On Saying No

As a mom, I say “no” a lot. You know, when kids ask me for candy for breakfast or to wear shorts to school on a 40 degree day-no is the answer, hands down. Sometimes I relent and give in, if the issue isn’t really worth fighting over (still no on the candy for breakfast though). However, I’m terrible about saying no when it comes to me personally.

I am a board member on our little league board and the hockey association board that my kids play for. Both these positions require huge amounts of my free time during their respective seasons (I’m responding to emails about hockey while writing this post). For the most part, I love being a part of these organizations; I get to know the parents and the kids for the divisions that I run, and I’ve known some of these families for years now. I also just finished up a volunteer coordinator position for the soccer tournament that my son’s league hosts. It was an intense month of work leading up to the tournament, as well as 24 hours of face time on the fields during the tournament itself. I enjoyed every minute of it, despite needing almost a week to recover from the weekend.

All these positions are things that I volunteer to do of my own free will, but sometimes I wonder why I agree to do them. Yes, I enjoy seeing my hard work come to fruition. Yes, I am very organized when it comes to these kind of responsibilities (but you can’t find my countertop or my desk because I have SO.MUCH.PAPER and my kids don’t always have clean folded clothes in their rooms). Yes, I like getting to know people and yes, I like making others happy. However, these things don’t always make me happy and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s time to say no.

I’ve already decided that this is my last year on the hockey board. I only have one skater left in the organization (Drew) and after 4 years, I’m ready to pass on my knowledge to someone else. The frustration with people who don’t listen or respect me outweighs my happiness in running a good division. I’m on the fence with staying on the little league board as well; this past season was too disorganized for my liking.

With all my volunteer jobs taking up large chunks of my free time, I haven’t had much “me” time since Annie and Izzie went to kindergarten last year. The plans I put in place for myself haven’t come to fruition and that saddens me. Sometimes my “me” time is sitting staring at my phone, playing Candy Crush, because it’s all the energy I can muster. I deserve better, and quite frankly, so do my kids. I think saying no is going to make me the happiest yet.

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Friday Free for All~Back to School Edition

These short school weeks are hard. The kids are WIPED OUT when they get off the bus, and by wiped out I mean cranky and angry and not at all a pleasure to be around. We’re taking a trip to the library after school today in a desperate attempt hopes that everyone will get rid of their crankies before we step inside the house. Parenting school age kids is a rough gig sometimes.

September is my vacation time. Classroom volunteering doesn’t begin until October (after the myriad of testing dates-3 weeks worth-end) which means I have free time to myself after a long summer vacation of only having free time when I went to work. I can play Candy Crush with no one looking over my shoulder, eat a piece of candy without everyone whining that “it’s not FAAAAIR” and generally take a small breather during the day. Oh sure, the house needs to be vacuumed and the collection of paperwork from school is starting to breed (already, I KNOW) and oh look the dishes aren’t done. But in order to be a better me when the zombies darling cherubs get off the bus, I’m going to drink coffee, fritter away time on Facebook and read a book. At least for today.

Fall showed up on our doorstep the other night and it’s glorious right now. The mornings have been chilly and the afternoons have been nice, unlike last week when the kids were sweltering at school and we had to run the air conditioners all day. The leaves haven’t started to turn their gorgeous colors quite yet, but this new weather pattern will definitely help the cause. Fall has always been my favorite season and I try to soak it up when it arrives. I think I need to go dig out some fall related decorations today.

Soccer is on the agenda for us this weekend. What about you?

Yeah, I Pay My Kid in iPod Songs

I’m pretty sure the word “chores” is one of the worst words in the English language. I know it was one of my least favorite words as a teenager. I had to dust and fold towels and I think I got paid for it, but I honestly can’t remember. I hated dusting. I didn’t mind the towel folding so much though.

Now that I’m a mom of four kids, I’ve started assigning Unpaid chores to the kids. They’re unpaid because when we tried the paid option with Meg a few years ago, she refused to do anything that she didn’t get paid for. Yeah, lesson learned there. The kids are expected to clean their rooms when asked. Sometimes that results in tantrums (ok, it often results in tantrums) but let me tell you, when their rooms are clean they are happy, happy kids. I refuse to clean their rooms for them. I will sit and watch them, assisting with what to clean up next, but I will not clean 3 kids’ rooms on top of all the other stuff I’m expected to do for them. It’s called responsibility.

Anyway, now that Meg is 11 1/2, she wants stuff. Books. Clothes. Earrings. Songs for her iPod. She has a couple of regular chores, which she does sporadically at best (clean the cat boxes, wipe down the table after dinner and sweep under the table). Recently she created a list of songs that she wants on her iPod (which is an old 2nd generation iPod Touch I bought used from one of Doug’s co-workers, but she thinks it’s gold) and asked me to buy her some. Being the clever mom that I am, I came up with a mutually beneficial solution~she does chores outside her regular chores, with a smile (or at least not crankily) and I will purchase her songs. Lo and behold, my dishwasher is getting unloaded and refilled more often, loads of towels get washed/dried/folded/AND put away, and songs are magically appearing on her iPod.

I’m not really that clever. I want help around the house, she wants tunes, and voila, we have a solution. I’m happier, she’s happier. The other kids don’t have iPods yet, so I’ll have to come up with some other chore ideas for them. Maybe cleaning in exchange for tv time?

What about you? Do you have your kids do chores? Do you pay them in cash or other ways, or not at all?

Five for Five ~ Listening

I may be a day late but I’m completing the final day of Momalom’s Five for Five. The topic is Listening.

I spend many hours a day wishing for my kids to stop talking all.at.once. Their words get jumbled all together, so when Izzie is really trying to tell me that she wants pancakes for breakfast I’m not hearing her but I’m hearing Drew talk about Pokemon. I haven’t yet made the kids realize that all their talking over and around each other causes me to tune them out. I ask them to speak to me one at a time, but it’s a process we’re still trying to work out. The constant need to talk all at once leaves us all a little frustrated.

At night, though, when they’re all in bed, I listen for their voices. I force Doug to watch the tv on a lower volume, in case one of them starts to cry or coughs or whimpers for me. I listen for little voices calling for me to find a lost stuffed friend or to give a hug because of a bad dream. I listen for footsteps running down the hall to the bathroom or my bedroom, or clunking down the stairs. There is no tuning out at night, only tuning in.

My days are filled with their cacophany of words and I spend time trying to sort through them and give each child their due, but at night I can tell each little voice and footstep without any effort at all. I’m always listening to them, even when they’re asleep.

Five for Five and Just Write ~ Words

Linking up with the fabulous ladies at Momalom and the wonderful Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary for Five for Five and Just Write today.

My days are filled with words from the moment I get up until the moment I go to sleep at night. I have my daily “just eat your breakfast and go get dressed” words for my three younger kids and my “do you have your clarinet/homework/gym clothes” for my oldest. I have my work words on Wednesdays, when I switch off my mom hat for a few hours and put my paralegal hat on, words like “probate and corporation”. I have my youth sports organization words, like “schedules and board meetings”. What I’m missing are “me” words.

Of course I don’t really know what “me” words are. I think I just feel like my words are used every day for so many other people, in good and bad ways, and they don’t directly apply to me. I keep my “me” words in my head, letting them swirl around among the words for others, and they tend to get lost. I’m hesitant to share my words, partly out of fear of rejection or criticism, and partly because putting them out there makes them real. It’s much easier to keep my words to myself, despite my desire to use them more.

There’s the issue of course~to use my words or keep them to myself. It’s a battle that rages in my mind all day long. When I’m busy with the kids or work or my other responsibilities, the battle rages less. When I’m alone in my car, or folding laundry however, the battle kicks into high gear and I have to force myself to concentrate on my task at hand. I have an old friend who told me that when her thoughts, her words, got to be too much for her, she’d picture an empty basket that she’d fill with the most troublesome words and thoughts before she went to bed at night. My husband says I over-think things. In a way I do over-think them because I’m so unwilling to share my thoughts, my words. The me words just stay inside.

I need to come here to this space more often, to put my me words out there. I’m sure I’ll still be hesitant to put them all out there, but some is better than none. Maybe in time more and more of them will find their way to this space.

Stream of Consciousness

I’m watching Annie and Izzie out on the front “lawn” (term used loosely as it’s just patches of brown grass for another couple of months), riding their bikes. Annie decided a couple of weeks ago that she was going to learn to ride Drew’s old Spiderman bike. Said bike no longer has training wheels, but she didn’t care. She learned in about 30 minutes, all by herself, and now goes careening down our driveway like a madwoman. She hasn’t yet learned to stop, so she either crashes or just turns uphill a little to slow down. She’s a very determined little girl and I like to think that she inherited that trait from me. I’m certainly going to tell everyone that she did.

It’s chilly today, despite the sunshine. We ran out of oil last night so we have no heat or hot water, just another consequence of being too busy all the time to remember to check the oil tank. After a flurry of phone calls this morning the oil man is on his way, and I’m dreaming of being able to wash my hands in warm soapy water so I can warm up. The other consequence of being too busy is that laundry isn’t done and I’m stuck wearing a short sleeve shirt and lightweight sweater today. There’s something to be said for being busy and not bored, but there’s also something to be said for finding balance. It turns out I’m not good at finding balance.

I came home from a hockey association meeting the other night to the babysitter telling me that Meg took a softball to the mouth at practice. My first instinct was to feel horribly guilty that I wasn’t here to take care of her. But then I thought some more about this and realized that I can’t always be there to take care of her, and I can’t always protect her from everything. Her coach got her an ice pack and she took care of herself just fine. I’m trying to raise all my kids to think for themselves and be able to take care of themselves, so maybe I’m not doing so badly after all.

Confessions of a Large Family

We are a large family. Two adults and four kids is considered out of the ordinary in our society, even though more and more families are outside of the two adults, 2 kids, white picket fence stereotype from the 1950s. We face many challenges, from finding a hotel to comfortably sleep 6 people, to what size cars to drive (we drive a Ford Explorer and a Ford Freestar). Our family:

Uses more toilet paper in a week than I care to count;

Goes through a gallon of milk every other day;

Has to take two vehicles to a hockey rink if more than 2 of our kids is playing that day;

Is never, ever caught up on laundry;

Eats through two loaves of bread in three days;

Has more unmatched socks than matched socks;

Has to use a large LL Bean bag to bring all the books home from the library;

Has so much schoolwork piled up on the counter it’s unusable;

Runs the dishwashers twice a day most days;

Rarely has leftovers;

Uses 16 eggs to make scrambled eggs and eats it ALL;

Will probably never be able to afford a trip to Disneyworld.

If you’re a large family, do you share some of these confessions? If you aren’t a large family, do you have questions about what it’s like to be part of a large family? Ask away!