July 28, 2014 § 2 Comments
I remember games of Monopoly that lasted for days in the hot summers of childhood. When my brother and I exhausted all of our other ideas and were bored, we’d pull out the good old Parker Brothers Monopoly board. Now, my son and daughter do the same.
I came down to the basement last week to check on the kids and found all three of our Monopoly boards – the original Parker Brothers, a Nintendo version, and the kids’ homemade Monstopoly version from last summer – lined up side by side for an epic summer game of Triple Monopoly.
I asked our kids how it worked and they explained that they threw all the money and properties up in the air, grabbed wildly, and started the game with everything they secured in the chaos. To move around the the boards they travel all the way around one, then move to the next one and travel all the way round it, and so on.
They bored quickly of the lack of challenge – unlimited money, unlimited properties – and they abandoned their game after a couple of hours. Fortunately for me as I worked upstairs, sorting the monies and deeds and game pieces for cleanup kept the kids occupied for almost as long as the game did.
July 21, 2014 § 5 Comments
Last summer we taught our kids how to cook. This summer, I’m teaching them how to clean.
We’ve been away from home for four weeks. We camped, we visited family in Georgia and Florida, we vacationed on a Gulf beach, and the kids and I traveled north to Charlottesville to visit my childhood girlfriends and their kids. In the middle of all of this, I interviewed for a dream job, was asked to perform a sample project, and will be continuing the interview process over the next few weeks.
And what have I been thinking about the whole time? Our entire vacation I wondered: How am I going to clean the house if I’m working full-time?
When I first started thinking about re-entering the workforce, I started tracking my hours in my role as stay-at-home mom. I discovered I spend about 15-18 hours a week on writing and my blogs and about 30 hours a week on my job as CEO of the household. If I add 40 hours a week for a job, plus time for sleeping, eating, showering, and relaxing with the family, my brain short circuits and I start doing robot arms: Does not compute! Does not compute!
On vacation, I spent a lot of time strategizing how to make it work. My mental health requires a clean home. In college I could not study until my room was spotless, and I know that in order to focus on my work I will need a tidy, clean workspace. My first thought was to hire a housekeeper, but then my husband said, “Why don’t we pay the kids?”
As (I’ve heard) Sheryl Sandberg suggests in her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, it takes teamwork for women to succeed in the work force. Just as traditionally it took a spouse at home taking care of the household for men to succeed in their careers, it takes a supportive spouse – and family – for women to succeed as well. None of us can do it alone. So after my husband volunteered the kids (and himself) to help take on the jobs that were once mine, I formulated a plan:
I first made a list of all the chores:
- meal planning, grocery shopping
- budget, paying bills, reconciling bank account
- clean kitchen (every other week)
- laundry Monday & Thursday
- empty bathroom and kitchen garbage cans
- take trash to curb on Thursdays
- take recycling to bin periodically
- take recycling to curb on Thursdays
- sweep and mop
- clean mirrors and windows
- clean bathrooms
- change and launder linens
- sweep & weed back deck
I assigned permanent jobs to each of us according to our physical locations (I hope to be working from home so laundry is mine), mental or physical ability (the kids can’t manage the budget, and our vacuum is too heavy for them), and time constraints (garbage duties are quick for the kids when school and sports are in session) and then split the remaining chores among the four of us on a rotating schedule. For example, my chores this week are to change sheets and towels and to sweep the back deck. Next week my chore will be to sweep and mop.
When we talked to the kids about how we’d need help with housework if I re-enter the workforce, and especially when we told them that when I start earning again, they will start earning, too – they will get a bump in allowance – they were all about me getting a job. Surprisingly, they were all about the extra chores, too. As our 10 year-old son and I bobbed in the Gulf of Mexico, talking about financial planning and matching funds if they chose to put money in long-term savings, he asked “Hey Mom? Do you think sometimes we could do extra chores to earn screen time instead of money? If I buy a new game it’s always sad that I don’t have much time to play it.”
Great idea, little dude. Productivity deserves rewards. Besides, that’s one more opportunity to free up time for their Dad and me, and one more chance to teach the kids how to manage a household.
On our drive home from Florida, I scribbled notes in my composition book: how to scrub a toilet, how to sweep, how to mop a floor, how to sort and wash laundry. When we returned home, while sandy shorts and tee-shirts tumbled in the dryer, I wrote a housekeeping manual. I punched holes in the tutorials and put the pages in a leftover school folder. And on the one full day at home between Florida and Charlottesville, I told the kids, “Grab those cleaning caddies from the laundry room and bring them up to our bathroom. With cleaning, we start at the top and move down.”
Our son said, “I’ve got bathrooms the first week, so can you show me how to do that?”
He read the instructions out loud then started with one bathroom while our daughter started with another. They scrubbed and sprayed and wiped and rinsed while I stood by to answer questions and demonstrate technique. They fought over who got to try laundry first, and took turns with the glass cleaner so they’d both get an opportunity to squirt mirrors and windows. They struggled with carrying the mop bucket up and down the stairs and with keeping the mop over the bucket while they wrung it out, but they did it all, and our house was clean when they finished. They studied the chart, smiling over all the chores they now knew how to do, checking the *asterisked parent chores to see what extra jobs they could do to earn screen time.
The next day, before we left for Charlottesville, when the sun was shining and the kids were bored, our daughter came up to me and asked, “Hey Mom? Can I wash your car?”
And I said, Yes ma’am, you sure can. I’ll be over here at the beer table. Reveling.
The cleaning caddy is one of my happiness containers, especially now that our kids are carrying it.
July 19, 2014 § 10 Comments
July 10, 2014 § 10 Comments
Clouds are my favorite thing about Florida. They are the part I miss most after living there, and the part I love most when we visit. I thought I’d share some with you here. Enjoy.
July 8, 2014 § 1 Comment
One of my favorite summer cocktails is a rum daiquiri (recipe below). With only three ingredients, it is clean, cold, fresh, and simple. Buy a bottle of rum, a few limes, and some sugar to make simple syrup, and you can make one anywhere you have access to ice.
Or so I thought.
Our first night on vacation I went to make myself one – I had prepped simple syrup earlier in the day and was all ready to go – and I realized I didn’t have a shaker. Cocktails with citrus should be shaken in order to get a fresh bubbly flavor, but you know, vacation rentals don’t always have all the tools you’re used to having at home. I banged around in the cabinets to be sure I couldn’t rig something, then shrugged my shoulders and resigned myself to stirring.
The drink served as a rum, lime, and sugar delivery mechanism, which isn’t all bad, but it tasted flat and I didn’t make another.
The following night my husband and I both wanted daiquiris, but we wanted them to have the zing we craved – the zing you can only get from shaking, not stirring. So I banged around in the cabinets some more, double checked where the wine glasses were stored, triple checked the cupboard with the blender. No cocktail shaker. I wandered back into our bedroom to brainstorm with my husband, and then I saw our solution.
A few months ago I received some WordPress swag after guest hosting a writing challenge on The Daily Post. The box included a tee-shirt, a copy of The Year Without Pants, some stickers, and an insulated Klean Kanteen bottle with a sealable sippy lid (aka “Cafe Cap”). I love this bottle. It keeps my water icy in the summer and my coffee steaming in the winter.
And with a screw top cap that can be mostly closed off, on vacation it serves as our cocktail shaker. I forgot to close off the sippy hole the first shake and I flung sugar-lime-rum everywhere, and when you do close the sippy hole it doesn’t seal perfectly for vigorous shaking, but the minimal drink loss was worth it: the daiquiris were fresh and not flat, shaken and not stirred. Sometimes you have to improvise.
Rum Daiquiri recipe (makes 1 drink)
- 1.5 – 2 oz rum
- juice of 1/2 large lime
- 3/4 oz simple syrup*
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (or Klean Kanteen bottle with lid closed) and shake vigorously for ~ 10 seconds. Strain over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with lime wedge.
*To make simple syrup, heat equal parts water and sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved (we use a lot of simple syrup in our house so I usually mix 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water per batch). You do not need to stir constantly, nor do you need to bring it to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool. If you are in a hurry to use it in drinks, cool it in an ice bath to avoid melting the ice in your drink and watering it down.
July 7, 2014 § 2 Comments
I’m on the porch at a condo at the beach listening to seagulls and a construction crew’s country music station. We are on vacation. While we’re here, I’ll attempt to keep from vacating my blog altogether. I don’t know that I’ll have anything sensical to say, but maybe I can post some pretty pictures.
June 28, 2014 § 9 Comments
I am a fan of contrast: of rough against smooth, of blur against sharp, of dark against light. When I saw that this week’s Daily Post photo challenge is to share a shot that captures a contrast, I knew I would want to participate, and I knew I would want to share photos from our trip to my childhood home in Georgia.
When I started looking through my photographs from the marshes, though, I realized the contrasts I was trying to tease out in the photos I selected – land against sea, wet against dry – were forced. Those things are not the true contrast I feel here. The contrast I feel here on the marshes is the wide expanse of flatness that is so different from our mountain home.
In our Appalachian home water is surrounded by land, is fresh, and falls from the sky. In my Georgia home land is surrounded by water, the water is salty, and it rises from the sea.
In our Appalachian home the horizon undulates. The sky shrinks and expands as you move through the mountains. On the coast of Georgia the horizon is flat and the sky is one size: big.
As a person who seeks out a strong sense of place, I thrive on the contrasts between my two homes: the one where we are raising our kids, and the one I was raised in. I am grateful that by growing up in the mountains of Virginia and visiting their grandparents on the coast of Georgia, our children will have the chance to experience both.