A roller coaster ride that never stops.

Archive for the category “Catonsville”

Not Going Well

I’ve decided to say the words “Summer is not going well.” I am hoping that will bring some sort of relief in some way. I don’t enjoy admitting that my plans have gone awry, especially when I put so many hours of effort into them. I read approximately 200 pages of blogs and ebooks and articles to give me ideas on how to design a perfect summer. Last year went fairly well, so I built a lot on that. Somehow, it’s just not working the way I have envisioned and planned for. At all. I like to think I know my children and am familiar with the best ways to deal with them and channel them in positive directions. With all that, it’s going very wrong, daily, and almost everything that has worked for us in the past is failing now. The kids are fighting with a fierce passion. Tim is not ever napping. Instead of relishing the time they are in camp this week, I am at loose ends trying to use those few precious minutes, and am usually fending off an excessively irritable four-year-old. The systems I set up to help the kids accomplish summer work and light housework are falling utterly flat. No one is self-motivated in any area. Even the morning routines, like brushing teeth, are going horribly wrong daily. I am sleeping less than ever, and have not gotten more than five hours of sleep any night all this week, for example, as I struggle to get household management work done in the time after they finally go to bed, close to 9 now, since that fits the rhythm of the day best.

What upsets me most of all is how I am behaving. Going on far too little sleep, losing ground here daily, and in a worse emotional place than I ever was during the school year, I have no idea where to start to fix this problem. So many plans for the fall depend on my having time to be productive. So many visions I had of summertime are quickly evaporating in nearly a month of failure. I am not sure where to look for a way to make this better, but I know it isn’t in seeing the grand successes of the families around me, who seem to be getting this summer thing right with much less effort. I am hoping for an insight that will point me in the right direction, or at least on the road to the right direction. Now that I’ve said aloud that things are faltering, maybe that alone will open a door somewhere. Here’s hoping!


Paradigm shifts

Every summer, I keep expecting that my mind and body will feel a glorious release with the end of all the school demands. I will be ready immediately to enjoy some lazy days and the slower pace. What in fact DOES happen — and it surprises me every year — is that my brain goes into immediate overload at having three new inputs plugged in 24/7, and it takes me a good long while to adjust to that. Meantime, I act a lot like a zombie. I am bone tired and have very little patience or other resources on which to draw. My answers to any and all questions (approximately 764 so far, as of noon) today are represented in the list below:

  • I don’t know.
  • I guess.
  • Ask me later.
  • Please stop talking.
  • Can you ask Janie?
  • I forget.
  • I’m sorry, but my brain cannot process that right now.
  • Because.
  • What?


Right Speech

Lately, there has been an epidemic of cruelty among the girls in this house. In all the discord, which often turns violent, it is the words that upset me most. Such terribly withering and snide insults these verbally gifted females are hurling at each other! They are using their powers for evil, and we are all suffering for it. So I got an idea on how to fix it once I stumbled upon this quotation from Paul to the Ephesians:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

This wise guideline struck me immediately as something we needed to keep front and center for a while, till being more careful with our words became automatic. I remembered the Buddha’s advice on this matter, and decided we could add that in for good measure. It turns out that lots of people have realized the importance of how we “use our words,” and have made pretty posters on the topic. I gathered two pre-made posters I liked, and made one for the quotation above, before laminating and cutting them out:


The next step, I decided, was to have each girl be in charge of one poster, and read it to the rest of us. She was then asked to explain what she thought the poster was advising. Each girl did very well with this, and got the main message I had hoped to convey: If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.

Each girl was then responsible for hanging her poster in a location known to be a hotbed of contention and conflict. While they are experts at picking a fight anywhere, any time, about anyTHING, some areas leaped out at us: the DINING ROOM, the AREA NEAR THE TV, and the BEDROOM. The plan was then to hope that, during a conflict, someone along the way would catch herself or others using unfortunate speech and point silently to the poster in that area, prompting a peaceful regroup.

This is where the plan — so elegant, so teacherly — went awry (i.e., in the application in a real-life family). First, the girls fought about who got to post in what area. Why did Lily insist on using FIVE pieces of tape instead of the four apiece I had designated, so someone was shortchanged on purpose (Emma argued)? Jane also pointed out to all that THEY weren’t the boss, and she would act freely, thank you. For laughs, Lily hung hers in an obscure location. Next, the girls each monitored MY speech with laser-like intensity, and pointed sarcastically to the signs, quickly zeroing in on precisely which principle I had violated. After that demoralizing fol-de-rol, the posters remain in locations Damon and I later moved them to, living testaments to my wrong-headed idealism. However, I can’t stop hoping that their presence will slowly make some sort of impact in this escalating war zone, three tokens of nonviolence that weren’t there before. There goes my idealism again.

Monster Bus

Friday morning was just one of those kick-offs that didn’t gel for us. When there are several items on the agenda right after dropping the girls off, that means that a whole morning has to be all lined up, and five of us showered, brushed, dressed, and outfitted, by 7:30. That is not easy and today, it did not happen on time. However, on Fridays, I am finished teaching for the week and feeling much looser than I am on the other days, so I quickly did the little mental acknowledgment of the inevitable as we left our driveway at 7:47, and decided to relax and enjoy the ride for once. I am so glad I did. The girls and I were all in stitches for a lot of the trip, and this may have been the first drive all week that was 100% free of lectures or recriminations. And, while I would agree with me that a lot of our lateness is their fault, and much of their morning dithering contributes to my sense of overwhelm, I think we all enjoyed the break from my pointing this out.

So we decided at some point to discuss what kind of car we would get next, since our wonderful Sienna has nearly 200,000 miles on it and more broken doors than working ones at the moment, among other issues. The discussion very quickly turned silly, and yielded ideas such as a two-seater motorcycle (on which I would spend approximately two hours taking one child at a time to school each day), a monster truck (in which each child would have a separate cage for safety like today’s drivers use), and a school bus. Honestly, I liked the monster truck idea the best, as I could then blow right through traffic each morning, and make only the one trip, but then I found this perfect creation:

And there is no rule that says we can’t paint it another color, give it a name, and make it our own!

My favorite part of all is that we can set it up so no child can touch any other for the entire trip. I am already feeling my jaw unclench a little thinking of the peace that alone would bring….

10 Miles

Every day, several times a day, I do three things:

1. Eat when I’m not hungry, mostly for temporary energy
2. Feel angry at myself for falling into bodily ruin
3. Brainstorm ways to get in shape that don’t hurt various injured parts, and come up empty

I have posted before about the yoga idea, but one flaw is that I can’t seem to make time for a solid yoga practice. It takes too many minutes at one time. You can do the 10- or 15-minute shows, but that’s not the real deal.

So I have been going round and round, but have finally found my solution for now! I will walk 10 miles a week, by hook or by crook, at the pace of 4 miles per hour. Thus, I will complete all 10 miles per week in just 2.5 hours total. I won’t be marathon-ready, but it will be something.

Most walking videos break brisk walks down into 15-minute miles, and include lots of upper body work, and I have all those supplies, so I think I may finally have found my answer! Low impact, efficient, and doable in a variety of ways.

Last night I did 1 mile, and this morning I did 2, so this week is moving along nicely, despite the hurricane.

This may be a solution that will work with my crazy life, and give me the energy that is slowly seeping from me. Hooray!


All three girls are losing teeth right and left, literally, almost daily. The twins are working on those first inner eight teeth, and Jane is now losing all the rest along the way to the permanent molars. First of all, the $10 worth of gold coins I just got for Tooth Fairy purposes is going to be depleted tonight with Jane’s latest, and at first I didn’t understand how we can be blowing through teeth and money this quickly. Then I did some math. By the time Tim has lost his last baby tooth, SIXTY-FOUR teeth will have been lost altogether. That’s over two months’ worth of daily tooth loss! I now see that I will have to make tooth loss a much bigger budget line-item, but at the same time be grateful that the Tooth Fairy set the price two years ago at just $1 per tooth.


I still fear that the amount of work that has to be done this fall on a daily and weekly basis to keep up with commitments is not actually feasible. When I woke up this morning, and not only pondered my to-do list but looked around at what two whirlwind weeks have done to my house, I was so very tempted to just give up. After a week of furious mental and physical effort — including plenty of tidying and vacuuming and organizing — this was still my Saturday. I have a go-to way of handling this when my feet just don’t feel like moving forward anymore, and that is to keep finding one thing I can do to make it a little better. One thing I can do, for example, is pick up a piece of shrink wrap on the floor and put it in the trash can. That is something to move the family toward more order and cleanliness. That project is complete. Then I see several papers scattered by the feet of a careless child, and I not only put them in order, but staple them and put them in my “to read” file. Then I pick a dirty cup off the kitchen floor and set it on the counter till I can get to the dishes for the third time in twenty-four hours. I just keep doing that for a while because at least it’s something. There is still more chaos than I can ever defeat, but my strategic mind is too overwhelmed to work out any kind of plan yet, so I just do the one thing. Little bits, one by one, that are at least heading me in the right direction.

Third Party Therapy

Maybe I just never stumbled upon this quirk in my other children, but I do suspect it is, in fact, unique to Tim. A couple weeks ago, I discovered that I could have him do whatever I wanted if I had Lightning McQueen on his clock talk to him and tell him what HE does. For example: “I always let my mom and dad brush my teeth after I do it so I’m sure I get all the sugar bugs,” says Lightning. “OK!” says Tim, enthusiastically, opening his mouth wide. The fact that I am in the room clearly doing the voicing myself has no impact on believability for him. When we waited for hours the other day for our car to get worked on, he said at one point, “I wish I could talk to our car.” I promptly took the cue and said, “Hi, Timmy!” after which a half-hour long (and loud) Q&A session took place between Car and Tim. Today again, Tim decided he wanted to talk to all the squirrels within earshot in our yard. I obliged. Unfortunately, this conversation persisted on the later drive to Giant and throughout our time in the store. I tried to appear unembarrassed as I squeaked my answers to Tim’s loud, penetrating questions about the food preferences of squirrels, but it was a challenge to even my theatrical sensibilities. Right now I don’t know where this is going, but it would be a fascinating case study for a child psychologist, I am sure.

Not Up to Snuff

Really, I can’t believe how perfect an example today was of all that I don’t want to be as a parent. In a court of law, my defense would be that I got some bad news this morning and then another bad thing happened too, so on a personal level, I really could have used a day to process some stuff. Unfortunately, as I am on the job all day every day, I had to try NOT to process and keep on keeping on. That just didn’t work. So I was very down and very low-energy, yet everyone continued to need me to be at the top of my game. I failed to break up any fights, or jolly Tim out of his tantrums, or provide enriching learning opportunities, or anything else I usually do that’s positive.  I feel like there has to be a better way to get through days like these than just survive them, but today I’m counting the fact that we DID survive as a victory.

Catch-22 24/7

Here is a question I ask myself daily: how are you supposed to

  1. do the dishes
  2. cook meals (which create dishes)
  3. do laundry
  4. pay bills and do other admin paperwork
  5. keep the house clean and inventory stocked

when you are also

  1. your kids’ ride everywhere
  2. still in charge of ensuring the safety of your youngest, who needs almost-constant supervision
  3. in charge of taking said toddler to the potty at least one dozen times a day
  4. the parent of 3-4 pathologically active children who need physical outlets on days that are too hot or rainy (almost all of them)
  5. the errand runner, emergency handler, hug-giver, and all-around guru.


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