Sunday, June 4, 2017

On mantras

man·tra
ˈmantrə/
noun
  1. (originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
    • a Vedic hymn.
    • a statement or slogan repeated frequently.

Done is Better than Perfect

This was my personal mantra for many years. I repeated it several times a day and it succeeded to make me ultra-productive and consistent, if not mediocre. I'm okay with trading off the sleepless insanity of constant perfection for a mediocre life. I'm happier with my house "pretty clean", my latest work proposal finished and emails out but with a stray typo or two, my kids dressed and clean, but not wrinkle-free, and a solid seven or even eight hours of sleep in me.

When I was on the hunt for a new mantra, and I heard this one while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, 'Happier, with Gretchen Rubin', and it instantly resonated with me:

Don't Treat A Gift Like A Burden

I took Ed out for a 40th birthday brunch recently, and we were talking about the time that had passed since we had first met. "What even happened to our thirties?" I said.

"Our thirties were all about the kids," he replied. And he was exactly right.

But "all about the kids" just isn't sustainable for me any longer. I've been feeling this angst lately,  that everything I do for my kids or Ed or my job feels like a heavy weight. I desperately need a shift of perspective to survive the next few years. I need to stop treating my gifts as if they are burdens!

Last week Asher had a science fair at his middle school and won, which was the worst possible outcome that I could imagine. Now he is competing at the district level, with new expectations and a competition time during rush hour on the south side of town. But I'm done stressing about it. Instead, I'm choosing to be proud that I have a son who works hard in school, that Ed's work schedule is slow enough right now that he can come home early to get Noé off the school bus, and I have a reliable car and plenty of podcasts to get us through the rough commute.

Oh, I'll never be a Sunny Sally... not my personality. But acknowledging and appreciating the vast amount of goodness in my life? Yes, I will be better for it. And the three biggest "gifts" in my life deserve it as well.






Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Green Lake


(I wrote this poem because I've been told that writing poetry helps you become an overall better writer. I entered it into a library city poetry competition so that I would have a deadline to finish a poem. It is so cliche, it's a little hard for me to read and a lot hard for me to publish. But it's a record of my writing and my family, so it goes on the blog. Also, it won a place on an interactive city poetry map and I will link to it here if the map ever goes online).


Winter dusk, like a cloud of lead hits
My boys, their chestnut eyes and moppy-heads  
dressed in various layers of flannel and fleece

One son walks with me, hand in hand
The other trails, beating his own drum

One child recounts his day to my ear in low, intimate tones
The other, voiceless, kicks up rocks on the trail, avoiding dogs like ghosts

We pass runners of olympiad stealth and grace
Rickety, reminiscing elderly couples clasp hands, while
a snowy pelican looks into the eye of the lake from its bare-limbed perch

The abandoned swimming area begs for warm summer days
And the public library stands matronly from afar
A lone kayak strays in the water, a dot on a sheet of blue

All have come to the water's edge to seek its effulgent refuge

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wanderlust

There was a period of time after we moved back to the PNW when I was happy to stay put. I wanted to plop myself down in the trees and just be.

Perhaps it was because of our crazy drive back from DC to Portland. I've experienced fits of anxiety since that period of time that I think might have been triggered by the stress of that move. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that before last month, I hadn't left the West Coast since our move.

But now, the anxiety has mostly subsided. My boys are older. Ed and I are only getting older. And my old and familiar wanderlust ways seem to be making a comeback. I never want to be home. Working from home each day is a monumental struggle.

We spent Spring Break in Southern Utah, exploring the national parks. It was a great week for our little family! So much sunshine and red rock! We visited Zion, Bryce and Arches. We hiked 10-12 miles a day when we were in the parks. We spent a day on the Colorado River white water rafting. There were a few challenges with Noé. Keeping him fed is always our biggest issue. He often goes on a hunger strike when we are traveling.  We were up early every morning, which isn't his favorite thing. He ran into the residence of our AirBnB in Provo and drank water off of someone else's table at a restaurant near Zion. But for the most part he did really well, and we wonder if we might be up for something more daring next vacation. Maybe something that requires passports.

In the meantime, I'm trying to take what I can get. I'm on a train right now from Seattle to Portland. Not my first time, but it is a scenic trip. I'm only going to stay with my mom for Mother's Day weekend, but at least I'll be out of my house. I plan to spend some time with her, do some reading and writing, and sneak in some exercise. If Kelli and I can talk her into a drive to the coast on a rainy Saturday, we'll do that for the day. Wanderlust Lite for the busy momma with a job and a side business and two kids and a calendar full of speech therapy and Ultimate Frisbee games. It's okay, there's always a time and season. I'll keep looking for fun opportunities that satisfy the 'lust just a bit.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Grandma

My Grandpa Mattson passed away in February. He had a long and fulfilling life, punctuated by a beautiful memorial service. Because he served during World War II, he received military honors at his grave site service. I'll never forget watching the two military men ceremoniously wrapping up an American flag, handing it to my grandmother, and thanking her for his service.

I've been thinking about my Grandma Mattson a lot, so I sat down to write her a note today. I've had four wonderful grandparents, all active in my life, and I always had to address each grandparent by multiple names to distinguish each from the other. I remember writing my grandparents letters in college and always having to double check that the letters and addressed envelopes matched. I was teary-eyed today when I realized that I no longer needed to worry about mixing up letters. I just have one 'Grandma' to write now. I'm thankful for her and love her, but I sure miss the others.

In the Blink of an Eye: From Thomas the Train to Cell Phone Contracts

Asher's Phone Contract
Dated: April 3, 2017

Parents have purchased his first phone.  If anything happens to this phone (it is stolen, lost, broken), even if is not Asher's fault, he is still responsible for replacing the phone.

Parents must know Asher's phone password and have the right to access his phone at all times. Parents must also have "friends privileges" to all of Asher's social media accounts. There is no privacy when it comes to a cell phone. If you want privacy, write in a journal, and we will respect your privacy there.

Parents have the right to take away phone at any time for poor behavior or poor grades. If your grades go down, you will lose your phone. If you do not do your assigned chores, you will lose your phone. If you show poor attitude or misbehavior at home or school, you will lose your phone.

Asher must charge his phone at the family "charging station" each night and never take the phone to bed.

Asher must promise to keep all social media interactions appropriate and report any bullying.

Asher must compensate his parents for the additional cost of his phone through six hours of additional chores, big brother sitting, or helping mom with her LEGO business each month.

Asher is responsible for any additional charges associated with going over his allotted data plan.

Signed,


______________________   
Mom                                          

______________________
Dad

______________________
Asher


Monday, April 3, 2017

My Favorite Kid With Autism - April is Autism Awareness month



Witnessing Noé's journey has been rewarding and sometimes painful. It is always so interesting to see what catches his attention. The other day we were out for *yet another* rainy hike and when we took off our shoes to go back inside the house I told Noé, "I think there's moss growing between your toes!" For the rest of the day, I caught him staring down at his toes. 

I love him!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Hero of the day

We're very proud of Asher.

But we also worry about him. A lot.

Oh, he's a great student. The math he does is far beyond anything I encountered in sixth grade... or seventh grade. And he's unbelievable on the piano.  Most importantly, he's kind and generous to everyone around him.

But he is also a bit of a dreamer. I've lost count of the number of times he's ran out the door for school without his backpack. If we don't remind him to shower or brush his teeth, it does not happen. We've started to leave him alone for short stints of time, but find ourselves constantly texting to save him from himself. While Noé (you know, our severely autistic son) is weaning off his visual schedules with success, I recently created Asher an after-school schedule on a sheet of blood orange printer paper and taped it to his bedroom door in utter frustration.

We've tried to institute appropriate consequences to make him a responsible 12 year old. If he misses the bus, he has to pay his "taxi" $5 to get him to school (and I have just about the same temperament as a NYC taxi driver those mornings). He loses screen time frequently for forgetting and losing important things. But progress has been slow, to say the least.

Last night, however, might have been a turning point in our tweenage despair.

It was 7:15PM and steadily raining. We had just returned from a piano lesson and I realized that I didn't have our garage door opener on me, so I had Asher run around to the front and unlock the door. He came back and reported that the top bolt was LOCKED!!!

I had feared this would happen at some point after installing that sliding top bolt. We installed it to help keep Noe inside our house (now he can reach the bolt, so it's pretty useless). We lock it at night for extra security (our neighborhood is very "active"). Sometimes Asher locks it when he comes home from school, as he had today. As we sprinted out of the house for piano, I failed to notice that it was bolted, and I also failed to grab the garage door opener.

So many times in my mind I had thought about how screwed we would be if this were to ever happen. We have no other available points of entry into our house. We couldn't even call a locksmith because there was no key or lock.

I really tried not to panic. I jimmied the bolt with my keys and anything else I could find. I mostly had stray LEGOs in my bag. Then I started trying to kick in the door (that was kind-of fun).  I plotted hoisting Asher up to our second-floor balcony. But we ran into the same problem, because that door was bolted as well. I considered calling the fire department. So tempting, but there wasn't anyone in immediate danger, my mental health notwithstanding. Maybe I could hide Noé and say my autistic son was locked inside? Oh, that sounded a little bit too Balloon Boy hoax-y.

Ed arrived home from work around 8PM. He tried the same things I had tried, with the same result. Meanwhile, Noé had to use the bathroom and was done standing out in the rain. I took Noé to a neighborhood restaurant to find a restroom. Ed started knocking on neighbors' doors looking for tools, any tools. Asher guarded our stuff.

Well past 8:30PM and we were still outside, and yes, it was still raining. I was on the verge of a breakdown and took Noé for a walk because I deal with stressful situations by escaping them. Ed was considering the merits of breaking a window to get us inside. And then Asher pulled up a YouTube video (I won't link to it, lest you break into our house). It involved sliding paper into the lock at just the right angle. It looked ridiculous. I'm pretty sure Ed thought it would never work. I was still wandering the streets of Seattle in a fog-like state with Noé, so I had no opinion. Ed gave the YouTube hack a couple of lame attempts. Asher thought hard. He searched our backpacks and the recycling bin for just the right paper for the job. On his very first try it worked.

We were saved from our own stupidity by our 12 year old dreamer.

Reflecting on the evening's events while getting ready for bed (and feeling extra grateful, btw, for that warm, dry bed), we both agreed that Asher was probably going to turn out just fine. We, however, should probably start seriously worrying about ourselves.