Why I Hate Homework

11 May

There are lots of reasons to dislike homework, and I agree with pretty much all of them. Kids need more time for unstructured play; they already spend seven hours a day doing school work. It isn’t proven to actually improve learning. It takes away from family time. In many cases, it is more work for the parents than the kids.

This last one! Most of the time, homework is at least as much work for me as it is for my kids and here is why. As Elementary school students (who shouldn’t even have homework!), my oldest two basically required me sitting at the kitchen table next to them to ensure they were actually doing what they were supposed to be doing. They needed constant reminders to stay on task. Oddly, #3 is way more self-sufficient as a 2nd grader than #1 or #2 were. Some days, I’m just not sure where he comes from. They needed me to repeatedly  hand them a new pencil when theirs mysteriously fell onto the floor for the eighth time. They needed me to keep them from bugging and distracting each other. It was not enough for me to be in the room; they needed constant attention. And it wasn’t that they wanted this. It was that NOTHING would get done without me or Oliver standing over them.

While they have become way more independent in terms of homework, tonight it became evident that not much has significantly changed.

Me: “O, go do your homework.”

O: Shows me a paper about a field trip that is happening next year. Tells me about the field trip. Explains the difference between the two 8th grade teams.

Me: “Great. Now go do your homework.”

O: Tells me about the prize he will get if he has managed to keep all of his RPS homework from the whole year. Goes in search of the few he is missing. Insists it is part of his homework. Comes back to show me he is missing only one.

Me: “Homework.”

O:  Goes outside to dig for worms while I’m not paying attention.

Me: “So you finished your homework?”

O: “Not all of it.”

Me: “Get back in here and finish your homework.”

O: Proceeds to tell me about the worms he has caught and what he has named them.

Me: “I don’t want to hear a single word about worms until your homework is done.”

O: Sits down briefly to do homework, then comes back into the kitchen. “I have this project where I am working with other kids, so I need to call them to talk about the project. I’m not just chatting. I’m doing work. Oh, my phone is dead.”

Me: “Perfect. Do the rest of your work and then your phone will be charged enough to call your friends.”

O: “I’m just going to feed the fish a little bit.”

Me: “Seriously? DO YOUR HOMEWORK!”

O: “You know I’m procrastinating. I can’t help it. It’s in my DNA.”

I have come to the realization that homework is why parents drink.

My To-Do List

22 Apr

We are the type of people whose friends fall into two categories: people we clean for and people we don’t. I could claim it’s three boys and two jobs, but honestly, it’s just not a priority for me. Tomorrow, we are having a party, which falls into its own special category of cleaning, the last-minute, panicked, “need-to-put-the-Christmas-stuff-away-so-people-will-have-somewhere-to-sit” type of cleaning.

There will be a bunch of people here, so I decided I am going to finally clean my desk. It has been on my to-do list for probably a year, but I am going to do it today, this morning even. So naturally I am sitting at the computer, eating leftovers for breakfast, listening to Pandora, and writing. I am at least in the correct room, sitting at the computer on Oliver’s desk; there is no room for a computer on my desk what with all the other crap there.

My to-do list has become somewhat of a joke between Oliver and me. He will ask if I’ve done something yet, like get the oil changed in the car, or mention that maybe I should put away the bag of soil that’s been sitting on the porch since last summer and I will reply that it’s on my to-do list and then we both laugh. I have an actual list on my iPad, though I also have a mental list. I put things on there that I intend to do at some point, though perhaps not imminently. I also don’t look at it very often, so occasionally there are things on there that are no longer relevant. There are also things that don’t really belong there, like Duncan’s cholesterol numbers or a phone number I wanted to remember, but no longer know to whom it belongs.

Now that I am looking at it, I realize how many things on here I should actually do today, like get the snow tires taken off the civic, schedule annual check-ups for Duncan and Calum, get a passport so that I can fly to California in July (seriously, NH, get your shit together), and mail the school pictures that were taken in September and I forgot to hand out at Christmas.

Looking around me at my house and at my iPad to-do list, I realize it’s a miracle I ever get anything accomplished.

 

Why I Love Dr. Loh

12 Apr

When I was pregnant with my first child, one of the many things we had to do was choose a Pediatrician. Because I worked at the hospital, I knew most of them, but all of the “good ones” weren’t accepting new patients. So, I chose one from the list that were. Though we didn’t agree on everything (I learned that sometimes what your Pediatrician doesn’t know won’t hurt her), we had a good relationship. And I will always be grateful that when Duncan was hospitalized in Boston, she called to check up on him, and me, every day.

That was fine until Owen was about six, when my super-laid back kiddo became a neurotic mess going to the doctor. I figured I had a year until his next check-up to corner one of the “good ones” in the ER and get him to take on a totally healthy kid that just needed, as I put it at the time, “a boy doctor.” And it worked.

From day one, Owen loved Dr. Loh. I loved Dr. Loh. And a couple years later, when our first Pediatrician left the practice, Duncan and Calum loved Dr. Loh. He is silly and fantastic at relating to them at their level, but totally able to have a serious conversation with me while three boys are hanging from the scale, the exam table, and anything else they can find. Noise doesn’t bother him. Stunts and general craziness and don’t faze him. It’s like he was made to deal with my kids.

He will have conversations with the kids, while they both look at the growth chart on the computer, and say things like, “you probably find that many of the guys are taller than you,” as my kids nod seriously. They giggle uncontrollably, as do probably most kids, when he asks them “who’s in charge of this body?” When Owen wanted to debate getting vaccinations, Dr. Loh was ready with a counter-argument and specific reasons. More than once, when talking about ADHD (2/3 of my kids have been diagnosed), he has looked knowingly at me and acknowledged that, “lots of us have a bit of this.”

He is always totally open and honest with them, a fact I am growing to appreciate more as my kids get older. Recently, Owen had his annual physical. Now that he is 13, the questions have changed. While they still ask him about seatbelts and helmets, they are now also asking him about smoking and depression. This recent appointment was notable for phrases like, “erections in math class,” and while discussing HPV, “it prevents genital warts. So, some guys ask, ‘Where are you going to put that shot, Dr. Loh?!'” We also spent a fair amount of time discussing music festivals.

Seriously, if this man would take a healthy 42-year-old female who mostly does what her doctor says, I would switch to him in a second.

 

Can’t Blame It All On The Kids

6 Apr

This morning, I am slightly mortified to discover that since having all of my kids in school full time, I have blogged exactly twice, and one of those was the first day of school. I’d love to claim that I have been busy doing something exciting and noteworthy, but in all honesty, I have probably spent the vast majority of time between working and running errands (things I have basically always been doing) on my iPad, surfing Facebook and playing Spider Solitaire.

But here is one thing I have been doing that I have been meaning to write about for awhile – finally losing all the “baby weight.” Around Thanksgiving of 2014, I found myself horrifyingly close to the weight I was at 9 months pregnant with Owen. While I would love to blame that all on my kids, the majority of it really should be attributed to my late 30’s. My initial goal was to get down to 150 which was a little heavier than pre-kids. I hit that goal last July and then, half-inadvertently, kept going. I am currently down about 37 pounds and would be totally happy to stay where I am, but I’m not sure if this is where I will “end up” or not.

Despite all the fad diets for sale out there, what has worked for me has basically been keeping track of what I eat. I eat a primarily plant-based or vegan diet (not really any different than what I was eating before) and I took up kickboxing and yoga. I had been far too sedentary since moving and going to karate. Both those things have helped, but the biggest difference has been writing down everything I eat in the loseit app. It has given me accountability and showed me that if I want to eat a whole plate of fried eggplant one night, I better plan on eating a lot of lower calorie stuff the next day to balance it out. It’s also given me a better idea of portions and how many calories there are in different foods. Who knew there were so many calories in cashews? I don’t feel like I’ve given up stuff I like to eat; I simply eat less of it. Or I weigh whether I would rather have one thing or another, rather than both.

I have had to buy a bunch of new clothes, which, while exciting to be able to say I can fit into a particular size, or the kilt I owned in high school, is mostly a giant pain in the ass. The sales women at bra stores are an entire post on their own.

I know this post isn’t really that funny, or about my kids, so I promise to get back on track with my next blog post.

 

NOLA, Jet Blue, Pete Seeger, and Carmen

1 Oct

Not all of my adventures involve my kids. Oliver and I have been to New Orleans Jazz Fest a number of times throughout the past twentyish years but during the years of having babies, we didn’t make it down there as often. In 2009, our youngest was less than a year old and we had no intention of going until I saw that Pete Seeger was playing. Pete Seeger was approaching 90 and didn’t play very often any more. He was also on my “need to see live before he dies list.”

Oliver agreed to stay home with the kids so I could go. I was able to get a buddy pass from my sister-in-law to fly down there cheap, and I shared a hotel room with some friends who were also going. The total trip would last three days, and in the end I would spend more time traveling than in NOLA, but I would have a no-kids vacation, eat and drink all my favorite NOLA things, and see Pete Seeger.

The thing about buddy passes is that there is no guarantee of there being a free seat on the plane. I left on Friday morning and had no problem getting down there. I had a fabulous time. I was supposed to leave early Sunday morning, but the flight ended up being full. The biggest problem was that my bag, including my breast pump, had already left for Boston via the original flight. I spent the day hanging out at the airport and ended up on an evening flight to Boston via JFK, but when I got to New York at 11pm, there were about ten other people hoping to get on the flight to Boston, many with higher priority passes or bigger sob stories than me. There was no way I was getting on, and the next flight, the following morning, was also full.

I have friends and a sister in NY, but it was late, and I needed to get home so Oliver could go to work in the morning. I would just have to rent a car and drive to NH. I announced my plan to the hopeful flyers to see if anyone wanted to come with me. One person agreed. Carmen lived in Lawrence, MA, and had just been in the Dominican Republic visiting family. She also had a buddy pass, from her brother who worked for Jet Blue.

We rented the cheapest car we could find, and headed out of the city at midnight. Carmen paid for half the rental and was good company keeping me awake for the long drive. After dropping her off in Lawrence, I pulled into my driveway at 5am and slept for a few hours before Oliver left for work. Unfortunately, I still had to drag three kids to Logan to retrieve my stuff.

Seeing Pete Seeger perform, with his banjo, plaid Grandpa shirt, and aging voice, was totally worth it. The story of my vaguely failed use of Jet Blue buddy passes, my breast pump going to Boston without me (which isn’t even the strangest thing my breast pump had done in an airport), and my middle of the night trip home from NYC with a stranger are a bonus.

The First Day of School

8 Sep

Today is the start of a new era. For the first time, all of my kids will be in school full-time. Two years ago, when my youngest started Kindergarten, my oldest took a break from public school to be homeschooled, so I am a bit behind in this kids in school all day thing. For the record, I love summer vacation and having them all to myself, but after nearly three months of home all the time, they need to get away from each other and they need a bigger audience than just me.

I will walk my youngest to the elementary school at 8:15 and then, until about 2:30 when the older two get off the bus, I will have six whole hours in which:

Nobody interrupts me mid-conversation screaming, “Mommy!”

I can go grocery shopping alone.

Nobody asks me to look at a stuffed animal, a Bionicle, a Youtube video, or an invisible injury fifty times a day.

If I decide to go somewhere, I don’t have to ask thirteen times for everyone to get ready.

I can come home after working all night and sleep, without guilt, and without waking up to my house trashed.

I will have time to do yoga, go kayaking, eat lunch by myself, clean my house, and make dinner.

Nobody needs my attention, immediately, the second I walk into the bathroom.

I don’t have to utter the words, “keep your hands to yourself,” “stop being mean,” “why did you hit him,” “how many times have I asked you to…” or “nobody wants to see your penis.”

If I want to, I can spend the entire day speaking to only my dog and chickens.

I have no illusions that the one hour getting everybody ready and out the door, and the several hours in the afternoon with homework, endless snacks, and end of the day exhaustion-fueled drama won’t make up for my six hours, but for those six hours, I will have me time. And by me time, I mean cooking, cleaning, working, sleeping, and checking the numerous items off my to-do list that I haven’t gotten to all summer.

The Difference Between a Quest and an Adventure

11 Aug

Today the boys and I spent a large amount of time in the car in what amounted to a five-hour trip for cannoli. Sometimes, adventures don’t go as planned.

We drove to Boston to go to the Museum of Science to see the new Pixar exhibit on a rainy summer day. In hindsight, I might have realized everyone else in New England would do the same thing.

It’s been a long time since I have been nervous to drive in Boston; this is not to say that I know where I’m going. I was pretty sure I remembered how to get there from the Storrow Drive exit, and I wasn’t totally wrong. I knew where we wanted to be and I knew kind of where we were, so technically we weren’t lost. The boys may have been humoring me, though, when they agreed to my claim that it was much more fun to have an adventure by exploring new places than to have GPS. I also taught them about driving in a city: a yellow light means speed up and you really can’t afford to be nice to other cars.

We eventually found the MOS and the garage was full. Lechmere Station lot was also full. The next garage we found cost $25 to park for just a couple hours, so we decided to abandon our original goal and go to Mike’s Pastry. Ironically, cannoli for five people also cost $25. We did three circles around the entire North End while Owen ran into the store and the rest of us looked for “the best pizza on earth.” While the best pizza on earth may be found in the North End, parking cannot. We scrapped plan B and headed out of Boston to go home and watch red box movies on our sofa bed.

We ended up eating at Bertucci’s in Woburn on our way north and Owen commented on our “quest.” I explained that the term quest implies making it to your destination, so what we were having was an adventure. Tomorrow we are planning on going hiking. Should be an adventure.

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