Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Listen and Obey

"Listen and Obey."
It's a phrase we use a lot in our household.

I know that some parents would find this phrase to be horribly demeaning to children. Parenting is about negotiating with your child, reasoning with them until you can come to an agreement on what should happen. Or you should play through the situation until your goal is achieved. 

I think that's a bunch of malarkey. You don't have time to negotiate and play when your child is running towards a busy city street. You don't always have the chance to reason with them when they're doing something unsafe. Sometimes, you just need to be able to utter a command and know that your child knows they're supposed to respond. I'm not saying we have a 100% success rate for compliance, but we're usually above 90%, which I think is pretty good. Children don't know which commands are keeping them intact vs. keeping the china cabinet intact. It's not their job to stop and try to figure it out. They just need to listen. Their lives and my sanity depend on it. 

As the girls can recite, my words are to "teach them and keep them safe". So I used the newspaper this morning as a teachable moment. There were a lot of people that suffered in the hurricane, despite preparing as well as they could. I have nothing but sympathy for those folks. I've lived through roof-ripping hurricanes, and they're terrifying. I can imagine that the recovery effort is overwhelming. But there were a lot of people who suffered because they decided not to evacuate when they should have. They were given an order, but they chose not to obey.
Now, I'm not saying we should all be automatons that follow every recommendation of our government without questioning them. No, reason is important. But when all of the weather reports and emergency warnings tell you that 90mph winds and 10+ feet of water are coming to wipe away your home, it seems wise to evacuate. Especially if you aren't savvy in the areas of meteorology, civil engineering, and hydrology. They weren't interrupting your weekend TV programs for the fun of it. No, they were trying to keep you from getting killed. 

I wonder, as I see more people subscribe to the "negotiate until agreement" method of parenting, if this phenomenon will get worse in the future. If a good chunk of our society believes that the rules don't really apply to them (especially if they don't like the rule or recommendation), how will we stay safe? How will we learn without having to learn the hard way?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A New Obsession

I have a new toy obsession. Not a toy for me, but toys for the girls. I never thought toy-buying could be so complicated, but hey, most of us were pretty naive before we had kids.

I always figured we'd avoid Barbies. It's just the appropriate feminist thing to do, according to my liberal arts education. I figured we'd avoid "things that were too-thoroughly marketed". It seemed safer to just avoid TV character dolls that had their own music videos, breakfast cereals, and aisles at Target. Then there was the "avoiding the toys that contribute to poor body image or gender stereotypes". And the "toys that do too much of the work and don't foster creativity". And the "toys coated in toxic paint".  And the list goes on and on. Whew.

And one day, HeyMama and I went to a toy store to do a little lesson on the value of a dollar. The lesson didn't really get us too far, as nothing there was available for a dollar. But there was a little table set up with these little animal dolls. Their appendages and heads were moveable. They were fuzzy. They had tiny little clothes, furniture, and intricately detailed accessories. HeyMama sat herself down at that table and played for half an hour. I could not pull her away.

That was my first exposure to Calico Critters. They were cute pudgy little animals. The Mama and Daddy animals look alike, as do the siblings. No body image issues there... I had never seen them anywhere else before. No excessive marketing there... And while there are a lot of intricate pieces (great for fine motor skills!), none of them do the work for you. It's great for creative play. I found the perfect toy!!! And then I looked at the price tag... 
I would pay dearly for that perfection.

The price tag horrified me. Ok, so quality toys demand a quality price. You get what you pay for, yadda yadda. 
But still. The price!

An then I discovered a thriving secondhand market for Calico Critters. Because they cost so much, parents want to recoup their investment. They're still not free, but they're secondhand toys, so they can't cost an arm and a leg. So they sell them for about half price. This makes them reasonable. And the collection has been around at least since I was a little girl (I remember the commercials!), so there are a lot of pieces out there that are up for grabs.

This makes them perfect for becoming an obsession. It's something I can troll Craigslist for to find a great bargain. Or 7.

So if you see some at a yard sale with prices in the single digits, please snap them up for me. Or for yourself. Then you can have your own obsession.

Here's a teeny-tiny fridge with teeny-tiny groceries. Too cute.

Here's some teeny-tiny produce. With some dog fur thrown in for scale.

Here's Sister Panda in MeToo's little hand.

Here's Sister at her desk. With teeny-tiny desk accessories.
And MeToo's toes for scale.

MeToo holding Sister's globe. It actually spins. So cute!

Here's a Baby Guinea Pig on his/her playmat. Remember the gender neutral thing?
So dang cute.

Mama Guinea Pig and her twins come with a stroller. That really rolls.
And has an adjustable canopy. Seriously.
It's just all insanely cute.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Preparedness Tips

So we're currently experiencing the beginning of Frankenstorm. I'm underwhelmed so far, but am willing to see if the storm lives up to its hype. As a native Gulf-coaster who grew up with hurricanes, I thought I'd help out a bit by posting some hurricane preparedness tips.

Months Before:

  • Amass a collection of camping gear, candles, and food to supply any potential apocalypse. Not out of fear, but because of occasional camping and sale-bingeing habits. 
  • Wonder about how to get a fireplace put in to increase self-sufficiency should a society-altering event actually occur, especially with all of the trees out back. 

Week Before:

  • Watch reports of impending storm. 
  • Note increasing tone of hysteria and hype in media. 
  • Laugh at silliness of New Englanders. 
  • It's a hurricane, not the apocalypse.

Few Days Before:

  • Inventory grocery staples, such as milk and fresh produce. 
  • Wish that the storm was scheduled for after the usual grocery-shopping day.
  • Resign self to joining panicked masses at the grocery stores.
  • Join throngs at the grocery store. 
  • Sigh at the hysteria. 
  • Get in line at the gas station and gas up. The tank is low, regardless of impending doom. 
  • Sigh at the hysteria.

Night Before:

  • Find out that BestestHusband's company is closed due to impending doom.
  • Find out that daycare is closed due to impending doom, so there's no Music Time to lead.
  • Resign self to day spent indoors with kids.
  • Mentally prepare self with list of fun activities to keep kids entertained.

Day Of Doom:

  • Give thanks for wise neighbor who invites you over for outside fun before storm gets too bad and you're stuck inside.
  • Bundle kids up and drag them outdoors for forced fun.
  • Chuckle with native Floridian neighbor about the silliness of New Englanders and storms. 
  • Traipse over to another neighbor's house with a swing set. Milk that outside time a little longer. 
  • Make tentative plans with second neighbor for indoor activities in case the girls' stir-craziness is worse than the weather outside.
  • Keep kids outside playing with friends until they're practically begging to go inside. Give small thanks that they won't ask to go outside for quite some time.
  • Go home and serve them hot chocolate. Yes, hurricanes in New England can actually be cold.
  • Feed them lunch with an extra little treat. All of the crankiness about the forced fun dissipates.
  • Let them argue over who gets which flashlight if the power goes out.
  • Send them to take a hot shower with BestestHusband. Showering is easier with working electricity, and who knows how long you'll have power. 
  • Decide which bath tub to fill with water. It is a hurricane, and it pays to take a few proactive steps to ensure you can flush your toilets, even in the midst of doom.
  • Attempt to leak-proof the leaky bathtub drain. 
  • Pray for the best.
  • Fill the bath tub with water. Just in case the storm really is as bad as the weathermen predict.
  • Follow friends' Facebook feeds around New England to find out who has power and who doesn't.
  • Give thanks for power.
  • Give thanks that you had the big trees trimmed away from the house last year.
  • Get a call from friends. Make dinner plans. Make contingency plans based on availability of electricity.
  • Marvel at your dependency on electricity.
  • Enjoy a day without crazy errand-running and attempted productivity, and pray it doesn't get too bad for everyone else. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dum-Dums. And My Failure As A Mother.

Once upon a time, I thought that giving candy to your children was evil. Resorting to lollipops to get stuff done meant that I was a failure as a mother. Children did not need that sugar, and certainly I could have a better management system than bribery.

Please forgive me. I was so naive, and so so wrong.

I've since discovered that candy and treats can be an important part of a healthy balanced discipline system. Dum Dum Pops are my favorite go-to bribery treat. While the bakery cookies at the grocery store are handy while shopping, Dum Dums are shelf stable and easy to carry in a purse or diaper bag. They are small in dosage, have a nice handle for making fingers less-sticky, and come in a variety of flavors to keep the interest over time. In other words, they are a godsend.

They were also part of my plan for handling our trip to the doctor's office today. HeyMama was scheduled for her 4 year well-child visit, and we knew some vaccinations would go along with it. So I packed 3, just to be excessive. Or so I thought...

Well, they offered the flu vaccine, which I said yes to. Then they offered it for MeToo as a tag-along consolation prize. I said yes to that, as well. Then they mentioned that they needed blood drawn from HeyMama to check for anemia. Ok. I have 3 Dum Dums, and 3 courses of needles. I'm still golden. Or so I thought...

So the shots went as well as was expected. The nurses showered the girls in stickers, and I whipped out the Dum Dums to distract from the pain. It all worked. Until MeToo saw HeyMama with a second lollipop, and wanted one of her own. Crap. I did count the rounds of needles, but I did not account for the "meee toooooo!" factor. I failed as a mother. 

So I led a wailing 2 year old around the health center while we did a potty trip. It was pitiful to hear. "I wanna wawipop! I waaaanna waaaaawipop! I waaaaaannaaaaa waaaaawiiiiiiipooooooop!" The sound echoed down all of the halls.

We ran into the nurse practitioner who had monitored both girls en utero. After exclaiming how long it had been since she saw the girls, she asked about the wailing. I told the story. She ducked into an office, and came out with a candy jar. The candy jar had a Tootsie Roll Pop. The wailing stopped immediately. "It's a big one!" MeToo chirped brightly.Yes, it was much larger than HeyMama's Dum Dum. And the crisis was over. 

So once again, I have learned about the importance of carrying an excessive amount of lollipops. I hope I don't forget that again. At least not before MeToo has her 3 year checkup next month...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jesus Is Not a Republican

Jesus is not a Republican. 


Jesus is not a Democrat, either. 

Being a good Christian doesn't mean you have to vote for Republicans. Similarly, being a good Christian doesn't mean you have to vote for Democrats. Neither party holds the title of espousing more of God's commands. Of course, if you belong to one of the parties, I'm sure you see your party as being closer to God. I'm sure you could give me 3 good reasons that you believe it to be true. Maybe even 5 reasons. Of course, someone on the other side of the aisle could give 3-5 good reasons why THEIR party is closer to God. 

Let me see if I can guess the lists...

Jesus is a Republican because:

  • He described marriage as a union between a man and a woman that is a demonstration of the relationship between Christ and his church. Therefore American marriages should only be between a man and a woman.
  • Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me" and would oppose abortion.
  • He prayed in public regularly, and would want to keep prayer in schools.
  • Opposing abortion, Jesus would not support a national health care system that guaranteed abortions to women who wanted them.

Jesus is a Democrat because:

  • Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Higher taxes for the rich would be a no-brainer.
  • He tells us to love our neighbor, even if they are different from us (Like Samaritans. Or any other social group that we look down upon.)
  • Jesus fed thousands that had no food. He would love to expand the food stamp program even further.
  • He healed the sick wherever he went. He would want us to guarantee healthcare to anyone who needed it.
  • He showed compassion to criminals, and would oppose the death penalty.

I'm sure I left many items off the list. And I know I'm not going to convince anyone here that Jesus is actually rooting for the other team.


We live in a sinful world. We are sinners. There is no right side to choose, as far as Jesus is concerned. We will have to make compromises on our beliefs and cast a vote. Jesus said "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God." It is our duty to participate in local and national politics. That is what our responsible citizenship requires, along with paying taxes and following our laws. But Jesus also told the parable of the 3 servants. The master gave each servant an amount of money to care for in his absence. Two of the servants invested the money wisely, and gave their master back even-larger sums upon his return. The master was pleased with their stewardship. The third servant buried the money in the ground until his master returned. He told his master that he was afraid of displeasing his master by losing it, and chose to not choose. He just sat on the money instead of making the most of it. He was not a good steward of his resources. We too are called to be good stewards of our American freedoms, of our ability to vote. God gives us reason and conscience to decide the best way to use that gift. If you feel that you are called to vote for one man because he'll do a better job with your vote, then vote for him. 

Martin Luther (the Reformation guy, not the civil rights guy) spoke about Christians living in two kingdoms. There is the Kingdom of the Left that we pay taxes to, follow the rules of, and elect leaders to. It is the kingdom of our temporal lives. The lives that involve jobs, traffic jams, and PTA meetings. A kingdom ruled by law. Laws that are made to keep us safe in our homes as we sleep at night. And there is the kingdom of our Creator, the Kingdom of the Right, that is ruled by grace. It is the kingdom of the gospel, with a structure different from our earthly kingdom. In it we seek God's will, not out of fear for breaking the rules, but in thankful response to our salvation in Christ. It is the kingdom of our eternal lives. 

Christians live in both kingdoms. We have obligations and callings in our temporal lives, but must always prioritize our eternal lives. To haphazardly mix the two and say that Jesus sides with one of our flawed political parties does nothing but debase our savior and aggrandize a group of people who make a living out of trying to become more powerful. 


So let's keep it all in context, folks. 

Jesus wants us to be good stewards of our blessings:  freedom, knowledge, wisdom, food, shelter, and money. Pray that you can cast a vote that does this, and stop labeling the other side as evil.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Stewardship Every Day

Instead of doing my usual weekly check-in on my stewardship of my week's specific resources, I want to talk about stewardship from a larger parenting perspective. BestestHusband and I led a discussion on the topic at church on Sunday. It's not because we have the answers or are experts on the topic, but because it is a topic of great concern to us.

How do we teach our children to be good stewards of the gifts that God gives them - their time, their talents, and their possessions?

In the group discussion on Sunday, it was discussed that children pay more attention to what they see us do than what we say they should do. "Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work.

This is much easier said than done.

When children see us being stingy with our time and money, they are more likely to be stingy with their time and money. When we are impatient and unforgiving of others, they are more likely to be impatient and unforgiving. When they see us act on faith, not our own self-serving interests, they are more likely to live their faith.

So in other words, if we want our children to follow a lifestyle that propagates God's love, we have to do it first.

Dang. That's hard.

This is going to require some figuring out. Are we being good stewards? What do our children see when they look at our lifestyle?

Now that the girls are getting old enough to have discussions with, we can start to explain the rationales behind our decisions. We can explain why we don't spend as much money on vacations as some others do, and don't have a giant flat screen TV as some others do. We can explain why we feel it's important to go to church every Sunday. We can help them connect the dots between our actions and our faith. We just have to keep talking about it.

But we have to be careful. Because if we aren't consistent, they'll notice. And we can talk all day long about our beliefs, but if our actions don't match our words, all is for naught.

This is a scary thing. A very scary thing...

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Future of Elder Care

As I've mentioned before, I have the privilege of working with the elderly. It's not the most glamorous group to work with, but I generally find it rewarding. I learn a lot. Unlike school, I can acquire wisdom, not just knowledge. Good stuff. I've met the people I want to grow up to be like. Sure, God willing, we'll all get to the age of 80. But not all of us will do it equally well. 

I came to the realization at work yesterday that I'm worried about the future of caring for the elderly. I think we have a growing problem that isn't being discussed yet in our field. And I blame it on airplanes.

Stay with me here for the explanation. I worked with 4 different patients yesterday (only 4, it was a short day, and one required a lengthy evaluation). They were all in their 80's. They all lived in their own homes. But only with the assistance of family. 

One was married, but had health problems that require a significant amount of assistance from her husband. He's thankfully healthy enough to provide the care. If he gets ill, they have adult children and grandchildren in the area to help. One of those granddaughters was there at lunch when I visited her. If it weren't for the family members, the lady would need to be in a nursing home.

One patient was never married. He lived a simple life in a menial job. He was retired and doing fine until his health problems began. He'll be fine when he goes home, even if he has lingering cognitive problems. His nephew lives next door. His niece lives one town over. They already were helping him. In fact, his nephew visited at the hospital today. But without his family, I would recommend discharging him to a nursing home.

Two patients had lost their spouses, and were now a widow/widower. They have varying health problems that require ongoing care when they go home. They both have very involved adult children who will help care for them at home, and are already very involved in their hospital care. Without the family members, they would be discharged to nursing homes.

Without local family, all of these patients would end up in nursing homes. They are not people of means. They might have a few resources, but the money would dry up in a year or two, with the taxpayer then picking up their nursing home tabs. You and me. People need nursing homes, and we need to help pay for them. This is a fact. But more people will need these nursing homes in the future.

Our generation is one that has grown up with reasonably affordable air travel. It's no big deal to pick up and move a few time zones away from family. We can always fly home at the holidays. Many of us have moved to cities and settled down among strangers, far away from family and friends. Right now, we're young and relatively self-sufficient. We don't need someone to check in on us and make sure we've had at least one square meal and our daily assortment of medications. But the day will come in the future when we will depend on the help from others for our survival. And if our habit of moving far from family continues, who will come check on us? It's frequently the case that having one supportive family member will make the difference between leaving the hospital to go home vs. leaving the hospital to move into a nursing home. If families keep moving away from each other and more people age alone, we will run out of nursing homes. 

The older I get, the more I see the wisdom in having large extended families settled in the same area. We definitely suffer from not having grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the area. And I'm sure that the older we get, the more we will suffer. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Not a Good Playmate

I currently work per diem for a rehab hospital that primarily treats adults, but does have one pediatric floor. So once in a blue moon, I get floated down to work with pedi patients.

The staffing coordinator/scheduler commented one day that pedi specifically requested a therapist that "knows how to play". She responded, "Joy knows how to play, she's got 2 kids!". When I worked on the floor that day, I realized that I felt a bit out of my element. My job was to play? And not multitask keeping the child entertained and happy while I managed other elements of the household?" I found it challenging.

There's a push from some parenting "experts"to play through everything. Playful Parenting encourages parents to approach all behavior and discipline issues through play. Play through all of your daily routines. Play through any conflict that comes along. You don't need discipline when you have play.

I have a really hard time with this. Play is important for children. Play is how they learn many things. But play is not everything. Play is most effective when it's not structured by adults. And discipline is different from play. It is necessary to help kids learn limits. I will not joke with my girls when they disobey me.

Am I really a bad mom because I don't play all the time? Certainly there's plenty I can offer without being their constant playmates. For Pete's sake, I had them so close together so they'd always have a friend to turn to. I do things they can't do for each other. I teach. I comfort. I help. I hug, tickle, hold, rock, boost, and carry. I cook, clean, clothe, and provide the elements they need in their days for action and inaction. And yes, sometimes, I do play.

At the end of the day, I don't want to be their best playmate. I want to be the foundation they build on, the walls that keep them safe, and the pillow they can fall back on. Sometimes that requires not being their best friend, and sometimes that takes too much work to have a lot of free time (and energy) to play.

So I will continue with my current approach to parenting. I will not play or trick my kids into cooperation. As my girls can recite, "I use my words to teach you and keep you safe." That is my job. I pay their preschool teachers to play with them all day. They do a better job of it, anyway.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday! It's not a big one, and we usually don't make a big deal out of my birthday, but this year I want to celebrate it. I'm having a small party on Saturday, but my biggest celebration is today. I'm not doing dishes.

I don't need a candlelight dinner. I don't need jewels. (BestestHusband did get me a large assortment of tulip bulbs from his trip to Amsterdam, which is a pretty fantastic gift.) But I would like to take a brief break from a significant source of tedium.

On days that we're at home, we eat up to 5 times a day. That's 3 meals + small snacks. Most of those happen at home. If they don't, they're eaten out of small containers that are later washed at home. We dirty and clean a dishwasher full of dishes every day. Plus a sinkfull of dishes that can't go into the dishwasher. This is no surprise to other moms, right? But that's a lot of time spent in the kitchen. And I want that time back today.

So this morning, we took care of a few household tasks, then took the dogs to the Arb. It was a lovely day for a walk, and the girls ran out a lot of energy. The dogs had a great time, too. Then we went to the Children's Museum to take advantage of our membership before it expires. We ate lunch at the Au Bon Pain on site. It was luxurious. I didn't pack a lunch. I didn't carry a diaper bag. I didn't clean a thing. I felt so free! It was $12 well-spent. Then we played at the Children's Museum for 3 hours. There's so much to see and do there. The time flew.

We came home, lounged a bit, then BestestHusband came home early. And took us out for dinner. We tried a new restaurant in the Square, which was fantastic. MeToo ate a huge portion of their Southern mac and cheese. And the sangria was tasty. (Jenny, you guys would love this place. It locally sources everything, and orders a whole pig every 2 weeks. They have an entry in the menu called "The Pig Project" that changes daily depending on what they need to use. The water was poured from Thatcher Farm milk bottles. I couldn't help but think of you.) We brought home 3 meals worth of leftovers. So I'll have more food that I didn't cook, sitting in containers that I don't have to wash. SCORE!

We put the girls to bed right after we got home. I'm getting ready to take a luxurious shower. And then spend some quality time with BestestHusband.

So all-in-all, I'd say it was a fantastic day. Happy Birthday to me!

Hope your day is full of small luxuries!

My birthday cards, including a much-anticipated family portrait from HeyMama.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stewardship Sunday Again

It's Sunday again. Wow, that was quick.

This was a weekend of domesticity. I harvested lavender and mint. I made yogurt. I made bread. I made soup. I made a mess. I feel like I'm constantly cleaning something...

My Show is on Sunday nights. I haven't had my own show in so long. Ok, that's not exactly true, I do love Revenge. And Castle. And I do watch Dancing With The Stars. But that's mostly just to have a good excuse to spend more time sitting on the couch with BestestHusband... I've become a PBS junkie. There's a new show, Call the Midwife. I'm a sucker for period BBC drama. I've seen 3 episodes and I can't wait for more. Unfortunately, it's right through bedtime. But that's what repeats on the are for. I apparently need to live vicariously through a naive 1950's London nurse-midwife who lives in a convent. Maybe it's all the newborns. Or maybe it's the quiet of the convent that's so appealing...

I've been fighting a bad head cold this week. It was a great reminder that sometimes I don't appreciate something until it's gone. Like free airflow through my left nostril.

Fall arrived early this week, with a hard frost, coats and mittens. I resisted the temptation to turn on the heat, and turned on the oven and stove instead. It's that time of year again. The requests for baked goods are starting to come in from my family.

Ok, again, it's late, and I need to take my NyQuil and go to bed. So I'll report in on the week.

Time: I didn't give up Facebook, but have cut back. We spent a lot of time inside, and I tried to nap more this week. I'm not sure it helped much. I don't feel like I really used my time well, but I don't feel like I frittered it away so badly, either. I did watch a ton of full episodes of other BBC treats on, but that was just because I needed to sleep and the meds wouldn't let me. I was resting, really.

M&Ms: when the Sudafed didn't kill my appetite, I indulged too much on the M&Ms. My taste buds may be dulled for healthy stuff, but still register M&Ms very well. Sigh.

Patience: The Patience Angel was my constant helper, but I still have difficulty when I'm not feeling well. I hope this week will be better. 

Money: I made some big grocery shopping trips this week. I'm going to try to coast on that for a few weeks and use what we've got. Wish me luck. Did I mention that I got good deals at the yard sale? But I mostly got them for other people. I still need to buy pants and other things for HeyMama. Wish me luck.

Food waste: I ended up throwing out some leftovers that were just leftover too long. Last week, BestestHusband, my usual waste-preventer, was at a conference and didn't need lunches. So my usual level of leftover-production was excessive without his lunch-taking. And I have a more active gag reflex than he does. So I threw out probably 3 lunches worth of food. Sigh. Tonight's dinner used up quite a few ingredients that needed to be used. Hopefully that trend will continue and I'll have a better report for next week. 

So the next week starts in about 40 minutes. I'm thankful for Sundays, and the regular time to gather with my church family and refocus on God and His unending grace. I'm thankful that we're given a blank slate to start over again. I'm thankful for forgiveness, and the knowledge that God gives strength where we need it the most. Because most days, I really feel like I need it!

Hope you have a great week! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Taproot is Established

Today was the yearly group yard sale of my local mommy network. It's an established tradition with around 40 families participating, held in the basement of a local church. It's a great place to get ANYTHING kid-related at really good prices. So it's a mob scene, of course.

This was the first year I was able to go. Typically, I manage to sign up to work the weekend of the yard sale, and Anne becomes my personal shopper and finds things for me. She volunteers for the event so that she can get in early and scoop up the best stuff. This is a good strategy. Stuff goes fast. But Anne was out of town this weekend, and I was not working, so I got to go and be Anne's personal shopper instead. 

I got there early to help out. I knew the organizer because she helped me with the enormous yard sale I did last year. I ran into my neighbor and her friend who shared a table. I met a lot of new people. Then the sale opened, and the crowds arrived. I saw friends that I know from BestestHusband's work. I saw friends I know from church. I saw friends I know from daycare. I saw friends I know from our old babysitting co-op. I saw friends I know from the playground. I saw so many people I know. I didn't know I knew so many people around here. I know I've said it before, but occasionally I realize how rooted I've become here. And today I realized that I have a taproot in this community. I'm firmly dug in.

I didn't find much stuff for HeyMama, unfortunately. But I did find some great stuff for Anne's daughter, Rockstar. (she's earned this nickname for the place she holds in my daughters' lives. MeToo idolizes her.) Part of me wants to post pictures of the loot, as I'm proud of the finds. But I also want Anne to be surprised when she sees them. So I'll hold back. But I will say this: a pristine Hanna Andersen dress for $5. Of course, Anne told me which tables to beeline to first, so I can't claim too much credit...

I hope your weekend's full of fun surprises!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gas Stinks. And other ramblings, thanks to NyQuil...

I had so many things I wanted to write about tonight, but won't, thanks to NyQuil. 

Like a rant about how the price of gas stinks. When I drove my first car to college, I paid 89 cents per gallon. Yes, less than a dollar per gallon. Tonight I paid $3.41. And I felt like a winner for paying that. Only because I saved 30 cents/gal by spending too much money at the grocery store. Without the loyalty points, I'd spend $3.71/gal. For the "cheap" gas. My first job out of grad school was a 45-60 minute drive north of here. I entertained 2 job offers. The jobs were very different, the pay was very different. Driving almost 2 hours round trip every day was worth it, we calculated, if gas never rose above $3.50/gal. We laughed. Certainly that couldn't happen. Ha! How naive we were back then... Thankfully I got a job down the street before gas did get that high, and was able to walk to work. Gas stinks. It'd stink more if we had 2 cars...

I wanted to do a fond farewell to our garden. Our first hard frost is scheduled for tonight. So today I harvested a ton of parsley, mint, and lavender. And I pulled up the poor baby spinach that was struggling to grow in the waning sunlight. Farewell garden, we will miss thee... Dang, I forgot to bring in the ivy. I should get that pot inside right away...

I enjoyed a glorious trip to the grocery store alone tonight, where I combined a fistfull of coupons and some store sales to save $15 just on cereal. I did buy a lot of cereal. I love the grocery store late at night. It's so peaceful. And when I have extra coupons, I lay them on top of the product that they apply towards for someone else to discover and use. (sometimes even the coupon doesn't make it cheap enough for me to buy...) I like to think of myself as the Coupon Fairy. But only for coupons that aren't so great...

I did not bring home any candy or treats from the store. But I did bring home 3 versions of cold medicine. 2 were on sale. That's the sign of illness in me. I had 2 kinds of leafy greens in my cart (spinach and kale), but no chocolate. Not even more Dum-Dums for the girls. I'm definitely still sick. 

Dogs are great. I love our dogs. I wish they didn't shed so much. But if I brushed them more often with the Furminator, I wouldn't have so much fur to sweep up. But I don't think to do that very often. Did I  mention we have great dogs? That are very furry?

My cold is getting a bit better, but I'm sustaining myself on various drugs. Thanks to Sudafed and Mucinex, I could actually use my left nostril intermittently throughout the day. This is a significant improvement. But also thanks to Sudafed, I was wired all day, and couldn't nap. This is noteworthy, as I have a history of napping any place, any time. Rowing in college trained me to nap flexibly, and I was even able to take 90-second naps in the boat. But I could not nap today. So I took NyQuil as soon as I got home from the store. And now I'm a zombie. A zombie that writes tangential blog posts. I think I might be able to sleep now, so I'll wrap this up and go to bed. 

Wash your hands. Stay well. And thank you Lord for NyQuil.


I'm watching my second debate, this one for Vice-Presidential candidates. Sigh. I realize that I'm a cynic. Who's telling the truth? Whose facts are correct? What truths are being told and what truths are being bent? I'm not a political insider. I don't know. Nor am I really sure of which insiders to trust. This is a problem.

I'm more involved in a different debate. There is a debate raging in Boston about changes to the school system. One side says that the school system is trying to destroy neighborhoods. The other side says that the school system is trying to widen the gap between the poor and the rich. They shout words like "racism". The thing is, I know that both sides are wrong.

There have been many articles about the history of bussing in Boston:

It was started in the 70's to address the issue of schools being segregated because neighborhoods were segregated. What happened? People were outraged about their children being bussed away from their neighborhood schools to schools with strangers across town. Unfortunately, violence resulted.  What would you do if you were informed that next year, your child would be driven across the city to a strange neighborhood? I doubt you'd throw bricks at busses, but if you had the means, you'd move to a different town with more reliable and predictable schools. Or send them to private schools. Well, if you had the money to do so...

And that's what happened in Boston. Wealthier families who wanted to take control of their children's educations left en masse. That left behind the children of the poor and the children of immigrants - children who desperately need good educations and desperately need additional resources to make that happen. The elementary schools are full of the neediest children in town. That's a tough position for any school district to be in. Do they still need to rise to the occasion? Yes. But does that make it more difficult for all schools to be equally good? Yes.

The school district needs to lure back the wealthier kids to fill in more of the seats. And by "wealthy" I mean families that can scrape together about $7000/yr to buy a predictable parochial education. They need to prevent the flight of wealthier families to the burbs. Then they'd have more money to spend on all of the children. It isn't only the wealthy families (and again, I use the term "wealthy" loosely here) that want better schools. It isn't only the wealthy that want advanced coursework for their bright kids.

The school district (BPS) has been implementing targeted programs towards the children with the greatest needs, those who enter the system with linguistic and academic disadvantages. They have more plans ready for implementation. These are the poor (largely African-American and latino) and the immigrants that are being helped the most. How are they demonstrating ongoing racism? And the Superintendent of the BPS and most of the school administrators and Principals were African-American. Others were Latino and Asian. They were the ones presenting the possible plans. I'm scratching my head at how an African-American woman making school policy recommendations that largely affect African-American children can be accused of being racist.

When people care greatly about a topic, local or national, rhetoric gets heated. I realize this. But why does it have to be so nasty? And full of untruths? A mom on JPMoms wrote that she feels that this is "us vs. them". But why do we have to assume this? The mere fact that BPS is proposing 5 different changes, and vigorously soliciting parent feedback through surveys, meetings, and open appeals makes me feel invited and included in this process. The fact that I had facetime with the Superintendent at a meeting makes me confident that this isn't an "us vs. them" process. We can't all get exactly what we want. But this doesn't mean that they're not trying to find a good middle-ground solution. 

So I pray regularly now that we may all be given open minds, gentle spirits, and sweetened tongues. There are many debates going on right now that will have ongoing consequences. I pray that truth rises to the top of the fray, and good decisions can be made all around.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stewardship Sunday

I love 3 day weekends. It's Sunday night, and we've opened a bottle of prosecco. No need to rush to get stuff done and go to bed early. We went "hiking" yesterday with the girls before the rain started, and have spent the rest of the time just getting little things done. BestestHusband took HeyMama shopping today to help him find jeans. MeToo and I had great relaxed snuggle time at home. And we have tomorrow to look forward to, as well. Good stuff.

It's been an interesting week. A week of events that require their own posts. When I haven't had 2 glasses of prosecco.

So I'll report in on my week.

M&Ms: my consumption has been scandalous. Just scandalous.

Patience: it's been helped by the M&Ms, and a few trips to the gym. And the Patience Angel. Who apparently took a vacation today. But she was around this week...

Time: I definitely wasted too much time this past week. I hope to do much better this next week.

Money: as I previously reported, I did a fair amount of shopping to bulk up HeyMamas cold weather wardrobe. I got some good deals, though.

Food waste: again, it was scandalous this week. I could fill most of our compost pail with food waste. Sigh. Again, I need to do better this week.

Our Bible study at church is studying the book of Romans right now, and we've been talking about law and grace. Law, the rules and guidelines of life, help us know what we do wrong. Grace, thanks to our loving and forgiving God, allows us to start a week with a clean slate, ready to try again.

So I'm thankful for Grace. It's time to try again.

Hope you have a great week!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bedtime Prayers

Heard tonight at bedtime:

MeToo:  "Dear Desus, tank you for Daddy, bawoons, de dzim, an all de toys, and two beds. Amen."
HeyMama:  "Dear Jesus, thank you for green. Amen."

Translation:  "dzim" = gym.
If you can't figure out "bawoons", you obviously don't spend much time around children.

Monday: The Good...

Yesterday was a day of highs and lows, as most days are. I'll focus on my triumphs today, and my abject failures tomorrow.

I went clothing shopping for HeyMama today. We are graced with wonderful friends who shower us with hand-me-downs, and the girls have a very cute wardrobe. But because our biggest donor lives in Texas, we don't get a lot of snow pants and snow boots. And due to the timing and growth curves of HeyMama and her slightly-older benefactor, a gap had opened up in our clothing supply. So I had a shopping list that I was hoping to knock off yesterday.

So, one trip to a consignment shop, one trip to a Stride-Rite outlet, and $110 later, we had 2 pairs of shoes, 1 pair of slippers, 1 Halloween costume, and 10 shirts, sweaters, and dresses.

The girls were in a good mood and well-behaved, we found some really adorable stuff, and I almost got everything on my list. We still need church shoes...

Now, I'm sure that diligent yard-sale shopping could have lowered that price. But the shoes were all new, the clothes were all in great shape, and my time expenditure was significantly less.

So I'm going to call that part of my day a significant success.

I have to count the successes wherever I can find them!

Here's the loot, minus the Halloween costume.
Please ignore the box of outgrown clothes that need to go to the basement.

Here are some of the dresses, with a turtleneck to match an existing dress, and a cute sweater.

Here's a cute sweater, with a denim skirt. Both in pristine condition.

Here's HeyMama's favorite - Princess Jammies. She carried them around the store.

Here's my favorite, sweet play shoes from Stride Rite.
They match my favorite work clogs.

Despite being shiny, they're built for running and jumping.

HeyMama had to break them in at the playground right away.

Here are the shoes that totaled $43. Not bad.
The hiking boots ($5) light up, and the Robeez ($7) make perfect winter house shoes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monday: ...the Bad, and the Ugly.

So on the way to my shopping triumph yesterday, I had the chance to visit unfamiliar parts of town. My GPS completely failed me, insisting that I drive THROUGH a neighborhood park to get to a road that had no simple substitute. So I meandered through the winding neighborhood roads of Chestnut Hill.

As I drove through the genteel neighborhoods made of graceful single-family homes on well-manicured expanses of land, I felt a wave of envy sweep over me like I've never experienced before. I felt flush, and broke out in goose-bumps. Everything was lovely. The neighborhoods projected safety. Security. Permanence. Wealth. Impeccable schools. And I wanted it all. Verdant athletic fields. Rambling playgrounds. I wanted it. Badly.

And then I started passing the private schools. The palaces of education with every educational innovation and luxury. There were no barriers or inconveniences there. Just every extracurricular you can dream of. Lacrosse? Got it. Field hockey? Rowing? Fencing? Diving? Check, check, and check. Music? Check. Art? Check. Drama? Check.

It reminded me that Boston is flush with money. Well, the tony suburbs are. There is a standard of living here that we will never have. If we lived in Texas or Minnesota, we would have a single family home on a lush green lawn. If we lived somewhere else, we wouldn't be subjected to the vagaries of the BPS lottery. We wouldn't have to choose between schools with music and schools with art. We could get music, art, and athletics at the same school. One in our neighborhood.

Other people have it all. I wanted it all, too. I wanted everything that they had. I was nearly crying with envy.

It was bad. It was ugly.

And then I felt the shame.

I was driving my girls to go shopping. Sure, I'm always looking to get a bargain, but I never have to choose between buying food or clothing. Medicine or heat. Paying for opportunities for one child, but not the other. I don't have to make hard decisions about money. We are not poor. We have all that we need, and plenty to share.

To be envious is to be ungrateful for what we do have. And we have a lot. I forget that sometimes.

For shame.

I think it's ok to wish for better, especially when it's wishing for better for your family. That's what parents do. It's our job. But I wasn't wishing. I was coveting. And for that, I'm very ashamed.

I'm thankful for brief flashes of perspective. I pray that I can keep the perspective as the year goes forward. I'm going to a BPS meeting on Thursday night to hear about proposed rezoning to change the schools available for us in the lottery. It will bring up issues of educational disparity, money, race, class... All ugly topics.

I have to keep reminding myself that we have so much. We have so much. We don't have prep schools. We don't have an expansive verdant lawn topped by a multimillion dollar home. If God thought we needed one, we would. So I pray for contentedness. And I will continue to pray. And pray. And pray...