Babysitters, Referees, and Handlers

21 Oct

My kids (well, at least one of my kids) are getting to the age where they don’t really need a babysitter any more. But while I am totally comfortable leaving Owen at home alone for a good chunk of the day (it’s actually the reason homeschooling can work for us when I’m working full time), the three of them together can be a different story.

When your kids are younger, you look longingly to that day in the future when you can leave your children home while you run out to the grocery store for few minutes. You envy those that can have a date night with their spouse that doesn’t involve factoring an extra $50 in for a babysitter. The weird thing is, that day doesn’t happen all at once.

We’ve been doing the 15 minutes here and there for years (since they were old enough to understand why not to open the door for people and could competently call a neighbor or 911 if needed). Several months ago, we left them for a few hours to have dinner with friends. They were fine. The biggest test has come since school started back up again on the one day every two weeks that both my husband and I work at the same time. Owen can stay home alone with a list of school work and chores to do. My biggest worry is that he won’t get his work done, not that he will be kidnapped or burn the house down, and if I’m being totally honest, that’s a possibility every day, whether I am there or not.

At 3:00, he walks up to the school to “pick up” his younger brothers and they walk home together and hang out until Oliver gets home. Last week, they walked home in a torrential downpour from which their sneakers are still recovering. While I felt minimally sorry for them, I learned the next day that the other kids were jealous and wanted to walk home in the rain, too.

If we are going to be gone for a long time, more than a few hours, or out very late, we will still hire a babysitter, though they don’t so much need the supervision as they need a voice of reason or a referee.  I actually believe that they are better behaved, meaning they make their own smart choices rather than pushing the limits with a babysitter to see what they can get away with, when they are home alone. They like the idea of being old enough to stay home alone and they won’t do anything to jeopardize that.

Isn’t the whole goal parenthood to turn these loud, messy, irrational critters into independent, responsible people, a bit at a time? If you ascribe to the theory that “anything could happen” and don’t give them a little independence, your kids will be unemployed, living in your basement when they’re 30. So, while my kids are pretty good alone, they are still three boys who are prone to nudity and questionable taste in cartoons and youtube videos. I wouldn’t be trusting them with other peoples’ kids any time soon.

Field Trips and Other People’s Kids

6 Oct

Chaperoning field trips is the universe’s way of showing you that there are kids much more horrible than your own. My kids are loud, wild, don’t listen well, and can be obnoxious, but they are, at the very least, likable.

Today, I went on a field trip with Duncan (a 4th grade hike), but I was not officially a chaperone. Each class had three official chaperones which means they had to ride on the bus. Ha, ha, I say to them. This does not mean, however, that I did not have some amount of responsibility. I spent the vast majority of the trip hollering the name of a kid that was not my own; we’ll call him K. Like my kids, K is loud, crazy, and prone to running and jumping off of things rather than simply walking. The difference is that K ignored me most of the time and repeatedly had to be spoken to by the teachers. Perhaps K’s Mom finds him likable, but I did not. I also heard a parent mention that a different kid had told her she had no authority over him. On Duncan’s worst day, he wouldn’t dare to say something so rude to an adult.

The other good thing about field trips, beside the fact that I actually do enjoy them, is that now I know which friendships to encourage and during which birthday parties to conveniently have other plans.

The Free Couch

4 Oct

This afternoon, while aimlessly perusing Facebook, I came across a posting for a free sectional couch to the first person to come pick it up. Our current couch is in less than stellar shape after sixteen years of marriage, three kids, and three greyhounds and we’ve always sort of wanted a sectional, so in less than 10 minutes, we were ready to go with the kids and dog packed into the car and the trailer hitched to the back.

We made it there first, the kids were far too excited, and we packed them and all the cushions into the car so that basically only their voices were visible. We dragged the whole thing (fortunately not too heavy) into our living room, requiring removing a door to get it to fit through. We moved the old couch out of the way, set up the new one in a few different positions, tested out the level of comfy, and then decided it was too big for our living room. We dragged it back out of the living room and into the garage, with the kids chanting behind us, “We want the couch! We want the couch!” Apparently, the fact that it is new (really just someone else’s old, makes it more attractive to the kids.

So, now we have a free couch to get rid of and while making room for it in the garage, we decided that we need to have a yard sale immediately. We may do it tomorrow. The kids think this was a monumental waste of time and effort, but now we know what kind of couch we don’t want when we are able to buy a new one. And it was a fun little adventure.

I’m pretty sure this is what Adult ADHD looks like.

My Lively Life

23 Sep

Today, I did something I swore I’d never do, and I actually feel good about it; I agreed to start one of my kids on medication for ADHD. But that is actually a story for another day. I also spent more than six hours with three kids going to appointments and running errands, only to follow that up with schoolwork, homework, open house, and dealing with one bullied chicken. I am exhausted, but I am also very grateful.

While we were in the office with our pediatrician (perhaps my new best friend after today) discussing medication and fighting over who had to get their flu mist first,  somebody hit my car. He didn’t do much damage and he was very nice about it. I could choose to be annoyed by the time I will lose dealing with insurance companies and getting the car fixed, or fretting about the fact that I will have to replace a couple of my bumper stickers, but really, why bother?

Our other appointment was the dentist. Before today, I had always brought all three of my kids for their cleanings at the same time. It is utter chaos, but it’s over in an hour. Today was just Calum and Duncan. The very nice temporary dental hygienist commented, “your house must be vey lively.” Understatement of the year. Maybe that was in response to the number of times I asked Duncan to stop touching the instruments or balancing on the top of the chair, but it was more likely when he accidentally spit all over the side of the little sink and the floor. While bothered by the bloody spit in the sink, Duncan barely blinked when told he had to have one of his baby teeth pulled because it is infected. His very appropriate response was, “does this happen to other people?” He may be catching on to his tendency to be the kid prompting the comment, “huh, I’ve never seen this before.”

The pleasant surprise of the day came in the pharmacy when I learned the name-brand medication that we though might not have been covered by insurance turned out to be only $20.21. I’m sure when January comes and we go back to pre-deductible health insurance coverage, I will not feel the same way.

So, I am grateful to have a life filled with little things to worry about, like my car, Princess Leia, my picked-on chicken, and the fact that Owen didn’t get all the work I had planned for today done. I am grateful that my husband and I are both gainfully employed and have things like health and dental insurance. I am grateful that I am able to choose to see the glass as half-full because otherwise, I might be on a first-name basis with all of the employees at the NH Liquor Store, though I admit that I am enjoying a glass or two of moscato as I write this. And now that they are all in bed, I am grateful for my healthy, happy, funny, “lively” kids.

Three Frates Boys Go To An Antique Show

14 Sep

This weekend is one of my favorites in my new town: Book Sale Day! In addition to getting to paw through two church rooms full of books, there are other things going on as well. Kids are fundraising for their various activities, someone sells fabulous veggie chili, people from town mill around with their kids and dogs, and the Historical Society holds an antique show. Ordinarily, I am not an antique show kind of girl, but my Uncles sell antiques and they are always at this show.

When we stopped by the first time to say hello, the kids immediately spotted an old croquet set and Steve and Don were perfectly happy to let them play with it. The went racing around the field smacking the balls, until that got boring and they started using the mallets for hammers and then pogo sticks. The balls became props for other sale items. Apparently, they fit quite nicely on top of candlesticks. The candlesticks then became toys. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Each time the boys stepped up their game, I objected, told them to be careful, cautioned them not to touch or break Steve and Don’s stuff, but oddly my uncles didn’t seem to care. This confirms either one thing I’ve always known, that they love the boys a whole lot, or another thing I’ve always suspected, that “antiques” are simply old junk cleaned up a little, and with a good press agent. It’s probably a bit of both.

Regardless, they have set the boys up to not be allowed at antique shows as I had to tell them regularly (and frequently loudly) that they couldn’t touch other people’s stuff the way they had done with Steve and Don’s. While they might not care if something glass gets knocked over and smashed, that older lady on the other side of the field certainly would.

A New Record

11 Sep

The other day, I got an email from D’s teacher requesting a meeting. This was on the sixth day of school which has got to be some sort of record. If you go back to the beginning of this whole “the Frates boys can’t sit still, talk incessantly, and have a hard time staying on topic/getting work done/etc,” we didn’t hear about it at least until open house. Either the teachers are catching on more quickly, the behavior is getting worse, or the standards for little boy behavior are getting more stringent. I would guess it’s a combination of all three.

The email explained that “D is a kind and polite student,” BUT (the word wasn’t included and I don’t have font big enough), “he has been struggling with attention and needs a great deal of redirection, which he readily accepts. He has been challenged with staying on task, staying seated and completing assignments.” My reply was very simply, “that sounds like D.” This is not the first time I’ve heard these things about any of my kids.

Later, I learned that the school board’s expectations for 4th graders by the end of the year is to be able to sustain 40 minutes of mental attention to a task. I’m not sure D can sustain 40 seconds of mental attention. I’m not sure I can sustain 40 minutes of mental attention. When I heard that, I simultaneously thought to myself, “there’s no way in hell”, and, “it’s a good thing he has a 504.”

So, do I worry about D’s future if he can’t stay in his seat, get his work done, or stay quiet for two consecutive minutes? Or do I listen to his pediatrician who points out that the charismatic, likable people are often the most successful in life? A friend frequently tells D to “use his powers for good,” which is the way I’m leaning. D, like most, has the ability to do great things. Why does that have to be contingent on his ability to sit still and keep quiet as a nine-year-old?

Books, Books, and More Books

6 Sep

We moved about 9 months ago and still have stuff in boxes. Not long ago, Oliver declared anything left in boxes when we have lived here for one year be thrown away or donated, because clearly we can live without it. It is in this spirit that I set about putting my books on shelves today, with merely 88 days until my deadline. 

Things I’ve learned in going through my books.

1. I own more books on grammar that any reasonable adult has a right to.

2. It is perfectly acceptable to choose which copy of The Wind in The Willows you are going to keep based on the smell. Those of you who appreciate the smell of old books understand what I am talking about.

3. Choosing a method of book organization requires more commitment than I’m prepared to make right now.

4. Shakespeare gets its own category, right?

5. There is no such thing as too many books (though there are perhaps too many copies of the same book). There are only not enough bookshelves. 

6. I still need to say N-O-P-Q-R in my head when figuring out alphabetical order. When do we outgrow that? 50?

7. There might not be a room in my house that has NO books. Maybe the boys’ bathroom, but that’s it. I have bookshelves in each of the boys’ bedrooms, the living room, the office, the Lego/dining room, and the kitchen. And yes, we have a room we refer to as the Lego room because we have virtually no dining room furniture and other than the three giant bookshelves, Legos are what is in there.

8. I am mildly jealous of my friend Amy right now. She is a librarian. 

9. I have just added about thirty things to my “need to read” or “need to reread” lists.




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