The AliceBot 5000

Tonight after dinner I informed the girls that the television would remain off until the main level of the house was clean “to Mommy’s satisfaction” and we were all going to work together.

The first order of business was to get the laundry put away, so I handed the girls stacks of their clothes and sent them downstairs. They sorted them on the floor in the playroom and then put the clothes away. Alice came back upstairs and found me folding more laundry, and stood very rigid and spoke in a monotone:


So we started calling her AliceBot and she was a monotonic robot slave for about 45 minutes, calling us MommyBot and DaddyBot. She threw away trash, swept, raked the carpet (yes, we have a carpet rake — we have dogs with foot-long hair), vacuumed, put toys away, put sofa cushions back where they belong, everything without complaint.

Helen, on the other hand, was WAILING. Partly because she gets out of control emotional every time we ask her to clean and partly because I think robots scare her or something. She was in hysterics every time we’d talk to each other in robotic monotones. So we started calling her DramaBot, which just caused more wailing.


(I wonder if we called her the Robot Princess if she’d be more receptive. Will have to try that.)

It was finally cleaned to my satisfaction and then we had to turn the Bots back into little girls so they could have their showers and go to bed.

I am SO totally going to enjoy this AliceBot phase while it lasts. She was FUN, eager, and hilarious. That is a seriously funny little kid.

Mommy Yes Day

Alice crosses the monkey bars

Originally uploaded by messygoat

Today was Mommy Yes Day — I tried to say Yes to the girls as much as possible. So when they wanted to go to their school and play on the playground, we went home to grab jackets (which they didn’t wear) and my knitting (which I didn’t do) and my camera (which I did use a lot), and played for over 2 hours.

Alice went back and forth across these monkey bars a bunch of times and was very proud of herself, so she asked me to please get a video of it so Daddy could see. Then as SOON as we got home, she ran up to ask Daddy if he’d seen it yet. Patience is not her gift, clearly.

Mommy Yes Day wore both girls out, though — Helen had a meltdown around 4:00 and Alice came home and passed out.

More photos will be posted in this blog entry — the girls were both posing for me a lot — if you’re reading this on a reader — click through and you can see them. The light was perfect.

Helen Girls
Alice Helen

All work and no play makes Elaine a sick mommy

I’ve been in Teacher Mode for a month now. I love it, but at the same time it’s just too much for me to be taking on right now — the impact on the rest of my life hasn’t been so stellar.

Because I wasn’t anticipating working, I had signed Helen up for two dance classes that start at 3:30. Alice has a drama class that starts at 3:30 (on the same day as one of Helen’s dance classes, actually, in a completely different facility), and Helen has a drama class on yet another day at 4:30.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem — I chose the 3:30 timeslot BECAUSE of its proximity to the end of the girls’ schoolday, since going HOME between school and ballet makes things very tough on Helen. I figured we would run a few errands and then go straight to ballet class, so that she’d be able to make the transition without getting too relaxed at home.

Well, it’s an issue, because the high school where I’m teaching isn’t OUT until 3:30. I’m done teaching at 2:42 every day except for Tuesday, which means that I should be able to leave, right? Wrong. I’m supposed to stay there for the full time in case kids want extra help that last period of the day. And frequently, they do want help. So I can’t leave.

This means that I have to coordinate/choreograph/pray/beg/bribe friends and family to come get the girls and deposit them to their particular classes, and hope against all hopes that I’ll be out in time to go retrieve them at the end of their classes (and that has failed on me a few times as well). I have one student “on call” on Mondays — she can pick the girls up from their classes at 4:15 and 4:30 and get them back to my house, and in exchange for this service I’m tutoring her on an as-needed basis all quarter. So far it’s working out pretty well, since she has needed help about as many times as I have.

Jerry has stepped up, my Mom has stepped up, Jerry’s Mom has been great about helping out, and I’ve had offers from other people as well. I feel very blessed, but I’m still stressed out.

One thing I have also discovered is that I’m a 110% teacher — to the detriment of everything else. Alice has been scolded for not doing her miniscule amount of kindergarten homework, mostly because I haven’t gotten into the habit of checking her backpack nightly. Must be better about that. It took me over a week to get Helen’s glasses fixed when a screw fell out. She needs them to read, and has suddenly shown an extreme interest in reading, but I just haven’t had the time. Mid-quarter was Friday, so I was scrambling to get comments written and grades in and everything all taken care of, and my family just suffered.

We’re eating okay; I have managed to hold that together for the most part, but we’re operating out of the front two inches of the refrigerator again because I haven’t had time to go through it all. I’m eating the leftovers for lunch at least, so there’s not as much waste. So that’s good. Laundry is piled to the chandelier in the dining room again, and Jerry has had to manage much more than his half of the housekeeping lately.

And oh, the housekeeping. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that BOTH dogs (who weigh an average of 70 pounds, thankyouverymuch) have had a gastrointestinal infection of some sort. We’ve had to resort to crating them and/or locking them in bathrooms since every day for more than a week we were coming home to lots of surprises. They’re now on antibiotics and special food and starting to act more like their usual selves. But what a MESS. Stanly Steemer will be coming the first day of Fall Break, that’s for sure. We’ve steam-cleaned the carpet more in the past three weeks than we had in the past three years, I think.

So. This week I was scrambling to get grades done and quizzes made and tests made and plans for the next week and and and so when my throat started to feel a bit raw on Wednesday I just ignored it. I just kept plugging through. Thursday was my birthday and I was miserable all day. Thankfully it was a test day so I didn’t have to talk much; that helped, I think. Friday I felt some better but my throat was still very very sore. I came home and went to bed by 8:30 on Friday night and slept for 13 hours. I had a fever all day yesterday and my throat was (is) still very sore, so I went for a culture today.

It’s not strep, but apparently it’s been going around so she prescribed an antibiotic for me anyway. I also have a cough syrup at the ready if/when I need it.

Apparently I can’t keep up this pace. No surprise — I told my friend Lissa that it felt like tech week of a play, but continuously. And I tend to get sick during tech week, too.

My goal for the next 4 weeks until my teaching contract is done is to stay healthy. And that means focusing more on my family and not carrying the stress of teaching home with me so much.

As I recall, it took me a while to figure that out the first time, too. It’s just that this time the stakes are higher — not only do I have Jerry, I have 2 little girls, 2 big dogs, and a much larger house to deal with than I did last time around. Jerry has been incredibly supportive, but I need to be more attentive to him, definitely.

This has been a good exercise for me, if for no other reason than to recognize where my priorities really need to be at this point in my life. As much as I love to teach, that opportunity will always be there for me. The opportunity to be a mommy to my little girls — who want me around and present in their lives right now — is fleeting. I need to pay attention to that.


Thursday night, Mom and I took the girls and headed up to Crossville, TN to see the girls’ cousins Brandi and Lauren in the final day of their gymnastics camp.

We got there at 9 and watched warmups, and then watched two rotations of workouts while the girls did balance beam, vault, bars, floor exercise, and then open gym. The camp is run by 2 former Olympians, and the staff was amazing to watch. There were probably about 200 kids there, and coaches gave every single one of them personal attention.

Aside from the bickering in the car, it was a good trip and I’m very glad that we went. Brandi and Lauren didn’t know that we were coming, so I think it meant a lot to them when they saw us come in and sit down.


Brandi on a high bar (we could only see her when she was above the bar — this was ALL the way across the gym):
Brandi on high bar

Brandi about to dismount from balance beam:

Lauren on floor exercise (good photos of this were very hard to catch because there were four lines of kids in between us and Lauren, and they’d all go so FAST that we often got pictures of nothing or of other people’s children, etc.):