Time Well Spent

I’ve been hanging with #5 today. He’s taller every time I see him, which right now is only every Sunday. He’s fourteen. A freshman. Still chatty. He’ll hug me again now, but only sideways and only as long as I don’t make eye contact with him.

Now, I don’t know if this is a boys vs girls thing, or a unique characteristic to #5, but holy cow he’s a space cadet right now. At least, I hope it’s just right now. I hope that it’s a phase and not the permanent state of things. It’s truly remarkable, the private world he lives in.

Yesterday he had a morning scouting event. He knew he’d be getting home after the rest of us had left for work, and before Kelsey* came. Yet, he neglected to bring his house key.

He called me when he was locked out to see when I’d be back.

We have a shared online family calendar. Each family member’s activities are indicated by their own colored dot (the dogs have a dot too, as does Kelsey. There are a lot of dots). I actually keep it updated and do nifty things like send reminders to everyone for events such as trash day– reminders which are promptly ignored. #5 can view, with two swipes on his phone, where everyone is right now. Besides this completely functional calendar, there is the fact that I’ve been in production ALL YEAR. If it’s not Sunday, and it’s not between the hours of 12:30am and 6am, I’m either at work or in transit.

Also? When I’m not in production, at 2pm on any given Saturday, I’m doing a show. That’s been my schedule for roughly the past 20 years. I can see how he might not have that down yet.

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This morning, I had a couple songs from Daydream Nation stuck in my head. Since I had to work at my computer in the dining room, I set up a Sonic Youth station on Pandora. I knew it wouldn’t go well for long, but I got excited when “Teenage Riot” was the first song played. We sat at the table, me doing the budget and #5 doing homework while it cycled through Pixies and Nirvana and then started going south. Finally, he spoke up.

#5: So, what genre is this exactly? Because it sounds like pain and suffering. This music is the end of the movie where people are dying and everyone is losing things.

 

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#5 operates under the delusion that it is possible to half-ass the chore of taking the dogs out. He believes he can take one dog out and not the other, or else not give them the time required while outside to complete all the items on their to-do list.

But the Puggles would make awful drummers. Their timing is terrible.

If you take only one dog out, the other one runs to the window exactly 45 seconds after you’ve shut the door. When you take the second one out after bringing in the first, the first one watches from the window and then when you return, attempts to convince you that they weren’t finished and need to go back out. If that dog happens to be Casey, it’s true. She needs approximately six times as long as Jack to figure things out when she’s outside. This one-in-one-out routine can go on all day.

But every single time one dog is asking to go out, #5 takes only that dog.

This morning, #5 took Jack outside. Like clockwork, Casey ran to the window and stared out. I figured I’d stop it all mid-cycle and harnessed her up. I went outside with her, told #5 she was feeling left out and handed him Casey’s leash.

Passed him the leash with the dog attached to it.

Which he reached out and took from me.

I’d scarcely sat back down when he came back in with them.

Me: Thanks, bud. Did Casey go?

#5: What?

Me: Did Casey go? You didn’t have her out there very long.

#5: I didn’t take Casey out.

There followed a back and forth, with me recounting to him the story I just told here. Afterwards, he just stared at me, totally not believing me.

#5: How is it even possible that you handed me Casey’s leash and I didn’t even see her?

Me: That is an excellent question. Welcome to my world.

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September 2006

 

*Kelsey is our main Adult In Charge. That’ll be another post sometime.

 

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If You Weren’t Sick Before…

Earlier this spring, both #4 and #5 went home sick from school on the same day. This type of thing happens only when CC is out of town, and then most often on a Wednesday, my longest work day (for the record, snow days work like this too).

I called my sub in to cover me and made it to the middle school in record time. We got home with no hurling, and when they felt up for it, I heated up some chicken soup, pulled out the saltines and ginger ale and joined them at the table.

The nurse had told me more than 25% of the kids were out sick with the bug that was going around.

Me: I like your nurse at the middle school.

#4: Same.

#5: Same.

Me: Whatever happened to “me too”?

[They stare at me blankly.]

#5: The middle school nurse is way nicer than the one at the elementary school.

Me: Yeah, that one scared me. She yelled at me.

#4: Wasn’t that because of me?

Me: Pretty much. You showed me this teeny-tiny spot on the top of your knee where you had poison ivy and I gave you Caladryl, but you neglected to mention that the back of your legs were completely covered with it and festering. Then you went to the nurse.

#4: Oh yeah, I remember that. I though they were bug bites.

Me: Yeah, well they weren’t. She screamed at me when she called. I kept expecting DYFS to show up on our doorstep for like a month.

#5: What’s festering?

Me: Festering is gross, that’s what.

#4: I remember I got poison ivy on my eye one time.

Me: When I was a kid, I got it on my whole face and my eyes swelled shut. It was awful. Though I wasn’t as bad off as my friends. They went to the bathroom in the woods and used poison ivy leaves to wipe.

[They look, horrified, in my direction.]

Me: Yes, I actually knew people that happened to.

[They look, horrified, at each other.]

Me: They got poison ivy really bad. In their … ah… nether regions.

[They both put their spoons down and scoot away from the table]

#5: Julie? Don’t ever say that again, okay?

Me: Which part?

#4: ANY OF IT!!!

*****

With my innate nurturing skills (feed a cold; starve a fever; gross out a bug) both #4 and #5 made full recoveries. #5 and I played an epic game of Monopoly in which we bent the rules and he beat me by ending up with every single piece of property. It was an entirely different win than the one the week before where we bent the rules and he beat me by ending up with every single dollar, and I had to then explain that we couldn’t just “make” new money because that’s how economies collapse.

Meanwhile, I have a couple posts up on Family Circle’s Momster blog.

When you’re a stepmom of teenagers, you have to expand your definition of parenting wins: Treasured Moments

Attempts to teach a reluctant worker the value of a job well done: Hey Kids, Guess What? Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees!

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So, ah… where’s the worst place you ever got poison ivy?

 

13 Steps to Successful Snow Removal

1. First, have five children. Buy each one a snow shovel.

2. When your children complain and ask, “When are we going to get a snowblower?” explain that you already have one: 5 kids with shovels who tell you how much this blows.

3. Every snow day, wake them early even though there’s no school, so they can help shovel.

4. When friendly neighbors come by with their snow blowers or plows and offer to help you out, thank them and send them away. Explain that you are attempting to teach your children the value of manual labor.

5. Dream of the day you no longer have to lead by example.

6. Be okay with the eldest child moving out– right up until the first time it snows and you realize your work force has decreased by 20%.

7. Break two shovels with use during a heavy snow season and attempt to replace them. Discover that the only shovels available at the hardware stores in the middle of winter are cheap plastic ones that are manufactured in places that never see snow, such as Sri Lanka.

8. Receive, one season, the snow that breaks you. The one you give up on, with the ice layer on top. The one where you can’t even make your kids help out it’s so heavy and brutal. The one where the mailman will no longer deliver your mail anymore because your driveway is too treacherous. Where your dogs slide right out of their collars like Max in The Grinch and go shooting down the hill into the street. The snow that every day the sun messes with a little more, tricking you into believing it’s helping when in actuality it is only creating still more tenacious ice rivers everywhere you need to step.

9. Go online to check the weather and see 40 days and 40 nights of snow coming. Order real shovels off of Amazon.

10. Have the delivery of said shovels delayed by the weather.

11. Reschedule a weather-cancelled outing with a relative and discover he has an extra snowblower. He always was your favorite relative. Not only is this more unlikely and better than extra bacon, but he’s willing to loan it to you until his other one breaks. Forgo sleep to retrieve it. Offer him up to three of your children in exchange for the snowblower. Extoll their shoveling virtues.

12. Come to the understanding that, unlike a pre-season purchase of a snowblower, a mid-season gifting of a snowblower does not possess any snow-preventing voodoo.

13. Bring your children to the understanding that possessing a snowblower does not actually get them out of shoveling detail; it only lightens their load.

Did you have to shovel snow when you were a kid?

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