Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Random Traffic Musings

Why does the traffic flow in L.A. change sooooo much when school is out. All summer I have been driving grooves in numerous L.A. streets moving kids back and forth between summer school and various sporting practices, camps etc. The whole time (even though I HATE driving) not minding because by Los Angeles standards the traffic was light. The 7:40 trip to summer school a breeze, the 4 o'clock pick up from Volleyball practice almost painless.

Then Monday, August 27th came. The first day of school for many. My daughter's first day of high school. We left the house at our usual 7:45 time and BAM! Cars everywhere! Like I thought there had to be an accident BAM! If it was an accident, it was a 3 day one, because every morning it has been the same. So it got me wondering...where were all these drivers when all the kids were on summer vacation?

Is everybody an educator? I'm a teacher, so I know that many of us are off during summer, clearing the streets for those people with "Real World" jobs, but there could not possibly be enough teachers to cause a 10 minute difference in my ETA to any given destination?!

Do "Real World" people get to change their working hours when their kids are on summer vacation? Only to return to the regular hours exactly when school starts?

Does everybody but me go on an extended vacation during the summer and only come back for the start of school?

Does everybody but me work from home, allowing them to stay at home during summer while their kids are home?

Do that many people work from home? I have been thinking about checking with my principal to see if I can just set up my "isight" camera on my MAC and hold video classes from home. Oh YEAH! My 8th graders will loooooove that!

Anyway, tomorrow I plan to leave home at 7:30 sharp with my brood! (although it doesn't seem like it, 15 minutes is a lot with 2 year olds...14 year olds... hell, anybody but yourself!) I hope this 15 minute differential will make for smoother, less anxious travel. We shall see

Friday, August 24, 2007

How To Be More Productive or Don't Keep Doing the Same Thing and Expect Different Results

You have probably heard much of this before. However, sometimes it takes hearing it one more time to get you in gear. Or maybe it is just hearing it from an "ordinary girl"....maybe an ordinary working mom with 6 kids will help it sink in?? No matter what I do, or pray for, or write in my journal about being more organized, effective and efficient, a few things always work. I don't necessarily like these things at their commencement, but they work if what I am shooting for is a productive, peaceful day. At any rate, if you find your days are not going the way you want, or you are not getting enough done, you for sure can't keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.

1. Get up an hour earlier - Now many of you are saying "how can getting up at 5am instead of 6am be peaceful? I know, it is hard. This is especially true if you have beautiful babies breath blowing gently in your face. Or even better, beautiful, sexy man arms wrapped around your waist. It is soooo hard to get up. However, if you do this ONE simple thing, your day will be so much more productive. Just think, you can get something accomplished before the rest of the world wakes up! It is a GREAT jumpstart to a hectic day. I have found that working out and eating breakfast are wonderful things to do between 5 and 6 a.m. These are two things that I don't have to think about for the rest of the day. I know if I don't do these two things early, I am going to be thinking about "stopping at McDonalds or Starbucks" (time and money), and when am I going to attempt to get rid of this "mother's apron" ( c-section overflap)? Get up 1 hour earlier and you will feel SO MUCH BETTER!

2. Eat breakfast - See above, but if I eat breakfast I have one less thing to worry about until lunchtime. The difference between my thoughts and productivity if I eat breakfast and don't is amazing! If I don't eat breakfast, as soon as I get to work, my mind starts to wander. Ummm, Krispy Kreme sounds so good right now...I wonder who is going out to lunch...I think I want something from 'Little Belize' today" This is all going on while 25 adorable adolescents sit before me waiting to discuss the internal conflict of Walter Lee Younger in "A Raisin In the Sun". Eat Breakfast!

3. Straighten your desk before you leave for work - At the end of the day, I am soooo tempted to run out of the building and begin driving grooves in the street from Volleyball Practice to Football Practice to Cheerleading Practice, but I have to STOP. Write my agenda on the board for the next day...this helps if for some reason I am delayed the next morning. Do whatever task is necessary for you to be ready to "just start" the next morning. It really only takes about 5 minutes to make that list, sort papers for the "in and out" box, and your next day will start off right!

4. No T.V for 2 hours - When we get home ( all 7 of us) , there is NO T.V.! We are by no means the television police. Hedonistically, there is a television in every room of our house, except the bathrooms. However, when we get home in the evening, I want to hear only the sounds of my family putting clothes in the laundry, starting homework or even going outside to play. No EXTRA noise. This seems to get everyone focused. Including me. I can start dinner peacefully, without arguments about who gets to watch what "tivoed" show first?! ( I have such inside kids!) Even the twins, go to their table and begin writing drawing or some other "quiet" activity until dinner time.

5. Plan Your Meals - Planning meals saves time and money. If I know what I am going to cook ahead of time each day, I only shop for what's necessary AND I know what to take out Tuesday for Wednesdays dinner. The same is true for breakfast and lunch. It's all there if I plan ahead of time. It's a crap shoot if I don't . (a crap shoot and I feel like crap when I don't have Spaghetti for the Spaghetti!

6. Kids eat only in the Kitchen - this might be a no-brainer, but if you have teens and a kitchen/family great room thing going on, then everybody sort of migrates towards the t.v. with their snacks and such. This seemingly harmless act just creates more for me to do, scraping stuff off the floor, making kids come in and remove rice krispy treat wrappers from the under the couch. So they MUST eat EVERYTHING in the KITCHEN only.

7. Grocery Shop Online - Some of you, might like the leisurely quiet time that you get perusing the aisles for groceries. For me it is one more thing to add to an already full day. In addition, I can shop on at 2 in the morning if necessary and they groceries arrive the next day while I am getting something else done, AT HOME.

8. Same bedtime every night for the kids - Nothing throws my day off like letting the kids go to bed when they get ready.(this is especially a challenge with 4 grumbling teens) Now of course, summertime is a bit more flexible, but during the school year, a nightly routine and everybody under the covers no later than 9 p.m. is a must!

9. Lay out clothes and prepare lunches at night - this is one I really have to MAKE myself do, but when I don't, I regret it as soon as I open my eyes. It takes 15 minutes at night and saves me more in the morning.

10. 15 Minute Room Sweep - Before I go to my room I sweep the house quickly to straighten, pick up any stray toys, clothes that might have been left around that the kids missed. It is so nice to get up inthe morning to a straight house.

11. Do Me - I really try to turn off the T.V. (you're smart if you don't even have one in your bedroom) and listen to something soothing or read to relax before I go to sleep. Definitely NO NEWS before I close my eyes. Bad dreams make for a restless night. Or maybe just writing your journal can be peaceful. Whatever they entry is, try to end with 3 things you are thankful for. Many times one of mine "thankfuls" is I am thankful for 15 minutes of quiet before I go to sleep.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Good Kind of Grungy

I am giggling right now. My daughter is a full fledged high school girl. ( I still can't believe it?!) We were taking our regular evening walk with the twins. I didn't have to drag anybody out this evening, it was sooooo hot inside. All the girls went on our leisurely stroll around the neighborhood.

We were doing something usually silly, like trying to get the twins to skip or "Walk, Walk, POSE! (our version of America's Next Top Model, when my 14 year old, says "MOM! Stop, Stop!. I looked around, but ignored her. (She has some type of moody outburst every 30 minutes). She fell behind... way behind our "sidewalk, catwalk" and started this sort-of "sauntering, sashay" Half-way trying to look cute, the other half trying to not die of embarassment from our "runway reject" game.

I swung around to my right, and what before my wondering eye should appear, but the cutest bunch of boys you ever did see. I couldn't help but smile. There were about 8 of them on bikes and skateboards. Varying, beautiful shades of the chocolate rainbow. The same variety in height and hair, but cute, every single one of them. And yes, they were a little bit grungy.

I mentioned this to my daughter, who informed me with a smile "that's the good kind of grungy mom!"

Which she followed with, "Do I still have my bike?"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Inside Kids vs. Outside Kids

The hot days of summer have brought about a horrifying realization. My kids are "screen potato inside kids". All activities revolve around a screen,T.V. screen, computer screen, tiny phone screen.

Being a teacher, means that I am home with my beautiful, wonderful, children most of the summer. AAAAAHHHHH! Now, I must preface this with the fact that I have two shifts of children. I have four adolescents/teenagers , my 12 and 15 year old plus my "bonus" children, aged 11 and 15. All together, two boys and two girls right smack in the middle of "moody, obnoxious, leave me alone, rolling eyes, sucking teeth, why not, can I have, this is so boring" pleasure years.

But wait, the second shift. I have 2 year old fraternal twins. Girls.

So it is 5 pm and inside it is an oven. "Take the twins outside, I will be out in a minute" , I say as I try to finish "SOMETHING"! You know, laundry, dinner, bills, a book, I am just trying to have a few moments during that "golden time of day" also known as the cranky, screaming, restless can't wait until 9:00 time of day.

I hear four groans.

Okay, "let's walk to the store for ice cream!" I say.

That is sure to get a more positive response. It does. "I'll go" , "Me, too" times 2.

The twins are game. "yets go mommy!" They cant' wait to get outside for ANYTHING.

As we are walking, I can't help but notice the many children on bikes, rollerblades or walking and socializing in our neighborhood. "What's up with that?", I think.

My screen potato daughter informs me that outside kids are grungy. "Excuse me?!" my socially correct, mom-self retorts.

"I'm sorry mom. Outside kids are grungy looking."

Of course, I am becoming more indignant by the second.

" We've just got more to do inside than sweat out our hair, my daughter says," You know, text, IM, watch 'High School Musical 2".

As I watch the "outside children" skate or ride down the street hair flying, pants torn, skates too big, I cant help but think that my kids are missing out on an important part of their childhood.

Now, mind you, when I was growing up, I was an inside kid without a choice. My mama MADE US go outside.

"Get on outside NOW!" , my mama would say, "And don't be coming in here bringing flies" That meant STAY OUTSIDE! No in and out.

Of course we didn't have cell phones, computers and WII. We also didn't have television with five thousand, two hundred and forty five stations.

As a parent, I envy the "outside kids" . They seem to be the ones really living. They are riding bikes, playing basketball and jumping double-dutch. I have to beg my children to go outside, even if their 2 year old sisters, love outside.

What did I do wrong. I was determined to raise, well balanced, adventurous, happy children. Not, " I'm watching a re-rerun of Zach and Cody" kids.

I am not trying to put a value on this. Parenting is hard work. Parenting requires consistency, intensity and committment, that sometimes is just plain exhausting. This doesn't mean that you are a bad parent, or that a value can be placed on what each person does as an individual, inside or outside.

However. as the twins long to "go on the gwass", I recognize my responsibility to take them there. I want them to have the desire, ability and confidence to go skating or riding about the neighborhood during the hot days of summer or whenever they want. I have a new chance with the twins, to break the habit of my other beautiful, intelligent children of thinkging that the most valuable expriences occur inside. Clearly, messed up hair and torn pants are a part of chiildhood that once past are hard to regain.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I am NOT My Hair, but My Hair is Me!

Oooooh Freedom! I don't mean to hyperbolize something as potentially trivial as a haircut, but I am freed! I got a haircut. I mean maaajoor haircut. My hair went from the middle of my back, to Halle Berry, circa 2002. My hair is finally ME!

I didn't realize how much energy, expectation and OPP (other people's perceptions) are tied up in hair. Well, if I am honest, I do know. Hair is a big deal, especially for black folks. You know, " a woman's hair is her "crown and glory!". Unfortunately, I assumed that the 'crown and glory' part only applied to long hair. ( We know for black folks that might be true), but now I know better. My short cut is glorious!

A hair rut is what I was in. My hair was short in my 20's. I was chic, sophisticated and fabulous! My hair was short in my thirities. I was divorced, independent and happy. The past ten years, I have been looking at myself in the mirror wondering who I was looking at.

Yes, my hair was long. Yes, certain "hair struck" people fawned over it and told me how "pretty" it was. Yes, I began to live in my hair for everyone else.

I felt old, and stalled The long greys were coming in and making their appearance in some sort of explosion all over my head.

I was WAY too reliant on the "ponytail". Ladies, this is not a cute option for everyday of your life. It was not my signature. It was not a style. It was "something to do".

I finally made the realization last week that I was not living MY hair dream, but other peoples. Not cool.

So I called a salon, and asked who could do "cute short hair" immediately.
My daughter cried... HER hair issues.

I didn't let that stop me.

I got it chopped. Cut. Freed.

Sampson, in the bible, lost his strength when his hair was cut. I gained mine.

When my hair fell away, so did anger, negativity, doubt, insecurity and malaise.

Now, in the words of Patti Labelle, "I got a new attitude!" I'm feelin good from my HEAD to my shoes.

So, think about your hair. Who are you doing it for? You, or somebody else? Does your hair empower you, EXPRESS you, or weigh you down?!

If you don't feel light and empowered, then take drastic measures! Step out in something fresh! Something new.

I am NOT my hair, but now, my hair is me! Confident, sexy, intelligent and free!

Free your hair and the rest will follow!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Peace. Be Still

Find a peaceful place. This is a hard task in my busy, chaotic household, but I am not just talking about a peaceful physical place. As a matter of fact, I am mostly talking about a peaceful mental, spiritual and emotional place. Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in the rut of replaying, retelling, reliving, reacting in negativity. Negative thoughts, negative talk, negative acts. Peace be still.

Begin to experience joy by thinking and living that which will bring you joy. Speak it, live it, be it. I am not saying that you ignore your problems, or pretend they don't exist. I am saying that when you find yourself inundated with negativity, stop. Find something beautiful to look at or listen to, play with your kids, take a walk in the park, do anything that allows the good to move in and the bad to move on out, even if just for a moment. If you do this enough, it might stick.

Many of us have been reading and discussing the bridge tragedy in Minnesota. It is cause for pause because you realize that everything you know can change in an instant. It sounds a bit cliche', but life is too short to do much else but experience that which brings us joy and peace.