Not Now I’m Cleaning the Kitchen

The other day I visited the daycare that four of our six kids went to after our home daycare friend closed up shop. I was called in to help the owner who is my long time friend replace some of the flooring in a couple of areas. It has been years since I have been there. When we had David our fifth child, I called UNCLE and found someone to come to our house to help. It was just silly the idea of hauling the older boys to grade school and three little ones to daycare every morning. It was not only exhausting, we were pretty much going broke. So for several years we added high school and college ladies to our tribe, some of whom now have grade school age children of their own. Our last life saver, had two babies during her time helping us and got to bring them with her to work, which was a win win. We only had one bad experience with our eclectic mix of support: we call her the ‘almost let the house burn down nanny’. But that’s a different story.

Walking in the doors of the daycare I was brought back instantly to how it felt to leave my kids every morning. I pretty much cried every single day but I’m not going to lie, some days they were tears of relief. Raising kids is HARD and my outside the house job back then was WAAAY easier. So I’m probably pretty lucky I had to work inside AND outside the home to help make things work.

The walk through started with the infant section and it was all I could do not to plunk down on the floor and get a baby boy fix.

But that would have been weird. And frowned upon since there are probably rules about who gets to hug and smooch on the babies in a public daycare.

There were six of them, all boys, yummy and soft with their bottles and their binkies. My friend started this infant division twenty years ago for me and another family who just kept popping out babies. Infant care is an expensive thing to provide as a daycare owner: Washington State Law says the ratio of caregivers to babies has to be 1 to 4. Which is why it’s so expensive for parents. The going rate per baby is now $1600. Yikes!

We toured the toddler rooms next. They had just finished up lunch and were getting ready for naptime. The eating area looked pretty much like a tsunami had hit but one little boy was still contentedly eating at the table all alone closing his eyes with each bite, savoring, until he got in trouble for being slow. The teacher gave him a choice in her detached teacher voice: he could take his plate to the sink or she would do it for him. He didn’t like either of those choices and pretty much pitched a shit fit. I don’t really blame him. Eating fast is bad for your digestion and he was clearly still enjoying his applesauce. The enabler in me wanted to sneak him a cookie to put in his pocket and eat under his napping blanket but I didn’t have any on me. Plus I suppose that too would have been frowned upon.

Next up was the pre-school section, ages 3 to 5. If you ever need an ego boost, go visit a herd of four year olds and you will leave feeling like like you are the coolest person on the planet. I’m pretty much famous now. Every single child came up and asked me what my name was and told me theirs, along with a fun fact about themselves. Things like “I just washed my hands.” “I hate applesauce.” “I have a fish.” One of them asked me if I was a police officer. I said “NO! Even cooler! I sell floors!” And they all oohed and aahed. Children are so perfect. I’m not sure I realized that when I was raising them. I was just so crazy busy surviving. I wanted to sit down on the floor and hug every single one of them and tell them how perfect they were and that their parents LOVED them.

But they too were getting ready for naptime. The younger ones had already gathered their mats and had hunkered down with their blankies, some conked out within seconds, which I found fascinating and wondered what was in the applesauce. But one little girl just didn’t want to comply and the teacher was talk-yelling in at her in this on the edge of hysteria voice to “GO TO SLEEP”. I wanted to ask her if she would instantly fall asleep if someone was talk-yelling at HER. But I reminded myself how desperate I was sometimes for my children to JUST GO TO SLEEP.

Still, I wanted to start a mutiny. Gather them all at the craft table and make glitter signs that said: “Say NO to NAPS!” or “We can sleep when we’re 50 and OLD.” or “Naps are for Pussies.” But I didn’t. Because that too would have been weird. And for SURE frowned upon.

But some things occurred to me during my visit.

First, I really miss little kids. So much.

Finally.

It took me awhile: fourteen years in fact. I simply had to get over the exhaustion. But now? I want to hang out with little kids again. I want to tell them they are perfect every day and hug them. I want to make giant messes in the kitchen with them and not care about the clean up. I want to not feel pissed off and robbed when they won’t take naps and just maybe lay down with them and tell them stories till I fall asleep. I’m different now, rested and more relaxed and a little less in a hurry to push through things like I did in my thirties, which I honestly don’t remember much of. It’s probably because I was running through life with my eyes closed and my breath held.

Mind you, I don’t have much guilt over how we raised our kids. My husband and I did our absolute best and all six of them turned out PERFECT in their own unique and awesome way, even if I didn’t TELL them they were every single day. BUT I hope that someday in the future, I get to make big messes in the kitchen with THEIR kids, because no matter what you hear from wise old women when you’re in the middle of raising your babies, a messy kitchen is gonna bug the shit out of you.

Until one day it just doesn’t. 

P.S. To my mostly grown up children who are still living at home: I do NOT mean that you don’t have to clean the kitchen when it’s your dish night. When you don’t it bugs the shit out if me. So make note. 🤣

Soul Repair

I am writing this post from my home office on a dreary Sunday evening. The rain has been hitting the ground with a loud angry racket from a dirty grey-brown sky all day long.  It was perfect wake up weather for my morning soul status which had put a sign out that read “Closed for Minor Repairs” a signal to my body and brain that things might not fare well if I wasn’t careful.

I needed a bit of good steady rain to do a bit of soul repairing. Rain to me says “It’s okay! You can stay in today. Shut things down a bit and rest. Bask in the gloom! Wallow away! Eat chocolate! Do some bad, gloomy writing.”

Even the dogs did not want to go out this morning. They took one look at the water splashing up off the cold puddled ground and opted out. “We’ll hold it, thank you.” I made them go out anyway but neither of them would budge from the covered back steps. Our old yellow lab Daisy, is riddled with tumors and has a nasty cough. She doesn’t have much time left with us and is using this to her advantage. She gave me a pitiful look that labs are so good at giving and Duke our young dopey black lab gazed at me, agreeing with her longingly: “Let us in. We are not outside dogs. We are pets who want to get on the couch when you’re not looking and nap some more where it’s comfy.” So I let them in and gave them their “after potty” treats despite their lack of proper participation in the morning ritual.

Life is too short to argue with dogs.

Or with the soul. If my soul doesn’t feel like coming out to play, there is no point in trying to force it out, at least too quickly. It will only do harm to my body and mind and cause a down-hill spiral.

I did what any normal person with a slightly gloomy soul would do:

I updated my obituary. Gosh. Such a bitter-sweet story!  It gets better every year! What a wonderful life I had! And I was so YOUNG! My people are going to miss me so much! It’s a terrible shame that I never made it to the top of that climbing wall at Wonderland to ring that damn bell and show all of my laughing children that I am strong and fearless. If only there could have been more time for me.

Then I ate some of the fudge I have been hoarding for a month: it now has a substantial dent in it. While sugar does not actually go directly to the soul (I don’t think) it seems to create some kind of protective barrier between the body and the soul. The body (the weakest of my three part person) is very vulnerable when the soul is not working properly. If I let them co-mingle during this time depression is surely to follow. Sugar helps. A temporary body boost. Plus, well, its fudge. Life is better with fudge. Everyone know this.

Finally I wrote down on small scraps of paper all of the things I have been doing that could be harmful to my soul. This is an intellectual process that allows my brain to humbly admit to current obsessive behaviors or thoughts that could be making my soul want to hide from the light. Then I took the scraps and put them in a jar and lit them on fire. This probably sounds a little witch crafty. But there is something about lighting shit on fire that just makes me feel good, especially when it is shit I want to let go of. You should try it! Today, there were quite a few scraps of paper and things got a little smokey. I didn’t want any of the children to think I was smoking (I would never do that) (anymore) or trying to set the house on fire so I had to open the window.

And then this wonderful smell of clean, cool spring rain came rushing into the room and suddenly my soul, body and mind all had this overwhelming urge to put on my rubber peace-heart sign boots and go puddle stomping with a couple of the kids. And we did.

After that things were sunnier.

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Time Bender

I have made a really important decision. It has taken years and years of long family discussions and agonizing yo-yo thinking to finally come to the firm and absolute resolution that if I could have ONE super hero power it would be time bending: the ability to fast-forward, rewind, delete but mostly just slow DOWN time.

“Look! It’s the amazing Time Bender! She is able to accomplish an almost inhuman number of amazing actions within a 24 hour time span without bodily harm to others, guilt, remorse, lack of sleep, anger, martyrdom, or pills and STILL has time to catch up on the last two seasons of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix all while looking stylish and well groomed. And just LOOK how cute her super hero boots are!”

Side note: I would say ‘heroine power’ but that reminds me of the drug heroin because I want to pronounce the word heroine as ‘HAIR-O-IN’ instead of ‘HEAR-ROYN’ which to me sounds weird and not near as cool as HERO which causes a little envy and gets my left big toe on the feminist podium where I am never very comfortable and really don’t want to be on because I sometimes, mostly kind of wish I didn’t have equal rights which creates a lot more responsibility and multi-tasking skills than required during the ‘simple’ Cro-Magnon days when it was just a logical and necessary division of labor along with a little bit of hair pulling which seems like it might have been fun provided Cro-Magnon man fulfilled his end of the unwritten (probably just grunted) to-do list by providing plenty of wooly mammoth to eat and Cro-Magnon woman had the cave tidied and there was nothing else to do (like run from dinosaurs and shit) and you could send the kids to go gather sticks for a few hours while mom and dad make hair dragging fire in the cave. Yeah.

Imagine how much time I would have if there were no digressions in my writing.

I am pausing here for reflection.

But just for a brief moment…because time is wasting!

Time anxiety seems to be an ever present issue for me. Most of my days start out with a 5:30 am burst of caffeine filled optimism: I will make my MARK on the world by being a productive beacon of ruby red (I am reading the book “Wicked” so ruby red is my current dream color, though it really should be green) and KNOW I will leap forward into the day with good hair and cute boots, creatively participating in my to-do list while simultaneously encouraging my family, friends and clients to SHINE ON!

Fast forward with the super-sonic speed button…

…because the days go that quickly…I swear sometimes it feels like God is playing tricks on me with his doo-hickey time remote controller: “This is really boring shit. Let’s see what H does when I push THIS button”.

(God doesn’t say the word shit…probably.)

…to around 9:30 pm when my accomplishments feel like a ruby red lipstick smear on the impenetrable glass of TIME, my face hurting from all that reckless smashing, all for what LOOKS like no real impact, save for the smear.

I don’t wear red lipstick. That was just one of my weird METAPHORS. I prefer light pink but that just doesn’t work in THIS metaphor and HELLO not ALL writing can be completely truthful.

ANYHOW, since I was little, life has felt like a race to me. Rewind back to the time when I was five and coloring pictures with my mom and my best friend Susie. There is of course the good memory with my mom who was sitting still with me and doing what five year old girls love to do and that’s anything with their mom…

If I could rewind time for real I would just crawl on to her lap in that moment and savor her.

…but what I remember most is what she said as I was racing through my third picture (while she and Susie were still on their first) gloating out loud for accomplishing “the most” pictures: “Sweet child, the number of pictures you color isn’t as important as enjoying the coloring while you do your best work”. I can still feel the sting of tears in my eyes from her gentle redirecting. But I never colored the same after that…and to this day I keep a box of 64 crayons available for the times when coloring a picture is the only thing that slows me down enough to do my best work. I color with great contemplation, though not often enough…

…because I still have the emotional attitude that you must get as much DONE as possible with the time you have. Take for instance the race against the thirty seconds set on the microwave to re-heat my coffee (am I the only one who does this?) (Race not re-heat.) I can usually let the dogs out, pee, wash my hands and be back in time for the beep. What I am UNABLE to do is stand there and watch the clock for thirty seconds. Most of my family can do this. I have caught them staring at the timer, waiting (are they at least THINKING about DOING something?) and I can’t help but think: “You could have wiped down the dirty counter while you waited.”

I so WANT to be wired in a way that allows more time for daydreaming and play because I know this makes life better. I can’t count the number of times I have said “If I can just get through this week I would _______” (insert something fun in the blank). In fact just this morning I wrote in my journal “If I can just get through MARCH and APRIL (which are filled with of a lot of difficult work events) then I will breathe easy and make more time for being this cool, fun, Zen kind of woman who isn’t all business: one who doesn’t care about the state of the house or how much work she has to do…and color more.”

But HOLD THE FORT HERE: what kind of moron wishes for two solid months to be fast forwarded even IF it feels like there are only cruddy un-fun things looming in the future? Where is the beacon of ruby red in THAT kind of thinking? I mean so much FUN stuff could happen that I would MISS on fast-forward speed. Or even worse, I could DIE on May 1, and well dang, that would be kind of BAD to have missed my last two months on earth. (That’s not ruby red thinking either, (the thinking about dying thing) but STILL, am I RIGHT??)

Then there are those moments in time I wish I could delete. We all have them right? You’re cringing right now just thinking about them. It’s okay. People are not real (fun/interesting) people unless they have a few of those moments in their lives where they were complete assholes. Having six kids creates an above average number of asshole opportunities, so I have a lot of those moments. I would for sure delete that time I yanked (really hard) on Maria’s pony tail when she was eleven and strong armed her face into the carpet in absolute rage from a severely smart mouth comment she’d made to me. But while I would/should/could have used more creativity in trying to put a complete halt to the “smart-mouthedness” it is clear to me that my quasi-violence did not break her spirit because she has become a ridiculously brilliant and equally gorgeous teenager who has the (asshole) ability to put me in my own emotional floor-face-plant faster than (I would IMAGINE) a horse tranquilizer. So, deleting moments in time, even the asshole ones, might alter things in a way that are worse than the bad thing you deleted. (I used the word asshole five times in this paragraph. Seriously good writing my friends.)

Anyhow, I for sure would somehow like to be able to slow time down some. I don’t mean having us all be in s-l-o-w-m-o-t-i-o-n…that would be silly…tedious in fact…like watching the grass grow…though I think a couple of my children would be really happy doing this for hours upon hours. It’s just that every once in a while I experience a day that feels perfect on the “H Time Continuum Scale of Judgment”: those days when time just seems to multiply like that Jesus miracle of loaves and fishes. These are the days when I make eye contact with each of my children when they are talking and enjoy how wickedly smart they all are; when I say something nice to my husband that doesn’t contain something I want him to do for me; when I get an amazing amount of laundry (and writing in between loads) done before anyone is even awake and still have time for a quick run; when I creatively get my ‘outside the home’ work done and then let it GO at five without any shouldacouldawoulda thinking; when I notice how funny the cat sleeps, with all four of her paws together at a point; when I view the incessantly loud noise level in my house as a sign of health and happiness instead of a bunch of butt faces put on this earth to bug me; when I pet the dogs before I let them out (so WHAT if I can’t get my hands washed before the beeper goes off?); when all that needs to get done gets done and I SEE this with satisfaction not frenzy. This is an internal thing of course. We all have the same moment in time, the right here and now, in fact thats pretty much all we can guarantee. I just need to put on my metaphoric ruby red super hero boots more often. Clearly they have powers that help me to better experience my “now”. There’s no place like home. And how! Ha!

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