Saturday, October 3, 2015

MauldenNews - October 2015

Hello Everyone,

I haven't blogged in quite a while, but I'm hoping to get back in the swing. We've had our ups and downs the past several months, and for a while I felt either too overwhelmed or too unmotivated to keep up the blog. Am taking advantage of this rainy afternoon to catch up a little. Breathe in...breathe out...

Some of our story is harder to tell these days because there is more to keep private when kids get older. I read a blog post a while back - something like "to the mom of older kids" that expressed this idea nicely. When the kids are little, you can share those common struggles and stories widely without much worry - the tantrums, potty-training fails, and funny things they say aren't going to haunt us much if posted on Facebook. Now that they are 11 and 9, it's trickier...especially when your kids have certain challenges. When friends are posting about their kids' successes in school and on the soccer field, whereas you are that mom just waiting for the next call from the school principal, it's not exactly a boost to your self-image as a parent.

In short, the last 10 months have been somewhat tough going. No major crises - thank heaven! Suffice it to say that no one in our family is without issues, and I'm not always feeling equipped to handle things skillfully. For a while things did get easier when the kids were in school, but as it turns out, our kids are getting to a point where school (and life in general) is stressful for them. More is expected of them, friendships and school relationships get more complicated, and they both struggle with executive functions such as emotional control, time management, response inhibition (impulse control), and self awareness. (And -to be fair - Bryan and I have our exec skills weaknesses too.) Without revealing the gory details, I'll just say we've been weathering a series of storms.

But now for the good part. Things are getting better. The turnaround started when we enrolled Sam in a summer camp for kids with ADHD, including a parent education class. The main takeaway for me was the connection between ADHD and executive skills - something they didn't teach us in medical school. Sam is 3-6 years delayed in executive functions - typical of ADHD kids. Until I saw it laid out on paper I didn't truly appreciate this, but it was an "aha" moment. We gained new understanding of many behaviors, such as why he can't get himself ready for school on time, and now we're learning how to better set our expectations, and best of all how to help teach him the skills he needs (and stop blaming ourselves for his delays). The medications are very helpful in regulating his brain so he can learn, but meds don't teach skills. He's struggling a bit in third grade so far, but we're working with the teacher, principal, and after-school care staff and he's doing OK. They learned what happens when they don't give him his medication on time, and I think it only happened once. ;-) 

As for Alle - she found school stressful too, but for different reasons. She also has some delays in executive functioning. After some research and soul-searching, we decided to go out on a limb and try online school at home for her this year. So far it's working out very well - she's less stressed and is less irritable and more fun to live with. She is learning to finish her school work by 1-2 p.m and is enjoying her extra free time. She has read through the Chronicles of Narnia and a few other book series. She's still playing violin, doing Tae Kwon Do, and being creative. 

A little side story about Tae Kwon Do - they invited parents to participate, and Bryan broke his wrist on the punching bag. He fractured and displaced the scaphoid bone and had to have surgery this week. It is hindering his video game time but he is being a good sport about it. :-) . 

So because of online school, we hired an au pair from Cape Town, South Africa to come for the year and be Alle's learning coach. (We chose the au pair option over a nanny or tutor because of flexible hours, the cultural exchange, and it made financial sense.) Her name is Mischell, she is 23, and we adore her! She's bright and fun and good with the kids. It's fun to see our life and American culture through her eyes. She expresses appreciation for a lot of simple things we take for granted, like automatic doors at the supermarket and kitchen garbage bags with built-in handles to tie. We are learning which restaurants and products are available in Cape Town (KFC, Finish dish detergent) and which are totally new (Olive Garden, Pop Tarts, grits, seaweed snacks). She's getting used to driving on the right side of the road and is enjoying exploring Utah with other au pair friends from Spain, Mexico, and Colombia. It is super nice to have another adult around, and nice for the kids to have a "big sister" - way more cool than a parent. 

And now for me - I'm very, very grateful for the friends and family who have helped encourage me, and I feel I am finally getting back on firmer ground. Run-walking is keeping me sane too - the highlight this year was running the Redwoods Marathon with 2 brothers, one sister-in-law plus friends. Gorgeous course, great weather, and totally worth taking the kids out of school for a week. I ran two more half-marathons, bringing the total to 5 marathons and thirteen halfs. I need ideas for the next marathon. Anyone want to run one with me???

Love to all,


Sunday, December 21, 2014

MauldenNews December 2014

Woowww... haven't posted anything here since June?!? I have turned into such a slacker!

I'd like to write more often. Life goes by and there is so much to remember - much that is fun to look back on, or feel glad to be done with, especially when you have kids. At 8 and 10, they are not growing and changing as quickly now, but this stage is so delightful I don't mind if it lasts a long time. Their creativity and imaginations are in full swing, and their increasing verbal abilities give us a fuller picture of all that activity going on in their heads.  

But we adults grow and change too. Not as drastically or as quickly as kids, but change still happens. A wise person I know talks about how "developmental stages" are underappreciated in most adults. At 45, I love my current midlife crisis (yet).  I'm REALLY thankful for the luxury of being able to work part time - busy as I am with family, community, and work, I do have time to pursue some passions, rest and play, and engage in deeper awareness and knowledge of myself and the world.

My broken clavicle has healed nicely with the help of physical therapy. I am back to doing everything I did before, including yoga, although some of the positions are more challenging as I have lost a little strength and range of motion in my "bionic" shoulder.  I ran a half marathon in October and another on Thanksgiving, and am planning for a marathon in May in the California Redwoods (Avenue of the Giants). I've wanted to run through those old, old trees for some years now, and I think I've enticed 2 brothers and a sis-in-law to join me. Yay! Anyone else want to come?

Sam's arms have healed up nicely as well. He is a ball of 2nd-grade enthusiasm and has such a joyful spirit - cheerful, often singing, giving big hugs, dancing, or playing with complete absorption in his fantasy worlds. The other day I got on the phone with a customer service person and Sam was playing various characters in an imaginary game in the background. The person on the phone said, "Sounds like you have a whole houseful!" Nope, believe it or not, it is just one kid. He does have the energy of about 3 regular kids though. We are working on helping him channel it toward positive ends. He wants to play the drums. Lord have mercy, but I think we will let him.

Alle is also a joy and it's amazing to watch her grow and learn. She has matured a lot this year - especially emotionally. It's very encouraging (and a relief!) to see her beginning to master her feelings and behavior. Her sponge-brain soaks up everything and thirsts for more, and she continues to ponder deep questions and is ruthlessly curious. She is also quite independent, confident, and assertive. These traits make her hard to parent sometimes but will stand her in good stead in life. We recently finished the Harry Potter audio book series (wonderful production! 5 stars!) and now she dreams about Harry Potter scenarios and characters a lot. She really, really wishes she could go to Hogwarts.

This year Alle learned to knit by watching ladies at church and then went home and practiced with two pencils and a ball of yarn, producing a beautiful little white square in just a few minutes. It's inspiring for me to watch her learn skills like knitting and origami, which do NOT come naturally to me. Poor girl--stuck with a mom who is terrible at arts and crafts. She loves science and is begging for a chemistry set, and she has become a master at making yummy scrambled eggs with cheese. We continue to play violin together and she even volunteered (!) to play her violin with me at church on Christmas Eve. She is such a little mini-me and yet soooooo different from me. I love this age and can't wait to see what comes next.

Bryan update - doing well! Still cracking silly jokes, still making me laugh, still stamping out illness and saving lives. I am so blessed to be with him. We have our disagreements,  but by and large his strengths are complementary to my weaknesses and I'm really grateful for that.

Can't end without a book update - these are recent favorites...

The Round House by Louise Erdrich - award winning novel about a 14-year-old boy on an Indian reservation - it's disturbing and funny and tragic and eye-opening.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian - by Sherman Alexie - listned to this on audio - another story told from the point of view of a teenager on the reservation - moving and funny and compelling.

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life
 by Peter Gray - this one is REALLY making me think about what education means, and giving me new ideas for school and un-school options.

Finally, a good audio book for families - consider this for your next car trip, recommended for ages 10 and up- Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry. It's a great survival story set in the Polynesian islands.

Merry Christmas and a Joyful New Year to All!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

MauldenNews May 2014

Well, this was the big news for May: my broken clavicle.

May 28 - I was enjoying a beautiful bike ride down Little Cottonwood Canyon (about 30 mph), went into a turn too quickly, hit the gravel and crashed. :-( A very nice guy (Onno Wieringa, general manager of Alta) saw me fall and stopped to help. He called Bryan for me but there was no answer (it was 6:30 a.m.). My vision went weird for about a minute - kind of lacy with "stars" obscuring my visual field. Onno graciously drove me and my bike home and Bryan took the kids to school and me to the ER. Apparently I asked Bryan the same questions a few times over the next hour or so, so I had a concussion. My bike helmet had cracked in a couple places where it hit the gravel so I was definitely glad for the brain bucket! I also experienced my first migraine aura - the classic "fortification spectra" - but lucky me, no headache! Whew. I had some facial abrasions, road rash and a sore mouth and chin, but these healed quickly. Bryan has been an awesome caretaker, except when he ate the last of the ice cream I bought... Well, nobody's perfect.

The kids finished 1st and 3rd grades on June 5 - woo-hooooooo! We are all enjoying the lazy schedule. Next week Alle has Suzuki violin camp, and we have a couple other things scheduled including Korean Culture Camp, but it's nice to have a good number of free days. Alle has been catching bugs, butterflies and insects and Sam has been learning to play Pickle Ball with Papa. I've been using my recovery time to read more of Game of Thrones - I like it but it is super lonnnnngggg.

The clavicle required surgery, which I was apprehensive about but it went well. The biggest disappointment was that we had to miss our family vacation in Tennessee. :-( We found that Frontier airlines will let us rebook the tickets without fees if we use them within a year and give them a doctor's letter. So that's good. Getting shirts on and off is a challenge, and I'm not able to cook the way I like to, but friends and family have been VERY helpful - we've had people bring us dinner, send yummy packages, and offer rides, etc. I'm feeling the love, and grateful.

And now for the better news - check out our new Mazda 5! Now we have enough room to haul kids and their friends. Hoping for lots of happy miles in this thing.

Hope all is well with everyone - send me your news!


Sunday, April 27, 2014

MauldenNews March - April 2014

Hello All!

We've had a very nice spring this year - in fact, I heard on the news that this has been the second warmest spring on record for our little valley here. For some reason, our emperor tulips did not come out until April - usually they are smiling up at me in March. But I'm glad they made it!

I've thoroughly enjoyed the absence of snow - though I have felt the pain of my friends and family elsewhere who have been pummeled by it this year. Let's hope we're really through the worst of it!

In March I had the good fortune to run the Canyonlands Half with some buddies - it was beautiful, sunny, wild and windy. I lost about a minute off my time retrieving my hat that blew off into a small ravine. Still, I was completely satisfied with my 2:18 and my "power disc" medal.

Tammy and I dined with our daughters for our birthday on March 8. Here they are displaying their genioglossus muscles.

Sam turned 8 on April 15. We had a fun party at the indoor pool and Splash Zone and a little family celebration at home. We all had blue mouths for awhile after this cake.

"COOL! This is JUST what I WANTED!!!" (a Power Rangers MegaZord, in case you didn't know)

Easter weekend was eventful - egg dyeing on Friday, birthday party on Saturday, egg hunt on Sunday morning, and...

Sam's baptism! Easter Sunday, April 21, 2014.

Then we took off for Spring Break adventures in Moab, Arches, and Mesa Verde. The highlight of our trip to Arches was Alle's first live lizard capture. I knew their tails could detach. What I didn't know was that the tail keeps moving all by itself for quite a while after separation from the lizard! Freaky to see.

"Mom, can we take him home? Pleeeeeease?"

Papa and Sam with "the Mitten"

Practicing the art of cairn creation

A suspicion of strep throat led us on a detour to Moab Regional Hospital, where Alle got a culture. It wasn't strep, but it did grow Moraxella catarrhalis and another unidentified bug so she got antibiotics. She didn't let it slow her down. We visited the Moab Rock Shop, where she and Sam got free dinosaur bones and we all enjoyed browsing the interesting gemstones and other oddities. We also toured "Hole in the Rock", an old diner and home blasted into the rock by a miner in the 1950s. Then we got sucked into the little zoo and Alle ended up riding a camel named Luke. I hope she didn't cough too much on the animals.

Mesa Verde was AWESOME.  Bryan and I marveled at the ruins while the kids climbed rocks and sought out bugs and lizards.

Sam's new porcupine puppets: Cutie and Porky Junior

Alle with Proud, her Eagle puppet. Proud likes to hunt Porky Junior.

Desert blooms

We stopped at a winery for a tasting. Kids said "No fair, this is only for the grownups!" Exactly.

Lamb crossing

Hovenweep National Monument - the Castle

Final notes - these are mainly for myself but free for anyone who thinks they may visit this area again -

Good marks for Moab Valley Inn, Moab Brewery, and Best Western Turquoise in Cortez. Far View Lodge (inside Mesa Verde) was OK but not worth the price. I would go back to the Moab Rock Shop, but not to the Hole in the Rock (once was enough). The Pepperhead in Cortez had great food and was family friendly and well worth the money.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Don't be yourself

"Don't be yourself. Be someone a little nicer." -Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author (1913-1983) 
Lately I've been struggling with the snappy part of my self. The part that is irritated by Every. Little. Thing.  God's wisdom and sense of humor has decided I shall live with three people who are wonderful and gifted and I love them just the way they are...but who have less need than I for order, organization, cleanliness, solitude, and peace. 
Maybe I was born this way, needing these things, and didn't get them enough in my childhood because of the eleven other kids and their friends with whom I shared a house. I grew up in a stable loving home that was also filled with mess, disorganization, clutter, noise and chaos. My response was to feel horribly anxious and retreat whenever possible. I came by it honestly - my dad actually built a separate room for himself as his means of escape, and I can totally understand that. I still grit my teeth through every kids' birthday party and can honestly agree sometimes with whoever said "Hell is other people." 
But my irritability can be a problem. I'm not proud of my tendency to yell and criticize. Last year I practiced "complaint free living" by wearing a bracelet to help me increase awareness and refrain from complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. It took me 8+ months to go 21 consecutive days without moving the bracelet. I'm realizing that, sadly, the good habits I tried to "re-wire" into my brain have not lasted. I think maybe I'm a little better than before, but I need to get the bracelet back on.
Anyway, I saw this quote (don't be yourself) and it reminds me to keep practicing my patience and tolerance skills. 
I also like this response to all the "positive psychology" messages out there. You know, all those messages that tell us how great we are all the time. I like that this message frees us to admit we're not so great, but that we can do better.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 2014 - Practicing Joy

For a few months now, our family has been trying to follow a "practice of the month." In November we practiced Gratitude, and in December we practiced Giving. I got the idea from a group at our church last year that was focusing on practicing compassion, and I wanted to try it as a way of integrating those practices and values that are important to me into our daily life.

I bought a glass vase and a bunch of colored glass beads. When we remember to do it, which is often only a couple of times a week, we talk about our "practice" around the table. When we think of an example of the practice, either something we did or saw someone else do, we name it and put a bead in the jar. At the end of the month, if the jar is full, we get to go do something fun. It's led to some good conversations, and sometimes it's been helpful to get us out of the rut of complaining and snipping at each other.

So January was the month to practice Joy. I chose Joy because, let's face it, January can be cold, dark, long, and dreary. The kids did not adjust well to going back to school after the Christmas break. Bryan's mood tends to go down in the season of short days. I'm not crazy about the cold or the air pollution. So I was somewhat skeptical about our ability to put Joy into practice. In general, I'm not a big fan of "positive thinking" as a self-help ploy...even if it works, it frequently feels false to me. But I do think that joy is a choice - and an important one to make often - and so I gritted my teeth and committed to exercise my joy muscle this month.

Surprisingly, it's actually worked pretty well. Part of my approach was to try to incorporate more play into the daily grind. I'm not naturally very playful as an adult, unfortunately for my kids, and I wasn't even very playful as a child. So I tried the Jerry Seinfeld idea of doing "opposite day" - if I didn't feel playful, I played. If my kids were annoying me, I made myself respond playfully and tried to turn things into a game or a joke. "Act as if." "Fake it to make it." I didn't do it consistently, but when I did, it helped.

The other place I found joy this month - believe it or not - has been the laundry. First, when you really stop to think about it, our way of doing laundry should always evoke gratitude. When's the last time you washed all your clothes by hand, or scrubbed them against a washboard, or a rock in a river as the majority of humans have done for a great long time? In the spirit of being mindful, I took to noticing the multisensory experience brought to me by my laundry. Compared to the clothes most humans have worn through most of history, don't we have amazingly soft, comfortable fabrics? beautiful designs? rich colors?

My sister-in-law Grace gave me the gift once of telling me how she did her laundry. When folding my brother's clothes, she focused on her love for my brother. She remembered the time before she met him when she prayed to meet someone to love. OK, I admit, this is overly sentimental and totally hokey! But today when I folded the laundry, I held a few clean, warm, soft shirts to my face and breathed in gratitude for the husband and children in my life.

And finally, when I clean out the lint screen these days, I get an extra hit of joy. Why would dryer lint give me joy? Because my 9-year-old daughter has taken to collecting it. Every time I give her a big lint ball she breaks into a smile and makes a happy "ooh!".

January is almost over, and I'm not sad about that. But thanks to this month's Joy practice, I can honestly say it's been one of my better Januarys in recent memory.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I wrote this for our Galloway Group's new website, which includes a blog for runners. Thought I'd post here as well. I started running in 2010, and it has done so much for me. Still can't believe I do this! 

Running, the Brain, and Joy

My story is similar to the others posted here - I NEVER thought I would enjoy exercise, least of all RUNNING! Growing up, my favorite activity was curling up with a good book and moving my eyes left to right for hours on end. My brothers played soccer and my sisters did ballet, but I was too incoordinated and unmotivated to enjoy any sport on a regular basis. (I still cannot do step aerobics to save my life.) I also learned to fear ball sports after being injured while made to play with bigger-stronger-faster kids. When I biked or ran with kids my age, they all just left me in the dust. Years later I would find out more about why...keep reading...

When I took swim lessons, I saw that other kids could somehow float, but I sank to the bottom like a stone. I did learn to ski, but was slower than my friends in passing each level, which meant I watched them take off for the big hill while I stayed behind. In middle school, I was effectively trained to HATE the mile by our PE teachers, who required us to run it in a certain time - conveniently ignoring that we all had different bodies with different abilities. (I would love to go back with a heart rate monitor and be graded on EFFORT rather than an arbitrary time cutoff.)  In high school, I even developed exercise-induced urticaria, which meant I broke out in big red blotchy itchy hives after each run. 

So I did what any self-respecting clumsy short person would do - I developed my brain rather than my body. I played violin and piano and did well in school. The culture and my parents rewarded me for this, even if I was still pretty much a nerd among my peers. I made friends with other musicians and smart kids and we focused on getting into college and pursuing our careers. For years I ignored my body. My body basically existed to house my brain, which was where I lived. I did exercise half-heartedly to keep from gaining weight, but I sure didn't enjoy it or look forward to it. It was like eating my veggies - I knew it was good for me, but I wouldn't do it of my own accord.

Well, my brain took me to medical school, where I continued to stuff it with learning and facts. Despite my lack of interest in (and time for) fitness, two experiences there were significant. First, I was part of the "code" team at LDS Hospital. If someone started to die, the code pager went off and the code team dropped whatever we were doing and raced for the patient. One day we were in the basement looking at pathology slides and the code pager summoned us to the 8th floor ICU. Taking the elevator was out of the question - this was a true life-or-death emergency! The code team charged up the stairs. The rest of the team surged ahead as I painfully tried to run up the 7 flights of stairs. By the time I made it to the 8th floor they were out of sight. Sweaty and panting, I eventually rejoined them. No one said anything, but of course I felt remorseful at my slowness. This was life or death - what if people were counting on me one day and I couldn't come through? And another thing - my colleagues were as busy and stressed and out of shape as I was (or more). Why could they zip up those stairs so much faster than I could? I was soon to find out!

Second experience: A few weeks later we were in the Pulmonology lab for a demonstration of inhalers and pulmonary function tests. We were invited to take the tests that patients take, and here comes my "aha!" moment - my tests showed that I had a significantly smaller lung capacity than expected for my age, gender, height and weight. I was off the chart. AHA!!! It wasn't major, and it didn't limit me in normal daily life, but it did explain why I seemed to be a Hufflepuff in a world full of Ravenclaws and Gryffindors (couldn't resist the Harry Potter reference, sorry). I am now, running marathons and loving it! No one is more surprised at this than me. I can't explain what made me want to run, but not long after the big 4-0 I came across an article about the Galloway method and suddenly I thought, "I wonder how far I could run." I looked up the SLC Galloway group and the rest is history. The run-walk-run method just jives with me. It makes me feel GOOD! (unlike running continuously, which still makes me feel BAD even though I'm in better shape now). It may not be for everyone, but it unlocked my joy for bodily play, and I am much  more integrated - a body, a brain, and most importantly a SOUL that enjoys both the physical and mental aspects of life.