Take time to breathe!

I wrote this two years ago — well before the Pandemic days. Back then we had a crowd for Christmas and lots of activities to fill our days. We won’t be hosting my children, dad, and my son’s girlfriend’s family for Christmas. His girlfriend’s family includes seven siblings and mom. The two years they stayed with us were amazing.

This year, I am moving out of state and out of our home of 28 years. So, although we aren’t social butterflies, I am still busier than I’d like. I’m reminding myself TAKE TIME TO BREATHE.

Infant and toddler Christmas photo

My children’s first Christmas picture together.

It’s that time of year and feeling festive, I agreed to go to more events than normal. But while I’m bouncing from event to event, I’m stressed thinking of all the work I have at home to do.

Last night I was downtown for the Palm Springs Walk of the Inns and the Palm Springs Woman’s Club. I baked a double batch of snickerdoodles for the bake sale for the PSWC. Today I’m off to a luncheon fashion show with a friend at Wally’s. But, I really have so much stuff to do around the house to get ready for Christmas.

I have to find a tree! I have to clean out my kids’ rooms for the guests (We invited my son’s girlfriend and her family to stay with us Christmas week.) I have to meal plan and grocery shop and yeah — shop for presents, too. So many to dos are filling my lists. It’s freaking me out a bit.

The entire tree thing seems too much. There’s a tree seller down the street and during an evening walk, my husband and I stopped by to look. I only want a little tree, nothing stupendous. Just a four-footer or so. I just about choked when I saw the price tag on the smallest tree on the lot — $225! I remember when I’d pick up a tree in front of the grocery store for $30. I’ve been against fake trees on principle all these years. But, I think those principles are now telling me that it’s a crime to buy a real tree and pay a small fortune just to have the garbage man haul it off in a couple weeks. It seems so wasteful to destroy a tree, too, for a few week’s pleasure.

Balachine Nutcracker bunny

My son in the Palm Springs Christmas Lights parade in the Nutcracker Sleigh next to the Sugar Plum Fairy (pink tutu).

 

One funny story about the Christmas tree lot near our house: I remember when my kids were young and one night we walked there to pick out a tree. My husband carried our toddler son on his shoulders. I was pushing the stroller with our infant daughter while holding on to our Rottie’s leash. We walked the few blocks to the tree lot and began walking in an out of the rows of trees. Something jumped out from under one of the trees — scaring me to death! It was Sherman our black cat! I guess he couldn’t stand being left out. I had to walk back to the house with baby and dog in tow, herding the cat home, too!

Now with my busy schedule on my mind, it’s my saving grace to take time for myself. I’m grounded with my morning routine of walking, praying and writing. I am forcing myself to swim at noon Masters a couple days a week. And then I find a moment to sit in the back yard, close my eyes, listen to the birds and breathe.Toddler son and infant daughter's first Christmas photo

What’s your secret for staying calm through all the Holiday fun activities and things you have to do?

Counting down to change: 17 days to go

old spanish style house

My dream home of 28 years.

The movers are scheduled. I’m busy with lists of things to do from canceling utilities to signing up for high speed internet. It’s been 28 years in this beautiful old house. It was my dream house and I never wanted to move. Ever.

But my husband has. He’s brought it up for several years. At first I answered with sobs and tears. Finally, I acquiesced. But I had a last ditch plan. I thought we should test the market, because it’s super crazy hot. I wanted to list the house really, really high. So high that nobody would make an offer. So we did and it sold in three hours with two offers above asking price.

archway gate to casa

The entrance to our home.

Now moving is my new reality. There are things that made me want to move, too. One was the sports arena that was going in a block from our house with no plans for adequate parking. But that got nixed. Then there’s the hotel across the street with guests bringing their dogs over to our lawn to do their business. And the loud music and parties. I’m over that. But the hotel is bankrupt now, so it’s been quiet, which probably means it was a good time to sell our house. Then there are the people who drive the wrong way down our street, whipping around the corner of our house. My son and husband both got hit backing out of the driveway.

Most of all, it costs too much to live in this old house and in California. Plus, there’s our homeless guy who thinks he owns the house and peeks through our bedroom windows.

My kids were so upset. And rightfully so. This is the only home they’ve ever lived in. It’s their lifetime home until they left for college and then on to adulthood.

I know the move is for the best, but my emotions have been up and down and all over the place. I think it happened too fast. Three hours was not long enough to wrap my head around the move. Sometimes I’m so excited to try a new adventure. Other times, I’m teary eyed.

view of gorgeous Palm Springs backyard

I’ll miss this.

Have you ever moved? Were you excited or sad?

 

If you could travel back in time, what would you change?

stuffed animal party

My kids and a party with stuffed animals.

In an article called “Parenting with the end result in mind” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, from Pop Parenting printed in the Montgomery Advertiser, they ask the question, “What would change in our parenting if we could see the future adults in these little people we are raising?”

That makes me look at my children today and wonder what would I change if I could? I’d have given them more chores, not picked up after them and let them make more decisions and mistakes. I wouldn’t worry so much about grades, homework, or focus on performance. Would that have changed who they are today? Probably not. My kids are kind people with character. They have compassion and they care for their environment and other people. It would be a little tweak on my part to help them be more self-sufficient and a little steadier on their feet as they explore the years post college graduation.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

How would we talk to them, and what kinds of choices would we make if we were completely aware that we are raising the future parents of our grandkids and someone’s future employee or boss and a future spouse and next door neighbor and someone’s friend — maybe (hopefully) our own future friend and possibly even the person who will one day take care of us when we can’t take care of ourselves.

It’s a powerful perspective. They say hindsight is 20/20, but we don’t have to wait until the aftermath to reap the benefits of that perspective. Humans have the unique ability to project their imaginations forward and then turn around and examine the present from a potential future. We can think about what we want the end result to look like, and we can make decisions to help us get there.

Case in point, when we are fully aware of the future adult standing before us, we will probably react differently than we would if all we could see is the three-year-old who just smashed a jar of spaghetti sauce all over the kitchen while trying to get to the snacks that he’s not supposed to take without permission in the first place.

For one thing, keeping the end result in mind is a great way of remembering that most of the mistakes our kids make are just part of their learning and maturing process. The challenges of the toddler and preschool years are just a season. The emotional battles of the teen years are also just a season.

beach walk

Beach walk with my daughter and husband.

What would you do differently if you could look back in time?

Helicopter parents butt into zoom school

brother and sister dressed up

My son when he was in second grade. I think I remember my daughter’s bangs had something to do with gum and big brother.

Can you imagine how hard it would be to be a helicopter parent in today’s world? Imagine if your child was on zoom calls for school. I’d think most helicopter parents would be sitting right there with their child.

In an article I read from Good Housekeeping by Gina Rich, there were quite a few funny examples. The article is called Parents Who Butt In During Remote School Are Just Trying to Help — But They’re Doing the Opposite.

Here’s an excerpt:

Child development experts have already firmly established why helicopter parenting and lawnmower parenting — or swooping in to rescue our kids from every problem — is harmful. Overly involved parenting jeopardizes kids’ independence and resilience, not to mention parents’ sanity. Yet months into a pandemic that’s forcing physical classrooms to remain closed, the unescapable proximity has caused many parents to struggle. It can be hard to let children muddle through the challenges of virtual school without intervening.

Earlier this fall in Berkeley, California, Allison Landa went to check on her 5-year-old son, a transitional kindergartener who is learning remotely. When Landa saw her child wasn’t following the teacher’s instructions to draw dots on a page, she decided to jump in. “I took the crayon and helped him swirl it on the page. Then I drew a dot of my own. Then I quizzed him: What color was the dot? How big was it?”

Across the country in upstate New York, Emily Popek was helping her third grader, who was suddenly the host of her class Zoom meeting after a glitch kicked the teacher out. Looking at the screen, Popek saw her daughter’s classmates — and a lone parent whose voice sounded familiar.

I realized I’d been hearing that parent’s voice,” she says. “You can never see her kid — it’s just her.” During the first Zoom meeting of the school year, the same parent had joined the conversation and started asking the teacher questions. “The student wasn’t interacting with the teacher at all,” recalls Popek, a school communications professional. “It was all being mediated by the mom.” And Popek’s story is just one of many: Playgrounds across the country are filled with whispered complaints of parents who interject during lessons, prompt their kids to give correct answers or complain that their kids aren’t being called on enough.

To be fair to parents who are trying to work at home and have their kids succeed in school, this year has thrown them a curve ball. They are trying to do what’s best. Although sometimes it’s better to do less. Let your kids take over their education. They will gain so much more, even if they mess up.

I remember when my son was in second grade, I volunteered to be a classroom helper. My role was to sit at the back of the classroom and correct papers as they were turned in. The teacher was fabulous and she stood in the front of the classroom making a list of five or six assignments on the board and keeping the kids enthralled with an occasional cartwheel. She had me call kids individually to go over their assignments with them. She said it was so much better for them to get instant feedback and learn from their mistakes right away. That’s why she used parent helpers.

Anyway, I would get antsy watching my son not do anything but fiddle at his desk while other kids were hurrying through their list of assignments. I’d walk up to him and try to encourage him to get started. The teacher would admonish me and send me back to my desk. “Mom, leave him alone! He’s got this,” she say. Then when it was almost time for recess, my son would miraculously start his work and get done in time to go play. And if not, he’d take his work outside and finish it at a lunch table.

It was tough for me to watch him dawdle. But he lived through it and so did I.

brother and sister in winter wear

My kids all grown up in their winter wear at a PAC 12 Swimming Championships.

If you’re a parent with your kids learning online at home, what are your secrets to making it work? Do you find yourself wanting to jump in and help? Or, take over?

The new normal: our crazy topsy turvy life

Today I’m looking back on when things got crazy. They’ve never stopped. I also am not okay with the “new normal.” Nothing is normal. Nothing.

Here’s a recap of the day before we sheltered in place. My kids who live in the Bay Area already went on shutdown.

Pretty long-haired cat next to flowers and swimming pool

Our cool as a cucumber cat is helping to keep me calm.

I was doing okay, but yesterday when my kids called me and said they were under mandatory “shelter in place,” I started to panic. I’m wondering if the world will ever get back to normal? They were working remotely in my son’s house in the Bay Area.

The mandatory shelter in place started today. Yesterday they were told to prepare to be home for at least two weeks. My daughter is working remotely and decided to get out of the city and drove home last night. It’s so nice to have her home! I wonder how long she will be here?

cute pug

Waffles the pug came home, too.

My dad agreed to let me grocery shop for him and I found everything he needed except for toilet paper, of course! While I was driving from his home, my daughter called and Waffles, her pug, ate something and was trying to throw up, but nothing was coming up. I told her to call a vet and I got really stressed out again! She called back in tears and said that the vets she called would NOT take new patients in their practice due to the Coronavirus! I was in the car and while she was talking to me and I noticed a big white pick up truck on my tail! Then he swerved in the lane next to me, and started yelling and screaming, giving me the finger. He threw a milkshake at me! It hit my windshield and the car was covered. I’m still shaking.

What in the h*ck is going on, folks? Is this really the time to become completely unhinged?

white pick up truck road rage

This is the guy in a white pick up truck with a Home Depot trailer that threw a milkshake at me.

Let’s take a moment to breathe some fresh air, calm down, take a walk and enjoy your families. And love up our dogs and cats, too!

As a follow up, Waffles the pug spent the night at the one facility that accepted new patients — the emergency pet hospital. It turned out he ate berries from a bad bush and was placed on an IV after his belly was emptied from the toxic berries. At 16 pounds, he’s a little guy and quite fragile. 

What excitement has your family experienced in this topsy turvy new normal?

Why moms lose sleep over adult kids

blond brother and sister with yellow lab

My kids with Angus more than 10 years ago.

When they were young and I worried about other things.

I read a fascinating story that said “Study Confirms That Parents Still Lose Sleep Worrying About Their Adult Children.” I am definitely on of those parents who loses sleep and I know my dear friend Gabby, who shared this story on Facebook is one, also.

Even before our children are born, we worry about them. We’re relieved when we count the 10 fingers and 10 toes in the hospital, but we still worry. We’re relieved when they do well on their tests in school and make the team, but we still worry. We worry about safety, about their grades, about what they’ll do for a career, about who they’ll one day marry or if they’ll get married at all. The list of things to worry about feels endless.

We hope that our worries will ease as our children get older, but it turns out that’s not the case.

Brother and sister staring at eachother

A photo from last year.

Can you relate to this as a parent, too? On my current list of worries is the bad air quality from California fires, my kids driving through the Cyclone Bomb weather, which is a rare event with high winds, rain and even snow, plus their general safety living in the Bay Area. I worry that they are secure in their careers and find their work satisfying and are able to make a living.

Here’s more from the story about parents who worry about adult kids:

A recent study conducted by Amber J. Seidel of Pennsylvania State University confirms what many parents already know – you never stop worrying about your children. Her study went on to show that parents actually lose sleep worrying about their adult children.

Parents, it looks like we’ll be worrying forever. If your children are already adults, you may already know that to be true.

In Seidel’s study, 186 heterosexual married couples with adult children were surveyed. On a scale of 1 to 8, they were asked how much assistance they offer their children. Assistance could include financial, emotional or even chatting on the phone. Choosing 1 meant daily assistance and interaction where 8 was only once a year.

The parents were also asked to choose from 1 to 5 regarding stress. In this case, choosing 1 meant no stress, and 5 meant the maximum amount of stress.

The third thing these parents tracked was how much sleep they got at night. Moms got an average of 6.66 hours and dads got slightly more with an average of 6.69 hours.

The results were not the same for moms and dads. For moms, it didn’t matter if they were the ones offering assistance or if their husbands were the ones offering assistance; moms were stressed out and sleeping less either way.

Dads showed a lack of sleep and more stress only when they were the ones offering assistance to their adult children. If their wife offered assistance, it didn’t affect them. This either means that dads are not affected in the same way as moms or that the wives weren’t telling their husbands about the assistance causing the dads to be stress free due to lack of knowledge about the situation.

I found it interesting that the dads didn’t lose sleep if their wives were the ones offering support. Or, like the article said, maybe they weren’t aware of what was going on. But the moms lost sleep regardless who was the main person offering support to their kids.

Do you worry about your children too, regardless of their age? What do you worry about most?

brother and sister back to back with pug

A recent photo in our back yard with Waffles the pug.

My kids are learning how to adult and I worry more.

Are your kids bored? It may boost creativity

boy wearing birthday crown and bug antennae

My son came up with bug headbands for a birthday party made from pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls and lots of glue and glitter. The kids looked adorable. He also got to wear a birthday crown.

Do you remember being bored as a kid? I do. But it never lasted. I could go outside when we lived in town and go ask a neighbor to play. Or, I’d jump on my bike and ride around the block. We could run over to the house down the street that had an extra lot with a brown quarter horse named Snoopy. I’d climb on the fence to pet the white strip that ran down his nose. Most of the time I’d read, or play library and create library cards for all my books and arrange them by author on my bookshelves. Boredom just wasn’t a thing. Our mom was strict about TV and it wasn’t an option. She allowed two half-hour shows daily that she circled in the TV Guide — and they were usually on PBS.

These days, many kids never experience boredom because they lose themselves in a device like an iPhone or iPad. They don’t know what it’s like to have to use their imaginations and find something creative to do. I don’t think it’s helping them to be entertained externally all the time. I wrote about promoting a creative spirit in kids here and here.

Without creativity and an imagination, our kids won’t be problem solvers or discover new ways of doing things. If your kids are bored, so what? It’s okay. Ignore the whining and let them figure it out.

 In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, parenting experts Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman wrote Allow your kids to embrace boredom

 Have you noticed that our generation of parents is terrified of letting our kids become bored? Their anxiety is what drives them to pack a boatload of amusement options when they leave the house.

A few years ago, a waiter at a restaurant in North Dakota told us about a trend in his community. One local mom had created a custom quilted bag for holding multiple tablets so that every member of the family could be distracted and amused while they waited for their meal. It was wildly popular, he said.

Not only is our society’s pervasive reliance on amusement killing conversation and opportunities to connect and build relationships, it’s also preempting opportunities for boredom. Boredom is important for building imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Of course we can’t force these things into our children but we can set up an environment that will support the journey.

When we allow our kids to grapple with boredom on their own, rather than providing for them structured activities or distractions and amusements, imagination and creativity may come to their rescue!

“It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves,” said author Nancy Blakey. “If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

If we provide our kids with a constant stream of amusement options, which includes a plethora of extracurricular activities, we rob them of the opportunity to explore the open space in their own minds where the imagination hides.

They make a good point about having a structured schedule. With piano, swimming and homework, there wasn’t a lot of time for my kids to get bored during the school year. The summers gave us more hours for imaginative play. Also, swim meets when the kids would be sitting under a pop-up tent for hours on end resulted in some imaginative play. We’d be at a meet for five or six hours and they’d race for only a few minutes here and there. I remember observing some very creative verbal word games.

According to the article, the authors suggest having bins and jars filled with all sorts of things in easy reach for your kids like popsicle sticks, fabric, string, paints, googly eyes, papers of different colors and textures, glues, etc. Their suggestion:

Then let your kids get good and bored. Don’t offer many suggestions. Simply say, “Oh, there are lots of things you could do. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” It may take time but eventually their imaginations will awaken and lead them to new horizons.

brother and sister with birthday cake

The antennae headbands made an appearance at several birthdays.

What do you do when your kids are bored?