Thursday, April 30, 2009

You only THOUGHT you were being good...

Unfortunately, sometimes bad things come in good packages.  

Take, for instance, one of my favorite restaurants:  Panera.  I feel all healthy and happy when I order a grilled chicken Caesar salad....until I admit to myself that it is SO not what I want it to be.  

Don't get me's delicious!  I could eat their salads tirelessly eat their salads (and sandwiches, for that matter) daily for weeks on end.  (I think, a few years back, I really did.)  Until I read the nutritional information.  Are you aware that it has 500 calories, 28 grams of FAT, and only 3 grams of fiber???  That equates to 15 Weight Watchers points!!!  FOR A SALAD!  (Ever since my season on Weight Watchers a few years back, everything must convert to points for me to appreciate their "value" in my diet.)  Now, for those of you not familiar with Weight Watchers, consider that, currently, for me to remain "on plan" I am allotted 21 points in a day.  TOTAL.  For 3 meals, beverages, snacks, everything.  

Oh, and that 15 points does NOT include a baguette on the side with an extra side of Caesar dressing for dipping...Yeah.  Some things you know are bad, but you do them anyway.  

Bon appetit!

**Author's Note:  Panera, it's nothing personal...I know you're not alone.  You just happen to be the one that I dined upon today.  I still love you.

Monday, April 27, 2009

And I'm Not Even Catholic

I started a post last week about Earth Day.  Unfortunately, my skatter-brained self, amidst an extremely busy week ('tis the season for that kind of week in my little world), never made it back to the draft.  It's too bad, too.  I was going to toot my own horn a little about all the little things I've done this year to become more of a friend of the environment.  What can I say?  Green is the new pink?

But alas, that post may never see the light of day.  

Tonight, though, my mind overrunneth with words I'd like to share with you.  I'd like to share a few thoughts with you this evening about GUILT.  Some say it is a useless emotion...but it is strong.  It is powerful.  It is life altering.  

Some of us are more suceptible to guilt than others.  Take Catholics for instance.  I, personally, am a far cry from Catholic.  I have, though, had a plethora of Catholic friends during my life.  One thing I've observed that they all seem to have shared is their intense feelings of GUILT.  

I ask you, HOW CAN THEY NOT struggle with this???  The emotion seems to be a building block in the foundation of the religion.  Hello?...CONFESSION?  PURGATORY?  The very structure of the religion lends itself to creating a population of guilt-sufferers.
I, on the other hand, am apparently just one of the lucky few who are genetically predisposed to suffer from this so-called "useless emotion".  Take, for instance, my dinner this evening.

I've been making an effort to cook more dinners during the week.  I'm resolved to cutting the cord that binds my family to the convenient, yet unhealthy, fast food options that surround us.  As a cook, however, I bore easily.  I seldom make the same recipe more than twice, excepting a small selection of favorites.  I'm also trying to force encourage Fire Daddy and my little princesses to like fish.  So, this weekend, I dug deep into my memory and culinary "expertise" and decided I'd grill some teriyaki swordfish, with a side of Asian style rice and vegetables.  Sounds yummy, right?

Until I found myself thinking about the sustainable seafood guides I'd seen recently....and Happy Feet...and Earth...and I began to wonder how my dinner rated on the "eco-friendly" scale.  

Turns out, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's seafood guide, chances were 4 out of 5 that my fish was at least OK -- environmentally speaking.  I felt the need to air my own dirty laundry, though, so I made this tweet on twitter on my lunch hour.

All I wanted to do was air my guilt, right?  Confess and you shall be forgiven.  I'll learn from my mistakes and do better next time.  

My "Cyber Cuz" thought differently.  

He proceded to send me a virtual barrage of guilt-inducing tweets in reply to my pitiful plea for forgiveness and understanding.  One tweet even included this link, which I proceded to watch and become even more depressed as a result of my own, self-inflicted guilt and the unexpected discovery that orange roughy is has also been black balled in the world of seafood.  

Gee. Thanks, Cuz.  I totally appreciate your furthering my guilt.  Got it.  Lesson learned.  I know I should be thanking you for educating me (thanks, joking), because I did learn something,  but can I just tell you (and everyone else reading this) that the stinkin' fish didn't even taste good!?  

Before I got home this evening, I thought about tossing it - scrapping my dinner plans (especially after I read about the mercury risks...Did you know it's recommended that women and children do not eat swordfish at all and men eat it only a maximum of once per month??) and coming up with a more Ecologically Correct "Plan B" for dinner (a.k.a. leftovers)

That is, until I thought of all the starving people in this world....(I would say China or Africa or somewhere else like that, but then I feel guilty for overlooking the poverty issue in the United States) and I decided I'd better not waste it.  The damage was already done, right?

Ha!  Our fish this evening was palatable at best.  

We ate it.  

It sustained our life for a little longer.  

But, let me confess:  I, for one, did not enjoy it.

...And I'm not even Catholic.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How Much Is Too Much? (Or, "The Post When I Finally Mention Twilight")

Recently, with all the current hype about that popular vampire movie and book series, I've been a part of more than a few conversations about parenting choices.  You know, the choices we all have to make that look differently for each, but boil down to the same thinking.  How much is too much?  When are they ready?  What can my kids handle -- or, rather, what SHOULD my kids handle?

It started when I found out a buddy
 of mine was letting her 4th grade
 son read the Twilight series.  He had already seen the movie and was well into the second book.  I also discovered one of my 3rd graders read the book with his parents, which really surprised me.  Then, I found out my niece (also in third grade) received a copy of the movie from the Easter Bunny(Apparently, the Easter Bunny that hippity-hopped down their lane must have been the wild "black sheep" younger bunny brother of the one who brought gummies and nail polish to my girlies.)  

I admit openly that I have neither read the books, nor seen the movie.  It's not because of any deep, moral or religious opposition to the content - I'm just not into vampires.  I've never been into reading or watching things like werewolves, vampires, zombies, and other "undead".  Nothing personal, folks.  I just prefer a different topic.  I'm a bit more of an "Oprah Book Club" type reader.

That said, I also know that the major themes of this book center around romance, love, sensuality...a.k.a. SEX.  That has to be true or all the women in America wouldn't be swooning over Edward and talking about vampire crushes, right?  
In my desperate attempt to either validate my own thinking or determine if I'm just a prude, I found a great resource for parents on the ever reliable IMDB.  I know you all know this already, but I had no idea that Bella is almost raped by four men!? And she's nearly crushed by two cars!?  Plus, after reading the list of offenses in the "violence and gore" category, it seems that people and/or vampires are being beaten, burned, broken and bloodied throughout the movie.  But, I'm taking all this with a grain of salt.  I haven't seen the movie.  

I still wouldn't let my child see it, though.

Apparently, not everyone agrees with me.  (I know!!!  I am amazed, too!!!)  

Then, I remembered:  this movie is rated PG-13.  As a parent who was, aparently, raised in a very "by the book" household, that verifies my thinking.  You can't see it until you're 13 and even then, I'm seeing it with you.  Right?

Wait a minute.  Freeze.  I think I'm beginning to understand that not all parents pay attention to those ratings.  But, some must, right?  I mean, just the other day I was chatting with a few girls in my class about movies and 17 Again came up.  I assumed they would rush right out to see it.  It looks like a cute romantic comedy.  And, hello!, Zac Efron is the star!  But, nope.  No go.  It's PG-13.  

Again, WOW.  I haven't seen that movie at all, either, so I have no idea why it's PG-13.  But these parents aren't letting their kids go see it, and I totally respect that.  **Note: I looked it up.  "This film has been rated PG-13 for language, some sexual material and teen partying."  I never found that same type of summary for Twilight.  I thought it would be interesting to see how they compared in a sentence.**

All this thinking made me wonder.  When my girlies get older and the lines between childhood and adulthood begin to blur, how will I decide?  Will I base my decisions purely by the rating?  Will I make exceptions?  How will I know?  

And then I wondered, have I already begun to make these decisions without even realizing it?

As a teacher, we are permitted to show only G rated movies in class for special events.  Because of this rule, I've become painfully aware of how few G-rated moves are made today.  Any of those old classics from our childhood that have been remade, such as Shaggy Dog, apparently lost some wholesomeness in the remaking process....because they went from a G to a PG movie.  Even some very popular and seemingly harmless animated moves, such as Happy Feet, are rated PG.  

I remember the first movie I had to censor from Big Girl.  Brother Bear.  We totally trusted Disney - and still do.  But, one day she dropped a "shut up" from her precious two year-old mouth.  We had no idea where it came from, until we heard the Moose the next time we watched that movie.  At the time, we decided to pull the movie after, of course, trying to explain that "shut up" was "not nice".  CENSORED!

However, throughout the years I've learned after the fact of her various television viewing with Fire Daddy.  He was so proud the night he told me as my jaw dropped to the floor how calmly and maturely she watched to my horror some survivor dude use the carcas of a camel for shelter.  Yeah, you're right.  That show was NOT on Discovery Kids.  

Ultimately, I'm realizing, we all make our own rules.  We all use our own judgment...or, however reluctantly, that of our spouses.  When I sent out a flare to the twitterverse for feedback, I got very little response I heard that parents are not basing their decisions on the judgment of the Ratings People, but rather, their own judgment.  

A thought that makes me wonder why they're even rating movies anymore if people aren't paying attention to the ratings.  Should we, as a society, consider modifying this system?  But, then again, without those ratings parents would need to watch the movies first and determine if their child can/should see them...

Well, ain't that great.  That brings me right back to my original question...How much is too much?  Where do you draw the line in the sand?


Gotta love introspection.  Always so productive.

Anyone want to copy of Brother Bear?  I have the DVD, but my girls aren't allowed to watch it...
PS: You're more than welcome to disagree with me.  I respect that completely.  I won't even hold it against you!  Just be sure to talk to me before you take my child to a movie, OK?  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A New Project

So, my sister-in-law, Tammy, texted me today after she read about Big Girl's near miss with the law. 

I want to know:  What kind of keys was she planning on putting on that "hot" keychain?  Or is a "hot" mustang next on the list??  

Let's not plant any seeds, OK?

With that, she promptly got me going on my next project.  Just the rebound I need.  I have a good history with rebounds.  I married my last one, you know...but that's another post entirely.

As I recover from the slap in the face my parenting journey just dealt me this weekend, I suspect this sentimental look at motherhood is a fix I sorely need today.  I also expect it will be accompanied by its own fair share of tears on my part, as its timing is right on the heels of the sad culmination of a book I'd been reading.  Needless to say, any tears shed at this late hour, won't be the first of the day.

According to Her Bad Mother, I'm supposed to share with you five trinkets of motherhood I would love to tuck away in the safety of the box my grandmother gave me years ago, alongside a two dollar bill and locks of baby hair.  Then, as the ritual goes, I'm supposed to tag five more mothers who blog - so they can continue this virtual journey around the world in "80 clicks".  

Alright, buckle up, folks.  This boat is setting sail.

1.  I love to watch them sleep, cuddled together like kittens.  Their long, thick lashes lay softly in perfectly neat little semi-circles against their smooth, milky skin.  Their little lips - pink painted on with the tiniest, delicate brush.  Their breathing smooth until they flail and rustle in their sleep.  Arms flopping all over one another.  Their slumber too deep to be disturbed.

2.  I love the glee in riding with the windows rolled down.  As tiny babies, the wind made them catch their breath.  Now, as they grow, the more refreshing and invigorating the wind is to them.  We drive shamelessly through town, singing at the top of our lungs, dancing like mad women, uninhibited by onlookers in the next lane.  I am transported back in time to my high school days - driving around town in a red mustang with my best friend - behaving the same.  

3.  I love playing on the floor with them.  We don't just do puzzles or play Barbies.  We rollick and roll -- we do cartwheels and jump on the mini-trampoline and sing and dance and play "break-break" and airplane and they squeal and scream as I hold them upside down above me while they cling to my legs.  We hide eggs in the house in June and even November.  We paint on the glass door.  We squirt each other with the hose.  We sing songs.  We laugh until we cry and sometimes wet our pants.  

4.  I love to talk to them.  I love to hear their thoughts.  Their tales.  Their perspective on the world around them.  I want to crawl inside their heads and see what goes on in there.  I want to watch the movie of their day from where they stood.  Then, I'd slide down into their chests and study their hearts.  And before I climb back out again, I'd hold it. I'd hug it.  I'd cradle it and cry over it.  There is nothing so precious to me in this world.  My baby's heart.  My heart.  

5.  I love seeing them everyday.  I love their companionship.  I love their smiles.  Their hugs.  Their kisses.  Their grumps.  Their fusses and whines.  I love their presence in my home and in my life.  I love hearing them in the backseat.  I love seeing them in my rearview mirror.  I love that my television is perpetually on Disney, pillows never stay where they're put, books are never reshelved, blankies are on my kitchen floor, sticker charts hang on the bathroom door, small furniture is in every room of my house, and my refrigerator, my desk, my bedside table, my car, my walls, and my heart is decoupaged with their smiles.

I love being a mom.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Your turn.  Go.  Wallow in it.

Be sure to come back and share your link.  

Sunday, April 12, 2009

And so it begins...

As the mother of two daughters, a mother who was (admittedly) guilty of putting her parents through a lot of stress (to put it in such a way that preserves a little of my integrity) between the ages of 12 and 20, I am not looking forward to my own daughters' entrance into their teenage years.  Heck.  I'm not even looking forward to their entrance into their tweens.  Or even 3rd grade.    

This weekend, an innocent trip to shop for Easter basket stuffings (in stealth mode, since Fire Daddy was working and it was just me and the girls) was corrupted.  My darling Big Girl made her first attempt at...shoplifting.  

It pains me to even say that.  I am still in shock and depressed over the entire event.

It all went down like this.  

We had just enjoyed a lovely hour at the park amidst groves of Easter shoppers and families leisuring in the beautiful sunshiny, breezy spring air.  The green grass made an excellent stage on which my little ballerinas danced as smooth music seeped from Bose speakers concealed in the landscaping.  Childhood innocence oozed from their pores.  

A mama duck kindly allowed us to gaze adoringly at her nine little babies swimming in the man-made brook.  Dozens of koi swam lazily as parents reminded their little ones not to get too close to the edge.  Turtles basked on their nature-made Adirondacks.  They took turns enjoying the time-honored front position on the jaguar statue before sweetly hugging and kissing it good-bye.

Once the time came to begin our journey back to the car, I decided to make one last side trip into Claire's to check out the glittery, girly odds-n-ends.  The Easter bunny is trying to diet this year; he tried to avoid the candy aisles.  My girls were in heaven!  Every little trinket, necklace, zippered-pack of lip gloss, piece of fake hair, and pair of sunglasses was inspected carefully.  While they were engrossed in their own exploration of the store, Mommy forged an alliance with the sales girl and set up Operation Stuff the Bunny Basket.  

As I meandered with my girls, oooohing and aaaahing at all their gorgeous findings, carefully prying the makeup and breakables from the Littlest Princess's eager fingers, I occasionally stashed a few basket-worthy items in the designated holding place near the register, where it would await covert payment at a later time.  

There was a moment when a particular cutsie key chain seemed to take Big Girl's fancy.  I paid it the appropriate amount of attention and gently reminded her that we were only looking, no buying.  She seemed disappointed, but dutifully returned it to the display.

Or so I thought.

After settling the tab with my accomplice at the register, I crammed the tell-tale Claire's bag into my Bath & Body Works shopping bag as low as possible, I began to round up my little darlings for our departure.  Little did I know that separating the twin poodles in their purple carrying purse from Little Girl would NOT be the hard part.  

We were headed towards the exit.  As I glanced over my shoulder to be sure Big Girl was with me, I noticed how curiously she was holding her hand in her shorts pocket.  I also could not miss the guilty look on her face.  

"What's in your pocket?"  

She froze.  Eyes quickly averted all contact with mine; aimed, instead, for the floor.  I could see her tiny fingers clinch inside her khaki pocket.  

Crap.  Now what?

Holding Little Girl and my own bag of goods that, ironically, I too was sneaking - though COMPLETELY LEGALLY, I knelt to talk to my girl.  

"Baby, what do you have in your pocket.  I need to know.  I won't get mad, just show me."

I can actually interject here and tell you I kept my word and I never got mad.  Even today, I'm not mad.  I do, however, completely understand the meaning of "disappointment".

After she regained control of her limbs (apparently she experienced a mild, yet temporary, case of paralysis), her hand revealed a slightly used pencil-top eraser.  

"Well, baby, that's just an eraser from home.  That's nothing to hide."

Uh-oh.  She's still not looking at me.  There's more.

"What else is in your pocket?  Show me."

At this time, she reluctantly produced that oh-so cutsie key chain that she had pointed out earlier.'re wondering what I did?  

I still don't know if it was right or wrong, but I calmly and patiently told her it was wrong, we cannot do that, returned the item to its place in the store and left.  

Once we arrived at the car, THE TALK commenced.  

As I left it with her, this was her ONCE IN A LIFETIME FREEBIE.  We discussed it.  She knows it was wrong.  I tried to scare her with the police stuff.  It's over.  I'm expecting that she will NEVER EVER try it again, right?

...Oh, and I immediately texted Fire Daddy.  Who, in turn, immediately phoned me back - frantic I think that someone was arrested.  (His first words were, "Who caught her?  Them or you?")

Fire Daddy talked to her more today about The Incident....without me around.  TO HIM she admitted to knowing it was wrong before doing it.  TO HIM she admitted to wanting it really badly.  TO HIM she admitted that "Mommy said we weren't going to get it." 

And, so, the ending changes.  Now, there's a new angle to this crime.  Now, there are different consequences.

So, we're in the midst of our first RESTRICTION.  (She said something about being "grounded" if there was ever a next time.  When we explained that being grounded, for someone her age, meant NOTHING because, "You don't go anywhere."  She replied, "Yes, I do!  I go to school!"  HA!  I'm not fallin' for THAT one, Little Missy!)

As my mother said, I'm sure she won't become a hardened criminal anytime soon...or even in the distant future.  However, right now, this is a very hard thing for me to swallow.  

Now, I'm REALLY not looking forward to their teenage years...and my own payback.  

Welcome to parenthood, Jenny.  Ain't life grand?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Feeling Full of It

Ever seen Oklahoma?  Not the state -- the musical (or movie).

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day.  Perfect temperature, lovely breeze, not a cloud (that I noticed in a bad way, at least) in the sky -- sunshiny, gorgeous, perfect weather. 

To make the day even better -- it was Good Friday.  (a.k.a. - No school.  Mommy and girls are OFF!)

My babies woke up on the RIGHT side of the bed - with sweet little happy smiles on their faces.  We had an exciting day planned.  The Hannah Montana movie opened today.  We were meeting some friends for an early showing, then lunch, then park, then dance class.  Whew.  I knew it was risky, but I felt good when everyone slept well last night and greeted me with perky little hellos this morning.  

To make a long story short, I was not entirely so lucky.  There were tears, there were time-outs, there was lots of fighting and fussing (me vs. Littlest Princess, mostly).  The movie (what I saw of it) was very cute.  Lunch -- grilled chicken and fruit salad at Chick-Fil-A (with children on playground) -- was delicious.  Dance class started off rather badly, unfortunately.  We were late and I had to deal with one teary-eyed, obstinant Big Girl.  However, their spirits seemed to recover after class and we enjoyed a fabulous trip to the park (ran out of time before dance).  To top it all off -- we came home too late for me to cook dinner (sniff, sniff) and BOTH babes fell asleep in the car on the way home.  Woo-hoo!  

This very full and long day has left me feeling a bit full of it.  Not in a funny way -- just a full way.  Do you ever have that feeling?  The feeling that your gut has risen into your chest?  The feeling that you have something to say -- something to EXPEL -- that you may or may not be able to accurately express?  It's nights like this that I am apt to have a drink(s) of wine...but I'm currently on a litenany of meds for a variety of reasons, so my better judgment is urging me to stay away from the adult beverages.  

It's funny, too, how the "full" feeling seems to morph into a numbness.  

Perhaps this is fatigue -- on caffeine...and pain meds...and steroids...and Prozac.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting Back Into the Swing

Unfortunately, that's not the swing to which I'm referring. This is more like the swing I'm climbing back into...

My glorious spring break has come to an end, as all good things must do. This week, I've had to get back into the swing of things - which, fortunately, includes this blog! (You know how it is, you are more willing to get started on the things you look forward to first.)

So, with that, there's a few things that have been burning on my mind that I feel the need to share with you.

Item: I have found a miracle pill - and it isn't Prozac. Recently, after hearing about the benefits of B vitamins, I strolled down the vitamin aisle in Target. I intended to casually read the labels and generally scope out the B Market, when a little bottle called my name.

Stress B-Complex? Um, Hello??? I GOT stress, baby!

Needless to say, it didn't take much thought before that bottle hopped into my red cart and I popped one before I even hit the sack that night.

Wow. I felt it immediately. I have been more energized and "peppy" everyday that I've taken them. They may possibly be my little miracle pill.

Side effect not noted on the bottle: neon yellow-green pee. But it's worth it! (And nobody has to know...except everyone who reads my blog.)

Item: I'm thirty-two (almost) and can still (more like finally) do a cartwheel. My darling eldest daughter has this problem with stress and being really hard on herself...I have no idea where she gets it from. She's currently struggling with learning to do a cartwheel in her jazz/acro class. So, being the loving, supportive mommy that I am, I realized the best thing I could do is "tutor" her in tumbling at home. She just needs a little more practice and confidence and I'm sure she'll get the hang of it.

We tried practicing indoors and giving verbal feedback. We tried using our hands to support and guide her legs and body so she could feel the right form. (A method which failed miserably, by the way. Apparently, at the mere touch of our hand, she expects to be carried through the motions and turns every muscle to mush.) So, to what did this crafty teacher resort? Well, every good teacher knows you need to model first. And away I went!

I discovered a number of things...

1. Cartwheels are 90% psychological. It's freaking scary when you've never done it before (or haven't in a really long time) to throw your hind end over your head, relying on the strength of two feeble girly (soft and squishy) arms to prevent you from crashing to the ground and breaking something important.

2. Landing gracefully is much harder than it looks.

3. I look really bad in yoga pants with a t-shirt tucked in. (I had to protect my modesty in front of my father and any of my parents' neighbors that may have glanced out their windows!)

Long story short, I wowed myself and my daughter improved slightly (after she beat herself up after watching video of her own cartwheels). We've got many more tutoring sessions ahead of us, but I'm sure she'll get it.

Item: I'm no good at waiting in lines. All it takes is a few lovely days at theme parks to discover this personal truth.

However, the icing on the cake came as I waited in line at the Kodak machine in Target to print 9 measly photos for Big Girl's school project behind two insanely rude and inconsiderate women for 40 minutes as they scanned and printed copies of an ENTIRE photo album! They kicked my personal torture into high gear with a particularly vicious below-the-belt assault to my afternoon schedule as they turned away from the machine and chatted with an old friend who was, apparently, so close and important to them that he was completely unaware that she had divorced her husband FIVE FREAKING YEARS AGO and is now dating a new guy who is "a big boy" whatever that was supposed to mean.

At this point, I refrained from my vain attempts to silence my tired daughter's whines. Let her whine. Go ahead, baby. Tell them how tired you are.

"What was that, Honey? This is taking FOREVER? You're hungry? I know, Sweetie. Let me see, I think I found a stale fruit loop in the bottom of my purse. Suck on this until we finally get a turn to use this machine. I just hope it is before the preschool closes. It would be awful if the school called the Department of Children and Families because I never made it to pick up your baby sister. Poor baby girl, she's probably going to be the last one there tonight. I hope she knows that we'll come EVENTUALLY for her. Surely her teacher will take her home eventually, right? They won't call a foster home yet, will they?"

It took me a good...24 hours?...for my blood to stop boiling. Actually, I'm not sure it ever really stopped. I hate waiting in lines.

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