Thursday, November 05, 2015

a thorough un-smugging

I had a few minutes before we had to leave this morning, so I added a few lines to a post I started last night about my efforts to be more organized. I wrote the smug little humblebrag, "A friend and I have been talking about how relentless and complex the remembering becomes once one's children are in school, but I think maybe I'm wired for keeping track of all these ridiculous little details. My natural multitasking abilities are coming in handy, for certain" and then headed out with the kids. After dropping Nico off, I decided to take Elliott for a walk to burn our before-preschool time. We had a great little stroll. The fall leaves were gorgeous, the weather was nice, and a lady walking her dogs gave Elliott some bread to feed the ducks. Our perfectly-timed arrival got us to preschool at 8:55, just in time to walk in and realize that preschool does not start at 9:00. Preschool starts at 8:30. Preschool has always started at 8:30. Music class on Mondays starts at 9:00, but this is not Monday and we were not going there. Thoroughly un-smugged, I slunk off to work.

In truth, I have made some progress toward being more organized since writing in August about my need to get my life in order. I'm still not using my personal-life planner as much as I should (mostly, I think, because I don't have a dedicated desk-type space at home to leave it open and accessible), but I've been really good about keeping and keeping up with to-do lists in my little work planner. I still live and die by to-do lists written out on notepads and scraps of paper, and probably always will. I still put things into my phone as needed, but it feels like I'm not as constantly-besieged by reminder alarms as I was before. We are busier than ever before, but I'm doing a decent job keeping track of all the moving parts. Last week I managed to remember every single special add-on for Red Ribbon Week (crazy socks day! school colors day! superhero T-shirt day!), plus class snack and party treats for Elliott and a field trip for Nico. The Halloween costumes got done on time, Elliott showed up for school picture day wearing a picture-appropriate shirt and with his payment envelope, Nico's class got the extra snacks the teacher requested, and I only forgot to remind him that he earned a stuffed animal pass on Tuesday. Probably I need to just keep on working at it and not brag about it.

One thing I definitely can recommend - or at least tell you works for me - is keeping a chore calendar. I have a hard time remembering how long it's been since I've done regularly-repeating but spaced-out tasks. I always think, surely I just vacuumed the stairs last week...and then notice they're gross and realize it's been a month or more. I still find myself moving to-do list tasks from one month to the next, but the other stuff is mostly getting done on time. It has also been a big help to have a bulletin board dedicated to Nico's school papers. Previously they'd get put somewhere in the hopes I'd see them, then moved around, then stacked up, then end up under a pile of other stuff that I'd declutter weeks later. Elliott has a board, too, on the small section of wall by the back door. (Our house has lots and lots of windows and thus lots of great light, but it's seriously short on wall space.)

Anyway, feeling good about being organized. Mostly keeping up with juggling kids and work and home. Need to not be so smug about the times that I'm on top of things, because inevitably I'll turn around and totally biff something. The circle of life!

Reading: (listening on audiobook) I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett. I stalled out on reading the final Tiffany Aching book, then realized I really wanted to re-read the other four first. It turns out I spend a lot of time in the car each week, and have made it through two full books and part of this one since the beginning of October.

Playing: the radio, if I'm not listening to the book

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The kind of boys I hope to raise

When Nico was just past two, we ran into a five-year-old boy and his little brother at the playground down the street. The five-year-old was enamored of Nico and spent their whole visit talking to him and trying to get him to play. Nico positively lit up with joy at the attention, and I wrote in his monthly letter that I hoped he'd be as kind to little boys as this child when he became a big boy. And my wish came true - Nico loves babies and toddlers. He dotes on them, says hi and gently pats their heads, brings them toys, reads them books. One of our playdate-friend families now includes an 18-month-old girl and he has declared her his best baby friend. True, he's sometimes not as nice to his actual in-house brother as he is the other little kids, but I suppose that's to be expected. And he's usually mostly nice to Elliott, too.

We went down to the bigger playground on Friday for a bit. Toward the end of our time there, a mom and three older kids stopped by to swing for a while. I'm bad at judging tween kids' ages but I'd guess the oldest girl was around 8th grade, the middle boy was in 5th or 6th grade, and the younger girl was in 3rd or 4th grade. Elliott was climbing up into the play structure (which he calls the castle), going down the slide, and repeating, and he told the big kids, "Come on! Come in the castle!" The two younger big kids followed him up and down for a good ten minutes, and when their older sister and mom started encouraging them to leave, the boy lingered and lingered. He even came back to go down the slide one last time with Elliott after going to fetch his scooter and starting on his way home. My heart felt pretty full watching him lean down to tell Elliott, "Sorry, I have to go," while Elliott, a quarter his size, stood there solemnly staring at him with a finger in his nose. I sent out my fervent wish to the universe, please help me raise boys who will be kind enough to play with a toddler at the playground when they are eleven or twelve years old and on the cusp of being a teenager.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Many firsts

I may have figured out my Tuesday / Thursday time gap problem, based on what has worked recently. We tried playground time before music class this past Monday, attempting to wear him out enough to agree to sit on my lap and play his wood block correctly. It did not work, but I enjoyed reading a book while pushing him on the swing, and at least this week he didn't spent a whole song pratfalling while pretending to step on his shaker eggs, slip, and fall down. (Which was actually somewhat clever / funny when he did it, but I couldn't let it show on my face lest he feel encouraged in his class clownery.) On the bright side, I am bonding with another mother in the class who has an equally-wild girl a little younger than E. It's very nice to not be the only one wrestling That Kid. After being impressed by Elliott's coordination as he kicked a beach ball around the pool deck during Nico's swim lesson on Tuesday evening, I stopped at Academy on the way home and bought him a tiny soccer ball. We took that out to the back corner of the preschool parking lot on Thursday morning and it filled the time nicely. Plus it was utterly adorable.

So many things have happened that I haven't had time to write about, and I'm kind of bummed to think of all the stuff I have probably already forgotten. I went to my first Twitter meetup, the Halfway Hoopla, and it was great. I was nervous going, but everyone was nice and meeting so many of the ladies felt like reconnecting with old friends. It was almost a five hour drive, so I tried listening to an audiobook on the way out. Because I don't like talk radio and find my mind wandering when I try to listen to NPR, I always assumed I would not be able to listen to audiobooks while driving, either, but I was happy to be mistaken. I downloaded Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men from the library and it was wonderful. I find myself wishing I had another long drive coming up so I could listen to another one. I also visited my first Costco during the trip and found that it is a lot like Sams Club, though allegedly without the corporate evil. They did have really cute pajamas, and I scored a set of matching rocket pjs for the boys, who are both deeply entrenched in a planets / Space phase.

We have had two Navigator scout meetings and so far it's a huge success. Parents report that the kids are having a blast and asking when they get to go back. I've come up with some things for upcoming meetings that I'm REALLY EXCITED about sharing with the kiddos. So far it hasn't been stressful, so I'm crossing my fingers this state of affairs continues.

Elliott is rocking preschool, by all reports. He sometimes cries a bit at drop-off, but I always hear later that he had a really good day. He is still occasionally mad that he doesn't get to go to Kindergarten, but he's starting to be excited about going to his own school. He looks so tiny marching in proudly with his school bag on his shoulder.

I'd better stop and publish this...I'm pretty sure if I save it and plan to add to it later, it'll be another two weeks before I have time. Happy fall!

Reading (just finished):  Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Playing:  maybe let's just put this on repeat:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

filling (killing) time

Now that Elliott will be going to preschool two mornings a week, I find myself in need of ideas to fill (kill) time between dropping Nico off at his school at 7:55 and dropping Elliott off at his at 8:30. E's school is maybe five minutes away from N's, if I hit all the red lights. He's also not allowed to go into his classroom before 8:30, so there's no early-arrival option. On Tuesday last week we tried to use up the time by driving out to the second-farthest Starbucks, but the drive-thru line was so long that we wouldn't have made it back in time. On Thursday I doubled back and ran an errand to my mom's. All the practical places I may need to go on a weekday (bank, pharmacy, library, post office) don't open until 9:00. If I get groceries I have to lug anything cold into work with me for the day. I really should not go to Target two mornings a week, plus E and I already make a 45 minute dash-and-grab Target trip on Mondays to kill time between N's 7:55 school drop-off and E's 9:00 music class. Target three times a week would be a financial disaster.

I had the thought that I could put a basket of books and coloring supplies in my car for him for the mornings, but I feel like that might eat into his limited supply of sitting-still juju for the day. Elliott would love to sit in the hall outside his classroom and watch YouTube videos on my phone, but that seems like a lame way to blow our screen time budget. I would love to sit in the car and read a book of my own for 30 minutes, but that seems unfair to E. He would enjoy playing on the playground at preschool, but the slides and swings are always covered in dew that early in the morning. Perhaps I should just start taking along an extra pair of pants and a towel, which would solve our problem at least until December or January when it finally gets cold. Maybe on rainy days I can let him run laps in the gym before we go to his class.

I am a natural multi-tasker and time-gap-exploiter, so having a usable chunk of time that I can find absolutely nothing to do with is kind of bugging me. Plus I don't want to hand off an already-bored, already-crabby Elliott to his sainted teachers. First world problems, I have them!

Friday, September 04, 2015

Sulk level: grand master

Elliott had his preschool orientation / short day yesterday, wherein the kiddos come in for 45 minutes with an adult and do a few practice activities. We were the last pair to go in, so everyone else was already sitting at the little tables when we arrived, but since we had visited on Tuesday to meet the teachers and see the classroom, Elliott knew exactly where the good toys were. I had to drag him away from the basket of cars and trucks and block his escape from the chair while trying to convince him to participate in making his "friendship pizza." He was clearly thinking, "This is BULLSHIT, MADAM," though he eventually started to enjoy sticking the little die-cut pepperonis and mushrooms with his classmates' names on them onto his paper plate pizza.

At the end the teachers brought out yellow shredded paper to be the cheese, which was honestly really adorable and pretty realistic-looking. In fact, Elliott thought it was actually shredded cheese (which he loves), snatched some, and put it in his mouth. He was deeply offended upon discovering he'd been deceived. Once he'd picked the pieces off his tongue, he gave his pizza a dark, dark look, and then very deliberately pushed all the fake cheese far off to the side. When I tried to glue a few shreds onto his craft he plucked them off and threw them away.

The kids got a little bit of free time to play, and then got called back to the mat to sing a song and say goodbye. Here's Elliott after I made him put away the cars, while all the other children were singing Teddy Bear Turn Around:

The drama is strong with this one. He's cute, though.

Reading:  The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

Playing:  American Idiot by Green Day

Sunday, August 30, 2015

best not scare her right away

I noticed tonight that Elliott's preschool letter requests a photo of him for the class bulletin board, so I went through the pictures I've taken of him this month, trying to find one that captures his essential Elliott-ness. (This phrase works so much better with his real name, incidentally, when it does not suddenly make him sound like a famous law enforcement agent.) I found lots, but decided most of them probably would make the teacher a little nervous.

You get three guesses which kid is my rule-follower and which one is my mischief-maker, and the first two guesses don't count.

I finally chose this next one, which felt like a fair compromise between Elliott in his native state and the cute posed photos everyone else will probably provide. (In the very next shot he's obviously about to throw the rock.)

I had a full day of hanging out solo with the kids today, and dude. Little humans are exhausting. My kids aren't even particularly challenging on the spectrum of children's behaviors, but there's just so much managing. And so much talking. Me talking, them talking. SO MUCH TALKING. We went to a hot rod show out at the fairgrounds, which was pretty great but of course between the three of us I think someone commented on every vehicle there. Then we went to eat at McDonald's where it was like hostage negotiations trying to get anyone to finish their food already so we could take our toys and leave. Then to the grocery where both kids insisted upon having a miniature cart to push. I told them before we went in that there would be no running, no fighting, and NO RAMMING SO HELP ME, but then I had to micromanage them through the entire store because they kept "forgetting" the rules. By the time we got home no one was even being particularly bratty and I was all "EVERYONE TO YOUR ROOMS, MAMA IS AN INTROVERT AND NEEDS TO HEAR NO VOICES FOR THE NEXT TWENTY MINUTES." It was totally worth it for the day we had but DAMN.

This was my very favorite exchange of the day, for no particular reason other than it just struck me as so funny and so perfectly illustrative of their personalities. As we were leaving the fairgrounds, we drove past a property with horses.

Nico:  Look, horses! What are they doing?

Me:  Eating grass, probably.

Nico:  Or looking at rocks.

Elliott:  (with fist raised dramatically in the air) Ride! Da! Horsies!!