Month: July 2012

The Most Patient People Are The Ones With Lots Of Practice

Barely hanging in there

I’m on the light rail train waiting for the doors to close so we can travel back to the Mineral Station where we parked before heading downtown to the Rockies baseball game. As I sit here, my ears are being assaulted by the whines and whimpers of two obnoxious kids who apparently don’t understand what it means to wait. They can’t sit still. They keep pestering their parents with inane questions about when the train will leave and how long it will be until they get home. They’re driving me crazy. I’m thinking about going over and asking their parents to quiet them down. I should totally do that. But, wait. I can’t. They’re mine. Dammit. I hate it when that happens.

Patience has never been my strong suit. My mother berated me repeatedly for my inability to wait for something. I remember once I was so annoyed with her for hounding me about my lack of patience that I told her I was going to pray for it. I thought that would placate her and keep her from bothering me about it for a bit. Instead, she told me that when you pray for patience God merely gives you more opportunity to practice it. That’s right about the time I became much more selective with my prayer requests.

But, my mom was right. The only way to learn patience is to practice it. So, as much as the boys are driving me crazy with their antics and questions, this situation is exactly what they need. And, in putting up with their impatience, I am given the opportunity to practice my own. For every minute I go without smacking them, I am becoming a better, more peaceful person. At least, that is what I am telling myself. I 100% believe that I ended up with these two impatient little monkeys because I once was silly enough to pray for patience. Remember, sometimes when God wants to punish you he answers your prayers. The plus side is that at this current rate of practice, I might end up somewhere on the zen scale between Yoda and Gandhi. That would almost make moments like this one worthwhile.

No Rainbow Without The Rain

This evening’s rainbow

On the way to the water park today, Joe worried about the increasingly darkening sky. He watched out his car window, anticipating lightning. We had hoped to meet our friends earlier to avoid the usual afternoon thunderstorms that ruin a swim outing, but things simply didn’t go as planned. Life got in the way. When we got to the park, it was 2 p.m. The skies directly west of us appeared threatening. I talked to my friend about the weather, and we reworked our plans. I told the boys.

“Looks like we’re going to ditch out on the water park and head out to their pool. They have a membership so we can get in free. Then, if it rains and we can’t swim for very long, we’ll have saved our money to come back here later this week when we can get here earlier before the afternoon storms,” I explained.

“I was really looking forward to this,” Joe complained.

“I know. I was too. But, plans change,” I told him. “Who knows? Maybe we will have even more fun at their pool where it’s less crowded.”

Though he appeared less than convinced by my suggestion, Joe hopped back into the car and tried to suck it up. Sure enough. We made it to our friends’ pool before the rain started. The boys had about 15 minutes to swim before the thunder that had followed us made its presence known, and the lifeguards whistled everyone out of the pools for a 20 minute waiting period. We sent the boys to the park on the other side of the fence from the pool. The played at the park for a while as it intermittently rained lightly. They came back, the sun emerged, and the lifeguards’ whistles blew. They were back into the water. Everyone else had left, there were only 8 kids to fill the entire pool. They had no lines for the water slide or diving board. No one to fight for the swim noodles. They were having a blast. The rest of the storms caught up with us, though, and the lifeguards ushered everyone out again. Celeste and I called it pointless and decided we’d head to a new, nearby park instead. A lesson in flexibility and rolling with the punches, I figured.

When we arrived at the park, it was raining lightly. The kids, still wet from the pool, didn’t care. There was a flash in the distance. I told Celeste that hubby would not be amused that I was letting them run around out in the rain and lightning, but the boys were content and I shrugged it off. So, the four boys played while Celeste and I sat under a covered spot and watched them and caught up with each other. The skies finally lightened, the water features in the park turned back on, and they had even more fun splashing. Afterwards, we drove to Red Robin for dinner with our wet sons.

On the way home, I asked Joe if he had managed to have fun despite the fact that the afternoon hadn’t unfolded quite the way he had hoped it would. Turns out he had a wonderful time. He loved the pool and jumping off the diving board and sliding down the twisty slide. He told me we would have to go back to the park because it was “awesome.” I was glad that he was able to see how sometimes the things we think are ruined by change are actually improved by the adjustment and not, in fact, marred at all.

That has been a lesson it has taken me a long time to learn, far longer than I hope it will take for Joe to grasp. It’s been my custom to go batcrap crazy when someone rips the rug out from under me. I’ve been working on my need to control outcomes and to guide situations in my favor. It’s a challenge for me to try to let things go and roll with changes. But, tonight as we were driving home from our swim day turned park day turned dinner out with friends, I saw a rainbow and it occurred to me that when we try so hard to avoid the rain we sometimes miss the beauty that comes along with it.

The Way To Imagine Dragons

This is the way I need to imagine my dragon.

For most of my life, I thought that I would eventually attempt to write something “serious,” a non-fiction book, a screenplay, a novel, something. After writing my master’s thesis and giving birth to two children, though, that idea sounded less and less appealing. The master’s thesis itself, with its research and approvals and four revisions, had soured me on the writing process and convinced me that in no way would a PhD behind my name be worth the effort. Add two small boys to the mixture and writing became a Herculean task. I didn’t have the time, energy, or interest in such a crazy dream.

As time passed, though, the memory of the hellish thesis passed, the boys grew bigger and started school, and the thought of writing something just to prove I could do it crept back into my head. To that end, on May 7th I wrote a rough draft prologue for a story that I’ve had in my head for years. I finished it. I filed it. I mostly forgot about it because summer vacation started for my boys and I had no energy for creativity while wrestling monkeys. This morning, however, I did something I haven’t done in months. I actually sat down and wrote a bit of fiction. It felt good. Even though it wasn’t part of what I started in May, it felt like progress.

It’s too easy to make excuses when it comes to writing. It’s too easy to claim you’re too busy or have writer’s block. It’s too easy to work on your blog and ignore the larger, scarier, meatier item with fangs that you know is waiting in the wings for you. But, with each passing day that fanged creature just gets bigger and more intimidating. The only way to slay that ugly beast is to face it, to chop it up piece by piece, until it’s no more than a darling little kitten that inspires you to play. I tend to bite off more than I can chew and then stare at what I’ve undertaken with trepidation. I begin to doubt that I will ever be able to accomplish what I’ve set forth for myself. I make it seem insurmountable and so I procrastinate and hide.

I know I’ve got it in me. I know I do. The difference between writers who have already published and me lies in effort. They made the commitment to themselves and to their craft. They slayed excuses and conquered their dragon. It’s time for me to sharpen my sword and go into battle. That beast won’t kill itself.

The Great Weenie War

Luke often sleep like this…just like Al Bundy.

I grew up in a house filled with girls. With me, my two sisters, and my mother to contend with, my father had no chance. He was perpetually surrounded by hair products, dolls, and florals. Oh…he tried to change things up. He bought us softball gloves and played catch with us. We were ordered to “go long” so we could catch “the bomb,” as he launched Denver-Bronco-colored orange and blue Nerf footballs at us. We never really had much interest in sports, but played along because we knew a good spiral-throwing arm might come in handy someday to impress a boy. My dad was the odd man out. His only consolation (if you could call it that) was a brown miniature poodle, which we girls had given the masculine moniker “Coco.” At least with the dog there was another male around, albeit a neutered one.

Now that I am married and the mother of two sons, I am the odd one out. In my house, I am constantly competing against testosterone and penises. This afternoon, my sons were chasing each other around the house with wooden, western-style toy rifles, shooting at each other.

“I just shot Joe’s nose off!” Luke exclaimed from his position against the wall downstairs.

“I can’t believe he got me! I had the higher ground,” Joe complained.

Hubby suggested we get more bullets for their Nerf guns so they could shoot each other “for real.” Eeesh. I was headed to Target anyway, so I picked some up for them. The minute I got home, the guns were loaded up and the battle began. As I walked around putting laundry away, I had to dodge boys and foam bullets. Luckily, I’m fairly stealthy and avoided being caught in the crossfire. Life in this house can be dangerous.

I tried to capture a photo of the boys during their battle so I could share it with a blog I was tentatively entitling Nerf Wars, but in every single shot I took one of the boys had one hand on his gun and the other hand on his penis. Are you kidding me? I had to delete every photo I took. I was trying to get a shot of the actual gunfight. Instead, my iPhone only held shots of hands on crotches. A man’s fixation with his penis starts at birth and never abates.

“What is this? The Great Weenie War?” I yelled over their sound effects.

They stopped and looked at me. Then they both cracked up. I had inadvertently coined the newest, most fun phrase in our house. For the next half hour, they ran around shooting at each other while yelling “Weenie War!” I just rolled my eyes, went to my bedroom for solace, and quietly closed the door. What else could I do? If this house is under siege during the Great Weenie War, I’m clearly outgunned. I looked at the only other female in this house, our border collie Ruby, hunkered down on her dog bed trying to ignore the fighting. For the first time, I truly understood how my father felt while I was growing up and I appreciated his bond with our male family pet. Ruby and I sat there staring at each other as the sounds of imaginary gunfire erupted again in the hallway. I swear she rolled her eyes too. When you’re outnumbered in battle, all you can do is take cover and hope you don’t have to hoist the white flag.

Someday the hormone balance in our home will return. The boys will leave home (hopefully to go to college) and things will level out again. Honestly, though, I don’t mind being being the only female in this house. Sure, I have to put up with farting contests and super heroes and a constant barrage of imaginary gunfire. But, when it’s all said and done, every penis-packing person here knows I carry the biggest gun. And, that’s all that matters.

I’ve Been Downgraded To Type A-

My sponsors generously provided the clothing  that will make my trip to the Galapagos a comfortable, fun experience.

A week from today at this time I will be sitting in the Miami airport waiting for our flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador en route to the Galapagos Islands. Today I planned to be putting together packing lists for said trip. Instead, I’ve spent at least an hour researching the Blood Type Diet and realizing that there is no food in my house that I’m allowed to eat for my O-type health. I’ve spent about an hour looking online at the Boden fall clothing collection and realizing that I need a much better paying job than my current position so I can purchase the Emma dress and the Contrast Mary Janes. I’ve also run a couple errands, texted with my pal Heather, and played a ridiculous number of games of Words With Friends, Dice With Buddies, and Mind Feud on my iPhone. The one thing I have not done is figure out even one item I am packing. Oops.

This makes no sense. I’m a Type A person. I’ve been a Type A person since I emerged from the womb, two days beyond my due date when I felt it was appropriate. I’ve always been independent. I’m organized, meticulous, and determined. I multi-task with ease. I’m proactive. As a rule, I don’t procrastinate. But, today I can’t bring myself to complete the task at hand. I figure there are two ways I can go with this. I can either Type A it by digging really deep, finding some inclination to step away from the computer, and doing this job the right way and getting ‘er done. Or, I can Type B it by realizing that as long as I have at least one outfit to wear it will all be fine. Then I can go watch a movie with Ryan Gosling in it (which is, by any estimation, a much better way to spend a rainy day).

Wait a minute. I guess there is a third way I can go with this. I could meet myself somewhere in the middle. I can get off my avoiding, lazy butt and do a little planning to assuage my Type A mind that will be annoyed when I realize while on vacation that my Type B behavior landed me with not one swimsuit to wear during my island vacation. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to go stand in front of my closet and stare into it for a while to determine some options. I could always scrawl a few notes on some paper for later. Maybe I could set aside a few items I’m sure I don’t want to leave behind. No harm in that, right?

I’m starting to wonder about my lifelong membership in the Type A club. In my quest to become more zen, I’ve relaxed a bit and come a little more towards Type B-ishness. Apparently, I’m not quite the rabid Type-A personality I once was. I’m not really comfortable at Type B either, though. So, for now I will suggest that I’ve been downgraded from Type A to Type A-. I think that is a fine devolution for me. I’ll get packed eventually. There’s no way that I’m missing that flight a week from now.

Our Son, The Science Experiment…Part Deux

Joe and Me

Two months ago, hubby and I decided to take our son who has ADHD off his medication for the summer. We did this to see if he would eat more, sleep better, and perhaps experience a growth spurt and to see if he was, after three years on the medication, any more capable of working on his own to control some of his impulse and attention issues than he was when he was 8. In short, we turned our son into a science experiment. We were so concerned about our decision that I even blogged about it, which is how we arrive at Part Deux. Joe’s first week without his Concerta medication was rough for the entire family. We vowed that the second week we would try harder to remember Joe’s struggles, to cut him more slack, and to be more patient.

It hasn’t been easy, but over the course of the last eight weeks we’ve definitely seen some changes. Joe eats a lot more now than he does when he’s on his medication, and he sleeps later and more restfully too. Although we haven’t weighed him, he does seem to have filled out a bit, which is encouraging. We’ve found that he is now more capable of self-regulation. If something upsets him, rather than the time- and energy-intensive histrionics of the past, he is able to calm himself more quickly. The medication has given Joe a baseline understanding of how his brain is different, and the knowledge he’s not a bad kid but instead merely one whose brain just doesn’t give him enough help with attention and short-term memory. If he’d never been on the medication, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience what is “normal” to other people. Without that crucial piece of information, he’d still feel lost about how to achieve what society expected of him. Now that he understands how it feels to be in control, he can work towards achieving those results both with and without the medication. This is huge for him.

I’m not exactly sure how this experiment will end. If I could write my own ending, though, Joe will have grown a few inches and packed on a few pounds over the summer. He will realize that he’s not a bad kid but that he has some unique challenges. He will understand that the medication helps daily life run more smoothly for him, but that it doesn’t define him and that he’s still a wonderful person without it. As for the rest of us? We will have earned a much greater appreciation for how difficult things can be for Joe and have more patience to help him get to where he needs to be in his life. Two months ago, I was hoping this would be the right decision for our family. Today, I’d be willing to place bets that this experiment will be a great success.

A Better Life

Our incredibly fortunate American family on a fjord in Norway in 2009.

Today, while ironing of course, I watched a film I’ve wanted to see ever since the lead actor was nominated for an Academy Award this past winter. I’d never heard of it until the nominations came out, but when a quiet film finds its way into the hearts of the Academy voters I usually pay attention. The movie is called A Better Life. The story revolves around a father, who happens to be a Mexican illegal living and working in the U.S., and his 14 year old son who is a U.S. citizen. The son edges closer and closer to the East LA gang scene and his father worries about him. It is an honest story about a hard-working man whose only desire in life is to give his son a better life than he has had, hence the title.

I loved the movie because it made me think. It forced me to face some of my own prejudices and misconceptions. I can’t tell you where exactly I stand on the issue of illegal immigration because, being a grey person not prone to black and white absolutism, I’m not sure. I can clearly see and understand both sides of the issue. We have laws in this country about citizenship, and I do see the importance of upholding them. On the other hand, though, both sets of my great grandparents came here from Poland on a boat circa 1917, landed at Ellis Island speaking no English, and were able to give their own children a better life than the one they had. I wouldn’t be here if the United States hadn’t let them in nearly 100 years ago.

As Americans, it’s too easy to forget how blessed we are. We may talk about how proud we are of our nation, but most of us have done nothing to earn our citizenship other than to have been born here. Let’s face it. We didn’t have a say in that matter anyway. When you think about how most people on this planet live, we are unbelievably fortunate by virtue of dumb luck. So, it’s fairly easy to sit on our lofty hill and tell others that we’re all full up at the inn. After all, we’re here and our kids will have the benefit of education and health care, so what do we care?

What today’s Ironing Matinee reminded me is that when we talk about “illegals” we’re conveniently labeling others in a way that helps us to forget they’re human beings. As “illegals,” they’re not people, families, fathers, mothers, children. They’re criminals, burdens, statistics, scourges. It’s our apathy about these immigrants’ humanity that troubles me. If you get a chance, watch A Better Life. No matter where you stand on the issue of illegal immigration, it might give you some insight into how hard life is for our neighbors south of the border and how hard it is for them still while they’re living here illegally trying to do the best they can for their families. It might remind you that at our core we’re all the same. We want what is best for our children, and that notion can’t be contained by laws or even by borders.

Taking A Chill Pill

Joe likes skiing as much as Luke likes shopping for school supplies.

This morning I took Luke shopping for school supplies. The entire time, I could not stop hearing Andy Williams singing It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Occasionally, while dropping a notebook or box of crayons into the cart, I would sing a few bars. Luke was not amused. I kept picturing that Staples commercial with the dad cruising through the back-to-school aisles gleefully with his shopping cart while his kids looked like they were being dragged to the gallows. That one just brings a smile to my heart. After we had all the supplies purchased, Luke and I went back to my car where the temperature gauge registered a balmy 86 degrees at 10:30 a.m. This ridiculous summer of hot, hot heat is starting to get to me. I continued to sing Christmas carols all the way home. Summer may be my favorite season, but this one has been rough. I’m ready to move on.

Just how much am I ready to move on? Tonight, I spent about an hour researching ski passes, ski lessons, and equipment rental for the 2012/2013 ski season. I really am dreaming of snow. You see, this is the year that Joe gets his free Colorado ski pass from the state. Yes. The brilliant and beautiful state of Colorado offers a free ski pass to all 5th grade students. Okay. Okay. Technically, it’s three free days at each of 21 ski resorts, but that’s still a lot of free skiing. I could not be more excited about this. Joe is not quite as thrilled as I am. You see, Joe is not fond of downhill skiing. At least, he thinks he’s not. His father and I contend that he simply hasn’t had the right ski experience yet. This year, we aim to change that. I mean, the kid loves snow, never gets cold, and can snowshoe or cross-country ski for hours. He’s ready. We’ve begun preparing him for the inevitable.

“Joe…this is the year you get your free ski pass,” I reminded him as I researched ski lessons.

“I don’t like skiing,” he whined.

“What don’t you like about it exactly?” I questioned.

“The going fast downhill on two little sticks. The riding up too high on the chairlift. The falling. The wiping out.”

“This year we’re going to get you ski lessons. You will go every Saturday for four weeks. By the end of those lessons, you’ll be good to go. Luke will take the same lessons so you won’t be alone,” I assured him.

“I don’t care. I don’t want to do downhill.”

“Joe…you know we do three things in this family. What are they?”

“Hike, bike, and ski,” he sighed. “Can’t I go for 2 out of 3?” he asked.

“You can,” I quipped, “right after you turn 15 and are old enough that we can leave you without a sitter for the day and go off skiing without you.”

He skulked off. See….it’s cooling off around here already. I can almost smell the snow.

 

 

 

 

Instead

How do you not choose this cute, wet boy in an inner tube over laundry on a hot day?

I have always liked making choices. Perhaps that is because choices have always come easily to me. I’ve never been one to agonize over my options or spend months hemming and hawing. I simply am not wired that way. My husband will spend weeks researching something, thinking about it, reviewing his options, and pondering over the benefits and drawbacks. He will finally, at long last, reach his decision. Not two minutes after his decision is made, he will begin to regret it, wondering whether or not he made the right choice. This, as you can imagine, drives me crazy.

I like options. I like open ended. I like possibility. To me, no decision is permanent. (There are exceptions to this rule of course, but I would never choose to make a permanent decision because, as I’ve stated previously, I like choice. Permanent decisions are the ones that rule out all future choice. There’s no fun in that.) Today was a day when I had a lot of things planned. Most them them were exceedingly dull but incredibly necessary things, like laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning. My options seemed highly limited.

At 8 a.m. when I finally hauled myself out of my basement cave and stared down the list of things I “should” do, I naturally decided we should walk the dog instead. And, that’s exactly what we set out to do. As the boys and I rounded the first bend on what was to be a 3-mile walk, though, my phone rang. It was my dear friend Celeste inviting me to go visit the new Athleta store in the Cherry Creek Mall. Hmmm…now I had a choice. Finish the longer walk or take a shorter walk and meet my friend? I called my sister, set her up to watch the boys, and we cut our walk down by 1/2 mile so I could get to the mall. After my quick shopping date with Celeste, I headed back to get the boys. But, as soon as I got back to my sister’s house, my mom called and said I could take the boys swimming at her condo. Hmmm…another decision. Should I head home and get some laundry done at last? Hadn’t I put it off long enough? I looked at my boys, got back in the car, and ran home to get swimsuits and towels so we could go swimming instead.

At one point, I sat there at the pool, soaking wet on a plastic chair under a blue sky in the hot sun, thinking about all the things I had planned to do today that were not getting done because I had made other choices today instead. So much left undone. Then, my mind traveled to the people affected by the movie theater shooting in Aurora. Earlier today I had read about three friends who had planned to be in theater 9 along with their friends for a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Two were short on cash and the third didn’t want to leave his low-on-funds friends behind, so they skipped the movie instead. Six of their friends were injured and another buddy was killed in that dark theater. Funny how “instead” can change your day or your life.

My house is still a pit. The laundry remains in a pile. The boys’ suitcase sits upstairs in the hallway as of yet unpacked. It will all be there for me tomorrow. It can wait. Today, I chose to see a good friend and spend the afternoon splashing with my boys instead. I have no regrets.

 

Don’t Give Me Your Bull Or You’ll See My Horns

Check out the look on his face. Priceless.

Sometimes I think my children don’t know me at all. You would think, given the extraordinary amount of time we spend together, that they would know me quite well. Apparently not. This morning, we were getting ready to leave our mountain house. Because it is literally our home-away-from-home, when we leave it, we need to clean it first. We don’t have a cleaning service because we are the cleaning service. So, as hubby and I were working on getting the place cleaned up, I asked my oldest son if he would kindly take the recycling out to the bin. He looked at me with attitude.

“What are you going to do?” was what he asked with an unbridled audacity I have not yet seen in his young (and now potentially short) life.

“Excuse me?” I replied with a glare.

“I just mean while I’m doing this what are you going to be doing?” he stupidly repeated.

“Well…I was going downstairs to clean. But now, you will be cleaning while I watch.”

He stared at me with all the pre-teen annoyance he could muster. Unabated, I dragged his sorry butt down the stairs and proceeded to direct him while he cleaned our bathroom, dusted our rooms, and vacuumed our floors. All the while, I just kept muttering quietly to myself in utter incredulity. Had this stupid child actually implied that he works harder than I do? Had he lost his frigging mind? I suppose I just sit around while he slaves the day away. I wanted to smack him. Instead, I pointed out helpful things so he could do the job more effectively.

“When you dust you need to clear off the surface first. Then you wipe the entire surface and replace the items.”

He rolled his eyes. I ignored. He whined. I pointed out his next task. Eventually the house was clean, although not as quickly as it would have been if I had done it without my little helper. I think Joe might have figured out that when I ask him to do something his best course of action is simply to do it without lip. I learned something today too. My kids do not do nearly enough housecleaning.