Tag Archives: witching hour

The Greater Threat: My Imagination Or Polish Women?

I am both overwhelmingly excited and undeniably terrified. I don’t know whether to smile or puke. Tomorrow, I am driving my husband to the airport so he can embark on his first trip overseas for six. whole. days. SIX!

Maybe you remember what happened last time the love of my life went away without me. Sure, I can keep my act together for a bit, but come bedtime only my scalp will be visible above the comforter as I listen  intently between my muffled breathes for the slightest sound of zombies, burglars or chainsaw wielding drug addicts.

But I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. Tony’s never been to Europe, and his employer offered to send him to Poland for a conference with all expenses paid. And when he wanted to tack on an extra day just for sight-seeing? They said no problem. He’ll be giving a presentation on something related to whatever it is he does all day on his computer and hobnobbing with lots of other people who also do programming things I can’t begin to understand. I could never stand in the way of this excursion, no matter how much sleep I will lose worrying about plane crashes, kidnappings and loose Polish women pick-pocketing his wallet.

We figured  out the video chatting and he’s worked hard to convince me that Poland is modern now,  so my visions of a dial-up network powered by hamster wheels is outdated. He’ll use his phone to update a temporary blog with pictures and details of his exciting adventures while I’m here doing all my usual mom-ish hooplah.

I’m prepared for the long nights of worrying. What’s gnawing at my insides now is the thought of the  “witching hour” just before supper, when I know backup won’t be arriving by 5:45 p.m. I’m starting to panic about what will happen to our usual evening routine. Tony spearheads clearing the table (with the kids help), leading family prayers and reading a family bedtime story. I’m certainly not idle in the evenings, but the kids attention shifts from me to Papa, and I get a bit of a break from the constant “mamamamamamamamamama!” that dominates the rest of my day.

But now, I won’t have the Daddy buffer. It’s just me. Granted, I know my in-laws will be around more to help out, and my mom is coming in town but the dynamic in the house will radically change. I’m “on” 24/7 for the next six days. There’ll be no asking Tony to check on Fulton at 4 a.m. when one of his machines (false) alarms again. No one to wrestle with Bryon when his sisters start screaming. And no one to swagger up next to me, pull me close and tell me how beautiful I am as I sport my greasy ponytail and granny style night-gown. And then quickly pull away because Addie burst in the room announcing she can’t sleep again….

The goal will be to not allow my frustrations to overwhelm our limited communications. The last thing Tony needs is his snappy wife detailing Addie, Edie and Byron’s brawl on the deck while Fulton and Teddy scream in the background. And I’ll have to keep my nimble fingers in check to not leave snarky comments on every scenic photo he’s sure to post.  “Pffpt, your exposure sucks. The sunset here was stellar; that is when Teddy wasn’t repeatedly stabbing me in the eye with a Hot Wheels. Glad you’re having such a great time. The children will be enrolled in public school by the time you land. Love you.”

On the upside, I should have plenty of time to write with the whole not sleeping thing and all. Stay tuned for the documentation of my gradual descent into madness. Friends, if I’m not at Mass on Sunday, assume I’m holed up in the basement with panic and come rescue me. Filthy children running around the yard at all hours are not a sign of distress; that’s business as usual, and probably a good indication that we’re all coping just fine and avoiding the nighttime zombies.

 

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A Messy House vs the Chore Chart: Finding the Lesser of Two Evils

HOUSEHOLD CHORES!!

You just cringed didn’t you? Admit it, chores hang over your head like the sword of Damocles. The multiplying piles of laundry on the dining room table. Your fireplace mantle covered with children’s crafts, dust and baking soda from the science experiment that got completely out of hand. The casserole pan that’s been soaking so long in your sink, your youngest thinks it’s part of the sink.

Household chores are never done. All one can do is find ways to manage them so that, at any given time, not everything is a mess all at once. Everyone has a system for their house, or they just live in a pig sty. Not having a system is a recipe for disaster, or so I’m led to believe. If you like to visit/waste time on Pinterest, you’ll see tons and tons systems moms have created to organize their home and keep them that way. Search chore charts and you’ll be bombarded with hundreds of images of charts; magnets, wipe-off, pocket, printable, sticker, on-line, picture only, etc. Who’s job is it to take the time to download / purchase/ assemble this thing? Can “managing the chore chart” go to the oldest child or is that one more task for mama? If I can’t reliably empty the diaper pail, it’s not likely I’m going to be able to stick with a chore chart.

“Mama is this magnet for ‘emptying the trashcans’ on my column or Byron’s column?”

“I don’t know, which ever it’s closest to.”

“It’s on a line.”

“Nu-uh, it was on your column and you moved it!”

“Okay, let me see. Who did this chore last week?”

“Me!” they answer in unison.

And about ten minutes into this conversation is when I throw the new chore chart into the overflowing trashcan and take it outside myself.

Chores are fun! And so is busting out the power tools and Modge Podge! I can't wait to blow a whole weekend making this chore system!

 

My husband and I believe that children need to do chores. Everyone contributes to the household running smoothly, and they do it because it’s what you do as a family member, not because you get paid or because it’s a punishment for wrong doing. I do the laundry because I like to see my kids in clean clothes on a semi-regular basis, not because the hubby slips a fiver in my wallet each week or because I got too sassy with the piano teacher. My husband washes dishes in the evening because he understands that the dishes represent the good home-cooked meal I took the time to prepare (during the witching hour, surrounded by five noisy children.) I provide no financial (or other- wink, wink ) incentive for him to do this. When my kids get in fights, or break the rules, I hesitate to have them do extra chores because I don’t want them to equate housework to punishment (no matter what I may think of it sometimes.) Kids, and all people, respond to incentives, but I want to dangle the correct carrot in front of my kids to get the jobs done.

Chores are meaningful ways that our kids can contribute to our family, obtain  a sense of accomplishment, learn responsiblity and self sufficiency, plus, come to  understand what it takes to manage a home (with a large family.)  If my kids never did chores, or completed them only as punishment I think their future spouses would kill me.

“I know the sink is full of dishes honey, but what’s in it for me??? You know Macy’s is having a sale, hint, hint.”

So, if I’ve admitted my kids need to do chores for all the above reasons, why don’t the fancy charts and planners work for me? And I know other families that work great with financial and disciplinary incentives.  Why don’t I just try their methods despite my reluctance? Because amazingly, we are eking by with no system. Or at least, things aren’t falling apart by me just asking the kids at random to do chores and having them complete each task immediately. (I also have a mother-in-law who loves doing housework. Seriously. The upside is, she helps with my dishes and laundry when she’s here. The downside is, my husband gets used to having his underwear neatly folded in his drawer. )

However, I’d like to do better than just getting by. I’d like the day before a party to not be a mad dash of playing catch up. As it is, the kids love when we entertain, but they know I’m pretty much a tyrant for the 24 hours leading up to the guests arrival and therefore avoid me at all costs, which isn’t helpful when stuff needs done.

“KIDS! KIDS! Someone needs to get all these books off the sofa and watch Teddy while I vacuum and Tony, polish the silver!!!”

“But honey, we don’t have any silver. Besides, it’s a picnic. I thought we were eating on paper plates with plastic forks and knives.”

“WHAT?!? Don’t question me! I want to see my reflection on every surface in this house !!!”

“Kids, who wants to come with Papa to pick up some ice?”

Then when people arrive, I’m exhausted. I think it’s why hosting on Memorial Day wiped me out for a week. The time has come for a better system, especially since my Mother-in-law is away for three weeks. Although, maybe I’m just über distraught by the state of the house since kitchen construction has made everything a mess. And when my life is disorganized in a way I can’t control, all I can think to do is bring order to some aspect of my life seemingly within my control. Therefore, if the front of my house must remain a disaster until the new kitchen is completed, then something- chores, our school day, my nightstand, something must be reworked so my life feels less chaotic. Perhaps that’s the underlying issue, parts of my life are in turmoil so rather than just prayerfully deal with those issues, I’ll just create a whole new problem to conquer so that I can feel good about accomplishing something. At least I’m honest with myself.

Part of me would love to throw out half of what we have so I no longer need to care for it, but I learned a long time ago that having lots of kids, and homeschooling them, tends to equal lots of stuff one can’t discard. Even with twice yearly purges of toys, clothes, books and the like, we’re left with tons of “essentials” that we need to find room for. And if I need to keep all this stuff for these kids, I’d better find a way for them to help take care of it all, cause if one more Barbie shoe or Lego brick winds up in the baby’s mouth, I can’t be held responsable for what comes out of mine.

I’m going to revisit the FlyLady and my Martha Stewart Housekeeping Handbook (which is gathering dust) and work on creating a schedule of chores; what must get done daily, weekly, monthly and seasonally. Then, I’ll figure out a way to distribute the jobs fairly without having to whip out the laminator, the RotoZip or create three dozen magnetic labels.  I’m curious to hear what everyone else does to bring order to their home. And how easy is it to get back on track once you have a lapse in the system for a time. (If you tell me you have a perfect system and you never lapse, I will block you from commenting in the future. Unless you’re Martha Stewart. Then, I love you.) Share your stories! The fate of my household depends upon it!

 

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Sharing Mealtime Secrets…more like airing dirty laundry.

Dinnertime. Around here, I call it the witching hour. Both young ‘uns are up from their naps. The older ones are getting their second wind. I’m alternately staring into a refrigerator stocked with unlabeled plastic containers or a freezer stocked with unlabeled plastic bags. And every two minutes someone is coming into the kitchen and asking me “What’s for dinner? I’m starving!” I feel like a bird, looking into her nest and seeing all those wide gaping mouths shooting up at her, screaming in hunger. If only my children would be satisfied with the first thing I could dig out of the ground.

Even families who don’t homeschool struggle with dinner. A quick Google search for meal planning will turn up a ton of mommy bloggers with planners, e-books, online seminars, printables, etc to help rescue you from starvation and your nagging feelings of inadequacy. Personally, I love this stuff. Organizing and planning is a hobby for me. For example, my expertly labeled Trapper, and my beautiful dry erase weekly menu planner on the fridge (last dated some time in February). I get an adrenaline rush from creating a menu for the week and writing out a detailed shopping list based on the sales at my local store. Saving time and money; dang I’ve got my act together! Unfortunately, the previous scenario only occurs about once a month. And when I does, you know the crumbs are a good four inches deep under the high chair and the tub is infested with tadpoles.

It takes time, quiet time, to sit down and plan out everything. And that’s a luxury around here. So I try to stick to some staples that I can whip into a few favorite meals. It usually works. And when it doesn’t, I might have to resort to leftovers.  (Cue suspenseful music.) But, leftovers are great you say? They keep food from being wasted and mean two meals from one night of work you insist? I used to think so to. Back when our family was smaller, I’d make a big meal and we’d get a full second meal later in the week. Now, with seven of us, one big meal leaves one and a half servings of leftovers for dinner. My husband will usually take some leftovers to work so by Sunday or Monday, the days I least feel like cooking,  I decide to have a leftover night and pull a dozen odd containers and foil wrapped surprises out of the fridge.

If I’m in a good mood, a.k.a. we have fine wine in the house,  I make either Quiche or soup with the leftovers. It always makes me smile when people ask for a recipe for either. The secret is either good eggs or good broth (we have chickens so we usually have an ample supply of both.) Fresh eggs and broth will hide, I mean, enhance a multitude of flavors. In Quiche I use a basic crust, six eggs, some milk, whatever cheese and then lots of leftovers. I’ve added everything from alfredo sauce and chicken nuggets to pepperoni and taco meat. Wrapped in a rich crust, it always goes over big. (Unless the oldest is in a disagreeable mood, in which case, she gets it cold for breakfast. Score 1 for Mama!) I have similar luck with soup unless I try to slip in beans.

If there’s no chance of me eeking out a meal (What happened to my box of wine?) than we have a smorgasbord dinner and it’s every man, woman and child for him/herself.  Up for grabs; one small slice of pizza that all the kids want. Three tiny containers of different vegetables, from last week, that no one wants. Four servings of the huge casserole I made that everyone is sick of. Two hotdogs, but we’re out of buns, etc, etc. I wind up heating up individual plates for everyone, each containing exactly two bites of pizza, before making up my own which I promptly forget about in order to heat seconds for everyone. (No, for the last time, there’s no more pizza! You loved this casserole. Put some hotdog on it! Please! If the baby sees you eat it, then he might eat his.)

I’m left with a huge sink full of empty containers and a trash bag that needs to get emptied ASAP thanks to all those unidentifiable meals we found in the way back of the fridge that no one wanted two leftover dinners ago. The chickens get a huge container of scraps and once again, I’m left with a clean fridge. Which is usually scarier than a full one because now it’s time to sit down and plan some meals for the week.

I really love the idea of bulk or freezer cooking. You know, where you spend one day cooking and have meals for the week. However,  I’d like to get seven days worth of meals from one hour of cooking and unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a way to do that yet, at least in a way that doesn’t involve a lot of beans.

There’s also the crock pot movement. The slow cooker is very popular right now. I know because every five minutes that woman who made something different in her crock pot for 365 days keeps showing up in my Pintrest feed. I mean really, is she giving away crock pots or something because I can’t imagine that many people are really in love with the idea of eating mushy veggies, condensed soup and meat for a year. Now admittedly, I do have a few favorite crock pot meals of my own , but because these meals require me to plan for dinner at breakfast time, I need to be in ‘A’ game form right out of the starting gate in the morning or it’s a no go. That crock pot lady must be a morning person, like to eat her dinners late or have some special meal planner I haven’t downloaded yet.

One of these days, I’m sure I’ll hit on system that works for the long-term. It will combine my love of writing lists and saving money with not having to put a lot of thought into either. And it must be summed up with a nice printable. Until then, I’m sure we’ll manage on leftovers and casserole. What are your meal planning secrets? (I reserve the right to take all useful comments, compile into an online meal planning course and FREE downloadable e-book.)

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