Sandra Tayler

Quartermastering

Family vacation commences on Saturday. Between now and then my mission is to pack duffel bags full of clothing for 4 kids and 1 adult. Howard packs for himself. I also have to make sure that I unpack the extras that Gleek and Patches put in the suitcases in their efforts to help. All of that goes into the van.

I also have to pack books to read at bedtime, games to play in our cabin, vitamins and medecines, Snackfood, toothbrushes and toiletries, the play pen, the baby backpack, sippy cups, diapers, wipes, and bunches of other things that I have on a list around here somewhere. All of it goes into the van.

Then there are MY things, Bird books, and wildflower books, and Butterfly books, and sketch pads, and watercolors, and a novel to read, and the story I’m working on, and anything else that I might want to do with the free time I’ll have while the kids are off playing. All of that goes into the van. On Saturday all the people go into the van too and we drive away.

But before we can drive off I’ve got to empty the front room and the kitchen. The couch, the rocking chair, the japanese screen, 3 large plants, 2 plant stands, a bench seat, an end table, a music cabinet, a piano, the kitchen table, 6 chairs, and 3 barstools all need to be moved. Fortunately none of that has to go into the van. It’s all going into the garage. While we are gone some nice men will come and make our hardwood floor all shiny and smooth. Then when we get back we get to relocate all that furniture again. Whee.

The point that I’m circuitously trying to reach here is that starting Saturday afternoon I won’t be online for a week. I’ll be outdoors taking pictures of the kids or off doing something with Howard or something by myself. Maybe the camp will offer a watercolor class again this year. Maybe I’ll try pottery. The camp does in fact offer internet connections, but they keep the computers in the basement of a building and I really have no intention of shutting myself up in a room of florescent lights and computer screens with so many other things available. I can do that when I get back home.

Those of you who’ve become frustrated with the way I litter your friends page once or twice daily will get a welcome break. (why do you still have me friended if I bug you anyway? 🙂 Those of you who’ve enjoyed my ramblings, don’t worry, I’ll be back after my vacation.

Developmental Leaps and Bounds

I’ve already commented in another entry that Gleek has entered the “why?” stage with a bang. She’s also developed another amusing trait; tall tales. She’ll begin telling me how she went to the neigbor’s house and jumped on the trampoline and then she’ll add a small detail which is plausible, but unlikely: “we jumped higher than the fence.” Then she’s off: “Then a bird came flying down and jumped with us and catched us and we flew in the sky and we were all birds and we flew and flew but then we were rabbits and hid in a hole.” Most of the time I can tell where reality departs the story, but sometimes it is harder. I’m not always sure Gleek can tell though. In her mind one segues into the other with no dividing line. I think my favorite one so far is the one where Hummingbirds have no wings and so they have to go and buy them from the store. But they don’t have money so they go to Gleek who sells them money.

Gleek isn’t the only one who has made developmental leaps recently. Patches has discovered the joys of foraging. He can open the pantry and help himself to cheerios. He can climb on top of the table and help himself to whatever was left there. (Suddenly I’m much better about making sure the table gets cleared immediately.) He can also go to the garbage can and get stuff out. Fortunately he doesn’t seem to eat stuff from the garbage can. Mostly he grabs something and comes around the corner and grins and me as if to say: “Mom! Look what I did! Now you have to scold me and pay attention to me!” It works every time darn it. I’m not sure how to NOT reinforce that behavior because I can’t let him keep the garbage.

The other attention-getting works-every-time tactic that Patches uses, which drives me nuts, is that when he wants picked up and I am busy he grabs both of my legs in a bear hug. I’m usually moving at a brisk pace when he does this. I have to come to an immediate halt or risk injuring Patches or falling myself. I frequently have my hands full of something or other, so I can’t pick Patches up immeadiately. I end up shuffling slowly, dragging a crying, bear-hugging toddle-boy closer to the counter so I can put whatever I’m carrying down and pick up the boy.

My kids are too smart for my convenience.

Masks

Online friendships are backwards. When I meet a person in “real life” (As if all the living that people do online these days is somehow fake. It isn’t.) the very first things I find out are what they look like, their approximate age, and their gender. All of that before I’ve even spoken with them. Within minutes of speaking I’ll probably find out thier name, where they live, and the names and ages of their spouse and children if any. All of this information gathered within minutes of meeting.

Online those bits of information are only revealed later in the friendship. We all wear masks. But wearing masks makes us feel safe and so we say and do things we wouldn’t otherwise dare to say or do. Those of you who read this journal almost certainly know more about my thoughts and my life this week than any of my neighbors even though I count my neighbors as friends and enjoy visiting with them.

There are good things and bad things about being masked. The mask allows a shy person to step forward without fear, to make jokes, to tease. The mask allows us to vent. The mask also allows the angry person to flame and spread vitriol. The mask allows us to pretend to be something else, sometimes harmlessly, sometimes dangerously.

Do I like the masking? For myself I’ve chosen a limited usage of a mask. Mostly I mask for the protection of others in my care. I do not parade the real names of my children, perhaps in some subconscious belief that like in the fairy tale rumplestilskin the knowledge of a name brings power. Someday they will be strong enough to defend their names, for now I do it for them.

I’ve so many more thoughts about masks and online friendships, but they seem to be jumbled in my head and I can’t pull them out in any organized fashion. Unfortunately I need my mental energy for other things this week, so an organized essay won’t be forthcoming. Oh well. The thoughts will roam my head and bump into each other spawning new thoughts quite possibly on entirely different subjects. And then I’ll spill them in here as a way to capture the shape of them before they mutate yet again.

“whys” and haircuts

I think it is cosmically unfair to inflict two children in the “why?” stage on me at once. Someone somewhere has to be laughing. I don’t mind Link asking why. He is usually honestly seeking information. There are just so many subjects on which he is less than fully informed as yet. Gleek’s “why?” is a different story. It seems to be some kind of an instinctive automatic conversation extender. I’m not even sure she hears the answers or cares to process the information. She’s only been doing it for 2 days and it’s already annoying. And then I look down at the little face with the big trusting eyes and I realize I simply have to feed this hungry little mind no matter how frustrating the process may be.

Kiki created the first major challenge to the New World Order just recently. She cut her own bangs. Normally this kind of offense is cause for much scolding and upset. This time I just looked at the bangs (a picture of which could have served as the definitions of “crooked” and “hacked”) and realized that SHE was the one who would have to live with them. So I merely said “Did you cut your hair?” She came nigh to denying it, but didn’t. I then ascertained that the scissors hadn’t been left where Gleek could get them and made Kiki clean up the mess. She was pretty relieved not to be scolded and then asked if I would help her cut them straighter. Had she not asked, I would not have offered. I seriously considered making her go to a professional haircutter and pay for the haircut out of her own money. But she asked so nicely, that I did help trim them. Now they’re shorter than we’d like, but they aren’t crooked anymore. And look at all the stress and crying I sidestepped. I feel pretty good about that.

New World Order

Well I’ve survived the end of school. Tomorrow begins the first week of summer with attendant non-schedule. My kids are in for a little surprise. I’m changing the house rules for the summer. On school mornings if we can get kids up, fed, and out the door I’m happy. Beds made and teeth adequately brushed are a nice bonus. This summer I get mean.

Before they can turn on any form of electronic entertainment or go to a friend’s house they have to do their 5 morning things (Eat, dress, make-bed, brush teeth, fix hair), one chore (I get to pick it), and their room needs to be clean. I figure, during the school year their work is to go to school. During the summer they need to learn how to help around the house. When they are on the ball, this requirement takes 30 minutes or less, when they’re not, it can take all day long.

I’ve also instituted a stress relieving system for me. I’ve decided I’m not responsible for taking care of their things. I hadn’t realized how much energy I spent preventing damage to beloved items for fear of upsets and replacement costs. I’ve decided that I shouldn’t be stressing that stuff. If they damage a toy beyond repair, my job is to sympathize and wipe tears and find something else for them to do. If the item needs replaced, then the child who did the damage can pay for the replacement out of allowance or money earned doing chores. (Money chores can only be done AFTER regular chores.) If I child wants to take a toy or blanket to a public place like a grocery store, then the child needs to keep track of it and carry it, not me.

Oh and if they leave their stuff lying around the house. I’ll ask them to pick it up. Once. If they don’t pick it up, then I will. I will put it in “Jail” (a box in my closet) and it can only be bailed out by an extra chore.

Told you I was getting mean.

The good news for the kids is that I’ve already begun some of these changes and the resultant lower stress level has turned me into a mom who is more willing to play. I’m not shouldering so much of the work and so I’m not tired and resentful when the work is all done. I think that once they get used to it the kids are going to like this as much as I do.

My day

It’s funny how people run on auto-pilot, talking without even thinking. At the grocery store today, only moments after overhearing me loudly scolding my kids, the clerk said “And how are you today?” I was also on auto-pilot and answered “Just fine.” then I thought for a moment and added “No, actually I’m not. I’ve had a really lousy day.”
She then expressed sympathy and I made sure she was aware that I didn’t blame her. It’d feel better if I could blame someone. That’d give focus the anger and frustration (which have faded to a lingering grumpy) But sometimes it really isn’t anyone’s fault.

I’ve decided that I’m allowed to have lousy days. I can have all the lousy days I want as long as I don’t try to lay blame elsewhere just to feel better. If I’m having a lousy day, I need to face up to the fact that it is MY lousy day and if I want it to be not lousy I am the one who needs to do something about it. In a weird way, just sitting here and laying claim to the lousiness of this day has made me feel alot better.

Now if I can just keep the kids from getting sick. We’ve had 10 doctor’s appointments and 12 prescriptions in the last month. Even with good insurance that starts adding up. Not to mention the costs in energy and lost sleep.

Anyway, I’m off upstairs to go kick the lousy out of the rest of my day. He’ll have to go find somewhere else to camp.

Not about the kids . . . mostly

I just skimmed back through my journal and realize that it’s all full of kid-stuff. This mommy gig has really taken over my life. In fact in a recent conversation with Hawklady she asked about my hobbies and all of my aswers were in the form of: “Well I used to ( ), but I haven’t had time for it lately.” I was going to put a metaphor here that used the phrase “tendrils creeping through my life and taking over” but the metaphor engine seems to have seized up. I think you get the idea anyway.

I guess I’m just most comfortable talking about the kids. I know I can spin the words right to make things funny. It also helps that I have lots and lots of material to draw on. Finding other things to say is harder. For in-person conversations I can follow the lead of the other person or people. My preferred mode is to lurk and people watch. It’s one of the reasons (far from the only one) I find being married to Howard so nice. He does “outgoing” better than I do.

Anyway the point of all of this is that I intended to write an entry about something besides children. I guess I kind of did, but I think talking about being Mom is only just this side of the line.

So, um. . .Fandemonium! It’s coming up this August and I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be my first chance to meet in person some of the friends I’ve made online. A fact which will no doubt have me really nervous as the event gets closer, but right now it is comfortably 2 months off and so I can be excited without stress yet. Howard and I will be bringing along our Star Munchkin cards in hopes of rounding up a small group of people to play with. It is a really fun game. We may also bring along Falling and Give Me The Brain neither of which we’ve really had a chance to play yet, but which also look like lots of fun. Cards anyone?

Delving

I’ve begun prepping for our family vacation which begins one week from Saturday. Mostly I’m making lists. This trip is to a family camp where the kids run off with counsellors all day leaving parents to their own activities. There is even a day care for Patches. So what I really need to do is figure out what I’m going to do with myself with no kids around. I had the same problem when we attended the camp last year. Who am I when I’m not Mom?

The question has been underlined by some conversations I’ve had lately. One was a really nice online chat with Hawklady. She was kindly interested in my hobbies and I found myself saying many variations on the them “Well I used to do this, but I haven’t had time for it lately.” I’ve also gained the impression that some of you who have friended me, veiw me as some sort of uber-mom or mecha-mom. Someone who Has It Together, what ever “it” is. There are certain days I’d agree with you. It’s the other days and hours and minutes that don’t get elaborated into this journal in detail. The times when I just want to hide from the children. When I over-scold because I’m stressed about something entirely different. Those are the moments when I long to have something besides being Mom.

I have no major regrets about the choices I’ve made in my life. Perhaps I’m unusual that way. I don’t know. I love where I am. I love my life and my family. And the larger part of me feels that I’ll get back to all those things that I haven’t had time for lately. But there is a small voice in the back of my head that wishes this Mom busines hadn’t threaded it’s tendrils so thoroughly through my whole existence. Who would I have been? Who am I now besides Mom?

I’m not even sure it is a fair question. I don’t think I can dissect the peices of myself to get a clear picture of what the whole is. Taking out the parts of me that are Mom would surely destroy me. Something might rise from the ashes, but she would be changed, not the Me that I am now. I don’t wish for that. I don’t wish to be Not-Mom. Even though that may seem to contradict what I’ve said above it is very very true. Perhaps what I really wish for is more time and energy. I wish I could be an even better mom than I currently am and still have time and energy to write stories, or draw, or sew, or do something else that is just for me.

Here is my assignment. During Aspen Grove I have to write a story, with pictures. A short story and I need to finish it.

Movie night!

All the kids are abed and Buffy Season Six came in the mail today. I know what I’m going to do right now! Night all.

No Buffy Spoilers please! I haven’t seen this season yet.

Field Day

For those who are unfamiliar with this tradition, Field Day is the day at the end of the school year where the teachers herd their young charges out to the fields around the school to play games. They do tug-o-war, and relays, and 50 yard dashes, and basically run the kids around until they’re exhausted. Then during the “lunch” break the PTA raises funds by selling the kids sugar. Lots of sugar. All of it highly refined with artificial colors and flavors added. There is one hell-food that doesn’t even pretend to be anything else. It is colored, flavored sugar powder in a straw. Then with the kids so wired they can’t see straight, they run a few more games to work the sugar into the system and send the kids home for the parents to deal with.

My kids had a great time at field day. Kiki’s team won the tug-o-war. Link got to show off his newly missing tooth to all and sundry. Gleek got to run around in large open spaces and climb on things that weren’t meant to be climbed. Even Patches had fun. He got a lollipop which he applied in a sticky layer all over his face and hands. Then he got cheetos which adhered to the layer of sticky creating a substance previously unknown to man. He added a second coating of sticky from a ring pop as a kind of varnish. He loved it. (Note: I don’t think Patches actually ingested any of this sugar in measurable quantities, smearing was the game of the day.)

And then there was the aftermath. Patches crashed into a nap during the five minute drive home. I also discovered he acquired his first ever facial sunburn. (Bad mommy, forgot the sunscreen) Gleek also crashed into a nap, but only after the sugar high had worn off. I think she’s a little sick as well, she had croup last night. Now she’s up and I hope tonight will be better. Link seems to have suffered no ill effects. Kiki, on some kind of not-thinking-things-through sugar high, played a game out back which involved stripping all of the petals off of all of the in-reach roses from all 10 rosebushes. There were multicolor petals strewn all over the backyard. She topped it off by accidently breaking a branch off of one of our Silver Maple saplings. Fortunately it was a branch that we were going to have to eventually cut off anyway, it was too low. As restitution Kiki had to trim the rosebushes correctly so that in about a month they’ll all bloom again. That’s the nice thing about plants, they survive and grow back.

Anyway, we survived field day. There won’t be another one for a year. And my kids will have no more sugar for the next month at least.