Teen housekeeping

bike ramp 1Every day before I leave for work I produce a list of chores. It is in an easy-to-read, table format. Responsibilities are clearly assigned. And for the most part, the chores get done.

But there’s still a tortilla sitting on the arm of the couch in the TV room.

And there is the problem, in a nut shell. All that gets done is what I specify. And I forgot yesterday to add to the list, “Please pick up the tortilla in the basement TV room.”

A tortilla! Courtesy of the very same child who once accidentally lured a mouse into his bedroom by leaving a tortilla under his bed. They’ve learned nothing.

When I worked at home, I knew I was doing most of the heavy lifting when it came to housework, but I had no idea that I was single-handedly keeping chaos from my door. The evidence of our reduced housekeeping state is everywhere. The four-foot weeds in the yard and the cobwebs in the corners are bad enough. It’s that other stuff I can’t stand, like the gum underneath my cabinet counter. The silverware under the couch. And the vast expanse of laundry, everywhere but in the dirty-laundry depositories conveniently located in every room.

I keep holding out that one day my kids will wake up, realize they are pigs, and spontaneously scrub the kitchen floor. So far, nothing. The only person who has awakened to my plight is my extremely bored nanny, who helpfully empties the dishwasher every day and puts everything in the wrong place. Making dinner at my house is like a treasure hunt with a low payout.

I had a glimmer of hope yesterday. I returned home from work to discover that my youngest son and his friends had weeded the path at the side of the yard. It was pristine – not a weed in sight.

“Finally,” I thought, “Someone doing a chore just because it needs to be done!”

Turns out they weeded so they could build a bike jump. A gum wrapper on your rug is acceptable; a weed on the approach to the bike jump is not.

At least they have standards. I’ll take what I can get.

I love a parade

Sarah Day:

Celebrate independence today, however you choose. Happy 4th of July!

Originally posted on Parent Your Business:

IMG_0696It is my privilege to attend an annual 4th of July parade that defines what small town celebrations are all about. Each year, we anticipate representatives from all modes of transportation – tractor, truck, car, horse. We cheer loudly for the bands and the veterans. We vie for the free water and hotdogs, and the kids risk life and limb to retrieve candy from the street.

I love this parade. Its main asset is that it changes little from year to year, and let me tell you, there is much comfort in predictability.

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

The mammoth is looking a little warm. He probably wasn’t meant for this weather.

IMG_0673 There is a lot of liberty going on here.

IMG_0694

All the emergency vehicles are in the parade, so don’t light the barbecue until it’s over.

IMG_0675

Not sure which I like best – the mariachi band or the polka band (I…

View original 84 more words

A simple summer bucket list

IMG_0021Life is busy. Life is stressful. And even though summer is a time to relax and enjoy the outdoors, the reality is you still have to go to work, clean the house, pay the bills, deal with the ups and downs of a life. My summer bucket list is simple. I want to:

  • Sit for a few moments with my face to the sun.
  • Enjoy a glass of wine or two with a friend.
  • Arrange some flowers from my garden for the house.
  • Watch the deer in my yard without worrying about what they’re eating.
  • Enjoy the green around me, even if some of it is weeds.
  • Read a good book. Or two. Or six.
  • Share an evening meal on the porch with my family.
  • Experience a few moments of pure, uncompromised joy.

It’s not too much to ask. Is it?

This is a post for the SITS Girls “Stop the Summer Slump” challenge

The perfect summer spot

IMG_0296This is a post for the SITS Girls “Stop the Summer Slump” Challenge.

Behold, the spot that makes my summer perfect. I know a lot of parents who hate the trek to the beach – the sand, the noise, the hassle. I love it. I have spent many an afternoon with this view.

I’ve worked under an umbrella while my kids played on the dock. Spent an afternoon with a good book in the hazy sun. Been one of the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. Picnicked on a quiet evening after most others have gone.

I’ve changed diapers in the family changing room. Chased a two-year-old through the shallows. Built sand castles. Visited with other parents while our kids swam and shouted in the water. Eyeballed teens hanging out together on the hill, not interfering, but providing my presence as needed (and also my cash for concessions, of course.) Watched a bald eagle circle the kids on the dock.

I’ve been happy here. Sad here. Content. Frustrated. Angry. At peace.

When my children are gone, out in the world (and that day will come all too soon) this is the spot that will come to mind when I think of summer. And I may just head over to sit in this spot, for an hour or two. To remember. And feel at peace.

Didn’t mean to take an off ramp

IMG_0017A few years back, I worked on a project for a large, local corporation on why women “off ramp” from their careers – leave a promising job despite the fact that they’ve educated themselves and fought their way up the ladder. In this particular workforce, we found two reasons:

  • They were leaving to care for young children – these women tended to be in their early 30’s and most intended to re-enter the workforce
  • They were leaving because they were deeply dissatisfied with their careers – these women tended to be 40 or older and many left for self-employment or consulting work

It was a little frightening to see myself in the profiles we developed for that project. I left for both reasons. I had my children late in life, and I hit both of these crossroads simultaneously. I had progressed in my job about as far as I could go, and the other jobs that were available to me were just more of the same. And I had no time to care for my kids, put a decent meal on the table.

I wanted to start a new phase of my career, not exit. I threw myself into my work seeking a different kind of success.

I loved consulting, for a while. But I was surprised to find myself, ten years later, again deeply dissatisfied – this time with the isolation of my work, my home office, the time I spent with my now teenaged kids who didn’t really need me for more than transportation and basic supervision.

It was time to make a change again. So I did.

The good news is that much has changed in the ten years I was on my own. I found a job easily, despite the horror stories you hear about how hard it is to find a job when you are a) not early in your career; b) have been self-employed; c) need a little flexibility to manage family. Granted, it’s contract work – but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to pick up where I left off and contribute in a positive way.

But my mind keeps going back to those young women we talked to and their stories. How hard it was to get anyone to take them seriously when they were ready to go back to work. How they were offered less money than they were making before kids because they had “taken a break”. How they endured comments like “We aren’t sure you’ll be able to multi-task.” Really? Who multi-tasks better than a stay-at-home mom?

See, the thing is, I didn’t think I was taking an “off ramp”. I thought I was just taking the alternate route. And I’m guessing many of them thought so too.

This post is part of the SITS Girls Stop the Summer Slump writing challenge.

 

Anatomy of a working mom’s evening

rain

4:15 – Learns little league is cancelled due to rain. Relishes the thought of an evening with no activity. Decides she can probably make those Vietnamese noodle salads for dinner after all.

4:30 – Receives text that younger son is leaving for a friend’s house and will return at 6:30.

4:45 – Finds out son will be bringing a friend home with him at 6:30; mentally adds one more for dinner.

5:00 – Packs up items to work at home the following day to avoid another rainy, congested commute.

5:15 – Leaves work. Raining. Spends 35 minutes in stop and go traffic.

5:50 – Stops at grocery store to buy remaining items needed for Vietnamese noodle salads. Ends up spending $88 on…well, who knows.

6:10 – Loads groceries in the rain. Splashed by passing car.

6:20 – Arrives home; pours a glass of wine.

6:30 – Starts to boil water for rice noodles; chops vegetables; chops leftover chicken and stretches it from 4 servings to 5.

6:45 – Puts egg rolls in oven. Wonders why younger son and friend are not yet home.

7:00 – Tracks down younger son and finds out he needs a ride. Drains rice noodles and hopes for the best. Instructs older son to listen for the timer, flip the egg rolls, then reset the timer for 15 minutes. Asks him to repeat instructions.

7:15 – Picks up younger son and friend, in the rain.

7:30 – Arrives home to find rice noodles in glutinous heap and egg rolls removed from oven in complete disregard of the instructions. Older son deflects blame, says, “(Daughter) told me to take them out of the oven.”

7:45 – Throws glutinous heap in the trash, egg rolls back in oven, and cooks second package of rice noodles.

8:00 – Constructs salads individually to account for children’s dislikes. There are many.

8:09 – Serve salads; sends guest’s salad flying when teenage daughter pulls out a chair and hits her in the elbow.

8:10 – Scoops salad up off table and makes daughter switch with guest. Rubs bruised elbow.

8:11 – Thinks about pouring another glass of wine and decides against it.

8:20 – Kids finish eating.

8:30 – Still in work clothes, starts dishes with kids milling around uselessly. Starts to get a little irritated. Sends them off to various rooms to pick up the afternoon’s detritus.

8:45 – Friend heads for home. Kids scatter.

9:00 – Realizes that folders needed to work at home the next day are sitting on desk at the office. Balances heading into the office after all with trying to reconstruct needed information. Opts for reconstructing needed information.

9:30 – Gets kids to bed. Throws wet laundry in the dryer. Starts another load. Cleans cat box. Wishes she’d changed out of work clothes before cleaning cat box.

10:00 – Thinks about turning on the TV but too tired. Opts for turning in. After all, tomorrow’s another day in a paradise.

10:15 – Switches second load of laundry and sets up the morning’s coffee.

10:45 – Hits the pillow with this thought of gratitude, “At least I didn’t have to sit through baseball in the rain like we did on Monday.”

Z is for Zzzzzz

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

It seems reasonable that coming on the heels of my last post I would be thinking, talking and writing about sleep.

Oh, blessed sleep.

But I’m not going to talk about my own need for sleep tonight. I’m going to talk about kids’ need for sleep. My kids “check in” their phones at night – they must be in the kitchen where I can easily find them. But based on the constant buzzing those phones emit throughout the late evening hours, there are a lot of kids who barely sleep at all.

Here’s a typical text string to my 12-year-old son (coming two hours after he’s hit the hay – and from a girl).

Hi.

Hello, are u there?

Where r u?

Why don’t u answer?

Now I’m depressed.

Where r u!! Pick up please!!

I can’t sleep, where r u?

And it goes on. Good grief, girl. Get some self-esteem. And by the way, you can’t sleep because you’re GLUED TO YOUR PHONE.

My kids were good sleepers as young kids, and we’ve kept that discipline in their tweens and teens. My teens catch a very early bus and it’s a challenge to get to the bus stop even for the well-rested.

And something good has come from all that firm insistence that they go to bed at a decent time – they like (and protect) their sleep. They’re up later on the weekends, but weekdays they all turn in at a reasonable hour. Makes for easier mornings (and evenings) when your kids love to sleep.

So one of the best tips I can give you, as your kids grow, is demonstrate the value of a good night’s sleep – for yourself, and for them.

Good night, everyone…it’s time to put the A to Z Challenge to bed. Thanks for reading.

Read the series at A is for About

Y is for Yawn

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

That’s it – I’m tapped out. With two days to go in the A to Z Challenge I’ve hit the wall.

It is Wednesday. So far this week our family schedule has included:

  • 1 lacrosse game
  • 3 lacrosse practices
  • 2 baseball games
  • 2 baseball practices
  • 2 dance classes
  • 2 dance team practices
  • 1 haircut
  • Two band concerts
  • 1 batting practice
  • 3 workouts
  • 1 field crew shift
  • And last, but by no means least, 1 trip to urgent care (which believe me, is a blog post in and of itself)

We didn’t get to all this stuff. But we got to most of it. Oh, and work. I went to work.

But the real kicker is the announcement from my 11-year-old, as he headed off to bed (late) this evening, that he volunteered to bring corn bread to school tomorrow for his challenge reading class.

So after only a little fussing, I made corn bread. Why, you ask, would a challenge reading class require corn bread? I really couldn’t say. And why, you ask, would I bow to such an unreasonable request? Because I was too tired to resist, of course. I am dog tired.

So I’m headed to bed, without a tip for working parents other than this:

You see that list above? Yeah, don’t do that.

Tomorrow….Z is for Zzzzzzz

Read the series at A is for About

X is for Xtra

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

Cheap, I know, but I’ve left out one of my favorite tips and I need to find a spot for it. So the spot is here. It’s a tip for the easiest, fastest, most gratifying dinner ever.

Are you ready?

It starts with a slow cooker, a pork roast and a cup or two of leftover coffee. Really. If you’re wondering how I discovered this amazing combo, it’s easy. One day, I just threw  the leftover coffee over the pork as a marinade because it happened to be sitting there. This was a true stroke of spontaneous genius.

To finish the meal, set the slow cooker on low as you leave for work, and shred the pork when you return. Done.

Of course, you’ll probably want to throw a few additional items over that pork, so here are three tested ideas:

  1. Sprinkle the pork with a TBSP of cocoa, and pour over it half a jar of whatever salsa you have in the refrigerator.
  2. Rub the the pork with garlic and ginger – powdered if you must, but fresh is better. Pour in 1/4 cup soy sauce (I like mine low salt) and a TBSP of something sweet – maple syrup, agave syrup, brown sugar, honey – whatever you want.
  3. Pour a good dose of your favorite BBQ sauce in. It really requires nothing more if you’re using the coffee.

Depending on the mood, we eat the pork on buns, toast, baked potatoes, noodles, tortillas…The best part – it makes a ton so it’s good for doubling up as tonight’s dinner-after-the-baseball-game will attest: leftover pulled pork on corn tortillas with sour cream, avocado slices, cilantro, salsa, and a little shredded cheese.

The meal practically makes itself. And you don’t have to throw out OR drink that last cup of coffee.

Read the series at A is for About

W is for What Was I Thinking

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

The A to Z Challenge is drawing to a close and I am darn near out of ideas. It doesn’t help that the end of the challenge corresponds to those ridiculous letters that so few people use – X, Y and Z. Go ahead, defend them if you must. I will not be convinced.

I was so psyched out by the terrible trio that I forgot poor old W, which is not a bad letter. It’s serviceable in its way. So I’m just going to wing out a few tips that include a W. Sorry, it’s the best I can do:

  • When you fold the wash, sort it as you fold according to the room it goes in. This takes a lot of space, but a fraction of the time to put it all away.
  • When you can, dust with a slightly wet wipe to keep all that crap from floating around in the air.
  • Whistle while you work. Sorry, lame.
  • When you have a dozen half-drunk water bottles around, use them to water your plants. It very slightly reduces the guilt of putting all that plastic in the waste stream.
  • When you pull weeds, pull all  weeds of the same type until they are gone – a particularly helpful tip if you have a clueless kid or two weeding with you. P.S. Start with the tallest weed.
  • When you’re asked to bring a snack or dessert to a kids’ party, bring cubed up watermelon. It’s cheap, it’s fast to prepare, it’s hydrating, and it will be gone in minutes. Seriously, you cannot bring enough of the stuff.
  • If you’re stuck waiting during kids’ sports practice, go for a walk. I do this all summer when my kids are at  lacrosse practice and it’s a wonderful way to end the day.

That is all. I’m going to go off to meditate on X, Y and Z.

Read the series at A is for About