Not This Year, Satan

One of the great things about our school district is the delayed start time for middle and high school students. The older kids start AFTER the elementary kids. Instead of being the first ones on the bus, they are the last ones on the bus. I’m pretty sure the school district’s scheduling decisions were based on lots of science and not, say, an unmitigated fear of what teenagers are like when they’ve had to rise before the sun. Little kids usually wake first while big kids tend to sleep in. It’s all very logical and makes sense and I think it would work really well for families with kids that aren’t broken like mine. Because mine are broken and this setup has been terrible for us.

My two youngest, elementary-aged children would sleep until the average Sunday brunch time each and every day if I would let them. They are both extremely difficult to motivate in the early morning hours. Simply raising their heads off of their pillows seems like a monumental task, so crushing are their grade school responsibilities. Meanwhile, my oldest child, my middle schooler, could watch the director’s cut of “Titanic” in the free time he has each day between when he’s ready for school and when he has to leave to catch the bus. He has so many minutes to burn that he actually gets bored, inevitably following me from room to room trying to discuss some sports thing as I’m deep-breathing my way through my first cup of coffee while simultaneously packing lunches, trying to find PE-approved shoes, stuffing the green folder in backpacks, and imploring his younger siblings to please, for the love, JUST GET OUT OF BED.

Anyway, in summary, I spent most of last school year trying unsuccessfully to wake Charlie and Millie up while pretending to listen to Henry talk about football. It was just as much fun as it seems! If you’re guessing that there was a lot of rage involved in our morning routine, you are guessing correctly.

And, let it be known that I tried really, really hard last year to be kind and gentle and loving and patient and to not say the really bad curse words before 7:00 a.m. I had Waffle Wednesdays and French Toast Fridays and special lunch box treats and hugs and kisses and all manner of gentle encouragement to get those two little kids up and out the door. Morning after endless morning, it did not work.

None of it worked. I always ended up yelling. Every time. So much yelling.

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I vowed, Scarlett O’Hara-style, that this school year would be different. Because, I simply cannot have another year full of red hot rage over having to doula my children through their before school routines. I just cannot. I need greater independence from my perfectly capable children.

Last year, we tried out alarm clocks but it went poorly. In an era when you can, essentially, just yell commands in the direction of your phone or your Echo or your iPad or your mother, the complicated multi-step process of setting alarm clocks proved problematic for the youngest of our household. Each morning, Millie would turn her bleeping alarm clock off by… unplugging it. Effective, yes, but also not very efficient. That meant, each evening, we’d have to sit down and reset the time and then the alarms and also the snooze capabilities confused each of them and we basically abandoned the alarm clocks pretty early on in the school year.

This year, I procured a Google Home Mini for Charlie. Voice commands make it easy for him to set the alarm and also, as a bonus, I can always tell when he’s awake in the morning because I can hear him yelling from his bed at the top of his lungs, “HEY GOOGLE STOP STOP GOOGLE STOP.” Millie is still using an old-school alarm clock for now because her bedroom most closely resembles our local landfill and I’m using the Google Mini as the dangling carrot in my cleanup scheme. She’s only unplugged her alarm twice this year (so far) so I can confidently claim that we seem to have rounded that learning curve.

In an effort to further streamline our morning routine, I also bought these great dry-erase charts that I hung on the back of the kids’ bedroom doors outlining what they need to do every day. These charts are working great in that Charlie and Millie remember to ignore them almost every day.

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However, laying out the next day’s outfit the night before is critical for Millie since she is forever picking things to wear to school that she actually can’t wear to school. She always picks a miniskirt and sandals on gym days or wants to wear her gymnastics leotard on library days. Laying out her outfit the night before means I can fight with her about her clothing choices at the end of the day when I’m exhausted instead of fighting with her first thing in the morning when I’m also exhausted. The whole process is very frustrating but also adorable in that Millie literally lays out her outfits.

The charts are colorful and cute and all but I’m actually thinking about just laminating instructional signs and hanging them all over my house instead. Every morning is this hamster wheel exercise in asking my kids over and over and over again if they have their shoes or their library books or their sweatshirts or asking if they’ve brushed their hair and washed their faces. I’m tired of the sound of my own voice. Signs would make this way easier. Want to know what to pack in your lunch? There’s a sign for that! Asking me repeatedly what you need for flag football practice? Reference the sign! Curious how you can brush your teeth without leaving the bathroom looking like someone was murdered with Crest? I have a sign for that!

It wouldn’t be pretty to look at but at least any houseguests we may have would know how to pour themselves their own bowl of cereal in five easy steps.

I don’t want to seem overly confident or anything and I know we’re not that deep into the school year yet but I have super high hopes for less rage this year with our charts and our instructional signs and our more advanced alarm clocks. I mean, last year was so endlessly frustrating that I think it can only get better from here, right? I mean, even if this year still proves maddening, I can always look forward to the middle and high school years with their later start times. That’s only – let me check my math here – FIVE YEARS AWAY.

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Just Feed Them Whatever YOU Eat, They Said

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Sunday: Pizza

I love making pizzas on Sundays. Mostly because it takes forever and I usually have the luxury of time on Sundays. There’s cheese to shred and sauce to make and toppings to prep and dough to flour and stretch. Homemade pizza will absolutely, hands-down be the food highlight of the week for my family. It can – and will – only go down from here.

Bob – “This is delicious pizza! That broccoli topping is crazy good.”
Millie – “This is amazing! You are amazing! Did you make more than one pizza? Two? Only two? Okay then. Can I take the leftovers in my lunch tomorrow though?”
Henry – “THE BROCCOLI JUST DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. YOU DON’T PUT BROCCOLI ON PIZZA.”
Charlie – “So, is this sauce the spicy sauce? Because sometimes we have pizza that has spicy sauce on it and I don’t care for the sauce that is spicy. But, if this sauce isn’t spicy, I’ll like it. As long as it isn’t spicy.”

Monday: TACOS!

If I had my act together, we would have tacos on Tuesday because Taco Tuesday is more alliterative than Taco Monday but I never, ever have my act together. Ever. So, Taco Monday it is! Because EVERYONE loves tacos! EVERYONE!

Bob – Piles plate high with romaine lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, and several fresh vegetables managing to make me feel awful about all of the tacos on my plate, of which there are many tacos.
Millie – Inaudible words in between grunts of satisfaction as she shovels tortilla chips piled with taco fillings in her face.
Henry – “I just invented cheese tacos! Just taco shells! With nothing but cheese! That’s it! So easy!”
Charlie – “I’ll take the rice.” Covers the rice in ketchup before eating.

Tuesday: Spaghetti

I’ve been making my mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe for years and it is unbelievably delicious. I grew up eating a lot of spaghetti and just the smell of the sauce simmering on the stove conjures up wonderful memories of my entire family – sisters, brother, parents – gathered around the kitchen table in our home in Indiana laughing and talking and sharing stories. Those are some of my favorite memories from my childhood. It’s a really good sauce is my point here. Also, it is literally deconstructed pizza and the kids love pizza so…

Bob – “Red sauce sometimes irritates my stomach so just maybe a tablespoon or less of that, please.”
Millie – “YUM!”
Henry – “Nope. Nope-ity, nope, nope.”
Charlie – “Just plain noodles for me.” Covers the noodles in ketchup before eating.

Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner

I am a cool mom and cool moms sometimes throw caution to the wind and get all wild and stuff and fix BREAKFAST FOR DINNER. Woo-hoo! And, sometimes, we even fix breakfast for dinner when daddy ISN’T EVEN OUT OF TOWN. Pancakes for everyone!

Bob – “Um, yeah, so I’m just going to fix myself a salad.”
Millie – “THIS IS SO FUN!”
Henry – Reluctantly eats a couple of syrup-less pancakes knowing full well he’ll return to the kitchen an hour before bed and fix a plate of something coated entirely in peanut butter.
Charlie – “So, are these regular pancakes? Or, the pancakes that have those little bits of apple in them? Because I can taste those little bits of apple and I don’t really like those little bits of apples that you put in the pancakes so I really hope there isn’t little bits of apple in these.” Covers the pancakes in 1/4 cup of syrup before eating.

Thursday: Soup and Sandwich Night!

I’m running out of steam. And, love for my family.

Bob – “Hold the mayo!” This seems more a lunch than a dinner but I’m going to honor my wife’s hard work and the sheer determination it takes for her to feed her family many times a day. I will devour this soup and gamely eat this turkey sandwich. As long as it’s on that healthy bread I like that has all those nuts and seeds. The kind that makes the kids cry when it’s all that’s left for toast.
Millie – “I just love ALL of this. Soup! Sandwiches! What a GREAT combination! Did you think of this yourself?”
Henry – “So, you’re suggesting a grilled cheese but with, like, turkey on it? Let me think about it.”
Charlie – “I’ll be in my room.”

Friday: Chicken Nuggets (Or, fish sticks or, any sort of protein here really as long as it’s coated in bread and/or brown in color) & Tator Tots

Because we (and by we, I’m referring exclusively to my self-esteem) badly need a win at this point.

Bob – It’s Friday. I can tell she’s getting tired.
Millie – “I’m never moving out. Promise me you’ll cook for me forever.”
Henry – “TATOR TOTS! MY FAVORITE!”
Charlie – “Which kind of chicken nuggets are these because sometimes, I don’t really like the kind of chicken nuggets you get. Do you know the chicken nuggets I’m talking about? The chicken nuggets that look just like these chicken nuggets but they’re a little different kind of chicken nuggets? Those are the chicken nuggets that I’m not really a fan of. Are these those chicken nuggets?” Starts guzzling ketchup directly from the bottle.

Saturday: Just… here’s two heels from a loaf of bread. 

Things I Think I’m Supposed to Like Because Other People Seem to Really Like Them but I Actually Don’t Like at All

1. Running for recreation. “You should go for a run!” No. No, thank you.

2. Game of Thrones. It’s about some sort of a dragon, right? Or, that young magician? Wait! It’s Middle-earth and magical rings? Do I have that correct? Yes, I think that’s correct.

3. Glass shower enclosures. So, I guess this is a thing we’re all installing now? Our bathroom has one and it has looked absolutely awful since about the third shower I ever took in it. Bob and I just stand and stare at it frequently, wondering aloud how one keeps a crystal clear glass shower door clean. Because, if you think I’m going to squeegee that thing dry after every shower, you don’t know my life, man. Also, I really don’t need to be so… visible when showering. Best to hide all that behind a curtain, as our founding fathers intended.

4. Large gatherings of people in public places when it is hot outside. Concerts, festivals, fairs, amusement parks, farmer’s markets – all terrible when it’s too hot. No good. Would not recommend. Add my kids in to the mix and this is a DEFCON 2-level misery.

5. Pickling all of the foods. Why are we pickling everything all of a sudden? Did I miss a magazine article somewhere? Does everyone really like so much of their food pickled? What do you do with all of your pickled food? Do you put it on salads? Or burgers? It probably looks pretty in your cabinets though. Kind of all Little House on the Prairie up in there. I get that.

6. Playing board games with my kids. They’re really not very good at board games.

7. Snapchat. “WHAT DOES IT EVEN DOOOOO,” I holler at no one in particular while shaking my cane at the squirrel in the bird feeder and reaching in my shirt sleeve for a Kleenex.

8. Instant Pots. I don’t know about your circle but everyone in my circle seems to be using these things and I’m worried that, best case scenario, I’ll seriously scald myself or, worst case scenario, I’ll blow my whole damn house up.

9. Camping. I want to like camping. I really do. But, I accidentally walked through a spider web in our garage two days ago and basically looked like this for a solid ten minutes before I just went and showered.

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10. Unnecessary decks. Look, a deck solves an elevation issue, such as when a steep slope precludes level, accessible outdoor space. But, people seem to just put decks on everything now, all willy-nilly, irregardless of necessity or incline. Why does everyone want decks? We have a deck on our house when really, the backyard elevation is such that a patio is much more appropriate. As a result, our deck has all of these weeds growing under it and all out the sides but because the space is so small beneath the deck, we can’t get in there to do anything about it. It’s stupid. I obviously have a lot of strong feelings about decks. I just… why install a deck when a patio will do?

11. The beach. I enjoy looking at the ocean. From a balcony. Whilst sitting in a chair. Entirely uncovered in sand. The ocean is really beautiful but for purely recreational purposes with young kids, I am firmly Team Pool.