The long summer

It’s been a long summer.
A very long summer.
With early sunrises and late sunsets, no one sleeps in our household.
And no one wants to stay home.
That means no writing at night or early in the morning, and no sneaking in a few words here and there during the day.
I can’t even jot down notes at the pool or the lake because our youngest two are still swimmers-on-the-verge. Both have taken their first independent strokes. One even started swimming a little distance the other day. But at 4 years old, they still have no judgment and they certainly don’t have enough endurance.
My eyes must remain focused on them even when lifeguards are present.
I know.
I could make it a priority.
I could squeeze a few words in here and there.
But we have four kids and they tire me out.
What I really want at the end of the day is a glass of wine.
What I really want in the morning is a cup of coffee.
But my mind won’t rest.
Even without a laptop or a pencil and paper, I find that I am writing. I am writing in my head constantly, focusing on my characters when I should be focusing on the road, blurting out plot dilemmas during conversations about minnows and tadpoles, revising while I’m loading the dishwasher and scrubbing pots and pans.
When September comes around and the kids return to school, I know that I will have trouble doing anything but writing. I will obsess. I will forget my vow to exercise more. I will procrastinate on those home remodeling projects. I will be surprised to realize that it’s time to get the twins from preschool and nearly time for my husband to bring the older kids home.
I will have my hands on the keyboard, banging out those words — those characters, plots and settings — that are fighting for space in my head. The experience will be freeing just like it was last fall. I will be productive. Very productive.
I am excited.
But …
why then do I still dread the fall?
Why do I find that I am reluctant to send the kids off to their classrooms, where they will be challenged daily, where they socialize with their friends, where someone else will feed them lunch?  Maybe even saddened? Maybe even a wee bit depressed?
I love to write, but the reality is that I love my kids more.
And it’s healthy to be pulled away from my keyboard, to get a little color on my arms, legs and face, to have lunch on a picnic table that is situated between the beach and the playground.
It’s good for me to converse with other moms while the kids swing or climb on the monkey bars. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to sit into a chair at night with stars bright above me and fire crackling in front of me and my husband beside me, watching the older kids instruct the younger ones on the qualities of a perfect s’more.
The things is that every September brings us closer to ages when the kids won’t be interested in hanging out with mom in the summer anymore. Every September, I realize that they’ve grown just a little bit more. Grown a little more independent of me.
That makes me proud, but it also makes me appreciate the time I have with them.
I will always be able to write provided my mind remains sharp and my hands can still navigate a keyboard, but I will not always be able to a push swing or coming running to see a captured crayfish in a net or catch a child jumping off the edge of a pool.
Because the kids won’t need me that way.
So for now, the words in my head will just have to move over, cram closer together and make room for more.
They are not going anywhere.
But I am.
The pool, the deli, Darien Lake, the library, the playground, the beach, up and down the street in front of our house, grandma’s, Aunt Karen’s, cousin Amy’s, maybe Aunt Angie’s one more time, the mall, Market Street, a hike, and who knows where else.
Who knows.

Everybody’s dancing but me

This is the week of the happy dance in the Cincinnati area.
School starts Aug. 24 in our district. Some schools started last week. Others start this week.
Parents all over the region are clicking their heels high in the air.
They are doing jigs, popping their joints, sliding gracefully across the kitchen floor.
Not me.
I haven’t even bought school supplies yet.
I’ll be dancing away Sept. 9 when my twins start preschool. I adore those little guys and they are a blast, but I get nothing done when they are around. They will go for only four hours a day, two days a week.
We’ll all benefit from that.
But I’m finding it hard to let the older kids go this year.
I’ll be honest.
I have great kids.
My oldest son is nine and my daughter will be eight this month.
Eightty percent of the time, they get along beautifully. They are each other’s best friend. When they do argue, it’s never because one was intentionally cruel to the other.
They don’t do that kind of thing.
And they are really smart: book smart and people smart.
I can talk to them about grown-up stuff and they understand. I can explain the impact of their own behaviors and they understand. They are sensitive and empathetic, so much so that I often have to remind myself that they are children.
And when they are gone, I miss them.
Two weeks ago, they went to Pennsylvania for seven days with my husband for their grandfather’s funeral. I’d never been away from them for so long before and I quickly came to appreciate how much they help me around the house and with the twins.
Yes, they have their moments.
Sometimes, they are so whiny I just want to scream.
Sometimes they decide to do “experiments” and they destroy my kitchen.
Sometimes they find every reason possible to avoid going to bed and when 9 o’clock turns into 11 o’clock, I’m ready to tear my hair out.
But there is one other thing that tips the scale in their favor, no matter what else my older kids might do:
When their friends ask them what I do, they don’t say, “She makes us dinner.” They don’t say, “She drives us to school.” They don’t say, “She cleans the house, takes care of the twins or does the dishes.”
They say, “My mom writes books.”
My mom writes books.
That’s what they say.
Nope.
I just can’t feel the rhythm of that happy dance.

The karate scam

Originally posted March 11, 2009

My 7-year-old daughter became interested in karate through a short introductory course, which was promoted as a fundraiser for her school. She was hooked, so hooked that she quit dance and gymnastics to join.
I had the twins with me when I registered my daughter and they were screaming to get out of their stroller. So I didn’t pay much attention when one of the owners explained the six-month contract and the automatic deductions.
I just signed the papers.
Fine.
A six-month commitment was probably a good idea anyway. It would force her to stick with it long enough to know whether karate was really her thing.
And it is.
She loves it.
But now we must quit.
It’s a matter of principle.
It’s a scam.
For the past several months, the folks at the karate school have lured her deeper and deeper with tips on her belt, new belts, more tips, more belts and lots and lots of games. She has anxiety issues and she loves the fact that the instructors simply take control.
They tell her what to do and she does it.
They tell her not to cry and she doesn’t.
They tell her to be respectful and she is.
But two weeks ago, she received a letter. The letter informs me that she is nearing her testing for lime belt and that’s time to make a greater commitment. My daughter may continue only if I sign a three-year contract, agree to let some outside company continue to withdraw funds from my account, pay double the tuition I’m paying now and give 90 days notice for cancellation.
I’m not stupid.
This is about money.
This is about hoping that, if my daughter stops going, I won’t get around to cancelling for a month or two, and then I will still have to pay for another 90 days. This is about using outside companies who have can easily send those who oppose this system to collections, possibly ruining their credit.
This is not about karate.
One of my daughter’s best friends joined about the same time. Her mother, a single mom, recently lost her job. Two months remained in her six-month contract. She tried talking to the owners. They offered to let another family member fill the slot (She has no siblings), but they refused to cancel her automatic deductions.
I have left two messages, asking to talk about the 3-year contract. They have not called back.
Since then, I have learned from others that they will not call back and they will not budge if I approach then face-to-face (which I will do this week). Fortunately, my daughter is very bright. I explained the situation and she understood.
She’s going back to gymnastics, where I pay tuition every eight weeks by check.