I’m Still Here – Kinda, Sorta

Well, hello there, blog readers. I did not fall off the face of the internet entirely. I’ve started typing a few new posts, thought about even more in my head and have been reading along with some of you even though I’m not commenting like normal.

Last month the kids and I moved into a new townhouse about 25 miles away from the house I shared with Zachary. They still split their time 50/50 between the two of us, and I’m driving them to and from school in the “old” town each day they are with me.

The new place is quite a bit smaller than the house the kids still share with Zachary. No basement, either. As I think about the boxes still left at Zachary’s (how weird to call it his house instead of our house) that I need to bring here I freak out a bit wondering where those holiday decorations and old family memorabilia will go. I look forward to summer but question how the kids will fare without a huge yard to run in when they are with me.

The thing about a divorce is that nothing else in life slows down so that you can deal with it. It just runs right alongside you, laughing the whole time, “You thought you were busy before? Let’s throw some legal hassles at ya now and see how ya do!” I may need to pack and move and unpack and research new insurance policies and help my lawyer draft responses and figure out how to get the kids enrolled in a new school district and and and and and… but my kids still need their mother, my business still needs to run, I have the part time job I still work. I’m also interviewing for a new part time job at another restaurant since I don’t get enough hours at the first one.

Here are a few random facts I’ve learned this past month:

1. I have a ton of books. Like, a billion. Or maybe just hundreds. But it’s a lot and about half of them were in boxes in my basement I hadn’t touched in more than six years. College textbooks on literary theory, short story anthologies, poetry books written by my professors. And I can’t bear to part with any of them. Except The Help, Under the Dome and the Sookie Stackhouse series, among a few others. Those are definitely going.

2. I love 30 Rock. How have I lived my life without seeing this show? I’ve been watching it while I exercise or when I work at home and it’s awesome. In fact, after I hit publish on this I think I’ll help myself to a glass of wine and watch another episode. Long live Netflix!

3. I am still not good at dancing or Zumba. Still putting in the effort, though! You’d think after all this time tagging along with friends to the gym or to go out salsa dancing I’d have the moves down, but I may have to accept that I have no grace or rhythm. At all.

4. Budgeting when you don’t know what your expenses will be is hard. I don’t know how much to budget for gas because my driving patterns have totally changed. I don’t know how much to budget for groceries because I’ve never had my kids just 50% of the time before. I don’t know how much my utilities will be each month. I’m going to make sure I don’t gain a single pound because I don’t want to have to buy any new clothes unless necessary. I went thrifting and bought a bag full of (necessary) clothes for me and the kids for less than, I admit, I have spent on just one new shirt at the mall.  It’s going to take a few months in this new place with the new job to figure out my financial groove.

5. This winter is endless and that makes even die-hard winter fans grouchy. I do not love snow or cold, so you can imagine how absolutely blah this dreary weather makes me feel. Seriously, we just had record snowfall last Friday that canceled my kids’ field trips. It’s madness, and it needs to stop because I’m in need of some sunshine and the option to wear footwear that does not require socks.

6. Cooking for one is kind of a waste of time. When I don’t have the kids I usually eat oatmeal, eggs or a sandwich for dinner. Actually, I eat one of those for almost every meal when I’m alone. Anything that takes more than five minutes to prepare seems like overkill.

7. I have an odd compulsion to sign up for 5Ks. I think I’m up to four or five for this year. Never mind that I’ve never participated in an actual 5K before. As far as mid-life crises go, jogging slowly with throngs of others seems pretty tame.

So, there you have it.

Sanity-Saving Responsibility Chart for Kids

If you have children over the age of two, this might sound familiar. If you have younger kids, just you wait.

Mom: Okay, guys, it’s 7:30, you’ve got 30 minutes before the bus comes!

Kids: Ok! We’re ready!

Mom: Grant! You’re still wearing your pajamas, go get dressed!

Grant: Fine!

Mom: Isla, your lunch box is still on the counter, put it in your backpack.

Isla: I will!

Mom: Grant, it’s 7:43, go get dressed!

Grant: FINE!

Mom: Miles, why is your homework still on the table? Put it in the folder.

Miles: Got it.

Mom: Grant, it’s winter, you need socks. Go get socks!

Grant: But WHY?

Mom: Grant, seriously, you’ve got five minutes to get ready, go find some socks.

Grant: Geez, okay, I will.

Mom: Why are there still lunch boxes on the floor? Put them in your backpacks! Isla, you didn’t brush your hair. Miles, did you brush your teeth? Let me smell your breath. You didn’t brush them. Go swish some toothpaste around in your mouth and get back down here and put on your coat. Grant, you need TWO socks. One for each foot. Isla, the brush is right here. Okay, it’s 8:01, go go go! I love you guys! See you after school!

And… cue dramatic flop on the couch.

Every time we needed to leave the house at a specific time, I found myself stressing over remembering which kid still needed to do what, the kids were flustered because I was barking orders and we continually felt rushed no matter how far in advance we started to get ready.

So I made this chart. It’s not a chore chart and it’s not linked to money at all – it’s a responsibility chart with sticks for each kid describing one thing they need to do in the morning, after school and by bed time.

responsibility chore chart for kids children morning library cards popsicle sticks

I bought a large cork board and used up some of the scrapbook paper that’s been sitting unused in my office for years because I won’t have time to scrapbook until I’m 70 years old. Googled “library pocket template” and found one I liked, then Isla and I set about tracing, cutting and folding.

I made six pockets for each kid – Morning Done, Day Done, Night Done, Morning T0-Do, Day To-Do and Night To-Do. Super fancy. In each “To-Do” pocket are hand-written sticks with one task each, tailored for the particular child. For example, Isla and Miles have just “Get dressed,” as part of their morning reminders, but Grant always forgets socks so he has an additional “Put on socks” one. Jonah can’t read so only has one stick right now so he feels included.

Not enough time has passed yet to say whether this is a smashing success or not, but I can tell you this – it is a huge relief for me AND the kids if I simply refer to the chart when they look like they’re dawdling at any point. Miles turns on the TV? I ask him if he’s done everything on his list. This has helped Grant, in particular, because he seems to do well with routines and having clear expectations laid out for him.

I am planning to add a few more soon (we ran out of sticks, oops) but so far I can say this has made for much more relaxing mornings and outings.

What do you do to keep your kids on task? Or are they just naturally good at remembering what needs to be done?

New Olympic Sport Suggestions

The news that wrestling will be cut from the summer 2020 Olympics has people reeling across the globe. I’m not one of those people, as I know nothing about wrestling (except that wrestlers wear outfits that look like they were vaguely modeled after old fashioned male bathing suits), but I imagine that for those who’ve made wrestling at the Olympics a life-long goal, this can be upsetting.

With this gaping hole left in the Olympic line-up, I’d like to add some options for the Olympic committee to consider when thinking about which new sport should be represented.

1. Cart Pushing. This would be more dramatic in the winter games, because if pushing a cart full of warehouse store goodies with four kids in tow is a workout, doing the same thing through six inches of salty slush surely requires near-Herculean strength and stamina. I envision this event will be as suspenseful as my old favorite TV show, Supermarket Sweep.

2. Seat Belt Buckling, Toddler Style. Have you ever had to buckle a 30 pound, screaming, bucking child into a convertible booster? It requires agility and poise, and being heavier than the child only gives a slight advantage to the buckler. Competition will be more authentic if held in a public place, like a Target parking lot, so passerby can cast judgmental glances at the athletes.

3. All Day Laundry Marathons. Anyone can run 26 miles with empty arms. Come on. But try going up and down the stairs with baskets full of smelly clothes, dodging Legos that might cripple you, 1,567 times in one day as you locate, sort, wash, fold, and put away clothes and linens for a house full of people.

4. Seal Liner Removal. You know those discs of thick paper that cover, say, a jar of peanut butter or a new bottle of ketchup? They have either microscopic tabs along the edges or a pull-up half-circle that lead a person to believe access to the food within will be simple. I’d like this sport to be added just so I can see if other people really can remove those seals without harming themselves or without the seals ending up in 203 small pieces. Because I can’t.

What would you like to see at the 2020 Summer Olympics?

No Time for Sentimentality

When Miles went to kindergarten four years ago, I cried. My oldest baby, my first to leave me and go off to be educated by someone other than a parent, was leaving the nest. I thought about how I wouldn’t be there if he got scared or if another child was unkind, and it kept me up late at night. I worried about whether he’d miss me or not, but hoped it wouldn’t be too much if he did. When Isla went off to school, I overbought adorable fall clothing and wondered if her tender heart would be overwhelmed with all the other kids in her class. Even Grant, my third, was the focus of my maternal concern before he stepped on the bus for the first time, my only kindergartener to not be driven to and from school. I carried him into bed with us after he fell asleep one night before school started, almost like the mom in I Love You Forever, because I wanted him to be my baby for just a little longer.

This year the only first is that Grant will be in school all day long, instead of half day like last year. All three older kids are still at the same school, riding the same bus. Grant has Isla’s old teacher, and Isla has Miles’ old teacher. Besides new shoes, we didn’t need to buy much – Isla and Miles still fit into almost all of their clothes from last year, and Grant gets hand-me-downs. Only Isla needed school supplies, because the boys’ teachers requested checks for communal supplies, instead.

So this year, the first day of school arrived almost out of nowhere. I wasn’t worried, the kids weren’t worried, we were prepared. We located the backpacks and the lunch boxes, cut the tags off the new gym shoes. Woke the kids up at 7 this morning and had unhurried breakfasts. Miles and Grant had selected matching first day of school shirts, and Isla wore a boldly-colored dress that will probably never enter the school building again because she’s not, most days, a fan of dresses.

“This is going so well,” I thought. I had no tinges of sadness, because I knew the kids looked forward to school, though I did wish summer vacation could have lasted a month or two longer.

The kids and their backpacks were ready 10 minutes before the bus arrival time printed on the cards they’d been instructed to carry with them the first two weeks of school. I grabbed my camera and we headed out the door to take a photo on the porch, and give good-bye and good luck hugs.

But the bus had already arrived. Early by a good eight minutes, it waited at the end of the street. Isla panicked; the boys began to run. “Wait for me!” I called, but the boy either didn’t hear me or didn’t want to wait. They stepped confidently onto the bus without a look back to me or Zachary or Jonah as we trailed behind. Isla gave a little wave and then, she, too, was gone.

My smooth, tear-free morning wavered in front of me as the bus pulled away. No kisses to their cheeks, no whispered words of encouragement, no bright-eyed first day of school photo. They were gone. I blinked back tears and walked to the house.

Now they are off, discovered the newness of their classes and breathing in the scent of freshly sharpened pencils. Jonah is going to daycare this afternoon.

The kids are fine, I’m fine, we had our little non-event this morning and just like that, summer is gone.

A post for Just Write, a weekly free-writing exercise, which is about all I have time for these days.

The Advance

Big changes in the last two weeks here. My babies astound me with their capacity to learn and just go and get more grown up.

Most monumental – Jonah is potty trained. This, people, is a shocker. Both Miles and Grant were nearly four by the time they ditched the diapers, and it was with great struggle that they weren’t older than four.

Jonah is totally into super heroes. On a whim I bought him some underwear with Iron Man and Wolverine and The Hulk. He wrinkled his nose into his cutest, most endearing quizzical face. “‘I’m going to wear UNDERWEARS?” he asked, laughing.

He immediately put them on. Peed in them about fifteen minutes later.

“It’s okay. I have more,” he announced. He marched up to his room to choose a new pair. Peed in those about two hours later.

Within a week he was staying totally dry, day and night. Jonah turns three this fall. This is astounding.

Of course, last night he had an accident at the baseball field, and then two overnight, but, still, for the first time in over nine years, I don’t have to buy diapers. I’ll mop up a little pee here and there for that milestone.

And then – Miles and Isla learned to ride their bikes without training wheels. Yes, Miles is 9 and many children his age have been wheeling around their driveways without support for years by this point. But Miles is a cautious and somewhat shy child. He did not want the older neighbor boys to see him practicing (and falling) on our street. Zachary took all the kids to the park last weekend determined to get Miles up on just two wheels. After a fall and short-lived refusal to get back up in the saddle, Miles was tooling on the bike path all on his own. When Zachary texted me the news, I nearly cried.

Today I’ve been working. Jonah and Grant are at daycare but Miles and Isla wanted to ride bikes. Miles assured me he could take Isla’s training wheels off, and they disappeared into the front yard, all giggles and plans.

“Mom!” Isla squealed as she ran into the house later. “I fell down and scraped my knee, but it’s okay! I can ride my bike! I rode all the way down the street and back without falling!” My girl, following right behind her big brother, up on two wheels now, as well. They can be partners in crime now, as they’ve always been, cruising down the street in their helmets.

And then – Grant learned how to tie his shoes. I can take no credit for this. Zachary has some masterful skill to teach kids to do this in one day, and we decided it was time for Grant to do this before he entered first grade in the fall. The same day Miles rode his bike solo for the first time, Grant ditched the Velcro sneakers.

My babies haven’t been babies for a while, but this week they are proving this with a fast and sharp ferocity. I want to catch them and hold them and marvel at their learning and also whisper, “Slow down, slow down, come back.”

Written to participate in Just Write, a weekly exercise in free writing.

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