The question everyone is asking…

We’ve been together for a little over a year and a half now. We’ve fielded dozens of questions from family and friends about our relationship- how it started, the biggest surprises, reactions from others, having 5 kids, etc. Within a couple of months of moving in together, we were taken aback when a friend asked us if we were going to have more children. Since then, the question has come with greater frequency and we would like to share the back and forth discussion we’ve had on this topic as it has become one of our favorites to be asked.

J: The first time I was asked this question, I was caught so off guard. I mean, we already have five. Five!! That seems like a lot.

S: Right?! I could see that question being asked if we didn’t have kids or only had one. Yes, we have 5 but we’ve always dreamed of having at least 8…

J: WE have?!!

S: Just trying to scare you a little, babe. I get why people ask, because they really want to know if we are going to have one together.

J: So, ARE we going to have more kids?

S: Um, no. How would that even work?

J: What do you mean? We have five now, so I think we have the hang of it!

S: It’s just that we’ve been trying for a long time, and nothing’s happened yet. Weird, since I typically get pregnant easily.

J: Oh, right. You mean the sheer biology of it all. Hmmm. Well, we’d have to find a guy. And, that might actually be harder than it sounds.

S: And, I’m getting old.

J: Phew! I’m so glad you’re the one to admit that. I guess if we were going to have more children, I’d be the one to get pregnant. I’m still fairly young.

S: Yes, and my last one practically fell out of me, so I probably shouldn’t have any more.

J: Well, that’s settled then. I would have the baby. Should we do it?

S: Wait! What?

J: I mean, it would be fun to have a baby that belonged to the two of us. I enjoyed being pregnant so I wouldn’t mind doing that again and it would be really cool to experience all of that with you.

S: That’s true…But, how would the baby really both be ours?

J: I can only think of one way…your brother!

S: Oh gosh! I cannot unthink that!

J: NO! Sicko!! I mean, we could just ask him for a small donation. If you know what I mean. That’s the closest we could get to having a baby that was biologically ours.

S: Good point. Our baby would be pretty cute, judging from our other 5.

J: I just thought of a problem with using your brother’s donation! What about when the kid is older and we have to explain who is dad is. That would be one strange conversation. And, explaining it to family? I don’t think it would be worth it.

S: So true! Let’s scrap the idea that the baby should be closely related to us both. What if you had a baby with an anonymous donor? That I can wrap my mind around. Still, I’m just getting used to sleeping all night after 12 years of not. Who would get up all night and nurse?

J: That’s easy! You would, silly. I’d need my rest so I could go to work each morning.

S: Grrrrr….right, cuz I don’t work…

J: Crap! That’s not what I meant! You know I wouldn’t trade jobs with you! If I’m being totally honest with you, love, I would probably try to talk you into doing it each night. This is like when a kid asks for a puppy and promises to do all the hard work.

S: Really, you don’t say? I never would have guessed that might happen…

J: You’re so sweet! Don’t you remember that night that I stayed over at your house before we moved in together? I convinced you to get up and take care of #5 when he woke up crying in the middle of the night. You didn’t even complain…until the next day…

S: I can just picture it! Let’s have a baby! Then, 6 months later, you tell me you are leaving for a 12 week class.

J: Isn’t my job great?!!

S: I suppose I could relactate and we can take turns nursing. That would be pretty amazing. I’ve only nursed a total of 9 years…what’s a few more?

J: It would be so much fun to do that with you! But, if we DID have a baby, you would be nearly 60 by the time we were empty nesters!

S: And you’d still only be 33. That WOULD be a problem…

J: Right?! What do you think the other 5 kids would think?

S: Depends if it’s a boy or girl. However, #5 doesn’t seem to like sharing either of his moms with the other kids, I can only imagine a baby getting all the attention.

J: I don’t know. Some days it seems really exciting to think about. Other days, I am grateful that the little boys are getting more and more self-sufficient. I don’t know if I could start all over with a newborn.

S: Starting over sounds so exhausting!

J: Exactly! But, whenever I see a newborn, I do get a little baby crazy.

S: I was afraid of this. I can respect the ovaries talking. That happened to me quite a few times. Each time I thought, is there an automatic shut-off eventually or will I have to fight that feeling forever? Turns out it’s after 5. You just have to picture 3 year olds screaming in the grocery store. That will stop the baby-crazy feeling.

J: Don’t worry, sweetheart. I am a VERY logical person. Those momentary surges of emotion PROBABLY won’t beat out logic. After all, we already have five kids! That seems like more than plenty! Where would we even put another one?

S: Not in our bed! We’ve co-slept with all 5…I’m SURE the next we would keep in a crib.

J: That reminds me of another potential issue. Do you think that we would spoil #6? I mean, if he or she was OUR baby, that could get tricky.

S: I’m sure the older kids would love that! Haha. They’d probably spoil the baby more than we would. And, I’d be way too tired to discipline or chase after the little tyke.

J: I guess it’s nice that it couldn’t just happen, right? It would take a great deal of planning for us to add to our family. No surprises in this relationship!

S: How about we try a puppy?

J: Oh, no! I’ve had two puppies! Do you know how much work they are?!!

S: Yep, way less than kids. And, they are trouble for about 6 months instead of 28 years.

J: So, no puppy and no baby?

S: I’m thinking we should just put a few grand down to get an already trained dog….maybe there are already trained children as well?

J: Hmmm. That’s an interesting thought. I kind of did that once. My little sister came to live with me when she was 15. She was pretty trained up. But, then we are back to the issue of the kid not being biologically ours and that’s the part I would want the most.

S: Good point. Well, guess we just love on the 5 we have and look forward to those grand kids someday!

J: Awe. We are going to be the COOLEST grandmas ever!! We can spend our retirement traveling between children!

S: OOH! Next blog! All the crap we are going to pull on our adult children when we visit them! Like ask them to cook us dinner and then say, “Gross! This isn’t what I wanted!”

J: Yeah! And, I’m going to bring like 20 pairs of socks to #2’s house and just leave them in all sorts of random places: the couch, the front yard, his car, in a kitchen cabinet…

S: We could run around and turn on all their lights and leave the doors open. And, the best part is waking them up at 2am by standing next to their face and whispering, “kid!!”

J: New plan- any time we start to think we might want a baby, we just focus that energy on planning future visits to our adult children and looking forward to grand children!

Military…wife?

Picture

I have a book, a guide to being the perfect Air Force wife.  I stare at the cover, not quite sure how I got to this place.  Certainly never imagined it.  We love to joke and ask each other, “What if someone came to you 10 years ago and told you that you would be an Air Force wife (or have a wife, or point out my wife and say, that’s your future wife!)”  We laugh and imagine we would think that person totally ridiculous.  I would have said, hmmm, wonder what HE’s like?  No silly, your wife is in the Air Force.  Ummmm….

So, so many shocking surprises I carry in this title, Military Spouse.  First, I never imagined I could ever be married to someone in the military.  Not that I’m opposed, although I would probably fall into some kind of pacifist hippie category, and have the utmost respect for those who serve.  My ex-hubs certainly wasn’t military material and never was really in close connection with anyone who was.  So, to find myself a military spouse means I am remarried, which will always be a bit counterintuitive to me anyway.  Now, I find myself with a wife.  In the military.  Which means I’m a military wife.

To tell you the truth, I feel like a bit of an imposter at the moment.  I’m so new to this role, I’m trying to absorb as much information and understanding as I can about it, even though so much of it goes over my head.  I’ve known military wives and they just seem to know their role.  I am a bit lost.  Especially since up until recently my wife served as traditional status guardsman, so it wasn’t like a lifestyle, it was more a part-time gig; an extra part of her that I loved yet didn’t define her or us.  Now, she is full time, and so is a bit more encompassing, especially for me.  But it’s still a bit different, as she is Air Guard, and not “regular Air Force” so I am still learning the nuances between them and frankly a little intimidated that I might not know enough of the difference.

I have access to many things on base, even though base is for “regular” Air Force.  It took me several weeks to get up the nerve to go on base without her, even though I have an ID.  Each time the guard scans my card and it takes a bit of time I start panicking and imagining my phone call to her from a military jail that I tried to gain access to somewhere I don’t belong.  But, so far, I have not been arrested at the base grocery store which is a huge relief.  Sometimes I imagine getting tapped on the shoulder by another wife and getting asked to leave.

This would all be the same had I been with a guy serving in the military.  I would still be a bit panicked and unsure of who to connect with, what my role is, and so on.  But, I am one of the few women that is also married to a woman.  I can’t imagine there are many of us but imagine my surprise when I did indeed find a group that is all about gay military spouses!  I have found my people!  Which, I never knew were my people!  This is exciting and surprising all at once.  Once you realize you belong in a certain, specialized category, it’s exciting to find others who also identify in your unique position.  However, it’s not a group I ever thought about existing let alone longing to belong to.  And I think that’s where I am in the moment.  Caught between the divide of “normal”, the way I’ve existed up until now, to clinging to a group that knows exactly what I’m experiencing at the moment.  I guess even now there is a big part of me that is content in who I am, the personality and character that define me, aside from my sexuality or who I am married to.  I can connect with any neighbor, classmate mother, interesting family at the park and work my magic and gain their friendship.  I don’t necessarily feel lost in connecting to people in that respect.  However, moving to a new city certain brings into question what kind of friends you will draw.  And now I see that more clearly.  Before, I had enough old friends that supported me no matter what it didn’t matter.  But now I see a potential, not necessarily a “problem”, but an obstacle.  I have never noticed any blatant shunning or unacceptance.  But, I do notice a withdrawal of people that I am just meeting and I have to wonder if it began when I dropped the “W” word.   Who knows.  I don’t think that really bothers me but does make me want to seek out more support from people that are going through EXACTLY what I am going through.  Anyway, that train of thought is a blog for another day.

Back to the military wife thing, I am feeling 100% accepted here!  It’s really quite amazing!  My wife’s squadron is so welcoming I am really enjoying feel a part of everything.  I am also embarking on a new adventure of being a Key Spouse!

The best part so far was going to my first military ball a few weeks ago as my wife’s date.  I was so nervous!  More nervous than I should have been, but hey, I do that to myself a lot.  My wife was chosen to be the aide to the General so was off for some of the night and I was on my own.  Thankfully found some familiar faces to attach myself to.  I had such a great time!  And, one of the best parts was introducing myself to the Governor of our fair, yet extremely conservative, state as her wife.  She also introduced me to the wing commander and TAG as her wife.  Everyone I’ve met has been so welcoming, it’s amazing how far we’ve come.

I’ll keep you posted as I become more indoctrinated into the military spouse role.  A shift to be sure, but I love being the support spouse behind my amazing wife and her career.


I’m Half the (Iron)Man I used to be…

…But twice the woman.

 

In my past life, before kids, before a wife, before anything, I completed an Ironman.  The Ironman is an official triathlon distance race (trademarked and everything) with a swim of 2.4 miles, a bike of 112 miles, and a 26.2 mile run.  There are a dozen or so throughout the year around the world.  I did it when I was young and stupid, and full of determination.  I actually did pretty well, at the tender age of 24, and vowed someday I would do another.  I had wanted to do it while I had the freedom and money to, before I had kids.  The training was the hardest.  Even with no kids and just a full time job, I felt like all my free time was used up training.  Or sleeping because I was exhausted from training.  Or eating everything I could get my grubby little hands on because my metabolism was working overtime.  I kept a jar of peanut butter at my desk.  Someone brought in donuts?  I’d take 3!  It was really time consuming, but a goal I wanted to say I did.  Someday I had hoped to do another.  Perhaps when I was older, more mature, and even more determined.  I imagined doing it as a young mom, proving to the world that I still had what it took.  I remember my gymnastics coach always said, first time’s for guts, second time’s for skill.  The next one I wanted to do well.  I mean, I did ok for my first but it seemed like I coasted more on my slight athletic ability than training.  I got pregnant the next year with my first baby, and, as you all know, went on to have dozens more.  Or 4.  Or 5 or whatever.  I didn’t even really keep up with running once kids came.  And biking?  I did plenty of pulling the kids around in whatever kid-bike-toting contraption I had, but to go out for a 50 mile ride was outside the realm of reality.  Not to mention swimming.  You know how much effort and time it takes to coordinate getting to the pool?  (That does remind me of a funny story…A year ago my wife and I coordinated with my ex to take the kids overnight so essentially all we wanted was to be able to get up early and go swimming.  He agreed.  We woke up and drove to the rec center and did our swim workout.  I got out of the pool and noticed several texts from him that he had sent while I was swimming.  Something to the effect of, “Hey, I dropped our 4 year old off at the house with the 8 year old.  Don’t know why you haven’t seen this text but he’s at your house.  I’m headed to {same} rec center with the older boys.”  Uh….luckily we had an extremely chill 4 year old who basically would rather do his own thing.  We thus sauntered into the gym purely for the pleasure of watching the realization of the events register with him…He started running…Anyway, not to worry, it was only about 10 minutes total before we got home.  The moral of this story is, even with several adults, getting to the pool is no easy task.)

I’ve written a bit about how much effort it took for me to get back into shape, largely with the help of my wife, motivating me as a newly found friend about 3.5 years ago.  I had been a runner since high school, and the times when I had tried to start running sporadically between kids didn’t seem that difficult.  Running stays in your blood, and muscle memory and all that fancy stuff.  Unless you’re 37 and haven’t done it in 10 years…then it’s horrible.  I never want to be that out of shape again in my life.

So fast forward to last year when I did my first post-kiddo sprint (much shorter not crazy distances) triathlon.  I fell in love with the sport all over again.  What I love about it most is that just about the time you are sick of one activity, it’s time to transition to the next.  You always do it in swim-bike-run order so by the time the run hits, your mind thinks, “Gee you can’t stop now, you’re 2/3rds done!”  I also happen to run my best times in a tri rather than a running race.  Races make me VERY nervous (traumatic flashbacks to high school track meets), but in a tri, by the time I get to the run, I don’t really care much anymore and end up running faster.  Of course I still panic in the beginning of a tri, which is in an open-lake swim with hundreds of people trying to swim over you or kicking you or grabbing your ankles in a panic.  Clearly a much better scenario in which to have anxiety…

This fall my wife was TDY for much of fall and winter, but during her one month home at Christmas she managed to persuade me into signing up for a half Ironman in Wisconsin in June.  She buttered me up with how proud she would be of me, how amazing I would be, how she would brag about me.  It works every time.  The things I do to impress this woman is ridiculous!  And, oh, sweetie, I’m just going to be gone for the next 10 weeks but I’m sure you’ll find time to train and tend to the 5 kids and the house and the brand new puppy, that’s how amazing you are!  (See how good she is at this!?!?)

Well, I did do it.  And I was amazing at it.  Training while she was gone, I mean.  I found the time to train and I stuck with it.  It was good to sign up for a big race (FYI the half Ironman is as it sounds, half the distance of a full, so 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 run) because it forced me to actually train and not skip workouts.  You can get to a point in which the little races become “Ya, I could just do that distance.  I’ll train next week.  Or tomorrow.  Or after vacation is over.”  This was more of a “I may literally die and/or pass out and/or scratch if I don’t do exactly what this free internet training plan is telling me to do” kind of race.

I knew the pitfalls were going to be that this was an early season race, early June, and where we live there really isn’t much biking outside until June.  So I had to do it all on my trainer.  Which works for 1 or 2 hours, but it’s pretty hard to sit and spin for 4 hours indoors even if you can watch TV.  And while it was the one sport I could do without leaving the house, ideal for nap times, inevitably I would be interrupted half a dozen times.
My goals were to finish, finish without injury training, finish well-trained.  I got the first 2.  I guess when you have 5 kids you may never feel like you can train enough.  I finished it though.  I was disappointed with my time but can rationalize it at least.  And it was 95 degrees and humid (those conditions don’t exist here).  And a hundred hills on the bike course (no joke) of which I was inadequately prepared.  So, the good news is I finished.  But when you have a less than satisfactory time there is really only one thing to do…Do another one.

To summarize my thoughts, my life lessons in all of this:  I enjoy (or, not so much during the race, but in the future, could potentially enjoy) that distance.  Long enough to be tough, but not all consuming like the full distance.  To train for something like this is a good goal as well but bordered on too much time it was taking from my other work and the kids.  But it’s also good to show your kids and motivate them to challenge themselves.   The big take away is this:  I had predicted that I would be tougher at 40 than I was at 24.  While I really can’t fathom how I managed a full distance, I believe this to be true.  The mental toughness I’ve acquired in the past 16 years is impressive.  During the race, no matter how bad it sucked, I knew I would finish.  I knew 16 years ago as well, but this was different.  And the difference was that while I “proved” something this time, I didn’t need to prove anything I didn’t already know.  This race, while tough, is now in the grand scheme of my life, trivial.  Of all the things I’ve conquered, this race is a blip on the screen.  Fun bragging rights but sometimes my everyday challenges with raising kids are more impressive to conquer, but I don’t get a medal at the end of the day, which I should, I think!

That being said, I’ll let you know how it goes next year!     ironman

Ultimate Date Night

Picture

So I took my wife on a date last night.  Sure it was a Monday night, but we take what we can get.  With 5 kids, we have to purposely carve out time for ourselves.  There are times when all the stars align and we get a day or weekend to ourselves, but we are careful to not just wait for those times.  It’s amazing how time can pass before you realize you haven’t planned a date.  We hired a sitter last night as it was the one day in the week where the kids didn’t have any activities.

I don’t want to brag (but I definitely am!), but I pulled off a pretty awesome date.  Like, taking your lifelong crush out for your first date, kind of date.  I asked her if she wanted to go out last week, and she said yes!  (Yes, we are still kind of moon-eyed for each other.)  I considered dinner and a movie, but then realized how even though we would enjoy ourselves, that would be fairly mundane.  I have to admit, I did need google to assist me.  I thought of all kinds of fun things, but finding them on a Monday night, well, not going to work here in our little city.  No bands playing, no art studios open, no exhibits available after 5, (these are all hints, though, dear readers!  Just not on a Monday night.)  Um, I’m sure these activities do exist around here, though, right???  We have a couple paint party shops here but none were even open.

I finally stumbled upon a really cool company called Puzzle Adventures.  (www.puzzlingadventures.com) They have designed history scavenger hunts in many cities throughout the world, and our town had one of them!  We are both history nerds so this was right up our alley!  I downloaded the program and it’s a timed adventure throughout downtown.  I was pretty sure she would like it but told her it may be so dorky it would be amazing!

Little buddy #5 and I picked up flowers for her during the day to have waiting when she got home.  Babysitter came at 5, and we enjoyed a gorgeous mile or so walk to downtown where we ate at a local steakhouse.  (Again, these are hints!  Local, flowers, walking, romantic, steak.  A way to any woman’s heart).  After wine and amazing steak that we shared, we headed out the door for our scavenger hunt.  It started only a block away from the restaurant.  The program gave history and then would lead us around downtown to search for plaques and signs of the city’s history.  I love my new city but I learned last night it was founded on my birthday!!!!!  What the wha!?!  Destiny!  And, the best day of the year (July 5, another hint, readers, but for selfish reasons.)  We ended up running from clue to clue, because we are dorky, like to run, and couldn’t not be competitive (there’s a time clock!).

Needless to say, we finished the course in RECORD TIME!  Of course we did!  We take this kind of thing seriously.  The top 10 finishers were over an hour behind us.  Oh ya.

It was the best date night ever.  Only downside is trying to top it, but now we have a new goal.  And, this puzzle adventure idea is exciting.  I foresee us doing it in cities we visit.  They have team versions, kid versions, and my favorite, drinking versions.  Can’t wait to do some kid dates with it, too.  What a great way to learn a city’s history!  Anyway, we walked home and snuggled up to watch a funny movie.

As for dating your spouse, I highly recommend it.  We didn’t really have a dating phase, so we are committed to dating now.  I mean, when we were friends we were technically dating without knowing it, but nothing like planning special evenings out or trips.  I hope we never stop having special nights out.  We have 5 kids.  Whether you have 1 or 10, it’s needed.  It’s so easy to commit your family life to kid activities and have the kids be the center of the universe.  Once in a while, it’s great to get out and have fun.  Life can be so challenging sometimes in this big, beautiful, chaotic, blended home.  It can be hard.  It can be easy to focus on difficulties and stress.  But, the more we can have fun together, the better off we are.

My wife leaves soon for a 5 week class across the country, so we are trying to soak each other up as much as we possibly can.  I get to bring #5 and visit her over Thanksgiving so I’m pretty excited about that (and doing the scavenger hunt there!).  The other promise we’ve made to each other is that we make being together a priority as much as possible, even if it means more schedule shuffling, complicated arrangements and money spent on airfare and hotels.  It’s worth it.  I want her to know being with her when I can is always worth the trouble.  And she does the same for me.


Picture

Check out this high score!!!!

Parenting Blah Blah Blah-Entitlement

It’s another mothering blog, so I apologize, but it seems to occupy my mind and my life quite a bit. Read this and I promise a juicy blog post by next week.

Confession: I have entitled kids. Now, not all the way entitled, sometimes I’ve stuck to my guns. I don’t picture my kids so entitled with stuff. I’ve had an easy time saying no to lots of material goods, and the only time I fall into that trap is when it’s a birthday or Christmas and I sometimes can’t help myself, but even then, it’s pretty minor compared to most Americans. They don’t get to sign up for a million different activities and we don’t pack their days with fun (most of the time). We don’t spend hundreds of dollars on Christmases, and their birthdays are low-key. They haven’t thought yet to object to hand-me-downs or thrift store purchases. Outside the home, I doubt many people would see our kids and call them brats. So we have that going for us.

My wife and I have fought about this and I have many excuses and hate when she points this out, and hate even more admitting she’s right but she’s right. I guess seeing it hasn’t been the problem so much as figuring out how to fix the problem. Which is the hard part. I get a bit paralyzed with this part and can’t see a way out, so life continues with entitled kids. This is painful. Now, my wife is gone for the next 5 weeks and it’s a struggle for me. Not that I need the help with the kids but that I miss her so much! I would like to just crawl in bed and sleep for 5 weeks, but that probably is neither healthy nor feasible, so I’ve decided to focus on addressing some of these problems. And, 5 weeks seems like a really good chunk of time to actually get somewhere real, not just starting a great idea and having it fizzle. It’s also a great time to start because this could get a little messy and since it’s my mess I should probably do it on my own time. I never pictured myself as being a mom that had entitled kids, in fact, I have always felt that I would be one of those moms with selfless kids. Our life is set up to have selfless kids but somewhere along the way I couldn’t figure out how to get there. I hate that.

I guess it’s hard for me to see it as entitlement at first because that sounds like material goods and I have always been good at saying no when they want something. But, it’s more than that. It’s expecting me to tell them when to go to bed, when to brush their teeth, reminding them of their chores, picking up after them if they forget, doing their chores because I get sick of reminding them, not giving gifts to each other at Christmas, relying on me to feed them and get them to hockey, plopping down in front of the TV and hoping I don’t notice that they haven’t done their chores, complaining when they are asked to help, complaining when we don’t do enough fun, complaining when we go to X and they wanted to go to Y. I do have to say, there are areas where we have made progress. They are starting to thank us when we go out to eat. #2 and #3 write Thank You notes with little prompting. #1 writes them with lots of prompting. They know when we go shopping they need to bring their own money if they want to buy something.

I think it’s hard to see entitlement sometimes because it’s so ingrained in our culture. Just last week our daughter had an awards ceremony. I felt bad that I dropped the ball and wasn’t there to see it, so spent a good bit of time feeling guilty or feeling like I had to justify not being there. Which I had legitimate reasons to not be there. But it dawned on me last night that it wasn’t as though I missed her Induction into the Honor’s Society or her State Championship. I missed an 8 year old getting an award for “a good attitude in music class”. Wha? We are rewarding this now? And I didn’t even notice that that was the weird thing? I just felt like I was a bad mom? The worst part is that maybe my daughter is now feeling bad that her mom wasn’t there and everyone else’s mom was. Who knows. I’m hoping not, as, after the day was done she couldn’t even remember nor really understand what she even got recognized for. Given this, it does feel like an uphill battle to undo this since they are getting this message from everywhere and there’s a possibility they don’t learn to be non-entitled, they just resent that we didn’t treat them as special as they’ve been taught to demand.

Before I go on, I do want to say that if you’ve read my blog on Changing My Stripes and my work on housekeeping, I want you all to know that I AM A CHANGED WOMAN! While I could technically find things to clean better, our house has reached a level of “pretty damn good” and is that way every day. I no longer have to spend hours cleaning it and I’m actually kind of bored in that area of my life. I get to find other things to do with that time. I just don’t have that much to pick up or turn around anymore. So, I did change, it can be done, and our house looks PDG for having 5 young children. BUT, it was so much work getting there all I could do was do it myself since as most of you with children know, it’s twice as hard to get them to do it, and for a while that was beyond my abilities to work on both getting the house to an acceptable level and involving the kids at one time. But now that the house is in a manageable state, I need to shift some of the work to the kids without losing ground on how things work or look. And, of course, it’s more than just a clean house. It’s getting them to help with cooking, watching the little boys, or raking the yard because we are a family and families help each other. Thinking of others. Or more accurately, the attitude of complaining and not wanting to help out. Selfishness. So far I only manage to get them to think about how to behave so they don’t get punished. And that is where the mind-shift happens. If we focus on getting them to do X,Y, or Z, it works a little bit because they are motivated by rewards and/or consequences. And then you have to address every single little thing you want to change. They only meet that one little step, instead of seeing the big picture. I have been looking at it like that too. Like first they need to start doing this. Then this. Then this. Instead of finding a way to teach them to think about what they need to be doing to be helpful and selfless. I’m sure this is not an easy thing to teach.

Tonight is usually my least favorite night. Tuesdays involve 3 children going to 3 different places and a lot of logistics. I was prepared to do so. Let me back up. Last night I gave a fantastic speech to our 3 oldest. It was good. It was motivating. It was probably very inspiring. It was very moving. I’m sure every word sank in. I inspired our children to start thinking on a family level, how to be more giving, more helpful, and even had them choose a chore they were willing to do without being reminded! Step one of the BIG CHANGE complete! I’m quite good at these monologues! I inspire myself.

This afternoon all the children came home and plopped down in front of the TV. This has been a fairly recent occurrence that I have allowed for an hour after school but always need to tell them to turn it off. In the past I’ve been pretty strict about screen time and up until this move had never owned a TV. They are expected to have their rooms clean, a chore done, and their shit (I mean personal belongings) picked up before it goes on. I sometimes forget to check if they have done what’s expected of them before they do, so sometimes they do it afterward. (Note how it’s our job to check, remind, and discipline if they don’t. Which is more work for us.) Anyway, tonight, being still 70 degrees in the middle of November, I asked them to turn it off and play outside before it snows in 2 days. They ignored me. So, I guess it triggered me to invoke STEP 2. If they don’t need to have responsibilities around the house, then neither do I! Now, while I am in my room blogging about this, they are still watching TV, 4 hrs in. Surprisingly, no one has thought to do their chores, and no one has noticed I haven’t made dinner. I’m kind of bored right now, which is why I am blogging. Who knew being responsible was taking up so much of my time!???! I also decided that I’ve been taking on the responsibility of reminding them when their hockey practice times are, what time they should get ready, and what time we need to leave. Not tonight. Guess we missed practice. I’m now making myself a little drink. I’m a little scared about when they find out, but sometimes they need to learn the hard way. I would normally let my 4 year old off the hook by reminding him (and I wouldn’t let him skip a practice), but through a stroke of luck, his practice got cancelled (but no one needs to know that)!
It’s not like I haven’t tried every method in the universe. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it works for a short time before I forget, or they forget and I get too frustrated to deal with it anymore.

So I just got everyone to bed. Kiddo #2, about an hr ago, voluntarily started cleaning the house (although not the job he signed up to do, but oh well). He swept the whole house! We had a good dinner together. However, this isn’t too surprising as #2 usually does take my speeches to heart, at least for a few days before he forgets. I finally turned the TV off for the last time at 7:30 (No more TV for a long time-they will learn this tomorrow when they go to watch). So anyway, I put everyone to bed. I asked the boys what day it was today. Tuesday. Did you have any place you were supposed to be tonight? Ahhhhh… I gently told them I would no longer be in charge of their time and schedules. We shall see. I talked to #3. At some point this evening she got up off the couch, marched into the kitchen and asked (in a nice way, so that’s something???) when and what was for dinner! I replied that I decided since no one else wants to pitch in, I won’t be helping anymore either. She took it well. However, my hope was that she start helping or ask what she could do to change the course of events, but she just turned around and went to her room to read. Guess they’ve at least learned not to complain out loud.

Update #2: Wednesday. Kid #2 and #3 asked what they could do to help this morning and unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, cleaned their rooms, and asked again before playing before school. We sat down to breakfast together and we learned lesson #3: No more refusing or complaining about the hot breakfast mom took 30 minutes making and why we need to start acknowledging other people’s love efforts. I’m not sure I’m doing any of this right but I have to do something. Lecturing doesn’t do a thing for #1 however, and I’ve always been most lost with him. He clearly feels badly and ashamed but it doesn’t motivate him to start helping, it only pushes him away. I hope we can figure him out sooner than later. He’s a good kid, but stubborn as hell. I don’t know where he gets it!!!!

Step #4 will be more work on my part: Remembering to be selfless and grateful out loud. Of course I spend my day serving my family so I am modeling that, but I am not modeling gratefulness as much as I should be. Remembering to thank the kids when they do help out, or being better at thanking my wife out loud, even for the little things I think will go a long way. I’ve done that when we go out, just thanking her out loud for the treat, even though it’s from both of us. But the kids instantly jump in and say thank you as well. It’s simple but we often forget to be thankful for the little things that the kids could start mirroring.

So, I know this isn’t the first time we are doing this kind of thing, but it’s another start. I have a timeline and a goal. I may not remember everything I want to teach. I hope the dishes in the sink I’ve left for the first time in 2 years don’t get too piled high before a child notices and does something. I hope the puppy gets fed sometime. (Oops! Slip! I’ll blog about the puppy soon!) I hope practices don’t get skipped. But what I really hope is that I can figure out something that actually works and becomes a turning point. I think that’s the most frustrating part of parenting. Not behavior or not knowing what to do, but doing something right long enough to be effective. It’s hard to stay positive when it seems to take forever for lessons to be learned. I tend to lose hope and patience quickly. I may need to blog about this weekly to keep myself on task about how it’s all going. Wish me luck!

laundrypile

A typical reaction when I ask for help

My “Co-Workers”

If my kids were people who I worked with:

IMG_7612

I’m a stay at home mom.  Many people think I don’t have much in common with those of us that go to work.  But when my friends and family talk about work, I often think how similar it sounds to my day at home.  Last week was a little crazy-making for me, and I was starting to fray.  Maybe just the end of the school year is near, and everyone needs a change.  I don’t know.  As I mediated the 87th dispute of the day, it occurred to me that if this were a paying job, no one would be paid enough to make it worth it.  Then I realized that if my kids were my coworkers, it would be a ridiculously awful place to work.  The parallel becomes complicated when I wonder where I fit into the office dynamic.  I mean, I’m certainly the boss, and assert myself most of the time, but if this WERE an office situation, I would sound like the worst boss on the planet!!!  “Coworker” fits best, but of course we are not on the same level.  Maybe, as much as I hate to say it, I have 6 bosses (5 kids and the puppy).

So let’s try it on for size.  Wherever I would write the word “kid”, replace it with “coworker.”  Here are some highlights of this week:

I was sexually harassed daily (or hourly):  Coworker mooned me in the kitchen for the 3rd time today, accompanied by loud farting noises.  I’m also frequently groped, spanked, and, naked coworkers occasionally try to crawl into bed with me.

I’m on call 24/7.  And often do get a call at exactly 1:32 am many nights.

One coworker still demands I follow him into the bathroom and talks to me nonstop while he poops, and then loudly demands I wipe him.

My coworkers won’t let me poop alone, often accompanying me into the bathroom, rattling the door knobs, or walking in if I make the mistake of forgetting to lock myself in.

I am basically responsible for every minor detail and job in the office, and my coworkers have 1 daily task that I have to remind them to do.  Every day.

It takes me longer to get my coworkers to do their work than it is for me to just do it for them.  They don’t notice.

Today my coworker bit another coworker.  And then bit the dog.

I asked one coworker today to do some landscaping.  He turned around and got his visiting friend to do it for him.

There are often extra “workers” around (I use this word extra loosely).  They don’t get paid nor do they work but they demand benefits.

I rarely leave the workplace.  At 5 o’clock the job gets more demanding.

Often I have to make sure my coworkers don’t get hit by cars as they go out for breaks.

One coworker gets into my lunch and eats it.  Sometimes without me knowing, but sometimes he just takes food right off my plate.  They all leave the lunch room a disaster.  Sure, I can call them all back to clean it, but I’m just the nagging boss.

I have one coworker that likes to rile up the others.  He does this by hitting, teasing, and trying to start protests.

I know I’m making it sound glamorous, and indeed it is.  I remind them all of meetings, appointments, and breaks.  If they have off-campus meetings I am in charge of driving them while they demand extra snacks, treats if they behave, and of course, stopping by the side of the interstate while they either have to pee or get a new seating assignment to stop colleague bickering.  I threaten to quit or fire them frequently, but there are laws against this.  The best part is, this is no 40 hour a week gig!  To be fair, they usually do something super cute to make me forget my empty threats.  And, contrary to real workplace environments, falling asleep is highly encouraged and they turn back into little angels!