Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I took my own advice and shut my mouth for 48 hours

Occasionally I like to go a few hours without speaking. Because I have nothing nice to say. I'm a stay at home mom in the middle of happy valley. Based on geography and occupation I am supposed to be a good person. Like a really good person. Like a super wowza boy oh boy ain't she the best kind of good person. Are you getting the impression that I  feel a lot of pressure to be a good person. Which is a problem. Cause I am not a good person. I'm always trying really really hard to be a good person. I find myself doing a lot of good person things. IT IS SO EXHAUSTING. None of it feels right. Being a good person does not come natural to me. I keep trying though. Sometimes I start to genuinely feel like maybe, just maybe I am in fact becoming a good person....... and then reality is like NOPE! You're still an asshole.
I'm not a thief. I'm not a liar. I don't use or abuse anyone. I'm not an alcoholic or a drug user. I give to charity. My children are my priority and I will always make sure they have food on their plate, a roof over their head, and clothes on their back. I'm kind to the elderly and I've never abandoned a friend in need. I'm starting to sound like a good person huh? Yeah, I fall for my own bullsh#t too. My problem is not so much what I do or do not do, it's more what I'm thinking. I am consumed with almost constant negative thoughts. CALM YOURSELF! Not the kind of negative thoughts that authorities need to be made aware of. I'm talking about totally normal totally sane thoughts that are had by people that aren't "good"

Let me give an example:
This is my internal monologue during a recent conversation:
Why is she still talking? I want her to be quiet but I don't want to be rude. She gestures wildly. I can't listen to her words and I want her to shut up. I want her mouth to stop moving more than I have ever wanted anything. I hate her. No I don't. be quiet. be quiet be quiet be quite. be quite be quite be quite. What song is that? This is gonna drive me nuts. Is it flight of the bumble bee? no. that doesn't sound right. it goes dun du dun du dun du or wait no it doesn't, that's lone ranger. Oh shit. I've been humming out loud. Did anyone notice? Oh yeah she definitely did. So did she. They all did. Now I feel weird. I'm gonna grow up right now RIGHT NOW and listen to the rest of the conversation like an adult. Iiiiiiiiiiiit iiiiiiiiiiiiis soooooooooo booooooooooring though. What the hell is going on with her eyebrows? She has to know that EVERYONE else knows that those are not her eyebrows. I wonder what her real eyebrows look like? How bad could they be that this atrocity was the better option. I'm staring at her eyebrows. She is staring at me staring at her eyebrows. Look away, look away. I wonder if she lost them in a horrible accident. Maybe her forehead was burnt off by ze germanz! Was that racist? Haha I just remembered I had a dream about someone giving me eyebrows for my birthday. That is so weird. That doesn't even make sense. Whoa what am I doing. I just turned around. I now have my back to her. How do I make this look normal? I'll do a full spin and then I'll be facing the right direction. Oops that was two spins. That was just really weird. Should I pretend I was dancing? There is no music that would be stupid. Almost as stupid as me spinning for no reason. I'm not standing in the right spot any more. I am standing way to close to her now. Everyone is looking at me and yet, she is still talking. Man she just doesn't take a hint does she? If someone did a 360 while I was talking I would stop and ask them if they are mental. I'm rude though, she's probably just really nice. Doesn't want to point out that there is something socially inept about me. Focus Stacy. Focus on this nice person who clearly tolerates you with class. What stupid thing is she even saying with her crazy eyebrows and her wild gestures. She smells. She smells like.....something. Like if assholes were made of onions. Assions. She smells like assions. RUDE you are rude Stacy. Pull it together. What is she talking about? Oh it's still about her kid. Her wonderful amazing incredible kid. She just loves her kid so so much that she tells endless stories that are stupid about her stupid kid. I hate her kid. I want to punch him in his giant forehead. That would teach him about life. Life is cruel. Especially when you have a giant forehead you giant foreheaded freak. What face did I just make? She stopped talking. She is staring at me. Did she ask me a question? I'm still standing way too close. I want to run away from these people. Maybe clotheseline a few of them on my way out. What is happening now? Everyone else is laughing. I should laugh. Nope that was really loud and high pitched and not normal at all. What is wrong with me? Why are my arms out? Why on earth did I lift my arms up? I can either make a ghost noise or hug her. I cannot salvage this.

This is just a small taste of what is going on upstairs. These are not the thoughts of a good person. This is manageable though. This alone does not make me stop talking for hours. Its when I start vocalizing this negativity that I become a menace to all that is good in the world. And that's when I decide its time to be quiet. Typically its just for a few hours. Recently I chose to be silent for 48 hours. I was saying mean things constantly. I was snapping at people and I wasn't talking to the kids. I was just yelling at them constantly. I yelled everything. So silence was needed. No words at all. I didn't write notes or text or use any type of social media. Different people react differently to the announcement that you are taking a vow of silence for 48 hours. 90% of adults respond in one of two ways. It's either, "Why?" or, "you are so %$#@ing weird Stacy" But my life is not made up of adults. My life is 90% children and when told that Mom is taking a 48 hour vow of silence 100% of children respond "Me too." It almost immediately becomes a round of a game I call Charades in hell.

Gwen, who is six, ran frantically in to the kitchen jumping up and down. She started windmilling her arms. And then with one hand it looked like she was doing a fish thing. She held up one finger. She pointed to her wrist. She made a sudden surprise face. She looked at me expectantly.
I shook my head and shrugged.
She rolled her eyes. She put up a hand as if to say STOP. She beat both hands against her chest. She held up one finger on each hand. She pointed to her head. She did a slow motion run and then a somersault. She made a sudden surprise face.
I looked through the window at the backyard trampoline. No one. I walked through the house and she followed. I was worried she was trying to tell me someone was hurt. I found all the other kids. Everyone was fine. I turned to Gwen and I shrugged my shoulders.
She face palmed. She did some kind of weird hip thrusting dance. She ran away from me and then turned and ran back towards me. She stopped. She pointed to her knee. She made the noise of a dog whining. She pointed at me. She pointed at her. She cradled an imaginary baby.
I smacked her upside the back of the head and walked away.
She yelled after me "I SAID can I PLEASE have a COOKIE?!!"

When you are silent for long periods of time something interesting happens. The constant mental chaos starts to dissipate. All your thoughts slow down and become focused. You begin to sort of narrate yourself, both your thoughts and your actions. When you are unable to communicate you are forced to confront your knee jerk reactions, you are forced to stop and think before acting. When it takes that much work to express yourself you become a little more selective with what you would like to express. Expressing the negative just isn't worth the effort. I normally reflect back on my day or week, when I choose to be silent I'm not looking back trying to remember. I'm in the moment. Reflecting on my actions and feelings as they occur.

Why did I tense up when they walked in the door? 
I have not spoken in six hours by choice. I haven't smiled either. I feel happy. Why don't I show it?
When my children call out to me or grab my attention I respond by scowling. I didn't realize how often I begin conversations looking like I'm ready for a fight. 
Wow. I don't think of myself as an affectionate person, but each and every time one of my children takes my hand or hugs me or lays their head against my arm I feel an immediate sense of relaxation.

I experienced 48 hours of this. 48 hours of seeing how I affect others. 48 hours of not yelling at the kids. 48 hours of seeing that constant correction and criticism is completely unnecessary. 48 hours of seeing that the kids can settle their own arguments. 48 hours of listening.

I would like to report that 48 hours of listening has changed me. I would like to report that I am that much closer to being a good person. Ummm NOPE. My silence started at 1pm Sunday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon at exactly 1pm I was standing on a street corner yelling "I hate this F#$@%ing dog!! I hate you dog! I hope you get hit by a car. If I had money I would hire a Zamboni to run you down. I would hire a fleet of Zambonis to chase you down and shmear you all over the road. Stupid #$%@ing dog."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What the deuce garden!!

Dan built me a garden. I have always wanted a garden. I love it. He enclosed it to keep the dogs out. It made it feel private and secluded from the rest of the backyard. And it was a most excellent excuse to refer to myself as the gatekeeper.

Look at you garden! So clean and tidy and perfect. Bellissimo! 
Dan built me planting boxes. So neat and orderly. I LOVE neat and orderly. The kids were excited too and they got to work right away. They planted and fertilized and misspelled all the vegetable labels.

Soon. It started to grow. It was so exciting!! With every centimeter of growth we would all exclaim how amazing it was. I liked walking around in the garden. Several times a day. I was incredibly proud of our success and oh so grateful to my wonderful Dan for creating this happy little corner. So peaceful, So gorgeous.
2 rows of corn
My pretty little tomato plant
I call it my salad bar :)
Sweet Peas!!
And then it kept growing. Which was cool. The corn was taller than the boy and all the varieties of lettuce were ready to eat.

The cute little salad bar has become very mighty indeed!!
And then things took a turn. I blame myself. Like I said I have always wanted a garden. Which also means I have never before had a garden. Mostly because I'm not domesticated so I really have no idea how "to garden". Perhaps there were precautions I should have taken. or omens. I don't know.
We got really busy and I figured the automatic sprinklers would take care of the only real necessity. I didn't even think about the garden much for two weeks. Just two weeks. Let me tell you something people. A LOT OF SHIT GOES DOWN IN A GARDEN IN TWO WEEKS. A lot of sci-fi B horror movie crazy shit. We're not talking Vegas crazy, we're talking full blown Tijuana crazy. I don't know how it all went down or in what order. I can only recount the events as they accosted my eyes. I opened the gate for the first time after just a teeny tiny little smallish amount of neglect. Not a long enough absence to excuse this level of total anarchy mind you.

My previously favorite part of my garden was my ready to eat salad bar. It is now more of a smallish forest. I have no words for what is going on. I present to you the first the lettuce tree's

WTF Salad bar? WTF!!! What are you even doing? 
your attitude is a real problem salad bar.
You have no right to be 3 feet tall.
Next. Pumpkin. The pumpkin plant was humping everything. HUMPING EVERYTHING! As far as the eye could see. Pumpkin wanted it all and he wanted it bad. No wonder pumpkins are the official vegetable of Halloween. That is where the word creepy has to come from. Because that is what pumpkin plants do and that is what pumpkin plants are. Creepy little rapey things. They creep right up on other plants and they hump 'em!!

Nowhere on your little seed package were the words
Finally, my three cute little tomato plants have become so giant that they have burst through the cages and are now wielding those cages like weapons. The three prongs pried loose from the ground and forced at an upward angle in a very menacing fashion.
I think this is officially a ghetto now.
A vegetable ghetto. A veghetto.

It is as much out of the garden box as it is in the garden box.
There are no containers in this garden. Just suggestions.
Suggestions that nobody follows. Like STOP signs. 
Look closely at the pumpkin in the background.
If I were using time lapse photography we would be watching a very slow rape.
I repeat. I'm not domesticated. I don't even know how "to garden" Part of me. Most of me. Wants to just use the lawn mower. Just crank up some Rage Against the Machine and whatever survives I'll take care of because I'll be too afraid of it to do otherwise. Plus if I can't mow it down it's because it's in its garden box like it should be and it deserves to live as a reward for not being just comletely friggin ridiculous.

But I can't do that. Because I have a Dan. And my Dan would never understand what would possess me to slaughter our garden with a motorized spinning blade. I already do enough things that make Dan take a lot of deep breaths and ask a lot of questions. Plus he just started trusting me again with power tools. So I rallied the only troops I have.

It's hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm
 We "happily" worked all day "together" "enjoying" the miracle of seed becoming sustenance. It was a "great" bonding experience. "We" learned a lot of "important" life lessons with this project about the value of hard work, the folly of neglect, the almost impressive insatiable needs of a pumpkin plant. But at the end of the day, I still don't know what the F#@$ I'm going to do with about a billionty f#@&ing tomatoes.
People keep telling me to Make Salsa! They don't understand this is just the first batch!
I have like 90,000 more tomatoes out there. No one. NO ONE. Could eat that much salsa. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's time to get our sh#t together

This past week I took a break from all the "fun" I was having "decorating the bedrooms of my two little "angels" because school is only a few weeks away and I need to de-summer the kids. We have spent the last 12 weeks staying up late and sleeping in, running free through the neighborhood, filling our daylight with swimming, running, biking, grabbing meals on the fly, wearing shorts and flip flops, hours of television shows and movies and video games. And, at least in my house of five children, some real Lord of the Flies type sh*t. When you are 12, shotgun is a fighting word. Your struggle is real.

How do you de-summer kids? That's this weeks project and I honestly have no idea. I'm not good at parenting, but here is what I do. It may or may not be the worst possible advise you have ever heard. It's the final weeks of summer and I've either gone mad or become brilliant.

Restore the sleep cycle.
Suddenly out of nowhere enforce a bed time. It's important that you are not provoked. No one child should feel that it is directed specifically at them. Your sudden outburst must defy all reason leaving them too confused to be combative. At about 9:00 when every one is laughing and running around, flip the $#%@ out! Be as loud and crazy as humanly possible. Give them the old Lou Ferrigno gets angry. Use more sounds than words. You have to be the kind of insane that inspires all around you to flee. Don't break character. If you break character you just created a game and they will demand a repeat performance every night forever. You don't want that. Go to a yard sale. Buy a coffee table. Spend about a week pretending that you love LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE your brand new $15 coffee table. Then right at the peak of the go to bed performance. You break that sh#$. With a bat. If you do this right the first time you will benefit from your labor all year long. From that point on when you say go to bed with that crazy look in your eye KIDS WILL GO TO BED. I have found that prison law often applies to raising little ones. Children are crafty and cunning. They can plead and negotiate with logic. A sane mind can be tricked and manipulated. They will work you over and at the first sign of weakness they pounce. They will wear you down, and once they do, your life is no longer your own. Does your child require you to meticulously prepare their dinner plate so that none of their food is touching only to leave it untouched while they freely eat from your plate? They're messing with ya. Prison law. You're their bitch. Hulk smash a coffee table sounds a little more reasonable now doesn't it?

Manipulate their surrounding
Secretly gather everything that has any association with water and fun. Destroy it. Destroy it all. Hang up jackets. Put boots by the door. Get an apple cinnamon or pumpkin pie air freshener. Books. Place small stacks of books in common areas. All over the house so that everywhere they look they are reminded of learning. If the TV is on, demand to watch PBS. Continue to force PBS down their pie holes until they crave bran muffins and simpler times. Breaking the spirit of today enhances the Halloween of tomorrow. Trust me. You can't force your children to choose bad ass Halloween costumes. That comes from with in.

Nothing breaks up the stain of a free spirit like the power of Clorox. This can be one of the most difficult routines to establish. A successful chore chart is the holy grail in the world of stay at home moms. I have a chore chart with an impressive run. Six weeks. In the land of chore charts six weeks is ancient. Like a Sequoia. Or an Elder wizard.  More like an Elder wizard because Sequoias are real and successful chore charts and elder wizards are not. Any family with multiple children knows even the best chore charts have an extremely limited life span because one of every four children is a criminal mastermind. They appear to follow the rules but they are always searching for the one little thread that will unravel everything. They will find it. They always find it. In my home of five children I have two evil geniuses. One is 13. His secret power is Signus. That's Latin for lazy. I say it in Latin because it is an art form. The only thing about this boy that is not lazy is his mind. The other is a six year old girl. Her power is deceit. One of her first words was "nuffing!" it was said in alarm with both hands behind her back. It was said often. Anytime you entered a room she was in. She would jump up hide something and say "Nuffing!" We once found her in the morning passed out behind the couch lying in a box previously full of donuts. When asked if she had eaten the donuts in the middle of the night she looked me right in the eye and said "no" Despite all of the evidence. Sticky hands. Mouth covered in glaze. Donuts stuck in her hair. A photo of her using the remaining donuts as a pillow. She denied any involvement in the baked goods heist. She was two. Her powers have only increased.

A system that can survive this level of treachery must be magnificent. Here is my chore chart in all of its glory.

It's comlex. It's rewarding. It's competitive. Here's how it works.

Each child has a list of chores. Each chore is worth a point. At the end of the week their points are totaled and either saved to be applied to a reward with a specified point worth, e.g. date with mom requires 50 points, or converted to an allowance. Each point is worth .50 cents.

The child with the most points becomes King or Queen of the children for the following week. What does that even mean? It means automatic shotgun privileges any time we go anywhere. It means they are the deciding vote on everything. What movie do we watch tonight? ask the Queen of the children. What should we have for dinner tonight? Ask the Queen of the children. Who's going to the store with mom? Queen of the children. It solves many if not all arguments and is a very coveted position. Plus I always draw their name on the board super artsy fancy and include compliments. But what if all the children do all of their chores everyday? They would all have the same amount of points. Have you ever dreamed of your children coming to you and asking for more housework? In this house it happens. We call it extra points. Any day that all chores are completed you can always ask mom for an extra. Does it cost me extra at the end of the week for any kid converting to allowance. Yes. Is it worth it when the house is always clean? F$%# yes! If one of my children wants to really bust ass and wash every wall, mop every floor, scrub every toilet etc etc etc and make $50.00 in one week. I'm all for it. A housekeeper for a couple of hours is substantially more.

I want these chores done right away. So every day there is a small activity that can only be done when everyone has all their chores done. It doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming. I try to get out of the house but you would be surprised how hard your kids will work for the promise of a card game or to frost cookies. Or sit in front of the TV after dinner and watch shark week. This component is awesome. I don't have to nag the kids because they nag and help each other to get to the activity, the sooner they're all done, the more time we have for the activity. As a mom who's often torn in too many directions, the promise of my time and attention is a powerful motivator.

We have a weekly super secret chore. I give one clue. If you can figure out and complete the chore you get the immediate reward of a date with mom (or a boatload of extra points) The catch is I won't reveal if you have guessed correctly until you have completed the chore. If you cleaned out the car thoroughly but it turns out that wasn't the secret chore. I'm still going to praise you and give you a few extra points for a job well done. There is a rule that no one can attempt the secret chore unless all their other chores are done. This not only gets each kid to hurry through their chores so they can get to the activity or so they can take take a shot at the super secret chore but because they know everyone else is hurrying through their chore to take a shot at the super secret chore and they may get to it first. This week it was the fridge in the garage. That thing wreaked, it hadn't been cleaned out in a year. It now smells like Pinesol humping freshness. It's that good.

This is working and it's working well for us. I've been doing this mom thing too long to think it will last though. If it begins to fail I will simply buy a coffee table. Bring it in to the living room and tell the kids I love it with a crazy look in my eye. That should buy me a few more weeks of diligent chore doing....