Back when summer started, I had a grand plan for the girls. (Do you remember?) We were going to do chores, clean, cook, and do projects. It went great for the first week. Then June happened. In the midst of everything, the girls had loads of attention from all sorts of relatives, were fed by their dad [a note: Long ago, I decreed the only fast food they are allowed to eat is Subway. In some mysterious way though, whenever we're out driving Elaine can easily identify McDonalds, Burger King, Applebees, Buffalo Wild Wings, Beef-a-Roo, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut, and Arby's or as she calls it "Barbies," even though she can't read yet. THAT's being fed by their dad.] Wait, where was I? Oh and staying up late, watching TV all the time, running around with no schedule, and generally living in mayhem.
This week, it was time to reel them back in. I knew the end had come when Lucy told me, "Mom, you have to stop saying that Chuck E. Cheese is gross. They're a proud supporter of PBS Kids!"
I told them on Sunday night, "It's back to Mom's Boot Camp this week." "Ohhhhhhhhh," they answered, with long faces. "Boot Camp." This means that first thing in the morning they have to: get dressed, make their beds, brush their teeth, and brush their hair. Then they're supposed to sit on their beds with a book until I'm ready to give them breakfast. After breakfast, they put their dishes in the dishwasher and start their chores. The first day we did this, Elaine laid down on the floor and wailed, "I don't like all this woooooooorrrrrkkkk!" She revived when I said she could wash the windows. She lives to spray copious amounts of liquid on any surfaces. Lucy learned to clean bathrooms and do laundry, and they both learned to sweep and Swiffer the floors.
I have this what I thought was a positive, sort of Jillian Michaels-motivational type approach with tough love thrown in. "You call that a decently made bed? It looks like junk! Try it again!" which when I listen to myself I sound much more like Miss Hannigan from Annie. I'm one step away from screeching drunkenly, "And make this floor shine like the top of the Chrysler Building!" I promise I'm not exaggerating because I actually heard the girls singing "It's a Hard Knock Life For Us" while they worked. (They also sing a lovely version of "My Favorite Things," which goes "When the dog bites, when the bees stings, when Daddy spanks us, when we're feeling sad..." I guess they have very mean parents.)
I reward them for a job well done with a trip to the bike path, which they love, and then a special outing on Fridays--usually to the pool, but this Friday we're meeting Katie and her boys at a splash park. And unbeknownst to them, I'm sure we'll have a pajama ride to the drive-in sometime soon.
I know something big happened in my girls' world too, and I want them to have a fun summer. The best way to do that, at least for us, is to instill a little structure and routine. Once they get going on their tasks, they're so proud of the job they're doing. They even took wipes and cleaned on the inner window sill by the screens, which I don't think I've done since we've moved here.
Another plus is that after all the working and bike riding and their swimming, they're usually ready to fall into bed between 7:30 and 8:00, leaving me free to watch Season 3 of thirtysomething, the greatest TV show ever made, which they just started to release on DVD less than a year ago.
Also, I'm reading the classics. So far since June 1 I've (re)read: The Great Gatsby, part of This Side of Paradise, Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Across Five Aprils, An Old-Fashioned Girl, An Episode of Sparrows, and two contraband mysteries. In July, I'm scheduled to read House of Mirth and the companion novels Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. And hopefully Les Mis, (I promise, Mary!)
Oh, and I must tell you that a brand new TV movie version of Murder on the Orient Express is on this Sunday that you must see. When my cousin Joseph was here, he said, "I thought you'd sworn off mysteries this summer," but I think it's more of a withdrawal than a cold turkey process.
It's a hard-knock life for me.