Month: September 2013

Mondays Are For Practicing Grace

I think I should start every Monday in a garden like this one.

I think I should start every Monday in a garden like this one.

Monday. Not my favorite word. Not my favorite day of the week. At 6:40 a.m., before my alarm had the opportunity to interrupt my sleep, youngest son busts into my room ready to beat his brother to the first shower of the day. I knew this was trouble because the first shower has traditionally gone to our unusually early-rising Joe, but honestly I was in denial that the weekend was over and not quite awake enough yet to deal with him so I let it slide. I remained in bed, trying to savor the last few minutes of relative peace before my week had to begin in an official capacity. After about five minutes, Luke exited the shower still giddy about his triumph.

“I can’t believe I beat Joe to the first shower. I’m going to hurry and get dressed before he gets in here. I want to beat him downstairs,” he announced to me from the bathroom.

“It’s not a race,” I reminded him.

“I know,” came the rejoinder. “I just never get to be first.”

This is true. He’s the youngest. He’s acutely aware that he is forever behind the curve of his older brother. He’s been in second place his entire life. He gets the hand-me-downs. He has to wait until he’s bigger to do things his brother is already allowed to do. Any chance to be first is a treat. I get that. I also knew Joe would be annoyed because the first shower of the day is a big deal to him for some reason. Sure enough I was right. Just a minute later, Joe burst into my room, saw Luke fully dressed with wet hair, and started yelling.

I get first shower of the day. I always get first shower, Luke! Why did you do that?”

At this point, the boys began bickering loudly and I began slowly coming into reality. Lovely way to start a week. I rolled out of bed, hoping to minimize the damage to the morning. I told Luke to get downstairs and out of the way and snapped at Joe to get over it and get into the shower, which he did. Less than 30 seconds later, I heard the water shut off. Was he kidding me? All that fuss for a 30-second shower? There’s no way he actually used soap. The kid barely had time to get wet.

“What are you doing?” I asked, striding into the room in full-on, overtired annoyance.

“I’m done,” he replied.

“Oh no you’re not. No way. You didn’t wash your hair.”

“Yes, I did,” he retorted.

“That’s not possible,” I said, raising my voice and upping the ante.

“I did, Mom,” he insisted.

“You threw a complete fit because you didn’t get the first shower. You started my morning with screaming, and now you take a 30-second shower after all that commotion? Nuh uh. Get back in there.”

From there, things rapidly shot downhill like an Olympic bobsled team gaining momentum. Joe was mad I thought he was lying about washing his hair. I was mad that he had made such a huge issue out of his shower time and then didn’t even bother to take it. He began crying and I was beyond irritated that this was the inauspicious beginning to my week. I sent him downstairs while I worked on my frustration by stomping and banging around upstairs. Childish, I know, but I was exhausted. I thought everyone in my house understood that you don’t wake this sleeping dragon beast by screaming in my lair.

When I had finally chilled enough to arrive downstairs, Luke was busily getting water bottles and lunches ready (feeling a bit guilty, I suppose, for knowingly starting a war for the sake of being first). Joe was sitting on the living room sofa crying. I tried to pull myself together and regain control of the situation. I could not understand why he was making such a big deal out of missing the first shower. Then I started to wonder why I was making an even bigger deal about his big deal. I certainly wasn’t helping anything with my histrionics. I stopped, took a long, deep, yoga breath to the count of ten, and went over to hug Joe. I told him I was sorry for yelling at him and for not believing he’d washed his hair. He hugged back and told me he was sorry for starting our day with a fight. He was starting to calm down. I looked at the clock and realized we had 15 minutes before we had to leave. I went off to fix him some breakfast, satisfied that once he had some food we’d get beyond the ugliness. Quietly I berated myself for acting like such a brat.

When breakfast was ready, I called Joe into the kitchen. He came to the counter, sat down to the gluten-free waffle in front of him, looked up at me with a smile and pleasantly said, “Good morning, Mom.”

My 12 year old was schooling me in how to deal with setbacks. He’d decided to leave the mistakes of the morning behind. Yes. Monday had started out badly, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t change it. We could simply declare a do-over and move on. So, we did. I decided right then that do-overs should be my theme for the week. This came in handy a bit later in my Monday morning when I got to the Corepower studio for my flow-yoga class only to discover I’d gone to the wrong studio. Oops. Guess I’d be attending afternoon yoga instead.

Of all the days of the week, Mondays rejoice the most in providing me with multiple opportunities to practice grace.

My Suburban Life On The Edge

Almoose but not quite dressed

Almoose but not quite dressed

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been invested in my appearance. Some might call it vanity. I call it self-respect, and my mother insisted upon it. We were not allowed to leave the house wearing inappropriate clothing. We could follow the trends of fashion as long as we were adequately covered, and our clothing was age appropriate. This meant my parents did not buy me high heels (3″ wedges) until I was about 16. As a teen I wore the requisite four layers of preppy era clothing, ensuring my parents did not have to worry about my leaving the house in short shorts and cropped tops like I see so many young girls wearing at the bus stop today. In college, I never once went to class in sweatpants. My ironing habit is legendary among my friends, most of whom have declared me insane for bothering with ironing when I don’t work outside the home. Perhaps ironing is not the best use of my precious time on this planet, but I can’t seem to get that monkey off my back.

This morning I woke up tired and not exactly at my best after last night’s bottle of Barbera. I desperately needed caffeine to wash down my Advil. Since my coffee slave had plans to ride his bike with a friend, I hopped in my car and headed off to Starbucks sans make up and sporting an entirely unkempt outfit comprised of a sleep tee, pajama pants with moose on them, and my flip flops. I was going through the drive-thru. I knew the Starbucks barista would overlook my slovenly attire. I’m probably not the first person ever to show up for drive-thru coffee early on Saturday morning in pajamas, right? It would be our little secret.

As luck would have it, though, the drive-thru line was approximately 96 cars long, extending out well into the parking lot while parking spots directly in front of the store remained wide open. Sigh. Apparently I was not the only lazy person in Littleton attempting to stealthily access pricey, espresso-based caffeine in pjs. This would not do. I had to get home before my coffee slave went for his day-off ride. I did the unthinkable. I pulled into a spot directly in front of the door and jettisoned any attempt to maintain the persona of a respectable, 45-year old woman. I entered a business establishment in my pajamas.

I know that many people won’t understand what the big deal is. So what if I stepped out in totally age-inappropriate moose pants, right? Who cares? There are thousands of families in Colorado who are currently homeless due to the recent flooding. In the grand scheme of things, this is less than nothing. I understand that. But this was one of those “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” moments for me. I put myself out of my comfort zone. I stood there in my pajamas and ordered and waited for my usual tall soy latte while striving to appear wholly comfortable in my moose-laden pants. I practiced what I readily preach to my sons and I tried not to take myself or life too seriously. This is not easy for me as I was raised to be decorous…especially in public. Thanks to little moments like these, though, it is getting easier to relax in the pajama pants I’m in. Take that, pride! Today, expedient coffee won out. Now I just have to convince myself that I’m evolving rather than simply becoming a bigger slob. One growth moment at a time, I guess.

Queue George Michael’s 1990 Hit…FREEDOM!

Harry Flufferpants, Esq.

Harry Flufferpants, Esq.

One of the best things that has come from our sons’ beginning at a new school is the stress it’s taken out of my life. For years our boys were struggling to keep up in class, an issue that was never more obvious than when they would pull out their homework. Every night was a battle. Homework that, according to their teachers and reports from friends whose children were in the same class, should have taken no more than an hour or an hour and a half each night took our boys upwards of three hours. There was non-stop whining, pleading, bargaining, and crying, and that’s without even mentioning how hard the boys took it. Five evenings out of the week (because, let’s face it, the weekend’s homework was not worked on slowly over two days but was instead busted out in one heinous rush on Sunday night), there was no peace in our house. Math assignments, book reports, and spelling troubled me more than any other thing in my life, including midlife crisis and the amount of time I had to wait for the next season of Downton Abbey. Those days are gone.

In their place, we have creativity, laughter, and family time. Because the boys work so hard all day at school to overcome their learning disabilities and because the school understands that, our boys currently have a manageable hour’s worth of homework each night…with a little extra time needed when special projects are assigned. And as if the one hour limit didn’t provide me with enough solace, the school also offers a homework club each day after school. For a reasonable fee the boys can stay an hour after school and complete their work in a teacher-supervised classroom with other students. It’s pure genius. When I pick up my boys at 4 pm, they are finished for the evening. We are currently mulling over which outside activities they could do, like music lessons and tae kwon do, because they will at last have the time to partake. I’m giddy simply thinking about it. They are finally getting to experience what life has been like for their friends. I’m excited for them. It’s about time.

In the meantime, our boys have taken their extra time to try new things and exercise their imaginations. Joe has been discovering graphic novels (books with more pictures than words that are perfect for dyslexic kids…get your minds out of the gutter, people) and Luke has been engaged creating the Museum of Cute. He’s using his iPad to print out photos of cute things, like teacup-sized Pomeranian dogs and mini pigs wearing rain boots, and organizing a collection, which he plans to tour our families through in a few weeks on opening night. Tonight there was an explosion of cute when he brought me this picture of a tiny, white Pomeranian with a mustache. The photo is labeled, “My Lawyer, Harry Flufferpants, Esq.” I can’t make this stuff up.

I also can’t seem to get the chorus from George Michael’s 1990 hit Freedom out of my head. Normally, this would be a problem for me, but I’m so relaxed after my new nighttime ritual mug of chamomile tea that I can’t even find the residual daily angst to care. I think my zen just got a bit closer.