When I Move to Whistler, I Will…

(my oldest, in the air)

Here’s what I’m telling myself:

When I move to Whistler I will:

– cook more

– do yoga

– make the kids turn off their iPods

– ride my bike

– start my writing career (doesn’t that sound cheesy – I mean, who just decides to start a writing career)

– walk everywhere

– shop less

– worry less

– start back to work a few hours a week

– spend more time with Squirrel

– train the kids to sleep in their own beds all night

Here’s the truth:

None of that is going to happen if I don’t start now.

But, I’m getting ready to put our house on the market! I have to power wash, mow the lawn, organize my drawers, wash the walls, weed the garden and fluff the pillows. I have to worry, feel guilty, exhaust myself and get ill. I have to counsel the kids, apologize to the neighbours, scream at Squirrel, meet with the realtor, stage the house and sell on Craigslist.

I’m a busy girl, don’t you know.

Or, maybe I’m just anxious and that anxiety is causing me to micro focus on shit that doesn’t really matter. Unfortunately, that anxiety moves with me.

I guarantee there will be new dramas to micro manage in Whistler. Unpacking, settling in, getting used to a new school and new neighbours, making new friends, finding part-time work.

These things are all inherently stressful and require a great deal of energy, but it’s my anxiety about them that really exhausts me.

The truth is  there’s no reason I can’t:

– do a five minute meditation every morning

– throw down a sun salutation while I’m packing or playing with the kids

– go back to my simple rice, pasta, two veggie dinner plan

– start a simple, private blog for my children’s chapter book and type a sentence or two a day

– ease the kids back into a bedroom routine

None of this requires any more energy than my anxiety is sucking out of me. And, maybe if I lay the groundwork, I’ll take a little less fear and a little more focus with me when we make our move at the end of the summer.

What little thing are you telling yourself you can’t start right now?

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How I Cured My Doctor Dependency…and Cleaned Out My Medicine Cabinet

(image source)

This title is a little misleading. Cleaning out my medicine cabinet actually had nothing to do with curing my doctor dependency. It’s just that as I was cleaning out the drug cupboard today, it reminded me that a year ago I stopped trusting my doctor.

It was a big deal for me. For many (15) years I believed that there was no malady physical or emotional that couldn’t be sorted out on a paper covered exam table. I loved all of it – the long wait, the symptom confessional, the solution scrawled messily on a piece of paper.

Just the idea that there was a remedy for the various maladies that plagued me kept me on the appointment rounds. Symptoms came and symptoms went during those years, but hope was a constant.

Then one day about a year ago my doctor revealed herself as incurably human as the rest of us.

You see, I wanted my oldest son to see a pediatrician and, as an advocate and firm believer in the role of the family doctor, she wanted my son to remain in her care. She is an excellent doctor, but I was getting pressure from all sides to have my struggling son thoroughly tested for everything from attention deficit to autism to vitamin deficiency.

I insisted. Then watched in horror as my doctor shape shifted before our very eyes:

Do they (my son’s school) even know who I am? I’m not just any doctor you know. I have a reputation as the best doctor in West Vancouver.

The words God complex looped in my head protecting me from how horrified I really felt. She continued. I was accused of tarnishing her reputation by not taking my son to the psychiatrist she recommended the last time I asked for a referral to a pediatrician. She told my son that only really sick kids went to pediatricians, kids with things like heart disease and cancer.

I coddled:

“I’m sure we won’t find out anything new.”

I mollified:

“It’s just a formality.”

I lied:

“It’s just his teacher insisting on this.”

I stared at a spot on the ground, immedicably shamed, while she rounded out her lecture, finally handing me the referral. Then I grabbed my son and ran.

I haven’t been back. My medicine cabinet reflects that. My health reflects that. I haven’t had a symptom I’d stoop to share with her in over a year.

Cured by my own stubbornness! How do you like that?

When In Doubt Carry It Around For Awhile

36 days to moving day, $74 raised for your charities

(image source)

Sometimes I like to pretend that I’ve adopted my children from war-torn third world countries. I find it makes me a more compassionate parent. Instead of staring into the faces of small spoiled versions of myself and Squirrel, I see stalwart individuals blameless in their misunderstanding of our cultural standard of good behaviour.

We’re at the end of the second week of Spring Break. Add to that the week prior that the BC teachers were on strike, and it’s more like a Spring sabbatical. A sabbatical that’s taken its toll on me and my decluttering. I have decluttered a few things – the mini trampoline that was the scene of an unfortunate accident several months ago, two pairs of Heely’s that my son outgrew before any unfortunate accidents could take place, and about 12 more bankers boxes full of files.

I am still clinging to my Pilates Arc that I plan to make good use of as soon as I get in better shape. Ha ha ha ha ha…yes, I’m keeping a piece of exercise equipment until I get in good enough shape to use it. Here’s the questionable rationale:

1) I liked using it the handful of times I used it a year ago.

2) I love pilates. I loved it more when I actually did it.

3) The kids are still young enough to be my excuse for not exercising.

4) It’s a very good quality arc that Squirrel bought me for Christmas.

It struck me that I do that a lot – hang on to things that I like even though I’m not getting any use out of them. In my mind, certain things have an expiry date. The mini trampoline was also a good quality model and a gift from Squirrel close to five years ago. (I ask for these things, by the way, if Squirrel initiated exercise equipment as a gift, he’d be short half his tail fur by now.)

Five years is about my tolerance for unused exercise equipment. And that’s okay, I guess. I have the space to store my arc until I use it again or rationalize its resale.

However, I have noticed myself doing something very odd this Spring Break that is neither rational nor okay.

The other day I carried a lemonade around the playground for an hour and a half. Finding safe little nooks in the snow to store it while I stopped to push my son on the swing, relocating it whenever we moved too far away for comfort. Heaven forbid it spill or get snowed on.

Now I was aware that my son never drinks a whole lemonade when I bought it for him. And, as we left the coffee shop, I knew he was finished with it. But it was a good quality lemonade that cost a fortune and what if he got thirsty playing in the park?

He didn’t. I carried it (and him) home where I threw it out and got him the glass of water he asked for. I’m not going to ask the obvious “Why!?!” here. Instead maybe you can tell me if I’m alone in this or if you carry stuff around for way too long to assuage your disposal guilt.

And if awareness is the first step to changing the behaviour, maybe you and I can help each other put this stuff down.

Would You Like Rice And Pasta With That?

I composed this post last week but got derailed by a couple of unexpected calamities.

What a relief to be back!

Here’s what I meant to post last week:

I read two blog posts this week that inspired me for two completely different reasons.

The first is Eco Cat Lady‘s post on New Year’s resolutions. I laughed out loud at myself as I fulfilled all of her prophecies:

The way I see it, people pretty much always do what they want to do. So whatever dysfunctional things you’re doing must be serving some sort of purpose in your life. And until you uncover what that purpose is, there is just no way that you’re gonna be able to muscle your way into changing your behavior.

Whether or not you agree or disagree with her, you will laugh reading her post: Thoughts On Simplicity.

Then there’s blogger Julien Smith’s post  The Complete Guide To Snapping The @#$% Out Of It. Here, he takes issue not with New Year’s Resolutions but with our insistence on implementing them in the same unsuccessful way year after year. His advice:

Get yourself a goddamn system.

So, I applied a system to meal planning this week but first, I had to forget everything I’d ever learned about nutrition.

I started by making meal plans around what my family actually eats and not around what they should eat. Since two of us eat rice and two of us eat pasta, I decided to make both instead of wracking my brain for a rice based meal to appeal to Squirrel and our youngest or a pasta based meal to appeal to me and our oldest.

I became the much maligned family short order cook! Did I mention I had to forget everything I learned in parenting books too?

Fortunately, it worked! The rice and pasta lured them to the table where I ambushed them with peas (oldest loves, youngest hates) and carrots (oldest dislikes, youngest tolerates). I tossed a protein on the plate (not touching the rest of the food, of course) chicken, hot dogs, beans or eggs and Bam! we’re all at the table eating something every night at six o’clock.

So we’re not eating the delicious, well-balanced, organic vegetarian meals I fantasize about and no one ever eats. We’re also not eating pizza twice a week, peanut butter sandwiches in the car, at McDonald’s, or with someone screaming maniacally: “I don’t care if you don’t like it – just eat it!”

The added bonus is that since I know there is something on the plate everyone likes, I have no qualms about leaving it on the table for the inevitable cry of: “I’m hungry!” after dinner. And that, my friends, saves me more back and forths to the kitchen for yogurt, cheese sticks, and granola bars than you can begin to imagine.

Added bonus: It turns out that this meal can be prepared using very little brain power in the midst of a calamity.

Do you have any calamity proof systems in place?

Groundhog Day: Why Decluttering Isn’t Always Enough

Isn’t it too bad that wishing you were mainstream never makes it true? You just become that person rowing frantically with a stick wondering why all the other boats are passing you by.

I purposely don’t write a lot about my specific challenges with decluttering. There are so many reasons a person gets into trouble with clutter, and so many reasons we can all benefit from getting rid of it, that I don’t think my idiosyncracies warrant much press.

However, everyone has their unique challenges, and my family is no different.

Squirrel and I have learned from our journey through the fascinating workings of our oldest son’s brain that I share a few of his genetic variations – if you will. For example, we both have a poor short-term memory and experience a great deal of difficulty in the area of motor planning.

Squirrel likens our challenges to living a perpetual Groundhog Day where we relearn the same thing over and over again without really automating anything. Fortunately, it doesn’t affect general intelligence but it is a little hard to explain when I’m reading the directions on the box of pasta for the fifth and sixth times or when I suddenly forget how to turn on my car’s engine.

There have been many times in my life when I’ve told myself –  if I can’t make a paddle out of this stick, I really should head for dry land. But since I became a mother nine years ago, I’ve found myself drawn back into the current, striving towards my vision of a normal Mom while the kind of Mom I can be and want to be passes me by.

I know the road ahead for my son is a difficult one and my hope for him is that he builds his life around his talents and that those successes buoy him up for the daily challenges that he will undoubtedly face. And, I hope he pins his hopes on extraordinary instead of the ever elusive normal.

Getting rid of our clutter was a giant step forward for our family. Still, there are many things in our lives that we can eliminate or automate to free us up to struggle less and enjoy more. In the next few weeks I’m going to attempt to put our meals on auto pilot. Despite all my magical thinking, it turns out there is no healthy dinner fairy, and that the longer you wait for her, the more likely you are to get a visit from the pizza man.

What’s the first thing that you would eliminate or automate to simplify your life?

Day 97: Boy Smarts! And Squirrel Tales

9,700 things gone, only 300 to go!

I think the most unfortunate consequence of my foray into inventory is the long break I’ve taken from telling Squirrel tales.

I’ve missed sharing.

This picture tells two stories neither of  them particularly flattering to Squirrel or me.

1) Today we bought the children not one, but two sets of Halo mini figures. (This may be the best evidence so far that I’m being transparent with you. Of all the things I’d be tempted to not mention – this about tops the list.)

2) The recycling bin is right inside that white door but Squirrel prefers to stack recyclables on the counter right next to it and wait for the recycling fairy to work her magic. He’s rapidly losing favour with the recycling fairy by doing this:

This is the same man who turns himself inside out every time I leave a beer bottle cap on the counter. Not my best attribute, but a far lesser crime (in my mind) than mixing recyclables.

Let’s talk about today’s grievous toy purchase. As I’ve said before, my kids play with guys – lego guys, playmobil guys, and now, I guess, Halo guys. I can honestly say I’ve never regretted a guy purchase. Having said that, I loathe the video game Halo or any mention of war and game in the same sentence for that matter. I’ve taken an over my dead body approach to purchasing it. For some reason, it’s come to represent my last stand – and I’m taking it.

I don’t pretend to know anything about boys and guns and video games and TV violence but I’ve spent considerable time worrying about the subject. When my anxiety level gets too high, I consult my copy of Boy Smarts. The author, Barry MacDonald, has rescued me from a myriad of parenting sins. I highly recommend his website, if you’re struggling, as I am, with these issues.

The good news is that when I took the kids down to the playroom to give up some toys in return for their new guys, there weren’t any to get rid of. However, they offered up these two Playmobil beards which I thought was good of them.

As for Squirrel’s reliance on the recycling fairy and my occasional beer, the two pretty much go hand in hand. Surely a celestial sip or two is allowed under the recycling circumstances.

Back to my Squirrel tale. I revisited his office last night, this time on my best behaviour. That is, until I found two overflowing desktop organizers hidden in his cupboards and had a little tantrum. You see, Squirrel has used his “tidy office” status as evidence that the home clutter is mostly my creation. The discovery of his untidy secret sparked  a purge reminiscent of the early days of the project. I hardly had to count because what was falling out of the cupboards effortlessly topped one hundred.

Around 9pm, I found this:

Note that I already dealt with FIVE banker’s boxes FULL of cords and cables in the basement.

I had to give myself  a time out.

But not before doing this:

I have my wise and faithful reader galberry to thank for her suggestion in the comments on Day 92 to somehow mark things that aren’t likely to be used. If the packing tape remains this time next year – the files go!

I’m not really heartless, Squirrel actually moved his office out of the house a few months ago and neglected to take these indispensable files with him. I think a little booby trap is adequate punishment.

The rest of the stuff in our new shared office may make up most of Day 98. My cup runneth over!