Monday, November 29, 2010

Spunk's Dating Advice

Spunk: Dating Consultant Extraordinaire
My youngest offspring has become obsessively concerned with my love life of late, specifically my inability to secure a man.  He asks repeatedly, “When are you going to get boyfriend, Mom?”  About three months ago, in attempts to resolve this problem, he explained, “First, you go on the Internet and find a boy.  Then you talk on the phone, and then he’s your boyfriend.”  And here I thought it was more complicated than that.

The truth is, I can use all the help I can get, even if it’s from a six-year old.  The very few dates I’ve been on have been awkward and, quite frankly, a little nauseating.  If I could walk into a date scenario with an earbud and backup that included my own personal Cyrano de Bergerac in a spy van, I might do okay.  Unfortunately, Shauna au naturel, isn’t quite as hypnotic and charming as I come off in my blog.  See, you’re laughing; you can now sympathize with Spunk’s concerns.

Maybe you don’t remember that I was the one who, giddy over meeting the most eligible bachelor/pediatrician in Idaho Falls (who is now happy married, by the way), actually showed him the eczema on my forearms in attempts to start a lively conversation during an appointment over a rash Spunk was sporting.  On another occasion, I was asked by a date if I participated in any sports. I wooed him by responding, “Do women my age play organized sports?” And when a guy I like leaned in to kiss me once, I experienced a tic of colossal proportions and gave him the cheek.  It’s amazing I’m still single.  

I’ve had a little help in the past.  My BFF has launched me into many chat sessions on dating sites that I wouldn’t have participated in otherwise.  Once, I let her take over while I colored my hair.  She carried on the conversation in her computer room while I rinsed with the shower attachment in her bathroom across the hall.  

“What’s your favorite color?” she yelled.  “Red,” I responded.  Before we both knew it, our chat partner was role playing, placing me in a kinky job interview wearing a strappy red dress and heals.  

My BFF yelled, “He wants to know what you do after stepping over a strong air vent that blows your dress up.”  

“Abort, abort!”  I yelled before going on a very long chat hiatus.  

My BFF is far too enthusiastic in her attempts to help me find a man.  And when her ploys don’t work, she just shrugs and says, “Bummer. Better luck next time.”  And then, “I’m going to go home and have sex with my husband now.”

Considering that he may have more in common with men than I do, maybe I should follow Spunk’s dating advice instead.  Perhaps “who’s your favorite superhero?” is a better conversation starter than “what are your hobbies?”  Or I could always open with, “Wouldn’t it be funnier if our bellybuttons were on our faces?”  Philosophical and thought-provoking.  

I’ll keep you posted.

Single Parenting during Christmas: Sometimes it’s Like…

the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Being the lone chaperone at a frat party in Finland where you’re responsible for everyone’s health and well-being but no one seems to understand a word you’re saying and there’s a secret room where they’re taking Red Bull shots spiked with sugar and you can’t let them outside to burn off their excess energy because they’ll freeze their fruitcake (although, tempting...) so you tolerate them running around the place speaking some strange language while periodically fighting because they can and because there’s no bouncer or backup chaperone or police officer or security guard or spare adult authority in the entire joint.  

It’s just you out-numbered by them and enough energy to power the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney World. 

The End.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Gift of Perspective: A Thanksgiving Story

Thanksgiving is less than a day away, and I have yet to post about gratitude or abundance or blessings or cornucopias or even turkey.  

(Or key-lime pie, because that deserves a shout-out too.)

Being a single mom often puts me at odds with myself, especially during the holidays when my kids spend a lot of time with their dad.  
Kids'-Best-Interest Me Vs. ME ME ME!
I’m both excited for them to create new memories and dreading a long indefinite cry while curled in a fetal position.  At least that’s what happened last Christmas when my children spent their first holiday away, joyfully celebrating in the living room of my ex’s then girlfriend.  I worked 8 hours that day—unable to make the long drive to my parents’ home—drumming over my keyboard in a mad attempt to ignore my distress.  

This Thanksgiving my ex is scheduled to have the kids, and my heart currently feels like an empty pocket, or as Junie B. Jones would say, a flatso.  

I am unthankful for the pending holiday.  

This epiphany came when I realized I hadn’t yet conjured any images of a family gathering with games and lazy conversations following a happy feast.  Where Thanksgiving should have been was a blank screen.

All that changed in a matter of hours yesterday, as did our plans and my perspective.  

But first, a string of events.

Spunk’s Despair
Last week, in a conversation with his dad, Spunk realized that he would only be spending four days with his father this Thanksgiving.  Somehow, he had anticipated 7—an entire week of good times with The Dad, as he calls him.  In his mind there would be 168 hours of sledding, wrestling, swimming, laughing, playing, movie watching, eating, mischief, tom-foolery, and cuddling with his Daddy-O.  His expectations were dashed.
He cried for an entire hour that night--hiccupping sobs that accompanied wide-eyed pleading.  “Please, Mom!  Why can’t we drive to see dad now?  I want to spend more time with DAAAAAAD!”

“But, Sweetie,” I explained.  “Our car is broken, and we have to ride with Grandma and Grandpa.  They can’t leave until Wednesday.”  

Sob, wail, repeat.

I’ll admit that initially I thought, “Am I not enough for my boy?  Do I have some substantial mommy-lack that makes him long for his father so desperately?”  
ME-ME-ME! Takes the Lead
But 60 minutes is a long time--3600 seconds to be exact—and by the end my heart (that’s now a flatso) became so heavy that it swung like a wrecking ball, knocking around my innards and making me feel all kinds of bummed out for my boy (how’s that for a metaphor?!?).  

As I lay in Spunk’s bed, my arms tucked around him, I decided I’d rather be the one crying in a fetal position than my child.
Kids'-Best-Interest Me Makes a Showing
Perilous Conditions
Per the divorce decree, my ex and I are to meet at a central location (i.e. Boise) in order to make the child swap for holiday visitation.  That was to happen today.  But then Utah (where my ex lives) and Idaho (where I kinda live) were hit by angry storms, and driving conditions became hazardous.  We called off the trip, decided to brave it, and then called it off again.  This year there will be no Thanksgiving with Dad.  

Sob, wail, repeat.

When I first began writing this piece, my heart was an empty pocket (another fabulous metaphor, no?).  Now my heart is full and my kids’ hearts are not, and once again I’m feeling the urge to curl into a fetal position and cry, only now for a completely different reason.  

At My Table
Last year at this time, we had driven in less hazardous conditions to spend Thanksgiving with my family.  The trip was a vacation from some sad times back in Idaho Falls, and it was then I began praying that I could move closer to my family.  Less than 6 months later, we were packing.  

I’m grateful to be here, and I can’t help but be grateful because my kids are here too.  And while I’m certain they will celebrate the day regardless of the dashed expectations, they will simultaneously be longing for their father.  

I get it now.  While I will get what I want every other holiday, they will always be longing.  

Today I’m grateful to finally understand.

Monday, November 22, 2010

From the Dating Files or Another Reason Why I Don’t LOVE Dating

All characters appearing in this work are real. And any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is not coincidental. 

A younger me wearing a Cosby sweater

After grad school and before I got a real job, I moved into a cul-de-sac lovingly called The Hood.  It was a little ghetto, and one of the duplexes may or may not have been selling weed.  I moved into a unit with a good friend—it was cheap and, well, it was just cheap.   

After some time we became acquainted with a group of guys who, like us, seemed a little misplaced in The Hood.  I’ll admit I was pleased to notice one of them flirting with me.  He was dark, handsome and muscular.  Now that I look back, he probably could have been a Jersey Shore contender; the boy had his GTL on.  Think The Situation minus a short-term memory.

Oh, did I fail to mention that this particular dark, handsome and muscular guy had no short-term memory?  That’s the best part.  And just so you know, everyone should date someone with short-term memory loss at least once in their lives.

Apparently he lost his short-term memory in a motorcycle accident in which he was thrown from his bike, cracked his helmet, lost liters and liters of blood and spent months in traction.  Amazingly, he had recovered to become The Hood’s most beautiful resident and a guy with whom I had a short and unmemorable (well, for him) fling.

The best thing about our relationship was the boy never tired of me.  Each time we met it was like he was seeing me for the first time.   This, by the way, quickly became the worst thing about our relationship.

We went on one official date to a Mexican restaurant.  I had to pick him up in case he forgot who I was and where I lived; but other than that it was great.  He was extremely complimentary and shared interesting stories from his past.  Of course, I heard the story about his accident yet again and had to answer the same questions he had asked me the first 5 or so times we had talked, but it was all in the name of love.  That is, until he told me I had good childbearing hips. Here’s a brief simulation of the conversation that followed:

Me:  W-w-what?  Excuse me?
Him:  It really is primal.  We’re attracted to those who can bear our offspring.  And I’m sure your pheromones are talking like crazy to my baser instincts.
Me: (*insert blank look here*)
Him:  I know.  It’s mind-boggling, right?  That our attraction could be so strong.

He may, at that point, have made a grand gesture with two fists and then growled at me, but I can’t say for certain.

The trouble with dating someone with severe short-term memory loss is that you can
never break up with them.  So until I moved from The Hood a few months later, I took great measures to avoid the guy. 

Until, that is, one day when I was sitting in a crowded auditorium, listening to a presentation.  He slid into the seat next to me.  Let me just say that not only was the guy missing his short-term memory, but he also didn’t have an inside voice.

Him:  Have I met you before?
Me:  (Should I lie, should I lie, should I lie?)  May-be…
Him:  Don’t take it personally if I don’t remember, see I lost my short-term memory in a motorcycle…
Me:  I know.
Him:  Then I’ve probably already told you that I find you extremely attractive and…
Me:  I know.

The couple in front of us turned around to glare.

Him:  And I think it’s because of your body type—you have phenomenal childbearing hips.
Me:  Please…
Him: My response to you is very primal.

The presentation lasted for another 45 minutes, during which time the glaring couple actually shushed us.  Luckily, it was the last time I ever saw short-term memory man who will never think twice on the experience.  Me?  I’m still trying to block it from my memory.  

That was 14 years ago; it's not working.

In Which Mother Nature Thumbs Her Nose at Me

On Saturday my BFF sent me this picture of Idaho Falls.
I replied with the following picture (a virtual neener, neener, neener).
And here you have the same view of my front yard two days later.

I call it “Mother Nature thumbs her nose at me.”

We loved living in Idaho Falls.  Really, we did.  But one thing I knew I would not miss were the winters, which I wrote about here, here, here and here.  (Sheesh, I.F. weather sure did provide a lot of material!)

So I was surprised when it started to snow (and stick!) in my hometown nearly one week before Thanksgiving!  Like two-dollar bills, horsehair jewelry, and albino gaters, serious snowfall in Clarkston, Washington is a rarity. 

But if there’s one thing Mother Nature has taught me—if you can’t beat her, join her.  So last night we took our party to Locomotive Park in Lewiston, Idaho where there’s a phenomenal display of Christmas lights.  Forgive my photography skills and la crappy camera, because these pictures don’t even come close to capturing the holiday magic there.
Warming by the fire (Sport tolerating his sister, Spunk sporting the Spiderman cap)

Penguins with a side of cheesy smiles
In the igloo
Sis posing in a tree bejeweled (she would appreciate that) in purple lights
Not pictured: My mom’s funky hat that makes her look like she has an afro, my Aunt Janice getting jiggy with it on the light-activated dance panel, my brother AndyRoo and brother-in-law Adam creaming my kids in a snowball fight, my sister Jen and her sweet baby A who wore a pink camo hat and blinked each time I took her picture, and my sister-in-law Brei with their fabo Basset Hound Hercules (who pooped in Spunk’s bedroom on Friday night—a post for another time, thank heavens).

To the onset of winter—cheers!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dragon Droppings: A Photo Essay

Sport recently became fascinated with an origami kit Grandpa D gave him for Christmas this year.    
Now there is no flyer, brochure, homework assignment or slip of currency safe from his deft and relentless fingers.  Imagine, if you will, that he created a giant origami dragon, and it’s now roaming the house at night, eating paper and pooping little folded treasures.
Sport names these little folded treasures.  This one is Bert.  Bert doesn’t just have eyes, but also a mouth complete with teeth, tongue and a uvula dangling beneath the nose. 

Let me digress for just a moment to say that in moving to Washington, we purged our lives of all knick knacks, trinkets, Happy Meal toys, hazardous waste (don’t ask) and general pocket debris.  Of course, by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’ as in ‘I got bossy and told them how it was going down.’  Either way, the boy is in direct conflict with my Zen.
He’s very possessive of all his paper creations and swears to have a personal connection with each one.  Unfortunately he says that of all knick knacks, trinkets, Happy Meal toys, hazardous waste, pocket debris and dragon droppings which litterally litter his room. 

Today we’re going to excavate said room and try to instill some order.  Sport is very skeptical.  

If I don’t come out alive, the origami dragon got me.  You may find my remains in the handful of Berts guarding Sport’s nightstand.

P.S.  These are the paper dragons that roam my house at night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maggie, the Pseudo Pet

We love our new digs, and one of the perks we enjoy here is Maggie, the Pseudo Pet.  Let me explain.

We’re renting this fabulous house from some fabulous people we know.  They don’t live here anymore and haven’t lived here in awhile.  But they had this dog named Maggie who was a little too old and attached to the area for a move across two states, so they left her here with the neighbors across the street.  But to Maggie, this is her home.

When I first came to walk through the house, Maggie was sitting under the tree in the front yard.  No one else was here, yet the old girl was playing sentinel—Maggie, the pseudo guard dog.  

Since we’ve moved in, she’s become a regular visitor.  She scratches on the front door to alert us, and then barks if we don’t answer.  And because I explained to my children that there were no dogs in our immediate future, Maggie is win-win.  The kids get to love-up a dog without doing dootie duty.  I get a pseudo guard dog that requires no feeding (okay, okay, so we have a large supply of doggie biscuits she seems to enjoy).  And we all get a sorta pet that greets us when we come home.  Being Maggie's pseudo owners must be a lot like grandparenting.  We feed her scraps and doggie biscuits, let her jump onto the furniture, and then we send her home to her real owners.  

Did I mention that she has our meals timed and comes right when the table is being cleared and children are carelessly dropping scraps to the floor?  (I love a psuedo pet that doubles as a vacuum.)  

Now if we could just get her to play fetch she’d be perfect.
p.s. Those are hearts in her eyes, not an evil satanic laser glare.  Promise.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Public Service Announcement: The Bestest Pumpkin Bars Ever!

Two weeks ago I discovered (I know.  I’m always late to the party).  I was looking for a pumpkin-something recipe and found these bars.  My life has not been the same.   
I’ve made them twice in two weeks, and when I told my mother that I was going to make them, again, she said, “Why?”

Uhm, why not?  I’m certain that my mother was concerned about how it might impact my recent anti-sugar campaign, to which I may or may not still be committed, but they are just too good not to make.  And eat.  And eat. And share.  And eat. Did I mention they’re made with pumpkin?  

When I posted about my pumpkin-bar quandary on Facebook, my friend Shel responded: 

Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes, it’s a good source of vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron. Half a cup of canned pumpkin has 6.5 grams of effective carbohydrate and 3.5 grams of fiber.

This recipe has 2 cups, count them—1, 2!—cups of pumpkin!  That’s practically a garden of pumpkin in cake-ish form!  It probably prevents cancer and stuff.  AND it’s festive.

So with Thanksgiving nearly a week away, I find myself morally obligated to share (because I don’t want to be fat alone, people!).  

(Pssst.  It’s best with cream cheese frosting.)  

You’re very welcome.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Storms Converge

Last night was one of those nights—what I consider a dark night of the soul, when my hope seemed to have set with the sun and every thought became a murky shadow threatening to steal my sense of equilibrium.  With sleep I thought I’d find some peace, but then the storm of my psyche took flight and became the storm that threatened to Dorothy our house away.  

At one in the morning I paced the living room as if my worry weighted us all down, anchoring us together in this home of ours.  The wind bent the trees and shook the house, making the blinds tremble and the chimney howl.  I waited for the windows to crash in or the roof to blow away and finally woke my daughter and brought her into my room, convincing myself that it was for her own good and not mine.  She tucked her stuffed animal, Wolfie, under her chest and went back to sleep only to rouse her tousled head moments later to declare, “I think it’s going away.”  Then she distracted me with talk of old Tootsie Pop commercials.

After Sis fell off to sleep, and as the storm raged on, I sat down and typed my way through one of those rare moments when the literary becomes the literal and all things converge.  Inner storm and outer storm facing off at 2 in the morning.  As they battled it out, Spunk stumbled into my room, asking to be retucked, and instead I climbed into bed with him and listened as the storm lost its strength, and, like that, was gone.  By the time I returned to my room, it was all over; unfortunately, it wasn’t forceful enough to carry my inner turmoil away. 

Since reading The Art of Racing in the Rain I’ve thought a lot about the grace with which we weather life’s storms, and it's cultivated within me a desire to endure them well regardless of how they might, at times, cause my soul to tremble and my heart to howl. Because I would hate to surrender at the moment before the gale ceases and my spirit is simultaneously refined. 

I believe there’s a reason for all of it, and as displeased as I sometimes am with life’s lessons, I don’t want to repel my divine curriculum simply because it isn’t pretty or entertaining or easy.  And after tonight I realize that it’s not worry or concern that anchors me; that’s simply an anxious attempt to control what is uncontrollable.  Faith and hope are my tie-downs—the belief that all storms cease, and regardless of their force or duration, there are still children to be tucked in and Tootsie Pops to be discussed.  And for that I will always be grateful.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Smorty Pants

It’s finally happened.  The horrific, the excruciating, the inevitable.  My oldest child was embarrassed by me, his own mother.

After years of being the sun that lit my children’s lives, my boy saw me in public, ducked his head and blushed.  Oh, say it isn’t so.  Moody, pensive and brooding pre-pubescence must be just around the corner.  That or he’s found me out; I’m totally uncool.

So here’s how it went down.  I went to the school to give my kids Friday popcorn money which required me to walk to their classrooms and hand-deliver it to their teachers.  Luckily I was wearing my holey yoga pants that make me look casual and athletic.  My hair was pulled back into a trendy sloppy ponytail, and I had my glasses on.  It’s a look I call smart and sporty—smorty or sparty.  I’m sure it’ll catch on.

Kaleb’s friends saw me before he did, and they started to whisper and point.  That’s when I called out, “Hi, Kalebugaroogala.”  It rhymes with “Eat a Rutabagala” and is a pet name I reserve for special occasions, and what’s not special about seeing your oldest child at school?  “How’s it going, Buddy?” I said.  “Are you showing off your smarts?  Being a smarty toot-cakes?  Cashing in on that brain lottery you won?”  Always praise your child in public—it’s a motto I live by.  Following which came the head-ducking and the blushing.  Totally uncalled for, right?

Okay, so that’s not exactly what happened.  Here’s version number two.  I walked into his classroom—still smorty and sparty—and slyly caught my son’s eye at which point I said, “Yo, yo, dawg” and flashed him the cool victory sign, hand sideways, palm facing chest (that’s how all the kids are doing it these days) at which point he sunk into his chair, ducked his head and blushed.  “That’s a’ight,” I whispered.  “I be the Mama on the D.L.  See you back at the crib.”  I can’t be sure, but that final statement may have activated his highly sensitive gag reflect.

The truth is, neither of those scenarios occurred, minus the holey yoga pants, the smorty, the ducking and the blushing.  All I did was walk in, hand his teacher the popcorn money and give my boy a big smile.  There was no blatant coddling, no awkward attempts to use slang and still with the ducking and the blushing.  Was my Mama Reign really that short lived?  What was next?  Requesting that I drop him off two blocks from school so that he not be seen with me?

Now if it had been my 8-year old daughter she would have leapt from her chair to come give me a waist hug.  Yes, in public!  And she probably would have told the whole class, “Look, it’s my mother!” as if it had been years, and not minutes, since she had last seen me. 

Maybe someone can tell me--do boys take on that whole parental embarrassment thing early or do I only have one measly year of admiration from my daughter left?  Someone should tell us how short our shelf-life really is.  That or maybe it’s just the holey yoga sweats.  Because I can always go shopping for new smorty pants. What I can’t buy are more public displays of affection from my offspring.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Flag Football: A Photo Essay

Flag football saved Sport’s life.  Okay, so I’m being a little melodramatic, but it definitely pulled him from the abyss of darkness and woe, from the deep storm of internal anguish and…  Okay, okay.  I’ll stop. 

When we first moved to Washington, My Boy was down.  He had left a father in Utah and his friends in Idaho Falls.  What could there possibly be for him here?  There were quick and intense outbursts of anger and lots of crying (from both of us).  For three weeks (which is like 5 mom years), I had to drag him from bed and insist that he go to school.  And for three weeks, I listened to him complain about how horrible life was when he was at school.  It was bad enough that I started to wonder if he was clinically depressed.  

Until he started to play football.  From his first practice, there was change.  Here he is at his first game.  See that smile, that glow? 

Here’s a huddle.  They’re discussing something important, I can just feel it.  “So maybe, dude, you can throw me the ball, and I’ll run really fast.” 
Here’s Sport running really fast.  You can tell because the picture is blurry.  It has nothing to do with my photography skills.  He was that blurry in real life.  You can also see his coach in this picture, who, bless his soul, will forever be known as Coach Rocks!
And here he is running really fast again.  Please don’t ask how many yards he ran or what down they’re on or who won the Heisman Trophy in 2003.  I’m useless that way.
He would also take a few minutes at halftime to meet and greet his fans; here he is with his darling cousin, A (notice how he never smiles with his teeth?  And this was when he still had them!).

Sport enjoyed every practice and every game.  And to commemorate his final game…

He chipped his tooth.  At a flag football game.  People, he’s eligible for tackle, but I didn’t sign him up for a reason.  But Sport goes and gets his tooth chipped because some kid with arms of steel whacked him in the mouth.

But then I look at this picture again and realize it was all worth it. 
This is the first time in my adult life that I’m sad to see a football season end. 

Mom Bucks

Parenting has made me a little power hungry; this month I created my own currency.  Next month, I take over the world. 

As for the currency, it has my face on it and says “MOM BUCKS” in all caps and is only distributed to those who sprang from my loins.  My brother found a 50-dollar mom buck under one of the kid’s beds and tried to cash it in. “Whatever,” I told him.  “Go ask you own mommy for 50 cents.”

So power hungry as it may sound, I have no delusions of grandeur.  Every mom buck is worth one cent.   My kids are just desperate enough that they’ll do anything for a handful of pennies.  Or maybe they’re just bad at math.  They are my children, after all.  

So the currency only applies to my children.  And lest they forget just how tyrannical I’ve become, the bottom of each bill reads, “Mom reserves the right to giveth and taketh away at her discretion.”  I spell Power with a capital P.

Spunk's Mom Bucks in a puzzle tin
Think of it as distributing an allowance using Monopoly money which they can cash in only when they’ve accrued $500 MOM BUCKS.  They do something without being asked, they earn $25 MOM BUCKS. They do their chores for the day, $50 MOM BUCKS.  Volunteer for the soup kitchen, $150 MOM BUCKS.  The problem for my children is, I determine when they do not pass go and do not collect $200 MOM BUCKS.  In fact, I may choose to taketh away $200 MOM BUCKS instead (please refer to the previous paragraph).  Hit your brother, surrender 50 MOM BUCKS.  Roll your eyes, 50 MOM BUCKS.   Talk back, 150 MOM BUCKS and go directly to jail.  “I brought you into this world, I can take you back out.”  

Phew.  I just got a little carried away.  

Okay, so maybe it’s gone to my head a little.  But it’s a new currency, and there’s bound to be a transitional period.  Like the time Sport ripped a fistful of bills in half.  “I don’t want to play anymore.”  He said something about life being unfair and my wild eyes and trance-like behavior.  Yada, yada.  It was his idea in the first place.

Sport suggested it after reading about MOM BUCKS in The Wimpy Kid Diaries, a series that’s become one of his favorites.  He shared it with me hoping that MOM BUCKS would make him rich.  It’s become a valuable lesson in the power of centralized banks in driving the economy and subjecting the layman to unethical and disproportionate standards that threaten our standard of living.  He’s going to ace Poli Sci.  And, perhaps, require years and years of therapy.

Okay, okay, so maybe I need to rethink this whole idea of paying my kids for performing good deeds.  And having them pay me back whenever I feel like it.  But can I at least wait until it’s time to retire all the bills (i.e. after they’ve each gone through the laundry once)? 

It’s risky though.  They’re likely to revolt before then.  They are my children, after all.