Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 101: Moving On Up

Purpose Driven Mom is moving to a new home, now that I have figured out WordPress enough to keep myself afloat over there. Plus, I’ve got a brand new domain that I’ve been dying to take for a test drive. So, if you follow me here, please come with me to where I will keep up the daily postings and add pages of recipes and charts and whatever else my purpose-driven neurosis calls for. My new look is a bit pre-fab still, but I will be working on that as time progresses.

I’ll keep this site up for a while longer, but all new posts after today will be on the new site. Eventually, Things, Life, What-Not will merge with, but I must first wait-out whatever standard duration exists for a seller to hang on to my expired domain. I hate paying late fees.

Today’s change is highly disturbing to me as a mom, but my usually positive outlook will guide me through it. Victoria has been having major conduct issues at school. Grades are fine, but conduct is atrocious. Talking seems to be her favorite pastime. All along, in the back of my mind has lived the memory of the conference with the school counselor where she briefly mentioned at the end “ADHD.” I have spent four months looking for reasons to either believe or dismiss the suggestion, and trying to alter everything at home that might have a positive impact.

Yesterday before Mass I prayed for a sign. I ask for signs all the time, but I hardly ever expect to get them. Let me rephrase that: I hardly ever recognize them. Yesterday I prayed that God would give me a sign if I needed to pursue this ADHD thing. And then Victoria came home with an unprecedented SEVEN marks in conduct. SEV-VEN. It wasn’t until my exhausted and overworked mind and body hit the pillow last night that I remembered my request for a sign.

So, we will be making appointments for evaluations and following up on whatever in the world this is going to lead us to. I am so conflicted right now. I want to cry and punch things all at the same time. And I totally botched sharing the evaluation idea with Vic. She thinks there is an alien life form living in her brain and when I tried to explain it better, she said again and with as much conviction as the first time, “There is nothing wrong with me.”

My heart is heavy, and I pray that we can wrap our heads around the best way to help Vic. And I hope I am posting very soon about the sunny side to all this Mama Drama.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 100: Celebration and Fish

We finally reached Day 100!! I feel like I should have made cupcakes to celebrate such a momentous occasion. Thanks for reading along and offering thoughts for the journey. You’ve helped make it easier.

Now, on to a matter that has been bugging me for a while and I have yet to address it. This will complete the process of bringing all living creatures within the realm of change. At least, here at our house.

We have a fish tank. Correction. I have a fish tank. I fell in love with it at Petsmart (on sale, of course!) and without any knowledge of fish or the care required, I told Dom that I had to have that tank. The kids were still pre-K-ish in age, and Nemo was all the rage. I envisioned a colorful tank full of vivid characters and hours of relaxing entertainment.

More like a pain-in-the-butt tank with egotistical characters and hours of internet research, not to mention wads – I mean WADS – of money.

I’ll drill this down to the short version of all this experience has taught me. Snails need no partner to reproduce with a vengeance. Clown loaches eat snails, but freak-out sensitive little boys in the process. Plecos can grow to over 10 inches in length and scare the heck out of all their tank mates when they swim fast. Plecos are also nocturnal, so you don’t see the torture going on during the day. There is only one brand of algae killer that works fast, but it has an alternate effect on fish (our Molly swam bent in half for three months after I used the product). Cory catfish can survive just about anything. It is possible to suddenly have 19 baby fish born overnight in your tank. Fish mothers sometimes eat their young. A female fish can hold sperm for up to 6 months before releasing it to impregnate herself. That’s how you come home from the pet store with one female fish and four months later you have babies swimming around. And finally, if you cover yourself in OFF earlier in the day and then have to stick your entire arm into the tank later in the evening, you can effectively kill over half of your fish population. It will take you two days to realize what caused the epidemic.

Now, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with positive, healthy change. Well, the fish need some positive, healthy changes too…mostly to their water. See, in the last few years I have not been so regular about cleaning their tank. So much so that when I do clean the tank, we lose many fish to their inability to process clean water through their poor polluted gills.

I have a schedule of tank maintenance all set up in my email system so that I get reminders of when to do this or that. Problem is that I ignore them. And the fish. So, the fish tank is going on the chore chart now as a permanent reminder that FISH DESERVE LOVE TOO. I imagine if my fish had cars, their bumper stickers would say as much.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 99: Final Exam and a Lack of Other Thoughts

I apologize, but I am a bit preoccupied this morning with finishing this darn accounting class. My final exam is scheduled for 8am. While this has consumed the majority of my spare time over the last two months, I don’t feel anywhere near ready to take the test. I have a handy-dandy binder ring full of index cards with formulas on them. Formulas that seem Greek when I look at them. This can’t be a good sign…

I will be back on track tomorrow morning, I promise. I wish you all a wonderful day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 98: Study Guide(lines)

Tomorrow Dom and I will take the final test of Class 1 toward the accounting credits. I have to admit, rushing around at the end like this has done a number on my attitude toward this idea. We have agreed to take a month off and start back up in November with Class #2, still online and at our own pace. We know the strain of a weeknight class will wreak havoc on more than just our attitudes, so in the better interest of all family members we will again forego that option.

For the next class, we have also agreed to have a more concise schedule in order to prevent us from again ending up right where we are now. One lesson a week; no more. One week to study for each test. This will make the class last 15 weeks and still we will finish in just under half the time allotted to the course. Another month off between courses, and I figure we will end up with just about one class per semester, which is all we could do if we were physically sitting in a lecture hall.

We have also agreed to purchase separate books. We shared this first one. (Isn’t that cozy?) Not only did we have to take turns reading, but I was a cheapskate when I bought the book on eBay, and the seller lied when he said the book was coming from a smoke-free environment. Dom couldn’t tell the book smelled, but it bowled me over every time I opened it. I also decided second-hand workbooks are a bad idea. I really didn’t think I would use the workbook, but it turned out to be a great study tool (go figure). But it does me no good to see other people’s incorrect answers scribbled in my study space.

We will both be so relieved when tomorrow’s test is over and the class requirements are fulfilled, regardless the grades. Suffice it to say we have “learned our lesson.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 97: Catching Up and Following Up

It occurs to me as I establish new routines and try new products that I am frequently offering to follow up with you and let you know how a certain thing is going. It also occurs to me that I haven’t been very good about actually following up.

So, the blog gets a new habit. (See? Nothing is safe from these changes.) I think it would be a good idea to make one post each week dedicated to follow up – letting you know how successful (or not) a particular change has been. Sound good? Let’s get started…

1. The purse situation. I mentioned this earlier in the week as a way to gently let you know I’m failing miserably at condensing my bag of tote-ables. I’m still very much dependent on the oversized bag with lots and lots of gear. However, I am pleased to report that I have vamoosed several items from the purse. I no longer feel the need to carry clear nail polish, three flavors of dental floss, disposable toothbrushes, cuticle cream, or twelve hair clips. (Day 45)

2. The sandwich bread. I have made two loaves of wheat bread, and the kids declared me a gourmet chef! While it is a little more dense than the store-bought bread, they love it and are using it for their sandwiches. I had to make room for my bread machine to stay on the countertop, which in turn sent the bread box to the pantry. So not only are we getting used to homemade bread, we are also retraining ourselves on where to find it. (Day 84)

3. The “Lunch Box” inside the pantry is filled with items that are only to be used for packed lunches. We have yet to run out of anything that the kids view as pertinent to a satisfying lunch since we implemented this tool. This has been a raging success! (Day 78)

4. Graham Cracker. This bunny of ours is on the attitudinal mend! She is a happy bunny once again now that we have allowed her to claim the playroom as her own. No biting, no ugliness, and no chasing her around the room. She even hops over to us to give sniffs and kisses – all at her own pace. Plus, we close her bedroom door at night and we all sleep soundly. (Days 83 and 87)

5. Breakfast. We are eating breakfast as a family every morning. Victoria and I are both doing well now that it has become more of a habit. We don’t dread early morning food anymore. As a result, I find that I now need more menu options. (Days 2, 72 and 81)

6. Coffee. I’m still on one cup of coffee a day, with the exceptions of weekend afternoons with my mom and dad and nights when I have planned grocery shopping. On occasion when Mabel drinks my coffee for me, then I may end up consuming a cup and a half, but that’s all her fault. ;) I have ditched the herbal coffee (which should not even be allowed to bear the name of coffee!!) and Aaron and I are perfectly content to have a café au lait made from our favorite Starbucks Breakfast Blend in the mornings. I have let go of my caffeine paranoia… for now. (Days 73 and 74)

7. Deodorant. Mom convinced me to buy one of those crystal things that you run under water and then apply. There is no scent, no residue, no apparent sign that you have applied anything. But it works. I must say that is the most surprisingly rewarding $3.49 I have ever spent. It takes a little longer to apply, but it is so very worth it! (Day 64)

8. Grocery Shopping. I am still in a proverbial hell on this one. I am stopping at four grocery stores and spending about 33% more than budget. BUT, I am buying all the things we need and use – mostly organic, all of them natural – and I am not over-buying anything. (Except maybe the Newman-O’s. Those sure are good!!!) (Days 17, 61, and 62)

9. Putting the Kitchen to Bed. We were doing okay with this change for a little while, but we relapsed into old habits and before we knew it, the countertop was littered with school papers and junk mail again for days on end. This makes it harder to have a successful breakfast cooking experience, so we will refocus our energy on this one. (Day 23)

10. Mommy and Daddy Chores. I resurrected the chore chart and stuck with it for a little while, but Dom wasn’t feeling it, so I tossed the chore chart in a moment of self-righteous “I-didn’t-post-this-on-the-fridge-for-my-health” tirades. Then I saw Mabel-fur sitting atop a baseboard corner, and grimaced. I printed another chore chart, and decided to shore up my own efforts. (Day 20)

I think I almost caught us up. I’ll try to give each new change about two weeks before reporting on its status, and I’ll reserve my Sunday posts for this purpose.

Have a great purpose-driven week!! :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 96: The Return of Good Hair (‘Bout Time!)

I am prone to bad hair days as a consequence of my own self-denial. I will get my hair cut three times a year at most. (That’s a really selfish year, people. Twice is usually the limit.) No, I am not proud of this fact. I feel like a ragamuffin most of the time as a result. My hair goes from an almost too-short coif to a perfect length and blend of layers, to a slightly too-long look, and ultimately to a ragged mop which I casually and repeatedly pile into a hair claw. I manage to cut the hairs that annoy me on my own periodically, which drives hairdressers crazy. It is at the point of sheer desperation five to six months after the professional haircut that I will finally relent and plop down $50 for a new ‘do.

Why do I do this? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it has something to do with being Mom and knowing I could more easily buy the kids new socks and books and BPA-free water bottles than schedule two-hours of regular grooming for myself. Perhaps not the healthiest habit, and definitely one of the hardest to break.

So, do I think I’m suddenly going to be able to schedule a standing bi-monthly appointment? Um, no. I can only promise to work on it. But I do have some really good, much-less-expensive news to report on the hair front. I have settled on a shampoo product and sequence. (Yay!!)

I liked the post on Tending the Garden where the author had been successfully using Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap for shampoo, followed by Apple Cider Vinegar for conditioner. I liked her post so much, I tried it myself for a couple of weeks. It didn’t go as well for me. First of all, some days my hair would be dry, and other days it would seem too oily. During the hair washing, I frequently read the shampoo bottle. Dr. Bronner’s bottles are COVERED in information which makes me curious as to Dr. Bronner’s religion. Anyhoo…I read that the soap is made of all these organic oils.

Dear goodness! We are back to putting oil in my hair. Did I learn NOTHING the first time?!!! So I have relegated Dr. Bronner’s to being body wash which, if you do not dilute it, produces great bubbles. Score one for finding a new soap!

But the hair was still an issue, and the ACV as conditioner was doing nothing for me. And then it hit me. All the ACV I have been reading about related to Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, which I spied at Drug Emporium this week for nearly half-off. What an amazing difference between Bragg’s and any other store brand. It’s thicker, sweeter smelling, and actually LOOKS like apple cider. (No, it doesn’t take too much to impress me these days…it just takes a lot to get my attention.)

I really liked Dom’s organic shampoo by Giovanni, so I bought more of that for both of us to use, and mixed up some Bragg’s ACV in my spray bottle to use as conditioner. Voila! I’ve been doing that for the past three mornings, and I have had great hair each day!

Now, just watch. My hair will decide two days from now that it is too long and I’ll be married to the hair claw and trying to schedule an appointment. I’d better find fifty bucks just in case…

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 95: Laundry List

Last night when I returned home from a meeting I fiddled around on the computer for a while, trying to design a cartoon Me and Kim for the masthead of another blog. So, I didn’t get around to making sure that whatever I was going to wear this morning was clean.

Naturally, the only jeans that fit were stuffed into a laundry basket under dirty towels. Grrreat. I huffed as I gathered all the jeans and some stray towels and rushed back downstairs to toss them in the washer. And then it hit me.

Mama’s got a brand new detergent!

Suddenly, this late night laundry idea had some potential. I tried out a new eco-friendly and skin-safe liquid detergent called Ecos. Bought it yesterday on one of the many grocery runs. Kroger on Youree sells it, as does Sunshine Health Foods. I bought the Magnolia and Lily scent. I will keep you posted on the family reaction.

In other news, today Miss Mabelline celebrates her second Barkday (that’s Birthday in dog-speak). So, without further adieu:

Haaaaaapy Birthday to Youuuuuuu
Haaaaaapy Birthday to Youuuuuuu
Haaaaaapy Birthday deeeeeeeear mischievous-evil-doer-yet-totally-adorable-when-she’s-sleepy-and-repentantly-puppy-faced Maaaaaaabel.
Haaaaaaaaaaaappy Birthdaaaaaaaaay to youuuuuuuuuuu

And many more!

Woof-Woof!! (That’s from Mason.)  ;)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 94: Wish In One Hand...

I’m sitting at the computer monitor this morning wishing I could remember my drifting-off-to-sleep-thoughts last night where I brainstormed a great blog post. I can’t even remember which blog it was supposed to be for, but I do recall being quite pleased with my mental draft and then rolling over to sleep soundly.

I can’t help that my brain was more active than my body and the resulting decision NOT to go downstairs and type this life-altering thought has now cost the world some seriously good advice. Or laughs. Or whatever I had planned.

And while I’m sitting here wishing I could remember my own thoughts, Mabel is barking at the door. 6:15 in the morning is not the time for her to be barking, so I hoist myself up from the desk and walk through the kitchen and into the garden room to let her in.

I open the door and she looks up at me. Within half a second, she has turned on all four paws, and is sprinting across the yard to attack Mason, who insists on walking the full perimeter of our yard before coming inside.

I close the door and walk away. Back through the garden room, through the kitchen and into the office. I plop down in the chair.

Woof! Woof! Woof-woof-woof!!!!!

I want to call her names. I want to smack her cute little nose and explain to her that asking for something repeatedly and then putting the giver on hold is rude and socially unacceptable.

She does not care.

So today, with last night’s wit and wisdom merely a faint memory, I offer not really a change, but a wish that Mabel would change. Or at least that she would have the decency to come inside when I open the door at her request.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 93: Wrestling My Receipts

Hi. My name is Lori and I am a receipt hoarder.

I don’t mean to hoard them, and I am more than willing to get rid of them once the amount has cleared the bank. BUT… I must admit that I am a bit like PigPen from Peanuts…remember the cloud of funk that followed him around? Imagine that to be a cloud of tiny paper receipts. Now you see me.

A week or so ago I was asking the kids to help me switch between four purses (I’m still trying to get adjusted on the purse situation, and presently alternate between large and small. Why four purses all of a sudden? I really have no answer for that.)

Anyhoo, while emptying one purse Victoria asked, “What do we do with all these little papers?!”

“Stuff them into the little white purse.”

“Oh, Mom. Really??”

I gave her The Look. “Yes, really. That way I’ll know where they are.”

She shrugged and commenced stuffing.

Now, aside from the terrible lesson I just taught my daughter about (im)proper use of purses, I now have a purse I can’t use until I clear it of all the receipts. And the worst part is, it’s a white purse which I likely won’t carry again until next spring. So, I fear the receipts will still be waiting for me in the spring.

You heard me. It’s happened before.

I determined this weekend that I need one of those desktop scanner things that keeps and categorizes all your random papers, receipts included. It looks so nice and compact. I have not researched how much they are, though. Now, the problem would not be the new scanner. The problem is that I already have two perfectly functional flatbed scanners attached to this very computer. Two.

I think I need professional help.

I am going to make an honest effort this week to scan my receipts on my existent flatbeds and see what format is produced in order to determine if it is worth making this a permanent practice. If it takes more effort than stuffing the receipts into some obscure purgatory, then I fear I may not keep up the habit.

And my cloud of tiny paper will continue to follow me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 92: Just a Little Moment of Ahhhhhhh…

I learned something this weekend. Something I already knew, but just needed a little reminder when things got rough.

As I mentioned on Sunday, I made THE SCHEDULE for our weekends, at which every eye rolled. Great. Mom’s got another idea. It looked for about an hour as if I had made a dreadfully devastating decision to schedule our precious personal free-time, rest-time, whatever-you-want-to-do-this-weekend time. Whatever everyone else thought, I thought I had stepped in it BIG TIME.

While my family rolled their eyes, I rolled out the schedule with my most cheerful, “isn’t-this-a-great-idea” voice. Weekend breakfasts (yes, I’m even giving up sleeping in), a couple of hours of chore time, some game time, lunch time, some reading and relaxing time, a little more game time, more chore time, homework time, dinner time, evening chore time, and - last but not least – a final dose of game time.

So why all the sad faces? Why the betrayed looks that say I just took what little bit of happiness these people had and crushed it into the dirt? Why the misty eyes when I say, “we’re gonna chill on the games for just a bit so we can focus on healthier things…”??

Why? Because we LOVE you. (sing along…)

Despite an hour of gloomy looks and hung heads, despite my cajoling and annoying pep talks, despite my final exasperated OH-I-GIVE-UP!, before the day was over I was reminded why I love these people so much. They really do get it. They may not always like it, but they get it. The importance of these changes is not lost on them.

Shortly after a rather quiet lunch, Aaron eyed the schedule and began looking for a book to read. He settled on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which I had recently replaced following Mabel’s attempt to read, er, eat Harry. I loaded up both of their iPods with the audio version so they could follow along, and for the next two hours both kids were engrossed in reading. Did you catch that? EN-GROSSED!!!! After reading, they helped with the laundry and after an hour of well-deserved gaming, they followed up with evening chores and bedtime.

It was at bedtime that I realized what an amazing impact we have on each other in these four walls. Aaron threw his arms around me and said, “I love you Mommy. I had a great day today. Reading was super fun and I like the changes you’re making.”

And all I could muster while blinking REALLY fast was, “Thanks, sweetie. I definitely love you too! SOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 91: GEE-mail

I’m a pretty tidy email user. When actively involved in an email account, such as the one at work, you will find that I limit my inbox messages to only those that I need to deal with currently. Any messages that I need to save get put into handy folders with appropriate follow-up tags. If a message has no further active use, but needs to be saved for potential future reference, it gets PDF’ed and put on the server for access by those who may need it. My inbox usually has 1-15 messages in it. If I top 20, I panic and start cleaning out. This, of course, relates mostly to my email at work.

I am not this good at home. (Jill is smiling right now!!)

My email at home could be renamed OMG-mail because I have so much of it. I have made strides in the last few days to clean up my inbox, which had an atrocious 79 messages in it. The problem (as best I can identify it) is that when I find good sites for natural living and recipes and such, I subscribe! I have subscribed to so much stuff that I now have an inordinate amount of subfolders in order to categorize all of the information I’m receiving. It’s good information. And someday, I’ll have the time to read it.

I need to go through the mailbox and move all recipes into another format. At some point in the near future when this site gets moved over to WordPress and has its own domain (soon to be I will store recipes here. (Won’t that be FUN?!) Then they won’t be taking up room in my mailbox. And seriously, how much good can a recipe do from inside my e-mailbox? Zilch. Zero. Zip.

Movin’ on…I need to clear out all email items from the last two school years. Cheer calendars, teacher correspondence and Accelerated Reader email reports. Seriously? Yes. I have kept them all.

It is now increasingly necessary, as I clear clutter from my everyday life, to clear out the mailbox and get it to a nice trim size once again. It will take some serious dedication to the task. You know what they say about Rome...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 90: What About the Weekend?

It has been relatively easy (with a few bumps along the way) to schedule our weekday chores and changes and make sure they get done. The weekend is another matter. Weekends are supposed to be carefree and relaxing; that is their very nature. For me, weekends are a huge string of pearls – dots of time that I can fill with many more chores and projects than the weekdays can hold.

Or not.

As we tend to leave our weekends “unplanned,” we also tend to get sidetracked very easily and then all the things I wanted to do just fade into the background. Don’t get me wrong, we do manage to accomplish certain tasks and keep things in balance for the most part around the home, but we rarely accomplish all that I have imagined for the two days of “rest.”

I realize that in order to accomplish all that I want to in a weekend, I am going to need three distinct things:

1) A written plan. Believe it or not, I find that if it is written, I am much more likely to follow through. Hence the menus and the chore charts.

2) A set time to rise. This goes against all that I hold dear for the weekend. I spend most of my days waking at 5:00 and convincing myself that it is only X days until the weekend when I will be able to sleep late. Dangling that carrot all week works to get my tired butt out of bed on time. But on the weekend when I sleep late (8-ish) then there seems to be precious little time to accomplish anything and the day slips away before I know what’s hit me. There have been a few Saturdays when I have begrudgingly risen around 6am in order to deal with children – furry and otherwise – and I find that those days are actually my most productive. I rolled out at 8:30 today. Guess what that means…

3) Cooperation of the family members. Mostly, this will take some convincing on the part of the kids. Weekends are their chill time, too. No homework, lots of play time… Too much play time, in fact. We need a kid schedule for the weekends. Time to game, time to read, time to work…but I have to remember to allow some flexibility in there too.

Since Fall is fast approaching, I may start a two-sided schedule. One side for activities and projects outside if weather permits, and the other side for indoor projects if the weather keeps us in. Heh heh heh…just when I thought I’d limit my list-making…

Day 89: The Gaming Gottas

I do believe I have had my fill of video games. And I don’t even play them. I played once with Aaron and Victoria about three weeks ago. There was a lot of drama over needing two players and Vic was ready to bow out. But Aaron would not be able to save the current “progress” in the game if she quit at that point, and he was MIFFED! Dom, who would normally opt in, was at the office for some weekend work. So I offered. To play. Ugh.

The game was Super Mario Brothers, and I was to be Luigi (always second fiddle!). I knew Vic had played alone earlier and I asked her how she did it. She explained that she just put Luigi in a bubble and dragged him along. If you play Mario at all, this means something to you. If you don’t, then you are wearing the same look on your face that I was wearing on mine. Bubble???

Yes, if one player is in a bubble, he is safe from all harm. But he is not available to assist if the other player gets into trouble, at which point the game is over. So it’s a double-edged sword, this bubble idea. Vic is totally okay with that because she does not put a lot of stock into the points or the winning, she just likes to play. So if she has to start over a million times, no biggie. She’s just having fun. Aaron is more, well, DRIVEN.

We began to play and the phone rang. It was Dom. Vic answered and explained to him with great amusement that “Mommy is playing Super Mario with Aaron!!! It’s so funny!!!” Once I was handed the phone, I could hear Dom laughing as he confirmed, “So, you’re playing the game? How’s that going?” (snicker, snicker)

“We’ve been playing for 45 seconds and I have died twice. I suck at this!”

Dom, on the other hand, loves playing the game with the kids. He’s good at it. They got the short end of the stick when they asked me to play, and it was soon very evident. About twenty minutes into the game, Aaron suggested, “Mommy, maybe you should just get in your bubble!”

And that’s pretty much how it is with me and video games. They’re just not my thing. So I find it hard to understand how my kids can play as long as they can and STILL not want to stop when I make them take a break. Aside from Mario on the Wii, there are iPod games and DSi games, so they are never without some form of competitive entertainment. All good, I’m sure, but I sometimes think I need more structure on game time.

Dom and I stop the games and force the kids outside on pretty days. We stop the games to make them get ready for church. We stop the games to have them bring the laundry down. We stop the games so we can eat a meal as a family. We’re stopping these games a bit too much in my opinion. For the sake of our weekend sanity, which the kids think they have no vested interest in, game time is about to get limited considerably.

Then perhaps I will stop hearing the Mario tune in my dreams.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 88: Managing Monkey Ears

So far, the only one in our home who has not been affected by our recent positive, healthy changes is Mason. Masonite. Monkey. The Monk. The Monk-meister. Monkasaurus Rex. Funky Monkey. Yella Dog. Big Yella. Old Man. Flop Ear.

(He is known by many names. Except "Frank." He never would answer to “Frank.”)

He has been laying low these past 88 days! His changes came way early when he was about 5 and we noticed that he was scratching his nose to pieces as the obvious reaction to an allergy. His food was changed at that point, and he has been happy and healthy ever since.

With one small exception...the ears. Mason has chronic ear infections. Like, every single time it rains! His ears account for most of our trips to the vet. To give you some veterinary insight here, dogs with large, floppy ears often do not get enough air circulation to keep the ear canal dry, especially in very humid or rainy weather and after baths. Dogs whose ears stand straight up do not suffer this problem. And not all floppy-eared dogs suffer, either. Mabel has yet to experience ear drama. But Mason…poor, poor Mason.

We have been through so many kinds of antibiotics that our vet used to send cultures of Mason’s ear dirt to the vet school in Baton Rouge to determine what antibiotic would work best. We have given Mason daily injections at home to clear up infections at times. Now that he is 10 years old, if you even say the word ears, he begins to hang his head and look for an escape. Same reaction if he sees me with a cotton ball in my hand.

The point of all this in light of my project here is that we are going to clean Mason’s ears much more regularly now rather than waiting for an infection to creep up on us. I don’t know that it will prevent an infection, but it can’t hurt. Lately when his ears are infected, one ear canal swells up so badly that I can’t get medicine down into it. So, despite whatever proactive measures we might have taken in the past, we are going to make determined efforts now to keep those ear canals healthy. Weekly cleanings are on the schedule.

Sorry, Monk.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 87: Somebunny Sure Is Noisy!

As I mentioned earlier this week, Graham now lives in the playroom upstairs. She loves the playroom. She’s happy again, so I really hate to find anything wrong with her new surroundings. But her new room shares a wall with my bedroom. And she is not a quiet bunny!

The geniuses who built our home fifty years ago apparently had no regard for insulation. No insulation between rooms; no insulation between us and the outdoors. None. We have added as much insulation as we can. And now, I just wish we had it between the interior walls to act as a noise barrier. Two nights ago, Dom and I were hanging out in the office downstairs when we heard this thump thump thump. Dom looked concerned, and I explained, “It’s just Graham.”

“That can’t be Graham! That was loud!!”

“I know! It’s Graham, trust me. She’s either biting the sides of her cage or trying to rip her water bottle down. She’s loud, I tell ya.”

“But she’s too far away from us right now. That noise can’t be her.”

“She’s technically right over our heads. It’s her.”

Fast forward to last night. I am usually a very sound sleeper. It almost takes a freight train to wake me up now that I’ve known for several years that the kids are breathing all through the night. But last night was different. Last night, Graham decided to wrestle her water bottle – metal on metal on rabbit teeth. ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

I woke up at least four times during the night to Graham’s racket. As they say here in the south, that dog just won’t hunt. I have to make some sort of change, but I’m not sure what exactly, short of banishing Graham to the downstairs at night, which will mean toting her back and forth. That will probably stress her out again and defeat the progress we have made toward rescuing her attitude. At the very least, her bedroom door is getting closed tonight. I may have to investigate an alternative water bottle that she can’t wrestle with. Or a sound-proof cover for her cage. Do they even make such a thing??

If you have any suggestions for solution, just like our wascally wabbits, I’m all ears.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 86: EEP! I Get to Have a Garden!!

Since reading and learning all about foods and our consumption of them, I have nurtured a desire to have my own vegetable garden. But, given my past experience with wilted, non-watered plants (remember Day 75?) and the fact that we have a plethora of other plans for our backyard, I had no idea if this garden idea would even fly with Dom. I pitched it as we sat outside enjoying some cool September shade this weekend (shade which didn’t last long enough, if you ask us!)

Dom was all for the idea of growing our own vegetables. I am so excited about researching ways to make sure my veggies include all the nutrients they are supposed to have. I recently learned that most of our veggies have decreased in nutritional value over the last 60 years…by like, 70%. Is that scary, or what? Broccoli isn’t as healthy as it used to be because mass-producers are just interested in getting a big, pretty crop and they’ll stop at nothing to achieve that which will sell. And of course, we’re going to buy the bigger, redder tomato even though it tastes like cardboard because that’s how we’ve been trained to shop. It’s really just a sad, sad shame.

But back to my veggie garden… Dom suggested where we should plant the garden, based on the sunshine in our yard and our future plans for other portions of our yard. I get to plan a 12x5 garden where I hope to grow tomatoes, green beans, squash, herbs, cucumbers, and whatever else strikes our fancy.

This will make handy use of the extra landscape bricks we have leftover from last summer. Dom agreed with my idea of spending the fall and winter preparing the soil so that we can begin planting for the spring season. We will start removing sod in one section of the yard next month, and I’ll take pictures all along the way. And I want to do it up right! So I’ve asked Santa for a composter and some organic gardening supplies for Christmas.

And yes, I’ll need a decorative fence to keep the Mabel-meister at bay!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 85: Dinner Dilemma

I’m trying to determine how to make planning the dinner menus a little more exciting. Things will brighten up when the weather snaps and I get to start making stews and chowders and such, but for now, things are pretty ho-hum.

Lasagna lands on my menu religiously. At least every ten days. Portabella mushroom burgers, while totally enjoyable, are becoming a weekend mainstay. And then there’s a casserole of some sort on every month’s menu that I can’t wait to try, and then have way too much of.

I need a fresh plan to get me through the last hot days of summer. Since I found George, I’ve been getting his emails regularly and he has some pretty amazing recipes – easy to prepare and full of good ingredient suggestions. Between Holly Klegg, Health Magazine and Southern Living I can usually find new and interesting recipes. But seeing those yellow page flags sticking out of every book and magazine I own is sometimes overwhelming, and I need a new game plan. While it hasn’t been a determined habit as yet, I think I will settle on one new recipe per week and slip it into my menu amidst my staple recipes. This may spice things up a bit.

I also need to start a new habit of READING A RECIPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH before deciding when to cook it. For instance, I had Pork Tender Wellington on the menu for this week. Thought I’d prepare it early and freeze it until time to eat. So, I pulled the pork tenderloin out of the freezer, got it nice and thawed and then read the recipe to pull all my other ingredients together.

This is the moment I learned that the tenderloin freezes uncooked. Helloooooo. I can’t thaw meat and refreeze it before it’s cooked!! Which means that this recipe is going to have to be prepared fresh from the grocery store. Ugh.

So the tenderloin got smothered in a bottle of Coors Light and tossed back into the fridge to sleep. In a few moments, I’ll throw it in the crock pot where it will become pulled pork for tonight. Talk about improvising!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 84: Bread, Bread, and More Bread

I have too much bread. Bread is expensive. Therefore, I must have too much expensive bread.

I do not buy gourmet bread varieties fresh from my local bakery, lest you get the wrong impression of me here on Day 84. I buy one loaf of whole wheat, and one loaf of white wheat (all Nature’s Own brand) straight off the shelf, and I giggle to myself when I find them on sale at WalMart. Aaron LOVES wheat bread, and Victoria is a white bread kind of girl. However, you may recall from the few days before school started when I referenced the kids using Sandwich Thins for their lunch sandwiches so they wouldn’t have to cut the crust off. I now buy those by the literal dozen.

So I gotta wonder: what all goes into a loaf of bread? How many preservative ingredients are used to keep it fresh on the shelf until I find it on sale? And then, with all that little $2.79 loaf has been through, the cashier stuffs it into a bag with my 59-cent canned goods. Arrrggghhhhhhhh.

I’ve decided to try something new, and I hope it flies. I am going to start making my own bread. I found organic flour last week, and picked up several yeast packets. I have a bread machine, so it’s not like you’ll drop by and find me covered in flour, kneading my little heart out at my kitchen countertop. Bread machine bread makes taller, more square-shaped loaves. I think this will keep the kids’ sandwiches from losing half their size with the cutting of the crust. And two whole bread machine loaves will definitely fit in my bread box.

I am headed into the kitchen now to make the first loaf. Wish me luck.

Day 83: Graham on Probation: Going Once, Going Twice…

Last Thursday night was ultra traumatic. Aaron and Victoria presented themselves in the office as I was preparing a new post on my other blog, and Victoria announced that Aaron didn’t want Graham anymore.

“She scratched me when I was just trying to feed her!” Aaron protested through tears. And then, sobbing, “I don’t want Graham anymore!” He collapsed into my arms and continued to sob buckets.

Poor boy. Graham has become aggressive to the point of worrying me. I mean, she’s a bunny rabbit, so I could so totally take her, but she would do me some damage first. I reached into her cage about a week ago to pick her up and play with her, and she jumped from my grasp. I reached again, and she scurried around the cage, sending food flying in three directions. Given her aggressive behavior, I did not want to let her win this one, so I reached one more time. Lightning fast, she bit the heck out of my knuckle, striking a blood vessel and causing intense pain to the back of my hand. Although she didn’t really break the skin, there were literal TEETH MARKS in my hand!!! The bruise lasted five days. I was peeved, to say the least.

Two days later, she bit Aaron though she did not leave a mark on him. She hits with her paws, scratches, and generally acts a fool. There’s another word for her attitude. Five letters, starts with a “B” and it ain’t bunny!! I asked Aaron to explain the circumstances of the biting so I would understand Graham’s nature and intent in Aaron’s particular situation. I don’t think the bunnies have much going on upstairs, so I feel all of their reactions are instinctively defensive. But still. The darn thing bit my kid. Yet even when Graham had bitten him, Aaron explained to me, “It’s okay, Mommy. I still love her.”

So I completely understood his enormous heartbreak Thursday over Graham’s (possibly final) betrayal. As I explained to Dom, Aaron has taken care of that rabbit, risked limbs to feed and water her, stood up for her defense, and loved her through every tantrum. And now, here he is, realizing that it is all for nothing. Graham has no intention of giving back to Aaron the love he bestows on her. It’s a one-way street to the heartbreak hotel. I ached for him as his sobs ebbed and flowed. He is grieving the sweet pet that Graham couldn’t be. He painted her portrait in art camp this year, he had plans to write a paper about her in class, and he even considered the possibility of a rabbit science fair project. He did not say as much, but I am certain that each of those thoughts crept through his mind as I held him, and were the catalyst for each new wave of tears.

I assured Aaron that he would not have to make any decisions permanent right then. We would move Graham from his bedroom and determine later how to respond to the situation. I want Aaron to feel that he has control of the situation. He’s been betrayed by a pet, and right now he seems willing to cut his losses. With both kids crying over the thought of sending Graham back to the pet shop (will they take her back?) I wished so badly that we had just stuck with fish and dogs.

But, once again, God bless the Internet! I found the House Rabbit Society who offer advice for rabbit owners. Honing in on the article about aggressive behavior, I learned many things about our Graham Cracker. I learned that most of the things we are doing are triggering a frightened behavior in Graham that CAN be modified. Things like reaching into her cage, with our arms near her face…rabbits are farsighted, and when all they can distinguish is this blurry hand reaching toward them, they might freak out a bit. I guess I would too, really. As long as Graham does not feel safe in our home, she will continue to act out. So we have to alter our behavior in order to impact Graham’s.

More household changes in the works: I have now cleared out the playroom of as much clutter as I could, reorganized the remaining clutter, and barricaded all cords and dangerous chewables. Graham can now play as long as she wants all over the playroom, even enjoying her new favorite: burrowing in a sleeping bag. We have changed the manner in which we feed and water Graham, taking care to clean her cage while she is out of it and enjoying her playtime. Then, when she realizes that there is fresh hay in her cage, she willingly goes back in and the door is shut. No more trying to chase a rabbit all over the room, scaring her and wounding us.

Aaron is thrilled to know this is no longer a lost cause - that we can keep Graham and work toward changing her behavior by first changing our habits. She already seems happier. Here’s to positive change and a happy, healthy Graham Cracker!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day 82: To-Do’s by the Twos

If you know me well, then you understand my penchant for over-scheduling myself to the point of becoming overwhelmed by my own ToDo lists. Though not clinically diagnosed, I truly feel that I can combine AR and OCD in such a way that even shrinks would shiver.

Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration.

But still. I feel that I may be over-analyzing things and trying to squeeze in so much positive change that the result will be devastatingly negative. So, in keeping with the spirit of the blog, I will make an honest effort to change even that to which I have subscribed in the spirit of change when I see it heading in the wrong direction.

Isn’t having the ability to change your mind – and your direction – a wonderful thing?

I want to go to bed at a decent time in order to get plenty of quality rest, but I have so much to do in the evenings, and I try to schedule and cram as much “work” into my evenings as possible. When the kids were small, I could only do such work after their bedtime. Now that they are relatively self-sufficient, I have about two more hours per evening. It is amazing what I can find to do to fill the time...and still run out of time.

No task ever takes only the amount of time I allot to it. I get submerged, sidetracked, and sucked in to a myriad of other tasks in the simple effort to complete one task. So I have taken stock, and I have noted that each “project” I intend to complete takes about 30 minutes to an hour. If I try to cram three or four projects into an evening, I go to bed late and disappointed that I didn’t finish everything. How helpful is that?

Starting now, I am limiting myself to two projects an evening. Yes, this means that it will take me longer to check off my ToDo lists, but if I was so great at checking them off in the first place, I wouldn’t be sharing this with you now.

When I am faced with dilemmas such as this, I hear my sister-in-law’s voice. At the end of Aaron’s first PreK year, when he was merely 3 years old, I had amassed a laundry basket full – I mean F-U-L-L – of his drawings, coloring papers, and craft projects from the school year. Determined to make it all into a neat little scrapbook, I asked for Kasie’s help. She took one look at my basket and said, “You know this isn’t all going in the book, don’t you?”

Come again????

“Lori, OMG! Half of this doesn’t even reflect HIM. How much imagination did it take to color this picture of a pumpkin? I mean REALLY!”

While I choked back fear, Kasie systematically perused the papers and crafts and pointed out reasons to keep those which were worthy, and reasons to ditch those which were not. She taught me to look for Aaron’s input and imagination in each paper and project, and not save something just because – woo hoo – he used scissors for the fifteenth time. She asked me over and over again, “What is this going to mean to you twenty years from now when you’re going through your attic?”

She taught me more than she realizes. From that single experience, I learned to look for true personal value in the things I want to keep and do. And, as is my nature, I get sidetracked and have to be reminded every once in a while that I’m focusing on the wrong thing.

Which brings me back to my original point. I cannot put true valuable effort into any project if I am spread too thin, especially if I get a bad attitude as a result. I can still impact the areas of my life that I want to impact. But I am going to pace myself. And if my two projects an evening end up consuming only half an hour, then I have an hour and a half left to relax. And I do believe I could use some forced relaxation!

So what is this going to mean to me twenty years from now when I’m going through my attic? Hopefully it will mean that I took enough time on my own well-being, that it allowed me the ability to take better care of the people and things I value.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 81: Breaking Morning Bread

Some things take some tweaking before they start to fall into place. As I mentioned a few days ago, Vic and I have to be better about eating breakfast. Then I started thinking, if breakfast is in fact “the most important meal of the day,” then shouldn’t the entire household be eating breakfast? Not just the kids, or me and the kids, but me AND Dom AND the kids. Ahhhh, something else to plan!! (You know this means another list! (or maybe not. I am discovering that too many lists make me weary. Who’d’a thunk it?))

I’ve decided that our morning routine is open enough to include breakfast for the entire family at 7:00. And I generally mean a cooked breakfast. Tuesday we had pancakes - some with chocolate chips in them. And they were mighty good!! As we sat down to bless our breakfast, Victoria asked why we were blessing it at all. As she explained after seeing our bewildered looks, “We only say the blessing at dinner!”

Well, now you see my shortcomings.

So I explained to my darling daughter that we should say the blessing every time we eat, not just at dinner. I think this breakfast thing will have two benefits: 1) everyone eating a good meal to start the day, and 2) more family time and table-talk. More opportunities to share ritual and routine with these people who mean the very most to me. I have noticed that routine supplies peace and calm to the home. It gives the kids a sense of comfort, and quite frankly it keeps me from sailing head-first off the deep end.

True, this makes for another menu to plan, but I’m up for it. Anything that makes us slow down and enjoy each other is alright by me!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 80: Readjusting the 'Tude

I feel bad for starting out as such a grump yesterday morning. I’m much better now. All it takes is a little focus on all that we have to be grateful for, and then suddenly being over-budget on groceries is really no big deal. I thought I’d post a quick follow-up to share some good news from my grocery trips:

1. Drug Emporium is beginning to stock Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products. I couldn’t see prices yet, but I’m thrilled that more stores are selling these items. For what it’s worth, I think I have determined that Drug Emporium is less expensive on body and beauty products, and more expensive on food (even though their food selection ROCKS). Just a little “lagniappe FYI.”

2. Kashi’s Mayan Harvest Bake frozen entrée is A-MAZ-ING. Hungry Girl referenced this one day a few weeks ago, so I picked one up at the store shortly thereafter. It sat in my freezer for a while before I decided to dig in. Given the fact that I couldn’t readily identify much besides the sweet potatoes without reading the box, I wasn’t too sure I was going to feel all the love HG had for this entree. I was so wrong. This is a must have!! Go buy it. Now.

3. Mom turned me on to organic oreos. I kid you not. I wasn’t too sure about them myself. I mean, I’m the girl who just tried herbal coffee, and we all know where that got me. But Dom got to try the cookies first, and he came home raving about them. So I bought a couple of packs. I just got to try my first Newman-O at lunch yesterday. OHH. EMM. GEE. These cookies ROCK. (I can’t wait to dip them in milk.)

4. I ended up buying a crate of sorts for the lunchbox items in the pantry. The kids love the idea, and they both think the huge purple crate is way cool.

5. Although not a grocery matter, yesterday was Picture Day at school. For the first time ever, I styled Vic’s hair really cute. There were no tears, no yelling, and no monster tangles. We were done in a record two minutes. I should have thrown a party right then and there.

6. Tying the hair styling to the groceries, I bought Aaron a new spray bottle for his hair. We have misplaced the original bottle. Plain water helps him style his hair and tame the “duck tail” at his crown. Not that he cares, mind you. He’d go to school in PJs with bed-head if we let him!

7. The dogs have a new stock of Milk Bones, so Mabel will once again get a treat for “kenneling” herself. She was starting to take offense at the lack of treats, I think.

8. I scored some Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and apple cider vinegar for my hair. Today is Day 1 of seeing how this new shampoo procedure goes.

All in all, there were more successes than failures with this grocery run, and I must remember to stay focused on what WORKED rather than get mired down in what didn’t. Time to recall The Little Engine that Could and keep on chugging along.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 79: Grumble, Grumble, Grrrrrrrrrrr

I generally like to hang out in the No Whining zone, but I’m making an exception this morning. Yesterday wreaked havoc on my mood, and I haven’t shaken it. I will get past it, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that right now I want to go back to bed and sleep until mid-September. Here’s the scoop on yesterday:

I went to four grocery stores…again. Two of them, I visited during the lunch hour. I bought all kinds of cool things for the kids, like organic gummy bears and organic gummy multi-vitamins. I bought two bars of seriously dark chocolate for me. I managed to bring the chocolate into the office with me so it wouldn’t melt in the car during the afternoon. I was not so wise about the gummies. I came home and unloaded expensive gummy goo from my grocery bags. Blech!

I bought the Teeccino. It sucks as coffee. Seriously, I believe the people who like it must have not been real coffee drinkers beforehand. It is a strong, fruity tea latte at best. And it cost me $7 to find this out. I had such grand hopes for it!! Aaron even wrinkled his nose when he tasted it.

All total, four grocery stores put me $83 OVER the high end of my budget. And I haven’t bought next week’s produce yet. OR my sunless tanner (which finally ran out) OR a facial moisturizer.

Speaking of produce, while I was putting the sweet potatoes in the second fridge, I found a package of mushrooms that had been forgotten. Did you know they will eventually turn to a nasty brown liquid? Did you further know that the plastic wrap on their container will leak at that point? I went to pull the container out of the fridge, barely tilted it, and this foul-smelling brown goo dripped all over me and the carpet (we have a fridge in the office/computer room. No, I would not otherwise carpet around a fridge. For this very reason!!)

We wrote $55 in checks for school fees last night. That was just for 5th grade. I don’t even KNOW what Vic’s fees are.

I wore my Shape-Ups tennys to the store last night, and now my shin is KILLING me!! Just one shin, oddly enough. But it hurts like hell. Not my thighs, which is where I need the workout. No, the shin - the skinniest part of me - is in the most shaped-up pain.

And my right thumb hurts at random. I think it’s from my video-gaming with the kids this weekend. That’s a story that will get me laughing in no time. I am sooooo not cut out for gaming!!

So, today’s positive change? I gotta ditch this funk I’m in!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 78: Lockin’ Up the Lunches

It’s grocery day once again in my personal land of Oz. Because grocery shopping is the precursor to everything else that I do in this house, you will likely hear a lot about it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

We are completely out of everything we like to eat. We are almost out of bread, but we have enough to last one or two more days in the event of near catastrophe, so we haven’t outright starved. Although, if you ask Aaron and Victoria, they may have a different take on the matter.

As a positive change for all involved, the kids are now responsible for packing their lunchboxes for school the night before, with the exception of the sandwich, which they make themselves the next morning. As they prepared their lunchboxes Thursday night both kids were at a loss once they realized we were out of their lunchtime staples: natural cheetos and organic gummy chews. What’s a kid to do?

“Mommy, when are you going to the grocery store?”

“Tuesday. We will have food again on Tuesday.” (Ever since emptying my pantry in June we have not had real “overstock” of anything. And if the kids find something they like, it goes fast!)

“That doesn’t help us much for tomorrow,” I heard Aaron say as both kids peered into the empty vastness of their lunchboxes.

I couldn’t resist pointing out that I had previously purchased just enough lunch snacks to last until the next grocery visit. But, when they snack on those items during the weekend, that leaves them in a bind later on before the next grocery run. My point finally hit home.

I shared this bit with a co-worker who suggested that I get a large clear plastic bin to keep on the bottom shelf of the pantry, and all the lunch foods can go inside. Then, if it’s in the box, it’s off limits to anything but packing your lunch. Everything outside of the box is fair game for weekends and after school snacks.

I love this idea. I am hoping to implement it this week, and see how we do as the next few weeks go by. Now, to find my stash of Rubbermaid containers…

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day 77: Sharing a New Resource

I read a term today that I think I am going to adopt. “Food-like products” describes the over-processed, super-sized, nutrient-poor, body-harming stuff we eat every day. Stuff that really doesn’t deserve to be called food. In an open letter to the President, George Mateljan, author of The World’s Healthiest Foods, describes the devastation that our American eating habits have wreaked on our overall health. I stumbled upon the letter while I was googling “When is an eggplant too ripe?” There is nothing the Internet can’t answer. And yes, my eggplant was past its prime.

With all due respect to Mr. Mateljan, I want to share the following blurb, lifted straight off of the World’s Healthiest Foods website. I probably should have sought permission first, but his site has information people need to know, and NOW, and this blurb will better explain what he’s all about. I do hope he will forgive me for any dabbling in his beeswax.

"George Mateljan has been promoting a Healthier Way of Eating since 1970. He was the founder of Health Valley Foods. His not-for-profit George Mateljan Foundation supports the WHFoods website (, featuring nutrition education backed by the latest scientific research. Every month, about 1 million people look to the website for nutrition and cooking expertise, which has inspired thousands of readers to improve their health and also lose weight by eating healthier. His latest bestselling book, The World's Healthiest Foods, explains everything you need to know about the Healthier Way of Eating. He created over 500 quick, easy, and delicious recipes, healthiest way of cooking methods and a healthy eating plan that provides all the essential nutrients individuals require each day to help them live a healthier life."
As I read his letter to President Obama, I felt pride and relief that someone with some oomph and wherewithal was trying to make a change at levels far above what I can reach. At the very least, his letter proved to me that I am not crazy, not on some bass-ackwards mission of imminent self-implosion. He addressed the school nutrition programs, the popular lure of unhealthy foods, and the resulting health problems from heart disease to cancer that plague our friends, family and neighbors. I have added a link to this site in the section at the left labeled Links to the Positive. Anything we can all do to promote healthier eating is a step in the right direction. I am not talking about convincing everyone of the benefits of organic produce. I’m talking about the benefits of making better choices about what we consume on an average day. It starts with US spreading the word. I appreciate Mr. Mateljan and his letter to the President. Pass it along.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 76: A Wing and a Prayer

“Yes, Annelle, I pray! Well, I do. There, I said it. I hope you’re satisfied.”

“I have suspected this all along.”

Those lines from Steel Magnolias make me laugh. I suspect most of us pray without others realizing it. And I suppose that is the way it’s supposed to be. But my prayer life, while comfortably casual, seems to be calling me to something more determined. Allow me to explain.

I pray in a VERY casual manner. Casual like I’m talking to my mom, casual. I don’t even start out, “Dear God…” I just bust up in there with, “Hey. You busy? What do you think about this?...” and we proceed to have a conversation. So naturally, this occurs at random several times a day. (You already know I’m odd…just go with it…) I hope I never get asked to pray in public. I assure you, it will be a fiasco of ginormous proportions. I’ll probably default to the dinner blessing and confuse the heck out of everyone present.

In keeping with a previous positive change, I have been attending daily Mass at the office. There is a sweet, elderly gentleman who sits behind me each day. Every once in a while, he brings prayer cards for us, and hands them out as we all file out of the chapel when Mass is over. Most recently, he gave me a tiny pamphlet on The Hour of Divine Mercy.

I’ll get this out of the way right now, confessing my Baptist roots, by saying that I had no idea what this was. I learned, via this brochure, that The Hour of Divine Mercy is – essentially – the 3:00 hour in which Jesus died on the cross. Now it clicks. I have tried off and on over the last few years to implement a prayer time at 3:00 in honor/commemoration/memory of that moment in history. But, let me tell ya... 3:00 in the afternoon is a hard time to put on the brakes. 3:00 in the afternoon is usually right when I’m realizing lunch just wore off and I need a snack. 3:00 in the afternoon usually finds me throwing back a handful of almonds and a strawberry milk box. (Long story on the latter – to clarify, no I’m not usually a milk-box drinkin’ kind of girl.) 3:00 in the afternoon is a busy time. 3:00 in the afternoon is the last “kick it into gear before the work day is over” moment. 3:00 in the afternoon…

Is much more sacred than I have let it be. Perhaps I need a little more formality, perhaps not. I don’t know if I’m fit for praying out of a pamphlet. I like my random, casual conversations with the Man Upstairs. He hears me, and on occasion I hear him. But I will make a point daily to reflect on his Divine Mercy, if only for a few moments. Maybe I should retreat to the chapel briefly, and with my list of prayer intentions place the needs of my family and friends at the foot of the cross…at 3:00 in the afternoon.

Day 75: Purpose-Driven Planting…(Or Not?)

I think I have said before that I don’t grow potted plants very well. I’m almost positive I have said it out loud. I have thought it numerous times, as proof stares me in the face.

The thing is, I forget about the poor guys until they look, well… dead. And now that I think about it in greater detail, I realize that my plants’ stages of decline closely resemble a human’s stages of dealing with problems.

First, they are in denial that any responsible plant owner would withhold water from them. They are also in denial of the fact that they do not have a responsible plant owner.

They conveniently skip the anger stage and go straight to bargaining. “C’mon. Just a little bit of water…I’m jonesin’ over here, lady! You think this is the Sahara or somethin’?!! I’ll perk up if you could just spare a teaspoon or so…” They start to look a little wilted, hoping I’ll notice their distress. And then…

Acceptance - the final stage. They come to fully realize that I am not paying the least little bit of attention to their pleas and they give up. Drooping down the side of the pot, their little stems shriveled from existing on their own nutrients, they resign themselves to the fact that their demise is imminent and their care-giver is clueless.

In February of this year my co-workers gave me a coffee-cup plant pot and I loved it so much I just had to stick a plant in it. So Margie brought me some jade and we both reveled in the fact that jade is a hardy succulent and that it should have no problem thriving in my office, as it does in her office just two doors down the hall. I think it wasn’t until one of the branches broke completely off and lay on top of my filing cabinet that I noticed the plant looked a little dry. Of course, I immediately flooded it with water but it was apparently too late. I noticed a couple of weeks later that someone (Margie) had stuck a fork in it to help the neglected little sprouts stand upright again. As desperate as the plant looks, I still only manage to water it about every other week, despite its wilted and defeated appearance, which I absentmindedly ignore.

Trying to work a solution here, I have one of those as-seen-on-TV glass watering bulbs that I have put into the jade. Sometimes the water drains right out in a day and other times I don’t see any water leaving the bulb for days on end. I think the darn thing just creates a vacuum of reserved water that the plant has no strength to fight for. In the end I fear it won’t be long before another plant of mine takes a dirt nap.

My grandmother once gave me a fake African Violet, noting - out loud - that a silk plant might be the only kind that could survive my care. She said this because of the year she spent visiting after Aaron was born, where she witnessed firsthand (and commented on often) my plant neglect. I still maintain my view that a houseplant is the absolute worst gift for a new mother. She already has one new living thing that she HAS to keep alive and that is stressful enough. For the love of all that is holy, don’t send her home with MORE things that depend on her care and attention!!

But now that the children are school age and I feel I have successfully established that I can keep them alive, maybe I should try a little harder for the sake of the green leafy children. I so want to have thriving plants. I have made several attempts at an herb garden. Basil remains the only thing I can grow, only outdoors, and only because it appears to be more stubborn than I am. Plus, I want a vegetable garden some day soon. That’s not going to happen if I can’t remember to water the houseplants.

Trouble is, I have no houseplants at the moment. I killed them all in my checkered past. So, I am going to purchase some plants and make a new, honest effort to water and feed them on a regular basis. I'll need to correlate the watering to another chore that I don't forget to do.  Perhaps every time I do laundry? That’s three times a week. I'll let you know how this standard of care progresses. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 74: Deciphering the Decaf Dilemma

You’re probably wondering if I can actually make a solid change each day and just move on. The answer, of course, is no. Change is a process, and for me it is a long, sometimes painfully neurotic process. ;)

I was sharing my decaf idea with mom when she so cleverly pointed out that decaffeinating coffee is a detailed chemical process. And – helloooooo – aren’t I trying to avoid chemicals? So I started researching the matter. I am STILL researching.

In addition to finding information on the ill effects of the decaf process, I also came across several sites that essentially dog the heck out of caffeine and coffee itself. By the time I closed my browser, I was all but resigned to give up coffee completely. Since dropping down to one cup a day I have noticed that I can do with less and less, or that I can wait later in the morning. This makes me think that my dependency on the caffeine is somewhat under control, and giving it up wouldn't be that big a deal. (I hope I’m not just in denial.) I mean, if it is something my body shouldn’t have, then I have to keep with my purpose and look for ways to oust it.

I found one glimmer of hope in all my reading yesterday. Teeccino. Don’t laugh. It’s herbal coffee so it is naturally caffeine free. And they say it tastes just like coffee. (Yes, yes, yes…”They” are the people who make it!) It even comes in several flavors and roast strengths. Please stop laughing.

I shared this information with Dom, who quickly responded, “If you’re not going to drink the real thing, why drink anything at all?!” I see his point, but as I explained to him, I LIKE the taste of coffee. I like the smell of coffee. I like the warmth of the cup. I like the ritual of the morning coffee experience. (You’re not alone; he was laughing too.)

I am going to continue to research the matter until I am satisfied with a definite choice. In the meantime, I’m going to Sunshine to buy some Teeccino.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 73: Dabbling in Decaf

Brace yourselves, friends. I think I’m going to have to change my coffee to decaf. Yes, me. The coffee-loving, Starbucks worshipping, have-to-have-it-by-10am-or-else… ME. And the reason really has nothing to do with me. Go figure.

For the past week, sporadically, the kids have wanted coffee in the morning with their breakfast. Granted, the mixture I make for them is about one-fourth coffee and three-fourths milk, but still. It’s coffee. And they are little.

I can remember my PaPa making himself a cup of coffee and telling me as I begged for a cup, “It’ll put hair on your chest.” I loved the milk-coffee so much that it was worth the risk, and I was pretty sure he was joking. But I kept close watch inside my shirt, just in case.

I never gave it much thought on the rare occasions when my kids would ask for a cup, which would end up only half-consumed anyway, even when served in their child-size plastic mugs that match my Christmas china (Isn’t that adorable?! Stop rolling your eyes.) As you all know, this dietary change has really made me reconsider everything that goes into our bodies. Here I am cutting out all the petrochemicals, but I’ll feed my kids a cup full of neurotoxins in the morning and think nothing of it? Au contraire, mes amis!

I find it mildly amusing that I now base my consumption decisions on what it will do to me later, rather than how good it will taste now. What a difference that has made! I don’t want candy, I can easily pass up the leftovers in the kitchen at my office, and even restaurants don’t appeal to me as much because I find myself wondering, “What are they really serving me?”

Along the same lines, I consider the long-term effects on my kids rather than what is quick and easy right now. Which brings us back to the coffee, and the shocking news that I’m going to buy decaf next week when I go to the store.

So if you are one of the individuals who sees me before noon each day, and you notice a little change in my behavior, like say, I take on the persona of the Wicked Witch of the West, please bear with me and know it’s the decaf. I’ll be back to normal after a small adjustment period.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 72: Back to Breakfast

Okay, so I haven’t exactly been doing so great at the breakfast thing. But now that school has started, Victoria doesn’t want to eat breakfast either, which is not such a good idea for a third grader who needs to hit the ground running each day. So she and I have to work on that. Really work on that…

I tried asking her what sorts of foods she might like for breakfast. Personally, I am known for juggling my travel mug of coffee and grabbing a granola bar on the way out the door. Not exactly what one might call a good role model. Sometimes breakfast just creeps me out. Can’t explain it. Whatever it is, Vic shares the feeling.

Vic and I are going to have to take baby steps on this one. Last year (or longer ago?) we were all really good at eating breakfast. I’d get up early and have smoothies and ham & eggs on the table by 7am. I look back on that and wonder why we stopped. Then, I ate breakfast for a little while after I named it as one of the early changes of habit in this blog. But it was a habit that I didn’t hold to very well, and now have to revisit.

Breakfast foods sound really good to me during the day, but not so much early in the morning. Yesterday Vic started out with a half piece of toast, and I had a cup of grits. Baby steps. Maybe we will graduate to something good like egg-white omelets soon. I think we can work back into a good breakfast habit. It’s just gonna take some early-morning effort. ;)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 71: Shampoo Suggestion

I was thumbing through my email yesterday when a new follow-up post on Tending the Garden appeared. I found this blog quite by accident and have enjoyed following Laurie’s progression toward natural, although I think she may be even more into it than I. But I like the spin she puts on matters.

When I was most concerned about preservatives, harmful chemicals and artificial colors in my shampoo, Tending the Garden’s author was concerned with the wasting of resources using too many disposable bottles. I honestly never thought about my shampoo’s packaging. Dang-it! Add one more growing concern to my list.

So, while I have found an acceptable line of hair care products, I love Laurie's follow-up post in which she details a new hair care routine:

"Ok, so I haven't said goodbye to the process of cleaning and conditioning my hair, but I think I have officially given up commercial shampoo and conditioner. It's been about a month since I started, and I have found that a mixture of equal parts Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap and water works perfectly as shampoo, and about 3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar (ACV) per 1 cup of water works great (in a spray bottle) for conditioner. I only have to wash my hair every third day, or less. Most days I just wet it in the shower, spritz with the ACV mixture, rinse, and have amazing hair the rest of the day. We're talking texture and volume I haven't been able to achieve without really expensive products. Simple. Cheap. Clean. Less Plastic. Awesome hair."
I am quite inclined to give this a try. I will let you know how it goes. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 70: Look Who’s Teaching

One thing I never, ever, ever thought I would do is teach a class. When I was younger and fellow students would ask me to explain the assignments to them, I failed miserably. I never was able to break it down to an understandable level for the other person. I always started out at the level of MY understanding, and that just left the fellow student bewildered. No, for the sake of anyone who would ever know me, I would never be caught teaching.

Have I ever before mentioned my asinine use of the word “never?” It seems almost everything that I verbalize, “Oh, I’ll NEVER do that,” eventually happens. I hate eating my words.

But here I go, entering my second year of teaching the 2nd Grade First Communion class at my church. Contrary to what anyone else says, I view my efforts last year as a complete flop. Oh, I managed to make the best of it and end the year with a genuine feeling of love and pride for twenty-nine children I did not previously know. Not to mention my own daughter was in the class, a situation any sane individual would avoid altogether. So between that, my fall case of shingles, and an emotional breakdown on the Big Day, I really felt like I had somehow botched the whole experience.

As a matter of reconciling myself to the task, I am prepared to make every effort for this year to be 100% better than last year. The first thing I realize I must do is prepare the lessons. (Yeah, that one seems like a no-brainer. But remember the intro to this where I said I was not cut out for teaching? I rest my case.) I am also going to plan some craft activities with the ideas my friend Mickey gave me last year. And, as I realized at the end of last year, I must do a better job of communicating with the parents.

My goal is three-fold here, and these may be fleshed out in later days. For now:

1. I plan to have Dom pick the kids up from PSR so that they can get to bed on time, and I can have a few extra minutes (or thirty) to talk with my co-teacher. This should alleviate the problem of neither teacher knowing what the other is thinking. (Welcome to the plan, honey. Sorry to spring it on you this way.)

2. I need one evening a week to detail the plans of the next lesson, and to prepare any parent communication to be sent with the children. Sunday seems like the best day to do this.

3. At some point soon, I sincerely hope to have the PSR website up and running so that anyone can get information on our program and classes when they need it. I think I will need to update it on Wednesdays after classes so that any new information is immediately available and pertinent.

There it is, folks. The Big Plan. Here’s hoping I can pull it off, and that this year will be better than the last.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 69: Doin’ Dishes

I finally changed my dishwashing detergent. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, since I have been a Cascade fan since childhood. There were a lot of considerations to make in changing my dishwasher detergent. Remember, I make mountains out of molehills all the time!

First, I really wanted to go back to the individual packets of detergent where all you do is plop this tidy little plastic packet into the soap holder in the dishwasher door and you never have to wonder if you used too much or not enough. But, I had been told that the packets were not completely biodegradable, and the remaining plastic would clog up the dishwasher drain lines and cause mucho problemos. So, I stopped using the cute little packets when I got a brand new dishwasher. I didn’t want to gunk-up my pretty new machine quite so fast.

Second, I wanted to be sure that if I switched to another brand that it was actually going to get my dishes clean. I CANNOT STAND to see streaks and such on my dishes as I’m putting them back into the cabinet.

And, as a natural result of my research, in the last couple of months I’ve felt the need to use something friendlier. We run our dishwasher every-other-day at minimum, twice a day if we’re home for any length of time (like our lovely stay-cation in June). At that rate, if I’m using a product that is essentially poisoning the water supply or leaving any kind of soap behind on my dishes, then I consider that to be problematic. (This excessive use of the dishwasher is on the list of things to be addressed, by the way.)  And I may be only one household who is willing to change in favor of an earth-friendly option, but I am one household who is willing to change, nonetheless.

Once again, I turned to Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products for my solution, the largest selection of which is found at Sunshine Health Foods. And no, I don’t get paid for this unabashed promotion of the two, in case you were wondering. I just love the store and the products! Mrs. Meyer’s has BOTH the dishwasher packets and a dishwasher liquid in practically any of their wonderfully herby fragrances. I bought the basil scented packets for the dishwasher. And guess what…they work!!! They’re great! My dishes are squeaky-clean and I’m using a product that is safe and natural. And the basil scent in the products is very mild.

I scoped out the safety of their products on their website. They are very direct about their ingredients and their philosophy in manufacturing them. Aside from being completely biodegradable, “Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products are safe to use in the presence of children, pets, and expectant women.” What’s not to love?

To quote one of my favorite early ‘90s movies, “Dishes are DONE, man!”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 68: Live Deliberately

Not every day is rosy and fun. We don’t wake up every morning with bluebirds singing at our windowsill and gentle deer waving satin ribbons in our midst.

In fact, some days the dog pukes right before our alarm goes off.

And the day is set in motion.

A horrible, downward spiraling motion.

But the whole way down, I am consistently aware that I am making a choice to continue in the spiral. The entire tirade of “where’s the carpet cleaner?!-why is he puking?!- and why can’t he make it to the %$#$!@ tile?!!” is punctuated by my own inner thought of “why is this such a big damn deal?”

Ultimately, it’s not. It’s a choice to make it a big deal. It’s a choice to view it as an attack on my personal space and time or a minor inconvenience in my morning. And what about poor Mason? Do I think he WANTED to get sick at 6:25 A.M.?

My point, I guess, is that in the midst of anger and blame there is chaos and confusion. There is no room in those emotions for rational thinking. And – I believe – without rational thinking there can be no deliberately chosen response. It’s all improv, and not even very good improv at that. A positive, healthy lifestyle also involves living deliberately. Experiencing each moment for what it offers us, valuing the experience for what we can learn from it. From dog puke to real disasters, I think it’s important to relate kindly to each other so we can get through the situation a little more easily.

Thankfully, we were able to talk and laugh again before the cleanup was complete, and everyone is cheerful in the Mainiero home once more. I recognize that we all made a choice at that moment, and I am grateful for it.

We are not guaranteed a future. We have now. Shouldn’t we make it the best NOW that it can be? Dog puke and all??

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 67: Studying PG

One of the ingredients I have been trying to avoid, among all the parabens, aluminum, and preservatives (even in deodorant) is Propylene Glycol. “PG.” As in, NOT the movie rating.

I saw a deodorant labeled as PG-free, and I tried to figure out on my own what the letters stood for. I mean, since I had spent all summer researching, I figured I should know, right? Well, I didn’t. Mostly because I had Propylene Glycol on the safe list. Now here’s my crazy issue with PG and related chemicals…

Back when I had the shingles last year, I also had an odd feeling in my left shoulder. A surface irritation, like a sunburn feeling, where fabric moving against my skin would actually hurt, even though there was no obvious injury. That showed up three months before the shingles, and when I saw my dermatologist while enflamed with the shingles, she suggested that the shoulder was completely unrelated to my more prevalent issue, and that if it persisted she could send me to a neurologist.

A WHO?!!!!

After the shingles and all that great medication they had me on so I would not go stark raving mad, the shoulder pain subsided. I thought I was healed. YAY! No need for the neuro dude.

But, in June after the conference that kicked off what this blog is all about, I suddenly had pain identical to the shingles in my back. I went to my family doctor this time (she also saw me with the shingles…one of four doctors who treated me that crazy week!) Anyhoo…my family doc suggested that this intense back pain I was feeling was not likely to be shingles because of several reasons you are really not interested in, but more interestingly, if the pain continued she could send me to a….

You guessed it… a neurologist!

What is WITH these people?!!

Now, 60+ days later, I have a list of ingredients that cause nerve damage…freaky weird stuff no one can probably explain. These ingredients are called neurotoxins. Nice, huh? Here’s MY take on it: if these ingredients are KNOWN to cause neurological defects, and we use them all the time in all our products every day, sometimes several times a day, can we not expect to see some symptoms? And of course, if we believe our food and our beauty products are safe, would we ever dream of looking at them as the source of our issue? I wouldn’t have. EVER. Seriously, the threat of my child being brain-altered by chemical ingredients was my primary focus. This whole nerve damage from extended use of a certain ingredient I never even knew existed has given me a whole new insight.

OHH!!!! Not to be outdone by the dreadful preservatives, PG can also be found in our foods. I nearly dropped a pre-packaged muffin the other day at work when I read the ingredient list. Ack!!!

PG is not the only neurotoxin I’m looking to avoid. The list is so full of stuff I can’t even pronounce, but I recognized a few of the items, like caffeine, which makes sense. Please note that this does not mean I am cutting out my morning coffee…yet. Acetaminophen…well, it’s a medicine. If it didn’t affect the nerves, it wouldn’t work at all. Duhh.

Do I know for sure that I have nerve damage? No. Do I know for sure that I am suffering from overexposure to PG? No. Do I hurt? Sometimes. Can I learn more about the neurotoxins that might be harming us? Yes.

Will I? That’s a Hell Yes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 66: Making Room for Better Sleep

Yes, I know I already addressed in another post the hours of sleep needed to feel like our absolute best selves. Some things just bear repeating, and this has a slightly different spin.

Victoria determined earlier this week that she simply was not getting enough sleep. We had already adjusted the bedtime to provide for better sleep during the upcoming school year, but she continued to be a Cranky Franky. And she blamed it on lack of sleep.

While I know my eating and sleeping habits can affect my mood in a New York minute, I was not inclined to allow her to blame a situation for her mood, but rather wanted her to accept responsibility for choosing to be a grumpy bug, and then look for a solution to the situation she found herself in.

Boy, did she find a solution! Victoria announced that she wasn’t sleeping well because Marsha Mallow (the bunny) keeps her awake at night. She reassured us of her love for Marsha, but asked that we PUH-LEEZE remove Marsha from her room at night. She even had a suggestion as to where Marsha could sleep – in the playroom upstairs. “After all,” Vic surmised, “you’re not using that room for anything else!”

She makes an excellent point.

And I can vouch for Marsha being noisy at night. Sometimes in the sleep-state between surrender to the pillow and REM, I can hear the bunnies playing in their individual cages. Last Friday, I slept in Victoria’s bed with her because she woke up in the middle of the night and I went to comfort her and just decided to stay. I tossed and turned all night while Marsha played, tossed her food bowls in the air, and drank rather noisily from her water bottle. When do rabbits sleep, I ask ya???

So Monday night we moved Marsha’s cage into the playroom. But that lasted about 30 minutes, if that long. Aaron and Vic suddenly felt very sad for Marsha having to sleep all alone in a room she wasn’t used to. Aaron declared in a most direct manner that he would rather have Marsha sleep in his room than have to be by herself. (She’s alone all day long, but I guess that’s different because it’s daylight??) Plus, he swears the bunnies don’t keep him awake. So, Marsha’s cage got dragged down the hall to Aaron’s room, where she now sleeps during the night before being dragged back into Victoria’s room in the morning.

All in all, this arrangement seems to be working out. I’m proud of Victoria for offering a solution to her problem. Everyone seems to have adjusted well to the new nighttime habit. And Vic has slept well all week.

May there continue to be peace at night.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 65: New Year, New Habits

There is only one thing on my mind as I write my post this morning. The New School Year. Part of me is looking forward to it – returning to the normal ebb and flow of the school calendar. The other part of me is just praying that all the new things we have begun at home don’t get sideswiped by the school experience. (And praying that Vic has a good year!)

Today I am pleased to report the new habits my kids have sworn to, some of their own free will, but all with an open mind and pleasant attitude. (This is a WOW moment, folks!)

1) Victoria vows to make A’s. I do not insist on A’s…I insist on honest effort, and let the grade be what it will. My questions to the kids when they bring home their report card are 1) Did you do your best? and 2) Did you learn something new? To me, that pretty much sums up the student’s and the teacher’s purpose for being there. But Vic's enthusiasm for the school year is quite refreshing.

2) Victoria will take her lunch this school year. Vic is a school-lunch kid…always has been. And for $1.50 I couldn’t complain, at least until I found out that she was spending $1.50 every day and just eating the roll. Whaaaaa???? She has offered this year to start taking her own lunch each day because, as she puts it, “The cafeteria food might have bad ingredients in it.” Jamie Oliver made an impact on us, I tell ya!

3) Both kids are accepting of the mandate that they are old enough now to make their own sandwiches. I bought them the Sandwich Thins so they don’t have to fiddle with cutting off the crust. (When do they outgrow that, by the way?  Just curious.)

4) Both kids got their backpacks ready last night and hung them on the wall. Pencils sharpened, grade-level appropriate book packed for free-time reading, new pink pearl eraser tucked neatly into the pencil pocket. I think I love school supplies almost as much as I love office supplies. Eeep!

5) Both lunchboxes are sitting on my countertop right now, packed with Natural Cheetos, organic gummy bears (well, ok…rabbits) and their BPA-free water bottles. Sandwich boxes are ready to hold the entrée. The kids were troopers about setting everything out last night to save us time in the morning.

6) Uniforms were selected and laid out neatly. (We found Aaron’s belt - abandoned all summer long - with relative ease. That’s pretty major for us.)

7) Both kids are prepared – at least for the moment – to tackle the extra assignments (Accelerated Reading and Math) within the first six weeks of each nine weeks for the reward of a friend sleeping over each quarter. The bribe – that’s all me, baby!!!! I believe it will keep our stress to a minimum if those extra things are out of the way before report card time winds around. And at least this time, I’ve bribed them with play dates and sleep overs. Remember, Marsha Mallow is the result of an AC Math reward from last year. Perhaps I’m getting a little smarter as we go along?

So there it is in a nutshell. Yes, I am prepared to let it go if these things are not checked off military style. My vow for the school year is to gently guide them at home, hold to the routine as much as possible, and make sure everyone eats and sleeps well. Oh, and NOT flip my lid if this doesn’t go as planned. ;)

Happy First Day of School!!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 64: Can We Talk?

OK, folks. This is where it gets ugly. The gloves are off. I am in an all-out battle with – of all things – are you sitting down? - my deodorant.

Yeah, you heard me. Flip to another bookmark if you don’t think you can handle this conversation. I will keep it as genteel as possible. IF it’s possible.

Natural deodorant. Good freaking grief!!! I swear, it’s all the chemicals that keep us from stinkin’ up the place! The skinny on this is that I have tried three brands of natural deodorant since I trashed my Secret Clear and I am praying this latest brand cuts the muster!

This latest brand, by the way, is for men. I am past the point of caring whether there are horses or halos on the bottle. Just give me something that works! Because Saturday during Mass I had my arm around Victoria when she looked up at me and said, “Um, Mommy, your deodorant isn’t really working that well.”


Granted, it was a 106 degree day and we were in a church with a dying air conditioner. Whose deodorant could withstand that? Really?....

But the fact of the matter is, no matter how unappreciated Victoria’s comment was, she speaks the truth. I immediately assumed the stance: elbows permanently imbedded in my hip bones. And I vowed to find a functional natural deodorant if it is the last thing I do!

So far the Herban Cowboy deodorant is working fine (does that name crack you up, or what?!!), even at my office yesterday where we had faulty A/C and I thought I was experiencing hot flashes. But I have been tipped off to the Jason line as a potential success, so I will be investigating that too.

Changing deodorant is the pits!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 63: Back to School

My kids have two more days of summer, but they will be far from lazy days. We are in high-gear trying to get ready and adjusted to the idea of a brand new school year. Last night I imposed on Dom my mental list of ToDos in an effort to satisfy my need for everyone to be on the same page, more so than for anyone else’s benefit.

Basically, it seems everyone is willing to go with the flow and/or whatever I suggest needs to be done rather than interject their own thoughts or spend these last two days of summer (God forbid) planning the first few weeks of school. I think they all know that I’d rather we all do it my way, and being the sweethearts that they are, everyone plays along.

Maybe this weekend has just been too hectic. Maybe I spread myself too thin, and this is my knee-jerk reaction to feeling pulled in too many different directions. I feel the uncontrollable urge to pre-pack the next two weeks’ lunches or something equally illogical. I feel like I just got the kids on a summer routine, and now I have to switch it all up again. I usually go through this each August, if I recall correctly. And within a week or two, I realize that the school year is actually EASIER than the summer, albeit busier, and everything just falls into place.

My moments of reflection bring me back to some basic understandings: 1) I cannot change people and - sometimes - situations, 2) I can change my attitude toward a situation, and 3) there is no rule that says I have to do it perfectly.

I believe I should make a habit of allowing my inner peace to direct my outer chaos.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 62: Planning and Preparing, Preparing and Planning…

As a reader of this blog, beware that you are about to dive head-first into the depths of my neurosis. But please understand something about me: in order to make something work effectively and efficiently, I have to first make a rotten mess of it. Shotgun-blast-the-hell-out-of-it is always my first step.

I have said on many posts that I am going to need a lot of help with such-and-such, or that a particular change was going to present a particular challenge. Three words sum up this one…

Pray. For. Me.

A residual result of all my changes, this one presents my biggest problem: In order to be a good time-manager, I have to plan the menu. In order to serve good meals, I have to plan the ingredients. In order to plan the ingredients, I have to plan the grocery list. In order to plan the grocery list, I have to know the menu. And in order to plan the menu, I have to know our evening plans.

Can you see my head starting to spin? My goal of preparing a month of menus at a time was manageable before all this natural/organic, oh-my-gosh-will-my-family-actually-eat-that, Holy-Mother-of-Pearl CHANGE was set into motion. I have to get a handle on this, and fast. Yesterday had me spinning so far out of control with my grocery trips, that I started to wonder if I was going to set out to prepare the first meal and have a breakdown over breadcrumbs. Hey, I’ve been hormonally emotional lately. It could happen.

So today, for what little time I can afford to invest in this thought process, I will try to wrap my head around not only what I plan to be doing for the next two weeks, but also for what I need to do next month, so I’m not rushing around like this two weeks from now when I grocery shop. To my credit (what little I am allowed in this experiment), I have identified one source of chaos for myself: After I plan the meals, I forget where I put the recipes. Are they in this book, or that one? Did I rip it out of the Southern Living, or do I need to rifle through the magazine rack?

Here’s my rough outline of a solution: I need more lists. I should have an alphabetical list of all the recipes and where to find them. I should also have four rotating grocery lists, one for each week, so I can buy fresher ingredients and adapt for changing menus and schedules. (Seriously. I used to have two rotating grocery lists and it was a beautiful system, even if not quite so complex.) That’s my starting point. Every project needs a starting point, right? Hear me out…if I have a list for each week, and I know when certain items are going to be consumed, then I can plan when to buy them. Better yet, I can extend this to my non-food consumables and plan when to buy them too. Whoa…I might even be able to predict our consumption so well that I could systematically identify when to go to which store, and lessen the burden on any particular week. For instance, I can get all dry and paper goods on a monthly schedule and only have to deal with Wal Mart on a limited basis.

Time for four new words, my friends: Send. Me. To. Counseling.

Before I can wrap my head around my next move, I have to come to terms with what I did yesterday…I think I’ll re-organize the refrigerators today. That always gives me a fresh perspective. Yeah, I’m odd like that.

But after 62 days, you probably knew that already.