Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cleaning house, doing homework

My job is not to be the friend or a coach to my kids. Coaches only have the kids for two hours and they send them home!

For years, I was constantly trying to stay on top of getting the house clean. It was something that eluded me. First because I had no mommy mentors to speak of-- my mom had four kids but my older sisters only had 2 and 3 each and are in their 50's and we have nothing in common. Second because people would give us things and I felt bad not using them even though they were just cast-offs. Sometimes people dropped stuff by in the middle of the night and my kids hauled the stuff in. I hated it then and I am not interested in it now!

The rental house was too small for us and again, we had a problem post fire that everyone wanted to give us stuff that we didn't need. I literally felt like I was drowning. I got good at turning people down by simply saying thank you, but that we didn't need anything but if they didn't need it, I'd be happy to help them get it over to the local thrift store.

In our new house, order is paramount to me. The former owners did a terrific job painting this house that we now own. (I think the former lady of the house was an interior designer.) I love having space and energy flows well.

The epiphany that I had the other day has really opened my eyes. I have a few kids struggling in school and I realized that if I can't knit simple lace or stay focused in knitting entrelac, they can't study. (Tea pauses for everyone to nod their approval, then she runs when they want to slap her for not figuring this out before.) But now it isn't about Mom make the miscreants behave so she can stay sane. This is far bigger than my sanity: the kids have to behave in a manner that doesn't take away from their siblings being able to learn, and they have to exhibit study skills that their younger siblings should emulate.

As I have shed junk I am also having the kids shed attitudes that I believe inhibbit their abilities to learn. I made the mistake of letting Cloud have a friend over a couple of weeks ago and she let her chores go saying as she was getting ready for her friend to come over that she couldn't do them and they didn't get done. Well, she had time to do them between coming home and her friend coming over. Another son went to a friends' house and again it was, "Sorry! I'm getting ready to go! I am going to Mike's house!" No, he still had to do his chores! So they have to give me six weeks of chores and homework done consistently well so that they are habits before friends come over or they join friends. I am not being a jerk about this as much as they seem to think I am being one!

When my two eldest children were in high school, by the way they cried when my husband made them study chemistry and math, you'd think he was physically torturing them. I saw a clip on youtube of that mother with 8 kids on DWTS ans how she whined the whole time and my eldest daughters made her look tame by how they said that their step father was not thinking about how they learned-- my husband's brain is wired like theirs and knew how to teach them, it is part of his job to teach complete idiots how to operate their computers. I'd run out of my bedroom begging my husband to stop and to let them fail. Seriously, they had the whine down better than a new baby that legitimately needed Mommy. (My husband fortunately ignored me.) I should have stopped them in their tracks on the whining and said, "This is not how you are to respond to your step father or how you behave in this family. You may leave the table after you understand what you are learning."

We just had parent teacher conferences and found out more about what the kids are learning. PTC's are always informative. My kids are doing well, but they could do A work if they just put in a little more effort. Habits make people, so they have to learn now.

I believe that with a clean environment, you can focus on what you need to do with school work. My parents had a cleaning lady come over a few times a week, but I had to fold a load of laundry every day when I got home and I was making amazing dinners from the time I was 14 onwards. (OK, I didn't learn to vacuum till I was 18, but that's another story!) It is a headache to chase after kids with chores. I hate nagging. . .  but it's not nagging; it is called parenting. I am having to make lists of what everyone does and I hate doing this. What I am realizing is that with one or two kids, you probably don't need lists. You know if the work is done or not and who with was assigned to. I need a list to keep me on track, and with seven independent variables, they need it just as bad as a group! I will be putting ours into a book with page protectors in th kitchen. Each kid will have a list and dates and then in the back of the binder will be room specific information.

On room specific information, it is almost funny why it is needed. I know that as a teenager, my mom had to ride me on what cleaning the bathroom meant. With my own kids, they are the same. If I tell Cloud that she is to clean the bathroom, she cleans the vanity, the mirror and the toilet seat (not the lid or the rim.) If I tell Guy to clean the bathroom, he put's Cloud's make-up in her room and he sometimes cleans the rim of the toilet. They ignore trash and toys on the floor and toys left by the younger kids that are in the tub, they don't change out the trash. If there is toothpaste in the sink, they don't even wipe it up. They are not lazy! These kids are happy to help neighbors with their fences and unload groceries for friends parents. They have to be taught and they have to be reminded.

My husband and I have fought over him staying up watching Power Rangers at 10:30 at night on a school night because the kids stay up. (I am winning.) By having a set time for bed and the kids seeing that I am strict with it, they are already managing their time better.

Last night my husband took the kids to a harvest festival and I stayed home to clean. I didn't mind it. I changed the little kids' sheets and today the older ones will have me standing in their rooms while they change sheets and pick up under their beds.

This will all come togther, but this isn't easy. The beauty of it is that it isn't supposed to be easy but that as parents, this is what we do.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My last 20 years represented on a dishcloth

I am still talking about the fire, but I have realized that as I return to a base that I don’t want the old one that I had. For 15 years, I had wanted to finish college, I wanted to get out and do something, almost anything, just as long as I could get out. I think my biggest problem was that I did not have a consistent outing to go on. This was not my husband’s fault, but just our life circumstances. My friends had left state and all I had was church and my children, and a poor husband who was worn out but needed to pay attention to his bright but dimmed wife, begging for conversation and telling him of the ridiculous aspects of her day. Every time I was about to get my tubes tied, my dad stupidly called the day before and in a nasally passive aggressive way would try to be funny and ask when I was getting fixed. I’d tell him that I didn’t appreciate that and instruct him to f-off. I love all of my children and don’t want to send any back, but if I could so it over again, I’d finish college, then have kids.

Going back to normal is a concept I don’t understand. I suppose that when I was having children constantly and I was one of three stages, either post partum, pre-partum, or partum for 12 years, me returning to college was normal for me. But in college, I had two young children and we got around Anchorage by bus! I still miss college, but it’s a lot to do. Right now with having kids in college, high school, junior high, and elementary school, it is everything I can do to keep dog paddling and getting through my day. What is normal? It has never existed. Right now I want peace and quiet and order to my day. If I manage to get the kids out to school with no one having lost shoes, misplaced coats or missing the bus and the ones who need rides get to school with 10 minutes to spare, I am over the moon with happiness!

I have been knitting and it is knitting that has made me aware of certain things. I have failed many classes in college because I just couldn’t put the time in. I didn’t know why formulas for statistics just didn’t stay in my head. The other day I went to see my knitting teacher and I was doing well on a new method and then her son decided to turn on retard-TV. It was a really lame show about two rich white kids doing stupid stuff. At the time I didn’t see a link, but I was losing my counts. I came home and was doing fine until the kids ran up stairs and started to bicker. I had to frog an entire base for something that I had been making. I switched to a dishcloth because I need to make a bunch and the same thing happened. Sequences of stitches are easy to memorize and if you look at your work, you can decide what you need to do with just a little foresight. I was losing it all and getting upset until it hit me that this has been my entire life for the last 20 years! People have tried to tell me but I wasn’t listening. I may sound like a bad mommy, but the kids went to bed early that night. ALL of them were in bed by 9 and I took Cloud’s cell phone so she would have to do something else!

The fire shook me up. It erased everything that I knew, and put me and my family in a hotel, then into a rental house for just under a year. I didn’t really think of college for that year as it seemed so unimportant.

A few weeks ago, Eldest Child called me and asked if I could “cook a pig on a spit” for her and her friends when she came up in January. I was annoyed because I don’t eat pork and whatever I cooked in that manner would cost upwards for $400 and I wasn’t throwing a wedding. Later, I read her FaceBook page and realized that she must have found it funny to say that as she had posted it to her friends. To me, it was more work, more money to spend.

Earlier this evening she called me and asked about a strange theme to family photos, and family pictures are not on my agenda. She has been gone for six months and I just don’t want to plunk the cash down or get new outfits for this occasion. She is also up here two months earlier than planned for a friend who is getting married. She wants to borrow a spare vehicle with has some issues and I don’t want her driving it. I am worn out and don’t want her here during the week. Call me terrible, but her timing during autumn flu season is terrible and I don’t want her here mid-week. I was happy to have her here right after Christmas break because I’d be winding down. Now I am still settling in and her being here gets all the kids going 90 miles an hour and they turn into hyper brats. She is a typical eldest child and we have two chiefs here.

I feel like I am getting old, but I think that next year at this time, change won’t terrify me. I had changes in plans and unannounced visitors annoy me. I want to get to what I am happy doing and then invite people in as I can handle it. I think I am mentally making a foundation for myself.

It is not that this is hard, but it is not easy, either.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blogging, cancer and knitting

I have been found though a friend of a friend and I am doing some Hospice-type volunteering. Many years ago I did Hospice officially and I loved it. People wondered why I did it with six little kids and the truth was, I loved it because I would do things like laundry or make my clients dinner (sometimes feeding them) and it would get done and I could enjoy it being done. With my size family, it takes me two days to do our wash if I don't do it every day. It was nice, and my clients would THANK me and the warm feeling stayed with me for a whole week or until I would next see them. Moms are expected to do their work and it is how it is; I might get thanked, but it was (is) always while the person was (is) undoing what I just did and in spite of the compliment, I felt (feel) futile.

So, this friend of a friend knows that I will be blogging about her and is happy for what I can do. I am NOT raising money for her and she does not want me to raise money for her. You will never get her real name from my blog, She is a lady in her late 50's who has a stealthy cancer. She may have six months to live or she may have a year, depending on how she responds to palliative treatment. The doctors are not expecting to cure her. I am not serving her in an official capacity with a Hospice-- through the grapevine it was discovered that I knit and that I have told loving stories of death. Seriously, I am not scared of it and I have happy stories of the work I have done, unofficial as it has been.

I am making "Natasha" a shawl that she will wear to keep warm for one last season of winter, that she will give to her daughter to wear for her wedding and perhaps wrap her eventual grand baby in. Her daughter was going to move her wedding back, but Natasha didn't want that. She doesn't know how she will feel from day to day and her daughter always wanted a June wedding. Of course she also imagined her mother there which was more important, but Natasha has her own agenda. Things may change, but she wants a shawl to give her to wear, so this is my job.

Why am I, a busy mother of 7 still at home even considering this? Well, this time of a person's life is an honor to spend with them and it is nice, but this kind of work is altruistic and I don't feel guilty stepping out to hang out with this lady and do what I love best, to knit!

I'll be updating from time to time in choosing a pattern and yarns because it is fun.

Am I back? Yes, I think I am back.

I don't know where to start. My life for the past year has been hectic, to say the least.

We are moved in to our new home. We will have candles to light on the dining room table because I want the kids to not be afraid of them and my husband will show the kids how to be safe with a gas grill which also terrifies me due to being at a party where there was a problem with one 15 years ago. Each time we go over safety. Do we have a stable table? (I always say, "Stable and table rhyme! Cool, huh?") Is there clutter around? Is there anything above the candle than can catch fire?

My house is a bit bigger and the mortgage is larger than the old one, but we are managing. The kitchen is huge-- on the kitchen level it is only the kitchen, dining room and living room. There are four levels where we are more spread out. Of course only a few days being here, I decided that I needed a second refrigerator and a second dishwasher! My husband was shocked, but what can one do? We have a huge family. He asked how I could say that when I did so well with the postage stamp kitchen we had and I could only laugh. I complained and whined every time I made dinner in that kitchen! It is nice to not be eating off paper plates any more-- we didn't have a dishwasher and for our size family, the time to wash by hand wasn't worth saving the environment most of the time. (I got good at making sandwiches!)

My husband was gone for a week and I felt lonely in spite of all the kids. I went to the pound to look for a friends' cat and walked out with a chow chow. She and our dawg who was in the fire with us barely get along. He urinated on the stairs after he tried to turn her into dinner, but now they are OK together. The other day they were curled up asleep and the chow woke up and was silent and then Wag woke up and growled at her and she barked and he had a mouthfull of hair that he was gagging up and she sauntered away.. He likes to lie places and growl whenever she tries to go past him, something that he did in the old house with the cat.

The chow needs her hair combed every day and I often wonder what I was thinking when I got her, but it is nice to sit and comb her. She is low key except for when we have our walking time and she wants to run. There is a dog who lives up the road from us and she has never met it, but when she goes past his house, she puts her paws on "his" lawn and he goes crazy at the window. When he comes here, he does the same thing past our place! Her former owner was leaving state and took her to the pound. I had no idea what a chow chow was like, and what I thought was odd is normal. They are truly unique animals; when the lady at the pound said that Pouf liked me, I had no idea how she could tell because she ignored me. Apparently if she didn't like me she would have growled and barked at me. Pouf was no weak dog who would love anyone, and she let people know if she didn't like them! My husband came home from his trip and was aghast by all her fur and thought she was bigger than she is. She looks like a giant cloud that looks like a lion! She is older, but if I were to say my dog breed, I would have to say I am a chow chow person. This being said, I will probably always adopt pound rescues and when I am ready for a new dog, the right one will be there at the animal shelter waiting for me.

My windows in this house are great! Through the dining room window-- there is an arch on top, you can see the mountains through the arched window. We live in a neighborhood in Mat-Su that looks like Anchorage and I always think I will pull out on Diamond when we get out, but we are, alas, in the middle of Wasilla!

Since the fire I am an organizational freak. About three months before the old house burned down, I started getting rid of junk. I had lots of it. Much had to be secretly tossed because the kids and my husband hated to see me throw things out. Most of the clutter was clothes that I had no idea how they got there. (What had been happening was probably that well-meaning people, perhaps neighbors and friends, dropped bags of stuff off in the middle of the night and after I got mad a few times, I think the kids took them in and put them in the laundry area to be washed. I have had a few friends start giving us stuff and I just take it to the thrift store rather than get mad or insulted.) This house is getting organized.

The kids have problems with me now. I hold the line and expect them to fold towels a certain way, and stairs have to be vacuumed, including the "crease" of the stairs where the next stair goes up. I have been told that I have gotten demanding and mean, as I also expect the older kids to put away their laundry! I check it every day and until they organize it reasonably well, I will check every day. While cleaning the rental home, I found almost new stuff under dressers and behind beds. We spend money on these things! Yes, I like them to be clean and organized and be able to know where their stuff is!

So life is happening again. I am worn out, but I feel like I am settling.