Saturday, January 30, 2010

You want carbs with that?

Yesterday Arlie and I took Jeff out to lunch. It was a rare day off from school, the other kids were with their dad, and, even though Jeff works less than three miles away and I'm not even working right now, somehow we NEVER meet for lunch. So, we headed to Red Robin (Arlie's choice) and ordered up. Jeff, being the health-conscious, atheltic guy that he is, asked the waitress if he could have his burger "protein style", meaning they wrap it in this huge chunk of iceberg lettuce, and skip the bun. Jeff said "the bun is really just a delivery system - why not skip the carbs and save them for the fries?" I, being me, ordered my burger "normal style" and thought "and bring on the fries, too!" I mean, here's my philosophy - we almost NEVER eat out. So, if I'm eating out, I want to order something I'd never eat at home, and enjoy it while I have the chance. I mean, I was somewhat virtuous, I ordered a teriyaki chicken burger (skipped the beef), but still. I intended to enjoy my lunch!

Along comes a male waiter to deliver our food. Glancing at the platter of food, then at me, he says "burger, protein style?" and for a split second, considered that I had ordered the "no carb" option! Excuse me? I wanted to shout "Do I LOOK like a girl who doesn't eat carbs?" but instead I gestured politely to Jeff who received his lettuce-wrapped burger happily. I then waited until the waiter was out of earshot and said "oh, sure, just ASSUME the fat girl wants to skip the bun!" That's like the waitress saying "Diet Coke, hon?" when ordering your drink. Don't just assume I'm on a diet, even if I need to be! I'm paying good money to eat this food and I'm gonna enjoy it!

And I did enjoy it, but I was secretly hoping there was no mayonnaise sauce running down my chin while the waiter and his cohorts were laughing at me from the kitchen.......

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How I Cured My Dog........

So, Shade hasn't been eating much lately. We thought perhaps he was sick, or just getting old. Off to the vet for an expensive evaluation. Blood work showed his liver enzymes were high (I swear that is the ONLY diagnosis our dogs have ever gotten from the vet - "the liver enzymes are high" - WTF?). So, we started him on a round of two antibiotics but he still wasn't much interested in eating.

I thought about it and figured, why WOULD he eat? He gets the same damn food every single day, dry kibble, one bowl and that's it. No wonder the dog is always looking for other food (and non-food) sources. If you were given one bowl of dry cereal at day and some water, would YOU be happy? Poor dog. No cookies. No Cheetos. No Starbucks coffee. It's enough to make him want to hang himself by his leash! I figured he needed some variety. So, he started getting some nice, hot leftovers after dinner. Maybe a few spinach leaves out of my salad. Ok, we even thawed and heated up all the mystery leftovers in the freezer to enhance his diet. But the dog food? Forget it!

Finally I decided that perhaps he needed some dog food enhancement. So, I purchased some meaty-looking Alpo canned dog food (in such enticing flavors as "lamb and beef in beef gravy" and cuts such as "homestyle slices" and "meaty chunks"). What's not to love? In fact, after looking at the label long enough, even I was getting hungry. And at $1 a can, I was thinking two or three cans of that stuff could feed my family! What? Times are hard!

Anyway, after tossing away the notion of feeding this morsel-y goodness to my children, I instructed my husband to mix one half of the can into Shade's dry dog kibble. Voila! Husband came back in to announce that Shade was, once again, a member of the "clean plate club". I was thrilled at this and it made me happy all day. Until the water incident.

I let Shade into the garage (ok, not really "let" him in, he barreled past me as I opened the door) and he eagerly lapped up some water. I went back inside, and closed the door, leaving him to hang in the garage for a while. A few minutes later he barked and I let him in. Not until much later (when my husband came home and discovered it) did I see "dog food lake" - a murky puddle of water and kibble in front of the utility sink. So, maybe this dog is just allergic to water. Or a clean floor. I don't know but he has done more barfing in the past few weeks than a fat kid at a pie eating contest!

So, maybe he's not cured. Or maybe he's just bulimic. But I'm not much liking this skinny, barfy mutt. I do feel sorry for him. For about five minutes until he eats a stick of butter off the counter.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stress and the real mom

Why is it that when stressful things happen they always happen when there is no time? I mean, why aren't there just pockets of time during the day for us to stress out and go nuts? Instead, we stress during pockets of time that are running out the door, or late to a meeting.

This morning Harrison put his shoes on. Then took them back off saying "These are not my shoes! These shoes are too small!" He then reminded me that his friend had the same shoes and came to the conclusion that he must have worn Harrison's shoes home. Except that particular friend was NOT EVEN HERE this weekend. So, there is no way they could have been his shoes. No, what probably happened is that Harrison's feet grew (overnight? It's possible!) and the shoes are now too small. Or he was just being picky. Or any number of other explanations. Either way, he had to wear his "choir shoes" to school and he was mortified. Now, before you get images of spit-polished wing-tips, let me say his "choir shoes" are really just stylized black tennis shoes. Not dorky at all. wonder people have heart attacks in the morning!

Today is crazy, as usual. I mean, if it's not one thing, it's another around here. We thrive on chaos and a bit of stress but sometimes it gets to be too much. I have learned that one of my biggest stressors is having to transport kids to different places with not enough time to get them all there. Today is one of those days. I am only one person, and I simply cannot be in two places at once. And yet, I am expected to be. I think I've got it all worked out, thanks to a sympathetic receptionist who is allowing me to be a little late to the last appointment, but it will require me to work with military precision to execute it all.

Which brings me to another issue - job searching. I mean, if that isn't stress, I don't know what is. I cannot imagine what people go through, especially those who are the sole supporters for their family. Job searching is so demoralizing and time consuming. And I'm not even sure what kind of job I want, or can do, or even if I can work outside the home and still meet the needs of my family. In a perfect world, I'd stay home and make everything run smoothly. I'd be the person who responds to all the emergencies (wait, I AM that person), and keeps things on a somewhat even keel. But adding a paying outside job to all of that seems impossible. Not that I haven't done it. I just quit a very good job, but the reasons for that were multi-faceted and it was the right option. Still, someone needs to make money to feed us. Jeff makes enough money to keep the roof over our heads and the bills paid, but not enough to feed us, clothes us or contend with the bazillion other expenses that loom each and every day. So, I need a job. Or at least I need money. I'm working on it and have a few things going, but it's not enough by any means. So, I keep searching for the perfect job, and it's elusive, if not impossible, to find. Stress.

Then, there's the daily irritation of household chores and who should do them. I can't do them all, nor should I, because there are six people living in this house and I'm sure not making all the messes. But the kids' bathroom is constantly condemnation-worthy, their rooms are scattered and messy and no one seems to be able to change the toilet paper or pick anything up off the floor. I delegate and assign chores, but when they are not done correctly, that becomes another part time job for me to oversee all of the indiscretions and fix them (or direct someone to fix them). It's ridiculous. And time consuming. And really not fun at all.

I realize my stress seems to be amplified by hormones. Which is a whole other issue. Now that I'm of a "certain age" I don't seem to be able to accurately predict which days of the month I will be a screaming banshee. So, I have these sudden flares of insanity and wonder, what the heck was that? Gotta love the "change of life".

I'd take a vacation if I could afford it. But at this point the only vacation available to me is a road trip in a smallish camper with four children and three dogs. Somehow that doesn't scream "relax" to me! It's no wonder why people drink. Is it 5 o'clock somewhere?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Emergency appy!

Hayley in the OR holding room - she looks pretty happy to be having surgery!

Being wheeled to the OR holding room..........

Hayley just before surgery.........

HAHA! Looking funny in a cap!

Peace out! I'm having my appendix out!

After surgery treats! YUM!

Chillin' in my hospital bed.......


Rockin' the unisex, one size fits all hospital socks!

Hmmm............what's in this bag?

Chocolate milk........mmmmm, good!

Sweet balloon from her stepdaddy!
On Tuesday evening, January 19th, 2009, Hayley awoke with a stomach ache and extreme nausea. She immediately informed her soundly sleeping mother of this, and her wise mother prescribed a Tums. Hayley requested to sleep on her mother's floor (a very unusual request), and spent the rest of the evening sleeping soundly. However, upon awakening, she was still very nauseated with stomach pain, so she spent the rest of the day sleeping. Evening came, she had some dinner, and all seemed well. She arose at an ungodly hour to go to school and settled into preparing for finals. But alas! The relentless stomach ache nagged and she went to the nurse.......twice! The wise nurse called her mother, who arranged a doctor's appointment. Doctor said appendicitis, scheduled a CT scan, and a visit with the surgeon. Surgeon said classic appendicitis, canceled the CT scan, and admitted her to the hospital to perform surgery at 7 p.m. Before surgery we spent an hour in the "holding room" laughing and making jokes and having way too much fun before a surgical procedure! As a joke, Hayley and I arranged to push a button on my "Cartman" app on my phone and right as the anesthesiologist, the OR nurse and the aide were getting ready to wheel her away, I pushed the button that made my phone say (in Cartman's voice) "This is gonna suck donkey balls!" which made everyone dissolve in laughter. Hayley was cracking up as they wheeled her away for her hour-long surgery. At 8 p.m. the surgeon announced the appendix looked fine! GAH! What? Unnecessary surgery? Well, he explained, it was most likely esenteric adenitis, a viral infection that mimics appendicitis. The treatment? It goes away on it's own! However, it's the number one misdiagnosis of appendicitis, and the procedure is often to take the appendix out to be safe. We won't know for sure which it was until the pathology reports come back. Needless to say, though, Hayley will never have to worry about appendicitis again!
Thus started the overnight from hell in the hospital. Hospitals, ironically, are the absolute WORST place in which to get sleep, which is much-needed by recuperating patients. Our friendly, sweet nurse had been replaced by an uptight older woman I'll call Nurse Beep. This is because said nurse did not know how to work the machines correctly, thus setting off numerious beeps and alarms ALL NIGHT LONG! She admitted this and apologized for it, but poor Hayley had to listen to this racket all night long and didn't sleep well at all. Not to mention her poor mother.......anyway, Nurse Beep also thought a good way to wake a sleeping patient was to stand by the sink and purposely crinkle an empty IV bag repeatedly. WTF? We both woke to a "what the heck is that?" Hayley was not happy to be awakened repeatedly to be poked and prodded, forced to walk the halls, and pee on command. However, she performed like a circus monkey, and finally got a little sleep in the wee hours of the morning.
We awoke to breakfast waiting for us (wow!), but Hayley didn't really want it. Instead she wanted a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and a Rice Krispy Treat! The nurse said ok so we took a little walk to the vending machines (finally released from the IV pole - yay!) and procured the treats. A few more hours of watching Ellen and Scooby Doo, and Hayley announced she was ready to go home. We packed up, picked up her prescription for Vicodin and headed home. Besides being a bit doubled over from post-surgical pain, she was her chipper self, watching TV, visiting with her best friend and posting on Facebook. And, true story, she never stopped texting the entire time! The only time she didn't have her phone in her hands was the hour in surgery and the hour in recovery. I believe that's a good sign, right? Ahh.......never a dull moment!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Grace? Not so much...............

I am hopelessly uncoordinated. Perhaps that's why I was never interested in sports as a kid. Or dance, or gymnastics, or any other athletic pursuit that requires me to do more than one physical feat at once. I was eight years old before I could ride a bike - mostly because I was just afraid of falling - and even then, it was an accident. I was sitting on my bike, as usual, balancing from one foot to another, watching all the other (even younger) kids ride their bikes, and I suddenly started to roll downhill on the ever-so-gradual slope of the yard. I panicked and started pedaling........and suddenly I was riding a bike. It never would have happened if not for that one mistaken incident. But once I realized I could do it, I wasn't afraid and I enjoyed it.

I was once very interested in gymnastics. I begged my mom to let me take classes at the "good" gym in town, a real gymnastics center that a friend's dad coached at. So, she signed me up, but guess what? Since I was a beginner (yet in sixth grade) I had to be in a class of much younger kids - even four year olds! I was so embarrassed, even more so when I realized they could do SO much more than me. My body was clunky, short, compact and not strong. I felt like a flailing lump on the trampoline. Four classes in and I was done!

After that my athletic pursuits were.........basically none. I skied occasionally (even did ski club in high school, but again, I pretty much sucked and was in the lowest level class). I took some hikes with my family. Maybe an occasional walk. Oh, I tried "aerobics" - what a joke! That's when I realized I'm hopelessly uncoordinated. Always three steps behind the class, I'd end up looking more like I was having a grand mal seizure than actually exercising. I tried, continued to take some classes, work out in the exercise room at my apartment, but an athlete I was not.

Then, for some strange reason, in 2006 I decided to do the Danskin triathlon. I signed up for it in a fit of inspiration, not really knowing whether I would even follow through. Then, my workout buddy had to bail out of the race due to a hip injury. I was on my own. If it wasn't for Jeff, I would never have followed through. But how could I disappoint this seasoned triathlete when the love of his life was about to embark on a similar pursuit? Chivalrously, Jeff offered to do a triathlon with me before the "big event" when I would be on my own. We did the Federal Escape tri and came in dead last! I was a little humiliated crossing the finish line but the race organizers were so nice to keep the finish line up for me and the police sweeper cars so nice to not run into my ass while I was schlepping my way to the end of the race, I tried to put on a brave smile. Later, I won a wetsuit in a drawing and I was so high on my accomplishment, that the dubious "honor" of being the last person across the finish line faded away. Besides, I said to myself, how many of my peers had ever finished a triathlon?

Still, my up and down pursuit to fitness (as well as my up and down - mostly up - pursuit of weight loss) has been interesting. And I just have come to the conclusion that while I can manage walking, even running short distances (ok a few feet), biking and swimming (actually I like to call it "not drowning"), I simply cannot manage dance-y aerobics DVDs and cardio routines. I flail, I trip myself up, I can't get my groove on. This white girl CAN'T dance......

Monday, January 11, 2010

Forget Me Not!

I seem to have a bad habit of forgetting my kids. I mean, it's not like I've ever left my baby on the top of the car strapped into a carseat or anything, but I've definitely "forgotten" them on a few occasions. Like, one time I was just about to head out the door to pick them up from school. I was putting a bottle of salsa away in the fridge when I dropped it. The bottle cracked open and salsa went flying everywhere - the floor, counters, was a mess! I had to clean it up real quick because I didn't want the dogs to lick it up while I was gone and barf up salsa later. As a result I "forgot" the kids and a neighbor called me asking did they need a ride home? (I took her up on it!). Another time it was a snowy afternoon. The kids arrived off the bus to falling snow and were SO excited about it all. In the hubbub, I forgot to pick up Hannah from safety patrol at school. Luckily, my good friend Peggy was able to pick her up for me. But the worst of all was a couple of summers ago when I completely forgot to pick up Arlie at soccer camp! I had a bunch of kids here (daycare) and her camp ended at 12:30. At around 1:20, Hannah said "Where's Arlie?" and I had that sudden, gripping panic when I realized she had not been picked up, but worse, had not called! I had all sorts of crazy thoughts run through my mind as I raced to pick her up, just five minutes from the house. When I got there, she stood alone on the soccer field (but mind you, there were plenty of parents and staff still milling around) and she had been crying. I asked why she didn't tell her counselor that I was late picking her up and to use the phone. She said they were having a staff meeting and she didn't want to interrupt! So, today, I, once again, forgot to pick Arlie up from safety patrol. I'm generally a few mintues late, because I'm just not used to the routine.........Harrison rides the bus home and I'm so used to the kids arriving home by bus that I always forget until the last second. Usually Harrison arriving home without Arlie is what clues me in and by then I'm ten minutes late to pick her up. Today I was twenty minutes late and there she sat, a child who now possesses a cell phone and she did not even call me! She said "I wasn't worried, I knew you were coming!" Yeah, I'd come at some point. I guess eventually the staff would have called me when they wanted to go home. Geesh. Why can't I remember to pick up my kids?

I think the answer is multi-fold. For one thing, I have four kids to keep track of, so that allows for some margin of error. For another, I get used to a routine and anything that puts a crimp in it throws me off (but, really, you'd think by this time I'd be used to it!). Then, I often look at the clock, think "Oh, I need to pick up (insert child's name here) in a few minutes" and then get busy doing something else so that by the time I look up again, a LOT more time has passed than I thought. The worst part is when I realize I'm VERY late to pick them up and I have that panicky feeling that something horrible will have happened in the time they stood unsupervised and alone someplace. Hayley almost never lets me forget, though. I will say "I'm on my way" and 3.2 seconds later, she's texting me "where ARE you?". I told Arlie she better start learning to text me when it's time to pick her up so I can at least get out the door. Otherwise, I might just get busy and forget her again! Poor kid, she's racking up evil stepmother stories to tell on me. At least it's not as bad as what happened last time she came home from Spokane. Her sister, Shelby and her boyfriend Nick dropped Arlie at the airport. The rule with unaccompanied minors is that you have to stay at the gate for ten minutes after the plane taxis away, in case it has to come back for any reason. Well, Nick and Shelby left too soon and wouldn't you know it, that was the ONE time Arlie's plane had to return to the gate for mechanical problems. They had to get a new plane and the flight left much later. Arlie had to stay in the company of a flight attendant the whole time. Let me tell you, I was freaking out! I'm so glad she had a cell phone this time. It was the first time she's flown that she had one. At least we knew she was safe.

Still, I really need to get better at remembering to get my kids on time! This whole safety patrol thing has thrown me off kilter and for some reason I can't seem to remember to pick her up on time. At least I've never completely forgotten her like what happened to my ex-husband. On a family trip, his large family took two cars. Dad thought Mom had Doug, and Mom thought Dad had Doug. Truth is, Doug was hiding out in the friend's house they were visiting. An hour down the road, Mom and Dad pulled their respective cars over for a pit stop and guess what? No Doug! It was a frantic drive back to the house (and before cell phones or any way to contact the friends) before they retrieved their youngest child. Oops!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Arlie's first gymnastics meet

Intense concentration at the start of the meet...

A beautiful vault!

Ready for a handstand.......

Mid-air splits!

Bending over backwards.........

Awesome finish to her floor routine......

Balancing on the bars.......

Arlie flips!

Dismount! She sticks it!

Handstand on the beam - scary!

Presentation of awards!

She's a winner! Yay Arlie!

Harrison's 11th birthday!

The birthday fairy came and put presents on the table, balloons on the lights and a donut cake for the birthday boy!

The donut cake - Harrison's idea!

Eleven candles for my "baby" boy!

He's a happy camper!

Don't you know better than to put your tongue on an open flame?

Make a wish!

The coveted gift -a cell phone - he's been asking for one since age 6!

Making his first call to guess who? His dad!

The party - opening presents!

He invited five friends over........

Whipped cream in the mouth! Yum!

Harrison and friends enjoying ice cream sundaes and a cupcake tower

The boyz.........

The cupcake tower!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Domestic Goddess.......

Here's a secret. I like "staying home". Not in the sense that I'm home all the time but in the sense of being a "stay at home mom" which is, in itself, a misnomer, because, really, how many moms do you know who stay home all the time? No, it means a mother who does not work for pay outside the home. And that not working for pay part sucks, let me tell you, I have not been called ALL WEEK for a sub job so there goes any income I was going to provide the household this week. All hope is not lost, though, I got called for a market research study last night for which I will be paid $100! Woo-hoo, grocery money. But money woes aside, I do not mind at all the days I'm home and doing nothing but being a domestic goddess.

This morning I was able to put some pork and BBQ sauce in the crock pot for some delicious pulled pork later tonight. I have the whole day ahead of me to do whatever needs to be done. And the truth is, there's so much to be done, I could "stay home" for a year and never get it all done. So, even when I'm not working, my days are full and busy, and I end up going to bed with things still on my "to do" list. Having this extra time is a blessing in a way, because even though I'm not working for pay at the moment, I have a clean fridge. Do you know how long it's been since I really cleaned the fridge? And I was able to do a bunch of annoying laundry like blankets and sheets, stuff that gets pushed into a pile and sits forever (because we have other sheets and blankets, so who wants to do all that laundry?). I make my bed every day just so it looks nice. I don't have to panic because it's Harrison's birthday tomorrow and I don't have time to do everything because I'm at work. I have plenty of time to wrap presents, decorate, make cupcakes, etc. The feeling of not having to feel rushed or pulled in too many directions is worth more than a paycheck.

Still, we need the paycheck, so I can't enjoy this feeling without a little knot in my stomach worrying about money. How I wish we were "comfortable" instead of living paycheck to paycheck (and using credit cards in between to make up the shortfall), but at least I am able to shop using coupons, cut back by cooking at home, and try to make money by saving money. It's not easy, and I'm always looking for the perfect job, but so far, no dice. I'm not sure the perfect job exists, at least not for me. But I keep looking anyway. Because someday I'll find something that works. In the meantime, I'll keep the phone close at hand for those sub calls.

I can't say I mind the peace and quiet, the ability to do my "work" around here with no interruptions, the freedom to run to the store when needed. It's all very nice. Once the kids come home it's chaotic and noisy and impossible to concentrate on one thing when so many things are going on at once. So, I relish this time alone, even though it's sometimes lonely and I'd like nothing more than to meet a friend for coffee. I like my time and I'm making the best of it until things change again.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Select Sports

These days, your kid can't just "play sports". Playing sports has taken on a whole new meaning (and a lot more dollars) since we were kids. It used to be a kid's sports experience was playing games in PE at school, playing on the local Little League team, and maybe going out for high school sports (if they were good enough, because in those days, kids actually DID get cut). Now, people start putting their kids in sports at age 3. Even before that, there are "mom and me" soccer classes and martial arts. At the tender age of three, kids can join exclusive soccer teams, play t-ball, start dance classes and tumble at gymnastics. Which is all well and good. However, it's not just fun and games. Since kids start at age 3, parents must jump on the baby sports bandwagon in order to give their kids a leading edge in future sporting endeavors.

My oldest, Hayley, started sports in fourth grade. Unless you consider dancing a sport, which she started at age four. She twirled and spun onstage for a few years before considering a sport, which turned out to be soccer. She played on a co-ed team through the local YMCA. But guess what? She could barely keep up. Because most of the kids had been playing since age three. Since it was no fun to run around and never get the ball kicked to you, she only played one season. Later, she tried softball. She had to play with the junior high team and again, most of the girls had been playing forever. After a season of playing the deep outfield, she quit that, too. And thus ended her very short career in sports. Because by junior high, if you haven't played on a community team since age 3, you're all washed up. Plus, by then you should be on a select team. Select meaning: your parents will pay a ton of money, most of which would be better spent saving up for college, in the hopes that you will be A.) a superstar so they can gloat and live vicariously through you, or B.) get an athletic scholarship (the chances of this are akin to winning the lottery!). These kids practice multiple times a week, often late into the evening, spend every weekend traveling long distances to games, and for what? Their enjoyment? Staying in shape? That's a mighty hefty gym membership!

I'm not saying kids shouldn't get involved in sports. But it has truly gotten out of hand. I've known parents who have held their kids back from kindergarten so they will be older (stronger, faster, bigger) when they arrive at the age to play team sports. And you know what? Smart lasts longer. Bodies get old, injured and break down, but brains, God-willing, go on thinking till the day you die. So, instead of spending thousands of dollars on select sports, wouldn't it be better to invest in a good education?

But what about building strong bodies, being healthy, staying in shape? All important things to consider. Which is why I wish there were more choices, that were not cost-prohibitive, for kids who just don't like team sports, or just aren't "good enough" according to today's standards. Kids get some PE in school, certainly not enough, but wouldn't it be nice if they could choose from a variety of after-school options like a yoga class or recreational, pick-up volleyball, basketball or soccer? Instead of the pressure of being able to afford the steep fees, what if kids could just try out several sports with no stress of try-outs and all the benefits of camaraderie and physical activity?

I would love to see a triathlon training club at the schools. What a great way to help kids get stronger in three sports - swimming, biking and running - while building their self-esteem and giving them the benefit of group training. Plus, a shiny medal around their necks at the final event is an added bonus. They could compete against themselves, improving their own efforts, and benefit from an all-around workout. Or have, as a low-cost after-school option, a group yoga class. What kid doesn't need to destress (for example, after being cut from the junior high volleyball team for not being "good enough")? Yoga teaches so much more than just postures and poses. Kids learn to breathe their way through total body awareness, building muscle and stamina in the process. And there's no "yoga-lympics" to worry about.

I wish more kids would just go out and play. I know, I know, it's not safe, it rains too much, there's not enough play space in the neighborhood, etc. But still......I remember spending HOURS playing kick the can on summer nights, long after dark, and riding bikes aimlessly all day long. Hiking and exploring in the woods and taking long walks to one friend or another's house were how kids spent their days. Now they sit inside and play video games, watch You Tube or text on their cell phones. So, you say, this is why MY kid plays sports. Ok, but along with that organized sporting event comes transportation, many fees, fundraising and travel. It's just not accessible to every family.

I believe if a child is truly passionate about something, and as a parent you can afford to nurture that passion, you should go for it! So, if you have a little David Beckham in training, all the more power to you. But for the kid who likes to dabble in many activities, there should be more opportunities for them to TRY different sports without all the pressure of draining the wallet, the gas tank and a parent's patience. Plus all those evenings spent at practices? The late nights when homework doesn't get done? Huge time suck. I firmly believe kids' sports in elementary school should have no more than two practices a week and games should never be longer than an hour. I know, that goes against all the rules, after all, the great American baseball games lasts two to three hours. But the time required to be "select" at anything is phenomenal. And where does it all lead?

One might argue that a child learns invaluable lessons from the camaraderie of a team sport, discipline from hours of practice and good time management from late-night practices. Plus, it keeps 'em out of trouble, right? Well, maybe. But maybe not. From the high rates of child burnout when it comes to select sports (and music lessons and dance classes, and a generally overfull schedule), kids these days are as stressed as adults! Just think about it........if you were required to work a full-time job, then come home and take at least one organized class a day, plus do a couple hours of "homework" on top of it, you'd suffer burnout too.

I think it's great to offer kids choices. And if your family budget allows, and they are passionate about something, then by all means, explore it! Nurture it! But kids should be able to say they played a baseball game, or shot some baskets, or kicked around a soccer ball without having been part of a select team. Sports has become big business and I believe it's hurting our kids and losing the joy of spontaneous fun and exploration that is natural to kids. No one should be afraid to play a game of pick up kickball on the playground just because they don't have the skills. Sports should be sports. If a kid is good at a sport, and he tries out for the Varsity team at school, and he makes it, it's because he's got a gift. And it doesn't necessarily have to be honed over years of playing (and paying) for a select team.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bad Dog, Shade......again!

Oh Shade. Your antics fail to amuse me. It's bad enough that you snuffle through the garbage looking for candy wrappers to lick. It's worse that you eat strange substances, many of them unidentifiable. Like a couple of weeks ago when you barfed on my bathroom floor and something that looked like an SOS pad sat in a puddle of puke. We don't even have SOS pads. Then, yesterday, when you started to make that sound that strikes terror into the hearts of dog owners everywhere....that sloshy, choky sound that means within seconds something is going to be covered in barf. Oh, I tried my best! I rushed you to the door, but my fingers slipped while trying to open it and I was too late. You splashed dog barf on my carpet, my hardwood floor, and worse, my feet! I had to shower. But first I had to pull the huge rug onto the porch to hose off the big chunks. I really don't care if I ever see that rug again. But tonight, your boldness took on a whole new level. I slipped a few tortillas out of the package to heat for our burrito dinner. I turned around and suddenly felt a strange tugging sensation. Thinking one of the kids was taking the tortillas out of my hand, I turned around again, and imagine my surprise when it was YOU, helping yourself to a bite of tortilla stack. It was like a shark bite in a surfboard.......the whole stack had a crescent-shaped bite mark and YOU, you had the guilty look of a dog who knows when he's gone too far! Some penance in the garage and you started barking incessantly. We finally caved and let you in. Clearly, you are unreformable. Because upon your release, you promptly trotted to the kitchen to put your nose on the countertop looking for scraps. Bad dog, Shade! Bad dog!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Disneyland dads and moms.........

Arlie came home tonight after ten days in Spokane with her mom. Normally I don't like to schedule her return the day before school starts back up again, and certainly not on an evening flight (that was delayed twice!) and for good reason. No matter what, where or when, kids who visit the "other parent" need detox time when they return to their primary residence. My own kids can be impossible to live with the day after they get back from their dad's, and especially after a longer than normal visit. Arlie has it worse, because she has a week or more at Christmas, spring break or summer. Going from one household to another is just plain hard on kids. No matter how hard you try to make transitions easier, it's just going from one world to another.

My kids will often return from their dads in a daze of too much TV, late nights, and unsupervised time. It's just a more permissive environment and the girls, especially, are often left alone and unsupervised which leads to too much texting, tv, computer and "down time". They often don't even leave the house on a nice weekend. Or change out of their pajamas. Now, I'm all for a lazy day now and then, and I totally value that kids need their downtime, but I think they get it in spades at dad's house. Arlie comes back from an extended vacation and there is a period of tears, lamenting that "things are different" at our house, etc. Well, of course they are! At the other parent's houses, it's all about fun, games, relaxation and little parental authority. It's the weekend, or it's a school vacation. The kids don't have school or regular chores to deal with. Mom or dad is at their disposal to entertain and hang out with.

At "home", or their "primary residence" as the courts like to call it, is where real life takes place. And real life is NOT as much fun as fantasy life. Real life involves chores, homework, busy parents trying to keep a roof over the kids' head, feed them, take them to various activities, spend quality time with them, buy their food and clothes and generally leads to a very busy lifestyle. Sure, we have down time and days of all-day pajamas and too much TV, but for the most part, life goes on in the way that real life does. It's just not as much fun when you're learning to be a responsible memeber of society.

What really bothers me about this is that no matter what, I will NEVER get the chance to be the "fun parent"..........the one who has no pressing issues, who's only job is to spend quality time at a preassigned time with my child. Because someone has to work, pay the mortgage, feed and clothe the kids, make arrangements for them to go to college. Plan for their future. Teach them how to do laundry, cook and keep a house. Teach them to drive, earn money and value hard work and an honest living.

I'm not saying the other parents don't contribute..........they do, in their own ways. However, "primary parent" to the courts might mean "parent the child lives with the majority of the time" but in reality it's the parents who will do the lion's share of work and enjoy the smallest amount of reward. They say parenting is a thankless job, but I'm here to tell you, being a stepparent is THE most thankless job on the planet. Stepkids will never know how hard a stepparent works or how much a stepparent loves them. Arlie worships her mom, and rightly so, she's her mother after all. But I am the one who is there every day to help with homework, listen to her worries about friends at school, make her lunch, take her to gymnastics, shop for school clothes, attend her school functions and field trips, volunteer for things. Likewise, Harrison worships his dad, but it's Jeff who works every single day to bring home the money that puts the clothes on his back, the food in his mouth and it's Jeff who shows him how to restore a truck, fish for salmon, hunt for pheasant, take out the trash. The other parents simply are not here to do these things. And while they may lament that they can't contribute this way because of their location, there is no arguing with the fact that they simply do not have to bother themselves with the nuts and bolts of everyday life with kids. Never once do the other parents have to worry themselves with whether the shoes are too small or there is money in the lunch account at school. Those things are simply done for them and they are given their little cherubs on the weekend to enjoy, the slate wiped clean of worries. Do they have worries? Hopes, dreams? Sure they do, all parents have wishes for their children. The difference is, it's the "primary parents" who have to make this all a reality.

Truth be told, I'd love to just spend fun, quality time with my kids every single day. I'd love to tuck each of them in at night and have a few minutes to talk about their hopes and dreams. But it's just not reality. I do the best I can and I'm torn every day with how much quality time I have to spend with my kids. I worry about working too much and neglecting their needs. Someone has a dentist appointment? The logistics of that fall to me. Someone missing school for illness? Who's going to stay home? Me. Planning birthday parties? Camping trips? Driving on a field trip? Me. I'm not complaining. I WANT to do these things. Being a mom is and always was my number one priority. I might not have known what I wanted to be when I grew up, but being a mom was never a question. I never knew I'd have a stepdaughter one day, but I don't regret that for one minute. I am so blessed to have her and I thank God every day for the family I've been given. But I walk around most days with a knot in my stomach wondering how to make ends meet, how to be the best mom to all four of my kids, how to do it all and still hold down a job, and still try not to be the least bit disappointed when Harrison asks to spend an extra night or two with his dad (because, hey, it's more fun over there) or Arlie hints about wanting to live in Spokane (why not? It's "quieter" over there).

And I could go on and on about this subject but the bottom line is NOTHING will ever change the way things are. The grass will always be greener at the absent parent's house. And just once, I'd like to feel what it's like to enjoy my children with no strings attached. With no looming umbrella of responsibility and mundane details hovering overhead. I'd like to be the "Disneyland mom"........the one who's only agenda item is fun and quality time. Just for a day. Because I'm glad I'm the one who's teaching the kids to be responsible adults. I'm glad I'm the one who watches all the practices, rehearsals, and performances. I'm glad I'm the one making the lunches and giving lessons on laundry and healing the hurts. I just hope when my kids look back on their "growing up" days, they remember the fun stuff and the good times as much as the chores and yelling and chaos and noise. I hope they know how much they are loved - not just by the parents who created them, but by the parents who made them who they are.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's Eve

We celebrated at home.....

With pizza, party hats and smiles......

Changed out the stockings to those resembling disco balls........

Down came "Happy Birthday" up went "Happy New Year"

Harrison banged pots and pans.......

While we watched the Space Needle fireworks.......

Hayley rocked her princess crown........

Hannah being.........Hannah!

There's a nice smile for mom!

Hayley and the computer - never far apart!

It was a blow-out!

Jennifer and Chloe came to visit..........

Harrison and his noisemakers........

Jeff and M-L ring in the new........

Happy 2010!