Tuesday, September 30, 2008

talk me down, quick

Tonight we had fish for dinner.

Or rather, Charlie and I had fish for dinner.

The children picked at rice, squashed applesauce in to bread and exercised extreme caution to insure that the energy field of their fork did not intersect with the energy field of the one-inch square piece of halibut served up on their plates.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen, before putting the kids in the bath, Elizabeth asked why I was packaging up the leftovers and putting them in the refrigerator. I answered, "Because I don't want to throw them away."

Since we have unequivocally entered The Age of Why?, my three-year-old again asked, "Why?"

"Because this is food that we might be want to eat tomorrow for lunch or dinner."

Again she prompted, "Why?"

"Because we will be hungry and we will need something to eat." And then I added, "Besides, Elizabeth, a fish gave it's life so that we could eat it and the last thing I'd ever want to do is throw it in the trashcan." This seemed to satisfy her curiosity and she pondered that while continuing to flick rice about her plate.

I finished washing the pots and pans that were in the sink and loading up the dishwasher. A few minutes later, I called all the children to the bathroom for their bath. In came William, in came Carolyn, in toddled Henry. When Elizabeth didn't arrive after a few minutes, I walked back out to the kitchen to see that she was sitting at the table, eating her fish.

When I asked what she was doing, she replied, "Mama, I don't want this fish to go in the trash, so I'm eating it." And she did. Every last bite.

These children are the most perfect little creatures ever.

Look at these faces.

Why would I want to be away from them?

They are perfection. With a smidge of silt.

I went back to work so that the children could go to school. Now, I'm actually considering working more so that I can send them to school for a longer period of time and/or bring in a sitter. All of this working, working, working so that I can pay other people to watch my children?

What am I missing here?

Doesn't that defeat the purpose of having children in the first place?

I'm sick. I'm tired. I'm running around like mad. And tonight while I was bathing the kids it dawned on me that what I really want out of life is to move to the country and home school our children. I've eluded to it before, but never come clean. Now I've said it.

Call me crazy.

Maybe I'll make candles and spin wool. We'll have solar panels and a well. I might write a book. I might even try to make soap. We'll grow vegetables in a garden and tap maple trees for real syrup. We'll have a canoe. We'll fish in a lake. We'll have 12 children and we'll be as happy as the day is long. Now, once we can figure out how to make a living ... we are so totally there.*

*Not sure where "there" is yet. I'd like it to snow, but not be too cold. The ocean should be within a days drive. And the mountains need to be close. And although I want to move out of suburbia, we'll need some nice stores nearby. Definitely a store that sells good cheese. I can order a lot of things through the internet but not cheese. [edit: It turns out you can get good cheese online. But ice cream is tricky. So, I need a store for good ice cream. Whenever I've tried to make it myself, it never comes out well.] And there should probably be a pscyh ward close. I'll probably need it, once I come to my senses and realize that we ditched our careers and moved our family out of San Diego to the middle of nowhere and if we're going to have cereal for breakfast, I need to go milk a cow.


  1. My vote (as a mother who has had 3 under 4) would be, get a cleaner who also does laundry for 2 3 hour stints a week, do a huge batch of easy cooking at the weekend for the whole week and finaly, ask yourself whether the trips need the nap? My 3 all stopped napping during the day by 2 1/2 years and although there is the drop after lunch to be got through, a story time or video does the trick and the bonus is they go to bed at 6pm and are asleep by 7pm - bliss. My youngest is nearly 4 and brings me her pajamas at 5.45pm and asks to go to bed!

  2. My vote- also with 3 kids born close together- is a cleaner.
    What I'd really like is to pay someone $15 an hour so they can cook/clean while I play with my children- now that would be just perfect. It always seems a little bit mixed up to pay someone to play with the kids, while I do the mundane household things.
    I also think- very kindly and gently, that you are a total perfectionist Jen and so its hard for you to let other people do things for you, because there is no way they do things as well as you ;)
    I'm all for dropping the naps too- it does make 4-6pm really tough, but then they conk out by about 6.30pm, and the evening is all mine!
    One last thought- can you make school only 3 (longer)days a week? Then you can do lots of work stuff on the school days, and cram some fun stuff into the non-school days. Plus that would make only 6 back and forth trips rather than 10. Plus a much earlier bedtime on those 3 days. And maybe they'd be willing to nap on the non-school days?
    Just thoughts. Its always much easier to suggest things for other people.
    Rebecca D

  3. Come on over...this is my second year of homeschooling. Last year I was ready to throw the "baby out w/the bath water". However, this year I found the right curriculum and WE love it!!
    Even found a great co-op to be a part of - in SC - a group of women w/6 - 14 children!! ;) Talk about learning great parenting skills! I almost feel inadequate w/only 2 boys! But we love it. It's one of the best decisions my husband and I have made. One suggestion: make sure you do at least a year of research...then give it at least 2 years when/if you decide to do it. Good Luck and enjoy your day! Marg

  4. I agree with the idea of hiring a housekeeper. Perhaps now is a time to lower your standards in regard to your house. You cannot lower your standards in regard to child care but in other areas you can.
    The phase between birth and, oh, say, age 18 is one where the house will never be perfectly clean. Once I realized that, while my kids were preschoolers, I became a much happier mom.
    You will find a routine soon and things will go more smoothly.

  5. I think Jon and I will move to Ithaca, NY eventually. It is a beautiful, crunchy granola type place with great food, smart people (Cornell U and Ithaca College) lots of farm land but a Wegman's Supermarket. Skiing in the winter and a 4-5 hour drive to MA and NJ.

    you and Charlie should check it out.

  6. Not that my opinion matters, but I'm going to voice it anyway! =) I say DON'T give up your job...but don't let the schedule of PRESCHOOL drive you nuts either. Why rush them? Maybe drive yourself nuts for all day kindergarten...but only if it's free! Then you can fully enjoy them when they're home (cuz clearly you'll do nothing but errands and cleaning while they're gone...*wink* *wink*).

    Seriously, though. If you think you want to homeschool...don't wait for the country! Just do it!

    (And that's coming from a woman who'd NEVER homeschool her kids cuz she's just not made with enough patience!)

  7. Washington...you need Washington State. Come to think of it I need a little bit of it myself.

  8. I agree with the last poster. Washington state, mountains, trees, 1/2 days drive to the ocean, but we have the sound. Snow aplenty. Lots of homeschooling here, and not too many looks from folks when you have 4+ children.
    The cleaner is a genius idea. Oh and I used to be a personal chef. Great service and you get good quality, healthy meals. They do the shopping, chopping, cooking, and cleanup.

  9. Hi Jen!

    Preschool - and regular school too - is extremely stressful! At least I've found it to be. My older daughter started Kindergarten this year and I've never been more stressed.

    Why do we do it? So they can make friends and learn to get along with their peers. Yes it's a pain, yes I hate the constant colds and the DAMN yearly headlice scares, yes it costs money - but to me it's worth it for the socialization.

    As far as your "uber-mommy" plan - I'll tell you, it's occurred to me too! And I'm out here in the boonies of Chester County PA, where you can easily do it. A bunch of my friends are already in agro coops. Some of them even live in town (West Chester), hardly use cars, and grow fruits and veggies in their yards! It's very, very tempting to "get off the grid" in more ways than one.

    So if you're really thinking about it, Pennsylvania is pretty nice too! I'd look at around Kennett or that area. We also have homeschool coops here that are really nice. I did a ridiculous amount of research before sending my daughter to her school, and checked out a few unschooling or homeschooling options. They are still in the back of my mind!

    Good luck and try not to stress! Try not to. I know I'm no help, I'm a ball of stress pretty much all the time and I only have two and they're growing up now!

    - Liz (BlackOrchid)

  10. my suggestion, geographically, is north carolina. mountains, ocean, neat cities (charlotte, asheville), a little snow, good people. it is also a lot cheaper than san diego, so if you did want to work, you probably wouldn't have to work as much.

    i don't live there, but think it would be a great place to raise children.

    wherever you might end up, it sounds like a beautiful life.

  11. I think it's clay, not silt... Clay seems to stick better to kids' faces when wet... I'm just sayin'...

    Also, you guys should check out Sonora, CA. A teenie bit of snow in the winter... lots of space to run around and Trader Joe's is only an hours drive...

    Call me one of these days...

  12. On the west coast, Tahoe was the only thing that came to mind. But I believe it's not much cheaper than being in well where you live. (just figured you may be done sharing that.)

  13. I'm in a similar situation, although my twins are only Henry's age and not ready for school. I pay someone to come in and play with them so I can work (I freelance from home) cook, clean, run errands, etc. Although I do love my work, I hate how it takes me from the kids and causes extra stress, and am pretty convinced that when my current project is complete, I am retiring indefinitely unless we need the extra money so I can be with my kids all the time.I can get the cooking and cleaning and errand running done with them in tow, just not as easily, but who cares because I want them around! I can't believe that they are already 15 months - the time goes so quickly - and I don't want to miss anything. I will keep a sitter on call for the days I NEED a break (and we all do) so I can run out for a few hours and return a better mommy. Maybe a similar situation would work for you.

    I agree with the other posters about Washington State and North Carolina. There are also beautiful areas of costal Oregon. And we love Austin - that's where we'll go if we can ever get out of Los Angeles. Not really country, and not too close to a real beach, but great town, inexpensive and beautiful lakes.

  14. Did you say WRITE A BOOK? I think that's the first time you've ever come clean on that! You really should, you know. I think it would be a huge success because you've got an amazing story, an incredible way with words and a common sense approach to parenting and life! Plus, you are really funny and even if I didn't have kids - I'd read it!

  15. If you decide to go the mother's helper route, I suggest looking for a college or community college education student. We have some amazing students volunteer at the school where I work and many of them nanny to earn extra money. Their schedules are more flexible than high school students, they are on a career path that involves kids and they WILL talk to your children!

  16. Oh my gosh - don't do it!!! You'll homeschool them for a month and you'll want to hide in the closet again!

    Find a mothers helper and enjoy lots and lots of wine until then :)

  17. you should try the netherlands :)

  18. We had a lot of the same preferences about a town where we wanted to live. We chose Charlottesville, Va. It's right near the mountains, it snows but not a ton, it's a really crunchy town with the University of Virginia in it, so there's lots of great businesses nearby. And the beach is definitely close. Another place we looked is western NC. Gorgeous!

    Not like you're planning on moving tomorrow or anything, but there are a lot of places around the country that you can get those things... and for probably a ton cheaper than where you're living.

    Someplace outside of D.C. would be great for your guys and your jobs if you ever did want to transfer.

    Okay, I'm being selfish now. I just would love to run into you all at the park some day... It would sure be a site to see :)

  19. I think I might join you in the woods. You make the soap and I'll sheer the sheep.

  20. My Mother made soap from left over bacon fat and it was an easy thing to do. I think you have to follow your heart. You have a wonderful family that is growing up fast and I feel your concern about letting it all pass too quickly. To me, you have a great life and a wonderful hubby who appreciates you and loves those children and you. What is success? What is happiness?
    It is your choice--Choose what fits you best. You only have one life and it is yours to choose.

  21. Aww, They look like little miners, very cute little miners.


  22. I could learn to shear sheep. I could.

    I was sitting in the school office, waiting for the speech therapist to come get Austin, while this lady unsuccessfully tried to fill out a registration form in Spanish. Meanwhile, her 6 year old, who weighed more than me, ran around in circles like he was chasing his tail and then finally sat down next to me and started licking his arm. And I'm worried that my kids can't write their name? I bet Dog Boy couldn't write his name! And a different version of him is going to be my kid's future classmate.


    I'm moving too. We could by each other and take turns homeschooling. Are your kids still licking stuff?

  23. Michele S.-
    OMG!!! LMAO!!! That is hilarious... Thanks for the laugh!

  24. One of many cuzzins'10/1/08, 12:23 AM

    Hi Jen,

    I've been reading, but haven't commented in awhile. Been busy with life and my growing teenagers.

    You've got to listen to your heart. Look how fast your babies turned into children...next they will be adolescents and in no time they'll be teenagers and then you'll be sending them off to college. It goes soooo fast!! Although personally, I could have NEVER homeschooled my children, I think it is a really good way to go. The homeschooled kids that I know are well ahead of those in mainstream education programs. If you have a yearning for it, you've got to give it a go. You are the internet queen, so I'm sure you've been doing some investigating.

    You have such a nice family life. If anyone can do it, you and Charlie can. You are running yourself ragged with that schedule. Life is too short! Things can change so quickly. You've got to decide what will bring you the most fulfillment.

    Good luck with this dilemma. My vote is to invest in some Birkenstocks, buy a cabin nestled in the woods and go granola...it suits you!

    Now, turn on your TV and get ready for the Red Sox post season.

  25. The mountains of NC. Good cheese, incredible scenery, organic CSAs, and EVERYTHING is within a day's drive. (Check out Tryon, NC. Just don't tell anyone ELSE!)