Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Art of Saving School "Art"

It's that time of year again. The one every kid loves and most moms dread. The "cleaning of the classroom" aka last days of school. Most days for the past week my son has brought home a backpack filled with paperwork, art and "treasures."

Today, while he is outside playing (note: this is my ticket to success--if you involve the child NOTHING gets tossed), I am quietly organizing this mound of "stuff" into three organized piles: toss, review and save. Over the years (and over the kids) I've gotten increasingly picky about what I keep. With my first, I kept everything she made, from macaroni necklaces to fingerpainted portraits. When I quickly ran out of storage options, I began to cull through her masterpieces to keep my favorites.

Now, as I wade through my son's fourth grade year, I am wondering: Keep the Mission Report AND the Santa Barbara report, or just the painted tile. Hang on to the Year Planner or not? And where do I store all of these "treasures"?

But most of all, I remain amazed by how much paper still comes home. It would definitely make my life easier--and save more than a few trees--if most of this daily coursework was conducted electronically. Looking at the mound of materials on my kitchen table, I can't help to dream of the day I could store it all on a thumb drive.

Until then, it's off to Target for another bin.

What do you do to solve the "artwork" dilemma?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Moving Forward, Not On

For more than 12 years, the most visible area of my closet has been dedicated to one task: the storage of uncompleted Creative Memories albums, along with acid-free paper, a variety of exotic paper cutters, acid-free pens and pencils in a rainbow of shades, acid-free stickers corresponding to just about any occasion, and a host of other scrapbooking accessories.

For over a decade, they have been my shelves of guilt.

Daily, as I selected from dwindling array of shoes (chasing kids will decimate the finest of shoe collections), I was reminded of my parental neglect as it pertained to all things photographic. As I selected a work outfit (home-bound outfits are always workout clothes, easy and not in the closet), when I looked up, I would see perfectly stacked plastic bins, each containing each child's photographs, awards and artwork--the very items that were supposed to be encased in those lovely Creative Memories albums stored with my shoes.

I started with the right intentions. With the birth of my firstborn, I set out not only to be the perfect parent, but also the ultimate historian, cataloguing her perfect upbringing. I invested in tools that would transform acid-free, survive-for-decades-or-at-least-the-lifespan-of-said-child paper into perfect concentric circles, that, when perfectly assembled, would look like a pistachio-spumoni-vanilla layered ice cream cone, complemented with circular-cut photos of my child's smiling face affixed upon each scoop.

I purchased acid-free albums into which I carefully documented everything from each of my ultrasound appointments (side note: as the years progress, they look more like ink blot tests than fetuses to me), to all of her firsts, seconds, thirds, and so-on. As parents of multiple children can attest, my first-born has the lion's share of albums. I believe, on current count, she is the proud owner of at least 10, including one devoted entirely to her Kindergarten year and one devoted to teaching her her ABC's solely through pictures of her family and her pets.

My second-born currently owns five albums, including his personalized ABC album, but no Kindergarten-devoted tome.

My third has none. No, wait. In a weekend of extreme guilt and desperation, I recall that I whipped up the ABC album.

Since then, I have diligently compiled all photographic evidence into lovely stackable plastic containers (Thanks, Target, for your co-dependent support!) and have purchased, on random vulnerable occasions (like trips to the Orange County Fair, where I've seen an entire booth devoted to Creative Memories) materials to keep my guilt trip on track.

That is, until yesterday. I am not sure if it was an epiphany, a deep need to Spring clean, or a sudden and comprehensive revulsion of Creative Memories hoarding. Twelve years of materials were moved to my dining room table, along with every photo container. My goal: Everything in the bins goes into an album. Anything left over goes to eBay (the materials, not the photos). It could take me five weeks or five months, but I see a financial upside in my future.

What am I going to do with all of that newly opened up space? Return it to its original designation: a home for my shoes. And in my most Carrie Bradshaw of moments, I carefully dusted the shelves and lovingly placed my tallest, most impossibly non-mom shoes (five-inches of peep-toe, sling-back creme perfection) to get things started.

At that moment, I admired how far I have traveled, both as a parent and as a person. My kids and I have walked together for 15+ years. Now, they're traveling their down uniquely singular paths, and they no longer need me to hold their hands. My days carrying baby wipes and Goldfish crackers in my purse are long gone. My days of having time for new adventures lie ahead.

Now, when I walk into my closet, I don't feel guilty about what I didn't accomplish; I feel elated about the days to come. From volunteering for my daughter's marching band, to spending time at my son's daycamp, to attending events that have nothing at all to do with any of my children, I will be both well-heeled and happy.

Eventually those albums in my dining room will be filled with memories. But, starting today, my closet will be filled with the opportunity to make many more.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guacamole on the side, please

I quit waiting for my "Mother of the Year" certificate to arrive long ago. It only took a few months for me to shift from "I am going to be the best mother who ever lived" to "I am going to be the best mother I can be" after the birth of my daughter. I'd say that, to be honest, I've since downsized to "I will try to be the best mother I can at this particular hour" on many a day.

And I don't always succeed.

Like tonight. As usual, all hell broke loose sometime between after-school pick-up and dinner. You know those calm, lovely family dinners you've seen portrayed on TV? You won't find one of those at my house. It's usually an all-out food fight, complete with a battle as to who gets the most mashed potatoes and a stern reinforcement from me as to why it's important to use napkins, even if they're paper.

So it should come as absolutely no surprise that the phone should ring in the midst of the chaos. And that my kids should choose to answer. Caller I.D. is a lovely thing: it enables us to ignore people we don't want to speak to, and identifies who we DO want to talk with. And when "Private Caller" comes up, we all know who that is: GRANDMA. Only this time, "Private Caller" wasn't grandma. And the person on the other end of the phone had NO sense of humor.

"Tomas's Taco Stand," yells my son. "How many tacos you want????" No answer. "'ELLLOOOOOOOO.....HOW MANY TACOS YOU WANT??? WE HAVE GOOD TACOS TONIGHT!!!!" exclaims my son, with added emphasis on "good tacos". No answer. "YOU NO WANT MY TACOS???????" My son, clearly positive Grandma is giving as good as she gets, is not going to take stoic for an answer.

Frustrated, he hands the phone to me. "Hello?" I say, cautiously, positive I'm not going to enjoy the next few moments.

"Hello, Mrs. Wildrick."

Yep. Not my mom. And not someone with a sense of humor. I'll leave it there.

'Cause I know any of my friends would have jumped on that and requested two fish tacos, guac on the side.

And, no, I won't expect the doorbell to ring with my special "Mother of the Year" award. But be warned: you call my house, you're likely to get a side of tacos.

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