Friday, June 28, 2013

Gems of Sisterly Love

We got our air conditioning fixed in our maroon awesome van. Now that we don't have to roll the windows down, I can hear Ellipses and Exclamation in the backseat. I didn't realize how many great conversations I was missing out on.

"I am a really good scratcher, so you better watch out!" said Exclamation, bragging about herself, and accompanying this observation with a hiss and a clawed hand darting out toward her older sister, trapped with her in the back seat of the van.

"When I grow up I'm going to put a sign on my door that says, "No Exclamations Allowed!"  (I hope she prints it up all cute in vinyl, maybe with some little flowers around it and she can change the background for each holiday.)  (Sorry this story is much funnier if you insert a real name in there)

We have all sorts of sisterly love going around this summer, and not just in the van. This morning, Exclamation and Ellipses were trying very hard to say nice encouraging things to Apostrophe about learning to ride her bike with no training wheels. They even made up a little song about how she would get it if she just kept practicing, practicing, practicing, practicing. It was really quite sweet. Apostrophe kept pouting her three-year-old glare at them. "Don't tawk to me! No! Don't tawk to me! I hate you."

Summer has been a bit difficult for everyone to adjust to. We all have to figure out how to be around each other every day, all day. And everyone is vying, all at once, as loud as they can, for my attention. Our routines are helping, but sometimes we have to lay down our bikes on a busy road and have a good old-fashioned slap fight.

One morning on our bike ride, as we rode down a slightly busy road in front of our neighborhood, Exclamation stopped suddenly and did not warn Ellipses she was stopping. Ellipses ran into her tire.

"YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE!" Exclamation yelled. She glared at Ellipses, got off her bike, laid it down on the road, and walked back to swing her open-handed fists at Ellipses's own open-handed fists, making a great picture of family love. I pedaled away from them, pretending to not know the homeless-looking children fighting in the road.

Sometimes I guess you just need a good slapfight to make yourself feel better. I haven't tried it yet, but maybe I'll ask Mike if he wants to argue by standing two feet away from each other slapping our hands at each other in the air, kind of like we're giving each other angry high-fives, or playing a super-charged hand game of Zing. Zing. Zing.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Introducing Ellipsis, Exclamation, Apostrophe and Ampersand

I read that rabid wolves will eat your children if you use their real names on your blog. I don't really believe this, but somewhere deep down a primal fear of wolves eating my children combined with some of my neuroses about the Internet is combining to bring about a change in my blog. I'm just not going to use my kids' names anymore.

Besides my fear of wolves, there's another reason:

Storytelling is a powerful way to shape your life. Stories are how we know each other, how we know ourselves.

I believe my children have the right to tell their own stories-- to make their own way not overshadowed by my short-comings as a mother, my need to laugh at them and their craziness. In this small, small world where everyone googles their own name, and facebook stalks each other, stories are even more powerful. Little things live on.

We live in two worlds--the real world and the online world. I want my kids to be able to write their own story in both.  Of course, they may need a good edit now and then, but mostly I feel that their real-life selves have the right to not be overshadowed by the online persona that I create for them when I tell stories about them.

I used to snort at the people who used nicknames for their kids. What was wrong with real names? Blogging is about real life, right? Well, it's just one little part of life. It's one piece of the puzzle, maybe just an oar of a boat that sits on a big, big ocean.

It makes sense to use nicknames. Not that I think it won't be easy for people who know us to figure out which child I'm talking about, but putting up that one door between their real identity and my blogging will keep them from someday googling themselves and seeing themselves as slap-fighting, horrible children. Because they're not. Just sometimes.

And maybe it will give them the opportunity to tell their own story. And maybe one day when they write about how I locked them out of the house and threw away their toys in their memoir about their awful childhood, they will give me the same courtesy and use a pseudonym for me.

It's kind of hard to come up with nicknames. I'm thinking about just using numbers. But that seems so impersonal. And it's hard to write dialogue or stories that seem real when I'm writing.
For instance, look at this funny story and how weird it is with numbers.

"When I grow up I'm going to put a sign on my door that says, "No #2s Allowed!" said #1, emphatically.

Yeah, not so much. I thought of dressing up the Spanish word for the number. So we could have Una, Dosa, Tresa, Quatra. Or, I came up with a punctuation mark for each of them: Ellipsis, Exclamation, Apostrophe and Ampersand. I wish I would have thought of really naming them those names. Wouldn't that have been awesome?

I think that's it for my creative nicknames. I'm sticking with the punctuation.

Here's a breakdown:
Ellipsis-- Eight years old. Smartie, loves reading, tumbling and is pretty mild-mannered

Exclamation- Six year old. Determined, determined and more determined. She likes bike riding, crafting, and bossing her little sisters around.

Apostrophe-Three year old. Loves to play in water, sweet-tempered and sometimes sassy. Likes to help.

Ampersand--One year old. Loves screeching at her sisters, signs 'banana' and 'dog' and is the last hold on growing hair.  So far, she is somewhat predictable.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Swimming vs. running

I've been swimming a lot lately. My knees, which were going to magically heal once I stopped breastfeeding, did not read my goals and expectations for them and continue to ache if I even pretend to exert myself by pulling the wagon around the block with two children in it.

And by swimming a lot, I mean very little. Because with all of the activities that make swimming possible (dragging myself out of bed at 4:51 a.m., hitting snooze once, or twice, getting ready to go, arriving at the pool, showering so my hair won't turn green, showering again after the workout so I actually get to shower that day, getting dressed doing the secret towel dance in the locker room, rubbing vaseline into my disgusting, cracking heels, and then driving home), there is very little time for actual swimming.

I'm up to half a mile, which takes me about 20 minutes. All those other activities take 1 hour and 40 minutes, so that pretty much shoots my extravagant two hour workout time to heck. And notice that drying my hair is not on the list of events. It takes too much time. But I hear that frizzy, half-wavy hair is all the rage these days. And so are cutoffs and baggy t-shirts, and zero make-up.

I miss running. Running is far superior to any other activity. Let's compare:

Running: Grab your shoes and go.
Swimming: Grab your cap, googles, ear plugs, swim suit, flip flops, towel, shampoo and conditioner (does anyone else call conditioner "cream rinse"? I do and Mike thinks I am the craziest person ever), and go.

Running: Walk out the door. Run.
Swimming: Find a pool within 20 miles of your home. Find out when the pool's lap swim hours are. Go during the hours and hope someone will share their lane with you, instead of rudely telling you that there is not enough room, they were there first. (Roy Complex, I'm talking to you!)

Running: Breathe.
Swimming: Don't breathe, except at regularly scheduled intervals-- unless you enjoy water burning through your nasal cavity, then breathe all you want.

Running:  Enjoy the fresh air.
Swimming: Smell the chlorine.

Running: Ahhh! Sunshine, clouds, beauty all around.
Swimming: Fluorescent lights, cinderblocks, peeling pool bottom with someone's gum floating lazily on it.

Running: Smile and wave at the people you pass.
Swimming: Squint through your goggles at the feet of the old lady passing you in the next lane.

Running: It's just better.

Please knees, please stop hurting. Or at least retreat to a bearable pain that I can ignore while running.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer Survival

Last summer was rough. In fact thinking about this summer has given me chills of terror for the last month. I think I have actually lost a few hours of sleep thinking about my eight-year-old (#1) and six-year-old (#2) home all day, every day, slap-fighting each other, grabbing the poor, defenseless one-year-old (#4), whining incessantly, stealing toys from the three-year-old (#3), etc.

I would prefer to be one of those moms that looks forward to summertime, so I have a two-pronged attack this summer for a better time, or at least less memory of bad times.

1. Take up drinking. Not really. That might help with the memory part, but I don't think it would actually improve my summer or my children's lives. Plus, there's no money in the grocery budget for alcohol.

Real 1. Lower my expectations (isn't that kind of like drinking?). I've been warning the girls in my sternest, most-depressing-voice-ever that summer doesn't mean fun, it means extra chores. Three chores every day! Before anything fun can happen! AND I MEAN IT. And then I glare at them scarily. I do believe that I am setting myself up for an epic failure. Since summer started this week, I'm officially dialing it down, taking a step back and dropping the three chores expectation. I'm also not planning every minute and I'm going to chill out. My children will learn the value of hard work, but it doesn't have to be over my dead body. I still expect them to help and do at least one chore a day, practice their piano, read and not become too stupid.

2. Routines, routines, routines. So now that I've claimed to be all relaxed and super chill, my second prong involves routines that are set up to help me succeed. But I'm not going to freak out about my routines not being followed. Maybe just a little. In my head only though. And Mike is giving me Thursday evenings off, so if I freak out too much I can re-balance.

a. Meal time Routine: Help with preparation when possible/desired (by me), wash hands, set table, eat with manners (most of the time), clear plate, wash hands and face, help clean-up including sweeping and washing off table.

b. Morning Routine: Wake-up all children by 8:30ish. They are usually awake by then anyway. Breakfast (mealtime routine observed!), get ready for the day, bike ride (We copied my friend Kim and have a goal to ride 100 miles this summer, stopping only every few feet for a slap-fight when #1 accidentally runs into #2, who stops suddenly and was sure #1 did it on purpose), snack, piano practice, tv show.

c. Lunch Routine: I will make one item for lunch, if the kids don't like it, fine, they can make their own lunch. Today #2 ate grapes for lunch. She may have some stomach issues. This is fine. After lunch is free play time. 1:00p.m. begins the wrestle to get #3 to nap.  I'm going to fix that though. I'm going to get me a nice nap routine going on too. 2:00p.m. #4 naps.

d. Summer School Routine: I'm doing a small summer school for #2 and #1. Once #3 is napping, school begins. They have mats that we made a couple summers ago from paper that I laminated and they get those and sit on them. We sing a little welcome song, I read to them from a chapter book. I've chosen The BFG by Roald Dahl to begin with and plan to checkout other classic read-alouds from the library to read with them this summer. After a chapter of me reading we have private reading time. #2 reads to me (reluctantly with hatred and much cajoling) and #1 heads to my room to read her choice (she loves reading, but I remember she was once difficult to persuade.)

After about 15-20 minutes of this we fill out our reading charts and I present a short lesson on something. So far we have had lessons on menu-planning (graphing skills, right?) and music notes. I pretty much make that up right then. I plan to develop some plan for this, but haven't yet. After the lesson it's time for chores and then recess. Recess ends with a snack (#3 is awake by now)and then we are supposed to do something awesome. I haven't yet made it to this portion of the day without some interruption, so I'm still refining this. And that's okay.

A. Welcome Song
B. Read Aloud by Mom
C. Private Reading Time
D. Short Lesson
E. Chore
F. Recess
G. Snack
H. Project

e. Daddy Home Routine: Mike plays with the girls for a bit while I fix dinner, dinner routine, more play time, whatever.

f. Bedtime Routine for #2 and #1, (#3 and #4 should be having a bath at 7:30, at least every other day) 8:15 baths, get ready for bed, prayers at 8:45, family scripture reading, bed.

g. Leaving Routine: Warning 5 minutes to leaving. "Please get shoes and things needed for travel", Go to van.

Do you have routines? Running a household of six people seems awfully complicated to me. I'm hoping these routines will simplify my life, not make it crazier.
Now that I've got all these routines laid out, I just have to work in things like swim lessons and park day and playing with friends, and swimming and vacations. Fun times!!
Here's to a summer full of duck walking in regimented lines. I mean, a summer of fun and relaxation.