Cochrananza

A roller coaster ride that never stops.

Aloneness

I would think everyone has a tendency to feel alone at times. I think I indulge in this a little (lot) too much. Evanescence is my theme band, and this is my all-time favorite song by them, which I listened to several times this morning, even:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0p0tvMpTOc&noredirect=1

I am wondering now if feeling alone is a choice I am making. I’m not quite sure how I would go about changing that tendency, but I am planning to deploy all available inner resources to change my theme song!

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Identical Identities

Every day, I mix the twins up at least once. I always have. They really do look and behave in incredibly similar ways, and even people who know them well have to ask me which is which regularly.

Ultimately, though, they are much more different than they are alike. Some differences have always been evident, from the first week of life. Anyone who has known them these six years could easily distinguish personality traits that are diametrically opposed: Lily’s the loud, nurturing, generous one, whereas Emma’s the soulful, witty, thoughtful one. Even physically, they have plenty of differences: while never more than half a pound apart in weight, they almost never have the same shoe size, and their new teeth are growing in in radically different ways (both requiring orthodontic work, of course). For a long time, Emma’s hair was curly and Lily’s was straight. Lily has strabismus and other vision problems Emma does not share. Emma uses the potty about half as much as Lily does after drinking the same amount, and Lily spills about twice as many drinks as Emma. They like very different foods, and enjoy doing different activities. Really, this is a case where I could go on listing for quite a while.

Somehow, when I encountered a way in which they are radically different — in reading ability — I thought only of their similarities and not of their many differences. They should have exactly the same ability, I reasoned, since they have the same basic brain structure. The fact that Emma read an announcement about Copernicus’ contributions on the school loudspeaker in kindergarten meant that Lily should be doing the same. As of this writing, a month into first grade, Lily struggles to sound out every word. Improvement is happening, but very slowly. Operating under the assumption that there must be something wrong, I waited eagerly for her to get glasses this summer to see if that had much impact. Months later, it has not. Her hearing is perfect. From the way she communicates, there does not appear to be any deficiency intellectually or behaviorally. Fundamentally, she is having a harder time learning to read. I was waiting to hear from her teacher that she was placed in a remedial reading group, and was stunned to hear that she is considered “on track.” Really, then, there is nothing to worry about.

Still having trouble with this radical difference between them, I consulted with a friend who has some special needs experience. This friend pointed out not only the many ways in which the twins are different, but the fact that I have a hard time myself conceiving of anyone having trouble in school, so this issue is particularly jarring to me for that reason. This brought home to me an inherent danger in having identical twins that I thought I was handily circumventing: comparing them to the detriment of one or the other. I am so very dedicated to seeing each of my children as individuals, and meeting each one where he or she is, yet I still falter. This has shown me how important it will be for me to keep that dedication in mind when I find that tendency to compare — which is understandable in parents, I think — creeping in. The next step will be to stop my incessant comparing of MYSELF to other people who are in far more different circumstances than Lily and Emma ever will be!!

Teeth!

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.

Chunking

With this post, I feel a sense of closure on my endless ramblings about lack of organization (which has got to be infuriating to anyone with organizational skills).  A friend added one more concept, called “Chunking,” to a pantheon of mental coping devices to use when I enter a state of overwhelm. It is related to the “Bits” idea, and it is this: if you have a project, set of tasks, or any other larger group of things to do, break the first or next steps down into such small units that even each 30-second interval can become an accomplishment. For example, if I need to load the dishwasher, I can count walking up the stairs to the kitchen as a step, this friend suggests. And you know what? That IS a step. It’s a small one, but it is a necessary precedent to doing the dishes. The next step could be to empty the drainer in preparation for the dishes that will next be done. That can be checked off a mental — or even physical — list. This concept brings me no end of inspiration because (a) it acknowledges those littler tasks that do, in fact, make up a bigger task but often get discounted, (b) it lessens a sense of overload, and (c) propels you forward with lots of self-encouragement! The “Bits” concept, in contrast, applies to cases where I am not even together enough to KNOW what I need to do, but this one is to help with a to-do list that is complete but just a little too long to feel doable . . . like mine, every day.

Bits

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.

Up Against It

I feel I am at a particularly interesting moment right now. Last week the school year began in an explosive, dramatic, epic way. Never have I seen behavior sink to such depths. Never have I been so out of ideas. And, with all three girls in different classes AND Tim having an impoosibly hard time starting preschool (which comes with mountains of paperwork, just like real school) AND me starting to teach all in the same week, the workload has been absolutely unbearable. Not doable. I am always short on sleep and time, of course, but now every minute feels so terribly urgent and unmanageable, like everything in the world depends upon it. It will get better, but how much better?

Some would say I could use a breather. But here’s my point today: what if there just IS no time? What if, with all obligations before me and all responsibilities of home and hearth still there — with the additional delight of ants adding to the pressure to clean up immediately after every crumb — and all the people still doing what they do and don’t do, there are no minutes left? What if work will take me till 12 each night and then I have to get up at 5? And then I have to start it all again? I understand that getting into a routine is tough. We do that all the time. But I am a pretty fair judge of a to-do list, and I’m pretty sure there is no way for me to get more than 5 hours of sleep a night. Ever. And that is with no breathers.

All I’m asking is: what if that really is how it is, and no one can wish it away, and no one can or will change any piece of it? If that is the case, then I just want to be able to say it and not pretend that I’m going to be a human person at the end of it.

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:

Image

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.

????

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