Baby It’s Cluttered Inside . . . . I Really Can’t Stay . . .

 Where is YOUR junk drawer (closet, garage, attic, basement . . . )

Where is YOUR junk drawer (closet, garage, attic, basement . . . )

Right before the holidays is the perfect time to de-clutter, purge and get your house in order.  I hear you people, “Paige, we are too busy. Paige (whining voice, yes adults whine just as much as children), I haven’t even BEEN shopping, I have to do holiday cards. Paige, I don’t wanna!”   

1.     Hardly anyone wants to de-clutter, don’t wait for inspiration.  Please re-read The Most Exciting Nifty Tip . . . . Possibly . . . Ever.

2. Inspiration will come WHILE you are de-cluttering, NOT before.

3. The time compression will HELP you not HARM you.  If you have to clean out that closet in 30 minutes you will spend a lot less time thinking about, considering, weighing options, and making perfect choices. 

4. Interacting with all your stuff, all your spouses stuff, all your kids stuff will inform your holiday shopping.  If you like hanging it up, picking it up, stepping on it, containing it . . . well then, you will buy more.  If all that bugs you . . . . well . . . you shall re-consider stuff as gifts.  Check out Fly Lady for clutter free gift giving inspiration.

5. We are entering the stay indoors part of the year.  Remember school holidays, snow days, and sick days are upon us.  Won’t you be nicer to your kids, to your spouse, to yourself if your home is more orderly and de-cluttered?



5 Things To Get READY for the Holidays!

 Oh geez Lousie, it's coming . . . .

Oh geez Lousie, it's coming . . . .

1. Buy some gift cards TODAY. We KNOW we will have that last minute gift we have to give. Have a stack of easy, peasy goodies ready to go.

2. Buy a few bottles of 'good enough' wine. You don't want to go empty handed, you don't want to have to run out all season and the the wine for the hostess gift. 

3. Create a budget - you'll be glad you did. Sale items can get us into just as much credit card trouble as full price items bought with cash.

4. Start freezing shit. Double your Cincinnati Chili (recipe below!), make cookie dough and freeze it in little balls to be whipped out and bake later.

5. Plan some self-care. An afternoon at a movie YOU want to see, a housekeeper to come before the guests arrive, massage, yoga, sleeping in. Ain't nobody happy if Mama (or Papa) ain't happy.

Pseudo Cincinnati Chili (from SavingDinner.com)

Cook’s note: For five-way chili, sprinkle raw diced onions on top.

8 ounces thin spaghetti

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 pound ground beef (93 percent lean)

1 large onion (for 1 cup chopped)

1 large green bell pepper (for 11/2 cups chopped)

2 small cans (8-ounces each) tomato sauce

2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

cayenne pepper to taste, optional

salt to taste, optional

1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans

1/4 cup already-shredded sharp cheddar cheese

 

1. Bring 2 1/2 quarts of unsalted water to a boil in a 4 1/2 -quart Dutch oven or soup pot. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the spaghetti and cook until tender, 7 to 9 minutes.

 

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil on high heat just until hot. Using your fingers, crumble the ground beef into the skillet. Immediately wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap and hot water. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, adding it to the skillet as you chop. Stir the meat occasionally. Rinse and seed the bell pepper and cut it into 1/4-inch dice. Add it to the skillet.

 

3. Cook, stirring frequently, until the ground beef is finely crumbled and completely browned, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium.

 

4. Add the tomato sauce, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Stir to mix well. Reduce the heat to simmer, and continue to cook, stirring from time to time, until the pasta is done. Season with cayenne pepper and salt, to taste, if desired. Meanwhile, rinse and drain the beans, and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a paper towel and microwave 1 minute on high or until heated through.

 

5. To serve, divide the drained spaghetti among 4 serving bowls. Top each serving with chili, 1/2 cup kidney beans and 1 tablespoon shredded cheese. 

 

Serve at once. Serves 4

 

 

 

    

 

Recovering Nice People, Unite!

 Are you TOO nice, TOO sweet?

Are you TOO nice, TOO sweet?

I am a recovering NICE person. I used to handle all my problems by ‘nice-ing’ people, until I realized it actually wasn't very kind, honest, effective, relationship building or fun.

NICE is a big fat cloak for controlling, allergic to conflict, and bossy. I'm not talking about being kind and thoughtful. Being NICE instead of expecting everyone to meet the needs of the situation. Being NICE in order to rescue people from their mistakes - over and over and over. Being NICE so that people doesn't blow. Being NICE as a crazy town insurance policy that the person you are NICEing will be NICE back (one day .  . . hopefully. . . right?).

Consider that NICE people have problems with limits and boundaries. If someone steps over my limit or boundary (probably communicated in a wishy-washy and NICE fashion), I don’t address it directly. Instead, NICE people conjure up tons of self-righteous indignation on the inside - or I share my outrage with a close friend (gossiping, eek! that’s not very NICE). I never address the heart of the matter — that I'm furious with my beloveds (spouse, child, parent) actions.

Here's my hunch, nice people feel if WE are angry WE can CONTROL the anger and situation. If the other person is angry, well that's scary and unpredictable and the anger might mean rejection. We absorb, absorb, absorb , , and you know what happens then? Resentment, resentment, resentment. BUT we can't SAY anything because we have been pretending for so long that their bad moods, their demands, their infringing on our boundaries didn't bug us. How can we be real after we have been such a phony baloney? Sigh . . . . 

NICE people, let's dip our collective toes into the perceived "Dark Side" and see what happens if we only carry the weight of only OURSELVES in our relationships. Let’s STOP absorbing other peoples crap, or tolerating shitty behavior, or allowing others to scoop up our life energy.

Assertiveness, standing up for ourselves, is a foreign language so us NICE people are gonna get it wrong. We will speak it with a heavy accent of accommodation and insecurity. Luckily, we can count on our family to give us lots of practice.

**If you are not NICE yourself, you probable live with a NICE person, read and learn, and STOP taking advantage of their NICENESS! 

 

Expectations vs. Reality

  Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy this yearly post.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy this yearly post.

Expectations: Cozy car ride talking to each other and playing the alphabet game and singing Raffi songs.  Delicious home cooked nutritious meals where children try new foods and eat yellow and green and orange things.  Getting to that pilates class &long walks after meals.  Playing board games and doing puzzles. Combed hair, none of it in eyes, all of it in a hairband and no squabbles over styles or washing. Wearing the fancy & nice clothes Nana bought, all of it ironed, most of it unstained.  Loving and understanding relatives who honor, cherish and cheer for each other. Sleeping in, oh I'm not crazy, I read that other post, Expectations 101, just a couple of mornings of uninterrupted sleep will do.                                             

  Reality . . . .

Reality . . . .

Reality:  Traffic, she is on his side, they don't like that song, every 35 minute bathroom breaks.   Carbs, sugar, booze, caffeine, carbs, more carbs. More booze, caffeine, carbs, lethargy, complaining, fat pants.  Begging and pleading and even crying to get them off screens and standing up.  Lice.  Wrinkled shirt, I took that darn PEP class and let them pack, they forgot their khakis and now there is no choice but sweats for Thanksgiving dinner.  Snarky and gossipy relatives who judge the kids, the parenting, the lice, the sweat pants.  Four year old who wakes up at 4:30 am, urgent care, strep throat.

Expectations 101, Read it, learn it, try it, live it.                

*Originally posted in 2014. Still makes me giggle.

How Do I Find TIME to Parent?

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 9.15.49 AM.png

There ARE ANSWERS to the question, “How do I find TIME to parent.” Julie Morgenstern’s new book, Time to Parent, is so, so, SO awesome. I wish I’d had it 20 years ago. Join me tomorrow night when PEP (Parent Encouragement Program) will be hosting Julie for the first Noted Author series of the year. I have the good fortune to be introducing her and asking her YOUR questions! Come with your problems and concerns, and leave with practical and DOABLE solutions. Details are below.

Julie Morgenstern

Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You

November 15, 2018
8:00 - 9:30 PM ET / $25

Looking for ways to tackle the ultimate time-management project – parenting – to find structure and spend true quality time with your kids? Julie Morgenstern's new book, Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You, provides parents with practical strategies that contain and clarify the seemingly infinite job of parenting into a manageable roadmap that works from cradle to college. Her unique framework shows you how to harness your own strengths and weaknesses to make the job your own.


Morning Mayhem - An Affirmation for You!

Morning mayhem troubles? Kids won’t get out of the house on time? I coach a lot of parents on this very topic and I struggled mightily with it myself. If we are going to change our habits we need to change our mindset and I am here to help. Below is a FIVE MINUTE recording of NEW ways of thinking in the morning. Listen EVERY morning, in a couple weeks your brain will have a new neural pathway. Below are the directions and disclaimers.

DO NOT’s

DO NOT use on children under 5.

DO NOT use unless children have been trained on what needs to get done in the morning.

DO NOT use until YOU are ready 10 minutes before it’s really time to go.

HOW TO’s

After kids know what’s going on in the morning and you know you are ok if they don’t complete all the tasks (teeth might be un-brushed, hair might be spiky, lunch may be forgotten, homework could still be sitting on the kitchen table).

You say 10 minutes before it’s go time, very cheerfully, mellow, acting as if it’s going to go well and say, “Kiddos, in 5 minutes I’m going outside to listen to a 5 minute meditation, does anyone need any last minute help?”

You walk out, with your ear buds in, ready to click, no more reminders, no more nagging, and push play . . . .

Email me the results. I can’t waaaaiiiiiit!




How Much Candy Should I Let Them Eat?

 Yum, Yum, YUMMY!

Yum, Yum, YUMMY!

Who can resist those tiny Butterfingers that you can pop in your mouth all at once, or the Double Bubble that takes you right back to your own childhood (remember, you would chew four pieces at a time and spit it out after 10 minutes)? Those endless bags of candy brought to mind limits, how to set them and harder to do, how to uphold them?

Do you have an open bag policy until all the candy is gone? Do you dole out three pieces a day until you are sick of the complaining that everyone else gets AllllLLLLL the candy they waaaAAAannnntttt? If you parcel out the candy, do you keep the bag under lock and key or operate on the honor system? Do you have them pick their 10 favorites and donate the rest? Do you sneak all the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups after they have gone to bed and feign innocence in the morning?

A limit worth setting is a limit worth upholding

Set as few limits as possible and uphold them with vigor and compassion. What limits come naturally to you: 8pm bedtime, no food outside of the kitchen, no soda in the house, hands washed before mealtimes? Limits that reflect our core values and we are SURE about are the easy ones! What about the more ambiguous ones, let’s say screen time - am I too strict? What are the neighbors doing? These limits we should take our time to think about and decide what is best for our family for now. Limits change and grow as our kids change and grow

Great advice, but it’s not working

Once we set the limit, we aren’t done (ugh!). Sometimes we are thwarted in our upholding of the limit because our kids freak out, or because it’s inconvenient for us, or we are too tired. Upholding a limit really deserves our full attention, and because of the energy needed for that we need as few limits as possible.

Can I take a break yet???

Once we set a limit, consistency is the name of the game. We want to train our kids that we mean business with our limits, we can’t be shaken or broken down with tears or a dramatic tantrum. A few moments of hard won consistency will mean months of ease as the limits we set and uphold become woven into the fabric of our households.

Back to the candy . . . .

We all want the magical answer to how much candy is just right - no complaining, or sugar highs and lows on their part, and no nagging or freaking out on our part. There is no such magical answer for every family, at every age and stage. When everyone gets home from school today let’s talk to them about the limit, what’s reasonable and how it will be upheld.

Time for Insights!

 Julie Morgenstern and me!

Julie Morgenstern and me!

I spent Saturday at a fabulous DCOrganizers event where they hosted New York Times best selling author, Julie Morgenstern. Julie’s new book, Time to Parent, is everything I love under one cover, parenting AND organizing!

Top 5 Insights (there are so many more!)

  1. Parenting is a huge job with NO job description. Job ambiguity is a recipe for overwork, insecurity and anxiety. Julie finds the edges of how to both raise a human being, while at the same time be a human being.

  2. $1,000,000 Question: How much time and attention do kids need? Answer: Short bursts (5-20 minutes) of undivided attention delivered consistently. WOW! We can all do that.

  3. To do this job well, we have to BE well - getting our own sleep, exercise, love and fun are all essential to being a great parent. When we are short on time we have to think about getting these in micro-doses, short bursts (except sleep, which we really all need in bigger doses then we are getting!)

  4. Todays parents have to resist the lure of technology. Consider setting up consistent times of the day to check email, and leave it off during the other times. What about leaving both your shoes and your device at the front door?

  5. Feeling overwhelmed? Use Max.Mod.Min. Find the edges of a task and then use reality to guide you to right size your work. Example: We need dinner. MAX: I find a new recipe, run to the market, chop, sautee, broil and toss. (Time: 2.5 hours). MIN: Order out, set the table with paper and eat. (Time: 15 min). MOD: Pick up a prepared roast chicken, cook up that broccoli, have the kids toss a salad (Time: 40 min).


Have a Problem? Try some LAUGHING!

WORDS-laughing.jpg

Seriously, never, ever, not ever should we underestimate the power of a good time to help with our parenting. Fun & laughter should be at the top of everyone’s list of things to do each week. Fun soothes the soul, fun rounds out the inevitable sharp edges of family life. Fun gives us things to look forward to when we are doing mundane tasks we don’t feel like doing.

When (you guys when, NOT if) kids are uncooperative – try a dose of fun instead of a dose of terse talking to. Could be a fairy tale after a 10-minute house tidy. Might be a quick trip to Starbucks for a fun, sugary treat after an SAT Prep course. Consider a Friday night movie night with ONLY food the kids like after a week of balanced meals. Perhaps we could sleep in Sunday with no demands upon waking after a week of Nana visiting and a lot of "best behavior".

Family fun can be expressed in as many ways as there are families - two-week family vacations, weekend car camping, quick trips to the zoo, listening to the books on tape together – but really, have FUN and LAUGH with your family. Humor (if it’s not sarcastic and mean spirited) works with the tantruming toddler and the surly teen. Instead of punishment or consequences, think how can we uphold these limits AND add fun into the mix? There is more to read in Enjoy, Relax, Have Fun! and When in Doubt, Laugh it Out.

Someone Is Gonna Feel Bad

 It’s scary to change the dance, AND we can do it!

It’s scary to change the dance, AND we can do it!

As I start out again on the Fall speaking circuit, going to schools and PTA meetings and discussing organizing tweens and teens, or positive discipline, or power struggles, or morning mayhem I keep bumping into this concept of parents (people) desperately wanting their kids (spouse, friends, parents) to be different, but they don’t want anyone to feel bad, or uncomfortable, or discouraged, or like a failure, or embarrassed.

They ask me, filled with love, compassion and good intentions: “Paige, please tell me a magical way to tell this person in my life (child, friend, spouse, sibling, parent) to change. What they are currently doing really bugs me AND I have a lot of evidence and reasons why they should change and actually they would BENEFIT from the change. When they change I will stop being so annoyed, irritated or put upon by them and life will be good. BUT, Paige, I don’t want to hurt their feelings or make them feel uncomfortable. How do I say it so they get the message but no on is upset?”

This the relationship version of people wanting me to fit their 100 books into their bookcase that fits 70 books. Ummmmmm, I wish I could and it’s not possible.

Here’s the thing, reality is so, so, SO very helpful. If the change you are seeking has not happened by doing things FOR your kids (thinking then they will magically get the hang of it), or nicely making suggestions about ways they can change, or by signing them up for things that will make them change, or by using our evidence based researched lectures on why THEY should change . . . well, we need another way.

That way is uncomfortable, cringe worthy, takes practice and in the end releases so much energy and compassion and self-respect back to OURSELVES we will wonder why we didn’t do it earlier. Let’s see it in action!

Child: Messy Room (back pack, cubby, playroom, etc)

Old Way: We clean. We complain. We nag. We buy them more stuff. We clean. We nag. We yell. We swear we won’t clean it again. We clean it againl Lather, rinse, repeat.

New Way: We de-clutter child’s room (with / without child - call me to discuss if you need help on this one, not joking!). We see if child keeps room clean. We stop purchasing items (clothes, books toys) if room is not clean because we have enough mutual respect to NOT add to the mess. We offer help weekly, we respect their answer. We clean our own rooms.

Friend

Old Way: Friend over asks us to carpool (volunteer, watch their dog, watch their kid, etc). We do it. We lie sometimes that we can’t do it. We gossip behind their back about what an over-asker they are.

New Way: Friend over asks to carpool (volunteer, watch their dog, watch their kid, etc). We tell them, “No, we are not available to do that carpool on any other days then the ones we signed up for.” We end the sentence there. The friend squirms, is embarrassed. We love that friend so we hug them and move on to a new topic. Sometimes this friend needs to experience more then one compassionate and firm ‘No’ to right-size their asking of favors.

Parent

Old Way: Parent butts in on our parenting our kids. We have nicely told our parents, ‘we got this’, or ‘you don’t need to help, you can just relax and enjoy!’

New Way: BEFORE our parent butts in again (they will) we tell them, privately, that we love when they are over. When sticky parenting situations occur we would find it very helpful if they observed the interaction with out jumping in. Then after (way after, like the next day) the sticky parenting situation we would like our parent to help diagnose the problem and brainstorm solutions (if we do actually want this help). This well meaning parent will need some follow-through. We will EXPECT the accidental butting and we are prepared with the phrase, “It’s not helpful to me to have two people talking at once.”

I’m not saying this is easy people. I’m saying if we want things to change we gotta “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Gandhi).

Time to Parent

 Every parent needs this book!

Every parent needs this book!

I’ve been a fan of Julie’s for 25 years. I called her a year ago to interview her for a Washington Parent article about time management and parenting and she was in the middle of writing this book! Now that I have it in my hot little hands, I’m highlighting and tweeting quotes and wishing I had had this 20 years ago. Julie always focuses on the positive, gives you practical tips, breaks things down and inspires us to be the best us (not a brand new unrealistic us). “Time to Parent” acknowledges both the struggles and joy of parenting and gives us concrete solutions on how to raise a child while taking care of ourselves.

She’s coming to DC for her book launch and I want you all to know about it. I’ll be there on October 20th and you are invited too! Details are below.

WHEN: October 20, 2018, Arlington VA, 3:15 to 6:30 pm

WHERE: Founder’s Hall, 3351 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22201 on the George Mason University Campus

HOW MUCH: $39.00 (includes the book!)

DETAILS: Julie Morgenstern, internationally renowned organizing and time management expert, New York Times best-selling author, consultant and speaker, will be launching her upcoming book, Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You in the Washington DC area. This is the first-ever public event hosted by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.

Julie is known for her passionate, articulate style and warm sense of humor and her new book, Time to Parent, provides a revolutionary framework for helping parents create the space for quality time with their children and for themselves. The book is based on Julie’s 26 years of field experience coaching parents around the world, and extensive research in the field of child development.

I am looking forward to this event and hope you can attend as well.

For the small price of $39.00 you’ll enjoy a 90-minute presentation by Julie Morgenstern herself, receive a copy of the new book and the opportunity to join me at the book signing reception.

is when it is all happening. I hope you can join me, along with DC parents and other Julie Morgenstern enthusiasts, for this fun and educational event. Space is limited, so register soon.

For more information and to register for this event go to https://www.dcorganizers.org/Julie-Morgenstern-Book-Launch

Contact Productivity@dcorganizers.org for questions.

Strategies for Supporting Homework

Homework – love it or hate it – is here to stay. Homework can be a real drain on our relationships, take a ton of time and create unneeded tension and stress. Because it’s a lifelong skill, homework is a great thing to think about, work on, have fun with AND not obsess over.

In this long form blog, you will find homework thoughts and actions to consider and experiment with. It’s like a dress-up box – try one on, see it how fits. Some will make sense, some won’t. Try one now, save one for later.

Next, I lay out tips and advice broken down into developmentally appropriate ages and stages. One of the most annoying/exhilarating things about parenting is that it is a moving target. Just when we get good at raising a four year old, they go and turn five on us. Ugh/Yay!

Finally, we want to support our kids into being responsible, lifelong learners and not enable them to wait until they are nagged and coerced into doing their job. We all blossom at different times over different topics. While homework is important, it isn’t a litmus test on our parenting or a prediction of their future. Take it easy, stay involved, and we all might learn something along the way!

Thoughts & Actions

Action: Be available to help at consistent times (not at anyone’s whim, yours or the child’s). For example, decide that from Sunday – Thursday, one parent will be at the kitchen table from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Beware the child that ropes you into helping the whole time. If a child demands constant assistance, be available from 7:00 – 7:10, then take your shower, color your hair, do a workout (anything NOT in the room) and be available again from 7:50 – 8:00.

Thought: Homework represents a relationship between the child, their work and the teacher. When we butt into other people’s relationships we are in “parenting mischief.” Best to stay out of relationships that are not ours (even when we have so many good ideas that would really, really help!).

Action: Create a homework-friendly environment. Provide a clutter-free and clean table. Kids generally like to do homework in the family area when they are elementary-school age and tweens. As kids get older and have internet access, it’s best to keep them in the family area. Find a shelf or cubby where each kid can toss homework stuff. Awesome if it has a door (kids don’t like being neat all the time). Then every 3-5 weeks help your child sort, purge, re-arrange and generally re-boot their cubby.

Thought: What gets fired together gets wired together. If homework is a crazy, emotional, power strugge-ly time, it could be that the kid's brain is wiring together homework + drama. Let’s avoid that please.

Action: Have a device bowl. Your device bowl is where everyone leaves their devices and can "check" them at predictable intervals. Use limits for everyone and be reasonable, not draconian. Something like this works: Devices go in the bowl from 5:30 – 7:30. From 7:30 – 8:00, we all get a half hour to check, update and play. At 8:00, devices are powered down for the night. A great rule of thumb is to turn off the devices one hour before you want your kids to go to sleep (and you too!).

Thought: Nagging is a service. Do not work for free.

Action: One reminder is appreciated, or tolerated, entertained, heard as love and involvement. All reminders after the one are interpreted by our kids as a lack of trust. To them, our constant reminders tell them that that we don’t trust them, we don’t think they have what it takes, and they need us to succeed in the world.

Final Thought: Parents, focus on being homework modeler and pit crew. Kids might let us take over the wheel, but remember, it is ultimately discouraging, disheartening and relationship-draining when someone takes over. No one ever learned how to drive a car while someone else was in the driver's seat. Experience -- with all of its bumps, curves, and C-pluses -- is the best teacher.

Grade & Age Specific Tricks of the Trade

PK – 2nd Grades: Relax. This is all about showing up and creating routines. Create a homework space, set a time and then back away slowly. Do not correct homework, do not do homework with them, and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you erase their homework because they could do better. Watch and see how your child deals with homework, how she deals with not doing homework, how she handles herself, her teacher. It’s great to be interested in homework, but think long term here. If we get our child used to having a homework companion, cheerleader, task master ... well, when will we catch up on all our Netflix?!

3rd – 5th Grades: If you just got the news that you don’t have to sit with your child and do the homework with him, you might find yourself in a bit of a quandary. Think of this age group as a great time to fail, procrastinate, not turn stuff in and just generally be a hot mess. While you are NOT doing your child’s homework, you might want to read “The Learning Habit” -- it provides clear guidelines on how long children should be doing homework (10 minutes per grade), how to set it up, and what they do if they are done early. It also provides current research on technology and its impact (interesting and a wee-bit scary).

6th – 8th Grades: Tweens are a little bananas. They are neat and organized one week, and the next their hair is greasy, they cry and their backpack is a disaster. Now is the time to practice using your own pre-frontal cortex, the CEO part of your brain. Think of your organizational modeling as the exoskeleton for the jelly-like changeling child you are living with. Uphold homework time. Keep nagging to a minimum. Consider adding in your weekly calendar an appointment with your tween to review, re-cap, re-jigger and plan. If they can tolerate it, a non-judgmental backpack clean out once a month can do wonders. Don’t be afraid to stay in touch with teachers. Please refrain from acting like 7th grade is the window into your child’s future success. Take a moment and consider how well-rounded, rational and organized you were at 13. Thank you.

9th Grade: This grade presents major changes in the social lives, sexuality, and brain development of your child. You might be doing one step forward and 62 steps back. The water is rough and the life preserver that will save you is the relationship, not the A in AP French. Use the teachers, stay in touch with parents of the peer group, get your own life and please review 6th – 8th grade and read ahead to 10th – 12th grade. You truly are betwixt and between. Self care is mandatory during this phase.

10th-12th Grades: Back off, calm down, call a friend. Read all about kids who did crappy on their SAT’s and went on to be millionaires. Review your own high school grades (I for one was not as straight A-y as I imagined). Some kids are super-duper organized and on top of things, and some kids are chill, disorganized, avoidant and totally unready, uninterested and/or overwhelmed. You can not shame someone into being ready. That said, please set and uphold limits on technology, bedtime, and expectations and consequences for low effort and performance. Consequences, not punishment. If a child has trouble studying for Spanish and is getting a C –, for the next quarter he gets dropped off at school early on Thursdays for the teacher-sponsored, free tutoring. Avoid over-checking your kids progress, getting upset at a low grade, nagging, fretting, and comparing. Sometimes their own experience of seeing a D on their online grades will be enough to change their tunes. If we flip out over the D, they are off the hook and can spend their energy rolling their eyes and complaining about their overbearing, unreasonable and out of control parents. The goal is really to let go now so they will have experiences trying and failing and working hard and solving problems BEFORE they get to college.

College: Pay the bills, uphold pre-discussed grades limits, listen to the stories, ask questions, take your own class so you are busy studying and improving yourself! Resist the urge to protect, over-involve, check-in, double-check, just make sure, one last time.

A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words (and edits out a 1000 others)*

BACKGROUND:  I was on vacation for two weeks in the Canadian Rockies.  I plan vacations in the northern regions of our great continent to escape the heat and humidity of DC. Being cool (as in temperature) is a real priority for me. I take weather very, VERY personally.  Like the rain is happening TO ME. The humidity is all about ME. I can't really relax on vacation until it's a perfect sunny day, 78 degrees, light winds from the north east.  

 Photo #1:  Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada

Photo #1:  Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada

PHOTO #1:  It's 78 degrees with a fabulous cold wind coming from the GLACIER across the road.  I was so happy with myself and my family and our friends, I was overflowing.  I snapped this pic and sent it to my brother and sister. They responded with adulation and enthusiasm, which I appreciated.  But the main event was my abundant feelings of well being. A perfect mix of  hiking, being with my kids and fresh air. While the feedback from the pic was nice, it wasn't as nice as where I was.

 Photo #2:  Glacier Lake National Park, Montana, USA

Photo #2:  Glacier Lake National Park, Montana, USA

PHOTO #2:  Isn't this beautiful? Aren't you the teeniest bit envious? Behind the camera though I was hot and sweaty and grumpy. There was a heat wave. My 78 degrees had turned to 93 degrees with a billion percent humidity and half a trillion other hikers on MY trail. I'm not sharing this to complain, the point is that I was actually feeling very cheated that my perfect vacation was being invaded by a heat wave, so I decided to get a cheap thrill by sending this photo to a bunch of people. They responded by saying how beautiful it was, and fabulous, and this sorta filled up my hot, humid and disappointed cup.  

 Photo #3:  Waterton Lakes, Glacier National Park, Alberta, Canada

Photo #3:  Waterton Lakes, Glacier National Park, Alberta, Canada

PHOTO #3:  Our trip continued, and like all trips, some of it was fabulous and some of it was disappointing and some of it was annoying and some of it was glorious. I noticed the more content I was with my reality the less compelled I was to share it. I could just live it, contentedly. The more  let down I was by my reality, the more I wanted positive feedback from people. So I snapped finely framed photos, editing out the parts that disappointed me. I sent this photo on the last day of our trip.  This final stop on our two week sojourn was touristy and hot and I did not like it. Our motel was kinda grungy, smelled bad, and the 'view' was a joke. Dinner was a disappointment, the beer list was lacking, the ice cream joint was meh. Did I mention it was hot and HUMID. IN CANADA.   I shot this on a morning stroll and sent it off looking for the feel good juice because I could crop out all the bitterness and wait for  the oohs and ahhhs from the texts to lift my drooping (and hot)  spirits.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  Vacation photos are fun.  I love sharing them, I love looking at other peoples. I'm inspired by where all my fun friends go, and I'm the teeniest bit jealous. And then, I remember that in every photo there are disappointing, grungy, beer list lacking, and humid parts edited out. Just like in each and every one of our photos!

*Originally published August 2015. I'm on my way to Park City, let's hope it's nice and cool! New content next week!

Non-Buddha Parts*

 Sit and breath and moisten the soil.

Sit and breath and moisten the soil.

Years ago I saw Tich Nhat Hanh, a famous Buddhist monk, speak at the Warner Theater in DC.  There were two things I remember clearly.  Number one, we chanted for about 347 hours.  It was chanting and then breathing and it was excruciatingly boring and NOTHING was happening.  As he'd end one chant he'd say, 'We are moistening the soil".  Thank you very much Tich Nhat, but I'll skip all that moistening of the soil and let's go right into enlightenment and a little peace please, that is, after all, what I paid for.  Here's what I wanted, I wanted him to talk for 30 minutes and I wanted all my angst about the past and fear about the future to melt away. Melt away FOREVER and to know truly what to do next. To be absolutely  clear about the next right action and go forth and do said next right action. Finally, to always live in this peaceful and knowing place.  Was I asking too much?  

Second, Tich Nhat Hanh made the analogy that the Buddha was like the Lotus Flower. Buddha was made up not just of peace and right action, but he was also made up of non-Buddha parts (anger, confusion, shame). Like the Lotus Flower, the Buddah needed the mud and the ugly roots to flourish and grow.

Are you as annoyed as I am right now? We are like the lotus flower, no better then the Buddha.  We are all made up of non-Buddha parts. We can't surgically remove the anger, impatience, angst, worry, fear, disappointment from ourselves. We can moisten the soil with laughing, caring for each other and listening. When we moisten the soil we make it easier to loosen the weeds and plant the good stuff to grow and flourish.

In PEP (Parent Encouragement Program) we lead an exercise where we go back in our memories and draw a quick picture of our family of origin when we are around 6ish and then give each person 3 characteristics. Each participant then shares their family for 3-5 minutes.  As I sit there, as I have for the last decade, I'm always struck by the universality of our experience. The hurts that run deep in our childhoods, the way we feel like we didn't measure up, or they didn't measure up permeates all our stories. We believe, if only the childhood would have been different the suffering, pain and confusion would not be here. Alas dear readers, we are all recovering children, we all are looking for that stable ground, for that love, cherishing and acceptance from our parents (or ourselves).

Families are like the lotus flower. We grow from the muck and the mud and if we cleaned it all up, there would be no where for the roots to flourish. 

So think of all the reading aloud time, the family dinners, the setting and upholding limits, bickering, family trips, late night snuggles, ginger ale shared on the couch when people are sick, that's the moistening of the soil. The daily rituals, struggles and routines are the chanting .  When we finally get to stop and  we rest, we see that our beautiful/peaceful family is made up of non-beautiful/non-peaceful parts. And so it is for all of us.

*Originally published April 22, 2015 . . . but I needed to read it again so I re-published it!

Helping Kids–And Parents– Cope With Back-To-School Anxiety

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Kathleen Minke, Paige Trevor, Kojo Nnamdi, Tia Breckenridge, LaNia Mitchell

As I sat waiting, and for the first 10 minutes of the Kojo Show last week, I got to PRACTICE anxiety management tools. I knew this new experience was 'Nourishing Stress' (click to read up on the difference between 'nourishing stress' and 'junk food stress') so here's what I did:

1. Unclench: Dr. Ken Ginsburg who wrote "Letting Go With Love and Confidence", said one surefire way to release stress is to workout your gluteus maximums. It sounds crazy, but when you are stressed (and you can't get up and do lunges) unclench your derriere. Driving over a bridge, unclench. Taking an AP test, unclench. Stuck in traffic, unclench. Four-year-old having a tantrum, unclench. Sounds crazy, works like a charm.

2. Six.One.Seven: I learned a new breathing technique this summer, breathe in for six seconds, hold for one second, breathe out for seven seconds. Six.One.Seven. Learn, use it, love it!

3. GEMEINSCHAFTSGEFÜHL: Say what?! This is a concept I learned at the Parent Encouragement Program (thank you PEP for giving me the opportunity to be on Kojo!). It translates as 'community feeling' or social interest. The idea is our mental health is DIRECTLY related to our interest in OTHERS (not ourselves). Instead of paying attention to my critical self-talk, I turned outward and used my energy to listen to the other panelists, focus on what they had to offer, nod and smile, and LEARN SOMETHING!

At about the 12 minute mark I was enjoying myself, my heart had slowed down, I was in the actual moment and ready to listen, talk, react, absorb, laugh and enjoy.

What a gift . . . use anxiety tools WHILE talking about anxiety!