Tag Archives: chores

Time and Time Again

My friend, Rene Syler (in full disclosure, I write for her every week) started a discussion the other day on her Facebook page.  Rene, you see, does an “Ask Rene” column periodically and this particular one centered around an issue that isn’t centrally just for women or Moms, I don’t think.

The woman writing in wanted to know what to do about the fact that she was a full-time Mom, had her own business out of the home, I believe, and her husband worked full-time, often late, and came home and wasn’t any help.  That’s my thumbnail gist of the situation.

So how does this apply to me and other parents doing things alone?

Fall Picture . . . my favorite time of year
Fall Picture . . . my favorite time of year

Like so many of us, I don’t think we tend to have too much sympathy for the “boo-hoo” situation that this person wrote about.  I have to be honest, though, when I was married . . . before my wife passed away . . . I used to have similar worries.  This woman thought she was always the “heavy,” coming down as disciplinarian and Dad came home and was the nice guy.  I was the opposite.  I was the heavy and my wife was always caving in and giving the kids everything they wanted.

So here’s where I chimed in.  I don’t have a spouse any more so I can’t in good conscience give that kind of advice, I wasn’t amazing at it when I was married.

But the lesson for me, single Dads, Moms, everyone out there can learn from the advice that was dished out.

First . . . take a break, for goodness sake.  I have taken a solo trip out of town.  I have gone to concerts.  I have had a beer with one of my friends.  Hell . . . even as a family tonight we went to a great friend’s house and had dinner and just talked for a long time.

Sometimes, without realizing it, we think the most important things are the appearances we give to people even when people aren’t around to see them.  My over-compensation in the weeks after my wife passed away was to clean, rigorously, and try to make the house better than it was when my wife was around.  The old “she would have wanted it this way” mentality.  The problem is, what she wants doesn’t factor in any more.  It didn’t factor even minutes after she died.

Reality for me was that once she was gone . . . and I mean the absolute instant she was gone . . . the decisions and choices were mine.  Mine alone.  This woman in the article gets to talk to her husband.  She could communicate with him and ask for help or go get a spa day or jump in the car with her girlfriend and go on a violent crime spree.  Whatever.  I don’t get that.  The work is there for me, totally, when I get back from whatever I’ve done.  I don’t complain.  I do the cooking, laundry, bills, all of that because they have to be done.  I could sit and bemoan the situation but when I’ve finished . . . I still have dinner to cook, lunches to make, bills to pay and laundry that needs washed.

Abbi and I at the Statue of Liberty
Abbi and I at the Statue of Liberty

My point is simple.  The daily chores will always be there.  So why worry so very much about things being perfect all the time?

Some days my house is spotless and looks like you could eat off the floor.  Many days it looks like a police action took place.  There are, after all, five of us here.

But those days where I let it go . . . we’re at the park.  We go to the movies occasionally.  We’ll go for a walk.  We’ll record something on video and send it to a friend.  We have our own adventures in little ways.

The kids will never remember the fact the house was spotless.  They will remember shooting a video or going on a trip or the fact that Dad took off on a whim to do something spectacularly brilliant or perhaps a little stupid.  Putting the laundry away and vacuuming every Sunday is just life.

What happens outside those daily chores . . . that’s living!

Piles and Piles of Separation

You never realize that you’re really not getting as much help from your kids as you think until you get sick.

I’ve been sick for a good week now.

I don’t mean sniffles, sneezes, sore throat kind of sick but laid up, more than a week of pure exhaustion kind of sick.

Let me explain a little about my normal routine: in an effort to keep my kids on a routine and so that they don’t feel as lop-sided parentally as I think they really are, I compensate by cooking, doing the laundry, etc.  The boys put away the laundry.  Hannah cleans the kitchen.  Abbi watches them in the afternoon and helps pick up the rest of the house.

But the Thursday after Christmas I caught a head cold.

That quickly became a chest cold.

That . . . very, very quickly turned into pneumonia.  I mean, lightning fast.  I made the connection my kids did . . . their Mom had gotten sick that fast and was in the hospital one day and never came home.  I was determined not to let that happen, even though I put on my brave face.

But somewhere after I went back to work – which I had to, no comments from the peanut gallery, please – and making nightly dinners while my kids sat around saying “I don’t know what to have for dinner” I ran out of steam.

It’s amazing how much steam you realize you actually had each day when you run out.

Today I did seven loads of laundry.  Seven!  To give you a perspective . . . I have about seven more I have to do still.  Five people in one household, two of them girls, tends to pile up the laundry.  Get one really girly-girl with lots of delicates and frilly tops . . . and you get the idea.  I blew through my whole giant box of borax.  I had an extra tub of detergent . . . I’m already tapping into that extra.

This comes after a weekend where, after using my inhaler multiple times in a visit to the college campus my daughter is thinking of attending . . . in the rain . . . with pneumonia.  Yeah, I know, for a guy who thinks he’s pretty smart I can be a big idiot sometimes.

On SF State Campus
On SF State Campus

But that visit took us to San Francisco and the campus was nice.  The kids had a blast, and though my calves are killing me from the stairs, hills, and probably 3 miles we walked with too little oxygen to my brain, I have to admit it was worth it.  I took the boys to Ghiradelli Square for the first time.  They had ice-cream . . . in the cold . . . and didn’t care that we were getting soaked just a few hundred yards from the ocean.  Sometimes a cone with cookies-and-cream ice-cream is all you need to have a good time.

Overlooking the City by the Bay
Overlooking the City by the Bay

As I tucked the kids in the boys looked at me and said “I had the best day, Dad,” and then I realized the routine was interrupted but their memories were made.  That’s what was really important.

Of course . . . then I looked at the mountain of laundry and realized that I still  had another 3-4 hours of chores to do myself.

But it was totally worth it.

Ceramic snowmen and selfless gifts

My smiley son Sam
My smiley son Sam

I wasn’t really looking forward to the evening’s events tonight.  Not really.

My day had been long, covering a murder trial’s sentencing that ultimately ended in the death penalty for the man convicted, I was already a bit stressed out.

Understand, I’ve described my day before as a sort of “Dad Sandwich.”  I wake up in the morning, make sure that the kids get a good breakfast – this morning it was waffles I’d made and frozen over the weekend.  Then it’s getting them situated, making sure their socks match, belts are on, pants aren’t too small (Sam, one of the twins, had put on a pair that was a size too small and looked like a scientist at Google . . . just needed the horned rims and tape between the lenses)  and that they have their shoes.  Both shoes.  I swear, one day I’ll write my autobiography and it will be called “One Shoe – the things that drove this singular parent to the cliffs of insanity!”

In the middle of this I was medicating my oldest daughter who has a cold so nasty I’m just counting down the minutes until I catch it myself.

This comes to the point where I work, as an investigative journalist, and spend my eight hours trying to pry information out of people who don’t want to give me information.  It’s rewarding, sometimes entertaining, and more often very stressful.  My day usually ends, then, with my getting home, making dinner, getting the kids in order, arguing with them to clean up the dishes, then doing the bedtime routine.  That’s followed by planning breakfast for tomorrow and making lunches as well so that I’m not up at 4am trying to do it all then.

 

On my way out the door today I shouted at my middle daughter, Hannah, that the dishes and kitchen needed to be cleaned.  She did it two days ago and apparently believes that she can do them once a week and that’s enough.  I’ve since stopped cleaning up the kitchen and informed the other 3 children that if Hannah doesn’t do her chores and I can’t get to the stove we’re not eating.

Tonight, though, they were saved . . . saved by, of all things, that murder trial.  I had taken the light rail into work, which is fairly typical, but I had to work to the last train out, which usually gets me home just after 7pm.  I had to take out some pre-made stuff from the freezer, throw it in the oven, and that in turn alleviated the stove from the equation.  That’s good, you see, because Hannah, without a doubt, had not put a single dish into the dishwasher, even.   I was exhausted, grimy from the light rail car, and just in a cruddy mood.

I shouldn’t ever come in the door in a crummy mood, by the way.  That’s not fair to the kids – who have been waiting all day to tell me about their afternoon.  I walk in and see the table a mess, the stove dirty, and no dishes cleaned up.  Hannah is nowhere to be found – and it’s her chore today – and sitting in among the dishes is a strange looking cup.

It’s a snowman.

A ceramic coffee cup, carrot for a nose, scarf rolling around its head . . . it’s the hollowed out head of a snowman turned coffee cup.  It’s the cutest thing in the room at the moment, I have to say.

“Where’d this come from?” I asked knowing the flood of expository remarks were coming.
“That’s Sam’s.”
Sam then entered . . . “We get to buy things with points and I used them to get this . . . and a pocket frisbee.”

He immediately removed a tiny circular bag which he unzipped and removed a circular cloth frisbee that went “pop” every time.
“I got one of those too,” Noah expounded, and then ran to his backpack and regaled me with the tale of every…single…detail of how he paid for them, what his search entailed, and how he got that, a couple koosh balls, and a memory card game.

“Yeah, I just got the frisbee, some Christmas stickers, and the cup,” Sam tells me, but he’s got this pleasant little Stan Laurel smile on his face.

We ate, so late by this point that the bedtime routine was shoved back and we only read a few pages of their book – A Wrinkle in Time tonight.  I was grumpy, had cut them all off of their descriptions more than once as they tried to recount their days.  Hannah walked in with a piece of artwork and I grumpily told her I’d look at it if she ever managed to get the kitchen cleaned up.

As I finished reading and was tucking in my kids, Sam looks at me and says “do you like the snowman cup, Dad?”
“Yeah, kiddo, it’s really cute.  Totally you, I can see that.”
“Good . . . because it’s yours, Daddy!”
“What?”
“I got it for you.  I’d been waiting to get enough points and I wanted to get it for you so you could use it before Christmas!”
By this point I was deeply touched . . . I truly was.
“You used your good behavior and classroom stuff, Sam, you can keep it.”
“Oh . . . I didn’t want the cup, Daddy, I thought you would like.  I always wanted to give it to you!”

I tucked them both in, and gave Sam a huge hug.
“Thank you kiddo.”
“Merry Christmas, Daddy!”

I went downstairs, having seen that all four kids were in bed . . . and decided that tonight I could do the dishes myself.

Except for the snowman cup.  That I used to drink some hot chocolate . . . and smiled my own Stan Laurel smile as I drank out of it.

Seriously?! Still?!

I got home tonight and I couldn’t help it.  I lost it.

Yes, I know that’s the 3rd or 4th time this week, and some might argue that “this seems more your problem than your kids.'”  But they’d be wrong.

You see, the one thing . . . the singular . . . solitary . . . thing I’d asked my middle daughter to do when I walked out the door this morning and got in the car to take her and her brothers to school was to do her chores.

My recap for you is this:

I dole out chores to each of the kids.  It’s not like they’re parenting each other or anything, but I’m one guy.  I cook, I get the groceries, I do the laundry, I vacuum, I end up cleaning all the bathrooms each week, I plan the meals, I get to drama club shows, I see Christmas plays, I go to events and such.  I also have a job where I work 40 hours a week at minimum.  The result is that the kids have to do something around the house or we’re in a world of hurt.  So here’s the breakdown:

Abbi and Me

Abbi: pick up the kids and watch them.  Homework has to be completed at the Extended Day Program as well as at home if there’s still some left when she gets them.  Then she ensures the house doesn’t burn down or anything.

My girls...Hannah on the left
My girls…Hannah on the left

Hannah: Dishes/kitchen cleanup.  That’s it.  One job.  It’s a daily job, to be sure, but it’s one job.  I had it as a kid, so did both my brothers.  Not rocket surgery.

Noah and Sam doing one chore

Noah and Sam: fold and put away the laundry.  That’s everybody’s, not just theirs.  On top of that, dirty clothes need to go in the hamper if they’re lying around.

Shouldn’t be hard, right?  I mean if I cook the meals how hard is it for them to clean up?

Apparently as difficult as translating the Rosetta Stone.

So let me explain why I lost it so badly.  I told my daughter, Hannah, on the way down the stairs this morning that the dishes had to be done.  There were, literally, no plates, bowls, spoons or forks to eat with this morning.  None.  I told her that if we didn’t have them done not only did we have nothing to eat off there was nothing to cook on either.

So fast-forward to about 6pm.  We’re in the break between storm #1 and storm #2 of a 3-storm frenzy here in Sacramento.  A so-called “Pineapple Express” is on its way and we’re about to get plastered.  It’s not even raining or windy and the drivers here have lost their minds.  Either too slow and rubber-necking (which drives me bat-sh*t crazy!) the wrecks on the opposite side of the freeway or weaving because they’re on their cell phones.  My normally 40-minute commute in a car (normally I take the train, but it was raining) took me 1 1/2 hours.

So I stop at Target, get – as a treat for the girls – soup, including Panera’s Broccoli-Cheddar for a warm comfort-food meal. Don’t do it often, but got that and Disney-fied Phineus and Pherb chicken noodle for the boys.  I had split pea.

But walking in the door I hear “X-Factor” on the television upstairs and the kitchen is actually worse off than when I left.  I opened the dishwasher and it’s full of the same dishes from 2 days ago!  I lost it.  I put the bags down and trying to be calm I sat on the couch and turned on the television and sat there.

Hannah came down the stairs . . . after about 20 minutes . . . and was excited to tell me something.  I interrupted her.

“You have any idea how pissed I am right now?!”
“Why?”
“Look to your right.  What do you see in the kitchen?”
“Dirty dishes.”
“What was the one thing . . . the one thing I asked you to do tonight!”
“Clean the kitchen.”

The boys walked in . . . “what’s for dinner?”
“Nothing.”
“Nothing?!”
“Nope . . . I have no way to cook it.  No pans.  No spoons.  No bowls.  No dishes . . . no dinner. If they’re not done by bedtime no dinner tonight.  Sorry.”

See . . . even if she’d run the dishwasher there was at least an hour wait and it was almost 8pm already.

She went in and washed three pans . . . five bowls . . . and all the spoons.  By hand.

After we all ate and sated ourselves I informed them that, again, there’s no dessert.  No pans, no utensils . . . no dessert.  Heads hanging they did their bedtime routines and got ready.  As Hannah started to head up with us I stopped her:
“Get back down there and do the dishes!”
oh.”
“yeah…oh.”

She did them . . . to the extent that the dishwasher – already full – was run.  She snuck to bed and left another massive mess on the counter.

My balancing act here, though, is that I have to make the lunches and such.  While I wouldn’t have starved my kids, I can’t skimp on their lunches because there are too many people who would make a fuss and be nosy and just a pain in my behind if I didn’t give them a full lunch.  So I made a small pan of brownies and that was it.

Their older sister, you see, had tons of homework and didn’t know how to juggle the responsibilities . . . along with her own part-time job.  Tonight, though, I’m sicking her on them.

If the kitchen is still a mess . . . I might just go to the movies . . . alone . . . and let them fend for themselves.

Welcome to my world, kid.

The kids in the leaves

Today was typical of the sole parent/sole income world in which we all live now.  Veteran’s Day is a typical day off for the kids in California’s schools, even ones in private schools get to “observe” Veteran’s Day.  I, however, had to work and that leads to one of the stresses of our little world in the last year: childcare.

So this year, without my asking, in an amazing feat of self-sacrifice and benevolence, my oldest daughter took the day off work so she could be home to watch the other three.  We’re in that awkward phase of the month where bills came out, so did rent, payments, all of that . . . and we’re still a bit behind.  We’re good until the end of the week, when I get paid, but just until then.

So imagine my surprise when I’m at work, in the middle of the 168th row of data I’m entering for an investigative piece and the phone rings from home.  Now, I understand that things happen, the phone will ring.  Her calling me never upsets me, I’d rather they call than if they don’t.  Instead, though I was trying not to laugh when she asked

“Can we go out to dinner tonight?  I have those gift cards.”

Bear in mind, every holiday my Mom gives Abbi gift cards so we can take the little ones ti IHOP – they love pancakes.  The cards are more than enough, for the most part, but I end up paying off the 10 bucks extra and the tip.  It’s a necessary part of having four kids.  I’m not complaining, it’s just life.  But Abbi wanted to take them all to dinner there and the cards just aren’t going to cover it all.

“Do you have any birthday money left?  Because I don’t have enough to pay the balance if we go over.”
“Oh…no.”
“Well, then I can’t.  Why?”
“They’re driving me crazy!”

I had to control my laughter, I really did, because at that moment – at that precise second – she sounded just like her Mom, my late wife Andrea.  Andrea hated when the kids argued, cried, screamed, or did anything contrary to how she wanted things to be.  Now, if you have kids at all, you know that it’s almost a requirement to being a kid that you not do what your parents want.  It’s part of childhood that you be pernicious just once in awhile.  Andrea inherited that intolerance from her Mom, who had it even worse.  Crazier still, the kids all knew it, acted worse, and received enormous bribes to behave . . . which ultimately only lasted about an hour and they were persnickety all over again.

So to hear this from their sister, whose presence and demeanor speak more to their Grandma (my Mom) than their Mom, was just a bit of a funny instance to me.
“Have they done their chores?”
“No.  They won’t.”
“Tell them to go to the park.”
“I told them they could they won’t”
“Well make them.”
“Uh…sure, Dad.”

Here’s where, again, the idea that I’m supposed to parent from 30-odd miles away comes in.  Not often do I run into this lately.  They don’t often spend all day with their sister, but this was one of those instances.  It cracked me up because every time a commercial or movie or TV Show with a baby comes on Abbi turns into every woman I’ve ever known and says “awwwww….look at the baaaaby!”

Don’t get me wrong, I love all my kids.  But what my daughter doesn’t understand is that I love them even with the dirty diapers, the projectile vomiting, the 3am wake-up-calls, the temper tantrums and the picky dinner eating.  When you get that piece of your soul that combines with theirs you don’t really think about those things.  Abbi doesn’t remember that nothing – not breast milk, not formula . . . nothing cheap would stay in her stomach.  She projectile vomited, exorcist-like, in the apartment where we lived.  We spent $150 a box – my dad’s cost – on pre-digested formula designed for those with stomach cancer.  One box was 2-days of formula.  We had to add oil for brain development, iron for her blood, and vitamins for health to it.  It looked like dirty lemonade.  It smelled like it, too.  I remember this not because I want to rub it in her face but because I was so worried about her I’d have done anything and paid anything to make sure she survived.  It was scary.

So when her siblings pitch a fit she can’t handle the noise . . . and I chuckle.
“Tell them that they have to pull up all the leaves and pile them up.  If they want to jump in them, fine, but pile them up and ready them for yard waste.  One hour outside at least.  If not, I take the computer, game system, everything goes away.  Hannah does the dishes after and cleans the kitchen, not just picked up.  Same punishments for her.  I leave in an hour, it needs to be done by the time I get home.”

I’ve given the solution.  Still, though . . . comes “so, uh . . . no dinner, huh?”
“Ummm…no.  This Friday, when I’m paid.  That or we pay $35 bounced check fees for the $10 I don’t have in the bank.”

But at the end of the day, I came home, saw the kitchen, saw the back yard, and the kids were behaving.  All was right with the world.  I didn’t have to have another discussion, things worked fine.

But I couldn’t help using the line when she complained about how they’d behaved:
“welcome to my world, kiddo!”

 

Head ’em off at the pass . . .

There’s an old line that always makes me chuckle, just a little: “we’ll head ’em off at the pass!”  My favorite is in the clip up there, where Mel Brooks turns it on its head and makes a joke out of it.

But the kids have been back in school just about a week.  The house looks like it’s been 3 months.

As much as I hate the headline up there, I had to start heading them off at the pass.  The kids all have chores: Abbi picks them up from school and watches them until I get home.  Now, before you read that sentence and think to yourself “oh, the poor dear, she’s taking the role of Mommy,” bear in mind she’s only with them for about an hour or two each day.  Abbi has matured quickly, sure.  She’s moved from being a whiny teenager to a teenage drama queen at times, but for the most part, she’s reliable, sweet, and the little girl who sidles up to her Daddy when she’s happy, sad or indifferent.  The difference now is she seems to enjoy the authority the others inherently let her wield when I’m not around.

The other three, though, have more basic chores.  The boys: laundry.  I wash it, they put it away.  Theirs and mine.  The girls’ has to get put in a laundry basket in their rooms.  The funny thing about that is the fact that the boys’ room looks amazing and the girls’ . . . well, it’s like Hawkeye Pierce set up shop in their bedrooms.  Hannah: she has the dishes.  That’s it.  I don’t need more from them, I really don’t.  Those few things are seemingly far more than they thought was necessary.

Over the weekend I made it to the pass in front of them, though.

My work was very kind and gave us all tickets to the Sacramento Rivercats baseball game.  I took my niece along with the kids and she was spending the night.  The only caveat to all of them was this: chores have to be done.  Hannah, Saturday morning, decided to go up and shower.  I finished a video project, mowed the lawn, fixed a hole in the sprinkler system, edged the lawn and then watered the new grass seed I’d just placed on the back yard.  When I came into the house, not only were the dishes still strewn about, Hannah was still in the shower.  Before you ask how long she’d been up there look again at how many things I did in the time she was in the shower.  It’s like I could see dimes dripping out of her shower head in my mind.  My water bill over the summer: about a hundred bucks.  Now?  I’ll be lucky of I can stop it at 300.

Amongst this my sons were constantly asking how they were supposed to possibly, in all honesty, even get this three baskets full of clothes folded and put away?!  The girls? panties?  Eww, Dad.
“Umm . . . they’re clean, boys.  I even bleached them.”
“oh.”
“And bear in mind their underwear pales in comparison to what I have to do with yours.”

They stopped.
Until five minutes later when they couldn’t possibly, without help, figure out where in the world my socks and T-shirts are supposed to go.
“Look in the drawers in my dresser . . . and put them where the other socks and shirts are.”
“I did that.”
“And?!”
“Still can’t figure it out.”

Now, I’m not stupid.  They wanted me to come show them and then, by sheer coincidence, say “thanks, Dad” leaving me to put them away.  Didn’t work.  They’d done this chore before.  Many times.  That made it all the more confounding that they wanted the help.  It’s like they thought I’d been hit by one of those memory rays in a Men in Black movie.

By this point I’d started screaming at Hannah, who tried to claim she was getting dressed.  My response?  Listing all the things I’d just done in the last hour and a half.  By now her sister, Abbi, who’d started doing Hannah’s chores, was indignant and shouting as well.

It took her 3 times longer than it should have  . . . and I had to go behind her and point out silverware, plates, measuring cups, and bowls she’d ignored . . . but the dishes were finished and the house clean.

No parent likes to be the shouting, grumpy, person.  But I always remind them of one thing: we’re in this together.  I don’t have enough hours in the day, I tell them, to do their chores and feed them, clothe them, wash, clean, and cook.  Put that way, it seemed to sink in.  Noah started making his own lunch before bed – I never asked him.

Finally, it’s sinking in.  I headed them off at the pass, sure.  But more than that, they understood what I’ve been telling them forever: we’re stronger together than when we’re apart.

Of Lemon Bars and Lunches

One of our weekend experiments - now that we have a clean house!

I had an epiphany the other day – one I’ve spoken of before, but more definite than ever this time.  Our home has been a mess, and I do mean a gigantic, garbage-strewn, dirty clothes, clean-clothes-mountain mess the likes of which I haven’t seen in my time as a parent.  I realize that there are certain things that I will have to adjust to doing before we hit our stride, but it’s frustrating that a year into our new story that things can’t seem to stay on track.  My middle daughter, after trying on her new shirt asks if she can take off the tags.  When I say “yes” she pulls it off and literally drops it on the floor, in the middle of the living room, with no thought whatsoever as to how completely ridiculous it is that she’d use the floor as a garbage can.  That was Saturday.

Sunday, as the weekend’s events weighed on me, my back hurting (still really bad, as a matter of fact) I realized that the only way to avoid the massive weekend from hell every single weekend was to ensure that the work gets done every day.  If Hannah doesn’t do the dishes I verbally assault her until she does.  If the laundry isn’t put away I lambast my sons until they do it.  If the food isn’t warmed up for dinner I criticize my daughter for texting with friends in her bedroom and not watching her siblings.  More importantly, though, I came to the conclusion that no matter how tired, beat down, or mentally fried I am, I need to do these things anyway to ensure that we have time over the weekends to do more than clean and catch up on what we didn’t do during the week.

That doesn’t mean my kids get out of their chores.  What it does mean is that if they don’t do them the punishments come when I do them in the evening.  TV, computer, video games, all of them disappear.  I allow reading, that’s it.

The attempt is to try and gain some semblance of what I had growing up.  I know that it’s not ever going to be the same.  I’m not an at-home Dad, though I wish I was.  I don’t have a lot of time when I get home before the kids have to get the bedtime routine going, but at least it’s that: a routine.  Dinner at the table, an hour or more together, showers, midnight snacks, brushing of teeth and then reading a bit before bed.  All of it part of a routine that helps them feel stable and cared for.

So after this last weekend, when I had to have lost 5 or 10 pounds just in pure sweat, we got a good portion of the house picked up and cleaned.  I got the kitchen cleaned.  I made sure that everything was picked up.  I have a weekend of craziness, with Abbi’s prom and the concert both girls were supposed to attend now an Abbi/Daddy night.  As much as I’m sure she is loving that we get to do this together, I know that she also was disappointed that her sister isn’t going along with us.

I know this sounds like I’m being self-effacing and complaining but I’m not.  I came to the realization that life has to be put first, everything else second.  I don’t necessarily like that, but when I get home and the hallway from the garage and the main room are clean I don’t stress out first thing in the door.  I also needed to come to terms with the fact that my selfish nature couldn’t take over when I need to just do the family duties.

Tonight was no exception.  I made the lunches, while my son asked me why I took the time to make them all if it was so much work?  But like my mother, I know I can control the nutrition and the items in the lunch boxes.  I made homemade lemon bars for the first time, realizing there’s a reason they say “DO NOT OVERCOOK” in the recipe but hoping they taste OK anyway.  Why?  Because I realize that my kids are better off with the desserts and items I cook myself, not the sugar and preservative-filled pre-made desserts in the stores.  I bought a new Sunbeam stand mixer so that I can make things quicker and easier.  My sons, if they eat the ready-made foods go nuts – bouncing off the walls, spiderman, arachnid, peel them off the ceiling crazy.

I spent so much time just trudging through life that I wasn’t taking care of life.  Now I realize that it’s the most important thing.  The more I take care of the better off we’ll be.  We can drive to Big Tree Park.  We can take a few days off and head to San Diego or the Grand Canyon.  It seems like such a simple, easy thing, but it’s harder than you think.  When I have to take care of everything we forgot over the week on the weekend, you can’t really do more than cook and clean.

Now, though I wish all the kids were coming along, I’m going to Oakland for a concert with my daughter and spending the night overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.  We’ll eat breakfast on the beach.  It could have been me and my girls, but I had to stand by my punishment and not let her come along.  It’s like the overcooked lemon bar or the homemade lunch.  It may be a high price, but paying it will have far bigger benefits later on.