Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Begins

It's the first week of Advent and already, I'm impatient.

Coming two months early to start, I guess I always have been. It doesn't explain why I'm always late everywhere, but it does shed light on my inability to diet, budget or maintain a cleaning routine. It also explains why I struggle beyond the easy level with Rock Band, I keep jumping the count.

Like everyone, I am my own worst enemy. Original sin just messes with every gift we have if we let it and I do all too often. Delayed gratification is something I struggle with; I like the immediate hit of a comment on a blog and thus often surrender the better prize of a crafted publishable piece. I eat the pie when it's served. I don't take pitches and I panic in the pocket in touch football. The present that is perfect at first glance is too much to not purchase. I don't like looking, I like finding. God knows this, so He placed my future husband in front of me first day of college.

This year's prayer theme was "Wait on the Lord." Essentially, my husband and I have thrown this line out at each other all year long whenever things got hard. Sometimes it has meant serve, other times it has meant patience and most infuriating, sometimes it has meant both. Advent is the Church's "Wait on the Lord" instruction to all of us.

You'd think a year of meditating on this bit of wisdom would have paid off, but I still give hints about presents if they're really cool gifts. I used to do my shopping last minute so I wouldn't mess up and tell people what I'm giving. My current solution had been to tell SOMEONE what I got someone else but even that makes it harder for me not to give more hints to the recipient. It comes down to the fact that I don't like secrets and really stink at surprises. I've always found out what each kid I was having was. I always jumped up and down the last week hoping the time would be sooner than the induced date scheduled. Again, God knows how to work around my flaws and never has indulged my impatience on this point.

Even the one kid who was premature made me sit for a week and the other one that needed an emergency c-section made my husband wait in a room alone to pray while the doctors got ready. I had to wait to find out she'd been born, I didn't feel a thing and she didn't cry at first. Then we got the shock of great joy and that was what we needed, seeing her face and touching her cheek. This is what Christmas is; the shock of the angels, the shock of the star, the shock of the little family in the stable being the salvation of the world; the shock of seeing the one you love completely for the first time.

Christmas is the scheduled delivery day when time will slow down, when we will look around and miss whoever is not there, and feel the day would be better, more and more wonderful if everyone were in one place. We will long for Heaven because Earth only hints with all it's wonder and beauty and bounty but does not satisfy and we really really know it.

So as of today, the all Christmas carols radio station(with the notable exception of a few banned for life tunes), is allowed. We made a list of what we hope to have happen during these next few weeks but have promised not to freak at what doesn't. I will try to "Be still and know He is there." Holding onto the infant Jesus I know will bring the strong true peace not of this world but right now, out in the fields, it's hard not to want to run straight for that star. But then I remember, "Wait on the Lord." So I'm waiting. I'm not patient, but I'm waiting.

Have a blessed Advent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Scary Phrases

Children have the unique ability to elicit pure terror in their parents by what they say, do, don't say and don't do. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you suffer from tremors after reading, you can't say you weren't warned.

10) Dad to toddler, "Where is the toothpaste?"
9) Five year old to Mom, "I can't find my shoes."
8) "We made a rainbow in our room." (Children are holding open markers, no caps in sight).
7) "Nobody's hurt!" (Most effective when uttered the instant Mom or Dad walks through the door).
6) "I forgot my math book." Always spoken when one is pulling INTO the driveway.
5) "My shoes are still missing." after parent has given a list of places to look.
4) I need a poster...cake...clay...usb....(after 9 pm on a weekday) for tomorrow.
3) "I saw the baby with your keys." in response to parent tearing through house looking for car keys, usually said without looking away from television.
2) "I'm sorry Mom." (No explanation given).
1) "I still can't find my shoes."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mother Goose on Turkey Day

After the big meal as we were closing down for the night, my daughter remembered the assignments given for completion over the long weekend and she moaned, “I can’t wait to be a grown up and have no more homework. My free time will be my own.”

Speaking up and shattering that illusion would have been cruel so I held my comments but writing all of this up and trying to carve out a article with a gut filled with stuffing, cranberries and turkey, I mused over the apparent momentary existence of free time. I was writing on my computer. I was momentarily free. Blogging was a form of mental jogging for me, when the rest of the world would fall away in the process. It was liberating. It was a release. It was…then my oldest son came into the room and said, “Can I update my Facebook?”  and I pointed out that we still had dishes to do. 

"It's too many for just me." he explained. 

"You're in luck.  You have three sisters and a brother capable of helping."

"But Mommmmm, we're on vacation." came the chorus.  "I'm too full." said another.  They suddenly felt the weight of the meal kicking in..."Why didn't we use paper plates?"  "Why did you make all this food?"  "When I'm grown up, I'm making pasta and cresent rolls and that's it."   said one.  Another agreed.  Making a mental note not to go to their house for dinner on the fourth Thursday in November, I insisted that as I took care of the dishes regardless of the dish roughly 360 days out of the year, this was hardly outlandish.  

"But we're on break." they clamored. 
I turned back to the computer and  said, "Me too."

There was danger of a mass mutiny but I held one ace in the hole.   "There are four pumpkin pies and two apple ones.  You little kittens shall have no pie until the dishes are done."  

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Don't Know How You Do It!

Some variant of this question appears weekly in my life whenever I venture out into public with the kids. My standard response is, "Some days I don't."

But all humor comes with a grain of truth. There have been times when the very edges of every day were brimming with the possibility of failure. I'd get to the end of the day and the list of what I didn't do or get to or finish was so long I'd ache. Maybe if I worked harder, worked smarter, worked better and the systems and the plans and the lists would start in earnest and things would improve for a day or so, and then reality would crash back down like the high waves against the shore, eroding my resolve and all those fine proposals for improved success.

"How do you do it?" someone would ask, and then add, "God doesn't hand off anything He doesn't know you can handle." and I'd chafe internally big time because I could easily rattle off six or seven times from the past three weeks when I knew, I wasn't handling it as well as God would want that's for certain.

Moreover, there were moments when I wanted to not handle it. I didn't want to do laundry every day. I didn't want to do and do and do and do. There were days when I so wanted to just chuck the homework out the window of the car as we drove back home because getting home would mean having to stand over people and nag them to read, to do their math, to color the right things and memorize their tables. There were days when I didn't want to do the bed time routine even though I knew it made things easier. Bath, teeth, story, prayers, bed. I just wanted to go teeth, bed! Maybe even just bed!

But God gives me all of these people with their disparate needs so that I would recognize others are always paramount and submit. Sometimes I would find grace to do this and other times not, but the discipline of the actions, like route prayer, would prevent me from spending every day wallowing in my own world disconnected from all other souls, lost in the words and the mind and the self.

The cacophony of their silliness, of their instant wants, of their "HiMomCanItellyouaboutmyday?" that results in a run through of their school schedules from 7:55 to 2:45 every day only to be followed by the breathless, "What's for snack?" is a form of sublimation. That they want to tell me every day is music to my ears; though sometimes, I concede, I cannot hear it above the jostling for seats and immediate list of things needed from the store, desired dinners and planned activities for the next eight waking hours.

I still fantasize about a day ending before 10:30 with respect to all under the age of 18, and it may one day happen. (I'm hopeful but recognize that when that happens, I'll probably have some people over the age of 18 still in the house).

How do you do it?

When things get hard, I'll rail at God, "I can't do this. It's too much. I feel like I'm supposed to deal with the leftover 12 baskets of loaves and fishes and the enormity of the task is too great. I can't do it." To which God responds with something of a smile, "You're right Sherry." and I'm left to recognize that all Christ asks of me is a willing free heart for others. Our Lord doesn't need the socks or the dishes or the mopped floors or the finished homework. He needs his sheep that I've been given to manage to know Him, to love Him and to want to serve Him.

How do you do it?

Most of the time, I just smile and plunge into it. Keep going. Hold onto that great Peace Christ gives, and share it with the children. Pray whenever worry strikes.

But sometimes the question resonates in areas of my psyche I didn't expect.

"How do you do it?"

On those days, when I mean, "Some days, I don't." the grace of those days is that I'm reminded that in reality, I never did any of this without God, and that without God, I can't do this at all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Warning...Reading this blog could be Hazardous

Everyone knows about the absurdities of overly protective liability labeling. Things like warning: Hot coffee can scald. Do not remove label under penalty of Federal law, this program is authorized for private use only...consumer/customer/attendee assumes all risk due to injury from using product. It is quite literally, a sign of our times.

As common sense becomes akin to 8 track tapes, records, non HDLCD TV's, dial up and roatary land line phones, I wonder what future labels will include.

First, labels will be upgraded to have computer chips, such that they can flash various label warnings in perpetuity, kind of like the scroll feed that runs along the bottom of news channels.

They'll flash in red when a person picks up the jar of peanut butter: Warning, Warning, danger, PRODUCT CONTAINS PEANUTS, Known to cause problems for some people. If you are one of these people, by merely touching this jar, you assume all responsibility for your own welfare with respect to this product. If you live with one of these people, put the jar back on the shelf NOW!

A retina scan will verify whether or not you can purchase the product without incurring excessive risk. Those who purchase the peanut butter anyway, will find that the jar self vacumn seals to prevent possible contamination and after 30 seconds of being in the new owner's possession, disintegrates.

This sort of technology may seem far fetched, but consider our society's desire to be free from all mishap, combined with the government's desire to alleviate us of all suffering and surplus legal tender. By simply integrating existing technology into the scanner, our society can eliminate obsesity by prohibiting the purchase of transfat laden goodies by anyone who's body mass index exceeds federal regulations.

"This is the Food Police. Put the Ho Ho's Back! And the Hagendize, and the Salt and Vinegar chips. Now."

Then a black market will pop up, selling forbidden sweets at outrageous prices, as corporations work desperately to convince us that Snackwells taste just as good as Oreos, and congress passes legislation to make the truth in advertisement labels on food use unappetizing adjectives. A 12 piece bucket of KFC orriginal, for example, would be labeled thusly: Transfat artery clogging Bucket o'Death. Hershey's Bar: Diabetes Here I Come. Coca-cola: Sugar, Caffeine, and Chemistry.

Will we swallow such nonsense? Sure. For the good of the children. For their future, we must eliminate our carb footprint now. Maybe I can get some Carb credits as an investment, sort of a dietary indulgence. Like Weight watcher's points? Can I redeem them for a Papa John's Thin Crust Supreme Pizza, hold the olives, extra cheese?

Just some food for thought as restuarants race to tell us, "We've selflessly eliminated all unhealthy items from our menu. Sure we've had to raise prices and the food won't taste anywhere near as good as at those rogue greasy spoons that are holding out, just across the border in that unhealthy County but don't worry, we'll get to them soon. Come on in and eat healthy.

We love our customers enough to Nag.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Alien Questions

An alien that regularly text messages me when he/she, it, passes by Earth had some questions for me to answer regarding life in the United States.

Why can schools give out condoms to prevent pregnancy but not Tylenol to prevent cramps?

Why must we leave the earth as if we never existed? And if we did, who would know?

If schools are failing to teach children the basics, why is more school always the answer?

If Rosetta Stone works and Your Baby Can Read Works, and all those "Subject matter for Dummies books" work, why aren't they used in schools?

If every child is different, why do we teach them all the same material and most of them the same way, at the same age?

Why does it cost $160,000 to earn a piece of paper that will only guarantee you a shot at around $40,000.00 unless you take on additional schooling?

Why teach spelling if u cn wrt nd rd ths?

Why teach math if we don't believe in honest accounting, accurate statistical analysis and real numbers when it comes to weight, budgets, crowds, elections, projected costs and actual fiscal demands?

Why do people print and sell countless books on saving the environment rather than e-book the things and save trees?

Why do we teach children not to swear, cheat, fight or lie, hurt animals or engage in other inappropriate behavior, but have hours of television, scores of magazines, blogs and websites focused on celebrity lives that do all these things?

Why do we value free speech except when we disagree?

Why do we say play nice and how we hate negative campaigns but think our guy is justified?

Why do we think taxes will only affect the other guy?

Why are we convinced the other guy is always enjoying life too much?

Why are we convinced that we are never the other guy?

All to which I had only one answer. I texted, "You're the smart one. You're in outer space. I don't know."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Small Successes

Every Thursday, Family& Faith has a blog chain of small successes where we list a few things that we accomplished and that might have otherwise gone lost in the days and weeks as errands and obligations piled up. Anyone can join, just click on the small successes button and it will take you to Family & Faith Live! where you can add your blog to the list of people celebrating the little victories of life.

1) Took my youngest to get his HINI vaccination.

2) Made it to reconciliation. Priest talked about accepting God's peace and holding onto it tightly, like a treasure. When anxiety about the schedule or what have you threatens, I'm to cling to this, to not let the world extinguish the peace Christ' gives.

3) Ordered my husband's birthday present in advance.

4) Made arrangements to see son's play on Friday --got babysitters.

5) After fretting, calling Mom, thinking about my girl, praying for my girl, talking to her coach, musing my options, getting a call from her all angry and upset, I came home and hugged my 13 year old until she melted. Then we went about our routine. I thought it was a mere moment.

That evening, she fixed my dinner while I was bathing children and when I was finished, she brought me to the table she had decorated with lit candles everywhere.

6) Had a break through regarding studying techniques with daughter that struggles with math and reading and for whom self confidence is also an issue.

7) Got to see a dear friend over the weekend and spend a few hours.

8) Exercised, danced bollywood. (It was fun!)

9) Even the socks are folded right now.

10) Toddler transfered from a crib to a toddler bed. She who seldom speaks now says, "I love you Mom."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Finally have a good Sound Track if not Sound Mind

Anyone who has known me in my childhood or adolescence knows I have the definitive record for the worst music collection from that era for all time. Granted, it was the 70's so there was lots of badness to cherry pick from, but my passionate devotion to poorly chosen tunes began with being exposed to the Eagles by our terribly hip babysitter. She showed me the cover of "One of These Nights" and played the music.

I got nightmares of giant flying cow skulls coming to trap me in my room. I blame her for my subsequent reactive decisions to purchase three seasons of the Kids from Fame's Greatest Hits.

Now most of us have nightmare moments, messy elements of our lives that we hope not to impose or create for our children. Human nature remaining perpetually flawed, I have discovered when we seek to employ countermeasures, we usually exacerbate matters.

Given the many different ages with the choice of music in the car, I get requests for Pokemon or the latest Kids Bop CD from McDonalds, for Disney show tunes and for simple control of the radio to find something good. To eliminate music as proof of the pecking order in our car, I opted to play "None of the above" and put on classical music.

To occasionally allow for a break from Bach, Beethoven and Saint-Sans, I brought tunes that I hoped everyone would like, music I deemed retro enough not to give points to the olders for controlling the sound, and cool enough not to sabotage my children's social future or present. Foreigner, Boston, Styx, the Eagles, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffet, Cheryl Crow and Faith Hill seemed like a decent enough mix to meet the diversity needs of my kiddos while keeping me from listening to commercials for Viagra or IVF or the political lobbying ads that permeate every hour when you live around DC.

Because toddlers spend more time in the car than the olders, they heard the songs more. My four year old daughter fell in love with the Eagles. Every time we got in the car, she'd beg for a particular song,"There's a New Kid in Town." The first time I heard her croon along with Glen Frey and Joe Walsh, I fell in love. Subsequently, I indulged her request, enjoying the small choir singing "You look in her eyes, the music begins to play..." as her sister would occasionally chime in as well.

Sometimes, she'd ask for it a second time. Again, I'd been charmed and thus saw no danger to the situation, but like peanut butter that becomes the only meal and the blue dress and red socks that become the only outfit, the song became the ONLY song. I understand the psychology behind this choice (unlike the peanut butter or the blue and red thing). Her father told her how we used to sing this one to her as a baby and to her older brother because his name was John, "Johny come lately, there's a new kid in town..."

Suddenly, the very measure I'd used to eliminate pecking order WAS indicating the alpha in the car, and it was my four year old. I tried saying "No." but when you have nine children, is this where you want to engage in battle on a daily basis? She knew I didn't have the steel to nut this one out and she was right. "Who needs it?" I told myself and on went the Eagles. She'd get tired of it... eventually.

My other children were sympathetic at first to my not wanting grief in the car, but they did try removing the CD from the car. "WHERE IS MY JOHNNY SONG? I WANT MY JOHNNY SONG?" until she crashed asleep brought the Eagles greatest hits back to the car pronto. So my oldest daughter tried craft. "This is another Eagles Song. It's a good Halloween song." She considered this for a moment and asked, "Can it be about me?"

"If you want." my daughter responded with the perfect indifference of an adolescent.

We played it. The daughter liked it. She sang along and asked for seconds. Everyone was momentarily charmed and the cycle started again, only now we had a rotation. I'm still not going to fight over the music, but this means we will have to feed this musical narcissist until she tires of it.

Next year, she goes to pre-school. I don't see any trouble for her, but I will have to explain why she croons "Witchy Woman" and glows, "It's my song."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

No Try Zone

Dear Children,

In the interest of your personal homeland security, the following regulations have gone into effect immediately.

1) All whines of minors shall not be served. You must be 21 to have a whine. Then we will serve you wine, and that should deal with the problem or at least abate it.

2) Conversations in the car that begin with the word Mom as Ma-om, indicating "I have the floor and I'm telling." rather than a term of endearment are banned. Violators shall be subjected to Taylor Swift, Barney, Classical music or Show tunes, whatever annoys most. Hint: Even if we are on the driveway, I will back up and go around the block just to enforce this.

3) Peace through Work. We shall be a benevolent dictatorship, or at least the later if you are not benevolent towards each other. There are always socks to be mated and toilets to scrub. If you fight, la sale de bain awaits.

4) If you want your beds made, dishes washed, dinners, lunches and snacks available and the ready chauffeur, you should keep Mommy happy. While Diet coke, chocolate and foot rubs work very well, magic words like please and thank you are all that are needed. Note to older children: Sulks get nothing but boring lectures. Why do you think I give boring lectures? I'm hoping you don't like them and find them dull such that you don't want me to give another one.

5) I know when you say things under your breath, they aren't complimentary and your sister did NOT misunderstand what you said and neither did I. The fact that I cannot prove it in a court of law does not matter because here, I am the court. I am the law. Guilty until proven otherwise works for me.

6) Mom is the criminal court. Dad is the Civil. Meaning: justice comes swifter with Mom but the penalties are much more lasting with Dad. When considering making an appeal for a different venue, chose wisely.

If you have any questions or concerns about these regulations, please check with Mom or Dad. Also, do not cite regulations to each other as a means of illustrating moral or ethical superiority. Doing so will generate complaints (see reg.#1) and most likely result in subsequent HSA violations of rules 2 and 5, leaving you to decide about the outcome of number 6. Just remember, these rules are for your own safety and protection and our sanity.

Have fun.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Today I....

Pulled back the bed, put all the stuff I hid under it on top, vacuumed with both the Dirt Devil and the Shop Vac, put the shoes in the closet and cleaned out the paperwork.


Was I hit by the cleaning fairy during the night causing me to think that it was time for a serious deep down clean?


Was I preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas by getting the house de-cluttered and debris free?


Did I finally channel my inner house cleaning goddess that demanded the home be sans miscellaneous piles of unidentifiable but crucial papers stacked in every corner?

I'd like to say yes, but it would be untrue.

So why have I been pitching and cleaning and clearing like a maniac?

We have an unwanted pet; a mensa mouse that has defied multiple traps stationed around the vents.

My husband has threatened to get a cat.

Given the seriousness of the proposed solution, blogging will be light until the critter gets caught.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful for Thursday Small Successes

This was a busy week.

We did get the photos for the Christmas card, and a portrait of all the boys and all the girls. It's not perfect but neither are we. It's very...real. My oldest vowed to buy photo shop and insert everyone next year but I don't consider this to have been a success, merely something we endured.

Here are the moments I'll treasure from this past week.

1) Husband and I went on a real "bonafied" date. We saw a play and shared a glass of wine; it was fun. Who knew grownups got to play?

2) Last week, I got whacked by the cleaning fairy and somehow managed to get through the upstairs and get it into decent shape. Getting ready for round two, attacking the basement.

3) All Autumn, we have played touch football with the oldest 5 or 6 on Sunday. The parents until this past weekend, had never beaten the kids. We were gracious though. We didn't gloat until they all went inside. (We do have one older kid on our side, she was very pleased too).

Bonus items from this week: had a piece run at Family& Faith Live, "Flowers for the Feast," played Mario Cart with the kids and got completely schooled, made my husband laugh five times with a column and arranged a play date for my kindergarten son for Friday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The NEXT Iron Chef

I love the Food Network but I have to say I don't feel much sympathy for these professionals stressing out over only having 30 minutes to serve three people food when they don't have to do the dishes and the kitchens are fully stocked and gleaming with beautiful cooking tools.

These cooking shows need a dose of real reality. Iron Chef Moms.

We know. We've been there. It's Wednesday. You've served pasta two nights in a row, there aren't enough eggs to make breakfast for dinner for everyone and the whole chickens you forgot to take out of the freezer are poultry ice balls of doom. Defrosting would take so long, it would be time for bed and you have this little nag in the back of your head to fix something that a Mom ought to fix, you know, with vegetables and all so you can't quite rationalize a run to McDonald's or ordering Pizza. No. You've got to suck it up and make something.

Welcome to Extreme Dinner Challenge, Kid style.

Okay folks, she's going in the pantry and grabbing a can of black beans. Good call. If she's got rice and tortillas, she's golden for the adolescent, the picky eater and the happy child that eats everything. She'll still have the teen, tween, two toddlers, kindergarten boy and the baby to deal with, but a 1/3 solved in two easy moves is a good start.

Three pots are on but the burners won't light so she goes to the junk drawer, searching for the matches. She finds a box with a good strike side but no sticks, some paper ones that she knows are old and the lone stick of a camping box. Striking the lone wooden one, it breaks. Match one, two and three from the paper won't light.
She's getting nervous. The broken match is returned to, and lo, it catches. That was close but she's got fire and she's cooking. Twenty minutes to six though, she lost a lot of time.

Improvising, she's filling a pot with water. Good call, pasta won't annoy the toddlers or the five year old boy or the tween, that leaves the baby and the teenager, she's closing in on her goal. Meanwhile, there's an interruption. "MOM? How do I do this?" a child who has refused and insisted she doesn't have homework suddenly remembers and now wants one on one time to get through a phonics paper. She rattles off the instructions and hands an extra sharpened pencil to try and anticipate the next crisis.

Out comes a bag of insta salad and oooh, a bowl of carrots. She's moving now. She's in the zone. She hands the teen the baby and the baby food. "Feed him." He looks annoyed. "You'll get a better dinner. If I have to feed him, you get pasta." She then tells the ten year old that is tormenting the five year old to practice his trumpet.

The water is boiling. Angel hair pasta is scooped out of the pot so it can be reused for brocolli. The beans are boiling. They are turned down. The rice in the microwave is beeping. Butter is added.

A tween shows up. "Clear the table." she is told. She humphs until the bargain is made, she can light a candle at the table and we make chocolate milk. She has to make it though. The tween gets busy mixing in the syrup. Eveyrone is happy in anticipation.

Plating in five minutes. It is 5:52. Mom's got eight minutes to dinnertime. Will she make it. Wait, she's gone back in the pantry for a surprise move. She's opening a can of pineapple.

The dishwasher is raided for the appropriate number of spoons. Bowl one, Rice, beans, two tortillas on the side and a dish of salad. Plate two, tortillas of rice and beans mixed, carrots and a dish of pineapple. Plate three, buttered pasta in a bowl, brocolli and pineapple on the side. Plate four and five are duplicates of plate three. Plate six is pasta, brocolli, salad, carrots and a dish of pineapple. Plate seven is a series of coffee cups, one of rice, one of beans, one of carrots, one of pineapple, one of brocolli and one with salad dressing and a dish of salad. Plate 8 is the bottle of whole milk for the baby to finish off his dinner.

Yes, it's a complete dinner for 8 of the 9 but what about the teen? With one minute to go and no meat defrosted, what's the Iron Mom Chef going to do? She grabs two tortillas, puts provolone, salami and pepperoni on them, microwaves for 30 seconds. Wraps them into Stromboli's and adds a bit of salad on the side and a bowl of pineapple and a few carrots for color.

She's done it! It's six o'clock and it's dinner time. the next round, she'll figure out what she and their father get to eat and in the final competition, what will she do tomorrow when the crutch of pasta has run out?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What Mess?

Visiting other people's homes, I become acutely aware of how accustomed I have become to my own clutter, and it vexes me. Now I read journals and magazines. I've watched shows that illustrate how to de-clutter and I've even asked friends to provide guidance on how to pair down the mess that nine children can make on any given day.

1) The One Room A Day Method. Clean just one room sounds reasonable, but implemented, it fails at the key objective. If we had seven rooms and I cleaned just one each day to its utmost, there would still be six other rooms in dire need of cleaning each day. Alas, we have 21 rooms in total including the bathrooms, garage, basement, back basement and study. Three rooms a day also does not preclude the reality that those three rooms once cleaned, shall be trashed once all 9 get home or when I'm not looking.

2) The One task at a Time Method. Method: Go through the house and just do one thing...picking up trash, vacuuming, or putting away clothes. The problem comes when reality interferes. You go to room 1, and there is trash so you start by picking up the trash and as you are doing it, you discover a plate under the bed. So you begin searching and lo, you find a cup and a fork and a spoon and another plate. So you take them to the sink. And then you find laundry, and toys that obviously belong in another room. Before you know it, it's 11 pm and you've spent all your time in that one kid's room and the task you started on (trash) has long since been forgotten.

3) Designated Chores. Designated Floors. The instant you allow the children out of your sight when cleaning, the goats and sheep separate, and those that would obey, clean. Those that do not, hide. After an hour, even well placed bribes produce only goats.

4) The Martyr Method: Self cleans until self drops. Note: It doesn't work. It doesn't make you happy. It makes you mad at everyone else and no one cares that you blew a Saturday, not even you.

So what's a person to do who wants a clean home?

Proposed methods of addressing this issue, tested and critiqued.

1) Inject fear. Invite company. This results in a collective need to put on a good face. Husband and children will help. Works the first two to three times, then kids start to get wise and have busy schedules that preclude the invite.

2) Withhold food. Make it good food. Pizza ordered when basement is clean. (Keep the job manageable). Pro: It may take several meals but it does work. Con: It's expensive and usually fattening.

3) Call a maid service. Explain that we could have ordered Pizza if the rooms had been kept clean. Explain that Pizza is off the menu as long as maids are required. The thing is, you still then have to fix dinner, and as such, as long as they get fed, (see 2), the impulse to clean can be comfortably supressed.

4) Purge and stash. Go into each room. Clean out, donate, clear out. If it's broken, gone. If it's ripped, gone. Do this sans witnesses or you will be digging through Goodwill bags to locate the happy meal one child loves and wind up emptying the bag as others find things you sought to remove. Then, buy bins. Fill them. Close them. Hide them. Do this until every room is full of filled boxes. Pro: Everything looks organized. Con: You cannot find anything.

5) Recycle all magazines about housekeeping and order. Keep busy until the compulsive desire in you to establish order and clean house subsides. Sedate with chocolate, sangria,sleep, books and blogging as necessary. Repeat as needed.

Upon reflection and research, #5 is the most effective. Pass me that Nutella.

Friday, November 6, 2009

For When Wearing a Snuggie Just Isn't Nerdy Enough

ThinkGeek :: Tauntaun Sleeping Bag

Posted using ShareThis

The Many Roles of Motherhood

Everyone knows that the role of Mom involves chauffeur, cook, planner, secretary, financier, maid and private tutor in all subjects K-12. What most may not recognize, is the other jobs that only Mom has; to be animated objects.

Chair: The irony was that as soon as I wrote that word on my laptop, my lap top was occupied. The second littlest one prefers me as a place to sit and draw and views any attempts to get up as a personal rejection. I've learned to do everything standing up unless I'm ready to be stationary for at least 20 minutes.

Vending Machine: Unless what I'm eating is leafy and green, it's just what they've got a jones for, and thus I've created a menu of hot tea and odd sandwiches they won't touch, including grilled pita cheese with spinach, tomato and onion and peppers inside the pita. It actually tastes pretty good but I pretend that it doesn't for fear someone will decide to give their tasters a chance and eat that too. Parsley equals kid free food. It doesn't help though when I want to eat junk. Then I sneak it at the gas station while I'm filling up the car and they're locked in their seats.

File Cabinet: After years of enduring "Mom, where's my...and it's the one paper that has sat forever on the table such that today I put it in the recycling because it's the day they pick up paper" type tragedies, I live in fear of pitching anything from school. I know it's all vital once I've thrown it away.

Desk: You would think this would be redundant after chair, but no, when I exercise and I concede, it isn't as often as it ought to be, and I'm on the floor doing "Downward facing dog" and "plank position" someone will decide my back is a good place to do work and place dolls, blocks, lego creations or their own selves on my back and ask that I please stay still while they finish whatever it is they are doing. Lying down to coax the baby to work on floor time, my shoulders get loaded up with two toddlers talking on pretend cell which point, I'm a car.

Calendar/GPS/USB: I have a white board that says, "If it isn't here, it ain't happening." It is mostly true. But the kids know Mom is a soft touch. If they implore, show passion or disappointment, they KNOW, I'm going to be reworking the schedule origami style to fix any activity or make something happen. They also know if they lost it, the one person who will actually really look sans a healthy bribe and a need to raise funds for a desired game/comic/object, is me. It's in the study under the box of tissues on the desk. How did my life become one long series of Clue hypothesises?

The problem with being a machine in each of these circumstances, is I haven't found the off switch or the spare battery supply, but they've found the remote such that they can push my buttons, turn on the mute for ignore, and TiVo all of Mom's lectures for later (read never) viewing.

I'd say being a stratford mom is vastly overrated except today, my daughter asked for her boots. She'd left them in the car. When I put them on her feet and finished zipping her coat and handing her a pink little pony to play with while we would be out running an errand, she said, "Thanks Mom." with a great seriousness of purpose, and gave me a big kiss. The Ghost in the machine can't help but be moved. "Can we get McDonalds after the appointment?" She could have asked anything at that moment though she knew it not.

Being a mom means, even though we often say no, the answer always means I love you. On some level, our answer is always "Yes."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Small Success Thursday

Every Thursday, we celebrate success.

This past week, we made it to the photographer to get three of the nine portraits and are scheduled for a full shot next Tuesday.

Parenting is 90% discernment of "What's my motivation?" with each individual child. For the entire season, one daughter has NOT wanted to participate in the sport she is playing. We decided this was a character building moment and didn't let her opt out, but upon offering an appropriate bribe of new books, she agreed to play with her whole heart. The subsequent attitude adjustment yielded a tripple play to win a spot in the playoff championship game from the same player.

Got a hair cut. It's kind of like the triumph of getting a shower for a new mom. It should be baseline but we all know, it isn't.

Remotely possible

The other day, I felt so stinking clever. I'd hid the remotes to the tv and locked both sets out such that no one could turn on the televisions without my help. I'd even placed the controllers in a spot no one would look; my laundry basket of socks.

I'm not completely heartless. I gave a hint. I asked the children to mate some socks for the next day. Mind you, I have six children capable of managing this task and all I asked is for them to sort one pair for themselves only. If even ONE child had complied, they would have found the object of their collective hearts desire.

So homework and music and dinner and reading and bath time passed without the tv for competition. I didn't miss it but I did relent when everything was done for the olders and allow some to watch "Avatar" and "Phineas and Ferb." That night, I crashed a bit early for me (10:30) and this morning, the remote I had surrendered to the olders was no where to be found. Since the tv hadn't been on, I didn't notice it missing until the toddlers cranked up Sprout TV and I went to lock them out. The olders had already gone to school.

I started looking. It was not on the main floor. It was not in the basement. I had no means of locking out the cartoon channel because I couldn't find the remote. I smelled a rat. So I started looking in the places they'd stash such a treasure, under the couch, in a toybox, under a pillow in their bed. I searched and searched and searched.

But these children are mine, and so they think like me. When my kids got home, I asked where it was and my crafty daughter giggled. They put the remote in a place I'd never think to look if putting myself in their place.

She pointed to my laundry basket of unmated socks.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!