Thursday, September 30, 2010

On how doing more housework made me a happier person

As I mentioned the other day, I was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  It was just okay, but certainly inspiring.  I only read about 3/4 of the book and didn't really feel like I needed to finish it.  So I didn't.

Anyways, she talks a lot about doing small things to increase your overall happiness and quality of life.  She breaks the book up by month and focuses on one specific area of her life each month.  One month she focuses on her marriage and she decided she wanted to stop nagging her husband so much because her nagging made both of them unhappy.  It occurred to me while reading this particular section that I had also had a similar epiphany a few months ago re: nagging and I though I'd share it with you. (You're welcome.)

In my home, as I am sure in many of your homes, my spouse and I share household duties.  I do the lion's share of the housework because I am home all day, but there are some very specific tasks that fall to Nelson.  These include most yard work; taking out the trash and recycling; picking up toys at the end of the day (this because he prefers not to cook dinner or do dishes, so I do both those things; he picks up the toys as a trade off); and, up until recently haul the laundry up from the basement and put it away in our closets and drawers once I have folded it.

I am going to be honest here.  Aside from the toy clean up (which I would not mind doing), all of Nelson's chores are things I personally hate doing, which is why they have been assigned to him.  In all fairness, Nelson's chores are not things that HE hates, so that works well for us.  With the exception of bringing up and putting away laundry.

As you might be able to imagine, since Nelson hates bringing up and putting away laundry, he was a little lax at getting these particular tasks done.  So I would nag him about them.  "Can you please bring up the laundry?" "Have you brought up the laundry yet?"  "Is that laundry still in the basement?"  It felt like I had to ask him a minimum of three times to get any action on the task.  And the laundry would sometimes go two weeks without getting put away and it would get to the point where there were no baskets left for our dirty clothes.

I was getting frustrated because things were not being done in what I considered a normal amount of time, and I also felt crappy because I knew I was being a nag.  And I'm pretty certain that my nagging was not really doing anything to encourage Nelson to bring up and put away the laundry.  So, I made a decision.

I decided that I would no longer ask Nelson multiple times to bring up the laundry.  I would ask him once.  If he did not bring up the laundry in what I considered a reasonable amount of time (one day), I would just do it myself.  In doing it myself, I decided I would not complain or martyr myself in anyway.  I would just do it so it would be done, and not complain.  I also decided that instead of waiting for Nelson to put away the laundry, I would do that as well.  No complaints or passive aggressive comments or even the expectation that Nelson was going to notice.    I just decided to start doing this stuff because I was tired of being a nag.

My thinking here was that yes, I was going to be doing more work but that I would feel happier and better about myself because I wouldn't feel like a jerk for being a nag, and that also I would have increased good feelings towards Nelson because I wouldn't always be feeling irritated that he was not listening to my requests or doing his household tasks.

And you know what?  It totally worked.  I stopped nagging Nelson about the laundry and I feel better as a result.  I no longer expect him to do these tasks so I don't feel annoyed that he's not doing them and I don't feel like a jerk for constantly harassing him to get these things done. And doing the tasks myself is not even a big deal.  I'm able to fit the extra laundry duty into my day seamlessly, and it only ads maybe an extra 20 minutes of work to my day two or three times a week.

Truthfully, I don't even dislike putting away laundry as much as I thought I did and I do it ten times fast than Nelson so my doing it is so much more efficient..  And I love that when I'm finished I have these lovely empty baskets. Such a sense of accomplishment.  As an added bonus, now when Nelson does put away the laundry (without prompting) it feels like a relief.

With bringing up the laundry, I ask him once and then do it myself.  Yes, I bring it up a lot more than I (or my back) prefers, but it gets done and that is fine.  Recently (about three months in) I have noticed that Nelson is more likely to bring up the laundry right when I ask, and I think this is a direct result of him not feeling so harassed about the whole issue.

For a long time, I did not thing that Nelson really noticed that I'd backed off on the laundry nagging and picked up the putting away clothing detail, and that was okay because I'd decided I was not doing these for him; I was doing them for me, so I could feel better.  Then one day he suddenly commented on the fact that I was so on top of things which felt really good.  I did not expect or need the recognition, but it was nice to see my efforts appreciated.

This whole deal also made me realize what a negative effect nagging was having on my marriage.  My doing an extra hour of work a week makes me feel better about myself, about my husband, and I'm pretty sure he feels better about me too.  A happiness success for sure.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RTT: A very random Tuesday

Tuesday.  It always comes down to Tuesday.


*I'm sure you are all anxiously awaiting a preschool drop off update, but since Oscar only goes on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, you're going to have to wait another day.  I actually think this is part of the problem, that he has four days off between school.  He gets used to NOT going and then he has to go again.  There is really nothing I can do about that, since that is just the schedule for the 3s at his school.

*I've been a little anxious about folding laundry since the ambush.  The clean laundry is starting to pile up.

*My laptop battery died, so I've been using my mom's tiny little Dell Mini and as a result my fingers are terribly cramped.  And the punctuation keys are in the wrong places, so it's confusing.  My new battery hasn't even shipped yet, so I am a bit concerned that I'm going to suffer a permanent finger deformity from typing on this teensy, tiny keyboard.  But, the Mini is pink so that's fun.

*My children are finally over the worst and most lingering cold in the world and now I have it.  Well, they are still coughing.  Like I said, this one lingers.

*I'm reading three books right now.  Three! The Happiness Project* by Gretchen Rubin; Amy and Isabelle: A novel* by  Elizabeth Strout; and NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children* by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  So, I want to say I don't really like The Happiness Project, but I'm feeling inspired to clear my clutter, clean my closets, and be a better friend and spouse so even if I think I'm not enjoying it, it is obviously having an effect on me.  Amy and Isabelle is great.  Not as great as Olive Kitteridge, but I would still highly recommend it.  And Nurture Shock I love.  It is just my kind of think though; I like books about parenting and books based on scientific research, so it combines two of my favorite things, and I think it is well written in a way that makes it accessible.  My friend Jane, who is an elementary school teacher recommended it to me, so I knew it would be good.  She's one of those friends that always has good book recs.

*I made these whole wheat apple muffins this morning for breakfast and they were a hit.  So much so that Nelson call me on his way into work to tell me how much he enjoyed them.  Very yummy and healthy. Made me feel a little better about the terrible insomnia that woke me up early and inspired me to bake them at 6AM.

*Oscar is becoming quite the library enthusiast, hence my reading so many books.  We go once sometimes twice a week.  He has his own library card and it is terribly cute.  I tend to do a lot of reserving online in advance of our visits, but I will also let him run around a pick a few books he likes.  Miles rips them, and I feel horrible, but I noticed that many of the children's books we check out have repaired tears, so I guess torn books are just par for the course.

*Miles has taken to randomly shouting out "All aboard train!" and it is heartbreaking. He sounds like a little train conductor with a speech impediment.

*Wall art has achieved new heights in my home.  I've got a couple of regular Picasso's on my hands.  I can't decide if it is better to wash the art as it is created or once a week.

*Rain, rain go away.  My children are making me nuts and need to go outside to play.

That's all I got, my lovely little chickens.  Be a good sport and visit Keely and a few of the other RTT players.

*Disclosure: Book links go to my Amazon Associate's account and should you click and purchase I will get a (teeny, tiny) cut.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Preschool: Week 3

Week three of preschool and the shine has worn off the penny, folks. For Oscar, at least.  Maybe for me a little as well.

Here's the situation.  Lunch Bunch is when the kids stay at school for an additional hour and eat packed lunch and play at the playground.  I let Oscar do a LB trial, and he loved it.  So, I signed him up for all three days.  It's a lot more convenient for me to pick him up at one than at noon, and I like that he has a bit of a longer day (3.5 hours as opposed to 2.5.)  Well, day two of LB he cried because his teacher was not the teacher monitoring the lunchers.  He was fine, though.  He worked it out, at his lunch, and had a good time.

Come day three of LB, and not only did he not want to go to LB, but he did not want to go to school.  He was a sobbing mess before we even left the house.  Then, he wanted Nelson to stay at school, which obviously could not happen and when Nelson and I made our exit, Oscar completely lost it and the teacher had to close the door because Oscar was sobbing and trying to crawl out after us.  His teacher assured me he was fine after we left and that he had a great day and a great LB.  This was Friday.

So, yesterday, I let Oscar know that today was going to be a school day.  He seemed excited.  I didn't want to make a big thing of it, but I did want to remind him because he had not been to school in four days (he goes Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.)

This morning, when he comes downstairs, I reminded him again that today was a school day.  He was excited, but he told me he did not want to go to LB; that he wanted to come home and eat lunch with me.  I sort of just dropped it and didn't really responds and we went on with our morning. When he saw me packing his lunch, he became upset and told me again that he did not want to do LB. We talked about this for a few minutes, how he was afraid, how he did not like the lunch room.  I validated his feelings of apprehension at a new situation and reassured him, and then I dropped it.  I didn't want to over talk the whole thing and Oscar get too worked up about it. 

All morning, Oscar was testing limits and pushing my buttons.  I kept my cool because it was pretty clear to me that he was stressed out about school and/or LB. He was asking for snack he knows are not allowed in the mornings; making a pile of toys he wanted to take to school (he can only bring his bunny and his Grave Digger); insisting on wearing his Crocs to school (they are not allowed); being mean to Miles.  I just refused to engage him when he was behaving poorly and tried to redirect him. This worked fine. 

When it was time to go, he was fine.  He even asked to carry his lunch box.  The ride to school was good. Once we got there, it went to hell.  Oscar was crying even before I even parked the car.  "No!  I don't want to go to school anymore!  I want to stay home with you!" 

He fought with me getting him out of the car and cried the while way in to the school.  I talked to him and I reassured him.  He refused to go into his classroom, but only once and only for a second.  He wiped his hands with the hand sanitizer with no fight, so I hustled him in and quickly deposited him with a teacher and he had stopped crying before I even made it out of the classroom.

I realize I could just not make him go to LB.  Yes, it makes my life easier, but it would be okay if he came home an hour earlier.  And, also, I don't really think this is about LB because when I pick Oscar up he is always playing well and tells me he had a great time and he eats most of his lunch.  I think he's just having trouble adjusting to school and the new routine.

My current strategies are to not over talk things, to remain calm and together when Oscar gets worked up, to affirm his feelings and reassure him. This seems to be working to a degree as today's drop off was much less dramatic.  I'm also considering cutting his LB days down to twice a week, though I'd rather not.  I'd love some suggestions from the peanut gallery on how else to ease Oscar's transition and decrease his school-related stress.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The horror

On Saturday morning last, I was enjoying the quite.  Nelson had taken the boys down to his parents for the weekend; I'd had dinner and drinks with friends the night before; I had a frittata cooking in the kitchen for brunch with friends.  I'd decided I'd be fashion forward and wear my white pants to brunch and was feeling quite smug about it.

I was folding some laundry in my beautiful, sunny living room.  The laundry had been sitting in my basement for two or three days, waiting patiently, and I finally had a moment.  I could smell the frittata - almost done.  I yanked the last shirt from the laundry.  It was one of Nelson's work shirts - long sleeves, button down.  I shook it to get out some of the wrinkles, and something fell onto my lap.

Now, it's not entirely surprising that something would fall onto my lap from the clean laundry.  I'm notoriously bad at checking pockets before I wash clothing, so things fall out all the time.  I'm always washing grocery lists, receipts, money, business cards, appointment cards, memory sticks (sorry, Nelson).  There is almost always some kind of detritus in my clean clothes.

So, things falling out of my laundry onto my lap = not surprising.  I had no idea what had fallen on to my lap, but my subconscious kicked in and sent my heart racing and adrenaline flowing and my hand flinging what ever it was on my lap and onto the floor.  I didn't know what it was, but my body was automatically reacting and my brain had not caught up.  It was like it was spinning through my memory files trying the place the thing. What are you, thing?

As I brushed it away, this thing that my body into panic mode but was not immediately identifiable, it moved.  IT FUCKING MOVED.  No, it jumped.  It landed about four feet away.

It was a goddamn camel cricket, aka the spawn of Satan. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to click that link right and and go see the ugly bastards for yourself.  They are horrific.  You may know them as sprikets, spider crikets, jumping crickets.  They are some big, ugly em effers.  And they jump super high and super far.  And because of their terrible vision, they JUMP AT predators (i.e., me) instead of jumping away.  Also, they eat their own limbs.  They are nasty.  The don't bite and aren't particularly harmful or damaging, except to your eyes because of their hideousness and your heart when they try to attack you and give you palpitations.

When Nelson and I lived in our little 400 square foot basement apartment, the place was infested with them.  they were everywhere, and we could not get rid of these awful, hideous, attacking crickets.  I was afraid to open cabinets because the bastards would launch themselves at me.  If I got up in the middle of the night, I would see them, covering the kitchen floor. COVERING it.  

I had nightmares about them.  There were just so many more crickets than there were of us.  We put out these glue traps to capture them and the traps would be covered every mornings.  It was so terrible, you guys.  Definitely one of the worse parts about living in that apartment.  There was also a rat situation there, but I'll save that for another time (Amy, you'll love that one.)

So, back to present day.  That little bastard was just sitting there in my beautiful, sunny living room, waiting to attack me and then hop away and lie in wait in some dark corner to terrify me again.  Well, folks, I wasn't having any of that.

They have terrible vision, so I skirted around the side of him and into the dining room.  I then took off my flip flop and crept right up on that nasty bastard and squashed the shit of out him.  There was a satisfying crunch and a gooey, blood mess in my living room, but he's dead, dead, dead and I'm feeling more than a little vindicated.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brotherly love and a preschool report

While it remains true that Oscar and I have not been crying at preschool drop off, there have been some tears.  And flailing arms.  And kicking legs.  Accompanied by screams of, "No!  No!  Ah-too!  Ahhhh-tooo!"  

From Miles.  

And he's really loud you guys.  In the school and all.

The littlest member of the Oscarelli family is none to pleased to see his brother remain at school while he has to go home with his mom.  He screams and cries and tries to throw himself from his stroller.  He arches his back and tries to yank his arms out of his car seat harness.  He sobs the while way home, saying Oscar's name over and over.  He throws himself on the floor and kicks and screams and pounds his fists for several minutes after we get home.

We did manage to have some fun, blowing bubbles, playing monster trucks, watching Hero of the Rails.  But when I told him that after three long hours it was finally time to go get Oscar, Miles hightailed it to the door so fast his size six Chuck Taylors were smoking.  

Oscar was just as happy to see Miles at pick up as Miles was to see Oscar.  They shared a hug and kisses. And jabbered to each other the whole way back to the car.  They played really well together at home for about 45 minutes before Miles need to go down for his nap.

Oscar and I had a rough morning.  It had to argue with him every step - to go pee, to get dressed, to eat something, to put down his Grave Digger monster truck.  There were tears and frustrations and demands of a different school and threats to no school. 

I relented on the monster truck and we made it to school.  I helped him hang up his bag and his coat and walked him over to his teacher, Mrs. H.  "We're having a little trouble separating from his monster truck today, " I told her.

"That's okay, " she said.  "Oscar, lets take your monster truck around and show him your classroom, and then we'll put him in your bag for later, okay?"


And that was that.

When I arrived to pick him up today, I asked Mrs. H, "So how did he do?"

"He did great."

"Oh, good.  I was worried because it was a rough morning." 

"Oscar is a wonderful little boy.  You should be really proud of him.  He's so polite and helpful, and he really participates." 

"Oh, good, thank you for saying so."

"He's also a really good friend.  He's really helping some of the other students that are having more difficulty transitioning."


And this is the part where I had to look away because I was tearing up because I AM so proud of him, and what a great thing to hear, right?  That he's a good friend?  I mean, I know that preschool teachers are supposed to talk about how great your kid is, but wow.  A good friend?  I just think that is such  a compliment. That just made me feel so happy.

"I'm so glad to hear that.  That's really great."

What else can you say to a compliment like that that?

That's all I could think to say.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Boys love trucks

So, in what is possibly the ultimate cliché, my boys love monsters trucks. Love. Love, love, love.  The have monster truck toys, go to monster truck show, watch monster truck videos, demand monster truck cakes for their birthdays.

Each year, on our way to the Outer Banks for our summer vacation, we pass the home of Grave Digger, who is probably one of the more popular monster trucks in the U.S.  Maybe in the world, but this whole monster truck thing just screams AMERICA! what with all the excess and the marketing and the destruction, so I wonder if people in other countries even know what monster trucks are, or if they think that monster trucks are just ridiculous.

So, anyways, we have passed by this place for a couple of years but we knew that this year we would have to stop because of the complete monster truck obsession in casa de Oscarelli.

The whole compound is pretty large.  There's a big field with three or four monster trucks out for show; a "pit" with a school bus ramp where you can pay $5 to actually take a ride in a monster truck (we passed this year); a large automotive shop where they are building/repairing monster trucks (it was big enough to have like four truck inside); a smallish diner; a small petting zoo (painted Grave Diggers signature colors of lime green and purple); a small playground and outdoor picnic area; a ranch style home; several outbuildings holding parts and old trucks; and a gigantic store selling all things monster truck (the Digger's Dungeon).

As soon as we pulled in, the boys began losing their shit.  Oscar started asking, "Are those monster trucks? Can we go see them? Are those real monster trucks?" Miles started yelling, "Masta truh! Masta truh! Masta truh!"

As we headed over to the stationary trucks, Miles got a little nervous.  They are big.  Way bigger than the toys we have at home.  Oscar was practically trembling with excitement.  We took many photos.  Here's a sampling:

The boys and I with Grave Digger

Oscar and I with the Fanta Truck

Nelson and the boys with Grave Digger

The garage
Grave Digger, with a sweet 1980s Camero parked in front of it

The purple and green petting zoo, complete with 
skull and cross bones.

And there you have it.  Our visit to the home of Grave Digger.  We spent about an hour and $80 there, totally worth every minute and every penny.

Friday, September 10, 2010


On Wednesday we had a high of 96 degrees and today I woke up and the outdoor thermometer read 58.  The projected high here today in DC is a balmy 77 degrees.  And with that, we have fall.  That's just always how it is here.  It goes from blazing hot to nearly chilly overnight.

I love this time of year.  I know it is fall and the trees are shedding leaves and the flower all all dead, but fall has just always felt like new beginnings to me.  I don't know if it's the bright autumnal colors, or the refreshingly crisp air, or what.  Fall just feels to me like a fresh start.

The next two and a half or three months are among my favorites.  The mid-Atlantic has such a lovely fall.  This weekend, I'll spend time sorting fall cloths and packing away the summer stuff.  I'll leave out a couple of pairs of shorts and the T-Shirts until at least October (we get the occasional fall heat wave; little reminders of summer), but today I'll begin sorting and washing and tallying.

Tomorrow my friend Pam and I will go shopping for socks and undershirts for our boys, and whatever else we need to round out their wardrobes.  I already got Oscar a few pairs of sweatpants and some cute shirts from Target, and I have some hand-me-downs for him from my friend Suzanne's son Ben; Miles will be fully in Oscar clothing from last fall and the fall before (though I can't see to find the pajamas or the winter coats.)

In the coming weekends we'll take the boys apple picking; on autumnal hikes and picnics; to the playground on cool, crisp mornings.  Then it will be onto Halloween costumes and pumpkin picking.  I'll dress the boys in hooded sweatshirts, little jeans, and impossibly cute Chuck Taylors.  They will play in the leaves.  They will drink apple cider and hot coco.  We'll bake spice and molasses cookies and apple pies and gingerbread cupcakes.

I love all of these fall rituals and traditions.  I love this time of year.  Love it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Oscar goes to preschool

Oscar was adamant that he wear his new monster truck shirt.  He was too nervous to eat much breakfast, but he did have half a piece of toast.  He didn't cry and neither did I.

Bunny waited in the car.

I tried to get a photo of them together.  They did not cooperate.

When I fetched him from his classroom after his abbreviated first day, I asked him, "So, how was it?  How was school?"

His response?

"It was so, so great.  I love school." 

First day of school win.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

RTT: I'm so tired I forgot a title

Yeah, so I realize it's been awhile.  There have been many happenings in these parts, so I'll update you RTT style.
*Thanks to Hurricane Earl, we were ousted from our lovely Outer Banks vacation three days early.  And it was such an amazing vacation this year.  A real bummer, but we are glad we were able to spend some time there this year, and are already looking forward to next year.

*Shortly after returning, I received the very sad news that the mother of one of my very dearest friends had  passed away.  Another friend from DC and I hopped a plane to central Illinois on Friday so we could spend a few days with her.  I will not tell her story here as it is not mine to tell, but I will say that my friend's mom was a very, very special woman who seemed to touch the lives of everyone she met.  I'm glad to be among those she touched, and I know her loss is deeply felt by many people, and I wish her family love and peace as they grieve this great woman.

*Things there are a lot of in central Illinois: Corn fields; liquor stores; hair salons; Steak'n'Shakes; wind farms; polite people.

*Oscar starts preschool tomorrow.  Cue sobbing.  No, I kid.  We are both excited.  He's wearing his new monster truck shirt and his star shoes.  It's gonna be awesome.  Conversation about preschool we had this AM:

Jenni: Do you know what tomorrow is?
Oscar: No, what?
Jenni: Your first day of school!
Oscar: Oh, yeah! I'm going to school tomorrow with my Mom and Dad.
Jenni: Well, we will drop you off, but we won't stay at school.  You'll be there will all of your school friends.
Oscar: But I can't go to school without a grown up!
Jenni: Your teachers will be there.  They are grown ups.  Remember your teachers?  They sent you a letter and their picture.
Oscar:  Oh, yeah.  I'm going to go to school and my teachers will be the grow ups and you will leave me there.
Jenni: Right, but then I'll come get you.  Do you know why?
Oscar: Why?
Jenni: Because your mine!
Oscar: And your mine!

*So, we got this new monster truck shirt when we visited the home of Gravedigger, one of the most bad ass monster trucks on four wheels.  I'm gonna do a little photo montage of our visit later this week, or possibly next week.  It was pretty amazing.  And expensive.  I'll tell ya, those Gravedigger folks know how to turn a buck.

*This summer seems to have been the season of eating shitty and gaining 10lbs so it's back to Weight Watchers for me.

I'm still recovering from my whirlwind trip to central Illinois, so that's all I can push out today.  More Random at Keely's.