The First Day of School for a SAHM

What does the first day of school look like for a SAHM with no kids at home?

Disclaimer: I can talk about this because, for years, I have said the same to other SAHMs. Hell, I did it THIS year.

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Click to enlarge

 

Polite, medicated, socially capable me responds like this:

“Enjoy your day off!”  I sure will.

“I can’t wait until all of my kids are in school all day!”  Oh, aware that my kids are actively listening to my response, it IS exciting, but I sure will miss having them home with me.

“Are you going back to work?”  For pay?  Not this year.

“What ARE you going to DO with yourself for an entire day?  All that free time!”  Well,  I have this book that I’ve been trying to write for a year– it’s such a great story, but fiction is hard.  And I volunteer a lot… 

My mouth, both good and bad, often flies solo.  It’s true, I just open my lips and watch the appropriately vapid responses stream out.  After all, these aren’t people stabbing me with a passive-aggressive-interest-knife.  In previous years, I’ve spoken similar words and received similar vapidity in response.

This is what I meant when I said these things to other SAHMs.

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Sticky. The New Modge Podge. The Unsung Decorative Texture.

Watch how quickly I can rock this thought out.

Sticky. The left behind of whatever substances making contact with the Small People. I wipe, wash, and scrub, but that shit never goes away. Part of me suspects (hopes) that what’s left behind is not grossness, but what happens to wood after 6 years of wiping. Of course, that doesn’t explain the sink now does it.

Could I use the remnants of morning oatmeal as a replacement for modge podge? Furthermore, they are 4 and 6– why the daily pile of oatmeal on the table?

Or perhaps a use as the Unsung Decorative Texture: if I embrace Sticky’s presence in my home will it be become less disgusting to peel my bare thighs off a dining room chair?

Could I combine these two realities into a living social art experiment? Where I modge podge our life onto, well, the surfaces of our life?

Can you imagine the layers upon layers of fundraising documents, announcements, credit card offers, art work, and take out napkins? That almost sounds really cool, yeah?

I understand, and accept, that my future life won’t be full of glamorous intrigue. Alright, no bullshit, I can’t really blame that on kids.

But still.

Of all the little moments of parenting that common sense forced me to anticipate, and that years of parenting finally made me accept (the 12 steps, if you will), the constant assault on my person from the sticky residue still manages to surprise me.

Good Mothers own the TARDIS Tent

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to have funnier blog titles. Between why parenting is a like a glade plugin and why a owning the TARDIS tent makes me a good mother? Nailed it.

A recent conversation with my oldest child.

Z: “Mom, I’m going to invent a time machine, that way I never have to go to school”.

Me: “You’ll need to know a lot about physics, which you learn in school, to map all of those wormholes.”

Z, without missing a beat: “yeah, but they don’t teach science in kindergarten, so I’ll just go ahead and skip to high school. It’s really for the best.”

I’m fielding this shit at 8:32 in the morning– the exact moment when everyone should be dressed and smoothly transitioning from the house to the car.

Instead I’m screaming “you’re still not wearing pants! at a kid trying to invent time travel so he can skip school.

In kindergarten.

I love the vivid imagination of my kids, partly because it’s something the three of us share, but mostly because Entertainment by Daydream inches closer to extinction with every technological advance. Without clinical boredom, there aren’t any daydreams; and one cannot transcend into clinical boredom with an electronic device.

Of course I need to take my own advice; y’all are missing my point. That point being that I’m supportive mother, dammit.

I’m also a Doctor Who newbie. In fact, I’m only 5 episodes into the 9th incarnation and my own fantasy about being Christopher Eccleston’s companion.

Cough. Sigh.

I guess my parents didn’t watch The Doctor when I was a kid? Too busy populating my nightmares with the brain-eating eels from the Wrath of Khan, I suppose.

It was easter, and I was seven. Thanks, Dad.

Thankfully (and deliberately) I’ve filled my life with fellow geeks and playing their facebook statuses backward plants subliminal Doctor suggestions.

Which is why the TARDIS will exist in my home. I’m not committed to the where yet, as JB quickly (and unfairly) vetoed my plan for a TARDIS-shaped bed.

I planned to just build it anyway, because, really, THAT’S WHO I AM.

But then someone showed me this TARDIS tent. . . And I thought about the symbology of TARDIS and how I can’t even pee without one of them asking me a question through the door.

All I have to do is convince them that I’m NOT HERE when inside the TARDIS. Which will make my oldest child even more determined to solve the time travel problem– since he’s all about how awesome I am.

His understandable attachment to me (remember, I’m in a parallel universe) can only encourage his love of science, eventually leading to him winning the nobel prize for his work in physics.

This, friends, is how buying myself a TARDIS tent makes me a good and supportive mother

All of you? You’re welcome.

Actions are the First Tragedy in Life

“Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless. . .” Oscar Wilde.

Tomorrow I have to sit down with my 6 year old and have a conversation about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary school on Friday. I have to find a way to explain an unexplainable situation in a way that will give him the tools to push aside what other children may speak of on Monday. My first instinct was to assume he would remain naively ignorant of what happened… Then I thought about what that means in a classroom full of Other People’s Children.

No, what he hears first needs to come from home. But before I can sit down and do my very best impression of Mr. Rogers, I need to unload the most pressing of my bitter little pills.

First off, let me offer the same platitudes, to express my horror at what I assume it must feel like for the people most directly affected by the nonsensical event. For no matter how much my mother’s heart weeps for those stranger’s children, no matter how full my eyes became as I watched my innocent child run to me after school I cannot know.

And, oh, how absurdly grateful I am not to know. But I grieve with these people, these parents.

I understand– and own– my grieving process. First, I place myself into the shoes of the unknown stranger, mentally acting out my worst what-if scenarios. Then, because it’s hard to sustain that level of grief when it’s not IN YOUR FACE, I seek the news, and visually feed my horror on 24-hour loop.

9/11, oh the lessons you taught me about myself.

Then I get angry at everyone; feeling frustrated at how, even while the community of Newtown hug, the community of America begins to bicker.

GUN CONTROL! ARM THE TEACHERS! INCREASE SCHOOL SECURITY– BULLET PROOF WALLS! MORE COPS! MORE GOD! LESS GOD! BAN VIDEO GAMES!

What needs to happen to protect our children? That list is long and dirty– and not all of it surrounds school security and gun control. What this latest event proves to me– we are a country on the precipice of falling victim to our own seething contempt and virulent anger.

Bitter #1: Reporting Rumor as Fact, aka– Being a Fucktard

We all know what happened… oh wait, we don’t.
What we know, for fact, is that a total of 28 people (included the shooter and his mother) are dead; 20 children and 6 adults.

We know that a barely-man entered an elementary school and shot these people.

The rest of the facts?
Pay close attention to the words– may, perhaps, seemed like– because they are everywhere.

The shooter may have had a personality disorder;
the shooter may have been autistic;
the shooter seemed like a loner.
The family seemed nice; the mother was a good housekeeper, an involved parent.

Assumptions, not facts, and as such should never be originating with any sort of journalistic agency.

Yes, I want information– factual information.

The swiftness with which social media spreads rumors and e-publishing prints them? Damn.

Bitter Pill #2: Stereotyping Fear Words go BUZZ

The shooter was quiet, thin, pale; he was one of those goth-types.

As a unit, all of America gives a sympathetic nod since obviously all psychotic breaks begin with the quiet, thin, pale, goth kids.

Ah– the human need to systematically categorize people into neat boxes, ensuring that the stereotype can be quickly retrieved from its mental file folder.

Now I should be stuck between the fear of shy, thin, pale nerdy kids, and the fear of the black, hooded sweatshirt teenagers.

My point being that mental illness cannot be determined by a clothing size, or skin color.

Not all stereotypes are representative, as proven by such handsome, tan personable men like Ted Bundy.

Bitter Pill #3: Slaughters to be Blamed on the Separation of Church and State
Mike Huckabee shakes his head sadly and tells all of us that we should just sort of get used to being shot and killed thanks to the removal of public prayer. Why would God save these innocent children when we’ve stopped prayer in schools.

/facepalm/

Too much bitter, not enough energy. In short, would someone please explain the disconnect between the logic of “guns don’t kill people” and “non-theism kills us all”. Why do guns and god get a blame-free ride for they situations with which they are involved?

Huckabee, you are a douche-bag.

Bitter #4: GUN CONTROL! YOU CAN’T TAKE MY GUNS
If this could ever be a thoughtful, intelligent conversation among adults…

It’s ironic to me how these conversations keep getting pushed to the side because so many people are…what? Maybe afraid of pissing off people with guns?

But just a teeny-tiny bit of tact when discussing gun ownership rights when standing over the body-bags filled with dead children. For fuck’s sake, people.

Oh– and let’s just skip arming teachers, and give them to the 5 year olds at kindergarten registration.

Bitter Pill #4: Suffering from Mental Illness versus Evil is Among Us!

JB and I disagree on the standard for which we judge the state of being evil. I believe that all who massacre have a mental illness, but not all with mental illness will massacre.

JB thinks that people can be evil without being mentally ill.

Struggling with the idea that someone can be evil enough to mow down a classroom of kindergartners without being delusional in some way…too much for me to handle.

Note the use of the word suffer, mental illness in any capacity– not fun.

I just can’t imagine what happens in the life and mind of a 20 year old that ends with the answer of guns in an elementary school.

Wait– I can imagine the types of horrors that may occur in the life of a child– any one of which might preclude a psychotic break. Across the world children, even those in affluent neighborhoods, suffer unspeakable atrocities. Child abuse– whether physical, sexual, or emotional– knows no socioeconomic or racial barrier. And child abuse among children with developmental delays occurs at a rate almost twice (1.68) of non-delayed child. So whether this barely-man was developmentally delayed, abused, mentally ill– who knows? The most recent friend the media could find to interview had not spoken with Lanza since middle school.

We all ignore, thus condone, that reactive violence when funding for social welfare and mental health programs disappear. Cutting those funded programs in favor of providing guns for war tells each one of our children that bullets are the universal solution to all problems.

After all, children mimic what they see over what they are told.

I don’t know what, if anything, traumatic occurred in Adam Lanza’s life.

I feel part of the blame for our country’s failing systems– a place where children are killed by a barely-man.

If He Only Knew How Lucky

Someday I’m going to print these posts and hand-deliver them to the boys: here’s your baby book, kids!

Yesterday, Kindergarten, Day 1. I read all the various checklists on how to transition to kindergarten.

I never listened to The Colbert Report’s segment on our school board within earshot. Okay, I probably talked about my issues with public instruction in front of him too many times, but he eavesdrops, cut me some slack.

He picked out his bookbag (spiderman) and his lunch bag (ninja). I picked out clothes based on his specifications (shirts with buttons AND a pocket), and JB took him shoe shopping.

Do I have a smart kid? Yeah, dude. Did I work very hard to somehow make him this way? That’s up for debate– I don’t consider my efforts qualify as working hard. Most days feel like I’m barely scraping out above my personal lowest-acceptable-parenting-bar. But, unlike any of the rest of domestic duties, I set that parenting bar pretty high.

Honestly, as a person with a brain rocking it colander-style, I’m jealous at how he manages to hold so much in working memory.

Last year we sent him to an excellent preschool, with an amazing staff. His expectations of school were based in what he knows (cue amazing preschool) and the clues he’s gotten from adults.

Think about most of the conversations that children have with adults-not-their-parent(s):

    What grade are you in?
    Kindergarten is going to be so much fun!
    You are so smart, you are going to love school!

That’s a lot of hype for someone with zero personal experience.

Anyway, there was a picking up incident (hey, did you know class let’s out before the time printed as school dismissal? I do NOW). Considering the epic fail of the buses, I guess we got off lucky.

I need to sidebar for a minute.

My college roommate, and also the mom of a brand-new kindergartner, majored in child development. Surprise- a child’s brain is markedly different from an adult– even when they first start walking! /rolling my eyes/

To watch your child and confidently categorize their (what appears to be) nonsensical behavior based on scientifically-supported theory? It goes a long way from making me go insane on their little psyches.

I read a lot of Dr. Brazelton. He’s the only parenting expert that motivated me to purchase his books for further reference. Because of him I know that my oldest son’s mind lives in the world of magical ponies farting full-spectrum fairy dust. The same son truly believes that wishing hard enough will result in the morning arrival of closet pony, blissfully chewing on full-spectrum oats.

Imagine the crushing disappointment of waking up to a closet full of clothes, but no oat-eating, closet pony? Have you ever woken up thinking it was Sunday, only to realize it was actually Monday? Yeah that, times a gazillion.

To put it further into perspective, I’m guessing that the average 5 year old, and the Whoops, no Rapture adults are about the same on the emotional maturity scale.

Sidebar done.

The main points of his day were that they sat too much and missed recess because of the rain. Oh, and:

Kindergarten, in his not-at-all humble opinion, is an epic waste of time. Today, that disappointment translated into a big bowl full of 5-year-old bullshit.

This is where he’s lucky (hey, future, older version of Zach– you paying attention here?) Did he get yelled at a lot today? Well, yeah- that stuff cannot stand, man. Was I sympathetic to his need to break every rule like… I don’t even know.

Sympathetic, yes. Tolerant, no.

He tested limits like being a limit-tester paid in cold-hard cash.

Today. Today will be a better day.

First Day of Kindergarten: Are You Ready

Remember how I said yesterday that my emotions were all swirly? On a completely unrelated note: why doesn’t candyland put its colors in order according to the Roy G Biv spectrum? Could ONE thing about that game be useful?

The first day of kindergarten– are you ready?

I struggle hard with the waking up thing, probably directly related to my struggle with the going-to-bed-thing. So no one in this house really expected me to be awake, showered and dressed before 7:15 am. Suckers. JB packed his Ninja lunch and I left a love note for him. According to JB I can never do that again.

Zach, buying in strongly to the family tradition of cramming before a test, dusted off his electronic game thing and watch a leap frog video on going to school.

Which gave me the chance to re-read the introduction letter only to realize that he did need to bring in the community supplies today.

M-kay, so here’s the thing. In general, I’m morally opposed to hand-sanitizer and triclosan is the devil. They give that stuff away so much now that I managed to find a little 2oz schwag bottle. Note that the supply list did not specify size, only that I bring a bottle.

Ragweed season brought post-nasal drip and a cough, so I handed him a cough drop. Then I took his first day of school picture.

Ahem. It’s a cough drop face. For serious.

Joel gets to +1 (for a grand total of six) his “good photos taken of Stephanie” count and managed to catch Z smiling.

He’s rocking some low-top chuck’s, but remains bitter that the light-up Spiderman shoes didn’t come in his size. While I realize he thinks the light-up shoes are way cooler, I know it’s in the chuck’s.

We did the ride again, just the two of us. I say again, because we did a dry run for timing last week.

Nature/Nurture: Being ADHD when mixed with being an Army Brat made me a master level Tactician. It’s a gift. Having kids means knowing that a three minute walk can take at least 15.

We drove, we chatted. I met the teacher that would assess him today. I signed a form, delivered a gush of verbal vomit about his reading level that didn’t even make sense, kissed him goodbye, and started heading back to the car feeling pretty good about myself.

It took roughly half of a school-hall length before my perky exit became more Green Mile-y.

Hundred of kids, being tagged, ragged, and dragged into their various rooms of Indoctrination.

    One woman, dragging a sobbing kindergartner and drooling baby.
    A preteen in entirely-too-tight-shorts rolling her eyes at her mother.
    A dad, wiping his eye…

BAM! When a redhead even considers crying, subtlety is not an option. Red nose? Puffy eyes. Fair skin’ll get you like that.

During the ride home I had sort of snuffled myself under control. Walking in the door and seeing the youngest one reading Clifford Goes on a Class Trip? BAM-BAM.

In our family of four, only three of us have lives in upheaval. I handled it by reorganizing the pantry and building cabinets. Z handled it by moping and listening to indie rock. E handled it by… I don’t know– I never asked.

Alright, let’s just go for the gulping sobs, hmmm?

“Wait”, you say. You took a picture of yourself crying? Tres lame.

Listen, I typically cry in anger, or from watching Pixar movies. That girly cry-because-he’s-growing-up-thing doesn’t really… I mean, being sad that he’s old enough for kindergarten seems wrong, especially since death is the only alternative to aging.

So I didn’t think I was sad. Oh, but how.

E: Why do you have tears, Mommy?
Me: Grown-ups get sentimental sometimes about big stuff like first days of school.
E: Stop crying, Dude. Zach is just at school, it’s not like he’s staying there. So just stop it.

Well, when you put it that way.

We Like Change- but not Ads

Change is good- we like change. Cramming a bunch of changes into 14 days keeps us snazzy.

We finally found a new car. JB had the last new car, it seemed only fair that I get this one.

The car’s so clean– pristine was the word our mechanic used. I apologized to her in advance for the dirty shoes, the crumbs, and the spilled drinks.

Tomorrow Zach will leave this house a carefree youth, and come back an indoctrinated cog in The Machine. I don’t say this out loud, of course. At least not often, and hopefully always well out of earshot. And I mostly don’t think it will actually go down that way– with him.

The following week another first, another classroom, another child deposited into someone else’s influence when Elliot starts preschool.

My thoughts ping in color; my emotions a varied blend of tone and shade.

The slightly chagrined, admittedly self-absorbed pure joy at the thought of 6 hours of weekly freedom is louder than anything else. For tonight, at least.

It hurts me to consider that they might have a clue at how happy I am to get a few hours away. When they are teenagers they’ll know that I understand how cloying the absolute need of another person feels to the one trying to escape. The roles, they will reverse.

Future Me, she may remember–but won’t understand– why solitude seemed so shiny.

All that swirling of emotional color making it difficult for me to pin down words long enough to make sense of them. Maybe tomorrow.

A few weeks ago I chattered with my friend Kia over dinner. I’m glad I dragged myself out that night, because that conversation made me think.

My inner voice is being rather snotty about how I need a personality makeover. And that is nothing on what she thinks of my wardrobe….

…oh, shit. Five days a week, I’m going to have to be dressed and in a car by 8:40 am.

Inner voice wants me to pierce my nose (maybe) and cover up the horrible tattoo (definitely). She wants me to cut my damn hair. She wants me to buy a real bra. She wants me to stop talking about it and go get that shit done.

She’s a demanding bitch even while her points are valid. To that end, my upcoming freedom comes with a responsibility.

While the mother in me might look back with regret at the passing time; the woman will not.

I have big, bedazzled plans revolving around three newly registered domain names. Yet, for all that those plans do indeed glitter, not a single one involves breaking that pink, hand-crafted, DIY-hacked glass ceiling.

I don’t care about having Moves Like Jagger, but I’d dig having Words Like Zappa. And never, ever want to have anything I do resemble Nickelback. I also recognize the value in backing my words with actions so:

When Pinterest Changed the World

You’ve heard of Pinterest, right? And then, because one cannot have yin without yang; Pinterest, You are Drunk? I have a personal submission for the second link: remember, laughing at other people without also laughing at yourself makes you an asshole.

I am a procrastinator. I make To Do lists only to willfully ignore every item. I seek pressure-filled, adrenaline-rushed situations. Setting soft deadlines for myself is like putting mashed cauliflower on a plate and calling it potatoes: a nice thought, but not fooling anyone.

In a few weeks, each of the Small People start schools in different zip codes. For those keeping notes, ADHD folk (yup, that’s me) generally struggle with multiple transitions. Multiple transitions involving two people that regularly take 20 minutes to walk a mere five feet? Valium anyone?

Sane Other people might be spending these next two weeks soaking in time with the kids, making lunch menus, planning outfits and updating the family calendar.

Or finishing the other important things like emailing Z’s new principal a head’s up that the child is capable of reading Harry Potter level text– but might prefer to speak his made up dragon language on testing day. Or perhaps dropping off his immunization records.

To that end, getting E’s health form filled out.

Or buying that other car, since the insurance company totaled out the Scion.

Instead of doing any of those things, I am sifting through mountains of paper and spray painting stuff.

To thine own self be true, right?

Wistfully reminiscing about that timeI was alone in my home for an entire weekend.

Because pinterest didn’t exist back then–

Produce Wash Can Do That?

5pm, Friday playing the home version of What’s That: this time What’s That Sticky Spot on the Floor. A Friday already full of bizarrely frustrating events that seem innocuous when examined separately, but when grouped together? Parenting laughter– the knee-hugging, rocking back and forth in padded room kind.

Parenting. Spending more time exploring Life’s Really Important Questions, such as “What’s That Smell” and “What Made This Sticky Spot”

JB leans in and sniffs, categorizes it as Not-Poo, and prepares for clean up.

Interjecting, I take a sniff with my never-recovered-from-pregnancy-sensitive-nose. Smells petroleum-y, like floor wax.

I touch; it’s both sticky and slimy-greasy.

As both JB and I stare, Elliot enters stage left: “mommy, do you remember when you ate nonie’s necklace?”

I Head-whip, with wide eyes and a shrill voice: “What did you just say?”

Perhaps a brief history? In 1980, two people parented what would now be considered a spirited Small Person (me) at a military base in Weisbaden, Germany. At the time, they also happened to be packing up our quarters (apartment) to move back to the US. As the story goes, my Mom asked me throw an old necklace in the trash and instead I stashed it in my Monchhichi tree house. Later I ate some part of the necklace, which would be a non-event, except that the beads were made from castor beans, aka ricin.

Coincidentally, I know firsthand what it tastes/feels like to have the stomach pumped. It’s always nice when a moment with your child leads you to reminisce about your own childhood, right?

In the end, the final story is that Elliot wanted to clean up some snot (on the floor? how? nevermind) and got the cleaner from the kitchen.

We store the cleaner well out of reach–for this very reason. I remained suspicious, and asked him to show me.

Which he did.

Notice I annotated a picture rather than capturing him in the moment. Mostly because capturing it would be suggesting approval. Oh, and because I was standing there completely dumbfounded.

He’s determined, I’ll give him that.

Now the petroleum-y smell has reason. The produce wash exists to remove that waxy coating from fruits and vegetables.

And hardwood floors.

Tantrums: You Can’t Legislate This Birth Control

The public tantrum. That moment when an adult feels one of several reactions depending on their own life experience.

I worked retail for a decade– I’ve seen my fair of epic tantrums. Excellent birth control reminders, all of them. I often judged those parents as pushovers being led by the nose like obedient cattle. In retrospect, many of those judgments were likely unfair, and more

—-> because I was stupid. <-----

I continued to sneer even after birthing the first Small Person, hopefully with more subtlety, though I doubt it. Sixteen hours after his 3rd birthday, Zach morphed from a compliant, laid-back kid to…well, a normal kid. But still I sneered,

—-> because I was stupid. <-----

Despite all the prior experience, I still find myself taken aback by E’s tantrum tenacity. Even his last tantrum didn’t clue me in that I was soon going to star as that mom.

And I’m considered to be an experienced mom? Pffft, what a outstanding crock. Listen to my words, hold them in your heart: for every new kid, you are a first-time mom.

I never had to put Zach in a therapeutic hold to safely remove him from a store. All it ever took was my drill sergeant face/voice, and he’d whine his way out the car. Z likes to comply and repress– his therapist can fix that for him later.

Using the drill sergeant voice on Elliot yields the same result as putting water on a grease fire.

Zach and I chatted while we watched Elliot perform his improv street theater.

Z: “Mom, I don’t think I did that when I was three.”
Me: “Yeah, me either.”
Z: “He looks…well sort of ridiculous.”
Me: “Absolutely.”
Z: “Are you mad at him?”
Me: “I’m annoyed, not mad. Remember yesterday, when y’all were just poke-poke-poke at me all day? I felt a lot like that, too. Maturity is learning how to not do it on the floor in a public place.”

I hope the half dozen tween girls who passed by him at the peak of the screaming, filed the moment under “birth control”.

Thank You to the older woman who came over with a reassuring smile, murmuring, “we’ve all been there.” I wasn’t embarrassed–more awed- (remembering this was essentially my first time), but it was still nice.

Her understanding made me so glad that I had resisted the urge to roundhouse kick those 4 moms standing between me and the door. See, maturity.

Real quick. I have a vision of a moron room, packed with the acoustics of a thousand wailing children. All adults are eligible for entry — but especially moms — that continue to stand between another mother struggling with a frothingly-spitting-angry child and the only exit. To the four of you standing there with your angelic 9 month olds… when I rolled my eyes? It was actually AT you (and also the memory of me, when I was you), not my screaming kid. I saw your round-eyed shock and smug superiority. You think this won’t be you? Ha, only

—-> because you are stupid. <-----

It will be you, maybe even worse for you because that 9 month old of yours appeared to weigh about the same as my three year old. Assuming average growth, you’ll be sweating a ton more than I was today.

However, even smug me would have OPENED THE DOOR for the other mom.

Don't let the sweet look fool you