All of our weeks are busy. But this one is taking the cake - (literally, there are two cakes to be made…) In the space of seven days, I am supposed to work full time, plan and organize two birthday parties, hold parent-teacher conferences, attend a two-day volleyball tournament, host an extra-credit after-school activity for my students, and get ready for a spring-break trip out of town. Seems doable, right? Oh! And also parent six kids.
Bill and I were having a “calendar meeting.” You know, where I get the planner and a notepad and he gets… a grumpy look on his face? Wine helps. (Not him – he’s still grumpy, but the wine helps me not notice.)
We were outlining who would do which pick up, drop off and parent-teacher meeting. (See, I’m required to be the teacher most of the time, but occasionally I get to be the parent! One really weird time last year, I was both for Sam.) The calendar meeting was going fairly smoothly until Bill reminded me that he had a business trip and would be gone for four days. Ok. I can work with this. I’m sure I can handle this on my own. Except for the part where I have to be in six places at the same time. But no worries, that only happens four times this week. [*Pours another glass of wine.]
A few hours later, I was feeling confident that I could handle the demands of the week on my own, and was finished making my 10,000 to-do lists so that I wouldn’t forget to buy poster board for Sam’s history project, make an artist palette and veterinarian badge for the girls’ career day at school, and buy milk and cake mix.
Then the news came on, predicting the biggest storm of the year to hit on Tuesday afternoon…and continue through Wednesday night. Um… hmmm… Ok. I can live through this too. If it is really so bad that I can’t drive over the snow in the driveway, then school will be closed and I can just stay home, right? Maybe then I’ll even get a blog post written. Forget the wine. I’m moving on to rum.
Then the doctor called.
Could we please bring Gabby down to Sioux Falls for the day? On Monday. He’s sure we’ll be out of there by 6pm…meaning we just have to figure out what to do with the other five kids for an entire day, in a different city.
Help! I need somebody! Not just anybody…
Forget the wine and the rum. I’m calling Grandma.
Copyright © Jody Hoffman 2012
Things I’ve said 101 times today:
Pick up your stuff
Chew with your mouth closed
I love you
Things I’ve heard 101 times today:
She started it!
The dog ate it.
Things I have 101 of in my house at this very moment:
Boxes of Girl Scout Cookies
Pieces of unfolded laundry
Toys not put away in the yard
What I would do with 101 extra minutes:
Take a shower
What I would like do with 101 extra dollars:
Get a massage
Pay someone to watch the kids so I could sleep.
What I would actually do with 101 extra dollars:
Buy soccer cleats
Bribe the children to fold laundry
101 Things I’m Thankful For:
12. Rear Entertainment Systems
21. Remote starter for car
22. Heated seats
24. substitute teachers
26. My sister
27. The fact that my sister is using technology to teach Levi to read from 2000 miles away.
28. Saturday morning TV
30. Shelves for shoes
31. Soft toilet paper
33. My mom makes the Halloween costumes
34. Bill’s ability to fix it, whatever “it” is
35. Long lay-overs
36. Frequent flier miles
37. Paperbacks with pink covers
38. Trees on my street
39. Kids who are old enough to take care of themselves
40. Students who get their work done on time
41. Students who care
42. Warm slippers
43. The beach
44. Flotation devices
45. Key Lime Pie
47. Online Shopping
48. Malls with more than one floor
49. Bill paying the bills for the shopping
50. Missing the endless freight train on the way to work
51. Dora the Explorer
52. Hotel reward points
54. Google docs
55. Mechanical pencils
56. The circus – my kids love it!
57. The fact that the circus only comes once a year – it’s expensive!
58. The County Fair
59. See number 57
60. Tiny little ballerina tutus
61. Any smile rewarded to me by my pre-teen son.
62. Unsolicited hugging
63. Figure skating lessons that are only 30 minutes long
64. Auto-start on my car when it is sub-zero
65. That wonderful woman who comes in every Thursday morning and leaves my house shiny and smelling like lemons.
66. The fact that my husband may or may not think that I am that woman
67. The piano teacher who comes to my house so I don’t have to sit at a studio for 3 hours every Monday.
68. The never-ending patience of said piano teacher, who does back to back lessons with Levi (can’t sit still) and Gabby (never stops talking), followed by Emily, Hannah and Brianna (won’t practice)
70. The poetry unit at school - the great equalizer of writing talent!
71. Mobile Hot Spots
72. That my parents’ idea of a good way to celebrate their birthdays this year is to take us all to Hawaii
73. Birthday Party Themes
74. The fact that my kids still think birthday party themes are not lame
75. Movies On Demand so I don’t have to go to the theater in my jammies
78. 15 month planners – because sometimes there is just THAT much to plan.
80. Being the Cupcake Mom
82. Online scrapbooking stores
83. My Nook
84. The fact that my husband doesn’t judge me for reading mostly People and Cosmo on my Nook.
85. Blue jean day at school
86. That my husband caught the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Issue that came addressed to my son as part of his subscription last week before Sam saw it.
87. That Gabby still lets me dress her in whatever I want and make little buns in her hair.
88. That my big girls, if left to their own devices, would sit up giggling and whispering all night long.
89. Holidays with all six kids
90. Holidays with no kids
91. Eating the kids’ sugar cereal at midnight
92. Project Runway
93. That my husband says he hates Project Runway, and yet knows the names of the designers when he complains about it
94. That Bill doesn’t get mad when I break things and/or forget things
96. Having an hour of free time so I can get a mani/pedi
97. Shellac nail polish so I can have a manicure that lasts more than 4 hours
98. That first day of spring when I can finally wear flip flops again …even if it doesn’t happen here until June
99. Overall Snowpants
100. Kids who haven’t outgrown overall snowpants
101. That no matter how long you have been gone, or where you’ve been, children (and puppies) are always happy to see you
102. That everyone will understand why some things are on this list twice: EIther I'm really, really REALLY thankful for them...or the kids interuppted my train of thought again.
Copyright © Jody Hoffman 2012
Actual Definition: I feel badly about what I have done and promise not to do it again.
Bunch Definition: I know you won’t get mad at me when I give you these puppy dog eyes, but I don’t have any intention of stopping this behavior. I will probably apologize for the same thing tomorrow. And the next day.
Examples (this is just today, folks):
I’m sorry I left the milk carton out on the counter after breakfast and forgot about it until noon so it went bad and we had to throw it out…again. (repeat each day)
I’m sorry that I left my shoes in the middle of the living room so that you tripped over them while carrying the laundry. (repeat every hour)
I’m sorry I left the new bottle of shampoo open on the floor of the shower so it spilled out everywhere…but doesn’t the bathroom smell nice?
I’m sorry that instead of putting the clean clothes you folded for me away where they go, I stuffed them under my bed for a week and then threw them back in the hamper.
I’m sorry for leaving my trash/gum/melting popsicle on the leather seat of your new car.
I’m sorry that when I walked in to the house after school I dumped my coat, backpack and shoes in the front hall instead of putting them away. I had to go pee really bad! And I really MEANT to go back and pick them up after, but I forgot.
Actual Definition: I did not remember.
Bunch Definition: It was more convenient/easier/more fun not to remember, so I didn’t. I also am aware that you cannot blame me for the failings of my brain.
I forgot to watch the dogs, which is why they ate a dozen of the cupcakes you baked for my Valentine’s Day party and pooped on the carpet in the living room…the white carpet.
I forgot to pick up my toys in the yard before the snow storm even though you reminded me one hundred times. That’s why my bike, scooter, helmet and baseball glove are buried until spring.
I forgot to chew with my mouth closed. I know you tell me every single time we eat, and I know that dinner with your work friends would have been a good time to make a good impression…
I forgot about that rule – you know the one about doing my homework before watching TV? But this show IS educational…
I forgot to practice piano/dance/reading/basketball or whatever else I’m supposed to know how to do today…
Actual Definition: Although I have searched high and low for this item, it has disappeared and will never be found again.
Bunch Definition: It is exactly where I left it, but I’m too lazy to go find it.
Can I have my ipod back? You took it away last week when I forgot about the no ipods before homework rule and you never gave it back!! Oh…you did? You put it in my hand? And watched me start using it? Well, in that case, it’s lost.
I didn’t answer any of your text messages or phone calls today because my phone is lost!
Oh! My $500 retainer? Why aren’t I wearing it? Oh – because it’s lost.”
Get ready – here comes the grand finale…
I’m sorry I’m making everyone late, but I forgot to put my stuff where it goes so now my shoe/mitten/jersey/backpack/whatever-else-is-needed-to-get-out-the-door-before-we’re-even-later-than-we-already-are is lost!
And the curtain call:
I’m sorry I forgot to tell you that my social studies book is lost at school. And you owe them $71.53
Copyright © Jody Hoffman 2011
I am writing in an attempt to save you from yourself. Apparently, your experience in January of 2011 did not convince you to change your ways for 2012, so hopefully this letter, if read before making any important decisions, will help contain the chaos for next year.
I know that the kids want to participate in every single activity offered.
I know that a great many of those activities will take place in January.
I know that you do not want to deny them any opportunities.
But, please, PLEASE! STOP SIGNING THEM UP FOR STUFF!
I promise, your children do NOT need to participate in Archery, Basketball, Dance Class, Swimming Lessons, Ice Skating, CCD, Volleyball, AND Girl Scouts. I promise.
Just say no.
Here are some things you should have learned from your past mistakes, but apparently have not:
1. It does, in fact, require more than 14 minutes at home to make and serve dinner. Therefore, if you continue to insist on signing them up for this many activities, the McDonald’s drive thru cashier WILL start to recognize your vehicle and the Domino’s delivery man WILL be on a first name basis with your dogs.
2. Although the children will claim initially that they cannot possibly imagine life without any of the above named activities, they will find that it is entirely possible to live without PRACTICING for any of them. This will lead to embarrassment and shame at the start of each lesson. (For you, that is. The kids will be completely oblivious to everything because they will be too exhausted from all the stinkin activities.)
3. In addition to the cost of each activity, there will be more items needed. You will not only need to pay for these things, but also find a place for every new pair of sneakers, dance costume, arrow, bathing suit and matching, sport-themed headband/water-bottle set. Your car will become a mini Walmart and your living room will be a treacherous terrain of ice skate blades and Girl Scout Cookies.
4. You like your husband. Remember? If you take my advice, you may actually be able to SEE him once or twice in January 2013.
5. Come to think of it, there are other things you like too – you know, like writing the blog? Talking to your friends? Showering? All of these experiences could be yours if only you would STOP SIGNING YOUR KIDS UP FOR CRAP!
6. Your children are wonderfully talented, but it is time for you to face the fact that none of them is going to go pro at any of these activities. Missing out on one of them will NOT, in fact, change the course of their lives. It will, however, change the course of your month, and perhaps prevent you from continuing to be an insane mom-monster who does nothing but yell “Come on! Hurry up! Let’s Go!” All. Day. Long.
7. Although your town is tiny, getting the children to 8 activities every day takes the same amount of gas as a day trip to Las Vegas. Wouldn’t it be nice to go to Vegas? Stop driving in circles.
8. Just. Say. No. You can do it.
In closing, to my dear Self Next Year, please heed my warning. Please save your family and yourself from the insanity that was JANUARY 2011, (and, because you’re a total idiot, JANUARY 2012). It’s like a horror movie and the awful, predictable sequel.
Your 2012 Self, (who barely had time to write this, and lost focus 12 times while listening to piano lessons in the other room, tripping over ice skate and fielding phone calls about the Girl Scout Meeting tomorrow).
You may have noticed that I took a little time off from the blog there for a minute. It was sort of on purpose and sort of not-on-purpose-but-actually-because-the holidays-were-a-little-overwhelming-and-I-sorta-lost-track-of-time.
It is an interesting feeling to take time off from something you love and enjoy. I love writing and look forward to writing stories for the blog. (It is possible that I look forward to writing because I know it happens after the kids go to sleep…) But I didn’t hate not writing for a few weeks. Sometimes you have to miss something to appreciate it, I guess.
Of course, writing isn’t the only thing I had to take some time off from over the holidays. This being their father’s Christmas, my kiddos flew to his house on Christmas Eve and didn’t return until January 2. Bill’s kids, in turn, spent the 10 day vacation at their mom’s house. I love my kids. All of them. But I also didn’t hate not waking up at 6am for a few days.
Bill and I noticed that right before the holidays, parenting becomes a bit of an uphill battle. (Like climbing Mt. Everest in a blizzard wearing flip flops.) We were faced with our normally well-behaved (ish), controlled (just go with it), polite children’s increasingly ridiculous behavior. We knew that given the constant influx of sweets and gifts, their behavior was normal. We were worried that if we continued to discipline and correct behaviors the way we usually do, that we would regret not having just enjoyed our children during their last week with us.
We made an irrational, unprecedented decision. We stopped parenting.
That’s right. We threw out bedtime. We watched movies as a family all cuddled up on the couch on a school night! We didn’t make them pick up their junk. We didn’t do dishes. In fact, we didn’t cook – (the real meaning of restaurant week). We ate dessert even when broccoli was still on the plate. We loved and hugged and played games.
We didn’t tell the kids we were taking some time-off from parenting. We just did it. At first, I think they thought they were getting away with something. The big kids slowly realized something was up, but something crazy happened: It was as if they realized they were being given a gift and were scared they’d lose it. So they were unbelievable well behaved. It was probably the best week we’ve ever had as a family. Messy house, dirty dishes, late for school, but focused on fun and family.
When it was time to let them go, we were ready. We kissed them goodbye, loaded them into minivans and airplanes and tried not to cry as they drove and flew away.
Then we took a little time-off of our own. We spent the week pretending to be grown-ups. (This worked really well until we turned to each other in the middle of a club on New Year’s Eve at 2am and shouted, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE STILL AWAKE!” “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE STILL AWAKE” )
When all the kids finally came back last week, we wanted to make a special afternoon for them. Unfortunately, we live in a tiny town that was not prepared for our plans. The pool was closed. The bowling alley was closed. The roller skating and ice skating rinks were closed. There weren’t any movies playing they hadn’t already seen. All they wanted to do was go to Chuck E Cheese.
Chuck E Cheese is two and a half hours away.
Good parents would know better than to drive two and a half hours each way on a school night. Good parents would have calmly explained why that wasn’t a choice.
We took just a tiny bit more time-off from “good” parenting and drove those kids down the interstate to Chuck E Cheese. Yes, that means they went to bed at 10pm on a school night and yes, the next morning was a complete and total disaster, but those were some pretty happy (albeit exhausted) kids. That’s how we like ‘em. Tired and happy.
New Year’s Resolutions? We’re gonna take a little more time off. Between ice skating lessons, archery club, volleyball, Girl Scouts, basketball, swimming lessons and Bar Mitzvah training, it will be hard to do in the next few months, but amid all this chaos, we will find time to make sure those kids are tired and happy.