Thursday, August 28, 2014

Seconds

For most of my life, I've thought myself very capable of juggling large lists of information in my brain. I'm big on visualization: imagine yourself walking into Target and remember that you need to buy dish detergent. And, for most of my life, this system has worked just fine. I walk into Target, and as I pass through the doors and a list pops up on my mind's eye, and VoilĂ ! listless grocery shopping complete!

Fritz, on the other hand, has been a prolific note-taker as long as I've known him. He claims that he began making lists and taking notes when he was 12 years old and couldn't walk the two blocks between his home and his grandmother's home without forgetting what item he was suppose to retrieve.

I've always watched Fritz and his hyper-logic system with a bit of exasperation. Why waste all that time writing stuff down? What a drag! Just think about what you are going to do when you need to remember and you'll be fine! Or sometimes, I've thought to myself, I'm so lucky that I can remember stuff so well! Man, I have such a great brain for visualizing! I know! I could be a little more humble, right?

Well, about two years ago, my visualization system stopped working. At first, I thought it was the pregnancy. Then I thought it was baby hormones. Nowadays, I'm blaming the kids, who interrupt me every 10 seconds. Because: my brain? It's just not managing the information very well. Two years later I've decided it's not a phase that's about to end. I need new techniques and new ways to juggle information and stay focused on the now.

When faced with a problem, I read to collect information about how to solve the problem. Generally, I find reading the fastest and most efficient way to collect data. (You know how in the past few years a lot of websites post VIDEO CLIPS to learn about their product? I HATE THAT! Data transmission is toooo slooooow. Urgh. )

Anyway.  I don't have a lot of time to read books = part of the problem. But I got a stack of time management books from the library. (Thank goodness for putting books on hold online or I'd actually be forced to look through a library shelf by subject....) Now I'm skimming them for ideas. Basically, they are telling me I need to use Fritz's time management strategy. So, I'm working on it. New systems always require a bit of time to get off the ground.

There is something nagging at me, however. That is: all these books are written with busy professionals in mind. I think that the work of taking care of children is somehow fundamentally different than what (even) a busy office manager might experience. My day passes by IN SECONDS, not minutes. Within two minutes (an eternity!) I might do all of the following:
  • load three plates into the dishwasher
  • stop a toddler from pulling something out of the dishwasher
  • run to check on a crying child
  • get crying child a bandaid
  • get a pencil for a kid doing homework
  • tell homework child he has to find a pencil sharpener himself
  • ask injured child to put the bandaid in the trash can
  • pry pencil (eraser end in mouth) from the toddler
  • notice toddler needs a diaper change
  • assist homework child with stool to search for pencil sharpener in high cabinet
  • close trash cupboard door left open by injured child
  • direct injured child to sit on the couch and rest
  • pry pencil (eraser end in mouth) from the toddler
  • put pencil out of toddler's reach
  • open trash cupboard door for homework child to sharpen pencil
  • return stool to storage
  • help homework child find pencil
  • pry toddler away from three plates in dishwasher 
  • close dishwasher door 
  • make mental note to finish loading dishwasher when toddler is occupied
  • pull toddler out of trash cupboard
  • decide to change toddlers diaper so that I can "have a break"
It's relentless. Note-taking is NOT going to help this situation, you know?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Days

No separation anxiety here. (Yet.) 
[photo removed]

School starts slowly. The first few days are half days; in the afternoon are appointments for the teachers to do beginning-of-the-year testing with each child individually. I've never heard of another school that does it this way. But maybe I'm not a very good listener.

The nervous energy comes home with Noah at noon. It spins off him and slaps the walls of house  repeatedly. All afternoon. Sometimes, the reverberation collides with Mattias or Trixie. I find myself issuing time outs on top of Times Outs! Even though the time outs are obviously not working. "Be gentle! Slow down! Think about what you are doing!" Lately, I find it most effective to take Noah aside, ensure eye contact at eye level, and appeal to his sense of greatness. "Maybe you see other kids doing that, but that doesn't mean you should do it, too. I want you to be a loving, caring person. I want you to take care of other people, for your whole life. How can you do that if you aren't practicing now, at home, with your brother and sister?"

Until I hear otherwise, I choose to believe that the kids save their most angelic behavior for other adults and keep The Rest for me, the person with whom they are most comfortable. It's an HONOR, I try to convince myself, eyebrows raised. Well, at least this way, I can see IT, know IT, address IT. Now is my chance, I think, while I still have influence.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Growing

Yesterday, I noticed Mattias' fingernails were really long and dirty.

"Hey, Bud, remind me to cut those fingernails when we get home. They're pretty long and dirty." I told him.

When we got home, he went to wash his hands. He came out of the bathroom and exclaimed,

"Mom! I know why my fingernails are so long! When I wash my hands, they get water. Dirt and water makes fingernails grow!"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Just V, Etsy Announcement

Today, the house is calm. Just the five of us. Well, four, since Fritz is already at work. It feels magical to be just us again.



A couple of you have asked about the link to my Etsy store. Yup, I've opened an Etsy store. I'm having so much fun making things! I have no business plan, but an insatiable desire to create. I'd be honored if you checked it out and tell me what you think. I have little idea where I'm going with this. Maybe you can give me some tips? It just feels so good to be creating....

Monday, August 18, 2014

Direction

As the summer vacation comes to a close, I'm feeling quite overloaded.

Relative to last summer, I think I did a great job with the kids and their schedules. The pacing felt right; nothing dragged too much; I'm even looking forward to the last week of vacation with the kids and not in a desperate kind of way.

However, on a personal level, I'm pretty angry and resentful. The predominant theme of the summer seemed to be one in which I felt constantly taken advantage of. Two adages immediately come to mind each time I mutter "taken advantage of" to myself. The first one is, nobody takes advantage of you without your permission, and the second one is, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Leaving aside the fact that an adage is just an adage (not any sort of truth) I've spent a lot of time the last week or two thinking about how I got myself into this mess, and how I can avoid it in the future.

As life goes, I'm really, really ready for change. I've been doing this little kids and babies gig for SEVEN years, and I feel like I have 4ish more years to go. I think it is totally fair to be tired of it. Have you ever read those statistics where the average American changes jobs every 5 years or something like that? (I bet Germans don't change jobs that often, but whatever, I'm American.) Hey, maybe I'm just, you know, really part of this culture, and it's ingrained in me without my explicit permission, and NO WONDER I feel like I need a new gig.

Well, I think my frustration with all the little kid baby stuff led me to take some risks that I maybe should not have taken. I let myself be convinced that my commitment would be worthwhile. And unfortunately, I think other people had their own personal agenda which they thought would (could?) complement what I needed. So, see? It felt like a matter of nothing ventured, nothing gained. I thought I could take the risk and maybe it would change the situation. And I really, really wanted change. My judgement was clouded by my need for change.  But...no. Positive synergy was not what happened. Instead, I was over-committed. Chaos accelerated and I born the brunt of the situation many, many times over in the last 10 weeks.

I have always liked the adage that nobody takes advantage of you without your permission, because it suggests that I am the agent of change in my life. I've never liked to think of myself as a victim; I'd much rather believe that I am in control of me, whatever that might mean. Perhaps: I took some risks, I failed, I have nobody to blame but myself. Of course, that's not entirely true, but at least it gets me thinking about what I need to do differently in the future.

1) I need to reinvest in my decision to be a stay at home parent. It was not (continues not to be) an easy decision. But it was conscientious; it was based on specific principles and values. Every now and then I find myself needing a little reminder since the motivation lies outside of conventional wisdom and the predominant cultural values.

2) Time for our houseguest visits to wrap up. Maybe for quite a while. I've written several unpublished posts on this over the course of the summer on this topic. Basically, times are changing here at the Wyse home; what worked two years ago doesn't work anymore. The guest room will be closing.

3) Specific investment of my time. I need to do start doing more of the things that I want to do, and less of the things that other people think I should do. With three little kids, there is so, so little time for my own pursuits. I must start saying no to the requests of other adults, who somehow think that I'm available just because my workday doesn't start at 8 am and end at 6:00pm. I've got some stuff I want to do: I'm prioritizing MY stuff. Strangely, with three kids, this is more difficult than ever, but also more necessary. For my sanity.