-E's room. But eventually it ended up in the hallway, and various shirts were kept in it. We also had a huge closet, and whenever one of us needed anything that wasn't immediately in our closets we went to this huge closet and it was probably hanging in there. Along with various forgotten sweaters, jackets, ugly dresses, and clothing from the 1980's my mother used to wear. We had so much storage space, and when I thought back to it I always thought it was weird that we had our own rooms but still couldn't fit all our stuff in one closet or dresser.
I'm getting off topic. How surprising. Not.
Anyway, Nick had this dresser, and I remember being very pregnant and putting his newly laundered little onesies and footie outfits in there. His clothing was so tiny. I put all the newborn things in the top drawer, with short sleeves on one side and longer, warmer items on another side. The next drawer had the 3-6 months, the next drawer had 6-9 mos, and finally the next drawer had the 12 month items I felt he'd never actually grow into.
And he had clothes - Holy Moly, this kid had 3 complete sets of clothing. More things than I did, I promise you. And once he started wearing his things, I was the one who was more concerned about wearing a clean shirt. Baby might be wearing his third outfit of the day, all nice and cozy, but I was wearing a maternity shirt that smelled like puke and sweat.
Sorry... where was I?
This dresser. I still have the dresser. When Nate came along I just used some of the drawers for Nate and some for Nick. Eventually I started having to put some things in storage to make room.
And then Andy came along...
And then there was no more room. I had to use another dresser, one that used to belong to my other gramma. The drawers don't open and close as easily. It has a mirror that has always warped reflections - It was in my room all through high school, so I should know.
The boys have all split these dressers. Shirts are in one, pants in another. Socks and undies are spilt. In fact, Nick's socks and underwear take up as much room as all of his newborn stuff put together. Andy's pants fill a drawer - if they are all clean, the drawer won't close.
So now the boys are getting their own rooms, and I realized I'm going to need at least one new dresser. Possibly two, if I can find a place for Gramma's with the mirror - the drawers really don't close properly and clothes are all over the floor...
It's just that, all of their clothing used to fit in this one piece of furniture, and now it's hardly enough for one of them. It's not just the boys that grow. They really do start to take up more room.
When my mother finally brought my baby brother home from the hospital, the four of us swarmed upon her trying to get close to the little thing. We all took turns sitting in the rocking chair holding the baby, and probably poking him in the face.
Finally, someone declared that it was time to move on - have a snack, go and play, there was something Emily needed (she was only 3), I can't remember. All I know is that I put up a fuss because al the other kids got to hold the baby TWO times, and I had only gotten to hold the baby ONE time. I wanted my second turn.
Someone, either my mother or the babysitter, placed the baby in my arms as I sat in the rocking chair - I wasn't 9 yet - and said I would have to hold him until someone else came back for him, then.
Of course I said I was fine.
And I sat in that chair and rocked that sleeping baby. It was so awesome. I think I might have fallen in love with the idea of babies right at that moment.
I don't know how long I sat there. I couldn't have walked him to the crib if I'd wanted to. I was trapped with the baby on my lap. But I wasn't in any hurry. I was content. When my mother came in to check on the sleeping baby she was shocked to see me still rocking him. She'd forgotten that I was in there at all, and I was not-so-secretly pleased knowing that he'd fallen asleep in my arms and I got an extra long time to hold him.
It's 30 years later. Happy Birthday, Jamie. You're the best.
When I was really little, my dad sometimes drove us home from school. It was a long drive, from Manhattan into the suburbs of New Jersey, and to entertain us, sometimes he told us stories. Or sometimes we'd play this game...
It's a great game, actually, for pitch training and ear training in little kids. Name That Tune. When it's your turn, you hum a song, or sing a few notes of a song on "la." And everyone else tries to guess what you're singing.
Well, Nate and I discovered an updated version of the same thing.
I was listening to this CD I got for kicks at the library. It's one of those compilation discs of TV theme songs. When you first hear about it you think "hey! I NEED that! I LOVE those songs!" but then after 10 minutes you think that listening to each song once is enough, thank you. So getting the CD at the library is much better than spending the cash on a full time commitment.
BUT, I was cleaning the kitchen and Nate was clicking on the songs at random, and I was trying to guess which TV show they belonged to. It was awesome! Nate didn't even let me listen to any of the songs, as soon as I guessed one he'd move on.
Now, some were a little tricky. Nate doesn't know these TV shows, so if I got one wrong, he'd have to fill it in, and it would take me a moment to translate Mimi Vise (Miami Vice), Destiny (Dynasty), and Dells (Dallas).
So anyway, I was thinking that this game would be a lot of fun to play with other people, others that might actually also know the song that popped up, or that might actually remember that this particular tune is the theme from Knight Rider.
I'm bringing this game the NY, people. You have been warned. If you live in NY. If you don't, then you just heard me threaten my family members.
So, I know that a person can get tired, physically tired, when things get stressful. Prolonged periods of sadness can do that, too. Ever falling asleep after a really good cry?
I'm exhausted. And even though things are stressful, all things considered, I thought I took it easy these past few days. I saw my friend, I watched a movie with my boys, I ignored a few chores and tasks I've been meaning to get to, like fixing the hole in my wall or doing something about that overgrown area under the porch...
But I'm so sleepy my thinking is getting woozy. And it isn't even 5pm.
So often in life we are faced with everyday decisions that should be simple, but aren't because we have different ideals pulling us in different directions. For example: I want to wear something that makes me look attractive, but that is comfortable. Or: I want to teach my kids to be responsible and get their own karate gi's packed, but I also want to make sure we actually leave the house to get to the dojo on time.
At the grocery store, there can be even more directions we're pulled in. I want to buy items that are 1 - healthy 2 - inexpensive 3 - ecologically responsible in growth, production, and packaging 4 - something my kids will actually eat. This can make shopping difficult.
Right now we're pinching pennies. Steve is gone, we're without immediate income, and I am without job. I am taking the time to plan, very carefully, exactly what it is I am making for meals and serving to my kids. So far, on average, my grocery bill has dropped more than 25%. A huge difference. Sure, some of that is because the boys are spending a few nights a week with Steve and I don't plan meals for those nights. On those nights, as usual, my diet consists mostly of tuna melts, leftovers, and herbal tea (it's so soothing!)
Anyway, I recently had a conversation with a friend about how I kept the cost down, and since she asked for tips, I thought I might as well post them here. Not that I'm an expert. I realize that there are many ways to shop, and that no one way is necessarily better than another. Each person should shop in the way that works for him or her. But this works for me.
1 - limit shopping trips. I go food shopping once a week. If I forget something, I make do. Yes, If I'm making something special and forgot a key ingredient, I make a special trip. But those are rare. Why? impulse shopping. Fewer trips means I'm less likely to give in to the bag of chips or m&m's.
2 - make a list. I make a list of everything I'm making for dinner that week, and then a shopping list of everything I plan on buying. I have been known to make substitutions, to buy a different brand of crackers or try a special tomato sauce. But getting just what I think we'll need keeps the impulse shopping down. No extra cookies.
3 - When planning dinners, I don't do a huge meal every night of the week. With just me and the boys, I cook something "big" maybe once a week, something new and complicated. I make something portable (to eat in the car) once a week for that night we need it, and something kid-friendly and simple, like grilled cheese or tacos, at least once. If the kids will eat veggies raw, there's no need to cook them.
4 - I don't buy snack foods. Sure, I get crackers for school snacks, goldfish crackers. But unless I'm getting a sweet for a purpose (friday night movie night) I don't buy extra ice cream, chips, cookies, chocolate, or any of that stuff. Why? If I can stay strong at the grocery store I don't have to be as strong at home. Less junk food is better for everyone, and I know I have zero willpower. It's not like we'll never eat cake again. It's just that I won't have it sitting on my counter and I won't break down and eat some four times a day.
That is basically it. I know this is kind of a bossy post, sorry, but I thought I'd share anyway, just in case. Maybe you'll find it helpful. Maybe not. But there you have it. Just in case you need it.
I was in the car with Andy and Nick, and we were discussing the upcoming holiday. The one that's right around the corner. You know. Christmas.
You were going to say something else, right? Veteran's Day, probably. Or Columbus Day. Possibly Halloween. There are dozens of special days before Christmas, but we were talking about Christmas because I had just done what I promised myself I would never, ever, ever do. I asked Nick and Nate to pick out their Christmas present in September. Because there was a sale. And then I told them they wouldn't be getting them until Christmas.
In the car I told them it was too good a sale to pass up. And I brought up the fact that I always give them practical gifts. Which I do. They get fun presents from each other, and Santa is always extra generous with his gifts, but I always manage to give the boys new lunch boxes or bathrobes. Things like that.
And Nick has been asking for a belt rack. For karate belts, people. To display his karate achievements, not as some sudden OCD need to organize his everyday clothing accessories. Sheesh. He doesn't even close his drawers and when he pulls one thing out everything on top comes flying out onto the floor and he DOESN'T EVEN NOTICE. He's SO talking about karate gear. I'm not that lame.
Anyway, Andy started whining because he wanted something, too, and I explained that he didn't want a karate display belt rack (we'll be specific) and he only had two belts anyway (white and purple), so I would get him some other practical thing.
"What do you want, anyway?" I asked.
I was fishing. No pun intended. Because yesterday he had come right out and asked for a goldfish, and I am trying to gauge the seriousness / sustainability of that wish. I guess it's low maintenance, but... something else to clean and care for? And then when it dies? Argh! But if he really wants one, it isn't expensive, right? I mean, a small one?
Anyway, Andy mentioned the fish, and Nick immediately started talking about how you had to be careful when you fed it. "Because Greg had one, and his sister was a baby and dumped the food in there, and the fish was like, Poof!"
I kind of tuned out and started thinking about the reality of owning a goldfish. And suddenly I realized Nick was teasing Andy about overfeeding his goldfish, and Andy was angry, almost in tears. "Nick!" he cried. "Don't even think about doing that to my goldfish!"
So... what do you think of the new design for the blog?
Usually I go with something more nature inspired, in keeping with the seasons. Sometimes I do something textury or with a fun pattern.
It just got to the point where the morning was crisp, and I felt that the flower theme had to go. But none of the autumnal leaves felt quite right, either. (especially when it's 90 degrees and humid.)
In fact, nothing seems quite right at the moment. Everything is kind of half put together and not quite settled. We still have our routine, and as usual we're adjusting to new things - new homework, new schedules. But there are a few new things we aren't used to yet. Not just moving around furniture, and not even looking for jobs. It's redefining ourselves and who we are and what we do. And how we feel. Everything is being refurbished, and so we aren't working up to our usual speed.
That includes the blog. The writing I do here is personal stuff. It's nothing too private, but this is what's on my mind during the course of the day, week, life. And right now there's a lot I can't put down, either because it wouldn't be fair, or because it still hurts too much to describe. For the duration, I'm going to be heavily editing myself. Refurbishing.
Which is why I have a picture of a ladder and a not-yet-painted wall on my blog.
Just wait until the room is finished. It'll be so great.
OK, maybe you aren't looking for a laugh. Maybe your life is fun enough already. You like things the way they are. You know what you like, you know what you don't like, and you don't need any suggestions from someone who has a sense of humor that... which is to say, someone who thinks it's funny when... I mean... well, me. From me. You don't want any suggestions from me.
But this is different!
OK, maybe it's not different. But I feel it's different.
See, my life has been kind of stressful of late. I have found myself vacillating between desperation and irritation, with occasional bursts of apathy. But then I found this TV show...
Of course, you say. A TV show. Kathleen watches SO MUCH TV, it's crazy. And yes, perhaps I do. And not all of it's good. Usually I watch with half an eye, just enough to hang onto the plot or catch onto a joke, something to distract me from reality as I cook or clean or fold laundry.
But this show... the second episode had me laughing out loud all alone in the kitchen. I haven't laughed that hard in... I don't know when I've laughed that hard. I don't know if it's because the show is really that funny or because I just needed a laugh that badly... I think it's the show.
The show is called Miranda. Mostly slapstick - nothing deep. It's from the UK a few years ago. I saw it on HULU. It's the funniest show I've seen in years, and I'm not joking. I love it. I challenge you. Watch 2 episodes. It will take a little over 40 minutes. If you don't laugh, I'll never mention it again.
It could be anything, really, any one of a number of things. A job would be nice. Or winning the lottery. To name just two.
The thing is, life seems in a holding pattern. Steve is mid-move out, with many things taken, leaving gaping holes where items and furniture used to be. At the same time, there are still things he hasn't been able to take yet, so I can't simply move things into their place and move on.
I've never been a person with much patience. I want to be patient, and I am, right up to the moment when I snap and shriek "This Is Stupid! Argh!"
The thing is, even though I hate waiting, I think that I'm waiting for a good thing. I'm looking forward to it getting here. (cue song from West Side Story)
I know I sound like a crazy person, or else a very depressed person, on this blog. I just want everyone to know that I'm not. I'm just a very stressed person, and sometimes a very scared person, or hurt person, a lot of the time. Not all of the time. Most of the time, believe it or not, I'm actually 93% certain that everything ill turn out OK. But there isn't a lot I can write about without violating certain people's rights to privacy, or without jinxing myself.