That Moment Where Kids Discover Life’s Not Magic

Declan’s six. Every time I say, “no,” which is quite often, he says, “Can I do that when I’m a teenager?”

“I’m going to watch every show when I’m a teen,” he says. No. No, you’re not.

I’ve banned cartoons with a strong correlation to acting out and one that revealed a girl’s chest hidden by blurry stars.  “HAHAHAHAHA, those were her boobs!” Inappropriate–error in supervision.

“I’m going to swear when I’m a teenager. I’ll say ‘crap and…'” I break this train of thought.

“Nope. Not gonna happen.”

“Dad swears,” he negotiates. “Brittany swears.”

“Well, you don’t.”

“I’m going to eat all the candy when I’m a teenager. Can I?” This answer’s more important than permission to say a thousand f-words. He leans in for the answer.

“I suppose. Once I ate a pound of M&M’s I bought with my babysitting money. If you earn your own money, you can buy candy.”

“I have to use my own money?” This concept is extremely disturbing. Money, you see, comes from the pockets of parents, from the magic machines we drive by, and from the card in every adult’s wallet that lets us get all the stuff we want.

“Sure. I don’t buy unhealthy food a lot. If you want it, you can work when you’re a teen. Spend your money.”

“Can I pick up my puzzles and get five dollars?”

“It doesn’t work that way. See, I’m paying for your food and house. You should give me money. But I’m in a good mood, so I’ll let you stay.”

“Will you let me stay if you’re in a bad mood, Mommy?” I shouldn’t have said that. He doesn’t yet realize nobody ever really moves out of their parent’s house. We’ll be celebrating Brittany’s 21st birthday tomorrow. Well, not really, because when you’re 21, you don’t celebrate at home.

“Yes. You can stay even if I’m in a bad mood.”

“Well, when I’m a teen, I’m going to do whatever I want!” He stomps away. Note to six-year olds–getting the last word doesn’t mean victory. Carry that pearl into your teens.

I get to school and recap this conversation with my teens. They come to a general accord that teens cannot do whatever they want. That being a teen sucks.

“All we do is clean and do homework.”

“I have to babysit all the time.”

“My parents are stupid.” Yes. Yes, we’re all stupid. Until you’re 30 or run out of money in college.

I decide to let them into The Parent Inner Circle. “I’m going to tell you the truth. From a parent point of view…” They listen. They’re about to learn the secret of life.

“The reason we have you is so you can find the remote control when it’s lost. And do the dishes. And get our drinks. And watch the other kids we continue to have so that when you leave there’s always someone available to take out the trash. You babysit those so we get a break. That’s the real reason we have you.”

They stare–I might just be telling the truth. I figure I’d better iron this out.

“Everyone spends life wishing to be someone else. Kids want to be teens, teens want to be adults, adults want to be kids again. Being an adult sort of sucks, to be honest…we’ve got to pay the bills, listen to you whine, make sure you get some kind of food and don’t grow up to be criminals…If something bad happens, it falls on us to fix it. That’s a lot of pressure.”

A couple nod. Teens ready to agree?

“You’re just getting a taste of that pressure. Believe me, the pressure increases…you ain’t seen nothing yet…” I continue, “There have been rough times for me. Ask your parents, maybe for them, too. Some of your parents work more than one job…they do a lot for you.”

I get a “That’s true.” I’m being heard.

“So, yes, if I want, I can leave here today, drink two six packs and hit the clubs. I can eat anything I want, say anything I want, and do anything I want. I’m way over 21. But do I?Nope. Because I’m an adult. The pressure’s on me. I work hard to be better just like I tell you to do. We’re all playing the same game. I’m just on a different level.” Smiles. Good sign.

“The truth is, most adults want to be teens again. Not me. I work hard at things I love and feel passionate about. I didn’t always–but it’s what makes the difference. Doing things that you love–especially work…it’s the secret to having a good life…being great. Does anyone master it? I don’t know…Life’s about being under pressure. The wrong kind of pressure crushes you. The right kind turns rocks into diamonds. Find positive people–good friends. Work hard. Do things you love. Be great–let pressure turn you into a diamond. Being a teen won’t be so bad…being an adult will be even better.”

They smile. I feel a little like Mel Gibson after the “Freedom” monologue, and I wonder how long they’ll remember…I go home and inform the six-year old that teenagers don’t want to be teens. He doesn’t believe me. He continues listing all the things he’ll do when he gets there.

Having won one intellectual battle, I sit down to do something purely adult. No swearing, partying, or candy. I make tea, and sit down to write. Heaven.

Training The Boy to vacuum. I said, “If you’re a really good boy, you can vacuum.” It worked. 


Just Sit? That’s Deep. And Impossible.

I’m missing yoga. I’ve been put on the injured reserve list with tons of “no’s.” I’m active. I don’t sit still. Maybe it’s ADHD, maybe it’s the bad athlete syndrome….I’ve got something to prove. “You ran six miles, I’ll run sixteen.” I’ve got a car, distance is entirely unnecessary. But I do it.

I’ve given up the gym for nature. The gym’s too competitive–I’m always peaking at the person in front of me…She’s going 7.1mph, I can do 10. There’s no reason for it. Needless competitiveness tears people down. Exercise should be one of two things, team building, spirit building or both. Always leave exercise smiling.

Nature makes me smile. There’s nothing like running a solid seven miles leaping over horse manure in the street. It’s exhilarating. The feel of the cold going up my nostrils with my favorite play list…nothing like it. I miss it.

Naturally, I’m grumpy at my doctor who said, “No exercise.” What doctor says that? Next he’ll be saying, “I’d like you to start drinking, eat donuts and chips, and, oh, here’s a crack pipe from the pharmaceutical rep. Three times a day should do it.”

It’s not his fault. He’s just the messenger with the sheepskins on his wall. Delivering the letter of the law. No running, no kickboxing, and no….yoga? What kind of person banishes a person from yoga?

“Are you crazy?” my friend said, “I’d KILL to have doctors tell me to sit on a couch and not exercise.” My friends all want his business card. Most people go from “couch to 5K,” I’m going from seven miles to couch. Impossible for me.

So I turned to my yogi friends.

Yogini one, the person who got me into this yoga-loving mess to begin with, listened with compassion to the “letter of the law.” Yes, I’m looking for a loophole and an accomplice here…

She thought. She responded. “Just sit. Sit for an hour each day.” Who wants advice like that? I’m looking for something more like “Ah HA! Your doctor forgot to banish this. You can beat yourself up with THIS yoga, and it’s all perfectly legal.” But instead, she said “Just sit.” Like Gandhi, when his people told him his schedule didn’t allow him an hour to sit, reportedly said “Then I’ll sit for two.”

Yoga Friend Two told me I could stand in a tree pose forever. What?? No fun! They’re all afraid of lawyers, I think. They won’t help me be disobedient. I thought good friends were put on this earth to help us get dirt on our new clothing and get us in trouble.

I decided on “just sit.” Neither the spirit of Gandhi nor Yoga Friend One remembers to factor in The Boy. I meditate when Declan doesn’t find me. Lately I’ve been a little off. He thinks it’s “hide and seek.”

I plopped Declan in front of a good movie. I thought, “I think I’ll sit now. Possibly even meditate.” I shut down my work, taking a mental step toward the other room.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 5.45.09 AM“MOM! I need you!”


“Come HERE!” The boy can sniffs out meditation like he finds yoga.

“Look. This is funny.” I laughed. Briefly.

“Watch your show, Mommy has to do…some stuff.” If I said “meditation” he’d destroy it.


I went. I sat. I accomplished 2.5 minutes of sitting.


“No you don’t.”


I run for “I broke it.” I never know what “it” will be. Parts of my desk–the one supporting my computer, were strewn across the floor.

“It was an accident.” Dismantling my desk…an accident? I put it back together.

“Don’t do it again. Now, I need a minute.” Actually, I was hoping for a series of them, strung together. “Watch your show, please.”

I went. I sat. I looked up. There was a fire-breathing dragon in my face.

“Are you doing YOGA?” No, please don’t think I’m doing yoga. You’ll never leave.

“No, I’m planning dinner. I think I’ll make broccoli.” He ran away.

And so this continued I was able to attach twelve glorious minutes together. Twelve minutes of sitting and doing nothing. I never “do nothing.”

I fell asleep. Sitting. In a pretty good posture.

I heard a noise. I looked at the clock. Minute thirteen.

Yoga Friend One suggested I at least try for twenty minutes. That’s a 60% discount off the original full hour. “Have Rusty watch Declan so you can do it.”

If Rusty watched Declan and said “Leave Mommy alone,” Declan would know something was up. Sneaking is the only way.

Settling for ten minutes of sitting and two minutes of sleep I declared victory. The biggest win I’ve had all day.

Time to get up.

And make the vegetables…

Note: Yoga Friend One has an amazing blog. I especially liked her thoughts on “miracles” here.]


My Kid Can Beat Your Kid at Everything!

I survived Parent Teacher Conference last night.

As a parent, I go out of respect. I know the poor teacher has to be there, and she’s amazing. As a teacher, I’m sad dragging parents across six towns to wait in line for ten minutes with me. They worked a long day. I’d rather have coffee and actually talk.

At Declan’s conference, I cut right to the chase, “My kid’s smart, using his intellect for evil, and needs to pay attention.” Except for the “evil” I’d say the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. Say it like it is, I’m not offended. No fluff. I’m not a competitive parent.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 5.48.10 AMParents, I’ve noticed, need to compete, but we don’t like to say we’re competing. We want our kid to be the best and brightest in the world. The future doctor, lawyer, president, head of the World Bank.

That competition should be right out into the open, parent-to-parent. Let’s have parent contests.

“Hey, buddy, I challenge you for the ‘My kid’s awesome’ bumper sticker on your minivan. Let’s arm wrestle, or play one-on-one hoops. I’ll decimate you.”

We’ll all go home and do pushups to prepare.

But that’s not cool, so we brag subtly. “My kid’s an all-star (insert sport here). I noticed yours plays left bench quite effectively.”

Mine isn’t an all-star. Declan’s working on matching the correct sports to the balls. He kicks basketballs, which makes me cringe. It’s going to be a long season for that coach. We waiting for our call telling us which team we “made.” No sports bragging here.

“My kid read more books than your kid.” He (translate: me) logged more books on the log sheet. I don’t care how many books a kid reads. Number of children’s books viewed is not an accurate measure of reading.

“I read a hundred thousand one-page books which had descriptions longer than the actual text and pictures that took up 97.5% of the page.” Seven thousand books? For a grand total of six pages. Nope, I’m not logging that. As much as I love children’s authors and illustrators.

Read Dostoyevsky. Then we’ll talk. Our log says, “We read Seuss and the dino book AGAIN.”

No award for me. Or him. No competitive spirit. Only fun reading about dinos.

He’s a good kid, despite the fact that when I walked into the school, everyone in the main office from the Principal to the two secretaries said, “Oh, Declan’s mom!” That’s okay. Being on a first-name basis with the principal by grade one gives us special treatment. There’s something we can win. I can say, “My kid’s the captain of the detention club.”  Maybe he’ll get his own chair in the front office and he’ll get to run his own school. That’s something most parents don’t get to say.

No, I’m not a competitive parent. I’m a realist. I enjoyed the ten-minutes of honesty at the conference, came home, and took Declan off my computer where he was busy previewing the Sci-fi movies I’m showing in my class today. Seems he “forgot” to tell me he got “in the red.” Red is not good.

I relaxed with a nice cup of tea. I have time, because I’m not driving my kid around to horseback riding, soccer, ballet, basketball, gymnastics, piano, ski club and 4H. We’ll pick one or two things. Maybe he’ll be great, maybe he’ll just have fun. I’ll celebrate a blue ribbon or trophy or two. Mostly, we’ll just learn about life, people, fun, fitness, and make a few good friendships, I hope.

Competition only stresses me out. I’ll leave that for others.



Sleeping with the (little) Devil

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 5.37.35 AMSomewhere in the middle of the night he comes to bed. Never quietly. Always in the same pattern, like a hurdler or high-jumper going for the record. Bounce, bounce, PLOP. Sometimes the plop lands over me successfully, gold medal achieved. Often it comes crashing down on a vital organ or two before he squiggles, claiming space. If I’m not already facing the wall, he turns me. He fits his pint-sized body in a jigsaw space. He puts his arm around me. I’m mostly asleep. Too tired to put him back to bed. I smile, even though I know the rest of the night of sleep is shot. Fluffy bashes me in the face.
Fluffy is the first “buddy” he got, a gift from Grandpa before he was born, a lamb with a nice pink bow. Fluffy is a boy, make no mistake about it. When Fluffy assaults me, I wake up. I fall back to sleep. Soon after, I hear hysterical laughter. A long, deep belly laugh. I am missing the joke, but lifts my heart to hear him so happy, even in his sleep. I smile, even though I am losing more sleep. I fall back to sleep. I wake up to a question. The type of question that friends carry deep into the night over tea or wine, knowing neither will want to get up in the morning, but the problems of the universe must be solved now.
“Mommy.” He’s not good a the nighttime whisper.
“Yes, Declan?” I would very much like just a little sleep…
“Do you think God can bring back the dinosaurs?”
“I don’t know.”
“But God can do anything.”
“Then he can help you sleep. It’s sleeping time.”
Pause….(It aint over till the fat lady sings. And I don’t hear music…)
“I’ll ask Santa.” It’s decided.
He’s already asking Santa for a cat and all the toys to which I said no. He’s bypassing me. Now he’s bypassing God.
“It’s sleep time, Declan.”
“YES?” The part of my brain that’s conscious gets ready to blast him.
“I love you.” I soften with guilt in the way a parent does when misjudging intent.
“I love you too, Declan.” Before I know it, I feel his body relax. His arm slips off my body, his hand out of mine. He and Fluffy roll over, giving me a square inch or two of bed real estate I’ve so richly earned but never seem to enjoy. He giggles. He has full sleeping
conversation about something he wouldn’t tell me in school. He giggles again. Before long, it’s 4AM. Late enough for me to get up, drink coffee, and write. I slip away, not unnoticed.
“Mommy! WHERE are you going?”
“To the bathroom,” I fib.
“DON’T go work. Come right back!”
“Okay.” I lie. I know he’ll be sleeping, laughing, and giggling before I reach the door.
He gets up two times and interrupts my writing. I send him to bed until six rolls around. Then I sit him on my lap and tell him how when I was little, Grandpa used to go to work very early, and we’d get up and drink tea together.
“I don’t like tea.”
“We also had Carnation Instant Breakfast.”
“What’s that?”
“It’s like a vanilla milkshake.” Good grief. Now he wants vanilla milkshakes for breakfast. I tell him no. He sits on my lap for a while and hugs me. Life stops. It’s quiet. The wood stove glows, the sunrise starts to peek through the window, and I think of all the work I planned to do….work that I am most decidedly not doing now, because I am sitting. My friend Claudia, yogini extraordinaire, told me to sit for an hour each day. Not meditate. Just sit. I laughed because even though she is right–she’s always right–I wanted to ask her if she remembered about Declan. But here we are, sitting. Together. In peace. Waiting to tackle the universe.
And then, it is over.
“Okay, Mom, please get me my show. I want Scooby Doo on Cartoon Network.” I put on Scooby Doo,  get him a snack, and I move over on the couch.
Night is officially over. Time to tackle the world…for real.

Yoga for Moms

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 8.38.11 PMI mentioned before that my son can detect the presence of or intent to do yoga. He is psychic. But today, he was watching a video. I give him way too much TV when I want to selfishly mediate or practice yoga. It never works. Usually, he pounces quickly. “I’m hungry.” “I have to poop–wipe me,” or “Oh, I want to do yoga, too!” Disaster.

Today, I hit a record. He didn’t find me until minute twenty-seven of what I hoped would be an hour practice. Most often, he doesn’t ask me for something when he detects the presence of yoga, usually he just Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 9.11.17 PMpounces. This often ends badly, as my body is not in  alignment to absorb impact. I’ve been injured. So, I’m forced to channel my inner ninja like Inspector Jacques Clouseau waiting for Kato. This, I fear, may not be entirely Ashtanga yoga. I think it’s a hybrid. Psychic Ashtanga? Maybe.

Moms don’t often get to practice real yoga. There’s no relaxation. No savasana at the end. No restoration of balance. I often jump off the mat mid sequence to drain noodles, enter a computer password, or attend to a crisis like, “I can’t find the black crayooonnnn.” 

I need a new style of yoga. I may have to experiment and develop a few styles. I know I’m a new yogini, but one of the things I’ve learned so far is that yoga must be flexible and personal. These styles will fit me better, and I’ll be able to finish my daily practice.  I’m proud to share these new types of “Yoga for Moms.”

Combat Yoga This style integrates all the benefits of yoga with the awareness of the martial arts. When I studied Japanese sword, one of the primary lessons was zazen, or awareness. I learned never to drop things like car keys because I’d get kicked in the face. “Ha, ha, ha… where’s your zazen?” Hilarious. Combat Yoga will give you the awareness you need in order to defend against small and midsized children and pets. 

Hidden Yoga Sometimes you can achieve better yoga practice if you are invisible. Hidden Yoga incorporates the invisibility of the ninja within your favorite Ashtanga practice. Hidden Yoga allows you to hide in plain sight, improving your practice as people walk right by you with their empty juice glasses, shoes needing tying, and other problems that can wait until after savasana is complete.

Yoga for Multitaskers will have positions like “folding towel” “wiping butt” and Pouring juice. The Primary Series will hereby be known as “Cleaning the House” with the Secondary Series being called “Cooking Dinner.” Yoga for Multitaskers allows you to achieve a full sixty to ninety minute practice uninterrupted while still completing your household duties.

Speed Yoga allows you to enjoy a full 90 minute class in 10 minutes flat. Inspired by New Yorkers, who do everything fast, Speed Yoga is the yogi’s 100 meter dash. You won’t even have to hide from your six year old who’s bothering you for candy. You’ll be done before he figures out you’ve started and remembers he should interrupt.

It is my hope that these new yoga styles will help improve your daily practice, because yoga is about more than fitness, it’s about sanity, which is something every mom needs. When I’m screaming “GET OFF ME!” or instantaneously rolling off of my yoga mat in self-defense, I am most decidedly not achieving fitness or inner peace, both of which I need to avoid imploding. Try one of these yoga styles today–it just might help you achieve enlightenment.


[images: universal studios, and]


Disney Training Course: Free System for the Next Hundred Readers

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 11.08.49 AMAll my friends go to Disney. I love Disney. I’ve been there several times. My parents did it right, though. They waited. I was nineteen.  I didn’t think I would enjoy a pilgrimage to see Mickey Mouse at nineteen. I was wrong. It was awesome.

There were a few things that could have made Disney better for me–there were a decided lack of lack of vegetarian options for food and snacking at the time, something I hear is much improved these days as vegetarianism is considered less a medical disorder and more of a lifestyle by the American mainstream.

As such, I was forced to consume an awful lot of those Mickey-ear ice cream bars from the vendors that seem to be near every hour-long line of screaming children. I have to give Walt credit, though. It was good training for my future of picking through salad plates and side dishes at each one of the fifty weddings in which I was destined to take part, and for my travels overseas in countries where they include vegetarianism on the list of medical ailments that can be cured with proper medical treatment or a little voodoo.

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 11.07.36 AMEven though food options have improved, I’m going to wait before I go back. That is because I have a five-year old.

You’d think, “No, this is the perfect time to go–five-year old minds are ripe for the magic Walt Disney brought to America. Outside of the New York Yankees and maxed credit cards, there is nothing so American as Disney.”

I have a three or four sets of friends who go to Disney constantly. The first two have systems as to how to get the best deals and minute-to-minute plans as to when to sign up for food.  The third friend goes all out–he has a Disney concierge who does most of the legwork for him, both for regular Disney and the Disney cruise lines. He spares no luxury in his pursuit of the Big Mouse. They are on a first-name basis.

I see this a little differently–I don’t want to go with young kids. I am glad we went when we were older, the youngest among us being ten. My parents want to go down with all the grandchildren. That would mean, between my son and nephews, we’d have four kids ranging in age from 8 or 9 down to preschool.

Disney is equipped for these ages–vendors at every stop, an ice cream guy conveniently stationed at every long line, and stroller parking so that you can hold that little one in that one-hour line making the waiting also multitask as weight-lifting. Even Walt Disney knew you have to get in your exercise to be a healthy parent.

Going to Disney with little kids is sort of like taking coolant out of a reactor core. As the temperature rises, you get ever closer to the meltdown. This happens at Disney daily. That Magic Kingdom time each day when every little person forced out of a nap routine breaks down in an orchestrated symphony of whining and crying. Parents try to get through the line in which they had just invested some of the best years of their lives, or even worse–to push a little bit harder to squeeze in one more attraction.

This is why I am not going to Disney with kids until they complete my Disney Training Course. Today, I’m giving it out free, but after this, you can download it for $.99. I think a lot of parents will be interested in this foolproof method to get the most out of the Great American Vacation. Here are some highlights:

Chapter One: I set up concert-style ropes in the yard, winding around to simulate a quarter-mile line.

Chapter Two: Declan is required to wait in the line for a progressively increasing amount of time each day until he works his way up to six hours.

Chapter Three: In the last week of training, “Hell Week,” enticements are placed in various key locations around the line. Ice cream carts, balloon men, etc.

Chapter Four: He completes one of those intensive training sessions in line with other children at a temperature over one-hundred with humidity at 90%. Water is permitted for safety of all trainees.

Chapter Five: He finally succeeds in standing in the megaline without crying, whining, or saying “I’m bored” after getting recycled back to phase one just like a Marine in boot camp four times.

When all the children pass intensive course, they will be considered Disney certified. Not before. Then, we will get on a plane and visit the greatest heroes of all time. But by that time, I’ll probably have to train my grandchildren first.


[Image: and]