Thursday, September 19, 2013

When I say I need a break, this isn't what I mean.

Those of you who know us know this last week has been a bit difficult.
One week ago today our older daughter broke her left radius.  She had a minor disagreement with a scooter about which direction they should head in.  As of today, she has the purple fiberglass badge of honor.
Not to be outdone by his sister, her frenemy one grade above her busted his right arm in football practice on Tuesday.  Just like any other male, he had to injured that led to a surgery to put three pins in his elbow and two nights in the hospital.  She missed one day of school.  He's missing a week.
Thus our fall schedule suddenly has cleared up quite a bit.  Now we have a lot more single driver nights, and our weekends pretty much open.  Especially since the other middle boy decided to drop cross country, realizing running three hours plus a week was a bit much on top of his six hours a week of ballet, finding time to practice his cello, and his three "advanced" classes.  It seems all of them have had stark reminders of their mere mortalness recently.

What has come out of this is seeing how our oldest son has matured.  We can trust him to make a meal for his siblings if we're tied up.  We can trust him with checking homework and bedtime stories.  We haven't had to nag him (too much) about his own homework.  He's even gotten up early to take the bus to school because he knew we were in up to our limit.  He pulled his weight as a full fledged member of the team.
No, it's not a permanent thing.  He's still a kid, and will be allowed a breather now everything is sort-of-back to normal.  He still disappears to friends houses, wants to stay up all night playing on STEAM instead of planning school projects, and avoids "regular" chores like folding laundry and loading the dishwasher like the plague. These moments of amazing maturity are just those, moments....but I like what I see when I see these glimpses of the adult he is becoming.

The "babies" have survived..but are really glad to have mom back.  I suspect I won't have a moment alone for at least a week, but that's okay.  I wouldn't want it any other way.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Birthday to the middle child.

He is now eleven.  Eleven.
He is in 5th grade, which with our older two boys was the year of permanent male PMS.
His feet are bigger than mine, by a full size...and he's still growing.
His clothes are a mix of large/x-large boys and men's small.  Kind of like where he is in life.  Bridging that point between kid and young adult.   
He is far and away my most optimistic and energetic child.  I'm so glad he found sports as a safe way to take risks.  He loves to ride bikes, hike, play football, watch t.v. standing on his head. That last one has stopped within the last year.  He's starting to care about what's socially acceptable.
He still sees girls as people and playmates,  and not "girls."  unless they are his sisters.
He loves to cook, and still likes to help.  He does a lot of the prep work for dinners these days.  
He is funny, and goofy, and spends a lot of time in his own head. 
He is my sunshine.  
He has a lot to look forward to.
Happy Birthday son.  May this year be the best yet.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cupcakes and ballet shoes.

Sometimes, not being organized has it's price.  One of those times was yesterday, when I enrolled princess D in ballet.
Since the place they prefer us to buy their shoes/leotards,etc. is up North, I thought I'd be efficient by taking her with me since the ballet school was on the way.  We flew in and out of the school, thanks to the efficiency of the registrar.  Next step, leotard and convertible tights.  It shouldn't take too long at 10am on a weekday.
An hour later...."Why can't I find this place.  I thought it was right off the highway."
The poor girl was restless, hungry and bored.
So we stopped at SugarMomma's in Briarcliff for a snack.  She chose an enormous filled cupcake, topped with fudge and a chocolate covered strawberry.  I had Roasterie chocolate-coffee blend and a blueberry muffin.  We both decided enough was enough and headed back home.

On the way home it dawned on me why I couldn't find the place.  I was one exit too far South.
An hour & a bunch of gas wasted, because of a scatty memory and leaving my phone at home.
Sometimes I do leave my phone behind on purpose.  This was not one of them.
If I had my phone, I could have called Mr. Man.
If I had my phone, I could have looked up the Dance Shoppe address.
If I had my phone, I would have had free GPS.
How did our parents ever find the ten million places we needed to be without cell phones?

After lunch, we went back.  Just a couple exits past the bakery where we had our snack.
At least I had a fun snack date with my daughter.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Turning 39 and other fun stuff.

Last Friday was my birthday!  I had a fabulous lunch with my hubby at Freebirds, and redid my home office in the butler's pantry.  It was a great day.  In the evening, we tried to take the kids out to Jason's Deli for dinner and shop at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.....while not a total kidaster, it still managed to get several of them declared digital free for Saturday.  Below is some of the fun stuff that ensued from that decision.

On Saturday the youngest three had to take baths three times!  Now my bathroom looks like a pigpen it has so much mud in it.  Why?  What could they possibly do to get that dirty?

Saturday morning:

"Hey Ms. P.  Where ya going with that dirt?"
"Up to my room to build a slug habitat."
"Uh, no.  back outside with that.  You may build your habitat outdoors and away from my garden."

A little later:
"What is that, and why is my porch covered in mud?"
"We're having a birthday party for roly polies."
All rightie then.

And of course, since it cleared 90...
"Mom, can we play with the hose?"

It's amazing what kids think of to do when they are unplugged.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Back to School Night...where the parents get to feel like kids.

Last night was our third, and final, back to school night for this school year.  Really, back to school night is one(okay, three) of the most anticipated/dreaded nights on my calendar.  It's the first parent-teacher interaction, and since it's a group event you get to case out all the parents of those kids your kid hangs out with too.  It's a form of group bonding trying to cram ourselves into those chairs/desks meant for people 1/4 of our size.
   In elementary, this may not seem like such a big deal.  There's a lot of in and out of the building and all the involved parents more or less know each other, or at least know another parent that is associated with the parents of the child in question.   In middle school, it starts getting muddier, but the network is still there.  By high school, the kids are more "out there" on their own...and each group of parents has their own "club"  Oh, and there are more hormones.  It's here the dating game often starts to get played....and your resources are fewer.  So off you trudge to back to school night, because at this stage of the game, as a parent, you would walk across hot coals for every scrap of information about your child's world you can get.

High school was our first back to school night, and our oldest is a freshman so it was the night of grand first impressions...or not.  More like I ran late in the garden, so i didn't have time to shower before the stampede of children with backpacks and interactive homework and cooking dinner that had to be ready by 4:45 because somebody has practice at 5:30... so yeah,  I was kind of grubby.  Probably smelly too.  Mr. Man was hoping to go play basketball directly after so he wasn't exactly dressed for success either...and he ditched me after second take above mentioned kid with practice home...but he never came back.  Let's just say I loved seeing all my parent friends in my kid's classes, saw some new parents, but with everyone in such a rush didn't really get a chance to get to know anybody I didn't know already.  I met all the teachers, probably got labeled as the crazy mom with a couple.  I find it a miracle that it was only a couple.  I especially loved his Biology teacher.

Moving forward to Monday night, the middle school.  Oddly enough, this is my comfort zone.  Except, as I looked around I realized what caused my son's initial social angst was true.  My darling seventh grader only has TWO of his previous classmates in ANY of his classes...(at least whose parents come to these kinds of things.)  He has made friends though, so a fresh slate was a good thing.
He is one of two seventh graders in his Algebra class.  I totally love his Algebra teacher.  She's very outgoing and human.  (Most Algebra teachers are Vulcan.)  He only has two teachers his brother had and both of them admitted that he is a totally different child.  One teacher said "They don't look alike.  They have totally different personalities.  If I didn't have the name on the roster in front of me I would never have guessed those two are siblings.  Fortunately, I also have two VERY different kids, so I get it."  Here's hoping next year, when there are fewer teachers teaching honors courses, they'll get it too.  Oh yes, and he has strings with my favorite third grade teacher's daughter.  A sweet night indeed.

Moving forward to last night.  I was hoping for a divide and conquer, since the elementary is nice enough to offer two sessions for each classroom.  Our school is brilliant in providing staff supervised entertainment for the kids so both parents can attend.    Due to sibling issues, I ended up going it alone.So I'm sorry lovely teachers for my divided attention during the sessions, but I was doing two kids paperwork in each one.  I went to 2nd and 5th grade, because we just had 1st and 4th last year.  It was reaaally hard not to go to first though, because it was a different teacher and I didn't really feel like I got the vibe of it last year.  Not to mention Si Guy is my baby and has never left me for an entire day before.  I still feel like a stranger in a strange land in the lower grades at this school, but if there is one thing I have learned from this parenting gig is if one is to err in attention, err on the side of the older and/or less demanding child.  You'll still feel like they get shorted in the end anyway.  I still only get a C though, because I forgot to sign up for first grade conferences.  Here's praying she still has a slot Thursday morning before 10 or around 11:30.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The donation files part 2. (or when to say when when sorting.)

Today was the first day with real, live, school volunteers.  I love these PTA ladies who swoop in to go through the unknown sitting in trash bags on the clothing center floor.  Their efficiency and courage are to be admired.  The center could never, ever, exist without them.  Yet the one question they always have is, "Is this okay?"

In our last post, we covered the unbelievable things that escape the back room somehow.  Today, let's look at the other foot.  What is okay to put out, when "less than perfect."  What got me going on this was an incident where I found some perfectly good girls jeans stuck in the cast off bag.

"What's wrong with these?"
"There was dirty underwear in the bag they were in."
(Uh, no there wasn't.  That bag came from my house, and I loaded it directly from stuff that had just come out of the dryer.  Now there might have been some stained clean underwear stuck inside a pair of pants that laundry man missed, but stained and clean is worlds different than dirty...but that's off topic.  The point is, there was some horrible underwear related error.)
"Okay, but what was wrong with these?"
"Then we need to hang them up.  We can't just toss stuff because of what was around it."
(I would have gone back and rescued the scooters too, but I could tell we had hit this person's shock limit already. I bought those flippin things NEW.)
"How long have you been a chair?"
"Since last October."

   Remember, I am the one who found the stained thong out on the display floor!  I am sympathetic to the eww moments of used underwear.  I folded up that t-shirt and put it back on the table.  Our clients are shrewd.   They will wash before they wear.

That followed one of our regulars bringing me some "but they're perfectly good jackets" with stains.  We kept two, (one I couldn't even FIND what she was talking about.  The other was totally in a
"discreet" location) set aside one for laundering (which I forgot to bring home), and pitched two (you don't want to know. shiver.)

Hitting both these extremes in one day made me think perhaps the standards need to be further clarified.

So for the shoe on the other foot's pretty simple.

1) Clothes, like people have to be judged on their own merits.  One icky item in a bag doesn't mean pitch the whole bag.  

2)  Gently used is not the same thing as "new."  Missing tags, slight fading, stretching,etc. is okay.  Really.  It adds character.  We will happily accept donations of new/my kid didn't like it items though!

3)  When deciding if a spot is "bad enough" to put something that is otherwise okay into the castoffs, origins and location are key.  Small ink stain towards the bottom of a blouse that can be tucked in?  No big deal.  Stains of bodily origin, (sweat marks, pet marks,etc.) Pitch it.    Paint?  Pitch it.  Slightly mud stained knees?  Let the mom decide how desperate her kid is for jeans.

4) There is bargain brand detergent clean and laundry whiz clean.  They both are clean.

5) There is an inverse relationship between the demand for an item and the condition we will accept it in.
This applies to brand names as well as particular types of items.
 I am absolutely ruthless about screening adult t-shirts.  We get bajillions.  It takes some serious nastiness to get me to pitch a pair of kids pants.
This is because the center always has an excess of t-shirts and a shortage of pants.  I will deal with holey knees, slight fraying at the bottom, and colors that have faded a hue or two.  Sure we still get rid of some.  Anything so short that unshaved pubic hair might be visible, or has holes in personal places.
The point is though, when we have a tough time acquiring inventory, then standards are sometimes stretched a bit.   The same principles apply to kids tennis shoes.  If  a pair has unfrayed laces and soles that aren't cracked or floppy, they probably won't see the yellow bag of doom...scuffed toes or not.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A few guidelines about donations.

I have the privilege to assist in running a free clothing center on Monday mornings during the school year.
As I have spent a couple hours almost every day this week readying our space for the new customers, I think about how thrift stores who do this on a MUCH larger scale must be staffed by saints.  Because this week alone, has reminded my many times that we all know which path is paved with good intentions.
Fortunately our cast offs go to be recycled so nothing is wasted...but if you are thinking of donating the following, please consider saving our volunteers some work and recycling them appropriately yourself.

1) Used undergarments with stains.  Just this week I found a pair of white mesh thong underwear w/ skids on the thong part.  Thanks, but uh, no.
2) Clothes with so many pills on them they need a prescription.
3) "Self decorated items"  (tie-dye excluded.)  Really, who besides the child who made it will want a puffy painted bumblebee shirt with their name on the front?   Some of these slip out onto the floor...and then stay there for-ev-er because even though we're grown ups, we feel like schmucks for pitching little Joanies handpainted t-shirt she outgrew three years ago...and she's not even our kid!  and it's corollary....
4) Personalized items.  If the kids name is ironed on, and they didn't grow up to be a professional athlete, another kid will not want to wear it.  Really.
5)  Items that need stain removal by a laundry genie.
6)  Garments with holes in awkward places.  Yes, ripped out knees are sometimes fashionable.  Huge holes in the armpits of t-shirts are not.
7)  Clothes you might find on a downtown street corner.  Remember, we are a clothing center for students.
8)  Ditto on the illegal activity, alcohol themed, etc. garments.
9)  Clothes that were going out of fashion when you were a child.
10)  Single shoes.   Shoes with the toes busted out.  Shoes with holes in the soles.  Shoes missing their insoles.

What do we want then?  Well, we want ALL your gently used clothes from infant to adult, but especially have a need for....

1) shoes in pairs in decent condition.  Last years boots that Johhny wore twice.  The shoes Cara only wore for gym class.
2) Pretty much any boys clothes, especially pants, that aren't totally destroyed.  Being the mother of four boys, I can appreciate what a challenge this can be.
3) NEW socks and underwear are always appreciated!  We give five pairs of each to any student whose parent shows up with proof of enrollment.
4) small toys/books,etc. to give our tag-a-long guests to keep their hands busy while mom shops.
5)  Teen girl clothes always seem to go fast, especially the branded stuff.


Momma M