Zen and the art of grand mothering

I had the kids in my house for a week last month: my daughter and her three girls. I'm a grown woman who was once responsible for my own three children. It should be okay. I can manage this. Like riding a bike, surely. 

Executive Summary: I never want to go back to being a mum of young children - unless I get to be young again while retaining all I’ve learned in the meantime.

First of all, other kids aren't MY kids (even Grand kids) so they're harder to get a grip on for everything. Turns out they only listen to me when I yell and am scary, they hate my cooking, they're messy as hell (even when compared to me), they don't know how to amuse themselves at my house because all their stuff is at their house.

But other than that, having the girls come to stay for a week has been fabulously time consuming.

You know, I *actually* thought I'd have time to work on one of my projects while the girls were here. That project takes a wee bit of space, some thinking, and a little concentration and I couldn't even get to first base on it. Nearly every moment of my time has been occupied as support crew so my project lies exactly where it was before the sprogs arrived.

Being the more organised human I am these days when compared to the young mum I was with my own three children, I can see where I could have really helped myself back then (and see this is all about housework? nothing about nurturing or spending quality time with children..probably the problem right there):

  • doing a load of washing every day
  • running the dishwasher when it was *nearly* full (that's twice per day with kids here)
  • picking up the lounge twice per day (once during the day, once when they've gone to bed)
  • putting laundry away as soon as it's done
  • mopping the kitchen floor before bedtime (told you my days have been full)
  • remembering that not all noise is created equal (happy noise can be tolerated with mindfulness and breathing)

Having the girls for a week has also reminded me what bloody *saints* my own grand parents were - especially my maternal ones.

Back in MY day...

Oh yeh it was totes obvs my Grandfather adored us. He spent so much time with me and my siblings. We had long hot sandy Christmas holidays, loads of dinners at his house, hells I even lived there for a time. But it's taken me years to realise how patient my Nana was.

To me she was always in Grandad's shadow, and like a shadow, she was always there. Her home was clean and tidy. Meals were always on the table when required, including high days and holidays. But what I realise now is her patience with me. She taught me to crochet, to knit, to sew, to bake. She would take me to her work at the Veterinary Clinic where I would overfed the kittens until their cages were soaked in milky cat pee (in one end out the other!).

Grumpy Grandma

My patience is telemarianly tiny. Plus I'm a snapper. I'm fine; I'm fine; I'm fine; I'm yelling and stomping and really angry that you're talking like a baby again Oh my God can't you just talk properly??

The girls were pleased to go back to their own house and toys and beds. "That week we stayed at Grumpy Grandma's..." a fading memory.

I would like to be a more patient Grandma, but at the click of my fingers, I'm not sure I actually want to put any work into it! I would like to be the kind of Grandma who isn't exhausted by the time the kids go home. I would like to have the kind of grand daughters who have some semblance of the rules of Grandma's house and follow at least a few of them because it's a charming agreement. I remember really loving some of the food Nana cooked and would like that kind of memory for my grand daughters but so far they only food they like from me is a McDonald's Cheese Burger Happy Meal (no pickle, no mustard).

Zen mothering

My dear friend Fox wrote a blog-post not so long ago about being a Zen Mother. I'd quite like to figure out how to Zen Grandmother. How to not stress out and how to become more generous and resilient. To understand that these little people are different from me; not just in personality but also in the world they live in. I'd like them to have respect for me which they'll never have if all I do is yell at them when they make a mistake, or touch my stuff, or get in my way, or talk like a baby, or continuously cartwheel in front of the television.

I'd like to be the kind of Grandmother who can see the bigger picture, is in it for the long haul, who has wisdom when it's needed and is mostly support crew the rest of the time. Because that's probably what kids these days need. To take a few hours off work sometimes to pick them up from gymnastics, to watch end-of-year concerts, to create boundaries that are consistent and easy to follow and reasonable so they know where to put there shoes and hang their coats and how to make their beds and all that jazz to benefit both of us.

So yes, Zen Grandmothering; I shall hang off the blog posts of foxmwoods.com to hear how she does it and re-purpose for older and wilder children and hope that one day, when they are growed, they'll still come and say hi and ask for some of my advice while they're eating Louise Slice while I mend their jeans.

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The day before the day before Christmas

I’ve been hanging out for the holidays to start and now they’re here. 

It’s Summery and blustery outside. Inside the sound of the clock ticking marking all the time I am using to not do all the things I thought I’d do today. Oh sure, I got the parcels into the post - they would have been better to be sent a week ago - but they’re at the Post Office now so they will arrive at my family's home in Taranaki sometime after Christmas, but at least they will arrive. 

My house is a mess. Like, really, a mess. My youngest son David came around last night and I asked him to excuse the mess because I hadn’t tidied up in weeks to which he counted with “Ever!” I felt that was a bit harsh but then looked around and realised that was the current state of the joint.

He had popped around to say a) Hi! b) drop of his Arduino kit I had asked to borrow and c) have dinner. I love it when he does that - well a) and c) really. He’s often busy with work and school so it’s a treat (for me) when he has time to drop by.

I butterflied and roasted a chook which is always a mid-week treat. I’m still failing to cook crispy roast potatoes though; they tasted good but alas, no crunchy outsides. Not sure how many times I’ve watched Jamie Oliver do it but still can’t get the same results.  

But yes, back to the ticking clock. I have all this time. Loads of time on my hands because I haven’t had to do all the usual Christmas stuff. We’re having Christmas Day lunch at (my oldest son) Simon and (his wife) Melissa’s new house and because children don’t live here any more, I didn’t see any point in doing the whole Christmas tree/decorating thing this year.

Add the other decision to not do presents for adults, suddenly I have all this time. I don’t have to fight hoards of shoppers or lug tonnes of produce. I don’t have to dig out decorations or hover up drifts of pine needles. 

I just have to produce a few nibbles and a platter of food for lunch at someone else’s house.

So MacGyver and I have set up shop at the dining room table. She’s catching up on her sleep and I’m about to figure out which “nibbles” I’m going to take to the lunch on Sunday while being distracted by the latest Frankie magazine and forever day dreaming about new colour combinations for the walls.

Planning my personalised planner

I have fallen down the rabbit hole and not one of my own bunny's making. There are a lot of subcultures on the internet, and I have begun my assimilation into one of them - or more correctly - into another one of them.

It's the sub culture of personalising personal planners.

Not so much the life coaching type of planner, but the Filofax, Rolodex, timetable/diary/journal type of planners. Yes, that diary or compendium or carry-all that many of us have to keep us on track and on task.

These things were HUGE in the 1980s. Not just in popularity but in actual size. People had their whole lives in those things. Some believe that's why the Internet was actually invented so that people who suffered from back problems from carrying these huge tomes around could have a place to store their shit. Nah, I'm kidding, we all know the internet was invented for cat pictures.

My two years of hoarding art supplies finally pays off as if my whole life has been leading me here.

My two years of hoarding art supplies finally pays off as if my whole life has been leading me here.

Anyway, fast forward to this century and the advent of personal personalised planners. People pimping their planners out with colours and papers, with charms and artified dividers and that's the rabbit hole I am blogging from right now.

This last weekend I solidified all my resent (obssessive) research on the subject and created my very own personalised Personalised Planner. I glued and stuck and trimmed and cut and had a jolly good old time pimping that cheapo vinyl planner out to a system I think might work for me.

Who doesn't love a white board? here's my DISTILLATION of what I need in a personal planner.

Who doesn't love a white board? here's my DISTILLATION of what I need in a personal planner.

First of all I looked at what I really, actually need help with. What, of all the tools I use online to help keep myself organised, just wasn't working for me. I boiled it down to four main areas:

  1. My blog
  2. My goals
  3. My tasks
  4. Drawing

Yes, yes I do have online tools to help me with these too but once I'm away from the keyboard, they're not visible to me. Sure I can dial them up on my iPhone or the iPad but I still have to think about going there, then taking action on that thought, then remembering once it's closed again and hells-bells, I'm such a "simple peoples", this just isn't working for me. My blog ideas dribble away; my goals get forgotten; my tasks just pile up until they are of avalanche proportions.

So here we go. Back to the pen and planner. Throwing away all the default inserts that come with these things - such as calendars and days of the week and contact lists - and making tools that suit what I need.

Personalised planner: work in progress.

Personalised planner: work in progress.

My journal is now divided into:

  1. Blog topics ideas and post drafts (this month's schedule and templated pages)
  2. Goal visibility (feeds into the task list)
  3. Task list (bullet journal style)
  4. Drawing (series of watercolour and sketching papers)

I'll see how that works for me over the next few weeks. I'll pop up a list of sites and supplies later this week if you're interested in this rabbit hole too. You'll find when I share these links many videos like this one I completed yesterday. In this video I'm talking to my sister Jo who was the catalyst for my full blown dive into this subculture.