Saturday, February 13, 2010

I'm Moving

I'm moving this blog to WordPress:  I hope you'll follow me there.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Zen and the Litter Box

This morning, I met peace over the litter box.  My younger son, a floor above me, was 15 minutes into a rant about damage to a Nerf sword, and I was working hard to keep my cool.  Not everyone may choose scooping cat poop during these events, but I've yet to find ways to consistently keep my cool during these loud, protracted tantrums, so I gave it a go.  It worked.

My younger's tantrum verge on the legendary.  They're long, loud, aggressive, and sudden.  Eight and a half years of these beauties should have inoculated me against their effects on my heart, but time hasn't helped.  (Okay, they were nonverbal for the first year, but at what age does protracted unexplained screaming morph from colic to tantrum?)  He's inconsolable, angry, and out of control during the events, and they generally just have to run out of fuel on their own.  On my best days, I can keep my cool for the duration, keeping my voice even and expressing what I imagine his feelings are (he doesn't use those confusing feeling words often) while he interrogates me relentlessly, looking for the answer he wants and erupting more when I don't give in.

Until today, ear plugs have been my best defense. I can hold my temper better when my ear drums aren't threatening to explode.  While I wish a hug and open ear helped him, these tactics only fan the flames.  Answering a few questions to assure his understanding then refusing to continue the conversation seems the best tact.  So I often move around the house, cooking, cleaning, and tending to simple tasks while I wait out the storm.

Today, I headed toward the litter box.  With six kittens in my charge, there is no shortage of poop to scoop. Once by the basement box, I search through the sand with my blue scoop.  His voice fades a bit with the distance, and I sift through the box for telltale clumps.  It's oddly soothing, and soon my mind is only on those stinky lumps of clay.  Too soon, the job ends.  After reluctantly setting down my scoop and tossing my findings, I return to the tantrum still in play.  It's easier now to weather the storm.  His raging continues for another 20 minutes or so,  but my storm is past, thanks to the litterbox.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Middle of the Bed

After years of sleeping on the left side of the bed, last night I tried sleeping in the middle.  I'd like to say this move came from new-found comfort with my single status, but necessity forced my hand.  Quite possibly, my younger's favorite part of having only one parent in each residence is the space it opens up in the parent's bed.  I co-slept for years with my younger, at least for part of most nights.  He was an all-night nurser for more years than I care to tell, and sharing a mattress on the floor of his room for most of each night kept me vertical during the day. 

Until last week, I laid with him until he fell asleep.  Every night.  For eight and a half years. I'd tried to coax him toward independent sleep in the past, but illness, travel, and parental upheaval interruped our plans.  It simply wasn't important enough to me to seriously stress my rather sensitive and volitle younger son, and I believe in choosing my battles.  But this month, he was ready.  It's gone swimmingly.  I read to him as always, snuggle for 10 minutes, and leave.  We're both proud. 

So what's with last night's full bed?  He sometimes uses his blonde, eight-year-old wiles to win his way into my bed for stories and subsequent sleep.  I still leave until my bedtime, but he likes the idea of waking with me in the morning.  Fine by me, especially given nightly lows in single digits.  At least the bed is warmer.  Last night, however, my older needed a bit of mom, too.  Anxiety brought him in for conversation and distraction but overcrowding (here's where I end up in the middle) drove him back to his bed. 

After he left, I tried to stay in the middle, figuring it was time to claim the bed as mine, despite the small, warm addition to my right.  After seven years of two sleepers (and two years of just one) creating dents inthe pillow top mattress, no amount of rotating makes for a flat surface.  The middle is a hill between the valleys, and I prefer level ground when sleeping.  Back to the right side of the bed.

Spider bites to the feet sent my older scurrying back at some obscene hour, so I returned to the middle.  We're all pretty small people, but this load is just a bit much, even for my queen-sized bed.  The night was long.  Finally my younger awoke, earlier than I usually prefer, but at least we could all get out of bed.  Nighttime parenting continues as long as the kids are in the house, but I'm hoping to limit my number of nights in the middle of the bed.  Perhaps I'll celebrate that point with a new mattress.

(Moon image thanks to NASA public domain photos)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Out of My Mind

Emmy was hard to return.  Although she's only been with us two weeks, she really found her place in our home.  She fit in well:  talkative, heat-seeking, and assertive about her needs.  She and I just bonded.

So returning her to the Michigan Humane Society was tough today.  I've liked most of our foster cats, but a few are special, and letting go of those is a tougher.  As my younger and I walked down to the cat rooms,  a foster employee stage whispered, "If you want them, we have great fosters for you!"  Before she elaborated I knew she had kittens, but before I could ask, she continued, "Six babies, each under a pound and about five weeks old!" 

My younger squealed with the delight only six kittens, each able to fit your hand, can bring.  What can I say?  His joy was infectious, as was the staff's pleasure that we'd care for such a brood until they recovered from their kitten cold and gained enough weight to be adoptable.  Of course they came home with us. 

On the way home, I called my older to share the news.  His jumps (audible through the phone) and yells said it all.  "You said never more than four at a time again, Mom!  And now we have SIX!!" 

He's right.  After a particularly worm-infested (read: poopy in the wrong places) set of five, I swore to keep the kitten-count under that level.  But these babies needed us.  And the five hadn't been that difficult, had they?  I'm a bit of a sucker for cats in need but much more of one for the joy of my sons, especially in dreary January.  So here they are.  Yoda, Obi, Chewie,Sam, Rosalind, and Irene.  Stuffy, sneezy, and adorable.  And I'm smiling, but perhaps I'm just out of my mind. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fun: Lost and Found

It seems the fun factor in my older's life is not reaching satisfactory levels.  Lately, my too-soon-to-be teenager announced that he's not having enough fun.  His homeschooling work isn't fun, so it's just impossible to do.  Not too hard (he'd let me know), not too easy (he'd also let me know), but just not fun.  In fact, his whole life is less fun than it was three years ago.

It's a sad day when you break it to your child that no promise of never-ending fun came with the birth certificate.  My reaction to his distress was to let him in on that fact:  no promises of a fun life come with existance.  Just for the record, those were hardly words of comfort to hom.  He proceeded to wail about life being endless work, only for the gain of money, and that life was, therefore, pointless.  Ouch.

This time, I tried recalling the hunter/gatherer lifestyle and my opinion at surely that wasn't fun 24/7.  No dice.  His life is not fun enough, and, as an adult, he'll work for money and fun will have no part.  Could happen, I admit, but I've often discussed creating a career around what you love.  I reminded him that my work as a physician assistant is, while not always fun, deeply satisfying to me.  Yeah, there are difficult patients and too much documenting.  But supporting people through illness and teaching them how to maintain their health brings me meaning.  Not fun, but something better. I encouraged him to search for what gave him satisfaction and a sense of meaning (beyond playing computer games and provoking his brother).  No response.

His pain is real, and I don't mean to mock my older at all, but please permit me a deep parental sigh and a bit of an eye-roll (out of his sight, of course).  I admit I didn't manage to bite my tongue before regaling him with what's not fun for me:  toilet cleaning, meal preparation, vacuum belt replacing -- I'd better stop before I'm in tears.  It pains me to hear his genuine angst at the reality of life.  Plenty of life isn't fun, and that message kicks everyone in the pants at some point.  Life is often challenging, frustrating, disappointing, and even downright sad, but in and from those moments can come satisfaction, meaning, and growth.  And knowing you've grown and made one life a better place for someone?  That's what I call fun.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reading Room

That's it. I am not going to the bookstore.  Never mind that I have a quiet (read "kid-free") afternoon and evening.  Ignore the educator discount sale, granting K-12 educators 25% off all books.  Resist the lure of all those ideas and information bound up and collected in a place with coffee. I'm staying put.

I'm an absolute book junkie.  New, used, borrowed, I love them all. Paperback Swap, my local libraries, any bookstore.   But my shelves are full -- double-stacked in places, and I need nothing.  I have dozens of books still unread, books I really want to read.  My children's shelves aren't lacking either, so I can't use their need to read as an excuse just to be in a place with all those books.

Several of my most recent acquisitions are books about writing.  Though stacked neatly next to my favorite reading chair, they've had no effect on my writing. I'm not blogging more often. I have yet to compose a query for articles that remain half-baked in my brain.  I haven't even finished my holiday thank-you notes.  There the books remain, most bindings uncreased and pages largely unread.  Hmm.

The stack of guides for spiritual seekers of all kinds take similar rest on my nightstand.  Several sport bookmarks a quarter to halfway in.  Despite the number that I've begun (and, to my credit, the number I've finished), I've yet to commit to regular spiritual practice.  My meditation cushion is downright lonely.  Huh.

I've sought solutions in the written word for as long as I can remember.  Curious about a subject?  Bring home that section from the library.  Considering a new course of study?  Collect texts and tomes.  Concerned about self/children/marriage/the world?  Read more books. 

I'm not advocating an end to reading, and I'm not vowing to stop purchasing, borrowing, and swapping books, but I'm raising my own awareness of the obvious fact that reading alone isn't equivalent to taking action.  It fails to fix problems and develop new habits.  It can encourage and inspire, inform and distress, entertain and perplex, but it doesn't write the essay, conquor the clutter, or care for the children. 

So I'm staying home.  I'm sure I'll read from my burgeoning shelves tonight, but first, I'll finish that thank-you note, and that's a start.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Now in the New Year

I don't make New Year's resolutions.  Not formal ones, anyway, either aloud or written.  My mind, however, reels from the possibilities for personal growth and betterment of the world, but I astutely avoid committing change to print.  When I was Catholic, I had some success with Lent as a time for change and successfully started flossing regularly after applying myself during this season of repentance and abstinence.  One change to make, six weeks to establish a habit.  It worked for me.

Being a bit of a curmudgeon regarding detail and personal perfection, listing my promises for the new year (a point which seems rather arbitrary to me, but that's another post), seemed a sure ticket to failure.  And I really despise personal failure.  When the resolutions remain nebulous in my head, failure seems further away.  If I never really committed to X, Y, and Z, can I really fail to do them?

Yes.  Nine days into a new year, I have yet to start writing seriously and regularly,  read the back issues of American Family Practice journal (and submit the quizzes for continuing medical education credits), actually practice a spiritual practice daily, or clean my cupboards and pantry.  I've settled issues with children in less than spirit-respecting ways, nibbled and noshed when not hungry, and, despite Lenten promises a decade old, failed to floss regularly.  And I feel the failures deeply.

Fortunately, I'm making significant progress staying in the moment.  This moment, as my fingers type these words, is the only moment I have.  When I stew over my many perceived failures or anticipate tomorrow being a more productive/loving/dental hygiene minded day, I miss now.  Now is when I have some quiet time to write.  Now is when I can respond to the seemingly endless interruptions from kids in a way that respects their essence while still honoring mine.  Now I can take a breath, then another, then another, feeling my breath rise and fall.  In this moment, for this moment, I can be in the Now, fully experiencing life as I live it. No revisions of the past (that can't be made in reality) and now promises for tomorrow (what can we truly promise about the future?). 

Happy Now.