consequences of the storm

After Hurricane Elliott (and his playdate friend) rolled through the house, they left in their paths three rooms covered with stuff – kitchenette items here, silkies there, baskets of toys dumped, more mess than I have ever seen. While playing, I had suggested a few times that clean up after said friend left would be hard but his responsibility. But on the storm rolled.

Once his friend left, he was suddenly too tired to clean up and the tears started up. I offered music to aid the clean up process and to help some after I finished my work. But the picking up did not start. Calmly (but pulling out all the tactics), I stated that if he was too tired to clean up, he was too tired for gymnastics with friends tonight, too tired to stay up tonight, and he would no longer have friends over if he could not follow up a playdate with clean up. Then, I see Oliver with beads in mouth as he slipped on a kitchen baking pan. At that point, I lost it and yelled, well, a lot. As I rattled off all the consequences to him again in my loud mama voice, I realized it would not work. Elliott is strong-willed and will drag out something until I go nuts. But I wanted the house picked up NOW. So I decided I could still enforce consequences, but I would keep Oliver safe by picking the items up into boxes. So now four boxes sit in the laundry room and Elliott is starting to realize that not being able to play with any other toys until the mess is cleaned up stinks. He can be stubborn, but at least I have the house picked up and I am not going to go (as) nuts.

In the midst of situations like this, all ideas of how to act or suggestions I have heard seem to go out the window. I am left not knowing if my reaction was the best reaction. If I had not made so many of the toys or liked some of these gifts from friends, I would be inclined to box them up and say good-bye at Goodwill. Not sure that would be an appropriate reaction either.  But at least if I can find a plan that stops me from yelling, it has to be a decent one. I think. Any thoughts?

(To give you an idea of what this near five-year old is like: Just before I cleaned up into the boxes, I said in anger, “You’re not doing ANYTHING else until this mess is cleaned up.” He followed up with “Can I turn on a light? Can I sit down?” … Now, as I write this, he is asking me to pack up more of his stuff and asking if he can just touch his toys… I just might go nuts! Daily, I miss the window for clear calm communications and it is all downhill from there…. But, after posting, I asked him (calmly) to tell me what has happened and why. It is clear he understands and he can detail it out. And the internal screaming starts.)

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that’s where you’ll find me…

Somewhere over the rainbow, in Kansas that is. We are officially moving. After many discussions, time mulling and fuming, disagreements, and some tears, at least on my part, we are accepting Mike’s new position at Kansas State.

I had three big wishes for our next move. Well, they were more than wishes – more like absolutes, which are now not such absolutes!

1. a great Montessori school

2. a farm or land for animals

3. ocean

Well, Kansas is only a short drive from the ocean, right? So for the times in between our jaunts to the beach, we can make do with the local rivers and reservoir. And farm land should be plentiful! In fact I am now questioning the desire for peace and solitude as I will have that in abundance, I am sure. The trickiest part of making up our minds was the Montessori school. Manhattan, Kansas is lacking in alternative educational options. To start a school would be a challenge, one I am not feeling up for and would totally miss my children by the time I was established. And homeschooling I fear would not suit me for the long haul. A year or so, maybe, but I am learning it is not something I feel I can do well, or let just happen as with unschooling. After many searches and changing of plans, we found Montessori schools in Topeka (1 hour) and Lawrence (1.5 hours). They even have elementary programs in Lawrence!! We are now considering living on the outskirts of Topeka and each commuting, hoping that I can find employment at one of the schools to reduce tuition for the boys as well. Mike was told today there are people who do this in architecture department so maybe he can even ride share.

It is not what I wanted and what I have dreamed of this whole time we have lived in Muncie. But at a time like this, we have little choice and will have to find ways to see the advantages of this move and the place we will call home. I am trying (though not well) to not dwell on the negatives – losing so many good friends for the Mike, myself, and the boys, moving so much farther from family when the boys are just coming to remember and love their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins so much more, moving to a rental and the uncertainty of selling our house, and the packing and moving and unpacking (UGH!!!). And the list could go on. (BUT, ona positive note, we do get to live closer to Aunt Michelle, Uncle Keith, and cousin Shane! Yeah!)

This year we will also reduce our garden planting and have to double up our work efforts on repairs we did not finish last year when we thought we were listing the house. Oh, I can already see this spring and early summer playing out… busy, busy, busy. Especially with two ‘helping’ children!

just a little flooding

Nothing like a little flash flood and tornado to get my priorities straight and refocus on what is important!

Last night, while up to 3 inches of water in my garage, trying to rescue a toilet paper box (full mind you!), a car seat, a few of Mike’s tools, and check on the status of the freezers (and all that food!), I saw flicking lightening and heard boom after boom. I quickly realized that standing in a lake of water was not the best place to be and quickly retreated inside. Only then, did I realize our area was under tornado threat so I scooped the boys up out of bed and got us all to our entry closet for safety. Elliott declared it a closet party and both boys did great hanging out, having an emergency supply snack of crackers and juice, and playing with flashlights and the phone (with Oliver nearly getting through to 911).

After the boys went back to bed and I felt I checked on everything in the house and yard plenty of times, I lay in bed, listening to the rain and winds. With only a few inches outside my home, I was panicking about flood damages and hoping the rain would just stop. I cannot imagine living in a place where the floods are much more real than this and the damages to home and life so severe. It was in thinking through what I would save in the house if I had to leave  that I realized nothing was all that valuable. I know I already knew this. Of course I did. But to feel the wave of panic about caring for my children just called my attention to it. And it had my attention for at least two hours this morning!

Flood of Spring 2008…

Mike fixed this with a drainage pipe which has worked great. But last night’s flooding was too much for the pipe since the front sewer was clogged/backed up. The water was up to the stepping stones, filling the front yard and seeping through the garage cracks.

I want to be a Radical Homemaker right now!

I am currently reading the book Radical Homemakers. I am loving this book… really, really loving it. Generally, well, my interpretation, it is re-examining the way we live and saying we need to return back to the family and working as a family to care for ourselves for greater satisfaction in our lives. It covers what steps I have made towards a different way of living already and what I feel I want to change to get to how I want to live. But today I felt overwhelmed by my inability to change things right now. I tend to live this way in my spending, my work, my leisure even. If I cannot get something done at the very moment I want it done, I tend to want it done as soon as possible. But what if it is not possible? What if it takes months or years? Then I tend to get very down on myself or the goal and have often given up or settled for less. With such lofty goals and what I see as a modern-day of attitude of right now, I am struggling with how to plan for a future and continue to make the steps towards it.

You see as I read this book, I was working out at the Y and just this morning made a purchase on Etsy for something I could have made because I wanted it right then. And I justify why I am at the Y and why I get things I could make and why I do not make all my own food and why we have three cars in the driveway and so forth. But in these back steps, I need to start recognizing forward momentum towards the goal and start making plans for taking bigger steps to get where I actually want to be, even if they are years down the road.

savoring each bite

All parents have days like mine have been… wild, upset, or mischievous children changing the course of the day in a single moment, adding more work to the day, causing tempers to flare, bouncing between sweet and loving to rowdy and rude. Add that to the regular routine and it has felt like a juggling act for days around here – clean a dirty kitchen, answer demands or pleas for snacks, start the washer, change a diaper (3 poops or more a day!), mend a split lip (two different days this week!), switch clothing to the dryer, respond to important and unimportant emails, shovel snow so the mailman can walk to the door, mail packages, make phone calls, do a complicated craft, play a game, cook dinner, remove a child from a tabletop, remove a child from the cactus, remove a child from the toilet, and so on. Oh, and maybe squeak in a cup of tea and a dash to the bathroom for me, but only if there is time! Today, stuck home from exercising because of snow, the day went according to the same ‘plan’ as days passed – busy, with little actually getting accomplished.

But I threw in something extra today… I discovered a great recipe for butter toffee. As I often do, I told myself to make it anther day. But after an hour that felt like a day, I was really ready to make toffee. Well, to be honest, just eat toffee. But I did all my other work and fun first while Oliver napped and then started the sugar and butter boiling about the moment Oliver was waking up. As the candy thermometer refused to climb at a satisfactory rate, I was forced to let Elliott get Oliver out of his room. “Release the hound!” From my kitchen post, I shouted commands like “Don’t knock him over. I cannot help him right now” or “Elliott, find something to distract him, quick!” And so well over a half hour went by. (Was it even this long? It felt like much, much longer,) I stirred and stirred and the temperature went up ever so slow. The whole time I imagined all the scenarios of awful things unfolding in other rooms, out of sight… and what would absolutely require me to leave the stove. The closer I got to the end and I could smell my toffee, I realized very little could force me to leave that stove! Broken toys and gashed lips would require that someone toddle to me for a hug.

As I neared the final golden 298 degrees, I was just delighted to learn that my candy thermometer was not accurate. Quickly, I changed to a digital thermometer, got it off the stove, and added vanilla. But, in desperation to get a second silicone mat that I really did need, I plopped the hot pan onto another one. It added a nice film to my pot and totally ruined the cutting mat. I finally got it all spread, left it to cool on the mats, left a mess in the kitchen, and checked on my two little ones, who just happened to be playing peacefully in the back. Phew!

Thinking I could move onto the next step, I started melting chocolate, chopping nuts, and grinding sea salt. Since I had far less quality chocolate than needed, I was doing my melting in three stages – great, good, and so-so chocolate. The first one, quality dark baking chocolate, was easy and done in a flash, spread and coated with nuts and sea salt. The second, quality white baking chips, scorched in the pot and then burnt in the microwave – a total waste. The third, cheap milk chocolate chips, never even melted, just globbed in the bowl – more waste. In just another half hour, I had stunk up the kitchen, dirtied a good dozen pots and utensils, and had to contend with burnt on goop on more than one pot. Oh, and I needed to pay what little attention I could spare to children as questions were asked, tears shed, and hands reached for the stove.

But (yes, there is a but), at this point, I could snap off little (or big) pieces of toffee to sustain me. And, Elliott left me alone for a whole five minutes once he negotiated “one, maybe two, uh, maybe three” pieces of toffee from me. And, AND, I feed Oliver leftover chocolate chips while I cleaned up. So while it was utter chaos and stressful, my boys could survive a few minutes without me and we all got some tasty toffee or treats to make the rest of the day go better.

Now, go make some toffee and make Friday super sweet!

* And you may wonder where all the wonderful pictures are of the lovely toffee and the lovely mess. But in the rush of it all, I could not even leave the stove for the camera. And once I remembered the camera when I got to my big toffee sheets, I realized Pioneer Woman’s images would be far lovelier and looked a lot like my sweet treat anyways. Although, I did not do double sides as she did since I was short of chocolate.

a new, but not so improved me

The way I see myself and the way I actually am has shifted over the years. I believe myself to be punctual, ordered – in home and body, and be somewhat calm. And I might sometimes slip up and say that I am some or all of these things. But since the mobility of Oliver, who I am has become plain to me. I am constantly late, I cannot keep thoughts in my head for more than a second, I feel chaos in everything I do, and I repeatedly lose my temper. Now I find myself making excuses to Elliott’s preschool about dirty diapers, clock not set right, and so forth to cover my inconsistencies. I find I forgot a thought while walking into another room. I yell over the smallest of issues. What had me thinking about this was a 45 minute visit to the pediatrician this morning:

After waiting a few minutes in the waiting room, Oliver needed to be undressed for the scale. While Elliott danced around with his magna doodle, I heaped our coats, Oliver’s clothing, and my bag on the chair. When it was time to migrate to the exam room, I was juggling Oliver, the heap of clothing and herding Elliott while he repeatedly blocked the nurse (who thankfully took our coats while she carried a laptop). After Oliver unpacked my bag, fell a few times and Elliott knocked him over to protect his magna doodle, we saw the doctor, got the lead test and shots we came for and repacked everything we brought. And there was some crying. After assigning Elliott the job of carrying his toy and my papers, and loading my arms with a toddler and our gear, we headed for check out. This is where it really got chaotic.

Apparently one nurse thought our insurance would allow for a certain pricing on shots, but the checkout nurse disagreed. I was asked to wait a few moments. I heaped our stuff up, Elliott sat in a chair, and Oliver toddled away, quite quickly, down the hall and into waiting rooms. He was lured back, only wanting to run again. Then he had to give their decorative snowman a few whacks. Next, Elliott declared he was hungry. Trying to be discreet, I pulled out pretzels for the boys. Oliver ate one and fussed to get down, while Elliott dug into the bag for a fistful. Then Oliver sneezed, blasting snot and pretzel all over his face and my white sweater (yeah, stupid choice). While I was getting him cleaned up, Elliott dug around in my purse for toys. Oliver toddled off yet again. While I was fetching Oliver, Elliott managed to spread out four or five items on the chairs and floor, some more embarrassing than others. And during all of this, I occasionally had to answer a question or two at the desk.

Finally, we haggled a bit more and they gave me the reduced fees. We gathered our stuff, lured Oliver to the elevator and trudged out. In one short hour, I was wiped out. I felt as if I had no control and I could not think straight. When an adult asked me a question, my mind was swimming with all my children’s issues. After that, I decided I wanted coffee and a cookie so off we went. I felt I needed that to continue the day.

I used to see parents juggling stuff and feel a bit of pity but also a bit of arrogance. Surely, that would not be me. I would have it all together. Today I felt I was the one being pitied by the other parents who watched this all unfold. And I really see now that until my children move out, I will not be as punctual, ordered or calm as I once was. Is this just one part of the price of raising children? I guess the positive of a morning like this – it could have been worse, much worse. No dirty diapers, no throwing up, no hurt children, no tantrums. Oh the list goes on of things I am thankful we did not have happen this morning!

my resolutions

While in line for coffee, Elliott asked for a cookie. I reminded him we were stopping the sweet treats, like HE had suggested. And amazingly he was fine with it. But he did make sure to point out, again, that I should stop buying coffee as well. Luckily, the drive-thru line was long and it gave us ample time to discuss bad habits, addictions, and gradual weaning, in a 4-year old appropriate way, of course!

I have been feeling rather disgusted with myself lately because my nail-biting habit was full-blown again and I was a cranky, nervous wreck with the boys. But when I was explaining about stopping bad habits to Elliott, it occurred to me that I am battling a few all at once. I am cutting bad coffee, I am reducing the number of to-go sweets I am eating, I am still fighting the nail-biting urges, and I am trying to make more time to exercise (not a bad habit, trying to make a new good habit). Well, instead of wanting instant success, I decided to cut myself some slack and give myself a few weeks to beat them all. It is may not be December 31st, but I am making some resolutions and trying to stick to them.

the good and bad of being hooked

For days now, I have been struggling with how to cope with my habit. A coffee-drinking, money-guzzling, gut-breaking habit. And then I realized my problem was far bigger than just wanting a coffee. I wanted the interaction with another (smiling) human being. I wanted the ease and instant satisfaction of the coffee, handed to me, ready to drink. I wanted the instant feel good feeling I get, the pleasure of 10 minutes where I feel like I can safely ignore the kids and relax. But with all this good stuff comes the bad. It is an expensive habit. It is a calorie-loaded habit (see, I tend to get a treat with my coffee too – a double whammy). And then the bad feelings creep in, the guilt totally negating all the good.  It is a lot of emotion wrapped up in one coffee.  And everyday I am riding this rollercoaster.

When I initially tried to cut back by getting smaller sizes, not ordering a cookie, or skipping a day, I started realizing I was compensating in other ways to get the same tiny relaxing high. I got take-out lunch (which was waaaay more money than coffee costs), I ate more candy and sweets at home (a lot more!), or I indulged in a marathon nail-biting sessions (a habit I did have broken). If I did not find a way to unwind and feel better, I was extremely snarly to the little men in my lives, and more often than not, the big man in my life too.

I know I have to break my habit(s). I also now realize I need a sane way of doing it – leaving me not feeling so guilty, so down. It took me 26+ years to quit biting my nails – with a list of arguments why I needed to stop, rewards, mental arguments, money blown on new ‘tricks’ to stop and a lot of frustration. Finally, it just clicked and I just stopped. But I do not have 26 years to break my newest habit. My piggy bank cannot take it, my waist cannot take it, my well-being is too tied to it.

I do not have a solution. Just spending another day thinking the problem over and wondering if I feel so good and then bad the days I splurge, will the reverse be true? Will I feel bad at first and then, once I see the benefits, feel good? Hard to believe it would be true the first cranky day without it.

singing to my dough

Often while trying to make some challah dough or olive oil dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I find I am easily distracted by children’s cries for help, non-stop chatter, or even my own brain thinking up what is next on the to-do list. Since I like to sing, I started singing to my dough. The most crucial point that I get lost in the recipe is at adding flour. Most recipes have you adding 6 to 7 cups of flour. So many opportunities to get lost in my counting! Seriously. So now, I sing each number over an over, changing the tune for each number. It is a kind of chant and song and keeps me on track. It also stops children’s chatter as they listen, thus freeing a little more brain power for counting.

follow up on the yelling

We let the yelling jar go a bit beyond a week, to fall on a day of the week when we could fulfill the counting and family activity together as a family – a Sunday. To recap what we are doing, visit this post.

Total counts for the first week:

big E – – 19

mama – – 7

daddy – – 6

We found we had to find a way to throw a few extra stones in for Mike since he is gone during the day time. Even with the amount we decided to add in, he still came out with less. He decided we would play bocce ball on the front lawn, since little O desperately needed to get to bed. Next week I hope we can make sure we can all really be present and little O is not just known as part of the family by his snoring over the moniter!

Some things we noticed this week…

– Big E was quite honest and willing to admit when he had been yelling and to put in his stones. He even was willing to admit he had not calmed down and yelled repeatedly, so he put in two stones. (He actually said he should put in five or six, but I let that slide.)

– I also noticed that because big E would remind me that I was yelling, I was quicker to calm down, recognize I needed to rephrase, and felt better finding a way to change my reaction.

– Putting stones in for yelling did not change overall general nasty remarks or snippiness. As long as we were not yelling it, we had to let it slide, atleast for now. That may be what comes next for this family.

I realize that this is the first week so we were trying hard and really felt accountable. We will see what next week holds. Big E did seem to want to do better. Maybe there is hope.

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