One of those Mondays…

So, you know that day when your husband has the day off, let’s say it’s President’s Day.  A holiday for his company, but not for yours.  So, he asks you to take the kids to school that day.  You agree because who would say no to that?  You go to bed early, knowing you’re going to be up early.  But, the best laid plans never work, do they?  At 2:45 am a tiny person jumps into your bed crying.  Perhaps they had a bad dream, or they were thirsty or some other reason.  Whatever it is, you don’t care – you want to get back to sleep.  Unfortunately, that tiny person has other plans.  He tosses and turns, and of course refuses to snuggle with his dad, so instead, he’s clung to you.  The ‘sleep’ you get that night ends up being from 9pm-3am.  You drag your exhausted self out of bed at 4:30 am.  You do your usual routine of packing lunches and then get the kids up.  Of couse, that tiny person who crawled into your bed and prevented sleep for 2 hours has now passed out and is impossible to wake up.  You finally wrestle your children into some clothes, and by the time you wrestle them into coats, hats, boots and backpacks you’re running later than planned.  You finally convince one child to get himself buckled into his seat while you haul the supplies for the day into the car.  As you return for your youngest child, you realize that foolish door whose handle broke last week has actually shut (you know, the kind of outer door that always refuses to close tightly, and subsequently bangs against the side of the house with each gust of wind that blows by).  And since the handle is broken, and the door has actually closed for once, you are stuck on the outside and your youngest child is on the inside – and neither of you have the ability to open the door.

That is when you throw your hands up in the air and tell Monday that it has won.  It’s only 6:30 am, and you are already defeated for the day.  Some loud banging on the door, and telling your child to wake up Daddy finally works, and he is able to pry the door open.  You not so gently suggest (again) that perhaps that godforsaken door be removed until a replacement handle can be found.  You finally pack the second child into the car and leave for the day.

I really don’t like those days…


Nana Camp!

Next week is school vacation week for Gus.  It also happens to be school vacation week for my mother-in-law.  She is a 3rd grade teacher in a small school about an hour and a half away.  The woman is either a saint or a crazy person because she agreed to take both of my children for vacation week.  I love my kids dearly, but I don’t think I can express to you how excited I am to have a week long break.  Sure, I’ll still have to get up early and go to work, but I won’t have to make sandwiches and pack lunches and get small people dressed before I go.  And, I’ll still get out of work at the same time, but it won’t take me an hour to make the 20 minute drive back home.  And when I get home, I won’t have to lug backpacks and art projects and soggy mittens and boots into my house.  And when I do get into my house, I can watch grown up television if I want to.  Or, I could read a book.  Or, I can cook a meal more complicated than macaroni & cheese from a box.  The possibilities are endless!  Heck, I could stop on the way home and get a drink with a friend if I wanted to.  Whoa!!

When you’re pregnant, parents tell you how your life is going to completely change.  You sort of nod politely and think in the back of your head that they’re wrong.  Of course you’re adding a new human to your household, but you’ll still be the same person, still do the same things, like the same things.  The transition is not instant.  Small babies can be quite agreeable when it comes to letting you eat normal food and sometimes even cooperate by napping in a car seat (carefully placed in a high chair at your table of course) while you and your sweetheart enjoy a quiet meal out.  Since babies aren’t supposed to watch tv, that leaves you free to watch what you want or even play a video game.  The changes are subtle and then one day you wake up and realize that the only television you’ve seen all week has small people who go on crazy boring adventures and yell into the camera.  The only food you’ve eaten is macaroni & cheese from a box, grapes and hotdogs and 95% of the time you’re awake you’re catering to a small crazy person who alternately yells, cries or laughs hysterically.  At that point, you will be giddy at the thought of a week minus those small crazy people.  I am very much looking forward to a week of grown up food, television and no toddler drama.

Uncharted Waters

Today is February 22nd.  Exactly one year ago today my mother went into the hospital.  She was having trouble breathing, and although the woman hadn’t visited a doctor since the birth of my sister 29 years ago, she figured perhaps she should get that breathing thing checked out.  It felt like a long story at the time, in and out of the hospital, doctor consultations, medical leave, oxygen tanks, more doctor visits and test results.  But then, exactly one month later on March 22nd, it was all over.  She died.  She was 60.  It turns out smoking for 40 years isn’t good for you.

Fast forward a year.  Life has moved on, as it always does.  My dad has the same job, but now he’s a widower.  My sister got her acceptance letter to grad school the day of my mom’s funeral.  She’s been working part time, living at home and going to school.  I’m still doing my thing, just without the daily conversations with my mom, occasional parenting advice, and some significant changes in the way we celebrate holidays.

One big thing has changed though, our dad started dating.  A dinner here or there was slightly disconcerting, but mostly because I hadn’t realized how lonely he really was.  Clearly it was an issue, since he signed up with an online dating service.  I immediately felt bad that we hadn’t been visiting very often.  But, the street goes both ways, and he hadn’t made much effort either.

Suddenly, ‘dating’ turned into a relationship with one woman.  And, the relationship has progressed pretty quickly. They met one month ago.  They spend all free time together.  Last weekend, for Valentine’s Day the rented a hotel room in Boston.  My dad works second shift, and she has a job down the street from his house.  She stops over before work (7:30 am) to spend time with him until her work starts at 9:30.  Which means he works until 11pm, gets up at 6am and then has to nap again before work.  My sister keeps catching them making out on the couch (she hates that).  This weekend the girlfriend will spend the night at their house for the first time.  She will sleep in my mother’s bed.  In the room with the closet still filled with my mother’s clothes.  My mother’s ashes still resides in the house too, as does my very uncomfortable sister who has no idea what to do with herself this weekend.

This is all new territory for me.  I had two married parents growing up.  I was 33 when my mother died rather suddenly, and I’m not really sure how to handle a dating father.  Does anyone have any suggestions…?

Please Let Your Children Grow Up

So, my kids are 4 and 6.  Obviously I’m pretty involved in the day-to-day happenings of their lives.  But, I work on a college campus.  I spend my days working with young adults, helping them learn and hopefully grow up some more.  One of my pet peeves is helicopter parents.  There are plenty of articles on the Internet either in favor of or against helicopter parents, and for young children I’m not going to voice an opinion on that topic.  But, when your child applies to college, then I have a very strong opinion.

Back the hell off and let your kid grow up.  Every day I talk to parents and try to help them understand this concept.  I get that it’s a new idea to them – that they’ve had unfettered access to all of their child’s information and expect that will continue through college, especially if they are paying the bills.  But unless they plan to be their child’s roommate, they aren’t going to be around to do all the work for their kid, and at some point, the student needs to step up and take ownership of their life.

So what does that mean?  Well, for starters, it means you need to have your own damn email address.  It’s time to stop letting Mommy and/or Daddy maintain all of your electronic communication.  It means that if you have a question about your admissions application, or your financial aid, or anything else to do with YOUR college, then YOU should pick up the phone and call someone about it (oh the horror of actually speaking on the phone, I know – it’s a dying art…)  It means that after I’ve talked to your father for the 4th time in a day, and each time told him I really need to speak with you, then perhaps you should call me.  It means that I will be horrified when your mother shows up on my doorstep to hand your paper into your professor, clearly bound by a professional, and clearly a step that she took and not you.

I’ve worked in a college setting for almost 15 years now (whoa) and I can tell you that the most successful students are not the ones who rely on parents to gather information or fight their battles.  The most successful students are the ones who can ask questions on their own.  Take responsibility for their own education and bills.  Those are the students who won’t end up at home working a minimum wage job when college is over.  The students who figure things out on their own are the ones who get jobs and apartments.  They find partners, get married and have children.  I hope that these are the type of children I raise.  I love them and want them to come visit me when I’m old, but I don’t have any desire to continue supporting them once they are adults.

The Vice Principal’s Office

Yesterday I received a phone call from Gus’ vice principal. Apparently he and and another child had been wrestling on the playground and then sent to his office by an aide on duty. I assured the Vice Principal that we would address the issue at home and thanked him for his call. The I tried very hard not to break down into tears at work.

My sweet, rule-following child who was always praised for his good behavior was in trouble. First the behavior discussion with his teacher at the parent-teacher conference and then despite the multiple discussions about rule following and good behavior the very next day he was in the Vice Principal’s office. What was I going to do with him?

We’ve never had an issue like this before. It’s all new territory for us. Gus is probably lucky I got the call mid-day and didn’t make any snap decisions about his consequences. It turns out the other child involved is his best friend. The boys have been thick as thieves since they were in diapers and we live less than a mile apart. They weren’t fighting, just fooling around. I chatted with the boy’s mother (my friend) to see what her take was.

I was a little surprised to discover that she and her husband were more on the side of the fence where it wasn’t really the boy’s fault – there are other behavior challenges in their class and the aide was probably just taking her frustration at the situation out on our boys. Their son would receive a stern talking to, and that would be the end of the matter. I was in the other side of the fence. If you get sent to the Vice Principal’s office, regardless of the circumstances, then there are consequences for you.

Then I turned to Facebook and asked for opinions on what Gus’ punishment should be. My favorite suggestion was to ask Gus what he thought it should be.

So, we did that. After some discussion with him and Mountain Daddy we all agreed that Gus should pick a screen to be banned from for the rest of the week. He loves to play on an iPad traveling to or from school, but he also loves playing video games and watching tv with his family. Ultimately he chose no iPad for this week.

The seriousness of the situation seemed to get through to him and I’m hopeful that will be the last time I get a call from the Vice Principal. This week certainly didn’t help with my increasing gray hairs!

The Parent-Teacher Conference

Mountain Daddy and I went to Gus’ parent-teacher conference yesterday.  Gus is the youngest kid in his class (his birthday is 10 days before the cutoff date…) but does pretty well academically.  I wouldn’t call him a genius, but he falls into the high average or above average range usually.  It’s nice to see his progress from the fall to now.  I’m struggling with a few things though.  First, I remember being near the top of my class when I was young.  The expectation was for A’s, or in this case 100’s.  And for the most part, I achieved that.  Gus isn’t quite there, and I don’t know if our expectations are where they should be (he enjoys school and completes his work, what more can I ask for?) or if we should express a desire for 100’s…

Secondly, Gus’ teacher needed to speak with us about Gus’ behavior.  This was a surprise for the kid who always follows the rules.  Unfortunately, there are 1/2 a dozen or so rambunctious boys in Gus’ class, and he is a follower.  It’s not hard to see what is happening, but how do we fix it?  How do you explain to a 6 year old that his choice in friends is going to get him in trouble?  I think I’ve drilled into his head that he needs to listen to his teacher the first time she speaks.  He needs to not fool around in the cubby area, and he needs to follow the rules.  We’ll keep it up, and hopefully see some improvement by the time report cards come out next month.  The last report card had all C’s (for commendable) on classroom behaviors.  I’m not sure we’ll see that this time around…

A day in my life…

Welcome to the window into my life. Let’s start with a typical day for me.

5:15 – my iPhone annoyingly will not let me sleep any longer. This is of course assuming some small child hasn’t wandered into my bed at some point in the middle of the night, thus keeping me awake at a most inconvenient time.

5:45 – showered and dressed, I head downstairs for 1/2 an hour of quiet while I make PB&J sandwiches and pack lunches. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a spare 15 minutes to drink a tea and play on my iPad before waking up the house.

6:20 – cajole the boys out of bed. They share a room for now, so I usually walk in, say good morning and then work on whichever child moves the most. I get one up and dressed and send him downstairs and then convince the next one to wake up.  Rinse and repeat.

6:30 – warm up my car, find breakfast for the boys and perhaps find something on tv to keep them distracted while Mountain Daddy showers.  He’ll get them packed up and delivered to the appropriate schooling locations by 8am.

6:40 – hugs goodbye and I’m out the door. In a somewhat odd decision, I drive a convertible mini cooper. It’s a fun little car, but I’m not convinced that it really enjoys the giant frost heaves and massive amounts of salt and sand on the road in the winter time…

7:00 – arrive at work. I’m responsible for opening the building I work in, the doors open at 7:30. And… then the day begins!

7:30 – 4:00 – I supervise 30 college students, which is about the equivalent to herding cats. I spend my days answering their questions, responding to support questions, writing tech tip articles and documents for our wiki, and generally running a support center. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a free 45 minutes for a lunch break and during that time I’ll run errands (dry cleaners, department store for kid socks, grocery store for those few supplies we forgot, etc.)

4:00 – Pick up Augie at the preschool. His running hug to greet me is definitely one of the highlights of my day. After I pack him into the Mini we drive to the Elementary school to pick up Gus. After collecting all of Gus’ things and making sure they’ve both used the bathroom (nothing worse than stopping on the side of the road in 10 degree weather to pee) we take the 20 minute drive home.

5:00 – home at last. Even though I leave my office around 4pm, it takes me a full hour to collect 2 kids and drive 20 minutes… Mountain Daddy won’t be home for 30-60 minutes, so it’s a bit of a juggling act until then. Here is a list of things to get done in the next hour:

  • Start fires in both the wood stove and pellet stove (we keep the heat in the house at 60, and rely on alternative heat sources to make us comfortable in the evenings)
  • Finish homework (with the 1st grader)
  • Bathe 2 boys
  • Cook dinner

6:00 – if things are running smoothly, then we’re close to having dinner at this point.  Depending on what I decided to make tonight, the boys may or may not eat most of it.  We pretty much operate on the philosophy of “this is what is for dinner – eat it, or you’ll be hungry” (there are occasional exceptions to the rule, but for the most part they find something on their plates to eat)

7:00 – bedtime!  Mountain Daddy and I take turns.  One night he reads books and tucks kids in and I clean the kitchen and the next night we switch.  One night a week I do it all when he goes to a friend’s house to play video games (a long standing agreement – it works well for us).

8:00 – books are read, backs are rubbed and hopefully boys are asleep.  Mountain Daddy and I settle on the couch to play on computers or iPads and watch a tv show or 2.

9:30 (ish) – Though I would like to stay up later, I know that 5:15 will arrive well before I’m ready, so I wander upstairs, find clothes for me and the smalls (usually) and collapse into bed, hoping that everyone sleeps through the night, and feeling a bit like Groundhog Day will happen tomorrow…

I feel tired pretty much all the time, and if you have kids – whether you stay home and chase them all day or like me, you work outside your home I’m guessing you’re just as tired as I am…