I Hate Daylight Savings, A Chronicle of Days

Have they not studied physics? There is a specific quantity of daylight for each day of the year. Mother Nature in her infinite wisdom, gives us more or less, depending on the season, and our unique latitude. We as mere mortals can not make more daylight. When we set our clocks, backwards, forwards, round and round, it’s all just a game in our own heads.

I for one hate this game. As does probably anyone else who arranges their day according to dawn and dusk. We had a nice routine going, and now it’s all fucked.

In fact, that’s what I wanted to write about, routine. But as soon as I started thinking about it, I got all pissed off, because– the wound is still fresh. Three days in, and I have yet to adjust to the clock settings. My Man says, “what do you think the world should revolve around you and your own little sense of time?” Well! My body follows the time set by the sun, thank you very much, and yes, I think in fact the world does revolve around it.

But, anyway. Routine. Yes. Gina at Clutterpunk just did a great post about their Rhythm of Life, and I was inspired to share ours. Like Gina, I feel pleased at whatever bits of routine or rhythm we can scrape up. Like a clean table, routine soothes my mind. And it’s obvious it does the same for the kidlets.

So, before the g*%*@*nmed time change, our routine was as so:

The Little Guy wakes me up at about 5:15. I make my coffee and we sit down for a little morning brain exercise. I take mine typically in the form of perusing the day’s posts in my fancy pants new blog reader (Vienna), while Little Guy sits in his high chair with a tray full of interesting kitchen items. For anyone who hasn’t discovered this yet, jar rings make fab-tabulous baby toys. When he starts to fuss, I close the computer and play with him a bit, then I don whatever carrier is at hand, and we go out for a walk. We don’t go that far, usually. Maybe a half mile. I am loving this little, gentle morning walk. It’s great to open your eyes up to the quiet morning world. Then we come back, I swaddle that baby boy up, and put him into the stroller. Around the block usually puts him to sleep. I know this is a bit weird, the double walk. But I tried a few mornings just strollering the whole walk, and I really missed the closeness of carrying him. Morning is our best time together, just him and me and I try to focus on him as much as I can. But then I want him to have his morning nap in the stroller, not on me, because then I can park him in the backyard and he sleeps pretty good. So…. we do it this weird way, and it works.

Mornings are critical for me. If I get a good morning, I can conquer the world. If before my coffee has soaked in and my brain cells congregated, I have to weather a fussy Babe, a Toddler who wakes up an hour early, a cranky Hubby, or god forbid, anything goes wrong with that first cuppa, I can never really recover until I’ve had another sleep.

On good days the Babe’s back asleep by 7 AM. This is my moment. I group my thoughts together and write. If all goes well, he sleeps for 45 minutes or so, and by that time the Toddler is just about woken up. Then he sits in his swing in her room and watches with captivation while she eats her morning granola (homemade of course). Sometimes I sneak in a little extra computer time while she’s entertaining him and everyone’s distracted, but it’s not usually worth much.

I’ve been doing pretty good with my lessening of computer time. Realistically, that first window is the only time I can focus enough to enjoy writing or even reading. When I steal time throughout the day, it tends to be too random and broken up to be enjoyable anyway… Doesn’t mean I don’t do it, but I’ve been pretty good.

Between 8 and 10 is kind of a blur of getting My Man up and out the door, feeding everybody breakfast, cleaning up whatever I can manage it, and getting me plus kiddos ready for our morning outing. That last is said so lightly.

Ah, leaving the house.

Why is it that the house has to be like a vat of mud that we are all always quagmired in it? Breaking the surface tension of our front door is so ridiculously hard. I would never perservere if I didn’t fear outright psychosis otherwise. It is time consuming to get together everything necessary for one adult and two little people. The diapers, the water bottles, the snacks, the extra pants in case he has a shit explosion, the sun hats in case it’s bright, the sweaters in case the wind picks up. Not to mention where is my purse, and who took my wallet out and shook it upside down, why aren’t my keys in here and damn I forgot to charge my phone.

But it wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have a Babe ready for his next nap squalling in one ear, and a Toddler’s loud refusal to put clothes on in the other. I just don’t understand why the she has to fight me on this one, since she always loves our outings once we’re out. I guess it’s part of her exerting her Self on the world. And that the concept of the future has not fully sunk into her budding brain yet.

But, by 10-ish, kicks and screams aside, we are usually heading out. Mondays and usually Wednesdays we go to the Parenting Center (a kind of play/resource center) for a music class and crafts, respectively. Tuesdays we often go to the farmer’s market. Other days we might bike to the community garden, or do our grocery shopping. Sometimes we go to the park and just goof off in the big oaks. Another favorite is the Children’s Library, which is about a mile away, and coincidentally a block away from my favorite place to get chocolate croissants, blueberry tarts, eclairs, peach danish…. ummm, oh. Where was I?

Oh yes. Our outing. I try to get home by noonish. So we can get lunch in our bellies at a reasonable time. Then the Babe has been blessing me with an afternoon nap, or very admirable length, somewhere’s round after lunch time. Some days I waste some time online and regret it. Some days I actually get some cleaning done. One thing that’s been great since the Babe started having coherent naps, is having a little time to spend with the Toddler, just she and me.

I’ve been on a real less-movies push lately. I was getting completely disgusted with myself for letting it get to where it had gotten. I would let her watch her afternoon movie, thinking that would be all for the day. But then at some point before dinner, under Hubby’s watch, she’d end up plugged in again. Totaling sometimes three hours a day. It makes me gag just to write it.

So, since I don’t have any control over what happens in the late afternoon (that’s his time, and I can’t tell him what to do with it), the only choice was to nix the after lunch movie. Of course, that was my break since she doesn’t nap, and it was hard to deprive myself. Especially at first. But I started by changing my coffee expectation. I normally would have my afternoon cup in front of the computer, reading y’alls blogs. Instead, I’ve been trying to circumvent any request for a movie by reading to her while I have my cuppa. More on the movie weaning in another post.

In the time between lunch and Papa-gets-home (4 or 4:30), I waver between being a good girl and reading to my daughter and then cleaning the house; doing some project on my endless list; or blowing it all and trying to get the Toddler distracted enough that I can steal some computer time, like a true junkie.

By the time My Man walks through the door, it’s just about time to start dinner. As plain old adults** we used to eat dinner at 7, 7:30 or even often 8:00. With the Toddler, we didn’t need to change that too terribly much, since she always used to go to bed fairly late. But in the last six months, a lot has changed. The Toddler’s 8:00 sharp bedtime, for one. Which has been one of the best things we’ve done all year. It does mean we have to start the bedtime ritual at 7:30, which means the after dinner wiggles have to be gotten out by then. Which means we have to have eaten by at least 6:30. Then, after a a few weeks of the Babe screaming all through dinner, because that’s his fussiest time of day, and he’s tired and just wants to go to sleep ridiculously early, I finally caught a clue and shifted our dinnertime to (a goal of) 5:30. We still don’t usually make it to table till about 6. That’s pretty amazing by my standard. It means I have to start thinking dinner at a time of day that starts with a four. Big mind-bender.

Round about 5:00 is usually my own personal meltdown time. I know kids often melt down at this time of day too, but I mean me, my own grown up self, everything tends to go to hell. It’s the time of day when I realize,

“Fuck. I really need to start dinner now. But I never did _______, or ________, or even ______!”

One of those blanks is always clean the house, even when I did clean the house. I mean I do some every day, but it’s never enough. So at five, when I realize I’ve got to start dinner, I look around and see the kitchen is still a wreck, the dishes need to be done, there’s four interrupted projects helter-skelter on every flat surface, and I forgot to thaw any fish.

It’s a real low point. In the bright shiny morning, everything seems possible. When I survey the wreckage of our house, I feel strong, capable. The mental lists abound, every item eagerly awaiting it’s check-off moment. I can do it all! Today’s the day!

But 5:00 is my moment of reckoning. My truthing point. I can’t do it all. Because I didn’t, and I never do. And how am I supposed to? How do people? What am I doing wrong?

In a rush I throw together something nutritious, yet savory. Because I’m hurrying, and feeling depressed, I leave a wake of even more mess. When dinner is over, all I want to do is go straight to bed. My day is over, I failed. And in fact, bed is where I have to go, to put the Babe to sleep. But I do get back up, because I haven’t sunk so low as to go to bed at 7:00. In moments of strength, I will wash the dishes while My Man puts the Toddler to sleep. Other moments will see me back here, sucking from the tit of eternal possibility.

After the Toddler’s down, My Man and I spend half an hour or so debriefing. Sometimes I stay up to watch a movie with him, and pretty much always regret it. Because when that 5 AM hour rolls around, I mourn every hour of sleep I missed.

My five o’click “cocktail hour” notwithstanding, when my head hits the pillow, at 8:30 or 9, I do have a moment of hope and optimism.

Tomorrow.

Ahhhhh….. Tomorrow will be The Day. Tomorrow I will do it all.

** Did you ever read the Maurice Sendak books A Hole is to Dig, and Open House for Butterflies? If not, find them, they are awesome. The latter has a line, “A baby makes a mom and dad, before that they’re just plain people.”

Responsible Consumer Intermission, Sort Of

While I was sitting there in the hospital cafeteria, trying to get the Toddler to eat one of the fried chicken strips out of the oversized styrofoam container, I questioned what exactly had led me to that moment.

It all started that morning when I checked the messages on my phone. I have two new friends (!) and one of them had just gone in for a C-section on Thursday. Long story, but she was very unhappy about it. I had told her that if she went stir crazy in the hospital to give me a call, and I’d come visit her. We didn’t want her strangling any nurses. I wasn’t expecting her to call. We’re very new friends, and it’s hard to ask a favor of a new friend. But there it was, a voice mail saying with forced vaguery to give her a call if I had time. She must be desperate.

Even though I had just made plans with the other new friend for an early dinner, had tons of home things I wanted to do with my Sunday (read: Papa-can-hang-with-the-kids day), had already had a very rough morning with the Babe and sorely needed a break, I couldn’t let her down! And as long as I was going I might as well take the kids, so that I could save My Time for later in the day when I could actually get something done.

But that meant I needed to go, right then. I ran out the door with the two kiddies in tow, knowing full well that it was 11:15 and we’d need lunch soon, and what was I planning to do about that?

And that is how we ended up in the cafeteria at 12:45, wolfing down a deep fried lapse of integrity.

But…. what’s the real issue here, I was asking myself? How did our lives get to be so busy that we can’t even make ourselves lunch?

I know that in the full scope of American life, we live in a very slow relaxed manner. But it’s still way too much. We do too much. How is this supposed to work? We can barely manage one outing a day. Even at that, home stuff still stacks up, and then if a day comes along where we do two outings, all hell breaks loose.

It’s all wrong. I feel like a lot of the “slow” fad ends up with people just trying to fit more “slow” things in around their already full life. We have to actually pare down. Lower our expectations. Give something up. But what?

I feel like I should provide the Toddler with one kid activity a day, and that is the source of a lot of our outings. But throughout history, no one worried about providing their kids with playtime.

Mothering is crazy now. It doesn’t make a lick of sense for one woman to stay locked up in her own house with one (or two) kids. It’s downright unhealthy. For all involved. Kids are supposed to be running around in little neighborhood packs, getting into trouble while no one’s watching. Maybe with a few elders keeping rough tabs. Leaving us mamas to get some shit done.

But it doesn’t work now. For one thing, we don’t want to live near either of our parents, particularly. For another, there are no neighborhood packs. At least not here in New Orleans. And people are just too worried to let their kids run around with someone else’s eight year old in charge anyway.

This does all tie into responsible consumerism! Because to get by on less money, and still purchase the higher priced, responsible products requires a big time commitment. When you have kids, especially two, especially young, it’s damn hard to fit everything in. Conquering this time crunch cuts to the very heart of the issue.

How to make it work?

I’m struggling here, not particularly qualified to give advice. But I know it involves that ole’ (un)favorite, Reduce.

(And of course, reduce my computer time has been discussed before. I have actually, quite a bit. But, I have to leave myself enough time and energy to vent, share and find solace in the camaraderie of mamas who understand…)

So off I go to work out some reduction issue.