Zen Cheerios

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I wonder, if someone filmed me throughout my day, would it look like other mothers’ days? I wish I could SHOW you what it’s like.  I know we aren’t totally normal, but are we that different?

This morning, I managed to get everyone to the van with enough time to squeeze them to school mostly on time. I sent them all out to the van, came out, and of course no one was actually in the van.  That would be too simple. They were all wandering around outside.  Before I could say anything about why the eff they weren’t buckled in and ready to roll, Tuna announced that Binker had to poop.  Me: “Then why aren’t you inside pooping??!!”

So he slowwwwly walks to the door, Tuna asks where Binker’s backpack is (because that’s relevant at that moment), and Binker rambles up the steps to the house.  I tell him to “HURRRRYYYY UUUUP!!!” Seriously, how does it take three minutes to walk inside and sit on the toilet?

So the rest of us are waiting in the driveway….waiting….waiting….I check on him a couple of times…………..He is the world’s slowest pooper. He took at least 87 minutes just wiping. And we’re officially late.  We pull out of the driveway at 8:20–exactly when we should be arriving at school. I should start recording the number of times we’ve been late because of poop.

Before all of that, my house wasn’t the vision of three angel children getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, putting on shoes, and going to the van. That’s ALL THEY HAVE TO DO.  Those simple steps.  That’s IT.  I have seven million things to do.  They have FIVE things to do.  Why in God’s great Universe do they not understand, after years of school mornings, this simplicity?! I have charts, timers for when it’s time to get shoes on, timers for when it’s time to go out the door, I even remind them every step of the way while I’m doing my stuff (making lunches, sucking down coffee, putting out fires…). They can’t find the right socks, they are fighting with each other, they are playing with Legos still with bare feet…and this morning Binker was constantly whining about how he didn’t feel well enough to go to school–over and over and over he whined at me while I was trying to think!  Whined at me while I sprayed him with Mucinex and shoved Tylenol down him–You’re going. to. school. damnit! (He was totally fine.)  It’s SO hard to just THINK when three little boys need a million things–things that they don’t even need–right NOW.

The hardest part is keeping my cool.  I have challenged myself to keep it cool for four days in a row.  So far this week (it’s Tuesday) I’ve reset my challenge twice.  So much for that.  How about three?

Then Squishy and I have our day doing this and that (Today. Other days are crazier), going here and there, accomplishing things, playing…and then it’s time for pick-up. Armor on. Enter whiny tired Squishy after the day and the playground, talky talky talky Binker, grumpy hangry Tuna…all talking and whining and fighting with each other over the stupidest shit in the Universe, all at the same time.  It’s great fun. Not headache-inducing at all.  We get home and Squishy has a three hour long meltdown about Angry Birds, Binker gets emotional about his old bed that we sold, and Tuna is about to pass out because he couldn’t sleep last night. I really don’t know how I managed to feed and bathe them (help from Latefordinner).  Falling asleep didn’t take long, thank all of the Gods of this great Universe for that.

So, with three angels slumbering,  I sat down at my computer to do my homework, and realized that this blegh post was in order.  Seriously. Because there has to be another parent out there who deals with the intensity, who deals with the morning rush, who is late because of poop. It’s a major challenge for me–to keep my cool when poop makes us late.  To keep my cool when Binker is on the top bunk with Legos when he should be putting shoes on.  To keep my cool when the cat gets on the table and eats Squishy’s cereal. To keep my cool when Tuna wants to discuss the meaning of life before coffee–every single day.

Your lessons will continue to present themselves until you learn them.  These effed up days are not about my kids learning how to get ready on time (well, they sort of are, but not completely).  These days are about ME learning how to find that center of the cyclone while lateness and distractions and poop are happening around me daily before coffee. I have three days left this week to rise to my own challenge of keeping my cool.  I really hope I don’t have to reset again tomorrow.  This is a tough one, because I think that these smart boys should just get it.

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I have memories of sitting on the heater vent in the winter mornings, my mom throwing my clothes at me, telling me very nicely to get dressed. Man, I don’t remember her yelling at me like I do at my boys. I remember watching the last remaining cheerios in my bowl move toward each other, making shapes out of three or four circles together. I would make a ripple in the milk, and they’d re-form into new shapes–faces, animals, boats…  It was like cloud-watching in a bowl.  I wasn’t thinking about the clock. I had no concept of time or school bells. I was cold first, then having a warmer zen moment with my cheerios. I am constantly disrupting my kids’ zen moments with these stupid deadlines.  I tell them “I didn’t invent the clock.  We all just have to follow it if we want to succeed in this world.”  How does a little dreamer child even come to understand that?  The kids need to learn, yes, and the adults need to REMEMBER. We are all born dreamers, the clock is man-made. Maybe I’ll meet them in the middle–they will learn the clock, and I will re-learn zen cheerios.  I should at least try, and probably harder than they do.

Maybe each household’s morning looks different, but these kids are probably pretty similar. If you struggle with your routine, I hope you can try with me, to not be quite so normal. I hope that some of us can remember that what some consider “different”, is actually closer to where we began–little cloud-watchers outside of time.

Man, I hope I remember that tomorrow morning when I have to get them out the door again.  We can look at clouds on the way.

I’m Starting with the Mom in the Mirror

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There’s a book called Mindset by Carol Dewck.  It’s becoming widely read by educators, and many parents. A friend of mine just wrote an awesome piece about it here.  The idea of cultivating a growth mindset has been popping up for me, beginning with a consultant at my boys’ school handing me the book three years ago. I put it off, being busy and all, and I think I actually over-borrowed her book by a year or something.  Oops!  So I finally read it, and the gist is that we can choose to have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  You can change your way of thinking, and you can choose to try hard at things that aren’t easy.  Of course there is much more to it, and you should pick up that book.

This seemed like a really simple concept, and I pshawed the idea that needed to change my mindset.  Of course I had a growth mindset! My mind has had a lot of attention!  I spent my late teens and twenties working on myself, understanding how I worked, and I came pretty darn far with that, thankyouverymuch.  I needed those years for that.  My mindset was solid.  It was my kids who needed some help here, not me.

The last couple of years brought parent-teacher conferences where I heard that my boys were awesome, except they needed to learn to persevere when things didn’t come easily right away.  I would heavy sigh, internally blame it on Latefordinner, and say “I don’t know where they get that!” That’s not how I do things!  And I work on it with them.  I take them for very long hikes in the woods and make them figure out how to get back, dragging them for miles when they want to quit.  I make them do chores for screen time, teaching them new chores and following through with my rules.  I use the mantra my parents used: “You can do hard things!” I make them problem solve, forcing them to figure things out before I help them. But the desire to work hard still doesn’t seem to be ingrained in their psyche, in their mindset.

The other day Tuna got a new Transformer.  He was frustrated because it wasn’t easy, and Latefordinner wouldn’t help him.  He reminded him that he used to get frustrated when he was four (he’s almost 11 now), but now he had to big-kid-up and figure it out.  Tuna carried that thing around with him all day, working and working on it until he could transform that thing in 10 seconds.  And he did it!  He was so proud of himself.

Then he came to me and wanted ME to try it.

Asking me to do Transformers is like asking me to sew something–I might throw a tantrum and smash stuff.  I have avoided Transformers for seven years now, passing them off on Latefordinner, because I CAN’T DO THEM. I HATE doing them, and no one is going to make me!!

So I wouldn’t do it.  I actually snapped at him  and asked why he even wanted me to do it.  Did he think it was funny that I’m not mechanically inclined?  Did he want to watch me fail? No, I wouldn’t do it.  I don’t sew, and I don’t do Transformers.  I had the fixed mindset that I couldn’t do Transformers, and I refused to try something hard. I told Tuna I would not try.  Now, there are some things in life we just don’t have to do as adults–taxes, sewing, washing cars, dishes…oh wait, gotta do those. BUT, when my child came to me and wanted me to try his Transformer, it was an opportunity to teach him how to do hard things.  I stomped my foot and refused!

The whole thing didn’t sit right with me. I knew I was being hypocritical and childish. I almost blew my opportunity to model the growth mindset. …..until I realized what I was doing.  I took me a day, actually.  Once the lightbulb went off–I think it was Latefordinner’s account of telling Tuna to work hard that flipped the switch– I went to him and asked him to teach me, and to be patient with me. I explained that I really should work harder on the things that don’t come easily.

It turns out he is an excellent teacher!  And, I was a pretty good student.  Transformers are hard when you’re me.  I can do hard things.

How many other times had I unknowingly taught him not to try?  How to quit?  How to not even begin?? How many other opportunities have I blown?

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The good news is that Tuna (10), Binker (6), and Squishy (3) are still young enough to catch on, and they’ll have minimal damage.  I am always brought back to the mirror in parenting.  I used to call Tuna my little mirror–he shows me the truth of who I am–he is a reflection of me.  Somewhere along the chaotic way I lost that, (I think because it’s a bit overwhelming to see three different perspectives of your own reflection, like a three-way mirror), and this has been a shining reminder to do some inward reflecting.  It’s the same concept as putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping others–how can I grow their mindsets if I’m in denial about my own?  I’ve spent too much time projecting, not realizing that I’ve been giving away my opportunities for growth. Mindsets, like reflections, are never solid. We are never ever done growing. Who was I to think I didn’t need to change?  I really hope to hear some hard work reports at conferences this year.

This parenting gig is hard! Good thing I can do hard things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Box o’ Socks. You Match.

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socks

Hi, how ya doin?  Good, good.   I haven’t been here in a while, because you know, Busy.  I think the Universe read my last post and saw it as a request for an Inner Peace Challenge, and therefore proceeded to give me OCTOBER, 2014.

October began with…wait for it…THE DEATH OF THE BLOATED STORM TROOPER!  Yes, I successfully willed its death.  No, I did not get in an accident, it just DIED one day after I coasted home.  While I celebrated its demise, we simultaneously scrambled to figure out a new vehicle.

Next, Latefordinner suffered some extremely painful health issues.  The whole family felt it, and I was in survival mode for two weeks.

Then one October morning, on Latefordinner’s first day back to work, I awoke to the sound of four screeching repetitive beeps coming from the carbon monoxide detector.  I whisked the Squishy wearing only a shirt and diaper out of bed and yelled for the other two to get out of the house.  They ran up the stairs, one in a t-shirt and underwear and both barefoot, I rushed them out of the house and into the rental car.  Luckily I keep blankets in the car. I called 911, waited for the fire department, and talked Tuna down from panic.  The fire truck came, craned some neighbors’ necks, and they confirmed that the levels were dangerous.  We were not to turn the furnace back on. This was all before coffee.

So what does all of this have to do with socks, you ask? Well, one of the reasons I started this blegh was to do something I’ve never done, something big and scary that required bravery (my theme right now). Your thoughts and intentions create your reality in ways you often cannot predict. The van broke down, the furnace broke down, my partner broke down, and my powerful self STAYED UP.  With bravery I accepted help from others, felt the humility of three financial setbacks and a new modest plan, kept my kids going, and felt more gratitude for our amazing family and friends than I ever have before.  With bravery and faith in the power of intention I faced new and unexpected challenges.

Ok yes, socks…

I absolutely hate folding socks. (I know, first world problems, but here it is anyway.)  Every morning, I find myself sifting through clean laundry looking for just. two. more. matching. socks.  For at least two years now I have had the intention to streamline with only one kind of sock for the boys.  At the store yesterday I passed the socks, stared at the package of 20 identical white socks, and realized that it was time.  Why, after doing big brave things, have I waited so long?  Was I waiting for more money? More time to get rid of the old ones?  How could I justify letting go of perfectly good socks because I hated folding them?

The answer is:  Because it will make my life better, and why not do it if I can?  The Universe took care of my big problems in October (and Latefordinner’s as well, because his health problems paved the way for a healthier him).  There is only NOW.  Now is the time to let go of the old vans, furnaces, money habits, and mismatched socks.  Make life easier and bravely buy 20 identical socks right NOW.

I gathered every last sock I could find, threw them in a box, and posted it on Freecycle.  “Box o’ Socks.  All are clean, none are matched.  I went a little crazy and bought all new identical socks, so I won’t have to match another pair of socks ever again.”   Go crazy today and let go of your “socks”.  It will make room for even better socks.

It felt GREAT to grab four white socks and throw them at the boys this morning!!

(I’d like to reiterate the immense gratitude and abundance that has filled my heart this month.  My old van is now someone else’s vehicle.  My old furnace was replaced with a brand new one. My old socks are now someone else’s new socks.  Our family stepped in and helped us when we truly needed it.  I am humbled and overflowing with gratitude.  I also can’t exclude the strength of Latefordinner last month as well. My family is loved and supported.)

SOCKS  

(I just had to say socks one more time.)

There is no busy

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I haven’t had many bleghy moments lately.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been ridiculously busy–not my favorite way to be, but how do you manage the lives of five people without being ridiculously busy?  I might need a personal assistant when all three are involved in activities.  Good thing they are available for people who can only pay them ten bucks a month.

Ridiculously busy is not my natural state.  I start to forget things, and do things like leave my debit card in my pants, rather than my wallet, and think I’ve lost it and can’t even find the pants I was wearing because I actually put them back in the drawer.  I also back into curbs (in my defense, I was late, the curb was invisible, and I am secretly trying to wreck the Storm Trooper anyway).

But I once read this facebook meme (which I pronounce “may may” because it’s more fun that way) that said  “Stop the glorification of busy.”  I love that, believe it to my core, and yet am still so very busy.  My creativity lovvves to NOT be busy.  The summer was a success, in my opinion, because I did not plan much at all for most of the summer.  We did just about nothing, minus our super-awesome-action-packed-adventure as the summer’s finale.  Our summer was the equivalent of a lame-o fireworks display with a surprise  FANTASTIC finale.  But why is lazy and unscheduled “lame-o”?  It wasn’t.  We slept in, played outside, ate some food, went a few places…and the kids were happy.  Why is slow considered boring?

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Slow is beautiful.  Simplification is beautiful.  In this life we’re in–which is not in a hut on a tropical island where we wake slowly and go for a dip in the morning, but rather immersed in the American midwest among minivans and Starbucks and travel mugs and yoga pants–slow means only choosing two activities versus all seven Tuna is interested in, and only one for the little ones.  Slow means setting timers on screen time and forcing them to actually play with their toys, or each other.  The definition of busy has been modified.  Slow means eating together as a family at least three times a week, rather than every night.  Just as my standards of cleanliness have changed, so have my standards of busy.  For alone time, I can get now get by on a trip to Target without kids every other week. (Exaggeration there–I totally need my workout classes with the free childcare.)

During the summer, I had my bleghy moments because my mind slowed down enough to see them in my day to day. Like the Matrix, I was able to manipulate time and space to see the bleghs in between. There is no spoon in the summertime.  Now all I see are spoons, and suddenly, and all freaking shiny.  Perhaps the key to stopping that glorification is to see those moments even during the busiest times.  Ideally, we may be jetting from one busy to the next busy, and still see the space in between breaths.  I think that that’s what it means to stop the glorification of busy–see the space between, no matter how fast you’re moving.  Deep breaths, and you may be slow whenever you wish, no matter what’s going on around you.

My favorite from Thich Naht Hahn’s “Peace is Every Step” is:  “breathing in, I relax my body. breathing out, I smile.”   

With this, there is no busy.