5 Things I Love About Summer!

The title of this blog is meant to come across as positive, exciting and bursting with infectious happy energy! Here is what I’m really thinking about summer right now: I’m tired of living sans air conditioning. The average temperature in my home runs about 85 degrees in the early evening. I swore up and down that this would be the summer of the cooling system installation extravaganza. After obtaining a few estimates that I can’t really afford without taking a loan and discovering that many HVAC companies are booked out at least a few weeks, I’ve decided that this might be the summer where I leisurely explored the idea of installing a cooling system and decided to put it off another year.

Why not? I’ve met some really interesting HVAC guys and a whiney electrician, increased my knowledge of heating and cooling systems exponentially, spent quite a bit of time getting to know my fuse box, and received plenty of bad news about the issues that an old home presents when installing anything major that requires electricity. I can give you the rundown about the options that are available nowadays when it comes to cooling your home and tell you why you should never use a present day GFI testing thingy to check ungrounded GFI outlets in an old home.

Move on, you say. Let’s talk about why summer is so great. Here are the 5 things I love about this summer.

  1. I get to spend one whole day a week hanging out with my children! Through this experience I’ve learned that being an SAHM is probably not the ideal way to go for me, but I wouldn’t trade our Tuesdays for anything. Even when they involve hours and hours of bickering, hearing the word “Momma” a mind-numbing amount of times, and turning down hundreds of requests per day regarding TV, iPad, and iPhone usage.
  2. Above-mentioned children have learned to swim! When we do go to the pool, we don’t have to spend a lot of time in the wading pool where the water is suspiciously warm all the time and toddlers in swim diapers splash and squeal all around you.
  3. Crime seems to have slowed down this summer in our neighborhood! While data shows our area as the most popular place in town for our police force to hang out, our immediate surroundings have remained relatively quiet (knock on wood). 
  4. It is too hot to use the oven in my house which limits our diet to only items that can be eaten straight out of the fridge and prepared on the stove top or in the toaster! Add in picky eaters and the only things I really need to keep readily available are bread, peanut butter, jelly, and cheese and turkey slices. 
  5. Homemade cold brew coffee. With vanilla almond creamer. 

As you can see, the upcoming school year and fall will likely be greeted with some long faces and heavy hearts. Despite the high temps in the house, we’ve managed to have one of the better summers in recent history.

Can He Be Our Dad?

We were headed off to the Dinosaur exhibit at the zoo last night, meeting a coworker and his wife and son. I received a text from him saying they were running about half hour late, so we stopped at a BBQ restaurant not far from the zoo. After a failed dinner – my kids ONLY eat hamburgers and french fries and tender shredded meat covered in tangy sweet BBQ sauce is abhorrent to them – we hopped back in the car to head to the zoo.

As we were pulling out, my daughter noticed an older man, dressed head to toe in camouflage, surrounded by backpacks, with a long, gray beard and wraparound sunglasses.

My daughter says from the backseat, “Momma, can he be our dad?”

“Who? That man with the long beard?”

“Yes. He looks nice.”

My heart broke in two right then. Like it always does when I’m overwhelmed by the crushing “you are less than because you are a single mom and your kids will wind up wounded” feeling.

“Honey, I think he’s homeless.”

“Well, then we can bring him home. He can live with us. He can be our dad.”

That put the cherry on top of my already feeling insecure parenting sundae. At the zoo, she reveled in the attention of my male coworker, begging us to each hold each of her hands and “jump” her.

We have a good life. Sometimes things can eat at you though. I’m still working on my heart of steel.

neelah-boots

 

Thursday’s Tomfoolery

I happened to open my phone’s internet browser this afternoon. Titles of the opened windows follows below. Who opened all of these windows? Who has been on my phone? When did this happen? Where are my children right now?

The Biggest and Largest Spiders in the World

World’s Biggest Jumping Spider

14 World’s Largest Spiders – YouTube

19 Most Unusual Houses in the World – YouTube

Fattest People Ever on Earth – Top 20 Heaviest People

Largest Jigsaw Puzzle – Most Pieces

The biggest organism on Earth

The World’s Tallest Tree is Hiding Somewhere in California

THE WORLD’S LARGEST FRUIT

Largest Sticker – Guinness Book of World Records

Who built the first building ever on Earth?

Earth House – Wikipedia

Watch the Age of Earth Clip – How the Earth Was Made

Is this 179-Year-Old Indian the oldest man alive?

World’s Oldest Child – Top Documentary Films

WEIRDEST PLANETS discovered by NASA’s Kepler Satellite

The Surprising Benefits of Being (Slightly) Crazy

(Admittedly, the last title is a window I opened recently.)

 

Immunity to Competence: Mothering at its Most Rational

So…my workplace offers coaching, and it’s available at no cost by a competent individual. I couldn’t say no.

We’ve been walking through this process – Immunity to Change – based on the book Immunity to Change: How to overcome it and unlock the potential in yourself and your organization, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. Although I’ve never read the book, the coaching process I’m undergoing has introduced me to some fundamental principles around removing barriers that impede my potential. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of overlap between the personal and the professional when it comes to these, shall we say, challenging behaviors and belief systems. When I left off with my coach, we were testing some beliefs I have about myself. The primary belief system that I’ve honed in is my overwhelming and total sense of incompetence. To test this belief, my coach and I decided that I would engage in a baking project (not on taxpayer time). Based on my tastes, I think I’m a fabulous baker. I like experimenting with gluten-free ingredients and natural sweeteners. I was pretty confident I could carry off the baking project successfully, the first step in challenging my belief around my (in)competence.

If I were rational, I could look to a lot of tests in my life that would probably show that I’m competent, at least in a basic, getting by sense. I have raised two children, by myself, since their birth. They have made it 5 and 7 years in the world and they are still living. I own a home. I have a job that is probably as secure as they come categorically – we will probably not see crime go away during our lifetime. So what has gotten into me that makes me think that a baking project will provide me with proof that I’m a competent person? How ridiculous can I be?

Pretty darn ridiculous, and based on cupcake mastery, totally incompetent. I left out a MAJOR ingredient and forgot to set the timer on the oven. But thankfully, my mortgage payment left my bank account on Monday. What does this all mean?

I make dozens of decisions in a week – large and small – in response to life situations. Some recent examples:

“That repair is going to cost you $1,800. Do you want to schedule it?”

“Will that be whole milk or skim in your latte?”

“Momma, I hate you. Can I have a piece of candy?”

“If I do my homework, can I play Minecraft?”

“Momma, which boy should I marry?”

My burden is that the possible consequences of all these first world decisions weigh the same in my mind. If I repair the car, will it still break down, forcing me into more debt and leaving me homeless?

If I opt for the whole milk, will it put me on the path to unstoppable weight gain until I am too large to even leave my house for coffee? Will I go broke paying for coffee delivery and not be able to pay my mortgage and be homeless?

If my daughter is telling me that she hates me now, will she burn my house down at age 6? Will the cavities that this one piece of candy cause result in her being toothless? Will the dental bills leave me homeless?

If I let my son have 20 more minutes of screen time, will he be arrested for violating curfew at 10 years old and then progress into theft, vandalism, assault and finally murder? Will repeatedly bonding him out and paying his legal fees leave me homeless?

If my decision making leads to homelessness in every scenario, it is no surprise that my biggest fear revolves around my competence. And WHAT IS WITH my ultimate consequence of homelessness? My coach only has so much time and relevant expertise.

Just before I hit the “publish” button to expose my craziness to a handful of readers (who probably already knew I was off), I reread this, laugh uneasily and think, this is all really silly, isn’t it? I mean, I’ve never read about anyone whose child hated them, and then bang! Child burns house down and family is homeless. From what I know about people serving life for murder, their tipping point can’t be traced back to when their mom agreed to 20 more minutes of video games.

In any case, I need to get back to helping said child with his homework. He has a sort of capstone first grade writing assignment and he has chosen to write a story about a rabbit and a glue stick. He is so normal…

 

 

 

 

Was Mona Lisa a Momma?

I think it was her picture on the side of Cinzetti’s, an eat-til-you-die Italian buffet restaurant north of Denver, that sparked an intense conversation about the Mona Lisa on the way to church this morning.

Daughter: “Momma, I just saw the lady from my school! I just saw the lady from my school! Her picture was on that building!!”

Me: “I’m sorry, love. I didn’t see her.”

Son, flatly: “That was Mona Lisa.”

Daughter: “Momma, I saw Mona Lisa on that building! She was at my school!”

Son: “Mona Lisa is dead. She wasn’t at your school.”

(My son the buzz-kill.)

Me: “Honey, the Mona Lisa was painted in the 1500s, that’s like 500 years ago. She was painted by a famous artist named Leonardo da Vinci.”

Daughter, to her brother: “We learned about her!” Then, to me: “Is she still alive?”

Son: “She’s dead.”

Me: “No, in fact, no one was quite sure who she was, she was a model for the painter.”

Daughter: “Did she go to heaven when she died?”

Me: “Hm…I don’t know…”

Son: “Nobody knew if she knew Jesus.”

(My son the theologian.)

Daughter: “I’m going to find out. Momma, when you die and go to heaven, can you ask God if Mona Lisa is there?”

Me: “Um…sure. How will I get the answer back to you?”

Daughter: “Just tell God, and he will put it in me (exact words) whether she is there or not. Then when I get there, we can see her together. Was Mona Lisa a momma?”

Son: “Who knows. When you look at her painting, her eyes look at you wherever you are.”

(My son the smarty-pants.)

Me: “Just like Momma’s do. I see you wherever you are.”

I adjust the rearview mirror, gesturing with my fingers to my eyes and back to the mirror, where my son was looking at me.

“I’m watching you. Don’t try anything naughty.”

Both kids erupted in giggles and my son ducked out of view.

Love those stinkers.

This is Why Everyone Calls You Failed Head

Girl child hands me empty juice cup.

Me: “Can you take this to the kitchen, please?”

Girl child: “You take it. I’m not your servant.”

Me: “What??!!!” (Feeling like some guy is about to jump out from behind my couch with a camera and yell “You’ve been punked!”)

Me: “But this is YOUR cup!”

Girl child is gone. She returns momentarily with a ladder, yoga mat, skate board and a blanket, stating “You failed baby. That’s why everyone calls you Failed Head. Even I call you that.”

This is a pretty typical evening in my house after dinner. Boy child plays nearby on iPad and I stare listlessly into space while Girl child chatters. Sometimes I have a little energy left to play a game or run to the store or go for a walk with them. Sometimes. Chatter continues.

“Momma, what does ACPKTI spell?”

“Momma, tell me how much weight this baby doll can lift?”

“Momma, what’s after 19?”

Whispers, “Momma when are you going to fix her?” Gesturing towards doll. “She has blood all over her and she doesn’t know it.”

Walks back over where her dolls are laid out, surrounding various sized hand weights.

To the dolls: “Ok, who wants to go first? Do you want to die?”

To me: “Momma they are getting backtized [baptized] tonight at the workout gym.”

And then she yells “Hosanna!” as she runs through the house.

I would be the first to participate in some kind of experimental energy transfer clinical trial.

😑

Bear With Me While I Obsess: School Tours Round 2

You are wondering right now if I’ve quit my job so I can focus full time on obsessing and complaining about my kids’ education. Rest assured, I have not.

My son emptied out his desk yesterday and brought home a meager 10 or so sheets of paper from the past few months of school. One was a holiday card he had written to us. It said “Dear Family, I hop you hav a grate krismas. Merry Krismas Ha Ha.” Heartbreak. If there was one word my son learned how to spell over the past 6 years, it was Christ. I can’t believe he left the Christ out of Christmas, addressed the card to “Family” and signed it “Ha Ha.”

Why do I have to do another round of school tours? Why is getting into a good school a “lottery”? What about those of us who never win things? The chances that I will win my kids a seat at a decent school are slim. The only thing I’ve ever won is a 6-week pass to a Stroller Strides class, and I’m pretty sure I was the saddest, dumpiest looking mother there and they set my raffle ticket aside for easy identification. This would be the quickest way for them to banish me from the smiling fit momma club, knowing I’d never follow through on 6 classes.

I’m drawn to unconventional ways of learning and institutional rule breaking. I’ve visited a couple of magnet schools focused on the STEM model of learning, an art magnet school which incorporates the arts into the district’s core curriculum, and a school for gifted and talented children. Next week I will visit a Christian school. I can’t decide which school is the best fit for my kids – I mean, will they be scientists, artists, social activist/engineers or pastors? And worse, will I once again fail to secure a spot at ANY of these options, and then they will just be regular kids? The last part of that sentence should be read in your sarcastic voice.

Last year, I was really excited to visit a dual language immersion school. At the last minute, I had a work trip and my PILL (partner in lawful living), had to visit in my place. Unfortunately, the school brought up unresolved trauma for my PILL, who excitedly reported back to me that the kids there are required to spend about 60-70 percent of their time in the “second language.” It brought him back to his early days of kindergarten when nuns beat him for not being able to speak English.

As I’ve been lamenting these past several weeks about my neighborhood school, I’ve also been reaching out to different parents to see how their kids’ experiences are at their various schools. All of their kids are loving their schools, yet all of them mention the difficult transition between the current school and our former private, small Christian daycare.  At this daycare, the teachers were amazing, learning was active and interactive, and according to my son, they didn’t have rules, had recess at least seven times a day (with access to 14 uniquely themed playgrounds) and could talk about God as much as they wanted. Two meals and snacks were included as part of the fee. I got to see my son’s teachers every morning and every night when I dropped him off and picked him up. He brought home enough school work and art work to fill a storage locker. His eyes sparkled most days and at the end of the year, he was honored as the “Number King” for writing his numbers past 5,000 over the course of the school year. Now he blends into a sea of khaki and blue and his teacher constantly reminds me that she can’t easily keep track of 20 kids and communicate regularly with all the parents when she has a class that large. Twenty? I will leave this here.

In conclusion, I’m praying for a miracle. That I will somehow find a school that my kids actually enjoy in their post daycare lives. And that I don’t have to have the “I’m going to drop of out school” conversation that I had the other night with my 6-year old for another 10 years.

An Ode to Siri, My Trusted Co-Parent

The other day, I felt like I might have landed on a brilliant invention. An app you can use to have those difficult conversations with your child. Instead of having conversations about drugs, sex, and Donald Trump with your kids, why not just create an app to whom you can delegate that responsibility. I mean, there is an app for practically everything these days.

This flash of brilliance was brought on by my increasing reliance on Siri to engage with my children on challenging topics. Prior to discovering the vast knowledge that Siri possesses, I was trying to answer these difficult, and sometimes, ethically gut-wrenching, questions on my own. Now, when I’m weaving through difficult city traffic trying to make an appointment on time and my son asks me when the sun is going to explode, I just hand my phone back to him. It’s better that way anyhow as I won’t be tempted to respond to texts or check Facebook comments while driving.

Siri is proficient in discovering the biggest anything on Earth. From dinosaurs to trucks to sea monsters and poop. She can also find the smallest house or the oldest man on Earth. I have no doubt that she might have played a crucial role in finding Osama bin Laden.

biggest-biggest

The other night, when I briefly grabbed my phone from my son to send a text, Siri was in the middle of looking online to find out “what is the biggest boob on the Earth?” He swore up and down that he was saying “poop” and Siri got it wrong. He’s 6 years old, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

This morning, as I got out of the shower, I heard my daughter chatting with Siri. She was saying “Show me a picture of a bear eating a man.” I quickly threw on a towel and descended on her, snatching the phone without warning. She would have had nightmares for weeks.

However, it was on the way to church today that I concluded that Siri might truly be the best source of information for our family. My daughter yelped from the backseat that she had just swallowed some gum and asked what would happen. Naturally, I wanted to hand the phone back to her and say, “Here, just ask Siri.” It was here where my PILL, or Partner in Lawful Living (as opposed to Partner in Crime – you can draw whatever conclusions you’d like from the acronym) preempted me. According to him, now that she had swallowed her gum, she had to be very careful whenever she had the urge to pass gas. Should she fart while she was in Church Party, it was very possible that her back-end would blow a bubble, her leggings would expand, and her fart would smell like Juicy Fruit. And it would be embarrassing. My son joined in, full of tips on how to reduce the size, sound and smell of a fart. Apparently, this was not something he had learned from Siri, but had thought up the techniques himself and tested them and they worked. Tried and true.

After witnessing this conversation, I was determined that Siri would have had the edge on answering this question “correctly.” Although I did conclude that in the end, interactions with Siri, my PILL, and my forthcoming app will still all require adult supervision.

 

 

 

School Meetings and My Pagan Daughter

The long awaited meeting finally occurred and I hope some forward movement will happen regarding my son’s school situation. I went into the meeting in a state of hyper vigilance. I probably could have felt a speck of dust land on me, but I wasn’t nervous. My son’s teacher had already made cultural and economic differences an issue prior to the break, so I was prepared for some undercurrent and was particularly aware of how I was being perceived. My son is biracial but few people are aware of it based on his appearance. From what I’ve observed in my interactions with his class, he is one of two white “appearing” children, the other being a girl. On further thought, being one of the perceived culturally different kids in class could pose some barriers that might not be there if he blended in. I do know that his teacher is wrestling with her feelings about me and after I was invited to share our story about what was going on, she pushed back from the table, her body tensed and she sat back in her chair. I recounted the points I had shared earlier in email, what I was observing, and what I needed moving forward. Even though I felt emotional at times, and I am prone to bawl my head off in any situation, I refused to fall into the “white woman’s tears” syndrome in this context where I couldn’t afford to distract people and lose sight of the issue.

I know that school personnel in general are subjected to a lot of crap from parents. Based on earlier conversations with me, I know my son’s teacher went into this situation on the defensive due to that fact, as well as her perception that I am culturally ignorant and economically privileged (although if the latter is true, we would have never met in the first place because we would have lived in a nicer part of town with a higher performing school). I’m not sure if the meeting today made any progress on how we interact in the future and the perceptions we have of each other, but everyone at the table did agree to communicate more frequently and treat the resolution of the concerns as a partnership. Other staff will be looped in as to what is going on with the teasing and name calling, the principal has scheduled a formal “restorative” conversation with one of the boys who is at the center of the conflict, and my son’s teacher, at least for the next couple of weeks, will shoot me a brief note at the end of the day about how the day went and anything out of the normal both in terms of my son’s behaviors or others’ towards him. While the meeting was productive, the climate was awkward and tense between all of us in our different roles, contexts, and assumptions. I hope that what we have initiated can be a positive experience moving forward where the elements of that climate can transform. I appreciate the questions and concerns that have come my away about my son’s school situation and wanted to provide this update for people who are interested.

On a lighter note, my daughter has started signing her name accompanied by an image of a pentagram, or in some cases, the pentagram simply is her signature. Kind of like what Prince did in the 90s. “The child formerly known as.” There are several “mainstream” ways this can be interpreted (like my daughter, the pentagram appears to have been associated with Satan) so I am somewhat amused. I will leave you with a sample:

n-star

Circled Pentagram

A circle around a pentagram contains and protects. The circle symbolises eternity and infinity, the cycles of life and nature. The circle touching all 5 points indicates that the spirit, earth, air, water and fire are all connected.

-taken from http://www.angelfire.com/id/robpurvis/pentagram.html

Chin Hairs, Chronic Pain, Stuffy Noses and Memory Loss, No Problem

I’ve been on this serious regimen of health improvement over the past month, ever since the visit to my doctor. At the prompting of some readers and friends, I opted to give a chiropractor a go. If you have mentioned to me over the past month that I need to try this, nice work, you have had a profound influence on my behavior. I have also been seeing an acupuncturist thanks to another friend of mine. All of this has been made possible by a healthy balance in my health flex savings account at work, which I need to drain by the end of the state’s fiscal year (June 30) with a couple months’ grace period. The balance in this flex account has been a huge source of angst for me, because as you may know, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Yes, I am switching to an HSA for next year to avoid this in the future.

I’m starting to see a big difference in my overall attitude and the way I feel physically. A lot of the nagging back and neck pain has been reduced and instead of experiencing big dips in my mood, the dips seemed to have lessened. Small dips. This has helped (to some small extent) to manage my reactions to my tiny trolls better.

My son has been tracking with me on this self-improvement mission. He is continually relaying valuable information that he acquires through watching commercials on TV.

When he sees me get the tweezers out:

“Momma. You know those black hairs on your chin? I saw on Grandma Sosa’s TV that there is a machine that can zap those and make them fall right off your face.”

When I was struggling with allergies:

“Momma. I saw on Grandma Sosa’s TV that they have medicine that can help your red, itchy nose feel better. Do you know that?”

This morning on the way to school:

“Momma. Did you know that over the summer kids can lose 400 things of learning because they are not in school? Kumon helps your children remember so they don’t lose all of those things.”

I almost died. “Did you see that on Grandma Sosa’s TV?” I asked him.

“No. Actually I saw that on your TV.”

Have I mentioned that my kids are brilliant? I know some of you who know them personally might have some knowledge that would give you room to debate this. Don’t.

I am also trying hard, so hard to get some time to myself. Literally this usually ends up being time WITH myself, which is not always very exciting, but maybe it is allowing me and the kids some space to appreciate each other more and to recharge. ❤️