The Impossible Work Life Balance

Snuggly-fun
Snuggly fun while waiting for Daddy-monster to get home.

This post is written in response to a recent Anne-Marie Slaughter article, published in The Atlantic.

It feels like this, often. Even when I wasn’t working (outside the home). So, let’s cover the things I enjoy first.

I enjoy watching my son grow up.

I am thankful that I was able to spend his first three years of life at home, watching him crawl, walk, talk.

I am grateful that I was able to learn how he learns, with his observations, and his trying, and his silly ways.

I love watching his imagination bloom. I wish had a voice recorder at hand all the time (my iPhone isn’t with me every moment) to catch the silly things.

I love how his “story telling” voice is different from his “normal” voice (Once upon a time…).

My son is one of the neatest people I have ever met.

But, parenting isn’t born without its challenges. It’s hard raising a small person into a respectful adult. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes consistency. It takes persistence. It takes proactive notions to work with all those involved in his life.

And, that’s just raising one child. That doesn’t include nurturing the marriage, other relationships, the house, the food… and the career.

My son wasn’t planned, though every day he is wanted, and loved, and cherished. But, I didn’t choose this. I never thought I would even be able to conceive and an act of ignorance is blessed with surprise. I always wanted a career – to change the world – and because I never thought I could have children, I never seriously considered the joy or the challenges in raising one. I know I offered my mother challenges. I know she struggled, deeply, with the work life balance. I’m not sure my mother ever imagined a “career”, and as such, my mother chose a path that chose a job to pay the bills. It was hard. And, the path I am now on, an attempt at a career while being mother, is as hard.

Workplace flexibility, at my job, is limited. So, while my husband worked at his job, with no workplace flexibility, in the fall – I was the soccer mom. I was the one who had to leave work early to pick up my son to rush him off to soccer practice. And, work was unkind, saying things to co-workers but never to my face.

And, when I am the only one, because my husband’s work has (again) no flexibility, to take him to dental appointments and other health related things, I have to get it pre-approved, instead of just taking care of my family.

When I was staying home, it often felt like I was choosing housework And, to boot, it’s an unfulfilling job.

The choices seem impossible.

I want it all. I want to change the world, and get paid doing it. I want to be there for my son, my husband, and my community. I want to have quiet time for myself so I can make sense of it all.

And, where I am stuck is in finding a career that will honor my divergent needs and interests.

Where do you struggle in the work life balance? What do you love about parenting? Where do you find your joy?

 

My Own Mortality

At C'est Naturelle
Levi, like most kids, knows exactly what to do on a farm. He runs around and chases chickens!

It went like this.

Me: “I’m sorry you had a bad dream about the Dinotrux last night.”

Levi: “I don’t remember that one. I had a dream that you died.”

Me: “I’m sorry… ”

Levi: “And Daddy got married on a boat.”

Me: “Where was I?”

Levi: “You were dying a few years after I was born. And, I was getting a new mommy.”

Me: “Well, was your new mommy nice?”

Levi: “I don’t know, I hadn’t met her yet.”

Levi was so matter-of-fact about the whole thing. Like it was the most natural thing in the world for me to be dead, for Peter to remarry, and for him to get a new mommy.

I was surprised we were having this conversation. A few months ago the conversations were more in line with Levi pleading for me to not die, and that he was afraid I would. And, now suddenly for him to have this Zen like awareness of the changes of life was … interesting.

Mostly though, it’s made me reflect on my own mortality  I have sort of assumed, bad habits and all, that I’ll make it through to his high school graduation. That is, I plan to live to at least 49. I have some vague idea that I’ll be around to help coach him through the troublesome twenties. I am curious if he will have a partner and offspring of his own. I’m curious what they will be like, and if I’ll like them. I’m curious if we will be a close family into Levi’s adult years. I’m curious if we’ll be in the same city, or will Levi do as Peter and I have done and move across continents so that family excursions become the annual vacation.

Foam Core Art
Levi making his sign

I’ve never considered, seriously, that I won’t be around for those happenings. It’s not like my family is unaware of dying young. So, I don’t realistically count it out. Anything could happen… my poor habits could catch up with me, and I could become diabetic and die of disease related conditions. I could make a wrong turn or not pay attention when I’m driving and get hit in a horrible accident. I could be standing outside and a freak lightening bolt could zap me into nothingness. I don’t know when my number is up, but I’ve assumed it’s far away. I’m hoping my genes are more in line with my mother’s and that I live into my 80s.

I have plans for when I’m in my 70s. I’ll be retired. I’m going to move back to Portland (at some point we’re going to have to move out of Portland). I’ll get a nice condo-apartment downtown, either near where I now work or near the museum. My first volunteer priority will be as a docent at the museum. I’ll sign up to audit classes at PSU. I’ll take the streetcar or walk to the farmer’s market to get my weekly groceries.

But what if that is all just that… a dream. What if Levi’s dream is more a premonition. What if I’m dying more rapidly now than what I assume? What if I don’t make it until he’s in first grade? How does that change my view of things?

Operating under premise that I’ll make it into my 70s, I postpone crafts and reading with Levi. I pawn off walks to the park to Peter. I try to balance both Levi, Peter, and all my work and volunteer obligations. I choose to make bread and answer emails instead of chatting with my family.

But, what if I didn’t have this dream of time? What would I do?

I don’t want to focus on that what if. So, I think I’ll do as I’m doing… try, very hard to be present. I think this works 70% of the time, during the week. Focus on getting us ready in the morning, set Levi off to school, then, go to work. I can mostly focus on work while I’m at work, but household and parental things always crop up. After I work, I try to concentrate on driving, then getting Levi. Once I get Levi, we have two hours to ourselves. That two hours, though, is filled with a quick dinner between 6p and 7p. Then, it’s get ready for bed time. I try to have Levi in bed by 8pm, sometimes it’s just after – like tonight.

Is that quality enough? He can’t be up later than that or he’s miserable at school the next day. I do have obligations, no matter when my number is up, and I can’t work on an unknown.

So, really, what we’re left with is sadness over the concept. It makes me sad to consider that I might not be there to watch him grow. It makes me sad to consider I might not be able to be his advocate  It makes me sad to consider that some new mommy might be tucking him in and reading him books. It makes me sad to think there might be a different family getting his first pet and teaching him how to care for another. It just makes me sad. And, it makes me sadder how nonchalant he was about the whole thing, while at the same time I admired the zen like quality of this view of a new mommy.

When the Best Isn’t Good Enough

Levi's Lego Dinosaur
Levi shows off his just-put-together Lego Dinosaur Christmas present.

It all sounded like gibberish. We sat there for an hour, asking barely four questions, and all I heard was gibberish. Afterwards, Peter commented that it sounded like a recitation of academic training… all talk, no substance. I did hear a few points: 1) Levi is borderline AD(H)D, 2) He scores low in “Executive Function” which could lend itself to the spiraled outbursts we’ve met with his school about, and 3) we could consider occupational therapy to give us coping techniques for these impulse control issues.

We sat there for an hour. This was our third (3 of 3) appointment. The last of the two parent visits that sandwiched the Levi observation where he was tested. Peter and I heard the words that were spoken to us, but we were hardly able to make sense of them. Levi is a bright kid who has struggles with spacial motor skills and impulse control. After an hour of reciting and rehashing the outcomes of the testing, I think this is what we were supposed to learn. I was able to recap three-fourths of the way into the appointment which was followed by more recitations… and when my clarifying question, which in summary is really: Are we making a mountain of a molehill? But I worded something to the extent of – given how boys develop normally and what we expect them to learn over the course of a lifetime, is this something to be worried about or are systems not set up to deal with average boy behavior? This query was answered with, “We’re running out of time. If you have more questions, we should schedule a follow-up appointment.”

Some history: The Wonders of Wang & Levi Behavior.

Nothing has persuaded me that my assessment is incorrect. My assessment is that we are putting boys (kids, really) in a system that sets them up for failure. The assessment noted how Levi was focused on the things he wanted to do but not on the things he didn’t. So, if he didn’t want to remember something, he scored poorly on it. It was clear, while we observed, that he didn’t see the point of the exercise. He wasn’t told he was being tested. For all he rationalized, it could have been a series of games. Now, we find out he scored poorly on short-term memory and some motor skills of drawing shapes. He didn’t draw his triangle correctly – at all, but got the Union Jack pretty close to spot on. I know adults who couldn’t get the Union Jack to line up, and if they weren’t paying attention, they wouldn’t have been able to get the triangle. The point, as it was explained to us, is that he doesn’t focus when he’s supposed to be focusing.

I’ve done a lot of self-help book reading this last year. In part to get a better understanding of myself and those around me. In part, too, to get some ideas on how to do things like best manage my time. What we were being told, then, is that Levi doesn’t want to focus in Quadrant II. He wants to play in Quadrant I (urgent but not important) or III (not important and not urgent). Regardless, it’s the fun stuff. Other books I’ve read encourage, without specifically stating, that we should all work in a variation of Quadrant III – play to your strengths so it’s all fun. (If it’s your job, though, it’d probably be Quadrant II (important, but not urgent). So, my other question is: why aren’t schools set up to play to kids strengths?

I queried – the actions that have brought us here have happened at school. The answer I received was that we should be mitigating these things at home. But, the problem is, when Levi plays with friends or is at home – he doesn’t hit. He has only hit other kids at school. I’m perplexed on how I was to plan for this situation, when he knows he is not supposed to hit and we have no real option for role-playing when we didn’t know this situation would happen.

Naturally, my mother wasn’t home when I called her after we got home. But, she did call me back an hour later. She asked me, “Is the place you’re going – is it the best?” I answered, “Yes.” Because it is. It gets rave reviews. A friend is taking her child there and loves the entire center. The behaviorist recommended it. The pediatrician acknowledged it’s very good. So, why wouldn’t the best be good enough?

Because sometimes the best, reflected my mother, sometimes the best isn’t looking out for your own best interests rather their own. She recapped with a story of a local rehabilitation facility that, while touted as the best, was only interested in rote mechanics before they let patients go. It didn’t matter if the patients were fully rehabilitated – or not. As long as the check boxes were checked, they were let go.

So, my mother astutely recommended we look for not the best. She has encouraged we look for a real human who is interested in listening to our stories. A real human. A real human who can listen and is more focused on the goal of patient healing rather than furnishing an office or having a great lifestyle (which this young doctor told us, in appointment one, was one of the perks of his job).

Yes, mom, sometimes the best really isn’t good enough. I have a message out to the pediatrician. Maybe he has some recommendations of “not the best.”

Growing Up Is Hard to Do

It’s happening again. That is, we’re having troubles at school. I have lost count, now, how many times we’ve interacted with the principal and his kindergarten teacher over behavior. The behavior started out as not sitting still and not keeping his hands to himself. The behavior progressed to hitting, PUNCHING and HITTING classmates. It sounds like it’s impulse control or acting out instead of using his words when he’s mad or frustrated. It sounds like it’s developmental. Regardless, no one is really happy with the situation, and we’ve called in the professionals.

It’s all matching up with what I’ve read. It’s like I’m living the labeling theory but for school administrators instead of for my son.

Let’s understand one thing first. Hitting and not controlling aggressive behavior is unacceptable.

Let’s get another thing straight. Sequestration or punishment without assessing triggers is equally unacceptable.

Levi has gone from play based learning to rigorous academia, wildly criticized at being a mismatch for boys. And it is especially frustrating for our kinetic learner. When he’s bored and uninterested in a subject, he acts out. The behavior is treated with sequestration or alone time with an adult. It gives him attention and reinforces the bad behavior.

The first time we were called, like last year when we were told our son did these terrible acts, our first thought was, “That’s not our son!” Last year Levi’s offenses included choking two boys and repeatedly locking himself in the bathroom. Our popular boy turned into the new kid, and he wasn’t adjusting well and the teachers didn’t know what to do. It was also unclear what they wanted from us. We are at work when these incidents occur. We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face at home, but this stuff is happening at school. So, what about the environment is enabling this behavior?

Levi turned around at the half-year mark, around his 5th birthday (according to Gesell, going from disequilibrium into equilibrium). The rest of the year was fine.

Now, we are in disequilibrium again. Again, we’re at a new school. And, again, he’s acting out. Our little boy, who used to be the receiver of aggressive acts, is now being witnessed hitting another boy with a plastic bowling pin and punching his classmates when frustrated.

A friend said to me, “Michelle, this screams environment.”

I know. I know it does. But, we can’t afford the $10,000 a year tuition (for NINE months no less) at the nearest Montessori. It’s amazing how limited our educational opportunities are given how abundant they feel in this metro area of more than 2 million people.

(At the same time, my boss has the audacity to state that I don’t know stress. Admittedly, before I told him what was going on. But, seriously.)

So, why is our son, now in his third school NOT using his words when he knows he should? Why is he taking his friend’s arm to hit another friend when he’s bored in music or Spanish? Why is he losing interest in PE at the point when the other kids finally get the game, then going off to make his own rules and disrupting the natural order the teacher (and students?) want?

Recently, I had a conversation with a sustainability specialist. He got into sustainability after spending years in behavioral change. He mentioned this story after I admitted I want gentle pushes, mocking servant leadership, to make a green society because I have found that behavior change is too hard. He said to me that he has found the same. Instead of bending someone’s stubborn behavior, we have to make the environment work for what we are asking. So, if we’re asking people to recycle instead of throw things away, we need to put the recycling next to the trash, not down the hall.

To find out how we put the good behavior choices next to my son, we have hired an behaviorist  The behaviorist was referred to me by my chiropractor. (The one who diagnosed my thyroid problems pre-blood tests.) The first thing the behaviorist suggested was taking Red Dye out of our son’s diet. So, we did. Then, he had the best three days of the year. This was followed by Gummy Bear treats and two more aggressive days, which while unfortunate proved to my husband why we are calling in the experts.

The first observation date is scheduled for November 8th. I am concerned that we are going to drop between $400 and $2,000 to teach teachers and administrators about reasonable expectations. Yes, I recognize it’s all for the greater good, but it’s no less frustrating.

Onward, we go.

 

 

We’re Getting Old: I’m Getting Old

Salmon Dinner

Our dinner consisted of 1 of the last 2-2 lb salmon fillets from Ilamna, fresh roasted asparagus from ProFarm, and Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend.

This realization does not come lightly. I have consistently resisted this thought. I’ve fought against it. I’ve argued it. I’ve stated that age is a state of mind. I continue to believe that life must be celebrated, not dreaded. But, slowly, in my 34th year, the realization has set: I am getting old.

There is something about 34 that rings differently to me. It’s one step closer to 35. Something about 35 is so close to 40. Those I know who have crept past 35 show their age in different ways. Some show it in their eyes. Some show it in their calm demeanor. Some show it in their resignation. Something about getting close to 40 that sets the perspective wheels in motion.

Today, it was technology that set off the thought. This thought has percolated since my birthday. I segment my 30s in threes. Between 30 and 33 it’s the first bit, the early thirties. 34 to 36 is the mid thirties. This is followed by the latter thirties with the age range 37-39. And, after 39 is 40. And, shouldn’t we have it all figured out at 40? I’m nearing half way through my 34th year. It’s another year of introspection, and today I was considering technology.

I don’t want to learn anymore technology. (More or less says the gal with the iPhone who covets a new Retina Macbook Pro and wants to integrate her house on the cloud with a dream kitchen of touch screen recipes perhaps sequenced into the stove.) I’ve mastered countless databases. I’ve learned expert levels of Word and Excel. I could navigate any Windows system (XP and earlier) like counting freckles on the back of my hand. I could trouble shoot any system to the awe of the computer frightened, walking in like the Savior to rescue a mis-saved document.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

But now, my speech stutters to find the right terms. I’m tired of how it changes all the time. I don’t care about learning the new Windows (7), the new version of Ubuntu, or where the print icons in Mac are and how they differ. I just want it to stay the same. I want it to all be stagnate for a while.

And, while I was considering this, with whatever technological gizmo that set off the thought, it occurred to me that I am old. I’m tired of the fast pace whizzing by. I am tired, and I can’t keep up. I want routines (4p dinner anyone?) and consistency so I can just work on what I want to work on. No longer do I care about the next new thing. No longer am I impressed with how fast our cloud-based app world moves. I am complaining about the speed of life, like an old person, so that must mean I am old.

My son has admitted that I’m old on a few occasions now. So, that gives further credibility to the claim.

And, then tonight, my friend pontificates over dinner the difference between smoking and Facebook. That’s right, she argued that Facebook has supplanted smoking in after-dinner routines (as I uploaded my dinner pictures to Facebook). She queried, “What? Are we so bored with our friends that we must look to our technological gadgets to entertain us?” Certainly not a new argument. I enjoyed the cigarette comparison where we are giving our idle hands something to do. But, “No,” I eventually countered. I think it’s just that we’re getting old. (My Facebook upload aside.) We are older so we can sit longer and be quiet longer. It’s these young kids (the person in question is 26) who need constant entertainment to grab them. They have not been thoroughly, or properly, introduced to quiet mediations and the importance of silence in conversation.

Yes, I think it is simply that we are getting old. And, you know, I’m finally okay with it.

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Conflicting Priorities

Levi looking down at me.

We were at Brooklyn Park, playing. Levi was running around, and I was snapping photos. Here’s a silly photo of Levi looking down at me.

I only studied for English (10.1) and my drivers’ education manual. Everything else slipped. The teacher was the same, so if I was going to prioritize one class over another – those two classes would win out.

I was in tenth grade. I was a sophomore in high school. And, this is just one example of where I get involved in things because I think they are important and suffer from continued, conflicting priorities.

I was surprised today by the random discussion of happiness. It doesn’t happen very often. Usually, it’s when a loved one thinks that I am unhappy and they question my happiness. The exchange with this individual included her definition of happiness that sounded more like some unattainable place of consistent joy to me. She even asked me if I was simply happy with who I am. I quickly stated “No.” Why? Because I’m not.

I explained that I think “happiness” is this ride we’re on. Sometimes there are highs, and sometimes there are lows. It just is. Life just is. I hope to eventually cherish all moments and knit them together in the story of me. Perhaps one day someone will be interested in hearing it.

I am not wholly happy with myself because, as most of us, I am my own worst critic. I know my faults. I know many of my strengths (even if I don’t know how to describe them well enough for others to understand or hear them). But, I definitely know my faults. I know where I fail as a wife, sister, daughter, and most importantly mother. I know when I should be more patient. I internalize a lot. So, I replay scenes where I screwed up in my head, repeatedly. No matter how quickly the other has gotten over whatever trespass, chances are I still haven’t forgiven myself.

Now, this plays out in a day to day scene where I more or less don’t worry about these things. They affect me, I internalize, and I think I play it out with a pretty straight face.

Back to priorities. This post is really about priorities and happiness. The thought has occurred to me, again, that perhaps I actually define happiness by doing something, which is why I started this post in tenth grade.

I consider this while my leg jiggles, I check my email, double check my schedule, and choose to NOT do other things. I am not editing notes and redrafting minutes. I am not reading for the meeting on Saturday. I am not perusing a gift to by for an upcoming wedding. I am not looking at ticket prices for our trip to Michigan. I am not folding laundry. I am not watching TV. I am not finishing the dishes.

Conflicting priorities. If everything is important than nothing is. Conflicting priorities. I can only be in one space at a time. One moment. With my inability to accurately assess how long tasks take, coupled with my inability (or refusal) to say no, I end up with conflicting priorities – often. The above example of thoughts in my head is not unlike most moments in the day. When I’m in a meeting where I feel my time is being valued, I don’t have a problem remaining in the moment. It’s when I’m out of the forced set aside that conflict arises. This didn’t start in tenth grade. It started long before that. My mother has even quipped that I frequently burn the candle at both ends.

But there is just so much to do! So many interesting things. So many obligations! So much going on … and I don’t want to miss a minute of it. Which means that with my inability to say no, I inevitably miss some things. (Like when I missed Levi’s last soccer game of the year last year. I had been to every single other game and practice, but the last game conflicted with my employer’s gala. I chose to participate in the paying gig.)

I do feel joy being a part of these things I believe in: my son’s education and upbringing, time with my husband, social justice, food justice, stewardship of the land. Knowing that I am working with things that are important to me gives me contentment. But, I wouldn’t call it happiness – it’s a journey towards happiness. I do not like feeling idle, and if there’s time in the schedule – I feel idle. So, when there isn’t time in the schedule – I am over-committed and conflicted!

And that, friends, is why it’s called a Balancing Act.

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“Say It Ain’t So Wisco” or in the news today “That’s Not Fair”

The complaints sound like this:

They get paid more than me! That’s not fair!

They get better benefits than me! That’s not fair!

They get better hours than me! That’s not fair!

We should cut their pay to make it fair!

We should cut their benefits so they have the same crappy benefits I have. That will make it fair!

We should make them work the same crappy hours I work! That will make it fair!

I have to drive far to work, so should they! That would make it fair!

I have to scrounge to find child care! They should too! They should quit complaining about how good they have it and suck it up like the rest of us!

They should stop whining! They don’t know what it’s like being a real American having to work for crappy pay, in crappy hours, with a crappy commute! I want them to suffer just like me!

The cause seems to be with these many feelings of unfairness, that the only way to level the playing field is to, quite simply, vote against ones own interests. Or, rather, just enough people believe that the playing field needs to be leveled in this way that the whole votes against their own interests.

What do I mean, you ask?

2012 National Housing Wage is $18.25 per hour.
The 2012 National Housing Wage is $18.25 per hour. (source: The National Low Income Housing Coalition)

It is not in everyone’s best interest to live below a livable housing wage ($18.25 per hour).

It is not in everyone’s best interest to have families working 2.5 jobs or 101 hours per week to maintain stable housing. That type of work week, in itself, is not stable.

It is as if we’ve forgotten that one part of the American Dream is to allow everyone to achieve their own dreams, however they may conceive them to be. Jack’s dream might be to be a hair stylist, Judy’s dream a truck driver, Joe’s dream a school teacher, and Jane’s dream might be to become the 10th Female President of the United States (I’m hoping for a more Progressive U S of A in the coming years).

But, collectively, we think that smokestacking the good social programs away is the path to fairness. We misconstrue the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” idiom for a deluded version of equity.  We opt to choose “equity of outcome” and not “equity in opportunity.” And, instead of choosing an outcome that puts everyone in a state where food, shelter, clothing, education, and health are taken care of – we are choosing an outcome where no one is taken care of.

No one.

Except the 1%.

All for the hope that one day, we too will figure out investment banking and other quick rich schemes to have golden parachutes and swan sculptures for birthday parties. For that faint hope, we vote against our own interests.

By voting against our own interests, we vote against our grandparents. We vote against our parents. We vote against our aunts, our uncles, our cousins. We vote against our sisters. We vote against our brothers. We vote against our children.

For the vain hope that we can be the next Mitt Romney, we sacrifice our children’s future. We sacrifice our kids’ health. We sacrifice our kids’ education. We sacrifice our kids’ housing.

When we sacrifice our basic needs for a whim, we sacrifice our lives.

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Memorial Day Weekend

We now close another holiday weekend. Three days off, where the work email was also turned off. We had a fairly busy weekend, and unfortunately bread wasn’t made.

First, we had dinner with our friends, and we dined at the local taqueira. Cheap, yummy, Mexican food. Levi even ate a cheese quesidilla! For the rest of the weekend, that’s all he’s wanted for his meals.

“What’s that word again?” he’s asked, completely out of context of any meal conversation. So, it leaves me wondering what the heck he’s talking about. We make our way around to food and food options, and suddenly it becomes clear. The irony of it all is, although eh’s enjoyed these homemade quesidillas – he doesn’t really eat them. He eats maybe half of one-eighth!

Ensuring the arm has the right protection.
Ensuring the arm has the right protection.

Saturday, we found ourselves playing at a park and seeing a play. A friend is getting ready to embark on an exciting adventure. So, she and her fiance put together a tour of the neighborhood to celebrate with loved ones their new adventure. We met them at the park. Levi was able to play for about an hour, and then we headed off to the play.

But, not before one of the party-goers pulled out their remote control cars. (Expensive remote control cars that are also quite fast.)

More remote control car.
More remote control car.

Next we visited the Northwest Children’s Theater and School to see a wild performance of El Zorrito, The Legend of the Boy Zorro. I told Levi Friday night what our plans were. He didn’t really understand “seeing a play”, so I began to describe the show to him explaining the boy uses a sword. I explained he was kind of like a super hero. Levi was a little concerned about the use of a sword, but then he linked it, “He only uses his sword on bad guys, right?” “Yes! On bad guys!” I exclaimed.

Parts of the show were quite exciting, to the point I’m not sure Levi was ready for it. And, naturally, his body needed to potty just before intermission or the end of the show. Although we missed some parts of the play, we were first in line for the bathroom. And, despite not having cash for the cupcakes, which caused a severe few moments of emotional distress … Levi had a great time. He was absolutely star struck over this Boy Zorro. (“Mom, what’s his name again?”)

El Zorrito, signing his autograph.
El Zorrito, signing his autograph.

Now, on Friday, we experienced a thunderstorm, from the quiet of our house, after returning from King Burrito. We were able to give our children one of the first lessons in counting how close a storm is and tracking as it leaves with the seconds between lightening and thunder. With four adults and two kids getting excited over it, it was hard for the kiddos to be afraid.

Saturday night, however, Levi and I did not fair quite so well. When the play was over, we approached the back exit as the front was much too crowded. Like a good theater, we didn’t have access to light or any cues of what was happening outside. So, we were quite suprised to see torrential rain pouring out of the sky as we approached the exit. We decided to go back to the crowd to get another peak at El Zorrito. And, then, back to the exit to wait out the rain. Levi refused to walk out in the rain. We watched three groups of people courageously venture out into the downpour, and suddenly, Levi was ready.

We charged out teh door, held hands, and we ran. The puddles were immense! Rain, thunder, lightening, and it was only a block and a half to the car! The front tires were covered 12-18 inches in water, and the corner curbs were submerged in this mini flood. We got soaked. Our heads were soaked. Our shirts and sweaters were soaked. And, our pants were soaked mid-calf.

I suppose it’s no wonder we kept our tasks for Sunday and Monday to a dull roar. I’m not sure we have had such an adventurous Saturday, well not at least for a long time.

Tuesday, May 22nd

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Birthday Cupcake Ideology (Photo credit: alexis22578)

I have moved the computer to the kitchen. One light bulb is out, and the orange glow in our soon to be outlawed incandescent lights is disturbing my visual field. The dishes need to be put in the dishwasher. The floor still needs to be mopped. We have grocery bags that don’t have a great home, scattered among the chairs. Levi is in bed, whining for his squeezy bottle.

Tonight was one of those interesting parental evenings, where the child needs some semblance of attention and is manifesting that want in ways that are not comprehensible to the parent (me).

I picked the child up from school tonight, thankful for a low traffic night in this resurgence of rain and 60 degree weather. He was waiting, coat on, backpack on. As soon as I got to the door he was there with his teacher. A far cry from the night before where I could not find them. They ran an errand just as I arrived. Mind you, I was pushing the 6:00 clock pick up with my 5:58pm arrival. (I’ve been sick; I was trying to nap.) So, tonight, arriving twenty minutes earlier, they were ready for me in more ways than one.

The child was fairly pleasant. He removed his backpack immediately upon my arrival, claiming he now needed to get his snack. (I usually let him get it out after we get settled in the truck.) This was an amusing feat, regardless, for myself and his two teachers. I signed him out, and we resettled his backpack.

All was chipper.

We were low on a few grocery items that I don’t procure from my buying club (cheddar cheese, sour cream, yogurt, pasteurized milk, deli meats), so we ventured en route to the nearest grocery store.

The child continued with his chipper, playful, obedient mood. All this, to the pleasure of his mother (me).

We have an uneventful trip at the crowded grocery store, collect our items, and a new toy, and head out. The grocery store trip was accompanied by the 5-year-old being able to ride on the cart (in ways store staff don’t always approve) most of the trip. I was comfortable with this mode of transport as it 1) let me know where the 5-year-old is always and 2) kept him occupied in a pleasant way. All tactics aid to keeping the 5-year-old chipper, avoiding meltdowns, and allowing said child to remain obedient. All these things make mother pleased.

Once we are loaded into our car, backed out of the parking light, where full-trendy-grocery store parking dances commence (the car next to us pulls out, another pulls in, we pull out, another pulls in behind us, while dancing around drivers who quickly turned to pedestrians whilst navigating said parking lot and dance), and on the road — I tell the 5-year-old what’s for dinner. It goes something like this:

“So, when we get home, we’ll have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Okay?”

“Ooh, and I can have gold-fish crackers too!” replies the now excited 5-year-old.

“Yes! You can have gold-fish crackers with your grilled cheese sandwich.” I assure the 5-year-old, relieved that tonight, we can forego the nightly dinner argument.

Fast forward to being home, having groceries put away, the 5-year-old watching a Barney-Thomas the Train-Bob the Builder DVD on loan from the library, me grilling the sandwiches away. (Mine is more gourmet adorned with the deli meat and swiss cheese).

Note: Our microwave broke several weeks ago, beyond repair. We are down to a puny heel of bread. I brought two, very frozen loaves up from the deep freeze. They are now (3 hours later) thawed to a usable stage.

I let his small, grilled cheese sandwich cool, cut in half, on a plate while mine finishes. I mention to the 5-year-old that his grilled cheese sandwich is nearly done. I will even let him eat in the living room. (I don’t want arguments. I want easy dinner time which should transfer to easy bedtime.)

I hear no reply and mistake (yes, mistake) that for continued acceptance of before mentioned and vetted dinner menu. The gold-fish crackers have already been consumed.

The 5-year-old walks to the kitchen. The 5-year-old notes that these are indeed grilled cheese sandwiches.

“But, I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Grilled cheese is too dirty!”

Get it? Grilled cheese is toasted, crumbly bread, after it is grilled appropriately. It makes more crumbs than a fresh loaf of bread (one that is not available due to our no-microwave-fresh-from-the-freezer-state of bread).

I insisted that this indeed for dinner. After a 10-20 minute whine-fest in his room, the 5-year-old comes out. (The rule is that the living room and kitchen are more or less “happy zones”, any other inconsolable fit must be had in his room. He is allowed to return when he is in a better mood. We have found this to be a good tactic toward self-soothing.)

He says, “I can eat the grilled cheese sandwich in the living room, right?”

Ah, the life of a parent. It’s never-ending, unpredictable roller-coaster ride of developing minds.

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Inherited Collaboration

It’s all my mother’s fault. Seriously. Who else should I blame but her? She’s the one who drilled it in us [me], especially as we grew up and participated in sports. Yes, my desire for ground up planning; my desire for collaboration; my desire for fair teams — I blame this all on my mother.

I find myself, often in a few of the circles I travel, advocating for collaboration. I feel like I’m often asking people to slow down, consider other view points, seeking out the dissenters in order to move a process and hear their concerns. I often find myself planning for things where it doesn’t include a “star” of the team because I understand life happens and the team is nothing if it can’t function without a member.

I’m leery of sounding arrogant here. I’m leery of sounding like I’m always a team player. I’m leery of sounding like I don’t fight to get my way. Because, I do these things. I’m not always a team player, and sometimes I do fight to get my way. Sometimes, depending on the situation, I even close myself off to the other opinions I crave in other situations!

Seeing the trouble my arrogant methods sometimes yield, and seeing the solidification of consensus based decisions proves to me the preferred way to make decisions. I also grew up in a big family. A family that, when brought together, talks over one another and sometimes you have to shout to get your voice heard. I’ve been the one waiting and waiting to be heard, and I hate that. Something about looking in from the outside, I have the ability to see when other people may feel the same way. I know that when I’m watching other people talk, I have sometimes a million thoughts going through my head. I suspect that they do to. I want to hear what they are saying. I want the others to stop talking and give space for the quiet ones.

And, I’m going to blame my mother on this. She’s the one who insisted we “walk in another’s shoes for a mile” before judging. She’s the one who insisted we think of others. She’s the one who made sure we were thoughtful in our actions. She’s the one who ensured I listened to others.

So, yes, I blame my mother that I prefer consensus. Consensus, as described when it runs well, insists that we put our whole bodies into a process. We recognize our logic, our ration, and our emotion. We acknowledge these pieces to our brain (our bodies) as a whole. We are called to hold these pieces and give space for them, to allow for better decisions all around. We are called to think outside of ourselves, using our knowledge and experience, and consider choices that are best for the group. We are called to let self-interest rest and bring our self-less selves into the process.

Instead of blame, Mother dear, I thank you.

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