And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Every Day a Little Death

I have a deadline in two weeks. You know how you can tell? By the way I'm working on everything but work. Another day, another more elaborate way to procrastinate. I'm sure when I was a kid, I procrastinated the typical ways -- TV, reading later than I should, sleeping, and so on. But those tried and true techniques get a little shopworn after a while. Decades later there was the computer -- solitaire, Minesweeper -- to change up the routine a litte. Then the Internet -- gotta check the e-mail, check the websites. Now I've got ICQ and blogs to spend my procrastination capital on (and there's still solitaire and Minesweeper -- and Spider Solitaire and Snood). But when my wrists get too tired to click and my eyes glaze over from staring at an LCD screen, you'd think I'd sit down and get cracking on the manuscript in my hands.

You don't know me very well, do you?

Two days ago, my brain -- all on its own, I'm sure -- composed what seemed like a simple plan and a solution to a couple of issues here in the Morgan household. You see, we just moved Ian to a toddler bed, and then discovered that while the crib sheet fits a toddler bed, he really needs a quilt or comforter of some sort. Knitted crib blankets aren't quite doing it for him now that they can fall out of the bed. And since the toddler bed is a cheap stopgap measure until we get him a real bedroom set in New York, I don't want to spend too much money on bedding for it.

Concurrently, I've been trying to fulfill Katie's sartorial wishes for dresses, dresses, and more dresses, and I'm just not seeing much at the stores that doesn't A) have "hoochie-mama-in-training" written all over it and 2) cost more than I'm willing to spend on a child who supposedly wears a uniform five days a week.

You see where this is going, don't you? (Ah, I see the crafty among you nodding your heads. The rest of you have that kind of glazed-over look Dave gets when I talk about these things.)

So of course, my brain decided that the solution to these two problems was that I could make bedding for Ian and dresses for Katie! A trip to JoAnn was all that was needed! It would be nothing to whip up a little quilt-y thing for Ian's bed! And Katie could have three dresses from the same pattern, and they'd be easy to do! And she'd be happy with them! And oh, the money I'd save!

My brain is very, very foolish sometimes. My brain conveniently forgets that these things take time, and sometimes in my life, my time is more valuable than money. Especially when there's that little matter of a deadline hanging over my head.

So the last two days have been spent "quilting" (two pieces of fabric with batting in between that are being quilted together) -- and teaching myself about quilting, because it's not as if I even really know how to do this -- and cutting and sewing a dress for Katie. And naturally there was the requisite 2-hour trip to JoAnn to get all the supplies for this.

And it wouldn't even be so bad if I didn't feel the need to jump into all of these projects simultaneously -- although that may be a benefit in disguise, given my tendency to lose essential tools in the middle of doing something. (My fabric marker, used to trace the designs onto the quilt, went missing for a good six hours today until Katie finally found in the one drawer of the apothecary table I hadn't searched. Darned 2-year-old!) But I do, and as a consequence I have a half-finished quilt, a half-finished dress, a barely begun summer sweater for me, and a half-finished knitted iPod holder sitting around the house, tempting me away from the computer. Along with the TV, books, and solitaire. I'm doomed.

Dave (hi, honey!) has done a fairly good job of concealing his exasperation with me as I hole myself up in the sewing room/playroom and sew stars on yellow fabric for seemingly no good reason. But I don't think that will last. And I do have to get to this project one of these days.

One chapter a day, that's all I ask. Better get started. Though I think I'll check my e-mail real quick first.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Domestic Day

I'm having a hard time getting motivated to work on a project that's sitting on my desk at the moment (okay, technically it's a computer file, so it's not exactly on my desk, but you know what I mean), so Dave and I swapped our days around, and he went out to work while I stayed home. You see, we have a schedule that we developed and actually printed out on the computer, since we are such nerds, to help us organize our days.

Ever since he was let go (oh, did I blog about that? I don't think so -- he was let go the second week of March, which has occasioned the new/old job in NYC and our evacuation of the Southland for the burbs of Orange County, NY, this summer), we have been trying to stick to this schedule to prevent ourselves from sliding into slackdom, a state we're pretty prone to. He has some things to finish up for the job he was working and his online class to monitor; I'm working as much as possible to shore up our income to supplement the two salary-less months we face. I'm also trying really hard not to take advantage of him being home -- I have the tendency to shove the less-enviable jobs onto his shoulders, including childcare. Actually, the last couple of months, I've felt like the "typical dad" -- I work, work, work, then expect to finish working for the day and relax and watch TV. What, dinner? What, baths for the children? What, play with or read to the children? No, darnit, I've worked hard and I deserve a break. I try not to act on it, but I frequently feel like it, since I'm working two to three times as many hours as I have for quite a while.

Anyway, yesterday I earned "good mommy" points -- did a puzzle with Katie and even cooked dinner for the whole family, which we all ate together. It was Chicken Helper Teriyaki, supplemented with pineapple and carrots, but it was an actual hot meal that wasn't mac 'n' cheese, chicken nuggets, or pizza. And we all sat down together. And I used up a box and a can from the pantry (this will be a primary goal over the next two months -- I don't want to move all that food. This is also why my GS troop got gingerbread cookies yesterday, even though, as one little mite told me, "It's not Christmas time"). No luck in getting Katie to eat the chicken teriyaki, so she had pineapple, carrots, and milk for dinner (hey, it could be worse), but at least there were no hysterics or high drama. Today I managed to actually thaw meat that was in the freezer (did you know you could do that? I just usually store it there until it's inedible!) and put together a Slow Cooker Helper meal -- beef stroganoff. Yes, I know it's another box. And I also know that this is a meal that Dave won't eat, and Katie's odds are slim. But too bad, I'm cooking it, because it was in the pantry. I may even put a salad with it, if my greens haven't gone slimey.

So, my domestic day -- since I didn't feel like working, Dave's out at the cafe on his laptop, and I have done the following:
  • Read four newspapers that have been sitting around waiting for me to read them (it is so an important thing to check off!)
  • Emptied the dishwasher
  • Filled and ran the dishwasher
  • Sorted and folded the laundry that's been sitting around for a week and a half, even Dave's, which I usually -- okay, always -- leave for him to do
  • Put away Katie's, Dave's, and my laundry (Ian's napping)
  • Soaked some stained shirts in Oxiclean
  • Kept the kitchen clean while watching Ian and feeding him a ton of food (I think someone's growing)
  • Made Katie's bed
  • Made my little crockpot meal
  • Tried not to eat anything while bumming around the house
  • Resisted the call of the nap
I feel quite virtuous, even though I haven't done that much. Actually, the house is pretty much picked up so that it can be whipped into shape at a moment's notice to show it. It's not as hard as I thought it would be to keep that up, though I find it tedious. Cut an apple, wipe the counter. Make a sandwich, wipe the counter. Make some coffee, wipe the counter. It drives me a little crazy. I just don't know how "naturally neat" people do it.

Now I've got to go call the lawn people to mow the lawn. And maybe I'll read and throw away some catalogs. It does so have to be done!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What Is a Good Mom, Anyway?

[Note: This is not an abandoned blog. Really. I've just been a little busy the last few weeks. We are moving to New York (not back to Long Island, to Orange County) this summer, and are in the midst of all the stressful things that entails. But it's a sad, sad thing when your own browser doesn't recognize and fill in your blog's URL when you start to go there. Thus, I resolve to try to post more.]

This weekend I flew to Williamsburg, VA, to have a "moms' weekend out" with two of my friends and former NASA co-workers. Our kids are all young -- mine are 6 and 2; Kathy's is 3, and Jackie's are 5 and 2. It was a pretty big deal to get away from the demands of mommyhood, and so we primarily hung out and talked (and talked and talked) about . . . our kids.

Yes, that's the irony of parenthood. All the "experts" tell us that when we go out on a "date" with our spouses, we shouldn't talk about the kids. But 95% of my life is spent being a mom, and the other 5% is spent on sleep. For four out of the last six years, I was breastfeeding. My children wake me up every morning. Even when I'm working, my kids are on the edge of my consciousness, especially if they're acting up while Dave is trying to keep them under control, and I'm trying to ignore them so I can just finish this chapter! So how on earth am I supposed to not talk about them?

We did, however, do a fair amount of meta-mommying -- that is, we talked about the struggles of parenting, about how we often feel like we're not doing the right things, about how we worry about the long-term effects of our decisions, about how our kids drive us crazy sometimes. On my last airplane leg home on Sunday, I mentioned what I'd been doing to the stranger in the seat next to me -- a 37-year-old Navy guy who was married with no kids -- and he asked me, "So are you a good mom?"


Isn't that the question.

To be honest, I was flummoxed. I don't know.

I breastfed each child for about two years. Does that make me a good mom?
My kids have been known to watch more than their RDA of television. Does that make me a bad mom?
It's always educational television. Does that ameliorate it?
I give my time to be a Girl Scout leader for my daughter's Daisy troop. Good mom?
I prepare for the troop meetings at the last minute and sometimes lose patience with the small herd of 6-year-old girls. Bad mom?
I ask Katie about her day at school every single day. Good mom?
She hardly ever gives any details. Bad mom?
I'm being lax about potty training and letting Ian go when he wants to, rather than a) being helpful and encouraging or 2) being stressed out and pushing. Is that reading his signals or being lazy? Good or bad?
I love my kids more than I can imagine. Good mom?

I think I have good days and bad days. I know I'm probably overly critical of myself most of the time. My mom has told me she thinks I'm a good mom, which is reassuring because I think in the final assessment, she's a very good mom. Sure we had our moments -- 8th and 9th grade come to mind -- but she raised three independent, critically thinking kids to adulthood and we all still talk to her and come to visit. I think my kids think I'm a good mom, too. But that doesn't stop me from judging myself and obsessing over all the things I could be doing better.

One of the most illuminating moments of the weekend was when my two friends commiserated that they feel like they've done their children a disservice by playing with them too much. They feel like the kids don't know how to play on their own without being entertained. My first reaction was that I felt guilty and left out -- I don't think it can ever be said that I've played with my kids too much. I'm better at the mom-maintenance stuff -- keeping the house running, making sure lunch is packed, keeping the kids to a schedule -- than I am at creative play. And that's something I find lacking in my mom-ness. And then it occurred to me that here we all were, attacking the problem of entertaining our children from two diametrically opposed positions -- and feeling equally guilty that we weren't doing the "right" thing. Obviously, there is no "right" thing here.

Why are we so harsh on ourselves? What is the standard we're holding ourselves to, and who created it? Did our moms conduct such self-scrutiny, or were they happy to just get through the day?

I don't have the answers. I do know that getting together with other friends/moms granted me a tiny bit of perspective. On Monday, I jumped into all the chores I've been slacking on lately, like dishes and laundry.

Of course, by today, I'm crabby and back to slacking. So I can't win. All I know is, I'd better find myself some good mommy friends in New York. Perspective is something that's needed more often than once every two years.