Doing the Clean/Write Juggle (or how to be a part-time writer and a part-time worker mom and still have clean dishes to eat on…)

I’ve just realized that it’s been a long time since I wrote any personal posts.

Not that my life hasn’t been quiet. Far from it. Ever since we’ve moved to Madison, I’ve been getting involved in a lot of things, personal and work-wise. It’s funny–a year ago, then only things taking up my calendar was Mommy and Me stuff: playgroup, MOPS, the occasional get-together with another family. Of course, being here, we’ve been getting to know people, catching up with old friends, making new ones, that it feels like we’ve been doing things nonstop. Which isn’t the case, but you know…

Okay, the real reason I’m writing this is to whine about my apartment being dirty.

I can’t clean it. I just can’t. Not for the lack of trying…well, okay maybe it is for the lack of trying. But it feels like ever since we moved here our apartment’s been junky. I mean really junky. Junk on the table and floor and bed junky.

Part of the problem is that there’s so little space. Our house back in Roselle wasn’t the paragon of purity, but at least it was easy to spread the mess around (or maybe I’m beginning to candy-coat our memories of the place there). Here, make a mess, and pretty soon, we’re stumbling and tripping over it, or pushing it to the side so we can eat, or dumping it in baskets so we can sleep. There’s no place to put all the piles.

Another problem is I’m procrastinating on it. Back in Roselle, I had all the time in the world to clean, because I was a stay-at-home mom. I set a schedule for myself: clean in the mornings, write in the afternoons, cook in the evening. Granted, that didn’t mean that the house still didn’t look Martha-Stewart perfect, but at least I had plenty of time to clean, have fun with Daniel and write. It was easy and fun to juggle.

Here, I work in the mornings, so my cleaning schedule is shot. I have a time window of roughly 4 hours to write and/or clean. I thought that would be easy to handle: bring him home, read him a story, clean write until 5pm, then cook. Except after I put Daniel down, I get sleepy, so I take a nap. A 15-minute nap quickly turns to an hour. Suddenly, it’s 2:30p, and I haven’t done anything. So I get up to clean, but then Daniel, who’s been puttering around his room for about an hour or so, chooses that moment to fall asleep. And seeing that I write better when he’s asleep than not, I figure, well, don’t want to waste his nap; might as well start writing now while I get a chance. So I write, and I get into a good groove, and next think I know it’s 5:30pm. I’ve written a good deal, but the house is still a mess, and I still got to cook, and crickets are coming out of our windows and…

Well, you catch my drift.

I did try to reverse it. Tried to write after I put Daniel down, but I found that I mainly waste that time surfing and checking email. I don’t get down to serious writing until at least 3pm…so logically the time after I put Daniel down should be when I clean, but it doesn’t happen.

This isn’t working.

As I’m sitting here writing this, a thought occurs to me. If Daniel’s not falling asleep until two or even three o’clock, why am I putting him down at one?

I assumed it would be the most logical thing to do. After all, it’s right after he eats lunch. I usually pick him up just as the other kids in his class are going down for their naps. I figured that would be a decent time for him to go down too. But usually, we walk home, and by the time, he’s keyed up from the walk, so it takes a long while for him to settle down.

What if, instead of putting him down immediately, I wait an hour, use that time to clean, and then put him down around 2pm? It would be more in line in how we used to do his naps–I usually waited until 2pm then. I’d be able to make more noise if he’s awake. I can even have him helping me; doesn’t hurt to start instilling cleaning habits now. And with him up and running about, I won’t be tempted to take a nap right away. Even if I did take a nap at 2, that should still give me a couple more hours to write at 3, when I’m in my writing groove.

That might work.

‘Course, this is all speculation. I’ll have to try it out and see. But I hope it does work. If I have a decent clean space by the time I write, I feel better, which means I write better, which means I don’t have to rush about to cook, which means that I’m happier overall.

Now if I can get my hubby to do the dishes every once in a while, I got it made.

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End of a Stay-At-Home Era…at Least for Now….

Today is my last day as a stay at home mom. Well, for now, anyway.

Phase I of settling into Madison is complete. All the boxes are put away, things are somewhat in their rightful place again, we’re not tripping over things–much. All we got left is small things, putting up pictures, finding a system to do laundry that doesn’t involve just tossing everything on the floor, etc. Now that we have settled, it’s time to start Phase II–going back into the work force. (Stage III–finding a writer’s group, will proceed in June. Stay tuned as I figure that out.)

I would love to say that the decision to go back to work was agonizing, soul-searching, deeply conflicting against my inner values. If I so happen to run into any die-hard stay-at-home mothers who shake their heads at my predicament, perhaps I would say that. But really, the truth is, it wasn’t that hard a decision at all. A part-time job opened up at the place my hubby now works, so I decided to apply and what-do-you-know, they hired me. So I start tomorrow. Just like that.

The main factor in all this is the word “part-time”. Back when my hubby and I discussed this, I was pretty clear that when I did go back to the working world, I wanted to do it part-time. Partly (grumble…grumble…using the same stem of word twice. such a no-no…) because I wanted time to adjust to working again, partly because I wanted time to focus on Willow (which I am building back up to. Really.). And partly because, well, I guess I don’t want to give up my status of stay-at-home mom. Not just yet.

But the real reason why I’m going back to work? Real reason? I’m bored.

When Daniel came into our lives four years ago, I felt that the best thing for Daniel…and for me…was to stay at home with him. It was great. Not only did I learn how to care for a baby, but I also got to teach things to him, basic things like eating and walking, but also fun things like singing and playing and dancing. He saw me cleaning and working at home, interacting with other mothers. I took him to the library, read him books, did playgroups and crafts (though the latter didn’t happen until his late threes, considering that he barely sat still do to anything crafty). As he transitioned from baby to toddler to sass-back preschooler, I slowly begin to realize that there’s a limit to how much I can teach him. I can introduce him to new music and new places, but when it comes to teaching skills like putting together puzzles or how to put on his shoes, well, I suck. Immensely.

The problem is, I think I have very little patience for those sort of things. I subscribe to magazines like Wondertime and Parenting, and they’re filled with happy mothers happily showing their happy kids to do happy things. And for three years, I can say that I was that type of mother. But then, something happened. Daniel started getting more independent. I started expecting more from him…perhaps more than he was ready to do. I remember back when we started potty-training him again, and I was trying so hard to get him how to stand and pee, rushing him into the bathroom whenever his dad was in there so he could see how to do it (Hubby didn’t really appreciate that.) Daniel, of course, wasn’t having it.

Sometime afterwards, Daniel went to go spend the night over a friend’s house. The next day, I’m working, Daniel’s playing in his room. I see him run into the bathroom, so I glance in to make sure he’s okay–and he is using the washroom standing up. Flabbergasted, I asked him, “How’d you do that?” To which Daniel shrugged and said, “Drew does it.” (Drew being his friend).

At that moment, I realized:

  1. Daniel’s doesn’t need me all that much anymore.
  2. Daniel needs other kids in his life.
  3. I think I’ve taught him everything I know.
  4. What’s the point of staying at home if all he does is watch TV and play by himself?

Now, obviously I know that there are tons of more things to teach him. I know that Daniel still needs me, will in fact need me for a long time (unless he’s in his 30s and still living at home. Then we’ll have a problem). But I think we’ve reached a point in our lives where Daniel will benefit from being around kids his own age, having an outside teacher, learning to be a little boy without his mother hovering around. The boy is ready, eagerly ready, for preschool.

So I guess this is challenging my view of motherhood. It seems that the idea of being a mother is not being there for your children, but rather, it’s to make your children more independent so they don’t have to rely on you forever. In other words, I think that I just worked myself out of the stay-at-home job. Motherhood seems to be a influx thing. And that’s cool. I really had fun doing it. In fact, I know that when the next kid shows up, I’ll most likely do the same thing. But at the same time, it’s nice to know that I don’t have to do the stay-at-home thing forever.

Well, this has turned out to be a rambling post. I think I better go and make the most of my last day staying at home all day. There’s laundry to do, bills to pay, books to put on the bookshelf…

Bleh. Forget it. I’m taking Daniel out to get some ice cream.

A post about how everything sucks (or the joy of experiencing changes in life)

(Disclaimer: the following post contains a lot of moping, groaning and whining about the stresses of putting a house on the market and life changes in general. You have been warned.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about life-altering events these past few days.

Death and tragedy ones, like the shootings what happened in Tinley Park and NIU this past month. Everyone in Chicago are still reeling over those. Sadder ones, like the breakup of a marriage or the end of a close friendship. More joyous ones, like getting married or having a first child.

And then there’s moving.

There’s something sobering about driving from your house one morning and coming back to see a “For Sale” sign sitting on your lawn. Even though I knew in my head it was going to happen, to see the actual sign with my own eyes, sitting on my own lawn, suddenly drove home the fact that this will no longer be my house. Someone else will sit in the backyard and gaze out over the pond. Someone else will wake up in the bedroom and paddle barefoot to the kitchen to put on a teakettle. In fact, that someone else probably won’t even drink tea; they’ll have a coffeepot. A coffeepot in this house!

I lived in this house for almost seven years. I know every creak in the floor (well, not anymore, since we fixed those), every crack in the ceiling (hmm, actually, that’s gone too, now that’s it’s repaired), every smudge and mark Daniel’s put on (which has been cleaned off…and given new paint…)

Actually, I take all of that back. Ever since we’ve done all the renovations to the house, I don’t know it anymore. Oh, the layout’s still the same, and the pond hasn’t gone anywhere, and we still got (most) of our furniture. But it’s not my house anymore. Everything has to be clean and uncluttered, and there’s a lot less furniture than I like, and the color of the walls are not what I would pick, and it looks too much like the inside of a (tasteful) furniture store than an actual lived-in house, clutter and toys and all.

My house looks so pretty. And it’s depressing, because I don’t recognize it anymore.

This past month has been crazy getting the house ready to put on the market. Now that things are slowing down, I find that I can actually take a breather for once and relax. I can say to myself, now things can get back to normal again…

Except, well, there’s no such thing as normal anymore. The last time anything has been “normal” in this household was back in September, when Daniel was going to daycare, I was writing full-time, my hubbie was working full-time, and life was good. In fact, I remember thinking at that time, hey, this is perfect. Everything is going nicely for once. I hope it lasts for a good long time.

And then October came. KA-BOOM!

Today was the first time in weeks that I didn’t have to concentrate on working on the house. Oh, yes, there’s still cleaning and all, but most of the renovations are done. And you know what? I have no idea what to do. I suppose I could write, but what will Daniel do in the meantime? What do I do with a three-year-old in the middle of winter? According to that ‘perfect schedule’ I had in September, Daniel would be in daycare interacting with other kids and I would be working on Willow. Now that we don’t have (nor can we afford at the moment) daycare, Daniel spends his days playing by himself or parked in front of the TV, which is where I’ve been placing him throughout most of the month of January while we were working on the house. I can start taking him to playgroup again, just to get out of the house, but outdoor activities are definitely out, not until we start having weather that’s not in the single digits.

And writing? I can ease back into that, but those days of working four to six hours a day? Gone. At the most, I can do writing after Daniel goes to bed, but usually, I’m so tired, the most I can manage is fifteen minutes worth of writing before calling it quits. Work on Willow has slowed to a crawl, and working on short stories have become non-existent…

You know, I think I’m in mourning. I’m mourning the fact that everything’s changed, and nothing will be the same again. Not my writing time. Not my house. Nothing. It sucks.

Everything sucks.

Maybe I should cheer myself up by listening to Tom Waits.

(Caveat: This post is merely the author’s method of blowing off steam and in no way reflects the philosophy of the Cafe in the Woods–which is to sit back, relax, and have a cup of tea. Yours Truly promises that the next post will be more uplifting. In the meantime, you’ll just have to make do with what you got because the teapot is in the corner, sulking. And the table’s passed out in the corner. And the napkins are debating about the theory of relativity. And the carpet needs a haircut…

…And you can’t find your waitress with a Geiger counter, and she hates you and your friends and you just can’t be served without her. And the box office is drooling and the bar stools are on fire, and the newspapers were fooling, and the ashtrays have retired…cause the piano has been drinking…the piano has been drinking…the piano has been drinking…not me…not me…not me….not me…not me…)

Another sign that life as you remember is becoming obsolete…

Okay, think back. Way back. Remember back when they had the Fisher Price record players? Come on, if you’re a product of the 70s, of course you do.

Fisher price records

It came with plastic records that you pop it on the turntable, wind up the crank, put the ‘needle’ on and out came music box nursery tunes like “Jack and Jill”, “Humpty Dumpty” and “Edelweiss”. (How exactly a Roger and Hammerstein song qualified as a nursery song is beyond me, but that’s beside the point). I know I had one as a kid; in fact, every kid I knew had one. So imagine my delight when I went to my son’s playgroup and found one of these that a parent brought in.

Oddly enough, none of the kids seemed interested in it–they wanted to play with the bikes and balls and other toys we bring out for them. So I decided to wind it up and show the kiddies how it’s done, old school. Pretty soon, I had a whole bunch of two-and three-year-olds surrounding me. I felt pretty good…until this happened:

Daniel (coming up): Ooh! CD!
Me: It’s not a CD. It’s a record player.
Daniel: I wanna play the CD!
Me: No…no…see, it’s called a record player. See, you put this on here.
Another kid: Where’s the volume? I can’t hear it.
Me: Well, you gotta turn the dial here…
Yet another kid: I wanna fast forward.
Me: You’ll have to get another CD…er, record…I mean…
More kids: I wanna play the CD!!!
Daniel: No, I want the CD. <put record on the turntable> It’s not playing, Mommy.
Me: Well…you gotta put the needle on…NOT LIKE THAT!!! Gently…gently…
(Daniel listens for two seconds, then wanders off to ride a bike.)
Me: Uh…
Same kid from before: These CDs won’t play right. Borrrring.
(All the kids wander off, leaving a blinking Mommy and a Fisher Price record player playing Edelweiss.)
Me: Sighhhhhhhhhhh.

Memo to myself: Don’t kill the boy…

Silicon Valley Moms Blog: Top Ten Things to Do While Your Kids Have Tantrums

I post this link for other moms who are probably repeating the very mantra in the title. I found it to be a hoot, and have now promised myself to do the very things mentioned here. Granted, I really could’ve used this advice a couple of days ago, but, at least I now know what to do next time.

Oddly enough, Daniel has been acting very, very good today. I wonder if that’s because he’s never seen cords pop out on his mother’s forehead like that before. Or was it when Mommy went from sounding like herself to James Earl Jones in a split second?

Hmmm. When you’re with a kid flinging himself on the floor and you start to channel Darth Vader, maybe it’s time for a break.

Flu shots? We don’t need no stinking–Ouch!…Aw man….THUNK!

This week, I made it to 30,000 words. But barely. Juuuust barely.

Stupid flu shot.

I know these things are pretty controversial. What’s the point of getting a flu shot when the virus keeps mutating to the point that it’s possible that you can catch an even worse variation of the flu, rendering the shot you painfully got useless? But wouldn’t it be nice to be covered just in case you come across the same version of flu you got vaccinated with, and all your family is falling down spewing, and you just laugh, “Ha! Ha! Ha! I’ve been vaccinated, you poor losers! Who needs another Pepto Bismal dosage?”

Well, okay, I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I went to get the shot on Wednesday. My hubby’s job was having a health fair, so we thought it would be good to get some up to date shots, check on our cholesterol and what not. Hey, it’s covered under our insurance. What the heck. I’m pretty sure if I had any side effects, they’ll be pretty slight. So I went and got the shot.

Things were going pretty well until midday. I was running chores with Daniel when suddenly I got that woozy feeling. You know, when you’re standing in place and the whole world decides to tilt 45 degrees to the left. That’s not good, I thought and decided to go home for the day, where I spent the rest of the day vegging on the couch. Bummer considering that I had a nice recipe for spicy lamb soup I had wanted to try.

But it’s okay, I thought in a naive, sickness addled way. Tomorrow I’ll be better. This shouldn’t last long. And on Thursday, I even rose early to write a bit, thinking that I was fine.

Oh, how foolishly wrong I was. I went to get Daniel from his crib, and I could barely lift him, I was aching all over. I turned the heat in the house up, and kept shaking with the chills. I tried to do some housework, but had to lie down every couple of minutes. When I realized it was noon and I was still in my pajamas, I had to concede. These weren’t side effects. This was the freaking flu!

Before Daniel was born, getting sick was like getting a mini-vacation. Sure, I felt awful, but I got a chance to lie around at home with a box of tissues, sleeping all day and watching TV. My favorite was watching kiddie programs, like Calliou and Dragon Tales, pretending that I had a child and that this would be the stuff he or she watched. It was a nice way to escape the office.

But now I’m a stay at home mom. And you know what? Two year olds don’t care if you’re sick or not. They still expect you to play and make their breakfast and change their diaper (wait, what am I saying? Daniel doesn’t care about that at all…) and basically keep to the normal schedule of things. They don’t understand the words, “Mommy’s sick.” Nope. They will jump on you and slap your face to wake you up, and if you don’t respond, they do it again. Harder. There is no escape. None.

Thursday was a very abnormal day for Daniel. All Mommy did is lay on the sofa, groaning. He did get a good deal in that he watched a lot of Elmo, Thomas, HiggleyTown Heros and Teletubbies. He even got to watch stuff that Mommy normally wouldn’t let him watch, like Between the Lions and Bob the Builder. Whatever guilt Mommy felt for letting him watch so much TV was currently dumped in the toilet, along with her lunch. She didn’t yell at him when he played with the family room blinds, or got into the tissue box and pulled tissues; she just stared at him through her Nyquil-induced haze. He was a little upset when she dumped him in his crib a little earlier than usual, though, without the normal taking the nap routine, but he got over it soon enough. At least, I think he got over it. Good thing that Daddy came home early, because Mommy was knocked out for the count that day.

Needless to say, I did not write.

I’m doing a lot better now. I still got a nasty cough, and my throat feels like chewed meat, but the aches and pains are gone and the ground feels solid beneath my feet again. That’s good, because at this very moment, Daniel is coming up the stairs, saying, “Mommy? Mommy! Wharyu doin?” He’s also been extremely loving, wanting to crawl into my lap and giving me hugs every minute. I think, in his own way, he’s trying to say that he really missed me and he’s glad I’m doing better.

I do know one thing. If I ever decide to get another flu shot, I’m going to do it on a Friday so if I get sick, at least it will be over a weekend, when hubby is home. That’s right. I going to plan in advance the next time I get sick. Hey babe, are you doing anything the second weekend of November next year? No? Good. I’m going to schedule my next flu shot for that time…