Just Heather

School is out in just 3 short weeks. After that it will be me vs. 3 (maybe 4 and sometimes 5) kids. There will be no panic. There will be no fear. I have a plan! Because I learned that lesson years ago.

My first summer home with 2 kids was pretty much a disaster. Stacia had gotten used to the structure at school. Brenia and I had gotten into our own routine. The two didn’t mesh and, thus, chaos ensued. I tried different tactics week after week, summer after summer, until I finally figured it out. We needed a schedule in the summer just like we had through the school year.

Our yearly calendar is made up of school holidays, Girl Scouts, dance lessons, choir rehearsal and a number of other after school activities. We know that Tuesday is Scout day, Thursday is dance class and Friday is gym. The girls anticipate what is coming and respond accordingly.

All of those activities end around the same time that school does. It seems like it should be a relaxing summer, what with not having 3 places to be every day. Instead our summers were chaotic, with the 3 of us running around not knowing what to do or what was coming next. There was no time for the girls to prepare for each day because we had no idea where we would end up. There was nothing but instant reaction, often as a tantrum.

Starting with the Thursday park playdate that my church group had arranged, I landed on a summer schedule that works for us. It includes fun things to do, time to finish chores and a plan for each day. I think I’ve finally struck the right balance between enjoying a relaxed summer vacation and maintaining the structure my girls thrive on.

If you’re looking for ideas on free activities, check out my website. If you really want to know how my days will go all summer, read my ehow article on the subject.

We moved to this city, an hour away from all my friends, nearly 10 years ago. In that time, I’ve made very little progress in making new friends and done a crappy job of keeping up with the old ones. Part of that was being a stay-at-home mom. Where was I supposed to meet people?

When Stacia started school, I thought I’d finally have the opportunity. I met plenty of other moms, but that’s when I realized something—I am was a young mom. Stacia came along in my early 20s. As in, I turned 21 when she was 2 months old. That put me at a disadvantage in the making friends department because there was such a divide between the other moms and me.

Now that Brenia is in school, I have met several moms like me (that’s moms who are like me, not MomsLikeMe, though I’ve met several of them too). There’s a connection between Montessori Moms and natural living that I was not aware of when I researched schools. This has been quite helpful in meeting people who share my interests and lifestyle. Plus, now that I’m an old mom the age gap has been erased.

One of the moms I met was Angie. Angie was smarter than I when she became a mother in a new area and she has what I’ve been craving. She inspired me in ways she could have never known (except she will now!). I set out to find it for myself. I started a Bunko group and invited all the women I kinda, sorta knew from school, Scouts and IndyMoms.

To be honest, we rarely play bunko. Mostly, it’s just a group of women who share cocktails once a month, laugh, share stories and commiserate. Our group is small, but I cling to our monthly girls’ nights like a lifeline. I didn’t realize how much it meant to me until last month, when our regular night fell on Good Friday and we failed at scheduling a new date.

Last Friday night, my friend and I decided to go out anyway. It was exactly what I needed. I wore a little black dress, but not the little black dress (that’s still 40×40“>on my list) and we hit the Indie Lounge theater to see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past starring my fictional boyfriend. We thought the movie was hilarious, but were apparently in the minority. Did I mention this theater has a bar? Clearly the other attendees should have taken advantage of the fabulous concession stand.

A chick flick, cocktails and girl time—obviously a new necessity.

  • We still own our first house and the last tenants skipped out without paying the last months rent plus their dog trashed the carpets. All of the savings we had set aside to pay Brenia’s tuition has been spent on the house & mortgage over the last 3 months instead. We’re shooting for RTO this time in hopes of finally unloading it.
  • They ended up fully promoting Brenia to 1st grade even though they were going to “interim” her for a semester. By the time we got to graduation, they decided she would be ready after all.
  • I think her new glasses helped with that. At the end of the year, a basic school screening showed vision problems. Turns out she’s legally blind in 1 eye. They are slowly correcting it as her doc thought she would reject glasses at her full prescription. Her follow-up exam today went well and he doesn’t think we’ll have to patch it as previously feared.
  • In some of the best news of my life, Spencer’s mom moved to NC over the summer. I can’t begin to tell you how much that rocks for us both as a couple and a family.
  • In related, hilarious news, she is now engaged. Yes, again. I think that’s 8 rings thus far, but only 5 have actually resulted in divorce (I mean, marriage).
  • Stacia is at the intermediate school, which seems better than the elementary. I would still love to move her to Montessori, but we just can’t afford it right now.
  • Fox59 is still going well, I think. I haven’t seen anyone with authority in weeks. I just show up, with my segment prepped, the props ready and do the show with an anchor. I’m assuming that is a good thing as there is clearly a lot of trust on their part in that. Normally, guests have to be escorted around the studio, but I can never even find anyone available to ask. They just let me in and I do my thing.
  • We got a Wii Fit a few weeks ago. I am loving being back into Yoga, but frustrated that after 30 minutes per day of mostly aerobic activities I have actually gained 2 pounds instead.
  • I got involved with a domestic violence shelter in the spring. Mostly, I just decluttered my house (must read: It’s All Too Much) and helped the owner transport everything she needed or priced things for the charity yard sale. Then, I organized a school supply drive because the yard sale didn’t net enough for the 35 kids she has now (5 times more than last year). I bought backpacks for each kid, collected supplies all over town and obtained Mom sponsors so each child could have a new outfit & shoes. I am so pleased to say we met with great success-each child had absolutely everything they need.
  • It tugged on my heartstrings a lot, though, and now I’m not sure we’re done with little ones. There is a Safe Families program that places at risk children with volunteer families. It is a way for the families to house children while they get their lives together instead of remaining at risk and possibly losing custody or parental rights.  It’s on my list.
  • I signed Brenia up for dance class this year. She is so excited. The studio was planning an adult ballet class and I had decided to take it. I have wanted to get back into something like that forever. The very same day they announced that it wasn’t happening, I went to my church’s new auditorium kickoff where the dance ministry performed. I signed up on the way out and we start on Wednesday.

Math Bowl vs. Birthday: Last week, the Math Bowl competition (why, yes, I am the proud parent of a mathlete!) was canceled due to snow. I didn’t get it at all. In fact, we went out to dinner that night 20 minutes away and didn’t have a problem at all. When my daughter called to tell me it was canceled, she was devastated to tell me that it had been rescheduled for my birthday! The disappointment in her voice was so nice to hear. She truly wanted me to have a better birthday than sitting at an academic competition. What she doesn’t get is there isn’t anywhere I’d rather be than watching my children do something (and excel—1st place in district, 8th place in state) they love.

Ice Skating vs. Broken Bones: It was a grand birthday overall, let me tell you. After the Math Bowl, after dinner, after the kids were in bed I managed to drop a cabinet door on my foot while putting away their toys. It hurt, but I went to bed. By morning it was bruised, but not too bad. By noon, after a busy day, it was all kinds of purple, swollen and hurting pretty good. I, of course, waited until the next day to call the doctor. She saw me, but couldn’t decide. Doc said I would be okay to wait the weekend if I wanted and come back for x-rays if it didn’t get better. Upon finding out that I would probably have to have “bone pictures” on Monday (I didn’t), Brenia yells “But I have ice skating class on Mondays!”

Pothole vs. Landscaping: My activist opportunity of the month came after several weeks of frustration over a huge pothole in our neighborhood. I spent a month playing the apathetic game, assuming the city already knew about it. It occurred to me that maybe all 50 families affected were assuming the same thing. I visited the city’s website and learned all about the Public Works Department’s partnership with INDOT. It went on and on about the landscaping in the median and new roads. I thought that was a bit much since they couldn’t manage to maintain the current ones. I emailed the Director of Public Works about the issue over the weekend. On Sunday night, I received a response thanking me for bringing it to their attention. He said he spent the afternoon driving the city and cataloged all potholes, giving the one I referenced a Priority 1. They filled it the next morning! The cynic in me figures it was already on the books, but the political side of me wants to believe I made a difference.

Next Up: Anyone want to place bets on the winner of Reading vs. Houseworks?

The job of a SAHM is not an easy one. It is packed with carpools, runny noses, doctor appointments, and household chores. That image of the housewife sitting on the couch with her bon-bons? If only. But at the end of the day, I’m left looking around my trashed house wondering what it was I did all day that made me so tired.

A few months ago, we completed an exercise in my women’s ministry that shed some light on my daily life. I knew I was busy, I just didn’t realize how busy I truly was. We were given a grid with all the hours in a week and told to start filling it in. Begin with standing appointments and known tasks, then move on to things that aren’t scheduled, but require time out of our day. For example, I calculated that I spend 2 hours each day feeding and diapering the little one. That’s a task that is 5 minutes here, 20 minutes there, but adds up to a decent chunk of my day.

Turns out I have several such tasks—they don’t warrant a note on the calendar, but they do require much of my time. Supervising homework, returning non-sleeping kids to their beds, and cleaning spilled milk (yes, this is a daily one!), not to mention how many times this given-birth-3-times body goes to the bathroom each day. Once I filled in all the daily items, mundane chores (including laundry, coupon-clipping and grocery shopping), and, um, time with my husband—and allotted for 7 hours of sleep each night—there wasn’t a white space on the calendar.

So what happens when soccer season hits and each weekend suddenly needs nearly 5 extra hours—1 for practice, 1 1/4 for each game, and travel time back and forth all 3 trips? Or the bathroom crashes through the dining room and I’m pulled in 3 different directions for cleanup and repairs?

You get one over-worked, sleep deprived, celibate cranky mommy.

I am the worst daughter-in-law ever. I dutifully remembered to tell my mother about Stacia’s spring musical, but I neglected to tell any of her other grandparents. I most likely only told my mother because I was on the phone with her when the note came home from school.

It didn’t even dawn on me that I needed to inform anyone else until Mom called just now— from the road, on her way here for said musical—and asked who else was coming. Oops. My bad. Perhaps I can console myself with the fact that they saw the exact same musical last year, only she’ll be wearing orange instead of navy blue.

I’m pretty sure that would never in a million years fly with the mother-in-law, and I bet telling her it’s okay because I didn’t even remember to tell the in-laws I actually like would only make it worse. I repeat—I am the worst daughter-in-law. Ever.

Here’s hoping they sell DVDs again this year.

I wear so many hats: wife, Mommy, chef, maid, Brownie leader, business owner. Why do I feel so guilty if I take them all off for an hour to just be Heather? We have a routine at our house. Every night at 8 p.m. we give each girl a kiss and tuck them into bed. Hubby heads off to the office—which is now a corner of our bedroom. I take a nice, long bubble bath. This has been going on for about 3 years now. Yet every night, I feel like I should spend what little time we have in the evenings as his wife.

We don’t have a lot of alone time as a couple. Stacia came along 4 months after the wedding. Go ahead, do the math. Now that we have 3 kids, there’s rarely a moment’s peace. A part of me feels like our quiet evenings should be spent together. Then I remember why I do it. It rejuvenates me. It restores my soul. I can truly be his wife, instead of sitting next to him on the couch all evening as an exhausted shell of a mom. I spend an hour each evening washing the mom off, and the next two being a woman.

Bathtime isn’t the only time guilt sets in. Last year, I left town all by myself. Spencer played single dad for the first time ever. Oh, I’ve left for an evening or afternoon, but never before had he been in charge for a full 2 days. The girls wanted to go with me, and when they clung and pouted as I walked out the door I had a hard time remembering all the reasons they shouldn’t. Brenia was sick. Three hours in a car would not be fun. Stacia gets so emotional that she did not need to go to a funeral when she didn’t know the person. I needed the time to say goodbye when I wasn’t surrounded by others who needed me. But none of those reminders did anything to quell the guilt.

I think Mommy Guilt multiplies with each child. I worry phenomenally more about being a better mom. It filters into every aspect of our lives. I stress now over splitting my time even further and end up over compensating. Case in point: learning to sew in 3 days so I could make 18 aprons for my daughter’s Baking Birthday Party. I was successful, by the way, but at the expense of added guilt over how little time I spent planning the last birthday—nevermind that she’s only 3—and the feelings of abandonment the wee one suddenly developed while I spent several hours hunched over my new sewing machine.

She has now figured out the bathtime ritual and begins a preemptive tantrum as I start the water to prevent me from leaving her. She is not usually successful, though I do tend to rush out when her screams begin to waft up the stairs. My baths have gone from over an hour to barely 30 minutes, but I still manage to squeeze it in-guilt and all. Plus I get to feel guilty that he no longer gets to spend his alone time because he’s too busy dealing with our spoiled rotten mommy’s girl. I have decided to ignore that pang because I need it more.

Today I walked to the mailbox in my pajamas—greasy, I-haven’t-showered-in-two-days hair and all—just to get a break. I had an extra child yesterday so I have cuddle time to make up for baby. She cries if I set her down for a minute—even in her beloved swing. So off I went to get the mail as if my life depended on while she wailed her teeny head off inside. Now she’s snoring and I feel guilty that I have to put her down so I fix something to eat, but considering that both our bodies depend on that sustenance I’d best get to it.

I tell myself it will get better. One day she’ll outgrow the need for constant reassurance. One day none of them will even remember the things I guiltily stress over. One day I will sleep again. One day I will have the time to devote to my husband. One day I will see my children all grown up and realize I didn’t do so bad afterall—I hope.

Remember how excited I was that school was almost starting? Yeah, why didn’t someone remind me of the 50 million things to do, places to be, and meetings to attend. I completely blocked out a rather significant fact about the school year—we have about eleven hundred accompanying activities.

School starts in 2 days. I had my first meeting last night, the one for Girl Scout leaders. It brought everything back in stunning clarity. Free time? Right—the white spaces on my calendar are rapidly disappearing as activity schedules roll in.

  • Kids’ Church Choir—twice a month
  • Brownies—twice a month (being the leader did give me the opportunity to arrange the schedule so these two alternate)
  • Soccer—twice a week
  • PTO Meetings—once a month
  • PTO committees—I begged off this year (maternity leave?)
  • Brownie Leader Meetings—once a month
  • Bible Study—once a week (this one’s for me!)
  • Baby Doctor appointments—every two weeks for now; moves to weekly the last month (that doesn’t even account for the inevitable trips to the pediatrician now that everyone else’s germs will come home with my kid)

That works out to about 5 things each week. How ever did I manage to forget about that? For the foreseeable future my meeting notebook will be permanently grafted to my arm, my chauffer’s cap shall not be removed, and my bottom will be firmly planted in the doctor’s office waiting room. What idiot coined the term stay-at-home mom?