Kitchen Calendar: Blueprint for Chaos

Every time I walk by my calendar on the kitchen counter, I break out in a sweat.  The scribble in each square is taunting me, as if to say “I own you lady, for the next 6 weeks.”

I have officially entered the most hellish time of the year – where wild-eyed parents of multiple, school-aged children have to figure out who is getting where and when.   And like some activity addict in a 12-step program, I take it one day at a time.   Don’t talk to me about next week.  I’m still figuring out today.

The 8-year-old plays baseball, which requires practices twice a week and will ramp up to 2-3 games a week. (Long, very long games.  Like watching grass grow, bless their little minor league hearts) The 10-year-old plays soccer three times a week and she does ballet.  Which is twice a week.  The 5-year-old? Well, she lives in the van that I pilot all over our city and constantly begs for iPad access to play Angry Birds Star Wars.  She also wants to know when it’s her turn to play soccer.  “Never,” I say.

May hasn't even started yet

May hasn’t even started yet

The timing is the worst part.  Everything seems to happen around the same time.  6pm.  Dinner?  Who has time to eat? Dinner turns into a meal on wheels.  Lots of hard boiled eggs, crackers and fruit in baggies.  In the van. There’s not an air freshener alive that can combat the sweaty egg smell combined with foot odor in my vehicle by the end of the week.  Homework has also become a van activity.  I helped my daughter study for a history test while sitting in baseball bleachers last week.  Throw in my part-time job and the fact my husband works evenings, and I’m an over scheduled, frazzled mess.

I’ve had friends suggest a color-coded white board in my kitchen.  Everyone can see it, everyone knows what’s coming up.  Still others say I should coordinate my schedule with my husband in the “cloud”. (All the cloud has done for me is mix my husbands contacts with mine, so his college roommate’s number pops up first when I start typing in J. Annoying)  Plus there’s something about seeing it actually written down that helps it sink it.  Siri can’t help with this.

Perhaps they shouldn’t do all of these activities, you say.  Just pick one and stick with it.  I get it.  My son will never be a pro baseball player and my daughter will never be in a World Cup soccer match.  Unfortunately, each activity seems to have the demands of Olympic training.   And it makes it kind of hard for kids to pick what activity or sport they like – if each activity is so all consuming they don’t have time to try anything else.

The two things that save me are carpools and my parents.  And a glass of wine at the end of the day, er, week.  (Ok, that’s three things)  I’ve realized you have to do activities with friends because sharing the driving duties is the only way to survive.  I’m also extremely lucky there are grandparents around the corner to pick up a dancing child, while I’m delivering a third baseman across town.   My parents smile, laugh and seem to remember my years of soccer, dance, tennis and show choir (yes, show choir – don’t judge my jazz hands).  They made it happen for their four girls, without grandparents.  And somehow it all worked.  My mother likes to remind me, “You can only do what you can do. If they’re late, or if they miss something – they’ll live.”

Simple enough.  And in mid-June I’ll be home free.

But last week, after an especially rousing game of catch my son asked,”Hey mom, am I going to try out for travel baseball?”



Shotgun Mini Van Wedding Ends With True Love

I knew I had to marry him, I just didn’t want to.

Everything about him screamed practical, boring and totally uncool. But I had just given birth to my third child two weeks earlier, and I was desperate.

I looked at my current partner.  He was sleek and showy, with the right amount of casual ruggedness. When we were together, we created this fabulous picture of a hip family on the go.  But he betrayed me.  Like that too slick guy that just doesn’t live up to his boastful promises of wanting to be a family man, he couldn’t handle three kids.

Or really, our three car seats couldn’t fit across the back seat.

Yes, my SUV had to go.

The only practical solution my husband and I reached: I had to get a Mini-Van.

(You may wonder why we never tried to put three seats across the back until AFTER the third child was born.  I ask myself that question all the time.  Or really, I ask my husband that question, since he’s the one who kept saying “Of course they’ll fit!”)

Oh yes, running boards

The next week was a blur. I was trying to wrangle a newborn, three-year-old and five-year-old while searching car ads for mini vans.  And we had to unload the SUV at the same time. Thanks to some bartering, dealer fast talk and sheer desperation, we traded our swanky SUV in for a barely used mini van. A week later, my new man rolled up the driveway.  He was metallic blue with running boards(!) and a rear spoiler (!!). No sunroof.  Nothing I would have picked. But it was done, the papers were signed. We were a new couple.  Like an arranged marriage, we sized each other up, and realized we had to make it work. For the sake of the kids.

When friends without vans (FWV) heard the news, they were horrified.  They murmured things like, “It’ll be ok.”  “You won’t have it forever” and “You don’t have to drive it ALL the time.”  I had always told myself, I was never going to be a “Mini-Van Mom” or MVM.  Whatever that means. Where does that stigma come from?  One woman said to me, “People will think you’ve surrendered!”  Surrendered to what?  The fact I have kids?  Um, cat’s out of the bag.  I have three. Surrendered my youth or cool factor?  I still like a pair of good high heels and a strong gimlet.

Except I don’t have to sweat and struggle to fold seats forward and back to put 3 small children in car seats.

Rear spoiler. Seriously.

I can press a button and my side door automatically opens.  Justlikethat.

When I go to the PotteryBarn Outlet, I can fit a new dresser, three kitchen stools and a floor mirror.  In my van.

At tailgate parties, the van holds large coolers of adult beverages, salsa/chips and cocktail shrimp with plenty of room for a nap in the backseat.

I don’t need a clam-top riding on the roof to carry extra belongings for the summer vacation, they all fit inside.

See? He may have been awkward and not the most attractive guy in the beginning.  But he’s made my life easier . And that’s why I’m not ashamed to say, I fell madly in love with my mini van. So I drive my crew with pride, rear spoiler and all.  And even got a few admiring glances the other day from a carload of teens that pulled up next to me.  It was either the van, or the classic Beastie Boys I was blaring on the stereo.

Living in the 80's