To the Young Ones – Being a Nerd Won’t Always Hurt Like It Does Today

While my son was away from his seat at the cafeteria today, another child thought that it would be hilarious to throw his lunch / lunch bag into the trash can. Apparently the kids had been hiding his backpack during lunch on other days, but this is the first time that one of the items actually made it into the garbage.

The obvious question seems to be, “Knowing this dynamic, why leave your stuff unattended around those creeps, and why sit there anyway?” Well the school is very funny about keeping tables to a specific number of children. The old “I put my stuff there first so it’s my seat” rule is law. Weird? I think so. The way it is? Yes. Also that happens to be where my son’s friends sit, and, understandably, he wants to sit by them.

Middle school lunch can be social quicksand. Despite being well aware of this dynamic, my heart felt raw as I listened to my son tell me about how he had to dig through the school trash can to fish his lunch out of it. My sadness turned to anger when he told me how it was soaking wet from the discarded food and drinks and how he had to carry the bag with him to all of his remaining classes. He handed me one of his final exam reviews that is due tomorrow. It reeked of garbage and was shredded from being soaked. Normally he would have had a backpack for his assignments, but backpacks aren’t allowed during finals week. Instead he kept it in his lunch bag because there was nothing in there that would have messed it up. Apparently the only crap that could cause damage was in fact sitting in seats adjacent to said bag.

I’m tired of the immature jackass behavior that is rife in schools today. I’m even more exasperated with a feckless school disciplinary system that does nothing to wake these jerks out of their collective cruel stupor. The bullies believe that their meanness is comical, and although I will bring up this nonsense with the school administration, there will be no real consequence. Hope you nerds enjoy your garbage-flavored lunches and shredded assignments compliments of the social lemmings!

Unfortunately, as the years go by, you will find that the jerks and bullies still manage to fly their creep flags in full color. The social drama and cliques that people should outgrow after middle and high school will continue to appear more often than you can fathom. Social media amongst adults is uglier than any kid you ever saw. Some people in your life will find ways to hurt you to a degree that you could never even imagine.

Nevertheless, it does get better. Once you get older, you get to choose. You choose your partners, your friends, your job. You decide where you will live, what you will wear, and how you spend your time. You realize thay sometimes you roll your eyes at the craziness of it all, walk away from the computer, and put your phone on silent. Athough you may not always like your range of choices, they are yours to make. You get to decide the kind of life you want to live and with whom you will spend that precious time.

You learn to own who you are, and you stop apologizing for being different. You realize that you don’t want to be the same as everyone else. In fact, you want to shine in your own unique way. You don’t need for every person who knows you to like you, and you realize that all the “perfect” and “popular” people around you have plenty of problems of their own.

You just have to get through this part now. And when something else comes along that delivers your spirit another kick, don’t give in then either. It always gets better if you can muster a shred of hope and give it a little more time.

Don’t allow anyone else to put out your spark, and don’t sacrifice your light to someone else who stumbles in a moment of darkness. Never ever forget that their unkind actions are a reflection of who they are, not who you are.

So often the outcasts of the world are the very people who change it for the better. The nerds shake up the status quo, shape our minds, and provide vision to us all. The ones who are different are the ones who make a difference.

As a parent, it scratches my core raw when my children hurt like this. It takes everything within me to maintain a cool emotional facade because all I want to do is cry. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone, least of all my own darling children, and I know what it’s like to feel like you are watching the world from the outside. I understand being consumed by deep loneliness and feeling like you are being excluded. I don’t want this pain for my amazing family.

But taking a <a href=”http://retrospective“>retrospective look at my life also allows me to see that those same painful experiences have shaped me into a better person. While I still feel a heavy sadness at the memory of the cruelties I endured, I wouldn’t go back in time and change them. I developed strength, sass, and spitfire, and I will never allow anyone to take that away from me. It took me a long time to know it, but I can tell you this now – I am a serious bad ass. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet on your side, you are, too. You just have to own it.

You have been dealt this hand because you are strong enough to survive it and wise enough to learn from it. Treat others with the kindness you would want to receive. Be braver than those who can’t survive outside of the herd. Allow the light of your uniqueness to shine without shame even if others try to shut you down. And just in case the jerks are out and about, maybe wear pants with pockets so you can carry hand sanitizer and a snack. 😉

You may feel like people don’t see you now, but they will. You can’t hide light like that forever. So keep shining. Always

Love, light, sass, uniqueness, spitfire, wonder, and nerdiness to you – Jo

Retrospective

Parenting a Child in a World of Rapid Technological Changes

A long time ago in a house not so far, far away, I didn’t have children yet. Nevertheless I knew what I wouldn’t and wouldn’t allow them to do if I ever did. I would be a firm parent but always maintain a fun-loving atmosphere. My spouse and I would set rules and boundaries that would be agreed upon by all and we would avoid the obvious pitfalls that inevitably consumer Dr. Phil’s rotation of daily wailing families. Intelligence, consistency, and love would govern our family at all times.

Unsurprisingly to any parent in the universe, a flushing sound was heard in the background within seconds of the birth of my first child, and I watched every parenting certainty go swirling down the tubes out of sight never to be seen again. My former pre-parent list of “I would never … if those were my kids” items morphed into my actual parent list of “Questionable Choices Made Today” items. The only truism I now recognize without question is that before I had children, I didn’t have the slightest clue.

Parenting should be defined as the act of trying to make good choices while being faced with uncertain decisions, cloudy possibilities, and a heap of exhaustion. The one hour television shows that taught us how to parent with kindness and consistency didn’t cover the remaining twenty-three hours of the day nor did they detail the thousands of days to come after that.

And then you introduce technology onto the parenting scene. Bleh. These electronic wonders that were designed to make life easier and more entertaining are huge problems. The pre-parent me wouldn’t have seen that. That me put technology-saturated kids in the same category as fat dogs. Show me evidence that proves that your husky husky is opening up the fridge and making a butter and cream sandwich while the humans are sleeping. Perhaps he has a thyroid issue, or maybe he’s just big-boned. If not, he has likely become an adorable sausage with feet because the only resident individuals with thumbs happen to be overfeeding him. We’ve had a under-tall / over-fluffy canine of our own, so don’t start foaming at the mouth.

I saw the same dynamic with regard to kids and tech. A large part of me still agrees with the bulk of that assessment today. Very few children buy their own devices, and I have yet to meet a fifth grader who could give me cogent details regarding reasons that led them to a 24 month contract with their current internet service provider. Parents and caregivers almost exclusively hold the keys to the internet and cell phone kingdom, but much like everything else, it’s not that cut and dry.

Schools expect children to have technology in the classrooms for access to research and various apps. Outside of school, many children are also active on social media. My husband and I are social media buzzkills and therefore prohibit our children from having these kinds of accounts at this point in their young lives. We see too many adults behaving like means kids online, so we can’t imagine how far children would be willing to go. With that said, I did set up an Instagram account for my daughter’s photography work, but her contributions are sent to me and I post them. She has zero direct access. It’s not that I don’t trust her. It’s that I ABSOLUTELY DON’T TRUST HER. She’s brilliant and low on the trouble scale, but ultimately, she’s a kid! It is standard in the land of kid-dom to look to the “bonehead and no clue about the consequences” choices category when there are extensive other available alternate selections in the “obviously better and trouble-free” choices category.

As parents, we want to believe that our children would neeeeever make a poor decision like XYZ because we repeatedly taught them not to do anything like that ever ever ever. The problem is that those well-educated children still believe that we are the real boneheads feeding them made up stories and that ultimately we don’t know what we are talking about. So when my husband was scanning the kids’ phones a few days ago and discovered that our daughter did XYZ the other day, it was another monster parental wake up call. Her XYZ du jour happened to be creating a Twitter account without our knowledge. Thankfully she only set it up with her email address. And photo. And full name. And birthday. Aaaand frickin’ home address. Oh yes. She so did.  I’m only surprised that she didn’t come to me to request her social security number for her bio deets.

Do I really believe that she was intentionally trying to put her info out there for anyone in the world to see? Not in the slightest. A friend of hers already had a Twitter account, and our daughter wanted one, too. She had set up the account with her full information because those were the standard blanks (that most internet aware individuals would either skip or flag as private data).

Had we previously spoken with her on numerous occasions about information sharing and the dangers of giving out her personal data? Of course. Had we explained repeatedly that she would need to provide an opener for the can o’ whoop ass that we would be accessing if she were ever to set up an online account without our permission? Naturally. Did my child know better? Yes.

And no.

She clearly knew that she was not allowed to set up any accounts on the computer without our permission. That part made me mad. However she didn’t have the slightest comprehension about what someone else could do with that level of data. And that part terrified me. Hasta la never kid Twitter account.

Admittedly her move was not quite as fab as that of my friend’s young daughter. This precocious internet rockstar decided to set up her dad with a Match.com account without his knowledge. She keyed in his actual personal information and noted that he was looking to date senior citizen gay men. They promptly deleted the account as soon as they were notified about its existence via a signup confirmation email. While neither parent has issues with senior citizen gay men, they aren’t quite ready to go the open relationship route nor are they looking to post their personal information online.

Maybe their daughter simply believed that her dad had worked too hard for too long and was merely trying to find him a short-term sugar daddy with a long-term payout option. Speaking personally, I strongly disagree with the parents’ decision to delete the account. What if Elton John had been online moments later and feeling frisky??? NO ONE SHOULD RISK MISSING THAT CALL. But alas, the account is now gone forever like a candle in the wind.

You can’t make this crap up. While one might be tempted to give them props for initiative, creativity, and true comedic style, neither their daughter nor ours saw the dangers in their actions. What if Elton had called? That girl could be left fatherless now. Or maybe she would have multiple fathers (one of whom would have a far better wardrobe than she could ever imagine – imagine the years of insecurity she would have to survive). And then there’s the whole “extensive personal data that doesn’t belong on the internet” thing.

At least I have another darling who is a few years older and would never make those poor choices. He prefers alternate poor choices including an ongoing penchant for circumventing or outright breaking the app lock I have on his phone (it keeps them from downloading, deleting, or accessing various applications). I don’t know how this mini-hacker does what he does, but I strongly suspect that I purchased an app designed by a five-year old. (I call quality apps such as these crapplications.) So when we discovered that he did his own magical app lock unlock feat yet again, I went on a wide-reaching tech raid at home. Both phones are resting snugly on my nightstand as I type and the power cords to the game systems have gone into hiding.

Image result for fork knife meme

Somehow there are other parents who are even more clueless than I. Thank you for displaying your tech noob-ness online and at Best Buy. Take heart though. It’s been years yet I still can’t get used to the word pnw.

The problem is that banishing the tech quickly goes from general punishment to making your child a social pariah. When we were kids, we did wild and crazy things like play outside and talking to each other about anything at all. This might still be possible with the littles, but it isn’t as common for the bigs and even more unlikely if are not within walking or biking distance of their pals.

On a temporary basis, I’m all good with rule breaking resulting in no game playing. It’s back to the “your dog is a chunk, so put less food in his bowl” approach. It seems obvious, right? But literally within days, they can become extremely isolated from their peers.

Recent studies have shown that ten zillion and three kids play games like Fortnite (or Fork Knife for you nerd-challenged parents whom I adore). When they do this, most play via online interactive teams with their friends who are also playing from their own homes. If children aren’t part of the specific teams, they don’t have that shared experience. If they don’t have the shared experience, they don’t have anything to talk about at school the next day. Or the next day. Or the next. The same goes for lack of access to YouTube or social media. If you have ever attempted having a conversation with a techie kid about anything offline, you may find that it’s short but probably not too sweet. They no longer know how to converse with adults or comfortably connect with their peers at a personal level without an intermediary – technology.

I do recognize that this problem is in no way applicable to every child, but this is a pervasive problem for countless our families. Too many brilliant teenagers struggle with basic writing and are unable to have face to face conversations. Meals are spent with a fork in one hand and a phone in the other. I saw an article detailing the extreme loneliness the younger generations are currently experiencing. No surprise there. Even when they are together, they might as well be in a room by themselves with a phone or remote. Everything circles around moment to moment entertainment and stimulation. Video to video to video and game to game to game and site to site to site. We see it everywhere we go.

How do I get in front of this now? How can I keep my children from falling into the electronic rabbit hole? I could choose to trust my children and recognize that they are inherently good people with caring involved parents. Yes they will make mistakes, but ultimately, they will learn from those errors in judgement in the long run.

ERRRRR – Wrong! They are too young, too naive, and way too accessible.

Well I guess could banish the phones forever, turn the game console power cords into wreaths that I could then be sold on Etsy, and smash the laptops thus firmly committing the family to smoke signals and paper. That feels closer to right but still no dice.

The honest truth is that I don’t have a solid answer. The approach that feels like the best option for our family in this moment is to learn from other parents who have been there done that and research alternate security apps. We are also setting heavier restrictions in the device security options, tossing the crapplications, paying for a service through our cell provider that will send us detailed phone and web activity, and setting router limits that will throttle their internet and game time whenever we become too distracted or exhausted to notice that it is needed.

We can’t afford to become complacent nor can we ever turn a blind eye to the need to protect our darlings from the very real dangers who are actively trying to find them. If you think I’m being dramatic, take a glance at the lovely emails that were sent straight to your spam folder. Now imagine that they are being sent to directly to your child instead and that your kid decides to read and respond to them. Are you okay with that? Are you comfortable with those people speaking with your children, knowing where they live, and establishing a friendly relationship with them? If you are, not only are we on different pages, but I’m pretty sure that we aren’t even in the same book.

We must continue to educate our children and keep this conversation active with them. They need to hear the words, and their vocal cords could probably use the practice in return. Stay involved, keep your eyes open, and stop calling it Fork Knife (unless I am within earshot because I can always use a good laugh).

Best wishes to you always – Jo

Rapid

Stifle the Judgement and Recognize Childhood Anxiety

When you believe that you are the reigning panic attack champion of your familial crew, you are faced with a tough reality when you recognize that your child also struggles with extreme anxiety challenges. My concern has been growing as I have watched my child stumble through her schooling with increasing regularity over the past few months. Her grades have slipped, and while she still does fairly well on average, she just seems disconnected.

I do not believe that the mass education system is an ideal fit for a large portion of the children in today’s classrooms, and for a great many, it’s more about surviving than thriving. This is not a new problem. Nevertheless I maintain a strong commitment to the belief that people will match your expectations of them. I push my children to lose the excuses and work hard. I am not looking for perfection, but I won’t accept sloth or apathy either.

So when I received an email letting me know that my daughter had achieved a seriously underwhelming 45 (out of 100) on a grade, I was significantly less than thrilled. I quickly moved from confused into angry. By the time I picked her up from school and could ask her about the grade, I had made it all the way to furious.

me – “How in the world did you make a 45? Aren’t your grades important to you?”

her – Silence. Eyes glazed over while staring blankly out of the car window.

me (fuming and in total disbelief at her indifference) – “Look at me when I am speaking to you! Don’t you understand how one grade like this will affect your average? Doesn’t this bother you at all?”

her (facing me and responding in a sad quiet tone) – “I do care, but the teacher said that it’s too late to turn my paper in now.”

me (steam coming out of my ears and as I frothed at the mouth) – “You didn’t turn it in!?!?  You actually know that you didn’t do the assignment at all? So really you should have received a zero and that 45 was a gift? Did you forget to do the work or did you just blow it off?”

her – “No, Mom. I wrote a paper about some rocks we collected, but I couldn’t find the last page when I was supposed to turn it in. I told her that I was missing the page when she asked everyone for their papers, and she said that she didn’t know what to tell me.”

me (about to get a serious parenting wake up call) – “So what did you do with the rest of the paper that you still had?”

She looked away again and gave a little shrug of her shoulders.

me (instantly realizing what had really happened and feeling like I was on the receiving end of a well-earned gut punch) “You threw the entire paper away because you were missing that one paper.”

She nodded.

And in that moment, I felt my heart twist and break. I finally saw her and understood what had occurred. Her problem had not been one of indifference but rather her inability to see past the panic. She had been so distraught about missing one page in a report that she couldn’t think about potential solutions like asking for partial credit or requesting the opportunity to rewrite that individual page. Her mind chose the path of least resistance – shut this problem down by discarding it.

Her challenge was her extreme anxiety. Mine was my complete inability to recognize her struggle before applying my own assumptions and misjudgements. She had needed support, but I had gone on the attack instead.

I face anxiety struggles constantly, yet I still forget how debilitating the most innocuous of moments can become when panic attacks hit. You couldn’t pay me all of the money in the world to convince me to spend one year of my life as a kid in school again, but I watch my children head there every day and think nothing of it.

All children face challenges, but those who deal with anxiety disorders experience them at an exponential level. Some wear their emotions on their sleeves as they cry, rage, or have panic attacks. Others appear entirely indifferent and unaffected despite the turmoil within. There are always clues to be found, but these hints are quickly obscured when misunderstandings and snap judgements enter the scene. When that happens, the hurt grows and opportunities to learn and heal vanish.

We push our children because we worry about them. We become angry when they stumble because we want them to succeed. In our efforts to help them to avoid various hardships, we create others to take their place. We seek to train them on the intricacies of life, yet we miss the most basic of lessons that they constantly offer us. We have to ask more questions, dig deeper into their stories, and stifle the judgements if we truly want to understand what is happening in their worlds. As parents, we believe that we are our children’s greatest teachers, but the real truth is that they are ours.

Love and light always – Jo

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/stifle/”>Stifle</a&gt;

Childhood Depression and Anxiety – Avoid Feeding the Monster

Having grown up with depression and anxiety challenges as a child, I constantly watch my kids for the signs I once showed. Do they like to stay in bed all day? Are their moods reflective of the bipolar disorder that once consumed me? Do their emotions soar to elation only to come crashing back down to utter blackness in an instant (beyond normal hormonal kid madness)? Do they grow so dark that I cannot see their light shining through? Do they become excessively focused on negative scenarios? Do they see themselves as being broken? Are they unusually connected to the pain of others? Do they talk about suicide?

For me, the answers would have been clear to those close to me by the time I was in middle school. In hindsight, I knew that I was struggling beyond the norm before I was even out of elementary school. Was there anything that my parents or anyone else could have done that would have steered me in another direction? The plain truth is this – I really don’t know.

Please note that I am not a trained medical professional nor am I a psychologist of any kind. The only role in therapy I have ever served is as the person on the sofa with sad tales, zombie-chic runny mascara eyes, and a box of someone else’s tissues at the ready. If you are looking for professional medical advice, you won’t find it in anything that I write. Also I should disclose that I can’t teach you how to iron either. Those skills just aren’t in my wheelhouse, and I don’t plan to add them anytime soon.

I am speaking as an individual who survived the blackest nights of being clinically depressed and terribly suicidal. I am speaking as a person who doesn’t just hope that recovery is possible – I know that it is a reality. When I tell people that I no longer have depression, I mean that with absolutely sincerity. I’m not going to lie – I can be a serious bitch, and I am highly explosive at times and heavily in the doldrums at others. But that is not the same as what I experienced decades ago. Not even close.

When I was growing up, we faced some extremely stressful situations. Based on every other family I now know and reality (as I perceive it today), it appears that my genetic pool has never maintained a corner on the stress market. Everyone has stuff. Everyone has stories. Bad yucky sad tales and heart-wrenching experiences. It’s just the way the humanity cookie crumbles.

So when major unfun stuff happens in or to my own family now, I look even closer to see how my children respond. Are they emotionally drowning or are they temporarily set back but heading back toward being okay? Do they disappear for hours and hours to hang out by themselves in their rooms for days? Do they withdraw from actual humans and get lost endlessly in mindless technology time? Does the bulk of their artwork or writing reflect heavy emotional tones? When I see these behavior patterns kick in, I remember my own downward spiral, and I act immediately to try to prevent my children from entering that treacherous ride.

While I recognize without question that there is a true physiological element to depression (thus why I fear that my children could have it), I also believe that we have the ability to circumvent and rewire that part of our makeup. Consequently when I see them displaying a behavior that appears to be “feeding the depression monster” (ramping up the potential for greater negative mental feedback), I immediately try to redirect their actions.

One of the rotten parts about being a kid is that you only have as much freedom as you are given by the adults around you. One of the best parts of being an adult is recognizing how you can use that dynamic to help your children when they need it most.

Here are a few specific examples I have used in the past month:

  • On multiple occasions, we have forced the older kids to turn off their emo sad FM music, leave their rooms, and come hang out for family night. We eat food that they like, we watch goofy movies together or play games, and ultimately, we end up spending hours laughing instead of emotionally stewing solo. Everyone goes to bed feeling like it was a good day because that’s how we closed it out.
  • My son told me that he was writing some very heavy and sad poems at school, and that he wanted to focus on writing this way because the other kids were so impressed by his depth. I’m not looking to raise Edgar Allan Poe II nor do I feel like this is good long-term brain food at all. I said nevermore to that crap and told him that I wanted to see a balance in his writing. I even called his writing teacher on the sly to let her know the importance of her being aware of this dynamic, too. She was glad that I contacted her and said that she had assumed that he was a deep-thinking writer with a heavy style. We agreed that he could still express his emotions while finding more balance via incorporating the positive emotional elements as well. She is encouraging him to find balance in class, and I work iinon this at home.  My son and I now talk about his writing every couple of days. I encourage him no matter what, but I try to focus my highest praise on the positive works. This isn’t about squashing his true feelings. It’s about programming his brain to point toward the half full glass version of thinking versus automatically seeing a smashed cup of darkness weilded by a creepy raven.
  • My kids get frustrated with the behaviors of some of the other children around them.  As fate would have it, it turns out that really small people can be seriously big buttheads (that is the scientific term for heavy duty jerkfaces). Instead of focusing on all the garbage that those other kids do, we try to find something good in them, and if that is a lost cause at that moment, we try to come up with an alternate good thing that happened that day to focus on instead.

The key to this is mental and emotional redirection. As parents,we want our children to know that we hear them and that we see them. We seek for them to feel emotionally validated, and we want them to be able speak to us with openness and honesty.

However as parents, we also need to show them which emotions are beneficial for them on a regular basis. Everyone is allowed to be sad and angry sometimes. We are even permitted to rage and be devastated. But we cannot allow those emotions to be our baseline. We have to help them figure out what emotions should be the outliers and what should constitute healthy daily living. We have to enlighten them on the obvious. It’s truly okay to not be okay sometimes, but ultimately it feels better to feel better.

Personally I find it cathartic to have a good solid cry every now and then. I have a handful of gut-punching songs, TV shows, and movies that are certain to do the trick if needed. Sometimes I’m just want to be a bear, and I don’t want to be cheered up dammit!

But even then, I still try to maintain awareness of how far I can let those emotions run. I only allow myself to take it so far. If this goes on for several days, I take steps to shift how I’m feeling by turning on funny shows and upbeat music. I change the channel when the heavy stuff appears until I can watch it without feeling emotionally inundated. I force myself to get out of the house and do something that doesn’t stink even if it’s something as simple as going to a plant store (Jo❤️🌸4ever).

It’s same story with the kids, but I attempt to expedite the process. I choose to change their sadness channels as quickly as I can. They don’t have the awareness to pull out of the spiral, so I do the best I can to steer them safely away from it instead. I refuse to allow them to feed the sadness or desire for isolation.

Can I guarantee that my children won’t face severe depression? No. Not at all. Do I know for certain that they will never face the darkest moments of feeling suicidal? It terrifies me to recognize that I can’t say yes to that either.

But I have seen that their hours of heaviness can be turned to moments of joy. I am certain that being aware of the warning signs and red flag behaviors might offer us opportunities to intervene in innocuous yet effective ways.

There are times when we can stop them from embracing the negativity. They are moments when we can avoid validating increased unhappiness by focusing on finding something to laugh at or something to do that makes them smile instead. The key is to figure out how to flip the switch the other direction in a way that engages your child.

I pray for blessings for all who struggle with depression and anxiety. Whether you are the one who is experiencing those challenges or you are the one who is trying desperately to send a lifeline to another navigating them, it is so very important to choose joy whenever you possibly can. There are numerous options for treatment, and I strongly recommend that anyone in need should seek available help. Please know that depression does not have to be a lifelong sentence. Stop the downward spiral whenever possible. Feed the best, not the beast.

Love and light to you always – Joanna

Enlighten

Another Weekend Morning

IMG_20171007_113023.jpgBefore 5am was able to an appearance on the clock this morning, I could hear the not so sweet sounds of one of the dogs barfing on the plush carpet of my bedroom floor next to me. It needs to be extra thick in order to be able to adequately absorb whatever may be hurled its way. Naturally I thought to myself, “Wait…is it Mother’s Day already?” But no. It was just another weekend morning.

So my husband and I jumped out of bed joyfully (as indicated by the way we were yelling at each other) to split up the tasks of collecting supplies to clean the cushy barf sponge and chasing the dog into the bathroom where she could (and did) upchuck a few more times on the tile. Thankfully we were able to wrap up the barf-fest and go back to bed for a few more hours.

sara splat

This is my kid, and this is how I felt after wrapping up round 1 of my morning.

When we awoke (again), my husband left to pick up our middle daughter who had spent the night at a friend’s house. We rarely allow our children to go to or have sleepovers. We have found that it’s typically just easier to let the kids play together at whomever’s house and then send them back same day while ending on a high note.

But this is one of our daughter’s dear friends, and she hadn’t seen her for months. We gladly made an exception when they invited our child to stay at their home. So when morning part 2 rolled around, my husband left to go pick her up from their home. I texted the other mom to see how it went, and she told me that they had a blast. Yay! The yay was short-lived when she added the text about how funny my kid was.

I love me some good funny anything, but I have learned that my daughter and I have significantly different opinions on what does and doesn’t belong in this category (which is pretty ridiculous because it takes almost nothing to entertain me). And if she was doing her version of funny, she was about to be in a doghouse of her own.

I was praying that I was wrong, but in case I wasn’t, I asked if burping was involved. And of coooourse it was.

Dammit.

It’s not that I go bazerk because my daughter burps sometimes. That action alone wouldn’t thrill me, but I wouldn’t totally flip out either. Let’s face it – she’s a kid. But my daughter doesn’t burp. That word is in no way adequate to capture what she does. If you have ever seen the movie “Revenge of the Nerds” – and if you haven’t, what the eff is that about because it’s an epic 80’s classic – just think of Booger. She a pretty version of that of that gnarly dude.

The even better news is that she worked overtime during the sleepover because she made it a point to show those parents her mad gross guy skillz while also attempting to teach their daughter how to do it, too. Yes. My kid. I’m so proud. It’s strange that they didn’t ask to schedule another sleepover right then and there.

“Hello Amazon. Could you possibly send that doghouse we thought we might be needing via rush delivery? Great!”

My kid found herself on ice as soon as she walked in the door. Tons of chores, no electronics, and the worst of all punishments – being forced to watch “Peppa Pig” with her little sister. Enjoy THAT.

Morning joy part 2 couldn’t depart fast enough. I needed morning part 3, so I could finally relax. I was certain that morning was tired of dishing out the crapola.

Silly silly me.

Few things say “keep the magic coming” like walking into your room to have the brilliant morning light reveal that the initial barf scrub session actually didn’t remove everything your pooch gifted to you pre-5am. Nothing disgusting to be found with that scenario. Especially not for someone who already has a serious aversion to germs and animal body action of any kind.

So it was back to the hands and knees again. Back to bringing in the towels and water. Back to getting out the Oxy Clean and Shout so my room could be flooded once more with those invigorating scents. Thank goodness for that because I just used the last of my Wet Dog Vomit in Your Carpet Plus Chemicals scented wax melts. They are so hard to find!

My sexy morning just wouldn’t quit.

I want to float carelessly over the stumbling blocks of life that I find, but instead I end up with a face full of barf towels. I need to laugh at the antics of my kids, but I am too wrapped up in the “oh no she di’n’t!” feeling I have instead. My dog would gladly let her gross action fly anywhere, but my daughter knows better. Nevertheless she saw her opportunity to misbehave and completely ran with it. And that genuinely bothers me.

It’s exhausting. The week has been insanely long, and I have a ton of actual work that I need to tackle. I just wanted to sleep in a little. More to the point, I needed to sleep in a little. And now I’m so steamed at everyone that it’s fogging up my whole brain. (Thus the diatribe here.) (And you’re welcome.)

I wanted to meditate to soothe my mind, but the words that kept circling my brain sounded like that old song “Fire Water Burn” by the Bloodhound Gang.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!
We don’t need no water, let the mo$#&er burn!
Burn mo$#&er!

Errr so I thought maybe not right then for meditation. I went into OCD overdrive and tackled the least relevant task ever. I organized DVDs. I could see the ridiculous nature of the obsession as I ran through it, but it was the task I picked, and there would be no chance of calm until I was finished.

Have I unpacked my suitcase from earlier in the week? Nope. Is my office organized and are all papers filed? Don’t be silly. Are my DVDs separated into kid movies, holiday theme, grown up movies, empty cases with movie location known, and empty cases with movie location unknown?  You bet your sweet patootie they are.  I almost put each group in alphabetical order (as they always had been until my mini-human tornadoes wreaked organizational destruction on the cabinet), but I decided to save that task as further punishment for the belch queen. My part in that task is over, and I can move on to actual stuff that needs to be addressed.

I recognize that I’m not talking about the really big issues in life, but that doesn’t change the reality that it doesn’t take much to throw us off kilter. Or at least it doesn’t take much for that to happen to me.  I want to move through my life with perpetually uplifting spirituality, but that’s damn hard to do when you are up to your elbows and ears in reality.

I didn’t get anything taken care of that I wanted to do over the past few days, and I wasted even more time and energy this morning. I want to be flexible when life’s little collection of unplanned moments stretches me thin, but instead I often feel like I’m being pulled to the point of having my elastic snap into pieces. I want my feathers to dance a bit in the wind, but I feel like they blow away wildly.  I am left with my rear exposed and looking like my goose is about to be cooked.

It frustrates me.  And sometimes it makes me angry and sometimes it makes me sad. Today was a smorgasbord of emotions. If you wanted them, you could have easily found them amongst the available selections.

But then again, I did end up with highly organized and soon to be alphabetized DVDs. One section of carpet and multiple sections of tile are looking might clean at the moment. My daughter will be on work duty, but she had fun seeing a lovely little friend. And the dog hasn’t barfed again for several hours, so hopefully she’s okay now.

I think that I’m mostly alright now, too. I’m feeling calmer. The Bloodhound Gang is no longer earworming me into insanity. I probably will be meditating in a few minutes, and somewhere in the mix there will be a shower. Everything is better after a shower.

The world keeps spinning, and I keep learning. The most pedestrian of days can turn into a roller coaster, and it sometimes feels like we are out of control. But really it’s just a matter of holding on and enjoying the ride whenever we possibly can.

lilly on a swing1.gif

At least our dog looks relaxed today. I guess we have that going for us. (Isn’t she adorable?!?)

Love and light always – Joanna  😉

 

Pedestrian
Elastic

A Better Response

1

My arms may be hairy, but the good news is that I’ll never need a coat during winter.

Do you ever dream of being young again to return to that wonderful age when you were on the cusp of puberty and surrounded by children who rejoiced in each other’s differences? Yeah. Me neither. But as is the way of being a small human, my three children are current residents of Kidville and will remain so for the next several years.

Our youngest child stays busy during the weekdays at the daycare (and our firm belief is that she rules that place each day in her standard tyrannical style with pig tails a-bobbin’ as she bosses around her classmates).  Our oldest is in middle school and is happy (today) (middle school can only be evaluated in daily increments at most). And then there’s our middle child. She is currently working on her last year of elementary school and has started to become self-conscious about her body. One might expect that she would also have achieved some cognizance regarding the need to wear her shirt the right way or possibly brushing more than a one inch section of her hair, but those details have yet to make the awareness cut.  

Nevertheless she has become fixated on the hair on her arms. She doesn’t look a human wolf and the circus has yet to call. She just has a little arm hair. As fate would have it, some random boy in her school approached her at the end of today’s school day and teased her about it. Being a tweenager goofball, he could have said anything at all, but of course that was the one he had to pick. He walked off before she could come up with a response, and she came home heart-broken.

The thing is this – I’m a mama bear when it comes to my kids (and potentially my arms as well), so my instant response was to tell her to be put on a tough face and stand up to the other child. I don’t mean that I told her to get busy whacking him in his crown with those Rapunzel-esque limbs. I told her that what he said was ridiculous, and she should just come back with a sassy response in return or maybe just feign a reaction of utter boredom should he attempt such lame insults again. I even tried to get her to practice with me, but she wasn’t having any of that. As feisty as she can be, she doesn’t have that warrior spitfire coursing through her veins (see “her mom” or “her tyrannical 3-year-old sister” for reference). She is basically a human fairy, and someone stomped on her fuzzy little wings. Seeing her little heart aching hurt me more than she could ever imagine.

You think that you are grown up and that you are so happy to be free of all the emotional complexities (a.k.a. garbage / crapola) that goes with being a child in school. As an adult, you do get attacked at times, but ultimately, you can choose to put space between you and any of those bullies of the world. You may not like the consequences, but you can walk. That’s one of the best parts about being an adult. But then you have a kid. And that kid goes to school. And someone you can’t control says something cruel and hurtful to your kid.

And because your child is effectively your heart walking around outside of your body, you hurt as much as if it was said directly to you.

So my response to her came from a defensive place. It wasn’t all “I am rubber. You are glue…” We did have an extensive conversation about his insecurity. I explained the real possibility that the boy might have actually thought that she was pretty and just didn’t know what to say. We also talked about how completely inaccurate his comments were and that she couldn’t let another person’s hollow and mean words tear down her self-image. (We did not discuss the reality that those kinds of comments will always hurt and that we spend our lives fighting with self image deficiencies. That felt a little heavy for the fuzzy arms talk.) Clearly my words impacted her deeply because her eyes glazed over and she said blandly, “Where are the Frosted Flakes?”

Sigh.

The truth is that she is a beautiful girl with gorgeous dark eyes and olive skin (the stinker!). She is not a furball, but she does have fuzzy arms. Her fuzz happens to be from dark hair while mine are fuzzy with light hair. It bugs her, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary at all. The other truth is that the picture above is of my arm, but that’s not my arm hair.  That’s my dog’s tail. We are both blondish, so it worked for me. Unfortunately it seriously weirded out the poor dog.

The real problem is that my daughter is going to be a serious headache for her father and me when her teenage bod kicks in. I have visions of her leaving for school one junior high morning and then exiting the building later that same day in slow motion with the wind blowing and an Aerosmith song playing in the background. It worries the crap out of me how pretty she might be. Thankfully for now, there is only standard motion, and Minecraft is her theme song. I’ll take that as long as I can.

So I called another mama / confidant whom I completely trust. She’s a precious friend and an adultier adult. (Another dear friend once told me that sometimes we need to seek adultier adults to help with various situations, and she was right on target.) Her suggestion was for me to sit with my daughter and focus on sending prayers for the other’s child’s insecurities to heal. I know. It’s almost exactly the same as what I said, right? Her suggestion to “Send light and love to the child who is clearly hurting” was  almost word for word the same as “Come up with a better come back, and maybe roll your eyes and yawn.” So close, yes???

Well at least God sent me an actual grown up to help me navigate the parenting waters I like to refer to as “Me and My Issues.” I’m not even really angry with the other child. His words were a reflection of his insecurity and lack of kid filters. My daughter will turn into a mega-babe (much to my dismay), and his words will be small potatoes relative to other hurts she will face.

I want to find better ways to help my children to avoid empowering the unimportant stuff. I hope to teach them how to acknowledge the untruths for what they are and to learn to dismiss the malicious words of others. I want for us all to respond from a place of love rather than a place of hurt. I pray that my mama bear within is reading this post, but I also know that she’s a beast and that I will fail dismally more times than I can imagine. But for now, I’m going to try. So I’m going to locate my inner grown up, and we will send love and light to that other child.

However if that kid messes with her again tomorrow…

(I’m just kidding!)

(I hope.)

😉  Joanna

Do You Make the Cut?

I bought this t-shirt a few days ago because it made me smile (and that’s my key t-shirt buying criteria) (because apparently I am a ginormous child). There’s this part of me that sincerely believes that the printer hosed up the shirt because it just says #Adulting when it really should say #AdultingAttempt, #MostlyAdulting, or (if it was yesterday evening) #AdultingFail.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m trying. I’m really trying hard. But I still feel like I can’t get it all done. The tasks never end.

In an attempt to mitigate the madness, I started prioritizing my mental task list a couple of months ago. My approach is to write down the key items I need to take care of on paper (yes – on real live paper while using an actual physical writing tool – I’m so O.G. like that). Then I determine which ones are the key-iest of those key items. Those are my really must do’s. Anything else that gets knocked out is just a bonus.

Forcing myself to prioritize has been extremely helpful, but you never would have guessed that if you had been able to witness Hurricane Jo in full force two evenings ago. It just seemed like there was stuff piled everywhere. No. That’s inaccurate. It didn’t seem like there was. There WAS stuff piled everywhere. And then there were all of the non-pile items that needed to be addressed. Homework, spreadsheets for work, finances, meal prep, something else, something else, something else, etc, etc. I could feel the stress building, but there was no good way to say, “Buckle yourselves in tight kids because the crazy mommy train is currently exiting the station!”

Eck. So that was fun for the whole family.

The next morning rolled around, and my task list started to kick around in my brain once more. I felt the anxiety from my overloaded schedule creeping in before I even got out of bed. I hauled my mini-monkeys to school and began to take a closer look at my list. What was I doing wrong? I’m a mom and momming is always relaxing (always = never). But even I knew that it really wasn’t anything specific to that. Work was doing the work thing and the other stuff was doing the other stuff thing. I had been prioritizing my tasks regularly and “get my panties in a bunch” was not on the schedule until the following week. What was my deal? I looked at my list again and then started to contemplate my previous lists. And then it hit me.

I wasn’t on my priority list. There wasn’t one thing specifically designated for my own personal happiness on the “key things to take care of” section nor did it make the “stuff for later” section. I wasn’t on any of my priority lists.

Countless people can relate to the idea of not landing anywhere on their stuff to do priority lists, but that doesn’t make it right.  We should always make our own freakin’ cut.

Is this an issue of self-worth?  Is it about intentionally disregarding our own needs? I don’t think so (but my actions and lack of self inclusion on my numerous lists certainly seem to point to a major therapy opp). I believe that the real issue at hand is that we do value our individual needs to some extent, but we forget that they should hold the same level of importance as those of others we support in our lives. We would not expect those around us to debase their value relative to us, but that is the reality we apply to ourselves. It is also the example many of us set for our children.

To be clear, serving others is NOT the same thing as consistently sacrificing your own needs. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Many of us have a nasty habit of wanting to fix everything for everyone. We want to be flawless parents, support our spouses, volunteer when possible, work the perfect job / run the perfect house, and on and on. We avoid telling someone “No” when they ask us to do something when sometimes it’s really the best answer we can give. We get swallowed up by the turbulence of life, and our sanity and inner calm go down with the ship.

But there are countless things that have to be done everyday.

Well…are there really?  Yes I agree that it feels like there are, but let’s look at the list and be fiercely honest with ourselves.  What do you have on your “must do today” list that could also fit on the “must do to avoid world destruction” list? If you have items that fit on both of those lists, stop reading and get to work. Otherwise, let’s look at the list again. I bet big money (no whammies!) that you have items on your list that most definitely don’t have to be done today.  I would also wager that you have items on your list that someone else could do, or very possibly, someone else should do because it was never really your task in the first place. Even if it isn’t exactly how you would do it, let other people (including your kids, spouses, parents, coworkers, etc.) take care of their own stuff. You aren’t helping them by shouldering their responsibilities, and you definitely aren’t helping you.

Find 15 minutes just for you. Maybe it’s taking a walk around the block, running a quick errand for something you want, reading a chapter of a new book, or meditating for a few short minutes. Perhaps what you really need is to agree to give yourself a a little quiet time. I don’t care if you have to lock the door and sit on the potty longer just to have an excuse to get those few minutes to yourself (unless it’s a public potty, and in that case, you go in and you get out asap – no exceptions).

Make some time for you. Really commit and sometimes truly spoil yourself (if you can). Your wants and needs should hold the same level of importance and value as those around you. We must honor that in ourselves. We are better people when we validate our individual needs and recognize own self-worth.

Find a place for you on your priority list.  Make sure that you always make the cut.

Love and light always – Joanna

#Adultingish

 

Pamper

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