Friday, June 24, 2011

Early Rising

So, an interesting thing has happened these last two days.  A phenomenon that I can only explain as "it figures".  Actually, my husband was the first to notice this phenomenon- if it can be called that after only two mornings.  He walked into our bedroom this morning and said to me, very pointedly- "Don't ever tell me that 7 is too early for the kids to up and dressed and ready to go.  If they can do this on summer break, they can do it during school."  I, of course, mumbled something about "it's summer- leave me alone", and rolled back over into my pillow, narrowly managing to miss squishing the baby snuggled in with me since 4am.  

I chose to ignore the exasperated sigh.  My husband does not take too kindly to my being in bed when he leaves for work.  Despite all his modern beliefs about gender equality and the value of a two-family income, deep down (although he will probably never admit it) he's an old-fashioned man-- the type who expects his wife to be smiling at his bedside with a glass of Orange Juice- fully dressed and made-up by the time he opens his eyes.  While he showers, I should be ironing his shirt.  I should leave him at the door with a good-bye kiss, and have his dinner ready and the house clean by the time he walks in the front door-- still beautifully dressed and made-up.  He'd probably even prefer the perfectly curled hair and dresses of the iconic 60's, especially if I matched them with a pair of platform shoes. And he prefer I made some extra money in between his departure and return. 

But that's not what he got. Oh, I do iron his shirts on occasion, but I can't ever quite get them as stiff as the dry-cleaners, so why disappoint us both?  And me being up and dressed before him has only ever happened one time-- the morning I went into labor with Kolbie.  But I do normally have dinner ready by the time he gets home from work, and the house is usually somewhat clean-ish.  So, one and a half out of four isn't bad, in my opinion.  And I'm always happy to kiss him back (morning breath be darned!) if he comes to my side of the bed to say goodbye before he leaves for work-- and removes the pillow from over my head.  And the blankets.  And ignores the "don't wake me up yet!!!!" that normally comes from me around that time.  

But as to our summer-break phenomenon? He's right.  By 7:15, at the latest, these last two mornings, I've had wide-awake, dressed, and fed children-- children that I normally need to yell at at least four times in order to get them to the same status by 9:04 when the bus comes on a school morning.  Children that moan and groan about going to bed at 8:30 on a school night and still can't be pulled from a dead sleep twelve hours later. Children who, for the last two nights, have been allowed to stay up late (no, Kayton and Mason, summer time does not mean you don't have a bedtime, it's just that I'm more flexible with it), and yet have been getting up remarkably early.  It figures. 

I guess Summer Break isn't about the parents- and now I know what my Mom went through.  And while I'm not thrilled with this change in my children, I have to admit, it's not going to affect me all that much.  On Monday morning when they are up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, at 6:59, I'm still going to be in bed, head under the pillow.  Hey, my husband's up already.  Let him deal with them.  I'll take back over in two months when I have to fight with them to get out of bed at 8:25 to catch the school bus.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh, take me from home, where my wild children roam...

A few days ago, a friend forwarded me a story about a man who came home from work to find his home a mess, his children acting like banshees, and his wife lying in bed eating ice cream.  When he asked her what was wrong, she replied "You always ask me what I do every day-- well, today I didn't do it."  It was a cute anecdote, and my friend explained that she'd thought of me when she read it.  My first thought was... so, does she think I lay around doing nothing all day?  Then my less-paranoid instincts set in, and I realized that she was implying that I actually DID do something all day.  Well, friend, let me set you straight here.  You see, some days I do... but some days I don't.  Some days I'm motivated, excited, and my house is top to bottom clean.  Other days, well, hey, the library is there for a reason, and my house is a disaster area.  (although these are the days that I claim to my husband:  "the kids were just ON me all day.  I couldn't get a THING done.")

The thing about being a stay-at-home mom (or SAHM, as we've taken to calling ourselves in order to pretend that we are still in the working world and, therefore, acronyms have meaning) is that it's boring.  Well, maybe I shouldn't speak for every SAHM out there, but for me- a person who has been training since the age of 4 (back when you could start kindergarten whenever your Mom felt like throwing you into class) to have a career and interact with other intelligent professionals- well, spending all day doing non-high-school degree necessary work is plain boring.  Before you think that I don't appreciate my position, I do.  I am immensely grateful each and every day that my husband is able to provide for us so that I can stay home with these children, but I sure do miss getting dressed in the morning.  And wearing a bra.  And brushing my teeth.  
I am even more grateful for my status as a SAHM since I worked full-time when my first two were younger.  I remember the anguish and guilt of leaving my son at daycare (not my daughter-- she loved daycare, but Mason?  every day for four years he clung/ clang/ clinged? to me and cried for me not to leave him.  And I honestly felt that I did no parenting, since we'd get home from work/ daycare, make and eat dinner, and then the kids would be in bed.  So I never saw them.  And despite how luxurious that (occasionally) sounds now, back then it killed me.  When my oldest was born and I was preparing to go back to work, I called my Mom, in tears, because I'd have to leave my daughter with a babysitter.  My Mom said to me "The less time you spend with them, the more you appreciate the time you have with them."   Boy, was she right.  I'd like to appreciate the time with them a little bit more these days...

But with the first two it just made more sense to have a two-income family and have them in daycare;  when kids 3 and 4 came- well, I don't make THAT much money- and luckily, by then, my husband made as much as we did combined back with kids 1 and 2.  So it worked.  Sure, we still have the same quality of life we had eight years ago (ie. budget), but it works.  And he works.  And I "work at home". Which is boring.  Do YOU get excited over laundry?  HEY! Look how clean these clothes are!  And now I get to FOLD them?  YEAH!  

But to get back to the original story--the primary difference between myself and the protagonist mother is that, well, when my husband gets home from work, I make sure he knows exactly what I did all day.  For example: yesterday I cleaned the bathroom, so after eating dinner and explaining to my husband, in detail, just how long it took me to get dinner on the table, I took him on a tour of the bathroom.  "See, I mopped behind the toilet.  I  took THIS scrub brush and cleaned off that nastiness.  Look here-- see how neatly the medicine cabinet is arranged-- Wait!  I haven't shown you the best part!  All the bathtub toys right here. And oh-oh- hold on!--  here's your extra deodorant-- and did you see your new toothbrush?"  He's a good husband.  He pretends to be impressed.

This is my rather pathetic attempt to have him think that I actually did something constructive all day other than play on facebook, send a few emails, and turn on the cartoons for Kolbie.  I'm not sure he's buying it, but I feel like it's essential.  As it is, we already tend to have "conversations" regarding which of us has the worse life.  And they normally go something like this:
"It's so BORING changing diapers all day.
Yeah, well, it's not like my office is any more fun.
But at least you get to have adult conversation.
That would imply I work with adults.
Come on- you know what I mean.
Uh huh.  And you know what I mean.
Geeze, do you think all I do is lay around and do nothing?
(at this point he usually says nothing and just takes a long slow look around the house)
Seriously?  YOU could not handle staying home with these kids all day.
And YOU couldn't handle working every day to provide for a family of six knowing that if you loose your job, you and your family are screwed!
at which point I grumble: I wish I could loose THIS job...
To which he replies:  Why don't you and get a real job?
I'm TRYING!  But it has to be the Perfect job (so I can still sleep in, spend a lot of time with the kids when I want to, go to all school activities, and still pay enough for us to afford daycare and a bigger house/ mortgage)."  He tends to zone out during this litany of excuses.  

Sometimes the conversation ends here.  Other times it turns into a fight over kids, money, why I don't have a job-- all depending on the mood.  Sometimes it ends with: Do you want to have sex?  uh, sure, when the kids move out.  

But he's right.  I'm desperate for a job that gets me out of the home, away from the kids-- and yet still allows me to be with the kids when they need me.  And it's a difficult tightrope to walk.  I'm sure a lot of mothers out there are in the same boat-- the desire to be using their education, experience, big words--- fighting with their desire to be with their children.  (Although I do have one close friend who has managed to convince her husband of the necessity of continuing to be a SAHM even though her children have been in school for the last two years.  Not sure how she does it- or what she's doing- to make that work...but she's definitely doing something right at home, I'm sure.)  

I remember my father saying to me once when I was a girl, complaining about having to help my mom in the kitchen while my brothers got to go chop wood:  "Just because a woman CAN do everything a man can doesn't mean she SHOULD".  (He may not remember or admit to saying this, but he did.)  And I understand what he was saying.  He encouraged me to get an excellent education (UVA!), has given me advice every step of the way, and has been a mentor throughout my career, and yet when I was pregnant he didn't hesitate to say "Your only job while pregnant is growing a healthy baby."  (Granted, this had nothing to do with career and was more a loving father's attempt to alleviate my guilt over my laziness with the house-cleaning.  And to clarify for my father's sake:  this is his outlook toward his wife/daughter/ members of family.  He absolutely does not oppose women in the workforce in any way, shape, manner, or form- pregnant, mothers, or not.)  He just felt that there is no shame in a woman staying at home with her children.  

But, you know, sometimes, for me, there is.  Maybe because I know I'm not the most interactive mother and could be doing more with them during the day.  Maybe because the more time I spend with my children, the less time I want to spend with them (oh, come on now-- it's normal to feel this way- right?)  Maybe because I can't help but compare myself to colleagues who have foregone having children (or four children) in order to get ahead in their careers, and I've seen "what could have been".  Or maybe it's those student loan payments looming over my head that I keep putting on unemployment forbearance-- student loans for an education I'm not using since none of my children seem all that interested in management theory.  But sometimes I just get tired of laundry, toilets, cooking dinner, and entertaining toddlers.  I didn't get a Masters degree in order to be Master of my own home.  Some days I feel like I should have just received a degree in Home Economics.  (It would have made my Great-Aunt proud-- she was one of the first PhD's in our family, back in the 60's- Professor of Home Economics at the University of Mansfield.)  

Speaking of Economics, another email forward went around a few weeks ago regarding what a SAHM would get paid if she translated her skills to the working world--based on salaries of accountants, CEO's, house cleaners, day care providers, etc.  They estimated at about $170k, I believe it was, annually.  It was over six figures.  I know they were trying to make moms feel better, but let's be honest here.  The majority of the day is spent doing tasks that even a high school diploma doesn't require-- so that's minimum wage.  A few hours a month we may do budgeting and bill paying... but really?  Enough to warrant an "Accountant" salary?  I think not.  And since we're only managing a bunch of uneducated, unskilled, non-employable children, well, I don't think we qualify for that CEO salary either.  The one thing I'll give them is the overtime, since our day does not end at 5:00.  But then again, neither does my husband's, since he helps with bedtime, discipline, entertainment, etc. when he gets home from work (sometimes... I'll give this to him sometimes).

So, I guess the only realistic way I can look at this is as an unpaid vacation.  A somewhat boring and redundant- no restaurants, beaches, or wait staff-- vacation; but a vacation none-the-less.  Because let's face it, my husband is right:  As annoying as it may be to deal with children all day, it's less annoying than dealing with adults who act like children.  
At least I can drink on the job.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sum.. Sum.. Summer Time!

Well, it's finally Summer here in Maryland (well, almost), but while the weather is beautiful, it brings with it a whole nother level of problems for me and mine.  Well, let me adapt that to say:  for mine husband.  Now, every marriage has its problems-- not enough money, too many kids, not enough alone time, too much work... you get the point.  But with summer comes an addition to our normal list of marital disputes.

You see, I was raised in the country where  my mother would kick us outside, lock the door, and not expect to see us again until lunch-- at which point we'd be locked back outside until dinner.  We swam in a creek, chased fireflies at night, and knew that if we saw a snake we needed to run (not because it would chase us, but because a sibling would chase us with the snake on the end of a stick).  And that about sums up my summer childhood.  It was wonderful and innocent- although I'm sure my mother's memories involve a lot of our complaining about it being too hot, and who hit who first, and who threw whose shirt in the creek.  But memory is a wonderful thing-- we can choose only to remember the parts that we want to use to justify our current actions.  And I am forced to do that each summer as, for some yet completely understood reason, I married a man from suburbia whose idea of summer fun was lying in an air-conditioned house watching tv.
And therein lies the root of our annual dose of summer fighting.

My husband is a paranoid father.  He is convinced that barefoot children means we are going to have to take out splinters and stingers nightly (I myself am always barefoot); that swimming is going to result in the drowning of at least one of our children (and he didn't think it was funny when I pointed out that we'd still have at least three... so... survival of the fittest?); that ticks are covering the heads of our children and they all should be shaved bald for safety (ticks, schmicks.  I never got lyme disease, they won't either); and that dogs carry all sorts of diseases.  (Well, the dog issue tends to last year round.  Specifically, if he sees the dog scratch himself he goes into an angry monologue about fleas in the house and the need to enforce a 100% dog-outdoor policy.  I was pleased to inform him that the Howard County Animal Control frowned on that.)

And while I say "Let the kids enjoy the sun!"  He grumbles about the dangers facing them out of doors. The only thing we tend to agree on is that sunblock isn't necessary, despite all the evidence to the contrary.  Personally, as a pale freckly skinned woman prone to sunburn, I love to watch my kids get darker and darker each day they spend in the sun.  And I think JMahl appreciates that during the summer the kids look more like him than they do me, although he'd probably never say that out loud.  (Aw, shush-- I do put sunblock on the baby! and the rest of them when I remember...)

Granted, the older two have somewhat outgrown his fears.  Sure, he still got upset when I showed him the video of Kayton (our 8 year old) flying Winslet-DiCaprio style on the bow of my father's sail boat. ("Are you trying to end up on the 10:00 news?") and when Mason (our 7 year old) is excited to tell about the crocodile he is certain he saw at the pond down behind our house I have to listen to "You let him go down there alone? Do you want to never see him again?", but in general, he's loosened up a bit with them.  Or maybe he sees them as a lost cause.

But in regards to the two little girls, he's as paranoid as ever.  Take for example, the wading pool.  Like many mothers of toddlers, I went to Target and bought a cute little blow up wading pool that holds maybe six inches of water.  And the little girls love it.  The Father does not.  He is convinced that Micah is going to drown in this pool.  He's gone so far as to inform me that Micah is NOT allowed in that pool.  Period.  I went so far as to ignore him.  What type of cruel mother would I be to hold a screaming, fighting, begging to get in the water one year old on the sidelines in 95 degree heat as her three year old sister splashes and frolics with her bucket and water toys?  Now granted, maybe JMahl wouldn't be so paranoid if I hadn't told him about having to rescue a possibly-drowning Micah from an over-zealous water attack from Kolbie that left her flailing on her back like an upside down turtle in four inches of water... but, as I told him, that's bound to happen sometimes, and that's why the pool says in big letters on the side in four different languages: "Never leave children unattended".  (Sad that the blow-up pool industry has to remind parents of their responsibilities, but hey.) JMahl, for the most part, once he realized I was ignoring his command, has taken to just avoiding the issue altogether and goes inside (air conditioning and tv) while the kids play in their water death trap.

But his paranoia has just recently hit an all new level, courtesy of the small red bump that appeared a few days ago on the side of Kolbie's neck.  Me?  I wasn't even thinking of it and definitely wasn't prepared when he asked me, in the serious voice that is most often reserved for test results and class bully issues, "what is that bump on Kolbie's neck?". So I looked at her neck and responded, quite aptly, with "a bug bite".  Yeah, that didn't suffice.
Are you sure it's a bug bite?
Well... I'm not an expert, but it could be a bee sting.
A bee sting!  How'd she get stung by a bee?
Uhmm... she's been outside all day, and I don't know that it's a bee sting, but it could be.  Or maybe it's a mosquito bite.
Well... are you going to get it checked out?
Uhmm... No??
(At this point he made a little sound of pure annoyance and I decided to leave the room before my own feeling of annoyance blossomed into something more.)

Fast forward two days and I decide to take Kolbie in to the doctor's to get her checked for a UTI.  She's taken to having a lot of accidents and wetting the bed at night- something that is highly unusual for her.  So I tell my husband at dinner last night that we had a doctor's appointment for today.
Oh.. you're getting her neck checked out?
Uh, what's wrong with her neck?
The bite!  Aren't you getting her bite checked out?
Nooooo... you don't take a child to the doctor for a bug bite unless A/ she is having some sort of reaction-- which she's not or B/ you are crazy-- which you are, but I'm not.

End of the matter, right?  So we go to the doctor's this morning, get her checked out.  I come home and shoot my husband a quick email:  "Doctor said she was fine.  No UTI."
Response:  "What did he say about the bite?"

Are you kidding me... did he really think...?  So, sure.  I did it.  I lied.  Because as paranoid as my husband is-- and as crazy as his paranoia makes me--- I love him.  And sometimes when you love someone, you have to lie to them.
"He said it was fine.  To bring her back in if she develops a reaction to it."

And Summer hasn't even officially started yet.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Letter to the People Who Stole My House

Okay, so it wasn't really my house.  But considering I've spent the last three months envisioning my life in it, telling the children stories about their new bedrooms, fantasizing about the kitchen and (more often) the soaking tub-- yes, it was sort of my house.  And I know my husband told me not to get my hopes up.  And my Real Estate Agent told me not to get my hopes up.  But I got my hopes up.  And now you've dashed them to the ground.  

I get it.  You have more money than I and can therefore afford to pay cash for it.  And I get it, the banks prefer cash to a mortgage payment.  I completely understand that.  But did you really NEED that house as much as I did?  Did you even want it as badly as I did?  No?  I didn't think so.  Or maybe you do.  

Maybe you, too, have four children and have been struggling to find a home to fit them all that falls within a reasonable price point.  No, I have no problem with my kids sharing a room-- but let's be honest here, Mason, as the only boy surrounded by three sisters, NEEDS his own room. And it's just not fair to give Mason his own room if Kayton, older by 14 months, doesn't get her own room-- so that (with another room for the little girls and a guest room so that our extended family will start spending the night again instead of opting to drive the extra hour to stay with one of my brothers who have fewer/ no children and, therefore, an extra bedroom) means we need at least five bedrooms.  

But maybe you do have childless family members who want their privacy.  And maybe you too are desperate to have that space for them so you don't feel ostracized when they all go elsewhere for the night while you lie in bed crying, taking it personally, that just because your last single brother went and got a fiancee who now visits with him he's no longer happy sleeping on the couch.  And so maybe you do have the need for those five bedrooms.  BUT, do you have in-laws who want to move in with you as well?   HA!  I thought not!  

Do you know how hard it is to find a home with a separate guest house for your in-laws?  Yes, I know there are a lot of houses on the market that have in-law suites.  I've looked at every single one of them.  But do you know what they all have in common?  An attached in-law suite.  
Now, I love my in-laws.  They are wonderful people and there have been times that I've thought of leaving my husband but stayed simply for his parents.  There have also been times my in-laws have begged me not to leave their son simply so they can keep me as a daughter-in-law (well, I'm assuming here)...   but I do not want to share a bedroom wall with them.  It's bad enough when your son walks into your bedroom in the morning and asks "what was that "uh-uh" noise I just heard?"  It's worse if your mother-in-law hears that and doesn't say anything, just subtlety asks you the next morning if you're sure your husband's "surgery" worked since you definitely don't want anymore children... right?  

And I, for one, don't want my mother-in-law listening to me yell at her son.  Oh, she's a smart woman and would probably not say anything about it--plus, she's married to his father so has a pretty darn good idea of what I have to put up with on a daily basis-- but if we ever get into one of those "just because your parents did that doesn't mean it was the right way to do it" fights (oh, come on now, every married person with children has said that at least once!), I don't need them hearing.  

But hey, maybe you are in the same boat.  Maybe you too have four (or more) children, in-laws that want to move in with you, and are desperate to have just a little more legroom in your living room; that one extra bathroom; that cute little cubby hole in which you told your son he could hide his important "boy stuff" from his sisters. But I don't think you are.  

So, tell me, did you really need to buy the ONE house in this town that is affordable, has at least five bedrooms, AND has a separate guest house for the in-laws to move into?  I thought not.  And yet you did.  

Now, I'm not going to say the house was perfect.  It was uncomfortably close to the McDonalds, but this fact seemed to be only negative for me.  My husband and eldest child seemed thrilled with the fact that they could walk to their fast food addiction.  And it didn't have a basement, which somewhat bothered my husband, since he likes his man-space-- but that thrilled me, since I saw it as a passive-aggressive means to keeping him in the room with me at all times.  
And sure, it's going to require a small mortgage payment in order to put up enough trees to keep the big "M" from shining in your daughter's (assuming you have one-ha!) bedroom window.  But maybe you like that view.  

And now you get to enjoy it.  So, I hope you're happy.  

If you see my car driving past your house-- it's just me saying goodbye to my house.  So don't call the police.  I promise as soon as I find a new-perfect house, I'll stop stalking yours.  
But if you move in and discover that all of a sudden a surplus of McD's trash is being thrown over the fence into your backyard-- well, that's not me.  I would never do something like that-- even to someone that stole my house.  

But if that inspires you to put the house back up for sale... well, let my agent know!