When the girls were learning to walk, I cannot remember a single time they fell on their bottoms or turned a corner too short where I shamed them. I don’t recall ever scorning “you weren’t paying attention” or expecting balance. Rather, I buffered and bumped and directed and encouraged.

I watched them learn to walk.

As I sit here with my morning coffee, I am fully aware of the butterflies in my stomach related to the parenting ahead of me today.

David has office space in our little downtown now, so today is my first day with all five kids under my jurisdiction without the protection of David working so be cool or his live and in color reinforcement for my plans.

A big butterfly is related to the inconvenience of teenage freeloading and entitlement.

Another butterfly is related to the task of waking the household in hopes for some sort of order for the day.

Another butterfly is related to the fact I need to address a late night door dash that was done without permission and whose evidence was hidden in an heirloom toybox.

Sigh.

There are other butterflies too… related to dog training and in laws coming in town, to wanting to carve out my writing time in my new main floor creative space and some other things. The butterflies aren’t helping me at all.

As I walked the dogs towards home just a minute ago, I really was permeating this idea – reminding myself over and over – that how I handle all of this is a choice. My desire for some structure is a choice. My handling of the door dash annoyance is a choice. My joy or lack there if is a choice.

Any choice that feels anxious and tense is not going to allow me to find that inner hum that consistently swings at the proverbial balls thrown to me today with some sort of grace and love.

If I don’t want my day to be ruined, I can’t ruin it.

And that’s when the relaxed but ready stance of the batters from Friday nights Cardinals game came to my mind. The game that kept me up too late and had me a tired mess all weekend had also given me a lovely 40th birthday gift reminder via two really joyful home runs: keep a good eye, a ready posture, beware of distractions and knock it out of the park.

It’s easy to think your teenager should know a lot more than they do. They are a rat in a maze looking for cheese and their shitheadness is being discovered…. though you really really really want to think they know better, they don’t until they do.

But just like I didn’t label every learning to walk tumble as unfortunate or imbalanced; I really don’t want to label every learning to live tumble as lazy or shameful.

I want to encourage and direct them to better choices, more fun and therefore have a fun and more open day myself.

Swing batter batter swing…

Wish me luck 🙃

I knew I was going to hit publish without a title.

Tuesday 8:30a

I am in the step of my cleaning process where I put everything up off the floors, put it in its “right room” and completely disrupt whatever “order” the house was in for it to be assessed, cleaned and changed in little ways based on how we all are living.

What do I want to do? Make a list. So I can think it through, check it off. Time myself. Pride myself.

What am I doing instead?

I am intuitively moving through my house.

I am trusting I’ll do the things that need to be done. Trusting even the order I would have written down would have likely been interpreted a time or two. And, importantly enough, I am trusting I will be as accomplished one way as the other with a deep knowing that “accomplishment” is actually a super relative term.


Tuesday 11:27a

I am now about three hours into my cleaning day. Usually, at this point, I am finishing up the floors hopeful I have juuuuuuuust enough time to put furniture back down before leaving to get Aria from high school. Today, however, the absence of my project mgmt to do list was joined by the absence of “rush”.

“Fuck it. What if I took all day to clean?” Is literally what I said to myself when I felt the pulse of “hurry”.

What if I acted less like a cleaning lady and more like a person home with a dedicated day to just take care of the home?

So – My usual cleaning day involves a fun little point in which I get cranky. Despite the bops on my playlist, I lament the towel on the shelf for no good reason. I shake my head scornfully scrubbing crystalized sugar off the cabinet door.

I wonder what makes the lid to the band aid box so much harder to put on than to take off.

I curse the cat food in the cracks on the wood floors.

I CSI the muddy boot print and add to my list of things I am going to gently shame.

I get hungry.

I notice everything.

I check the clock. I go a little faster. I audibly sigh like an annoyed person.

I am not mad but I’m mad. I’m not in a mood but I’m moody.

And *every single Tuesday that I clean and get like that* I ALWAYS WONDER WHY.

I like cleaning. I like organizing. I like how it feels when I’m done.

I like listening to music or a podcast.

I like that I am NOT on a call or working. So why do I get so crinkled?

<shrug> Dunno.

So I figured it was only wise to change it up and infuse my cleaning today with spurts of FaceTiming and texting friends and shift my attitude to where the house was “being cleaned” vs. where “the house is clean”.

Even David commented that I seemed really positive (as he joined meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting I told him to look on the bright side, he could *actually work for Enterprise*. lol… EHI has A LOT OF MEETINGS.) Anyway, it seems to be an enjoyable way to experiment with my attitude. I haven’t been cranky about things. Puzzled, yes. Cranky? No.

So far, so right. But alas, it is time to go bundle up for a cold, snowy drive to get Aria from school.


Wednesday 8:25a

Settled into my study with my dual monitor and coffee. I wrapped up yesterday’s cleaning at about 7:30pm. (With making homemade burger buns and 5 star patties *and cleaning up dinner* to boot.)

In hindsight, I wondered why it took me so long. I kind of replayed my day in my mind as I fell asleep…

I did all my normal cleaning things along with some detailing: total wipe down of the outside of the fridge and purge of kitchen papers, deep cleaned the cracks of the hardwood floors, wiped down like the itty bitty ledges on the counters and vacc’d up high. In my mind, I had to make the long day of cleaning feel worth it as it truly was all I did yesterday besides cook.

And so I guess that’s where the attitude shift and the no list approach comes in.

When I was working a full time job and caring for the things at home, it was all about doing the things as fast as I can to allow time for the next. But now? The time is all mine. It is presenting a mindset change that is quite literally embedded in my DNA.

As David’s Teams notifications blurped and pinged throughout the day, my senses perked with this “I need to answer” and I then got the experience of relaxing back into whatever I was dicking around with. It was muscle memory of response shifting to a softer way of being.

Anyway. In the spirit of summing this all up, along with that, here are four important things I learned about managing the house and family:

  1. Best way to teach others how to talk to you is through how you talk to them.
  2. For each legitimate annoyance you have, there is an equal opportunity for more openness in your perspective.
  3. Run the dishwasher in the morning and unloading it in the afternoon is more efficient overall. More on that in a future post.
  4. When a teenager asks how long till dinner, the answer is always the actual amount of time or half that if they help out. You get an extra hand 9 times out of 10. :)

Time to do the things I have time to do now. YAY. :)

Here’s a super cute picture of Aria and David.

tenderness & evolution @ big table while one teen is studying

I mentioned to David last night that we somehow leveled up in the parenting world. Language has settled in, values have taken root… These things have produced consistent messages to the kids that are starting to see anchors like time around the table and nods of agreement.

There was a while where one of us would process a kid and the other would get defensive. I bet that is common in blending families. If I zoom’d in on one of his biologicals, it would naturally feel like it was in comparison to one of my biologicals. At this point, if I am correct, we have both bitched enough about all five kids and praised enough about each of the five kids to have balanced out and earned each other’s trust that it is not like we were determining who are our “project children”.

Truly – they are all projects.

In my retirement, my bandwidth can get quickly sucked up in the parenting world and what all we need to address. It results, as mentioned before, in a lot of conversation with David about ideas and what we should try and what I envision for us in a year. It also results in a lot of hands on deep diving with each kid. And it is really not efficient to live like that.

Not only do I believe in the fact that at some point you have to stop talking about it and just do the things you think are so important. But it really isn’t practical to coach each kid one on one. Teachers, sports coaches, music teachers and therapists are – for example – great ways to outsource this, even if you don’t have a bajillion kids like we do. Said another way….

I remember thinking I broke Ellen at some point when she was 7 or 8. That somehow my parenting or her dad’s was so screwed up that we had turned this wonderful sweet adventurous girl into a headstrong pain in the ass.

In my regular bemoaning that I ruined my child and now had this selfish, pre-occupied, non-empathetic little girl, I conveniently recognized all of those same traits in myself. :-/

OH. How helpful, I realized in my yoga, we are able to recognize things in others because they are in us.

OH. How helpful, I can’t open Ellen’s brain and re-wire and jump into her memories and change however or wherever she learned this behavior.

I can. I can. I can model and reinforce. Model. Model. Model.

I am going through notebooks (which is literally and figuratively the story of my life) and it has been pretty wild to read entries from 2019: gearing up toward engagement, gearing up toward 2020, so blind to the reality the world can change dramatically. Amongst all the plans and lists and travel notes was this entry of 6 bullet points I had written as advice for myself:

  • Stand openly
  • Hide nothing
  • Refuse to defend oneself
  • Feel their pain
  • Understand needs
  • Vulnerability brings healing

In this season of motherhood, I find this list perfect.

One of the prayers I have for the kids is that they all let down their defenses. Not necessarily with each other as there is not any fighting in the house or anything like that. But there is a general guard up that quickly interprets “direction” into “discipline” or interprets guidance as limitation. It’s kind of interesting. They feel in trouble or stuck and excuse themselves, make shit up and or quickly interject what they want before hearing what they want was already on the way. Like. They are “jumpy”.

I think, for me, I have to remember the change they all went through and the ways they are growing and being stretched academically and socially during the pandemic. That’s hard stuff.

I think, for me, remembering to get on eye level and inquire lovingly to their real need is essential to continually grow the trust we all have in each other. I don’t need to explain they didn’t need to explain it. I just listen, reassure and follow through. Take it on the chin. Let them think it was their idea in a way.

Living with nothing to hide – being an honest, friendly expression – makes us safe as parents. Not explaining things or offering reasons, just “Yes, and I love you” and “No, and I love you” will suffice.

And even “standing openly” is applicable now as I see my motherhood as an act of generosity. Giving and being compassionate and patient and helpful. Letting the “work” of it all be a side note and letting the “service” of it all be a lifestyle and a calling.

And with all of this, like I was saying to a friend today regarding marriage, being subtle and letting body language and tone of voice be warm and safe is clutch. Building people up and encouraging them, knowing what it feels like to not be having a great day and so therefore not being a contributing factor to theirs.

Using a calming touch and stepping aside for time for yourself are as powerful as being the non critical recipient of another’s vulnerability.

“Blessed be the know it all” is not in scripture anywhere. Man, how I hope we all stop having reasons for everything.

I am not going to spend a lot of time proofing or editing this post. I just wanted to offer an entry real quick as I read through this notebook and find this 2019 advice super relevant to my current day.

Every day I remember I am the Queen and that I make the rules for my life, I grow more something (nicer? compassionate? gentler?) towards the grind of the day, towards the expectant demands of children.

It’s not that it is easy and it is not that I have been nailing it. (Hence why I welcomed these 6 bullets into my flow….) But I do recognize a difference in mothering over time and it has something to do with these things. For sure.