Saturday, January 29, 2011

Home Schoolers, I Salute You!

I've often suspected that people who home-school their children are just a few cupcakes short of the bakesale bunch, but these summer holidays have for certain confirmed that.

Since my children do not listen to me about the important things – ‘Put that pole down before you impale yourself!’ – I can’t imagine that they would suddenly decide to sit up and take notice if, say, I was trying to teach them that reading really is a necessary life skill, as is subtraction. There’s about 237 other reasons why I wouldn’t home school, but the most important is that they need a break: from home, from their toys, from each other, from my dog-and-pony show.

We are all (not just me) counting the days until school resumes for the year. Despite a trampoline (‘It’s too hot!’) and a plethora of other new Christmas toys (see aforementioned post re: Lego), the inevitable enemy of every mum has set in: boredom. My six-year-old starting asking two weeks ago ‘How many more sleeps till school starts [sigh]?!’

Not to mention, my house is a total mess: my Christmas tree is still up (I’m staring February in the face) there’s drips of Popsicle on the floors, crumbs in the couches, dead gnats on the window sills. I never get around to cleaning. Why, why, why? I don’t entirely understand it myself.

But here is a typical day: ‘Today, I’m going to get caught up on the laundry.’ A modest achievement. I’m not getting up saying ‘I’m going to solve that cholera crisis in Haiti.’ For God’s sake, I know I’m not Bono. New Year’s Resolution Number 28: Set Realistic Expectations. Back to the looming laundry crisis.

To the laundry room, start sorting. Phone rings. A mum from school. ‘When are ballet lessons starting again?’ Blah, blah, blah. Must sign up for ballet today. Watch powerlessly as bag of popcorn is forced opened and flies in all directions. Blah, blah. Hang up phone. Clean up popcorn. 20 minutes later, back to sorting. Put wet load from washer onto floor so can re-load. Where is the only empty laundry basket in house? Ah, yes, my room. (Mind you, have a whole room for laundry and associated baskets, but where is laundry basket?) Better make the bed while I’m here. Scream from afar. Break up barroom-brawl-style fisticuffs – the kind with lots of rolling about on the floor. Boring corner time. Spend next 15 minutes re-building Lego creation obliterated by three-year old Godzilla during fight. What was I supposed to be doing? Laundry basket, head to bedroom again. Step on ‘Alabama’ from 50 States puzzle, then follow trail of 50 states back to my bedroom and pick up remaining puzzle pieces and put away. While here, better just load and start dishwasher. See phone on the counter. Must ring to sign up for ballet and make doctor’s appointment for Liam’s ears, better do it now before I forget. Go to office to get phonebook. How did these coloured pencils get all over the floor? Clean up myself, because I want it done quickly without cajoling others, which will end in yelling (mine). Now I need a cup of coffee…

And so on it goes. And it’s only 9:30 a.m. Come 5 pm and the bed still isn’t made, the dishwasher never got started, the empty laundry basket is still M.I.A. (had been turned into a roof of a fort out in the back yard), I didn’t get to make the phone calls and I haven’t pegged out the damp laundry that is still sitting on the floor, now smelling musty and needing a re-wash. But everyone is still alive and healthy. Clearly, aiming low is the only way to ensure job satisfaction.

So what did we do, to fill up all those hot summer days? Tut, tut, let’s not be too hard on ourselves, let’s look at the positive and see what we did accomplish. So here it is: a compilation of the good, the bad and the ugly of the ‘What We Did On Our Summer Vacation’ list, in no particular order:

* Endured 53 tantrums
* Went on first sleepover, water tube ride, and quad bike - solo
* Broke up 128 fights
* Learned to swim underwater
* Watched 91 previously viewed movies, none in a movie theatre
* Took training wheels off bike, with great success
* Snapped heads off of 15 army men
* Discovered the magic of a Slip-and-Slide with soap
* Picked up 647 Beados from the floor
* Learned to play checkers
* Answered 1, 394 questions (including ‘Can hornets make honey?’ ‘How does what we drink turn into wee?’ ‘Why do dudes wear earrings and necklaces?’ ‘Why does Julia Gillard wear skirts if she has cankles?’)
* Lost one brand-new, never worn pair of Woody flip-flops (must’ve made a run for it with the odd sock brigade)
* Did 149 loads of laundry

I am supremely thankful that summer break here is only six weeks, one of which is consumed with Christmas. The two-and-a-half month summer break I grew up with that I loved as a teacher I would loathe as a mother. Summer camp wouldn’t be a matter of choice, it would be a necessity in order to avoid having those clipboard-toting-child-advocate people involved or jail time. Or both. Either way, messy.

For all of us, the end is, indeed, in sight: February 1st sees the start of the new school year. Let me just say, home schoolers, I salute you! I’ll make sure I think of you when my real vacation begins, sipping my first child-free coffee since last year…

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Charming, as defined by a six-year-old

My daughter has just discovered my crush on George Clooney. (I haven't broken to her the news that I could add to the list Edward Burns, Clive Owen – or that I'd even go cougar for Rob Pattinson. I don’t want her to think I’m loose.) I don’t know how it even came up - it might've been those posters I hung in the laundry - but it’s opened a little Pandora’s box of discovery about the different kinds of love.

'Does dad know about this?!?' was her first question. It seems to be incomprehensible to a six-year old mind that one can simultaneously be married and have a crush on someone else. 'I need to see a picture of him!' she demanded. Not like he’s really a threat to our family unit, but okay, no worries. And who am I to deny a curious six-year-old her wish?

Needless to say, Google supplied a glut of pictures of Georgie Boy. But none of them really seemed to capture his…je ne sais quoi, whatever it is he has. Eva was not impressed.

Eva: 'Him?! That's who you have a crush on?! He’s not that handsome.' Maybe she was picturing someone closer to the likes of the Bieber. Ugh.
Me: 'He's too old for you,' I find myself surprisingly defensive. I've never had anyone challenge me on this one before. 'Besides, part of his appeal is that he’s got charisma.'
Eva: 'What’s charisma?'
Me: ‘Well…it’s hard to explain, it’s like a combination of things. He’s funny and can talk to people easily and people say that when he talks to you, it’s like you’re the only person in the room…He’s charming.’
Eva: ‘Oh! I get it!’ Lightbulb goes on, excitement building now. ‘You mean when you talk to him, he really listens!’

Exactly. What a bare-bones definition of charming. And really, isn’t that what all women want? To be listened to? It’s a more basic part of our DNA than shoes or maybe even sex. Sure, it would be even better if the listener came in a package as nice as George’s, but that would be purely a bonus. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had with my husband that entailed me saying something along the lines of, but not all at once, ‘Can you please just hear me out? Is it my turn to talk? Can I just finish what I’m saying?’ (In other words, please shut the f*ck up, I’m not done yet.)

Charming doesn’t mean Prince Charming or George Clooney – it just means we want some one to listen to us, dammit. Why is it that a six-year-old can get that and most men don’t? One for the ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ category.

And if you’ve ever wondered what makes someone charismatic, this for further reading:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lego Distress

Does anyone know, roughly, the melting point of Lego? 12 Days post-Christmas (I guess that's why there's a song about it - mums reach meltdown about then) and I'm ready to chuck them all into a nice, big, lit fireplace. (Due to the fighting they've caused, not from stepping on them.)