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Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Truth About Anger or Angela's Been Reading Too Many Self-Help Books Again or #FREEDOM




My teapot says 'Come let us have tea about talk about happy things.'

But instead, I'd like to talk about anger. No, wait, don't go, this is worth it I promise.

Even the word is loaded with attached feelings, thoughts, and emotions isn’t it? 

There isn’t a ‘neutral’ thing about this word. Did you think of the last time you were angry? With your kids? With your spouse? The last time you argued with someone you loved? When someone cut you off in traffic?

I’ve been rolling with a lot of anger in my life lately. My own, and my four-going-on-fourteen year old as well as my almost two year old son. We’ve all been feeling really angry. But I’ll get back to that.

We’ve been happy, too, of course. We’re not stomping around in matching Yeh Family Grumps hoodies and combat boots or anything. We made it to the Hocus Pocus symphony at the Mitchell Woods Pavilion Friday night, did a candy crawl on Saturday, and enjoyed the day together today. We did the usual things this week; parks, groceries, lunch, making home-made soup from leftovers from the Colossal Canadian Thanksgiving turkey last weekend.

We managed a whole foods trip, gymnastics class, soccer, and school on Wednesday. 

We also managed multiple throw-down tantrums from Benji and multiple lashing-out episodes from Ellie too, usually around the same time.

ME: “You can’t hit your brother, go to your room. Now. Time out. 3 minutes.
Ellie: “No.”
ME: (sputtering incoherently, thinking CRAP she called my bluff! Now what do I do!?)

My solution for now is to add a minute for every time i tell her to go and she doesn’t. She got up to 10 minutes the other day and I realized I need a better solution. Anyone have any ideas let me know…

I talked about Benji’s tantrums last week. Boy does not like to be told no. And if you have him out past nap-time AND need to convince him to get into his car seat, the rage that ensues would alarm and mystify you. 

It’s hard to know what to do. It’s hard to remember anger isn’t a bad thing. For me, feeling that anger and not knowing how to deal with it is a scary thing. Scary for him, scary for me, scary for anyone within a five-mile radius of his screaming.

Anger is the hardest emotion for me to process. When someone around me is angry I freeze. I go into survival mode. What do they need? What do they want? How can I make this go away as quickly as possible? What did I do wrong? What can I do better next time? Manage, soothe, de-escalate, then expend lots of mental and emotional energy toward prevention of future anger episodes. Sounds reasonable right?

Except it isn’t.

Maybe it’s my age, or maybe it’s Benji that’s forced me to realize my emotional blindspot when it comes to anger. Seeing it, experiencing it, watching someone I love rumble with it, I think there isn’t anything I CAN do. Really. There are a lot of excuses for Benji - (he’s tired, he’s hungry, he’s hot, he’s two…) and none of them have anything to do with me or my behavior. 

Calming down is up to him, too. I can turn out the lights, put him in his room away from sharp objects. I can put on lavender oil and soothing ocean sounds. I can speak in calm, low tones. I can pray. I can sing to him. I can just sit and be there with him through it. I can do lots of things that will help him calm down and center himself but ultimately, he has to manage his own anger himself. I can’t do that for him. He has to experience it, try to process it, and choose to let it go or hold onto it longer, himself.

And he does. It doesn’t last forever. And he lets me pick him up and cuddle him, and wipe away his tears and get him some cold water and off he goes.

And none of it has anything to do with me personally. I’m not the cause of the tantrum, and I’m not in control of when it stops. He is. And he’s TWO.

Because it has nothing to do with age. It is because someone else’s actions and emotions are their responsibility, and theirs alone.

What would you do if you knew that, really knew that? #Freedom?

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Loyal Beavers, Majestic Moose, and being Thankful for Canadian Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving my fellow Canucks!

I just wanted to say how grateful I am for my life. I love being a mom. I love being able to be home with them and see the daily, DAILY cognitive development Benji is exhibiting. He’s 23 months and he is a little parrot, repeating everything we say. I love knowing that I’m the one that knows him best, and if I’m not too distracted, I can pick-up what he’s saying even if it is a little garbled. 
‘Fog?’ 
Yep, frog is hiding right now.
‘Fok?’ 
Yep, here’s your fork.
‘Ya-Yee?’ 
Ellie is still sleeping.
‘Wa-wa?’ 
Here’s your water.
‘Pop-pop?’ 
Sure, here’s a popsicle.
‘Two?’ (He says this only for treats and he holds up one finger right on his nose.)
No, you can’t have two popsicles.

He is an angel. A sweet, giving, cuddly, curious, laid-back little baby. 

Until you tell him no. 

Then he morphs into a raging whirlwind of kicks and screams and shocking baby rage. He drops to the floor, throwing punches and kicks and thrashing about as if tiny red ants were eating him alive. It is a sight to behold. I’d like to say only immediate family has witnessed this, but sadly my friends at HEB have seen it numerous times. 

Last week we broke a record, three throw-himself on the floor tantrums in the aisles of HEB within an a fifteen minute period.

People stared. Mom’s frowned. Dad’s shuffled off uncomfortably.

An employee tracked down ‘be calm’ homeopathic remedies from the hippy aisle and shoved five boxes in my hand. ‘You can’t overdose on this,’ she told me as she sent me on my way.

So what are my instincts telling me? In Benji’s case I try to pull him to a safe place, make sure there’s nothing around he can bang into, and wait it out. 

The easy answer, when you’re tired or busy, is to just give him what he wants. 

This. Is. A Recipe. For. Disaster. 

The more they kick and fight, the more resolved you need to be not to give in. If you do, you’re telling them loud and clear, next time they want something this behavior will get it for them.

We don’t want that do we?

In Benji’s case it’s developmental. His need to control something, anything, and his inability to understand and process his negative emotions leads to a tiny fire hydrant of messy, loud emotions spraying everywhere. You wait it out, clean up the mess, and stick to your guns. 

Asking politely gets him what he wants. Tantrums get him nothing but a scratchy throat from the screaming.

Ellie is four years old. She’s past this hydrant stage and is learning about delayed gratification, about controlling her reactions and how to get calm when she’s been triggered. This is an ongoing process that has involved me using every calming and centering tool in my box, and a few I’ve only read about. 

Time-in’s and the calming corner, deep breaths, thinking about the other person, and finally taking away the toy they’re fighting over or her beloved Ipad. 

I’m having a hard time getting her to stop hitting and pushing Benji. Also, pulling his hair, squeezing and pinching and throwing things at him. Right? Fun.

I know she’s going to grow out of this phase. I know if I apply consistent, reliable consequences and I deliver these consequences with firmness and love, she is going to be okay and not turn out to be the Unibomber.

I just need to pull on my big-girl panties and get through it. Having them both at these developmental stages is tricky.

I love being a stay at home mom. I wouldn’t trade these hours, days, and exhausting nights for anything.

Having said that..I can see that Ellie would be just fine with someone else during the day - her social needs are outweighing her cognitive one-on-one needs and Benji will be there soon.

So we all know I passed my GRE and I’m applying for my masters in Education. 

Turns out I also need to be a certified teacher. I don’t know what my new career path will be, but I think my steps are leading me toward the classroom, at least in the near future.

Meantime - if you see me at HEB standing watch over a flailing and screaming toddler, just pat me on the shoulder and remind me it’s all going to be okay, because it is.

Happy Turkey day my lovely Canadians - may our loyal beavers and majestic moose stand guard over your gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffed Turkey’s and warm apple pies, eh?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Solitude, Allergies, and Making It Work


“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, which most people are afraid of, because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.”

Alright, I don’t know who said that but it feels true to me.

Ugh, solitude. I both crave and abhor it. (Abhor - what a cool word. AbHOR!)

Luckily for me with two babies around I don’t have to endure solitude often. 

I’ve had a weird last few months with them. They’ve been sick since June with what the doctor is now saying is allergies. So I’ve got them full of allergy medicine and they are slowly getting back on track. We’ve been having these endless cycles of what I thought were colds, I’d give them allergy meds (because you can’t give cold meds to kids for some reason) and they’d start to bounce back and I’d stop (because I hate taking drugs or giving them to the kids long term) and they’d get ‘sick’ again followed by steadily worsening symptoms until one or both would get an ear infection and we’d be back on antibiotics and the allergy meds again.

Exhausting much? Anyone who’s ever stayed at home to take care of babies knows the unique strain caring for sick kids gives. Toddlers aren’t the happiest little dudes in the base case. Add a head full of gunk and a sore throat and cough and they are chucking their cheerios at your face (while screaming like a maniac) and throwing the dog around the living room by the tail. 

It ain’t pretty.

So. Allergies. 

Claritin until November, apparently. As a pretty crunchy (hippy) chickie-poo this does not sit well with me at all.

After a poll on facebook I’ve been basically told to keep doing what I’m doing with the Vicks, Eucalyptus and Camphor oils, and to add Elderberry gummies. I knew about Elderberry, taken during a cold to help shorten the duration and lessen the severity but I didn’t know it was good for allergies.

I am willing to give it a try. Anything is better than being on allergy meds for two months.

The whole time I’m like BUT I BREASTFED! Argggg. I breastfed those little buggers for almost a year for Ellie and a year and a half for Benji. They’re not supposed to get allergies or skin issues. They’re not supposed to have mood swings and tummy issues.

They’re supposed to be shiny and golden with good health oozing from their pores and…and…just glowey with the awesomeness of my sacrifice.

I digress. The only thing shiny and golden these days are the McDonalds french fries we eat in the van on the way to or from one thing or the other.

So if you’ve got solitude…get in touch with your soul. Or binge-watch Ozark I don’t know, whatever makes you happy.

If you’re like me and you don’t even have solitude to potty, well, hang in there. Or don’t. Carve out some time ala Kiki in the ‘Bad Mom’s’ movie:

“And I said I’m going to the PTA meeting with my friends so stop being such a (blank, blank) and make it work!”

And have an Elderberry gummy while you’re at it. It may not help your mood but the sugar and the chewing will make you feel better.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

I Know What's Best For Me.


 “I don’t just want to live the length of my life. I want to live the depth and breadth of it as well.” Diane Ackerman

“Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.” John D. Rockefeller

These two quotes are often running around in my head. Yes I realize they are contradictory. At least, I think they are. 

What I want more than almost anything is to be financially independent and secure. Boom. I said it. Whew. Why was that so hard to admit? Because I’m a woman? Because I’m trying to be a ‘nice’ girl and nice girls don’t want that kind of personal freedom and independence?

What I want above everything is a life where I can feel joy and peace and feel safe and where my children, all of them, feel that too. Where I seek knowledge and happiness wherever I find it and I ask questions until I find the origins.
In my mind the two ultimate goals, the two goals underlying everything I do, the two goals I feel are seeking different experiences and are fighting each other for dominance.

One goal, if fulfilled, is a life where I chase every curiosity, where I find every smallest thread of happy and peace and I follow them wildly, joyfully to their source, no matter the cost, no matter the impracticality of what I will learn or experience, and no matter the risk. 

No matter what other people think of me.

Worst end result scenario? Rich in wisdom and knowledge but poor. Sitting in a dark room in a sparse place devoid of beauty and with only the memory of beauty in my mind to sustain me in the cold final days of my life. Bleak much?

Another is where I narrow down my passions and focus on one. I am practical and reserved. I am disciplined and wise. I seek to be excellent at this one thing. 

I pick one. Yoga. Writing. Career in Corporate America.

So excellent money will follow. Not millions, but enough to know I will feel ‘safe’. And that I can extend that safety to my children. My end days are spent in warmth and comfort physically, but my heart is snagged on ‘what-if’s and the kind of soul-insecurity that only comes to you at the end, when you know it’s you and death alone. What might have made this life fuller? More magical and sacred? Did I exchange spiritual solace for fleeting physical security?

I think my biggest problem is I’ve faced death at a really young age. I was 16 when I finally came to terms with the weird fact that my life would someday end. And as things were going at the time, sooner rather than later. 

It kind of crunched me, burned me up inside until all that was left was curiosity, and a serious annoyance for superficial. I don’t got time for BS. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a total pushover. I’d rather shove a toothpick in my eyeball than hurt someone’s feelings even accidentally. But my tolerance for BS is decidedly low. Hopefully especially low for my own BS.

This blog today has done what I was hoping against hope it would do. It has clarified what I really want from the chaff of what I should want.

I want to live my life widely, deeply. I want to be curious about what I’m curious about, I want to know me, I want to connect with the divine honestly.

No one knows what the end will be or when. All we know is here, now. And here, now, I want to live as if I’m the only one who knows what’s best for me. Because I am.