And the living is easy(ish)

When I was a kid I went to camp. Always. And I loved it—don’t get me wrong—but I feel like the proper reward for everyone in the family for surviving another year of getting up at o’dark thirty five days a week to get to school is a summer full of… relaxing. At home. Where Mom is not required to drive anyone anywhere.

It’s a wonderful thing, having children old enough that they can more or less entertain themselves. We have some very simple daily goals here at Casa Mir. We take care of the garden. Both kids are enrolled in the summer reading program at our library. Piano lessons continue, as do prolonged negotiations over whether or not twenty minutes of sitting AT the piano and really THINKING about practicing counts as practice. There is swimming. Lots and lots and lots of swimming. There is bike-riding, when it’s not too hot. There is going outside and then coming back in and whining that it’s too hot outside. There are various trips here and there to break things up.

Stuff like that. Sounds like an idyllic way to spend the summer, yes? I think it sounds marvelous.

[Of course, I’m still working, while the rest of my family is on vacation. So even if they were spending every day just laying on the floor and staring at the ceiling, I’d think THAT sounded pretty good, too. I realize I’m a little biased with the whole “Wah, I never get to take a real vacation” thing.]

Anyway. My point is that the children don’t exactly have it HARD, this summer. They seem pretty happy. They spend a fair amount of their time bickering—because that’s their job, according to section 5, article 4.2 of the Sibling Contract—but overall, I think it’s a pretty sweet gig they’ve got going on, there. I’ve even been letting them watch TELEVISION, for crying out loud. (There is almost no television during the school year, because I am an inhumane monster.)

Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s this whole recession thing going on? Maybe you’ve heard something about it. When you put together a recession with a tightwad such as myself who happens to be a freelancer, the resultant angst goes all the way up to 11. There are two ways one can deal with such a thing: 1) Run around in circles screaming “THE SKY IS FALLING!” or 2) work as much as possible.

I’ve opted for the latter choice. And I’ll be perfectly honest; it really kind of sucks. I am not the greatest person with work-life balance under the best of circumstances, and to be working even more than usual when the kids are around all day is far from ideal. They have each other, they have Otto, they have plenty to do… but still. I am often busy.

So yesterday I offered up a craft to the children, because nothing makes their hearts go pitty-pat like the opportunity to fling little bits of paper and foam shapes all over my kitchen, and I figured it would give me some more time during which I could work. Before I sat them down I said, “Wait. Is it clean upstairs?” They both did the deer-in-the-headlights thing, and I—excellent mom-radar operator than I am—declared, “This project isn’t starting until your rooms are cleaned up. Get to it.”

They left, and came back not too much later. When asked if their rooms were clean they swore up and down that they were. I allowed them to begin the project, and soon the kitchen was knee-deep in glittery detritus.

Fast forward to dinnertime; Otto was grilling (mmmm… charred food) and I was taking sheets out of the dryer, and announced I’d be headed upstairs to put the clean sheets on the kids’ bed. The children nodded, deep in their project, and up I went.

And then my head exploded, because their rooms were only clean if by “clean” they meant “appearing to have been struck by a tornado.” There were books on the floor (my NUMBER ONE PET PEEVE) and papers everywhere and clothes and just a proliferation of STUFF. And to top it off, their bathroom resembled one I once saw in a frat house. The part that makes me craziest, of course, is that they’d lied to me about picking up.

Sooooo there was some raising of voices and a big bin to collect everything left on the floor (as I wandered around making Crazy Eyes declaring, “This is now mine! And this! And THIS!”) and the children were remorseful and dinner was a quiet affair, followed by a directive to get ready for bed and then come down for a Family Meeting.

And I talked and talked to them about how we don’t ask very much of them, and summer is supposed to be fun, and it’s really not that hard to just put things away when you’re done with them or at LEAST not leave them on the floor, and about how I want to enjoy our time as a family rather than feeling like I’m constantly begging them to just take care of some very basic tidying up, and on and on and on. (Otto was a lot more succinct than I was. Pretend you’re shocked.)

Then Chickadee piped up in a little voice that maybe they’ve acting out because they’re feeling a little, you know, bored and neglected.

For about half a second I felt a wave of guilt crash over me, because I HAVE been working all the time and I really HAVEN’T spent all the time I want to, with them, and maybe they ARE acting out because they need more of me…

… and then the moment passed and I curtly informed my darling offspring that that was hardly an excuse, ESPECIALLY considering all of the places Otto has taken them and playdates they’ve had with friends, etc. They agreed. And then I may have promised to spend more time with them this week, anyway, because it’s a good idea, even though they’re a couple of slobby manipulators.

So this morning, Monkey and I were up before everyone else, and we went out to the garden together to pick our daily haul. And I was reminded, once again, that although my children are rotten, there’s really no one else I’d rather spend my time with.

I mean, really, where else am I going to learn about the joys of squashtennae?


  1. Beth

    Squashtennae. Awesome.

  2. mamabird

    When I was growing up the best part of summer was that I didn’t have piano or violin lessons and thus no practicing! From the point of view of a teacher, I taught through parts of the summer for the first time last year and was amazed at the progress.

    It is the hardest thing for me to try to put things away when I am done with them … I’m 31 and trying to learn it.

  3. Tracy

    I feel your pain. Trust me, the cleaniness doesn’t get any better until they have a place of their own. When my son moved into his own place, all of sudden he does NOTHING but clean. Seriously, I’ve worried if he has developed some disorder or something. So, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t feel guilty!

  4. Headless Mom

    Mine starts in 3 days. I think I’ll refer back to this often.

  5. Chris

    After spending the past four days joined at the hip with my 17 and 15 yr. olds, I must say although there is no one I’d rather spend time with, I might choose time alone at this juncture.

    Just sayin’.

  6. Mama Bear

    First off, you have garden bounty to pick, there shall be no whining from you! I am covering plants and putting pots in the garage because we had a FROST WARNING last night. Gah! Second, you will never regret extra time spent with your children at this age, my 2 oldest no longer want to spend time with me and I have to beg them for some of their time. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Too soon they will be too old for Mama.

  7. feefifoto

    Ooohh, you are One Mean Mommy. Making them clean their rooms and everything, and then not letting it slide when they fib to you. How could you? One more move like this and your Mombership will be up for review and possible revocation. Watch your step, lady.

  8. Wendy Kaufman

    You sound like you’re doing all the right things as a mother- it’s important to remember what’s meaningful in your life when things get hectic. Bravo!

  9. exile on mom street

    The squash would only be good for squashtennae around here since my darling son does not believe that things like that are for eating. Sigh.

    Also, he fibs about cleaning up his things too. But he’s 3 so he gets to slide on it pretty often.

  10. tj


  11. The Mother

    Mine are into the “Get away from me” phase of childhood.

    Which suits me just fine in the summertime.

  12. StephLove

    My little one finished school last week but all heck won’t break loose until the big one finishes next week.

    Big one will be at day camp half the summer. I just can’t take the non-stop bickering when they’re both home. He will be home for two weeks before the first camp, though. Bracing myself now.

  13. Groovecatmom

    Okay, I’m pretty sure you should just bring your entire garden, squashtennae and all. I don’t even have bunnies or black widows. Just an obnoxious squirrel. And he already ate all my russian sage, so we’re good.

  14. TC

    Last summer, when I was working from home, I hated every single second of the summer, because it was all the time about the work and the trying to be two people–a working one and a mom–and keeping the kids happy and enjoying spending time with them, but I couldn’t because I had work to do, all the time, always with the work, and there was yelling and complaining and tears and tantrums, and sometimes the kids got upset, too.

    It was a horrible summer.

    This summer, I’ll be working at my five-day-a-week, 9 to 5ish job, and I keep sobbing and gnashing my teeth about how I won’t be at home with my kids and I’ll miss EVERYTHING and woe is me, my life is terrible and sucky and even worse, and why, oh WHY, can’t I be working at home again???

    Clearly, at some point in my life, I sustained a brain injury I just don’t remember.

  15. Jennifer Joyner

    Thanks for this Mir…I’m all about unscheduled, down time for the kids, but I am in the minority around here. All the moms have to make every day into such an EVENT–it’s exhausting! My kids are in morning camps so I can get work done, but the afternoons are reserved for lounging at the pool, leisurely trips to the library, and just….being.

  16. J from Ireland

    I have this same issue with my own children. How difficult is it to pick up after themselves especially as I have told them daily for the most of their lives. Fair play to you for looking after your garden so well. I have a lettuce plant that is dying of the thirst, poor thing.

  17. Flea

    Oh the joys of summer parenting, when the schedule is thrown out the window and the children melt down. Yeah. Mine are doing the same thing. And I’m here. Without squashtennae, dang it.

  18. BethRD

    Oh, boy, I’m glad you no-books-on-the-floor people can’t see *my* room.

  19. Jane

    As an Australian currently sitting in the middle of Winter, and in the middle of our school year, I will now sit back and be quietly jealous of all this talk of relaxing by the pool, summer schedules and general enjoyment of prolonged holidays. And come December, and our Summer and long, long school holidays, I will sit back and quietly smile as you all bemoan the cold, cold Winter you are enduring. :)

    And yet, the ‘children not picking up after themselves’ thing…still happening despite the weather and lack of holidays! :(

  20. Randi

    Ha ha – nice photo. I know what you mean about worrying about money – we’re the same way and I’m doing everything I can to get more projects. Don’t feel guilty, though, because you guys do tons with your children!

  21. ~annie

    Do not feel guilty! You and Otto are great parents and obviously love the children very much. Holding the children to some responsibility and standards is your job. People have different tolerance levels for mess and clutter and I’ve learned to adjust mine, but I would never “adjust” for lying. I know summer is for relaxing, but maybe a few set times for “Time With Mom” would help them feel less “neglected.”

  22. Dallas Anne

    Wow…this reminds me of my brother. Not me, of course, but my little brother, who once trashed our playroom and my mom made me clean it up because she knew Barret wouldn’t. Now that I’m in college however, I really only clean my room when Mom comes to visit so she can’t complain about how I live in a pigsty like the animals I work with!

  23. heather

    You know what is worse than books on the floor (usually right next to the bookshelf)? Clothes on the floor right next to the hamper…infuriating!!

  24. Katie in MA

    Ha ha ha. I peeked at the pick of Monkey before I finished the post and thought you were implying that they were squashy little devils (the best kind to have, you know). :)

  25. Amy-Go

    You make them clean their ROOMS? In the SUMMER? Oh, you’re horrible, you are. Horrible. ;)

  26. Rivka with a capital A

    We all look forward to summer, with no schedule, and lots of late nights and late mornings!

    In Israel — it is almost unheard of not to send your kid to some sort of framework. But we’ve been doing it for years.

    The kids look forward to it all year long and, by the end of the summer, they are ready to go back to school and function in a framework (at least for a few weeks!).

  27. Brigid

    Crazy eyes. This is now mine. Have you been spying on me?

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