The Dishwasher Cycle

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Mmm, clean dishes! Back into place you go, all steamy and sterile. Beautiful … shelves full, dishwasher empty. Beautifully full, beautifully empty, the promise of days of dishes to enjoy.

Oh, here’s a few dirty ones on the counter. Slide you into place … perfect! Still lots of room in here. All surfaces clean, so satisfying.

And a few more over here … let me check the office … okay, we’ve already got a few dirty ones! But still, lots of clean dishes to use, lots of empty room to fill in the dishwasher.

Mealtime, snacktime, mealtime … why is the counter such a mess? Fill, fill, fill, very satisfying. Look, the plates are stacking up so neatly, almost a whole row. The bowls, well, they never quite fit, maybe this one should go on the top shelf. Wow, the utensil slots are getting crowded. I wonder if I can fit in this mixing bowl. Okay! … not full yet. I could run it, but no. Too much water and energy.

Can you grab a few forks for the table for dinner? What? We’re running low? Okay, and some plates … none left??? Oh right, the plate stack was full. Okay, well, we can use some of the mixing bowls. And I’ll wash a fork … no, I’ll use this one from cooking.

Why didn’t you run the dishwasher last night? You did? But it’s still dirty. Yes, the delay function doesn’t work. Yes, we’ve talked about it before. Well, try using a napkin. I’ll run it … no, don’t worry about it.

Just one hour to go …

Aaah! Clean, beautiful dishes. Fresh and sterile. Lovely.

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No Control at All

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I am unable to make my daughter do what I want.

Given my perspectives on parenting, I would have thought I would understand this by now, and, in fact, would not WANT to control her. No. I still, at times, want to make her do what I know she needs to do.

Starting Sunday, she had a fever and a runny nose & sore throat. I know what she needs: liquids. She needs to drink lots.

I offer: Tea. Water. Smoothie. Lemon water. Fruit.
Does she drink?
No.
Hardly anything at all.
Less than she normally drinks.
The colour of her pee: definitely yellow.
At one point, she had three different liquid offerings sitting on her table.
By the end of the day, I can’t even remember if she got through one whole glass.

I encourage. I offer. I put the straw in her mouth. I tweak taste. I talk rationally about it. I pass her the water bottle. I make it serious, casual, fun.
Nothing works!!!

Sometimes, this parenting thing is exhausting. I can’t believe how ridiculously difficult it is to take care of my daughter in the most basic of ways.

Good night.

Deep thinking about simple ideas

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Transitions enable change. Does that mean that a month in a hotel could jump-start my new life?

We are out of our condo for at least three weeks owing to water damage from above. Note to any potential thieves, all (ALL!) our possessions have been moved off-site for the reno. We packed up kitchen, bathroom, clothes, office & toys, planning for a month out. In fact, owing to husband’s work schedule, I did most of the packing. And then, when we had to switch rooms two days into our stay because they were fully booked, I did most of the repacking. And the unpacking. And a good chunk of the re-packing to move us into our third and final room. Nothing like packing up your stuff three times in a week to sell one on the value of minimalism.

As the restoration company assessed our place for the move-out, the two people said several times, “Yep, lots of stuff in here!” “Yes, lots of things to move out!” I’ve never thought that we had that much, aside from an obvious surplus of books, so their comments really made me look around. It’s not excessive, I still don’t think, but it’s enough. It’s enough that, as I’ve noticed recently, far too much of my time is spent cleaning and maintaining. Enough that we need to keep on top of it or the mess can overwhelm my delicate spirit.

I had hoped that a streamlined life in a hotel would enable us to spend a peaceful month away. That is still theoretically possible. However, spending multiple intense sessions peeling & slicing apples for the food dehydrator while ignoring my daughter were not part of the plan. Hours spent cooking too much food as I attempt to use up vegetables before they go bad: also not intended. And running up and down three flights of stairs to move things around and watch my daughter is not the simplified existence I imagined.

Might I be my own worst enemy?

Is it possible that a simpler, more satisfying life is attainable if I want it?

Could such a life involve fewer and shorter to do lists?

Could I let instinct, not cell phone beeps, alert me to attend to important tasks?

Could I simply buy less – less food, fewer books, not as many craft supplies or clothes – so I have less to deal with?

Could I put first things first and, at a cleared off table over a simple meal, connect with my daughter and spend our first period of time together in the morning talking, learning and building our relationship? And let that lead us through our day?

Right now, these all seem possible. The only barrier is myself. I tried to reduce my to do list today. I removed one item. There is a library book sale tomorrow, and I quite want to go. And even as I envision a streamlined existence in our condo, I am not sure what I actually am willing to part with to make it happen. Just as one example, can I give up one of the beautiful table cloths I have, the ones we use never? There’s the embroidered green one, that beautiful middle green past spring. The red and pink flowered one. Several thick, beautiful cotton white ones with embroidery. Not to mention, the two table cloths from Russia with embroidered designs from the Cheboksarakh region. The only one we use is a functional, washable brown one, so that one will stay … with the others.

Oi. Change truly starts with me, should I so choose.

Our Brief Flirtation with Cable TV

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They called in the evening and my husband spoke with them. Unexpectedly, he didn’t hang up immediately but spoke with them and then asked me: “Do we want cable for $4 per month?”

I paused. My higher self said no. Then a vision floated before my eyes: approaching winter, empty evenings, couch bliss. While I don’t watch much television, there is one major weakness my husband and I share: design/reno/decorating shows. Just imagine evenings of shared renovation bliss!

“OK. Let’s try it.”

The cable guy came. It was fine. Except that he couldn’t really fully install it and get the cables properly connected, so we had a random PVR box sitting in the middle of our floor, and loose cables around, but it worked. And wow, a house hunting show on my own television! While I’m folding laundry! Awesome.

My husband came home. My daughter woke up. And then the 3 of us were sitting there watching the rectangle.

To avoid that, we tried to confine viewing to times when she was asleep. Surprise! That doesn’t leave a lot of time. And we didn’t talk too much when the thing was on.

But still: renovation shows!!

The bill came. Would you believe it if I told you that it was more than $4 per month? Yes. The first call back was extremely unsuccessful as they couldn’t explain why our bill was more than we had been promised. They said we would get a call back.

Would you be surprised if I told you we didn’t get a call back?

At that point, we were packing to move out of our condo that afternoon for a month (reno work). I called and got the brilliant Kara. She listened, empathized, apologized, and got to work. She found the problem (a promo code not entered) and got us back to the promised $4/month. And when I told her that regardless, we were cancelling, she was able to do some magic to reduce our monthly bill by almost $40 for the next 6 months while downgrading our cable package. No more reno shows, so sad … but also no more rectangle, and cost savings for 6 months.

We’re now in a hotel, enjoying the occasional tv viewing, and agree that it’s best as an occasional bonus, not a regular menu item.

And I left her

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Listening to your child can be really, really hard. There aren’t many healthy examples of taking the time to hear what kids say, and then trusting what they say. And of course, it is entirely possible to go too far with this (i.e., my daughter doesn’t need chick pea cookies for every meal. Yes, I mean i.e.). That, in fact, is what most examples are about: kids want bad things, kids manipulate, kids need to be managed by their parents.

I’m trying to consider the other side. What if my daughter knows herself? What if trusting her and listening to her teaches her to trust herself and listen to herself? What if she and I and her dad can work in partnership to scaffold her growth? What if she is on track, on her own time and schedule, to become the HER that she is meant to be, and we just need to provide the listening and support to help make that happen?

We started preschool again this year. I tried to be optimistic. She’s a couple months older, she had a great summer, she loves her teacher. I also remembered last year: initial hopes followed by weeks of attending preschool with her (when she didn’t protest so much that we stayed home). And the year didn’t start so great: she was sick the first orientation day, and clung to me the second. And the second week, well, she didn’t want me to leave either.

We are blessed with the most understanding preschool educator ever. One who wants to partner with us to help our child grow. One who doesn’t try to make me leave, though she will let me leave if I’m ready. One who appreciates that we’re just trying to be there for our daughter until she’s ready. As a result, I feel safe trusting my daughter to her.

I didn’t have a clear plan as to when we would expect our daughter to attend preschool on her own, or how it would happen. Our basic plan was encouragement, talking through strategies with her (breathing, remember we love you, tell the teacher if you’re scared), and let her lead. After 2 weeks of attending with her, I was wondering if she would ever leave. I was considering losing hope. I was open to pulling her out. But at the same time, we saw movement. She ventured away to play instead of clinging to me. She comforted another child who was upset about something.

Still, we started this week without a plan again, and I fully expected to be there with her today.

But. Driving home from grocery shopping, she shared her “plan”: I would drive her to preschool, dada would pick her up.

“So … does that mean I’ll leave you at preschool?”

“… yes …”

“How do you feel about me leaving you at preschool?”

“Happy and sad.”

In brief, the sad is a fear that big monsters, dinosaurs or bears will show up and eat them. The happy is that “I get to practice being brave.” And if those monsters don’t show up today, apparently she will want me to leave her there every day after that.

We arrived. Another girl was crying. We changed into indoor shoes. We nursed. We went to play at the water table. We told the teacher our plan, together. And I kissed her and left.

The teacher texted a picture of her happily playing a little while later.

I feel so proud of my daughter for choosing to practice bravery.

I feel so honoured that I get to support her in her choices.

Signtunity

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Embracing polysemy, I declare this upcoming workshop to be both a sign and a problem, thus making it an opportunity:
To figure out what I really want to do
To face my fear over professional failure
To push myself
To make time for myself
To practice just getting things done and moving forward.

After realizing how close it was to the event, I opted not to cancel and to go ahead with the workshop. I reached out more to colleagues for advice, and decided to stress less.

Today I called the office to learn a few more details about the event, including how many people to expect. Tonight I was able to put together a 3-page e-hand-out for participants and wrestle the outline into something workable. A bit more time on it, and I’ll have something acceptable to present. Yes, I really really wish I would make more time and do a better job. But I won’t do that right now, so I’m happy with figuring out what a good level of effort would be and providing that.

Incidentally, I think that may be one of the main lessons from my doctoral program: don’t overthink it, and don’t work harder than you have to (otherwise known as work smart, not hard). While this advice fails in a number of ways (note my lack of an academic career), it certainly makes for a more pleasant experience.

Procrastination: Problem or Sign?

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I don’t want to work.

At least, I don’t want to work on a project for my business. I applied to do this workshop months ago, and assumed that by late August I’d have the energy and enthusiasm to pull it off. I’ve had a couple of months of just family time, caring for my daughter, cooking, reading, all the home nesting things that I love.

How come I can’t drag my attention to this workshop on a cool topic that I proposed myself? Why do I feel completely over my head? Where is my professional edge, driving me to succeed?

What I would much, much rather spend my time doing: Caring for my daughter. Organizing our family recipes. Continuing cleaning out, purging, organizing and making attractive every corner of our home. Writing. Developing an author’s website. Reading. Reading about home schooling. Planning home schooling. Visiting with friends. Researching nutrition for our family and planning out better meals. Sewing. Crafting. Walking. Doing any of dozens of mini-projects we have for our family, from the arenas of health through finance through spiritual development to disaster preparedness.

My heart is in my home. My energy is in my home. What can I learn from my complete lack of energy for this workshop? Should I – SHOULD I – push myself to do it? It’s not like work is fun for everyone all the time. Count my blessings, learn to do the hard work and do it.
Or:
I have a unique opportunity right now to choose where I expend my energy. I have the support of my spouse to select and pursue the path that is most true to my heart. I can see clearly where my heart is not – therefore, have the courage to say no to the opportunity/ball & chain.