Friday, February 25, 2011

Wednesday: Day Three (in which progress of an undetermined value is made)

**This post is quite old, now, as I am rather behind in posting and publishing. But I figured I would post it in its unfinished state anyway before adding anything new**

Written on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Man-Cub has been the one engaging me in talks regarding the strike most often. He has lots of questions. Mostly about the duration of it. He also made a point to tell me that it doesn't feel that different. I guess he already forgets having to take care of his own dinner and laundry.

He also thanked me very sincerely when he asked if he could have some cheese and crackers and I told him he could. Could it be possible that he's starting to appreciate the things he has? I don't want to get my hopes up.

Things are starting to pile up around here. I haven't looked too closely into the laundry room for fear the sight will smash my resolve completely. I cannot, however, fail to see the rather large mass of dishes that has accumulated on the kitchen counter. And I know, from past experience, that my family can go for shockingly long periods of time before those things start to bother them. I'm getting nervous.

But something has begun to happen that I didn't want to happen. The Viking is picking up my slack. Now, you may be thinking that was what I wanted in the first place, but you'd be wrong. I don't want him to take over and start doing what I was doing. He works full time and works very hard around the house and in church when he's not at his job. He is not and has never been a lazy man. He does not need to add Primary Housekeeper to his list of things to do. I think, perhaps, he needs to go on strike, too, while learning NOT to leave icky dishes in the sink!

Redheaded Snippet still seems determinedly mutinous. She will not admit that anything is any different around here. She keeps shrugging carelessly and insisting that she hasn't noticed things being any worse. The message, of course, is that I don't really do all that much around here anyway and it's always like this. So there!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wherefore, Revolution?

You may have been wondering about the strike? What is going on?

I'm still getting caught up in my own head. I can't possibly report anything right now, I wouldn't know what to tell you.

But the process is ongoing, I can tell you that. And I will check in soon.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sweet Bliss

Dharma, Vance, Fidget and Rosebud made a special visit for the weekend to meet our new niece!

Isn't she sweet? I love that dainty, little finger! Still no blog name for her...I keep calling her Sweet Girl, but that seems just too boring to me.

Fidget just LOOOOOOOVES Man-Cub.  And he just tolerates her affection, poor girl.

The new addition to the family is the perfect excuse for us to gather and for The Sisters to be together, something we live for!  Nothing can tear us away from the opportunity to spend time together, especially when all four of us can be there!

The lone boys of the next generation.  They stick together already.

The three of us who are married now have two children each.  And all of the cousins seem to enjoy each other's company almost as much as their mothers do.  They actually play very well together, even the older ones with the younger ones.

Gram and three of her grandkids.  Go ahead and comment about how she looks like she could be my older sister and not my mother!  Everyone does!

There's Mom, with half of her grandchildren.  I couldn't manage a shot of her with all of them, though I was keeping an eye out for the opportunity.  I don't think this shot does her justice and she'll probably hate that I've posted it here (but I'm not sure she understands what a blog is, let alone that I have one)!

Rosebud on a stop on her lap rotation; Little Man peeking out from under the table.

One of my favorite things about when we're all together is the sense of community.  It's a cliche' but I can't think of how else to put it.  If a child needs to be corrected, soothed, changed, helped with shoes or laces, helped out of a chair, fed or cuddled, the nearest adult just steps in and does it.  There are, of course, certain jobs that only Mommy or Daddy can do, but for the most part, we all look after all of the children together.  And there is always a sweet one to scoop up for a quick hug as they run past!

The new big brother!

And they really are quite happy, most of the time.  They have their moments, like all children, but for the most part, they are happy-go-lucky, obedient, well-trained children.  Truly a joy to be around and so, so easy to love!

While the adults talked and laughed, pausing to run after this child or that one, the children played, alternatively by themselves and with each other.  They sang us songs, showed us tricks--Little Man is particularly good at vaulting the overstuffed chair--and showed off reading skills--Rosebud knows most of her letters (spelling out L-E-D-S-E-P-P-E-L-I-N off of Daria's t-shirt) and the sounds they make and she's barely two years old.

Of course, with that many children around, there was bound to be some clutter!  But many hands make light work and cleanup took almost no time at all!

We knew we had to get a few photos of all of them.  We never know when we'll all be together again and the little ones grow and change so quickly.  But this was not an easy task...

It was a challenge getting them all to sit still!  And Redheaded Snippet is only pretending to lick the baby, not eat her (we told them they could act silly for a moment)!

The boys decided the photo would be better with their bottoms in it.  Of course they would.  And I'm sure this was Man-Cub's idea, leading his little cousin astray.

But finally, we got a half-decent shot of the six of them, red eyes and all!

All in all, it was a wonderful day!  Dharma & Co are coming to our house tomorrow to spend one more night with us before heading back home so we're looking forward to some more quality time--hopefully enough to hold us over until the next time we're all together, whenever that may be!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tuesday: Day Two (in which Man-Cub learns a thing or two about laundry)

I stayed up way too late last night (reveling in my new carefree frame of mind) and therefore slept in way too late this afternoon. And despite not having to clean up after anyone, I'm feeling like a failure. As I probably should.

So far, this grand experiment seems to be having the most practical impact on Man-Cub. He complained to me yesterday that he did not have any clean clothes to wear. Actually, he declared it as if it was the greatest injustice ever committed against mankind. This surprised me. Man-Cub does not usually care one whit about the cleanliness of his clothing. As long as he can wear shorts and a t-shirt (which he can't because it's winter--and despite it being one of the coldest winters we've had in a long time we have this conflict every single day) he is happy. He has never before cared about wearing the same shirt he's picked up off of his bedroom floor the past four mornings in a row. But NOW, now that Mom isn't doing the laundry anymore, THIS CANNOT BE!

When he said, very pitifully, that he had no clothes for the next day (again, this is new. He has NEVER thought more than 3 seconds ahead when it comes to his clothes--with the exception of Halloween), I told him, very sweetly, that he would have to wash some then.

His carefully practiced pitiful face instantly morphed into one of outrage and shock (here's where the greatest injustice ever committed against mankind was declared). How did I expect HIM to wash his own clothes? Does it matter how many times I've told him that by the age of ten I was doing all of my family's laundry, start to finish? No. Does it matter that he knows how to light a fire, build a catapult and design fantastical buildings, weapons and machinery that could probably be built and actually work and that working a washing machine is far easier? No.

Thus began Man-Cub's First Lesson in Laundry. I think his future wife will thank me. The experience was rather funny. At least to me. I had him gather the clothes he wanted to wash. I made him include two pairs of underpants. His pile consisted of jeans, t-shirts, his snowpants and his Batman cape. Ok, whatever, this is his laundry. I guess he doesn't plan on wearing socks or he will just wear dirty ones. Let's ignore that for now...

I showed him how to fill the washer. I explained what the buttons meant and which settings he wanted to use. He seemed weirdly interested. He did it all himself, under my watchful eye and then I went back to the computer.

And then...he kept skipping into the kitchen to ask if his clothes would be done yet. Like I was timing a roast. The little weirdo was excited! I kept telling him to go in and listen and look at the dial. He must have checked it 8 times. And then when it was done, he bounded into the room shouting, "It's DONE," like the timer for brownies had just gone off.

I told him to put the wet clothes into the dryer.

He came running back in to tell me there were already clothes in the dryer.

"Are they dry?"

Runs back into laundry room. Runs back. "Yes, they're dry."

"Then you need to put them into a basket."

Exasperated flap of arms. "There aren't any!"

"Did you look?"


"Go look."


*sigh* "Look, first, in the laundry room. Then try the upstairs bathroom closet. Then try your sister's room, then the classroom, then my room. Go."

Comes back down, stomping feet. "They're all full."

"Then you're going to have to empty one."


"If the clothes are clean, you can put them away. If they're dirty you can put them in the laundry room."

Stomps out. Stomps back in a few moments later, "Where do I put the clean clothes out of the dryer?"

"I don't know. Your sister has been putting hers on the couch."

"But they're not folded and they're falling all over the floor and getting dirty. Who is going to fold them?"

BINGO! SCORE ONE FOR ME! I am always on a tirade about them letting the clothes fall all over the floor. And I don't mean because I've left them unfolded on the couch. I fold them and stack them neatly in laundry baskets. The children are supposed to put the laundry away. But they often don't and instead paw through the clothes, scattering them all over the floor where the hairy dog likes to sleep on them. But back to our laundry and life lesson:

"I don't know."

He stomps off again. I hear the dryer door slam and the dial being turned.

A few minutes later, Man-Cub comes tearing into the room, practically wringing his hands, "I FORGOT TO PUT THE DRYER SHEET IN!!!" I am not kidding, he acted like he had just broken a window!

"CALM DOWN! Go open the door, put the sheet in, close the door and push the button again."

Much later, after the clothes were dry, Man-Cub came sauntering into the dining room wearing an entirely fresh outfit of clothes, rubbing his hands all over his shirt, purring, "Yup, nice and clean and soft," as if he'd never felt anything so amazing in all his life.

And then The Viking made him tidy up the living room while Redheaded Snippet swept the kitchen and all good feelings were gone.

I'm an Auntie!

Ok, I've been an Auntie for years now, several times over, but each time a new niece or nephew is born it feels like the first time!

Meet Lenny and Lobelia's new, sweet, wee baby girl. I have to think of a blog name for her.

She made quite a hasty appearance this afternoon, coming into the world a scant hour after her mother had been placed in a hospital bed! Lobelia said she was rather worried she was going to deliver her in the car!

But isn't she sweet? Ten fingers, ten toes, squirmy and loud with a wee little mouth, deep, dark eyes and a head full of dark brown fuzz.

And she smells SO GOOD!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Monday: Official Day One

This morning, I woke Man-Cub and said, "We are leaving for the Co-op in one hour. You have to get yourself dressed, get breakfast and brush your teeth and hair." And I left him alone. I got myself ready. I did not nag him. I was ready to let him be late to class if I had to. This is a Co-op, there are no detentions!

15 minutes before we had to leave, that boy was ready with shoes on and backpack packed. I didn't know whether I wanted to hug him or slap him. We were so early to school we had time to stop and get coffee first!

The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully except that I got to play on the computer some more (guilt-free) and then take a two-hour nap (The Viking had decided to work from home)! When I came downstairs, the counters had been cleared and the dishwasher was running. Redheaded Snippet had done it. Hmmmmm...interesting...

Redheaded Snippet and I sat down and talked about colleges and how crazy this summer is going to be and, I thought, had some great quality time. We eliminated some schools off her list and figured out a rough visitation schedule.

And then it was time for dinner. I could tell everyone was getting restless; they were starting to wander in and out of the kitchen, glancing at the clock. At one point, Redheaded Snippet said to me sharply, "So what meal did you have planned that you're not going to cook for us?" I said very nicely and calmly, "I didn't plan anything. But I think I might have a salad." She flounced away.

I washed a few lettuce leaves, peeled and cut a carrot, cut a few slices of cucumber and opened a pack of pre-cooked chicken I had bought for the final soup I had never made. And I made myself a salad. The Viking moved over to the island where I was finishing the preparations, looked into the bowl (at the small amount of food I had prepared), looked at me and said, "You're really making that just for yourself?" I gulped, feeling my resolve waver (and that old, insidious guilt creeping in) and said, "Yes?" He just nodded and opened the fridge.

I thought for sure I'd ruined how pleasant things had been between us in spite of my announcement. I'd done it now. But sometimes you gotta break a few eggs, right?

But, a few moments later, The Viking came in to the living room where I was eating (in front of the tv as no one had nagged the children into clearing and setting the table) with a large bowl of salad. He asked me if I wanted any as he was finished and Redheaded Snippet had already had some. When I asked about Man-Cub, The Viking said he was still protesting having to have salad. I said, "Well, if he gets hungry enough..." as I took the bowl.

We watched some tv together very amiably, comfy even. I was relieved; it didn't seem that he was angry with me. And then Man-Cub came in doing his patented March to the Scaffold:

"Mom, seriously, what's for dinner?"

"I don't know, Sweetie. We've all had salad. There's chicken, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, bagels, peanut butter and jelly. Go see what you can find."

He couldn't BELIEVE it!

But, a few minutes later he walked into the room with a salad of his own creation: chicken, lettuce, jalapeno peppers, green peppers (The Viking showed him how to cut up and clean the green peppers) and NO dressing.

He sat down, calmy, and ate it with no further complaint. He says now that he didn't really like it, but he didn't go hungry and he got it for himself.

Of course, after everyone had eaten the dishes remained where they had been placed last, which really makes me cringe, but I resisted the urge to tell them to clean up their dishes or just start picking them up myself. Same thing with the laundry. Redheaded Snippet had done a load or two but had thrown the clean clothes onto the couch which is where I usually fold them. They're falling onto the floor and getting trampled on, but I am not picking them up or rewashing them.

I don't know how long this is going to last, but I guess I can't expect them to come around in just a day, can I?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sunday Night: The Wind Up

Nothing dramatic to report as of yet. My family is still regarding me with tolerant amusement. They are clearly thinking I will "get over it" any moment now.

I think Daria is right and they don't fear me enough. And I don't know how to make them fear me. I think that's the problem. I'm not scary and they know it and I know it. And they know I know it.

When I told Redheaded Snippet I was going on strike, she smacked herself on the forehead like, "Oh, great! One more thing to inconvenience me!" Very nice. She wasn't all that upset until she heard that I won't be driving her anywhere except school, church or the appropriate medical personnel. THEN it hit home, by George.

"So, I'm going to be trapped in the house all week?!"

They all think this is going to last no longer than a week.

The Viking handled it pretty well but I could tell he thinks this is over-emotional, perhaps hormone-fueled nonsense. He's pretty much humoring me. His lips closed in a tight line and he took a deep breath and said, "You gotta go what you gotta do." I think he has been relieved and surprised that I've been nice to him since I made my announcement. I think he was expecting me to be silent and sulky.

Man-Cub, on the other hand, had a near meltdown. He is probably the one who will be most impacted by this experiment, as he should be. When told that I will not be cooking for him or doing his laundry, he acted as if I'd told him he'd be sleeping in a cage in the basement and thrown moldy crusts of bread for his meals.

Score one for Mom.

I assured him that there would be no need for him to starve. He asked, incredulous, what on earth he was supposed to eat. I don't think he realizes that most of the things he eats already do not require cooking. He is the King of Packaged Snacks. He'll probably have the time of his life in the food department. Because I told them I will be stocking the larder with all manner of foods that can easily be prepared by the three of them. That is one of my concessions.

I don't think the reality of Mom on Strike will hit home for them until tomorrow, but I am feeling it already. I threw a load of The Viking's laundry in the washer and then played a computer game until it was done. And now that I've transfered the clothes into the dryer, I'm going to bed. No fussing in the kitchen or racing around to get things tidied once more before heading upstairs. Or feeling guilty and like a failure because I haven't. Well, not much anyway.

We'll see how hard reality hits us tomorrow morning...

On Strike

I decided this morning that I am going on strike.

I'd like to be able to tell you that I snapped, but it wasn't anything as deliciously dramatic as all that. It was more like a sudden, quiet crumble. I simply reached my limit and have had enough.

I share this with great trepidation, realizing that I am probably exposing my own failure to properly train my children (for it's mostly them that I am striking against), but if that is part of the problem, then I need to get it out there.

I'm tired, mentally and physically tired, of nagging and repeating myself and feeling like I'm talking to the walls. I've asked, pleaded, gently reminded, joked, demanded, threatened and yelled. I've sat them down, I've let them hear me crying my eyes out in the bathroom, I've dug in my heels and refused to rescue them. I've printed out charts, drawn up schedules, made and remade rules. I've tried positive reinforcement, lavished them with praise for a job well done. I've tried negative reinforcement, taking away privileges for jobs left undone.

I am known to be a poor housekeeper. There are many reasons for this, some my fault, some not. I tend not to see mess and clutter until it reaches out and demands my attention. I have had to train myself to look harder and more often. I am very easily distracted and have huge problems with staying on task. I am a perfectionist. And I am staggeringly lazy. Don't get me wrong, I love a clean house and the satisfaction of a job well done. But I hate doing something that seems so futile, that will be "undone" so quickly and need to be redone over and over with nothing to show for it.

Housekeeping frustrates the heck out of me! For all those reasons and more!

I have been praying and thinking a lot about the deeper, more spiritual aspect of all of this. For I do believe there is a spiritual connection here. Being a full-time stay-at-home mom is my calling. This is what God has asked me to do, there's no question in my mind about that. But I am not good at it. I am not suited for it nor am I naturally gifted in the areas needed for it. And I have come to learn that this is no accident.

For some reason, God put this square peg in a round hole. I don't think it was because He wanted to frustrate and torture me for the rest of my life. First of all, He planned, for whatever reason, for my children to have me as their mother, teacher and guide as part of their process of someday becoming a Godly woman and man. He planned the same for me in lending them to me (just as He did by lending me my husband).

Secondly, He planned for all this friction, as I squirm and writhe and sometimes kick and flail, to wear off some of my rough me-shaped edges so I can become smoother and more God-shaped. This is how I view my marriage, as well. Sometimes certain flaws require a hatchet-chop, others more of a fine-grit sanding. But it all serves the purpose of making me more like Him.

I know this is true even of my housekeeping woes, but I have always had a hard time seeing exactly what God is trying to teach me. Patience? Service? Selflessness? Yes, yes, yes, they all make sense. Gentleness? Self-control? Joy? Of course. But what do these look like in terms of keeping my house clean? After 16 years, I still haven't been able to make that connection.

But while I am working on that end of things, something still has to change on the practical end. I have trained my children (and even my husband, to a lesser degree) to take me for granted and, even, to ignore me. I still don't see exactly how I've done it, but it must be my fault because I can't see any other way it could have happened. I tell the children to put something away but then I don't follow up because I'm too tired/distracted/frustrated/busy take your pick. They know nothing will happen to them if they don't do it right away or even do it at all because Mom will be running around frantically, trying to put out other fires to notice or care.

And don't tell me about new rules or new chore charts. I've made the rules. But then I've forgotten them. Or got frustrated with them because I didn't think they were working and became convinced I could think of a better way. I've made up chore charts (the latest was Zone Cleaning: one Zone for every day of the week). But then I started a new diet that made me dizzy three days in a row or mid-terms came up or someone came to visit/got sick/got injured and the whole system fell apart.

Let's not even talk about homeschooling. I am terrified that this has been the worst decision I have ever made and that Man-Cub is going to have to repeat 4th grade because of his mother's ineptitude and he'll never, ever forgive me.

I am not trying to put the blame on her because she and her brother are equally complicit, but last night, Redheaded Snippet wanted her BFF to sleep over. I said, as I always do, "Fine, as long as you get the place tidied up first." And she, as she always does, agreed. And, as she always does, she did about half of what needed to be done and I didn't notice it until too late--after said BFF was already in the house.

I came downstairs this morning to find the entire downstairs had been left a mess! Used paper towels and pizza crusts all over the island (one even on the floor, courtesy of the dog), toys all over the place, dirty clothes left strewn all over the floors of three rooms, more laundry pawed through in the laundry room (from RS looking for something to wear for field hockey this morning), empty soda bottles and dirty dishes on the counters and crumbs all over the desk and floor. And dirty, smelly, greasy dishes left piled in the sink.

That was when it all crumbled, when I peered into the sink. Dishes in the sink is probably by biggest pet peeve! I cannot stand having to reach into a sink full of slimy, cold, stagnant water to clear dishes out so I can wash them! Nothing irritates me more! And my family knows this and that is what did it.

I have asked thousands of times, in every way I can imagine doing it, for them not to put dishes in the sink! I've refused to wash them, letting them get moldy and unbelievably smelly (that usually drives me crazy before it gets to them)! I've made concessions: allowing them to pile them sky high on the counters rather than put them in the sink, releasing them from having to load the dishwasher in exchange for not putting dishes in the sink! I've compromised in every way I can think of and they have done nothing to meet me half way. They ignore me and persist in putting them in the sink. How many times do I have to ask for something before being heard? Why don't they care how it makes me feel? They can't not know; I've told them over and over it makes me feel like they don't love me.

So I am on strike. I don't know what else to do. I can only hope that going without the services I usually provide will get their attention. I am still working out my terms, but here's what I've got so far:

Starting today, I will no longer:
-clean up after anyone else be it dishes, laundry, trash, toys or otherwise. If you caused the mess, you clean it up.

-clean up after the dog if the mess she has made is because of someone else's irresponsibility.

-cook or prepare food other than what is absolutely necessary (for example, Man-Cub still needs assistance with the stove and with knives). I will be buying lots of easily prepared foods this week so no one will have to go hungry.

-wash towels or the children's laundry. I will do The Viking's laundry for work as he has never abused this service and being well-groomed is an essential part of what he does for this family.

-remind the children to finish homework, go to bed, get moving or hurry up. They will not be leaving the house until they are prepared and if they are late, they will have to deal with the consequences. If they are making me late, they will be fined.

-drive the children anywhere but to school, the doctor's office, the hospital, or church.

That's all I have right now. I'm not sure how to go about handling the computer and tv. Part of me wants to ban them completely for the week and part of me wants to just go Lord of the Flies on them and leave them alone to see how they fare making their own choices.

And for myself, I'm curious to see how this week goes. What will I learn? Will I cave? Will I be able to hold out for seven days? Will The Viking completely lose patience with me? Will the children even care?

It's going to be a long, scary week...

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Soup Week Penultima: Broccoli-Potato-Cheese

This soup is an unlikely favorite in our home. Broccoli isn't a very subltly-flavored vegetable and so I'm always surprised when kids eat it willingly. Gouda is another food with an in-your-face taste to it; most people I know have definite feelings, good or bad, about Gouda. And, so, a soup starring both flavors is one I would not have predicted would be so heartily enjoyed by so many in my family.

I explained about the low-quality photos, right? No need to go into all that again? Good! This is a quick, easy soup, perfect for a Friday night when all the Head Cook wants to do is relax with a cup of tea watching Keeping Up Appearances while having her feet rubbed but instead has to provide a healthy, tasty, frugal meal for her family and like it!

Peel and chop two red-skinned potatoes. Simmer them in 28 oz of low-sodium chicken broth until they're mashable. Mash them slighly. Then add 2 cups of milk and as much cleaned broccoli as you like. Simmer away to your heart's desire. Last night I let it simmer a little longer and the broccoli cooked down until there were no big chunks left. We liked it. But we also like it with the broccoli a little more al dente and in bigger chunks. It's very forgiving. Add 8 oz shredded Gouda, slowly so the cheese has time to melt, then serve!

This recipe calls for optional greens but we are decidedly a no-greens-in-soups kind of family. I've been thinking lately that some bacon would be a rather nice addition so I mean to try it sometime. Of course, that adds a time-consuming step to the process so that means not leaving it for one of the busier or later nights of the week, but one of these days I'll do it!

One installment left and Soup Week will be a mere fond memory! And I've saved the riskiest one for last: White Chili!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Soup Week Part Three: Chicken Noodle

I noticed, mere moments ago, that for some inexplicable reason I entitled my last post as "Soup Night" when I meant to say, "Soup Week". I hate when I make mistakes like that and don't catch them.

Anyway, it's been a particularly busy Wednesday so we had leftovers from last night's soup for dinner.

And a short post with a single photo will have to suffice.

My "famous" chicken noodle soup. The kids almost literally jump for joy when I make it. It always takes on the more stewy appearance it has in the above photo on the second day. I suspect it's because the noodles don't know when to stop absorbing the broth. Even they can't get enough of it, I guess.

No bread today, on account of it being Wednesday, but tomorrow is another day, another soup: Broccoli-Potato-Cheese!