Day 9 – Don’t Get Sucked Back In

7cecb16de0a836f177a04b03c78c7276As reality would have it, I was absolutely slammed at work today.  I didn’t have a minute to spare.  And if you are a parent, that means that you need to expect the following words in return for that kind of setup…”Mom, I feel sick.”

Sigh.  I can’t stand it when one of the monkeys feel that way.  I also dislike knowing that I’m going to be that much more in the weeds with the aforementioned pile of work when the amoxicillin fairy fails to appear.  That fairy is a total loser.  She never shows up when I need her.  She may be directly related to the tooth fairy who has forgotten to deliver as expected on time on multiple occasions as well.  It’s incredibly rude given the amount of effort we have put into gardens for those mini flying wenches.  Ok maybe other people could have assisted the tooth fairy a bit more, but I digress…

So I dropped off one teeny unsick kid at daycare, came back home to get to work, two other kids appeared and one instantly transformed into a sick kid, the prescription fairy was M.I.A. (wench!), we went to the pediatrician, we went to the pharmacy, there was more sick kid action, there was more pharmacy action, and my work was piling up at a furious rate the whole time.  The hours blew by, and I looked up to see that I was minutes away from the tech turn off start time.

This was the biggest challenge for me to date.  I sat there thinking about everything I needed to do.  My husband was finally back home from his job, so I could close my office doors and get to work in earnest.  And I really considered doing just that.  At that point, the sick kid was conked out in another room.  However the rest of the family was good to go for hang out time.  They weren’t pushing me about it, but it was clear that they were available and ready to spend time together if I was be able (willing) to step away from my computer.  I thought about maybe taking a break and then just pulling an all nighter after the fact to make up for the lost time and possibly make a dent in the work.

But the truth is that more work will be there tomorrow.  And even more the next day.  And the next.  The work hamster wheel will giveth as long as I will taketh.

I need to stop taketh-ing so much from that hamster and let someone else take a crack at the wheel.

I’m thankful to say that I picked my family and myself.  I took the time off, and ultimately I called it a night on the professional front.  No all nighter for me tonight.

My work is very important to me, and I busted my tail to get where I am in my company and my profession.  But I don’t live to work.  I work to live.  And the most important part of that life that I work for isn’t the part that has me locked into my spreadsheets for hours on end every evening, weekend, and holiday.  I’ll finish what I can tomorrow, and I will work extra hours up to a reasonable point.  But I’m not going to continue down a path of sacrificing the things that matter for the sake of taking care of business.

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“Scrooge” has always been my favorite traditional version of this tale.

(Even though my intentions are well-placed, I sometimes worry about how I get too wrapped up in needing to take care of business.  I then imagine Jacob Marley yelling at me “Mankind should be our business!!” and I wonder if he is making me a big chain necklace that Mr. T would envy as a representation of my numerous sad choices.  In the meantime, Marley would be wearing that weird scarf thingy tied around his head.  Is he wearing that to keep his jaw attached because his bucket was kicked long ago and his body is falling apart, or is he planning on dusting and wants to keep his hair back?  I have lots of dust he can tackle if he is interested in the latter, so I’m hoping for that one.)

(I am easily distracted so you never know where these contemplative moments will lead.)

(Also the post really ended before all of the parentheses began, so you can stop reading anytime.)

(Unless you just can’t resist.)

(I can do this all day people.)

(All.)

(Day.)

Day 8 – Celebrating Our Freedom (from Tyranny & Tech)

We hung out with the family for most of the day.  I was techless for the vast majority of it.  I was irked whenever I noticed my dad locked into his phone, but it didn’t happen too often, and again, I recognize that I just have to let it go.

Zip it Elsa and stay off my radio!  This mom wants to hear the Beastie Boys.

No big epiphanies. Just a nice family day tuned into each other instead of our phones.  It was lovely.

Day 6 & 7 – Tech Challenge – Week 1 Win

Well the first week of the tech turn off challenge was indisputably a solid win.  I finished out the week by logging off early from work (early for me which is actually deemed late in the standard work day) so I could make dinner and watch a movie with my family.  My kids got along (except when they didn’t), we were patient throughout their antics (except when we weren’t), and my two-year old loved the movie (except when she sat on my head, fell on the dog, ran around taking her clothes off, and had a tantrum because someone touched a toy she hadn’t looked at for three weeks).  It was nice and as relaxing as we could hope for given the age range under this roof.

It’s definitely been an eye opener of a week, and I am going to see how long I can keep it in play.  I’ve watched more movies, made more dinners, and done less overtime.  I’ve even read half of an actual book and showered daily!  I recognize that those should not be challenges for the normal world, but I still won’t let you steal my literate so fresh and so clean clean moment.

These devices are serious double-edged swords.  They are convenient, fun and entertaining, but they are also tremendously distracting, invasive and impersonal.  We believe that they help us connect with others, but they can also be a serious wedge in our personal relationships.  And if we know anything about wedges, it’s that we must pick them when they start to dig in.  Wedge wisdom.  You’re welcome.

Consider trying a one week tech turn off.  Try it for one hour or even thirty minutes.  It may shock you to realize how much you really are missing by making sure that you stay by your phone to avoid just that.  And if nothing changes, you can tell me.how totally wrong I am, and that’s always fun, too!  Who doesn’t like shoving a good eyeroll back at their fellow well-meaning man/woman.  You have nothing to lose.  (But you do have a lot to gain!)

Day 5 – Tech Turn Off – When the Tables Turn

My daily two hour tech break is about meet the one week goal.  I’m so intrigued with the results thus far that I’m going to see how many days I can actually keep it up before I fall off the iWagon.  In truth, my wagon runs off Android.

To my incessant surprise, I have genuinely enjoyed each day of tech turn off time.  However I have noticed one issue that simultaneously grates on my nerves.  I have become excessively congnizant of how shut out and irritated I feel whenever someone else continues to tech away instead.  It’s utterly unfair on my part.  

This was a challenge I set for myself and my kids.  I had hoped that my husband would be all in, and considering that it wasn’t his idea, he’s had a pretty good participation rate.  The problem is that I don’t do “pretty good.”  I’m all or nothing.  Do or do not.  There is not try.  You’re my boy Yoda!

But it’s an unreasonable and unfair ask on my part.  I have been much worse than him for years.  Now a handful of days have gone by and my epiphany has not managed to totally invade his conciousness.  No big shocker there.  He didn’t ask for this.  He’s a smart guy, so I would suspect that his primary goal for playing along in the first place is keeping his wife’s nag factor at the lowest possible level.

And he isn’t the only one who keeps teching away when we are having family fun time (that’s what my kids call it and they don’t even say it with snark – that’s a win in my world).  My dad doesn’t even know about tech turn off time, but my frustration with him is more general in nature.  If you are hanging out with your children and their family, can’t Facebook wait?  Can’t you bitch about politics and share pictures of skateboarding dogs later?

Once again, this is an extremely unfair of me.  I’ve spent countless hours on a phone with my kids right next to me.  I wasn’t at all focused on them, and if I would ask my dad to please stop that, he absolutely would.  

We often hear how the characteristics that frustrate us with other people are the very aspects of ourselves that we dislike the most in ourselves.  I see myself mirrored in these actions, and I know that I’m bothered that I can’t undo all the time I already lost. 

So I guess my ultimate spiritual revelation from day 5 was this – I need to shut up and get over it.  Focus on me. Let them do their own thing. Remove the stone from my own phone before tackling their speck yada yada yada…

I’m the Adult but Let’s Be Clear – She Started It

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Irresistible

My version of a mom win can be a smidge twisted at times, but I have put forth substantial effort to earn the majority of my questionable parenting choices credits.  A few noteworthy exceptions include calling their attention to the radio when the song “Baby Got Back” came on, showing the kids how to ask the Amazon Echo to tell bad jokes, leaving my kids unattended near open paint pens, accidentally giggling when one kid de-pantsed another kid thus unintentionally creating a day packed with alternating incidences of angry pantless children, and encouraging my daughter to touch a duckling when the mother duck was in range.  I have two additional thoughts on that last point.  1.  I wasn’t using my brain.  2.  That mama bird was much faster than one might have anticipated, but perhaps the universal concept of never ever touching wild ducklings should have been enough.  And now I know why.

Nevertheless I am currently ecstatic at the sheer genius (self-designated) of the latest mealtime game that I invented yesterday.  Everyone adores it!  Correction – almost everyone adores it.

The game consists of all members in attendance at the meal doing the wave in a clockwise loop around the table each time our toddler raises her hands up.  So her hands go up and then I toss both of my arms in the air as I holler “Wooooo!!!” and immediately it continues on with my next person and the next, etc.  We love it, but incredibly, she is not a fan.  She is the wave buster and adamantly refuses to keep the pattern going.  (Why is there always one holdout section when everyone else wants to do the wave?!?!)  There is no rage or crying on her part.  Her reaction is one of crossed arms combined with an annoyed squinty irritated look that holds the same weight as an adult’s eye roll coupled with the international greeting.

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No, it’s not that kind of wave, but I didn’t have enough sequential pictures to give an accurate visual representation of the game.  I opted for an entirely inaccurate visual instead.

How could this possibly be a win?  I’ll send her to your house for a bit, and you can watch her rain crumbs in a ten mile circle with every upward launch of those sticky hands.  The win will become crystal clear.  Plus it’s stone cold funny.

Having a toddler is wonderful, beautiful, and, more often than you might imagine, excruciatingly painful.  I fully believe that whomever first used the phrase “loves hurts” had a little child and that those words were spoken in direct reference to something that the kid did.  As I type this, I am sporting a genuine black eye from where my own kid-shaped tornado clocked me in the head a few days ago at mommy and me gymnastics. It was fantastic when she slammed into my face while fifty sets of eyes were pointing my direction.  Because I have a “never let em see you sweat” response to public embarrassment, I responded with a veiled attempt to play it cool.  This is how we roll folks.  The gymnastics Olympians do this to their coaches, too.  No broken eye socket – hahaha.  Look away all of you wenches!!  Look away!!!

Another annoying move she has add to her endless bag o’ tricks is her recent practice of goosing us randomly in our hineys.  Even our dogs don’t do this to us.  No one knows exactly why she started this move, but everyone knows that WE WANT IT TO STOP NOW.  Unfortunately she finds our total surprise and unnerved reactions to be quite comical.  We have yet to break the pattern and may have to create a new variation of the wave technique in response to this as well.

As a parent, you have to be willing to get creative when it comes to changing certain kid behaviors.  If you are thinking that our game has less to do with creativity and more to do with passive aggressive behavior on our part, then you are wise.  I would also wager that you have no crazy small children or you have those weird well-behaved ones.  And if that’s the case, I’m jealous, good job, and fat congrats to you.  Just don’t bother trying to find that here.

I do feel compelled to add that my little game may already be backfiring on me.  Shock.  Awe.  Amazement.  Yawn.  She knew right out of the gate that we were messing with her and initially was rather displeased.  However as of this morning, she appeared to be trying to initiate a round of it.  I may have actually taught her that waving her hands in the air like she doesn’t care is the way to go to engage the group.  So I’m basically looking at five times the crumb cleanup and a small kid who will be leading the charge.  And there goes my win.  Again.

Just know that one day not too far down the road, I will be able to buy a full page ad for her school yearbooks.  Those ads will have space for sentiments of love and joy.  And photos.  Aaaaaany photos I choose.  I’m looking at you photo of dancing toddler in boots and a diaper.

I will get my win.  Someday.  Somehow.  And soon.

***MoJo***

Unhelping Around the Home

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Exhibit A

For years I have thought of karma as God’s sense of humor.  It now seems to me that my kids are also in on the joke.  Check out these pants.  Do I respect the efficiency of fusing your pants and underoos into one removable set like a human banana peel?  Oh yes.  Do I also respect the fact that collections of said sets are left hidden amongst the balled up dirty socks?  Oh no.

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I agree that it can be annoying to try to figure out what to do with that one ever-present sock that continues to reappear but never seems to have a match.  Again, high-five on your creativity.  However I feel like there could be better options for this sock that don’t involve the silverware drawer.  Maybe you could put it in the clothing drawer dedicated to lonely singles of the sock world?  Yes – I have that drawer and yes the other sock was in it.

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I get it.  I said “use a chip clip on the bag after you finish eating” when I should have said “don’t do that utterly ridiculous thing you know not to do because we have discussed it repeatedly and you keep ruining our food.”  My bad.

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This is a shout out to the spouses of the world.  I discovered this stale cracker crime scene one day too late.  Thanks so much babe for helping scientists confirm that the inability to correctly utilize a chip clip is in fact dominant in the human genome.

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Ok so you did blow your nose per my request.  But there’s this very small part of me that feels that perhaps – and to be clear, I’m no expert here – just maybe you could have opted for a couple less squares of TP??

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Your unhelp with regard to feeding the dog has not gone unnoticed.  With that said, I would like to mention that we typically put the food in the actual dog bowl as well as the actual dog mouth.  We also give her actual dog food.  Beyond that, I think you did it just right.

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As we all have moments of noteworthy unhelpfulness, I wanted to wrap this up with one last pic that involved the whole family – yours truly included.  I would love to tell you that this was staged, but this work of art was totally legit.  We had fallen into (and tripped over) this ridiculous collection many times.  Every shoe size living in this house was represented in varying degrees in this mountain of footwear.  How could my OCD have failed me so deeply and allowed it to occur?  If you look in the background, you will notice the real bonus of this pic.  There are TWO shoe racks in the background and both have space.  Since the time of this photo (taken a few months ago), I have added more shoe racks combined with an exponential increase in meltdowns on my part.  Amazingly the problem has been mostly resolved.

Please hear me on this because it only works if you apply both parts of the technique.  You cannot just rely on shoe racks.  A constant reinforcement of the mommy meltdown plus the addition of too many shoe racks to justify any further excuses is the best way to achieve any level of shoe organization.  To expedite the process, I suggest integrating disappearing Xbox remotes and the refusal to make cookies.  This works on a personal level as well because you create an inner sense of guilt that is akin to “Oh crapola.  I want to leave my shoes here but I have to pick the damn things up since I just hollered at everyone for leaving theirs in the same spot.  Plus I want cookies.”  This is the only scenario I seem to have addressed with any level of effectiveness.  The others continue to be shining examples of the countless ways unhelp is incorporated into our daily lives.

If you are needing tips on how you can learn to unhelp more around your own home, I strongly recommend that you ask your kids for actual help.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but I can assure you that this is the fastest way to witness optimal unhelping techniques.  Spouses and partners are also great teachers in this department, but don’t be afraid to look in the mirror either.  You, too, have the power to sabotage food storage, house cleanliness, and the general basics of staying organized.  If you can recognize the mere seconds it would take to do the job right, and then do absolutely nothing with them instead, you will be well on your way.  Best of luck.

***MoJo***

Mother’s Day – A Day of Relaxation (Unless Of Course You’re an Actual Mother)

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Image Credit – My Endless Laundry – You’re Always There for Me

Moms aren’t typically allowed to voice these words, but thankfully Hallmark has authorized me to tell the responsibilities of the adult world to stick it and do whatever I want – reality be damned!  So here it is…

Mother’s Day can be a mother of a day.  This “holiday” has been a major source of stress for me for years.  It’s yet another thing jammed into an already maxed out calendar.  I have to shove aside an endless list of ongoing tasks (that surprisingly never manage to include items such as “relax at the spa” or “eat bon bons while being dramatically fanned by a beefy dude with a palm leaf” or “do absolutely nothing”) in an attempt to focus on people who are important in my life.  The problem is that even though I really do aim for a special weekend for all, the whole Mother’s Day scene inevitably becomes a balancing act that I fumble through with striking ineptitude and extreme frustration.

I genuinely want the extraordinary moms in my life to understand how precious they are to me.  I dream about doing something amazing and special and wow-worthy so they might get a sliver of a glimpse at how incredibly much they mean to me.  Sadly the odds are uncomfortably high (and not ever in my favor) that I was unable to scrape together enough time or energy to shower every day over the previous week, let alone put together all the required parts of a grandiose plan that would adequately display my sincere love and appreciation.  To give you a sense of how fantastically together I am on the personal planning front, I can share that I am currently quite excited because my Christmas cards that should have gone out five months ago may at last be in the mail sometime in the next few days.  Or weeks.  Or sometime in June.  Probably July.  Ideally at the latest by Christmas of this year.

And then there’s my own Mother’s Day.  If that’s going to be an actual thing, I will probably need to plan that, too. The mamas also residing in the Land of Reality know what I’m talking about.  Should I make a reservation in advance somewhere fancy or should I save time and just call Denny’s or IHOP to confirm that they haven’t instituted a dress code since last Mother’s Day?  Do I buy my own gift and have my husband tell the kids to give it to me to reinforce the importance of honoring significant people in your life?  Should I just glue my own popsicle sticks into the shape of a frame and declare the holiday complete?

This isn’t intended as an indictment of my family or some narcissistic need to be put up on a pedestal for a day.  I donated that thing to Goodwill years ago because nobody ever used it, and we needed the space for our dust-covered treadmill instead.  At least we can stack laundry baskets on that thing.

I’m blessed with beautiful loving children whom I adore (even more so after caffeine and doubly so when they refrain from doing age appropriate nonsense that makes me want to lock them in Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs) and a husband who is pretty fantastic when it comes to most things related to house, kids and family life.  He’s not perfect, but we wouldn’t be a good match if he was.  He’s human but he’s a kind man, a wonderful man really (except when he’s really not, but again, we are a quite alike in that department).  In addition, he genuinely tries to modify his approach when he recognizes that something he does or doesn’t do upsets me.  There is a strong possibility that a significant portion of his willingness to change may be directly correlated with the tone and/or volume of my request, but nevertheless it is clear that he sincerely wants me to be happy and feel appreciated and loved.

I needed to talk to him (I snapped) so I decided to share my feelings (I went over the freakin’ edge) and told him (I totally flipped out) before (minutes before) the Mother’s Day weekend began that the way we had handled the weekend in past years was hard for me (it drove me utterly bananas).  I explained that it made me truly happy to plan and buy and do year after year for our moms but that happiness came to a screeching halt when with the planning and buying and doing year after year was on my own behalf.  It was two-fer – hurt feelings with the added bonus of getting to do extra work in the guise of “celebrating” my day.

One day later, he had come up with ideas and options and had even made phone calls to actual humans at real places that served food that wasn’t necessarily prepared on a griddle!  (In all fairness, my favorite meals are prepared on a griddle, and I sincerely believe that breakfast should be legally designated as the best dinner option in the universe.  Also dessert should be the first course, but I digress.)

The funny part is that the moment he started talking about options and ideas based on the places he had called, I no longer cared if we went anywhere at all.  It was like a switch flipped and the hurt feelings were gone.  I realized that the only thing I had truly wanted was to feel worthy of a little effort just for the sake of saying thank you.  We all want to know that we matter to someone and that this someone sees and loves and appreciates us.

As mothers, we show our love in countless unseen ways every day.  We work and cook and shop and clean and volunteer at school and help with homework (on concepts we have to teach ourselves again in spite of our foolish beliefs that we would never do them again after we graduated).  We arrange everything under the sun and do projects and intervene and drive and drive and drive.  And the list goes on.   Sometimes you are rewarded with a hug and sometimes you are rewarded with a headache.  But those hug moments make every bit of the madness worthwhile.

This past year was a challenge for many of us, and on this Mother’s Day,  I am reminded that I am thankful for the moms who have helped me to survive and to flourish.  I have amazing mothers in my family (moms, grandmothers, sisters) and countless others who continue to catch me whenever I fall and help me up whenever I fail.  They are my partners in laughter and tears and worst of all – tee ball.  I celebrate all of you.  I am in awe of you, and I thank you for the endless ways you inspire me to be a better spouse, parent, daughter, sister and friend.

As for my own Mother’s Day weekend… Well it began with the sweet sounds of my son waking me with these magic words – “Mooooom, the dog threw up in the laundry room.”  To be precise, the dog threw up four times, and it wasn’t only in the laundry room.  Since that little gem of a starter, I have attempted to tackle a pile of laundry so high that I needed a Sherpa and an oxygen tank to help me reach the summit, dealt with an early morning accident in a bed, removed five thousand sticky pieces of rice from hair/clothes/table/floor, cleaned the dog yard, gone through the thousandth round of school papers, scoped out some work items on the list, muddled through several temper tantrums (including my own), and various other reality activities so many Mother’s Day cards tell you that you don’t have to do because it’s your special day!!  (I have two main theories on those particular cards – 1.  They are written by someone who is not an actual mother but is an actual moron.  2.  They are written by real live mothers who pee their pants laughing when card companies agree to print the cards because they know that other real live moms will get the joke since being allowed to stop your grown up tasks is how being a mom on Mother’s Day or your birthday works NEVER.)

But this is also how my Mother’s Weekend went…  After the dog barf scenario (that my sweet husband helped clean up and actually didn’t want me to deal with at all), all my children gave me big fat hugs and told me that they loved me as they wished me happy Mother’s Day.  All except the littlest who became quite angry and insisted on wishing me happy birthday instead.  She is nothing if not committed to absolute accuracy even when she is absolutely inaccurate.  In between rounds of temper tantrums, we were able to spend time with one of my precious moms and some of my amazing sisters and their (our) families whom I adore.  Before and after the various rounds of cleaning, I’ve had lovely conversations with other important mamas and will be seeing some of them in the next few days whenever we can make it happen in a no stress kind of way.

Ultimately I got the breakfast I really wanted – breakfast tacos made by someone else and wrapped in paper.  It was a dish-free dream!  Science has yet to determine the cause,  but dishes appear throughout the day in our home – even when paper-wrapped tacos are directly employed to combat the problem.  Thankfully, my husband and kids did the dishes took care of them.  We all did some laundry and I took some time to myself to write this.  We went out to dinner and are shutting down for the night.  I just sang “Baby Mine” to my youngest child – my darling angel who will turn on you in a moment’s notice if you mess with her and quite often even if you don’t. It has been a low-key beautiful day and it has unexpectedly been exactly what I wanted – laundry and all.

My point is this – I should have told my family how I felt a long time ago. I wanted them to just get it, to know how to prove to me that they saw me, to understand that a small plan requiring a little initiative by them and no effort by me would make me feel very valued as a mom and a wife.  But I never said it like that. Actually I never said it at all.  Not even to myself.

I’ve never been short on words, but I have felt like I have been unable to find my voice for quite some time.  Maybe this is the start of my finding it again.  I wanted my family to see me, but I finally recognize that I needed to see me first.  We often feel so small, but we are doing spectacular things. We are literally creating the future. Each of us shapes the life experiences of every person we contact.

You matter and you are valued.  There is no day on any calendar that will ever be able to convey how precious and treasured you are.  Hold onto the hugs.  Eat dessert first.  Vote for pancakes for dinner.  And if you can, find your voice.

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And this is the magic and why it’s all so worth it!

***MoJo***

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