A roller coaster ride that never stops.

Archive for the category “MD”

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….



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.

Circling Back

In my ongoing quest for organization, useful methods, and systems, I have uncovered yet another unfortunate fact (besides the one that keeps recurring, about me having no natural ability in this area). You have to GO BACK to areas you’ve already conquered. Otherwise, they build up AGAIN. This is so unfair! For example, I just decluttered and scrubbed and dug up and arranged the following corner of the kitchen FOR MANY, MANY HOURS last week. It was backbreaking, sweaty, life-sucking work. Here’s what that area looks like now:


Now lunch boxes and drink bottles and such all have a home. Trash bags have their place, and my cool pink tool box is even now fully loaded and easily reachable. It’s working out great so far. You are not going to believe this, but I did the same thing JUST TWO YEARS AGO!! Yes, and it already needs a re-do.

OK, I hear it. This is why the whole concept that I have to build in “circling back,” or upkeep, into the whole thing, has finally occurred to me. That kitchen system needs to be touched up nightly, weekly, or at some such frequent interval so I never have to do that project again. That will be the payout: I will never have to do it again.

So whenever I make that schedule for cleaning, circling back is going to be added in now. Lessons learned.

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.


Half Hours and Setting Limits

In my ongoing quest to combat perfectionism and chronic late-night attempts to do it all, I have developed this new idea about time that is making a big difference: allotting half-hour chunks for the big stuff. The things that torture me are the more global, strategic, long-term plans I have for my family, each of my children, myself, my marriage, and so on, and it is awfully hard to say, “There! I am finished working on that.” Not only that, but knowing that these brain-fillers are never going to go away and will always be changing and growing and throwing curve balls, “done-ness” is not even a reasonable goal. So I have to find a way to put in time on them, but also be ready to walk away and do all the recharging necessary to get up and do it all again. Clearly, I won’t survive otherwise. This way, matters are getting addressed but I still get to check a box that says “done” at the end of the day. Here is a list of 5 things just off the top of my head that are ongoing projects I want to put time into researching, and there are dozens more.

  1. Books for the kids (at appropriate reading level, challenging, address interests of the moment, acceptable moral content….)
  2. Family activities that take advantage of our area and ages and interests and don’t cost very much.
  3. Music or creative activities for the kids that don’t cost very much but expose them to new and enriching ideas.
  4. The best ways to maintain flow of inventory efficiently and keep costs down.
  5. Meals to try or other food-related strategies to satisfy picky eaters but make them less picky!

I am still working on what exactly gets those half hours and what falls into what category. But it’s a start.


I am going to introduce my family to a concept that I have finally shaped in my mind called “Discrete Time Units,” or DTUs. So often I am asked to find out about a possible activity or set up an activity or assist with some project that will require a CHUNK OF TIME, or DTU. To truly understand how a scooter is to be put together, I will need to be given time and space to study the directions (many times) and mess around with the device without interruption. Some things just warrant that kind of dedicated attention. We got an ice cream maker for a birthday present for the twins, and everyone is desperate to make ice cream. Well, I need some time to wash all the parts, plan re the ingredients, and read the directions. If you want to know if you can have some violin lessons, then I will need some time to do some research on that. Do you see? In the ever-swirling chaos that is summer vacation, nothing is going to get done — including the dishes and the laundry, let alone the bills and the shopping and the cooking — without some DTUs for Mommy.

Yoga and Roller Skating

Finally met my summer resolution today to start yoga. I guess the resolution should really be “consistently do yoga.” This is all toward the goal of getting my knee as strong as possible before taking up rigorous exercise again in the fall. It cannot be overstated how much better I feel when I am part of my beloved gym community.

I am trying to help both twins learn to roller skate, and that is pretty much impossible, I have to say. Two arms and one aching back aren’t cutting it. Anyway, I am reminding them about mountain pose in yoga, which is centered in the balls of the feet, and I think this is the place where balance happens. So I am glad that they have some yoga vocabulary, at least, but this has inspired me to add “do yoga with kids” to my summer bucket list!


Every time I have to teach a child about colors, I cringe inside. It is one of many things I feel I am forced to lie about as a parent. There are so many shades and degrees and characters to any given color that I feel downright guilty declaring chartreuse and emerald to both be “green.”

This came into sharp relief the other day when Tim was wearing a dark navy blue shirt while riding an electric blue scooter and looking at a pale blue sky that were all declared by me to be the same color. How is a child supposed to process that information and get any sense of the color blue? Whitewashing (or “bluewashing”) the facts would seem to serve only to confuse the matter and delay progress.

The miracle is, of course, that they all figure it out somehow from this faulty and misleading mish-mosh of information, but I still can’t help feeling that there is a better way. Don’t know what it is, but still.

This is analogous to teaching our children about religion very early on, and finding ourselves hard-pressed to find a Bible story that is even fit for young ears! Noah’s Ark is the closest we come, but that only works if no one asks you, “But why did God make it rain for 40 days and 40 nights?”

Forget how much laundry I do and how many dishes I wash; this is the stuff that really gets to me.

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