Tag Archives: parenting

Life is Good Enough.

Good enough.

I used to hate those words. They always seemed like a cop-out.

Then I had three kids. And we bought an apartment building. And got a dog. And I started taking care of my in-laws. And I just couldn’t keep up with my old standards any more. I started to feel inadequate, and beating myself up regularly over the things I couldn’t get done.

But I found a solution. A way out of the self-imposed guilt. I’ve turned over a new leaf.

I’ve embraced mediocrity.

And now, good enough has become . . . Good Enough. Not just a measure of acceptance, but a whole new philosophy for life. A new mantra.

Here are a few excerpts from the Good Enough Manual:

Good Enough Laundry = clean (for the most part). The kid who hasn’t yet gone through puberty may occasionally wear shirts more than once. Folding is optional. And you already know how I feel about sorting socks.

No more shame!

Good Enough Dinner = everyone eats something. Most nights I provide the meal. Most nights we eat together. But if we can’t, we can’t. My children are now old enough to handle sharp knives and prepare food. They know the way to Subway. They won’t go hungry.

Good Enough Housekeeping = a reasonable standard of hygiene in the bathrooms and kitchen. Enough said.

Dusting is now optional.

Good Enough Landscaping = the weeds will die once we have a cold snap. Probably. If not, they’ll bloom in the spring and I’ll call it a garden.

I’m no longer envious of my friends with their picture-perfect homes and spotless cars. They can hop in with me and we can go to lunch. Or we can drive out to the lake and eat Cheerios off the back seat. It doesn’t matter to me.

This weekend we’re going to a cross-country meet in Baton Rouge. Instead of rushing home as soon as The Caboose crosses the finish line, we’re going to go visit The Trailblazer at LSU. We’re going to enjoy a little October weather and I’m not going to worry about housework.

When I get home I may print up some membership cards to the Good Enough Club. Who wants one?

 

 

Boiling Frog Syndrome

I often use a metaphor to describe how we sometimes find ourselves in situations we didn’t see coming. It goes something like this:

If you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out immediately, because it senses danger. But if you put a frog in a pot of cool water and heat it slowly, the frog will adapt to the changes. It will not perceive danger, and eventually it will cook to death.*

I fear I’ve become a victim of Boiling Frog Syndrome.

(Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee.)

I used to live a very organized, efficient life. I worked outside the home, worked inside the home, mothered three kids. As an Army wife, I often did it solo. I managed our rental properties, cared for my parents, volunteered at my kids’ schools, taught Catechism at my church. And all the while I managed to maintain a decent standard of hygiene in my home and a semi-active social life.

I’m not sure when the fire was turned on under me, but somewhere along the way that cool pot started heating up, and my surroundings became a threat to my survival.

At some point, having the right uniforms clean on school days became a challenge. (Enter Febreeze into my life.)

Homework became a lifestyle-altering component of my family’s schedule.

Carpool and lacrosse practice became the events that dictated the rest of the day.

I had to take an afternoon off of work to wait for the exterminator, the plumber, the AC guy.

Meals at home became grab and go events, not sit downs.

Taking my parents and in-laws to the doctor became a frequent activity.

I was overwhelmed by my routine day.

Lists didn’t help. I never could get the things on the list done by the time they were supposed to be done. The unchecked list became a reminder of my failure.

Requests for assistance didn’t help. I had created a system that only I knew, so asking for help meant doing it over when it wasn’t done right, and stopping to explain ‘what or how’ became as time-consuming as doing it myself. I had painted myself into a proverbial corner.

Years went by, and I couldn’t figure a way out. I reminded myself to be patient. “This, too, shall pass,” became my mantra. I watched as my friends went on weekend jaunts to Napa, while I tried to dig out of paperwork. I was jealous of those who went to the zoo when I could barely get to the grocery store. The lists grew longer and longer. But I couldn’t figure out how to change anything.

The events of the last year turned the fire up even hotter. And I started to feel the heat. Anxiety attacks, hives, a trip to the ER after passing out. My body was sending me clear signals, but I still couldn’t figure out how to reduce the flame beneath me. I knew I had to get out of the pot for my own survival, but I just couldn’t find the way out.

So I scoured the internet for some inspiration, and I stumbled on this blog.

The steps seemed simple enough, so I thought I’d give it a try to see how I could apply these business practices to my life.

7 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks Effectively

1. Respect Deadlines.

An absolute must. I was prone to putting off the things that stressed me the most, even if there was a cost. Practical translation: Laundry must be done. If I have to Febreeze a uniform so my son can wear it to school unwashed, I’ve failed. Monday morning, laundry must be caught up.

2. Set Milestone Deadlines.

Don’t complete one task at the expense of the others. If it all has to be done, set reasonable milestones and work toward them. Leaving a monumental task until the last minute will bite you in the ass every time. Practical translation: The insurance claim must be filed within two weeks. The apartment must be ready to show by the 20th.

3. Consider the Consequences.

There will be things that just can’t get done. Choose the ones you can let go, and then… let them go.  Practical translation: I won’t be making those spectacular Halloween decorations I saw on Pinterest. In fact, I’m may delete my Pinterest account. All it does is make me feel more inadequate.

4. Consider the Payment Terms.

Some commitments do pay rewards. Get them done. Practical translation: Get the apartment ready. Missing another month’s rent will set the cause back even further. Two teenage boys on the car insurance is no laughing matter.

5. Consider Time Required.

When facing two equally important tasks I’ve started using the low-hanging-fruit method. Practical translation: Choose the one I can get finished. The reward of checking something off that list will often give me the energy to tackle the next one. And then the next one.

6. Set Goals and Work Backwards.

Keep the big picture in mind. Prioritize the steps, keeping in mind that some are foundational for others. Doing things in the wrong order makes for extra work. Practical translation: Clean the kitchen before starting dinner. Put away laundry before packing for vacation.

7. Schedule a Percentage of Your Time for Personal Projects.

Personal indulgences were always the first thing to be cut. But tasks that energize me – even if they take up valuable time – leave me better equipped to tackle the necessary things. Cutting these activities backfired on me in the long run because it left me feeling unfulfilled. Practical translation: Don’t eliminate the things that fulfill me. Spend time with friends. Exercise. Read. Dare I even say it… travel.

Now I’m not sure if using this method is going to solve my problem. But I am already gaining some sense of control over things, and I’m sure that will cool the water down a bit. I’m giving myself a month to knock out some big items and make decisions on how to work smarter on the small items. And I’m planning a trip. (A really big trip! Just for me! More on that later.)

Because I’ve already lost enough time sitting in this pot, waiting for the water to cool on its own.

* Before publishing I confirmed the accuracy of this anecdote with the trusted online source Wikipedia. According to Wiki, the frog will eventually realize its demise is near and jump out. But revealing this at the beginning of the post would have ruined the whole metaphor. Ignorance is bliss. 

** No frogs were harmed in the writing of this post.

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How do you manage tasks and stress? What organization methods help you function more efficiently? And have you ever actually seen a frog in a pot of water?

A study of cause and effect: If you give a boy a paintbrush

Image source: Microsoft.

Image source: Microsoft.

If you give a boy a paintbrush, he’ll want to help you paint.

If you agree to let him help, you’ll have to give him a bucket of paint.

If you give him a bucket of paint, he’ll spill some on the floor, and you’ll have to give him a rag to clean it up.

When he has a rag to clean up, he’ll make a bigger mess trying to wipe up the spill, and he’ll get paint all over himself.

When he gets paint all over himself, you’ll send him to the bathroom sink to clean himself up.

While cleaning himself up, he’ll splash paint-water all over the bathroom mirror, and you’ll give him paper towels and window cleaner to clean the mess.

After cleaning up the mirror mess, he’ll get water all over the floor.

When he gets water all over the floor, he’ll need more paper towels to clean it up.

After cleaning up the water on the floor, you’ll tell him to go chill out and listen to his iPod for a little while.

After listening to his iPod for a little while, he’ll get bored.

And when he’s bored, he’ll ask if he can help you paint.*

          * Inspired by actual events.

Moral Relativism: How I taught my son to tell a lie.

The Truth is not always clear.

Yesterday I sold myself out.

The Caboose had a concert last night, the “final exam” for his chorus class. It was at 7:00 P.M. at a church about 30 minutes from home.

My Mother-in-Law (who lives with us) has been having some medical issues this week, and my husband and I thought it best that she stay home and have her visit with the home health nurse. Knowing she’d be upset if she found out he was performing and we weren’t taking her, I did something I’ve never done before.

I told my son to lie.

I wrapped it around an explanation that, albeit true, was justification to disregard one of the standards I hold highest. At least I did until yesterday.

Since we’d be leaving the house just a few hours after getting home from school, she was bound to ask where we were going. And in his chorus uniform (dress clothes with a tie) a casual explanation wasn’t plausible. I suppose I could’ve just sneaked out the back door in stealth mode, but there would have to be an explanation of why the sitter was staying late. I felt trapped by The Truth. So I made a judgment call. And I lied.

We all tell lies. We really do. “This is the best cake I’ve ever tasted.” “I can’t make it in to work today.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t get the message.” We rationalize the lies we tell by pretending they’re harmless. We justify their use by the goal we’re trying to achieve.

As adults, we live in a world where things are not always black and white. We rely on experience and outcome to make judgment calls at times. And we sometimes lie in the process.

But at eleven years old, he doesn’t yet have that body of experience, or the understanding to make those calls. I told him that it was OK to lie because the truth would hurt her feelings. I packaged it up neatly in a way that would make it easy. Then I engaged him in the process, we told the cover story, and left.

On the way to school this morning, he was the first to bring it up. “It felt weird lying to Grandma last night.” I told him that I thought so too, and that we shouldn’t do it again. But the fact of the matter is that we will have to do it again, because she can’t do everything we do. I’ll just have to make sure I have a better plan, one that doesn’t require his participation.

And I’m now left to wonder where else he’ll apply this new standard of relativism.

“If it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’ll be OK.”

“She’ll never find out, so why not?”

“I’m only lying because I don’t want to hurt her.”

So The Truth, which I used to hold in such high regard, is now reduced to a standard I’m willing to sacrifice for a greater good in my son’s eyes. I sure wish I could get a do-over on this one.

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What do you think? Is it OK to tell a lie in certain situations? 

10 Celebrity Parents who are A Lot Like Me

1  –  Like Britney Spears, I practiced Attachment Parenting. I wanted my children close to me as often as possible. And with her busy partying performing schedule, Britney had to seize every moment she could to be close to her kids. Great job, Brit! I’m sure Dr. Sears would be proud!

2  –  Kate Gosslin took her kids camping. We used to go camping a couple of times a year when my boys were Cub Scouts. Although we did it without a film crew there to document the magic we have wonderful memories of those special family times. Just like her kids have of this moment:

 

3  –  Alicia Silverstone is concerned about her child’s nutrition. Like her, my son ate what I ate, but I had the messy job of cleaning the food processor after preparing his meals. Pre-chewing seems so much easier, and you can do it anywhere. Great tip, Alicia.

4  –  I put a great deal of effort into making holidays special for my kids. Especially Christmas. We always take a family photo to show how much the kids have grown in the last year. Nadya Suleman started this tradition with her octuplets, too. I’m sure when they’re teenagers they’ll look back at their first Christmas photo with mommy and smile.

Source: bossip.com

5  –  Then there’s January Jones. I, too, was concerned about my post-natal recovery. I took my over-the-counter vitamins, ate a healthy diet, and tried to get plenty of rest. I wasn’t as well-informed as January, though, and I let the medical staff at the hospital take my placenta away instead of having it dehydrated and made into capsules for me to swallow later. Although had I chosen to eat my placenta, I’m sure I would’ve prepared a big celebratory meal to enjoy.

Who’s old enough to remember the Placenta Helper skit on Saturday Night Live. Gilda Radner at her finest. But I digress…

6  –  On the concept of Emotional Intelligence, Alec Baldwin and I seem to be on the same wavelength. Helping children learn kindness and consideration sometimes means pointing out when their behavior isn’t appropriate. And with a young child it’s helpful to use a comparison the child can to relate to. So when Alec left his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, a voice message calling her a “thoughtless little pig,” I’m sure he meant it in a constructive way.

7  –  Were Joan Crawford alive today, I’m sure she’d be my Facebook friend, because we’d have so much to share with each other. I like to drink wine and keep my closets organized, and I get upset when my kids don’t eat their dinner (although I don’t serve liver).

This magnet appears on my fridge. For realz.

8  –  Then there’s Richard Heene, who (like me) works hard to infuse learning opportunities into everyday activities. He taught his son, Falcon (a.k.a. Balloon Boy) about aerospace principles, marketing, and the criminal justice system all in one lesson.

9  –  And Nicolas Cage, who (again, like me) wanted to give his son a legacy name. Each of my boys has a family name for either their first or middle name. Nic’s little dude is named Kal-El. (Superman’s Kryptonian name for those of you not into literary references.) Quite a legacy, dad.

10  –  And last (but never, never, least) is Woody Allen, who is so committed to maintaining strong ties with his grown children that he married his stepdaughter. (Although the term “stepdaughter” is used loosely. I would probably call her  his baby-mama’s adopted daughter.) Because once they grow up and start thinking about moving away, there are only so many things that’ll keep ‘em at home. He seems to have found one that works for him.

I’m sure you have a lot in common with celebrity parents, too.

Please, share your celebrity connection with the group!!

 http://www.northwestmommy.com/2012/monday-listicles-42

He really was listening.

Evidently he heard the real words. Not just these.

All those years, when I was yelling sharing my wisdom with the children, it seems The Trailblazer really was listening.

This week I called him at school to discuss a change that’s going to be happening to our family soon. (The details of which are a story for another day.) I tell him about it, expecting a reaction of surprise, probably objection, definitely questions. Since he spends nine months of the year away at school, it affects him the least, but it’s still a big change.

After a brief discussion, he pauses and says, “I’m sure you and dad thought it through, so if that’s what you decided, then I’m sure that’s what’s best.”

There was a lifetime of reward crammed in that one sentence.

He actually said “I’m sure you and dad have thought it through…”

Did he really acknowledge that his parents are capable of intelligent thought? I wasn’t expecting that paradigm shift until he was about 30.

Did he really understand that we had considered the impact on everyone, and deemed it the right thing? I think he did.

Now, maybe he was just trying to get me off the phone so he could resume his game of beer pong studying. Or maybe he’s trying to figure out how to stay in Baton Rouge this summer to avoid it altogether.

Or maybe he meant what he said. Yeah, I’m going with that.

I’m giving myself a gold star for raising that boy. I hope the other ones have been listening, too.

The Joy of “Yes”

A while back I noticed something.

I was telling my kids “no” a lot.

“Will you make pancakes for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Can we go to see a movie today?”

“No.”

“Can I invite friends over?”

“No.”

Source: thecircleproject.com

One day I paused, and contemplated what it must be like for them hearing “no” all the time. Not having the ability to control decisions about their day, or their life. Being on the receiving end of parents’ and teachers’ permission all the time.

And I decided I would try to say “yes” more often.

Because when it came down to it, sometimes I said “no” for my own convenience. If I wasn’t up to cleaning up a mess, I said “no” to a project. If I didn’t have the energy to handle a bunch of kids, I said “no” to the sleepover. They heard me saying “no” a lot.

So I had a little talk with myself about saying “yes.” And I adopted a new mantra. “I’ll say ‘yes’ when I can.” Practical realities sometimes intervened, making “yes” impossible. But as I started saying it more often, I liked the feeling I got from being agreeable. “Yes” usually meant something fun. “Yes” usually meant making memories. “Yes” brought joy back into our day.

I started to like “yes.”

And then the strange thing happened. They started saying “yes” back.

“Please pick up your room.”

“OK.”

“It’s time for bed.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

And the one that causes more arguments in our house than any other, “Turn the game off.”

“I will.”

This morning on the way to school, The Caboose was feeling a little run down. He was listening to music on his iPod, getting ready for another day of sixth grade as we approached campus. Now this kid does not respond well when asked to terminate something in mid-stream. The typical response is “after this song,” or “I need to save my game.” But this morning as we pulled up to school, I told him to turn off his iPod and stow it in the seat pouch, and he said “yes.”

God, I love “yes.”

I Withdraw my Consent…

Words carry amazing power. They inspire us. They move us. They motivate us. They challenge us. We commit them to memory and carry them with us.

Today’s guest post from Mary at Transitioning Mom is a reflection on her favorite quote. I hope you find in these words the same power Mary did.

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Eleanor Roosevelt. Source: girlmogul.com


 “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”   — Eleanor Roosevelt

I withdraw my consent…

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t use the words of someone else to lift me up. Positive quotations are posted in my bathroom, living room, school room, and kitchen, decorating the rooms in which I spend the most time. (As a middle-aged woman, you’ll notice I started with the bathroom.) So, when The Lucky Mom asked me to write about a quote that inspires me, I went to my favorite.

Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” She was a wise woman whose words helped form the woman I am. I don’t remember the first time I saw this quote. It was likely in high school, a time of great emotional turmoil. I remember I felt empowered. A little. However, it would take years for me to truly internalize her message.

Like many, I’ve struggled with the voices of doubt and insecurity that hide in the corners of my mind. They creep from the darkness at unexpected times. Usually when I’m tired, over-stretched, or just feeling a bit funky. In the past, I gave them far more power than they deserved, and in doing so, left the door wide open for others to place their limitations on me. Regardless of my success, there was a part of me that often felt inferior to others. When snide, hurtful or sarcastic comments were made, I believed them. In turn, I gave myself permission to blame others when I was unhappy. However, I was the only one standing in the way of my happiness, not others. Conscious or not, I made a choice each time I allowed someone to make me feel inferior.  I took baby-steps of change in my 20’s and giant leaps in my 30’s.

Becoming a mother changes most of us; we are pushed to re-examine all we have learned and internalized. And, so it was with me. When my first-born was still an infant, I stumbled upon Roosevelt’s words once again. One warm summer day, my mother-in-law shared with me all the ways I was mothering “wrong.”  By the time she had left, I was convinced I had already failed as a mother. At the end of that exhausting day, I grabbed my book of positive quotations in search of encouragement. In Roosevelt’s words, I found encouragement and much more.

Though I’d read her quote before, I internalized it that day. It helped form the foundation of my parenting, and the message I have tried to instill in my daughters. When feeling hurt, insulted or otherwise inferior, we ask, “Why am I consenting?” and through that question, we can reclaim our power and withdraw our consent.

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Read more by Mary at her blog, Transitioning Mom, or on her Facebook page.

Saying Goodbye to Small, Medium, and Large

I used to have three little kids.  One was Small, one was Medium, one was Large.  Their clothing, their shoes, the servings on their plates all reflected their birth order appropriately.  We had no trouble determining whose clothes belonged to whom, which bicycle was the right size for which kid. They were spaced out by enough years that there  were clear markers of birth order by the size of everything.

You may not know this yet, we’re smaller than the average family.  Dad’s a towering 5’6”, and mom a proud 5’2”, so our offspring are destined to be of short stature.  By other people’s standards, we’re all small.  But within our home we’ve always had a distinct – albeit relative – range of sizes.

As any mom of small kids will tell you, we watch growth carefully.  We celebrate when we make it to the 5th percentile on pediatric growth charts, and then have “the talk” when we fall back off the charts.  Growth ebbs and flows in pre-pubescent boys, and small boys often go through puberty later than their taller friends, exacerbating the physical differences for a while.  But we are what we are, and in this house, we’re okay with that.

Slick was two years old when we first began monitoring his slow growth.  My pediatrician did that little formula that pediatricians do with a child’s two-year-old stats and calculated his estimated adult height.  His came out 1” taller than his older brother’s.  The doctor laughed, being a younger brother himself, and told me to expect Slick to pass The Trailblazer up in height at age 16.

Lo and behold, in the last six months, they got to be the same height.  When The Trailblazer comes home from college for visits, we have the mandatory height check to compare stature.  And it happened.  He passed his brother up.  Only by a half-inch or so, but that was enough to make it official.  The older brother is now the smaller brother.  And both are taller than mom and dad.

It’s strange.  And wonderful.  Because it means they have become men.  And they are comfortable with who they are.  (Except for The Trailblazer.  He’s a bit miffed about the taller little bro.)

Then, last week, another strange thing happened.  The Caboose needed a green t-shirt to wear to school for a Spirit Week event.  I pulled a green T out of the dryer (y’all know I hate folding laundry), and realized it was The Trailblazer’s.  But it looked about the same size as The Caboose’s.  Puzzled, I held it up to the child and, although it was a little big, he could pull it off.  So Small wore Large’s shirt to school

Small, Medium, and Large are gone.  I now have one Medium and two Larges.

Family photos will look different from now on.  When standing in order there will no longer be the familiar downward trend.  It’s strange, and wonderful.

Watching my little boys grow up into smart, compassionate young men has been the greatest reward of motherhood.  When juxtaposed against learning to ride a bike and read a book, the accomplishments big kids are far more fulfilling.  And there’s the added bonus of not having to wipe their butts or cut their food anymore.

So saying goodbye to Small, Medium, and Large isn’t bad at all.  Because Large, Large, and Medium have made me so proud.

Lovin’

Here are a few of the things I’m Lovin’ these days:

{ Source: Pinterest.com }

  • Slick getting his own car.
  • Fresh memories of The Trailblazer being home.
  • The forecast for a mild winter.
  • Pinterest.
  • Trying new recipes.
  • Cooking big, so I can send food to The Trailblazer and his roommates.
  • Helping Slick make plans for his future.
  • Listening The Caboose rehearse for an upcoming concert.
  • The freedom that comes with having older kids.
  • Finally loading music on my iPad.
  • My new laptop.
  • King Cake

Share your list!  Post it in the comments below, or drop in your link!  Can’t wait to see what you’re Lovin’!