The Murph Hero Wod: A Visual Story

Hungry? My Super Husband (I’m not speaking in hyperbole or anything.) has been ordering two to three meals through Home Chef of late and I have to say they’ve all been quite nice, both in terms of taste and economics.


 

Memorial Day appears to be easily mistaken for Veterans Day.  As far as I know, everyone who reads my periodic rantings is fully aware of the distinct and specific differences, but if you are requiring elucidation then read here and here, oh, and here.  Of the veterans that I know personally, most of them are not judgmental against anyone on how they choose to spend their 3 day weekend, and for that I’m grateful. There is far too much judgement happening.  From What not to say to someone with curly hair to You’ve been cutting tomatoes wrong your whole life to Top 10 reasons people don’t like you, truly it’s exhausting to keep up with all the things I’m doing wrong.  Judgement and condemnation have taken live-and-let-live out into the street and beaten it to death and left its creme de carcass for the birds (who are, apparently, all assholes.) But, I digress.  For this day, Memorial Day, I am striving to teach my children love for their country, respect for their military, and honor for their family, and occasionally that includes revving up the grill and turning on the sprinklers to play in the water.

 

But, we all known I do CrossFit, too, and a Memorial Day CrossFit tradition is the hero WOD Murph.  To take your Murph workout to the absolute next level watch the documentary The Protector, and also The Lone Survivor.  (Full disclosure: I haven’t seen either of these films because I am an absolute chicken shit about watching movies were the events happened to very real people.  I think I may have an overactive empathy gland.) If you didn’t read the link, Murph is a simple but brutal workout, which if done 100% as written, includes wearing a 20 pound vest (I did not wear the vest since I consider the permanent attachment of ass and chest to equal about 20 disbursed pounds.). (Which reminds me, I should write about the 2014 genesis of the #kennyz hashtag.) (I think I’ll start writing exclusively in parentheses.  It feels like we’re having a secret conversation.)  Where was I? Awww yisss… Murph.

1 mile run + 100 pull ups + 200 push ups + 300 air squats + 1 mile run.

I’ve been doing CrossFit since 2013. I’ve been asked to complete Murph, or a scaled variant, each year.

2013 – “George, wanna do Murph?”

l2jjrldqt3j1oq3vy

2014 – “Hey, George, are you signed up fo-“

jj59hg2dgq2ys

2015 – “George, let’s do a partner Murph.”

r459x856iff6w

2016 – “George, you’re doing Murph.” 

ls6ahtmyhu760

I mean, let’s be honest here.  Since moving to NY I’ve been exercising more than I’ve really been doing anything else other than complaining and doing laundry, therefore approaching Murph solo should be well within the realm of actual reality.  Right? RIGHT?? Right.  Concordantly, I made a plan.

1) Get to the gym and exude confidence.  Shock and awe, man, shock and awe.

n2xz35dlkh5xq

2) Warm up the ankles, shoulders, and intercostal clavicle.  Stretch out the hamstrings and achilles.  Always be time for stretching.

gnhyg8i1e8kwy

3) Stake out my pull up bar and guard it with territorial simian fierceness.

l3ucvawxyutwrpemw

4) Pose up together with everyone else going in the 8am heat for a group picture.

DKNfefu

5) 3-2-1 Go! The plan called for an 00:11:30-00:12:00 first mile, which I accomplished (yay!). Then it was onto ten rounds of 10 pull ups, 20 push ups, and 30 air squats.  Nothing to do here but put your head down and knuckle in.

Big Pile of Shit - Jurassic Park (credit to uEditingAndLayout) - Imgur

 Small hiccup in the plan in round 8 when my palm started to tear on the pull ups. I waved my microscopic injury at Coach Phil who gave me his patented, “Really, George? Really?” look but still gave me a replacement scale for my already scaled pull ups: hollow rocks.  I threw the finger at the pull up bar and kept working.

osqqole0iyazm

6) I wanted to complete the 10 rounds before the clock hit the 60 minute time cap to get on that last mile run.  At 00:51:somethingorother I stood up my last air squat and Coach Phil, known for his effective motivational motivating, yelled at me, “GET OUT!!” which I did and it looked a lot like this:

3u9nnjtzkmuls

But about 20 yards later the rest of my run looked like this.

DWh39A7

7) I came skidding back into the gym where the clock read 65:40.

slippingpenguin

I had done it! I had completed a full Murph on my own!

JqxwRzm

And, when the negative side of my brain tried to diminish my efforts by telling myself, “Well, you scaled cuz you used a band on the pull ups and were on your knees for the push ups and everyone did it faster than you so you’re not exactly hot shit on a silver salver.” I told myself to STFU.

9E3VNXl

 It was a genuine accomplishment four years in the making.  So, I went back to victory mode.

5ph7fufafemdc

And, then I went into victory eating mode.

rqokbugky7f5u

And, then I went into victory napping mode.

decrqckein7iw

Advertisements

Time Flies When You’re Pretending Things Are Different

Hungry?  Get cooking with this new Paleo Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen.


You know how life likes to throw curveballs? And, how sometimes those curveballs are really fully ripened spiked durian fruits? And, those durians are being shot out of a rapid firing high velocity canon directly at the peace and tranquility of your delightfully comfortable life?  And, your only shield is a pair of cheap sunglasses and a gobsmacked look on your face?

main_durian284979

2015 was the year of the durian curveball.  I think it’s worth reviewing some of these for the purposes of being grateful things weren’t worse and to take time to make fun of it all since everything in hindsight can be laughed at.  Right?  Right.

That time when I hurt my back and said it was a post pregnancy issue. 

I was riding high on the Gainz Train in Small Group Training when the unexpected happened: I hurt myself.  For someone with such a highly developed sense of self preservation it seemed unlikely that I would ever be able to do that, but there it was.  I hit a box jump wrong and now my low back was right and thoroughly effed.  After roughly a week of trying to resolve the matter myself using liver-shriveling doses of ibuprofen and ice packs I went to a chiropractor.

Dr Chiropractor very cheerfully tried to fold me neatly into thirds, then into a concertina and then into a pentagram.  When he was unsuccessful he cheerfully went after me with a pronged electric hammer of some kind, stuttering it across my hip flexors, striking a series of previously unknown verbal triggers that caused me to spontaneously lash out in a sort of situational Tourettes.  While we gained perhaps a brief increase in range of motion it was offset by the spectacular pain that entombed me from floating ribs to lower ass cheeks.  Finally, Dr Chiropractor rubbed his chin and said something profound.

“Your psoas won’t release,” he said, smiling.

“CRAP! BALLS! *grimace* What, like it’s holding a grudge? SACK! SACK! SACK! *grimace* Or, it’s spasming like a toddler tossed into a shallow pool full of YooHoo and M&Ms? FUUUUUUUUUUDGECICLE ICE POP!!!” I replied through gritted teeth.  Here Dr Chiropractor stands up and points at one of many professional diagrams of the human body.

“This is your psoas,” he smiles, pointing.  I nod even though I can’t really focus my eyes.  “Normally it’s like this,” he laces his fingers together somewhat loosely indicating a supportive, though flexible muscle.  “Right now yours is like this,” he smashes his hands together into an angry fist.  This gives me my first visual queue explaining the source of the relentless, blinding discomfort.

“SSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIII-TUH!” I said, grimacing. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  How do we get it to unfist? YOW WOW OW COW!”

“Well, I think your L5/S1 is putting pressure on a nerve cluster and your psoas is taking a defensive response.  But, to be sure we need to get an MRI to make sure it’s not bulged disc before we start any adjustments.”

Bulged disc. Bulged disc?  How would a fairly healthy, if not slightly overweight, woman in her late 30s come across a bulged disc, you ask?  Well, as it happens, the gift of childbirth is a gift that, for some, can give well past the third trimester into an infinite timeframe of bodily adjustments known hereafter as the fourth trimester. I was in my 4th year of the fourth trimester and the consequences of my second pregnancy were still being discovered, much like one discovers a new dinosaur skeleton: Slowly, over the course of many years using a hand brush to whisk away layers of sediment (aka adipose) to reveal the skeleton trapped in rock (aka years of relative inactivity).

Flash forward two more weeks.  A five day taper of steroids got the psoas relaxed (and suspended all weight loss for 6 months), a change in diet, an MRI that I slept through, and orthopedic spinal surgeon consult yielded that not only was my disc not bulged, there were no other points of concern in the MRI to suggest anything other than a thoroughly pissed off L5/S1.  Add to this several more firing squad sessions with Dr Chiropractor and his pronged hand gun and I was ready to slowly get back to working out.  My coaches set the tone for my 2015 with one simple gesture: generosity.  My small group coach came up with 4 months of progressive rehab programming to rebuild my midline and stabilize the back.  My regular class coach and gym owner suspended my regular membership saving me several hundred dollars until I could re-enter general population again.  I wasn’t going to waste this precious opportunity so I worked out within the bounds of the programming and let me tell you, I was frankly shocked that such simple moves could yield such remarkable feedback.

obiwan-muscles

All I could think about when at the gym was getting back to Dr Chiropractor and his remarkable collapsing table.  When I was at the chiropractor I was thinking about getting back to the gym to keep moving forward, even if it meant routine visits with the Airdyne.

 airdyne

I’ll never ever forget retesting the WOD that I hurt myself on: an 8 minute AMRAP of ascending reps of power snatch and box jumps.  I have never experienced true heart pounding driven fear over an inanimate object like I felt jumping on that box.  Even now my relationship with the box is completely dysfunctional.  But I did it! And that four months was a complete blur.  It was now early May and second high velocity durian had been fired as was due to make landfall shortly.

That time my husband came home and said he accepted a new job.  In New York.  

There are conversations that fall under the category of “necessary but uncomfortable” and then there are others that fall under the category of “Oh, I thought you were kidding.”  The New York job conversation was of the latter sort.  When he first told me about the company’s interest I blew it off as a “Haha, good luck getting us out of Texas you godless yankees!” I hadn’t anticipated on the job being both interesting and profitable. Leaving Texas had never been part of my 2015 Consideration Paradigm, but that’s the funny thing about paradigms.  They tend to shift.  I didn’t say it was funny “haha”.

As a stay at home professional domesticateer I have taken the approach that if my man is happy then the family is happy, especially given that the lion’s share of sacrifices are born on his shoulders.  When he came home and said, “I’ve accepted the job.  We are moving to New York.  What do you think about that?” I admit I felt deflated like a mylar balloon in a cold car, but what I said was, “We are the barnacles on your career boat and we will happily motor into new waters with you.” And, I wasn’t lying.  But, seriously, wow. We were leaving Texas and that made me inexpressibly sad.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that happy Texans hardly see the offer of, “You can visit me in New York! We can go see the city!” as an actual enticement.  They have the whole state of Texas, for chrissake. Why do they need to see an overpopulated urban jungle that lacks queso and relies on public transportation?  Only one person was honest with their reply: Coach Gene.

Gene: Where are you moving?

Me: New York.

Gene: Why?

Me: Matthew’s income is pivotal for our survival.

Gene: How are you going to live in such a tiny fucking state?

Me: It’s not that tiny.  It has the Adirondacks.  Plus, you could come visit me.  We could go see the city!

Gene: No.

In the distance I could almost hear the next durian being shot.

That time I had to get the house ready to be put on the market by myself.

Matthew left to start his new job on Mother’s Day weekend.  I was busy trying to follow the guidelines for the Mystical Voodoo of House Staging in hopes of making our house marketable and appealing.  As if by some dark magic our kid-assaulted and glitter-infused furniture would look less crappy if I took all the family pictures off the wall and had the front door refinished.  In one of the most brilliant Mother’s Day coups of all time my selfless friends, Chuck, Ally, and Matt poured into my home and knocked out a laundry list of niggling little repairs. You know, those kinds of repairs that if we were still living in the house would probably still be undone, but because we were selling it I was 100% sure that someone looking at the house would notice the uneven nature of the seal on the shower door, or the slightly wiggly door knob.  That kind of stuff.   The biggest thing was our front door faced full west (which turned out to be a whole other issue) and the wear of heat, humidity, and sun had done a number on the finish.  Chuck, selfless, giving, caring Chuck sanded and refinished the front door.  This wasn’t no average 8 foot door, no it was a tall 10′ solid wood door positioned in full sun in May, which was high 90s, he stood there, enduring the heat and misery and refinished that door.  That will live in my memory as one of the most giving gestures I’ve ever personally experienced.

By whatever skin on my teeth was left we made our listing deadline, only to have our listing pictures get taken on a dreary, rainy day.  And, everybody knows that dreary rainy pictures make shitty furniture look exponentially more shitty. But there was nothing else to be done.

POW! Next durian!

That time I had to keep a house in show-ready condition with two kids still living in it.

This is a particular brand of hell on earth.  How do you scold your children for living in their own house? It’s very difficult to do it and still make sense.  How do you keep the yard in pristine manicured condition  while wondering what kind of Armageddon is taking place inside? You put on headphones and pretend that the laws of nature and entropy don’t apply to you.  How do you feed your children healthy nutritious meals when you don’t want to smudge up the cooktop?  You don’t.  You feed them a strict diet of Lunchables and Sonic until they plaintively ask when they’ll be getting some grapes and scrambled eggs.  How do you not start panicking when it seems like all the houses around you are selling in one day and yours has been on the market for two weeks? You make yourself a boil on your realtor’s ass until her only option is to drive by several times a day and throw Starbucks at you as a defensive gesture.  How do you survive imbecilic ideas like backyard renovations mere days before leaving for NY? You start bawling in front of one of your friends like a blubbering sack of sad and they offer to help finish the work. How do you deal with a giant black mulch fart stain all over the driveway? You ask your friend’s husband if you can borrow his power washer only to find out he’d rather do it himself because it’s “relaxing”.   How do you manage a moving company coming in and packing your entire world up into boxes loosely labeled “upstairs” and “downstairs” and “garage”? You send your children to the neighbor’s house and dart uselessly from room to room laughing nervously and trying not to chew your lower lip off from unfiltered anxiety.  How do you handle the moving company driving up two massive trucks and playing tetris with all your worldly possessions? You sit in a lawn chair destined for the garbage and slam Topo Chicos singing Talking Head’s Once In A Lifetime.  How do you handle that your house still hasn’t received an offer but it’s time to go? You walk through each room making sure no lights are on, choke back excitement and terror, and go. Bye, house!

4101 Charbray Ct WEB SIZE-2 4101 Charbray Ct WEB SIZE-40

BOOM! Durian!

That time I thought it’d be just as easy to drive to New York as fly and have the car shipped.

No one said I was good at ideas.  I’ve never claimed to be, so no one could point any fingers and say otherwise.  So, plotting a five day route from Texas to New York was fully in keeping with my talents of poor consideration.  We got to New York unscathed and my Texas bestie and co-pilot was still friends with me.

That time my last link to Texas flew home and I realized I had just moved to New York.

Now there’s a feeling.  She gets in the  car and drives to the airport and I go back inside and ugly cry.  There are trees and squirrels everywhere.  Nobody makes eye contact here.  It’s barely in the high 80s and everyone is acting like they’re living on the surface of the sun.  My children want to go out and have fun and I have no idea where to take them.  We are up to our eyeballs in boxes and need unpacking.  So, we started with the basics by finding to the grocery store which was a woeful uruk-hai breeding pit of Isengard compared to the ethereal elvish kingdom of all which is good known as H-E-B.  Salsa aisle? Nope.  BBQ aisle? Ha! Breathtaking stacks of meat? Not quite.  What are rainbow cookies? Oh Lawd, what the hell is espresso soda?  OMG!! THERE’S NO TOPO CHICO!! Add to that my grocery cart wheels were so gummed up with hair, bitterness, and broken spirits that it was incapable of making right turns, so my children and I circled the store making only left turns until it was time to give up and leave.

Next we tried out the neighborhood pool but found it was guarded by a little old Italian man whose only goal was to preserve the quiet, peaceful, non-kid aspect of the pool.  After a testy inquisition related to where we lived in the neighborhood specifically, and did we know the people who lived there before, and were we renting, and what did our landlords say about pool access he let us across the threshold.  My kids have only known our neighborhood pool in Texas which was a roiling octagon of children, families, and good times.  They grabbed their pool rings and jumped into the pool.  LOIM (Little old Italian man) jumped up and declared there was to be no jumping.  Next, they got out some diving toys.  LOIM jumped up and declared there was to be no toys at the pool.  They played and splashed around and LOIM was insistent that they stop that immediately because it was getting the pool deck wet.  For serious. LOIM was very frustrated with us and directed me to the list of rules that were posted on the clubhouse door – no less than 40 rules printed on a single 8×10 piece of paper using a small ass font.  Now, at that moment I came to a crossroads: Do I let mama bear out and maul the LOIM for being the physical manifest of every preconceived douchey notion of what a New Yorker is? Or, do I let it go and make a point of only going to the pool when he’s not there?  Choosing the latter, and most likely staving off potential assault charges, we took significant precautions to only go to the pool during the hours LOIM was off duty, which weren’t many.

Then there was that whole debacle related to trying to get my NY driver’s license and vehicle registration. Four trips to the DMV and spinning the malevolent Roulette Wheel of Arbitrary Requirements to get it done.  Four trips.  Four. The third trip was when I was supposed to get my driver’s license, but they decided I needed to get my marriage certificate to prove the link between my birth certificate name and my social security card name.  Standing there, looking at the DMV worker I realized we were both completely drained of hope.  I had already been there for close to two hours, stood in three separate lines, produced enough proof of identity that even I didn’t want to be me anymore and they wanted one more thing.

“You’re serious?” I whispered, closing my eyes.

“We have to be able to prove you are who you say you are,” She replied flatly.

“That will mean I have to come back here a fourth time,” I pointed out, the will to live leaking out of my pores.

“A fourth time? You’ve been here three times for this task alone?” She asked, her eyebrows arching ever so slightly to indicate an unexpected emotional response.

“This is my third trip. To try to get a driver’s license. Because I fucking live here now,” My voice stayed calmed as I pressed the palms of my hands into my eyes to keep them from bulging out of my skull from the pressure of repressed rage.

“Well, let me see what I can do,” She said, turning around, causing the entire line behind me to audibly groan.  She whispered to someone standing in a corner wearing a sweater vest who looked at me, looked at the papers, looked at me, shuffled the papers, said something quietly to the lady, looked at me and flipped through the papers some more, looked at me again and hit my papers with a random stamp and handed them back.

“Here,” said the DMV lady, with the barest hint of a smile, “Take these to that line over there to get this finalized.  Four trips is too many.”  What a relief to know that even the DMV had limits as to how far they’d torture the population.  Off to the line I went, finalizing my driver’s license process.  A fourth trip was still required to get the vehicles registered appropriately, but at least the massive hurtle related to initially getting into the system was, y’know, hurtled.

It was after this series of activities that it occurred to me that it was going to be my job to give my kids a good experience and that this  good experience wasn’t going to plop out of the sky like bird shit on an unsuspecting beach goer.  So, we shifted gears. We went to the Natural History Museum in the big city!

museumnaturalhistory

We rode a ferry and went to the north shore of Long Island!

ferryride northshore

We went to the south shore beach in Long Island!

Robertmosesbeach

We painted extensive works of art on the backyard table!

katherinepaints

We went hiking in our new town!

hiking

We visited historical farms and pumpkin patches, and found wild raspberries growing behind our new house.

pumpkins

  muscoot

Next durian, please

That time I found out my 4yo was expected to attend Kindergarten in the fall. 

Oh hell no.  She needed another year of preschool! She was my baby! They wanted me to send my tiny little 4yo to big bad kindergarten? Oh, the emotional turmoil and paperwork that came with this decision.  Nothing like choosing your pediatrician based on appointment availability, amiright? Of all the strange and unexpected things that had happened, this was one thing that got the most mental anguish when, in fact, it wasn’t necessary.  Granted, she’s led Beelzebub’s dark army on a rampage of poor choices, including grifting at lunchtime and a brazen B&E on a classmate’s backpack, but mostly she’s met the challenge with fortitude and determination.   She thrives, and continues to do so.  And, if it wasn’t for her in school I wouldn’t have met a couple of truly awesome women! So, yeah, that durian didn’t turn out to stink so bad!

IMG_20150902_082549

Final durian of 2015!

That time I found a new Crossfit home that was different than the one I thought it was going to be. 

Kids were in school.  Husband was a work.  House was unpacked.  I was getting fatter, and I could feel the vestiges of anxiety starting to take root again.  Now the decision matrix became whether or not I was going to go back to working out or start exploring the depths of ice cream sammich varieties and pharmacological solutions for anxiety.  I stopped by Crossfit Mount Kisco and was greeted by a clip board toting young lady more concerned with optimizing her cleavage than either coaching her crew or answering any of my questions.  So enraptured was she with her top and how much mileage she was going to show of her boob connection superhighway that I was almost compelled to offer suggestions, but instead I left feeling not terribly impressed.  I tried again a week later with even less luck getting information.  I assumed Crossfit Bedford Hills would end up being my workout home, so I toddled myself over to Crossfit Bedford Hills.  They were very very friendly, charged me $20, and then made me do terrible things.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 5.54.50 PM

That went about as well as could be expected.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 5.54.30 PM

But Crossfit Mount Kisco was just so darn close I couldn’t give up on the idea.  So I checked in again and met  Coach Phil.  Class was running like a machine, everyone was giving it their all, and Phil was holding an athlete’s baby so she could workout with full peace of mind.   Phil was very friendly, charged me $0, and then made me do terrible things.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 6.00.30 PM

I remember thinking that first week how fit, fast, and happy everyone was.  In that trifecta I was at least happy, so I figured this must be the place to be to become fit and fast.  This was a case where first impressions were so entirely overwhelmed with first experience and that durian sailed over the fence and landed somewhere entirely untroubling.  Crossfit Mount Kisco was home and that has turned out to be an unquestionably awesome decision.  They accept tolerate me with greater aplomb than is probably warranted.


2015 seemed to fly by as I dodged durians.  I found myself wishing for the end game, for when the situation would rectify or be different.  I lived 2015 always on the hope of tomorrow and not so much with the appreciation of today.  I can’t promise 2016 will be much different, but since we’ve made some very nice friends, found a gym packed with amazeballs, found our routine, discovered Fresh Direct grocery delivery service, have proper coats, and have each other my goal is that I’ll be more cognizant about being in the now, as it were.  Appreciating each day’s gifts, even when they are smelly and wilted.  Even when things are unexpected and frustrated,  crazy and coming off the rails our little family laughs more than it doesn’t and for that I’m very grateful.  Our first full year of living in New York will be great and I fully intend to do as Weird Al advises: Grab life by the lips and YANK!

Giddy up, y’all.

Short and Sweet. WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY

WHO:

Who am I? ME, it is the easiest most comfortable who I can be. I don’t ever have to apologize for being ME or second guess the choices made for ME. I can accept anybody loving or hating me being ME for ME.

WHAT: (this is my favorite)

What I am changes.
I call it growth.

What I am NOT will NEVER change.
I am NOT to be FUCKED with.

WHERE:

Many people that I admire have a VERY clear path set out for themselves for where they are going and want to be…….I don’t give a flying fuck for “where.” I have chosen to make my own path with the full understanding that “where” is going to change. I am going to find myself lost at times, alone at others, having to back up, change directions, ALWAYS following MY OWN compass……..I am obsessed with HOW I choose to get to “where.” For one simple reason, I refuse to validate my life or happiness by getting to “where.”

WHEN:

RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!!!! Matter of fact yesterday, that’s when.

WHY:

To make sure that every night in my head movies that the ME of today gets FUCKING owned by the ME of tomorrow! EVERY MOTHERFUCKING NIGHT! Never quit, EVER…BETTER EVERY DAY!

untitled

 

 

Wherein we talk about parenting

Hungry? Try this refreshing salad as a side dish to a piece of grilled chicken or pork: Orange Date Spinach Salad


As a small source of side income I’ve taken to cleaning houses, doing organization projects, or chopping vegetables for other people.   I do it because at my particular stage in life cleaning and cooking is what I do most, ergo it makes sense to capitalize on my current domain knowledge and convert it into coin.  (It was also a nice excuse to get on the bike an extra day of the week and peddle on some mileage to the odometer.)  This work has allowed me the privilege of meeting a variety of lovely people at assorted intersections of life and observe, in a very glancing peripheral way, their family dynamics.  Some of these women appear so relaxed and at ease with their vocation of motherhood that I feel actual green envy, and I go home inspired to be a better mom.  Motherhood has not felt like a natural transition for me – more like being a square peg hammered into a round hole by a pneumatic mallet and a person-sized center punch.  I often commit the sin of pride over being completely average.  From my height to my hair color to my shoe size to my basic knowledge of world events to my shared dislike of our elected body I am average.  So, when I say that I go to bed every night asking myself the question, “Am I doing this right?” I am comforted to assume that everyone who is a parent asks themselves that question at some point.  There are particularly horrid days where I hide in the pantry after everyone goes to bed and have elaborate arguments with myself about eating my feelings while I rhesus mate-guard a box of Girl Scout cookies.   Then, there are other lovely days where I skip off to bed on a cloud of triumph and sleep the sleep of one whose children were cooperative and harmonious.  Of course, there are all those days in between where my brow is in a permanent semi-furrow while I evaluate whether or not I should’ve handled <insert variable x for all possible answers> differently.

Truth: I’m a strict mom.  Not full-on tiger mom style, but strict.  The one who doesn’t helicopter at playgrounds and birthday parties but is on the kid like spines on yucca when their behavior slides into the murky waters of unacceptable.  The one who lets the kid dress themselves however they choose but will go Khan on the time outs if they tell a lie.  The one whose children grasp that if they are going to have an argument where mom ends up getting involved ain’t nobody gonna like it. The one who barters story time like gold nuggets at the end of the day to get toys picked up.

I believe in manners.  Both of my children are freakishly articulate and verbal, and we are trying to harness those powers for good.   They don’t have to be the smartest kids in school but they do have to know how to say “please”, “thank you”, “sir” and “ma’am”.  I don’t like interrupting and both of my kids (who still interrupt) have been taught that if they wish to inject themselves into a conversation they must first say, “Excuse me, please”, which  is cute at first until it turns into an “excuse me, please” shouting match between kids to see who is victorious in the interrupting.  I have this banana notion that if my children don’t learn how to speak respectfully, and treat others respectfully, now at their tender ages of 3 and 5 then it will be impossible to imbue them with that skill at older, more obstinate ages.  But, even though I have this core belief there are days when I wonder if all I do is nag at my poor children about their behavior.

I believe in the responsibility of property.  My kids are just like every other middle class American kid: overrun to excess with toys.  Some are creative and some are just plain obnoxious.  One day the (then) 4-yo dumped out each bin of toys into a single pile to, “See how tall it got.” After my eyes were done bugging out we implemented a toy swap system where every six months or so I get the toy box down from the attic and switch out the toys, telling the girls that the toys need a rest and the attic toys are ready to play again.  Naturally, toys go everywhere as part of any given day of play.  When there are enough toys scattered around that the children are stepping on them or kicking them to move around the play room is when I take action, singing the Clean Up song, and requiring the children to put away all their toys in their proper bins before proceeding to the next game or activity.  But, sometimes I worry that I’m completely interrupting and stalling their creative process, and turning them into compulsive neat freaks simultaneously.

I believe in respecting each other.  There’s this super fine almost invisible line in sibling interaction that flips between “tolerance” to “screaming rage monkey.” The way I see it is that conflict is a learned skill, and kids learn how to handle conflict and manage their own tempers and responses at home first.  I am excessively conflict averse so this is at difficulty level 11 for me, but when I hear things escalate into conflict zones I try to check my immediate impulse to stamp it out and restore harmony.  I will intervene if it sounds as if an assault has occurred or is about to occur, but otherwise I really try hard to let them sort it out. But I always wonder if I got involved too soon and am being too draconian; if I’m inserting myself less for their benefit and more for my own comfort zones.

I believe in learning how to cope.  Stubbed toes, bit lips, unexpected collisions, pinched fingers, and scraped knees are all good reasons to sit on the stairs and hug it out with loads of sympathy and kisses.  However.  Separating injury from drama, especially for girls, is difficult.  After the initial sympathy and kisses comes the coping lessons.  We have a rule: If there’s no blood, there’s no screaming.  Scraping a knee is miserable and stings without question, but screaming about it like a civil war soldier undergoing an amputation is not acceptable. Bumps and bruises are facts of life, and my poor children inherited all my grace, poise, and capacity for random self injury.  But, after a kiss, a hug,  and a quick check to make sure there are no broken bones, risk of tetanus, or threat of gangrene we wipe away the tears and say, “Tough girl?” to which they flex their arms and reply, “Tough girl!” But, I question if I’m teaching them how to repress their ability to effectually express and articulate their feelings, be they physical hurts or emotional ones.  I don’t want them to hide behind “tough girl” and obfuscate what they’re feeling from me, but I do want them to stop hollering unnecessarily.

Speaking of drama, I believe in minimal contrived drama.  In a flash of desperation with my 3-yo who was red-lining towards nuclear drama meltdown in public I snatched her up and told her I was going to nibble the “drama bugs” out of her ears, which redirected her inexplicable upset-ness into giggles and distraction.  I felt like the valedictorian of parenting that day, let me tell you what.  Now when it looks like we are heading down the drama road I ask if I need to inspect for drama bugs and they either frown with frustration and say, “NOOOOO!” or they giggle like only girls can and grab their ears and squeal, “NOOOO!”  Either way, the drama is averted.  But again I ask myself if I’m preventing them from learning how to express appropriately their feelings.

I believe in boundaries.  I encourage my children to understand what they do or don’t like and then how to set and defend that boundary. Teaching the “hands to yourself” skill, and the “not everything requires your input” skill, and the “bedtime is for going to bed and not asking for cereal” skill are all part and parcel to learning basic boundaries, I think.  They’re only 3 and 5, so my grand aspirations are relationally scaled to subjects of favorite colors and foods they don’t like, but still.  The 3-yo doesn’t like bread, but she loves scrambled eggs and hot sauce.  The 5-yo would rather have oatmeal and pancakes and periodically announces, “I don’t like strawberries anymore. I only like foods that are round.”  The 3-yo hates wearing pants and will lobby with an impressive vigor to wear skirts or dresses.  The 5-yo doesn’t care, really, what she’s wearing so long as there is green integrated somewhere on the outfit.  But, while I encourage the concept of boundaries I worry that I’m allowing them to develop into inflexible opinion trolls.

I haven’t met a parent yet who shrugs their shoulders and doesn’t care how their kids are developing.  Everything I’ve defined above as standards for myself, who is the apogee of averageness, has a high statistical probability of being expectations similarly set by most parents.  I’m not unique in my struggles.  Like a modified Marine corps chant about rifles, “This is my struggle.  There are many like it but this one is MINE.”  I ask myself all these questions and many many more. Am I spending too much time keeping the house in order rather than playing with my kids? Should my kids be folding and putting away their own laundry by now? Should I be involving my kids in the housework or just let them play toys? Should I be teaching my kids how to pull weeds? Should I be teaching my kids how cook? Should I be taking them to the library more often? Should my 5-yo know how to read by now? Should I be forcing the 3-yo to learn the alphabet? Am I taking too much time for myself and not giving enough to my children? Are they eating the right foods? Are they eating enough food? How long has that box of raisins been open? Am I crippling their college prospects by letting them use pull ups at night? Are they learning the right attitude about body image and exercise from me? Who hid that Barbie doll in the freezer?  Am I creating neurotic fat-phobic kids? Am I giving them enough opportunities? Are my children over-scheduled? Am I too short tempered? Am I not short tempered enough? AM I DOING THIS RIGHT?!?!

When I’m scrubbing the toilets or mopping floors listening to how other mothers interact with their own children I’m confident they ask themselves just as many questions.  Whether those questions are laced with such heavy doses of self deprecation and doubt I can’t say, but to ask questions suggests there’s an ability to adapt, change, and improve.  I don’t want to be the mom who is strict because I am an abusive controller personality.  I want to be strict for the purpose of developing children  who are going to be genuine pleasures as adults.  I’m like every other average parent out there trying to raise extraordinary kids.  I’m not raising children to stay locked in childhood.  I’m raising children to be adults.  Here’s hoping  it works.