9 Minutes

A friend recently posted an image on Facebook about how to be a better parent and it included the tip that there are nine minutes of the day that have the most impact on children: the three minutes after waking up, the three minutes when they return home from school, and the last three minutes before they go to sleep. I can’t find any articles that support this from a science or psychology perspective (just other blog posts), but I think it is sage advice that not only applies to parenting but relationships as well.

Have you ever answered your partner’s phone call with a perfunctory “what” or “yes”? Or as soon as your partner walks in the door asked them to immediately take care of a chore, like take out the trash, empty the cat’s litter box, or deal with the kids, instead of simply saying hello? Me. I am guilty of this.

When I saw that Facebook post about those nine important minutes, I decided to implement this not only with my children, but with my husband, and my co-workers as well. At work this translates to saying hi before launching into a rant, being deliberately pleasant at the beginning and end of the work day, and ending the week with positive words. At home this means I don’t disappear as soon as my husband gets home even though my inclination is to let him deal with the kids, who are inevitably cranky in the witching hour that is 5-7 p.m. This means saying goodnight, even if he’s working late and I’m feeling too lazy to leave our bed to climb a single flight of stairs to give him a kiss. In other words, I’m just trying to be a better human.

And with the kids, I’m trying to be more present, especially at bedtime. I’m trying not to rush through stories and songs and snuggles even though there are dishes and laundry and thoughtless reality TV shows calling my name. I’m not usually home when they wake up, or when Future President gets home from school, so I’m focusing my efforts on bedtime. I think it’s making a difference.

Happy Friday, friends.

 

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We Forgot the Mommy

“We forgot the mommy,” Aaron said, as he wheeled the Playmobil cable car down towards the control booth. “Peter, fix it!” He yelled, moving on from remembering the mommy as the cable car careened and flew towards the plastic figures in the booth.

But I didn’t move on.

I feel forgotten when I do four loads of laundry and fold them in neat piles on our bed and there they sit, waiting for someone to put them away. Eventually it will be me.

I feel forgotten when I make two separate meals, one for the kids, and one for us, and the kids barely touch theirs, even though that meal means I haven’t sat down since walking in the door two hours ago.

I feel forgotten when I can’t – or won’t – tell my husband how bad my headaches are, and I suffer in silence, taking one pill and then another, until I reach a breaking point and can no longer function. I feel forgotten until I say screw it to the anti-inflammatory diet I’ve been on for 6 months and stuff my kid’s uneaten pancakes in my mouth and my husband is shocked. I haven’t eaten gluten in months and will pay for it later, but this is my little rebellion.

I feel forgotten until the tears come, and they finally notice how tired I am and how much I hurt.

“Let’s go back up to get the mommy,” Aaron says after Peter repairs the cable car.

“Thank you for the delicious dinner,” my husband says, and gives me a hug.

They notice me, I know they do. We are trying our best, most days. And we are all just making it up as we go along.

“Because Santa!”

Last night the boys tried on their Halloween costumes and when A noticed that P’s costume included nunchucks and a sword, he decided he needed a weapon of his own. Tasked with finding the sword that came with last year’s pirate costume, P came back with a magic wand. A’s enthusiasm at receiving this magic wand/sword was contagious. He flung the wand around as the boys ran around the house yelling, “Abracadabra, you’re a frog!” But P wasn’t having any of it. “No, you can’t turn me into a frog, I’m already a ninja,” he yelled back, and swung his plastic nunchucks in the air.

I almost booked a trip to Disneyland right then and there because my boys are ALL IN with make believe and magic. I’m already sad thinking about the day P realizes the tooth fairy is Mom and Dad.

A few months ago, P asked me if reindeers were real. Yes, I told him, remember when we saw the baby reindeer in person a few Christmases ago? “Nevermind,” he replied. “Of course they’re real. Because Santa!” Sound logic.

Sometimes P even uses his magnificent logic skills for more practical purposes. He brought home from school an optional worksheet and was struggling to sound out some of the more difficult words on the quiz section. He could read two of the multiple choice options, but not the third. Sound it out, I encouraged. “Actually I don’t need to, Mommy,” he told me. “The other two aren’t the right answers, so it has to be this one.” *Insert head desk emoji here.*

When my husband came home, I relayed the story to him. He beamed, so proud, and seemed to imagine P’s future to include high grades on standardized tests. I can get on board with that, because even though I was terrible at standardized tests, I still believe in magic.

Is it Friday Yet?

I have lost 19 pounds. I am super proud of myself. But guess what? Life does not get any easier even when you’re a dress size smaller than you were two months ago.

I am having my second surgery of the year in November. It’s a revision to an ear surgery I had in college and my doctor is hopeful it will help me regain hearing in my left ear. I am currently “profoundly deaf” in that ear, which makes teaching and office life very difficult.

Today I was diagnosed with tendinitis in the same wrist I broke earlier this year, and if the shots and brace don’t work to help the pain, I’m looking at another surgery.

I am so extremely stressed out from work and pain that it took everything I had not to add cheese and sour cream to the lentil soup I made tonight. Instead I added nutritional yeast and had baked tofu instead of the chips I was craving. But I didn’t have a single salad today, that’s how bad I’ve been feeling.

But the good news is that I love teaching. I love it. Even if it’s added stress on top of all my regular job duties, it’s my favorite thing.

And I made a delicious dish earlier this week that you all have to try: tofu lettuce wraps!

Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Sauté onions, mushrooms, garlic, tofu, zucchini and water chestnuts. Start with a few tablespoons of water in the pan, then add the onion and garlic. After about five minutes, add the tofu and zucchini and cover for 10 minutes, or until zucchini is tender. Add water chestnuts and a dash or two of coconut aminos and sauté until tofu has reached desired consistency. Serve with lettuce and top with Cookie and Kate’s peanut sauce.

The Quarterly Update

I am currently stranded next to my son’s bed, and expect to be for the next hour or so. Last night it was over two hours, and then an hour later he wandered into our bedroom, slipped in between us, and when I woke up at 2am with not an inch to spare on the side of the bed, I realized I was being kicked by A and snuggled next to by the cat. Our queen bed is not large enough to accommodate everyone. At one point P tried to sneak into bed too, but even G, who is usually a pushover, said no.

Why is my previously great sleeper not sleeping? We converted his crib into the toddler bed version and apparently we did this too soon. I’ve read every recent online article about how to make this transition, and since I’m 100% positive we did it wrong with P, I’m determined to do it right this time. But is there an absolute right way? Of course not. I’m just trying a different plan, hoping it makes the transition easier.

So what’s the plan? It’s the “fade away” – sit by your kid’s bed for a few nights until he’s asleep. Then sit by the door, so he knows you’re still there. Basically, gradually increase the distance from the bed while assuring him with your presence. Except last night, every time I was sure he was asleep, I left the room and 30 seconds later he was up again. Hence the many hours on the floor next to his bed, starting the whole process over again.

This is probably the worst possible time for us to attempt this transition. I am slammed at work, teaching a new class on top of all of my other responsibilities. The good news is that I recently got a promotion, but the expectations are extremely high both from my bosses and of course, myself, and for the first time in my life I’ve had to work after the kids are in bed multiple times per week. The ability to leave work at work is one of the reasons I decided not to practice law and chose academia instead, and I know I should be grateful I still have a job in this legal climate, but man, I’m tired.

In other news, I’ve lost 17lbs on my Eat to Live diet. I plateaued for a few weeks but am finally making progress again. My goal had been to lose 20lbs by this weekend, but even though that’s not going to happen, I’m still proud of myself. It’s been very hard but I’m sticking with it for the foreseeable future.

P started 1st grade and is in a classroom with 6 of the 9 kids from his Kindergarten class. The rest of his classmates are 2nd graders. In other school news, I joined the school board and attended my first meeting this week. As a parent who can’t drop off or pick up her kid because of work, or volunteer in the classroom, also because of work, it feels good to be part of the school, even if it’s after hours.

Things I’m looking forward to: seeing Book of Mormon and Hamilton in early 2018; going to Boise in October for a work conference; and celebrating A’s 3rd (!!!!) birthday in a few weeks.

National Blog Posting Month is coming up in November, and if I’m still sitting by A’s bed at night, I’ll be participating for sure.

The 3-Hour Bedtime Routine

At 5:33 I looked at the clock and sighed. Bedtime was at least an hour away but the boys were already acting up and even an episode of Paw Patrol couldn’t keep them occupied. 

I sat down to eat supper while G occupied them on the couch. Tonight was anything but family dinner night. Everyone ate in shifts. 

At 6:30, we tried to put P to bed but after being told he couldn’t have a long book for story time, he started wailing and would not be pacified. Granted, he ran a mile at school today, so he was extra tired. And when he is extra tired, all hell breaks loose. 

We put the baby to bed and P was still wailing. He finally calmed down when G told him a story. We thought we were in the clear until an hour later he came out of his room itching. We convinced him to try sleeping in our bed. When G moved him an hour later, he woke up, itchy again, so I gave him Benadryl, rubbed lotion on him and switched blankets. He then started crying so hard he almost threw up. The reason? I have no idea. 

I am trying to have more perspective this week. I arrived back to work from a 5-day vacation to the news that a former colleague committed suicide last month. Yesterday a coworker decided to bring her mother home from assisted living so her mother can die at home as she is failing rapidly and hospice care at home is the best choice for their family. 

These are heady things, and I fought tears as I drove home from work today. And then my 6-year old wouldn’t go to sleep and I just about lost it. Because he wouldn’t go to sleep. 

I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to be more loving. I’m just not very good at it. 

On Mother’s Day

When my grandma was dying from stroke-related causes, she was inconsolable at night. A few days after my grandfather died in the nursing home room they shared, my parents moved her home; her new resting place a hospital bed in the room that had been my gradnfather’s for years after his own stroke had severely disabled him. 

As my husband and I lay upstairs one night after my grandfather died, I could hear her cries for help and sobs. My mom had spent hours with her mother, consoling her, calming her down, but it was the middle of the night and she needed to sleep. So I took a turn. I crept down the stairs and opened the door. “Nanny,” I said. “It’s okay.” 

“Help me!” she cried, “Help!” 

“Would you like me to read to you?” I asked. A Bible was laying next to her bed. I picked it up and somehow ended up in Revelation, hoping to find something in those words to comfort her. I ended up skipping entire chapters. Revelation is not a comforting book. 

“Let’s sing some songs,” I told her. 

Amazing Grace. Jesus Loves Me. What a Friend We Have in Jesus. 

It’s amazing how entire verses were stored in my memory. I sang and sang as she quieted down. She was comforted. 

Hours went by. I sang. I stopped, and tried reading again from the Bible. I couldn’t read anything out loud without crying, not even from the Gospels. This is the book she read faithfully. This book – the reason she tithed and volunteered at church, despite her husband’s apathy to religion. Even with her faith in this book, she wasn’t sparred a devastating end to her life. 

So I sang some more. She quieted down enough to sleep, however restless, and I went back to sleep. 

A few months later, my mom called me with the news that Nanny had passed away in her sleep with her son and daughter at her side. As devastated as I was by the news,  I could not imagine a better way to die: in your sleep, surrounded by your children in your own home. 

It should have been no surprise that when I had my first son, I sang these familiar, comforting songs at bedtime, songs I knew the words to, songs that meant something to me and my family history: Jesus Loves Me, Amazing Grace, What a Friend We Have on Jesus. 

There are still days that I don’t believe any of it, that a loving God would not have allowed my grandmother to suffer the way she did. By I am certain of this: when I die, I hope I am with my children and grandchildren and that they are singing to me.