Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No More Pencils, No More Books ...

What I'm Doing During My Summer Vacation

Day One (written some days ago and filed away because I was in the middle of a rant and was spitting fire and decided I couldn't post this immediately because it would not have been completed in the spirit I had in mind)

Only one day into summer vacation, and I already look a lot like this.

That's right -- treat yourself to a little classic rock by clicking on the underlined "summer vacation" above. It's my gift to you.

I am trying so desperately not to sound like a mother ("You kids! I can't wait until school starts!") and whine about everyone being home and underfoot, but if only there had been a transition. A day or two, perhaps, that would allow us to ease into this lifestyle. A good transition might look like this:

Or perhaps this:

Or this:

About 12 steps from my home office is a screened porch, which I call my "satellite office." I would love to tell you that my satellite office provides a sanctuary for me and my books, my laptop and an adult beverage. I would love to tell you that it is free of allergens and interruptions. That it is the ideal spot to get away from people I love so very much and to complete a growing stack of work that I am: a) so grateful to have; and b) eager to complete and invoice.

But those would be lies. Because the screened porch has doors. And windows. And SCREENS with lots of little holes that amplify every sound within five miles and seem to invite all KINDS of guests, like people I live with. And it has a table where kids like to eat popsicles, ask questions and make unnecessary comments and are apparently struck blind because they don't see that I am trying to accomplish a few tasks. And I think that should be very obvious from the computer screen that sits between us, but as I've said, they've been struck blind, which seems unfair because they already suffer severe bouts with deafness.

My friend Susan insists that once her children hit a certain age--like 5, maybe--they should be involved in something constructive during the summer. A part-time job, a volunteer gig, community service, SOMEthing. They should not sit idle. Summer is not a time to be lazy.

At my house, my kids believe the same thing. About their mother. When one child sees me sitting by myself, she thinks, "This just won't do. She's not DOING anything. I should probably tell her that I think my cold is going away. And that I can breathe through my nose a little more easily than I could just yesterday." Uninvited, she pulls up a chair and continues on about her improved respiration as she eats chicken nuggets, while making the most disgusting sound because she can't completely close her mouth or she'll fall over dead from lack of oxygen. Still, she talks. And talks and talks.

Meanwhile, with very simple instructions to "cut the grass," my son promptly and effectively pulls the crank on the lawnmower with such force that he leaves about three feet of cord dangling across the top of the handle. Hands placed firmly on hips, he slams the porch door AS IF I AM INVISIBLE and not deep in thought and exclaims, "Well, I guess I can't cut the grass."

"Looks that way. Maybe you could do the Weedeating." Type, type, type.

"Nah. I'd better not."

So the conversation goes for way too long. I propose alternate chores. He shoots each one down with a steady and confident stream of objections. Finally he decides the only thing left to do is go inside and practice his Rock Band skills. Until his father gets home. And rocks his world. And not in a good way. The lawnmower can't be fixed (easily or without the aid of a mechanical engineer, apparently) and MY-GOSH-WHY-DOES-THIS-HAPPEN-EVERY-TIME-HE-CUTS-THE-GRASS.

My 16-year-old's alarm clock went off at 8:30 and continued beeping until lunchtime, and I don't know why SHE couldn't hear it -- I could hear it from the mailbox at the end of the driveway. So I gently awoke her (as a loving mother does) by quietly entering her room, whispering her name, then turning on her overhead lights and screaming, "Quit acting like an alcoholic! Get out of the bed and do something with yourself!" I presented her with a list of chores that will take her 12 hours to complete, then I drove my son to the nearest veterinarian's office and made him apply for a volunteer job, preferably one that doesn't involve gasoline and a choke.
And this is how our summer began. No Slip-n-Slide, no lemonade stand, no lazy mornings. So while I still may look like Alice Cooper, I will have a super-clean house and, if I know my son, a lot of free kittens.