school friends, school supplies, bedtime routine, communication and apologies, terrible sleep

This morning it occurred to me that Hazel knows kids who are going to both of the schools she might be attending all year this year: the one where she’ll be starting on Wednesday, and the one where she might be transferring sometime during the month of September. So I told her that, and during the day she and I both thought of kids she’ll see at each school. That helped both of us, I think.

This afternoon Hazel and I went shopping for her school supplies. We got everything on the list for school number one, and held off for school number two. If she transfers, that will be time enough to augment. She struggled some with the idea that the things we were buying will be communal, that they’ll be shared by all the students in the class. She was looking forward to having her own personal pencils, etc. I think I will get her something special for herself, a pack of markers or some such, that she can use on the nights I’m putting the kids to bed and she’s waiting for me.

Speaking of which, tonight I remembered after we were upstairs that I’d planned to have her wait for me downstairs in the yellow room. So I had her sneak out while I was reading to the twins and head downstairs. It worked well. That way when I was going in and out of their bedroom (which I only had to do once, I think) I wasn’t trying to switch off in my focus between crying toddlers and Hazel. I was able to be calmer, and the twins both self-soothed successfully. Hazel and I read a few books, snuggled for a bit, and then I carried her into the bedroom and put her in bed. Much better.

That is, of course, after I lost my shit after she’d said the same thing a gazillion times while we were brushing teeth. I apologized later, and told her that I need to just stop talking after I’ve said something a couple of times, because repeating myself doesn’t help either of us. She agreed. She communicated quite clearly about it, both at the time and afterwards. I was proud of her. She said, “I don’t like the way you’re talking to me, you’re not using a kind voice,” when I was mad. She said, “That was rude,” when I said I was sorry for not using a kind voice in the bathroom. I agreed. I asked her if she could work on remembering not to repeat herself too, and she agreed with that. The whole conversation was productive, respectful, and loving. It’s really true, that saving problem solving for when everyone is not upset is quite useful!

This afternoon Ted and I fixed the picnic bench. Now the benches have two pieces of wood each instead of one. My sit bones thank me. The twins were fascinated by the whole thing. Joanna picked up a clamp and giggled madly. They were also good at staying back when we asked them to.

So, we’ve gotten done almost everything we planned for the week. The porch is still disgraceful, but it won’t take us too long to fix that. And we’ve been consistently picking up and putting things away several times a day. I feel hopeful that we won’t descend into quite the level of household chaos as before, at least less frequently.

Last night I was awake from 1:30 to 6:30. Ugh doesn’t quite cut it. I am hoping with a certain degree of fervor that tonight will be better. The clock didn’t turn on this morning, which is probably good given how little sleep I’d had. But I want to try to figure out why not. It worked remarkably well the night before to help me relax and want to go to sleep. I’m hoping for good results in the morning, though more importantly, I’m hoping for at least 4 consecutive hours of sleep tonight…

Edited to add: I forgot to relay that when we were shopping for Hazel’s school supplies, a woman said to Hazel, “Great haircut! I love it! I want one just like it!” I was so happy and grateful, I almost cried. I thanked her for saying so, told her she’s one of the few who has, and I just appreciated it so much. She was so genuine and positive.

Philips Sunshine Clock, friend visiting, toy org

The Philips Wake-up Light With Sunrise Simulation clock arrived today, and I just set it up. It seems promising. It also, somewhat hilariously to me, seems in design like something that someone in the 70’s would have thought futuristic. I was also amused to hear a radio emanating from what appears to be a large light bulb. Nonetheless, I think the going to sleep function where the light level reduces gradually will be helpful. And I think that waking to light will be helpful. We’ll see. I’ll have four mornings to test it out before the fateful fifth morning from now, which will be Hazel’s first day of kindergarten.

My friend D arrived today for a long weekend visit. I am so happy to see her. She and S and I met for drinks and dinner this evening. Ah, so lovely to sit around a table having a beer or two, talking with adults about adult things (and about my kids, which I seem unable to completely avoid, but I kept to a fairly subdued and infrequent level), seeing friends I’ve known for more than half my life.

Today Ted and I mostly finished our overhaul of the main floor of our house. There are a few bits and pieces to deal with, but it’s almost done. We’ve also been consistent (thus far in only a two-day period) at getting clean-up to happen after each activity, or near enough that we don’t wind up with sixteen different sets of toys littering the floor. The toy bookshelf that is now in the front room doesn’t have doors, and that thrills the twins, who love to take out everything on the bottom shelf and dump it in the living room. But that’s fine. The Legos and toddler puzzles are pretty easy to put back, and seeing the delight on the twins’ faces when they can access their own toys is really priceless.

Kids really do love to do things for themselves. And it’s important to keep that in mind when designing organization for the house. We have their cups and plates and bowls down where they can reach them, because it pleases them so much to go get a cup, bring it over, and say, “Milk?” or “Water?” I can ask them to go get their plates when I’m getting food out. It helps all of us for them to be involved and be, to the degree that they can be, self-sufficient.

All right. It’s time to hit the hay, try out the new clock, and hope for better sleep tonight!

miraculous household events

And lo! It is now it is possible to walk all the way across the playroom and the office without stepping on anything other than the rug. The dining room table which was almost totally clear is now piled high, but we are pretty sure we can empty it again quickly tomorrow. And then, fix the picnic table and clear the porch. And THEN, the fun part: buying presentation albums for Hazel’s chosen special art from the last five years (and even more fun, watching her put them together); as well as a few more organizationally-related baskets and boxes; as well as a family photo album in which we can put our favorite photos each week/month; as well as an easel and pad on which we can write ideas/solutions/issues for our family meetings.

And then tomorrow night I get to see my friend D, who is in town this weekend. Yippee!

Oh, and in another miraculous event, Ted said that Emily went down without a peep tonight. When I got home from work at 8:35 or so, he was already downstairs reading in the kitchen. That is somewhat astounding.

unthrilled about politics, polarized gender expression not healthy, gender bias in tech reviews, justice panels, extended nursing

I am extremely unthrilled to be seeing beginnings of the next presidential election cycle. I know, it’s not really the beginning, but the rate at which I’m seeing related articles is starting to pick up. I have found the last several elections so terribly depressing, I am not looking forward to another one.

Here are a few things I’ve read recently. First, an article on how polarizing gender expression is bad for kids, with some hopeful news included.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The teens who participated in the Lisbon study — including the kids who bullied others and the kids who were victims of bullying themselves — weren’t happy about the gender roles they were expected to follow. In their one-on-one interviews, they all said they didn’t actually like paying so much attention to the right “feminine” and “masculine” behaviors, and just assumed that’s what they were supposed to do. When Pereira concluded her research and held a group meeting to explain her results to the kids, they were amazed to learn that everyone was on the same page about that.

Second, a piece about how woman in tech are perceived as abrasive and reviewed negatively for it, in contrast to men’s more constructive reviews.

There’s a common perception that women in technology endure personality feedback that their male peers just don’t receive. Words like bossy, abrasive, strident, and aggressive are used to describe women’s behaviors when they lead; words like emotional and irrational describe their behaviors when they object. All of these words show up at least twice in the women’s review text I reviewed, some much more often. Abrasive alone is used 17 times to describe 13 different women. Among these words, only aggressive shows up in men’s reviews at all. It shows up three times, twice with an exhortation to be more of it.

Third, an article about an alternative to traditional discipline in schools, something called “justice panels” on which students sit, investigate causes for problems, and decide on consequences. No solution is perfect, but I really like the way this engages kids.

The idea of repairing harm is central to restorative justice, a concept that drives justice panels such as the one at Lyons. The goal is for students to accept responsibility for their behavior and make amends by apologizing, resolving differences through dialogue and doing community service. The school holds such panels at least twice a week.

Other than that, Ted and I continued on our house organizing rampage today. Various parts of the house are now very beautiful. Other parts of the house are covered in piles of stuff. But we are making progress.

Oh, and I’ve begun the project of getting my students to do a little composition. I think it is going to bear good fruit.

The twins nursed again today, at naptime and bedtime. Tonight it hurt so badly that I checked for blood on Joanna’s side. No blood, but there were distinct tooth marks. Ow, ow, ow. Nights like that, I feel quite mixed about the whole thing. They have been slowing down again, saying no a good chunk of the time. I am still not sure if I’ll choose to end it or they will. Jury’s still out. But I’d like to avoid being chewed on, that’s for sure.

My inner control fairy

In our last parenting class, our teacher made a throwaway comment about not making kids put toys away in any particular order that struck me to my control-freak core. Ted grinned at me, of course, while I carried on an incoherent internal dialogue something like this (only in fragments and more heavily laden with expletives).

“Dammit, dammit, dammit!”
“But I’m sure she’s right.”
“Dammit! My way is the best way! If the toys aren’t put away that way they’ll always be a jumbled mess!”
“But really, it’s going to be so hard to teach the little kids to put them away that way.”
“But, dammit! I’ve worked so hard to get them the right way!”
“Do you want them all over the floor, or put away? Your way is too complicated, you know.”
“Dammit!”

“….and if Ted doesn’t stop smirking at me, I swear I’ll…….fine, I give in…..grrrr.”

So here we are, organizing the house. Among other things, there have been substantially greater numbers of toys forming trip and foot-puncturing hazards on the floor, crammed in between couch cushions, and jammed into every nook and cranny of the house than there have been resting in orderly fashion in our toy chests and bookshelves. Something has to be done. But that something cannot be my lengthy, solo, ego-driven effort to create the perfect organizational system which I can then resent my family members for not perfectly maintaining. I mean, it can. But I have realized that the costs for that method are too high.

Therefore, this afternoon after Ted and I swapped a couple pieces of furniture and put their contents in the living room and kitchen, Ted took over sorting and putting away the toys in the living room while I wrestled with art supplies in the kitchen. We are not done. But we’re pretty close. And we’re going to move forward together with two guidelines, the existence of which are a compromise between the chaos my inner child envisioned our teacher to be proposing, and the Spartan control fairy who lives in my head. That is, we’re a) going to put things away in categories, storing like with like, and b) include more time for cleanup after our kids’ activities so that toys and supplies can be put away throughout the day rather than multiplying into a colossal mess as they move from one thing to another.

My inner control fairy is freaking out, grabbing for her smelling salts and hyperventilating. “I DON’T KNOW WHERE ALL THE THINGS ARE! I DIDN’T PUT THEM AWAY MYSELF! I NEED TO KNOW WHERE EVERYTHING IS!”

But it’s ok. I pat her wings and give her some hot chocolate, which is very soothing for fairy nerves. And I show her the dining room table, which is almost clear, and the art corner, which is neat and more accessible again. And tomorrow I’ll have her sit on my shoulder when we talk to Hazel about our two guidelines and ask her if she has any other ideas about how we can keep the house more picked up.

And I get to look forward to putting the towels away on our new hallway shelves. My control fairy will enjoy placing them just so, lined up and harmonious, ready for depredation by the twins.

“Towel!” is one of Joanna’s favorite utterances.

Paperwork gems, sleep schedules, communication with inmates

Today Ted and I got down to brass tacks and almost finished organizing the office. Among the things I rediscovered while sorting through paperwork were:

  • a note of condolence from a friend upon Chester’s death (our orange kitty, whom I had from the time he was six weeks old to when he died this year at the ripe old age of 18 years)
  • congratulations cards sent from friends and family upon the birth of the twins
  • cool mobiles that our friend J sent from London so many months ago that it is perhaps years , and which we have still not put together (a project for perhaps the end of the week)
  • ultrasounds from when the twins were somewhere in the 20’s in terms of weeks in utero

And, as always when we clean house, I already feel lighter, in body and mind. Tomorrow we’ll file away all the things we have stuffed into our “to be filed” folder. And tomorrow we’ll tackle the pile on the dining room table, which seems to change in content but never vary in volume. I will quite enjoy being able to see the top of the table again.

Last night I attempted to go to bed earlier, but a problem with how to arrange the furniture in the yellow room and dining room niggled so persistently in the corner of my mind into which I had attempted to enclose it, I had to get up and move things around some more. I did win, in the sense that the arrangement worked much better when I was done. Nonetheless, I was so tired today I got a large latte before we got going, to carry me through the day on a caffeinated wave of artificially produced energy.

Facing the new daily schedule which will be a product of Hazel entering kindergarten next week, I feel like a little kid: “But I don’t WANT to get up!” This of course means I have to start going to bed earlier. I am going to try melatonin this week to see if it will help me shift things the requisite 45 minutes or hour from their current temporal location in my day.

Ted and I are thinking about getting this clock to help. I am NOT a morning person, so am looking for whatever I can do to help myself get into gear in the morning (without taking a cold shower, etc.)

My friend R called me this afternoon just before I was due to start teaching. He hasn’t received any of the emails I sent him through jPay, boo hiss. And two of my letters have been returned, since he’d been moved to a different facility and they didn’t follow him. I hope we can connect up tomorrow. This is just one small example of how isolated a person can get when they’re in jail. I’m not sure it’s a good thing altogether to lock people away into the complicated, sometimes violent, sometimes toxic environment which is our jail & prison system.

After I was done teaching I went upstairs to snuggle with Hazel before she went to sleep. She’s caught the twins’ cold, so now everyone in the family has had it except for me. I am taking immune support, and hoping that with good sleep I’ll avoid it. The good thing is that Hazel will be healthy by the time kindergarten starts.

And then I walked over to the corner store to pick up some emergency cat food. It’s getting cooler in the evenings, so I grabbed a shawl, inspired by the example and gift of my sister-in-law. And lo and behold, it was perfect, just like Little Bear’s porridge. I love evenings like that, clear lovely with a soft breeze blowing. It has been a rather wonderful summer.

breakfast with a friend, house org

This morning our friend S came over for breakfast, bearing a lovely Gouda and eggs. I was making bacon, so I used the same pan after that was done, and made a scramble with the eggs and cheese. Since we’ve vowed to see each other more often, we have managed to follow through, and that warms my heart. Hanging out with S, whom I’ve known since I was 18 years old, helps me feel more connected to my life history. And it’s lovely to share that friendship with Ted and my kids.

After he left, we went to an organization store to buy a couple more sets of shelves. The twins have gotten big enough to reach the top of the dining room table (and Emily has figured out that it’s super easy to just get up on a chair, and then reach and grab all the fascinating stuff we’ve piled there), as well as the kitchen counters. Suddenly, things that were safe before are safe no longer. All of this has necessitated a new round of baby-proofing, which means finding new homes for some things, at least for the next year or two.

After we got our shelves we let the twins play in a fountain for a while. They started with reaching their hands across the little wall to the water. Then they climbed up on the wall. And then Joanna climbed all the way in and walked around in the shallow pool, grinning all over her cherubic face. We were surprised, because we thought Emily would have been the first in. She did follow Joanna, and they played with the fountain, laughing and splashing, until they were soaked. It was worth it to see them having such a great time.

Thus, today we did another round of moving furniture around. We’re virtually done with that, and now we have a week to move the contents around, to throw stuff out, to rejigger and re-establish, as well as to create better systems (ie, finish the office, which we never did last time).

In the process I figured out that I’d forgotten, again, to water my plants. Grr, argh! I had been nursing my jasmine back to health, and now it’s all papery and crackly, and I’m afraid I’ve done it in once and for all. I hope I can save it.

The kids are all sick and cranky. I am hoping that this illness will breeze by pretty quickly, and that Hazel will be healthy for the start of school, which is approaching quickly!

Ok, the timer I set for myself to force myself to go to bed has dinged. Off I go.