Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Open Doors

This past weekend was the return of Doors Open Milwaukee.  We weren't able to venture outside our own neighborhood for it this year, but it was still fun.  Although the day got off to a rocky start.

Ian has been out of town for a week doing Army things.  I'm surprised how much the stress of that can still get to me.  I think of myself as a fairly calm parent, not prone to fits very often.  But a lot of my ability to be that way has to do with sharing the burden and having someone to laugh with and getting a break.  Remove the other parent from the equation and my mind becomes a constant scramble of responsibilities, always sure I'm forgetting something, and I become far less patient.

The weekdays with Ian gone have been complicated.  Last Thursday in particular was impressively tricky where I had to work, I arranged for the kids to walk themselves to the violin store after school rather than be picked up, I would feed them there, we'd head to the school for the open house right after work, then go straight from there to the Y for Mona's swim team practice.  Sure the dog wasn't getting walked until pretty late in this scenario, but it was the best I could do.

Then I got the reminder call that all the kids had dentist appointments.  Ha.  Thankfully my assistant agreed to come in with her two-year-old and mind the store a bit for a couple of hours, so the new plan became: Kids walk to the store, eat, we drive home to walk the dog and brush teeth, dentist, school open house, swim team.  That was the tightest day, but all the days have felt like that lately.

On Saturday I had to work and the kids stayed home and baked cookies.  They made beautiful and interesting cookies, and I'm glad they had fun, but I had to nag them about the mess.  I told them I never mind them doing a project, but it was unfair for them to leave a mess for me when there is already too much for me to do already.  They still hadn't gotten to it by bedtime so I left it for the morning.

 Because of work we couldn't do any Doors Open Milwaukee activities on Saturday, and because of Quinn's rescheduled piano lesson anything we were going to do on Sunday was going to have to happen pretty early and close to home.  I requested they please finish cleaning up the last of the cookie mess while I ran out to the Y so we could head on out right after.  They didn't.

Now, my kids are kind and want to be conscientious.  Mona's good about being helpful and doing what she's asked when she's asked.  Her siblings not so much (and Mona gets distracted by them sometimes and that derails her good intentions).  Aden in particular just doesn't seem to know how to make herself do the things she knows she's supposed to do, and it frustrates her.  She's got early onset teenage brain, so I get it, but it's still annoying.

Anyway, I ended up doing the kitchen myself because I wanted it done more than I wanted to create a teaching moment.  There will always be more opportunities to stand over them and make them clean.  But as we were leaving the house I pointed out to Aden what she'd neglected to do.  She looked genuinely ashamed.

I was tired, I was annoyed, and I wanted to yell at her to drive the point home.  I told Aden that I wanted to yell, but I wasn't going to because that always makes me feel terrible.  Instead I burst into tears.  All that emotion had to come out some way, and apparently that was my body's plan B.

It was interesting because it probably made more of an impression than yelling would have.  I was sobbing while trying to explain how having her create extra work for me felt not just inconsiderate but mean.  That love is about action more than words and that she needed to do better.  Then I wiped away my tears and said we needed to just start over, and we headed out for our mini Doors Open Milwaukee tour.

The first place we went (which I didn't think to take any pictures of) was the Milwaukee Makerspace.  We've been meaning to join for some time, and now with all the ways we could use it to work on our Mold-A-Rama machine we will likely do it soon.  The Milwaukee Makerspace is a club for people who like to build things, housed in a building full of tools and supplies.  For $40 a month we'd have 24/7 access to all kinds of metal working machines, lathes, bandsaws, pottery making equipment, 3D printers, sewing machines, a laser cutter, etc etc etc.  Technically it's only for people 18 and older, but we could bring the kids in if they are well behaved and they don't touch the machines.  If they want to design something on their computer for the 3D printer or the laser cutter, they could, we'd just have to run the actual machines for them.  Anyway, the kids were enthralled with all of it, and I have lots of ideas.

Next we took a peek inside St Luke's, which is a church in the middle of Bay View that I've never been in before.  It was lovely.  Pretty stained glass, bright and airy, and snacks for visitors!  Always nice to get to know a place better that you pass often.

Then we paid a visit to the Basilica of St Josaphat.  I've gotten to perform in there a couple of times, and it was even a stop on the Amazing Milwaukee Race once, but my kids had never been inside the main building.  It's a stunning place, and they were appropriately awestruck.

Afterward we went to the grocery store, I took Quinn to his piano lesson, and although I had intended to start working on Halloween costumes, I'm not sure what we did with the rest of the day.  I know at some point I made everyone take showers and I got Quinn to clean up a swath of his room, but it's odd how time can get away from you and you don't remember much of it.

Boy I can't wait for Ian to get home.  He's not going to understand why all the laundry he did a week ago is still just sitting in the basket, but hey, we're all still alive and the house is still standing so I did fine!  And I only yelled at the garbage can and not at any children, so I'm calling that a win.


  1. I understand about the patience just going way down when your spouse is gone. When my husband travels for work, I find myself raising my voice or otherwise getting wound up, and I ask myself, "What the heck? Where did my tolerance level go?" It is tough.

    I'm curious: How did the kids respond to your tears? I know the few times my mom cried like that over something I said or did, I would promptly burst into tears too, and then Dad would walk in and wonder what the heck was going on.

    Thanks for sharing some of the tougher moments of parenting with us.

    1. You know, I used to try during the deployments to shield the kids from my tears because they were young and it was all so complicated and I didn't want them to worry about me. The problem was if I ever tried to separate myself from them to be upset or angry alone, they would follow me, which was both good and bad. Now they don't have just me to rely on, so I can afford to be vulnerable, and they are old enough now to understand more. I almost never shield my feelings, so they know when I'm disappointed or unhappy or frustrated. (Most of the time I'm pretty content, though, so it's not like I'm subjecting them to a lot of angst.)

      On Sunday I really only lost it in front of Aden. She simply listened and looked sad. Normally she might offer me a hug, but she seemed to sense I was too keyed up for that right then. She offered me one later.

      But I think there is something important about being able to let stuff go. I got my frustration out, explained her part in it, forgave her, and moved on. I hope she remembers that more than my tears.

  2. Hmmm. I am really yelly. I try not to be, and it's really only my incredibly exasperating youngest who gets me yelling anymore, but I do delve into the scary-stern voice quite often and it's probably not much better. I'm kind of impressed with a whole weekend without yelling and think a good bursting-into-tears was highly justified. :) Glad you had a good weekend!!

    1. I never judge parents when they get yelly because I've been there and still go there and yikes it's amazing how fast you can be driven to that. I just feel so stupid when I do. Because I would never think to yell at, say, your kids. So why can't I extend that discipline to dealing with mine? It's not even a matter of time, because I've had my niece with us for as long as a month, and I would never ever yell at her. The idea of it even makes me cringe.

      I guess there is a bit of leeway there that's maybe okay. Family sees us at our most real and often our worst, and we learn to deal and forgive. (And with luck improve, so I'm always working on less yelly.)

  3. My sister always snorts and derides me and my grumpiness when Brien travels. He doesn't go often, but when he does, I feel as if all hell has broken loose and how the hell am I going to hold it all together. You see, HER husband travels weekly and she's lucky to see him on the weekends. She's used to managing her household and her children on her own.

    We are used to having a two-parent household with all that entails with the divvying of chores and responsibilities and taking on a recalcitrant child when I'm just DONE. When that's the way you have your life organized, to take away one of those pieces is rather critical.

    I've tried explaining that to her. She *sort* of gets it, but still snorts derisively at me. Hmph

    I too hate the yelling and being yelly and I do it far more than I wish. You're right, I'd DIE before yelling at my nieces and nephews or students, so why do my children get to take the brunt of it? And yet, when chores are done in a half-assed manner (I have YET to find a better word to describe that, and believe me, it's always fun to say to Lil, "You just did a half-assed job!" *eye roll*) I just about lose it. If you're going to do a job, do it right! Gr. If you make a mess, clean the dratted thing up! >:o(

    Your doors open day sounds like it was fun, after the drama of the morning, so yay for that! :o)

    I hope Ian's home soon and stays home for a long long while.

  4. hope Ian is finally home :) For me it's not just the added work/logistics it's being the only adult in the house...not having anyone to talk to about things other than the latest pokemon game, skateboarding, new shoes or whatever is the latest obsession with the kids. Just having someone else there that is responsible for the minions. Your pictures were beautifu! I wish we had more time to take advantage of all the cool things available to us living in this area.