Back to School Anxiety (Mine, Not Theirs)

It all begins once more tomorrow. We went through the various outfit options, prepped the lunches and backpacks, and multiple kids got in big trouble before it was over. So all in all, it was a standard school night kind of evening. I already know that I will be terribly sad in the morning when I drop them off, and then I will be even sadder when I come home to the deafening silence of an empty home. Thankfully that pile o’ dishes and crumbs that will greet me upon my return will most definitely be awaiting me will remind me of their close proximity. Part of me is being sacrcastic, but a bigger part of me is genuinely grateful for everything they leave scattered in their collective kid wake.

The good news is that if history is any indicative of future performance (which it is NOT in finance – please see attached disclosures), I may be luxuriating in the quiet after I get past my initial adjustment period. Although my favorite part of the day will always be when we are all together once more, maybe a few minutes of solitude won’t be the worst thing either.

Back to school Monday feels like a pretty crappy week starter at the moment, but I have a stockpile of work spreadsheets and truckloads of laundry that are betting otherwise. I guess we shall see.

Whetheryou are back to school, over school, past school, or just rejoicing in an endless  summer, I send you wishes for a lovely Monday and a beautiful week ahead.

Big hugs to all.  Jo

Keep Dancing

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

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We returned from a our family tour de USA yesterday, and I could hear the end of summer clock clanging in my mind as we walked back in the door. Our kids have a few short days before school begins once more, so I decided to have a mini-meltdown today to maximize that time with them. While I could send you a list of reasons that would (sort of) rationalize that temper tantrum, the short truth is this – I just don’t want summer to end.

I love the flexibility that comes with minimal scheduling. I enjoy having my kids within hollering distance and appreciate sharing meals during the day during my work breaks. Instead of reading about the world, we have time to go experience it instead. Not that we actually do that very often in reality, but we could (if that frickin money tree would start sprouting).

So my goal is this – find a working money tree.

And my backup goal (because it’s wise to have a backup goal when your initial goal is dependent on a botanical that can produce viable currency) is to find a way to live with greater freedom. Before you suggest it, I would like to note that home-schooling is not in the cards at this junction. This restriction is not based on any negative perceptions on my part but rather a conflict with my sanity (because oh em gee I would go bazerk trying to get them to stay on task) and their safety (because when the bazerk happens, my inner Tasmanian devil appears). Also my work schedule keeps me way too much in the weeds to add schooling to the task list.

But I do feel like there is another way out there. A better way. An approach to parenting and schooling and overall living that is less focused on schedules and deliverables and more focused on enjoying the days we have.

Do I know what that way is? Nope. No clue in the slightest.

Nevertheless it’s there. I’m certain of it, and thus my quest for the endless summer continues. I’ve already got the incessant heat (thanks so much to Texas for that contribution!), so there must be a way to keep the rest going, too. I want to keep dancing. It’s just a matter of finding the right rhythm. 😉

Wishing a lovely week to you all! Jo

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

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.

wave

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***

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