I believe that music has power, but what I’ve discovered recently is my old suggestion of making them sing is still viable, but in a new and unexpected way.
When my kids were little and angry with each other (or more likely me), I made them sing until everybody was happy. This was typically a nighttime event because they were young and tired and slightly irrational little beings, so they’d go off on really small issues and at that moment, no conversation would work.
I sat in their rooms, encouraged them to sing a song with me and they never agreed right away, so I sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ all by myself. I refused to leave until they were singing it with me and it only took about a minute before they were happy again. My goal wasn’t to resolve anything between them or me, I only wanted to lighten the mood enough to have a rational conversation, or at the very least have them go to bed happy and not all pissed off over something really small.
It worked every time.
It still works, but not in the same way.
Now if I ask them to sing they just get more angry. Of course I’m relentless about this and I won’t stop singing until they at least stop throwing things at me. Eventually one of the sisters comes by to ask me to stop as well, and as a last resort they join forces to take me down. I eventually do go down, but never easily.
The downside to this is that they rarely agree to sing with me nowadays. The upside is that they see how working as a team can accomplish things for their greater good and by the end we’re all laughing (most of the time) and whatever was in the storm cloud has gone away and I can get some rest. It may not make the issue go away for good, but it definitely makes us realize that we can deal with the small stuff in a small way, count blessings instead of keeping score, and gets them working together instead of at odds.
So yeah, I believe music has power, and sometimes in the weirdest ways.
There are three rubber ducks in my car, each a different color.
I took a seminar once about color and personality and at the time my personality was called orange, so I assigned the orange duck to my oldest daughter because she’s the most like me. The other two girls have a specific duck too, but for other reasons.
When we’re in the car and two of them are at “high argument” status, I arrange them accordingly, and when the argument is over, I lay them down due to battle fatigue. If one of the girls does something special (like empties the dishwasher without being asked) her duck gets alone time and the others get put away for a bit because let’s face it, at that moment I have a favorite.
My daughters all understand the duck system and normally all three of them are on display but sometimes one finds herself riding in the console. The duck punishments are never long but it gets the point across that mom is not happy. It’s on those occasions they soemtimes ask what they can do to get out of the console and back on the dashboard. I say, “Well, why are you in the console?”, which usually leads us right into a conversation about better behavior followed by a slow and deliberate climb of the duck to the coveted center spot. I know this sounds a little crazy and maybe it is, but parenting teens requires creativity, patience, persistence and anything that works – even if it’s a bunch of rubber ducks.
I just made my Monday list of things that need attention. Just like every other Monday, the list is long. Add to that a lack of structure in my house this summer and I may as well sprinkle everything with apathy. It only seems fair.
As I listed grocery shopping, errands, and doctor appointments, I remembered that my car has a recall notice which reminded me that it needs an oil change, which reminded me that I have to look up how to raise the volume of my GPS, which reminded me that the GPS needs to be updated… you get the picture right?
So how do you manage to get things done when everything needs doing? I have a very organized friend who uses a steno pad where adds tasks line by line and crosses them off when they are completed. When the page is completely crossed off she tears it out. She told me about her process in an effort to help but my first response was “Good idea but I would lose that notebook by lunchtime and then I’d stress eat – so then two problems instead of one.”
I’ve tried all sorts of things be more organized and productive but so far it’s just a exercise in futility. I’ve decided to try my friend’s steno pad technique, slightly modified to accommodate my attention deficit disorder (and my lack of a steno pad) and I just made a list of everything I can think that needs to be done as of right now. Even though my first instinct is to go back to bed right now, I’m going to power through this and select 5 things to put in my planner for today. I’m taping one ongoing list to my desk where it stands the best chance for survival and I’m being realistic about what I can do throughout the week. My hope is that instead of falling into a bag of despair tonight disguised as Lays Potato Chips, I can feel deserving of a bubble bath and chapter or from Target’s book selection of the month.
Have a good day and set the bar low. It’s easier to jump once you’re really good at high stepping.
I’m embarrassed to say how many Webkinz toys we once owned, let’s just say it was many, and why not? At around $10 each they were the perfect gift and in addition to being a plush toy, each one came with a unique code that gave access to an online community where your stuffed friend came to life. These adorable cartoon creatures lived in houses that kids could furnish and wardrobes children could accessorize with items from the Kinzstore. There, with codes and coins they earned online gaming in a safe, free, and adorable environment, kids could purchase just about anything we use in the human world, but in cartoon form. They could choose to play online with neighbors and friends by entering the same color code before they went into the virtual arcade. Not only that, but each Webkinz animal was cared for with feeding and playtimes and they were always happy to see you.
One of my girls in particular had a special affinity for all things cute. She gave all of her Webkinz names like Moo, or Chocolate Milk (the brown cow) or Blueberry the blue bird. But her first and favorite, and the one I’ve save for always is named Happy. Happy is a well worn black lab puppy that she loved, carried just about everywhere, and has never once gone missing.
Today for kicks I went to the Webkinz website and tried her decade old login and password. To my delight and surprise I was immediately taken right to Happy’s room where I found a tiny sleeping puppy in a thoughtful bed selected just for him. I didn’t wake the puppy, instead I clicked on the arcade icon and went there, where for 20 minutes of rousing games like Goober’s Lab and Smoothie Moves I earned 15 “K”coins. I was quickly taken back to the days when my then kindgergartner would sit with me and teach me all about the special world of Webkinz. She was home at the time so I asked her to come look at the computer with me and just like old times, she showed me how to spend the 15 coins I earned in my game play for some carrots and a chew toy which I gave to Happy before singing off.
If you had grade school kids during the Webkinz craze you must remember the stacks of toys in store displays. Looking back they must have been a thing to behold to a child. Color and texture and cuteness piled 5 feet high and each selection held a code to bring them to life in a safe sweet environment called Webkinz World. I was just thinking that I wish I could WekbinIZE my kids and people I love so that in years to come I could visit and play with them at my whim. Who knows maybe one day that will be a real thing and I can start another blogpost with the words “I wish I’d invented that.”
For now, I’m happy with my little taste of childhood, particularly since it was theirs and not mine for a change. Go to Webkinz world and take a look for yourself and if you see a black lab puppy named Happy, tell him I said “Have a nice day.”
I spent all of yesterday at Book Con 2015 in Manhattan. It was wall to wall writers, readers, publishers, fans, and celebrities. I’m not sure which presentation was the most interesting, which was the most inspiring, or which was the most meaningful, and I could write forever about it. But since none of us have that kind of time I thought I would summarize some of the highlights of what I brought home yesterday from BookCon.
1. New Yorkers are the most colorful, interesting, interested and friendliest people in the world. Even when it’s hot and crowded and you’re hungry and tried. I love every one of them.
2. Celebrities turned authors are really smart people.
3. Every woman in a long line for the ladies room is thinking “We should just take over that men’s room too, ” and it only takes one of us to say it out loud before the army forms into guards, monitors, and infiltrators.
4. Macaroni and Cheese is a popular focus for a surprising number of cookbooks.
5. There’s a crazy number of ways to get from where you are to where you want to be. It all depends on how badly you want to be there and how willing you are to navigate the the obstacles that get in your way.
I have to mention too that I brought home a lot of swag and a couple of new books. Next year I will do a little advanced planning, like bringing lunch. I did trade a guy my John Green ticket for a bag of trail mix. I had to leave early and my daughter was hungry.
Starbucks makes me crazy. When you make a pot of supermarket coffee and drink it from your finest “You’re #1” mug, two things happen: you spend about a dime, and there’s not a lot of landfill. But it isn’t really just the money or the garbage that I resent about Starbucks, it’s also how their most frequent customers take a transcendent thing like a cup of premium coffee completely for granted.
I grew up when the electric percolator was modern technology. Ours sat on the table or the kitchen counter (really just a wood plank balanced between the stove and the sink), and every day my mother filled it with water, added some measurement of coffee and set it to work. Through the glass dome on the lid I watched the liquid repeatedly appear and reappear a darker color each time, and with with every hue came an increased aroma of brewing coffee. Every day it seemed magical to me that my mom knew the exact moment when it was ready to pour.
One day my mother moved the percolator from the makeshift counter top and put a brand new mixer there. She announced with glee that we were going to make a cake. My job (which I did with intense purpose) was to crack eggs and check measurements and then press “start.” I counted seconds aloud to pass the time since two minutes is an eternity when you’re six, but somewhere around second 45 there began a loud and regular thumping and then a pulsing vibration. The wood plank slipped from its perch and everything on it, including the churning mixer went crashing to the floor. My mother held her arm in front of my body to protect me from flying cake batter and I watched as the power cord sprang from the outlet and whipped through the air like an angry snake, until finally the plug on the end of it hit the floor and everything went silent. I waited for her to speak, to say anything about what I should do but she just stood there.
I studied her face as she surveyed the stripes of cake batter that covered the entire kitchen, ceiling to floor, every wall, the chairs, the table, and the appliances. Her lips were slightly parted when she turned completely around to take in the entirety of the cake batter carnage. Finally she put her hands on my shoulders, looked down at me and said, “Helen, I think we should go out and get a cup of coffee.” She nodded approvingly of her own decision, grabbed her purse and my hand and we walked to the nearby luncheonette.
Soon we were seated at a table for two, on chairs with worn gray vinyl cushions and a laminate tabletop that had speckles of red and silver. A pleasant waitress greeted us and took the order – one cup of coffee for mom and one cup of milk for me, both in white handled cups with saucers please. The waitress smiled as she turned away. Things were improving. Quickly she brought two cups exactly as ordered and placed them in front of us. “Can I get you anything else?” She asked. Mom smiled broadly and said, “No, this is all we need right now thanks.”
I pushed my cup and saucer closer to my mothers so she could transfer some of her coffee into my milk until it turned light beige. Then we raised our cups, took our first sips and finally exhaled. Mom kept one hand around her coffee cup and the other hand moved through the air as she talked. I don’t really remember the exact conversation but I do know that in the next thirty minutes all of that mess in the kitchen changed from one herculean task to something small we’d take care of later, after we had a little time to get the right perspective, and maybe some cake. Occasionally the waitress stopped by and offered us a “warmer”, which my mother happily accepted, and when we left, mom paid with a dollar and I put the change on the table for a tip.
So my point is “Hey there Starbucks enthusiasts, you’re missing the point!” Coffee out should be savored, a side dish to great thinking, conversation, or dessert. It shouldn’t be regarded as overpriced fast food (or beverages). USA today has a handy calculator so we can feel empowered or horrible at the amount we spend on coffee in paper cups. And that doesn’t figure in the cost to eliminate the 2.3 billion paper cups they hand out every single year.
And what about the tip cup at the cash register? We are expected to leave a tip even before we’ve had any product and the only service we get is when over the din of the espresso machine, milk steamer and indie music tracks, a voice calls out the name they wrote on the paper cup so we can get up and fetch it.
But I have to admit, sometimes I do walk in to Starbucks, order a $5.65 Grande Cappuccino with an extra shot vanilla syrup, and I don’t complain about it. It’s my mid week fuel and sometimes my lunch. But then I also hear Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, (1998), every time and I’m reminded that times have changed, and so has the coffee shop…
“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self … Nora Ephron
So I ask myself is that enough value right there? Could be. But still, Starbucks makes me crazy.
I have a hard time with Mother’s Day, forgive me children. Before you, I would visit my mom, we had lunch, I gave her flowers, and that made us both really happy.
Then enter a move, a mother in law, three kids and deep sense of obligation to drag us all from our house to my mother’s and then to my in-law’s, making sure no one was disappointed. But the truth is that as much as I did want to see them happy, what I really wanted to say was, “Can you all just leave me out? Let me stay home and watch TV? I want to eat a really good plate of French Fries and read a book while you all go out and visit. Before you go just clean the house even a little bit so I feel better being here, and then when you all come home, you make dinner, clean up, and let me be the first one to go to bed? Please?”
I never said that until the year after I lost my own mom. I figured she’d want me to be happy so I asked my husband to take my mother in law and the kids all to visit his family an hour away. Then fate and an inattentive driver stepped in, crashed into our car and sent the lot of them all back to me for the rest of the day. As my mother would say, “Just be happy nobody got hurt.”
I don’t mean to say I hate Mother’s Day, although I do think it’s unfair to celebrate a holiday with inflated prices and guilt, particularly when some of us miss our moms, or miss being one.
This year my daughter is working, my husband is traveling which leaves me with two daughters at home. We saw grandma Chibnik yesterday, and sadly we will only have my mom in spirit, but happy ones. I kind of want to go to the mall and forget about the pile of dirty clothes. I want to pick out a new purse, eat crappy food, and remember this mother’s day as one of low stress, and high self love.
This morning I got cards and presents and hugs. My spa plans didn’t work out but that’s okay. I can always look at the kids who call me mom and know that I don’t need a holiday to feel special. Just look at my hand painted wine glass, fancy new watch and my new coffee mug. It’s more than enough. Now I can drink coffee and check when it’s time to switch to a nice glass of Pinot. Just boycott the $5.99 Hallmark cards and throw in a T-shirt that says your love is all the gift I need. Well, maybe love and a small token of your appreciation.
As the mother of three teenagers I am an expert in angst. First theirs, then mine, then theirs, and soon. As a result I’ve developed an offense I’d like to share. Keep in mind that I’m just an everyday explorer into the teenage mind, like Lewis & Clark, and Marco Polo, I’m navigating as I go.
#1 – remove the words ‘you said’ from their vocabulary. Our children do not understand that when you said you would finally take them to Disney World you were trying to figure out the bills, your stomach was growling even though your pants were too tight from stress eating all week, the dog just threw up on the carpet, the TV was too loud and the one person you don’t want to talk to just showed up on your Caller ID. Of course you agreed! You would have agreed to anything just to stop the noise … and your kids will not forget that that you did.
#2 – it’s unacceptable to start a sentence with s/he. I hear them going at it like two angry cats in a closet. Then it’s over and one of them comes to me in a rage. “Did you hear that?” she says. “Yes,” I reply. At this point they are forbidden to start any sentence with the word ‘she.’ This sometimes gets them so angry with me that they forgot they were mad at each other first. One of them once told me that is was their combined frustration with me that will make them bond forever, so score one for mommy.
#3 – you must never ever say the words ‘at least’. Recently one of my kids found a stain on her pants. We were on the way to school and it was too late to change. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me and I thought about saying “at least it’s small” or “at least it’s not on your shirt,” but I was silent. Had I said any of those things she would have sent a death ray from her corneas to the spot between two eyes because she is certain of only this. The stain is all anybody will talk about for weeks to come and there is absolutely no bright side. Just look at her with empathy and say nary a word. Even though her unhappiness gnaws at you, don’t do it, and resist the urge to buy her new pants. It won’t solve the her problem and you now have to take her shopping which wasn’t in the expense budget for money or your time but, if you do make this mistake I hope that you have already removed the words “you said” from their vocabulary like I suggested in tip number one.
I wish I had more, and I wish I was better at being the referee, therapist, doctor and credit card donor in my family but I’m doing my best. Is it worth a try at least? Maybe, but I can’t say that either, since I’ve already vowed to at least never say the words ‘At Least.’
If you’ve known me long enough, you know about New Food Fridays. If you don’t, you can read about how I got my kids to try something, ANTYHING new in this months issue of Family Fun (that’s me in the yellow oval). I’m so proud…