Too much stimulation

Today is the first day of spring break and I’m already going nuts.

Despite the fact that every school day I’m dragging kids out of bed, threatening everything that can be threatened if they miss the bus, today they are up. One child has gotten into the cookies and is eating them as she reads in bed. (a no-no in our house. CRUMBS, PEOPLE). The radio is blaring from a bedroom with no one in it. The twins are on my bed, jumping on me because they want their iPads. One twin is okay with waiting until later in the day, but the other has a meltdown complete with kicking legs and screaming and I look at the clock and just wonder why. The puppy wags his tail. He’s ready for his morning walk.

The computer is on downstairs and I yell, “No technology until after breakfast, please.” The answer: “We’re reading on the computer.”

Breakfast. Somehow I started the tradition of every snow day and first day of any break we have blueberry pancakes, and eggs or sausage or something else that requires actual cooking. So, I could bust these out by myself pretty quickly, but no. Supposed to be a teachable moment so I let her do the measuring and the stirring and I bite my lip when there is mix all over the counter and floor and she over-stirred the blueberries so that the mix is purple and little deflated blueberry balloon skins are all that’s left.

The oldest girl comes down and flops on the couch, turning on tv. And, now I’m annoyed because I can’t leave the kitchen, but I can’t seem to win against technology. And, I want my kids to go outside and like build a tree fort or something, but without my needing to supervise and without them using their father’s tools and messing anything up. Can’t they learn a foreign language or how to type? But, that would require my finding the program on the computer. And so I don’t say anything except to call the youngest when it’s time to flip the pancakes.

The laundry is going today too because, despite being spring break, there are buckets of dirty clothes. And I ask, is everything REALLY dirty? Even this shirt that I see is still folded? Did you really wear it? Yes, Mom. Three cherubic smiles. (The boy is still in bed. I don’t ask if his clothes are dirty. They are.)

And I start the dishwasher too, but have to stack the breakfast dishes in the sink, syrupy and sticky because there is too much. Too much of everything.

I dump the egg shells in the flower pots outside, tiny bit of composting, and later I see the puppy eating them. Mental note: Take the dog for another walk because who knows what that will do to his tummy.

My agent has sent me notes about the synopsis I need to get done. The kids want to know if they can watch a movie. I suggest they ride bikes. They want to know if they can play DS. I tell them they need to take the puppy for another walk. He’s going nuts because he normally has daily playdates with our neighbor’s dogs. They are all besties. The three of them run and jump over each other and do ridiculous acrobatics and then puppy comes back in and sleeps. But, the humans are on vacation and I texted the dogsitter to find out when the dogs would come outside, but don’t have a time yet.

This is him watching for his friends.

Gabe looking for Gracie

And then the doorbell rings and I realize I’m still in my pjs and my older daughter brings in a package from Fed ex or whatever. I go upstairs to get dressed. And I’m trying to decide if I can make it to critique group tonight. I haven’t been in so long, but I haven’t worked on the story I wanted to work on and I have something else, but it’s handwritten and I’d have to type it up. On the other hand, the babysitter is arranged and I don’t want to cancel on her and my husband won’t be home until late anyway and the coach is picking up the boy for lacrosse practice…and I’m thinking all these things when I hear a man’s voice. In my house.

And one of my kids wanders into my bathroom where I’m half-dressed and I say, “Is there someone here?” Which is stupid, BECAUSE I CAN HEAR THAT SOMEONE IS HERE. And the kid says, “Yeah. The bug guy is spraying.”

Which I kind of hate anyway because I don’t like chemicals all around, and I hate strangers showing up at my door. Especially when I’m not dressed. I throw on the rest of my clothes and hurry outside, but the bug guy is gone. So, the one place we need sprayed is the door in the basement because we get these huge black spiders that lurk in doorways and the bug guy didn’t spray the one spot we needed. And I’m pissed and rushed and the kids tell me that they are done playing Polly Pockets and want to know if it’s time for lunch.

And I tell them no and run to the internet to type these words so I can get my head on straight and figure out what is going on. Not just with the day because nothing really terrible has happened, but I’m frazzled and feel karate chopped.

And, here it is. Too much stimulation. I’m an introvert. I like calm and even silence. I like to drift in my thoughts thinking of story lines or images. And now I feel defensive, attacked. Crazy to make all these demands STOP.

And, I’m tired of feeling guilty. Like every break or holiday from school is supposed to be an opportunity for Pinterest. Why do I have to defend my need and my desire to work on my dream (the synopsis for my novel and a story for tonight’s meeting)? But, I do. My kids work me constantly. The boy literally spent thirty minutes last night quizzing me on his favorite things to show that I don’t spend enough time with him.


Him: You don’t even know my favorite color.

Me: Orange.


Me: Dark Blue.

Him: (huffy breath) Well, you don’t even know my favorite….

The girls are manipulative.

Me: Go play something real with your Monster High girls or your shopkins. Make up a story and act it out with the characters.

Them: Why DON’T you WANT to play WITH us?

Me: I do. But I have to work.

Them: So you don’t love us. We understand. (Slumped shoulders and eyes that slide away)

Me: We just made breakfast together.

Twin 1: No, you just did that with Twin 2.

Me: Okay, you can help me make lunch.

Twin 1: You always want me to work!


And now it’s lunch time. Hope you’re enjoying your spring break!


Last Day of School

Today is the last day of school. It was a long year — made longer by the 11 snow days that my county used. I’d like to think that Monday will automatically slow down, that we will ease into summer, but I have a Memorial Service and summer camp for the younger ones and the next session of barbell and yoga starts with a donation class raising money for at-risk youth in Baltimore. So, I’ll keep you posted when my family and I do slow down.

Last month — May — kicks my butt every year. (Picture below) You’ll notice the photo is somewhat blurry. That’s because May ZOOMS. Every day, no hyperbole, has at least three things happening. And that’s just what is scheduled. The lacrosse games and practices, the field trips to zoos and historic cities and estuaries and class picnics at school because the weather is finally cooperating. Planting the garden and the gymnastics so the girls will stop climbing the outside of my stairs…it goes on.

Family bulletin board for scheduled events.

Family bulletin board for scheduled events.

So, please forgive me for not writing.

But, today is the last day of school. For the past week the children have been bringing home artwork and thick science notebooks full of big science-y words and diagrams of ladybugs growing from larvae and pottery that has been glazed and painted and math workbooks with numerical scribbling, and certificates. All kinds of certificates, especially for my 5th grader. And I felt such pride in my children and warmth for their teachers. I wanted to hug everyone and scream, “WE MADE IT.”

And then these things happened to make me question the reality of whether we’d made it or not.

First, my son. He’s ‘graduating’ from 5th grade, this past year having been preparation for middle school. Yet, FAILED at picnicking. I invited him to a picnic. General schedule was followed in that people arrived, set food on one table, dessert on another, drinks in a cooler. All routine. After about 20 minutes of socializing there is a congregation. Sometimes a speech. In this case a prayer. Lines form and go down the table, plates are filled. I helped the two younger children, checked that my son had a plate (he did), asked if he needed anything (he rolled his eyes), I sat with two younger children and some moms.

Two hours later, thunder begins. Adult scuttle around packing up the food and folding the chairs. My son, as I’m carrying our Tupperware in one hand and our chairs in the other, says, “But I didn’t get any dessert.”

So I stop the woman (I didn’t know her name) who’d brought the best dessert. Strawberries with the tops cut off, stuffed with cream and topped with a fresh blueberry.  I stop this woman and ask if, please, my son could have some of her dessert. My two youngest have also run over to the dessert table and fetched the only thing left: oatmeal cookies, to offer to my son. To both, my son mutters, “Never mind” and stalks away.

In the car my son, who is supposed to have been maturing this past year, screams: THE PARTY DIDN’T EVEN FEED ME.

Me: But you had a plate.

Him: Only chips.

Me: Why?

Him: Because I didn’t want to wait in line.

Me: Why didn’t you go back later?

Him: I did. Everyone was cleaning up.

Me: That was 2 hours later.

Him: I don’t know that. I don’t have a watch.

So, there you go. The party is somehow an entity that puts people in high chairs and spoon feeds them, I guess. But, that’s nothing compared to what the laundry basket can do….

My daughter is finishing 7th grade. A young adult now. Handles herself in school, rides horses, responsible. And when she came home from her riding lesson, she joined the younger kids and me in the playroom where we were painting. Not long after, she realizes that she got paint all over the leg of her riding pants.

Me: Hurry, wash them off before it stains.

Her: Okay.

She gets up and disappears. About ten minutes later she comes back wearing different clothes.

Me: Did the paint come out?

Her: (quizzical look) How should I know?

Me: What do you mean?

Her: What do you mean?

Me: Where are the pants?

Her: I quick took them off and put them in the laundry bin, like you said.

Me: What do you think happens after you put them in the bin? That they are automatically clean? That you put them in and they come back out folded?

Her: You don’t have to be mean.

The riding pants were indeed in the laundry bin, spreading paint onto someone else’s white sock. I showed her the stain spray, ran the load. The riding pants were saved. So was the sock

My children have had an important year. They’ve learned many things. There is, apparently, still much to be learned.

I wish you (and your children) the best this summer!



Driving myself crazy

I’m a mom.  I understand that I’ve moved into the minivan phase of my life and  will spend a great deal of time driving around. There are birthday parties and play groups, ice skating lessons and spring soccer, bike outings, and “I want to go to the park” days. Every Sunday night I have to write out the schedule in an elaborate system to make sure that my kids get to their activities. But, I wanted to go to a critique group in Baltimore and I couldn’t fit it in.

I drove to pick up my son from flag football.  I drove my daughter to her lacrosse practice.  I drove my daughter to another site where her practice actually was (and was glad to meet another mom who also hadn’t gotten the message). After I finally got my older daughter to the right place, one of the twins was in the back seat crying because she had brought a drink for the trip and now needed to use the potty.  The other twin was blowing her nose and throwing the resulting snot bombs  through the air.

I was done.  I was mad.  I had driven myself crazy.  I needed another adult.  I needed a creative outlet.  I needed to do something that wasn’t for someone else.  But, my babysitter canceled.  In fact, we split ways because she cancelled often.  The next day — the critique group day –I had to get my son to and from practice, my daughter to and from a game, at the same time in two different directions, no less, and get the twins’ homework done.  Oh, and dinner.  Don’t forget dinner.

I felt resentful of my children for taking up my time.  For preventing me from one little eensy-weensy activity. And then I felt defeated because if I’d gotten an agent and sold tons of copies of my novel, then I’d be a *real* writer and not just be wasting time and giving myself carpal tunnel at the computer every day.

I texted and called and e-mailed to see if I could find another babysitter last minute.

The mind works in convoluted ways.  As I stopped at red lights and switched lanes, I also began turning around events in my mind.  Maybe I’d be a fantabulous writer if my child didn’t have lacrosse practice.  Maybe if I didn’t have to make dinner for everyone every night and pack lunches and scramble for breakfast before the bus comes, maybe I’d be able to write the Great American Novel.  Virginal Woolf didn’t do laundry.  Jane Austen didn’t wonder if she’d defrosted the chicken.

Well…they weren’t the mothers of their family.  I wouldn’t go to the writers’ circle.  I’d be responsible and maybe I could go to the next meeting.

My family — the ones I was busy resenting — realized that this was important to me.

My older daughter said she’d miss her game, babysit so I could go. My heart melted a little.  My son said he’d read the story for me and give me advice.  The twins came to me, held my hands, and told me they’d be very good.  I gave them all a hug.  Dog-pile, we call it when we all smush together.

I felt okay with my decision not to go.  Family comes first.

That night my husband told me I was going.  I said, “It’s just a critique group.”  He repeated that he’d come home from work early. I was going.

As quick as I became angry and frustrated, as quick as I was to blame others, love humbled me.  It’s always the right answer.  My family isn’t a burden around my neck, pulling me down to drown in an indifferent ocean.  I had it all wrong.  They are the ones gathering around me like dolphins with sailors, supporting me and carrying me forward when I’m out of hope and strength.