Lord Beric

I love dogs, like love love dogs. In fact, I dream of retirement on a farm with so many dogs. Enough to fill the fields and enjoy the wonders of the land.

I have always lived with a dog, starting with the day I was born. First, there was Bruno, a German Shepherd who spent his days protecting our family and his nights wooing the neighborhood females while outrunning the dog catcher. He was my first understanding of someone who was dying of old age. I used to go downstairs before bed to tell him goodnight. And I’d tell him that if he had to die that night, it was ok and we loved him.

Then came Sally, a black lab mix who thrived on pizza, candy, getting her nails done, and photo shoots on the picnic table. I taught her as many tricks as I could including how to take the parts of my dinner I didn’t want to eat and to chew them quietly under the table.

Shortly after, there was Brandy. A Frankenstein-like mixed breed who was put together all wrong, except her brain was on point and she was smart, opinionated, and clever. She liked baseball, water bowls, telling the other dogs what to do, and trying to kill our pet rabbit.

Next was Cody. We chose him out of a bathtub full of black lab puppies. I picked each and every one up to see which one we wanted. I turned around and my Mom was holding him, his head on her shoulder and we just knew. Cody lived through much including two torn acls, a near fatal spider bite, and wood floors. He loved my mom, figuring out his next path to relieve his floor anxiety, stealing food, and not sleeping. Like ever. We’re pretty sure he never actually slept. Cody was the last dog my parents owned.

When I was on my own, I found him. A golden orange mixed breed with a sweet face and the softest ears. We (my partner and I who learned that day that I make a decision and run at it) named him Carter. He was trouble, and I learned quickly how to guess which household item he’d consume next…duct tape, shampoo bottles, deodorant, my sister’s wedding necklace, playstation controllers, camisoles, season 5 of 24, and many more. He loved to play, hike, walk, eat, cuddle, and get lost. His first companion with us was a mini french lop rabbit named Rocky. They were friends, until Rocky lived out the last bit of his 9th year into old age.

So, we decided to find him another companion and headed to a no-kill shelter with Carter in tow. My partner saw her first. A small black and brown rottie mix hanging in the back of her cage. She looked at me and didn’t really say hi, but I agreed to meet her. She walked into the room and sat in my partner’s lap. He was convinced and so was I. She met Carter in their play area in the back. She kept trying to get his attention but he was too focused on peeing in all of the baby pools. But they were convinced he tolerated her, so home she came.

As I was pulling out of the parking lot, it started. The barks, play, romping, in the back of the car. We panicked and laughed, glad that Carter finally acknowledged her. We named her Penny, show name Not Penny’s Boat. She still warms our hearts at 9 years of age. She loves barking at absolutely nothing, fried chicken, donuts, sunbathing, and me (yes, she ended up picking me anyway).

We love dogs, and have had many. But somehow this past June we forgot all about these lovable quirky qualities that you have to train through or learn to live with. Because we decided now was a good time to adopt a second dog. In a pandemic. When we’re all home all of the time. And with a 2 yo who was just coming of age in their “terrible twoness.”

We connected with a local rescue and they matched us with a cattle dog mix who was blind in one eye. He fit all of our criteria except his energy level was a little higher than we had wanted. But we’ve got this, we’ve dealt with so much before in dogs. He was so sweet when we met him, and good with the kids, so home he came.

Then, we came inside. And they started “playing.” We were convinced they might be trying to kill each other, but we couldn’t tell. It went on well into the night, followed by telling him over and over that he could not sleep in our bed. We finally won about midnight, only to then have him wake us up at 5am. Penny just rolled over and went back to bed. I got up with him the first day. Then, he hit repeat. Every day.

His energy level was beyond what we expected. And he nipped, a lot. He herded us like cattle and just wouldn’t stop.

We put our heads together and called a trainer and reached out to the adoption group to ask for help. They said they are indeed playing, just loudly and roughly. My daughter says it’s like watching a fight between a grizzly bear and a black jaguar. The trainer helped us think of ways to keep him calmer, busy, and stimulated.

I was worried we couldn’t keep him. My partner kept saying how he just wanted another Penny. I reminded him that the perfect dog is always older than 5 years and has been living with you just as long. Penny’s favorite pastime these days is sunbathing on the deck during her nap.

But we committed, and we named him Bear. Short for his show name Lord Beric Dogdarrion. His show name may actually come in handy one day as my oldest is convinced she is going to train him on agility and he will be on tv.

But as I type, this little red heeler is curled up next to me sound asleep. On my bed none the less. But we’re doing it. He loves to wake up at 5:30am, eat dirt and cardboard, ride in the car, steal the kids’ toys, and snuggle, with full on doggie hugs.

We’ve learned that we can work together to make this work. We’ve learned that we can always say no, even though this time we stuck with our yes. And we’ve learned it’s easy to forget all of the hard stuff about dogs after the years, because we love them so. However, we know this loud, rambunctious, attention demanding, lovable puppy is and will be “the perfect dog.” And will remain so until he’s 29 (I haven’t told my partner, but the longest living dog ever was a cattle dog who lived until 29…picture my daughter at age 34 telling her friends that her childhood dog just died…)

In the meantime, look for us soon on tv. If you’ve read about my daughter, you already knew she’ll make this happen. Lessons start in a couple of weeks!

“Thank you Mommy”

“Ooh, hi Mommy! Shower good?” my youngest asked as I walked out of the bathroom.

“It was good, thank you baby,” I replied.

Our two kids are so different in how they approach the world. In a 2 and 1/2 year old person, we can already see how they are becoming their own in the world. And how the parts of their personality stick out in ways much different than their sister.

When our oldest was little, getting her to say please was a real task. Even today, she only uses it if she’s not getting what she wants in the moment. Or if she’s been asked to say it. You may have feelings about this, I certainly do. But we came to realize some important things about our kids, namely that they are not tiny versions of us. My partner and I are very good at being good. This simply means that we are polite, let others go first, sacrifice ourselves often, and we follow nearly all of the social rules. It’s bred into us and it’s also important to us in developing relationships. But this is how we do that. Not everyone does.

Our oldest is in this world to ram her way through it. And with purpose and intention. She doesn’t mean to hurt anyone along the way, but she does sometimes. Instead of teaching her politeness and to hold back, we’re teaching her to look back and to make sure everyone is all right. Empathy and sympathy for the experience of others.

You might think that with very little pleases and thank yous, she might be a bit of a wild child, troublemaker even. She is, at times, but always with purpose. But she’s also incredibly caring. She tells people what to do, not just because she enjoys the art of management, but because she really wants others to get it right, or have the same experience as her. She wants others to feel what she feels. And she wants them to win and feel proud too. She’s going to be the best friend her friends will ever have.

Our littlest approaches life a bit differently. They are determined, precise, and tend to like some sense of order. But only in the sense of the world being set up in the way that works for them. They give my partner their hat when its not on his head, because they see Dad as wearing their hat more often than not. So the hat must need to be on his head.

They also love the response of us being pleased with them. They quickly attached themselves to the art of language and repeat what we say much of the time. For weeks, they spent many parts of the day saying “thank you mommy” or “sorry mommy.” They are navigating the social cues in the world, while my daughter is setting them.

This little human is finding their way, behind the fire that is their sister. And they are making their own path. I think it’s time to write about them more often.

Blueberries and bees

The other day, I was stung by a bee. My parents were in town and we decided to take a trip to a farm to pick some peaches. When we got there, we learned that the peaches had been picked clean and needed to ripen. But there were still blueberries for the “die hard” pickers. So off we went to work, filling our stomachs along the way.

My oldest took charge, collecting everyone’s berries and helping us see where to pick next. My youngest was picking green unripen berries and eating them. I was in the bushes, looking for the hidden ones. My mom was all the way up the row, leaving us behind. My dad was lagging back, finding every last berry. We were all in our element, needless to say.

Then, I reached in and felt the sting. I looked at my wrist and saw the yellowjacket struggling to get its stinger loose from my body. It succeeded and flew away swiftly.

“Ouch, I just got stung by a bee,” I said.

Grabbing my arm, I thought two things. First, I apologized (out loud mind you) to the bee for disturbing them. And second, that this didn’t hurt nearly as much as I remember it.

“What happened?” I heard her say.

…Let’s go back a bit.

“Tell me about the times you were stung by a bee?” she’d asked me before bed. This was a regular ask. She wanted to learn this story in detail. So, I’d tell her about all 5-6. Sometimes, I’d remember them all, other times I’d forget one or two. She wanted to know what happened and how it happened. She was always like this. When our dog died when she was 3, she wanted to know all of the details of his death. She even asked me to show her pictures of cancer in dogs and where in his body it was. We learned early that it’s important for her to know what’s coming when we can offer that. We used to practice going to the dentist over and over before her visits. We’d share all about whatever our plans were for the day so she knew what was coming next. At first, we did it for our own benefit. We just didn’t want all of the questions and hoped for no complaining along the way. But soon we learned that this was a necessary step to her comfort. To her existence. She doesn’t always need this, as she also loves adventure. But she does not like surprises and especially ones that involve pain…

“I was stung by a bee,” I answered.

“Go get Grandma now,” she said all seriously. “Go get her, go now,” she insisted.

“I’m ok,” I said.

“No, Grandma is right there,” she said as she pointed. She was worried for me and was looking for an expert adult. I was no longer that since I was the one hurt.

I looked at her and calmly said, “I’m ok baby, it already feels better.”

“Can I see it?” she asked.

I showed her the two tiny, dark red dots on top of my wrist.

“What does it feel like?” she asked.

“Exactly what it’s called, a sting. Almost like getting a shot. It hurts when it happens but then it starts to feel better.”

She looked satisfied. I also felt grateful. This was a learning moment for her. To see that a sting wasn’t so scary, you could live through it, and that she would be all right. I feel gratitude, to share a lived experience with her, and even for that little bugger who was protecting its berries.

She skipped ahead and caught up with my mom.

“Mommy got stung by a bee,” she announced all knowingly.

She was back in her element.

A short story on the beginning of humans

We were in the car and somehow the topic of birth came up. She started to ask me questions about scenarios and birth.

“What would happen if someone gave birth in their house? In their car? In a parking lot? In the ocean? In outer space?”

She got stuck on my answer about having a baby in space. I tried to explain that it wasn’t the best idea to have a baby in space because we didn’t know what would happen. Then, after a moment of her pondering, she threw me a tough one.

“How did the first person be born? I mean I know how babies are born, but how did the first person get born?”

I love parenting, and answering questions. But this moment, I was like “WTF? Parenting, let alone life, does not prep you for these types of questions.”

I did my best, told her about the big bang and also introduced Adam and Eve, sharing that people believed different things. She wanted to know more about the big bang. I gave it a shot…

“A long, long time ago, there was an explosion that resulted in a microscopic organism coming to earth…”

“A what?”

“Like a tiny bug or virus. It then made more of itself. And eventually made better versions of itself to survive. These new versions eventually became the plants, animals, and humans we see today.”

“Ok, but how do you know?” she asked.

“It’s a theory,” I said, “our best guess based on all of the evidence we have in front of us. No one was alive then so we can’t be all the way sure.”

She took a few moments…

“Ok, but what’s the real truth?”

“That’s all I’ve got,” I told her.

Here’s what I learned – When you teach your kid about evolution, like most conspiracy theorists, she wil doubt you. Maybe for the first time, and certainly not for the last time.

Rock ‘n Roll

Six years old had been an amazing ride. I am watching this little person start to sense and understand empathy. I am watching her start to see impact and feel guilt about impact she doesn’t intend. I am starting to see her consider her options, make choices and be a little less implusive. She is also learning to love out loud telling us how she feels more often than not.

And her personality is beaming.

Last year, her teacher told us that they thought she might be president one day. But that they weren’t sure if she’d be voted in, or if she’d just take it.

“That about sums up our lives parenting her,” I jokingly responded.

In her birth chart, she is an Aries sun and moon. This is a set up for someone who is powerful, leaderful, and impactful in this world. This with her Libra rising sign also creates the impression of serving the people, justice, equity, fairness. We see this in her, so many moments of every day.

Two days ago, she decided to write a rock song. I was an audience member and had to participate. On cue, I had to give examples of things that I didn’t think I could do, but I did anyway.

So she sings, and points to me.

“Birth!” I shout.

She laughs, and says “no, not that, something else.”

Momentarily miffed (if only she knew), I told her “climb a mountain.” She proceeded to sing how she climbed a mountain all the way to the top even though she didn’t want to, and was brave.

She pointed to me again.

“Swam a big relay race,” I exclaimed.

She sang about how she was nervous and scared and didn’t think she could do it, but then she won “FFFIIIRRRSSSTTT PLACE!”

Then came the ending of this song…

“There were things I didn’t really want to do, but I did them anyway. Because I always do what I want to do. I ALWAYS DO WHAT I WANT TO DOOOOO!”

This is my life people. She does what she wants to do. And is learning to love, laugh, live, play along the way. Whether or not she runs the world or runs her home or runs nothing at all, she will always do what she wants to do. And I am so grateful she is here in this life with me.

The robin

“Mom, come quick, you have to see this bird. It’s so beautiful,” she said.
I was in the baby’s room getting them ready for something.
“Can I borrow your phone? I want to take a picture,” she asked.
I handed over the phone and finished what I was doing quickly to make it over to the window to see what she saw. “Right there,” she said pointing. “It has a bright, orange belly!” she exclaimed.
I peeked through out window down into our yard. By the white cement path, surrounded by blooming weeds and trodden soil, I saw the bird staring up at the house. A robin, searching in the goodness of the earth for grubs and worms.
My head did this – “It’s just a robin, they are everywhere.” I stopped myself from saying this out loud. I looked at her as she stood on the bench in front of the window, holding my phone just right, desperately trying to zoom in to get a picture that showed its orange belly. It was too far away for it to be in focus, but she took ten shots anyhow.
“It’s so cool,” she exclaimed.
“It is,” I agreed.
In this moment, I witnessed something I hadn’t seen in a while from her. A first interaction. I almost missed it. Almost made it so that her response was not fitting to the circumstance, inappropriate even. I almost smashed her joy in this simple moment of seeing a robin for the very first time. An ordinary, beautiful, life giving, earth sustaining robin who was sitting in our new yard posing for my daughter’s pictures.
In the days to come, we came to witness many robins in our yard. Several every morning and afternoon searching through the grass for their daily meals. Before a robin was simply a robin. Sometimes a reminder of my childhood, or even a reminder of a share from a friend about robins in their backyard. But now the robin is a sign of childhood, amazement, interaction, and first glimpses into the wonders of this earth.
Robins are a reminder to look closely, to see what the world is offering us, and to seek joy in the ordinary yet extraordinary life around us. And certainly to take joy in the joy of these little humans who make the effort and take the time to see and experience something new nearly every single moment.

More sparks of joy

My baby is turning one, that alone is throwing off my week. There is an unexpected set of emotions I am experiencing as their born day creeps closer. This is my last baby, at least I am 99% sure. As a result, the need to capture every second of every moment is very present for me. “They will no longer be a baby this weekend,” is what I keep telling myself. As if their body is going to change overnight into something I am unfamiliar with. As if their daily playing, feedings, sleep will shift into adulthood.

I am also experiencing an immense amount of joy as well. I am celebrating that we have managed to parent two children for nearly a year. All have survived and we have evolved as parents. Who we are today is vastly different than who we were last year, or even yesterday. We celebrate the birthdays of our children intensely focused on them, and often forget to celebrate ourselves, our success in raising little humans in this world. So this week, we are celebrating our parenting and also this little person finishing their first revolution around the sun. The amount of growth we have had as parents is striking. The amount of living, processing, existing that is happening for them is remarkable, it’s amazing, it’s a miracle.

To celebrate this miracle, we have invited a few family and friends over in celebration. Nothing fancy, just a gathering of people we love. Whomever can make the trip, and doesn’t mind the cold. In order to remove the pressure of a first birthday party with the bells and whistles…oh I love the bells and whistles…we are approaching this calmly and over time. And specifically, I mean prepping the house for guests.

We moved about 6 months ago, and are still unpacking. Also, last month, we took on the KonMari method and are still working our way through it. I have felt nothing but accomplished in how well we are tackling the project of tidying. Not only do things feel more manageable and predictable for me in simple tasks, but it’s starting to make this home into mine. The entire process of sorting through my things, our things, has made it so I can appreciate each one. It’s no longer about putting it out of sight so that people (including me) believe that we are tidy people, but instead we are asking, “How does this fit into my life? How do I want to appreciate it?”

It’s a long process to tidy your house, not just in actually finding the time to do it, but also in the emotional piece. I have had to walk away a few times as I couldn’t make a decision when the emotion, sentiment became too hard to work through. But so far, we’ve done clothes, most books, our kitchen, the toy room, the bathroom, and the kids’ stuff. The kids are completely done.

My daughter even worked through the process with me. It started off a little rough, mostly because I was figuring out how to handle it and not make it too overwhelming and upsetting for her. When I first mentioned we were going to do it, I wanted to start with her room. This includes all of her stuffed animals. When I said that we were going to sort through them, I could see her little body tense up in defense, and she quickly named that she was keeping them all. So, I instead went to something easier. We went to the toy room and worked through categories based on what she picked. Then, this past weekend, she asked me if we could do her stuffed animals. She let go of more than 20. Overall, she let go of so many items, and I am so proud of her. Not just because she did it, but because she did it so thoughtfully. She did it based on her own attachments, love for her things and with reasoning that worked for her.

And I let go – I didn’t interrupt, provide feedback or show emotion. Even when she said goodbye to items that I had attachment to. I quickly was able to see how many things she still had because of me, not her.

I was able to see how we are working towards a different relationship with her things, one based on love and joy rather than want and need. And I am so grateful for that. We’re still working on the feeling of joy in tidying though. The other night at the table, when I reminded her of the upcoming gathering for her sibling, she said, “We can’t have a party, the house is a mess! Where will people sit? Right now, people can only sit on the couch and blue chair, not even the orange one!” And she said this with hand emotions, heightened voice, and persistence. I literally heard myself speaking through her body.

That moment was tough. For so many reasons.

First, I have spent so many of my days hating my way through cleaning. I mean angry cleaning. I usually huff, puff, grunt, growl my way through things. I pick up with emphatic frustration, grumble my way through it all and usually complain about everyone’s else’s messiness all while ignoring my own. My favorite things to say are “This house is so gross,” “Why are we like this?,” “I hate cleaning,” “I am just going to throw everything away,” “This house is a mess.”

So her statement made me realize a few things. First, when she said it, I quickly thought that the “mess” she mentioned was not really a mess and we’re fine. And I also thought, “wow I wish I hadn’t taught her to say that.” What I am so proud of myself for not immediately saying…which would have been my first thought every time before the last few weeks…was “If you and your dad would just be cleaner, then this house wouldn’t be a mess.”

So yes, I am so proud of myself for not going there. Such a simple bit of growth, but also so momentous. And, I didn’t even realize I hadn’t gone there until hours later when I thought again about that moment, which also feels like a success because I didn’t even to think to not say it.

But, what I am thinking is that I can turn this around. If I can no longer see a “mess” as a fault of people, but instead a manageable collection of things yet to be assessed, it feels different. In that moment with her, I knew that the house would be tidied up for folks. She was right, we need places to sit. And what I also noticed was that the task felt much less overwhelming because so much is already in order and cleaned up. My kitchen drawers are organized, my clothes are folded, the toys have a home. I can manage cleaning up old papers and craft items off of the bar because I have been able to release so many feelings already.

And here’s the key for me, it’s not just about knowing things have a place, but it’s about knowing that there are places in this house only filled with things we like, want, or need. It’s about knowing that the sense of clutter, which is really my sense of having too much, is released from my body. So the actual clutter, by definition, is simply something to be picked up. And it’s not urgent. Important yes, but not urgent as it has always felt in the past.

The next step is to help her see that the cleanliness of the house is not attached to my duty as the mom, first and foremost…in case you missed her subtle learning of sexism in all of this…but instead attached to celebration and joy. Marie Kondo emphasizes that everything has a place in your life, and the idea that something should bring you joy is a key piece to recognizing something’s place. It’s not about whether or not you will or won’t need it, it’s about whether or not it fits into who you are right now. It’s also not about who you want to be. I have learned this as I let go of things like fancy cooking tools, exercise equipment, pants that are much too small. Instead, it’s about what makes me happy in this moment.

So of course we will tidy as we prepare for this celebration. And this time, I will not angry clean. In fact, this is a great opportunity to merrily clean the house with excitement about the party. And to say things out loud like “Where should we put the cake? This will be the perfect place. Let me just move all of these craft items so we have space.”

Already so much better than my typical, “What am I going to do with all of this crap?” cleaning mentality.

So what is all of this about, what am I learning? Besides the fact that I can live life with so many less things, I am learning that this attachment and change in mentality is only my own. She will be as tidy as she wants to be. She will treat things as she wishes to based on her attachment to them. In minimizing her things, I hope she starts to see her value in them. Too often, I have asked her to stop playing so rough because something cost a lot of money. I wrote it off as I am teaching her the value of money and things. But in reality, I already valued that item enough to pay for it. Otherwise, I would not have bought it. The talk about money is my own regret and feelings about capitalism, not hers.

In reality, if she breaks something expensive, yes I would be mad. But I also wouldn’t replace it. And also in reality, she places no more value on an Ipad than she does a hatchimal because she has no concept of the difference in how you get them. She’s too little for that. Instead, I can only hope that she is starting to be surrounded by items she loves and in turn will treat them with love. And, she will learn what happens when she doesn’t. I also hope that because she has less and only what she’s chosen, that if she mistreats it, she’ll have a feeling around that. Not the feeling of “Oh well, I have 100 more,” but instead maybe “Ugh, I liked that, maybe next time I won’t throw it on the floor.”

Marie Kondo, I am grateful for you. I am grateful for the way you approach your things, your life, the way you have shown how your way of living, your embodiment of your culture, your people, your religion, speaks so loudly as something so full of love, that I have not been able to ignore it.

My house is not only more tidy, but my heart is more calm, my stress of being perfect is releasing, and the notion that I am the keeper of the house is fading away.

Today I have a house that is still in process, I have kids who are learning to see cleaning and housekeeping in a different way, and I have folded clothes. They even feel softer. And I find many sparks of joy in that.

Note: I wrote this before the party, and now after the party I want to admit it was still so hard. I didn’t live all of these things as I had hoped, but I still gave it what I had. I am grateful to have had the help of my partner, my kid who was excited to help out, and my own patience and resilience for getting through it. This house was not perfect, but it was a reflection of us and I am proud of that. And the party was a success. 

Footloose

Today, I feel compelled to write about play. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. There are so many moments that my kid asks me to play and I think of some excuse not to. I tell myself it’s because I have too much to do. Or that her idea of play is confusing, which really just means I don’t like it. She likes to replicate what is already happening during the day – like shopping, going to school, playing family, or horse camp. And, I laugh as I type this, because usually I have to do all of the play while she sits and watches. So not only do I have to re-do my day, but I have to do it alone!

For example, last time we played horse camp, she was the director and I was one of the campers. The director tells the campers what to do and then they do it. So, I did all of the work while she disappeared in “the house.” Or with school, she’s the music teacher and I’m her teacher and all of the kids. So, she hangs out until music class starts while I run the rest of the day. Or my favorite is where we play family and I’m the mom and she’s the kid. Last time, she was the baby and I was the Mom who had to set up all of the play while the baby took a nap.

This kid is hysterical. Simply, she loves to relive moments. And clearly I am struggling with this.

I do have a good time with her, a bit. And I cannot figure out why I can not just surrender to the play. To be in the moment. To make it not about me, or what I have to do later, or how I don’t want to play this way.

When as adults, did we learn that play is no longer acceptable? That it’s something we weren’t allowed to do, or didn’t have time for? Or even that it’s something that made us so self conscious of what others might think if we actually played in public that we simply gave it up? It happened sometime, and I am stuck in this narrative. I can’t initiate play and I am having so much trouble engaging in it.

A few weeks ago, I attended a friend’s adult play group. She is inspired by play and makes it a regular practice. She is now inviting others to join her once a month.

When I arrived, I took a giant bubble wand and made bubbles before entering the building. We then danced to further open the play date – movement with no direction or specifics. We listened to the bouncy sounds of Footloose and did whatever our body told us to do. This was my favorite part. I think I maybe have never danced like that, certainly not that I can remember. Afterwards, my body was light, exhausted, exhilarated. Next, we finger painted and played with play-doh. I primarily played with the play-doh, making my own little pizza, drinks, silverware, salad and pizza cutter. I would have done that as a kid. I Ioved to make things likes that. We ended with a bedtime story about how to look at life differently. It was called How To by Julie Morstad.

I simply remember the one page saying “how to clean your socks” and the picture was kids jumping in puddles with their socks on. A parent’s worst nightmare right? I mean think about it. If your kid jumps in a puddle outside in the rain in their socks, how would you feel? I know I’d feel annoyed, worried that the socks were ruined, irritated at the mess of it all. Now, imagine as your kid jumped in the puddle, there was deep, boisterous laughter. Then, how do you feel? I know I would still respond the same. If the laughter continued, I’d be more likely to let go and see the fun. Would you join in? I very much doubt that I would. Or if I could be convinced, there is no way I’d do it in my socks.

Why am I like this? As a kid, a light rain storm was an immediate cause for bathing suits and water toys. The cool icy water on a hot summer’s day was one of the best playgrounds. I can still remember the smell of the rain on the sun burnt grass desperately soaking up the rain in thirst. I can still feel the pebbles that gathered at the end of my driveway in the street gutter where the biggest puddles lay. I can still remember the feel of the change in the breeze when the rain turned to thunder. I can still see the bright colors of the water balloons and supersoakers that were only played with during this time.

I want to find my way back to socks in the puddle. As an adult, how do I do that? Part of me feels that my survival, my adulthood depends on this.

Over the last several months, I read The Artist’s Way. A key component is a weekly artist date, taking your artist out for something it enjoys. Julia Cameron writes that your artist is your inner child, so you must take this inner child out to play. I have had a heck of a time trying to figure out what to do each week. I have done a lot, some I would call play, others I would call likes. Last night, I chose to stay in and read a book, in a quiet room all by myself. This was close, believe it or not. I did some deep thinking on what I did as a kid. And knowing that I only had time at night this week and that we’re in the deep throes of winter, I worked to remember what I did when I was eight during these times. I remembered lying on my bed, reading, getting so enraptured by stories that I wouldn’t come out for hours. So, I did that last night. A small step, but also a giant one.

I want to want to play. I want to play with my kid and release the burden of being an adult in those moments. I want to jump at the chance to be the teacher, the horse camp director, or the even the mom. I want to look at this sweet child of mine and see her tiny little body so ecstatic by her play. So deep in the fun that she’ll never forget that feeling.

Today I am thinking that even though I have lost my sense of play, I can still find it. I need to do it for me. And I need to do it for my kids. I need her to know that you can hold onto this desire, to let go of who you are, to be someone else (or really a different version of yourself). I need her to know that when the world comes at you one day and tells you to “act like an adult,” she will also know that acting like an adult means you get to decide the moments that make up your day. And that play should be at the top of your list.

*Jessica Taubner is a friend who is inspiring play in all of us. She hosts a monthly play-date in Boston called It’s Okay to Play and if you are nearby, you should go, more info here. Or at the very least, take a moment all by yourself today, and pick your “Footloose” and dance the hell out of it.

Sparks of Joy

Last night, while figuring out what to do, I saw a post from a friend on facebook to check out the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. First, let me recommend this friend, Kendra Hicks who has a rad blog and is working on the most amazing project in Boston. Check out her website and The Estuary Projects here and here.

Now, I’d like to recommend this show. I watched the first episode that followed the Friend family. And, it was like looking at my life. They had two young kids, mom was at home most days, dad worked long hours, and everything was a mess, undone…mostly due to the exhaustion of parenting and living life in chaotic moments. The chaos in their home that had become overwhelming, distracting, disruptive, relationship altering is my very existence. I write at a desk that is behind a bar covered in literally in a million things and I can’t tell you why they are up there. But they have been, for months. I put “clean off bar” on my to do list most weeks and I have yet to complete it. The problem is that I don’t know where to put anything. And that’s a similar response from my partner. He tidies by stacking things. When I ask him to put them away, he asks, “where?” and I usually have no idea.

Her method is simple, keep what you love and/or want to bring into the future, and get rid of what no longer serves you. I do this a lot here or there, already so I feel like I have a good first step. But what’s also important about her method is that she makes you pile it all up. Like all of your clothes, every last piece, in one gigantic pile. I feel that this might be the key to my success. Right now, I do some of this. I purge stuff all the time. Toss things that don’t make sense. But when I find something I want to keep, surrounded by things I have no idea what to do with, I do not touch them. I become completely numb and avoidant. Yet, if I make a big pile in the center of my space, it will force me to deal with it. And it will show the overwhelming amount of things that I love versus what no longer makes sense in my home.

I don’t want to give away too much more, because if this inspires you, you should watch. Or read her book. But, here is what I took away as a parent…

My head did this the entire episode…

“My kid finds joy in everything, she will toss nothing…she keeps scraps of paper and rocks because she likes them…she never tidies anything, how will I get her to do it…her room is filled with so much stuff…the thought of organizing toys is overwhelming…where am I going to put all of their stuff…now I have to fold the laundry?…I can’t wait for my partner to see the sheer size of his pile of stuff…”

I am working through these thoughts, because here is the key point I am building into a mantra for myself…”she learns from me, she learns everything.” If I hate cleaning or yell about tidying, she’ll want nothing to do with it. Who would? But if it becomes routine and I involve her, maybe it will at least become neutral or even joyful to keep her space organized so she can find what she wants. All this time, I kept thinking, “if only she’d be more respectful of her things, of me, why do I do it all?” Well I hate all of these things because this space is such a mess. I do not live this value out loud. I do not model the lesson I am trying to teach, so no wonder her confusion and disconnect. She has learned to hate it too.

So…time to learn to love to tidy up the space so she can love it too.

What’s my motivation? Play, love, joy. Right now, I am writing this while my kid plays downstairs with my partner. I am writing this because I just did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen instead of choosing to play. And for a moment, I was resentful. “Why does he get to be the fun one and I get to the one who does the work?” Simple answers…he doesn’t clean and make a big deal of it like I do. I choose the cleaning over the play. I choose the misery over the play.

Well Marie Kondo, I’m in. I choose tidying, I choose play, I choose sparks of joy. Here’s to tidying up over the next few weeks. I’ll share more on how it goes…wish me luck!