Goals and dreams and planning and my kids and our team

I thought I'd check in about how it's going with the 2013 Your Incredible Year Life Workbook that I talked about getting and using back in December. This is not that linear, but bear with me.

It's been an interesting experience, and totally worth it. First of all, I finally finished fillling out all the sections in the Life workbook (except the tarot thing at the end because I'm not into tarot) Monday, January 28. (I'm going to start the Business version of the workbook tomorrow, and take it slow and easy like I did the Life version.) The way it's structured, I don't feel like I'm behind at all.

Even with only a few sections "complete" (and I put that in quotes because I've left a lot of room in all the sections for me to add things if they come up later), I've still started seeing results. I posted this in the Facebook group I started for Ask Moxie readers who are doing the workbooks:

feel like some progress toward my goals is happening almost as if by
magic. But I've figured out what's really going on:

1. When I wrote
out the steps in my little to-do book, that put them in my brain. Not
in the front part, but sort of hanging off to the side quietly.
2. When I come to a thought or decision or possible action that relates to one of those steps, I notice.
3. Then I can make the decision or write down or develop the thought or
whatever. And it's not a big deal, because I was going to take SOME
kind of action right that minute anyway, right? Only now I know which
thing to do because it hits on a goal step.
4. I'm not expending more energy than I would have, but I'm making progress on my goals.

Then someone else in the group said:

5. Making progress on your goals gives a shot of additional energy which fuels the process over and over again.

YES. It's cool, because I'm feeling like this is much less effort than I thought it was going to be, but stuff is cooking anyway. Before I just had these vague thoughts of what I wanted to do, but only the things that were truly survival mode ever got operationalized. Now, I've stepped out all the steps for the stuff on my list, even the seemingly frivolous stuff. Evidence of that is that I'm going to Punxsatawney on Friday to see Groundhog Day on Saturday morning. Also, I'm more than 10% of the way to my goal of going to 100 barre classes this year, and we're not even out of January. I'm just having an easier time prioritizing, even when the things I'm prioritizing are "optional."

Also, I printed out another copy of the Life workbook to do with my kids. I thought it would help us be a team, to close out what we accomplished last year and make some Goals and a list of Things To Do in 2013. They were so intrigued by the idea of assessing what happened last year and then making lists of what we wanted to have happen this year, what we wanted to learn, what we wanted more of and less of in our lives together.

One of the things we decided was that we wanted to take advantage of living so close to Detroit by going in once a month. So we used our day off school yesterday (it was an inservice day for teachers) to go into the city. We planned to tour the Renaissance Center and ride the People Mover and eat lunch downtown. Part of that was going to be going up to the 72nd floor of the Ren Cen to see all of Detroit and Windsor, Canada. But the weather yesterday was crazy foggy, like a big cloud over all the region, so the Ren Cen wasn't going to be so much fun. We called an audible and went to the Detroit Institute of Arts instead, and it was fantastic. The kids loved the hall with the suits of armor (and discussed the logistics of groin protection in suits of armor), we spent a lot of time looking at the Diego Rivera murals, my older one spent a ton of time in the Greek and Roman room, we watched a freaky video about a combustable Rube Goldberg contraption, I saw the excellent photography exhibit of Detroit "then and now," and we pretended we were 18th century French aristocrats up on the third floor. It was an easy, fun trip (although I did get completely lost in Detroit on the way home for a bit), and now the kids know how close we are to Detroit. We're trying to decide what to see in February.

But back to the just-me aspect of the workbook. One of the ideas that we're exploring in the Facebook group is giving
ourselves permission to have goals that are outside our usual spheres of
influence, and noticing when we hit stuck spots that feel like too much
resistance. One of the things I've noticed is that now, if I'm feeling resistance in one area I can flip the page and work on another area until it untangles itself in my mind.

So, my assessment: It's not magic, and it requires solid thought, but there's a real structure there that sets the stage for action. And it's not too late to work on 2013 at all (see my plan to start the Business workbook this week). A bargain at $10. What do you have to lose?

Link to buy and download the workbook(s)

Link to the FB group for people working on the workbook(s).

Links to my Goals and Mottos boards on Pinterest.

If anyone who's been doing the workbooks wants to report in on how it's going for you (like, say, Julie), please do!

Pareto Principal for parents

Pareto Principal: You may or may not have heard it called that before, but it’s the 80/20 rule, which seems to pop up in every area of life: 20% of your clients give you 80% of your business, you wear 20% of your shoes 80% of the time, etc.

It’s a useful tool for prioritizing, because if you can figure out what the most important 20% of whatever is, then you can get 80% of whatever you need to get done done.

I’ve started using it to think about how to streamline my parenting life. I figured out that 20% of the stuff I was doing in parenting was causing me 80% of the stress I was feeling parenting. Once I was able to identify that 20%, I could decide what to do about it: stop doing it, outsource it, suck it up and keep going while allowing myself to dislike it, or wait it out.

Let me show you how it worked in my life. I identified that my 20% consisted of two things: 1) keeping track of all the stuff (baby wipes, Legos, socks, underpants, socks, sippy cups, socks, mittens, socks, and socks), and 2) having to pay attention all the time and not having enough solitary thinking time to myself.

Right around the time I realized this, #2 started to resolve itself because my kids were old enough to be in school and I had a long enough subway commute that I got enough solitary thinking time in to keep myself on an even keel. (Weekends, though, could be tough, but I realized that so I could deal with it.) So I unwittingly waited it out.

#1 I did a combo of outsourcing and waiting it out and sucking it up. As my kids have gotten older there’s less stuff to manage (no wipes, and they’re moving to electronic toys and Legos only so there are fewer parts of things around my house in general), and I’m shifting some of the management to them (socks, although not along the whole value chain, which may be a project for this summer). And then I just realized that I am not good at managing stuff and that doesn’t make me inadequate, it just means managing stuff isn’t my thing. So if I can keep a decent handle on it I can cut myself some slack.

Figuring this out and mentally processing my 20% took a lot of the stress off me. It may be time for another round, in which I look at what the new 20% of stuff causing 80% of parenting stress is, in fact.

Think about it. What’s your 20% that causes you 80% of your parenting stress? Can you process that 20% into either stop doing it, outsource it, suck it up while hating it, or wait it out?

6-year-old rage

Lora writes:

"My 6 year old (he turned 6 in November, is in kindergarten) has always
been energetic, friendly, helpful, and generally happy.  Over the past 2
weeks or so, his mood has really started changing.  He's become much
more aggressive, back talky, tells me he hates me all the time, and
completely unpredictable.  His sleep is normal, he is in a phase where
he's eating like a teenager, he's doing fine at school and mostly fine
at his after school program.  Last week he got sent home from his after
school program for kicking a teacher and the next day he kicked a
student.  He's always been very energetic, but never showed any
maliciousness.  Thursday and Friday were good days, so maybe that was
just temporary.  But at home he's really acting out.  I'm trying so hard
to maintain some composure and set limits, but his unpredictable rage
and my feeling of walking-around-on-eggshells is really wearing me out. 
Is this normal?  I really hate to put this in writing, but it's been
consuming my brain — could these be signs of bullying or some sort of

Six is not a known jerky stage. Seven is, but six is often a repreive year, in which they can do a lot and have more emotional reserves–in other words: equilibrium.

That's not the case for all kids, of course, but many of them seem to have "a good year" at six (better than five and certainly better than seven, at least).

There is something that made you write to me and something that made you mention the bullying or abuse, and you're good to follow your mom spidey sense. It does seem like maybe something's taxing him. I don't think it's necessarily as serious as abuse or bullying, though. It could be changes that are making him work so hard to process them that he has nothing left for social graces or mood control in afterschool or at home.

Things I'm thinking about could be things like having his seat changed in class so he's next to someone he has conflict with, learning new skills at school that he's not confident about and is struggling with, some new kind of food he's ingesting at school that has something that's irritating his system (artificial dyes or sweeteners would be my first guesses), something other kids are talking about that are scaring him (movies or tv shows or stories). Or bullying on a scale that wouldn't be serious for an older kid. (Remember when some kid tried to bully my older son about his dad and I being divorced? My son just laughed at the wannabe bully, but a 6-year-old might not be able to shake something that level of dumb off.)

But it feels like there's definitely something going on. You know this isn't your fault, so see if you can switch out of "taking care of it" mode into detective mode to see if you can figure out if there's anything new in the timeframe you've noticed the changes in. Talk to his teacher and aftercare caregivers to see if there are new kids in the program or any other kinds of changes. Look methodically at anything external that could be stressing him out, and be prepared for it to be something small that wouldn't stress out an adult or older kid.

Has anyone else been in this situation? Or did you have a child who went through disequilibrium at 6 instead of 7? What am I missing as things for her to look for?

7-11/40: Some fun things are easier than others

Flowers 7/40: On Wednesday, I bought myself flowers, which I almost forgot to do, but then went back into the store to buy. I got these tulips, because I love tulips, but then when I got home I realized I don't own a vase anymore. I used my largest drinking glass.

8/40: I took a bath, but did't really feel like I had time (too much reading for school and I didn't want to get my case studies wet) so I cut it short. It was nice, but a little perfunctory. Maybe I'll take more baths after I graduate.

9/40: Had lunch with my best friend from school, at school, because we were both there for a conference she'd helped organize. That was more fun than the flowers or the bath.

10/40: Wiped out on this one. I had school from 9-5:10, and we had a team lunch that we worked through, so I didn't end up drinking.

11/40: I spent some time in my pjs watching FA Cup soccer, but then got to have breakfast with a friend who came into town at the last minute, so that was worth getting out of pjs for.

Here's what I'm figuring out: Scheduled fun starts to feel obligatory. I prefer to do things on the fly when the opportunity presents itself. Also, I need to get a vase.


3-6/40: Trip with friends

This is what was supposed to happen:

January 19: Have dinner with my college friends (on an island!).

January 20: Drink a pina colada with my college friends.

Janaury 21: Do a pilates class with my college friends.

January 22: Go to the beach with my college friends.

And that all did happen! My friends from college and I planned a trip to celebrate all of us turning 40 last year and this year. There were six of us (two couldn't go) and we picked Puerto Rico because it's a reasonable flight and still in the States so no customs or paperwork. (I also went on miles so I spent a total of ten US dollars for my flights. I. Know.) I'd been there 10 years ago with my then-husband and then-1-year-old, so I knew what to expect.

And I had way more fun than I expected to. This was the most relaxing vacation I've been on in ever. We spent the entire day, every day, lying on shaded beach chairs on the beach reading trashy magazines and talking the entire time. We ate dinner together three times, drank innumerable pina coladas and sangria and cafe con leche, and just relaxed with the women we'd known for over 20 years.

At one point I realized that the nice thing about being with old friends is that we spent the entire time complimenting each other.

We decided on the second day that we were fools not to have done this sooner. So we're planning to go somewhere every year for a long weekend. For the rest of our lives. I'm pretty excited about it.

(Oh! AND. I took a pilates class with Mark at It's Yoga in Ocean Park in San Juan on Monday morning, and he got me to do a roll-up! I haven't done a roll-up (you lie down on your back with your hands over your head and then come up to a sitting position using your abs, while keeping your hands up over your head) since before I got pregnant with my now almost-11-year-old. I think all the deep ab work I've been doing in barre class plus the way Mark (who is an excellent pilates teacher) explainedd it just made sense. I came up on the first one and was completely shocked. Then I did it six more times for good measure. And then once again on the bed in my room to show one of my friends. It was an MLK Day Miracle.)


I’m back. What happened?

Some of you know that I was gone for four days with my friends from college for a trip celebrating our 40th birthdays. I was in Puerto Rico, which I can't recommend highly enough (last time was there I was married and had my then-1-year-old with me–this trip was less stressful). I'll tell you about the trip when I write up days 3-6 of the 40 Fun Things project. I have to catch up with about 200 pages of reading for class tomorrow first, though. (Scroll down to see what I bought for day 2.)

In the meantime, what happened to you while I was gone? Aside from the entire North American continent freezing over, I mean.

2/40: Buy something just because I liked it

I was gone all weekend and am catching up, on life and on reporting in on my Fun Things.

2617901_11168924-plwfr2_b I bought this Double Mermaid throw pillow. The drawing is by writer-director and illustrator Carolyn Raship, a real-life friend who writes Caviglia's Cabinet of Curiosities and draws. She draws all the time, at home and on the subway, and she draws phantasmagorical things, like mermaids, and monsters, and mermaids with monsters, and robots.

I love the image on this pillow because I feel a lot like this these days, free and flowy, kicking my flipper around as my hair streams behind me as I swim through life.

I love the image so much that when I saw it not only did I make the impulse purchase of the pillow, I decided that the next place I live needs to have an office, and I'm decorating the office around this pillow.

1/40: Mani-pedi

Back when I lived in NYC I'd go get a mani-pedi once a month, at least. It's so cheap there, $20-25 for both together if you go on a Monday through Wednesday to your local corner shop. It was a way to still feel pretty, even when I wasn't, and still feel like I could treat myself, even when I really couldn't.

I can't ever keep my nails nice. If they're not painted I bite them, and if they are painted they chip. So I tried the Shellac a couple of times and liked it, but then I moved here to Michigan and getting my nails done is way more expensive. So I rarely do it here, although I do try to give my toenails and fingernails a swipe of color at home sometimes.

So my going to get a mani-pedi last night was like visiting an old friend, even though it was a nail shop I hadn't been to before. I'm going to the beach with my best friends from college for four days–no kids, no significant others–so I decided to get Shellac on my fingernails (otherwise they'd be chipped before I even got to the plane). Here's what happened:

40 1

My fingernails are Shellac Midnight Swim. I'm a fan of navy on my nails, but this is a dark midnight blue with a bit of sparkle. My toenails are OPI Senorita Rose-alita, which is a pink with gold in it. Yes, my hands and feet are that pale.

It felt good. And now my nails are pretty again!

Feeling defeated about failure to thrive

My friend S just found out that her 2 1/2-year-old is being officially diagnosed as Failure To Thrive. He is a happy, connected kid who is hitting all developmental milestones, and is ahead of things verbally (in two languages). His caregivers at daycare give him glowing reports and he's just generally a funny, engaging kid. But he's not gaining weight.

For years she and her husband have been trying to get extra calories into him, but he's still not gaining weight the way her doctor wants him to. He's always been on a low curve percentile-wise but is falling off that curve, and his head circumference isn't growing like it should, and his height is lagging, too.

I recommended a) a second opinion, and b) finding out if he has food allergies or sensitivities that could be preventing him from gaining weight.

I know some of you have dealt with this and would love both some suggestions of things for S to look at, but mostly some encouragement. She's feeling completely defeated and inadequate as a mother at this point, and needs some help.

Getting a spouse to do his share?

Confession: I am always tempted to start each post by addressing you as "Hey, loveys." Which is how I greet my friends, kids, and cats, and other mammals I like. So if it slips out some time, it's just because I like you.

Today's question is from Alicia:

"I would like to ask your readers for
advice on how to get your spouse to be a more equal partner. I do almost
everything in the house. Early in our relationship, my husband informed
me that he didn't care if the house is clean and that if I care, I
should clean it. And I should probably have known this did not bode
well for the future, but I was 26. Now I am 51 and we have two kids. If
I ask him for help, then I am nagging. I do all the dishes, almost all
meals, grocery shopping, paperwork, laundry, errands, and more than half
the childcare. Plus I work full time. He does fun things with the kids
but I do all the schlepping to doctors, buying clothes, all the things
that are not fun.

I would love to regain that youthful
ardor/affection in our relationship, but first I really need him to take
some of the load off my shoulders. I'm often so exhausted I feel sure
at times I am going to get sick and die. We've talked about it in
counseling but everything he has agreed to do he almost immediately
stopped doing after about a week.

He is also incredibly resentful
that we don't have enough sex and especially adventurous sex. He would
like to have sex 2-3 times per week. We're lucky most weeks if we have
it once. We have gone more than a month without.

The Mommy workload vs sex equation is completely messed up in our relationship.

Please help! I would love especially to hear from people who have been there and who figured out how to turn it around."

Since you've talked about it in counseling, and are in counseling, I'm going to assume that your husband realizes how hurtful this is to you.

What I'm going to say is based on the negotiation techniques I've learned in business school and in life, and is based on the terminology in the book Getting To Yes (a classic, and also a fast, chunkable read):

You need to know three things: What you really want (your "ask"), what's the least you'll accept (your "reserve"), and what your alternative is if you can't make an agreement (your "best alternative to negotiated agreement" aka "BATNA").

It feels to me like in this specific situation, your BATNA is the part you need to clarify. Right now you're just living with not having an agreement, so in some ways your BATNA is the status quo. But it doesn't sound like you want to live that way anymore. Which involves clarifying your boundaries and then making them a priority.

I was talking about boundaries and this kind of negotiation between spouses (which I never experienced in a healthy way) with my friend Wokie Nwabueze of Manifest Moxie. Wokie works with women on clarifying what they really want and then learning how to find their clear voices to ask for those things in all kinds of professional and personal situations. She said, "One of the most powerful things a woman can do for herself is to
understand her boundaries. And it is not enough to simply have
boundaries–you must clearly articulate them and provide quick and
consistent feedback when lines are crossed. Speaking up takes courage
but it is the way we teach others how we want to be treated."

And that was something I sometimes miss–the idea that enforcing our own boundaries TEACHES other people what we want and expect. So I'd say that you need to keep speaking up. And if your husband doesn't care that he's treating you in a way that you don't want to be treated every day, then you may need to decide what your BATNA really is. Or, as Wokie said, "When we get to a point when we feel like the cost we are paying or will
pay exceeds the benefit, we should make a decision about whether or not
to walk away. Knowing your BATNA helps us understand what our options
are if we choose to walk away. Clarity equals courage and smart choices."

Readers? Have any of you been in this situation and come up with a solution you are happy with?