Just in case you thought I had it together

Look, I just have to get a few things out of my system before I can return to serving as a model for catechists and humans everywhere.

1. I don’t understand how to wear eyeliner. My last successful eyeliner experience was in seventh grade, and involved an iridescent green Wet’n’Wild eyeliner pencil. I can still remember the flakes of wood scraping against my eyelid due to my sharpener ineptitude. That probably put me off eyeliner for good, come to think of it.

2. Everyone in my house is sick right now, except for The Daddy, who is also conveniently out of town. Convenient for his immune system, that is. This morning, the two-year-old greeted me with the Whitmanesque refrain: “Oh! The green boogers!” He was irrationally – at least, to my mind – enraged that I would NOT allow him to wipe his nose on my shirt. I mean, what’s a mom for, if she’s not going to be there for her kid, you know?

3. Worse, because I have not been to the grocery in a week, we have no kleenex, bread, cereal, eggs, orange juice (my go-to cure for a cold), or coffee. It’s possible that the two-year-old was merely pointing out that the prospect of wiping one’s nose on a generic paper towel is not appealing.

4. I forgot to get a haircut for the past five months, because it requires making a phone call, and I don’t use my smartphone for making actual calls. I use it for storing voicemail.

4. Oh, yes, there was going to be an “Ask a Catechist” series every Wednesday, and I still need to make another Scripture Shorts video about Moses, and there was also going to be a Catechist Chat newsletter, but…I haven’t scheduled the guest posts.

And it seemed like MailChimp was going to be really confusing – like, it would take several weeks of study to learn how to operate MailChimp. I didn’t want to be too hasty. I wanted that newsletter to be PERRRRFECT. So guess what? There’s been no newsletter. I’d like to think the first issue will come out next week, and the title will be something clever like “no, really, you did sign up for this newsletter back in December.” But I’ll make no promises. No announcements of grand behavior modification to come.

(MailChimp is actually way easy. So I have no excuse.)

5. As could be expected, the grain-free Lenten sacrifice has been one big bust. Here’s how it panned out.

Days 1 and 2: This is amazing! I feel so free! Free from the shackles of bread dependence! Free to make omelets, and to put pesto on vegetables instead of on noodles!

Day 3: This is easy! This is so easy, I should amp it up! I’m going to read up on the Paleo diet! I’m going to figure out kefir! I’m going to blog about my success!

Day every day since then: Not. so. much.

6. I do, in my defense, have the excuse that I have fallen head over heels for WordPress and the Genesis Framework (that’s an affiliate link, should you feel like checking it out.) So I’ve been busy getting a web design business up and running. The problem with me is that I am completely oblivious to the concept of “small steps.”  And thus have tried to reinvent all other aspects of my personality, except the eyeliner issues, at the same time as launching said business.

7. I don’t care if it’s not the right day for Seven Quick Takes. That’s not what this is, anyway.

8. What this IS…is a manifesto. I need a break. A real break, not a “I’m going to watch my TV shows and ignore the state of my house” break. If you’re in the Boston area and haven’t decided whether you’re coming to the Faith and Family Mom’s Day Away event, I implore you to attend.

Heeere’s Danielle, who surely has it more together than I, issuing an open invitation. I must leave you now, as there’s a runny nose making a beeline for my shirt.

Listen!

Apology not accepted

This photo has nothing to do with the topic, but I find it very amusing

From time to time, we have a difference of opinion in this house concerning the proper use of the phrase: “I’m sorry.”

One school of thought: “I’m sorry” always indicates that one is assuming personal responsibility for whatever misfortune has befallen the listener.

On the other hand, there are subcultures in which the phrase “I’m sorry” is used to express sympathy for the listener, without implying that the person’s suffering is directly the result of the speaker’s actions.

“You fell down and scraped your knee? Oh, I’m sorry! That must hurt!” That kind of thing. Sometimes the “I’m sorry” might be followed by more passive-aggresive comments – “Remember what I told you about trying to ride your scooter down the slide?”

But it can be hard to tell when “I’m sorry” is an apology.

For example, when, say, a barefooted husband steps upon a Lego racer minifigure angled such that the pointy edge of the minifigure’s foot is aimed directly towards the bottom of the husband’s foot, and cries of agony are emitted, a wife might say, “oh, I’m sorry.” What does she mean in this situation? “I’m deeply moved by your pain and anguish?” or “I’m sorry that I was too busy playing ‘Angry Birds’ to deal with telling the children for the fifth time to clean up the Legos in the family room?”

You see what I mean?

Plus, it may be that the wife habitually apologizes for things that are not her fault whatsoever, in an attempt to gain the upper hand in a confrontation. That might be the case.

“I’m sorry to bother you with this question again, but could you explain to me one more time why you can’t locate the rebate information even though I see that the envelope was delivered to you four weeks ago?” That might be a habit that the wife has.

And “I’m sorry” becomes the saddest, most pitiful phrase in the world when it is used by a two-year-old to indicate, “I’m sad.”

Falls down and bonks head: “I sorry!”

Is taken screaming out of pizzeria for failure to not take pants off: “I sorry! I sorry!”

Candy is snatched off of plate by sibling, “I sorry! SORRYYYY! SORRRYYY!”

Inanimate objects and pets can be sorry.

“Bed sorry” = “your failure to change my diaper in time this morning led to an unfortunate laundry situation that will occupy your entire afternoon.”
“Truck sorry” = “this poorly manufactured plastic toy has broken after I banged it on the table for the 400th time.”
“Kitty sorry” = “the cat fled my repeated displays of affection.”
“Fish sorry” = “the fish died.”

I mean, it’s heartbreaking.

Sweetie, you’re sorry?

Oh, I’m sorry.

Benign Neglect

“Come get your dirty clothes out of this bathroom.”

The thing is, now that the baby’s been sleeping in his crib like a good little baby boy, his older brother has been banished from their shared room for the time being. So every evening, he has to grab pajamas from his chest of drawers before his little brother goes to bed. The inevitable result is a pile of dirty clothes in the bathroom, because Heaven forbid they be deposited in his SISTER’S hamper. There are PINK things in there.

I generally try to avoid that sector of the house after nightfall – the corner where mismatched shoes and broken dollhouse fixtures hang out. It’s not a good scene. But I was going to try to clean up their act this time.

“You forgot your SOCKS. What IS IT with the SOCKS all over the house?”

“MOM. Those are my clothes for tomorrow. I have to lay them out so that I don’t wake up the baby in the morning going in to get clothes.” Good point.

Wait a second. “NOT SO FAST. Those are stinky socks.”

“But I have to wear my socks over again because my sock wardrobe is inadequate. I’ve done it for five days already!”

Maybe I should reinstate nightly patrols, after all.

Seven quick takes, random edition

Props to Jennifer of Conversion Diary.

1. I teach a small homeschool music class/choir, and it’s such a lovely end to our week. We meet on Friday mornings and then usually attend the noon Mass across the street. I use quite a few materials from Michiko Yurko’s Music Mind Games activities and I am starting to really see results in the children’s abilities to follow along with a line of melody, to correctly read rhythms, and to match a pitch when given a “target.” Someday I’ll whip up an omnibus post of links and thoughts, but…this is not that day.

2. Our fellow noontime congregants at Friday Mass are very generous and tolerant of the small children who crowd into the Eucharistic chapel. I usually end up abandoning my two older children around the first reading to stand in the back with Paul “Acoustical Genius” Speed. My kids actually behave better when I’m not sitting with them, and I’m not sure what that indicates. I think most of the problem when we’re all sitting together is that they both want to entertain the baby, who is just holding out for the Consecration to blow raspberries, a fine Speed baby tradition.

3. I am starting to think Paul follows his own set of rubrics for the Mass. It’s something like, do the red, say the black, YELL “DOGGIE!”

We don’t even have a dog. I think it’s a go-to word for when you’re feeling really happy, or you want Mommy to put you down so you can make a bolt down the aisle, or you see a kitty. It starts out conversational – “Dog. Doggy dog dog” – but, as the Mass continues, works up to a fortissimo “DOGGEEEEEEE!!!” which echoes throughout the cathedral like the song of an angel, if the angel were really excited about doggies.

Needless to say, I am less than thrilled about this development.

4. We really like the show “Castle.” It has sort of an ’80s feel to it – electric guitar in the theme music, light banter while catching bad guys. Plus, the hero is a writer.

5. We signed up for the veggie co-op again this year, but this time I’m splitting the weekly bucket o’ greens with another family. That’s helped out tremendously in reducing the stuff that goes straight to compost…if we composted…which we don’t…so we threw stuff away. I KNOW. BAD MOM. But this year’s been going better. I often end up sticking bunches of spinach or chard in the food processor to make my own chopped spinach. (really easy recipe. You chop the spinach. Also works with broccoli.)

6. Oh, you want to know about bad mom-ing? Today, I was so tired that I stuck the baby in the high chair, gave him some granola, and stuck him in front of a Thomas video so that I could take a nap. Wheeled him right up to the TV. I am preparing him for a slovenly adolescence, I know.

7. Without going into specifics, I have some students in my music class who have a few discipline issues. Let’s call it “overeager participation.” I think the problem may stem from the fact that their teacher is their mother, but it’s not like at home when you can just talk at her. I would welcome any suggestions as to the teaching of one’s own children in a classroom setting. Especially one in which there ain’t no principal’s office.

Job description

So, I need to either commit to stickers, or make a clean break.

Back when we started the allowance system, the kids and I got a little high on life and decided to pull out the rainbow-colored chore chart notepad that Mary Margaret had beeeegggggged for at the teacher store weeks before. Because it was rainbow and came with stickers, not because she wanted to adopt the Protestant work ethic.

Feeling collaborative, I let each child come up with the chores that (s)he felt most comfortable accomplishing each day, and gently nudged them towards expanded horizons of responsibility. We were giving them money. They were open to any and all ideas.

Mary Margaret wanted to fill up ALL the lines in EVERY category so that she could maximize sticker acquisition for the day, so I let her put things like “put on shoes” just because it was all going so pleasantly, just like in the books. My little voice hemmed and hawed about whether it was reasonable to expect myself to apply upwards of 25 stickers each day to track every waking accommplishment of each child, excluding the baby, who really has just as good a work ethic as the other two, so that’s not really fair.

We don’t need foreshadowing music to see this heading off the cliff of reality.

Now, I know that the primary reason this latest attempt at chore-chartery failed was the aforementioned excessive list-making, and I also recognize my own pathology of feverent commitment to labyrinthine systems followed by abject failure to follow through.

Thus, at this crossroads, I am looking again at the chore chart pad which I shoved into the very back of the cabinet so they’d forget all about how I stopped giving stickers on Day 2. I am wondering if I should just give her the 2,000 teeny tiny stickers that she’d love to have for “projects” and abandon the incentives. I am thinking that the current modus operandi of random fed-uppitude with the messy rooms and gnashing of teeth is not how I want things to be.

And, in the back of my head, I am grumbling, “Grrr. This is NOT MY JOB.”

That’s the thing, with a lot of the daily chores and my daily griping – it’s NOT MY JOB.

Except, of course – it is.

That’s not to say that I don’t expect everyone to pitch in, or that my husband doesn’t do chores. I just still have it in my head that my job is to Better The World Through Change And Manifestos and read lots of books, while the children rear themselves in the background. Somewhere in this equation is a launderess.

But I know that part of my problem is the avoidance behavior that comes from not accepting the mundane parts of what is, indeed, my job.

And, if you want to reference paper-grading-procrastination from a different stage of my life, you go right ahead.

Overeducated

I don’t actually consider myself Too Smarty For My Hat, of course.

I’m getting a bit better (couldn’t have been worse, really) at understanding that to everything, there is a season, and I have chosen this season for being at home. With my babies. Crawly, crafty babies.

I’m just saying that, if you’re the beneficiary of a rigorous liberal arts education - trained to focus upon what may seem to be an insignificant detail, then to explore that bit of information further – fleshing out primary sources, balancing different points of view, injecting one’s own perspective while giving proper weight to other approaches to the topic – it can be hazardous to your mental health.

While we can choose to narrow our sphere of decision-making for a time, we cannot turn off the analyzing machine. Not without the help of libations.

And, seriously, people, we don’t need a series of mental t-charts weighing the advantages and disadvantages of, say, letting the children have a juice box *and* a popsicle with lunch. We don’t need to flip back through the archives:

  • what we might imagine the American Academy of Pediatrics might say on this topic,
  • the no-sugar lady who came to visit the Bradley class we took in 2001
  • childhood experience as the only house that never had CapriSun
  • the frowning man in the grocery aisle today
  • MotheringDotCommunity
  • the Tooth Fairy
  • Facebook
  • everyone who ever grew up drinking bug juice 3 meals a day and has better teeth than you to show for it

THIS SMALL DECISION DOES NOT MATTER.

I know I don’t need a hobby, because I already have too many hobbies. Somehow, though, I need to channel the brain aerobics into something more productive than weighing every parenting crossroads as though the wrong choice will break the family.

Oh, yeah, it’s much worse once you start homeschooling, in case you’re wondering. DEAR PRUDENCE if I choose the wrong foreign language or introduce it at the wrong time or buy the wrong book they will be totally turned off from the love of learning and develop into xenophobic lumps of apathy.

Aren’t there jobs where you can, like, get paid to look up things for people who can’t use search engines? Maybe I need one of those. Got to start using my powers for good again.