Yoga: Staying Grounded Despite the Music

I switched to a new yoga studio. It took me a while, but it’s a really comfortable place, and challenging, and joyful. One big difference from my old studio, though, is that the instructors play music during the practice. Not just background yoga-type music. The music has words. Mostly this is fine and background and unnoticeable, but there was a moment in a recent class when the instructor played Send in the Clowns during savasana — corpse pose, a restful pose you do at the end of class in which you basically completely relax onto your mat and just let your mind drift.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to let your mind float when the song playing makes you think of sad circus accidents, like trapeze artists falling to their death into the sawdust below and someone saying to call in the clowns to distract the crowd. That’s what I’ve always thought that song was about (right? I mean, isn’t that where the expression comes from?). It turns out the song not about that at all (sorry, Sondheim), but I didn’t find that out until after class, when I went home and looked it up.

Last week I zipped out to a morning yoga class. And I literally zipped: thanks to the lack of traffic (and lucky timing on the traffic lights), I made it door-to-door in four minutes flat on my bike.

It was a crowded, sweaty class. This class happened to be unheated, but it was so packed and vigorous that I was quickly dripping sweat. I was flowing, I was working, I was centered, I modified half pigeon so as not to irritate my grumpy outer hip muscles, and then Landslide came on and I came undone

The melancholy tone of that song has always made me feel a little sad, but that day in yoga it caught me by hard surprise, tears suddenly streaming down my face as I tried to control my breathing and be present in the practice.

Some of you know some parts of my life, and some of you know other parts, and different groups I’m in know bits and pieces, but in short, I am going through some hard stuff right now. My family is. We’re working hard – – and it will take a lot of work, is taking a lot of work. By this time next year — or probably a lot sooner — we will all be feeling much better and be much happier. We’re OK, and we’re going to be OK.

I don’t know about this music-during-yoga-class, though. It’s distracting sometimes. But the yoga and the community? It’s exactly what I need right now, odd song choices or not.

Why I Look Haggard

Here’s how a typical night goes for me, though there are many variations:

Lights out by 11 p.m.

Husband wakes up around 3 a.m., goes to the kitchen for a snack. The sound wakes me up.

He comes back to bed. Cat comes in meowing. I pretend I’m asleep. So does my husband. He ignores the cat, who’s keeping me awake. I ignore her too. She swats at my toes a few times and stalks out.

I hear her push open the door to the kids’ room and meow fruitlessly at them. She clicks across the hardwood to the living room.

My husband is snoring by now. I tell him he’s snoring. Sometimes I hiss at him or shove his shoulder to wake him but on this particular night I simply tell him. He stops snoring.

Now I can sleep again, but there’s the creak of a door and little footsteps and here comes a child to snuggle in with me. “Why are you in here?” I ask, even as he curls up against me and I pull the covers over him.

“I was too cold to get under the covers,” he murmurs. I tell him I can bring him back to his bed and will put the covers over him. He’s already asleep again in my arms.

It’s nice, this snuggling, but there is so much breathing in this room. Child’s breathing. Husband’s breathing. Here comes the damn cat again.

I don’t have the energy to carry the child back to his own bed, so I leave him in mine and get up and go crawl into his bed. But first I must move my cell phone and charger, so the alarm will wake me (hah!) and unplug the filter of the fish tank in the kids’ room, because the noise keeps me awake, and turn off their nightlight.

Ah, bed. I forgot his pillow is hard and hurts my jaw because I like to sleep on my stomach. I don’t have the energy to get up and get my own pillow.

Tick, tick, tick, tick. The wall clock. It is loud. I try to incorporate the sound into relaxing back to sleep.

I give up and check my phone. 4:26 a.m. I might still fall back to sleep. I won’t give up yet.

4:55 a.m. Furnace kicks on directly below me. I might still go back to sleep!

5:23 a.m. I give up. I just give up. I might as well get up now.

I get up. And let the cat out.

Hello, Monday.

Grandmother Camp: Feeling Like Myself

This morning I stayed in bed until 8:30 a.m., got up and read and ate Indian food for breakfast (while reading at the table), then cleaned in peace. Once my husband got up, I blasted Tom Waits and kept on cleaning.

I feel more like myself than I have in years. I think the music helps. I haven’t listed to this album (Mule Variations) in years, and it’s one of my favorites. I hadn’t realized how much room the kids take up in so many ways, including expressing opinions on music, and they and my husband tend to control what we listen to .

Of course, I play the radio in the car, which is why my kids sing the line “Hey, sexy lady!” from “Gangnam Style” and know most of the words to “Hotline Bling” and “Exes and Ohs.” 

This week was school vacation week, and my kids were home. Home, home, home. I might remind you that I work from home. Home, home, home.

I had some childcare set up, mostly so I wouldn’t have to drag the kids to my first dry needling appointment, but she had to cancel due to a death in her boyfriend’s family (there have been a lot of deaths this past week, sadly). So I ended up bringing them to the appointment, with an iPad for one boy and my phone for the other, with instructions for them to set timers and trade devices after 20 minutes.

Yes, I would have loved it if they’d sat quietly reading books, or coloring or something, but I was going to be face-down with 25 needles in my butt and hip and really needed to know for sure that they’d stay occupied. And they were occupied. I could barely get them to look up when I said, “Hey kids, Mommy is a porcupine-butt! Look!” Wouldn’t you have looked up immediately?

They eventually did look, with expressions of awe, and I will pay for their therapy bills later, I promise.

I somehow met my deadlines, though Wednesday was a tense day, and Thursday morning, by prior arrangement, I delivered them to my mother (for what one of my brothers refers to as “Grandmother Camp”).

Until this week, I haven’t been without the children since…..since sometime last summer? For one night, maybe? And as I’ve been working from home since October, I have had so much time with them. We have no after school childcare for now, so it’s all me.

These past couple of days, though the house was oddly quiet, I have been very relaxed. Incredibly relaxed. I think I’m in a constant state of tension the rest of the time. And I was able to work until the unheard-of hour of 6 p.m., two days in a row, instead of having to wrap up at 2 p.m. as usual (I may have shocked my editor with how much I got done). I went out to dinner with a friend, spent an evening reading, watched a movie with my husband when we wanted to instead of having to wait for the kids to be asleep, and then enjoyed this morning’s peace.

We’re going to pick them up very soon, but this was a good reminder of what it feels like to be me.

Decluttering

Yes, decluttering is the talk of the town, with that Marie Kondo book (or “konmari method,” if you will) going around, having people fold their underwear in a vertical manner and thank each item before discarding it.

I live with a man who likes to keep useful things and two small children that show suspicious signs of his tendencies. And yeah, I am not exactly a minimalist (but I see nothing wrong with holding on to some tiny German plastic toy that my girlfriend sent me in college, right?).

Plus, decluttering is hard. I can get so hung up on all the different possible categories: trash, recycle, donate, sell, donate to the kid’s thrift store at the library, consign.

Exhausted just reading that, right? Whatever happened to “trash or donate”?

Somehow, I got over it. C took the kids sledding last weekend and I took the opportunity (it was a short one, due to a minor sledding crash that upset one participant) to lug out of the basement all the many half-sorted boxes of crap I’ve kind of gone through over the past few months.

My living floor covered, I quickly repacked the stuff into boxes, labeled them, and set them aside. Half were for general donation, half were for the kids’ thrift store.

I really like the kids’ thrift store (a store selling the second-hand kid and maternity stuff, games and gear and clothes, and it benefits a branch library and helps keep it open) but it is hard to donate there. The store has limited hours, and parking is tough, and if you have to donate more than two boxes of stuff, it’s a challenge.

I rethought my plan. Let it go, let it go. I get cards from different organizations that pick up donations, and I chose the Epilepsy Foundation (disclosure: I don’t know why I chose them except I could see on their site they have an actual thrift store I’ve heard of). Also, hey, it’s a good cause.

AND, they’re coming here to pick this stuff up. I don’t have to load it into my trunk and drive around with it for eight months until a parking spot at the library or Goodwill opens up. I don’t have to haul it anywhere except outside my door.

goodbye

I’ve culled the kitchen drawers, my closet (already pretty lean because of a recent clothing donation), the kids’ closet (ditto), and the basement several more times. I didn’t come up with much after the first go-round, maybe one more box of stuff. I went through bookshelves and everything. Our living space is pretty culled; it was the basement that needed a clean-out.

What’s left down there is stuff to throw out –boxes of papers and preschool art and that sort of thing — and “storage” stuff like holiday decorations and family heirlooms (the kind best packed away right now, since our apartment is small) and such.

I can’t wait to go through that stuff and trash/recycle as much as I can.

Oh, and bonus, I found a few things I’ve decided to sell instead of donate, and I realized that I could get credit for the books at our local Book Rack instead of donating them, so that’s another win (because the kids love that place).

Getting rid of stuff feels great. Of course, our living space still seems full of toys and Sunday paper and toothbrushes in the bathroom and all the snacks on the pantry counter and ALL THE SCHOOL PAPERS (WHAT THE HELL, SCHOOL, HOW MANY UNDONE WORD SEARCHES AND COLORING PAGES MUST YOU SEND HOME WITH MY KINDERGARTNER).

More About Guns: Daniel Boone

My second-grader has to write a book report, about a biography.

First of all, the kid just got into reading about two months ago, and now he loves to read, so I am not that happy that it has been made into a chore. How was it made into a chore? He was to take notes on sticky notes of all important events while he read, then transfer these to a notes chart. He now has to make a timeline of the person’s life and prepare a presentation for his class for next Monday.

Well. First he brought home a book about some soccer star, but the reading level was way above him, so I gently suggested something else, even a different book about the same guy. Then Max suggested George Washington.

I swear I was supportive of this. But at the library, I found a book about Daniel Boone at his reading level. I know George Washington is a fantastic historical figure, but Daniel Boone is pretty damn interesting, too. Max liked the idea.

And loved the book. He came out of his room the first day: “Mom! Did you know that when Daniel Boone was only 13 he could build a cabin with his bare hands and trap animals? And he helped the needy by giving extra furs to poor people?”

That’s my boy. But then we forgot about the sticky note thing (I thought he knew, so I didn’t mention it), so when he was several chapters in he had to go back and do all the sticky notes, which annoyed him, since he can’t exactly just skim the pages just yet, so I helped with that, and then he was on his way for the rest of the book, doing his own sticky notes and then making the notes chart.

All kinds of cool things happened to Daniel Boone: when he was a kid he went missing, and when a search party found him two days later he was calmly cooking his (hunted) dinner over a fire he’d built; he sold enough furs to buy his family a lot of land; his daughter was kidnapped by Indians (the book is obviously a little old, and I explained to Max the difference between Indians and Native Americans and why Native Americans here used to be called Indians), and Daniel saved her; and then in a war he got shot in the ankle; and one time he rode a horse so fast and too far and it died. Max was so into this book and this guy (and me too, frankly).

The teacher sent home some examples of creative timelines: a keyboard for George Gershwin, for example, and a cherry tree for (yawn) George Washington. So what is a key fact about Daniel Boone, the frontiersman? He learned to hunt at an early age and was such a sharpshooter that as a youth, people joked he could shoot a tick off a bear’s nose from 300 feet, so his rifle got nicknamed “Tick Licker.”

So if you’re going to make a creative timeline about Daniel Boone, do you draw a trap? A pelt? A log cabin? Or a rifle? (Probably a Kentucky long rifle, because yes, I looked into it, since I have been asked to draw the thing.)

Yeah. So my child will be bringing a big paper rifle into school on Monday, with 17 fascinating events from Daniel Boone’s life marked on it. And I fully support this.

What do you think? Good idea, because my son is really engaged with this book? Bad idea, because we are really jumpy about guns and schools right now? Tell me in the comments!

I Broke My Butt

Have you been wondering, “Gosh, she hasn’t mentioned a running injury in awhile!” Have you been thinking, “Gee, she hasn’t mentioned running on Facebook in some time!” (well, actually I’ve stopped doing that, for the most part, because I don’t want to be more annoying than I can be already)? Have you thought, “Gosh, does she even run anymore?”

I’m not running right now. The hip thing got worse. That tightness from last summer, the tightness that would kick in within two miles on a road run, the slowness, what I thought was hamstring or a tight hip or a glute or piriformis or WHAT? Of course, it was fine, for the most part, on trail, and miraculously fine for my ultra last month. But road running — and now all running — kills.

So I don’t know what it is. I stopped trying massage therapy and chiropractic — I’m a big fan of both, but if something isn’t getting better, then don’t mess around. I decided to see a physical therapist, who evaluated me thoroughly and figured out exactly in which ways I am f*cked up and how much (answer: several, and greatly).

There is a lot of work ahead of me. I finally got to the baseline of exercises they want me to do, but it left me with stabbing pain all night and today.

I did go for a run on my recent birthday, almost two weeks ago, even though I knew it would hurt, and it did, fire down the back of my leg by mile 4. Whatever, it’s my birthday, I need to go for a birthday run with my friend Justine!

But it was the beginning of the end, and I managed a slow and limpy run on MLK day, a very painful 4.5 miles, and that’s it, folks. Today I could barely walk the kids to school, and I cannot sit, and I had to lie on the floor all morning with my laptop to work, because sitting was very painful.

Then the pain vanished some hours later, which freaks me out, because what if it is a disk problem and not a hip-weakness-leading-to-pressure-on-the-sciatic-nerve problem? Can’t do much about it except continue with physical therapy for now.

OH, and also I started going to yoga again!! I finally tried the really great (it turns out) studio near my house, and it’s so good. It’s nice to stretch things again (yes, avoiding my piriformis, thanks) and I think it will really help.

But I am not running right now, so if I seem crazed and grouchy and dim, that is why. All I want to do is take off on foot for a few hours, and I cannot.

Stupid hip.

The First Words He Read

Reading has always been a big deal to me, in part because I love to read and in part because for my entire life my parents bragged endlessly that I started reading at age three.

Whatever. It’s not like I’m some wild success story. It just meant for a few years, I was in the gifted program at school and was reading way above grade level.

Anyway. So of course I was eager for my brilliant little snowflakes to become early readers. Which they did not. But just a few weeks ago Max came home from school with a book and asked for “some quiet time” so he could read, and he’s been reading ever since. Like, small bed light on at night, after lights-out, so he can keep reading. I’m thrilled but kid, you need your sleep!

Young Ben has been increasingly interested in letter sounds and tonight got out of bed to find me in the living room (he’s annoyed that his father went out with a friend to see the Star Wars movie). I ignored him, so he looked at the portable power supply I recently received for my phone.

“Puh,” he said. “What sound does ‘O’ make again?”

“O-W together sound like ‘OW’,” I said.

“Wait, that’s not an ‘O’! It has a line through it, so it must be a ‘G’,” he said. The “O” was made to look like an on/off switch, a circle with a vertical line, and I explained that it really was supposed to be an “O”.

“Puh-ow-er,” he said. “Power.”

“WHAT? Did you just READ!!??? You READ that!!,” I said. He beamed. I mean, he beamed.

“Buh,” he said. “What sound does ‘A’ make? No, wait. Buh-ah-nn-k. Buh-ank. Bank.” He grinned.

Holy sh*t, child, you can read. I had thought we’d start with easy readers, but sure, let’s start with, you know, tech gear. “You can read, Ben!” I said. “Wow! You sounded that right out!”

And then the happy proud boy climbed onto the sofa behind me and fell fast asleep.

*For what it’s worth, Stonyfield sent me the Power Bank kit as a holiday gift. Thanks, Stonyfield!

Asking About Guns

I live in a nice town just outside of Boston. We don’t have a gun culture here. We don’t have a hunting culture here. Do we ask about guns before sending our kids on playdates?

I grew up in a state with a hunting culture, but it felt like more of a trophy-hunting culture than a hunt-for-meat sort of thing. I had my opinions about hunters and hunting, mostly (I admit) from my father.

Then I moved to rural Maine. I worked on a construction crew. Though I’d trained in restoration carpentry, in Maine I ended up with an excellent contractor and his wonderful crew. It was new, super-energy-efficient construction, and Leon was kind of a perfectionist. Just the other day I painted a shelf to hang on my wall and thought, Jeez, Leon would have a conniption about these brush marks.  Let’s not even talk about the paint drips. Leon wouldn’t let us do anything sloppy: framing, roofing, finish work, painting. You did it perfectly. After a brief time on a sloppy crew, it was nice to be with a perfectionist again, but it was tough. Framing? You’d better toenail those studs just right or you’d be pulling the nails and starting over. Finish work? I wasn’t even allowed to do it on his crew; that was up to Steve and Mark. I was one of the painters, once we got to that point, after framing, sheathing, roofing, hanging drywall.

Anyway. So now I live in the city and conventional wisdom (or mom blogs, or Today.com, or whatever) suggests you ask fellow parents about guns before sending your kid over for a playdate.

In a part of the country where I think it’s safe to say the “mommy wars” have bright embers, guns seem the least of our issues.

(Also, yeah, at this point in our nation’s history, while child death by accidental gunshot at a suburban friend’s house still occurs, I do NOT think that is the biggest of the gun threats in this country. Have you read the news in the past two years? Yeah.)

My older boy had a recent playdate at a friend’s house for the first time. I wasn’t entirely comfortable, but guns weren’t what I was worried about. It was hard to articulate my concerns (mostly, we just didn’t know the parents well, and the mom wouldn’t be home). I decided in the end not to ask about guns (go ahead, judge me — I asked the questions I thought needed to be asked and made sure we were all comfortable).

My younger son has a playdate this week. The mom emailed me:

Also, I always ask this when he goes to a new friend’s house — do you guys own any guns, and if you do would you be comfortable telling me how or where they are stored? Your answer won’t impact my decision to have ——— come over on Friday. We don’t own any guns in case you wanted to know the same thing for when —— is here next week.

Oh! That’s how it’s done! I wasn’t put off at all, and though it frankly feels odd in this part of the country to be asked about guns, I get it and am happy she asked and it makes me feel better about asking other parents.

Except this is tricky. “Do you own any guns.”

So no, there are no guns here. I lived in rural Maine for three years and the great men I worked with were, for the most part, hunters. For meat, not for trophies. They knew and respected the woods better than anyone I knew. So when my boyfriend at the time gave me an antique rifle for Valentine’s Day one year, I was thrilled. And on Opening Day (of deer season), I was out there in the woods before dawn, despite the entreaties of his mother and sister to join them in town for the annual opening day early-bird shopping. No thanks.

I put on my long johns and filled my thermos with hot coffee and went out in the woods, on the other side of the road from where Todd was setting up, and I found an intersection of two deer paths and I settled in and waited. I’d had plenty of target practice in in their back field and really enjoyed shooting clay pigeons.

It was gorgeous in the Maine woods as the sun rose, going from dark to almost light to lighter to gray light to light. I smoked a cigarette. I poured myself some coffee. I pulled out my journal. I wrote about the woods, the light, about how amazing it was to be out there at dawn. I smoked another cigarette.

So of course I didn’t see a single deer. Maybe they don’t like the smell of coffee and cigarettes. When I later moved to Boston I brought my old Sterling 30-30 with me. And then I found out about the gun laws and panicked and went to a nearby gun shop to buy a trigger lock and the following weekend drove to Connecticut to put the gun in my brother’s gun safe. This was in 1999, and to my knowledge the gun is still locked in that gun safe. I haven’t seen it (or, obviously, used it) since then.

The mom hadn’t asked if we had any guns in our home. She’d asked if we owned any guns. I had to be honest, right?

We do not have any guns here. [Full disclosure: I do own a hunting rifle from when I lived in rural Maine, but it is not here — it is stored in a locked gun safe, with a trigger lock on the rifle itself, at my brother’s house in Connecticut and has been there since 1999 (I haven’t even seen it since then!).]

*Sigh* Do I really need to disclose that I own a 30-30? My aim is probably crap at this point, though I would love to have a freezer full of venison.

I’m glad she asked. Just ask. You don’t know if one parent is into shooting at the range and is sloppy about gun storage. Don’t assume just because you live in a nice suburb in an area where no one hunts that someone doesn’t have a gun. Gun ownership has nothing to do with hunting culture at all.

Just ask. We’ll all feel better.

IKEA With the Whole Family in an Hour

We had to go to IKEA yesterday. We need a couch, and I’ve had it picked out for ages, but we just needed to go make sure (and to figure out which fabric color would go with our outlandishly flowered armchair, which I really like). We somehow don’t have a swatch from our armchair (hey, Michelle!) so I had to bring the entire seat cushion with me.

“Minimum three hours,” my neighbors teased when I told them what our afternoon plan was.

“No way,” I said. “We know what we want and will just zoom in and get it.” I promised to pick up their requested cloudberry jam and caviar paste, and they smirked at my confidence about the speed of our trip.

Plus, Max wanted to go to a particular park/historic site today, and honestly, we could have done it. We could have.

We could have left at lunchtime and eaten at IKEA, but I thought it made more sense to eat at home to prevent meltdowns. I made lunch for all.

We missed the exit. We got there 17 minutes later than expected. Ben was hungry. He wanted a pretzel but they didn’t have any at the hot dog stand so we went up to the cafe. Oh, but C wanted a hot dog, so after we got Ben his food and sat down, C headed down to the hot dogs except he went the wrong way, walked through the entire showroom, and then found a long line when he got to the hot dog place. So he came back up, got in line in the cafe, and got food … which he started eating just as Ben was finishing.

That’s OK, everyone! Let’s sit here in these tiny chairs watching Big Hero Six without sound in the IKEA cafe! That’s cool!

*****

Oh, did I forget to mention that everyone was hungry when we got to IKEA because we had stopped at Jordan’s Furniture first, and they have the old Enchanted Village that used to be at Jordan Marsh? Imagine life-sized (well, maybe 3/4 scale) scenes of Victorian shops and homes at Christmas time, with mechanized figures. It was amazing (and yeah, very slightly creepy). And snow fell on us — there were snowblowers up high in the corners. It was enchanting, and free, and the last day of the exhibit, and we just kind of stumbled across it.

Then we wandered through approximately 19 acres of sofas. At some point, in perhaps the second or third room of all-leather couches and dark furniture, I felt like I’d stepped into General Zaroff’s sitting room (remember that book The Most Dangerous Game?) minus the trophy animal heads.

There were beach-cottage-feeling rooms and contemporary rooms and all kinds of sample set-ups of living rooms.

There were too many sofas, and we only liked a very few. Plus with two kids it was kind of hard to tell anything. Ben would say, “Try this one,” and then after I sat down he’d say, “Now try it with a boy in your lap,” and climb into my lap, which was adorable and fairly accurate about how we use sofas.

*****

We finally headed on to IKEA, by which time everyone was hungry (see above). Despite having read How to Survive a Trip to IKEA in Ten Easy Steps, I was optimistic.

The kids refused to go to Smaland, the playroom where you can drop your kids off. I didn’t expect them to want to go there (they’ve never been) but it was worth asking them.

Everyone and their partner bumped into the big upholstered cushion I carried, which sure didn’t make me grumpy at all. We couldn’t decide on a sofa even though C and I had agreed on one before the trip. Somehow it looked different — sloppy — in person. We looked at every other sofa there but none seemed quite right.

I gave up. No sofa for us. We collected the items our friends had asked us to pick up and headed home, several hours later than I’d hoped to, sofa-less.

I didn’t tell my neighbors they were right.*

*In our defense, not all that time was spent at IKEA.

Creating A Star Chart for Kids

We’ve needed a star chart for a long time. “Just find clip art!” someone (a teacher? therapist?) told us brightly. “Just make one!”

For tired and overwhelmed (and hey, design-challenged) parents, “just finding clip art” can be a daunting task. What clip art? Where do I find it? What do I need to put on the chart? Also, our brief experience with a potty training chart hadn’t been encouraging (not the chart’s fault).

This has, of course, come up again in a recent meeting. Last year the preschool had a neat chart they’d put together. They wouldn’t give us a copy, despite all the meetings and tuition payments and looks of defeat on our faces. Nope, we had to come up with our own.

Fast-forward a year, and we’re told the teacher might share a “home-school chart.” I started to think, again, about all the times we could use a star chart. The morning hell. The after-school routine. Bedtime bedlam. General behavior, table manners, the few small chores they have. WHERE DO WE START?? We also don’t want to have charts everywhere like some kind of maniacal control freaks. Just one small chart to start, please … but one that really meets our needs.

I hit the Internet harder than ever. And found the solution. It’s a site called GoMommyGo.com and frankly it’s kind of a noisy site. But it is extremely useful. You can either download one of the pre-made charts on the site or give the site your email (that’s right — that is all you have to do) and download your own customizable chart. Yes. For FREE you get a word document with a chart format AND a ton of clip art, organized into topics, that you might need. Everything for the morning routine! For after school! Chores! Bedtime! Prayers, washing windows, feeding the cat –you name it, there’s clip art here for you to use!

The chart we downloaded has five rows. That’s good. That’s all a kid can handle sometimes. We settled on a morning routine chart, since 1) mornings are a really hard right now and 2) if we start the day well, maybe the rest will be better?

I made and printed the chart (had already bought shiny star stickers at Staples, but you can probably get them at any drugstore or office supply store). Then we went over it with the kids. If you do something (get dressed, brush teeth) after being told only once, you get a star (you get two stars if you do it without being told). If you get ALL your stars in a day, you can have iPad time or some other child-suggested-in-advance treat after school. If you get all your stars in a week, you can have —

— “A HAMSTER!!!!!” Ben shouted.

Aw jeez no. He’d stopped mentioning it months ago but I guess he still wants one. Ugh.

“Uh, we were thinking some other kind of special treat, like an ice cream party at home, or going out for slushies, or going to see a movie,” I suggested.

“Yeah, a hamster might be after three months of all your stars,” said C.

“No, a week!” said Ben.

“Maybe three weeks,” I said.

[NOTE: SORT THIS STUFF OUT WITH YOUR SPOUSE BEFORE YOU INTRODUCE THE STAR CHART TO YOUR KIDS. Also, don’t forget that if you turned on the boiler fill valve before you started a load of laundry, make sure you TURN IT OFF before you forget all about it and come back upstairs to go over the star chart with your family, unless you really love wasting water, flooding your basement, and hauling buckets of water to drain the boiler. Trust me on this. Also, our boiler turned out to be fine — as our neighbor said, noticing me pouring five-gallon buckets of water on the lawn in the dark, “it’s like an enema for your boiler.” Yes.]

First day, Max tried hard to do everything without being told, which is pretty normal for him. Ben, on the other hand, thought he should get a star for “get dressed” even though C dressed him after we’d spent 25 minutes trying to get him out of bed, because … well, I’m not sure why he thought he should get a star for that, honestly. I still don’t.

The next day went better, as did the day after that. And tonight before bed they reminded me to print a new chart for tomorrow.

Wow. So easy. The chart, and getting them to follow it. Maybe we should also introduce a bedtime chart. The site makes it very easy to make one.

So if you think you need a star chart and don’t know where to start, try gomommygo.com (and ignore the site noise). It’s so helpful!