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…

 

 

 

 

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.

😑

Watching My Battery Drain: Microblog Monday

Picture this:

It’s my day off. My car’s check engine light has been on eternally and it is in the shop, being diagnosed. I am armed with my laptop and a coffee, ready to jump back into writing after months away. I could write enough to fill a book. And I forgot my power cord. It’s like someone took my brain and emptied it on the floor at Starbucks, the corporate Satan of coffee. So much to share, and only 31% battery remaining – no, 30%.

29%.

28%.

I can’t take the pressure!

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

Staying “parcours” With My Fitness Goals

It has been several months since I blogged – back when we were in the throes of camping adventures and expenses. Since then, my brain has been cluttered with experiences, organized into clip art-like images and quips as the days fly by. My son loves first grade and his new school. Every day he leaps out of the car and races across the school lot to the front door where the principal is usually standing, holding the front door open and giving high fives to all the kids as they enter the building. I usually walk him across the street, while my daughter remains in the back seat of the car, her face barely visible, peeking out over the top of the door as she looks out the window sadly. When I return to the car, she always sighs and says, “I miss my brother.” We then head over to her school, where she attends Pre-K. From what I hear, she continues to be the best helper, the sweetest student, a lovely listener, and a smarty pants. As soon as I pick her up from class in the evening and close the car door, she transforms into a gnarly troll.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to be more active. This includes ensuring that my kids stay active and trying to capitalize on their exercise by watching their activities from the sidelines. My eyeballs will definitely be in beach shape by next summer. Since I failed once again to register at our rec center when registration first opened at 7 o’clock on a random Wednesday morning, we were wait-listed for the gymnastics classes that my kids wanted to join this fall. Instead, we decided to try some fancy activity called Parkour. Derived from the French, “le parcours,” is an “obstacle course method of military training” and in more recent philosophy, “a means of reclaiming what it means to be a human being…teaching us to touch the world and interact with it, instead of being sheltered by it” (Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge).

From what I can tell, it involves falling, rolling, leaping over obstacles, jumping off of tall structures, and skillfully maneuvering a balance beam. Perfect for 6-year old boys. The gym is owned and operated by a former “American Ninja Warrior” which I guess is a popular TV show. We are not easily impressed, but I was so jazzed after being a bench warmer during the class my son tried for free that I enrolled him for a month of classes and me and my daughter for a one-time, one-hour class. Upon expressing my interest in the “parent-tot” class, the coach gave me a once over and asked if I knew that the parent would be expected to be active during the class. I guess I must have looked more like a slob than I thought. “Well, yes. Of course,” I said, and gave him the once over back. Tall, skinny physique capped with a head of floppy hair that he manages by removing and replacing his hat several times throughout the class, sporting a wristwatch with a too-small face that is probably custom made for scaling tall buildings with his bare hands. Little did he know that I performed a perfect cartwheel this past summer at the park and wow’ed my kids. They talked about it for days…and I heard about it for weeks from my chiropractor.

When I’m not involved in fancy French sports, you can find me at 24-Hour Fitness, fighting with weight machines, plodding along on a treadmill and listening to Drake on my free Spotify account. Lame. Last month I even got hit on. By an 80-year old man carrying a portable oxygen tank who tried to persuade me to vote for Donald Trump. I swear people, this was not my life 10 years ago. Things have changed. Mentally and spiritually for the better. Physically, not so much.

 

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. ❤️

Annoying the world. One person at a time.

Today I met my neighbor for the third time in three years. I’m not sure why I don’t see her more often. After our brief reunification, I decided that she really needs to move into my head. She came over wanting to see how my security doors were installed.
“Now this doesn’t make much sense. The hinges are on the outside. That’s just not where my mind goes when I think of security.”
Crap, I think. She’s right. Why haven’t I noticed that in the 3 years they’ve been installed? Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. My burglar came in through my window. I doubt people would stand outside a house with a screwdriver when they can just knock a window AC unit in and climb through.
“Let’s go look at the front door, too” I offer, hoping the outside hinges were an anomaly. Nope. We stand outside, chatting for a few more minutes. Somehow the conversation goes from security doors to homelessness to home remodeling and meth labs, AC BTUs that won’t blow our old electric wiring, belly dancing to treadmills and exercise. My favorite topic. Unsolicited, she offers advice.
“I just moved a treadmill into my house. Craig’s List. That’s all you need to do.”
“Well, you should see my house. Nothing more can fit in there.”
“It’s a lifestyle choice. Put it in front of the TV. You either do it or you don’t do it.”
I just then notice the lettering on her T-shirt. I try not to stare at women’s chests. Lord knows we experience that enough from men without our sisters doing it too. Her shirt says “Annoying the world. One person at a time.” I believe it. Meanwhile, a man who I assume she knows is poking around her front door. She follows my eyes.
“Hey. HEY!!! What are you doing?” She screams across the street.
“Uh oh hey yeah I’m looking for a guy. Uh, a Hispanic guy and yay-high.” He motions with his hand, kind of ducking and dancing back and forth on his feet. Real descriptive.
“Yeah well that guy doesn’t live there.”
“Uh sorry about that. My bad.” Man shuffles off down the street. Neighbor looks back at me.
“I think I love you.” I tell her. Bold. Confident. Guts. I’ve learned the hard way not to talk to people like that.
“I’m a single woman. I know who is supposed to be on my street.”
Shoot. I’m falling short. I have no idea who is currently living in the house directly to the west of me. I ask her.
“Oh yeah. Great guy. He’s subletting from Mark. You know the people with the two big pit bulls?”
Yes. Yes I remember the pit bulls. They hunted me in my yard one day. One stood next to me, quiet, unmoving. I remember I stood just as still, not breathing, the fear emanating off of me, seeing my life flash before my eyes before his owner called him off of me.
“Yeah he has a daughter. Real nice people. And that guy….” She points across the street. “He thought my yard was giving him weeds and he mowed my lawn and put weed killer in it.”
Nice. I need to spend more time at home. Perhaps I could get free lawn care if I let my weeds grow long enough.
My neighbor continues to chat on and I start to drift away…lifestyle choice…single woman…confidence and boldness. I am hit with the sudden realization that I’m boxing myself in. Metaphorically speaking. Nothing else can fit in my house because I’ve crammed my house full with all sorts of “furniture” (excuses and notions about what life should be like for a person in my circumstances). Putting a treadmill in front of my TV because I’ve got too much furniture in my living room is really the least of my issues. And the woman from across the street, the one who is annoying the world one person at a time, is unraveling my tightly coiled mindset in my yard, right in front of my insecure security door.
It is amazing how one mundane conversation that takes place in less than five minutes can shine light on my dark thought processes about who I am, what my life is about, and what I willing to do and not do and for what reasons I make those choices. Not unlike the doctor’s office last week where my excuses about my inability to take care of myself weakly rolled off my tongue and floated away, dissipating immediately, like popped soap bubbles. Convicted is how I’ve been feeling lately, in most areas of my life. I need this feeling to keep building momentum.

a mindful life

The other night, after returning home from a family visit which left my kids knocked out in the car, I seized the opportunity to watch a Redbox movie that was already a night late. After transferring the tiny trolls to my bed, fully clothed and peacefully sleeping, I turned on The Intern, which featured Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway. I had intended to just watch the first half and then call it a night, but I found I couldn’t turn it off. I was entranced by the main character, Ben Whittaker, played by DeNiro, who had signed up as an intern for a senior intern program at an e-commerce company owned and operated by Hathaway’s character.

A widower, Whittaker is 70 years old, lives in Brooklyn, is disenchanted by retirement and looking for a way to feel needed, a reason to wake up every morning and a place to be. What struck me about DeNiro’s character was the peace, the generosity, and wisdom he brought to each life he touched. Throughout the movie, scenes showed him quietly observing the people and activities around him, listening patiently, enjoying moments wherever and with whomever he was sharing them. Doing Tai Chi in the park with his senior counterparts, taking his boss’ daughter to a birthday party, and delivering powerful snippets to snarky stay-at-home moms or Hathaway’s unfaithful husband, DeNiro never wasted a word or an opportunity to demonstrate love to the people he cared about, all the while setting and maintaining beautiful, healthy boundaries.

It was definitely a scripted life, but it left me feeling inspired. Setting boundaries and living in the moment. Little did I know, seeing this movie would totally set me up for sessions at a work conference that started for me this week. Today, I attended a session on mindfulness. It was fascinating because it was all about being present in the moment, and in part, being able to protect oneself (setting emotional boundaries) from events and people that we encounter throughout the day that could harm us or cause destructive emotions or responses in us. I probably could have used mindfulness first thing this morning during an episode with my daughter.

Daughter: “Momma, I want to wear my unicorn pants. Where are they?”

Me: “They are in the laundry.”

Daughter: “Ugh. You are so rude.” (I have no idea where she learned this phrase but she is using it constantly lately and often out of context). “I don’t love you anymore.”

Son pipes in from a far corner of the house: “I like you.”

Me: “Thanks buddy.”

Soon after, my daughter, for the second time in the past week, emerged from her room wearing all stripes. Not a single color on her matched or went with one another. Must be nice to be able to wear horizontal stripes all over your body in wild, mismatched colors and still look adorable. With hot pink cowboy boots and giant, dark sunglasses.

Unbeknownst to me, I was about to spend half my day learning about mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy and the other half of my day learning about how to attend to my vicarious trauma at work. Who would have known that a career in corrections would come in handy when dealing with 4-year old girls?

Several events this evening, moments that would have sent me over the edge even yesterday, offered me the opportunity to practice a different approach with the kids. I probably didn’t handle the situations perfectly, however, the movie and the conference sessions put me in a different space. I actually “observed” my thoughts, rather than letting them serve as fuel for emotion, as I experienced my impatience and exhaustion with the kids and their antics. This process churned out some different behaviors and responses for me. Far from perfect, but maybe I’m making progress.❤️

 

Yeah…I am that parent. And my plan failed. 

Recall my earlier post about those loser parents at the elementary schools I visited in December who were like “my kid is so cool and smart, can your school cut it?” Yeah, I put in for the lottery to get my son into one of those schools. And my plan failed. My rejection letter arrived Friday after 5 p.m. Not unlike that Friday afternoon when your boss comes up to your cube flanked by two security guards and an empty cardboard box and escorts you from the building (although that’s never happened to me, it happens in the movies so it must be real). Sorry, your kid did not “win” a place at any of your “choice” schools in the “choice” lottery. Dear parent, you have lost the lottery in terms of a top education.

I should have anticipated this. The only thing I’ve ever won in my life was a pass for free Stroller Strides classes after I had my son. That kind of luck just does not run in our family. At the end of the letter, it read something like “Don’t worry, you are guaranteed admission at your boundary school.” My boundary school. The invisible boundary that creeps up from the school and wraps around my humble home, “you belong to me.” Great. Between my home and my boundary school, just about a month ago, there was a burglary gone wrong and a double shooting. Oh and then there was the kid who burnt down his mother’s entire condominium complex because he was mad at her for something…the tomato plant man who sleeps in his front yard and gets drunk and beats up his mother so frequently that we have a parade of emergency vehicles on our street at least twice a month. The two kids last summer who, while trying to steal a car, ran out of gas in front of my house and ran from the police.

Those are just a few of the residences, and events, that lie between my house and my boundary school. Despite the fact that this is Colorado and my closest neighbors are armed to the gills, I still managed to be burglarized myself two summers ago. Yes, I have a confession to make, I tried to get out of sending my son to my neighborhood school. I am that parent. I had a chance, and I took it, and my plan failed.

If I’m just looking at the school alone, physically, it’s not a bad building. It is just that it is one of the lowest performing elementary schools in the entire district. The school website has a lot of misspellings and the “letter from the principal” hasn’t been updated in two years. It does not meet state academic expectations and an improvement plan on the state’s website shows that few, if any, of the recommended action steps towards improvement have started.

My babysitter, bless her heart, has offered to let me reside at her address on paper. She technically lives in the same neighborhood, but in a different district, and apparently on the right side of the tracks where the police are concerned.

I need to go visit my neighborhood school, instead of driving around it slowly and apprehensively, like a weird stalker. I need to see if there is some incongruence between the scores and the chaos of my neighborhood. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. Maybe I will be that parent who writes a blog two years from now saying, “I stood by my neighborhood school and I haven’t regretted a single minute! All you people who run to charters are wimps! I support my community!”

On that note, don’t hate me. Sometimes I’m honest to a fault, even when it makes me look like a jerk. But parenthood is a journey, and there is lots of pressure out there to have the smartest, coolest kid and pursue the smartest, coolest schools. I believe there is a reason we lost the lottery. Let’s see what happens.