Random Thoughts: The Who Am I Edition

A few notes from the week thus far:

1. Dan and I finally copped to the fact that we need a new coffee maker. The Mr. Coffee that has served us faithfully for nearly 10 years is… well, I don’t really know what happened. I cleaned it at least annually, and then this year, I probably cleaned it twice within six months, and the coffee still just tasted bad. Indescribably bad.

Thank goodness for VIA.

I put out a query on Twitter, as I am wont to do, regarding a recommendation for a replacement coffee maker.

The response was overwhelming: Twitter recommended I get a French press, maybe two (one for loose tea).

So we will be getting a French press (or two) in the near future, and possibly another Mr. Coffee for when we need to make more than 3-4 cups of coffee at a time.

Thanks, everyone!


2. I have been doing so well with the meal schedule that I actually have enough for two nights of (mostly) leftovers, tonight and tomorrow. I need refrigerator space and storage containers! So: cleaning out tonight and tomorrow.

3. One of the secrets to doing well with the meal schedule is cooking in the morning. I usually make pasta Monday morning for that night’s dinner; Tuesday, I get the rice steamer set up, or (as I did yesterday) make something like veggie chili before leaving for work. I had never even contemplated this step in the past.

4. This organization thing is going pretty well (knock on wood). Packing lunches at night, and putting dishes away in the morning, plus prepping some food in the morning is leading to extra time in the evenings. Of course, that means I get to do stuff like go through M’s clothes to update sizes and seasonal wear, or more efficiently take care of paper work, but STILL.


5. I added something else to the evening schedule: violin practice. (Related: I may have lost my damn mind, as I told a friend on Twitter yesterday.) I’m starting Flora out with 15 minutes of practice each night (she’s not even playing real songs yet). We’ll see how it goes. We chose violin as a starting instrument because: 1. we don’t have a piano, or room for one at this point; 2. lessons are at school, during school. She’s taking part in group lessons; 3. renting a violin is super, duper easy and not very expensive.

6. The perfect bribe for my children (or, conversely the perfect thing to take away as a consequence): computer time. They watch a lot of YouTube Pokemon videos or play games online (fantage, coolmath). They each get between 20 and 30 minutes at a pop.


7. We will be shopping for materials to make the Halloween costumes this weekend.

Yes, I told the girls they could be Pokemon, and, yes, I told them we would make their costumes. Further proof I have lost my damn mind. Rest assured: I am still sane enough to know that SEWING the costumes in out of the question. It will be more a matter of… constructing them.

Michael will be a monkey, in a costume being passed along to me. So that’s all right.

What totally crazy and/or out-of-character things are you doing lately?

Random Thoughts: The Who’s the Man Edition

I can’t give my son a pink plate or bowl.

Of course the woman’s study student/social liberal in me is pretty appalled by this inability. I tell my girls all the time (and I do truly believe this in my heart of hearts): There aren’t boy colors or girl colors.

I could even do a long and pretty well-informed rant about the fact that pink used to be the color for baby boys (the softer version of red, which was considered a masculine color). And how marketers have co-opted the color pink for girls for their own nefarious purposes. (Not that making money is nefarious, but the whole gender-ization of toys and programming is, IMO.)

And yet, every time I reach to set the table, I give Michael a blue, green, orange, or yellow plate, while one of the girls gets purple (we have a system as to who gets the purple plate on what day. I should just buy another purple plate), and the other one gets another color, including, possibly, pink.

I have no problems when M decides to put on his sisters’ shoes to wander around in. If he wants to play with a doll, I’m good. If he even wants to try on a skirt for dress-up pretend play or slip one of my bracelets up his little arm, no alarms go off in my head. When someone else gives M a pink dish or bowl at mealtime (as has happened), I don’t hurriedly switch it out. I don’t care.

But I can’t give him one myself. How weird is that?


I will also admit that when it comes to household chores, I am a total sexist. I think Dan should take care of the following: yard work, the cars, any handy-man chores (plumbing, painting, etc.), taking the garbage out for collection, mopping the kitchen floor (it’s labor intensive, especially with how seldom we actually mop the kitchen floor). Now I also believe that Dan can stay with the kids alone for a couple of hours, and he is very capable of changing diapers and giving baths, and I happen to know that he is a better brunch maker than I (although I rock the French toast).

But it bugs me when I have to bug him to, for example, take out the trash. Shouldn’t he just know he has to do that because he’s the guy? It’s his chore! Why do I have to remind him every week?

Again, the feminist in me is kind of appalled at this kind of thinking. But in practical terms, we’re a pretty gender normative household. Dan makes more money than I do, works more hours, and I do the bulk of the household and childcare stuff. I’m not too resentful of this. If I made more, or if our situation called for a stay-at-home parent, and Dan wanted to do it and it made financial sense, I’d sign on for that.

Is being gender normative equal to being a lazy feminist?


On the other hand, I did respond to a tweet about splitting the check on a date. The tweet asserted, “Now women are supposed to split the check on a first date? Man UP! Call (not text), hold the door, and pick up the check!” I tweeted back, “What if *she* wants to split the check?” My thoughts were along the lines of two things: First, women coming out of school now are making more or as much as men right now. (That can change over the course of her career; pay inequity still exists, although by the time my girls are in the workforce, it may literally be a thing of the past.) Second, splitting the check, especially on the first date, keeps expectations light and allows for more room to consider a second date.

So with that, maybe my feminist bona fides are still in order.

The Rocker or the Chanteuse

For months now, I’ve been swinging musically between loud, blusey rock and sweet-voiced singers.

For example:

Black Keys, “Gold on the Ceiling”


Cat Power, “Ruin” (Okay, this is a bit of rocker for Cat, but the rest of the album is more mellow, and stunningly beautiful.)


Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody”


Lovers, “Boxer” (I know, the mustache. If it distracts you, just close your eyes and listen. After hearing this song on a Slate podcast, I went and downloaded their two most recent albums.)

Other rockers I can’t get enough of: Bob Mould (NEW ALBUM! WOO! Get off my lawn!), Green Day, Foo Fighters.

Other female singers I can’t get enough of: Regina Spektor, Kate Bush, Feist.

And it’s not just a listen here or there. I play most of these artists, albums, or songs multiple times in one day. One day, I went back and forth between The Black Keys “Howlin’ for You” and “Gold on the Ceiling”, and another day it was Lovers “Boxer” and “Don’t You Want It”. I’m simply obsessed with them all, all the time. (If I listen to an album four times on Spotify, I pretty much go and buy it.)

On a somewhat related note, I really need to get to another live show. (Last one was Rush, with Dan, last Tuesday. Which, Rush is not one of ‘my’ bands, but I have dragged my husband to more live shows that he has been skeptical about than I can keep track of, including Elliot Smith (RIP), Wilco, Green Day, and X. At the least, I owed him one Rush show. That said, I was very impressed, and simply put: Neil Peart is a stone-faced beast on the drums.)

Who are you listening to these days?


If you could create your fantasy summer festival concert, what five bands would be in the line up?

Mine are:

Pearl Jam
Lady Gaga
The Black Keys
Jack White
Regina Spektor

Who would you have?

Meatless Monday: The Schedule

Hi! How are we this week? Let’s just act like every thing’s normal (and Michael at least *is* back to normal), and plow on ahead with What Else I am Trying to Keep My Sanity During the School Year.

On my post about the kids’ schedule, there were a couple of food-related suggestions that I am taking under consideration. I’m playing around with a very simplified menu plan. I hate getting to quitting time and wondering what I’m going to give my children for dinner when we get home. I decided that had to make changes in a concrete way.

Here is the (still being tweaked) schedule so far.

Monday: Pasta
Tuesday: Rice/Ethnic (tacos are big)
Wednesday: Brinner OR Mac & Cheese, Veg Baked Beans, and/or Notdogs
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Sandwiches (and Soup, sometimes)
Saturday: Pizza (preferably with homemade crust)
Sunday: Slow Cooker/Comfort Food

Meals are usually a main dish, a protein (beans, nuggets, or the like), and a vegetable and/or salad.

If a child doesn’t want what I am serving, she is welcome to something else, as long as she can make it herself. She has to try at least one bite of dinner first. So far, this has worked out well.

I need to remember to cook more food — my kids are growing, and consuming more, plus I like to have different things to pack in their lunches. In additon, I am counting on having leftovers at least one night (Thursday is CSA pickup night, and we usually don’t get home until nearly 6 p.m.).

I am learning to incorporate tricks and tools into my meal planning as well. For example, my rice steamer has a timer on it. I just put the rice (or other grain) in, pour in the liquid, and set the timer. When we get home, we have the base of our Tuesday meal. On Mondays, I usually boil the pasta in the morning as we’re getting ready. Soup is something I make ahead of time (usually on a Saturday or Sunday), and freeze half of. At this point, I have nearly a month’s worth of soup in my freezer (corn chowder, lentil, and tomato so far)!

Another meal type that will make the rotation, especially as spring and soccer roll around is a cold-type or picnic meal (h/t Kim Z., aka @observacious) that we can eat at the park or soccer field as needed.

Having a general menu plan like this helps me so much. I hate meal planning, and I hate not having a meal plan. Instead of reinventing the wheel every week, this gives me a template to work from. Pasta can be penne with marinara sauce, or tortellini with vegetable balls; Tuesday can be rice with beans or soy crumbles with taco seasoning in burritos. And cooking a lot on the weekends (as happens, depending on our weekend activities) takes a lot of pressure off when soup or leftover night rolls around!

What do you do to make cooking easier for you?


How is everyone? Doing good? Doing well?

Yeah, I wish I weren’t having the week I’m having. There was the highlight of a concert with my husband, but other than that, it hasn’t been hot.

Or, rather, it’s been a little too warm, for M anyway. So much for schedules and routines. “The best laid plans of mice and men…” and moms “oft go awry.”

And I’m so stressed about it. So tired of feeling this way. My kids are my priority, and I don’t ever feel good about doing right by them anymore. That’s pretty effed up, huh?

Anyway, hope Wednesday and the rest of the week treat you well. I’ll be over here, chewing on my fingernails.

Back-to-School: The Schedule, Mine Edition

First, I want to thank everyone who commented on my last post. You all gave me encouragement, and some good ideas. I really appreciate it.

Second, in addition to my attempts to create a routine and good habits for my children, I decided that I needed to do the same for me. Having a nanny taught me the value of a neat house and organization, and I don’t want that to slip away.

My biggest challenge is to STICK WITH THIS. I want to get lazy, but getting lazy will lead bad places. Bad, disorganized, highly stressed out places.

Here are the general goals each day:

Empty the dishwasher in the morning, and put the breakfast dishes in. This means I come home to a clean kitchen.

Help the children get through the evening without losing my shit. Mileage varies on this one. Pickup and drive time seem to be particularly fraught.

Have a weekly meal schedule (I’m still tweaking this) so I’m not leaving work panicking about what I’m going to feed my children for dinner.

Clean kitchen, go through evening routine with kids, M in bed by 7:30, girls in bed by 8-8:30.

Finish cleaning kitchen, and PACK LUNCHES FOR THE NEXT DAY. This one is big, and it’s the one thing in the evening that I most want to not do sometimes. I just have to keep in mind that i really does not take that long, and it makes mornings so much better.

My goal is to be able to watch a little TV or read each night, and go to bed by 10 p.m.

Now, each evening of the week, the kids and I will have a chore: Monday, put away clean laundry; Tuesday, clean upstairs bathroom; Wednesday, vacuum; Thursday, clean downstairs bathroom; Friday, get all dirty laundry to Bella’s. Weekends are for cleaning rooms and vacuuming upstairs, plus paperwork, especially organizing and paying bills. I have to get better at this too (the organizing part, not the paying part).

So far, Thursdays are the worst days because they are the longest. After I pick up the children, I have to also get my CSA veggies. This puts us home after 6 p.m. Not coincidentally, this is also leftovers night.

Does it seem like I’m missing anything? Before you ask, Dan has weekly chores, too, and he also needs to stick with them. We, as a family, are refocusing on team work right now.

Back To School: The Schedule, Kids’ Edition

Last week was our first full week with the fall schedule (that means girls at school and Michael at daycare). It felt like a full-out sprint.

I am working hard to help myself and help my children with the transition back to fall. It’s been rocky so far. Lots of deep breaths on my part. My goal is to have a routine that the children can stick to. It needs to be simple and flexible.

One of my worries in general is that due to work and school and homework and activities and so on, that our kids are turning into little worker bees instead of little kids.

Flora has a test or quiz nearly every day of the week — math, English, spelling (a pretest and a test), science (every other week), and so on. It worries me, and I don’t want to pass my anxiety onto Flora. Not that she can’t do the work, she can — she’s very smart. But that The Work will just be the goal, instead of actual learning, and taking joy in learning.

Kate I am less worried about. She’s in full-day kindergarten, but she only has a page of homework once or twice a week. She usually comes home singing the songs they learn in her classroom. She is having a blast.

And Michael! Well, here’s a good thing: he transitioned very well back into his daycare. To date, he has not cried when I’ve dropped him off in the morning. He seems to be excited to see the toys and the care givers and other kids.

Here’s the crappy thing: He’s not getting enough rest. He’s sleeping between 10 and 11 hours at night (I try to get him in bed at 7:30 every night); during the day, he’s gone from 2 to 3 hour naps to 1 1/2 hour naps (if we’re lucky, 2). Evenings with him are very difficult — tantrums, meltdowns, clinginess. And he’s TIRED. He’s rubbing his eyes by 6 p.m. some nights.

Evenings in general are very difficult right now. I am the sole Parent On Duty, Monday through Thursday. What I need, especially from Flora and to a lesser extent from Kate, is some self-sufficiency and self-motivation. To help, I have a schedule to help them develop new habits.

We’re still learning it. I have told the girls that until they develop these good habits, there is no night time television. I have tried to be firm and consistent. I try not to yell.

I have held firm on television. I sometimes yell in frustration. But I’m trying.

Here’s the general outline:

When we get home, they have to get their stuff out of the car.
Once in the house, Flora should go to the dining room to start her homework. Kate needs to go to another room to play, or do her homework quietly with Flora. I give everyone a snack if they want.
While I make dinner, Kate has to occupy herself, Michael has to play or eat his snack, Flora should do her homework. Mileage varies so far.
Then we have dinner, clear the table. Sometimes the girls have a quick chore (putting their clean clothes away, running the vacuum). Then bath, books, bed. The end.

Here are the problems so far: Flora has a very difficult time focusing on her homework at home. She does fine in school because everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. But at home, her brother and sister are playing (or having a meltdown — I’m looking at you, Michael), and she is constantly distracted from her work. I am trying to make dinner. Kate has a very hard time leaving Flora alone.

What should be 15-20 minutes of homework a night gets stretched to an hour, sometimes more. Flora is constantly interrupting herself to get a drink, get a snack, complain about something, whinge about Kate. I am constantly chasing Kate away from the dining room or kitchen. Michael, feeling neglected (and probably hungry and tired) throws a fit.

I’m an awesome mom, by the way.

To date, since full-time school has started, the children have not had a night time show (not counting Fridays. They can do whatever the hell they want on Fridays, I honestly don’t care as long as no blood is shed). We do not get outside time at all. We really don’t get much downtime in the evenings in general, actually. I feel like it’s a full-out sprint (again) from picking up the children to bedtime.

And, frankly, I don’t know if there’s a damn thing I can do about it.

Are my expectations too high? Should I just give into the sprint until the weekends? Any ideas? Or should I just suck this up for the next nine months? (*sob*)

More later this week on MY schedule, and what I’m trying to do to help myself.