Monday, April 30, 2012

Parental Prescription

On my book shelves I have no less than 10 parenting books, so I feel like I’ve read a lot about “good parenting.” Unfortunately, good parenting isn’t about what you know, it’ about what you do.

Before you think I’m being self deprecating, let me tell you, I’ve tried a heap of all those recommendations. But sometimes, they simply don’t work for me.

Since necessity is the mother of invention, I’ve had to invent some...shall we say...unconventional methods which I use only in my direst parental circumstances.

Take for instance the late afternoon.  There’s something sinister and uncanny about the late afternoon—after nap, school and snack but before supper. Whether it’s the effects of fatigue or hunger, for either the children or me, I don’t know. But around 4:30 squabbling, complaining, and equally desperate pleas for justice and food begin to sound like so many nails on a chalk board.

As all my parenting books and even The Good Book recommend, I try to respond to each request with patience, gentle constructive words and consequences that fit the crime. But sometimes, when my breathing becomes rapid and shallow, I have to pull out my “behavioral inhaler” as I call it.

Just like an asthmatic sometimes needs assistance breathing, so does a mom fixing supper. When the sizzling of browning burger is accompanied by multiple children clamoring for a pet fish, tattling on a sibling and suffering from “starvation,” it’s time to lay down your spatula and take a big draw on your behavior inhaler—your iPod.

Insert ear buds, crank the volume just enough to drown out the afore mentioned cacophony, and let your heart and mind be soothed by music—the language of the soul! You’ll still see their lips moving and know they’re breathing. You’ll still feel tugging on your arms and know they’re nearby and safe. You’ll still see the child holding the empty fish bowl with a demanding look in his eyes. But you’ll hear none of it.

Ahhh, breath deeply!

With each successive song your vital signs will return to normal range, the children will lose interest because of your pleasant but unresponsive face and supper will be served, possibly with a smile.

I realize this merely masks the underlying problem, but several minutes of musical medicine may be the perfect prescription for that vexing hour.

What's your unconventional parental prescription?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Conservation Confession

Confession time.
The outfit. Day three.

I wore these jeans and this shirt yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. Yep. Count ‘em. That’s three days in a row. And I’m not above wearing them again tomorrow.

It’s one of the benefits of working from home and since “work from home” jobs don’t generally come with benefits like 401Ks and health insurance, I use the word benefit in the most professional way.

It’s not really gross, it’s…conservative.

I’m conserving water, soap, time, electricity, wear-n-tear, and labor. It’s a mutiny against excess laundry as Jen Hatmaker might say (I love that phrase, “a mutiny against excess,” but Jen Hatmaker coined the phrase in her book “7,” which I have not read. However, this is my attempt at a bibli-blog-graphy).

The key to pulling this off is to purchase forgiving clothes. The design on my shirt is a symphony of shapes and colors camouflaging even the most egregious coffee spills. I didn’t own it when I had spitting babies, but I’m confident it would have disguised even sweet potatoes and squash.

I’m rockin’ some jeans have that really hip “look-kinda-greasy-but-I think-it’s-the-in-thing” look. So when you abandon the kitchen towel and use your jeans, or someone who is knee-high to a grasshopper thinks your jeans are a tissue, you’re really just upping the cool-factor and becoming increasingly fashionable as the days wear on.

I’m not advocating slobbish-ness. It’s hard to respect yourself when you look and feel disgusting. And if wearing the same outfit for three days makes you feel disgusting, then don’t do it! Choose self-respect!

But if you can handle it, and odor isn’t a factor, then by all means, Friend, save yourself some work and join the mutiny against excess laundry.

Don’t leave me hangin’ out to dry. Tell me I’m not alone in my…uh…conservation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Born to Run? Probably Not

I recently read Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. In it he tells the stories of ultra-runners who race for 50 to100 miles at a time. I was baffled and inspired by the feats of human determination and endurance. Never one to bite off more than I can chew, I am now considering signing up for a 10K race. However, it is dredging up some mixed emotions based on my race history, and so I’m torn. Should I or shouldn’t I?

Perhaps I should explain.

After bearing and nursing three sons, I decided the only way to regain some semblance of health was to take up running (I use the word “running” loosely. The term “jogging” or even “shuffling” would also be accurate).  The “Couch to 5K Running Plan” seemed to be a good starting point. I wasn’t exactly starting “on the couch,” but the last time I had actually run, I was screaming at my run-away toddler as he exited through the automatic doors at Wal-Mart.

Turns out a 5K is actually three miles! Wow. Didn’t know that.

I followed that plan religiously. And after…a really long time…of consistently laying down three miles of tennis shoe rubber on the treadmill, I proudly signed up to run my first 5K.

I finished the race and didn’t die.

With invincibility coursing through my veins and two months to train, I set my sights on the next race. The 10K.

I was so invigorated I bought a new outfit. It was like planning for prom, only instead of a dress, I bought black workout pants with a slimming vertical line down the sides and a matching dry-fit shirt. I completed the ensemble, of course, with new running shoes and accessorized with ear buds. I totally looked like a real runner!!

But apparently my cute new outfit had, infused me with a tiny dose of competition. The truth is, a person of my running caliber has no business competing with anyone but herself. Not only that, my training plan had labeled the “6 mile day” as “race day” so when I arrived at the starting line, I had never in my life run six consecutive miles. So what possessed me to think I was going to “compete,” I’ll never know.

I eyed all the participants and spied an easy target, or at least one I could keep pace with. Surely I can beat the lady pushing the stroller. Sure, she looked super fit, but she was pushing a stroller filled with 25 pounds of toddler!

With my super cool running get-up I looked as if I belonged at the front of the pack. I let Stroller Mama out of my sight for the moment, made my way to the front and toed the starting line.

Bang! The race had begun. With the wind in my face, music in my ears and all those distracting wispy bangs slicked into a pony tail, I settled into a race-pace shuffle. I felt light on my feet. I can do this. And then maybe 400 meters in, Stroller Mama passed me.

No problem. I’ll just keep her in my sights.

By the one mile mark, I’d completely lost her in the distance.

At that point my good sense returned, and I decided to compete against myself. Just finish the race, Shauna.

It was a run-out-and-back kind of course so there was a turn around point. A lot of runners were on their way back towards the start (which was now the finish) while I was still pushing forward. Keep going, Shauna.

Perseverance and determination pushed me forward, albeit at a snail’s pace. At last, I reached the turn-around point. Half done. Gotta do it all again.

My intense focus on oxygenating my muscles was broken when one of the race coordinators drove his pick-up towards me. I was slightly alarmed and a little embarrassed when he hollered, “You’re doin’ great!”

Then he added, “Is there anyone behind you?”

“I don’t think so,” I gasped.

Then he proceeded to retrieve all the race markers behind me and each one in front of me as I passed it. My blistered feet begged me to ask for a ride to the finish, but my pride silenced me.

Miles 4, 5 and 6 were grueling but at last, the finish line was in sight. The time-clock had been taken down and the registration table cleaned up. However, a boy with a stopwatch called out my time as I staggered across the finish line.

To my great astonishment, the whole ordeal lasted just a smidge over an hour. Definitely the top of my game!

But I was last. Dead. Last.

When I reached the award pavilion, the names of the first three finishers in each age group were being announced. I grabbed a bottle of water and took sips between each gasping breath. The bagels and bananas were pretty well picked over since most had already cooled down and eaten their post-race breakfast. In fact, by the time I arrived I’m pretty sure Stroller Mama had already collapsed the stroller, buckled the toddler in his car seat and headed home.

Then I heard my name… sort of. “Shauna Let…Let…Let-tell-lee-yer??”

I wobbled around to face the announcer. He was holding up a “bronze” medal.

Apparently there were only three female participants in my age group.  

Flabbergasted and partially horrified, I forced a smile on my sweaty red face, and willed my shaking legs to take me yet another distance to the front. Still sweating, huffing and puffing, it was clear I had just finished.

I received my medal with feigned dignity, thanking God that no one could differentiate between a face flushed with embarrassment or one reddened by overexertion.

As the crowd disbursed, my embarrassment subsided, and a sense of accomplishment took its place. I finished.

I inwardly giggled as I headed for my car, toting the only medal I have ever won.

Since I can only improve, I’m considering trying again. Anyone with me?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Microeconomics: A case study in resource and risk management.

I hate wasting stuff.

I have been known to combine all our left over paint and use the “new color” for freshening up a bedroom. It was mostly the “light colored” paint so it wasn’t too wild. And I was able to legally dispose of 4 emptied paint cans, which freed up some space in our storage room. Paint was not wasted, money was saved. Reduce, reuse and all that.

I can also unashamedly excuse my indifference to couponing with my diligence in not wasting. I estimate it takes hours of my time to save small amounts of money, so I’d rather just try real hard to not waste the stuff I’ve already purchased.

So you can imagine my dilemma when, after returning from the store, I accidentally left a $9 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese in my hot vehicle...all day long. That’s right. The largest bag of Italian goodness for sale at Wal-Mart now barely identifiable as shredded, berating me from the conspicuous hideout of the front seat of my vehicle.

I took the bagged blob into the house for inspection.  To use or not to use? That was the question. This decision would require logic. By my logic, warming milk produces cheese, so warming cheese ought to make it…well…cheesier!

After a frightfully short deliberation, I said to myself, “That’s gonna be some cheeeezy pizza!”

So with complete disregard for the FDA’s food storage recommendations, I bet my family’s health on a $9 bag of cheesier cheese. I crumbled the blob, spread it over pizza and baked it at 425* hoping the heat of the oven would kill anything the heat of the day had cooked up!

Twenty minutes and 425 degrees later, I retrieved from the oven the cheesiest pizza in my culinary history. Neither the cheese nor the $9 was wasted. Supper was saved, the family was fed, and we all lived …happily ever after.

Have you ever gambled at the table of food freshness? Obviously you lived to tell about it…so do tell!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hello blog-wagon!

Inspired by a blogging friend, I've officially jumped on the blog-wagon.

I think blogging will be a creative outlet for me and maybe entertainment for my friends : )

Perhaps my honesty about real stuff will grant us all permission to just "call a spade a spade."

For instance, the day all three of my boys went to school, I sang the Hallelujah Chorus in my head. It was like an involuntary reflex. Now, that doesn't mean I don't love those boys, but it does mean I'm not going to apologize for the fact that I didn't cry.

That's real, honest and, in my opinion, kinda funny.

Stay Tuned.