Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Age-Old, "What *Do* You Do All Day?

My very good, and tactfully blunt, endearingly honest friend, asked me the other day with a little laugh, "So, no offense; but what *do* you do all day?" If you haven't asked this question then you're most likely thinking it, so I'll attempt to give an answer.

One day I decided to document everything I did throughout the day, what time I did it, and how long it took me. I lost track/got distracted/forgot around 11:30am and by the time I remembered, I consciously blew it off and grabbed my thank-God-it's-nap-time beer. So here goes nothing.

Between 6:45am and 7:45am - Wake up, start the day, throw in a load of laundry. I'm usually up before anyone else, something I do on purpose to have a solid one hour of no one bothering me. The dogs used to make me let them outside but now they know better than to bug me before Zoey wakes up. I usually make/drink coffee, read the news, or this: write. I usually do one load of laundry at minimum a day and feel most inspired to tackle it first thing in the morning.

7:00am or 10:00am - Get breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner together for Jacob to take to work. There's no reason I can't cook and make things, and it turns out its way cheaper and healthier, too. Who knew?

Between 8am and 9am - Make breakfast. Asking Zoey what she wants for breakfast - or any meal, for that matter - is useless; it will always be "eggs and 'tatoes." So this is usually what I make.

Between 9:30am and 10:30am. "Office work." Getting up before the butt-crack of dawn every morning for school has conditioned me to be one of those irritating "morning people." I always took my math classes in the morning because that was when my brain was sharpest. Although I wouldn't necessarily use the term "sharp," my brain functions best in the morning so that is when I do whatever needs to be done with our finances.

10 - 10:30am - Clean up after breakfast. This marks one of three momentous events of cleaning the kitchen, assuming I ignore the post-dinner dishes, as I most often do.

10:30am to 12:30/1:00pm - Daily activity.  "Daily activities" can be anything from going to the playground, to the splash parks when they were still open; to the lake, river (which is now out thanks to a couple of doozy storms that muddied it up), or just running errands.

 Taking over Lake Elmo (or, as she likes to call it, "Elmo Lake").

 Wouldn't you know it, a girl I went to high school with lives in Montana (more importantly, a girl I went to high school with who I actually like). She lives outside of Billings but came into town to run errands so we met up to let her two boys and Zoey wear each other out on one of the last summer-ish days. They played so much that her oldest slept through an entire Costco visit later that afternoon.

 Zoey and Virgil. 

 Zoey, Virgil, and Jasper getting some much-needed water-time.

 Then, of course, it wasn't long before mud was created.

 Zoey and Jasper.

One afternoon I decided to go to the mall, a place that usually gives me anxiety attacks (cruel fate!) but strangely calmed my morning-sickness as I ate pretzel hotdogs and window-shopped when I was pregnant with Zoey.

 Like every mall in the world, ours has a kid's play area. This is either the best idea ever, or the worst. Yes, it's great kids have a place to be kids and - most important - wear them out. But have you ever tried to tell a kid it was time to leave the area to go shopping? Or tell them they needed to suffer through shopping before hitting the play area? Good luck with that.

 Someone clearly enjoyed it. I even tried bribing her to leave with a - what else? - pretzel hotdog but she couldn't be swayed.

 Until she was.

We walked around for only a few minutes. I thought I'd treat her by taking her to the Build-A-Bear Workshop but as we looked around the store and I asked, "Which teddy bear do you want?" She said, "I just want chocolate." So we left in search of chocolate. Total amount spent at mall: 20-cents. Someone call Guinness.

  The mall is now without a bookstore. Blasphemy. So we left the mall and went to Barnes and Noble where - her heaven - the children's section has a Thomas the Tank Engine play set. She played with another little boy about her age while his Grandmother and I looked on in awe as they told us all their names and their train-y function. One day I'll have Zoey explain "shunting." She explains it better than I do and I'm still not exactly sure what it means.

 I find the best stuff on the bargain rack: a Thomas storybook that came with a giant Island of Sodor map (where Thomas and his friends live) and little action figures of all the trains. It's one of her favorite things to play with.

Employing Joey Tribbiani's method of "going into the map."

I won't lie: one of our daily activities lately has been introducing Zoey to the greatness that is shopping. I haven't been shopping in a year but recently came into an annual windfall known as birthday money. Ross, here I come!

 I don't want to brag, but I recently discovered the secret to shopping with children. No, it isn't ignoring their screaming fits as so many mothers seem to employ.

 Find something they'll want to play with that you won't cringe at the price and give it to them straight off. Zoey, here, got cozy, kicked off her shoes and settled in with, what else? Thomas. There is a warning label to this method though: don't dilly-dally. All too often we take for granted the otherwise occupied child and their contentedness is over before it started.

 And, of course, she always benefits in some way from our shopping excursions. I asked what she wants to dress up as for Halloween this year and she's decided a butterfly.

Maybe she'll be the thing to finally cure me of my completely rational fear of butterflies. Nope, probably not. They are the clowns of the insect world.

From 1/1:30pm to 3:30pm is blessed nap-time. It was shortly after this that I got distracted and forgot to continue keeping track of my day.

As a rule I don't have to try very hard to stick to, I don't do anything that resembles work during Zoey's nap. For one, I don't want to wake her or keep her from sleeping. Second, when Zoey is awake, it might take me a little longer because being distracted by her every 30-seconds is inevitable, but there are a lot of instances where she's content playing in her room by herself or watching a program so I'm able to get some things done.

And sometimes I'm lucky enough to get some help. Now I know why you have children: legal slavery.

In any case, afternoon is when I'm busy doing housework (inset second dish-washing here) and preparing something that resembles food. If it's a night Jacob doesn't have to work late, he's usually home about an hour after she wakes up so this is when I prepare dinner. I'm getting better, but somehow preparing what normal people boast as a "30-minute-meal," ends up taking me a good two hours.

If Jacob is working late, Zoey and I will snack until I prepare dinner later in the evening. Cue the third dish-doing. Sometimes we'll take food to him at work, but otherwise just stay home.

I'm not sure how all of this reads to someone who doesn't do it; whether it seems like a lot or everything that can - and does in a working household - get accomplished in a weekend. But take all of this, multiply it by two (because I still have to tend to my own basic needs), and add changing an appendage-flailing child's clothes, brushing the flailing child's hair who is now screaming, wiping a little butt that refuses to stand still even though pee is running down her leg, trying to get someone who doesn't understand the concept of reasoning to agree they shouldn't jump off the arm of the couch, reminding her to eat every few minutes because she's become absolutely entranced in sucking her thumb, arguing with her about not chasing/feeding/climbing on/poking the dogs, arguing with her about pretty much everything, buckling her into the car a la NASA, getting her to blow her nose, trying to convince her there isn't a ghost in the room, answering the same question over and over and over again, having a high-pitched scream stab at your eardrum randomly and for no obvious reason, reminding her not to touch everything in the store, having to hear, "I can have it if I want," in response to saying no at the request of everything she sees, pouting over every thing, having to drop whatever you're doing to take her to the bathroom because holding it isn't something she's physically capable of doing, and basically doing anything and everything she's not physically capable of doing, which - at the moment - is a lot.

Then divide that by the fact that multitasking doesn't actually exist, at least not for anyone with kids. On my way to do/get something, I often find myself taking/doing/getting something else, thinking, I'll just do this real quick since it's on the way, only to get completely side-tracked and forget what I was doing in the first place, ultimately resulting in getting very little actually accomplished. In short, this:

And there aren't any holidays, weekends, or set quittin' time. But when Jacob is home, Zoey couldn't have less to do with me, which was devastating to me when I was working but now I appreciate. I will admit, though, that come weekends, I do take a noticeable break, often forgetting to make dinner plans for those days, and having little interest or energy in doing housework beyond keeping the house sanitary.

The trade off: I do have extra time for the things I enjoy. This - writing - for one; as well as reading, going to the park, making sure the dogs are sufficiently exercised, television programs people would make fun of me for watching, and - the biggest of all - spending time with Zoey. Earlier, I wrote about how I was sure Zoey hated me, and since being home, Jacob and I have noticed a significant difference (read: improvement) in Zoey and I's relationship.

I think Jacob and I are better for it too. It helps that he no longer has to deal with a whiny, weepy wife complaining she doesn't want to leave her baby while also dealing with a cranky toddler who is whining she doesn't want to go to daycare. The other night he actually caught me singing while making dinner (ok, Florida-friends, quit laughing).

Everyone has things to complain about in their daily routine, but mine are more for the sake of making fun of them than actually causing me misery or stress. I'm very appreciative and grateful for my life and all of the people in it right now. I hope that answers your question.