Getting into the Christmas spirits

IMG_0322

You read that right.

If you are someone who loves the holidays, you’re probably enjoying these last few days in the run up to Christmas. If you are someone who just worked 30 hours over a weekend you’re thinking they are incredibly poorly timed.

The Christmas theme at my house this year is: The Who’s house after the Grinch ransacked it, only the Grinch never came back. There is no tree. No wreath. No wrapped gifts. A few sad holiday cards, sent by dear souls who haven’t fallen into the black hole of capitalist chaos, sit on a table in my empty living room. (That’s right. The Grinch even took the furniture.)

The reminders are everywhere that I am behind. My email is full of messages screaming “last chance” and “ends today.” Too which I respond, “Delete you.”

As I walk through the beautifully adorned downtown skyways on my way to work, the Muzak reminds me that Santa’s on his way. “You say that like it’s a good thing,” I mutter.

And when I enter the post office and see the “We appreciate your business” sign on the door, I think, “No. No, you do not. If you did there wouldn’t be 20 people holding large boxes in this line, and you would not be chatting up the person you’re serving with news of your grandkids.”

Today I’m taking a day off to see if I can actually make this holiday thing work out this year. (Which explains why I’m spending time blogging, right?) I have a list as long as my arm and will burn a tank of gas driving from here to there. As of 8:00 a.m., I had already hit the “who are you kidding” stage of my day, and mentally removed a few items.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like another memorable year where I served spaghetti and meatballs for Christmas dinner. (Tip to readers: if you have to decide at the last minute between going to the liquor store before it closes and going to the grocery store before it closes, choose the liquor store. I guarantee your guests will not notice what you serve them for dinner.)

But I must away. The malls await me. I go armed with 60% off coupons for this and that. (It seems the only people more desperate than me this time of year are the retailers.)

Wish me luck.

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.

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.”

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

V is for Vitamins (especially D)

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

Every working parent (OK, every parent) dreads the SICK DAY(S) that throw you off your schedule. At best, you’re juggling work calls from home while heating up some soothing chicken broth. At worst, you spend the whole day doing laundry while covered in unmentionable substances.

While we eat a reasonably nutritious diet, there are a few vitamin supplements I encourage my kids to take on a regular basis. And I’ve got to tell you, sick days are a rarity at our house. Each of my kids takes an age-appropriate multi-vitamin, and these two additional supplements I insist on:

  • Vitamin D because we live in a northern climate where something like 120% of the population is vitamin D deficient. While only my daughter has actually been tested (and found to be D-ficient) I have the whole family take it as an immune- and energy- booster.)
  • Acidophilus, for digestive (well, intestinal) health. No details, please, but this is a good one – and was recommended to me for teens battling acne, too.

What are the go-to supplements at your house? Am I missing anything?

Read the series at A is for About

U is for Underwear

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

I learned this trick from a resourceful college roommate – if you have 30 pairs of underwear, you need only do your laundry once a month.

Well, I don’t take it quite that far, but having a good two week’s worth in the drawer can make life a lot easier. After all, if a kid is looking for a pair of jeans to wear to school, you can always respond, “Take one out of the dirty laundry.” But you’d have to be pretty desperate to do the same thing if they’re hunting for clean underwear.

I stock up on socks for the same reason. I think the socks in our house would disintegrate if they had to endure two consecutive days of wear. We generate some pretty disheartening laundry at our place. I’ve often compared it to toxic waste.

(And one more laundry-reducing trick, for the more devious among you – you know those towels that get thrown in the wash after one use? Pull ’em out, let them dry, fold them, and return them to the bathroom. No one will ever know the difference.)

Read the series at A is for About

T is for To-Go (and 300)

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

It’s the bane of every sports parent – the 6:00 game/practice/class that makes it virtually impossible to feed people on a normal schedule. At those times, the lure of the golden arches and its equally unhealthy brethren can loom pretty large.

Well, I decided to compromise on those nights where a family meal is not in the cards. Yes, we eat in the car. But we eat what I was going to serve them anyway.

Granted, this is not my preferred way to deliver the evening meal. But there are nights I just have to admit that I cannot feed my family in one room, at the table, and still get where we have to go.

On these nights, I send my kids to the car where they buckle up, and then I hand them a plate full of food to eat on the way.

It’s not beautiful, but some nights it’s the best I can do. And at least I’m not super-sizing anything.

(Oh, and the 300? Turns out this is my 300th post. Sounds impressive until I realize how long I’ve been blogging and do the math.)

Tomorrow…U is for Underwear

Read the series at A is for About

S is for Stash (of Cash)

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

Well, it’s not a lot of cash. It’s just enough to keep me from ending up in a pickle.

Mornings at our house are often a mad dash. Although I’m usually careful to gather my things the night before, I live in almost unreasonable fear that I will leave the house some morning without my wallet. And that I won’t realize it until the end of the day when, once again in a mad rush, I will find I’m unable to exit the  parking garage at work.

Well, everyone has some paranoia or other. This is mine. To combat it, I tuck a twenty dollar bill in a safe location, where it will not be pilfered by my children, for just such an emergency.

It’s not much, but I’ll take my peace of mind where I can get it.

Tomorrow…T is for To-Go (no, not that kind of to-go)

Read the series at A is for About