In the Midst of COVID

COVID-19 is here. We are in the thick of it in Maryland. Our governor has just announced we will be at home and schools will be closed until May 15th.

I highly doubt that, come May 16th, we will be free to join crowds, hug strangers, and go back to our favorite restaurants. I think it’s going to be longer than that. A lot longer.

And it will be okay.

Would I like to go out and get sushi with my friends? Or go and see the new Marvel movie in the theater? You bet I would. But there will be other times for that. Right now, we need to listen to the CDC and stay away from each other. COVID-19 is highly dangerous and very deadly. As much as I would like to go back to my parents’ house and use this time as an extended vacation with them, I can’t. It’s too dangerous to their health.

But I have a secret. While my friends are posting about the horrors of having your kids around you 24/7, I have found this time of enforced togetherness a kind of blessing, similar to our time in Switzerland. We had nothing to do, nowhere to go, nowhere we have to rush to be. Instead of rushing, my family has gotten a chance to breathe and just be together. We are playing games, having reading time, adventuring in the unknown of online learning, and getting to experience the regular occurrence of family meal times.

It turns out I like my kids. They are turning into neat people to talk to. I hope they think I’m a pretty good listener with a few cool things to share.

Please stay well and healthy. Be safe and be smart.

 

Thanks a lot, 2019.

2019 was a pretty fantastic year, personally. For a lot of people 2019 was fraught with hardship and drama. My life was far from drama-free, but, overall, the good outweighed the bad.

My brother and his came to visit for the first time, and it was brilliant! I flew to Denver to visit my BFF. My oldest is finally taller than I am, much to his delight. The garden went bonkers and produced about a gallon of tomatoes per week for four months. We went to the beach before heading back to the Midwest for a summer visit. Pretty dreamy.

Then the best thing happened. I committed to a writing retreat for outlining my next book. That outline gave me the solid foundation I needed to churn out 63,543 words during National Novel Writing Month (November), and complete a first draft of my first mystery novel.

To top it off, I decided my first book – a women’s fiction piece – was ready to be seen by agents. I have sent it off to about eighteen so far. The best moment was when an agent wanted to read my first 100 pages. I was elated. I sent it off and then waited, like a girl waiting for that special someone to call her.

They didn’t call. They emailed back with a “no thanks.” While they found my voice “approachable and engaging,” they just didn’t feel passionately enough about it.

I was crushed. Eventually, I understood. Getting an agent is just the beginning. Like getting pregnant is just the beginning of being a parent. There is a ton of work that begins once an agent says yes. Then once you find a publisher there is even more work. The agent has to love the book if they are going to toil over it for an entire year.

I was not so graceful that day, however. I moped and sulked. Mark brought me flowers and I could barely bring myself to look at them. I hardly got any sleep that night. So, while I was busy not sleeping I decided, fuck it – I was going to send out my manuscript to even more agents. I research the details of 10 more agents before forcing myself to go to bed. After a busy morning at the preschool, I tweaked my query letter and sent it out to six of the ten agents I’d researched.

Within 2 hours I had 2 requests for the entire book!!

I am really proud of myself for not letting my disappointment crush me. Sometimes you have to pull yourself out of the mud and keep moving forward.

The greatest thing was telling my kids that more people wanted to read my book. They were so proud of me, and, I think, a little impressed. They looked at me like I was more than just their mom, and that made me really happy.

Now I am waiting to hear back from two more agents. Let’s hope it’s a phone call!

In the meantime, I will be starting the editing process on my mystery and formulating new goals for 2020.

Summer … Almost

As we pass by Memorial Day and enter June I find we are living in a strange Purgatory.

Summer is here, for all intents and purposes. The kids have summer swim team practice after school at the local pool. Baseball and soccer practices are ramping up and the minivan carpools are being sorted and finalized. The smell of grilling meats wafts through the neighborhood any day of the week – the chefs no longer content to keep flame-broiled goodness as a weekend only treat.

And yet, it is not summer.

School is still on. There is homework to be done. And in our county they saved all those wonderful basic skills tests to be given right now. Plus there are the band concerts, orchestra concerts, choir concerts, art shows, club trips to theme parks, and final functions that are scheduled for 6:30pm on the most inconvenient night of the week with unerring accuracy.

It’s like we are living two different lives at the same time.

It’s exhausting.

Continue reading “Summer … Almost”

Summer Writing

This summer has sucked for writing. Absolutely sucked.

I have gotten nothing done. I wanted to have a draft of my book finished by the end of this month, but I am miles away from that now.

I’m trying to write today, but am finding it impossible. Why?

The kids. The house. The garden.

I have discovered that I need to be alone and away from people in order to write fiction. Writing fiction requires that I disconnect from the world around me and complete immerse myself into the world that I have created. This is impossible with the kids around.

They aren’t even necessarily coming to me directly with questions or requests. They are in their own worlds – and they are incredibly noisy about it. I was attempting to write a romance/romantic tension scene the other day and the 9 year old started doing armpit farts in the other room. Do you know how hard it is to write about gentle caresses and toe-curling kisses with armpit farts going off in the other room?

Plus they have their own schedules for which I need to play taxi. Not to mention the dreaded summer homework where I am required to provide interpretation and assistance. Weekly I am ferrying them to the library to pick up books for their reading lists.

Then there is the garden. A huuuuuge work in progress of two enclosed gardens where we can plant vegetables and have a perennial fruit bed without accidentally establishing a salad bar for the local deer. And that isn’t even mentioning the flower beds that ring the house and produce mind-blowing amounts of weeds.

And the house. With 2 children and 2 cats the house always needs to be cleaned. And the populace fed. Which requires trips to the grocery store. And before you say “you can always order your groceries” I know. I pioneered that in Switzerland. I have run into stumbling blocks with bugs in the computer system that I need to devote some unknown quantity of time into conquering.

Not that I really mind any of that. I love going to the library. I love reading. I love cooking. I love my children. I tolerate weeding.

But any notion that I had of a summer free from work obligations to “just write” was a fantasy, at best.

I really did have the best of intentions. I brought notebooks with me on vacation. I set up daily word count charts. I cleared my calendar and put my two other part-time jobs on hold. It turns out that parenting duties ballooned up to fill the void.

While the balloon was filling I was stuck. I was spinning my wheels, not accomplishing anything. The garden is full of weeds. The house is, well, it’s clean, but I have boxes of stuff to go to charity and no pictures on my walls yet. The only thing that was getting done was the boys’ stuff and that’s because all the kid-stuff is like a raging river sucking you downstream with it. It was easier to just go with the flow.

It is a hard and stinging lesson, but if I want to finish this book I’m going to have to be (a) really disciplined about my schedule, (b) very firm about my needs, and (c) learn to say “no” and “I need help.”

“Pfft. That is basic! Everyone knows that!” you say.

That is true. Everyone does know that. On a hypothetical or theoretical level. But it’s not until you have sat there looking down at a word count chart that is virtually empty that you really learn the lesson. Failure is the best teacher, you know.

Tonight I am going out to write. I am taking myself to a little cafe for dinner, then I’m going to pull out my laptop and write until my fingers cramp. Or as my friend Diana says it “WRITE ALL THE WORDS!!!!”

Until then, I am going to be with my children, my house, and my garden.

 

Dave Grohl Saved My Marriage

I was watching a re-run of the Foo Fighters singing on Carpool Karaoke and I started to get all nostalgic. Not because of the Nirvana connection.

You see, Dave Grohl saved my marriage.

It was eons ago. Probably 2BC. BC = Before Children. We didn’t have kids, but I wanted them.

I wanted it badly. I wanted to be pregnant the way a 10 year old wants a pony. With a longing passion that could not be quenched. When I was 10 I also wanted a pony. I would leave the horse section of the want-ads open and strategically placed with likely horsey candidates circled in various ink colors. Every day I would do this to my parents. I would constantly cite horse facts. I went to horse camp. I played a game called “horses” with my best friend at school so much the nuns eventually called us in to discuss other games we could/should play.

And that was for only a horse.

This was a baby.

I was relentless.

I started reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I joined a Trying To Conceive online group. I bought Taking Control of Your Fertility and left it on my bedside table. I would mention interesting baby names I’d heard or read about.

After months of a not-so-subtle and completely unsuccessful baby campaign I decided I needed to take the bull by the horns and finally talk to my husband. I told him flat-out that my biological clock was a-ticking and I would like to have a baby or two before I turned the big 3-0.

“Well, that’s just not going to happen,” said my husband. “I’m not ready. And if you keep bringing up babies I’m not going to be ready any time soon.”

I was crushed. “I can’t mention it at all?”

“No.”

“Not even the cute nursery idea I read about online?”

“Nope.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing. I need to come to this decision myself.”

I crawled into bed absolutely bereft. This was going to be hard. I had nothing but babies on the brain and wasn’t sure how our dinner conversations were going to go for the next few months. I think I cried a little and then I went to sleep.

That night I had the most amazing dream. And when I woke up I had to tell Mark all about it.

“There’s a part in this you aren’t going to like, but just wait until the end,” I cautioned.

I was back in my childhood home and we were sitting around the orange-topped Formica table that had been in that kitchen for my entire life. All of us were there. Me, Mark, Mom, Dad, my brother, and my sister-in-law. I was about 8 months pregnant and no one was happy about it. I wasn’t. Mark wasn’t. My dad had this disappointed look on his face and, if this had been another kind of dream, my mom’s eyes would have shot laser beams out of them. We just sat there looking at the bologna sandwiches sitting on our plates, ignoring my incredibly ripe belly, and not talking. Or eating.

Except Dave Grohl.

He was at the table, a bologna sandwich in each hand, wolfing them down. He looked around at us and our long faces and said, mouth full, “I don’t know what all you are so upset about. I think this is great! Life is a beautiful thing!” Then he grabbed the sandwich off my dad’s plate and started eating that, too.

When I told Mark we had the best laugh. A deep, connecting and cleansing laugh that tells you everything is going to be okay and nothing will ever come between us.

So, thanks, Dave Grohl. You saved my marriage.

Hands Off, Yet Supportive

Okay. Today I’m trying to be hands off, yet supportive with my kids. It’s easier with one than the other and that has to do with how much confidence I have in their competence. And that is my fault.

Backing up, I went to an incredible talk by Jessica Lahey, the amazing author of The Gift of Failure: how the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed. And I came home inspired.

If you have not read it and you have kids you should definitely read this book. I came away from reading the book and from listening to Jessica speak energized and ready to face how I am rescuing my children from failure. (She is a dynamic speaker so if you have the chance to see her in person do it. Personally, I’m waiting for her TED Talk. Actually, here is the next best thing.)

It dawned on me that, even though I am a parenting consultant, author, and educator, I have totally been rescuing my kids from failure in some crucial areas of their lives.

I don’t take their homework to them. Or their lunch if they forgot it. They can deal with the consequences – which are pretty low-stakes consequences in 3rd and 6th grade. I also don’t wash their clothes or do their chores if they forget. They can wear (only slightly) dirty pants and the chores can (almost always) wait.

But I do constantly remind them of deadlines and other “crucial” things.

“Do you have your lunch?” (Which I, until last month, packed for them.)

“Did you brush your teeth, comb your hair, wash your face?”

“Do you have your homework?”

“Is everything you need in your backpack?”

“Take your coat!”

Now, it would be one thing if I was only saying this once. But it’s not just once. It’s constantly and throughout the morning. And even if I decide that this time I am NOT reminding them of anything! I find myself giving hints. “It’s 7:45!” (Implying that he’s got 5 minutes until he has to go.) “Do you have pants in your drawer?” (Hinting that if he doesn’t that he needs to do something about it.)

Well, not today. Today I am pulling off the training wheels.

No reminding. No hints. No sneaky implying.

This feels easier with my younger than my older. Partially because my younger is in 3rd grade and forgetting his homework at this age feels very low-stakes, and partially because he is a child who has always remembered the rules of the house and stuck with them. Does he make mistakes? Sure he does. In fact, he forgot his binder and homework today on the table because he was too into reading his new book.

But there is something about him and his personality that makes me feel more confident that he will (a) learn from failure and (b) he will bounce back.

My older child is a different story. He takes failure much more personally than his brother. In the trade we call that he is in the Fixed Mindset house. And we are working on getting him up the walkway to the Growth Mindset house. in middle school, which feels much more high-stakes in some way. He’s getting letter grades. He has multiple homework assignments that go to multiple teachers to juggle. And he has very little frontal lobe ability, right now.

See, the pre-frontal cortex, which controls things like executive function, organization, cause and effect, and personality, isn’t fully connected yet. It’s like kids’ brains have a dirt road connection to the pre-frontal cortex and are slooooowly upgrading to a super-highway.

The most frustrating thing about this is that the pre-frontal cortex can click on and off at a moment’s notice. One minute he is on top of his stuff. The next he is wandering around the house with one sock on and a shoe on his sock-less foot. And you never know when the cortex is on. There isn’t a light or a flag that signals “all systems go!” I just have to watch what happens and hope it isn’t a train wreck.

Like today. I have no idea what is going to happen as I see the clock ticking towards 7:50am – the latest he can leave and not be late for school. The closer the second hand gets to the 50 the more I can feel myself wanting to say something. Anything! He’s going to be late! It’s going to be a disaster! He’s not paying attention!!! There is no clock in the room where he is sitting!! Maybe I need to buy one??? GAAAHHHH!

And now it’s 7:50am. And I am not saying anything. I’m sitting here sipping my coffee and watching the clock tick on to 7:51. His lunch (that he packed) is on the counter. He has no water bottle inside it.

Then, suddenly, he is up and walking into the kitchen where he can see a clock and realizes it’s time to go. He goes to his backpack, checks it, comes back for his lunch (no water bottle), actually grabs his rain coat, and then zips his backpack up and heads out the door. It’s 7:54am.

It’s like a miracle has occurred. The amount of relief I feel is enormous. He actually did it. By himself. And there was no yelling or rushing or pushing and we were able to hug and I could say, “Have fun!” and mean it.

 

 

Need a Parenting Expert?? How about 20!

So, usually I only post links to my own articles. When I link to someone else it’s because I think their content is pretty darn excellent.

Today I’m linking to the 2018 Positive Parenting Conference. I’ve been working on the fringes of it so you’ll see my face if you scroll waaaaaaaayyyy down to the bottom of the link page.

Because I’ve been involved I’ve already seen the videos and they are FANTASTIC. I’ve already started to use some of the tips and trick I’ve learned and they are really, really working.

So, could your parenting toolkit use a free tuneup? (Yes! Really, really free!)

20 authors of popular books for parents with expertise in parenting, neuroscience, psychology, nutrition, personal finance and more are coming together to show you positive ways to raise happy, well-adjusted kids at the FREE online Positive Parenting Conference.

Watch every single talk online for FREE. May 1st – 10th 2018 only.

Reserve your free spot today.

 

How to Make Resolutions that Stick

This is an article I published on Monday at AFineParent.com about How to Make Resolutions that Stick. These methods come from my organization development training on how to make lasting change. If you really want to make a change in your life then these are 6 way to help keep you on the resolution wagon. Especially for all those parenting resolutions…

How to Make Resolutions that Stick

making-resolutions-stick-main-image_91360163How did your 2017 parenting year go? Are you the same parent today as you were on January 1st of last year? Are you the parent you want to be yet?

I am certainly not the parent I was one year ago. And, yet, I am not quite the parent I want to be either.

Do I yell less? Yes, but still more than I’d like.

Do I use Active Listening all the time? Well…. I try….

Do my children know I love them? Absolutely.

(So, that’s one thing checked off the Become a Better Parent list.)

But why am I not a superstar parent yet? Why haven’t I accomplished all my parenting resolutions from last year? I started out with such energy and good intentions! What happened?

Like every single one of you out there, I mean well. I try. I do my best.

Yet I intend to do so much better.

So why do my accomplishments not keep up with my intentions? And what is it going to take for me to get there?

With one year having come to a close, and another one about to start, I think about these questions a lot.

I did good last year. But I want to do even better this year. And check a few more items off that Become a Better Parent list.

Here are a few things I have learned that we can do to give ourselves the best chance possible of keeping our parenting resolutions.  —>>>

The Magic Word that Every Parent Needs to Embrace

Here is my latest parenting article that is currently being featured at AFineParent.com.  This is a trick that I use not only with kids, but with my life coaching clients as well. It can change your entire frame of mind about yourself and others.

It was the beginning of the school year and my son was learning Algebra. It was not going well.

“Mom, I’m just no good at this!”

“Sure you are, honey. You just need to try harder.”

“But I’m never going to get it!”

We’ve all been right here. Our child is frustrated with homework and we want to help. Don’t you just wish you could say a magic word and make it better?

What if I told you there actually is a magic word?

Really. There is a magic word that is going to save us from disaster.

A small word.

Tiny.

In fact, it’s only 3 letters.

YET.

An adverb meaning: Up until the present or a specified or implied time.

YET. Such simple word, but oh-so magical. The power and magic of YET lies in the core of its’ meaning: Up until now. My son might not understand Algebra, but he will! He just hasn’t understood it up until now.

More——>

How to Go From a Buzzkill to a Top Motivator With One Simple Vocabulary Tweak

This article was originally entitled, The Power of ‘And.” AFineParent.com accepted the article and changed the title to the catchier “How to Go From a Buzzkill to a Top Motivator With One Simple Vocabulary Tweak.”

 

We’ve all had it said to us.

You’re boss has said it.

“You did really awesome on the project, but your teamwork could use some improvement.”

Your mom has said it.

“I am proud at how successful you are, but when are you getting married?”

Your best friend has said it.

“You look really pretty in that dress, but you would look so good with your hair down!”

Do you even remember the first part of that sentence?  The part that came before the ‘but’?  You know, the compliment?

It turns out no one does. Especially not our kids.

But we’re supposed to give feedback, right? Isn’t that how we help our kids develop grit and resilience?  Isn’t this how we help them build up and develop their talents?

How can we help them grow and achieve wonderful things if they think we don’t value them? If they believe they’ll never be good enough?

Don’t worry. There IS a way.   ——->>>