Ready For Our Close-Up
The Summer House Rules

Camp Storch

One full week of summer vacation down, please nobody tell me how many there are still to go.

My big job — the corporate freelance-y consultantish one that I mentioned every now and then,  a job I really, really loved — was paused abruptly in early March, and ever since I've been in a sort of limbo with it. They want me back, they keep promising to give me hours again, but probably not until next month. And "next month" has since gone from meaning "early April" to "mid-May" to "June-ish" to "let's talk in July." I've done a bunch of short-term projects in that time, and have several excellent leads on other long-term work, but right now I guess I'm still technically in between gigs and I'm not really a fan. 

(None of this work is Amalah-related, by the way, just to try to wave off the inevitable GET A REAL JOB, YOU DUMB BLOOGER comments. I do freelance marketing/copywriting/editing/corporate-blog-creating/stuffs. All very boring and "real" and I rarely ever write about poop. I work pretty steadily and it's been the best fit for our family's crazy schedule, vs. a 9-5 office job, but it can definitely be ebb/flow and feast/famine. It's been super great and I'm not complaining, except for all the complaining I'm about to do, sorry.)

I am mostly not a fan of the current arrangement because — well, besides the whole money thing — it means I have all three children at home with me, with no summer camps or babysitting. I didn't want to commit to paying for any of that until I had some significant work lined up, foolishing believing that I could get the small amount of work I DO have done in a normal about of time, while also not completely sucking at being a good mom who does fun things and remembers to feed her children.

The plan was that I'd work half days. The kids would amuse themselves/each other for a few hours and by lunch time I'd call it a day and focus on them the rest of the afternoon. Take them to the pool or playground or just run errands together, or set up the sprinkler outside while I cleaned the house and started dinner and all that Responsible Adult Bullshit. I'm fairly confident I'll be swamped by the time school starts, so I dreamily dreamed that having one part-time summer would be a good thing, something I'd look back fondly on, when I got to be more SAHM than WAHM for a little while, or WOHM, if that's what ends up happening again. (GET A REAL JOB, BLOBBER.) 

Okay, it's only been a week, but I can pretty safely declare that I am a world-class failure, the absolute worst, all is lost and we're basically doomed forever. 

I tragically underestimated how much longer it would take me to do anything — even just answering emails, some basic proofreading, pounding out five measly semi-amusing paragraphs here and there — with the kids around and constantly interrupting me. I had to re-write my resume from scratch last week (whoops) and it took me four days. FOUR DAYS! I'm trying to work on a book idea and so far it's basically seven pages and fourteen hundred Post-It notes.

And the FIGHTING. Oh my God, the fighting. It's endless. It's irritating. And so, so stupid, I can't even take any of the shrieking INJUSTICE IS HAPPENING TO MEEEEEE! seriously. 

(99% of the time the solution to the problem is for one child to go play somewere, ANYWHERE else in the house. Go play in your room! Or the playroom! Or outside! Or, I don't know, just move seven feet to your left and you're technically in the dining room and your brother will no longer be distracting you or breathing your air. But no. Every day, after finishing World War VII over elbow space at the breakfast table, they all camp out and declare zone defense in the living room, fighting over custody of specific couch cushions and floor space, and even the once-peaceful Lego bag has become a non-stop source of HE'S USING A PIECE I WANTED AND WE ONLY HAVE SEVERAL HUNDRED SIMILAR OPTIONS BUT THAT PIECE WAS SPECIAL BECAUSE I JUST NOW DECLARED IT TO BE THE SPECIAL PIECE OF FIRE POWER SPECIALNESS MOOOOOOOMMMMMMM.)

(Also, if someone could tell me where my children keep finding Play-Doh, I'd appreciate it. I've thrown out a half-dozen cans of old Play-Doh in the past week, and yet every time I come downstairs there's another fine coating of dried-out Play-Doh bits all over the place. I vaccuum it up, it reappears while I'm in the bathroom. Someone has a secret expired Play-Doh hoard-stash somewhere and as God is my witness, I am going to find it and I am going to set it on fire.)

So I'm thinking maybe it will help if I swap the day around? Get up and do the kid-focused stuff in the morning, then tire everybody out and hopefully Ike will take the occasional nap (because ho ho, guess what he's decided to stop doing since turning three) and maybe Noah and Ezra won't ramp up the stir crazy level as much when I need to get work done? I don't know. I tend to not be able to settle down and enjoy them until I've knocked out deadlines and gotten on top of email first thing in the day, and worry I'd spend the whole morning glued to my phone and fixating on my to-do list.

You'd think I'd be able to figure this stuff out by now, since I've been juggling various numbers of kids and various hours of work from home for close to EIGHT YEARS, but alas I 

***

That sentence was just interrupted by Noah, informing me that Ike had made a "big mess" with "food things." Indeed, he'd opened a spice container of yellow mustard seeds and dumped the contents all over the floor. Because why not! That looks fun. At least it wasn't Play-Doh? Progress? 

I hereby declare this summer to be the Summer of the Vaccuum Cleaner. It's getting mad play, y'all. 

Anyway, it's lunchtime and I'm going to stick with my promise to step away from the computer and go...I don't know. Invent a game called Mom Sprays Children With Garden Hose, or Hey Everybody Let's Learn To Clean Bathrooms, or Why Don't We Go Ring Doorbells Until We Find Someone Else Who Doesn't Have Summer Camp This Week. 

 

Comments

Carrie

oh god, i feel like i could have written this because i JUST started keeping my kids home afternoons. my twin 2 year old girls who fight over EVERYTHING. i am now getting shit from work because i'm so distracted i'm missing details and yet if i take so much as half a glance at my phone i will nearly miss one child murdering the other and when they aren't doing that they are WHINING SO MUCH.

DontBlameTheKids

Play-doh, oh Lord. The smell makes me nauseous. My kids don't know what play-doh is, and if any of you tell them, so help me I will buy all the toys that make all the noises and dump them on your doorstep.

Kris

I laughed about the playdough. I've even gotten rid of all the toys (moving in with my parents) and yet they find more. I found a hard piece of it today when sweeping from where a couch had been that we got rid of.

Becki

The LIBRARY IS YOUR FRIEND. Library story time(s)? At least maybe for Noah/Ezra? Maybe they have a summer reading program for Noah .. and sometimes letting them loose to pick X books each and then they can't look at them until Y time can buy you some time.

Karen

yes...definitely try flipping the day. On Saturdays, hubby works so it is just me and the little ones. I generally find something (anything)to wear them out and then attempt to clean or cook or do graduate work once they are tired enough to sit still.
Of course, then you are tired too and well...maybe you could take a nap and work once Jason gets home?

Stacie

I know this may sounds really obvious but would keeping them up later so they'd sleep a bit longer and getting up to work at 5am earn you at least 2-3 hours while the kids slept...?

KimAZ

Flip the schedule. All kid, all morning, and then movie/iPad/couch dozing (not you, sadly) in the afternoon will give you a better chance at getting something done. A glass of wine while fixing dinner will make you feel especially accom

Wendy

I think it's time your boys got some religion... I'm talking VBS, baby. Often free or very cheap.

KimAZ

*accomplished* Sorry about that.

Plano Mom

So.... when you figure it out, please let me know. I have only one child, he's fifteen, and I still have trouble getting any work done. On really bad days, I pull the "wait until he goes to bed and work like crazy until the wee hours, but I'll have to spend at least an hour in the morning fixing what I screwed up because I was too sleepy" shit.

JenVegas

FWIW, I am an only child and spent a LOT of time playing "Why Don't We Go Ring Doorbells Until We Find Someone Else Who Doesn't Have Summer Camp This Week." And I turned out JUST FINE (mostly, I mean...like 70% OK. Depending on the day.)

michele

Flip the schedule so that you can do outside things with them before the day gets too hot & you don't have to change plans due to the routine afternoon thunderstorm!
Library is another great option! Summer reading programs for elementary kids & storytime for preschoolers!

Jenny Grace

I don't allow play-doh in my home. Or paints. NO ONE PAINTS IN MY HOUSE.

Heather (Laptops to Lullabies)

I work from home as a freelancer, too, and it's all about the RELIGIOUS quiet time schedule. We play or go out during the mornings, come home and have lunch, and then BEDROOMS, GUYS! Sleep, read, play quietly, something. That's my work-time, and everyone knows it's at that time, every weekday.

Ann

I currently work outside the home, but I loved your post and related to it because in the evenings and on weekends often I'm trying to juggle stuff I have to get done at home and keeping my daughter entertained.

I know you were joking about Let's Learn to Clean Bathrooms, but maybe you'd be surprised at what your kids like helping you with. This past weekend I got my almost-4-year-old to help me sort and put away laundry by emphasizing it was a fun game, kind of like a puzzle. You never know!

Thanks again for all your great writing. I really love it.

Salome Ellen

Find a YOUNG teenage girl, and pay her as little as you can live with to be a "mother's helper" (i.e. keep the kids from killing each other while you work.)

parodie

Any chance "GO PLAY OUTSIDE" (allowed inside only for emergencies/actual bleeding) would earn you a bit more time?

Julia

I'm nannying this summer in the DC area and the only thing that saves my sanity is getting out of the house first thing in the morning. I don't have the issue of getting work done, obviously, but getting out of the house right away does help the kids feel like they have "done something" that day. My favorite site for DC activities is http://kidfriendlydc.com/
If you need an activity for tomorrow I highly recommend the dollar movies at the Regal in Silver Spring. http://www.regmovies.com/Movies/Summer-Movie-Express The movies start at 10, but plan to get there closer to 9:30 because the line for tix is long. Afterwards, the kids can change into bathing suits then play in the fountain in Downtown SS.

We were at the Palisades spray park this morning (in Palisades neighborhood off MacArthur Blvd) which was quite fun and a decent bit of entertainment.

Good luck!

Jessica

I work from home and I've found that afternoons are the best for us and I have a 5 and 2 year old. This way, we can get out in the morning and have fun then I can feel justified in letting them watch TV or take a nap when I'm at the computer.

Cara

I will be shocked if the plan to switch the day around works. I'm a SAHM, but with several commitments that require me to sit down, think and write like an adult for a few hours every few days. The only way it works is if I get a big chunk done in the morning while she's still gearing up and then finish up when she's either playing with a neighbor or in bed. Asking her to switch from playing together in the morning to letting me work never, ever works.

Chi

I am on day five of a nine-day babysitting job. My charges are boys, ages 10 and 11. I have been responsible for their well-being for approximately 10 hours. I am EXHAUSTED and I do not know how parents do it. I've already apologized to my mother three times and thanked her for not killing me.

Brooke

Yes, reverse the order of things. After breakfast get the boys out and tire them out. After lunch declare a quiet time while you work. No promises, but you will be more likely to have peace if they have been to the playground or swimming. They do need activity and it generally works better to give them that first.

Sarah

Our summer vacation starts on Monday. I have three kids and another on the way. I have found that getting up early in the morning works the best for me. 5:00 or so. I get tons of stuff done, and am ready to take a break by the time the kids get up.

Michelle

Been there doing that! I thought my 6yo could stay home with me and, like you, I would work in the am and take off with the kiddo in the pm--go to the pool, library etc...

I even set up 'morning work' for her to keep her busy in the morning. Some reading and math worksheets, a few chores and voila! Mommy has time to work.

Except not. She's an extrovert and being home alone with mommy is a form of torture for her. Plus I just had abdominal surgery so I'm not even close to 100%.

I couldn't sign her up for summer camp fast enough.

You know, if you are working on your own stuff, the fees are tax deductible (child care so you can work). I'm self-employed so it works out, but I was hoping I could save the $1k+ summer camp costs.

Maybe next year!

Emba

Definitely try morning activities. Remember they are used to getting rushed out the door to kindy or whatever and then being busy all morning. I'd try a couple of days of up and immediately out - no lingering "it's the holidays" style lazy breakfasts and playing in pj's. At least every second day maybe. Instead have morning snacks and lunch packed and ready the night before. Quick breakfast and off to an activity. The more physical the better. Then when you're all over it you throw food at them and head home for an afternoon of quieter play.

Also this could be the worst suggestion ever, but have you tried working in closer proximity to them? I know at first they'd talk to you non stop, but if you can get past that simply having mom within sight might help them fight a little less? You could emit warning growls when things start escalating and maybe cut off the fights sooner?

Good luck!

tami

When my kids were little I went with the play in the morning, nap/quiet time in the afternoon. But my kids were UP at 6am. I was a big fan of morning swim lessons and other activities, so everyone was exercised and tired by lunchtime. I also took picnic lunches - so if people were tired on the car ride home, it was okay to veg out. Also, my kids loved books on tape, and would do legos,draw or play with polymer clay while listening to audio cds. All of the Beverly Cleary books are good at Ezra's & Noah's age. They are interesting, but don't get them riled up. Audio books also don't have ads, or seem to puts kids into the "stimulated, but bored" mood.

Mita

VBS SAVED MY LIFE. My kids were four different religions over the summer. Saved their lives, too. And they are in college now...

Arnebya

Oh God I'm reading this as I proscrastinate writing about the bitch from elementary school (mine, not the kids') who said she knows I must be super sad to have to leave the kids each day and don't I wish I'd married a doctor like her? No, bitch. Plus, your husband humped all three of the secretaries he had THIS YEAR. Oh, calm down. I didn't say that (although it's true; she told me) but I absolutely licked the tip of my finger then stuck it in her cheesecake when she wasn't looking.

Anyway. In my house we're the opposite (which I cannot stop myself from pronouncing oh-pah-zit in my head WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME): I work in an office and my husband is the freelancer/occasional worker/nothing now/maybe next month/we can pay Pepco or Washington Gas but not both/these children make me want to drink MORE guy. We're ok with it until we aren't. This is week 1. He's had ONE DAY home with them and I want to quit and he wants to do...other things because talking/crying/fighting/that's MY paper trash and you just ruined it by touching it with your left pinky WHY DO YOU HATE ME/let's go to the pool. And mine are way older than yours. Go read some damn books. You know how to work Netflix, child: have at it.

They have camps that start in two weeks. I smuggle him vodka when I get home. Oh. Damn. I ain't got no advice for you, sorry.

Fiona

As a mum to 2 hyperactive, but extremely intelligent children and 2 non hyperactive children, here's what worked for me:
Schedule and timers. In the mornings, I woke the boys and made their breakfasts while each one took turns having a bath or shower.
After breakfast, they got dressed, made their beds and brushed teeth and hair whilst I checked emails to see what my day looked like.
From there, with a bag packed for accidents, we went to market if needed and then to activities for the kids. I would have contests in the parks to see who could run the farthest, go across the monkey bars the smoothest and so forth. It was all with the idea of getting the energy down to a dull hum once we were back home.
We use the public toilets, and I tell them to try and go if they tell me that they don't need to.
Back in tre car, snacks are doled out. I make a trail mix of nuts and dried fruit. They get that and some carrots or celery with a juice cup that I make by diluting regular juice and putting it into a drink cup with a straw.
On the ride home, I attend to errands with them.
When we get home, I offer 3 choices. Nap time, movie time or quiet play time. They never choose nap. They have to agree on the same thing or else I say "Well, lads, you seem grumpy, so since you cannot agree, nap."
They will all agree to something. I make them wash their hands and I make a simple lunch for them.
After they have lunch, I set the timer and tell them that they can come get me if the timer goes off or if the movie ends. If they fight or whine, it is nap time for everyone.
Every time that the timer goes off, or the movie ends, I go out where they are, assess the situation and lead them to another activity. Then I resume work until the next timer goes off and spend some time with them.
Later on in the day, I make everyone help with cleaning and meal prep. If a toy or toys causes a lot of fights, then it goes away for a day or a week.
When my husband is home, he helps me along by playing with the children for a half hour or so whilst I finish dinner.
After dinner, the children help us clean the kitchen. Even our littlest will carry the utensils into the kitchen.
We will then have a family activity and enjoy one another. In the summer, I don't even put the littlest into bed before 9 pm so that they sleep in and I'm able to get a few hours or work done before they wake.
Basically, I get 6 hours of work per day done like this.
I chop a lot of vegetables and create crock pot dinners that I put in zip top bags. If things are running late, we have a crockpot dinner. If not, I cook. Once a week, we eat out. I also use OAMC which stands for once a month cooking, but we've just moved house to USA. So this weekend is the one where I will be restarting that.
Thanks for you blog, you help me out a lot!

bessa

Consequences. "If you bother mom again [tattling/needs/etc], you have to nap/sit in your bed for quiet time." They can get along - together & without you - for an hour at a time. Every hour you can check on them (but don't talk to them - they'll do better on their own!). At least that works best with mine who are 7, 5 & 4.

bessa

And I know you don't really need advice! Fun post, cute story. Kids are great - even when we want to kill them.

Jackie

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/251497960416279955/

This has saved our summer. Thank you pinterest!

Good luck and you definitely aren't alone.

Gail

So this won't really work for your kids since they're younger, but we used to get in massive fights all the time when my oldest brother was left in charge of us during the summers. My mother made a rule that we weren't allowed to come complain to her about the fights, that we had to write down our grievances and she'd read all of our accounts. So, maybe you could find some kind of similar system. Like, they can come to you but they only have a minute to explain, or they have to draw a picture of what upset them or something? I'm really just talking here, because I don't have kids and don't know what works.

-k-

1. I really, really love the peeks into your professional life. I loved the hints of updates we got back when the consulting gig was on, and I love this post. Just so I can say love a few more times, I love your family posts too- but it's cool to see this other piece of things also, like Back In The Day.

2. Write the damn book! (Please?)

christina h.

I almost stabbed myself in the neck with a pen today over the arguing, screaming, grabbing, screeching, and whining.

Like you, I can't focus, but have found wearing the kids out early actually nets me three hours in the afternoon where they're pretty tired and want to zone out and watch a movie.

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