Thursday, June 22, 2017

It's So Write

Several years ago, I listened to a talk on CD by G. Sheldon Martin.
Brother Martin is a licensed mental counselor slash seminary teacher. He is equal parts behavioral science and gospel, which is sort of what I want to be when I grow up. I love me some psychology, and I love me some religion. Putting the two together is like putting gravy on mashed potatoes. It is so right.
But I’m not here today to go on and on about Sheldon. I’m here to go on and on about something he said:
"Writing is the most reformed form of thought; to write it, you have to think it."
Oooooo! Do you love it?
Let’s say it again:
"Writing is the most reformed form of thought; to write it, you have to think it."
Notice that it doesn’t say, “To write it, you have to believe it.” But you do have to think it, which means anything you write has made a path through your brain and down to your finger tips and onto paper (or screen). Anything you write has been contemplated, pondered, and processed in some way.


I love this thinking/writing connection, and as I contemplated the association between the two, I thought that there might be some articles published online about the health benefits of writing. So I did some official Google research and found a lot of great information. As I assumed, writing has been shown to have positive healing effects for mental illness, cancer, and even AIDS. I could list thousands of amazing statistics and facts about writing, but I will just sum it all up with this:
Writing is good for you.

I don’t claim to be an expert writer, but I love writing, and I feel that writing consistently throughout my life has helped shape me into who I am.
Writing has healed me, comforted me, and pacified me.
Writing has connected me to other people and encouraged me to think with depth.
Writing has allowed me to express myself creatively and to explore new perspectives.
I know that writing doesn’t appeal to everyone, but even in small doses, it can be therapeutic. Here are ten ideas, all requiring different levels of commitment and time to get you writing if you aren’t already:
1. Start a blog (or pick up where you left off over a year ago on the blog that you already have)
2. Write a letter
3. Keep a journal
4. Keep a page-a-day notebook
5. Fill someone else’s writing with margin notes ("marginalia" for the win!)
6. Document a single story from your life
7. Write a list
9. Model a piece of writing after something someone else has written (with proper credit, of course)
10. Write thought bubbles in newspapers or magazines
In slightly adapted words of country singer Lee Ann Womack:
"I hope you dance write!"

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

All the Rage

I have a confession. I love playing with my kids' fidget spinners. If I see one sitting around the house, I'll pick it up and spin it for as long as I can before they catch me and take it back.

Maybe I should have rules about fidget spinners. Like, if you leave it out, it's mine.

But meh.

I haven't come to a place in life where I want to enforce fidget spinner rules. For now, the only rule is that you can't take them to church.

Anyway, the fidget spinner craze has made me nostalgic for all of the fads of my own childhood.

In first grade, slap bracelets were banned from my school.


(Twenty-four years later, when Nicky took a slap bracelet to the face and had to get stitches, I was finally at peace with the slap bracelet ban of 1990).

image 
In sixth grade, it was Pogs.


Our elementary would have special days when we were allowed to play with Pogs at recess, but we weren't allowed to play "for keeps." I'm not sure how they refereed all that.

In eighth grade, everyone snuck their Giga Pets or Tamogotchis in their backpacks.


I never had one, but I would often play with my friend's during social studies. 

In tenth grade, it was laser pointers.


It's been kind of fun to tell our kids about the crazes of our childhood. Of course, there were far more than just these, but these are the ones I remember causing problems at school. About the same time the secondary schools were having problems with laser pointers, elementary school was starting to have problems with Pokemon cards. My little brothers were in on that one.

What crazes causes problems in your school? Do you find it as exciting as I do to play with a fidget spinner?

While the Eggs are Boiling

Every morning, the first thing I do upon waking is find my place in space and time. Where am I, and what day is it? As soon as I know that I'm in my bed, and that it's [insert day here], I move on to the next question: What am I stressed about today? 

This probably isn't the healthiest practice, but remembering my stress is one of the first things I do each morning. Then I spend the rest of the day freaking out accordingly.

This week and next week, I'm beta testing some workshop lessons on stress for my internship.

Funny, right?

And what I'm getting to here... eventually... in a round about way... is that stress is the reason I've decided to blog today. I've always thought of blogging as something I shouldn't do when I'm stressed. After all, I don't often yield the most quality writing when I'm freaking out about something, and if I'm using time to blog, I'm not using time to tackle what is stressing me out.

Side note: You should also know that in addition to being highly stressed right now, I'm also very, very angry - that's not a good time to blog since I have a hard time controlling what I say, and I feel like I'll explode and tell the world off any second.

But since I've written a workshop curriculum on stress, I now know that engaging in a creative hobby for a brief period can be an effective stress coping mechanism. So I should be blogging while I'm stressed. Writing can help me get into a state of flow, and flow is healing.

So let's make a deal:

If I whine about life being hard and not having the time or ability to accomplish everything I need to (particularly for school), and yet, I take the time to write a blog post, you won't judge me on my time management skills. Mmkay? Cuz you will know that I'm seeking flow through writing. I'm medicating! Let me sip the sweet nectar without judgement.

With that, let me tell you ten honest things about life right now:

Honest thing #1: I'm hard boiling some eggs (just had to throw that in there to validate my title)

Honest thing #2: I am on the brink of a breakdown

Honest thing #3: I'm not sure what this particular breakdown is going to look like when it hits. I don't think I'm going to cry. It's going to be an angry breakdown. I'm probably going to punch something or say something awful to someone. It will be some sort of angry tantrum, and it will probably be brought on by something stupid like a comment about the weather. I'll keep you posted.


Honest thing #4: The breakdown is a result of lots of tiny things piling up at once. Individually, I can handle each "thing." Collectively, the "things" are going to take me down!

Honest thing #5: I really want a day where I can just eat, sleep, and watch TV all day. I want to lay in my bed with my phone and the remote, and I want to leave my front door unlocked and have people bring me food. But I don't want to see the people, so I'm going to need to install a dumbwaiter.

Honest thing #6: My eggs are done, and they are perfect! WIN!

Honest thing #7: I can't handle criticism in any form.

Honest thing #8: My kids have watched TV all day for almost an entire week.

Honest thing #9: I have a two-year-old who is constantly crying and clinging to me, so I feel like I can't get anything done. By the time she naps in the afternoon, I have no energy to do anything productive, and I usually pass out on the living room floor.

Honest thing #10: I bought a battery-powered pepper grinder on clearance at Sam's Club, and I don't know how to put the peppercorns in. Now I'm reconsidering my intelligence.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Milestones for Zoe

It's been an exciting month for Zoe!

In case you, like me, have a hard time keeping track of my children, Zoe is the third child. She's four... if I'm remembering right.

Anyway, Zoe has had a bit of a rough go in some areas of life. I don't mean to make it sound worse than it is, but she has had difficulty learning to speak, and she has had a delay in her social/emotional development. This all affects her behavior, of course, so there have been some hard times. She is doing pretty well right now, but sometimes she regresses.

I have a hard time knowing what's best for Zoe, but I have noticed that she makes progress when she's out of school for the summer (she goes to school for speech therapy). Last year, I saw many improvements in her behavior and development during the summer. Then two weeks into school, she regressed. Her speech and behavior declined, and I had to fight her almost every day to get her to go to school (I also had to fight her to go to dance class, and I continually fight her to go to primary - I can count on one hand the number of times she has been to primary this year. So it's not just school. She struggles with all forms of structured group activities. I even have to fight her to get her to go to a play group to be with friends she has been asking to play with all week).

I have to seriously consider whether sending her to preschool again next year will be the right choice. I don't want to fight her. I don't want her to regress. But I need a break from her. And I'm worried that if I keep her home this year, kindergarten is going to be a problem next year.

For now, I'm hitting pause. I have decision fatigue. I can't deal with it.

But what I was getting to is that Zoe has had some milestones since finishing school for the year.

Milestone #1: Zoe has started sleeping in her bed. Dare I even mention that this child has slept on my bedroom floor for the past two years?

She still occasionally sleeps on my floor, but maybe only one out of five nights.

Milestone #2: Zoe got her first "official" hair cut.

I've never been able to get Zoe to sit still for a hair cut, but the other day, I was going to get my hair trimmed, and Zoe asked if she could come with me and get a hair cut. I didn't think it would really play out, but she did it! She got a shampoo and had about eight inches cut off. She picked how short she wanted it, and she sat still in the chair. I almost cried! And now her hair is so easy to do. It's a game changer.

Milestone #3: Zoe said her first prayer.

We've never been able to get Zoe to say prayers. A few times we've been able to get her to repeat a prayer, but she's been very resistant to that. Last week, she told Scotty she wanted to say a prayer, and then she did it all by herself. She said prayers every day for the next few days, and now she's back to refusing to pray, but SHE DID IT!

Milestone #4: Zoe learned how to ride a two-wheeler.

Zoe has been telling us for a few months that she wants to "ride a bike with two wheels." I confess... this is where my life has been easy. Scotty takes the training wheels off. We run up and down the street with the kid a few times, and they get it. I didn't think Zoe could do it, but she begged and begged. To my surprise, she nailed it.

(The ease of bike training has been more than made up for by my children's inability to potty train).

Milestone #5: Zoe has started singing.

Singing has been hard for Zoe, but in the past month, she is starting to be able to sing full songs, and she seems to enjoy it.

I am enjoying seeing her progress. She might not keep up with it all (prayers, for example), but I'm glad she is picking up on some new skills.

Zoe isn't the only one reaching milestones around here. Eva almost peed in the potty for the first time last week! She has been sitting on the potty for months, but she hasn't made any "deposits." A few days ago, she sat on the potty and peed, but she wasn't positioned correctly, so she peed all over the floor. I was right outside the bathroom door when she did it, so I don't really know what went wrong, but I cleaned up the pee, and then we celebrated!

Given the history of my children's potty training, Eva will be out of diapers in 18 months (but she'll be riding without training wheels in twelve). Let the countdown begin!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Frumpy Moms Guide to Social Belonging

A few weeks ago I clicked on a link someone shared on facebook that went to a blog post that talked about the division between the moms at school drop off. The blog post basically separated moms into two groups - those who get ready in the morning and those who don't. It talked about how the "done up" moms all flock together and chat while the "frumpy" moms are all in survival mode and stay in their cars and feel isolated.

I both related to the post and loathed the post at the same time. It was written by someone who groups herself with the "frumpy" moms, and she took on the position of somewhat shaming the "done up" moms while also totally comparing herself to them.

I related to it because I'm one of the "frumpy" moms, at least in terms of getting ready in the morning. Unless I have something really important going on that day, I don't do my hair or make-up, and I'm usually in workout clothes or something pajama-like (and trust me... it has nothing to do with actually working out). I'm always in survival mode, and I often feel like I'm hanging off a cliff by my pinkie. I'm frequently in a condition where I prefer for people to not see me.

But I loathed the post, too, because I didn't like the way the writer labeled herself and the other moms. She divided mothers by us and them, and she wasn't interested in closing the gap. All of the thoughts she expressed in the post were based in her own assumptions - assumptions about the women she was separating herself from. Assumptions that they don't "get" her and that their lives aren't hard.

I'm guilty of it, too, of course. I've looked at mothers and grouped them by types. I drop off kids at school, and I'm well aware that there are moms who are dolled up to the nines and moms who won't even brush their teeth until 3:00 p.m... if they are lucky. I know that there are workout moms and working moms and volunteer moms and rich moms and poor moms. I've put them in groups. I've given them labels.


And I've made the mistake of not talking to another mom because I assumed there was some difference between us that made us incompatible in some way.

In fact, here's an example. A confession of something I did that was kind of horrible...

A few months ago, I was at a restaurant with my family, and I saw a friend of mine from high school. Not just any friend - one of my best friends. We haven't kept in touch very well since we graduated because she lives out of state and doesn't use social media. She was here visiting, I assume. Anyway, I saw her from across the restaurant, and I didn't go talk to her.

I didn't talk to her because...

Because...

Because she was skinny.

And I have put on 75 pounds since high school.

So because of this difference, her being skinny and me being, well... a little on the thick side, I didn't go talk to her.

I allowed some delusion of a division between us based on the physical conditions of our bodies to keep me from talking to someone who was once one of my closest friends.

Dumb.

Shortly after that, I had another experience that was quite the opposite.

I was at the grocery store early in the morning. It was the day after Eva had gotten stitches in her forehead. I was tired and unshowered. I had greasy hair and zits all over my face. I was wearing a baggy t-shirt, ten-year-old yoga pants that were covered in paint, and hot pink sequin slippers. The child in my cart looked just as disheveled as I was.

I ran into an acquaintance there, one who is a "done up" mom. This woman never has a hair out of place. She is absolutely pristine, always. My initial thought was, "Oh no!" because we made eye contact, and there was no dodging her (Would I have dodged her if I'd had the chance? Maybe. Probably).

We stopped and chatted, and guess what! It was great. I had no reason to avoid her other than my own distorted thoughts. She was kind and friendly, and we had a nice exchange. I left feeling grateful that I'd talked to her.

Shortly after that, she contacted me to ask for my help with something, which proved that just because a mom is "done up" doesn't mean that she doesn't have problems or hardships. "Done up" moms and "frumpy" moms can be friends! They can help each other out!

For my internship, I had to read a book by Kelly McGonigal called The Upside of Stress (I recommend it - it deals with so much more than stress. It's a great book for coping with adversity in many forms).

The book talks about some of the research of a psychologist named Greg Walton, who focused on mindset intervention. One of his intervention topics was social belonging. He would go to an Ivy League school campus and talk to the students briefly, giving them the message that if they felt they didn't belong, they weren't alone. This simple intervention showed improvement in academic performance, physical health, and overall happiness over the following three years in the students compared to those who did not receive the intervention.

The point is - feeling like you don't belong is a widespread experience, but we tend to think we are alone in it. Our interpretations of conversations, setbacks, and misunderstandings can be viewed as evidence that we don't belong. What we sometimes fail to see is that almost everyone feels that way. So it's not just the "frumpy" mom in the van at school drop off. Chances are, some of those "done up" moms standing in a group feel the same way.

I think we excuse ourselves from reaching out to others because we feel we don't belong, but if we recognize that everyone feels left out or disconnected at times, we can connect better with each other. So let's not look at the differences between ourselves and other women and make assumptions about who fits in and who doesn't. Someone can appear to have a rich social life and still feel incredibly lonely inside.

Let's not allow our grooming process to dictate who we connect with.

Get out of the van. Say hi. Smile. Work that greasy updo.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Oh, That Internship

Right now I'm doing my internship - one of the last requirements before I graduate.

I've had several different tasks to work on as an intern, but the bulk of my efforts are going toward revising and beta testing a workshop.

Guess what the workshop is on!

WILLPOWER!

(I am saying that in my He-Man voice)

"I have the (will)power!!!"

Go figure. I'm studying willpower at a point in my life where I am completely devoid of willpower. In fact, since I started my internship, I've found watching TV, overeating, and overspending all the more appealing.

But hey, if you feel like talking about dopamine triggers, I've got plenty of conversation material.

Anyway, I have to work for a minimum of ten hours a week (160 hours total), which I thought would be cake, but it turns out, it's not cake at all.


Interning from home is hard work! If I could have a do over, I'd do an on-site internship for sure!

It's hard to get anything done in the five-minute increments my children allow me to work. I feel like schoolwork adds up in five minute sessions even though it's not ideal, but internship work doesn't. Partially because of my writing process. When I write workshop lesson plans, I go through quite the mental ordeal. I read and reread. I cross reference, double-check everything, change the order of paragraphs, stare at the screen and meditate, and I talk to myself... a lot. I think I get a good two hours per week toward my internship by simply talking to myself about the lesson content. I have to make sure I can form verbal explanations from my lesson outlines. It's all about rehearsing! That's all hard to do in five-minute sessions. I mean, I just barely get in the "talking to myself" zone, and then I have a kid pulling at my leg asking for "water in a sippy cup with ice" (that one is Zoe - she likes her drinks on the rocks).

Anyway, bless my in-laws for taking my kids to the zoo today so I can have some time to blog catch up on my internship.

Seven more weeks, folks! Seven weeks til I wear the gown!




Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Few Thoughts About Summer

Summer's not my favorite. I've probably made that very clear since I write at least one whiney post about it each year. For me, surviving summer is the equivalent of Running Wild with Bear Grylls...

...except it's Running Wild with Four Kids

...so clearly Bear Grylls isn't here to help me get by.

I've actually never watched Running Wild with Bear Grylls, so maybe it's not like that at all, but I have seen Bear Grylls skin something mountain goat-ish and sleep inside its carcass, so yeah. My summer is pretty much like that. It's all about desperate efforts to survive.

I have a theory about the moms who love summer break. I think their kids sleep in. Is there anyone here whose kids wake up at 6:00 a.m. who loves summer break? Is there anyone here who has done four hours of parenting by 10:00 a.m. who posts a countdown to summer break on their facebook page?

If you don't count the weekend or the holiday, we are only on our third official day of summer vacation.

Thus far, Eva is the most injured child. She fell at the park and got a bloody nose. Then she fell at the park again, a few days later, and scraped up her face and got a fat lip. She also skinned her knees and her toes.

We've already used two bottles of sunscreen (I used to try and save money by using the rub-on kind, but now I splurge on the spray because I can get it on my kids while chasing them).


I've already had to establish some firm Summer Rules:

Rule #1: Don't ask me for popsicles before 10:00 a.m.

I originally aimed for 1:00 p.m. but I had to amend that rule because I need to be able to shove something cold and sweet in my kids' faces earlier than that.

Rule #2: Don't be psycho.

This rule leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but I have found myself repeating it to my kids in various circumstances:
  • When Nicky is kicking the wall because he's bored
  • When Zoe is thrashing around on the floor screaming because her arm is stuck in her nightgown
  • When Daisy tells me three times every day that she thinks she has broken a bone
  • When Eva is clawing my face with her nails of death for no other reason than she is two, and that's what two-year-olds do
Rule #3: We are reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as a family whether you like it or not, so sit down and be quiet.

That one is pretty much self-explanatory, but it has been difficult since I am sick and hardly have a voice. It disrupts the excellence of my Dumbledore impression, but I'll be healthy again someday, and my raspy Dumbledore voice will be back with a vengeance. Wait... I guess my Dumbledore voice is perfect right now. My Hagrid and my Mr. Dursley need some help, though.

Rule #4: You have to have clothes on if you are outside.

We've been having a naked problem lately.

I'm sure there will be many more Summer Rules implemented before the end of the season.

Summer break is not for the weak!

And I'm kind of weak, so I guess summer break isn't for me.

(Seriously, moms! How do you do it?)