May Day Part 1: Before School

A little over a year ago I had an unbelievable day. By 10 am I realized that it was the kind of day that needed to be recorded for posterity. (Quite literally, I want to be able to show it to my kids.) So I began taking notes. I’ve always intended to write up a full account from the notes.  During my vacation last week I finally did.  It ended up in three parts. If you want to read about kid stuff …

Buffy Season Six

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Important:  Please do not post spoilers for Season Seven.  I haven’t seen that one yet.

Howard and I just finished Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Six.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Highlights:

Once More With Feeling was amazing.  I think that is the best musical production I have ever seen.  It was wonderful to see the writers and the cast try their abilities at something so different and see them succeed so well.

The wedding break-up made me sick to my stomach.  Bad Xander.

The development of  The Trio as villains was a fascinating character study.  Particularly of Warren.  We get to watch him move from petty and amusing through stages all the way to an evil doer of evil deeds. 

Evil Willow rocked.  She was scary and powerful.  She had me on the edge of my seat.  “Bored now.”  Very evil.  I’m not sure how Willow the person is going to be able to come to terms with what she became and what she did.

The Buffy and Spike relationship was also fascinating to watch.  I confess that I’ve always loved the Spike character and I really felt his pain in season 5.  What I emotionally wanted to have happen was that Spike’s feelings for Buffy to ennoble him, redeem him somehow.  Instead the relationship with Spike only created confusion and pain for both of them.  A much more realistic result considering the people involved.  Then things bottomed out and now it looks like I could yet see the redemption of Spike in season 7.  That’d be nice.

Anyway, those are the highlights of my thoughts on Buffy Season 6.  I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the series.

Risky Behavior

The most intense experience I had during my week of vacation was the “High Ropes Course”. This is a 15-20 foot long log with notches in it hanging from a chain that you climb(Yes it swings while you are climbing). At the top of the log you switch to a rock climbing wall with itty bitty little plastic rocks to acend another 20 feet or so. Once you’ve achieved the wooden platform 40 feet off the ground you take to the wires. These are 1 inch thick wires strung 50 to 100 feet between trees. One wire for hanging onto, one wire for walking on. After a circuit of wire walking you arrive back at the wooden platform where you rappel down the climbing wall and the empty space below it.

I actually did all of that. I still wonder why. It was definitely interesting from an introspective psychological standpoint. I KNEW it was going to be a terrifying experience. I knew that before I started. Yet I wanted to do it. To face my fears I guess. Perhaps to prove that I am stronger than my fear. That’s the answer that pleases me. The answer that I want to believe. Maybe it is even the right answer.

During the experience there was a definite split between my animal brain and my logical one. I was wearing a climbing harness with double safety the entire time. During the climbing and rappelling there was a staff member on a belay line who could have hoisted me with no effort on my part. Logically I knew I couldn’t fall. Despite that, I was terrified throughout the entire experience. In order to not be frozen by the fear I had to concentrate on movements. Specifically the NEXT movement. Hand. Foot. Breathe.

When I arrived back on the ground my first reaction was “I’m NEVER doing that again!” Ten minutes later I was reconsidering. I’m curious. Now that my adrenal system has figured out that I survived what looked like a deadly situation would I be as scared the next time? Part of me wants to know. Part of me doesn’t want to be that scared again.

Howard took pictures and video. I saw them later. They are far too short. Surely it took longer than that for me to climb. And why doesn’t the fear I felt show in the motions or expressions? I’d post a picture or two if I knew how, but as far as I’m concerned they don’t accurately represent the experience.

I’m very glad I went through the course. I’m glad to know that in a faux do-or-die situation, I did it. The doing is enough, I don’t need to buy the t-shirt.

And we’ve landed . . .

Here I am, back in my real life. I’m going to miss the woods. Lots. That was the foremost thought in my head as a drove into my neighborhood. Everything looked so cultivated and surrounded with concrete.

My second thought occurred when I came into the house to admire the shiny, newly re-finished hardwood floors. It was along the lines of: “Smelly! Open some windows, no make that ALL the windows, and I’m going to have to put furniture back and 4 suitcases full of laundry to wash and I need a shower and there is dust everywhere from the sanding I have to go back to making meals again Look EVERYTHING needs vacuumed and swimming lessons start next week, agh the lawn minion didn’t mow the lawn while we were gone, why is there that brown patch out there? I’ll have to check the sprinklers. . .”

Did I say I’m going to miss the woods? I miss them already.

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.