Category Archives: not sweating the small stuff

Living In The Moment

One of the things I love doing on my Facebook page is asking a basic question of the group, one that I know will elicit a lot of responses, and hopefully starting a (often important, and needed) conversation.  Even before I read through all the responses – and please know that I do, very carefully, read through all of the responses – your enthusiasm in joining the conversation tells me two things:  1) That we all want to be heard… that we all have questions, and struggles, and things to share, and that platforms like blogs and Facebook groups still serve a real purpose, and 2) That we’re all in this together.  I think that one of the most helpful things to know (not just with parenting, but with life) is that we are not alone.  That someone, somewhere, is out there who gets it.  Who understands how we feel.  Who knows what it’s like to be facing what we face.  It’s a powerful thing, and one I don’t take for granted.

Most recently, I asked,

What is one thing that you struggle with as a parent? Something that you know you want to do differently (such as less yelling, more patience, etc) but that you are having trouble implementing?

I got an overwhelming response, both in numbers and in sheer honesty and vulnerability.  So thank you.  I very quickly realized that what was meant to be a one-off blog post really needed to become a regular series.  Because I don’t care how good of a mom you are:  We all struggle with something. 

The thing that stood out to me the most in my first read-through of the comments was the one that’s been my own personal struggle since… well, forever:  Being present.  Being in the moment.  It’s something that I’ve thought about, and learned about, and written about, many many times in the 20 years that I’ve been a parent.  Tegan (who’s 9 at the time of this writing, and is teaching me a whole new set of parenting truths after her three brothers) has been instrumental in showing me of the importance of living in the moment.

But still, I have to remind myself.  Still, I have to practice.

And I’m not alone.

Just a few of my fellow like-minded parents:

Stopping, breathing, and taking in the moment.  Appreciating their age, abilities and achievements without being frustrated by lesser things.  ~ Bea L

Really struggling with patience these days.  ~ Jess F

Being more present with my kids and not giving in to frustration. ~ Rebecca P

Slowing down and enjoying the moments. I always seem to be going and trying to clean, get dishes or laundry done and I tend to e short with my kids and not fully engage in play or conversation. ~ Stefanie S

Being impatient and not being able to just be present with them.  Working on it.  Getting better, but it is hard.  ~ Karen E

I have spent the entire last year working on my mental health, and a huge, huge part of that work was learning to live in the moment.  Our brains (or at least my brain) always want to be solving problems, and thinking about the next thing, or the last thing, or the thing that’s coming up next week, or the thing that happened 6 months ago.  When you’re not truly living in the moment, you’re either living in the past, or in the future.  And in the past and in the future, there’s always a problem to solve.  It’s exhausting.

So all the typical “live in the moment” advice – Breathe;  Count to ten.;  Look around and ground yourself by appreciating the sights and sounds and smells;  Don’t sweat the small stuff –  While it’s all well and good, it wasn’t until I learned the problem-solving piece that I felt like I really understood what I needed to do, and what I needed to remember.

In the moment, in this moment, there is no problem to solve.

And it sounds simplistic, and easy to argue:  Of course there are problems.  We don’t have enough money.  The car’s in the shop.  The kids are always fighting.  The 2 year old’s sick.  The 4 year old’s having a tantrum.  I have to make dinner and make lunches for tomorrow and get my son to football and my daughter to karate and there’s the thing at church and it’s all just SO MUCH. 

Yes.  Sure.   I get it.  I get it.

But right now, right now as you read these words, there are no problems to solve.  It’s okay to give yourself (and your brain!  Your poor, overworked brain) a break.  It’s okay to breathe and NOT WORRY about how you handled that last problem, or how you’re going to handle the next one.  It’s okay to truly and deeply and fully live right now, and give yourself permission to rest…. to rest in the moment, to rest in the presence of your child, to rest in the presence of yourself.

Right now, in the moment, there is no problem to solve.

That one piece of truth, heard in the right place and the right time, was probably one of the single best bits of wisdom I’ve ever received… not just for life in general, but for my parenting as well.  And I still have to remind myself – often – but I’m getting better.

Right now, there is no problem to solve.

And my shoulders relax, and I’m able to exhale, and my weary soul feels a welcome sense of relief.  I don’t have to figure it all out right now.  And then, in that moment, I can be the mom I know I can be.  The mom I know I should be.  And when I miss the mark (and I do sometimes miss the mark, because I’m human)? Then I have the next moment.  And then the one after that.

One day, one moment, at a time.

And it sounds kinda hokey, and a little woo-woo (and I hate woo-woo) … but it helps.  So much.

You have permission to rest.

Hug your kid, smell the flowers, jump in the mud puddle.  Right now, there is no problem to solve.



Filed under mental health, mindful parenting, not sweating the small stuff, parenting, perspective, self care

Muddy Bathrooms: More Lessons from my Daughter

It rained yesterday. It rained HARD. It was the kind of much-needed ridiculous, relentless, driving rain that gave us exactly two options: Play in it, or hole up inside for a day of Netflix-watching and eating stuff.

We did both.


After a wild and watery game of tag in the lake previously known as our backyard

When we came inside, I was hit with a heavy case of the Mondays, and wanted nothing more than to just sit for awhile.  There was laundry to do, and floors to sweep, and bathrooms to clean, but first…. sitting.  Lots of sitting. When I realized that Tegan had gone back outside, and was happily involved in her own project (and had been for quite some time) I mustered up the energy to take advantage of the quiet and get a little housework done:

Pop in some laundry.  Run the vacuum.  Sweep the hall.  I did the bathrooms – my least favorite thing – last, and once they were sparkling to my liking, I headed back to my chair to resume my sitting.  I passed Tegan on the way;  a joyful little blur of pink and mud.  Heavy on the mud.

I found her in the bathroom I’d just cleaned about 18 seconds earlier.   In her split second head start, she’d gotten mud on the floor, mud on the toilet, mud on the mirror, mud on the counter, mud in the sink.   She was happily chatting away as she ran the water and filled up the sink, gently washing the mud off the Barbie that had just gotten a head-to-toe mud treatment at the Spa of Tegan.

“You little stinker.  I just cleaned the bathroom!”  Only I didn’t say it.   I wanted to say it.  I almost said it.  In countless other similar situations, I’d said it.  But this time, in that moment …. I saw her.    I really saw her.  Happy. Healthy.  Innocent.  Chatting about her Barbie and how much she’d liked her mud bath.  Talking about how black the water was getting. Wondering out loud what she was going to play when she was done.

I am so lucky.

And if I’d commented about the mess, even in a joking and lighthearted way, it might have stolen a piece of that moment.  It might have taken away a piece of that joy.  It might have prevented me from seeing, from really being there.  

Yes, it’s a lesson I’m destined to learn over and over and over, but it’s an important one.  And she teaches it better than anyone I know.

I said nothing about the mess, and when I did clean it up I was able to do it with a genuine smile. I will clean the bathroom, even if I just cleaned it.

I will clean it again.  If it means happy and healthy and curious kids, I will clean it a thousand times.




Filed under not sweating the small stuff, parenting, perspective, Tegan

Slowing Down

My kids are my greatest teachers.

One of the biggest lessons that my daughter has taught me (and continues to teach me, again and again) is to slow the heck down.  Breathe.  Live in the moment.  Forget about life’s distractions.  It’s strange to me, an introverted homebody, that this is a lesson I would so desperately need to receive over and over… but I do.

The past two months have been incredibly busy ones, and I’ve sort of prided myself on rising to the occasion.  Keep moving.  Keep checking.  Keep doing.  Go, go, go.  I’ve become very adept at taking care of Very Important Things while simultaneously tending to other Very Important Things.  Is it weird to balance your checkbook sitting on the wings of the community pool while your kids are in swimming lessons?  Or work on your grocery list while waiting for your son in physical therapy?  I don’t know.  But I’ve been doing them both, in my – mostly successful – quest to stay on top of everything when I’ve got a million balls in the air.  Can’t stop moving.  Can’t drop the balls.

This morning Tegan got up early.  Well, it wasn’t exactly early.  It was 8:00.  But that’s early for her lately, because  she’s been staying up late, and sleeping in the next morning.  Which works out well for me, because it gives me plenty of time to work on my ever-growing to-do list before anyone gets up.  But this morning she got up at 8:00, and in her sleepy little stupor, immediately sprawled herself out on the couch.  I knew she was about to fall back to sleep, so I asked her if she wanted me to get her blanket.

“No,” she told me.  “Come back to bed with me.”  Her eyes were nearly closed already.

“You want to go back to bed?”

She nodded with her eyes closed.  “Yes, but I want you to come with me.  Come lay with me.”

I knew if I waited about 30 seconds before I got up that she would just fall back to sleep again on the couch.  I also knew that it was a moment I wouldn’t get back.

“Come lay with me.”

My first instinct was to grab my tablet (I’d been catching up on emails) so that I could use it in bed after she’d fallen asleep, but I knew she wouldn’t like that.

My daughter.

My need to do. all. the. things.

I acted before I could debate it.  I left my tablet on the couch, and walked her back to bed.  I tucked us both in, her little body happily curled against mine.  It was only a matter of minutes before she was asleep, her head heavy against my arm, her breathing deep and even.

I slowed down.

I breathed.

Her timing was, as always, impeccable.  In many ways, life is about to slow down for the next month or so.  Swimming is officially over, ballet ended for the summer last week, karate ends on Saturday.  And with so many of my clients with travel plans, even my yoga class has taken a hiatus for at least the next month.  But because this is, well, the real world, in many ways life is about to pick up as well.  Lots of plans, lots of projects, lots to do.

But not this morning.  Not right now.  There’s a place for stillness too.  A time to slow down.  A time to breathe.  I laid with my sleeping girl for a long time, savoring the moment, drinking in the lesson.

Slow down.


After she woke up, we hung out in bed for another hour, to-do list be damned.  We watched TV, read about 7 Dora books, and talked about the important things moms and daughters talk about. I snuck out of the room just once when she was asleep, but I came right back.tegansleepingI just had to take a picture, to remind me.



Filed under about me, kids, learning, life, mindful parenting, not sweating the small stuff, parenting, Tegan

Where I Need to Be

“Life goes by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~ Ferris Bueller

One week ago today, we were packing up our hotel room in Chicago.  Saying goodbye to our little four-day getaway, and getting ready to board a plane back to Phoenix.

It was a perfect excursion, one that I hadn’t realized how much I needed.  From the nightly Happy Hours, to the wonderful restaurants, to the walking and touring of the beautiful city… it was a literal breath of fresh air.   Everyone’s asked me what I did every day when Mike was at his conference, and the fact is, I just was.   I walked.  I nursed a huge cup of coffee at Starbucks while I watched all the passers-by.   I did yoga.  I took myself to the movies.  I sat(!)  I took a nap (if like me, you’re unfamiliar with that term, it means to lay down and voluntarily sleep.  On purpose.  In the middle of the day.)  It was an introvert’s dream vacation.  The best part though, was that both when I was alone and when I was with Mike, time just stood still.   There was no where to be, nothing to do, no one who needed us.  For four days, time stood still.

Now that we’re home, there’s no easing back into real life.  As if a switch has been flipped, it’s once again full-speed ahead.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  It’s basketball practices and gymnastics classes and park days and cub scouts and physical therapy appointments.   It’s life.   And I’m reminding myself – again – to breathe.  God’s got this.  I’m finding myself having to trust, more than I ever have before, that no matter where I am… whether it’s driving to another appointment, sitting in the bleachers, racing the four year old across the park, running an errand, or swirling around in the housework that just. doesn’t. end… I’m exactly where I need to be.   Right there, in that place, in that moment, in that point in time.

One week from tomorrow, I’ll add another giant helping to my plate when my yoga teacher training starts.   Right now though, I’ll breathe.  I’ll sit.

The house is quiet.  The birds are singing.  I’m exactly where I need to be.



Filed under about me, being happy with what is, life, not sweating the small stuff, perspective, vacation

One thing at a time

I’m a slow learner.

For the past year (at least) a big running theme on my blog has been the art of not sweating the small stuff.  Living in the moment.  Appreciating the calm amidst the chaos.  Letting go.

And I get it, and I understand it, and I feel it…. but I still find myself having to re-learn it.  Over and over and over again.

I have spent most of February MAJORLY sweating the small stuff (and the big stuff and everything in between)  I have been overwhelmed and stressed out and so, SO tired.  I was coming off one of the worst and longest stretches of insomnia I’d ever had – one that started well before the new year – and that coupled with the sudden onslaught of doctor appointments, Cub Scout activities, basketball, gymnastics, church events, writing projects, park days and birthdays and parties and… and and and…. it was all sending me over the edge.  I was unraveling.  It got to where I felt like I couldn’t do anything, so immobilized I was even at the idea of choosing a place to start.   Every time I heard that little “dink dink dink” on my phone, telling me I had another email, I cried winced.  Another place to be.  Another thing to attend to.  Another commitment to put on the calendar.

I was burnt out.  The house was out of control, I couldn’t seem to meet all four kids’ needs at the same time, and my own personal pursuits had become a thing of the distant past.  Leaving the house didn’t help, because I was so exhausted that I couldn’t enjoy it; and staying home didn’t help either, because at home I was buried under the weight of the 7425 things that needed my attention, not to the mention the growing inadequacy I was feeling as a mother (let alone as a wife.  As stressed I was, and as hectic as we were, we were lucky if we said hello when we passed each other as we ran one of the kids to their next engagement.  I think I still know what he looks like.)

I few days ago, I posted on Facebook about my feelings of overwhelm.  One wise friend told me:

“One thing at a time, finish it, move to the next.”

And it irritated the ^$@^%* out of me.  Well, I know that already.  You think I don’t know that?  It’s not that easy.  How do you do one thing at a time when you have a million things that need to be finished RIGHT NOW?  How do you do one thing at a time when you have so many things to do that there’s no single place to start?

I grumped at the mere suggestion for a good part of the morning.  “One thing at a time”… pffffft.

Then you know what I did?

I did one thing.  I finished it.  I took a big gasping gulp of air breath.  I moved on to the next.  By the time I got to the fourth or fifth thing on the list, I was breathing for real.  I wasn’t so overwhelmed.  I wasn’t so stressed about what remained undone, instead focusing on the productivity and the reality and the beauty of the moment.  I realized – AGAIN – that it really is about baby steps.   Not sweating the small stuff.  Living in the moment.  Having faith.  Trusting.  Breathing.

I was able to enjoy a fun go-cart riding birthday party for Spencer, and just a few days later threw a lovely little party for Tegan as well.  We watched Everett score in his last basketball game of the season, and accept his trophy in the awards ceremony.  We went to church yesterday, and we shopped for the supplies to make up the care packages we’ve been wanting to put in our cars for the homeless.   I got 99% of March on the calendar, and I breathed a sigh of relief that the bulk of February’s craziness was complete.

Now we’re about to head into another month, and another season, that is so far scheduled to be even busier than February.  And I’m realizing something else… also not for the first time:

I can’t do it all.   I especially can’t do it all at the same time.

Right now, I have to focus on my kids first.  They suffer when I’m stressed/not sleeping/burnt out, and that’s not fair to them.  So my first order of business is more pancake breakfasts.  More bubble blowing.  More chalk murals on the driveway.  More reading.  More singing.  More talking about Minecraft and legoes and Wonder Pets.

On a more personal note, I have a few different writing projects I’m working on for the month of March… all of which I’ll be sure to share if and when they come to fruition.

In April, I begin the marathon of yoga training that will only conclude with the 180 hours (crammed into two weeks!)  of studio time in July.

In keeping with my new adage of “one thing at a time”, I’m not sure what’s coming after that.  There’s the personal trainer exam I’ve been wanting to prepare for for the past year.  The herbalist portion of the Holistic Health degree I started when I completed the Nutrition certification program.  All the big ideas I had for my blog.  I don’t know.

I’m giving myself permission not to stress out about it, and not to feel like I have to do everything right now.   Which means that for the moment, blogging is going to be taking a backseat and squarely landing on my “when I have time” list…. along with jewelry making, practicing the piano, henna tattooes, and finally putting my vacation pictures (from last July) into an album.

I’m not going anywhere.  I’ll still be around.  It’s just that I’ve had to make the decision – one I feel good about – that this isn’t the time for devoting tons of hours to blogging.  Someday it will be, but not right now.

Right now I need to do one thing at a time.



Filed under about me, breathing, learning, life, not sweating the small stuff, plans, simplifying

Christmas, presents, and why I want to be like Carrie Bradshaw


I’ve never been very good at fitting in with one group.  Never has this been more clear to me than it has been since the advent of Facebook, where I can SEE right there in black and white just how very different my friends are.

I have friends who are Christians, friends who are Atheists, and every other religious flavor in between.  I have friends who are unschoolers, and friends who are strong supporters of the public school system.  I have friends who are extremely liberal, and friends who are very conservative.  Friends who… well, you get the idea.  A lot of different opinions.

And I learn from, and appreciate,  each and every one of them.

One of the things that I love most about blogging is that (provided that you’re doing something at least a little bit right) it really does become a community … one in which people can come and gather just as they are, differences and all.   And I don’t know about you, but I’ve been needing that.   Because the amount of division I’ve been seeing lately is making me crazy.  Christmas season – which most people would agree should be a time of family, fellowship, and goodwill – seems to bring out an odd side of a lot of different folks.

It’s like December 1st hits, and it’s time to Deck the Halls!  Time to shop!  Time to be merry!  Time to …. squabble like little children.   I don’t think I ever see people sweating the small stuff quite as much as I do at Christmas time.

In one corner is the “It’s MERRY CHRISTMAS, not Happy Holidays” crowd, which has grown tenfold since I posted about it.

In another is the “Christmas is too commercialized/secular/greedy/materialistic/just plain wrong these days” group.

There are those who let themselves get swept away into the “Christmas is just so STRESSFUL” train.

Some decide to do away with the tree and the presents and the lights altogether, in order to focus on other things.

Then there are the people who take personal offense to any or all of the above, and/or people who let themselves feel guilty because they shopped at Walmart, didn’t hand make their gifts, and didn’t use eco-friendly recycled freshwater stream Martha Stewart biodegradable toilet paper gift wrap.

My head hurts.

I want to say as sort of a general, blanket statement that you are the one creating your Christmas experience.  It doesn’t have to be stressful.  It doesn’t have to be commercialized.  It doesn’t have to be materialistic.   And for that matter, it doesn’t have to be homemade either.    Decorate, don’t decorate.  Give gifts, don’t give gifts.  It’s all the same to me.  But please don’t think it has to be either/or.   When I recently asked on my Facebook page if you thought there was something wrong with gift giving at Christmas, one thing I saw come up again and again was that Christmas should be about giving to others, not about getting lots of stuff.  And absolutely, I agree!  But why should giving to someone outside your own family hold precedence over giving amongst yourselves?  Why not do both?  Why would there ever be something wrong with giving a heartfelt gift to a spouse or a child or a parent, whether it’s Christmas, or a birthday, or a Tuesday?  And yes, almost everything most much of what we give are not needs, but wants.  We live in a ridiculously abundant world, to be sure.  If you’re reading this right now, it means you have internet, or a smart phone, or access to a public library… all of which are far, FAR more than many, many people around the world are privileged enough to have.   But is it wrong to have them?

A couple of months ago I got a new phone that does amazing things.  It’s like a robot.  I don’t need it, but I’m happy and thankful that I have it.  Is it more important than God or my health or my kids or my relationships or giving to others?  Of course not.  It’s a luxury.  And the few presents we’ve gotten our kids for Christmas are luxuries too… luxuries that I’m happy and excited and thankful to be able to give them.   Giving them doesn’t mean we don’t give to those outside the family though.  It doesn’t mean it’s the most important part of our celebration.  It doesn’t mean we don’t remember the true meaning of Christmas, and it doesn’t mean we’re greedy and materialistic (two other words I’ve recently seen a lot of).  To me, greed and materialism mean putting ‘things’ ahead of people.   And if you’re giving with the spirit of… well, giving… isn’t that the opposite of greed and materialism?  It shouldn’t matter then if the gift is a gift of time, or a picture, or a good deed, or a homemade bauble, or yes, even a mass produced something or other from a big bad department store.  If the giver is giving sincerely, in love, shouldn’t the old adage, “it’s the thought that counts,” still ring true, no matter how little OR how much something does or doesn’t cost?

I was watching the movie “Sex in the City” yesterday, and there was a scene about halfway through that completely (and surprisingly) made me all leaky-eyed.    Jennifer Hudson’s character gives a small gift to Carrie, and Carrie graciously accepts it before going into her room and returning with a gift of her own, something extravagant that she knew she would really love.  Just watch.

That to me is what gift giving should be about, whether it’s done on Christmas or any other of the 364 days of the year.  Two people sharing a moment with each other.  Two people GIVING to each other, with their whole hearts.  It didn’t matter that one gift was a $14.99 DVD and one was a however much those fancy name-brand bags cost.  They were both given, and accepted, with genuine warmth and happiness.  That’s what I want from my gift-giving… whether I’m giving a plate of cupcakes or a pressure cooker or a Louis Vuitton handbag.

Finally, as I was deciding how to end this post, I saw the following quote on Facebook that summed up the spirit of giving more than I ever could:

Christmas gift suggestions:  To your enemy, forgiveness.  To an opponent, tolerance.  To a friend, your heart.  To a customer, service.  To all, charity.  To every child, a good example.  To yourself, respect.  ~Oren Arnold.

Words to live by, for sure.  And we can’t give any of the above if we’re wasting time and energy worrying about Christmas particulars that at the end of the day just shouldn’t matter.



Filed under Christmas, holidays, life, not sweating the small stuff, perspective

Cleaning Fail? Parenting Fail? You’re both right.

Not even two weeks ago, I blogged about how much I needed a break. I was exhausted, I was stressed out, and I was panicking about getting read for our upcoming trip. I took exactly two days off from blogging, missed it terribly, and jumped right back in.

Yesterday, I was back in panic mode. We leave for our trip in 12 days, and it still feels like there are mountains to climb before we do. Making matters worse is the fact that I’m the only one who feels that way. Mike simply doesn’t stress out about much of anything, and the kids are just looking forward to a fun vacation (as they should be)

Sunday night was a rough night. I wasn’t feeling well; Everett had a nightmare very early on, and was in our bed the rest of the night; Tegan was tossing and turning and kicking even more than usual; I ended up sleeping in a ball on the end of our bed. The big boys were up past 2:00 (which is not unusual for them) but were woken by Tegan far too early in the morning. Everyone was tired and grumpy, and what I should have done was given us all a free day… a no obligation, lounge around, rest and recoup kind of Monday.

But, oh no. We had 13 days left. We had to CLEAN!

I started with my own desk, and instead of leaving well enough alone, I then decided it was imperative that I tackle the computer room.

This is the ‘after’ picture, but the girl had already dumped something out again.

This room has been a thorn in my side since we moved in to this house nearly 5 years ago. It looked like it was originally a formal dining room (judging partly from the big chandalier that once hung in the middle of the ceiling), but the previous owners didn’t seem to know what to do with it either. When we first toured the house, it was mostly empty, save for a little couch in the corner. For us, it has always served as a computer room slash project room slash collector of random, miscellaneous stuff. It’s always a mess, and yesterday I was going to clean it.

I asked the kids to help me, but they were too tired. (Of course they were too tired; No one got any sleep). I asked them again. Spencer was half asleep on the couch, Paxton was engrossed in a computer game, and Tegan and Everett were chasing each other around the house. No one really answered me.

And again, I should have taken the hint, followed their lead – and my own level of exhaustion – and rested. Instead, as if possessed by some mop-wielding inner demon, I became that mom. The stomping, huffing, sighing, “fine, I’ll do it myself”, martyr of a mom. For the next hour, I was noisily moving chairs and bookshelves, digging stuff out from beneath the desks, flinging sweeping wayward toys and papers and books and tools to the center of the room to sort through. Spencer had fallen asleep by then, Paxton was calmly moving out of my way as I cleaned around him, and the little ones had wisely moved their play to another room, lest they accidentally witness the embarrassment of their mom in the throes of her tantrum.

It really wasn’t my finest moment.

I was tired, I was irritated, and I couldn’t even enjoy the fruits of my labor once I’d finished.  Who can enjoy something they’d done with the wrong attitude in the first place?

I do still want to get the house clean before we go.  But not like that.  Today, I will get a grip and remember what’s important.  I’ll listen to my kids, listen to my own body, and save the cleaning for another dang day if need be.

And if all else fails, I’ll stick to the kitchen side of the house, and avoid the computer room completely. 

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Filed under about me, kids, not sweating the small stuff, parenting, unschooling

The Story of a Cupcake

This is the pretty cupcake picture I shared on Facebook

We wanted to bake yesterday.  We found a yummy-sounding recipe we hadn’t tried before, and Everett, Tegan and I went to the store to pick up a couple of things we were missing.  We made the cupcakes, and they cooled while the kids rode around outside on their scooters.  We had a nice dinner, frosted the cupcakes, and snapped the above picture just before we dug in.

About four and a half minutes later, I followed up with this shot, taken seconds after Spencer dropped the cupcake carrier out of the fridge (although in his defense, Everett hadn’t put the top on properly)

This is the picture I didn’t share

And that’s the reason I don’t cry over spilled milk.  It just. happens. too. often.  Life is messy.  But the cupcakes were still good.  And the dog thoroughly enjoyed licking the floor afterwards.

The end.

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Filed under life, not sweating the small stuff, random

Why I don’t cry (or yell) over spilled milk

Last week – actually, a week ago today – Tegan (3 years old at the time of this writing) threw Spencer’s shoes in a lake at a park. It wasn’t the first time that his footwear had met a body of water at Tegan’s hand. That was last month, in our friends’ pool.

This time, it was here:
We were all sitting around, barefoot, enjoying the grass and the breeze. She spotted his shoes, was struck with, uh… inspiration… and before anyone could stop her, had taken off for the water with the shoes in hand. The next thing we knew, the shoes were floating gracefully away, while I scrambled to my feet to find a stick or something with which to go fishing.

Have you ever seen a 6 and a 10 year old try to hang on to a 130 pound woman to keep her from falling headlong into water while she precariously leaned on her tiptoes trying to retrieve two floating sneakers with a flimsy branch? You missed a good show. But I did eventually fish them out, returned them to their owner, and we all went about our day.

Afterward, my friend’s 7 year old son – Everett’s best friend – said to his mother, “Wow, Jennifer NEVER gets mad! I never see her get mad about anything!”

It was a nice thing to hear. Not entirely accurate mind you, but nice. I do get mad occasionally (although the older I get, the less I find actually worthy of getting mad about). But I wasn’t mad about the shoes in the water.

I’m not mad when someone spills.
I’m not mad when someone makes a mess.
I’m not mad when something gets broken.
I’m not mad when my kids act like kids.

And it’s not that I’m more patient than the next person – because I’m really not – it’s just that I made a decision a long time ago… I decided that some things mattered, and some things did not. Shoes in water do not matter. Spilled milk does not matter. Broken cameras do. not. matter.

My kids matter.
My relationships with my kids matter.

Even in those moments when I do get frustrated (or more accurately, especially in those moments when I do get frustrated), I remind myself that it’s a decision, and I come to the same conclusion every time: 
What matters is my kids.

Spencer’s shoes were safely recovered that day, but even if they’d irretrievably sunk to the bottom, what purpose could anger have possibly served? Responding in anger would not only have not helped the situation, it also would have damaged my relationship with my daughter. Every time we respond to our kids in anger, it damages our relationship. Every time we respond in anger, it takes us further away from our goal of peace, harmony and mutual respect.

My daughter is more important than a $20 pair of shoes. 

A few months ago, she accidentally pulled my Nikon off the counter, damaging it beyond repair.  She’s more important than a $600 camera too.   Shoes, cameras, houses, cars…. all small stuff compared to my kids. 

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University professor who delivered his famous Last Lecture to his class (which was later turned into a book of the same name) before he died from cancer in 2008, illustrated this in such a beautiful – if a bit extreme – way.  He’d just gotten a fancy new convertible, and his sister was harping on her children, Randy’s niece and nephew, to be careful.  Don’t mess up the new car.  Be careful around the new car.  Don’t spill anything in the new car.  Randy, putting his niece and nephew first, basically told her to relax.  He walked to the car, poured an entire soda on the back seat, and said, 

“It’s just a car.”

And at the end of the day, it’s ALL just a car.  Just a pair of shoes.  Just a camera.  None of it is worth getting upset about.  None of it is worth getting mad about.  None of it matters.  
What matters is our kids.  What matters is our relationships with our kids.  None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow with our children.  And I don’t know about you, but I therefore want to live each moment as if it were the last…. and if it were the last, I wouldn’t want to know that I’d wasted time – wasted even a second – being concerned, or upset, or angry about the small stuff.  

….. and it’s all small stuff.

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline!

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Filed under life, not sweating the small stuff, parenting