Friday, November 18, 2016

November....

I'm having a hard time digesting the results of the election-- feeling so many mixed emotions and trying, with little success, to talk myself back into a positive mindset.  Has it really only been ten days???  On the Wednesday following, my mood steadily deteriorated-- to the point of shedding tears in my van on the way home.  (To which, Charlie asked, "Are you sad because of the election?"-- and I was again reminded that nothing gets by that kid...)  But instead of dwelling on the sadness and disappointment (and yes, a little fear) that I'm dealing with right now, I think it might be better to write about what else is happening in Spahnville at this moment in time. (I'll write about the election another night-- if I can stomach it and figure out a way to do it in a productive and positive way.)

Time keeps marching by and nobody in this house is getting any younger.  I've never been obsessed with my age (cruised right into my 30's without blinking and figured the same would apply until I turn 100...) but the end of my 30's are coming round the bend and I'm starting to feel this strange push to re-evaluate where I am and what I've accomplished and where I still want to go.  It's weird and very unusual for me.  My brain is constantly spinning and thinking about "what if's" and "why nots". It's all very exciting but incredibly exhausting-- which is why I try to take naps in the afternoon instead of working towards these hopes and dreams.

Anna, like most 2 year olds, also naps in the afternoons.  On a ridiculously successful day, Anna will snooze for 2 non-interrupted hours.  Most days, however, she sleeps for 45-60 minutes before announcing that she's all done and wants Daddy.  Since Daddy is not home during naps, this infuriates her and some days, she is inconsolable for a good 30 minutes.  At night, Anna sleeps fairly well.  She seems to finally be adjusted to her big-girl bed (which took place shortly before her 2nd birthday) but this has led to a new development in the form of me snuggling with her in the middle of most nights.  I never would have done this with Charlie because I was just too high-strung at that time-- and didn't believe that things could really be "just a phase".  With Anna, I'm honestly just too exhausted to a) care, and b) want to really sleep in my own bed because hers is pretty comfy.  And I like the way she smells after her bath.  Oh, and I know that this really probably is 'just a phase' and so I might as well cuddle & squeeze into her bed while she allows it.

Anna has a ton of words and is talking incessantly.  She strings words together in sentences and keeps us in stitches with her crazy insights.  She'll patter up to us while we're drinking coffee and say, "Mama like it?" as she nods her head yes... "Mama drink coffee?" "You like it?"  She holds her own when it comes to Charlie (or anyone) bothering her, and will very assertively stand her ground saying, "Top It!".  She constantly wants food (um, hello thighs and belly?!) and she's often found getting into the pantry and opening up random things.  She also loves to place things in random places-- have I mentioned this before? We find sippy cups in drawers, brown sugar in the bathroom, half-eaten apples in the laundry basket.  It's usually cute until it happens with perishable items and then it's kind of stinky.

Anna loves to be outside more than anything.  Our doors must remain locked at all times because she's been known to wander out on a few occasions.  And while she absolutely LOVES shoes, she usually doesn't wear them outside (paying homage to her hippie roots on her maternal side).  If she does agree to shoes, it's usually flip flops-- which gain attention wherever we go.  Fortunately, our incredible weather has allowed her to keep flipping around in her flops as she plays in leaves, draws with sidewalk chalk, and pushes pumpkins around in the Tonka truck.  On the few chilly days we've had, we've retreated to the basement-- usually dancing or running or destroying it.

Charlie is helpful in all of these endeavors.   He still plays his running game--which has been going on since he was three or four-- I can't even remember now.  Anna now follows suit and asks for "sirt off?" so she can run around in her undies just like her older, wiser, brother. I'm not sure exactly when he morphed from little boy into elementary kid-- but it's been quite the transformation.  He's soaking up knowledge and it spills out of him when we're least expecting it.  (The other night, Anna was bouncing on his tummy.  He cried out, "Mommy!  Help me!! Anna's bouncing on my digestive system!") He reads, he jokes, he's getting familiar with new kid trends and lingo. Just the other day I noticed our fridge alphabet letters spelling: ICUP.  I stood there, puzzled, until Charlie noticed and said (with a huge grin on his face), "Do you get it?? Get it??  I....See....You...Pee!!"  Hilarious.  (Actually, it did kind of crack me up...)

School is going well for C this year.  Things started off a little rocky but both he and I have been very intentional about having good mornings-- and we're doing great.  At school, he's reading and writing and mathing but most importantly, he's being a good person and a kind friend.  His teacher noted that he's always willing to help and never complains about his peers.

At home, Charlie is still Anna's biggest fan.  I can honestly only count two times that he has been frustrated enough with her to raise his voice-- and even then, he felt so guilty for being mad at her.  I can say with 100% certainty that she is his entire world.  Outside of his Anna-world, Charlie is still crazy for Star Wars (especially Return of the Jedi-- is that the one with the Ewaks?), loves all things sports (we are still bleeding Cubbie blue around here!!), is still obsessed with matchbox cars, and has now taken a serious interest in collecting all the Shopkins in the world.  He's sweet and funny and caring and pretty amazing.

Sometimes, in the evening, I reflect on the day and think about my harsh tongue or quick temper.  I remember the things I wish I hadn't said or the impatient sighs I wish I hadn't given breath to.  Words and gestures that sneaked into our relationship without an invitation. But then I'm reminded to acknowledge that days are often long and hard.  And as we tell Anna, "being two is hard!" (She usually responds with wails of, "I Free!! I NOT Two!) But taking time to sit and reflect reminds me of all this good-- all these simple, daily, treasures that really are the heart of Spahnville.  And it's all pretty good.

Friday, October 7, 2016

This is What it's All About.

In grad school, we learned how to create lesson plans.
I learned how to choose an appropriate lesson name, (or more specifically a unit and a title).  I learned how to identify a learning objective, followed by a bunch of letters with colons and numbers to signify the standards and benchmarks (or excuse me, the mindsets and behaviors).  We were taught about the importance of lesson organization, and how to create content and process questions after reading a picture book.  I learned that reading picture books and talking about them in counseling is fancy and called "bibleotherapy".  I learned about classroom management and how to get 2nd graders to sit quietly, legs criss-crossed applesauce, spoons in their bowls... wearing their listening ears.  I learned all this and then went out into the world and applied it.  And it was fine.  Really!  It was fine. But really, it was just....fine.

A few years ago (2013 to be exact), I had an extremely rough professional year.  I felt stuck and uncertain and confused about what the hell I was doing in school counseling. I knew I loved my job-- or at least I loved the aspects of it.  I loved my kids, I loved my families, I loved all my work wives.  I loved the idea of helping and wanted to.... but the vehicle to do this (my counseling skills) felt a little forced.  Now, don't get me wrong-- I admit to being pretty damn good with the puppets and I can build rapport with even our toughest clients... but I still felt like something was missing. Something wasn't clicking.

So fast forward two years.  I received some grant money to attend a training about utilizing yoga and mindfulness in the schools... and though it sounds incredibly cliché, something finally clicked.

Now, 18 months later, I realize that Yoga Calm has not only changed the way I do pretty much everything in school counseling, but it has revitalized me-- and helped me fall in love with my profession all over again.  Now, when I do classroom lessons, I don't necessarily focus on a specific objective.  Instead, I focus on one of five principles (Stillness, Grounding, Strength, Listening, Community) and I keep my focus on the pint-sized people in my audience.  We sit quietly, we practice breathing, we give thanks, we give compliments, we set intentions-- all this within the first five minutes of class.  We use our bodies to show that we are strong for ourselves and our friends.  We use our bodies to show that we are here, we are present, we are focused.  We use our words to connect with each other, we use our minds to connect to ourselves, and we use our breath in unison to send well wishes and love to classmates or loved ones.

I'm much less concerned with the objectives of class now-- and though I enter each room with a general idea in mind, rather than directing the class, I now let the class gently steer me.  I listen to what students are really saying and follow their lead.  It's a delicate thread to walk upon- giving and having control-- but it's proving to be quite powerful--which brings me to the story I needed to share today.

On Wednesday, I entered the second grade classroom and many faces lit up when they saw my surprise: a student helper--that some had been introduced to the year before. Several kids eagerly said her name and another immediately approached her with a shy little hug.  Students quickly bundled up their reading boxes and scrambled to the carpet, where we began with what has become my signature "start of class": the Chime Challenge.  I asked students to focus on their breath, rang my chime, and sat in total silence (in a room full of 8 year olds!) for 50 seconds.  Then, another student helper led us in taking 10 breaths, while T followed along.  Before my breathing helper sat down, we thanked him and then he called on three people with raised hands-- who gave him a compliment about his leadership. "I like how you were calm." "You stood nice and tall."  "I like your smile."  Cormick beamed and then sat down.  Then, we did the same for Terri Anne.  The class thanked her and then gave her compliments.  "You were nice and calm." "Thank you for coming to our class." "You were breathing calm."  And I'd be lying if I said that chills didn't run down my spine when Terri Anne smiled wide, made a loud-excited shriek, and lunged back in her chair.  "This is it!" I thought to myself.  This is what "Guidance class" is about!  THIS is inclusion!  THIS is friendship!  THIS is the opposite of bullying!  This is it!!  

Before I could allow my eyes to fill with tears, I began to reintroduce T to the class.  We spent a little time discussing the ways in which she is different from us (she uses a wheelchair, she doesn't speak, she moves her body differently than ours, etc.) and then spent time (a loooong time) discussing the many ways she's the same.  I actually found it funny that I needed to cut the conversation off so we could continue with class.  Some kids had questions-- so full of sincere sweet curiosity--which we answered as simply and truthfully as possible.  Does she sleep in her wheelchair? How does she change clothes? Does she like to go swimming? (She sleeps in a bed, someone helps her change her clothes-- just like your mom or dad might help you, and she doesn't really like swimming unless the water is nice and warm.) 

We finished class with a few yoga poses that focused on strength and community.  We stood in star pose, formed a circle with hands touching-- and created a galaxy, right there in the 2nd grade classroom-- full of positive energy for the day ahead.  As our hands dropped back to our own bodies, a little girl approached me and asked if she could hold Terri Anne's hand next time.  I smiled.  Yes, definitely.  This is it.   That day, I left the 2nd grade classroom with a full heart. I was so proud of my students for embracing Terri and so proud of Terri for giving these kids the gift of getting to know her. This is what it's all about.



Monday, September 26, 2016

Let's Take a Nap. Pleeeease?

This afternoon when I swung by daycare to pick up Anna, she was waiting in her usual spot at the bottom of the stairs for me. She usually sits there, patiently looking through a book or playing with a doll while her babysitter feeds the littlest friend on the couch.  When Anna sees me, she usually squeals and jumps up-- happy to have played with her friends but excited for our upcoming time together.

Today she threw her baby doll over her shoulder, slipped into her flip-flops like a skilled 16 year old heading to the beach, waved bye-bye to Kris, and marched out the door as she casually threw out a sing songy "see ya soon" (seeah sooon) over her shoulder.  We hopped in the van, turned up Kids Place Live and headed home.  But three blocks out of the driveway, we passed a park and saw a little family playing -- the dad pushing the kids extra high on the swings-- their feet kicked up in the air and bright against the piercing blue sky.  Anna instantly shouted, "Singing! Singing!" which directly translates to: "Swinging! Someone is swinging and now I want to do that too!" And because the bright blue sky and cool autumn breeze and pumpkins beginning to pepper front door stoops just beg people to spend one more minute outside....we did.

We came home and the three of us (Anna, her new baby doll, and I) headed to our backyard where we proceeded to swing Baby and climb Baby ("Kye-ming") and slide Baby.  We laughed and giggled and swung and climbed and slid for a good fifteen minutes while I silently praised myself for just going with the flow and enjoying the moment. Because, you know.... this amazingly beautiful day and this crisp fresh air was, in fact, going to 'tucker her out' for a well-deserved nap.

So let's fast-forward a few minutes and do a little time lapse:

1:07 We've come inside and are in Anna's room.  I've picked out two books and am ready to read them, but Anna is still pulling book after book off her shelf.  I'm cool with that.

1: 12 First book is done and Anna has been on and off the bed five times.  Each time she says, "I'll get it!" and hops off... and then climbs back up saying, "I got it?" I smile and nod and say "Yay!!" because I don't really know what else to do and say.

1:15 Second book is a bust.  Anna has tossed it aside and is upside down peeking through her legs in Downward Facing Dog pose.  (Note: Anna's down-dog pose is super cute and adorable and impossible to deter her from doing.)

1:16 I'm lying down saying, "Shhhh.  Shhhh.  Time for nigh-night."

1:16  Anna is saying, "No."  "No nigh-night."  "Where my Barbie?"

1:18 Anna is back on the floor, and shouting, "My Barbie!" (which sounds a little Bostonian because she can't say her R's) and pulls out her new mermaid Barbie that Mason hastily shoved under the bed last night.  This Barbie has been in our family for one day and already we're trying to figure out how to confiscate it and where to stash it so she can sleep.  See, the thing lights up like a college night club with flashy red and blue lights which, (while super cool), doesn't really seem to be helpful in getting a toddler to sleep.

1:20 I have tried to tear Anna away from the flashy Mermaid Barbie to no avail. I glance at my watch for the first time. Hmmm....

1:21  Anna is now on the bed but not doing yoga this time.  Now she is clinging on to her headboard rails and bouncing.  She sings, "Bounce Bounce Bounce!" as she rhythmically hops up and down on her bed.  I keep pretending to sleep.

1:22  I'm thinking about all the leftover pizza I've eaten today and wondering if there is still more in the fridge.

1:24  Anna is saying, "Kye-it Anna!  Mama seeping.  Anna bouncing!  Shhhhh!"  I'm smiling but still pretending to be asleep.

1:27  Anna is now sitting on my head.  She's still bouncing and the bed is squeaking.  It's really rhythmic and it makes me laugh because I'm inappropriate like that.  But I can't laugh because 1) I'm pretending to be asleep and 2) Anna's sitting on my head and I really can't breathe very well.

1:29 All of the sudden I see a disco ball in front of my eyelids.  It's bright and pulsing and a little disconcerting.  I pop my eyes open and come face to face with Mermaid Barbie and Anna peering into my eyes. "Mommy up!  Morning Mama!" I close my eyes to fake sleep again. I have been fake sleeping for one hundred hours.

1:30  Anna snuggles down and her binkie falls out of her mouth.  In her immediate worry over the lost binkie, I snag the psychedelic Mermaid and shove her under a quilt that's tucked into my armpit. I'm willing her not to start flashing her flashy Mermaid lights while she's under the blanket.

1:31 Anna has found her binkie and is snuggling down to sleep.  I glance at my watch again. I'm getting hungry but she'll be lights-out soon....

1:32 I hear Anna get up and bounce to the foot of the bed to do part 2 of her bed-trampoline act. While bouncing, she notices another Barbie on the floor....

1:36  I'm beginning to think that maybe fake sleeping my afternoon away isn't such a good use of my time.  (Watching Y&R on our couch, on the other hand, is very productive.)

1:37 Anna is playing with her dresser. It has 12 knobs and she is practicing turning all of them.  She also appears to be checking on whether or not the drawers open and close functionally.

1:39 I decide fake sleeping isn't very productive so I heave myself up from the bed, and inch to the door.  Anna protests--(cries) but I close the door gently behind me, having successfully smuggled Mermaid Barbie out of the room (wrapped up in a giant ball of a quilt) and leaving Anna alone with her dresser knobs and leftover Barbies that don't light up.

1:41 Anna is now the actor-- she's fake crying in her room and I'm hunched over the counter, eating cold pizza straight from the Pyrex container.  I don't even feel guilty about acting like an animal-- I"ve been thinking about this moment for awhile.

1:45 All is quiet.  I momentarily worry-- it's the crux of parenting because what you desperately want (a little peace and quiet) is usually pretty terrifying and unsettling when it happens.

1:49 It has been quiet for too long and I'm a little worried so I tiptoe into Anna's room and discover her passed out on her floor, with a Barbie clutched in her hand.  I carefully pick her up, move her to the bed, and cover her up with a soft & well-loved blanket from my childhood.

1:50 I'm kneeling next to Anna's bed, smiling over this past hour together-- how sweet and fun this little person is.  I take a moment to marvel at how alive she is with energy and enthusiasm and spark. And then I kiss her soft little arm, tiptoe out of her room, and sink into our couch.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Good Day

The scene:
  • Our house. It's tidy--the nightly post kids' bedtime pick-up has been done. Babies and dollies and Matchbox cars have been put to rest in their proper places, only to be disrupted in about twelve hours. The dishwasher is humming quietly, a week's worth of clothes are in the washer (and dryer).  Backpacks are sitting next to the front door, ready to be slung over backs as we hurry out the door in the morning.  Our windows are open and a cool September breeze is making our curtains waver ever so slightly.  Mason's flipping through the channels (currently landed on an old rerun of How I Met Your Mother) but I can't really hear it anyway because the buzz of crickets outside our window is so loud and somewhat distracting.  (And so is Julia's voice, calling for her dogs which have apparently, run away once again.)  We're clean and showered and well-fed and Ylang Ylang is in the diffuser helping us relax and melt into our selves (just like the Young Living brochure says it would do). 
Today has been an especially good day.  I'm not exactly sure why.  Nothing particularly incredible happened. I didn't experience anything really unusual or extraordinary.  I didn't see any long-lost friends or uncover some amazing profound quote to get me through hard times.  I didn't get anything productive accomplished, didn't do a handstand in yoga, didn't travel to an exotic place, didn't write anything worthy of publishing, didn't say anything that will forever be remembered.  Yet, tonight, as I was lying down with Anna while she drifted off to sleep, I literally was overcome with gratitude for this day.  
Tears rolled down my face as I breathed in Anna's sweet after-bath baby scent-- you know exactly what smell I'm talking about.  It's sort of citrusy and light and sweet with maybe the tiniest hint of syrup-- because someone always has syrup with breakfast.  Maybe all this gratitude "gushiness' was result of the glass of wine at dinner or the candles I burned for the first time in months...but I'm pretty sure it was more likely a result of Anna sleepily saying, "Maaaa-maaaa..... Maaaa-maaaa?  I wuv woo. I wuuuuv wooo!" as she settled into sleep.  This from the girl who refuses to say "I love you" (Wuv Woo) during the daytime hours and insists on saying "No wuv woo.  No like it.  No Mama!"

When I tiptoed out of Anna's room, cheeks salty from tears, I looked at Mason and said, "Do you ever just get overwhelmed with gratitude for this whole thing?  I mean, our life....really!"  He smiled and nodded and said he knew exactly what I was talking about. 

Today was a good day.  I know exactly why.  Something incredible happened-- we all four woke up healthy and (relatively) happy.   We woke up to the safety and comfort of our stable home.  How incredible is that?  I experienced something extraordinary.  I taught a guidance lesson to fourth graders about community and when I invited them to share their feelings about the activity, they opened their hearts and shared with such sincere vulnerability that I could have cried.  How extraordinary is that?  I went to work and saw people and friends that brighten my day and make me want to come back for more...even on Mondays. (Usually)  I was productive.  I went to work and talked a fourth grader out of his tears, received a group hug from 20 first graders, and found a little note from a coworker tucked in my mailbox.  I enjoyed a beautiful afternoon walk to pick up Charlie.  And as we walked home, he chattered about his day and his writing assignment and what he ate for lunch...the whole time keeping his hand tucked tightly into mine.  I dedicated 30 minutes to myself--to my body-- to bend and stretch and move in ways that some 38 year old women can only imagine.  And even though I can't touch my forehead to the ground in Dragon pose (...yet!),  (or do a handstand....yet) I stretched and moved and had fun with this one vessel I've been given.  I traveled.  The three of us took a long afternoon stroll on our nature trail-- Anna insisting to wear her new flip flops despite the tiny pieces of gravel and sand that kept deterring her.  Charlie, ran ahead, lost in his imaginary game, legs jumping, arms waving wildly-- like a marionette gone wild.  And today, I said things worth remembering.  I told the kids I work with that they are important to me. I told Mason that he's a great daddy.  I talked with Liz on the phone and told her to have a good day.  And I cuddled Charlie and kissed him until he played his trump card ("I'm gonna wet my pants!") and I threw Anna upside down until she nearly choked on her giggles.  And I said things that will forever be remembered. I told my kids I love them. I told them they're the most incredible kids. I told them I feel lucky to be their mama.   It's probably not publishable stuff...but hopefully it's memorable stuff. 

And then tonight, as Mason drew their bath and I searched for Blankie, a bright pink streak caught my eye outside our window.  I grabbed my phone and took a quick shot of the incredible sunset-- the sprinkles on the cake that was this day.  This totally normal, sacred ordinary day.