Me Time Part 2: Stay in Shape

The toughest thing about being a mom – or at least the thing that my friends and I complain most about – is staying in shape. There’s no time; it’s too hard to get to the gym or yoga studio – or I waste money because I never go; there’s no privacy. I’m here to argue that it’s so important for your sanity, that you need to make time. It’s not an option to do nothing. What follows is my simple fix.

I have four things I try to rotate on a regular basis (and I’m not suggesting you try all four, but just for options):  yoga, dance, strength training, and things for flexibility or stretching.

My rule of thumb is simplify!  I do most of my exercises in my bedroom. I wear as little as possible (so I can see my muscles at work), add some music and let it rip. It is me time with the aim of being disrupted as little as possible.  Of course, this rarely happens, but as we say in yoga, it helps me to stay “On the mat” – which means stay focused.  I used to stop what I was doing when they burst through the door, but I have learned to keep going and they either camp out on my bed and watch or even join in.

 

I use a blank wall for balance exercises and my dresser like a ballet barre, and the small space around my bed for everything else. Sometimes I focus on resistance training basics – you know, those exercises we all used to hate (and still do!)—I do as many sit-ups as my abs can handle, 10 pushups and about 120 leg lifts and lunges on each side. We have a pull up bar installed in our bedroom doorway, and I do 6 pull ups.  Of course, butt exercises are a must.

Always push yourself – easy to say; hard to do. But try to always increase the reps.  When you do pushups, start with ten and add one more every other day.   The same for plies and planks and any other exercise in your routine. Mix it up.  And most importantly, breathe. If you are holding a difficult pose, picture it as one of life’s challenges.  Picture the air intake enveloping the muscle group you’re working on and use it to breathe out as a stronger woman.

Remember to use your workout time as your time. Let your kids see you taking care of yourself, there is no need to hide behind a locked door or stow them in childcare at the gym all the time. My kids see me dance in the kitchen when I’m putting dishes away. I read vogue while sitting in pigeon pose. When you integrate simple activity like this into your daily routine, and stagger it throughout the day, you give your metabolism and mood a boost. And, you don’t let a lack of time (or money) be your only excuse to getting the strength and endurance you want to feel great.

At the very end of the day, unwind in a tub of epsom salts, stretch out and massage your sore muscles in the warm water. You’re worth it after all!

Your Simple Fitness Guru,

So Called Mom

Using Dinner to Stay in Your Kids Lives VLOG

Hi there!

Here’s a sweet mini-VLOG for today on what our busy blended family does to stay connected with one another.

If you have other tips and tricks to add, please share in the comments below, I’m always open to trying out your ideas.

Thanks and don’t forget to subscribe!

So Called Mom

Let Them Fail

pascal so called mom

Let them fail, you say? The experts tell us that failure is good for kids.

Says who? Are any of these researchers actual parents? Could there really ever be such a thing as a parenting expert? And could we get any more counterintuitive than intentionally letting kids fail?

For me, part of the allure in deciding to become a mom is that I would be adored by someone, from day one. I would give birth and transform into this picturesque, prize-winning, nurturing body that instinctively wouldn’t—couldn’t—allow her offspring to fall flat on their darling faces.

Caring for my kids is second nature. Fly from the nest on your own time, kiddo. No rush! Even though sometimes I worry that I’m not teaching them anything, but to have a fear of leaving my side. This is also likely why my kids can’t do certain things like tie their shoes at an early age, or do laundry at 16—because I simply forgot to stop babying them. It didn’t even dawn on me to stop. My reflexes are stuck on a loop of “mother knows best,” and it’s kind of a hot mess now that I think of my oldest four kiddos leaving this over-stuffed nest soon.

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There are so many ways to let them fail, but I’m quickly learning that broken bones is the easy part. It’s what separates an accident from an intentional lesson. And of course there’s the damage you maybe can’t see  – like their development. Here’s a couple of examples.

pascal drops in bowl skate park let them fail so called mom

The first is a simple one with clearcut learning results – failure done right: Last week, Pascal, my new skateboarding aficionado, announced she was ready to drop into the bowl by herself without my assist. In a rare personal moment of “letting go,” I watched her drop in with a rush self-confidence. She sailed through the air, and promptly lost her board. She landed first on her hip, and then on her face. Before I could catch my breath, she was up on her feet instantly—shocked and hopping up and down and limping while holding back tears. She looked around the park, at all the older skater guys to make sure none of them saw her.

Then she looked at me, completely pissed, and said, “Why did you let me do that?”

pascal bails in bowl skate park let them fail so called momAnd somehow I found the right answer, “Because skateboarding can be as shitty as math. You only get better by getting it wrong.”

HA! Wise words, but I’m sure this one hurt me more than it hurt her. I know this is true, because I’m still cringing about it, while she’s dropped back into that same bowl at least 15 times since.

But as hard as this was for me, it was actually one of the easier examples. You’d think I would have learned as much as Pascal.

Example Two: Jake, my 17-year-old. Somehow the idea of “letting him fail” translates in my mind into letting him down. That’s because his upbringing has been different from Pascal’s. He has experienced divorce twice, early childhood abandonment (His birth dad din’t raise him and Pippin is his second step-dad). Feel my guilt yet?

jake bloody nose let them fail so called momSo with Jake, I tend to walk around with a safety net and a huge roll of emotional bubble wrap at the ready.

Whenever he goes through something even slightly difficult, I want to fly to his rescue—and I usually do (in a tutu and heels of course, just so it looks extra impressive).

While I understand this is probably rule #1 in the book of resilience, I have a hard time watching Jake, or any of my kids for that matter, struggle. It’s like throwing your babies in a pool and trusting they won’t drown. As a result, I’ve come to wonder if the real issue is in watching them fail, or the unbearable fear of that failure backfiring on them. What if a So-Called Life Lesson turns into trauma? What if that one time I was really needed, was the one time I wasn’t there, because I wanted them to fail? What if they blame me?

I struggle mightily with this concept of failure. For me and for them. It makes me feel like a screwup, like I skipped over entire chapters in that rule book. I feel unsupportive and cruel. As though most of the time, I have the answer or solution, and they don’t, yet here I am working hard just to refuse help.

I’ve always wanted a better way to help all of my kids, but I have yet to find one.

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In fact, I’m terrible at it. This is especially hard when you are a parent in a blended family—it means you co-parent; some of your kids don’t stay with you all of the time. It’s not just Jake, it’s Phoenix, Milla and M.J.  Are the other parents teaching failure? I have no way of knowing what any of it looks like, and it can be scary to think I might be the bad guy.

And yet I know that failing is a necessary skill. It is the only way we learn resilience – all of us. How to get back on a skateboard and face that fearful drop that completely owned you, or working harder to understand why you flunked your math test—or working harder to understand why you flunked the mom test. It’s when you really learn what it means to be human, and what imperfection feels like.  Failure is not just for teaching life lessons to the kids, it’s also for the moms—when we don’t say the right things or laugh when we shouldn’t. Or just aren’t there when we should have been.

pascal so called mom beach let them fail so called mom

As hard as it is, I am trying little by little to let my kids fail. Sometimes I just quit doing things for them, cold turkey— like making beds, folding laundry, picking up dirty dishes, or keeping track of their library books. Things they have grown used to my doing. Mom things. I stop with no warning, knowing they’re not going to like it. I see it as basically pulling the plug to their life line, to see if they can breathe on their own. And for awhile, all I can do is watch them gasp for air. And when it doesn’t work out—and it usually doesn’t—I dive in and save them.

So in the end, letting them fail and not letting them fail feels like losing.

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Like I’m not doing my mom job. It’s hard to stop caring, when you really, really do. So I cheat—which makes the lesson they are supposed to learn really confusing.

In any case, they need to begin to wrap their heads around the experience of “where did I go wrong and what do I do now?” So I keep staying in the game, because it is also a valuable lesson for me, as I learn to do the impossible: let them go.

Predictably Yours,

So Called Mom

Next Post:  Teenage Love & Pheromones 

To Homeschool … Or Not.

Jake, Phoenix, Earth, Milla, MJ, Pascal, Leopold Sauvie Island Farm Homeschool

 

Having my kids in a traditional school was ruining my family. homeschool

Those days, my kids would get home and have to begin homework right away or they would be doomed. And by they, I really mean me. There were days they did homework straight through dinner, straight through the weekend, in the car, and in their beds. I once watched MJ fall asleep with a pencil in her hand, mid-sentence. I have even kept them home from school before, just so they could finish projects for school. homeschool

HomeschoolWhat kind of example was this teaching them? To work day and night and never take time to explore who they were? Their school left no room for them to follow their passion or explore being an individual in a big family. I saw them growing up too fast. I saw them overworked and really, really unhappy.

So I pulled the plug on the whole thing. I bit the bullet and took their learning into my own hands.

When I made the decision to homeschool, I imagined my kids becoming instant geniuses in knitted hats (made with their own talented hands of course). Their little creations would become so bloggable that we would become a global inspiration to other families. My imagination ran wild with this.

So called mom Homeschool

Because of this decision, I also could see us going off grid— as though the house would become an experiment in and of itself—we’d learn everything there is to know about solar panels, passive heating and compost toilets. My lesson books were going to be impressive.

 

I would become an expert at recycling, gardening and keeping chickens.

All of this would happen in my heels and tutus, because let’s not forget about the importance of style. The kids would learn instruments and how to sing together and meditate. Dinners would be wholesome and I’d finally have the endless hours of togetherness I wanted. We would be a solid family. The kids would be confident and different, by choice.

Instead, they turned into people-phobes with social anxiety. Homeschool

They became the weirdos that didn’t go to school. No matter how awkward it was, I kept going and for a couple of years it worked. Like kind of how a compost toilet would’ve worked I guess: Some days were better than others, but most of the time I was still troubleshooting, knee deep in my own shit.

Homeschool So Called Mom

Then my oldest, Jake unraveled the whole thing.

So Called Mom HomeschoolHe got the urge to become “normal” and insisted on going back to school. I think he actually just wanted to gawk at teenage girls like any other 16 year old. MJ applied and got into an arts-based middle school over the summer while Pascal formed a posse of girls from the neighborhood and wanted to give elementary school a shot. Earth was the last one remaining—though it was mostly our call to keep her in another year. Milla and Phoenix have yet to experience homeschooling. Milla thinks she wants to learn from me for high school, but I know this will change over summer. Phoenix, I have no say. I’m only the other mom. And of course that baby, Leopold, will always be homeschooled. Even though he isn’t a kindergartener yet, doesn’t mean I haven’t already started with him. Homeschool

Homeschool

Not long after returning to our standard “six kids at five different schools” model, only one of them has returned to homeschooling: Pascal. Mostly because that kid has so much extra curricular life, it has taken over what would normally be considered important: school. I just feel like when you’re a kid with talent and a lot of heart, you should be allowed to lean into your passion and develop it. It’s only habit that we moms put school first. What about French and Swedish lessons? What about Accordion? What about Skateboarding? Are those things not worth their full attention?

MJ-Davinci-Letter-edit why we Homeschool

Last week MJ wrote me a letter asking to be homeschooled again. It was really sweet and made me cry a tiny bit. I can’t decide if it’s because all of Pascal’s new learning materials just arrived or if she truly misses it. Or misses me. I know I miss her. I miss all of them—I even miss the kids I haven’t taught at home—yet.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Up Next: Why So Many Kids

How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You

kids jake mj and pascal so called mom

My last post was about fighting, so it only seems right to follow up with talking—to the kids!

Since we have seven kids with vastly different ages, I always have to temper my conversations to some kind of age appropriateness. This is difficult because their ages are always changing.  I recently read about what I’m supposed to be doing on the pamphlets that my pediatrician sends me away with. One of the big no no’s from our family doctor is that apparently I should’ve been helping them communicate better and make friends. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have any kids in the house for them to get to know! There are 4 teenagers, two tweens and Leopold. Surely there’s someone to befriend. I say we get a pass on that rule. Still though, every age group is different and, as they get older, it gets harder to talk.

kids so called momWhen I talk to my teenagers, I feel like I’m playing ping pong—with a baseball bat.

I’m so “not doing it right.” I’m so “embarrassing.” I’m so not even sure anything I’ve said makes it into their ears because of the damn headphones. Those things have become so discreet, but also so huge. I suppose it depends on the day—whether they feel like wearing the headphones that are as big as a billboard or the ones that double as Q-Tips. Plus, these days, they are basically fused to the kids heads, no matter how big or small they are. I think I’d like it more if it was music and not videos. Or videos about video games. Or videos of people we don’t know playing video games.

And I’m the one who’s not fascinating?

Let’s take dinner last week. One of my four daughters, Milla, was able to make it through an entire meal with them on, without me knowing it. Her phone was on her lap and when she laughed, I thought it was because of something I said. Sneaky.

I think I’m worth the conversation. I think they are too. But having quality conversations—the stuff that KEEPS you in their life, can be tricky.

Since we homeschool many of the kids, I obviously can’t ask what they did at school. Instead I spend our daytime together being a tyrant over their education. So this gets annoying. To all of us. My daughter Earth has learned not to approach me directly after I’ve had my coffee. I’m all over her with schedules, to-do lists, extra credit and electives. She was only wondering if we had more milk.

The tweens are a little more easygoing AND still think Im fabulous. It’s easier to talk, because I still have their attention. I can still take them out and just about buy their love. I know that’s probably not in those doctor pamphlets but hey, when your kids get older, you try anything for together time.

kids so called momLeopold, the baby (OK…. he’s 5, but he’s MY baby), is still a dream to talk to. I am his everything. We talk about explosions and boogers. Dinosaurs and my pretty hair. He is the only kid who is following my footsteps in ballet, for real this time. Everyone else has dropped out.

I am into together time. Even if it means holding some kids captive, against their will.

This is done best at the dinner table. Seven years ago, I became convinced I was losing touch with my children….and I was. So I began a nightly family ritual at the dinner table “What I Liked About Today and What I Didn’t Like About Today,” designed to get the kids talking—to Pippin and me and to each other. (Even though the teens have retitled it What Sucked and What’s Awesome) You get the idea.

“What I liked about today is that I learned how to ride switch to fakie on my new board. What I didn’t like about today was that I fell and hurt my shoulder.”

“What I liked about today was that we all got to say goodbye to the turtle. What I didn’t like was that we had to put him to sleep because the dog ate him.”

“Whats awesome about today is that I’m finally going to a normal school. What sucks is that I’ve been stuck in the basement in front of a computer so long, that I don’t know how to talk to other kids anymore.”

“What I liked about today is this dinner. What I didn’t like is that the dog just farted. You guys smell that?”

kids so called mom

By the time we cycle halfway through these, we are either laughing, annoyed or both.

There is a lot of talking over one another. I have spent almost a decade getting everyone to listen while others are talking. It doesn’t work. It is chaotic and overwhelming. But the point is, they are talking.  Even if, by the end of it all, we can’t hear each other speak and it doesn’t look like how I want it to, I can still feel like I’m a part of it all.  And with any luck, those headphones are somewhere else for an hour.

Good Talk,

So Called Mom

Next Post: To Homeschool…Or Not.