Here’s to All the Last-Minute Moms and Dads out there!

I — we — don’t mean to do it. Sometimes the events, the appointments, the important dates just sort of sneak up when we’re busiest. And at some times of the year, it’s a shitstorm of sneakiness: medical appointments blending with birthday parties and end-of-year school trips, impending in-law visits and changing work schedules and due dates for tasks. Thank heaven for the alarm on my phone — but if only I would remember to put everything into it . . .

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So here’s to the parental grapevine, and those moms I know who keep their phones handy. I appreciate the stress relief of the jokes, the shared moments, and I’m eternally grateful for the loan of last-minute supplies like bug spray. I may have known about Tuesday’s Pond Study trip since Friday, but somehow, we skipped out on gathering what he needs until about an hour ago. The kid’s got the clothes and the water bottles covered. It’s the bug spray that has me concerned. The voracious local insect hordes love him as much as they love me, so for the kid to go out in the marsh and pond areas gathering samples, he’s going to need to be virtually soaked in something that will keep them bastards off him. I’ve got Skin-so-Soft, but I know he’ll need something stronger, plus maybe a netted hat. Thank heaven that I’ve got friends . . . We’ve nailed the bug spray for tomorrow, and I should be able to get him a netted hat in the morning from the local bait shop.

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Here’s to keeping to a budget, and knowing where to shop for the little things. Although I forgot about the Pond Study tomorrow, I remembered at 3:50 that he had a birthday party to go to at 4:30, and made it to the pet store and back again with plenty of time to wrap the mini decorative beta fish tank I picked up there for $16.99 (I had to get a new bulb for the lizard’s tank anyway, so I was fortunate in killing two birds with one stone!), find him a card from the stash I keep in a shelf under a side table, and drop him off. Had I remembered the damned Pond Study trip, that would have been a good time to keep going to CanTire and get the rest of the stuff he needs . . . but I went home and napped until he had to be picked up again at 5:55 and taken to karate, to do his last training session before his grading tomorrow. Shit, that means I have to make sure the camera battery is charged, too.

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Here’s to making lists (even if we don’t look at them or stick to them or even know where they went to). The act of making the list itself is important. It’s like tying the string around the finger. The brain knows something’s up, even if that thing is still a little distant for a while. Alarms on the phone are better. Sadly, alarms can also be turned off and completely forgotten.

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Here’s to charging the phone! The alarm will only go off if the damned thing has power.

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Here’s to taking care of business right awayMy nine-year-old daughter is annoyingly good at this. She will pack her bags a week before a scheduled visit with the grandparents, or a sleepover with a friend. She insists on shopping for birthday presents the day she gets the invitation. Last week, Bridget brought home a form about Safe-Swim training being provided through her school, but we still had to get a new swimsuit on the quick, because I didn’t move on finding her stuff as soon as she told me. Procrastination, my old enemy . . . we meet again and again and again.

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Here’s to finding out the absolute last final due dates. The good news for ordering school photos is that these days, if you miss the school order deadline, you can still order online through the photography studio for up to a month after the end of school! I know, because I had to search for the info today having not yet ordered the spring prints for either of my children, particularly the one about to graduate from middle school . . .

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So here’s to all the last-minute parents out there, whether you’re single or attached, foster or grand — I raise my coffee to you. We always swear that the next time we know about an event, we’ll be fully prepared. We’ll store extra presents in the closet and spare wrapping paper and tape where we can easily find it. We’ll go out as soon as we get the field trip permission form (damn, I still have to sign that for the Pond Study) and get the kid’s supplies ready days in advance. We won’t be out cruising the streets at 10 pm at night, trying to find an open store that actually has the stuff that we need.

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Here’s to getting creative, when we have to be. And the crazy ideas we get, trying to make do on short notice. I was contemplating buying a hanging mosquito screen door thingy, to cut into a hat-cover for the boy, but I’m holding out hope for the bait shop in the morning.

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Here’s to getting up on time, after staying up late trying to get the things done that couldn’t be done while the kids were still awake.

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Here’s to double-duty, for those who have to keep straight multiple lists and children and schedules and appointments. There’s a set of things to do at home, and a set to do at work. Sometime’s it’s just a nightmare of juggling timetables and rides, and it’s hard to avoid the blame game.

Shame

Here’s to avoiding the blame game. It doesn’t do any good to get mad when time is short and supplies are missing. We can talk about the mistakes later. If the clock is ticking and something is missed, we problem-solving parents know how to hustle — and kids learn how to cope. That doesn’t necessarily mean subjecting my son to slow torture by mosquito hell — if we can’t get everything he’s going to need, he’ll have to miss out on the experience. I know one perspective is to allot the responsibility to the boy: Some parents might blame their child who’s old enough to know the deal for not stepping up to the plate and taking care of business. But I extend that to myself for not providing a better role model or insisting that he get the job done. I’m the parent. It’s up to me to set the example and the tone. Blame can paralyze, though. Blame doesn’t get things done. Guilt’s a motivator, sure, but blame wastes time. Do the mea culpa part after the kid’s on the bus with a full backpack and bug spray.

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(deep breath)

Here’s to you, last-minute running, caffeine-loaded, sleep-deprived moms and dads and guardians. This one’s for you.

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Counting down to exams . . .

The local trees are finally putting out leaves and blossoms. Took them long enough! I went to pick up dinner tonight, and caught the scent of fresh nectar or whatever it is, and at first I thought a woman wearing heavy perfume had walked by, it was that strong. Lovely.

Also explains my prickling nose and itchy eyes.

I’ve got a countdown on my class whiteboard, and the final assignments are being typed up. 14 classes remain until exams. I suspect, though, that I’ll start to feel panicky on Monday when I realize it’s June 1 and there’s still so much to do . . .

Grade 9 — we’ll start their essay on Monday, comparing three texts: the class novel, Cue for Treason, the students’ individual novel selections, and our play study, The Tempest. The students also need to clean up / edit their blog posts for the course culminating activity, and anyone exempt from writing the final exam has to decide whether to challenge it anyway.

Grade 11 — we’ll do business letters on Monday and Tuesday, maybe Wednesday. Then, we have to do basic report-writing, on a topic relating to our class novel Yes Man as well as the independent novel studies and other texts we looked at together. Similar to the Grade 9 essay, but structured differently. Plus they also have to clean up their blog posts and receive their exam review.

Writer’s Craft — they’re currently developing book trailers while I compile (and continue editing) their novel excerpts into the class anthology. Then, starting Monday, we’ll do submission letters to publishers for practice, and then they’ll be finalizing their blogs, cleaning them up, and preparing for their exit interviews. Thank heavens that course doesn’t have a final exam!

I’m not ahead or on top of my marking, so I’ve got to address that this week, too. I guess, over gardening and other stuff, that needs to be priority. I should stay at the school late at night to focus on everything and get it done. So many problems with that, though . . .

We’re all tired at this point. Tired of the routine, and the regimented days, and the demands of the system. This is another one of those times when I kind of wish I could fast-forward or experience the next month as a montage with a kick-ass soundtrack. But like Adam Sandler in Click, I’d lose out on the depth of the experience. It’s not just the marking that’s coming — it’s my son’s next karate grading, the start of soccer season, play rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park, and getting ready for Jack’s grade 8 graduation. I want to put my daughter in some summer activities, too, although we’re too late to register for a few of them. Why is it always such a struggle to find balance?

Somebody take me away . . . I need a holiday.

I wish I could sequester myself away from everything for two weeks. Imagine how much I could get done without any of the regular distractions!

I took a personal day today (booked it off last week), in part to attend a meeting about my daughter’s psychometric assessment and in part because I needed the boost. I’ve been hitting another wall, which is typical for this time of year, and if I don’t use the personal days, I lose them anyway. But I had hoped to use my day to accomplish some things while the kids weren’t at home, and guess what? I slept instead. Went to the metting, came home, conked out until lunchtime. Ate lunch and then napped again. As a consequence, I now have a bit more energy and patience than I might normally have at this time of night, which is good for getting things done.

But that would have to include not keeping up with two separate conversations at once.

I might be able to do some cleaning (other than the lizard’s tank). I could see doing that. However, it gets incredibly frustrating trying to clean while carrying on two separate conversations. Better to wait until the kids are in bed.

I just worry about the vicious cycle starting again: staying up too late in an effort to get things done, tackling overdue tasks, and then being dependent on coffee throughout the next day, crashing after work, only to scrampble to have patience and energy after the nap. This seems to be the story of my life.

School things to do:

  • marking
  • lesson planning
  • exam development (although that might mean just tweaking last year’s, or last semester’s)
  • writer’s craft anthology is ready to compile

Home things to do:

  • finish reading / checking the proof of Crystal and Wand, which should have been done two weeks ago (sincerest apologies to my publisher)
  • organize / sort stuff to be put away in the living room
  • sweeping and washing floors (or enabling kids to do that, once the floors are fully accessible)
  • garden planning (and I have to pick up top soil and compost, young plants, and do the weeding)
  • memorizing lines for The Comedy of Errors
  • planning a (potential) book release party
  • supervise sorting and folding of laundry . . . and the putting away of the laundry
  • supervise cleaning of the bathrooms
  • repair the torn cushion of our couch (thanks, Skittles!)
  • help Bridget to finish sewing her skirt and her doll clothes
  • sort and purge files
  • remove the thick layer of dust that is on everything that doesn’t get used frequently
  • budgeting and paying bills (SOOO close to having another loan paid off!)

The trouble with these lists is that a) they’re fairly perpetual, and b) even when I make a list of things to do, all it results in is pissing me off because I can’t get all the things done. I’ve been trying to focus on the priority issues, but that changes day to day. I try to focus on getting one thing done, and that helps. But then I feel pathetic for not being able to do more.

Imagine if we had a second Spring Break in May. That would mean having exams a week later, OR starting school a week earlier, at the end of August. I could really do with that change in schedule. I could do with a lot of things, though. Like a professional organizer. More storage. A system of labeled bins and drawers and shelves for all the stuff that gets left out all over the place. A place to exercise, so I can be physically healthier, too, without taking too much time away from the other stuff. I need a plan so I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore.

I am going to make a cup of tea and then try to tackle something else in the living room. Hubby’s out for the evening at a meeting, so this might be a good time to clean a bit. Clean, or proofread. A bit of both?

Update: I have made progress on my proofreading! And I feel like I’ve got some momentum, now. I’m at the 34th page of 275 (pg 28 of the story), but I’m going to make myself stop for the night to make sure I’ve got enough energy for classes, etc. But progress is good!

On the plus sides of volunteering

I continued breaking my pattern today! I slept in a bit, but then I had a meeting through most of the afternoon, and after getting ahead on some grass cutting (and getting Hubby to help, while the boy sorted and folded some laundry), I went to a fellow volunteer’s house to help cut up 50-50 draw tickets, and I ended up spending the whole evening there. 

Marvelous. 

I am not used to having adult-time outside of school. Normally, aside from the kids’ activities, once I’m home, I’m home. I’m in for the night. Occasionally this bothers me. I get jealous of my hubby’s involvement in his different volunteer groups, although he’s always been very appreciative of the support I give him for them. He’s told me over and over that without having his back, by being home with the kids, he wouldn’t be able to go out and help others through Victims Services, the Lodge, or Shriners. And I get that, I really do.

But some nights, I crave that grownup time. I adore my children, of course, yet we need breaks from each other. I used to volunteer a lot in high school, but my time declined in university and turned into extracurriculars after I started teaching, so in recent years, the majority of my volunteering has been with young people, relating to the school. 

I spent about eight hours today amongst adults with whom I have other things in common, working on a goal, no kids in the vicinity needing my attention or to have something explained or needing boundaries or with fights requiring mediation. 

Glorious.

I really think that getting involved in community things is essential for good mental health. I can feel the lift in myself, partly from breaking out of my typical weekend rut. Mind you, my house didn’t get any cleaner, and other stuff I have to get at didn’t get done, but at least I’m not feeling gloomy or down. My kids were a bit shocked that I was going out on a school night, but I think it’s good for them, too. 

So, if you are in a rut or need to make friends, I highly recommend taking a chance on volunteering for something, even if it’s just one night a week. Go with a friend if you’re shy. Make this summer your summer of giving back and spreading good energy in your community! 

A leap forward in making use of time

I broke my Saturday pattern today! Didn’t quite shatter it, but made a significant improvement in my usual list of activities, and without having to leave town to do it. Here’s what I did:

  • weeded the front garden
  • sorted three piles of mail
  • organized the vestibule
  • had two naps
  • took the dog and the daughter for a walk to buy garbage bags
  • put away the winter extension cords

There were quite a few other things I wanted to get done, but I count it as a victory that I didn’t sleep half or most of my day away. It helped that my son had to go to a karate workshop at 10 am, so I had to get up at a reasonable time to get him moving, too. And that the sun came out at 11 am, warming it up enough outside to be comfortable. 

I’m always so torn, at this time of year, between being outside as much as possible and using the sunlight to fuel spring cleaning on the inside. There isn’t enough time for both. I want my house to be aesthetically pleasing, as well as clean and organized, but that’s a losing battle. The outside is much easier to manage. It’s just dirt, weeds, and whatever useful plants I put in the ground. And dog poop, but I can handle that. On the inside, there’s the piles of laundry that never seem to end, the stacks of mail that ought to be sorted and filed (I’m sharing that blame with the hubby, because he’s just as bad as I am with opening and filing envelopes. I don’t open his correspondance, and he doesn’t open mine, so between the two of us, there’s a healthy pile of paper to manage!), and all the other stuff that adds up to clutter. 

The good news, though, is that my Bridget is getting better at helping out! She cleaned up her crafting mess this afternoon, without having to be told a second time, and she started cleaning her room (with the help, and perhaps urging, of her little friend Jason). And I have a promise from Jack to sort and fold ALL of the laundry this weekend for some spending money for his upcoming grade 8 trip to Toronto. I also surprised the heck out of myself on Friday evening by vaccuming the couch and finally putting the cushion covers back on — although I can’t find one of them in the laundry pile . . . Remember what I said about the losing battle, though? It’s not just the two-legged family members who are responsible for that. I found a bag of cookies (hard as a rock) and a bag of mashed-up hamburger buns in the couch, and the next morning, when I started on the love seat, I found a — wait for it — stick of butter buried between the cushion and the arm. And it’s not the first time Skittles has buried butter in the couch! But, still, we are making progress — Jack is helping out by cleaning up whatever mess the dog has made when he gets home, though I still have to ask him to do so 75% of the time. Baby steps, right?

Tomorrow, I have a meeting at 12 that will last most of the afternoon. My mission is to get more cleaning done inside and weed another patch of garden. Plus I have my marking, and I have to wrap up the edits / proofreading that are taking me far too long on Crystal and Wand — that latter has been a real struggle to complete. Doesn’t help that I’ve had more days lately where I can’t sit or stand comfortably for more than a few minutes, but the regular visits to the chiropractor are helping with that, little by little. I used a chair to help me with the weeding today, but I found that I couldn’t do much more than 20 minutes without pain. It’s hard to focus on certain things when you’re hurting. For my friends with chronic pain isues — I know I don’t have it as badly as you do, but over the last month or two, my understanding has definitely increased. 

So, goals are set and I will work on being easier on myself for not getting all things accomplished. I feel like I should be some kind of Super Woman, and it’s hard to accept that I am not. Would be much easier to be resolved either way, though.

A quick caffeine-fueled note between things

Tonight’s procrastination is brought to you by a caffeine-fueled whip through specific scenes of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, as I’ve taken it into my head to make my first-ever fan vid. Also marking sonnets at the same time. And thinking about the field trip in three days (eeeek!) and all the things I have yet to do for that.

So I probably shouldn’t have had coffee at 8:30, but at present, I’m not close to wilting, although I could get sleepy if I wanted. But I need to finish catching up on things, and I’m still a bit buzzy — I might even get another set of assignments done before I hit the sack!

At this time of year, I’m extremely envious of those of my peers who have decks, patios, and comfortable outdoor seating. It’s rather painful to have to sit indoors to do my marking when the sun is warm and the air is sweet, before the waves of mosquitoes and blackflies begin. I tried going picnic-style on Sunday, with a blanket on the ground, and after a half an hour or twenty minutes my back protested so much that it’s not likely to happen again. I do have some lawn furniture — a couple of plastic chairs — and a folding table, but none of them are comfortable for long. These days, I almost feel like it’s better just to stand.

Ergonomics are a bitch for tall people.

In which I ruminate on a fresh story idea and upcoming things to do

Imagine if there was a little girl whose tangled hair could catch fairies?

While working on getting my 9 year old to take a bath and brush her hair, that’s what I said to her, and it called to mind all kinds of interesting images and possibilities.

Like, what would happen if Bridget’s hair was a fairy-net? She’d go running across a field or through a trail in the woods, and come out with one or two of the Wee Folk waving from behind her ears, calling to be let free. Worse than touching your hair and feeling a mosquito or a deerfly buzzing around back there! I mean, that’s alarming enough, to reach back and where you expect nothing but softness and maybe an elastic or barrette come loose, there’s a tumbling, vibrating, bumbling creature bouncing against your fingers or the palm of your hand. If it were a fairy, though, or a pixie, or a leprechaun, would there also be hell to pay? Or would they be understanding of the mistake?

Some people are particularly attractive to mosquitoes. What if someone was attractive to supernatural creatures, through no fault of his/her own?

I’m thinking it’s a a great story idea and now it’s floating around in my head, wanting a plot line and characters and a rich setting to play in. I’ll put a pin in it, as the saying goes now, as I’ve got to get other things done first.

How would you brush fairies out of your hair, though? Would their wings get caught? Maybe if it was curly . . . They might not like the smell of the leftover shampoo fragrance. What if the person who owned the hair didn’t even notice the fairies at first! How would you explain that to the poor little things, watching a great big comb coming down at them? Minding their own business, working happily around the forest, visiting relatives and picking up roots and berries for supper, when a great wind comes up and blows them into a tangled web of silky strands. At first, they think it’s a spider’s web — would that be a fairy’s greatest fear, to be caught by an untamed spider? — but quickly learn it’s something else entirely. It’s a human’s hair.

Would time flow differently for a fairy, being so small? What seems like hours to them might be only minutes for us. So upon being caught up in the hair, the fairies might have to resort to drastic means for freedom.

Makes me think of the Spiderwick Chronicles. I enjoy those stories. I’ve also got the Squished Fairy Book, and I love reading Jenny Twist’s story, Away With the Fairies. Hubby showed me a video tonight, too, taken by a mother who claims she saw a tiny man running through her kitchen.

Yup. I’ve been hit with the next thing to work on as a WIP, already. Not even a day out of the last one.

Meanwhile, I’ve got the Ottawa ComicCon trip in one week (yikes!), plus sharing carpooling of our 14 year old with another boy to referee training sessions this weekend (sadly, the timing is such that we won’t get to see Avengers: Age of Ultron right away), and I’m auditioning for a part in Shakespeare in the Park, so I have to work on my monologue and playing my French horn. Hubby did a lovely job of starting our spring cleaning in the house, so that needs to be kept going, and progress reports for the month have to go out on Monday, thus I must spend a few hours finalizing marks and reading blogs. Tomorrow I have to remember to pick up waffles and fixings, plus decorations, for my writing students’ Camp NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up party, and decide who will receive buttons as awards for different things.

And it’s Beltane tomorrow. My old University coven is getting together, hours away from here, and I wish I could be with them to celebrate. At least, for this fire festival, the snow is mostly off the ground. It could be possible to follow the tradition of bathing my face in the first morning dew, if it’s not frosty out. That’s something else that needs tending this weekend, or after work: my gardens need cleaning up and clearing out for fresh planting. And I need to plan out the expansion. I want to add two or three more beds this year, as I work to make the most of our backyard space.

Hope I don’t get anything caught in my hair, short as it is. Bugs or fairies. I don’t need itchy bites, burning stings, or Wee Folk curses hurled in my direction!

Oh, and still no title for the Snowmobile Story. It’ll come to me. Been getting suggestions from students, too.