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A Kind of Whiny Post

The start of school has turned my life into a treadmill of laundry, dishes, schoolwork, dinner, grocery shopping and sleep-deprivation.  Various projects long for my attention, but I can’t manage to focus. 

If you add the babysitting I’ve done throughout the years to the mix, I’ve been taking care of either a baby, toddler or preschooler for thirteen years.  (My twins are 13.  When they were three, I started a home daycare.  Then I had my youngest son.  When he was three, I got pregnant again and when that baby girl was a year old, I started babysitting again.)

I suppose little ones keep you young, but they also keep you from concentrating for more than a few minutes at a time.  I mean, honestly, how much can you accomplish during nap-time?  Or in the space between the kids’ bedtime and your own collapse into bed? 

Life is chopped into little morsels, at least it is around here.  The things I want to accomplish demand large chunks of time . . . whatever shall I do?

I will think about it tomorrow, that’s what.  And I will thank myself for cleaning up the family room floor and the kitchen tonight so a scary mess doesn’t greet me in the morning.

“I’m exhausted,” she declared.

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(And she pronounced it like this:  “ezhausted!”  And then, she was eerily quiet in her room.  I pushed open the door to discover her in this position.  She wasn’t kidding!)

The Fair

All through the night and pre-dawn darkness Monday, I heard steady rain.  How much do I love to sleep to the sound of rain?  And yet, I fretted in that fuzzy space between consciousness and unconsciousness because we planned to go to the fair first thing Monday morning.

We loaded up our four kids, plus an extra two year old and a spare four year old.  We were on the road by 9:45 a.m. and arrived at the fair shortly after it opened.

By then, only drizzle fell from the cloudy skies.  All the rides were wet, of course, but the ride operators wiped them off and so little bottoms only got a bit wet.  The best part about our early arrival on this damp day was that the kids didn’t have to wait in any lines.  In fact, the ride operators waited for us to approach. 

My husband and I split up–he took the big kids and I took the small kids.  My daughter turns out to be just like me–she loved every single ride, only refusing those which spun high into the air (comparatively speaking–they were all little-kid rides).  She rode with her buddy while the two-year old was content to watch from his stroller. 

The only happening of note was when a particular ride operator and I both buckled in my daughter–our hands touched.  No big deal except then while my daughter spun in circles, the ride operating woman began to share too much information:  “My better half went and got me a coffee.” 

Me:  (Nod, smile tightly)  That’s nice.

Her:  Yeah, I have a really sore throat but hot liquids help.

Me:  (ACK!  WE TOUCHED HANDS!)  Oh. 

Her:  Yeah, I made an appointment for Friday at 10:40, but I’ll have to take off some time.

Me:  (NEED TO WASH HANDS!  MUST FIND SINK!)  I hope you feel better soon.

Then, I promptly forgot all about it and didn’t wash  my hands.  I’m a sorry excuse for a germaphobe.  We did later use the bathroom and wash afterwards, so I can only hope I didn’t transfer any of sick-ride-lady’s germs to myself.   

After meeting up with my husband again and eating lunch (again, no lines), we headed toward the animal barns and saw horses, llamas, chicks, ducks, turkeys, goats, sheep and pigs.  (We did wash our hands after touching animals.)

And the sun came out!  The crowds began to build, too, and I congratulated myself on our early arrival.

We would have greeted Dora the Explorer (live, in a gigantic fuzzy costume), but I refused to stand in such a long line with my daughter who would probably not have let Dora touch her long enough for a picture to be snapped.  Plus, they were trying to get us to pay big money for a photograph and I wasn’t about to play along.

I did not see anything that I would have seen if I didn’t have children.  No retail booths.  No quilt displays.  No 4-H demonstrations.  No produce.  I didn’t even eat any fair food, nor did I ride a roller coaster.  I had no time to sit and study people.

But boy, the new Sillyville area of the fair, created just for children was quite delightful.

And we were home by 2:00 p.m.  (My husband took my 8-year old son back for the afternoon and evening.  Now, that is a boy after my own heart, a kid who wants to ride all the rides, see all the stuff and stay at the fair until the last light flickers off.)

This is the real, true official end of summer for me.  Blink.  All gone.

Help?

If you subscribe to my ClubMom blog, The Amazing Shrinking Mom, by following this link, you will get a daily email with a tiny excerpt from that blog.  You’ll also get fifty ClubMom points (if you save them up, you can exchange them for good stuff, eventually). 

Most importantly, I’ll have more subscribers than some of the other ClubMom bloggers . . . we’re having a contest and suddenly, my competitive nature shows up!  (Tip:  Never play board games with me.)  The blog with the most subscribers wins . . . I want to win!   (Not that I have a snowball’s chance in Florida with some of the big names over there, but still.)

Weekend Update

Saturday morning found me in the kitchen, preparing two dishes to take to a church potluck.  I suppose people exist in the world who have never experienced the joy of a church potluck, but I am not one of them.  I chopped and chopped vegetables for a salad and then created a lasagna-kind of crock-pot dish.

Then I left home.  I headed for the church to decorate my Sunday School classroom.  I’m teaching the preschoolers again this year, mainly because my daughter will not go to a Sunday School class unless I’m the teacher.  For years and years, I’ve taught preschoolers about Adam and Eve and about Noah and his ark and about Zacchaeus, the wee little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus.  I’ve introduced dozens of children to Bibles stories and this year will be no different.

I spent a few hours decorating (using left-over VBS materials, mostly) and finally, at 1:20 p.m., fled the church for the anonymity of Value Village.  I’ve mentioned before how the meditation of sorting through other people’s cast-offs soothes my mind and yesterday was no different.  (Alas, I didn’t find any Pampered Chef items this time.)

The potluck was well-attended.  My daughter exclaimed with glee over going to church for dinner. 

She asked, “Will we listen to the music?” and I said, “No, not tonight.  We’ll just eat.”  And she replied, “Good, because the music is boring!”  (On Sunday mornings, we strive to stay in the service until the sermon starts.  I tell her, “First, we’ll listen to the music.”)

That reminded of the time my 4-year old son explained to me why he didn’t like Sunday School:  “Because all they talk about is Jesus and Jesus is no fun!”

When we left the potluck, my daughter asked, “Are we coming to church tomorrow?” 

I said, “Yes.”

She said, “I don’t want to go to church!”  (She normally loves going.)

I said, “Well, we’re going.”

Then she launched into a fit, the specialized variety of four year old girls.  Tears ran down her cheeks and she wailed her displeasure.

We all buckled up and I drove the van home while she cried and cried.  When we entered the house, she immediately began stripping, even though she still wept.  “What are you doing?” I asked and she said, “I’m taking a bath!”

So, I ran the bathwater.  She watched a show and soon, was in bed.

She woke three times in the night, once at midnight (my husband got up) and twice in the pre-dawn darkness.  The last time, I didn’t even touch her, I just hissed, “Lay down and go to sleep!” and she mumbled something about a bad dream and I said (with no pity), “Just think happy thoughts and go to sleep!”

I returned to bed, grateful that my husband had suggested we stay home from church.  (He said so after I described her dismay and tears–he wasn’t home during the fit.)  The horrible night of interrupted sleep convinced me of the wisdom of staying home.  Plus, this would be our last chance to play hooky before Sunday School starts next week.

And my daughter?  I said, “Do you want to go to church?” and she said, “No!” followed by “Yes!” 

We went to church and as usual, I was glad we went.  The children are growing up with a sense that they belong to something bigger than just our family.  They belong to the family of God, a place where adults know their names and don’t even blink when they take four pieces of dessert at a potluck.  (Well, maybe they blink, but they find my children amusing, I like to think.)

Tomorrow, we’re going to the Western Washington Fair.  I am eager to show the draft horses and the piglets and the bunnies to my daughter.  My 8-year old will dream tonight of riding the fastest rides while my teenagers will try to decide which delectable fried food they should eat. 

I will wish I had more time to study the quilts and 4-H displays and I’ll take as many pictures as I can while balancing my desire to photograph the moment with my longing to participate in it.  

My husband will rush us along because that’s what he does, but we will slow him down.  For one day, we will all slow down, even as we hurry to the roller coaster line.

Locked Out!

Last night, at 9:00 p.m., I headed out to the grocery store for milk (and whatever else I realized we needed while strolling the aisles).  In the driveway, I looked at the set of keys in my  hand and realized that I’d grabbed my husband’s set of keys, which include an ignition key to our van, but not a door key.  I was too lazy to go back inside to get our set of van keys, so I said to myself, “Self, just don’t lock the door.” 

You see where this is going, right?

I shopped until my cart was sort of full.  I stood in line for quite some time because some lady needed a price check.  Finally, yawning, I paid for my groceries, reached into my purse to get my keys and said to myself, “Self, uh, you didn’t lock the door, did you?”

Surely not, right?  Is my attention span so short that I forget during the ten minute drive from my house to Albertson’s? 

I strode to the van, hoping against hope that my brain had overruled habit.  Alas, it did not.  I was locked out of my van.  I called my husband, not that he could help me because we only have one vehicle.  But while on the telephone with him, I came up with a plan:  I called my mother.

It was 9:42 p.m.

My mother was home, and around 10:00 p.m., I was loading groceries into the back of my van. 

So much for a quick trip to the store.  By the time I was home and the groceries were unloaded, it was past 10:30 p.m.

*  *  *

After my depiction of household school-at-home harmony, we had an unpleasant day today.  My Reluctant Student chose to skim his pre-algebra chapter review and then grew indignant, pouty and angry with me when I informed him he would have to actually complete the lesson.  I am so unreasonable.

Later, after the shouting, he began picking up toys and straightening up the family room.  I said, “What are you doing?” 

He said, “Cleaning up.” 

I said, “Are you doing penance?” 

Both boys said, “What’s that?”  I explained penance and thus, we turn even a difficult situation into a learning experience.  Ha.

Tonight, the same Reluctant Student helped me make quiche for dinner.  He can be so helpful . . . if only we could do something about the fits.

Rules Rule

When I was a teenager, a police officer in Seattle stopped my friend, Shelly, and me, and threatened to give us a ticket.  Our crime?  Jaywalking. 

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we take jaywalking very seriously.  In downtown Seattle, in fact, when you can look both ways and no cars are coming, you still stand on the curb and wait for the light to turn green.  You will, or you will pay.

I like that.  I like to follow rules.  I like other people to follow rules.  The world would be a better place if we all just followed the rules.  (My rules, in case you wondered.)

The other day, as I drove along savoring my freedom, the lights marking a railroad crossing began to flash.  I slowed to a stop, first in line at the crossing.

The crossing did not have a gate, only flashing lights.  I could see clearly down the tracks looking both directions.  Quite a distance to the right, I could see the train coming.

The rain puttered along very slowly.  I could have run faster than the crawling train.  Still.  I sat, obeying the flashing lights.

I reasoned that I could go . . . now! 

Or . . . now! 

Or even . . . now! 

But I sat.  I waited.  And waited some more.  I thought, I could have gone twenty times already! 

But I didn’t move.  Finally, the train arrived.  I could see the whites of the eyes of the train engineer.  I think he was smirking. 

I followed the rules, though.  Never cross railroad tracks when lights are flashing. 

I was that child in your classroom who shushed everyone, the girl who longed for the rest of the class to stop asking questions long enough for the teacher to complete the instructions.

I love rules.  (But not these rules.)  Curiously enough, I don’t want anyone to speak for me or tell me what to do.

But the Golden Rule?  The one where we all treat each other like we want to be treated?  (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Luke 6:31)  I try to do that.  I hope you try to do that. 

If that guy tailgating me or that woman parking her shopping cart in the middle of the aisle or my kids leaving their dirty dishes scattered hither and yon would also do that, I would be grateful.  If those drunks driving and those kids drinking and that cat pooping in my yard would also follow the rules, wouldn’t that be nice?

Also, if my daughter would refrain from waking me at 6:00 a.m., I would appreciate it.  The day should never begin before sun is up and shining through the window.  She, however, listens to the dictates of her stomach which apparently rumbled, “GIVE ME A DONUT NOW.”

I hate a predawn talking tummy, even more than I hate a slow train chugging down the tracks, wasting my precious free time.

School-at-home

So, you ask, how’s school-at-home going these days?  (Yeah, I know.  No one asked, but I can’t think of a single thing to talk about tonight.)

Much to my shock, my boys have become somewhat self-motivated.  They are on their computer, starting their lessons and doing their pre-algebra problems before I’ve even eaten my bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal.  Finally, they seem to understand that the sooner they start, the sooner they’ll be done.

Obviously, I still check their work and oversee their progress, but they are handling the bulk of their assignments on their own.  I can’t rave enough about K12.com’s curriculum.  I love everything about it, with the possible exception of science projects, but so far, we haven’t had to do any major ones.

We’re getting into a routine, all of us.  I’m still nostalgic about summer . . . the darkness comes so much earlier at night.  Before we know it, Christmas will take us by surprise and then we’ll be in the gloom of January and then crocuses will spring up.  Time doesn’t march; it sprints.

Reminder to self:  Plant more daffodils.  Can you ever really have enough?

Don’t Squeeze My Brain

I have a fear.  I worry that my brain has reached capacity, like a sponge that’s soaked in water . . . poke it, and it will start to leak. 

What happens if I just can’t shove another fact into my brain or learn anything new or retain additional information?  I want to do more and be more than the woman who sweeps the floors and matches socks.  But what if my brain has liquefied like jello left out in the sun? 

I worry about my spongy brain. 

(And where is my remote control, anyway?  I dug into the furniture.  I did everything but body cavity checks on the children.)

See?  I can’t even think a coherent, straight-line thought without distracting myself.

Sponge-brain.  That’s me. 

I Remember Thomas Kuveikis

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 I am participating in the 2,996 Project, for which 2,996 bloggers volunteered to write a memorial for one person who perished in the attacks on 9/11.

Today, on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States, I remember Thomas Kuveikis.

Thomas Kuveikis was known to his family and friends as Tommy.  He grew up in Brooklyn, attending Blessed Sacrament Elementary School.  He later graduated from Wheatley High School in 1971 after his family moved to East Williston.

Tommy studied architecture at both SUNY Farmingdale and the Pratt Institute, but her never completed a degree.  He dabbled in carpentry, a skill learned from his father.  He joined the New York Fire Department (FDNY) in August of 1977 when he was twenty-four years old. 

Within a year, Tommy made a name for himself as an aggressive, brave and tough firefighter.  His younger brother, Tim,  once said, “If I could be half the fireman he was, I’ll have a really good career.”  (Newsday.com)   He loved the action of firefighting in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood.  (His father was a legendary firefighter who died in November 2001.) 

But Tommy wasn’t just a tough guy.  He came up with an idea to help a poor family at Christmas.  Starting in 1987, members of his squad visited a priest at St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church and ask for the name of the poorest family in the parish.  Then they would contact the family, set up a Christmas tree and provide presents. 

Tommy was married twice and was about to be engaged to Jennifer Auerhahn, who described him as “sweet, funny, kind gentle and unselfish.”  His brother Jimmy wrote about him on September11victims.com website saying,

“It was really tough to lose Tommy as he became such a king, considerate guy over time.  He was not always this way, especially in his twenties, but ‘life’s difficulties’ made him become a great human being.  He was a vegetarian, he gave money and time to Putnam County Land Trust to preserve ‘special’ land . . . he loved animals, kids and good people.  Tommy was already a tremendous fireman, working in a poor area of Brooklyn, where he could experience many more fires than the average fireman, just like his father did.”

Kathy Gelman said her brother, Tommy, was “honorable, honest, humorous, humble, humane, and hero.”

In his spare time, Tommy worked as a carpenter.  In fact, he built a steam room in Squad 252’s firehouse.  He had a reputation for not charging enough for his carpentry work.  One day a year, he would donate a day of carpentry to the Putnam County Land Trust.

Tommy had one daughter, Kristen.  He had five siblings, sisters Christine, Karen and Kathleen and brothers, James and Timothy. 

Tommy had been a firefighter for twenty-four years and a member of Squad 252 (“In Squad We Trust” was their motto) for five years when his squad answered the fifth alarm at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, at 9:00 a.m.  He was forty-eight years old that day.  CNN footage shows his squad pulling up to the east side of the Trade Center around 9:28 a.m.  The six members of the squad entered the north tower, rescued a man from an elevator.

Two of the firefighters’ bodies were found in the C stairwell 18 days later.  The other four men of Squad 252, including Tommy, were never found. 

Today, I remember Thomas Kuveikis.  Thomas Kuveikis is one of the 343 FDNY firefighters who died on September 11, 2001.  He is a hero.  We will never forget. kuveikis_1.jpg

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