Monday, December 11, 2017

Adulting through Syrup and Sugar and All the Feelings

I have to work tonight because I have testimony tomorrow, so this will be short but it will bother me the whole time I'm working that I haven't updated the blog in too many days, so I'll pretend there are more hours in the evening than there will actually turn out to be.

at least someone is excited

[I tried to do the same thing last night and managed to only write out our meals for the week before giving up on the post, doing any real work, OR watching more of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel which is an AMAZING show and instead somehow wasted two hours before going to bed at 11:20 p.m. with nothing accomplished. I can't explain it. I did take a bath, but it was not 2 hours long. The hours between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. are a black hole of mystery to me these days.]

Kicking off this update I should share that last Thursday, the morning after I published the last post, began with Landon slamming open my door (can you slam open a door? Because that's what was happening) to yell at me for not purchasing popsicle sticks he apparently needed for school but never told me about. The morning devolved from there and ended with James losing his temper and driving Landon to school in shorts and short-sleeves on a 24-degree morning with the windows down because 10-year-olds have too many emotions and too few survival instincts and goddammit it was a rough morning. A morning I capped off by accidentally TAKING A SLEEPING PILL instead of the migraine medicine I badly needed after my 20 minutes of tweenage interaction.

A sleeping pill. At 8:15 a.m. On a morning I had to work.

The day did not go great. I moved as if I was living inside a vat of invisible syrup. This syrup also consumed my brain. Everything still worked, just slowly. Slowly and with stickiness. I was talking to a colleague at 3:30 and I literally felt the veil lift and the syrup drain away. Turns out, sleeping pills are set to last about 7 hours. Seems right and excellent timing since I had to get some freaking work done and then teach a barre class at 5:30. I had been talking to a friend earlier in the day who had seen Landon at school and was saying what an awesome kid he was and so smart and sweet and caring and I nearly yelled, "do you want him?! For a small re-homing fee he comes fully vaccinated and with many accessories." But I didn't, because my mouth was full of syrup and I couldn't form the words fast enough to seal the deal.

On Friday morning James had a counseling appointment and was like GOOD we can talk about something that isn't my parents. I was like, can you ask your doctor if Landon is a sociopath? Because every time he finally breaks me into pieces, like after hours of me being calm and reasonable and strong he finally just makes me cry in frustration and sadness because he's so randomly hellbent on ruining the day or whatever we're doing, so when I finally just cry, he fucking smiles and then skips out of the room like he's accomplished a great thing and now has joy in his heart and will then come back 5 minutes later being all normal and Landon-y and want to chat about what we're doing later that day and can we maybe get ice cream and I just stare at him with wide, broken, wet eyes and wonder where it all went wrong and if we should be worried he'll one day be on dateline.

James called me immediately following the appointment and opened with, "The good news is Landon's not a sociopath and he doesn't need therapy. The bad news is he's 10, he's acting like he's 10, and it's going to get worse and we just have to be better adults and change our behaviors because he is literally incapable of changing his right now."

So we're going to be better adults. We do not give orders. We give suggestions. We let him make his own decisions (even when they're dumb). We give him room to change his mind to a better one by not making him double-down on the bad choice in the face of our opposition. "It's 24-degrees outside. You might want to wear pants. Oh, you don't? Okay." We do not give cause/effect consequences when he's upset because his brain is no longer functioning and it's basically extortion; he cannot course-correct in that mode and you just have to leave. Don't make him make choices he will regret. Don't voice consequences you'll regret. Just leave. "It looks like you're getting upset. Yelling is not going to help, but I'd be happy to talk to you about it as soon as you want to. [leave the room]". Don't let him make you cry. I'm a "soft target" and that's why he's the meanest to me. Do not get wedded to an outcome and do not give him the power or burden of being able to ruin your day. "We're decorating Christmas cookies and would love for you to join us. [leave the room; enjoy decorating with the other 66.66% of your children.]" It is hard. It is SO hard. It is hard to make it seem reasonable that your child would purposefully set about to ruin something that is fun and important to you. It is hard to not give him the power to do so.

Saturday went well. It felt good to have a plan. It felt good to be on the same page, as James and I each silently shook our heads or made emergency "abort!" hand motions at each other over the head of the emotionally tornadic child to keep each other in check. Sunday was a bit of a shit show. It's like our little LandonRaptor woke up and decided Saturday went too well so he would push EXTRA hard to make us insane. By the skin of our teeth we hung in there. We were calm and spoke to him like he was an adult making a mildly regretful decision he might want to reconsider. He was redirected to his room and/or was abruptly left alone when needed. James had to walk him back on our family walk because he was sobbing in the street after Claire "looked at him like she was trying to make him mad." The girls and I pressed on. It was a bit like having a baby again; one of you takes the baby home while the other continues on with the fun activity. Landon missed a lunch out and 65% of our cookie decorating because he was busy yelling "I hate my life" repeatedly in his room. I did not do or say one thing I regret, I was calm and collected and a fucking adult the whole day, but we did not go see Santa as planned. I simply did not have the stamina. The wind might have blown the wrong way and moved a hair on his forehead and he would have had to emotionally blow up the Stockyards. It is hard to have so many feelings. I have hope they will start to settle now that his own feelings are all he has to deal with instead of our responses to them. We deal with those by holding hands and staring wild-eyed and silent at the not-yet-turned-on-TV for hours after he goes to bed.

I joke. Mostly. Around witnesses, at school, and/or in between emotional swings, he remains delightful. He's a great kid. He remains super academically responsible and independent. He's growing up. He can still be yours for that small re-homing fee. (hahaha... except for real, sort of)

Wrangler of the Month, 5 years running; no extra cost

But back to Saturday, the day we had a new parenting plan and we were able to surprise and flummox the tween with it. It was so nice. I got up early with my tea and my laptop and planned our meals for the week. I made my beloved sugar cookie dough. I went to a fabulous yoga class while James and the kids did the grocery shopping. I spent 100 hours rolling, cutting, and baking the beloved cookies.

As always, they were less beloved about 70% of the way through, but they got done!

James made another America Ninja Warrior course for the kids and more kids came to participate. He used the girls' giant stuffed unicorn as a battering ram to knock them off course.

We ended with beef burgundy stew I'd had cooking in the crockpot all day and all of us cuddled in the living room surrounded by twinkling lights watching Home Alone 2.

It was my favorite kind of day full of so many of my favorite things.

Sunday had some ups and downs, but I got to do some more yoga and spent quality time with the girls while Landon felt his feelings. We went on a long walk and then out for lunch. It was so nice. The girls were so sweet and fun and funny. It was nice to get away from the emotional maelstrom and enjoy them.

We went to Five Guys, a new place for them because I always forget we have one and we just don't eat out much anymore. Claire declared it the greatest meal of her life.

already inhaled the cheeseburger with tomatoes and ketchup, NO pickles

Cora had a lot of questions about why she's still "only four" and we spent a while discussing our favorite things and what we were most excited about for the holidays.

Later, my cookies were decorated. Claire gave me a festive headband and I vowed that I would be okay with the fact that Landon refused to join. And then I mostly was. My nostalgic childhood music was on (Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Whitney Houston; oh yes), my head decorations were on point, and the girls were so excited.

We got to work.

After a while, Landon came out to join and I'm glad for that. Turns out it's not so fun to stage a protest when no one comes to it.

James stepped up and decorated in to the double digits this year. I'm pretty sure he made exactly 10, but it's more than his traditional incredibly ornate 3.

Claire stuck with her usual few. Her enthusiasm was high and she was such a huge help setting up and cleaning up, she just wanted to talk about and eat the decorations more than she wanted to use them.

Cora decorated a total of five, but was thrilled with each one.

I caught her lazily licking her icing spoon towards the end so that was replaced and we had a discussion about germs. Much like 17th century medical professionals, she found the concept ridiculous.

As is traditional, I had to sacrifice my art for efficiency. I think I decorated 60? Mass produced sugary holiday magic right here.

I froze most of the cookies to take with us to Colorado in a couple weeks and I'm so glad because I inhaled five of the ones I put in a small counter container as soon as I got home from work. I have no control around these things.

I spent my Monday morning elsewhere in the metroplex for a witness interview and am taking testimony tomorrow in a different case, so I very much need to get working to prepare for that. I don't know how I used to work at night so often. Now I get home and by the time the kids are in bed I've been going non-stop for way too long and just need to sit on the couch within 3 feet of James to recharge while online browsing and re-reading a book on my kindle. I NEED that. Instead I'm spending tonight at the kitchen table with a mug of tea, my laptop, a binder of documents, a highlighter, and some sticky notes. ... and I'm blogging. This is law school level procrastination. Sigh. Time to act like an adult and read that 226 page contract I have to ask questions about tomorrow. It's 10 p.m. and I'll be on the record in 11 hours. At some point that reality is going to come crashing down.

But first, food! That's adultish! And then for real with the depo prepping.

Saturday: Crock Pot Beef Burgundy Stew, Mashed Potatoes

Sunday: Meaty Spaghetti (ground beef and some combo of onions, garlic, herbs, tomato sauce, and diced tomato to make something delicious), salad.

Monday: Skinny Chicken Enchiladas, refried black beans.

Tuesday: I'm taking testimony all day, so it's possible I'll come home and make a healthy dinner, but it's so unlikely I didn't even buy ingredients because we all know I'm going to R Taco.

Wednesday: Fried Rice (Trader Joe's frozen version + lots of extra veggies and fried egg thrown in)

Thursday: Fettuccine Alfredo with Prosciutto and Peas (one of my kids top 5 favorite meals; even cheese hating Landon. Prosciutto is powerful.)

Friday: Pizza, probably from Costco; let's not going to pretend this won't be a long week and really we'll just want to get through dinner to eat the rest of the cookies after.


  1. this is not making me hopeful...I have a 3 year old and 5 year old and my constant refrain is “if it gets any harder, please don’t tell me!” Ha!!

    Completely random question as I loved your Disney recaps...where did you guys stay? Did you just get a standard room? We are starting to plan a trip and oh my goodness I am floored by the hotel prices. Any advice?? Thanks!!

    1. Ha, I'm sure it's different for every combination of kid and parent. The early years were pretty wonderfully easy for us. I mean, there were tough or frustrating moments, but in general, the kids never fought and were easy-going and delightful 99% of the time. I feel like Landon is as shocked as we are by how difficult he is finding life right now. It's just our time. (I say philosophically over my glass of wine after the house has been quiet for more than 2 hours.)

      And I'm writing a post with Disney details! I could finish it if work wasn't getting in the way. I give you lots of info there, but in short, we stayed at Bay Lake Tower (part of the Contemporary) in a 1-bedroom villa suite and it was FABULOUS. Highly recommend.

  2. I am always so impressed with how late you can stay up, but working while under the influence of a sleeping pill is a whole new level of impressive. Good for you!.

    I really appreciate your honesty with the parenting struggles. It makes me feel like I am not alone in these battles and that other people have mostly sweet and awesome kids that sometimes make you cry, scream, etc.

    Also, thank you for your meals plans! They always inspire me. You are the best.

    1. Stephanie S.12/14/17, 10:52 AM

      Ditto. You strike the right tone in your writing (and I'm sure in real life, lol)... it's clear you delight in your kids, but are honest about the challenges. I really appreciate you sharing.

  3. Oh gosh Landon! This sounds exhausting and infuriating! I am going to store away the therapist's advice for if we need it later. His sweet face at the cookie table broke my heart! Growing up is hard. Also I offered to regime one of my infants to anyone who told me how cute he was too. Um, he is a terror between 10 pm and 8 am, but yeah I guess he is cute now.

  4. Oh, I so feel you with Landon. My six-year old was just diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder and it is exhausting! We are working to do many of the things you talked about... give suggestions/choices, don't make demands, don't feed into the tantrums... Because of the diagnosis, she is in therapy to also work on her own feelings. I can say that things are sloooooowly improving but in the meantime, it is just exhausting!

  5. I literally C&Ped the advice part of this and sent it to my DH, because our oldest is 9.5 and starting to have FEELINGS. I asked her the other day if she was running into a 2 year old again because of the tantrum she was throwing. (Not very adult-like). Thanks for the advice. I like the comparison to having a baby. It makes sense.

  6. Thanks for sharing about your struggles with Landon's feelings. I am going to re-read your strategy again and implement it with my 6 year old. He's having a lot of FEELINGS lately and I think I am dealing with them from the wrong angle. I relate to almost everything you wrote and appreciate you being so honest. I think this will help a lot of us going through the same thing with our kids.

  7. Yeah, fifth grade is a tough one. I thought age 11 / sixth grade was pretty delightful though. I have no idea what 12 was like because I've spent the whole time buying new clothes and shoes as he grew from a child to a 5 foot ten inch man child in size 12 mens shoes and sorting and storing the clothes & shoes I just bought yesterday.

  8. I so appreciate your honesty regarding parenting older kids. I'm very bad at not being a "better adult" and rise to the bait of my 8 year old far too often and the therapist's advice is very needed for me! Thanks for sharing it here.

  9. Right there with ya on the parenting of an emotional, volatile, strong-willed oldest child! It is SO exhausting. Except ours is 5, and I am terrified he will be this way for...forever. Of course out in the world he is absolutely fantastic and we wonder if people are talking about the same kid when we hear positive feedback. We use Love and Logic, Whole-Brain Child and escalation cycle techniques after working with a child behavioral therapist, which have made a huge difference for our family, but is SO draining to be giving choices and natural consequences and staying calm and refusing to engage in battles by walking away ALL DAY LONG.

  10. I've commented before, but not sure if I've shared that I have ten year old triplet boys who are a few months older than Landon (April birthdays). Let me tell you, I'm so glad you're sharing this (but not glad you're going through this). My boys seem to have turned into thirteen year old girls practically overnight. My husband and I think we're breaking them somehow. Fortunately, they aren't all behaving badly at the same time, so it's not triple the emotions, but it is non-stop. Being a better adult when you're exhausted and you want your fairly even-tempered love of a child back is so hard. It's hard to remember they are still little and emotionally very young when they come up to my chin and one of them has feet that are now larger than mine. I'm still not completely convinced that mine aren't sociopaths, but I'll trust you.

  11. I have a son who was a bit of a challenge for a few years...lots of strong feelings and a very strong will. The strategies you are using will pay off in the long run, and yes, you will survive! My now 22-year-old son said to me the other day, "I'm sorry I was such a jerk as a teenager!" Kids really do grow up to become fabulous people.

  12. I'm sorry to be laughing at Landon....but, yeah. Tweens are no joke. My 11 year old son can go from the most cuddly, sweet kid to raging dragon complete with sobbing in 2 seconds flat. And my 9 year old daughter- FORGET IT. I agree with all your coping mechanisms and have found them highly effective- things escalate so much faster when I get emotionally invested in the fight. I'm a big fan of natural consequences- don't wear a jacket, you'll be cold. Too bad.

    Read any good books lately??

  13. My son is profoundly gifted and was diagnosed at age five with ODD. He's 11 now. Oh, I feel ya. It is just so hard sometime. Keep your chin up!

  14. Stephanie S.12/14/17, 10:56 AM

    Reading this post and all the comments is both terrifying and comforting. I'm just in toddler-phase now (and struggling sometimes) and I appreciate the "real talk" about what may be in our future.