Thursday, August 11, 2016

Did I Miss Something?

I have a hair appointment after work tonight.  This means that while I'm relaxing with a glass of wine and chatting tv shows and movies with the ladies of Vanity Chic, my children will be systematically destroying my house.  Seriously.  It's a given.  I'll get home around 7:30, and while the children will be fed, clean, happy, and about ready for bed.  But my house will be 2600 square feet of chaos and disaster.

It's not their fault.  Not really.  They're 2 and 5. I'm trying to instill that we clean up after ourselves, but it's hard to keep A motivated to pick up her stuff when the second that her Magic Clip Princesses are in the box her brother dumps them out.  And in the interest of fairness (something I'm big on, but that's another story) I don't really feel right about asking A to clean up after her brother.

So what will happen is after bedtime, I'll make the rounds through the house and clean up.  It's going to suck. I'm going to be tired and cranky, but I'll tell myself that it's the price I pay for two hours of peace and quiet and it'll be over soon.  Which it will.  In a half hour I can have pretty much everything where it belongs and I'll feel better about everything.  I don't function well in chaos.

And that's kind of why I'm confused about why it's suddenly become the thing among parents, mainly moms, to share what a clusterf*ck state your house and sometimes yourself, are in.  Seriously.  I follow or used to follow a lot of the more popular mom blogs. But honestly, I got really sick of hearing about how you haven't had time to shower in three days and your house is a disaster and here is a pic of the laundry that is taller than your child. Look, I get it. Kids are not neat and clean.  They have no respect for organizational systems and they'll eat floor Cheerios before they'll eat a dinner that you spent all afternoon putting together. But why are you almost bragging about what a wreck you are? What happened to having pride in yourself and your home?

When it comes to the domestic front I'm pretty much on my own.   Whether I go to work or not, I get a shower.  Every day. Sometimes I get up painfully early to do it. Before I go to bed at night, my house is cleaned up. It's not photo ready, but you better believe that I'm not letting milk solidify on the counter and leaving a sinkful of dishes. I do have a once a month housekeeper that does the deep cleaning stuff. But she doesn't do my laundry or pick up toys or organize my mail.

I'm not necessarily saying that we should go back to the 1950s and there are probably feminists reading this that are ready to tear my head off.  I just don't get why we are spending hours on Pinterest and Facebook and Instagramming our filthy homes instead of taking care of them.  Did I miss something? Did it become cool and fashionable to be what people nowadays call "a hot mess"?  And if you are going to be a hot mess, why are you bragging about it? Do you want the world to cheer you on in solidarity?

My mother and grandmother maintained pristine homes, all while raising children and getting minimal help from spouses. And being dressed every day.  If messy homes and unshowered moms are the new normal today, what's going to be normal for my kids? Gross.

Rant over.

Now stop reading this and go put your laundry away :)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Is Honesty Really Best? (Or, Just Another Solo Sunday)

I do a lot of solo parenting.  I mean A LOT. And not the kind where I’m home alone with the kids until dinnertime, when my husband comes home to take over.  I don’t have the luxury of retiring to my room to take painkillers and watch Netflix at 5pm when I get a migraine.  I can’t often hand off bathtime on a day that I JUST CAN’T anymore.  At minimum, it’s 24 straight hours. Lots of times it’s more.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew that going in.  It’s a choice I made, as I am sure someone is thinking right now.   (Because that’s totally how falling in love works. Make sure he works a 9-5 and makes enough money so I can stay home. Priorities.)  I chose to assume this role in parenting the kids, and keep my career going, etc.  But the choice I struggle with all too often is how much of the day to day stress I should share with my husband.

Yesterday was rough. A decided that the only suitable activity for her was to launch herself off the couch in the playroom onto a pile of blankets. (Thanks, Clover, for teaching my child the concept of a “soft landing”.) Liam is a toddler terror, made worse by the fact that he is huge for his age and smart way beyond his almost two years.  He wanted a still undetermined item from a cabinet above my desk, and was prepared to stand there and scream until I retrieved said item.  A chose that moment to start bouncing off of the living room furniture, which is strictly forbidden. And then the phone started going off with work stuff.  So I did what any solo parent would do.  I pretty much lost it. Spun out.

I’ve had worse days.  I mean, there was the day that Liam stole a full used coffee filter from the trash can and took off into the living room. And the time that he got a full container of cocoa powder out of the pantry.  And the time that A found a lip gloss and went nuts in her room.  Oh, and don’t forget the time she found the purple marker, but no paper, and thought the walls were a suitable substitute.  But in the context of the moment, yesterday was pretty bad.  I had plans for it to be a screen time free day, filled with art and activities and stories and such.  Turns out I made it until 10:30.

So then when Bill texted me around 11 to see how the day was going, I had to make a decision.  Do I tell him that I am literally a step away from the edge? That would make him feel helpless, because there was nothing he could do. And maybe guilty, because he wasn’t there to back me up. It’s his job, it’s what he does. But I know he’d rather be home with us on any given day. Is he having a bad day? Hearing that things are falling apart on the homefront might make it worse.  What if he’s having an awesome day? Do I want to bring him down?

But if I don’t want to tell him about the struggles of the day, isn’t that like lying? Do I want to lie, and tell him that the day is just great, and we’ve having so much fun?  Isn’t it best to be honest, and tell him that things are out of control? He has bad days with the kids too, when he’s home. 

Fortunately after nap time, things seemed to calm down.  Liam was excited to play Expedition, where we set up Base Camp in the playroom, then a series of other camps throughout the house until summiting the “mountain” in my room. We watched some movies, had some dinner, and everyone made it to bed at a reasonable time.  But still, even now, I’m not sure how much of yesterday’s drama I need to share.  I’ll probably do what I’ve been doing, which is downplay it a bit.

Until the next time A and Liam decide to make potions with the baby shampoo and bubble bath again.  There’s no holding me back on that one.

Liam poses at Camps 2 and 3. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Peace Out, JCC: Lessons From Jewish Preschool

Today is kind of bittersweet.  It’s Amelia’s last day at the JCC.  We had planned on letting her ride out this school year until the end of May, but for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into, it was time to make the change now.  For the first two years, it was a really great fit for us. And I credit her teachers from the first two years for teaching her so much.  I was expecting to be emotional this week, but seeing as how two different strangers have been watching her class when I’ve done pickup this week, that hasn’t happened. Not to mention the revolving door of teachers that she has had since October.

But there are some really, really great things that I’m taking with us today.  I’m not Jewish as everyone knows, but there are certain Jewish traditions that I have learned over the last two years.  And some of them are really fantastic.  A mommy blogger that I love, Ilana Wiles, described her youngest daughter as “a big fat Jewish sponge”. Meaning that even though they weren’t ultimately that religious, her daughter picked up a lot at Jewish preschool that she brought home.  They have started implementing more and more of what she learns in school, and it’s been really great for their family.
So, I present to you, a few Jewish things that this Catholic girl is taking away with her today.

  • ·         First and foremost, the Shabbat dinner.  The Jewish Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and lasts until nightfall on Saturday.  Not everyone celebrates with the same level of severity. (Very much like Catholics and Lent.) But I’ve found that I really, really like the idea of having one dinner at home per week that is kind of special.  Traditionally, you use good plates, tablecloths, the works. I know most of us aspire to have family dinner every night. For most people it’s just not possible.  But one meal? I think I can handle that.  So if we’re friends, plan on being invited for a Shabbat dinner.  Besides, Challah is freaking amazing.

  • ·         With the exception of the High Holy Days (the Jewish New Year) most Jewish holidays feel a lot less stressful. I’m sure a lot of it varies from family to family, but I have yet to meet a Jewish family that gets as crazy over Hanukkah as we non Jewish families get over Christmas and Easter.  Most Jewish families that I know take holidays way more in stride. It’s not a constant flow of bake this, cook this, take 16 days off for various celebrations, decorate the house from top to bottom… Hanukkah lasts for 8 crazy nights, but life goes on during those 8 nights.  In fact, lots of Jewish families celebrate the holidays by going somewhere tropical and I am so down with that!

  • ·         Challah is amazing (yes, I know that I have said this already.) Try it.

  • ·         Mitzvot.  I hope I spelled that right. That’s when you do something nice for someone.  It probably has a super deep meaning and I am probably oversimplifying it, but my own interpretation is that it’s like paying it forward.

  • ·         And last but not least, I can say Grace in Hebrew.  Top that.

There are a lot of other cool things that I got to experience by sending A to Jewish preschool. I’m glad that she got the diversity of being around a lot of kids who are growing up in a different culture and faith than her own.   I’m excited for her to start this new chapter in her life, and I’m super excited that I am not going to have to make a twice daily drive down 18 from 77 to Medina.  I might still cry when I pick her up today and drive out of that parking lot for the last time…But I’m taking a lot of memories and lessons along with me. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

How HGTV is Driving Home Sellers to Drink

House Hunters. Love It or List It. Curb Appeal. Flip or Flop. Clearly all pretty popular shows on HGTV.  HGTV, in case you actually have a life and don't watch as much TV as I do, is the home improvement channel. It's insanely popular, particularly among those looking to buy or sell a home. These shows teach you how to update and stage your home.  They are also causing me to chase my emergency anxiety pill with a half bottle of Voga every time someone comes to see our house. Now there is a survey out there somewhere that rates moving up there with marriage and divorce as being among the most stressful life events. And in my highly professional opinion, HGTV has done more to up the stress level of buying/selling a home than the 2008 crash ever could.

When my parents sold their first house in 1983, showing your house was easy.  You made sure the beds were made, the dishes were done, and that the lawn was mowed.  If you had kids the toys went in the toy box.  No big deal.  Since there was no internet or centralized showing service, you were lucky if you got a phone call ten minutes before a broker arrived with a client.  And guess what? Houses sold.

Today the expectations for the home seller is out of control.  First of all, you must pack up at least half of your belongings, if not more. You must remove all of your family photographs. You must box up all of your knicknacks. You must remove all of your kitchen items from the kitchen counter. And don't even think about putting these boxes in your basement or garage, because buyers will be looking at these! Your oven, microwave, and refrigerator must be spotless because buyers will look in these!  You must hide your hampers and dirty laundry but don't even think of putting them in closets, because prospective buyers will open those!

Basically HGTV has trained homebuyers to want to see houses that do not look lived in. Buyers today expect perfectly staged homes, completely spotless and neutral. Now don't get me wrong, I always prefer to see a house that is not lived in.  To me it's just uncomfortable to walk through someone's house, with all of their things there to see. (And even worse if the buyer hangs around!) But that's just house hunting. Cost of doing business, so to speak. People sometimes have to sell houses while they still live in them.  Deal with it and look past it and look at what is really important.

Now, there are four people still currently living in my home.  50% of them are under the age of 4. Trust me, I do absolutely everything I can to make sure that my house is clean and neat and in great shape for showings.  But to leave negative feedback on my house because I have a shelf full of board games in the basement storage room and tools in the garage is just absurd. I have stuff.  And I am not going to pay for a storage unit for my stuff so that my storage space in my house is empty.

I'm selling a house with two brand new bathrooms and a new kitchen.  It has a new roof, furnace and AC, and hot water tank.  It has new carpet and a new retaining wall. For Christ's sake people, look past the boxes of books and excess kitchen stuff that is neatly arranged on shelves in the basement. It seems like the people buying houses today would rather see empty open space than have the knowledge that they are going to be ten or twenty years away from making any significant repairs. And I blame that on Sabrina Soto!

People, these are houses.  And sometimes real people live in them. Don't make an already stressful situation worse. HGTV needs to stop encouraging the bar to be set so high. There is no reason that you should pack up your entire life just to sell your house.  There's a difference between having your house "show ready"  and "tv show ready."   This is reality, not reality tv.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

For Better Living...

0 empty calories/processed foods
1 hour of exercise/reading
2 liters of water
3 cups of green tea/green juice
4 mental and stretch breaks
5 things you are grateful for 
6 am meditation
7 minutes of laughter
8 hours of sleep
9 thousand steps daily

I came across this countdown on Instagram the other day.  With a little bit of research, I traced it back to Brenda Strong, who is a yoga teacher, fertility expert, and actress, best known for portraying Mary Alice Young on Desperate Housewives.  It's a little self-help ish and a little New Agey, and I don't usually have much tolerance for such things. But this list, for some reason, kind of stood out to me and made me think.  It's been a stressful few weeks and it doesn't look like life is going to get much less stressful.  The main contributing factor is my stress is how so many things are out of my control right now.  I can't control certain things going on at work and I can't control how fast my house sells. But I can control me, and it seems like lately other things are controlling me, as opposed to me controlling me. This countdown (count up?) seems like a way that I can take back some control, and maybe make myself feel better in the process.

0 empty calories/processed foods 

I swear, I have the best of intentions with food.  I do.  I know what is good for me and what is not.  I also know that at 7:00 at night after a full day of work and an evening of taking care of my kids, food takes a backseat. It's way too easy to just eat a bowl of cereal or frozen french bread pizza.  Definitely something that I can plan better and work on this summer.

1 hour of exercise/reading

Easy.  I'm almost always on the treadmill first thing, and I love reading.  Just have to keep it up.

2 liters of water

I'm really good at drinking water at work.  Not so much when I get home and my 6:00 Diet Coke just sounds soooooooo good. Something else that needs improvement.

3 cups green tea/green juice

In an effort to get myself to stop drinking a pot of coffee every day, I had already started drinking green tea.  I'm not crazy, I still have my two cups of black coffee first thing, but I switched to tea after that.  Green juice is harder because this is Ohio and the only place I can find it is on Chagrin Boulevard and I refuse to go there. But I will look into it a little more and see if I can find a way to make it work.

4 mental and stretch breaks

Easy to do, hard to remember to do. Thankfully it is summer and if it ever stops raining I can grab a friend to take a lap around the parking lot a few times a day.

5 things you are grateful for

My family, my friends, the fact that I have a job, the fact that I have a house to sell, the fact that I have the means to purchase another one, and the weekly Farmers Market where I can buy non-processed healthy ish cookies.  Look, I found 6 things!

6am meditation

I was quite the yoga person for a long time and I will admit that I have never gotten the hang of meditation.  If I sat quietly on the floor with my eyes closed at 6 am I would fall asleep.  Couple that with the fact that I tend to get lost inside my own head if things are too quiet for too long.  However, I have a commute to and from work everyday, and that is time that I can use to kind of think and straighten myself out, or just listen to music and not think about anything.  I'm going to read up on meditation though, it might be something I just need to figure out.

7 minutes of laughter

That's why God invented Youtube.

8 hours of sleep

Um, I have children.  But I guess there are ways I can do better.  I can go to sleep earlier, I can keep working on the whole sleep training thing with the little guy.  Progress, not perfection right?

9 thousand steps daily

Time to fire up the FitBit.  I wonder if this is in addition to my hour of exercise.  I'm guilty of sometimes being really lazy for the rest of the day if I have a good morning workout. But I have children to chase and a house to take care of and co workers who are always up for a quick walk, so maybe it is just a matter of putting forth a little more effort into moving around.

It looked like there was a #10, but it was cut off from the image and Google has not helped me find it, so I guess this is where I leave you.  Like I said, this is a little self help ish.  But maybe I need a little bit of that now, more than I would like to admit. I'm glad I found this and it's nice to have a list to work from in order to work on myself a little bit.  And maybe I can help someone else find some inspiration too :)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Decision 2016

Now here is my disclaimer.  The following is my opinion based on my own personal knowledge and experiences. If you disagree with me, that's fine.  Everyone has to do what they feel is right for their own family, and I am in no way judging anyone for what they did/plan to do.

I attended a birthday party with Amelia on Saturday. It was the first time I have ever gone to one with her.  Between the baby and being sick, Bill has been the one on the birthday party circuit. I don't know the parents of the kids in her class and I hadn't met most of them before. Despite my original dread of having to go to one of those bouncy places, it actually wasn't so bad.  I had prepared myself for all kinds of drama and mayhem, but thankfully nothing happened.

What I had not prepared myself for was every parent asking me when A's birthday was, and what I was planning to do about kindergarten. I didn't give it much thought at first, and actually I thought what they meant was "Are you sending her somewhere else, or are you keeping her at Lippman?". Since we are planning on moving but I have no clue where, I just responded that we weren't sure, since we were shortly selling our house and there was quite a bit up in the air.

I did not realize, until maybe the fourth person had asked me, the real question.  The real question was would I be sending her off to kindergarten after the next year of preschool.  I was stumped.  Now, I am not an educator, I know almost nothing about the education system or how things work, and Amelia is my oldest child.  I thought that things still worked the way they did when I was a kid. You went to preschool when you were 3 and 4, and after you turned 5 you went to kindergarten. If you were too close to some cutoff line, which I thought I remembered as being in September, you had to wait.  Case closed.

Oh how wrong I am.  I can sent A to "Transitional Kindergarten".  This is a class sort of in limbo between preschool and kindergarten.  I can send her to kindergarten at Lippman for a year, then I can send her somewhere else for a year of kindergarten.  Yup, two years of kindergarten.  Or I can just keep her home for a year, getting bored out of her mind while Bill and I, who are utterly unqualified to do so, try to homeschool her in some sort of way.  I'm sure there are other options too, but this is just what I picked up from the parents that I talked to on Saturday.

Again, I am no educator. I am no expert in early childhood education or child development. But these kids are just starting to turn 4. Kids change a lot in a month, let alone a year.  How can  you make a decision like that so far in advance? Why should you have to? A kid who is a little behind today can catch up in a heartbeat.  I shall use my own child as an example. My daughter was probably the last person in her class to be potty trained.  It was a nightmare. Nothing we tried worked. I was convinced that she was behind developmentally and was considering bringing in the experts.  Until one day she just decided she was going to do it, and that was that.  Period. Done.  I think ultimately it was a combination of her just deciding she was ready, and peer pressure.

So what do I plan on doing? Honestly, I'm going to let her ride out her last year of preschool. I'm going to have her take the kindergarten readiness test, and talk to her teachers, and if they say she is ready for kindergarten I am sending the kid to kindergarten.  She is smart, she likes school, she likes being around other kids. She can count, she knows her letters, she recognizes certain words. She listens to directions and sits still when she is told to sit still. Where remains to be seen, but unless a professional advises me otherwise, at that time, I'm not holding her back.  But the real answer is, she's not even 4.  There is plenty of time for me to decide that. I have a lot of things to stress out about right now, and my kid's kindergarten plans are not among them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It's A Small World After All. Or The House That Built Me. Or The Houses That Didn't.

We're getting ready to put our house on the market.  A little new carpet, a little new paint, and a horrifyingly expensive retaining wall are all that stand between us being able to sell the old homestead and look for something better.  Much thanks is owed to our good friend and realtor, Jess, who has been a help in so many ways.  She's really gone above and beyond, and we aren't even listed yet.  I was very happy to be able to help her a little bit last week, and like so many other random things, the experience got me thinking.

A week or so ago, Jess came by to take a good look at the house, make some staging suggestions, and discuss the pricing and listing.  We got to talking, and she mentioned a listing that she is going to have shortly in Seven Hills.  Naturally, since I grew up there, I asked her where the house was in Seven Hills.  And naturally, when she told me Pleasant Valley Road, I asked her to be more specific.  And when she told me, I realized that it was a house I was very familiar with! The previous owners' daughter had gone to grade school and high school with me, and I had been to the house many, many times.  Jess asked me if I knew anything about the house, which is a really neat turn of the century farmhouse. Unfortunately all that I could tell her was that the house and grounds were really cool, which was not particularly helpful.  It had been a few years since I had talked to her, but I offered to try and get in touch with my old friend and see what she could tell us about the house.

The email address that I had didn't seem to get through, but I asked around among our mutual grade school and high school friends and I was able to get in touch. It was really great to reconnect.   She could not have been more excited to share the extensive history of her childhood home, as well as all of the renovations that her parents had done to house.  She also told me how much she loved that house, how much the house meant to her, and asked if it would be possible to bring her husband and children to see it.

That gave me what my sister would call "the warm fuzzies." I'm not particularly attached to the house we live in right now.  The neighborhood maybe, but not the house.  We didn't pick it out together and though we renovated it top to bottom, it was a stressful, expensive process that caused a lot of arguing and a lot of very quiet nights. It ran way over budget and way over the timeline. And a lot of stupid things went wrong that weren't even in our renovation plans. (Though the buyer of the house is going to be blessed with a lovely new hot water tank, furnace, and air conditioner.) The finished product is beautiful, but to me it's still just a house and I'm not sad to part with it.

I'm not attached to any house that I've lived in.  My last few years of living in my first Akron home were painful and traumatic and I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I still own it (thanks 2008) but I can't bear to be inside it.  I never cared for my childhood home in Seven Hills. That's nothing against my family, but the house itself just wasn't my style.  We moved to Seven Hills just before I started the first grade and I never really felt like I fit in there. Plus, it's been redone so many times that even though my parents still live there, it doesn't feel like the house I grew up in.  And I guess I was just too young to be attached to the house we lived in before that.

It's something to think about as we start seriously looking for our next house.  Do houses help shape who we are?  Is there something about them that is intangible, that can make a difference? Should I be looking at more than kitchens and dining rooms and whether or not there is wallpaper that I have to tear down? Do people build houses, or do houses, as Miranda Lambert says, build us?