Our Beautiful Mess

For a while now, I’ve been pondering writing a blog post about stuff. All the stuff. How there’s just so much of it. Everywhere. And about the futility of trying to erase, structure or organize the stuff because it just multiplies, rearranges and disperses itself liberally all over the place, no matter how hard or how often you try to tame it. I was going to describe how the stuff makes me feel like I am out of control, unable to master it with the necessary formulae and discipline.

How every couple of months I go nuts and, armed with a trash bag I hurl sweeping armfuls of the stuff – no matter if it’s new, old, missing parts, Lego parts, home-made, store-bought, homework, artwork, party favor, more Lego parts, Happy Meal made-in-Taiwan piece of crap, even more Lego parts, plastic, paper, metal, recyclable, animal, mineral – into the bag and haul it off to the trash. Often several, large, misshapen bag loads before the overwhelming urge to trash everything gradually settles and the guilt creeps in. Was that wasteful? Did I “accidentally on purpose” just commit a cherished something to an early demise? Haven’t I really just made room for the next inexorable influx of stuff?

But I’ve had a change of heart.

I took a long hard look around my home, taking in every room, and I realized something. This mess, this unruly, chaotic mess, is our mess. It’s a complete reflection of our lives, replete with activity and creativity and disorganization and projects and presents. It mirrors how we are constantly on the move, producing, consuming and creating.

It’s a beautiful mess. And it makes me smile.

I’ll still try to organize it, filter it, minimize it. Sure, I’ll do a sweep from time to time to get rid of stuff no longer played with or used. Probably before birthdays and Christmas. But I’m not going to treat it like the persistent enemy, anymore. I’m not going to let it guilt or shame me.

It’s our beautiful mess.

p.s. Have you tried the A Beautiful Mess app? It’s very nifty. You can add doodles or scribbles to your photos. Here’s one I made earlier!

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p.p.s Also worth checking out, Jason Mraz’s A Beautiful Mess. I love it.

Parents versus Legos

I love Legos.

I love how they can hold my kids’ attention for 20+ minutes at a time, sometimes even longer. I love how my son intensely follows the directions to create fantastically-complicated Lego masterpieces, often within minutes of receiving them as a birthday or Christmas gift. I love how my daughter uses her imagination to create Lego dogs and cars and robots. I love how my son easily improvises, building complex, freeform Lego machinery, transportation and weaponry. I love how Legos engage both sides of their brains. I love the Lego store: not the prices, but rather the fun of the monthly Lego club, where kids work together to complete a Lego challenge. I love the monthly Lego magazine because my kids love reading it. I love how, when playing with Legos, my kids are not wrestling, squabbling over the iPad, whining for whatever, spilling milk, watching TV, writing on walls (OK, they don’t do that anymore), attempting to launch themselves off of furniture … and so on. You get the drift.

I hate Legos.

I hate that they are everywhere. Freaking everywhere! I hate that, as my kids get bigger, the Lego pieces get smaller and more numerous. I hate that Lego pieces have this way of breeding, like little horny plastic bunnies—and then liberally distributing their spawn over every surface of my home. Not to mention everyone’s “favorite”: unexpectedly treading bare-foot on a Lego piece. (I’ll bet many a child has learnt some colorful new vocabulary from their parents every time it happens.) I hate that a “quick” visit to the Lego store turns into a painful, drawn-out no-fest that disappoints and frustrates everyone. No, you can’t have that $700 Harry Potter Lego rocket launcher set. No, you can’t have that $70 Star Wars Naboo Lego set. No, your $5 won’t be able to buy you anything here. No, we can’t stay another three hours.

I’ve also discovered that there are two types of parents.

There are those organizationally-talented (OCD?) types that have the skills, equipment, time and patience to collect their kids’ gazillion Lego pieces and then  meticulously sort them by color, shape, theme, character, unit, dimension and purpose into designated, purpose-built storage units. And then keep them that way, no matter how often the kids remove said Lego pieces to build their next creation.

I wonder, do the parents themselves do all this sorting and organizing because they enjoy it? Because it fulfills some deep OCD need for order and control. Or is it because their kids won’t do it. Or maybe it’s because they have been pushed to the limits by all these blinking plastic pieces?!

So what about those other types of parents? Well, I fall into this latter category. Yes, I am organized, and sometimes a little OCD, about other certain aspects of domesticity, like the laundry and the dishwasher. But when it comes to the Lego litter, I am tortured, completely tortured and exasperated. Every which way I turn, there’s Lego!

Clean it up, you say. Not my job, I say.

I am NOT going to clean up my kids’ Lego chaos. After all, it’s their mess. (I often remind them about the time that Grandma actually vacuumed up our all Legos when we were kids and she had had it with the mess! Yes, it broke her vacuum but she said the satisfaction was worth it!) So either I take a chill pill and just accept it, or I get them to clean up their own Lego mess. I’m pulling for the latter.

But you’ll not find me maniacally sorting them, nor buying some expensive Lego storage unit. My kids can make do with our existing assortment of random plastic tubs. They can figure out their own system for sorting and organizing. I don’t care how as long as it’s all off the floor. And stays that way.

The only challenge now is to figure how to properly bribe—I mean motivate—them! We shall see.

I am NOT buying one of these

Kids versus Grown-Ups

We try to co-exist in harmony, but the plain truth is that opposing forces are at work. No wonder parents feel exasperated all the time while the kids just rolls their eyes at us. It’s as if they are from Mars and we are from Venus. Like powerful magnetic fields, we are drawn to each other until someone turns the magnet around and it does that weird avoiding you thing. And apparently, it’s our job to convert these strange creatures into law-abiding grown-ups.

While we parents slave at trying to keep things calm, orderly, socially-acceptable, pleasant, clean, polite and educational, they are doing the exact opposite, including:

  • Distributing teeny pieces of Legos all over the house.
  • Picking their noses and wiping it somewhere that you are likely to find hours later.
  • Not flushing the toilet.
  • Writing on walls
  • Yelling like Clone Wars invading banshees while you are trying to rest.
  • Really really really really really wanting to buy new toys.
  • Leaving dirty clothes wherever they happen to discard them.
  • Stuffing their faces with sugary snacks 30 mins before dinner.
  • Trying to fly ….
  • Pouring a big glass of milk and justing drinking a little sip of it.
  • Using the floor as a trash can.
  • Using their top or sleeve to wipe their mouth and nose.
  • Wearing your makeup.
  • Eating play doh.
  • Spreading [insert unsavory/messy item here e.g. powder, ketchup, diaper cream, lipstick, poop] wherever it’s not supposed to be spread
  • Bringing their worm collection into the house.
  • Saying “fine” or “whatever” and stomping off.
  • Waking up early when you want them to sleep late.
  • Sleeping late when you need them to get up early.
  • Eating Jello on the couch.
  • Creating light sabers or guns out of anything. Seriously, anything.
  • Squirting way too much ketchup on their plates.
  • Pushing each other’s buttons.
  • Ignoring instructions.
  • Stuffing their gobs too fast, then burping like a trucker.
  • Eating food slower than a snail. Molecule by freaking molecule (especially if you are in a hurry).
  • Default = I want.
  • Finding a Sharpie & writing on the couch ( despite the fact you have 100s of washable markets !

Sound familiar? What’s a parent to do?

If you are reading on, thinking you’ll find the answers here, then I am sorry to disappoint. Fear not though; the glass is half full. See here’s the best part: we are all in this together!

And at some point, somehow, they become adults, no matter our attempts at restraining their beastly ways.

10 Parenting Gratitudes

There’s nothing like a rainy Saturday for blogging. Especially when I am home alone with the kids all day. On days like this, I am usually challenged with figuring out what I am going to do to keep the little people occupied and entertained, rather than in front of the TV or computer. Sometime, if I am suitably motivated, I’ll research something going on locally or a museum trip and off we’ll go on an adventure. (However this requires a certain amount of energy and spontaneity that, in truth, I don’t always have on tap.)

Today is one of those days and I was fearful that we’d end up annoying each other with cries of “I’m bored” and bickering. However, much to my pleasure, the kids have been happily playing free-form imaginary games like “pretend I’m a Ninja and you’re a dinosaur and we’re stuck in a boat and there’s an evil witch on a sparkly rocket ship coming to get us ” or “pretend you’re Katy Perry and I’m Luke Skywalker and we’re on Tatouin and there’s a bunch of dwarf monsters after us but we have light sabers and the force is with us….”

And it struck me just how good I have it, especially at the ages that G & T are right now (7 & 5, respectively.) For this, I must remember to be eternally grateful. (I must also remember to revisit this post when the kids are in the throws of puberty and we all hate each other.) Like many others, I often find myself complaining, dishing out sarcasm or being wistful for life before kids but right now, I am the luckiest Mom on this planet and here’s why:

  1. I am grateful that G & T will happily play without me having to create/manage the game (or even participate, though I do of course from time to time.) They can occupy themselves for good chunks of time, either independently or playing together. Legos, puzzles, reading, board games, Pokemon, fort-building, dress-up, light saber fights, or torturing the cat. Long enough for me to take a shower or write a blog post without worrying about them killing each other, raiding the snack cupboard or getting up to other hi-jinx. If the result is a completely messed-up playroom with toys and legos distributed everywhere, then so be it – that’s a price for which I am also grateful!
  2. I am grateful that they are living in an society that is, for the most part, accepting of a broad spectrum of lifestyles and love choices. They do not question and are growing up without bias and prejudice.
  3. I am grateful that, in spite of the shocking cost of being a working parent, we can still provide well for them – but at the same time teach them that money doesn’t grow on trees; it must be earned and spent wisely. And that being charitable is just part of who we are.
  4. I am grateful that both my kids are learning to be open-minded (we have good days and bad days!) and that they are sociable, outgoing creatures who make friends and laugh easily.
  5. I am grateful, despite the fact that G won’t eat eggs and T won’t eat anything spherical-shaped or with a sauce, that they have good appetites, eat their vegetables, drink their milk and even enjoy fish.
  6. I am grateful that they are learning to be resourceful and self-reliant (which means they can not only do more for themselves but can also do more things for me!)
  7. I am grateful that they see their father as a man that contributes equally to the job of parenting and their mother as someone who follows a career.
  8. I am grateful that they know and love their extended family, despite that fact that we all live far apart. I am also grateful for the technology that lets us all be closer.
  9. I am grateful that, thanks to parenthood, I have met other parents and founded many wonderful friendships.
  10. I am grateful for their good health and active minds.

A Random Post About Circles

I’ve been thinking about circles lately. The way my life is full of them and what they represent, especially as a parent. In Judaism, the bagel symbolize the eternal cycle of life - and I guess eating one of them recently set me off on this trajectory of cataloging some of the circles in my life. Here are just a few:

  • Looping from room to room picking up Legos, socks, and other random stuff and them depositing wherever they supposed to be.
  • Hugs and more hugs.
  • My circle of Mom friends, so essential to my sanity.
  • The sparkling three rings I wear on my ring finger – marking our engagement, our wedding and our five year anniversary.
  • My Google+ Circles – not that I am using them much.
  • The daily drive to preschool, school, to the office and then back all over again.
  • The endless laundry – from hamper to washer to drier to closet to hamper to washer to drier to closet to hamper …
  • Holding hands around the dinner table on a Sunday when we each say what we are thankful for.
  • Target.
  • Waffles, pancakes, pizza, crackers, cookies – and of course, bagels!

Coming next, the impact of rhomboids on my life.

Just kidding.

Really.

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