Updated weekly. Usually on Tuesdays. Unless some small person eats my blog post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Double Header! (Translation: Two Posts in One)

The Remodel

As you may have noticed, there have been some rather drastic changes around here.  For one, the title of the blog has changed. For two, so has the entire style. I wanted to (briefly) explain the motivation for this.

This blog started as a way to keep myself in a lighthearted and humorous perspective of my life as a stay-at-home mother. As I've been looking back over the last several months of posts, though, I found less humor and more philosophy. Seeing as I spend plenty of time ruminating on how things should be in my life I think this is counter-productive. Instead, I'd like to focus on things that do happen and the joy (and laughs) I derive from them.

As a means to this end, I've decided to start adding cartoons.

They are not meant to be high-quality, just illustrative of what I'm thinking. So don't think you have to be impressed by the artwork!

Just preparing for this new take on my blog has changed my last week considerably. I found myself laughing at myself more and scolding my children less, and I'm very excited about that!

This is not to say that I will never get philosophical again. It's just that I've come to realize that sometimes motherhood needs less philosophical reflection and more sheer enjoyment.

And that's what I'll be focusing on from now on.

Please, PLEASE feel free to give me your reactions, however. I am really interested to hear what you think of all these changes.

Without further ado, to get us geared up for this, my first "new generation" post:

Momma... Has Left the Building

People who see me driving my car must think I'm crazy.

Especially when I'm taking StrawBee to her brand-new gymnastics class.

This is the only time that it's just the two of us in the car, which means it's the only time I can bust a move to children's CD seeing as Ladybug has decided that only one person is allowed to sing and/or dance in the car at a time.

For real.

But it really did just occur to me this week that my strong feelings on teaching young children about music, rhythm, and movement might just translate into "utter psycho" when viewed by my fellow drivers. These poor people get stuck next to me in traffic and probably have their cell phones open with 911 pre-dialed in case I jump out of my car and come after them.

I, for one, have never experienced such an encounter with myself. Despite that, I think I have a pretty good idea of how it goes for these people.

1. The Spotting

First, there's The Spotting: You see me, but don't really believe it. You can't hear my boisterous rendition of "Wheels On the Bus," or know that I'm waving my arm in a circle only because I can safely do just half of the wheels on said bus while driving. Of course, the whole attempting-to-look-over-my-shoulder-without-turning-around-to-see-if-she's-paying-attention only adds to A) The safety of my driving and B) To the look of utter insanity on my face.

2. The Realization

Next comes The Realization.  Yes, that woman next to you is literally acting like a cry-baby.  And from the perspective of you short little luxury sedan, all you can tell is that the soccer mom in the mini-van next to you has finally cracked. Her kids have made her so crazy she's not even capable of real tears anymore--just childish playacting with some sad hope that those outside of her see it as the desperate cry for help it really is.

3. The Hiding

Finally, there's The Hiding.  After being stuck waiting for this train for five-plus minutes, you can tell she's just getting worse. She must be bi-polar.  You sneaked one look and she was literally bouncing up and down in the seat. Then she was crying. For a while she clapped her hands and stomped her feet. Now she's throwing her arms in the air and shouting something that looks mysteriously like "HOORAY!!" over and over again.

Just hunker down as far as you can in your seat and studiously avoid eye contact.  Start anxiously gazing down the tracks looking for the end of the train, occasionally darting glances in the direction of the mini-van to see if she's gotten out and started doing a rain dance in the middle of the street.

Rev your engine as soon as the end of the train is in sight, then zoom away as quickly as that manual-shifting piece of awesomeness that you spent the same amount of money on as that mom spent on diapers in the last year can move you away from the insanity.

Safe at last, and also reminded of why you'll never drive a minivan: They apparently induce utter insanity.

What I know, from safe inside my so-called "minivan" (I prefer to refer to my transport as a pregnant Ferrari, due date: Sometime after the year 2050) is that it's really what's in the backseat, not the car itself, that brings on such fits of disturbingly uninhibited behavior.

I think the drivers in those other cars would feel a lot better if only that could see my petite little angel-face staring at the back of my head and flailing arms.  Then they would know that, at the very least, they aren't alone in thinking I have completely lost it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Going Green

**A note: As yesterday was my birthday, I gave myself the day off. That probably means I should've posted on Monday, but I was too busy bugging DB to find out what surprises he had in store for me to think of it. Sorry. By way of apology, I tried to make this post super cool. Which probably means I should apologize again. So... sorry.**

Going green is the catchphrase of the day, no denying it. And while I love the environment as much as the next human (hey, air--we breathe it, it's awesome) I have been feeling some guilt about not making any overt attempts at saving the world before it's reduced to dust and ashes. I mean sure, we buy at the local farmer's market, avoid using un-recyclables (except those darn diapers), and even bought an energy efficient furnace (although that was admittedly  more for the green we keep in the bank than the green that grows in our yard), but that's about it. 

Or so I thought. 

The more I pondered it, the more I discovered that I (and many other mothers) are saving the world single-handedly!  For example, how many mothers of young children take above two showers a week?  I know for darn sure I don't. Those lovely children, always so eager to conserve, do everything in their power to make the decision simple: Do you want that extra half-hour of sleep, or do you want a shower?  Because you're not getting it while they're up. So your choice is to A) Look and act like a zombie because 30 minutes of sleep is a lot more than it used to be or B) Smell like a zombie. Unless you remembered deodorant. Given that I still have to chase the small children no matter what I pick, I pick smelling like this...
 ...over acting like it. 

It also occurred to me that as a mom, despite the dirty diapers, I overall create less waste.  For one thing, I don't consume nearly as much in the way of clothes and makeup as I used to.  Much as I love clothes (truly) I will probably wear what is in my wardrobe until it practically falls off, because every penny I find to spend on clothes goes to the ever-growing weeds I call my children. And I don't think buying all those clothes for the girls even counts because I obsess over taking excellent care of what they have so it can be passed down to the next girl. They end up looking like princesses, and I end up looking like a bag lady. 


Bag Lady

Being a mom also helps me forget things. I forget to run the dishwasher and I forget to buy those darn diapers and look!  I just saved some water and some space in a landfill!

I do think I might have hit a high point in my going-green ways just last week, in fact. Depending on how you look at it, of course.  About one o'clock in the afternoon I started hearing an odd noise like water was draining, rapidly, out from under the front bathroom.  This was rather distressing as there had been no water running in that bathroom for an hour or so, and made more so by the fact that the furnace/water heater/water softener all live in the room underneath that bathroom. Given these facts, I felt it wise to go and make sure our basement was not rapidly turning into that indoor swimming pool Ladybug covets so. 

Much to my relief it wasn't. But that draining sound wouldn't stop, so I decided to stick my head in the furnace room and see if my magic mommy powers now extended to suddenly understanding what was wrong with otherwise inexplicable machinery. It was dark in the little closet of a room, so I reached out to turn on the light--only to find the light switch already flipped up. 

Ah ha! I thought. Now I can save the world and possibly some electricity! 

So I flipped down the switch, and I was very proud of myself. Who knew how long this heinous waste had been going on? 

But it was still dark, and the water was still draining. Since technomancy apparently doesn't fall under mommy magic and I was too scared of the bugs to go further in without the light on, I wisely decided to wait a few hours and see if the noise didn't decide to just go away on its own. But it apparently either had nothing better to do or just really liked me, because the next thing I knew it was after eight in the evening and it was still hanging out in my furnace room. 

The girls were safely in bed and DB wasn't expected back from work until midnight. I donned my cape, grabbed my flashlight, and headed outside to see if I could find the water meter.  It would be with the shutoff valve, I reasoned, and if the water was indeed still running the meter would indicate that this was so and I could shut the water off until DB the Technomancer came home and figured out if our crawl space was about to turn into a sinkhole. 

                                       Sinkhole = Bad
                                                    See my poor little house down in there?

None of my brilliant planning accounted for the fact that even with a flashlight, I can't see in the dark. I was starting to feel very green by now, particularly around the gills. Not able to find the shutoff valve, I finally called the calvary in: My little brother.  He assured me that yes, indeed, the shutoff would be with the water meter, but that this was purely academic since I couldn't find either of them. However, being the generous soul he was, he could come out and look in the furnace room to see if the mysterious draining noise would be afraid of him and go away.  

It was. 

All he had to do was look at the water softener (the source of the noise, as it turns out) and it stopped dead in its tracks. I was completely stymied as far as figuring out what had just happened, but grateful anyway. I called DB at work to tell him this exciting news, and passed on the odd fact that the digital display on the water softener was blinking as if we had had a power outage and he would need to reprogram the darn thing. 

"Hey, you know that light switch down there?" he interrupted me, changing the subject completely.

"Uh... yeah..." I replied, miffed at being cutoff mid-ramble. "It's useless. The bulb's burnt out. But the point is--"

"No, no," DB interrupted again, trying to sound patient. "That switch doesn't go to the lightbulb. It's the power to the water softener."

".... .... .... .... oh." Gulp. Oops. "I didn't know that!" (My most amazing defense, by the way. The one I always go back to when I know I'm a moron.)

"Yes. You did. I told you when we installed the softener." 

"... ... ... ... ... ..... ......... oh." I looked up at my brother, who was listening to my half of the conversation with unabashed interest. "So... what you're saying is, when I went down earlier and turned off the light switch to save the world and maybe some electricity the softener was in the middle of a rinse and drain cycle and by turning the power off I shut down its ability to stop itself from endlessly dumping water straight through the filter and back into the public waste system?"

Deep breath from DB. "Yeah. That's about it." 


Brother: "Oh, and Carolynn?  Turning the switch off didn't really save any electricity.  Since there was no bulb. Just so you know." 


I'm still recovering from the shock. I've spent years turning off switches that lead to dead or missing bulbs, thinking I was amazingly, stupendously saving everyone from their gluttonous waste. 

Despite the naysayers, however, I've decided that I really did save the world, if not electricity. After all, the city water system now has (at best guess) hundreds of gallons of perfectly clean water at their disposal.  No treatment necessary!  And I'll even pay them for the privileged of taking my perfectly clean, lead-free, better-quality-than-normal-city-water water off of my hands. 

A lot. 

Shucks. Just all in a day's work for a super green super mom like me. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I just can't.

It's true. Sometimes, I just can't. Not a complaint. Not being pessimistic. Just stating the facts.

There are some things I can't do. And that's okay.

I have often struggled with admitting and even embracing this concept. I would (will) tell myself that if I just tried a little harder, I could make it work. I could earn the last few dollars, finish the last few chores, write that stellar paper, fit in one more activity.

But I can't.

And it really is okay, because there are plenty of things I can.

I can't get rid of this week-long headache, no matter what I do--I can push past it and take my kids out for an hour or two anyway.

I can't ignore the overwhelming exhaustion the headache causes when I co push past it--but I can take advantage of having a wonderfully supportive network of friends and a husband who insists that I go to bed early.

I can't get all of the housecleaning finished if I go to bed early or take that nap I want--but I can at least wash a few dishes and then accept that my house will be untidy for a bit longer. Or, harder still, I can accept help offered and let someone else do it.

I can't ignore my housework and then give time and attention to writing. Heck, I can't even talk straight half the time!--But I can flop out an attempt at a blog post, just because I promised myself I would write every Tuesday, garbage or not.

And I can't get rid of all my A-type, perfectionist tendencies because I would cease to be me--but I can learn to separate the golf balls from the rice (or the rocks from the sand, depending on the take you prefer).

I can't even make the internet work so I can post this, no matter how many nasty glares I use--But DB can (thanks babe!).

"I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something.The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will." --Edward Everett Hale

Yup. And for tonight, my something? It's sleeping. And by the grace of God (and my hubby) the kids will sleep too. Catch you on the other side o' dreamland.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

But that's not how MY family does it!

There is no one specific way to have a healthy, happy family and yet, somehow, the mashing of two adults into a coherent family unit often leads to one or both parties stomping their feet like the proverbial two year old and exclaiming, "No! MY way!" 

We run into this same sort of thing just going forth into the world. I still remember when I was a sophomore at college and battling severe stress headaches almost daily. The doctors hadn't been able to find a medication that helped yet, and one of my concerned professors asked, "Have you tried any natural health remidies or seeing a naturopathic doctor?"

I was stymied; it hadn't even crossed my mind. I finally stammered "Uh... my family isn't really into that kind of thing," as if she had suggested the equivalent of seeing a witch doctor. She replied with a raised eyebrow, "I see. But how to you feel about it?" 

Shock. You mean I had to decide for myself what I believed? You mean, my family's way isn't the only good way? Who knew!

Although I didn't follow her advice for that particular problem, it did open my mind to the possibility. I have since explored and adopted several "alternative medicine" techniques, including the birthing method I use. I wish I could go back and thank her for opening my mind to the possibilities, the most potent of which is that although my family is wonderful and raised me well, I still get to decide what it means to be me. Even if one or two (or six or seven) members of my family did think it was a little nutty to go with something named "hypno-birthing" when I had my second child. (And, you know, they all listened very patiently when I explained the whys and wherefores. If everyone had such supportive families, God would have a lot more reasons to smile.)

All of this acceptance that my way is not the only way does not, of course, preclude me from occasionally telling DB that his way is just plain wrong. Towel folding, for example. I hate the way he folds towels and if he doesn't fold them the way I showed him, I will actually refold them before putting them away. Silly, I know, but I guess at least I don't make him do it. Then of course there are questions over the "right" way to decorate for holidays, celebrate Christmas, have bedtime, clean the toilet, vacation, and on and on.

Fortunately for us, we have a very emotionally even-keel kind of relationship (read: DB refuses to react when I try to push buttons) and we usually work things out just fine. 

One conversation we've had a few times revolves around breakfast. Very rarely while I was growing up did my folks make breakfast and we all eat together. Such things were reserved for Mother's Day or other special occasions. Since I had church scripture study at 6 a.m. all through high school and had to be out of the house by 5:45, this was eminently reasonable. Frankly, I enjoyed the peace of having the house to myself while I made my morning mug of hot cocoa.

Moreover, my mother made it very clear that making dinner for everyone was enough for her and we were plenty old enough to get our own breakfast, thank you very much. I completely agreed.

DB, on the other hand, grew up having hot breakfast with his family every morning all throughout his early school career. I realized this early in our marriage because when we go to visit his parents, they make breakfast many of the mornings we are there. I love the pampering, but I also quickly made it clear to DB that I didn't do that kind of thing, myself. It was too much work. 

Please note that I had never actually tried it. 

After a completely unrelated decision has shaken up our morning routine, however, I have found myself preparing breakfast for the family the last two days in a row.  This is the first time in... well, probably since the kids were born that DB and I have gotten up at the same time. We had pancakes both days. I don't tend to eat much with everyone at the table because part of me still likes that mug of cocoa and the now pseudo-solitude of sitting at my desk checking my email, but I have found (much to my surprise) that I really enjoy making breakfast for everyone. Beyond the fact that breakfast is easy and hot breakfast food is something the kids will always eat (something that cannot be said for dinner), this extra effort on my part has made the mornings much smoother. Instead of DB struggling to get the kids ready on his own, or me desperately trying to convince the kids to eat quietly and neatly so I can sneak off for a few minutes of quiet, we work together almost seamlessly and everyone is ready in no time.

Better still, I actually get to see my husband in the morning for more than a sleepy "Love you, bye."

The feeling in the house has been much less frantic. We even remembered to have family prayer before DB took off today, something I don't think we've ever done. 

We've been married 4-1/2 years, and DB has never questioned my statement that I "don't do breakfast." Maybe I'll still end up deciding I feel that way in the end, seeing as it's only been two days. It's hard getting up early when I've become used to dozing for an hour after waking. But so far, the benefits outweigh my slightly extra sleepiness. 

So, here's to trying things from the "other," whether the other be a person, culture, or (gasp) your spouse's family. I guess giving an inch won't lead to us turning into a carbon copy of anyone just yet. Picking one thing here and one thing there--that's how we become individual.

No need to reinvent the wheel. Simply a need to decide how it best rolls for our family.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.Creative Commons License
This work by Carolynn Dyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.