Tag Archives: domestic management

The irk and flow of mornings

The irk and flow of mornings

When I hired my morning sitter to manage the boys before school, I lost touch with my children.   The full impact of that really hit home this morning when my sitter had to cancel.  She called me at 6am.  Her car wouldn’t start.  I said ok, no problem, I got it from here.

I hung up and suddenly realized I had no clue.  What time should I wake them up?  When does school start?  Oh jeez, does Calvin have his reading class this morning?  What do they eat?  What about lunches?  Do they take their tennis racquets to school?  Is today the tutor?

And I quickly became an anxious wreck.  I was convinced at 6:05am I was running late when I was almost certain school didn’t start until some time after 8, or maybe 8:30.  The next two hours were hell.

I did everything wrong.  I woke them up too early.  It was too cold for cold breakfast.  They no longer eat oatmeal.  They were suppose to have hot chocolate waiting for them on the table.  “Elizabeth doesn’t fix it this way.  Where’s my marshmallow?”

Jack insisted on waffles.  “Mom, I eat three, not two, I’m not a little kid any more.”  He grabbed the plate from me and lifted it just high enough to dunk my just washed hair in the syrup.  They fought over toothpaste and who got to walk out the front door first.

Finally we load up and hit the road.  I turn the first corner and Sam knocked my coffee over, the whole cup into the driver seat where I was sitting in my go to work clothes. Of course there is no towel in the car.  That would make too much sense.  “Mom, you shouldn’t have put your coffee there.  Elizabeth doesn’t drink coffee. Why do you drink coffee?”

It’s a bittersweet thing, losing control.  I mean I feel like it should be a bittersweet thing.  It’s anything but.  I blew kisses to them as they walked away like I did when I was a stay at home mom.  Then I sped away as fast as the school zone allowed.

The price of peace

The price of peace

Target, the parking lot.  Me and my troops.

“OK,” I say generously, evenly, not betraying my entire lack of confidence in what I’m about to say.  “We are going inside Target.  We are going to do this fast.  I have a headache.  We are late.  You have been awful for the last hour and it ends now or no movie, no pizza, no fun.  We will leave.  Understand?”

Three heads bob in affirmation from the backseat.

“OK, hit it.”

We are out of the car and walking with purpose.  First stop:  Alleve.  I really do have a headache.  While I am calculating cost per pill for the economy size, they start in.  Sam has decided to push over all the pill boxes.  Calvin decided to discipline him.  I grab the largest box imaginable and escape to the pizze aisle.  Cost to keep Calvin from corporally punishing Sam:  $15.75.

Here things got weird.  All three boys want a different four cheese pizza.  Like the difference is nuanced and discernible to a boy who picks his nose.  A small skirmish breaks out and Calvin says if we don’t get his pizza he’s not going to eat – ever.  Jack says he must have rising crust because the other is flat like cardboard.  Sam says he must have the thin smear of tomato sauce between the cheese topping and the crust just like in the picture or he’ll throw up.  I can’t take it.  All three pizzas go in.  Cost to avert vomit:  $18.00.

Off to dvds in spite of my threats.  This is only because we are going to the Boyfriend Candidate’s house and if the kids don’t have something kid-like to do they will act like themselves and I can’t have that.  All the moveis stink and we already have every other G/PG film out there.  We end up with two B level movies.  Why? Because they are fighting about it, playing two against one games.  “We want the owl movie, and two against one.  We win.”  The older boys taunting the baby.  I got both movies.  Cost to avoid years of therapy for Sam: $45.

At this point, I want out.  I need to get these belligerent, ill-behaved, disrespectful, spiteful angels over to the BC’s house where he’s likely to take one look at all of the chaos and reconsider his relationship with me.  The evening has taken a turn for the crazy and it hasn’t started yet.

Going into Target I thought we’d do a quick driveby.  $30 and done.  Nope.  Keeping the peace cost right under $100.  A babysitter would have been a helluva lot cheaper.  And I might have maintained my sanity.

The problem solver with no problems

The problem solver with no problems

The Boyfriend Candidate is starting to unnerve me.  And it boils down to this: he is a problem solver and I really don’t have problems for him to solve.  Of course, there is a touch of control freak in there too – but that’s for another day.  His solutions end up being the only solutions.

There was a time when I was a walking problem factory.  Those days are gone and what’s left is your garden variety, typical functioning single mom.  There are all the typical things, but nothing extraordinary and nothing I can’t handle  Alone.  By myself.  With absolute confidence.

A few days ago I had a rough morning with the boys.  I gingerly, with some apprehension, mention this to the BC.  I want to talk about my feelings, frustrations.  And he says to me, with sincerely earnestness, “Well, it’s not surprising.  Your life is shit.  You are alone.  And those boys know they outnumber you.  You have no power.  Of course you feel that way.”

Uh… wtf?

Then he tried to solve my problem.  The problem he made up, defined and identified.

“What you need are better parenting techniques.”  Then this man with zero children expounded upon the many techniques I could endeavor to apply.  “Have you heard of something called ‘time out’?”  Oh jeez.  Or this one, “I’ve read that positive reinforcement can provide a road map to better behavior.  A child told what not to do may not know what to do.”  For crying out loud.

And my feelings were never discussed.  I realized then that I almost never get what I need from this man.  He’s a wonderful man, but he hands me a chainsaw when I need a Band-aid.  It’s interesting, the rush to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, all the while an opportunity for intimacy is waiting.  Let’s talk about my vulnerability and disappointment… in my own children.  That’s big.

The ideal response from the BC would have been something like “You’re feeling under-appreciated.  I appreciate you and one day your kids will too.” I probably would have cried and believed that he saw into my soul.

Nope, the moment passed him right by.  But he managed to walk away self-satisfied.

Star Wars and Martin Luther King

Star Wars and Martin Luther King

I never did figure out how to celebrate this holiday.  So I’m making the regular activities of the day fit a theme.  It’s backwards, but dammit, I have a New Year’s Resolution to keep!

So I’m sorting Legos.  I’m sure I’ll write more about Legos at some point.  I love them.  Obsess about them.  They teach me and inspire me.  I’m serious.

But the sorting is a chore.  I have a system: small Legos, large Legos, flat Legos, and then obscure and large sized ones.  Most colors have four boxes each which are divided in this way.  About the size of a shoe box so you can tell right off I have thousands of Legos.

Unfortunately this is a bit backwards for the holiday because I am segregating the Legos.  Right now I have three bowls of integrated Legos and I can’t have that.  They must be separated – then further separated by size.  So since I’m backwards on this holiday any way, I guess it’s ok to not let the red and gray Legos mingle.  We will have none of that!  Separate but equal in the Land of Legos.

My goal with this particular sort is to get through the whites and reds because I want to make two Star Wars X-Wing ships.  I’ve been going through my favorite projects.  I’m particularly interested to know whether or not I still have all the pieces.

Once the kids get their hands on my Legos there is no telling where the pieces go.  They actually play with them.  It drives me crazy.

My happily ever after is right around the corner

My happily ever after is right around the corner

In 2009 my husband of 16 years, boyfriend for the six years before that, told me he was done.  He wanted a divorce.  He actually said he wanted a divorce for the last ten years but put up with it all because, well he didn’t like confrontation.  He thought we’d been such good “roommates” for the last few years that he would simply move into the guest room and we would continue that arrangement for, oh, say another five years.  By then he would be ready to leave. 

A lot more was said, but I was in such shock that I don’t remember a lot of it.  As you might imagine, while he was being a good roommate, I was being a good wife.  I put up with a lot, supported him and protected him while we were waist deep in his crap. I believed I was making an investment and the payoff was just around the corner.  At some point we would be happy again; we would look back and laugh at these hard times.

So my investment went bust.  Well, I couldn’t wait for him to be ready to move out, who wants a bad investment lingering around sapping resources?  So a few weeks after he dropped his bomb, I found myself tossing his things into his car and watching him drive away.   You see, that afternoon he left with the kids for lunch and the park.  He came back at 8pm.  It seems he had a glass of wine with lunch, never made it to the park, and drank straight through to dinner.  Then he drove home.  With the kids.  I was angry and rather than suppress as usual, I called him on being irresponsible. He became enraged at my lack of gratitude for taking the kids out for the afternoon. 

There was a time when I would stand there and take it, back before we were roommates.  I never would have confronted him.  I would have apologized for appearing ungrateful and told him he misunderstood.  But you know, that November, I’d had enough.  So when he told me I was ungrateful I took a deep breath and defended myself.  That’s when he threatened to leave.  And I started to laugh.  Like divorcing me wasn’t enough, wait, there’s more!  He might actually leave!  It was ludicrous.  He was ludicrous. 

I remember it was scary and exhilarating.  This man who I couldn’t imagine spending my life without… in a matter of days I suddenly couldn’t imagine spending another second anywhere around him.

Well, because he doesn’t like confrontation, and he doesn’t like to be wrong, and he doesn’t like paying his debts, we still aren’t divorced.  My attorney told me last week we have a mandatory settlement hearing first week in February. We must agree to the dissolution that day or the judge will end it under his own terms.  So I’ve been reflecting a lot these last few days.

I’ll finally be divorced first week in February.  For the right things, I am very grateful.

Incidental family

Incidental family

When my landlord decided to lease the guestroom in my house, Gaefan became an incidental member of our family.  When he moved into our lives, I was one year into the divorce process, one year into a job hunt, I was way behind on rent and I was shouldering $80k of credit card debt my ex created by secretly supporting his failing business with my credit cards. Since he used my cards, I was also dodging the phone calls from Citibank.

My parents were retired and lived inTexas.  Still do.  My father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  I was working six part-time jobs and still not able to pay the bills.  I had also started dating a guy fairly regularly.  He was employed, good looking, crude and probably an alcoholic.  Some of my best stories have to do with the Boyfriend Candidate.  He was and is quite something.

So basically, I was busy and panicked.  I had relationships going and coming.  I was trying to keep the lives of my three boys normal, at a level of privilege they had gotten used to, but was impossible to maintain.  The days of immediate gratification and spontaneous generosity were over.  I came up with an empowering action list.  I love lists.

Option 1. Get a job.  I had been a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom to my slightly autistic son.  That would have to end.  He started brick and mortar and I started pounding the pavement.  I submitted my resume to over 500 companies in the 8 months I was out of work.  I had temp jobs that floated me.  I transcribed.  I participated in surveys, and I dated for dinner.  Best of all I started web and blog writing.

Option 2. Get remarried, quickly, to man who would make all our problems go away.  It could happen.  I figured I’d fall in love again one day.  If that day could be today, that would be really convenient.

Option 3. Prepare to move back to Texas.  If 1 and 2 didn’t work out, singularly or in combination, that would be all that was left.  Me and my three would be moving into a three bedroom with my elderly retired parents, one of whom was suffering from dementia.  These are not the warm fuzzy grandparents that I hear other children have.  My mother takes no prisoners and my dad is a mystery.  So finding a job or finding the love of my life was really critical.

So into my very ordered, yet unpredictable life comes Gaefan.  He was all hippie auras and holistic transcendence.  He was so far out there he looped all the way around, back to self-righteous and had no idea.

When I met Gaefan, it was late at night.  I opened the door to a much older man, shaved head, energetic.  I didn’t get any kind of a vibe off him so he seemed safe.  Not a child molester, not a gay pedophile, not hot for me.  No flags.

He was British and had the accent.  Clearly delightful.  I gave him the tour.  We have a yard; he had a dog.  I told him then my children were allergic to dogs so his would need to have limited range.  He seemed ok with that.

And he was in.

New Year’s Revolutions

New Year’s Revolutions

My kids and I have been discussing the resolutions we want to make.  I think goals are a good idea.  I think that reviewing where you are and thinking about ways you’d like to change or improve can only be a good thing.  We take the whole first week of the New Year to think about it since being on time or being prepared has never been a resolution.

So my Sam says, “I want a revolution too.”

“That’s ‘resolution’ little guy, but I like your spirit.”

“I want my revolution to be eating more dessert and less school.  I like school, but I don’t want to go to school.”

Which makes perfect sense to me.  For my part I’m going to try embracing holidays.  I really do hate them.  The older I get, the more cynical I become, every single holiday feels like an orchestrated event to get us to spend money and buy advertising space and humiliate ourselves trying to sing unsingable songs.  And with small children, the holidays cannot be dodged.  The decorating, the obligatory gift giving and card sending . . . it all makes me crazy.  Crazy with exhaustion and that feeling that I’ll never get a grip on it.  I’m always behind.

So this year, I’m getting in front of the holidays.  Every month there is some opportunity, and we are going to celebrate.  We are going to celebrate every damn holiday if it kills me.  We are going to have fun dammit.   That means decorating, a small gift exchange, food and some social activity for the whole family.  I will even hang the appropriate flag outside our front door as evidence of my holiday spirit. Ugh.

Which brings me to the first holiday.  Martin Luther King Day.  What on earth does one do for this holiday?  I’m being challenged right out of the gate.  How do you decorate to integrate?  Is there equality food?  What does a freedom gift exchange look like?  All I can think of is that we each take a portion of King’s great speeches and read them aloud.  And while that might sound educational and beautiful, come on, it’s lame!  My resolve is being tested only two weeks into the New Year.

I won’t be tripped up though.  I’ve got the glow of a New Year’s Resolution all over me and I will not fail.  I’ll probably lose that last ten pounds by then too.  Who am I kidding?

Merry Christmas my children, I give you me

Merry Christmas my children, I give you me

This Christmas I decided to give my children my office.  I’m completely redecorating with desks and bookshelves, lots of space for school projects and floor to ceiling whiteboards.  It’s costing more money than I have , but it really has to be done.  My kids are struggling at school.

I openly stressed about the money and the transition to my mother over the holidays.  She completely missed my bigger issues which makes sense because she is a woman of another generation.  My open stressing rendered no support, instead some small condemnation.

My mother suggested I was redecorating because I like to do that sort of thing.  She suggested that I not make financial expenditures which could deprive my children.  This was merely a luxury I should forego.

She was missing big points and I couldn’t convince her otherwise.  She was a stay at home mom most of her life.  She married my dad when she was 21 and raising children was all she ever knew.

My kids have me for only a couple of hours every night – for homework, dinner, chat and cuddling.  They are now at an age where they need space to open books and make projects. The three of them share a single, small bedroom. They need my office space more than I do.  My single, imposing desk which accommodates one will not help the four of us muddle through the three Rs.  No question:  they need a functioning room and the expense is just one of those things I’m going to have to shoulder.

But the bigger heartache in all this is losing my office.  I had an occupation and a profession which gave me satisfaction and independence.  I had barely begun marketing myself and enjoying the thrill that comes with building a business.  I’m turning my back on that, giving it away to the three people I love the most who depend on me for everything. . . and it hurts.  It hurts to realize I’m not that zippy independent professional I once thought I could be.  Calling the shots from my seat of power, making things happen and influencing the world.  I’m simply not important in that way and handing off my office seals that fate and acknowledges my own impotence in the adult world of movers and shakers.  It’s really quite sad.  I could feel like a failure except that I see this step as one toward creating success in other areas, other more important areas, like the development of children.

This really is their time.  I suspect my time is over, my arc has ended.  Whatever chances I had to “be something” have now dissolved except in ways that pertain to or at least include consideration of the kids.  I’m really ok with that.  It’s an adjustment period certainly, but I feel triumphant in that it was a hard decision. . .  and I only hesitated about two days to make it.

Stupid Christmas trees

Stupid Christmas trees

I am irked by the holidays.  I’d go so far as to say I hate Christmas, but I think God would be angry and I can’t have that.

I have a fake Christmas tree on my front porch.  It’s a hand me down from my mother.  I already had very nice compact tree for the inside of the house so this big tall one got relegated to outdoor decoration.  And amazingly, it gets lots of compliments from the neighbors who enjoy seeing a big 10’ Christmas tree all lit with multicolored lights and metallic bows.   Now, not only because of the God thing but also because the neighbors expect it, I have to put that frickin’ tree up every year.  I go to war with this tree every December.

I got new lights this year. I thought I would do something nice for it and it might return the favor.  About 2000 tiny jewel colored flickering lights in the night.  At least for a few hours and then they sputter out.  I’ve change the fuses now three times.  I’ve changed the way they link together so that they don’t.  Each strand has its own independent extension cord.  Wires flow from under the tree skirt.  Very high tech.  I fear I can only keep the lights on for about four hours at a time and then they blow out.  I’m so irritated with the outdoor tree I could cry.  I don’t even move the ladder back to the garage any more.  It’s on standby.

The indoor tree has proved just as uncooperative this year.  It’s a conspiracy of ornamentation.  It’s a prelit tree which came with now lost guarantees.  I stacked it up and plugged it in and several of the strands don’t work this year.  So off to Target for replacement lights.  A couple hours later and it’s up and down the ladder filling the voids.

My faith in the indoor tree is lost so I won’t decorate it.  It’s a naked tree.  As soon as I hang something on it, I know a strand will go out and I won’t be able to do anything if balls are on it.

The last few days I walk into the living room, glare at the tree and challenge it to screw me over.  Then I hold my breath and plug it in.  Whatever relief I may experience when the lights turn on is short-lived as I realize I need to walk to the porch and have a show down with Tree Number Two.

Considering my investment of time, these trees are staying up until Valentine’s Day.

To wake, perchance to exercise

To wake, perchance to exercise

I was thinking this morning, as I hit the snooze button for the second time, that my good and bad days are determined by one key event: getting out of bed.

To be more precise, getting out of bed when the alarm actually goes off.  For the first time.

It’s psychological and also physiological.  If I get out of bed when I’m suppose to at 4:45am I have an immediate sense of accomplishment.  I did it, I got out from under the covers! I can do anything!

After that I make coffee and get on the treadmill.  I’m taking care of myself, increasing my metabolism, burning calories, and waking up the engine that will power my day.  I can listen to Bill Handel and his morning crew and nothing makes me smile like an irreverent cynic with great sound bites.  He’s an equal opportunity offender and I am in love with him.

I pound out two miles, sometimes I even run for some interval training, and I’m good to shower and beautify.  Then, with the extra time, I can make my lunch and fix myself a couple of boiled eggs.  I can safely and cleanly eat these as I drive to work.  As everyone in LA knows, you have to multi-task when you drive or it’s a missed opportunity.

All of this happens while the children sleep.  I’m alone.  I’m uninterrupted.  I’m self-indulgent while still being responsible.  It’s truly the best feeling and tees me up for a productive day.  Sometimes I even have time to accessorize!

Mind you, I’m having this epiphany while continuing to hit the snooze button.

You know, maybe every day is too big a reach.  Maybe I need a day off so my muscles can recover.  I heard that somewhere.  So every other day might be more realistic.  I could live with good days 50% of the time.

And that’s about the time I notice I’ve “overslept” about 15 minutes and now I’m late.

But it’s totally worth it because of the invaluable epiphany.  I can’t wait to see what my epiphany will be tomorrow.