Monday, March 17, 2014

Getting Back to Our Old Normal

Image: myfriendbettysays.com


I took a job.  The kind where you get paid.  The kind where people say things like "Oh, you're working now," or, "How do you like working?"   You know where I'm going with this right?
I was working before.  I worked full-time at my previous job and then I did over-time every day.  Now I work full-time at a job and then do overtime looking after my family every day.  I have always been working.  It's just that very few people recognize full-time parenting as a "real job."

This is, of course, not news to anyone.  The debate about working moms versus stay at home moms has been waged ad nauseum.  We have heard every possible view point on the issue.  That's not my soap box.  Am I disappointed that people take my "real job" more seriously?  Sure.  Is it frustrating that only now, can I complain about fatigue with impunity?  Yes it is.

My point is a simple one.  Being back in the external workforce has validated my decision to stay home with my children more than ever before.  First, let me be clear before the trolls raise their pitchforks.  I know I am lucky to have a choice, even although I feel it is not simply luck.  The husband and I have actively and intentionally set up our lives in a way that allows me to stay home.  Regardless of our careful planning, saving and economizing, I do see that not everyone has the opportunities and choices I have.  I see that.

My circumstances being as they are - I had the choice of working or staying home.  Having been in this job for only two months I know that staying home was the right and best thing for our family.
Having time to be with my girls, cook for my girls, do the laundry, shop, plan our commitments and social lives had given us the gift of calm.  We were organized, unstressed, prepared.  I had time to read with them, talk with them and play with them.  Everyone got their needs met - when they needed them met.

I have not forgotten all the things that make staying at home difficult.  I do remember that the halcyon image I just painted above was not the every day norm, but in general it was our overall experience.   Now, it feels like we have time for nothing.  We are eating take out foods most nights.  Emails go unanswered for days.  Everything gets done at the deadline.  I spend the weekend doing laundry, chores and food shopping.  I do not experience weather.  I am tired, too tired to read anything more than the shortest of bedtime stories from overdue library books.

I like the job.  It's fun to do something with my brain.  It's fun to interact with adults for long periods of the day.  I took it because it was temporary.  I wanted to dip my toe.  I will be unemployed again by June.  Only I won't be, because I will go back to my other job.  The one that allows homework to get done and walks to be taken.  The one with sunshine and discovery, neighbors and story time.  The one that doesn't find my children in tears most days because the pace of their life suddenly accelerated from a manageable 25mph to a careening 90mph.  The one where the husband and I are not squabbling over who should meet the obligations of running a home and the needs of four people.

I now, more than ever, see the value in my staying home.  I know two months is nothing, we'd all get better at this, more used to it.  We'd pick up our pace and our new normal would feel much easier but our old normal would be lost and our old normal was good, really good.
We were happy, we were connected to our community, we felt able to give and participate.  We had down time to recharge.  We ate more healthily, exercised more and cared for our plants, pets and friends in a much better way.  Life was better - for all of us. We had time.

Time should not be underestimated.  Staying at home should not be underestimated.  I know that now in a way that I could not fully appreciate before.  I am grateful that I am getting the chance to see the true value of my work as a stay at home parent.  This is the only way I could have really known for sure, to cast aside doubt stirred by the endless opinions out there. Come June I will hold my stay at home head high.





Friday, January 17, 2014

Gold Plated Pig



Meet Fergus.  He's lovely - he's about 3 months old and very sweet natured. He is the fulfillment of a promise made over a year ago that yes, we could get a guinea pig.   Actually he was supposed to be a rabbit but it turns out that the ten year old is not made for rabbit ownership.  When we went to the bunny rescue center, she broke out in hives about fifteen minutes after arriving.  Hay turned out to be the culprit and hay and bunnies seem to go hand in hand.  Guinea pigs also need hay but can manage on the small, compressed cubes of hay that seem not to trigger allergies. Excellent - pig it is.

Fergus came on Christmas Day and fulfilled the 'puppy in a wrapped box' fantasy of many a childhood (including mine.)   We all fell hard.  He popcorned around the floor delighting us with his youthful exuberance, was happy to be held by us all and purred away when we stroked him. The. Perfect. Pet.

Until.

I hate that there is an until.  Why does there have to be an until?  We noticed a pink streak on his glossy white fur.  On inspection it appeared to be blood.  I checked the kids first - no injuries noted - I moved onto the pig.  There under his fur was an area of raised, irritated skin which I presumed he had scratched until it bled.  Hmmm.  The internet very helpfully provided a long list of dire scenarios with photos too grotesque to stomach.  It also pointed out that guinea pigs are prone to feel stress, which leads to itchy skin, and so we chalked up his over enthusiastic scratching to the change in his environment in coming to live with us.

Then.

I hate that there is a then.  Why does there have to be an then?  His nose developed a bald spot which then started to look nasty.  Sigh.  Something was definitely wrong.  We needed a vet.  The husband and I discussed the vet.  We were undoubtedly attached to this pig and did not want him to suffer but we are also on a budget and vet = $$$'s.  We called the vet - $60 for a comprehensive consultation.  Assuming there is a need for some kind of skin cream - maybe another $20?  We agreed we had $80 for Fergus. $80 and no more.

The husband set off, pig in box.  He texted within ten minutes.  They needed to a skin test - it was $40.
We upped the 'no more' to $120.  The vets office was very nice, reported the husband, and he was sipping a lovely hazelnut latte they had made him.  I mentally calculated a cost reduction of $3.75 from our 'no more' total.  

The final bill was $259.  Fergus had blown a week's food budget three days after arriving in our home.
The husband and I agreed not to talk about how 'no more' had come out to $259 - which we paid.
What else could we do?  He was our first real pet - I have goldfish guilt over those words but the girls agree that a real pet can be held - I can't really argue with that, much as I enjoy our fish.
How could we not care for him? So little, so sweet and already a family member - but $259??? 

Treatment completed and all healed up, we now like to call him the gold plated pig.  He is, at least, a healthy gold plated pig.









Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January Review



I am walking back in the land of the living.  My desk looks like a tornado whirled through it.  My to do list needs it's own secretary.  I am behind on so many things that it's tempting to just sweep the whole pile into the trash and pretend they never happened.  My conscience won't let me - so here is my first attempt at catching up.   Reviews!   Here are the first three.  Two books and a toy.

I was interested in the first book because I am entering the world of tweens with my eldest and she is a Waldorf kid so it seemed like it might be a good fit.  It is definitely firmly in the young adult category and not for my tween yet but if your young adult likes mythical realms and is ready to move up into more teen themes this might be the book for you.


This second book is a good old chick lit with a twist.  If you have a beach holiday in your future this is good addition to your suitcase.



Now for the toy.   We opened this on Christmas day, it was a one of those surprise "hit" gifts.  Both the ten year old and the five year old loved it.  They sat for over an hour building a variety of creations from wands, to hats, stars, snowflakes and tree decorations.  The light up part never failed to thrill and I found myself wishing we had more of the pieces, like wheels, to keep the fun going.  It's always great to have a toy you can grow into and add to.  No media tie ins which we liked and will appeal to you if you are interested in the imagination/creativity boosting toys.  This set also encouraged co-operation and sharing.  What's not to love?!



For more info. check out Light Up Links








Review items were provided to me. Opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Post Office.


 

Growing up without a mother was always going to be tough but not always in the ways you would think. I grew up in a family that practiced modesty.
We didn’t talk about body parts, puberty or sex. Perhaps my parents thought school would fill us in. It didn’t. The dictionary was my only resource and I was crushed to find that words like ‘boob’ or ‘front bottom’ were not listed. My knowledge was scant.

I had two grandmothers, my mom had three sisters, my aunts. I had another aunt on my father’s side. At church I called several women ‘auntie.’ Not one of them stepped forward to walk me through puberty. It was just me and the library. My sister took pity on me when she found me stuffing toilet tissue into my knickers.

“Go see the woman in the post office” she advised.

Full of optimistic naiveté, I walked down the road to the post office, which was housed at the bottom of our road. It was part of a classic British row of shops - mini-mart, fish and chip shop, hairdresser, newsagent and post office. The post office was within a shop selling mostly hardware or cleaning products. The one employee would use a key to unlock the post office counter when needed. I stood awkwardly while she sold stamps to an older lady.

“Can I help you?”

“Erm, I, uhm, my sister said I should talk to you.”

“Why?”

My bright scarlet face was clearly not going to clue her in. I was mortified and angry. She was supposed to know.

Was she really going to make me say “it” here, in the post office?

Maybe my sister was supposed to have given me a code word. I shuffled my feet and felt my cheeks burn.

“Oh” she said, “I see.”

Finally.

She beckoned me to the shelves. There was an array of plastic packets. 
“Do you have a belt?”

Of course I have a belt – it holds my jeans up, why? Was she going to make me remove my clothes? Did I have to have a fitting?

Could the floor just swallow me up please.

“Yes – I have a belt.”

“OK, here you go then.”

She put my packet into a brown paper bag, I paid with the money I’d brought from my piggy bank and bolted.

Back at home, I was confronted by a thick pad with loops at either end. Why? I read the packet, ‘Put the loops through your sanitary belt’ it instructed.

The belt. Damn it. I didn’t have that kind of belt. I was a motherless, twelve year old, how would I have that kind of belt?

I trudged back to the post office. “No belt,” I mumbled.

In 1980’s Britain, returning items was not done, unless, they were broken or defective. The only defect here was that my mother was dead and no-one had considered that I might need to know about periods, but I had no more money and the toilet tissue was not going to get me through school, so I stood there with a slightly defiant look on my tortured, red face. She saw my despair and swopped the packet for one with the sticky strips.

This is where we all sigh with relief. I had my products, all was well.

Except. Here’s where the modesty issue raises it’s ugly head again. I knew nothing about my body, not even the names for its parts. Unless you count “front bottom” which is really just plain misleading. Anything below the belly button was to be hidden, unexplored and generally ignored. I didn’t think about it, look at it or acknowledge it. I could experience embarrassment about my nethers while alone in the bathroom. So when I took my shiny new packet of sanitary products up to the bathroom I just blindly popped a pad into my undies and got out of there as quickly as possible. It was weeks later that I finally confided in a school friend that I had got my period. We giggled and gossiped about PMS and then I uttered the words that would plague me through the rest of high school – four long years....

“Doesn’t it really hurt when you pull the pad off and some of your hairs come with it?”

My friend rolled on the floor laughing for around ten minutes before she could finally tell me that the sticky strip should be applied to your knickers - not you.
I find it ironic that women now pay good money for that service every six weeks or so.  I should have patented it.








Monday, November 25, 2013

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?


They have made a TV show about it - that should have been my first clue.  If I been paying attention I would have noticed just how many facebook posts refer to it and usually include reference to the parental consumption of a calming glass of wine.  Perhaps you need to have a personal connection before you take notice - you know like when you want to be pregnant and aren't and it seems that every other woman in the world is.  Or when you buy a new model of a car and then all of a sudden it seems to be the only model of car on the road.

But I didn't notice until now - or if I did, I was smug that it didn't apply to me and let it roll out of mind without a backward glance.  Now, I feel your pain, I get the need for a sympathetic ear - I am reaching for the bottle.  The reason?  Fifth grade math homework.

I find myself transported back a few decades, sitting looking a my ruled jotter (Brit speak for workbook) and wondering out loud (and by wondering I mean whining) why I could possibly ever need to know how to multiply fractions or divide 10365 by 264.
I now know the answer to that question.  I now know,  that as suspected back in the 80's when I was proclaiming loudly that "when I grow up I'll just use a calculator,"  that I was right. I do. Just. Use. A. Calculator. Or Google.  Either way - I do not sit down with a pencil and multiply, divide, bring down and add to find out the answer.  I have a college degree and am on my second career.  I still have no use for that knowledge. I probably would never choose to do my own taxes, an app on my phone is much faster and more accurate at converting foreign currency. There are many solutions for the math problems out in the real world and even those who excel at math use them.

So, why do I find myself feeding the ten year old the same line?  "It's a process, it's a practice, you will use these skills in different ways later in life.  It's basic math facts - you will need to know if you want to do more complicated math or physics for example."

I only partly agree - knowing the process is good - but I think she could just use a calculator for the actual calculation division, subtraction, multiplication and addition parts of the sequence.  Watching her frustration I question myself.  When are we going to acknowledge the high tech world we live in when teaching math?  We let a cash register work out the cost of our purchases and tax at the store. We let the gas pump tell us how much we owe.   We use our home computers or hand held devices to work out any number of things for us. Architects, engineers and accountants all use apps and programs to work out that which was previously done with pen, paper and a ruler so why are we still torturing our children with long division, multiplication of fractions and times tables?

It's frustrating, it's hard, it makes us feel stupid.  I have been giving the ten year old's homework problems to anyone who walks into my home (I know you are thinking that I know how to show my guests a good time) and they have all had a hard time getting to the answer.  I had one of the design engineers from the winning America's Cup yacht scribbling away at my dining room table for 15 minutes before he could solve one of the ten year old's homework problems - a man who does precision calculating in a high stakes environment all day long!

We need to re-think this.  In the meantime - I will keep the drinks cupboard well stocked.



Friday, November 15, 2013

BatKid



I'm sure you saw this story on the news, youtube, twitter, instagram - they were all lit up about it.
A beautiful, heartwarming story about how a whole city - San Francisco - got behind the Make A Wish dream of a 5 year old little boy, in remission from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, to be Batman.

He became the trusty sidekick of Batman - Batkid.  He drove the streets of San Francisco in a sleek black Lamborghini.  He did stunts and rescued a damsel in distress before finally getting the Joker locked up for his dastardly deeds.  A whole city came out to cheer him on, to facilitate his special day.



It seemed everyone was talking about it, happy crying about it, cheering about it.  It was a delicious slice of humanity that thousands got to participate in.  I read lots of tweets, FB posts and blogs about what a nice change it was from, sad and scary news stories.  How unusual it was to see such kindness.  How great it was to see that the humans of this world still have heart.

Here's the thing.  I think beautiful, heartwarming things like this happen everyday.  I think that kindness and humanity are much more prevalent than crime.  I think we could become addicted to the good feelings experienced today in the same way we have become addicted to the vicious gossip propagated by the tabloid media or the detailed and relentless news of isolated violence.  I think the happy news is out there and if we demand more balance from our media outlets - they'll give it to us.

We do need to know the sad, dark stories of the world but let's redress the balance. Sites like Upworthy are gaining momentum but we need a monumental shift.  Noticing how much we liked how it felt today to watch that adorable little kid, in his suit, blazing around the city is a start.  Noticing how we feel when we watch the opposite might encourage us to trend towards the happier feeling .  Finding balanced news which presents facts and shows a minimum of graphic images would help.  I think if we could see more of the good - we'd do more good.  We'd be less pessimistic or suspicious about the validity of our efforts, which can feel like a drop in the ocean when faced with the tidal wave of negativity.  I think that kindness is just as infectious as fear.

If this one boy's wish turned a tide - that would really be something.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Peter and the Starcatcher.



I love the theatre.  The deep red, lush curtain which hides the promise of an hour or two of delightful distraction from the everyday.  The buzz and hum of the audience as they arrive.  The fresh smell of people wearing their finery.  I am pre-disposed to like what I see, I am already in a good mood.

Theatre is fickle though, it can rob you of your good mood within minutes - if the production disappoints.  Not so with Peter and the Starcatcher.  If you go to the theatre regularly then it's hard to be surprised, you most likely will have seen a similar production, familiar music, sets or costumes.  So, if that's your experience run, don't walk, to the box office for tickets. It is the most innovative, clever and refreshing show I have seen in a long time.  It's staging is stark (think Rent) with intermittent bursts of  bright color and dazzling costumes. It has a small cast, with only one woman but each cast member packs an individual punch and the music although sparse, is good.  The percussion was particularly entertaining.

We went on Friday night with my ten year old.  She loved it but I would say that ten is the minimum age.  Not because of any inappropriate content - just simply because of the fast paced dialogue.  A younger child will have a hard time following and will likely get bored.

I knew nothing about the story but it is the prequel to Peter Pan - a beloved story in our home.  It has that perfect Broadway balance of story, surprise, laughter, ham and happy ending.  The Curran is a cozy theatre so it's hard to get a bad seat.  Treat yourself to a little SHNSF inspiration......







This post is sponsored the opinions are entirely my own.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

High (on) Camp.



You don't smell like you.  This was my greeting from the five year old on my return home after five days away.  The longest I have ever been gone from her.  What I didn't tell her was that despite the change in my smell, I was more like me than I have been for a long time.  Not her idea of me - not mommy me. Me me.

I know that I need to go away and be an adult more often than I do. I remember each time that I do - how important it is.  I went to big girl sleep away camp - genius idea.  We spend months seeking out great summer camps for our kids - our kids come back brimming with excitement and joy from their experiences, why not give that to ourselves?  So I did.

Camp Mighty brings together a group of people looking to re-connect with the things that inspire or excite them.  Perhaps they are blocked, perhaps they are just starting out and need encouragement or advice, perhaps they are just three friends looking for an excuse to get away.  I might have fallen into the last category.  There was a philanthropical component which delighted me - we raised over $20k for Charity: Water.org  which is enough to buy a well and bring fresh, clean water to a whole community.  That kind of thing makes me heart happy.

One of the other things I loved about this camp was their motto - you do you.  Come to the sessions or don't. Eat with your assigned teams or with your friends if you prefer.  Sleep late, lie by the pool and only show up for the parties if that's what you like.  I did a mixture of all of the above.
The main party was space themed - ET and I rocked it.

Being away with a bunch of (mostly) women and strangers affords me many opportunities - introspection, extroversion, immaturity, relaxation and laughter.  Laughing so hard that your ribs hurt the next day. Pee in your pants silliness.  Gossip, support, overindulgence.  Inspiration, talent envy, swimsuit body envy, acceptance.

Women feeling free of the need to conform to media stereotypes are so beautiful.  A myriad of shapes and sizes, fashion preferences, hair types and styles, tattoos and piercings, baby bellies, gray hair and weathered skin.  All stunning in their own way when lit by their inner glow.

So I may have smelled different but I came home feeling more connected to me than ever before.
Feeling ready to load and unload the dishwasher over and over.  Ready to pack lunches, do laundry without a sense of drudgery and to write and explore some new avenues.  Camp really should be required.  So here's my take away - you do you.









Monday, October 14, 2013

Overflowing.

Thanks to everyone who donated!  The ten year old and I did a few good deeds in return for a donation but several of you gave just because - great cause.  We have contributed to an overall goal of $20k being raised by Camp Mighty attendees.  Not too late to donate - see my Fundrazr button in the right hand column.    Thank you!




Hi Joy Latimer!

Thank you for your donation to Go Mighty .'s campaign

We've seen the amazing impact that water has on people's lives 
and we can't thank you enough for your contribution.
Over the next 18 months, you'll learn more about how 
your donation is helping change lives, 
and when the projects are completed, 
you'll get an online report including photos and GPS.

Many companies match their employee's donations; 

all you have to do is ask. See how you can 
double or triple your impact.
Want to start your own campaign and help bring clean water 
to those in need? 
Visit mycharitywater.org to get started now.

- the charity: water team
100% of your donation will directly fund 
water project costs in the field, 
and you'll receive a formal tax receipt 
from charity: water within 24 hours.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Everybody Loves an Underblog




Today I am featured as part of the 31 voices Underblogging this October.  Stop by today and every day this month to read a new voice.  I love their concept, which is : "There are thousands of writers within the blogging community that write with authenticity on a daily basis and, because they may not possess the numbers most writing communities want, they may not feel they are being heard. But that doesn’t diminish the value of what they have to say."

You just might find a little underblog that you love!

I am also still hoping for support with my fundraising for CharityWater.Org.   Just $5 buys fresh, clean drinking water for someone who needs it.  Please consider donating.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mercurial






Noooooooooooooooooooo!  I don't like it, I won't eat it.

Just try it.

Mom! Noooooooooooooooo! I'm not hungry, I won't eat it.

Just a no thank you bite.

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Well then I will need to give you a consequence.

*Tears* WHAT?  NO, mom you don't understand, I have never tried that before and I just don't like it.

Well, if you've never tried it, how do you know you don't like it?

FINE.  I'll try it.

Oooh this is yummy!  Can I have it in my lunch tomorrow?


 - THIS is why we drink/swear/cry/eat sugar



Monday, September 16, 2013

Finding My Mojo......and Water.




Every now and then I get the urge to take off.  Sometimes it's just a desire to rent an RV for the weekend and drive off to places unknown.  Sometimes it's a deep desire to drive to the airport and fly to somewhere from my wildest dreams - Africa or India for example - and get lost in another way of life, just for a while.

I am however a parent, so Africa will have to wait.  In the meantime I am going to take a leaf out of the ten year old's book.  I'm off to camp.

Camp Mighty to be exact.  If you know me at all it will be entirely obvious why this appeals.  Apart from the fact that it's camp for grown ups, it's about finding your mojo and running with it.  Me and my mojo are ready.

There's one final part that hugely appeals (no, not that it's in Palm Springs, or that I am going with some wonderful girl friends)  there is a service component.  As a group we are raising money to bring clean water to those without.  Water. The most basic of all things and perhaps the most important.

We campers are partnered with CharityWater.Org and hope to raise over $20,000 between us.  My personal goal is $250.

The ten year old and I are doing jobs to raise money among our local friends - washing cars, watering gardens etc.   If you can help too please do.  I have a FundRazr account making it easy to give where ever you are and no amount is too small.  I would love your support.  Just click here or on the picture below.

Thank you!






Thursday, September 12, 2013

Back To School.



Back to reality.  I am the living embodiment of a cliche - the at home mom.  Which is fine and a little disappointing to me.  It doesn't quite fit with my life less ordinary moniker but it's also what I wished for and to get what you want (not just what you need) is just so luxurious.

We were classic Californians over the summer - going to the beach, the pool, the mall for ice cream.  Sleeping late, running through sprinklers.  It was lazy and relaxed and wonderful.  I won't insult you with complaints of endless food prep or sassy kid moments.  I have the life of Riley, my kids have the life of Riley.  We work very hard to have it be that way and practice gratitude and giving each day but there's no doubt as lives go - ours is good.

Then school starts. Immediately the lazy is whipped into frenzy.  The relaxed becomes frantic.  The pace is sprint.  The to do list long and apparently unending.  We live by clock and calendar.  We juggle schedules and the dark circles return under my eyes.  We have been back at school 5 days and I feel the fatigue settling deeply into my bones.  It can't be the way to go.   I'm not saying life should be a year long summer break (OK I am but only in my fantasy world where Ewan McGregor is my husband and we travel the world in an RV doing good deeds.)   Back in the real world where I have a wonderful husband and occasionally rent an RV  (and in case you were wondering yes, I am fully aware that calling the husband wonderful will not get me out of the Ewan McGregor sized hole I am in.)  I just want it all to even out a little.

Maybe I should consider it the interval training approach to life.  Each semester being the intense burst of heart bursting, breathless activity punctuated by the rest period provided by the occasional week off for winter or spring break.  Problem is - I've never been very good at exercise.
Nevertheless I will put my best running shoes on and give it my best because that's what a parent does and I have a cliche to uphold.  If you have found a different way to do it, clue me in. Please.

Friday, September 6, 2013

FREEDOM!




I have stayed home with my children.  I never thought I would but it turned out to be what I wanted.
It was hard. Very hard. Harder than any job I have ever had - and I've had some painfully hard jobs

Yesterday, both my girls went to school full-time, on the same campus.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel.
Turns out I felt a chest bursting bolt of freedom.  After 10 years of always having a sidekick, I can now plan some things solo.

Simply put I feel I got me back.  The individual.  The person formally know as Joy.  I am giddy with possibility.  Six hours of everyday are mine.  I'll still have my to do list - laundry, shopping, tidying, cleaning and work but I won't be doing it with a constant feeling of juggle, of guilt, of compromise.

The freedom is mental not physical.  Perhaps the most important of the two.
I am going to write.  Really write.  I am going to exercise. I am going to serve.  I am going to be me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Greatest Show On Earth.




Deciding what to do with your kids over the twelve (long) weeks of summer breaks takes imagination and planning.  We try to do one adventure per week.  We've been to museums, the beach, a marine mammal care center, ice skating, bowling and the pool.  I was beginning to search for our last weeks adventure when I was offered the chance to review the circus. Perfect!  Now our last weeks activity is an extra exciting one!   The ten year old had only ever been to the zoo once and the five year old had never been.

I am the nostalgic type.  I wanted to see the thick rigging ropes of the big top.  The bright stripes of the canvas with the promise of magic within.  Sadly, those days are gone and the circus is within a large arena.  No matter - once you are inside the magic is still there.

We loved it.  The five year old is at the perfect age for wonder and amazement.  She tugged at my shirt every few minutes to make sure I had seen what she had seen.  The ten year old was just simply impressed.

For me, I am not sure they need the larger animals in the show.  It was incredible to be up close to seventeen tigers and seven elephants but it is so different from their natural habitat that I worried for them. My favorite parts of the show did not include any animals although the ferret surprise was a good one!

We were stunned by the acrobats.  The tumbling sequences were better than I have watched at the Olympics.  The ingenuity of some of the acts was jaw droppingly original and every performer was flawless. The clowns were funny and silly.  The dancers were enthusiastic. There were some old classics and lots of new ideas.  It really is a great show.  There are few things that the kids love that I love and this was definitely one of them.  It was simply great family entertainment, with no media tie-ins.

If Ringling Bros, Barnum and Bailey roll through your town go see them!





Our attendance at the circus was sponsored.  My opinions are honest!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Mom In The Mirror.



I am surprised almost daily by the fact that I am the mom in a house with two kids in it.  How can it be?
I remember feeling my clock ticking. I remember wanting a baby.  I never, not once, remember wanting to get up so very early in the morning.  I don't think I ever wished for a never empty laundry basket.  I don't remember thinking it would be great to referee squabbling kids twelve hours of the day.  I'm not complaining necessarily, simply musing that I didn't think this all the way through.

For the first fifteen years that I worked, I often worked with the elderly, many of whom  were facing permanent disability or even the end of their life. Almost all of them would want to impart some wisdom to me. The most commonly shared wisdom was that you should live your life to the fullest while you're young and healthy.  I was told time and time again of the shock it is to find that your mind is forty but your body is eighty.   I remember very clearly the first time I looked in the mirror shocked to see someone much older than I expected to see. I know first hand now that my body will not always let me do the things I expect it to (at least on first attempt.)  I accept these changes.  I don't fight the relentless and inevitable clock.  Except for in parenting.

If I bound out of bed without looking at a mirror I can easily feel twenty four.  Thinking about my day, I can imagine a latte and a book, some time at the gym, a rewarding and fulfilling job to go to, a movie, a shower, a date with my hubby, a hike on the mountain, travel. Anything. Everything.

So when a child shouts "Mom, where are my undies?" Or asks if we can talk about getting your period or wants to know how she can speak to a kid who has been unkind or wants to know when we will eat or where her favorite stuffy is, I am sometimes deeply confused about the fact that I am the mom of whom these things are being asked.

At the park the other day, the kids were happily playing and so I took the opportunity to sit on a bench in the sun and read.  I was so lost in the bliss that I forgot what had brought me there and felt simply me. Two tweens came towards me, they were talking animatedly as they got closer I heard one say "and then my mom has to ruin it by saying...."  he looked up at me and stopped talking.  His friend gave him knowing nod and they walked passed me in silence.  As soon as they were, what they perceived to be far enough away, he continued "so then my stupid mom says..."

It hit me like a punch to the stomach.  He had stopped talking because he immediately recognized me as one of her team.  Had you re-wound the clock and asked me paint the picture I would have been a young woman, sitting on a bench in the sun, reading a great book.  That's not what they saw though - they clearly saw a mom.

I am so happy and grateful to be a mom but it still surprises me.  The responsibility is daunting, even shocking at times - I sometimes forget that it is mine - that it will get more complex and challenging as they get older and I will be expected to have the answers.  Me.  How can I have the answers?  I'm still just that girl who likes music and dancing and wants to see the world.  How can I possibly know what to do or say.  I suppose I'll figure it out on the way but I suspect I will continue to have the wind knocked out of me somedays

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back To School Giveaway!


Ask any parent what they dread most about the return to school and they will tell you it's packing lunches and/or snack packs. 


The Parenting Myth has you covered!  We are giving away an incredibly handy Nesting Trio of Stainless Steel Containers from our favorite lunch supplies company KidsKonserve  (Lid color may vary.)



AND a copy of the Best Lunchbox Ever cookbook!






All you have to do is:

Leave a comment below.  You can leave any comment - why you'd like to win, your favorite KidsKonserve product, your go to lunchbox item, how you Konserve...

Then,



 KidsKonserve on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/kidskonserve


Winner will be picked by random draw on August 12th.


*********************************************************************************


We also have a coupon code for 15% off  Kids Konserve  products. Just use code: GIVEAWAY15   (good Aug-Sept)  so you can treat yourself to something from the U-Konserve line.
Kids Konserve now have lower prices throughout their site!!



My personal favorites are their sweat free ice packs - no more soggy lunches!



And their food cozies, saving me a fortune on ziplock backs and solving my eco guilt all in one go.




My kids love their lunch kits and I can feel good that their products are BPA and phthalate, lead and PVC free.  KidsKonserve calculate that re-use can save up to 67 pounds of landfill material each year per child - something your kids can be very proud of.






Update on August 14th - Winner by random draw is... drum roll please......Christy!  Your little Kindergartener can rock the lunch room with pride!   Thanks all for entering.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Perks Of The Job




I was offered a cell phone case for review.  I get offered a lot of things for review.  Many that I have no use for, some that I think sound poorly conceived or look poorly made. I rarely say yes.  I wasn't going to with the phone case.  I have an iPhone 5.  It's very pretty.  A case would make it bulky and cover it's silvery sleekness.  Then a friend cracked her screen when her phone was in her back pocket.  The replacement screen cost made me think the case was a good idea.

I went to the Speck website to pick one out.  That turned out to be harder than I expected.  They didn't just have the regular cases.  They have fabric cases, hard shell cases, candy shells, pixel skins - who knew?
I chose the SmartFlex Shine for iPhone 5 in Starry-eyed Silver/Berry Black Purple which was billed as "Lustrous, sophisticated and slim-fitting protection for iPhone 5"

Sounds edible but c'mon it's just a cell phone cover.  I might not even use it.  I'm pretty attached to the phone as is.  Then it came.  It too was sleek, like my phone and it was a little sparkly.  I slipped it onto my phone and immediately liked the purple edging. 

Two days later with the phone tucked in my back pocket, I took the kids bowling.  The five year old launched her ball down the wrong lane and I, without thinking, went after it.  As I crashed down onto the super slick floor I clearly remember thinking - there goes my phone.  BUT the Speck case saved it! Not a scratch.

I'm sold.  I am a case convert.  If you are gambling with your screen - check out Speck - they have cases for most smartphones and tablets too.



Monday, July 29, 2013


intolerance  

Web definitions:
impatience with annoyances; "his intolerance of interruptions".




We went camping this weekend.  You know how I love to camp.  Being in nature, living with redwood trees as your walls, cooking on an open fire.  I love sharing a space with birds, critters and perhaps a river trickling by.
Sitting around a perfectly constructed fire at night, as the sun dips and the air cools is perhaps my most favorite pastime.  Having my children tell stories while dipping a stick into the flames to make fire fairies or toasting the perfect marshmallows is a slice of nirvana for me. You get the idea. I love the tranquility, the simpleness, the elements, the beauty.

I do not love blaring rock music, children screaming well past midnight, cigarette smoke and 6 am risers with their zips and their plastic bags. 

Our camp ground was billed as "Perfect for families. Quiet with a strict observations of quiet hours (10pm - 8am).  Not for groups.  Clean and well appointed."  I will give it clean.  Perhaps I am being unfair - perfect for families is also accurate. Which is why we were serenaded by babies every two hours of the night.  Babies who wanted to cry their lungs out for at least thirty minutes at a time.

Quiet - not even a tiny bit.  Not even for five minutes.  Again, I may be unfair.  It *might* have been quiet for five minutes between 4.55 am and 5 am.  Maybe.

Well appointed.  If sharing three toilets with 120 people counts, then yes well appointed.  Having a millimeter of nylon between you and a busy road could be considered well appointed, in that it was convienant for, well - the road.

Strict observation of quiet hours.  I suppose the trick here is the interpretation of the word 'observation.'  Perhaps they did observe the blatant disregard for any kind of quiet and then laugh all the way to the bank with our $50 per night.

As I fumed around my perfectly constructed campfire, I wondered if the problem lies with me.  High expectations.  My belief in printed word and the obligation to uphold your printed rules.  In the end I concluded it is time for us to do backpacking.





Monday, July 22, 2013

Little Prince!

As a Brit - I am so pleased we have a new Prince in the House of Windsor :0)


Friday, July 19, 2013

A Fish Out of Water



I have performed CPR - several times.  I have kept someone alive as I listened to the ambulance I had summoned approaching in what felt like slow motion.  I have helped people in seizure.  Dramatic, adrenaline pumping situations.  I was calm, methodical and practical.

So explain to me why on walking around my kitchen counter last week and seeing one of our goldfish lying, apparently dead on the floor, I whimpered, recoiled and out right panicked? I knew as I was doing it, it was the wrong response.  Not helpful in any way but I was immobilized. The husband had to run around me, grab the fish and drop it back into the tank.  We had no idea how long it had been there but we felt it couldn't have been long.

The fish bobbed upside down near the top of the tank.  My heart grew heavy.  We recently lost our two newest fish and the five year old was so sad about it.  These fish we've had for over four years - they are family. I could only assume the sadness would be bigger.   Then the fish burped.  I suddenly remembered a situation I had been in once when I was working with a patient in their home.  They had a huge tropical fish tank built into the wall - my patients husband's most prized possession and hobby. As we worked away on trying to restore function to her post stroke arm - the tank spontaneously cracked.  A large hole opened up and water cascaded onto the floor.  I grabbed towels and tried to save the carpet.  It was a so hard to watch - the fish that I couldn't get to were losing their life support.   Eventually the tank drained.  The husband had run out to the store and his wife had no idea how to access the built in tank.  I watched at least fifteen fish flip desperately.

A full twenty minutes passed before the husband came home.  I ran to tell him on the driveway.  He strode purposefully but calmly into the room.  He grabbed a bucket and put water in it.  He then unlocked a side door to the built in and accessed the tank.  One by one he gave his beloved fish the kiss of life.   He sucked the air from their lungs and deposited them back in the water.   They all lived - every single fish.  I visited that home for weeks and marveled at the rescue every time I stepped through their door.

"We have to suck the air out of it's lungs!" I shouted.  The husband and I looked at each other.  Neither of us moved.  We looked at the fish bobbing in the tank.  I tried to think of ways we could do it that would not involve me putting my mouth over a fish mouth and sucking.  Time ticked by.  I felt bad about myself.  We love our fish.  Why wasn't I reaching into the tank?  

I like to think that fishy felt the love and that encouraged him to save himself - he vomited - several times and began to 'breathe' his water normally.  He tried to right himself and swam in a heartbreaking sideways position for about 10 minutes and then finally found his equilibrium and swam normally.

It's been about a week and he seems fine.  No worse for his ordeal.  I, however, still can't look him in the eye.  I failed him.  I like to imagine I would have done it eventually - I just needed a minute to warm up to the idea and in that minute - fishy saved himself.  No harm done.  Right?  I'm just out of my life saving routine.

If your opinion about me has changed for the worse now - may I respectfully request you read the first paragraph again.  We can't all be perfect all the time.  Just don't tell my children.





Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Blame Game.




I'm off topic but I can't not write about this.  A plane crash landed at the airport I use most often.  Three people died - three very young women.  Dozens more have severe injuries and are recovering in hospital.  Over 200 more walked away physically unscathed - how they are faring mentally is an entirely different (unacknowledged) topic.

Initially there was jubilation that so many survived this horrific event.  It is the stuff of global nightmares.  Watching scores of people slide down the emergency chutes and run away to safety was miraculous and uplifting.

Then the blame game began.  The relentless media pursuit to find someone to accuse.  It quickly emerged we could blame pilot error.  One younger pilot in training for this type of aircraft in particular.
Then we were told we could also comfortably judge his more experienced co-pilots who were supposed to monitor and supervise his landing.  We got to read transcripts of the conversation between air traffic control and the pilots so we could pinpoint the exact moment the pilot's action caused the plane to crash.

Once pilot error was firmly established the thirst to point the finger moved on - seemingly unquenched.
Next the response times of the first responders was questioned.  The number of ambulances on the scene.  The 90 second delay before the emergency chutes were deployed.  A fire chief had to stand in front of the media and explain her decision to instruct her crew to hold.

An emergency response plan was written in an office by experienced fire crew.  They wrote it using information gleaned from prior crash landings at other airports around the world.  They wrote it with the goal of saving lives but not adding to the toll by sending crews rushing up next to a potentially enormous bomb.

I believe that if you have never been in a situation where you might die or where your actions might cause another to die you have no idea how you might respond.  You can write a plan on paper, you can practice drill after drill but the real situation will likely bear no resemblance to those drills so practice is only practice.  An attempt to prepare for the unimaginable, the unthinkable the unpredictable.

Why are we so focused on blame?  If we can assume the media are answering the questions we want answered - why are we asking those questions?   What is the gain?   I feel confident that every person directly connected to this event will be affected for life.  Those who responded, who made the decisions, who piloted or crewed that plane will think about their actions for the rest of their lives.  They will scrutinize themselves in far more detail than any reporter ever could - so why the need to identify them, pursue them, criticize them, harass them, humiliate them?

Mistakes happen.  We should endeavor to avoid them.  We should learn from them in attempt to prevent them happening again but unless they were willful I don't see the need to persecute for them.
I wonder if it adds to the hurt.  If it breeds anger and prolongs grieving.

To add insult to injury a well respected local news station reported the names of the pilots.  The names were false and were mocking. I imagine that in their frenzied desire to get a media 'scoop' several people including an experienced news anchor failed to see what was so plainly in front of them - a juvenile prank.  It speaks volumes to me about what is wrong with our media and how it contributes to fear, anger and aggression.

What would knowing the name of the pilots do for us?  Theses were not terrorists - there was no willful decision to harm.  There was error - a distinctly human trait.  Some people choose to do a job that carries a high level of responsibility.  They chose to put their lives on the line.  If they were sober, if they were doing the best they could - we have to accept the outcome.  No matter how painful.  Planes crash - you can chose whether to fly.

Rather than criticize the pilots, the crew, the medics - let's turn our scrutiny to the media and how they report.  Let's review what we need to know and what we don't.  Details will always emerge and those with a personal interest can have them.  The world at large may need to exercise some restraint and discretion.













Monday, July 8, 2013

Swimming Upstream.




A friend once told me that her older sister had given her some advice for when her daughter started school. She described how it felt that she too was starting school all over again.  This time as the parent but nevertheless still experiencing the anxiety of wondering who the other parents would be and if they would like her.  If she would fit in.  It was helpful to me, there was no doubt that as I walked my kindergartner to school, I was reminded of the feeling of wanting to make friends and hoping that people would like me too.

Now my kindergartner will return in the fall as a fifth grader.  We are immersed in social dynamics - which can be harsh and hard and cruel.  We spend hours talking about how to deal with someone who isn't kind, when to walk away, stand up for a friend or stand your ground.  It's complicated, confusing and exhausting.  As parents we want our children to navigate their way as smoothly as possible.  Their hurts are so hard to watch and we want them to have as few as possible.

Why don't we extend the same consideration to our selves?

In the last few weeks I have been involved in several discussions, with various groups of mothers.  I don't know all of them well and most of them are not people I know from my daughters school but the topic has been the same.  Cell phones.   Our children are aged around 10/11/12 years old, with many heading off to middle school.  The reasons a kid might need/want a cell phone are myriad but walking  alone to school is the main one.  Divorce and two homes is also a big one and then of course there is just the want of one.

One group told me that it was agreed among parents at their school that a cell phone was the best 5th grade graduation gift.  They decided on a brand and all the kids were presented with them at the same time.  Then some of the mothers admitted they had not wanted their kid to have a phone yet - or at least not an internet ready phone.  Some said they wished within days of giving the phone that they had not done it because of the endless texting which was commonly done under the covers at nighttime and which had already led to hurt feelings and loss of sleep.  Some said they could not really afford the added expense but felt pressured to do it.  One mother told me she didn't do it and her child stood in an excluded group of 5 children at graduation who didn't get a phone.  The pain of that experience for her and her daughter was etched on her face. Some reported giving the phone with strict rules and guidelines.  Some were having no problems at all.

I realized as I listened to them all that many had been peer pressured into giving the phone.  Some were clearly uncomfortable with the whole thing - concerned about cyber-bullying and what their kids would see on the internet.  Some had parental controls locked in - others didn't.  Some knew that even if they had parental controls not all the friends did, so the world wide web with all if it's pitfalls was definitely open to their children, sooner than they wanted it to be. Several expressed that they did not feel their kids were ready to hold the responsibility of a phone as they didn't fully understand the potential harm in posting their thoughts and photographs on the net.  At ten this hardly surprising.

After talking to several of them it was clear that they had succumbed to the peer pressure.  They had done something they didn't want to do so as not to be left out, stand out or appear different,  in direct contradiction to what they are painstakingly teaching their children when they tell them to be who they are and stand up for their own thoughts and preferences.  It seemed they felt they were swimming upstream and of course it would just be easier to turn and swim with the shoal.  Except it wasn't sitting well with them - they felt uneasy, pressured, perhaps you could even say bullied.

I feel sure if I talked to those who set the group plan in motion - their motivation was based in inclusion and fun, so where does it go wrong?   Perhaps, it is simply this - asking everyone to do one thing - even when that one thing appears to be fun means that some will do it against their true will.  Here's what I learned from this -  as parents we should practice what we teach.  Everyone is different,  difference is good and we should embrace it.  Make your decisions for and with your family and feel confident enough about them to do them without needing peer validation. We need to be smarter than our fifth graders - socially, emotionally at least, if we are talking math - I don't stand a chance.




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Duck Hunting

Here's a little fun for my Bay Area readers.  Last year we Rode The Ducks - it's a really fun trip, tour, ducktastic day.  Here's your chance to win a tour or score a free ticket.


There are two ways to win!



Let me know if you go.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Inflation.



The problem is that her baby tooth has simply failed to fall out,  the root has disintegrated - it's unlikely to come out by itself now, explained the dentist.  That in combination with a eastward heading 'adult' canine tooth trying to find a home, meant an extraction was indicated. Waiting means we will have to fix the drifting canine tooth with orthodontics for the princely sum of around $2k .  Extraction it is.

The husband and I are thrown back in time to visiting the dentist as children.  Old, grumpy, unsympathetic men (they were probably 30) who jabbed and stabbed with little care or anesthesia.  Coming out of the office into the bitter cold and wrapping a scarf around our faces to try and reduce the added insult to our mouths. No treasure box to distract at the end of the visit.  No cheerful sticker or new toothbrush for us.

Regardless of the glossy, child friendly system that my children enjoy, getting a tooth pulled is not fun under any circumstances and we dreaded the appointment.  The ten year old was a trooper.  As I reflected on how different our childhood experiences are, she lay back calmly in the chair.  Both parents there with her in the room.  A screen in the roof showing a movie to distract her. It hurt a little of course, needles in the gum just do but it was over in a flash and she was her usual smiling jolly self within minutes.  The dentist handed her a sweet little treasure box with her tooth safely stored inside and we headed off for ice cream to celebrate her bravery.

At bedtime she wrote a note for the tooth fairy - explaining that she didn't want to put the tiny tooth under her pillow for fear it would get lost and pointing out the new location on her desk.  We tucked her in and went about our evening.  Tip toeing into her room to check on her later I notice that there has been an addition to the note:

p.s.  Can you pull of a twenty?

I  laughed long and hard.  You have to admire that kind of chutzpah, made even better by being completely out of character for my girl, she rarely asks for anything material.
Here's the rub - there is celtic heritage in our tooth fairy so a twenty is against the grain but there on her desk in the morning was a crisp $20 note - so it seems chutzpah must out rank frugality in fairy land.  Who knew?