My Children, My Chore

An artist’s rendering of the girls.

Online source, modified by me

My kids are spoiled, entitled, lazy, brats.  And it’s our fault.  Despite the fact that we say no, put our foot down, and don’t allow them to get away with shit, we’ve still managed to foster an environment in which one minute our children will be complete angels, and in the next they will be complete and total assholes. (I will say to be fair to Zoë, she does have Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which I’m sure half of you will say is a made up disorder that is simply the easy way out from disciplining my child. To you I say, Bwahahahahahahaha! Oh, shit; you’re adorable!)
One of the ways in which this lazy brattyness manifests itself is through whining over chores. We have told the girls to help by cleaning their rooms, the living room, the basement where they have their playroom, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the cats, and putting away their clean clothes, but not with any regularity. On the rare occasion they follow through without the wailing and gnashing of teeth, but their marching orders are usually met with stomping, screaming, “Why do I have to do everything?”, (a personal favorite) and whining at a pitch that makes me surprised that the words “Some Pig” aren’t woven into a spider’s web at the tops of their door frames. These reactions are increased ten-fold if we have told them to turn off a screen in order to carry out these chores, at which time their screen privileges are threatened, and they shut the fuck up for awhile.  If the task involves cleaning a room, they will stand in the middle of the room, survey the damage, and then suddenly forget what anything they own looks like. Furthermore, they will flail about because they have temporarily lost the use of their arms and hands. The force of gravity will increase on their butts, and we will find them playing 10 minutes later, often having made the mess worse. When they are discovered by Mike or me, they will immediately jump up and plead for their lives by saying, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I got distracted!” Oftentimes, one will throw the other under the bus and say that it was their sister who had distracted them. It is also at this time that they will take the opportunity to ask for a snack, because they are absolutely dying of hunger. They, having done nothing and it having only been 10 minutes, are denied their request. This will set off a great and deep wail of hunger, in which they writhe around on the floor as though they are dying from demon possession. They are told that the sooner they finish, the sooner they can eat.

                                                                Image source

This process goes on loop for the next 1-3 hours, depending on who gives up first. Sometimes I stay with them to help them stay on task and, lo and behold, Rachael is able to remember that books do indeed belong on bookshelves. Sometimes I end up cleaning it up with them or for them because it’s easier and less exhausting than keeping them on task and yelling at them. And sometimes we hear them playing upstairs together nicely for the first time all weekend, and decide that’s more important that following through on being able to see carpet to walk upon.
And then, I had this amazing idea! I put my psychology degree to use and thought, What if we created a set list of chores for the girls to complete on a regular basis, for which they receive monetary reinforcement upon completion each week? I’ll call it, a Chore Chart! I can’t believe no one has thought of this before! I’ll take it to all the parenting magazines and blogs! It will revolutionize parenting and how children learn responsibility!


…………………………………….. Ahem.

So far, Rachael’s like, Fuck yeah, I’ll do chores for money with a good attitude! We’ve tried rewards for chores before, money and candy, but I guess having it laid out for her helps Rachael understand and value what she can earn and how she can earn it.

Image via Pinterest

Zoë, on the other hand, took a lot of convincing. Once she understood that she would be saving money and be able to buy things she wanted that mommy and daddy didn’t want to buy with their own money, she thought it was awesome! However, when it came time to actually do said chores, I would have preferred my chances with an angry gorilla. Zoë’s funny, (in this case, funny uh oh) in that when she decides that she wants to do something, she’s a fantastic helper! She will actually do a good job of cleaning her room by herself, (sometimes of her own volition) if she’s in a good, amenable mood. When she’s not, there is no positive reinforcement, no bribe, no negative reinforcement, nor any punishment in the world that will move her to do what you want her to do. You could offer her a kitten party, on the beach, with all the ice cream and lemonade in the world, followed by a week at Disney World if she would just put away her clean clothes, and she would tell you, Yes, please! I would love all those things so very much, BUT I’LL NEVER, NEVER PUT AWAY MY CLOTHES BECAUSE I HATE HATE HATE IT SO MUCH! The way I managed to get her to put away her clothes yesterday was by staying with her and naming an animal for each letter of the alphabet for each item she put away. 27 items took around 90 minutes. She made up an extra letter called ölazella, and it makes the “biz” sound. No, I didn’t have anything else to do. Why do you ask?

I feel like I did have a small bit of genius by making weekly bonuses available. Each child will earn an additional 25 cents for each room if their bedroom, living room, and basement does not require cleaning at the end of the week. Each child will earn an additional 25 cents each week for a good attitude about their chores. This means that they do their chores without having to be asked or do not complain or have to be told multiple times to do their chores. Rachael suddenly became very eager to do all the household chores, including those which were not assigned to her.

So we’ll see if this helps with the lazy brat attitude. It already helped me this weekend; the kitchen stayed cleaner because Rachael stayed on top of unloading the dishwasher. This intervention is long overdue. I actually apologized to the girls this weekend for having a part in creating their shitty attitudes, right before making sure they understood that that doesn’t excuse their shitty behavior. In the meantime, maybe I should make a parenting chart for Mike and me. Gold stars for not giving in to girls’ whining! Rainbows for following through on punishments! Laser cats for less screen time!

Maybe Mommy Should Have a Time Out

Image via Shutterstock

I’m sure that my mornings are no different than anyone else who has kids in school. They are stressful, hurried, and full of yelling. My girls and I have an arrangement: they give me reasons to lose my temper and I, in exchange, give them plenty of material for when they’re in therapy as adults. While the specific material varies, the skeleton of each morning’s script remains the same. Since we rehearse this almost every morning, I’m fairly confident that we could make a good showing on Broadway.

Off stage: Rachael plays with her sister, rather than brushing her teeth and getting dressed. Mother enters, stage left, and finds that Rachael is just now taking off her pajamas.
Mom: Why are you just now getting undressed?
Rachael: Zoë distracted me!

Zoë pulls her heart blanket from the hamper. It needs to be washed because she spilled nail polish on it and was treated with acetone. Mom takes blanket away. Zoë has a meltdown.

Zoë visits Rachael while she is supposed to be brushing her teeth. Rachael chats with Zoë. Mom yells from off stage.
Mom: Rachael, stop talking and brush your teeth!
Rachael: I am!

Zoë runs away and refuses to following instructions. Mom is helpless, as she is on the toilet. Mom commences pointless yelling.

Rachael has a difficult time putting on her socks. Mom grabs socks and puts them on Rachael’s feet.
Mom: If you were paying attention, you wouldn’t have so much trouble.
Rachael: I was paying attention out of the corner of my eye!

On the way to the bus stop, Zoë squats and declares that her shoes hurt too much. Her posture resembles that of a donkey that has refused to move.

Zoë refuses to remove her hat and coat upon returning home.
Mom: Zoë! Now! One…
Zoë: Two…..

And, scene.

I tend to lose my patience easily, especially when it’s the same bullshit day after day. I could honestly pre-record the top ten things I yell and go to a spa; it would be as equally effective. I do need to find a way of controlling my temper. Not just for them, but for me as well. With fibromyalgia, my body feels the stress and anger. Most people experience increased heart rate, blood pressure, tension, and quickened respiration. I experience all those things too, but the stress manifests itself within my muscles. My skin. My bones. Even though regular body responses have returned to normal, the skin in my right arm is still on fire. Sometimes it means that muscles in my legs will begin to feel as though they are being stabbed, making it difficult to walk. Pain that tingles and rips through my chest used to worry me that I was having a heart attack. Now I know that my chest is just pitching a fit because I’m upset. My favorite, though, is when I think I doing alright and have come back down, but sudden numbness, tingling, and burning in my face informs me otherwise. Even while writing this post, I realize that my body believes me to be a cunt for stressing it out, and so is giving me all those things at once.
Image via film, Camp Takota

I don’t have any great solutions or wisdom to impart to other parents facing the same problem. If I did, I’d bottle that shit, charge $75, and get a book deal out of it. I suppose that I just wanted to commiserate with my fellow Spoonies and to share with others what it’s like for me and others like me. It really is best to remain as calm as possible in order to avoid pain flares. Oh, and I guess it’s important not to damage your child’s little spirit. When you’re unable to maintain control, then you end up like my girls and I this morning- girls crying because their mom lost it and said that, with as much as I yell, the neighbors are going to call social services and take the girls away. Damaged spirit: check! Mom, knowing she’s gone too far, apologizing and hugging her girls close, telling them that no one’s taking them away. Mom, still in pain hours later because she lost her temper and was a complete and horrible asshole toward her children.

A house divided

Even though I consider myself an introvert, for awhile, I was the most extroverted person in our home. While I enjoyed my quiet alone time, I didn’t need as much of it as Mike and Rachael. Mike would come home from a day of programming and then immediately get on his computer and ignore me. He needed to decompress. Over time, I got used to it and stopped taking his silence personally. Rachael is daddy’s girl. You know the adage, if your child is really quiet, it means they’re up to no good. Generally, not so with Rachael. We’d go to check on her, and she would be playing quietly in her room. I also got used to her preference to be alone, not feeling slighted when she would tell me that she would rather be alone.

And then, Zoë came along.


Zoë embodies all things extrovert. She rarely stops talking, even if she’s immersed in a show. She makes friends wherever she goes. Just the other day, she initiated a game of peekaboo with a woman in the grocery store parking lot. She has no trouble walking up to someone and introducing herself and whoever is with her. And the attention. She requires so much attention. If she doesn’t have it, it’s the end of the world. The center of attention is her home base. Good luck to you if you want to take a crap in peace. If she can’t be in there with you because you’ve locked the door, she will simply stand outside, knock, and sing Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

This has proved interesting for the rest of us. Poor Rachael has to lock herself in her room just so she can get Zoë out of her face…literally. With our attention so divided, Mike and I are worn out and often can’t muster the energy Zoë’s attention requires. (I wonder if I could make attention horcruxes?) My own depression and fibromyalgia adds even more to the challenge. It creates a vicious cycle of wanting to be left alone because I’m exhausted and/or sore and Zoë demanding attention. The more exhausted I am, the more insanely “attention lady of the evening” Zoë is, which sends me farther into my introverted hole, which makes Zoë try even harder to secure my attention. And around and around we go until I can’t take it anymore and I end up yelling: ENOUGH! WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE? Zoë may sniffle for a second, and then she’s right back to jumping on you like a hyper Golden Retriever.

I don’t have any really good insights or solutions right now. I try to offer attention when I’m able and hope to have the energy to wear her out each day. I’m going to a psychiatrist in a few weeks. My hope is that she’ll be able to adjust my medication so I’ll be able to conjure enough energy and patience to satisfy her attention cravings. Preschool should also help; it will wear her out and give me a break. (Assuming I can get her potty trained.) Until then, I’ll do my best to assume the proper amount of guilt when we have days like this; she’s been kind of quiet and low energy because it seems she has a sore throat like me. And just so we’re clear, this is a low energy day.


Clean up, pick up, put away…

Image credit

Our house is not the tidiest of places. Long ago, I gave up the losing battle of making sure toys were in the toy box at the end of the day. I have gotten to a point with my fibro where I don’t have the strength or stamina to take on the stress of making sure the girls clean up, let alone doing it myself. The result is floors littered with land mines of plastic dinosaurs and stuffed baby dolls, Legos and princess dolls, books and dress up accessories. Rather than picking things up, we clear paths from couch to kitchen to stairs.

But last week, I couldn’t take the mess in Rachael’s room any longer. So covered in toys, there was barely enough floor to clear a path. It became difficult to open her closet or dresser drawers because so much crap was in the way. So, before bed one night, I told her she needed to pick up the princesses, Minnie’s Bow-tique, and her princess dresses. This wasn’t a huge task; it would only take two minutes at the most. But, like most kids, Rachael’s initial reaction was to whine about having to pick up her things. Then she had the audacity to say the following: I’m tired of always being your house maid.


Oh, hell no!
When I was still in elementary school, we lived with my grandmother for awhile. At the time, she was working as a grocery store cashier. I don’t remember what possessed me to argue with her that she shouldn’t be tired because all she does is stand there all day. When my parents were told about what I said, punishment was handed out. I was to spend the following Saturday doing yard work. By the end of the day, I was begging to go to sleep.
That experience inspired me in my dealing with Rachael’s disrespectful attitude. No amount of yelling would make Rachael understand just how ridiculous what she said was. So I very calmly used my NPR voice and told her that what she had just said was very rude and disrespectful. I explained that it isn’t unreasonable to have her be responsible for her own toys, and that while I wash her dishes, her clothes, and pick up her toys, I do not make her responsible for my things. I informed her that, in order to show her just how little she had to do around the house, she would be spending the following Saturday helping me do all the chores I do around the house.

We began our Saturday morning attacking the piles of dishes that filled our sink and covered our counters. Rachael was giddy about having a chance to unload and load the dishwasher. She loved washing the baking sheets by hand. She declared that this was fun and easy, and that daddy’s job was much harder than mine. I erupted in shrill laughter and told her to give it time. It wasn’t long after that when she asked to sit down and take a break. Ehhhhhhhxcellent.

Over the course of the day, Rachael helped with two loads of dishes, sweeping floors, picking up toys in the living room and her bedroom, vacuuming, and dusting. Mike even pitched in to help Rachael with the laundry. There was some whining about wanting to be finished and there were unnecessarily long water breaks but, all in all, she had a pretty good attitude and plenty of energy. I, on the other hand, started breaking down by the time I was mopping the kitchen floor. I was getting so sore, but I wasn’t quitting, dammit! If I pooped out, Rachael wouldn’t learn her lesson. (And, more importantly, our powder room would remain super gross.) So I pressed on, fibromyalgia be damned.

By the end of it all, I spent some quality time with my heating pad and took a nap on the couch while Rachael twirled with her princesses.
How is this fair?

Before I read Rachael her bedtime story, I asked her if she still believed she was my house maid. “No!” she said with a silly smile and giggle. Good, I thought to myself. She gets it. Lesson learned. “Well,” she said, thoughtfully, “I was today.”


Patience is a virtue I can’t wait to have

The Goldbergs

If someone were to describe me, “patient” would not be anywhere near the top of the list. I would probably also say that I’m just a few turns short of tightly wound. These traits are not ones that predispose me to mother of the year. The universe, being the jackass goofy, fun-loving prankster it is, threw in fibromyalgia on top of those traits. The chronic fatigue that comes with it just drags any patience or composure I have down and repeatedly kicks them in the nuts. The result is a bear having been poked one too many times.

My self-control has been tested a lot lately, especially in the mornings before school. This morning, in particular, was epic. Rachael isn’t really a morning person. Much like me, she’d rather snuggle under her covers or stab you in the face than bounce out of bed with a smile. This morning, however, she was out of bed before I was. She came in to snuggle with me for a few minutes before walking downstairs for breakfast. As we began to head downstairs, she complained of her legs being cold and wrapped her blanket around her waist to keep her legs warm. It dragged on the floor in front of her. I told her I was afraid she would trip on it and asked her to pick it up and carry it normally. She whined and said she wouldn’t trip. We repeated ourselves a couple of times before she drama queened out, turning her back to me and shoving her face in the corner. She cried that it was her blanket and she’s the one who decides what to do with it. From there, she flopped to the floor in the fetal position on top of it. I firmly told her that if she didn’t get up and stop whining, she wouldn’t get to take the blanket downstairs with her at all. For some reason, she took this as her cue to get up and try to flee to her bedroom. I followed through on my threat and chucked the blanket down the hall. Much ugly, hysterical crying ensued. As she sat crying tears into her waffle, I tried to explain to her that it was a consequence of her choice. Eventually, because he speaks Rachael, Mike got her to calm down.
The rest of the getting ready process went smoothly until what is usually the worst part of the morning: getting out the door. This is the time that I have to scream at Rachael to put on her coat as she argues that she doesn’t have to wear a coat because she has on long sleeves. (It was 26 degrees and windy this morning.) This is the time when both girls become incapable of finding their shoes because they suddenly begin laboring under the misapprehension that their shoes are located on the ceiling. This is the time that Zoë believes I am violating the Geneva Convention on torture because I insist on her wearing gloves. All of this while we were supposed to be out the door three minutes ago. I am convinced that our neighbor is going to call social services on us at some point.

This evening, Zoë refused to eat her dinner. Instead, she insisted on only drinking her milk out in front of the tv. Being the horrible mother I am, I countered with eating her dinner in the kitchen or nothing. I did eventually get her to eat dinner; I had to bring dinner to an abrupt end when she decided to smear peanut butter everywhere and purposefully let milk spill out of her mouth.
Rachael, on the other hand, did a spectacular job eating her dinner. Her meltdown came later, when I prevented her from moving the trash can as much as she wanted. She’s been crossing days off her calendar, which hangs from a cork board above our kitchen trash. As she was moving the can, I became concerned that it would get knocked over, (it’s almost as big as she) and told her she didn’t need to move it anymore. Holy screeching crying fit, Batman! She screeched that dad didn’t do it that way and continued to scream incoherently through her tears. I sent her to her room to calm down. She walked to the stairs and continued screaming at me from the stairs. I told her again to go to her room, and that she could come back down when she was able to talk calmly. This was when she unleashed words which I thought I wouldn’t hear for at least a few more years: I’m the boss of me! You’re always telling me what to do! You’re just trying to make me like you!

“I’ll never be like you!”

Now, let’s rewind… fwurp fwip wup squip squeeeeeee wheep wurp…. and do that again. This time, let’s add in an unhealthy dose of soul crushing fatigue and hyper reactivity to stimuli, such as loud noises. Trying to handle such drama and shenanigans is hard enough when you feel like you have the resources to be an adequate mom. Remaining calm when you almost can’t catch your breath because your fatigue makes you physically feel like a human pretending to be Atlas is something the IOC should make an Olympic event.

Theory: Atlas dropping Earth because he has to scratch his balls is the real cause of earthquakes.

I’m sometimes successful in using what Mike calls your NPR voice to coax the girls into doing what they’re supposed to do. In fact, I prefer to remain calm so as not to wreck my voice and avoid pressure in my chest. But when you’re on your third or fourth time of asking your child to do something like, come here, you’re going to lose your cool a bit. The best part is when they say, Okaaaaaaay!, in an exasperated tone, like you’re the unreasonable one. If you weren’t so aggravated, you’d think it’s funny that you’re basically living out a scene from the Cosby Show. Come here. Come heeeeeere. Here. Here. Come heeeeeere!

I wish I had some sort of wisdom to share with others who live with fibromyalgia and ME/CFS and also have children, but I don’t. All I have is my hope that tomorrow will be better, that the kids will be more cooperative and I’ll be less screamy. Oh, and that their visits to the therapist when they’re older won’t be too expensive.

Resolved: 2014 will be what it will be

I somehow managed to have energy today after the long car ride home from North Carolina yesterday. While we were down, Mike and I were able to visit one of my favorite restaurants, Print Works Bistro. I fell in love with it for the first time over coffee-crusted lamb chops with blackberry compote, ratatouille, and cream-filled beignets with chocolate sauce. Basically, food porn. Sunday night, however, was disappointing. I ordered duck confit cassoulet for my entree. The cassoulet was fantastic! The white beans were creamy; the sausage was slightly smoky with a touch of crust seared on slice; perfectly seasoned sauce binding together the beans, sausage, and soft, but firm, carrots. But the duck leg? Overcooked. It was like chewing on shards of meat that stabbed the insides of my throat as I swallowed them. So disappointing! And I had so looked forward or it after having some of Mike’s last year.
I feel bad that Daffy had to die for this meal.

I got what I deserved for dessert. I ordered layer cake. WHAT was I thinking? Usually, I avoid cake in restaurants because it’s almost never good. This was no exception. Even though it was called chocolate caramel layer cake, there was barely any caramel in it. Just a touch at the skinny end. And it managed to be dry. This is why I don’t try new things, people!
I say all of this to say: I have my new culinary projects laid out before me.

A new year is ahead. Blog posts, statuses, and tweets abound with resolutions for the coming year. Some come across as seriously as things everyone needs to pretend they’re giving up for Lent. I stopped making resolutions a long time ago. To me, resolution can be defined as the naming of something at which you will fail and then become highly disappointed or depressed over in the coming year. While I don’t have resolutions to make, I do have hopes. To me, having hopes about certain things allows me to be flexible and not endure self-punishment if it doesn’t happen. I have learned in the past year that life often gets in the way of very specific plans. Things are already a little bit nebulous for me; why not settle in and not allow it to always be a negative thing?

I hope to be healthier.
Gee. Soooooo original, Julie. Here’s the thing: I know myself. I know that after having two kids, medication that has made me gain a lot of weight, and that fibromyalgia doesn’t allow me to exercise the way I used to, I’m going to have a hard time with my weight. I know that while I sometimes eat healthily, I’m not great about it, especially when I’m not able to cook or crap is laying around the house for me to shove in my face. I also know that with all the factors working against me for losing weight, if I set a specific number goal, I will fail. I will fail and cry into my extra serving of baconated ice cream chocolate triple cheesy burger with sugared French fries dipped in whipped cream….with a diet coke…that none of it matters, no matter how hard I try, so what’s the point in trying? So, rather than set myself up for failure like that, I figure I will purge the house of the things I know I will binge on. I hope to get back into some gentle exercise, like walking and light weights.

I hope to be more patient.
I have a hard time not going from 0 to Bitchy McScreamymonster at times. Lately, those times have been pretty often. Exhaustion + kids losing their minds = losing temper. I’m also wondering if my medication isn’t working nearly as well as it used to. I remember when I first started taking it. I called it patience in capsule form. But none of those are good enough reasons to not treat others with the kindness and respect they deserve, especially my kids and husband.

I hope my fibromyalgia gets better.
I know that this is a chronic condition, one that I am likely to live with for the rest of my life. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t hope that it will get easier. I know that in order for that to happen, I will need to become more proactive in my own care. I will need to do more research, especially with regard to homeopathic and natural remedies. I will need to ask more questions and be more persistent, even to the point of changing doctors if I need to. It will also means putting on my big girl panties and doing what I’m supposed to do, e.g. getting more sleep, eating less processed food.

I hope to be more hopeful.
Mike hates it when I talk about our Hokies. Of course I’m a fan, as they are my alma mater. But I tend not to be too hopeful when it comes to them winning, say, the bowl game they’re currently playing against UCLA. I call it realistic. Mike calls it negative. This negativity tends to translate to other things in my life. I assume things will be horrible or go poorly. I have a hard time not dwelling on what went wrong, rather than moving on and focusing on what I can control. Some of this comes from my depression and anxiety and some of it is learned behavior. It’s always easier to tear down than it is to build up, but it leaves you with way more useless rubble. And I’m tired of useless rubble.

What do you hope for in this coming year?