February 15, 2015

Dirty Sheets, Crumby Counters, Kicked Around Laundry, and No Chore Reminders

I went to St. Louis this weekend for an Irish dancing competition.  Although two of the boys and both girls dance, I only brought the more serious dancers:  the girls.  It was hectic getting out the door on Friday.  The kids had a half day, and I intended to leave right when they got home.  I was busy preparing meals that could be eaten at home while we were away.  A portion of the chicken broccoli casserole that I earmarked for Friday night was stored in a cooler and loaded into the car with the dancing gear and overnight bags.  To save money, we would reheat the casserole for dinner.  I grabbed some leftover turkey and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes for the second night at the last minute.  I explained to Coach that they could feast on frozen pizza on Saturday night, but the huge crock pot of tasty chili should be plugged in on Sunday.  This way we could arrive home Sunday evening and a warm dinner would be waiting.  Our departure was delayed because once the dinners were divvied up and stored in the fridge or the cooler-to-go, I ran to the post office to apply for a passport for Reggie.  The frustration revolving around this passport ordeal is sufficient to fill another post . . . assuming I can ever see the humor in the situation.

Getting the kids off to school that morning, I lost my cool.  In fact lately it seems more often than not that I find myself blowing my lid.  The kids manage to tune me out, leave a trail for me to deal with, and look surprised when I'm upset.  I was beating myself up about how I can't seem to get a handle on teaching the kids to deal with their own belongings, chores, and siblings.  Something has got to give.  I was face to face with a pivotal moment where I recognized a need for a change.  How to go about it?  I reviewed a million different tactics in my head that I could try when I returned from St. Louis.  I admit, this was a trip I was dreading.  Long drives make me sleepy.  I hate driving tired, but I seem to be perpetually exhausted.  Once at the event I anticipated getting two kids prepped in the morning, delivered to different stages on time while I offered encouraging words, and protected their costly dresses from spilled food and other potential stains.  The weekend's stress potential was gnawing at me, and now I was questioning my mothering capabilities.  I vowed to reach deep inside to find the patience required to deal with the upcoming challenges of the weekend and my reentry into our hectic family life.

The girls and I chilled out in the hotel room while watching 'Love it or List it' on HGTV.  I raced down to the lobby to reheat our food since the promised microwave failed to appear, and we dined in front of the television.  After they showered, I applied leg tanner to Mini and rolled the portion of her hair into curlers that would be exposed by her wig.  (Trust me not enough blog space in cyberspace for the nonsense involved in the world of competitive Irish dance, but someday my tell all book will cover all the gory details).   I laid out the clothes for morning and put them to bed much later than I had hoped.  After the first day of competitions ended, we called home to share the good news of all their success before we headed to the hotel pool.  I treated the girls to frozen yogurt with their choice of toppings in the hotel lobby shop.  Mini neglected to hear me say there was no need to fill the entire bowl which would be priced based on its weight.  Her ridiculously generous portion ended up costing me a small fortune, but I informed her she would just have to share some with me.  The evening played out in a similar way . . . Curly still begged to sleep in the pullout while Mini and I shared the king size bed.  No way.  I've slept with Mini before in a double bed.  I feared for my life.  Curly's more compact 7 year old size and less combative sleeping style made her the perfect partner to share the king size bed with me.  We laughed, joked, chatted, and enjoyed our stay.  That's when Curly remarked, "I could live here."  I must admit I concurred.

It wasn't just that we were in a nice hotel and someone else was making the bed and washing the towels.  Being away from the everyday tasks, the constant flow of back talk, the refusal of many family members to pitch in, and the complicated schedule of activities was refreshing.  The girls weren't shuffling underfoot being silly and distracting as I tried to tackle an endless to do list while dealing with sassy teens, incomplete or ignored kid chores, and navigating car pool themed text messages.  There was certainly stress involved in putting the wig on without inflicting too much pain, reviewing dances in hopes of removing any jitters, and rushing between stages to view each of their dances.  In our down time we admired dresses that we liked and acted like our lunch was a picnic directly from the 'Frances' children's books complete with odd food combinations without forgetting a tasty spread of some kind.  Then it was time to come home.

I have on occasion questioned the kids as to what they would do without me.  Today I found out.  Kitchen counters would be neglected.  Crumbs had purchased real estate on top of older, more foundation like crumbs.  Of course I have never been accused of being a neat freak.  Counter tops are frequently crumby, sticky messes with a lopsided stack of 'important' paperwork teetering precariously on the granite counter edge.  In fact I am guessing that I left the kitchen in disarray after preparing enough food to feed an army before my trek to St. Louis.  I do recall loading and starting the dishwasher, and I could swear that I wiped the counter quickly.  Additionally, the stack of laundry that Tetonka was told to sort on Thursday had dwindled but was still present.  This heap of clean clothes had now been trampled on and kicked around my master bedroom.  There on top of the new solid oak doors that were installed this week were not one, but two basketball hoops.  They had turned my room into a full court.  From the doorway to the closet.  No one picks up anything off the floor in our home, so tripping over unsorted laundry only added interest to an exciting, full court, master bedroom basketball game.  Why not? 

The note I left was never seen.  The verbal announcement that a note was being left behind was not heard most likely due to Coach's inactive listening capabilities.  Lately quite sharp.  Note to self:  no longer speak to husband while the laptop is propped up in front of him.  Insist that he close it and tune in.  I was careful not to overload the apparently invisible list.  I included a reminder that Laddie and Eddie were to handle the sheets, that the wire shelves could be installed again on the new pantry door, that Tetonka's vacuuming services were needed, and there was a written basketball practice reminder.  I must note that at least one load of laundry was washed and the burned out light bulbs were replaced in the too-high-to-reach light fixture in the laundry room.  Of course the weekend included plenty of driving to basketball games and practices because we don't encounter a day without this taxi service.  All great accomplishments.

I asked a few boys what chores they had accomplished while I was away.  Reggie the robot could list quite a few.  Tetonka moaned and held his head in his hands as if it might roll away.  Eddie insisted he had been plenty helpful.  Any instructions I suggested were met with disdain.  I believe a teenager commented from the safety of another room about how quiet it was while I was away.  I forced Tetonka to address the left behind, now kicked around laundry.  Even Coach requested that I give it a rest.  Careful what you wish for.  I like rest, and clearly I don't get enough of it. 

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