Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Silence

October 12, 2011

This morning I’m practicing silence. No talking, no singing, no radio or television. No social media or text (except to let my unanswered callers and “tweeps” know that I am practicing silence and will contact them this afternoon).

I didn’t plan this. I simply didn’t feel like talking or hearing any noise. I hesitate before waking my younger son for school. Will I be able to avoid speaking to the inquisitive young scientist? As I tap him awake and beckon for him to get up and go in the bathroom, he looks at me questioningly.

“Mom, why aren’t you talking?”

I just shrug and leave the room. He doesn’t ask me any more questions and continues getting ready without my usual prodding and reminders to “wash your hands”, “brush your teeth”, “wash your face”, “lotion your body”, “hurry up and stop playing.” You know, the usual comments I’ve been repeating to him every school day for the last four years.

I go into the study and write a note. I’m not talking today. I’m practicing silence. I take the note back to my son’s bedroom and show it to him as he dresses.

“Why?” he asks.

I shrug again, and he shrugs too. Discussion over.

I go downstairs and pack his lunch, clean the kitchen and glance at the clock. He only has 20 more minutes before the bus is due to pick him up and I still haven’t seen him in the kitchen for breakfast. What should I do? Break my silence and shout up from the bottom of the stairs, “Malikkkkkk! Where are you?! Come on Man!”

Hm, nope. Not today. Instead I clap my hands loudly three times from the base of the stairs.

“Coming Mom,” my younger son responds immediately, and comes jogging down the stairs completely dressed and ready for school.

Normally, I have to shout up the stairs at least two or three times before getting a response, but I clap my hands three times and he comes running? Hm… I may actually be on to something here.

But there’s still one more hurdle to overcome. The teenager. The 6’0” athlete sprawled out on his bed that usually cannot be awakened by the annoying alarm on his cell phone, the force of his younger brother jumping on his back and bed, or me prodding him and yelling his name repeatedly for five minutes.

Let the challenge begin.

After kissing my younger son goodbye, I make my way upstairs with determination. I will not speak, I promise myself.

As I walk into his room, I can see his body twisted in the sheets and comforter. His legs are hanging off the bed on one side and his arm is hanging off the bed on the other. His mouth hangs ajar the way it does when he’s in a deep, deep sleep. I stop to mentally prepare myself. I will not speak.

I forcefully shake his arm and back for a few seconds, and miraculously, he moves, stretches… and turns over on the other side and goes back to sleep. I don’t give up, or shrink away from the challenge. Instead, I slap his bare leg, hard, and he mumbles something, but keeps his eyes closed. I walk out of the room to gather my thoughts, then turn back and bang as hard as I can on the bedroom door. He jumps up, startled, and looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. Satisfied, I smile and wave him toward the bathroom.

“What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you saying anything?” he asks me with the slurred speech of someone waking from a deep sleep.

I shrug and point to my mouth. I mouth… Not Talking.

“Why not?”

I shrug again and leave the room.

Long story short, he actually makes it to the bus stop on time (a rarity, but that’s another story for another time). He doesn’t go without trying to get me to talk to him, though. I refuse with a smile, some gestures and a hug and kiss before he leaves.

As he walks to the front door, he tells me in his new, deep, authoritative, young man voice, “I don’t like this not-talking thing, Mom. You need to talk.” Then he leaves.

What a peaceful morning. No struggles, no fighting, no yelling upstairs, no threats, no last-minute scrambles and sprints across the yard to catch the moving bus as it drives away from the stop. Peace, calm and order.

I might be pushing my luck to try it tomorrow, but I’m okay with feeling satisfied with what I got today.

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The Clutter Monster – Part II

October 6, 2010

The Big CM – otherwise known as the Clutter Monster – is still lurking on tables and ottomans and beneath my bed and around bureaus and next to chairs and sofas. And I’m still irritated by its simple existence.

As I explained to you in full detail in my previous blog, “stuff” – a.k.a. the Clutter Monster a.k.a. CM – is affecting my sleep, work and peace.

I know the simple solution is to just handle it – clean it up, throw stuff away, shred paper, give away never-worn clothing. But there’s one thing necessary to make it happen that is in short supply most recently – time.

I am the queen of time management. So much so that I lecture on it… yep, that’s right. I have a full multi-slide presentation with bullet points and fantastic graphics and hilarious photos to illustrate the simple steps to being successful in the daily juggle of managing life. Time management.

One of the key points that I not only stress in my workshop, but live by, is the realistic to-do list. It’s on my computer, in my cell phone and constantly running through my mind – in order of priority. Seriously.

  • A form with a past-due deadline for the IRS related to my business’s sales and use tax: top priority, gotta happen today, no matter what.
  • Need to find a substitute teacher for our most popular class which starts in 2 hours because the teacher just sprained her ankle and I am teaching another class at the same time: top priority, gotta happen in the next 1 hour and 45 minutes, no matter what.
  • 500 word magazine article that’s both humorous and informational about acupuncture for seniors due yesterday because it’s going to print at 5:00pm today: top priority, gotta happen today, no matter what.
  • Water is leaking from the ceiling onto the hardwood floors of our studio in the middle of the youth jazz and hip hop class from three different pipes: top priority, gotta handle it NOW, no matter what.

You know, stuff like that. Forget the other small things like scheduling physicals for the kids before the registration deadline for soccer, or getting an updated passport before the international flight departure of two days from now at 7:45 am. Those are 2nd tier priority items.

But what does any of this have to do with CM all over my house? Everything.

When I wake up in the morning, I start hustling kids. I roll out the door with them and step right into the front of a class. I step out of class and put out at least 1-2 fires before I jump in the car and head to the next class or meeting. I get back in the car – nibble on a banana or grape or (more likely) a few gummi bears – and drive back to the office to attack items 1-3 on the priority list and head back home to meet child #1 and give him my undivided attention for 40 minutes before child #2 comes home and they begin to fight and argue and wrestle and break things. While they fight, I cook dinner and assist with homework simultaneously before packing them in the car/van to drop someone off somewhere and drive quickly back to the studio to teach one or more classes or workshops. There are two alternatives at this point. I either drive back home to break up a fight between the children, check homework, write checks for this trip or that year book,  become a nurse practitioner in order to sew up the gash on the ankle of some child, and listen with rapt attention to husband on phone in another time zone about something work-related; OR I dial in to catch the end of a conference call for some organization I’m an officer for, or run to an evening meeting in Yoga-attire (apologizing simultaneously for being late and being inappropriately attired), or do a quick shower and change to make it to a business networking event or charity event to promote my business. Regardless of the choice, by 10:00pm I am finally sitting still and I relish the silence. I just want to lie down. The last thing I want to do is tackle the clutter surrounding me as I sit like a zombie.

In fact, the reality that I am constantly in my car, changing clothes and shoes and accessories and bringing props and music and mats and blocks and belts and oils to and from one destination to another means the CM has followed me out of the house and into my car. My husband calls our minivan the Disaster Recovery Vehicle because it’s full of food and bottled waters and mats and blankets and… stuff.

I think that all I need is a day or two without interruption and appointments, and I think I can tackle the CM. I really do.

So as fate would have it, I got just that. Last weekend. The fairy godmother of women-who-do-too-much waved her dainty wand over my dredloc’d head and POOF… kids and husband gone (sort of) and only 1 appointment at the studio. I had a whole afternoon and evening, two days in a row, to clean my house! Yay!

Uh, no. What actually happened was… I laid on the sofa in my most comfy yoga attire and watched movies and ate oatmeal cream pies and doughnuts. For real. I’m not lying. And I had a great time, too. In fact, I didn’t really see the CM all around me. All I saw was the sun shining through the window, warming my bare toes as they wiggled off the end of the couch above a stack of utility bills and credit card statements lying on the floor where I left them next to the shredder. Bliss.

The Clutter Monster

October 6, 2010

This is gonna be a two-part blog. I can’t fully impart the reasons why I’m being attacked by the Clutter Monster (hereinafter referred to as CM) without taking time to explain why CM continually exists. So, there will be a Part II to this blog.

CM has been a part of my life forever. It’s a part of my personality and dynamic. There are some people (typically Virgos) who are very ordered and neat and organized. Files neatly labeled and color-coded, or storage bins neatly filled with cherished personal momentos are a natural part of some people’s lives (Virgos). Well, to a degree, that’s me too. As I indicated in an earlier blog, I have a little OCD regarding folding clothes and having a neat closet and drawers. Therefore, the only storage bins I have neatly ordered are those related to seasonal clothing and shoes for my children and me. Outside of that, clutter is taking over my world.

Yes, clutter. It’s gotten so out of control, I have changed the general term of clutter to the living, breathing object of… The Clutter Monster.

When I was a teenager, CM was stacks of journals and notepads and stationary and office supplies scattered in careless piles around my bedroom desk and bed. Every few months, I would spend a couple of hours carefully going through everything, discard what I didn’t need, neatly stack the books and journals and file away the papers. But I was just as busy in high school as I am as an adult – I went from school to track or swim team practice to FBLA meetings to Charmettes events (don’t ask what Charmettes is – that’s another blog) to church activities to hanging out with my friends. I would rush in the house, quick change my wardrobe, throw my bags of books and papers on the bed or the desk and grab what I needed for the next activity.

As a young adult in college, not much changed. Instead of FBLA and Charmettes, it was Student Senate and my sorority activities after classes. Instead of cluttering up my bedroom at home, now I had a whole apartment to house my papers and journals and school books and applications and stuff.

Then I graduated from college and moved into various apartments in several different cities and I had to box up my “stuff” and take it with me. Instead of stacks of papers and books and journals and crap, I had boxes of papers and books and journals and crap. Some boxes I never unpacked – I used them for tables and stands to put my plants on, or to drape my clothing over.

I would have continued in this fashion for the rest of my life if I didn’t decide to get engaged and had to co-mingle my “stuff” with my fiancee’s “stuff”. Suddenly, I enjoyed giving things away, throwing things away. I had to. Two people with 20 years worth of “stuff” can’t fit in a one-bedroom apartment without some drama, and I don’t do drama.

Purging things I didn’t need or use from my personal space was uplifting. I felt like I could hear angels singing in the heavens and the sun seemed to shine brighter in the apartment. It looked larger and I enjoyed sitting on our couch and simply looking around the living room or out the window. Why didn’t someone tell me earlier about the de-cluttering thing?

Fiancee turned into husband and one-bedroom apartment turned into a 1940s cottage nestled in a wildlife reserve. We turned the master bedroom into a party suite with a big-screen television and a huge sectional sofa so we could entertain guests all over the house. Our hard wood floors gleamed and the minimalist styling was airy and fresh. No clutter and life was good.

Baby number one ended it all. Party room – gone. Clutter-free zones – gone. Airy, minimalist styling – gone. In its place – stuff. I won’t even take the time to explain what some of the stuff was – it just existed and grew and I couldn’t purge fast enough. In the end, I gave up – literally. We sold the house and moved away from CM.

So now, here we are in a beautiful spacious home. A room for every person and thing. An empty basement housing some of the “stuff” we couldn’t part with in the move from the cottage to here. A garage housing more “stuff” we couldn’t part with in the move from the cottage to here. In fact, I was okay with “stuff” in areas of the house where I couldn’t see it on a daily basis, but slowly CM started to creep back in.

It started with the living room table where the boys do their homework. Pencils, pens, notebooks, gaming magazines, sneakers, backpacks – they just seem to gather on, next to, under, and around the living room table. It doesn’t matter how many times I clean it up or ask them to clean it up, the living room table and the surrounding area always look like a 3rd grade classroom.

It moved to the dining room table where I would drop the mail and magazines and newspapers and things to be signed and returned. Anything important would end up on the dining room table.

Then “stuff” started accumulating on the kitchen table, because that’s where we would sit to eat and discuss field trips and class pictures and new insurance and the new schedule for the studio and test results from the doctor for a childs’ fractured foot.

Then “stuff” started growing in the family room around the gaming storage unit, because GameCube became a Wii which became a PS3. There are different controllers and games for each system and manuals explaining how to get to the next level of each game and chargers for cordless PS3 controllers and chargers for batteries for the Wii controllers and a BluRay Disc thing and an Apple home unit that syncs all of this technology together so we can watch movies and family pictures all in one spot. Yeah, okay.

Finally, “stuff” attacked me in my only sanctuary – my bedroom. And I can’t blame anyone except me for it. It’s the only place for my books and journals and pens and pencils and booklets from conferences and scraps of paper with email addresses on it and thoughtful cards from family and friends and Christmas gifts from the last three christmases which I haven’t gotten around to using yet and important papers I have to attend to at some point. It’s where I go as soon as I get home from a class and quickly shower and change to go to a meeting or an event. Shoes are all around my side of the bed – flip flops and sneakers and high heels – because I will wear three different shoes to go with three different outfits every day. Every day.

Like the monster children are afraid of under the bed, my “stuff” attacks me in my sleep. I can see the mounds of “stuff” around me in shadow form as I try to doze off and it bothers me. When I wake up in the morning, it’s surrounding me. When I try to work on the computer in the bed, it’s staring at me and calling to me to clean it up, put it away… DECLUTTER DAMNIT!

So easy, so simple. Just clean it up.

I tried. But I got frustrated and distracted and I couldn’t stick to one room or one pile or one area. The entire first floor of my beautiful home is covered by the CM, and I can’t seem to get myself together to tackle it. When I do get around to cleaning off one table, the kids come home and a week passes and it’s covered again by our lives.

I hired a house cleaner. They can’t clean clutter. Only the owner of clutter can de-clutter. So I have shiny floors and well-made beds amid mounds of crap. Depressing.

So here I am at 5:00 in the morning blogging about my clutter because I can’t sleep with it looking at me, haunting me, teasing me, daring me to do something about it. When I’m done, I’ll spend a few minutes and put a couple of things away. Maybe by Christmas I will have gone through the items from last Christmas and put them away to make room for the new “stuff”. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Business Meeting @ Chuck E. Cheese

February 18, 2010

I recently had a flashback to Fall 2002. I was living in Baltimore and my fitness outsourcing business was just beginning to grow. I had 2 corporate contracts and new companies were calling me to hire teachers for their fitness centers. There was a fantastic Pilates and dance instructor I’d been dying to bring on board, but we could never seem to get our schedules to mesh.

“Can you do 11:30 on Monday?”

“Uh, let me see… nope, my oldest has a playdate. What about 5:30?”

“Nope, soccer practice at the Y. How about Tuesday at noon?”

“Can’t. The 2-year-old has TumbleTina class. Can you do earlier at 9:30?”

“Uh-uh. Sesame Street 9-10.” (sigh)

Finally, we agreed that the only way we would be able to meet was to schedule a business playdate at the local Chuck E. Cheese. I don’t like to use the word “hate”, so I’ll say, I truly dislike attending functions at Chuck E. Cheese.

Anyway, Chuck E. Cheese it was on a weekday around 11:45 am. Our 4-year olds chased each other in the jungle gym, while her 2-year old tossed colored balls into the mesh netting enclosing the ball bath. We each held a child, nursing, to our breast as we wrote quickly into our Franklin Planners and notebooks (yes, I was still doing Franklin Planner in 2002. I’d had a bad experience in 2000 when my Palm Pilot died unexpectedly and I didn’t know when or where I was going and couldn’t find numbers to call anyone to find out. It was 3 years of fear and mourning before I could return to electronic scheduling).

An hour and a half later, our meeting was done, the kids had all been fed, and a playdate had been knocked out all at once. Triumph.

Fast forward to 2010. A contact from the Chamber of Commerce called me and indicated we needed to meet immediately. Both of our schedules were booked solid with meetings, luncheons, and presentations. We both sounded fatigued and stressed as we scanned our Blackberry and Outlook calendars, trying to find any open 2-hour slot in the next few days.

Suddenly an idea came to me. Jeju Spa. The Korean bath house located only minutes from both our homes. Jeju is not your typical American spa. Yes, it has saunas, whirlpools, steam rooms and massage. But it also has wifi, CNN on plasmas, and computer work stations tucked quietly behind gigantic saunas Jeju refers to as “igloos.”

“Can you meet me at Jeju tomorrow morning? I have a window of time between kids leaving for school and my first presentation at 11:45am.”

“Perfect. If we meet at 8:30, I can fit in accupressure and still make my 11:00 meeting at the Chamber.”

When I combine relaxing barefoot on a heated marble floor with closing a business deal as the scent of jasmine and sage float in the air… bliss is the only word that comes to mind. The spa is my golf course, and it’s definitely a step up from Chuck E. Cheese.

Pit Stop

February 14, 2010
Each and every one of my days is scheduled from waking to sleep. Not like my husband’s schedule in which he is constantly in fear of a flight cancellation between Amsterdam and Barcelona or Tai Pei and Hong Kong. His scheduling concerns are bit more lofty than mine, but not nearly as complicated. Why not? Because he only has to worry about his own schedule.

Not one of my days looks anything like the next day or yesterday. And I like that. Being a Sagittarian that craves variety and freedom and excitement and hustle, I love planning my days with the anticipation of something new and different coming up in a day or a week. But anything I schedule for myself also involves some major arranging (and rearranging) for my sons and their activities.There’s that one time I was called by the casting director of Tyler Perry studios to be an extra on a taping of The House of Payne and I spent the majority of my day on set in makeup and wardrobe. And that time I decided to teach for a week once a month in Jamaica. It took 4 months before I grew bored and stopped going.

The point is, I need variety in my mommypreneur lifestyle. For me, but not for my kids. My older son is a lot like I am – he’s a free spirit, always ready to go anywhere, for any reason, with anyone. My younger son… not so much. He craves routine and schedule and order. And as a responsible mom, I provide it for my kids even though it goes against my natural character.

Each and every day of the week and weekend has a routine. Tuesday for instance is 3:45 – younger son home for snacks, homework and mom time. 4:20 – older son home for snacks, attacking younger brother, and talking non-stop, while I multi-task clean-up, dinner, and prepare to leave for classes at the studio. 5:30 – babysitter arrives. 5:45 – I leave for work. 6:30 – older son leaves for soccer. 7:00 younger son and babysitter interact. 8:00 older son home from soccer. 8:30 we all eat dinner, kids shower and get ready for bed. 9:30 I start yelling to the kids to stop talking and playing and “go to sleep.” 10:00 I repeat yelling to the kids. 10:30 I may possibly still be yelling to the kids to “GO TO SLEEP! I MEAN IT THIS TIME!” Every Tuesday looks just like that without fail. It bores me to tears to have that much routine, but it’s perfect for the boys.

Last week, I decided the kids (and I) needed change and fun and excitement in our schedule. We needed to rekindle our relationship as mommy and boys just like a married couple needs variety to keep the relationship interesting and fresh. I struggled to remember the last time the boys and I had been on a road trip together or racing each other in go-carts or doing any of the things we used to do on a whim. Not in a long time.

Last Wednesday, my night class at the studio didn’t start until 7:45 and neither child had practice or something scheduled to do. So, at 5:30 I announced… “Hey guys, grab your coats and wallets. Let’s go the mall.” Now I know the mall is not really a big deal to most people. However, getting to spend an hour or two just walking through the mall for no good reason is not something I ever do and definitely not with my kids since they grew out of the stroller.

By 5:50, we were at the mall and the boys were excited as they punched each other through the sliding glass doors. We started with the indoor skate park where teens were skateboarding and blading over smooth hills and high-fiving on ramps high above the ground. Then we went to the book store (my boys and I are all book worms. I could have stayed in the bookstore for the rest of the visit, but alas it only lasted 15 minutes) where the boys discussed the latest release of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the new book and movie series that looks just like Harry Potter to me. My older son wanted to spend all of his money on 3 books in the new like-Harry-Potter series, while my younger son discussed the merits of saving your money and checking in the library first as he resolutely returned his book to the shelf (at least I got one to carry on my genes for spending wisely). We then spent the next 5 minutes at the register as I turned my older son’s POS into an extended math word problem. I apologized to the people standing in line behind us, but if you don’t teach them early about money, tax calculations and change, they’ll be fools as men, and this momma is not raising any irresponsible fools.

We eventually left the bookstore to walk and window shop. Our next stops included the Lego Store, the Japanese import store (they carry real swords and Japanese comic books which were both of major interest to my sons), and the candy store (where I refused to allow them to buy handfuls of sugar). As we stood at a kiosk purchasing a new wallet for my older son who recently lost his wallet full of money and gift cards (sigh), the younger one saw a trampoline and trapeze at the end of the hall. His little face lit up and he started to dance.

“Oh Mom, can I jump on that thing?” he asked excitedly pointing to a little child jumping barely 2 feet of the trampoline.

I thought about it. Normally, I would say no and we’d rush out of the mall to the next scheduled appointment. Looking at my watch, I quickly calculated the time we had left. There was time. So why not?

“Sure, Honey. Let me finish working with your brother on this wallet thing, okay?”

He started to dance and spin and hum, which he does when he’s really happy. We made our way to the booth and saw that there were two activities that could be purchased for one price. The boys calculated the per person fee, put their money on the counter and raced into the kiosk kicking of coats and shoes as they went.

After 5-10 minutes of back-flipping, jumping to the ceiling of the mall, and sliding through elastic bands, we were finally able to pack up and leave – right on time to put me back on schedule for my class at 7:45.

On the way home, the boys talked about how much fun they’d had and tried to remember the last time we’d done something fun for no reason in the middle of the week. They couldn’t. Neither could I.