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Like many working moms, I suffer severely from FOMS (Fear of Missing Something).  Truth be told, I’ve suffered from this affliction since childhood. Back then, I hated falling asleep first at sleepovers and missing out on the final rounds of Truth or Dare; these days, I’m bummed out about missing class trips to the book fair, field trips to the zoo and daily occurrences like homework.

Homework, you may be wondering? How can you miss out on that? Don’t you come home every night?! Well yes. Yes, I do. I get home from work by about 6:00 each day to a house full of hungry kids and a table full of homework folders waiting for review. Which would you tackle first? For me, it’s the hungry kids. Depending on my dinner plan, I heat up some leftovers or whip up some tortellini and do my best to have dinner on the table by 6:30.

We really enjoy our family dinners – assuming, of course, that we get to have them and our daily opportunity for together time isn’t disrupted by baseball, lacrosse or the sport du jour, as it frequently is. Either way, by the time our clan is fed, it’s almost time for bed. Assuming we leave the table by 7:15 (which is optimistic on most days!), there are three  five-year olds with “just right” books they need to read; a seven-year old who wants to read me a few pages of Matilda, and a nine year old who wants to snuggle and read Wonder.

It’s after 8:30 by the time all the lights are out and the kitchen clean up still looms. By the time the dishes are away and the next day’s lunch is started, it’s well after 9:00 and I have a boatload of emails to return for work. I glance at those five homework folders, exhausted and overwhelmed. And more often than not, I pass them by. I assume that if my kindergarten crew was having trouble, I’d hear about it. I trust that my 2nd grader is conquering the common core and I have confidence that my 4th grader is doing what he’s supposed to do.

I lament (like most people) that there aren’t more hours in the day or days in the week telling myself that if only there were, I’d surely check their homework each and every day. Then I consider my own parents and their commitment to my homework, which was minimal at best. Most recently, I was comforted by an article in The New York Times that suggests parents who hover and help with homework may actually be doing their kids a disservice; it states that “… most forms of parental involvement, like observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework, do not improve student achievement. In some cases, they actually hinder it.”

So there you have it –  if there’s a body of evidence giving me permission to do one less thing, to fret and worry about one less thing, then I am all for it!  I am NOT a homework helper and that is a.ok!  Now, if only I could figure out how to get those extra hours in the day, I could use them to go the Audubon Society with my kindergartners’ classes next month — then I’d really be on my way to conquering my FOMS!

Tonight was one of those nights.  It started with a mad dash from work to pick up my oldest from baseball practice.  No, it’s not spring yet and yes, the season here has already started.  And yes, I am just a little bitter about it.  Especially since signing our son up for this league was my husband’s idea but he can’t pick our fella up tonight because he is working late. Again.

In fairness, he rarely works late but for the past three weeks, he’s had a big project that has left me consistently home alone.  Well, not truly alone but, alone with our five kids on hectic weeknights and busy weekends.  I think I”m burning out and if tonight is any indication, our kids are too.  This is how it unfolded…

The baseball pick up was seamless.  I was on time and we were on our way home in no time at all.  Then the gas light went on.  No, we didn’t run out of gas but yes, it was another pitstop on the way home to my four other children, all of whom greeting me at the door like this:

AAAHHHHH.  WAAAAAHHHHHHH.  HE DID IT! SHE DID IT! AAAAAAHHHH!!! WAAAAHHHH!  I DIDN’T DO IT!!!!!

OMG, I thought to myself, this is going to be a doozie.  My daughter was coming down the steps bawling that she had just “bashed” her head into the wall.  One triplet was screaming and holding his hand out.  It revealed a very swollen finger that had apparently been slammed in a door by the young lady with the head wound.  With my coat still on, I went to the kitchen for ice packs.  When I opened the freezer, another triplet demanded frozen berries.  When I said “No, sorry buddy, we have fresh berries so let’s eat them first and save the frozen ones for another day,” he went off the deep end.  “I WANT FROZEN BERRIES!  FROZEN BERRIES, FROZEN BERRIES, FROZEN BERRIES!”, he wailed, adding to cacaphony of the wounded with ice packs.

At that point, my oldest asked (again), if he could go play basketball.  He hadn’t had dinner, hadn’t taken a shower, hadn’t finished his homework and had already asked twice and been told no.  I felt like screaming at him but knew that if I joined in the din, things would only get worse.  So, I said yes, under the logic that having one less kid in the house during this most witching of all hours would only be a good thing.  So he left. And then there were four.  And me.

I didn’t know what to do.  Three were screaming and one was scheming, whispering to the Berry Boy that he should just go ahead and help himself to those frozen berries.  I was exhausted; they were out of control.  It was 6:47.  “It’s time for bed,” I said, not knowing what else to do.  The wailing persisted as we went upstairs but quieted down as the library books came out and we read about baby bears, a platypus and a mouse named Geronimo Stilton.  At one point, as I was getting their toothbrushes, I looked out at the setting sun and thought “this too shall pass” as I took a deep breath.  And it did.  Thank God!

By 8:00, four of them were in bed and sound asleep.  My big guy was back from basketball, showered and together we ate dinner.  We talked about his day and he revealed that he’d gotten his report card.  We took a look together and it was good.  Very good.  He’s a good kid.  They are all good kids.  And, like all of us, they have bad moments and we have bad days. And nights.

Tonight was the exception, not the rule.  Our house, like most, I believe, is like that old nursery rhyme, “When it’s good, it’s very very good and when it’s bad, it’s horrid.”  Tonight was horrid.  But it’s over.  Tomorrow the sun will rise again and a new day will begin.  And, like most days, I suspect it will be very very good.

chicken soup with rice

There’s a whole series of books devoted to “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”  I’ve never read them but I buy into the hearty goodness of chicken soup.  My grandfather delivered a vat of it when our triplets were born, assuring me that it would not only “wet my whistle” but fill my tummy too.  My husband fetched it for me when I had strep last year and it was like the elixir of the Gods.  The warm steam from the broth alone seems to have healing powers, conjuring up feelings of comfort and joy.  These are the feelings I want to create for my family when I make chicken soup.  Comfort and joy.

We really need it.  It’s been a rough few weeks.  Our triplets just started kindergarten and have been separated for the first time.  Our daughter just started second grade and has been reduced to tears over her math homework.  Our oldest son, a fourth grader, started a new school and is feeling the pressure.  In the midst of it all, I’ve been traveling for work, working long hours when I’m home and struggling with the onslaught of folders and paperwork.  We need comfort and joy.  We need chicken soup.

And so it was that last Sunday, we decided to roast two chickens.  One for dinner, one for soup.  As my husband was prepping the birds, he asked if we should “toss in the giblets” for the broth.  We’ve made soup a dozen times but never with giblets.  I thought my grandfather used the giblets for his famously good soup so I responded “Sure, toss them in the pot!”  And he did.  As we cleaned up the dinner, I added the bones and other remains, filled that pot with water and put it on a slow simmer.  I turned it off before going to bed that night, deciding to finish up the soup on Monday.  Which turned to Tuesday, and then to Wednesday. (more…)