favorite child.

just enough dysfunction to make you funnyFirstHusband is out of town, so finding a fresh pot of coffee when I came downstairs this morning was a nice surprise.

Me: “Someone made coffee?”

PinkGirl: “Me.”

Me: “awww. You’re my favorite daughter!”

PinkGirl: “I would have preferred ‘favorite child.'”

FavoriteSon: “What do you want?”

PinkGirl: “nothing!”

FavroiteSon: “umm. hmm.”

I’m not your “fun” friend.

I know I’m not your “fun” friend. I wouldn’t make a good Bunco buddy. I prefer conversation over television. And without exception, I will choose talking about your goals and ideas and struggles over spending two hours in a dark movie theater not talking at all. I know I’m not the first person you think of when you want to get together with someone and laugh your butt off. I know I’m not one of the friends you invite out for happy hour on girl’s night.

And I’m okay with that.

I would be completely miserable at happy hour.

For me, happy hour is like reading fiction. It’s a diversion from real life. And usually much too loud.

I can’t do it.

(I have my reasons, which I’ll get into in the next few posts, but let me start out by assuring you I’m not like this because I think I’m better than other people. You’ll see. I have “issues.”)

I know I’m different. Some would say, not normal. Some might say annoying. exasperating.

You either get used to me or you avoid me.

But when you need to talk, I’m the friend who wants to have coffee with you. I’m the friend who can handle hearing about the things that keep you awake at night. I’m the friend who wants to hear about the things that keep you awake at night. Without judgement. In confidence. And be prepared for me to pray for you. Right then and there. Out loud and in front of whoever happens to be looking. (well, not so loud I break a confidence)

Sure, we can talk about surface stuff; logistical stuff, like what mechanic we trust, what we love and hate about our phones and data plans, a good (but easy) recipe or maybe even gas prices.

but not for long.

I don’t have a lot of patience for surface talk. It’s like a magazine. Little chunks of uncommitted browsing.

I prefer books. I want to spend a little more time and dig deeper.

While there’s time. Because it’s later than I think.

FOLLOW-UP: Here are two of my “issues”:
Why I’m Not Your Fun Friend. Issue #1: Saturday Mornings
Why I’m Not Your Fun Friend. Issue #3: Death

I didn’t shave my legs for nothin.

Yesterday, I went back to yoga for the first time since tearing my MCL on December 2nd. My knee has been feeling pretty good, so I intentionally put on yoga shorts that morning. As the time to leave the house got closer, I debated. I was on a writing roll. If I stopped, I would lose momentum. and the coffee was so good. (Joffrey’s Jamaican Me Crazy)

LazyMe: “I don’t wanna go. I’m comfortable.”

AnnoyingMe: “Come on. After class is over, you’ll be glad you did it.”

LazyMe: “ehhh.”

AnnoyingMe: “What is it you always say? That you’re ‘striving to be a good steward of the body God has blessed you with?'”

LazyMe: ” It’s early. I’ve got all day. I can be a good steward later.”

AnnoyingMe: “Did you shave your legs for nothing?”

LazyMe: (sigh) “alright. I’m goin.”

Last night, I was really feeling the after-effects of this pose (below).
My whole body hurt – from holding it perfectly still for a total of just a few minutes.


Tonight, I’m feeling it even more.

There’s only one thing to do. Go back tomorrow.

Dear Panera: it’s your own fault.

I figure if Panera didn’t want me to monopolize booth #1, they shouldn’t have put a power outlet under my feet.

10:39am – At Panera Bread, trying to write instead of at home trying not to fall asleep or clean something. I’m supposed to be working on my book, but it seems that lyrics are sneaking out instead. We’ll see. I’ve got time to do both – PinkGirl has a 12 hour theater day.

– Crudola. Power supply at home. Battery has 2 hours and 40 minutes. Gonna try and bribe FavoritSon to bring it to me later. seriously. that’s not going to happen.

12:39pm – I’m attempting to bribe FavoriteSon with free Panera lunch. He and his dad think it’s “girl food” but I think he’ll do it anyway. The question is whether he’ll make it before my battery dies. 1 hour 42 minutes.

1:39pm – My son loves me. He just brought my laptop power supply to me at Panera Bread so I didn’t have to stop writing. And I didn’t even have to buy him lunch.

Let the monopolization of booth #1 continue.

need some “sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, spending too much time on the internet” medicine.

PinkGirl did the writing on the sign in sheet at her school for me so I wouldn’t spread germs:
Date: 4/18
Time: 9:01 (school started at 8am)
Reason: “Mom is sick”
Disapproving look from temp worker at the front desk.
Me: “Be nice or I’ll hug you.” (to myself)

Doc: “When did this start?”
Me: Thursday night. Been living on Sudafed, Mucinex & leftover hydrocodone.”
Doc, laughing/shaking head: “You’re not supposed to tell me that.”
A few minutes later: “You need a shot. You’re wheezing.”
Today, I love that steroid shot more than coffee. not kidding.

Lord, thank you for my doctor. Thank you for that relationship. You sent me to him so long ago that I forget to appreciate that blessing. Thank you for all the free and affordable medicine – and for the steroid shot.

For the next few days, the acronym “LOL” will be replaced with “COL” because lately, the first doesn’t come without the second.

PinkGirl: Mom, what does “COL” mean?
Me: Coughing Out Loud, because when I laugh, I start coughing.
PinkGirl: “You should just say LOL.”
Me: “Yesterday you told me I was too OLD to use LOL.”
PinkGirl: “Well, old people can use it in private.”
Me: “How old does someone have to be before they should only use LOL in private?”
PinkGirl: “29.”

what the heck? I took some of the samples my doctor gave me for symptoms and within the hour I felt like a complete space cadet. The decongestant was phenylephrine. I usually take pseudoephedrine. I may be wrong & my symptoms were the cause of the lightheadedness, so I’m going to take the next dose – with supervision.

(I really, really needed a decongestant. The effects of the sauna wore off too fast and my neti pot wasn’t even working. Benadryl is an antihistamine containing diphenhydramine – which is also the main ingredient in TylenolPM, Nytol, Sominex…KNOCKS me out. TylenolPM dosage says take two, I can never handle more than half of ONE. I was taking Mucinex for the chest congestion.)

Lord, thank you for this day of rest. Please help me to get better so I can get back to “real” life.

I changed my mind. FirstHusband says I shouldn’t take any more phenylephrine. He said we had a phone conversation earlier today and I was really “out of it.” (I think I remember talking to him…)

Nobody called me today and asked me to volunteer for anything did they?

Lord, even in my tiredness and with all these nasty germs, please show me how I can serve you today.

PinkGirl: “MOM! The duck came SO close to me this time!”
Me: “Did you feed it?”
PinkGirl: “Yeh, cat food.”
Me: “wait. have you been throwing cat food in the back yard?”
PinkGirl: “yeh”
Me: “For how long?”
PinkGirl: “a week. maybe two.”
NOW I know what the raccoons are digging for and eating every night.

okay, I have a new game for the Easter Bunny Cake blog post of 2009.
Will it beat its own record?
The highest number of views it got in a single day was 3,709 on April 3, 2010, which was ONE day before Easter last year. Today it got 2,135 views.

eBay sent me a “Happy Anniversary” email today. Eleven years and they can’t spare a coupon code? At the very least they could have made it fun and included the item titles of the very first things I bought and sold.

Later…Obviously, I don’t watch TV when I’m sick. I hang out on the internet and search my email archive file for my very first eBay auction win: A Mr. Potato Head Voice Changing Recorder. eh. big whoop.

My daughter felt compelled to show me this video today:

mom coping strategy #1: sleep.

Tina has inspired me again. A few weeks ago, she wrote a post on a Bible study she was doing and what she gleaned from it.

“Being kind is definitely something I struggle with. Not with the rest of the world, but with my own children. I get impatient, frustrated, short-tempered and unkind. And I really SO do not want to be that mom. I am praying now for a gentle spirit. I’ve always admired women who have that….godly women that love the Lord and seem to just live and breathe Proverbs 31. Believe me, my children don’t, as a rule, arise and call me blessed.”

My daughter sure as heck doesn’t arise and call me blessed. Often, she’s a crank in the morning until after we give her some orange juice or Ovaltine and her blood sugar levels out. We OFTEN wake her up with a no-spill sippy cup in our hand. (Try it, you might be amazed at the difference in your kiddo’s morning attitude and cooperation.)

I write about my parenting strategies and my perspective, and it may seem like I’m getting it right, but I need to clarify. I fall off the “good mom” wagon all the time. I just get back on as fast as I can. AND, I used to fall off MUCH more often when my kids were home with me 24-7. AND I know some of the reasons why.

PinkGirl and I have our moments. MOST of the time, I can give her grace when she has a blood sugar dip and starts crying for no apparent reason. But sometimes, I find myself asking her, “WHY are you crying NOW?” and saying my standard, “Handle this differently” or “Solve your problem.” in a frustrated, impatient tone of voice instead of my encouraging, reminder voice. Sometimes, when she is “disagreeable,” I completely forget to calculate when she ate last and I react with what is to me, a lack of empathy and a toneless voice. What SHE sees is a mom “who doesn’t care about me when I’m upset!” (and she tells me exactly that.) Instead of responding with grace and providing her a complex carb/protein combo before continuing in a reasonable conversation with her, I react immediately and escalate the situation. The whole episode steals time and energy and peace from our day. It’s a waste. And I know it. I don’t like it. So I try to take my own advice and “Solve my problem” by “handling things differently.”

When find myself impatient or frustrated with my kids, I start by looking for the root causes so I can fix my real problem. Physiological, psychological, spiritual . . . I always start with the physiological. (I’ve got my fair share of problems, but today I’m only focusing on ONE of the the physical problems.) I do a little self-check.

  • Am I tired?
  • Am I hungry?
  • Is my iron low because I keep forgetting to take that stupid pill?

Until I “fix” these physical issues I can’t consistently parent intentionally or well. Unfortunately, “fixing” isn’t an instantaneous, one time thing. Often I have to make consistent changes over time to completely get RID of these problems rather than just trying to manage them. If I’m not careful, I could end up like this: (the first two minutes)

But back to fixing my (physical) problems and handling things differently. Let’s start with “tired.”

I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep. Sometimes I don’t get enough sleep. So I’ve made a few changes:

  • First, I now take Ambien when I need it. Not every day – only when I can’t get to sleep. I started with Tylenol PM. One was too much. Half was just enough. When both my GP and my GYN heard I was taking it, they both suggested Ambien instead. I started with 10mg control release. Too much. I need to wake up when a kid needs me. Then I went with the regular 10mg. Too much. Drowsy the next morning. I now take 5mg.
  • I also intentionally GO TO BED earlier. Sometimes (not often) as early as 10:00 p.m. I’m a night owl. Sometimes I’m not sleepy at 10:00 p.m. If I can’t get to sleep, I take some Ambien. My goal is to go to bed the same day I wake up instead of wake up the same day I go to bed.
  • When I read in bed, I only read fiction. I don’t need to be learning when I’m trying to calm my mind. Even when I read a devotional, I find my brain ramping up when it should be ramping down. To make sure I don’t slip up, I don’t keep any non-fiction books in the bedroom.
  • The low iron can make me weak and tired too, so I take a prescription iron supplement. (But I’m fixing that too.)
  • No coffee after 1:00 p.m. or so. Enough said.
  • Back when PinkGirl was a baby, I would nap when she napped. I read this over and over again when FavoriteSon was a baby and I rarely followed the advice. When PinkGirl was born, I was older, with more on my plate and more tired. I kinda had no choice.
  • Sometimes it was the kid’s sleep cycles that threw a wrench in mine. When a kid won’t go to sleep or wakes up in the middle of the night, what are you going to do? Sleep anyway? Not likely. I’ll write another post on overcoming kid sleep problems. We had to do that too.
  • I removed things from my “To Do” list. Some jobs get harder the longer they are delayed. Like dishes and laundry. But some jobs take the same amount of time and effort each time you do them, regardless of whether you last did them yesterday or last week. Like vacuuming, cleaning the toilet or dusting. So my house wasn’t up to white glove standards. big whoop.

So, given my history and challenges, I have a question for moms like Tina and I who sometimes get, as Tina put it, “impatient, frustrated, short-tempered and unkind:”

What kind of sleep are you getting? Supposedly, a sleep cycle is 90 minutes. I know that when my sleep is fragmented or I don’t get enough of it, I’m predisposed to a lack of patience and frustration. It doesn’t take much to push me off the “good mom” wagon.

Yes, when I get more sleep, my day is shorter. I have less time to accomplish all the things I “need” to. But when I get more (and better) sleep, my day – and my family’s day – is BETTER. And all those things I “need” to do? Some get done. Some don’t. Some jobs I keep doing. Some jobs FirstHusband handles. Some jobs the kids take care of. Some I decide not to do anymore.

You CAN change your situation. Even minor changes can add up. We have choices to make every day. When you say to yourself, “I HAVE to do (insert urgent, important task here).” Rethink it. Do you? What’s the worst thing that would happen if you didn’t? What things can you let go of? What things can you allow others to take responsibility for? Maybe the person who picks up your slack doesn’t do things exactly like you would. Is it THAT important that something be done your way?

I used to think I had no choices. But I was confusing “no choice” with “difficult choice.”

Find more ideas over at Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by Kristen at We Are THAT Family.

Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer

freakish coffee station.

Being “freakishly organized,” I followed the Underwear Principle and created a coffee “station” with all the supplies needed for coffee located in one spot. It’s a tiny bit of counter space next to the stove and it’s where we keep EVERYthing coffee related. (Thanks for the coffee pot recommendation, Lisa Writes!)

coffee station

The three cannisters hold creamer, Benefiber and Splenda. We used to keep all that inside the cabinet above, but they were annoying to access. I picked clear glass cannisters so we could tell at a glance when they were running low and we now keep them on the counter because it’s the most convenient. When we remember, we add Benefiber to our coffee. It’s a simple way to sneak in extra fiber. We can’t taste it and it doesn’t change the consistency of the coffee at all.

In the cabinet above are the coffee mugs, travel mugs, coffee filters and creamer refill. I bought identical plastic containers to store coffee in the freezer door (right behind this spot) and marked one of them “decaf.” I even decorated this area by purchasing multi-opening frames, finding, typing and printing coffee and tea “quotes” on pretty card stock and framing each one.

One of my favorite quotes is: “A man without a mustache is like a cup of tea without sugar.” (FirstHusband has had a mustache since I’ve met him.)

I especially love the quote by Cher in Moonstruck: “You make good coffee . . . you’re a slob, but you make good coffee.”

coffee art

(Please forgive the sideways photo.)

It’s very handy to have everything in one place. It’s easy for guests too. When I host my ladies circle, I set my “backup” coffee pot (with decaf) on the flat stove top, right next to the main coffee maker.

the underwear principle & ADD?

When I wrote the post entitled The Underwear Principle and now, underwear. step by step., I mentioned that I had applied this principle in other situations in my life. One of those situations involved my son.

FavoriteSon attended a Montessori pre-school from age three to five. The Montessori philosophy encourages independent work and allows the students to physically move around the classroom during the day. The “lessons” are clearly defined as separate activities with very specific, step by step instructions which follow the “left to right” and “top to bottom” concept employed by reading. The classroom was lined with low shelves on which sat rows of restaurant trays. On each tray were most, if not all the components of each lesson. It was the perfect learning environment for FavoriteSon at the time. (There’s a lot more to the Montessori philosophy, but I’ve covered what relates to the background of my situation.)

When it came time for 1st grade, we moved FavoriteSon to a traditional classroom environment at a non-denominational Christian school and it quickly became apparent that he was having a difficult time making the adjustment.

Someone, I don’t remember who, used the term “ADD.”

So I applied the The Underwear Principle:

Step 1: I didn’t approach the situation from any pre-conceived notion of how things “should” be. I opened my mind to the possibility that I DIDN’T KNOW what the problem was. I didn’t assume that my current knowledge and past experiences were enough to lead me to a conclusion, a diagnosis, a punishment strategy, or a resolution. I admitted that the “answer” might be different than anything I could think up on my own. Even worse, I had to consider the possibility that my parenting style was influencing the situation as well. (yeah. not liking that idea.)

Step 2: I tried to stay focused on the fact that my little boy wanted to learn. He wanted to behave appropriately. I understood that he was faced with an obstacle he couldn’t overcome without our help. We didn’t punish him or lecture him. We didn’t want him to feel defeated by school in the first grade.

Step 3: I analyzed what was happening. I took into account as much information as I could – the actual behaviors, the time of day, any possible cause and effect or trigger, his seating assignment – if there was ANY information available, I wanted to include it in my analysis.

The classroom layout was structured and decorated very differently from what he had experienced before, with the “lines” for each learning activity now blurred. There were no more distinct, individual tasks or lessons. Rather, unrelated information surrounded him on every wall. Not only was FavoriteSon no longer encouraged to move around the classroom during the day, but now he was actually discouraged from doing so. No more independent study or activities. Now, everyone worked on the same lesson together. When the teacher spoke to the children, she most often spoke to them as a group, rarely speaking directly to each individual child and making eye contact. The teacher reported that FavoriteSon frequently spoke out during class – but often, when he did so, it appeared as if he was talking to himself. He sometimes didn’t seem to hear her when she spoke to him. He often continued with lessons and activities after the teacher had concluded and moved on to the next lesson. Almost every morning he disrupted the class by talking to his classmates.

Step 4: I began researching the possibilities. I read books and articles, searched the internet, talked to other parents, teachers, counselors and even kids. The first thing I did was read some books on ADD.

FavoriteSon was displaying a few signs of ADD. One I noticed immediately was “hyperfocus.” If he was fully engaged in a task, he didn’t seem to notice anything around him. That’s what he was doing when he continued the lessons after the rest of the class had moved on to the next activity. I used to do that as a child when I was reading, and I never thought much of it. But FavoriteSon took it to the extreme. If he was interested and engaged in what he was doing, it was VERY difficult to get his attention. And not so much fun to get him to stop the activity. So what did this mean? Was there anything I could do about it? Back to the books.

I zeroed in on Chapter 10, Addressing the Imbalance: Non-Drug Treatments for ADD, in the book, “Running on Ritalin,” by Lawrence H. Diller, M.D. In the section entitled Behavioral Training: An Indispensable Tool, he suggested an interesting concept: (emphasis added)

Structure tasks into smaller components. For example, instead of telling a child, “Clean your room,” break the job down into stages: “First pick up your clothes off the floor and then put them in the hamper.”

I had an “Ah HA!” moment. I realized that, for my son, the instructions “Clean your room.” or “Do your homework.” were:

1. Too abstract. With so many things to do in order to accomplish that task, he was paralyzed and didn’t know where to start.

2. Too overwhelming. The job seemed bigger than it really was.

3. Too confusing. We didn’t have the same ideas with regard to what “clean” was when it came to his room. To him, it was clean. There were just toys and clothes on the floor.

(I read a LOT more and talked to a LOT more people, but it’s just too much to relay here. I’ll note some book resources at the end of this post.)

Armed with a plethora of information, it was time to turn all this knowledge and theory into action.

Step 5:
First, I wanted to rule out any physical problems, so I took FavoriteSon to the doctor for a checkup and had his hearing checked. His pediatrician didn’t discover anything unusual and his hearing was fine.

Secondly, I tried Dr. Miller’s suggestion to break things up into smaller components. I started at home. I gave short, step by step instructions for chores, homework – even bathing:

Instead of “clean up your room,” I said, “Pick up all your Rescue Heroes and stand them up on the shelves, please.” The first time, I said “put them on the shelf” and he PILED them on the shelf – but he had done what I asked. After a few times, he started to put all the water guys on one shelf, all the firefighters on another . . . my freakishly organized tendencies manifesting themselves in my son. I was so proud.

Instead of “Do your homework.” I said, “Hmm, how old are you? 6? If you do 6 math problems you can play for 12 minutes.” The first time he did his 6 problems in less than 5 minutes. After a few times of this “little bit of homework, little bit of play” he did his 6 math problems, I set the timer for 12 minutes and when the time was up, I said, “Hey bud, it’s time for 6 more problems.” He grinned and, without even looking up from the video game he was playing, he said, “Nuh uh. I finished all my math.” Little stinker had done ALL his math problems in one sitting. Because when he sat down to do them, he was only faced with the small, manageable task of completing 6 of them. (microactions, gotta love ’em) I wondered why it took him a little longer that day. I just thought the problems were harder.

Instead of “Take a shower.” I said, “Pop in the shower and get your hair wet, please.” followed by “Get some shampoo in your hands and make bubbles before you put it on your head.” He used to spend way too much time in the shower and come out dry and dirty. Now, he had a clear understanding of what to do. I just walked by the bathroom door every few minutes to remind him what he was supposed to do next. If I didn’t, he would get distracted and we would hear him singing – and not washing.

It was amazing. Everything I asked FavoriteSon to do, he did. Fast. With fairly good attitude. So, I spoke to the teacher and explained what I had learned and what we had tried at home. She began modifying the way she gave instructions and reported that she noticed immediate, significant improvement. Lessons were completed, there were less instances of hyper focus and generally, he was doing better in school.

But he was still talking in class – to himself and to the other kids. I recalled something I read in Dr. Miller’s book, Running on Ritalin:

“The family of drugs to which Ritalin belongs – the stimulants – has been both a blessing and a blight on humankind. The stimulants, which include such drugs as caffeine, cocaine and amphetamine, are so named because of their generalized effects on the body’s organ systems, particularly on the heart, blood vessels, and brain. Stimulants increase blood pressure; they make the individual less sleepy. Stimulants such as coca leaves and tobacco have been used for centuries by indigenous peoples for there energizing, pain killing or medicinal properties. Many of us can’t start the day without our hit of caffeine.”

I drink coffee every morning. At least two cups. And we’re not talking 8 ounce cups. Who’s to say FavoriteSon couldn’t have a little Coke instead of a little Ritalin? And weren’t those tiny little half size cans just perfect for this little experiment? Bingo. He had his little can of Coke during snack every morning and the talking lessened. Significantly. (He was in 1st grade, did you really think he would completely stop talking in class?)

A few years later, we had his vision checked and found out that FavoriteSon was nearsighted and needed glasses to correct his vision. Was that another problem for him that we didn’t discover at that time?

So, looking back, I’m not sure. Did FavoriteSon have mild ADD? Or did he, like his sister, have problems with his blood sugar? Or both? Did his experience in Montessori school lead to some of the problems he had adjusting to the traditional environment? Was I a bad mom all those years for not realizing that one of the reasons he seemed so disinterested looking at alligators in the lake we drive over was because he couldn’t see them?

I’m not going to spend time on the diagnosis (or blaming myself) now and I didn’t focus on it then. What I DID do was take action. I applied The Underwear Principle, step by step.

For us, it worked. And make no mistake, as nice and neat as this wrote up, we didn’t live it out so smoothly. See, it’s easy to do all the stuff we did. But to do it consistently, over and over and over, every day, without giving in?

Now, THAT. Was hard.

Some of the books I read:

Running on Ritalin by Lawrence H. Diller, M.D.

Should I Medicate My Child? by Lawrence H. Diller, M.D.

The Myth of the A.D.D. Child, 50 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels or Coercion by Thomas Armstrong

Beyond Ritalin, Facts About Medication and Other Strategies for Helping Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders by Stephen W. Garber, Ph.D., Marianne Daniels Garber, Ph.D. and Robyn Freedman Spizman.