Monday, January 31, 2011

Me and the Boy Scouts

Millie writes:

Well, I have actually been involved in Boy Scouting, Girl Scouting and Camp Fire Girls – but that's not what this post is about. This post is about Being Prepared: The Camp Cook Way.

Today is the last day of the month, which means it's Menu Time. I plan our meals a month in advance; it makes it easier to shop and I don't have to think each morning, “What on earth am I going to make for dinner tonight?”

I use a desktop publishing program and type each meal into a square on the next month's calendar, then print it out and hang it on the fridge. This is also a good way to be sure I'm prepared for any special occasions (we have two birthdays in February) or holidays (the two birthdays are the two days following Valentine's Day) which call for a special meal. I can also look at the menu calendar before I go to bed each night to see if there's anything I should take out to thaw for the next day's dinner.

Theoretically, having this calendar posted publicly also makes it easy for a family member to see what's planned so they can start dinner if they're feeling the urge . . . I can't remember the last time that's happened, though! I've noticed that they do pay very close attention to what's coming up, however, because occasionally I will hear something like, “All right! We're having Spanish Rice tomorrow!”

Things like that do a Millie's heart good.

You could also keep your menu on your laptop, or in your planner, or wherever you are likely to remember to look. I have also made up a “Master Menu List” - sounds fancy, but it's merely a page filled with every main dish that I know how to cook without too much bother. If I'm not feeling inspired when making up the monthly menu I can refer to the Master List; or (if I have a lot of time on my hands) leaf through a cookbook or troll some recipe sites online to find something new that looks good.

There are a few shortcuts on my calendar. Every Wednesday is Date Night, and Lance and I go out to dinner – who ever is still here fends for himself. Every other Friday is pizza night. Every Saturday is “seafood” Saturday, for which the rule is: If you see it, you can eat it – a good way to consume leftovers. I also earmark a day or to for grocery shopping, when we usually grab a hot dog at Costco or a dollar burger at a fast-food spot. Of course there are “long-cuts” too – almost every Sunday is Formal Dinner night, when we cook something fancy and practice our table manners.

If you are really on the ball, when you make up your menu list you can also make up your shopping list for the month. I tend to do a major grocery trip every 2 weeks, with a run to the store every couple of days for fresh produce and milk.

Well, I'd better post this and go let everyone know that I'm about to make up the menu, so if they want to eat anything specific next month they'd better let me know today. This way we can head into February with at least one thing crossed off the list!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ironing with Mollie!!!

It should come as no surprise to anyone that this Mollie hates the chore of ironing. And, yes, it's a chore with endless possibilities for the ultimate pain in life, be it burns, turned ankles, wringer injuries and bruised egos.

When I was wee, I was impressed by my Grandmother's procedure for ironing. First, she'd put the laundry through the wringer washer. When I was watching her (I was about 4 years old) she told me stories about doing laundry with her mom (that was in the late 1800's). It was when nobody had a washing machine, let alone wringer washers! I was impressed to my core because at my own home (mid-1950's) my mother had the ultimate in conveniences, an electric washer AND a dryer.

My grandmother had 5 children, 4 of 'em boys, and laundry was a major work in the 1920's. She had the huge drum where she washed clothes, a manual wringer where she'd pass the wet clothes through, removing excess water, and TWO clotheslines, one in the back yard and one "down cellar." One of the laundry stories she'd scare me with is when she added boiling water to the diapers and scalded herself. In those days, you'd add water with a huge kettle, not pvc pipes. Imagine that! And the bleaching stories . . .

And there was no gym to go to, but she managed to keep her arms toned by 'agitating' the laundry manually. And yes, this was before disposable diapers, so imagine how "agitating" agitating could be. And if I were a restless little person, she'd terrify me with stories of how she'd gotten her braid caught in the wringer - I still wake up shaking.

But time had marched on, and now she owned her own electrical washing machine with a built in agitator and wringer, and all worked electrically. She still had to add her own boiling water, but with most of the physical labor done electrically, a woman with 4 preschoolers and a baby gestating could manage much more on limited energy. She approved of my mother's electrical devices, but wasn't rushing to Sears to buy a dryer when clothes dried perfectly well the old fashioned way.

And my grandmother hung her laundry in a special way. On the inside of the clothesline, she'd hang her "dainties" as she called them, and then surrounded them with towels, outer clothing, etc. No neighbor was EVER treated to a view of her underwear, or anybody else's for that matter. She lived in the Pacific Northwest, where it rained almost daily, so having clotheslines in the cellar was a blessing, so slow drying protracted everything~

And my grandmother ironed EVERYTHING! Tea towels, shirts, work clothes, socks and, yes, dainties. By the time I hit the scene in the 50's my grandmother had an electric iron. But when she was a child, the iron was heated on the stove top. I sometimes try to imagine myself pregnant, exhausted by kids and the washing and air drying, only to be faced with the next laborious step. Standing at the board, with swelling feet, a hot iron, and little busy children was onerous. Thankfully, by the time the clothes had "dried" a day had passed so she could postpone ironing for 24 hours. And she could do it upstairs, so she could heat her iron on the stove when she was younger didn't have an electrical iron.

My grandmother still had an ice-box when I was little, not a refrigerator. First thing in the morning, she'd haul the still moist clean clothes upstairs and begin the process. First, she'd separate the laundry, and roll the majority of it, then place it in the fridge. This kept things moist (not wet, mind you) while she started the process. She'd roll laundry by placing small items inside of towels and then roll them into a cylinder. She'd stack the cylinders in the fridge and then start with items that were mostly dry already.

She had a sprinkler bottle (nary a spray bottle existed that I can recall), and would moisten things that were too dry. Then, one by one, she'd iron every sock, rag, towel and dainty that had come upstairs.

I remember the piles of ironed clothes on her kitchen table, the sprinkling of the water on clothes, adding starch to sprinkle water when you needed it, etc. And, yes, she even starched her dainties.

These days, if it ain't permanent press, it ain't bought. But I still find it reassuring that table clothes, napkins and such are ironed. I'm always trying to remember to hang the permanent press immediately after drying, but sometimes I fail, and I find myself ironing. And since I sew, I find myself ironing during that process as well.

So today, I'm enjoying my monthly ironing spree. First go the tablecloths and table napkins, followed by a couple of shirts that recently escaped my attention during the drying process. I may spend a whole hour ironing. But I find that doing ironing while listening to the news (and I do have CNN blaring in the background telling us about the uprising in Egypt), is therapeutic.

And doing laundry is therapeutic. You can remove stains and right what's wrong with the world in one fell swoop

You can face insurgency armed with an iron and a can of spray starch.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It Ain't Easy Being Me

Mollie writes:

In my efforts to make this blog real, I'm writing this entry to fully itemize my shortcomings.

1) I am not a nerd!

This has been repeatedly brought to my attention by my husband and other significant others. I am merely an adequate person who can type on a keyboard. Please don't make me take anything any further. I have not been able to figure out why I can't post comments on my own blog. I have my better half investigating this issue, and so far, nada. The gods that rule cyberspace have deemed me unworthy, and now, although I can publish new posts, I cannot comment on them.

2) I have limited intelligence!

When trying to trouble shoot for myself, I just dig the hole deeper. This is what happens when I foray into cyberspace. The gods that rule cyberspace have erected a fire-wall that rises from the ashes when I go to any particular HELP page. So, not only am I not a nerd, I'm a barely adequate blogger. This resulted when my mother dropped me at age 6 months.

3) I have absolutely no patience!

Forget that I've given birth without spinals. Forget that I've dealt with MS and interferon therapy for 15 years. Forget that I've passed kidney stones. Forget that my liver went on strike when the Dr. rx'ed the wrong drugs. Forget that I stayed home with my kids, often for long stretches alone, when it simply wasn't cool for me to do so. Forget that I try not to rant hysterically every time my kid gets deployed. I'm an old fashioned girl who woke up in the new millennium with absolutely no coping tools and I'm pissed.

4) I am probably paranoid, but I don't trust Ad-Sense!

Not enough to never click them to check out what they are posting on my blogspot. Call me crazy, but I do randomly click the ad (like once a month, thank you very much) to be sure that there aren't any links to questionable spots. I know I clicked that I wouldn't EVER check the advertising, but really, one of my serious flaws is . . .

5) I believe in personal responsibility!

Which is why I checked my ad sense link. Blind trust is a no-no in my book. I HAVE to police my own site.

6) I am, occasionally, rational!

This came about when I was six years old and Sister Ursula told me that the Holy Innocents only went to Limbo. I raised my hand and said "That isn't fair" - a note went home to my parents and the rest is history. I still believe in God, I just don't always take Sister Ursula seriously. I know that I will burn in HELL eternally, but I just don't believe that God is a Meanie.

7) Pursuant to utterly nothing, I eat what I please!

It's not really relevant, but I'm ranting golldangit.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Seriously, I'm Not That Great.

Millie writes:

Occasionally, one of the teenagers who hangs around our place will decide that I'm The Cool Mom. Sadly, whatever Attraction Rays I emanate do not seem to affect my own kids. No, it's someone who observes me during a sleepover or a field trip who thinks: “This is great! I wish my house was like this!”

I'm not really sure why it should be so. I'm about as far as you can get from being the mom in the Brady Bunch. I tease kids. I make the bashful ones talk. I demand that the cheerleaders eat ice cream. I won't let anyone watch or play anything rated over G unless they call home and get permission.

The most recent kid in question is actually a young woman – she turned 18 a few weeks ago. She's one of those super-achiever kids who does everything in high school – she has had starring roles in every play, every year; she's in the select choir; she's a speech-team captain; she's in advanced-placement classes; she's an editor on the paper; and so on, ad infinitum.

She's also overcome a rather rough start in life. She was an emancipated minor well before this recent birthday came around, and has since lived with a series of friends. She has a job after school and on the weekends and spends her “free” time taking National Geographic-worthy photographs. She is extremely competent at everything she attempts, but sometimes, under her constant “Go, Go, Go!,” her sadness is palpable.

Call her Ana. She's been over many times, of course; she's in speech with Sassy, music with Jack, and drama with both of the kids. She started out bold and brassy until she realized that everyone here is as smart as she is and she didn't have to prove herself; then she gradually relaxed. Last weekend she was able to perch perfectly happily on a stool at the breakfast bar, content to watch some verbal jousting between me and the oldest boy. She fits in to our odd group very comfortably.

Since that overnight she's made sweet comments on Facebook (including a very pretty private note to me thanking me for having her over) and I've heard from the kids that she loves being here and considers me her mentor – high, high praise indeed from someone as on-the-ball as is Ana.

Bear with me, because there is a point to all of this and it is not self-congratulation.

Friday night Sassy made waffles for dinner. Ana said appreciatively, “Sassy, you are such a good cook. You'll be really good at housewife-type things.” Then she looked concerned and hurried on to say, “I mean that in the most non-insulting way possible!”

“Ana,” I asked quietly, “Do you think that calling someone a housewife is an insult?”

Rocky and Sassy – who have learned to remain motionless and try to blend into the background whenever I ask something quietly – both inhaled sharply. Their eyes got really big.

I actually wasn't trying to pick a fight, though. Something about Ana finally became clear to me. So many people of her generation – the newest adults, stepping up now to take their places in the world – think that the point of feminism was to eradicate housewives.

People Ana's age grew up believing that it is demeaning to make sacrifices for mates or for children. They grew up knowing that anyone could assume what used to be called “men's roles” when they became adults. They grew up expecting independence as their birthright and assuming that not only can they have it all, they should have it all – no matter what it costs them.

They grew up overwhelmed and lonely.

Then they come to my house. I stop what I'm doing and listen to them (or ignore them, if the occasion calls for it), I joke with them, I feed them. I will time their speeches, I'll listen to the songs they write and I'll remember who's a vegetarian and how they like their eggs.

Simply put: I'm THERE.

My kids will be the first to tell you that living with a dedicated on-site mother is not a walk in the park. For every tender confidence or witty exchange, there are at least 20 “have you done your homework” or “take the garbage out” moments. We expect a great deal from our children and we don't kid around when it comes to rules, manners, morals and appropriate behavior. Having a hands-on mother means your mother's there a lot, and when she's there, she's motherin'.

Most every parent makes an effort to be there for the big things - the proms, the concerts, the graduations – and that's important. Showing up for these things says Hey, I'm here to share your Big Moment, and I'm proud of you.

I suspect, however, that the Small Moments are what count the most in the long run.

Kids will love a once-in-a-lifetime Disney vacation, but it's the bedtime stories every single night that teach them to let their imaginations soar.

Cheering in the stands at the Little League Championships is great, but depending on someone who will drop EVERYTHING to be there for them if they call is what gives a child the confidence to go out into the big wide world.

Invitations from the Honor Society and praise from the boss are wonderful things, but knowing that someone is waiting for you every day after school – someone who will be delighted to see you, who will feed you and fuss over you a bit and really listen to you – that kind of love makes you know that you are Somebody.

Everyone wants to be loved like that.

A family built around that kind of love attracts wandering kids like moths to a flame – even as they unconsciously belittle the skill that went into creating what they crave so badly.

I love Ana, and I am very proud of her. She is quick and funny and tender-hearted, and she gulps Life in huge mouthfuls. I'm honored that she likes me, too, and will cook eggs for her any time (never scrambled, over-easy with the yolks left runny). Ana is one of the Good People.

Still, I can't help but wonder . . . how different would her life be she'd grown up in an age where “housewife” wasn't a dirty word?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Domestic Manifesto!

Mollie writes:

I was once a serious mother. Subjects like projectile pooping, HazMat suits for the nursery, mastitis and other nuclear issues barely brought a pause to my step. I occasionally actually thought that maternity was synonymous to sainthood and all things good. But deep down inside of me lurked an evil gnome who knew that oftentimes, Motherhood sucked.

This is hardly a revelation to the best of us, meaning those of us who (wo)man the trenches 24/7. We've exchanged recipes for diarrhea remover far more often than cookie recipes (take THAT, Hillary). We've partied when the diagnosis was ONLY MS (coulda been a brain tumor, deary, right?) cheered when our kids barely passed chemistry, clapped for them when they got parts in school plays whilst secretly cursing the drama coach, and other acts of superior morality.

If you were to ask my adult children, I was probably an ok mom. But what the heck do they know??? This was their only exposure to the parent/child relationship and didn't know that somewhere in America, women actually got up in the mornings and didn't have to decide whether to wear the coveralls or the hefty bag (with holes cut out for arms and legs, thank you very much) to clean the baby's room. Somewhere, in a universe far, far away, a mother actually chose to have her nails done rather than buy soccer shoes for her prodigy.


And not all mothers were size six. Some of us ate the pizza we bought after the soccer games, the hot dogs at the baseball games, the chocolate chip cookies, the birthday cakes and other mandatory pre-requisites of childhood. And don't give me that sugar that we shouldda fed 'em wild hickory nuts - it ain't gonna happen when Ronald McDonald is just a block away and your kid whines in High C (the musical note, not the drink!) with all the other kidlets in the mini-van.

My kids never knew that some mothers got their hair styled regularly while I got mine done annually, the rest of the year holding it back with a rubber band at the nape of my neck. But they had their play-stations and and game-boys and didn't notice that their mother had a unibrow and split ends. Not that I'm complaining, of course.

So I'm gonna write more often about some of the more cynical sides of motherhood. We lost the Ad-sense add placement a couple of weeks ago because readership wasn't enough to justify their place in our lives. Which ended up just fine for me because there's no room in motherhood for capitalism. But the commercial loss is more than compensated by my decision to write about motherhood from the gut as well as the brain and the heart!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spring Cleaning? The Dog Days of Winter

I've never really gotten into spring cleaning. Frankly, I do like to deep clean once a year, but since I'm a gardening fanatic, and the kids were HOME spring break, I've managed to morph into a winter cleaner.

Our home is usually a disaster once the holidays are over. Then it takes a week just to catch up on the laundry, grocery shop, deal with kids' school issues and the like. Usually I don't have my act together until after January 20th, especially if we've had bad weather and I'm doing storm cleanup, etc.

So, here we are, January 21st. My house is coated with dog hair, dust, lint, dirt, you name it. Things might look relatively tidy to the trained unobserver (untrained observer?) but for anyone who lives here, the truth is out - the kitchen is disorganized, my desk is piled high with 2010 tax stuff, and the 2011 gardening catalogues are piling up.

What's a Mollie to do?

Once the kids were both in school, I started doing my spring cleaning in January. I'd start in the kitchen and do a full sweep of the main floor, then a sweep of the lower level. I'd have both levels clean by the end of February, which was great since the yard was, by then, screaming for attention.

For me, 'spring' cleaning included windows, floors, walls, the whole shebang. I'd wipe down walls, shampoo carpet, clean cabinets and get rid of clothes and books and toys that were no longer being used. This was a good time to check out the kids' rooms, my husband's shop, the kitchen appliances and the laundry appliances. I'd change furnace filters, clean the wood stove, and finally, the coup de grace, clean the garage. And it was all done on the coldest, rainiest days of the year, where you're cooped up anyway.

The best part of it was that, when March came blowing in, I could work in the yard guilt-free. I had no regrets about spending hours in the front yard because the house was already cleaned.

So if you're thinking about killing time these nasty winter days, considering "cleaning outside the box" - it works for me!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Developing Empathy

Millie writes:

From the time your six-month-old takes offers you a bite of her drool-covered teething biscuit, you are in a unique position to teach your child that most civilized of human characteristics: Empathy.

Empathy is easy to define: it is the ability to understand and share other people's feelings, to put yourself in the other guy's shoes. Unfortunately, many people grow to adulthood without ever having mastered this technique – you can identify them easily on the freeway during rush hour.

Its rarity notwithstanding, empathy is actually pretty easy to teach. You do it when you take a bite of a cookie and then offer a bite to your baby. You do it when your baby offers you that drooly cookie in return and you say, “Ohhh, THANK you!” and take a “bite.”When your child sees you stopping to help your elderly neighbor carry in her groceries, you are teaching empathy by example. You teach it when you teach sharing, not by snatching a child's toys away and saying, “It's your sister's turn now” but by asking, “Do you think your sister wants to play?”

A child will learn empathy quickly if you make a point of using it yourself. It's easy to lose your temper at people who treat you rudely; however, if your child hears you muse, “That man in the library must have been very upset to talk to the librarian like that. What do you suppose made him feel so bad?” then your child will begin to try to see other people's behavior as a result of their individual feelings and motivations, instead of as a reflection on his.

This is an important developmental step, because young children think that the world revolves around them and that everyone is always watching. The realization that everyone else is wrapped up in their own little worlds too is one that many people don't come to until their late teens – if, indeed, they ever do. A child who realizes that everyone has a unique perspective is a child who won't take power-crazy teachers or playground bullies personally.

It is possible to overdo things; that childish self-centric view of the universe can lead a kid to think that every homeless beggar, every one-eared stray cat and all air pollution is a direct result of them not caring enough. You know your child better than anyone, so use a light touch if you think they have an overactive guilt gland; empathy is one thing, but a 3-year-old sobbing, “Now all the tigers will be thirsty because of me!” because Sesame Street taught her that people wasting water will ruin the planet – that's going overboard.

Children who learn empathy grow into kind people. I am proud to say that Red, age 5, sent six months' worth of saved-up allowance (about $5, all the money he had in the world) to a local charity that provides meals for the homeless. He had been saving it to buy Christmas presents but he heard a fund-raising radio commercial for this charity and wanted to contribute.

Two days ago, Sassy – almost 17 and gorgeous – had a foot cut off her waist-length golden mane and sent the hair to Locks of Love. A friend in middle school had inspired her, and she “wanted to send it somewhere it could do some good, not just toss it in the trash.” Believe me, greater love hath NO teenage girl, than that she will chop off all her hair and donate it to make wigs for children who are bald from cancer treatments.

I think my work here is done.

(By the way, if you want to donate hair to Locks of Love, go to:

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Fine Art of Packing

Mollie writes:

Having achieved the ripe old age of 58, I can look back and count multiple times I've had to pack. I packed up a few times when I was a single woman, moving from one apartment to another, packed for a trip to Hawaii, packed again when John and I married, packed for our months long stay in Europe, packed for camping trips, sailing trips, ad nauseam.

Packing for myself was a breeze when I was young and unmarried. Imagine having a suitcase and carry-on for one's self only.

Every time I've packed since, I've had to repeatedly ask my self, "What do we need" "What can we do without, and what, if any, luxuries we should take with us."

I think the most challenging packing I've done is when we took the kids to Europe for three months (two months in Switzerland, two weeks in France, Easter in Salzburg and a week in Boston. I was packing for myself, Peter and Roger - I let John pack for himself! He needed two of the four suitcases we were allowed, he needed work clothes (suits & ties) as well as leisure clothes. He also had to bring a swarm of paperwork as we didn't have cd's floppies, laptops and the like in those days. It turned out that with four suitcases and four carry-ons, luxuries were just that, luxuries. We did with only absolute necessities.

Pete was just four years old and growing like a weed. Roger was 20 months old, still in diapers, and also growing like a weed. Roger was taking a Phenobarbital elixir for febrile seizure prevention (he'd had a lulu of repeated seizure activity when he was 10 months old). AND he was still in diapers!

Taking a look at our needs, we decided that we should bring a minimum of clothing - I figured I could find a laundromat where I could keep up with our washing. I converted from cloth diapers to disposable diapers, packed up a bunch of medication for colds, flu, and pain, a medication spoon, and the other accoutrements of basic parenting. We packed some toys, books, cassettes and cassette players with the regulation adaptors for Switzerland and France and Austria On the day we left, we each took charge of a child and slung carry-ons over our shoulders and made our merry way to 'Yurp.

We actually packed quite well, but not well enough. We ended up buying more clothes for the kids because they had the nerve to grow while we were gone. We ended up borrowing toys from friends in Switzerland when the few we packed just didn't cut it. We were amazed how expensive toys were in Europe, as well as children's clothes. My days of buying $.99 pants at K-Mart were still in the future.

When it came to deciding what to include in the carry-on versus checked luggage, we found it was a no brainer. Into the carry-ons went some of the toys and all the drugs, diapers, and sippy cups. Diaper wipes were in abundance, as were earplugs and security objects (blankies and the like). Even though we'd packed our carry-ons conservatively, we still looked like a pioneer family as we ventured off into the unknown.

Well, a Mollie can't pack too many diapers, as this Mollie learned on the flight over the Atlantic. Apparently there was another family who didn't pack diapers, assuming that disposables would be available on the plane. When we finally landed in Zurich, I found we had only three diapers left. It was a Sunday, and in Switzerland in 1986, all stores were closed on Sundays. Fortunately, we had friends in Switzerland who helped up scrounge up a dozen more diapers before the stores opened again on Monday. I have no idea how that other family coped once the plane landed!

In the end, I used up the Acetaminophen, cold medicine, diapers and Phenobarbital. Old clothes for the kids were replaced by a few new items, and Mom and Dad bought precious few souvenirs. But we had rolls and rolls of film that packed quite nicely in the carry-ons on the way home. That was enough.

So now we are packing for another trip to Europe this spring. We no longer have to worry over diapers and phenobarb. These concerns are replaced with the medications I bring for MS and other medical issues John and I have. I'm charging my DVD player and taking it on the plane with me, as well as my Kindle. I'm figuring out how much we can do without in the carry-ons, which really isn't a problem as you can carry-on very little these days. And with no pre-schoolers in tow, we actually have to pack things to amuse ourselves!

I've learned how to multi-task with the basics. I pack only black and brown clothes with a few scarves for color. I keep my cosmetics at a minimum since I don't pack 'em in the carry-ons, and packing things that spill, leak, ooze and seep seems futile anyway. I pack comfortable shoes so I can tromp anywhere I want, and I pack letters from my physicians to justify the small pharmacy we carry with us.

Packing for any trip can be a challenge, be it camping, sailing, touring or moving. But with the struggle comes the ultimate reality: what do we really need and what's a luxury. It turned out all we really needed were drugs, diapers, film, camera, and, of course, each other.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let's Play Nicely!

Mollie writes:

All the startling commentary coming out these days concerns how we should express ourselves when disagreeing with others. Yes, each of us has the freedom of speech, but we keep forgetting that with that freedom comes the responsibility to be civil. It's just that easy.

Civility starts in the home, frankly. It begins with how parents communicate with each other and continues with how they communicate with their children. Our children learn, from us, how to respect their friends' opinions, their parents' directives, their own social responsibilities and all other social behaaviors. It's no surprise that polite children come from homes where the language of kindness and common courtesy is spoken. It's just that easy.

We've discussed bullying here, and certainly, "mean-mouthing" others is a crushing form of bullying. Discussing personal information about others simply has no real place in humane conversation. Spreading rumors, promoting intolerance, and just simple ridicule is a form of abuse that we have to curb. It's just that easy.

Calling people names has no place in civil discourse. Children who hear parents dehumanizinng others learn that other people's humanity is questionable. Calling a person an idiot, stupid, lazy, or any other of a number of names does not promote civil discourse. Instead, it deflects the importance of a particular issue and replaces it with anger and hostility. In no way does it encourging common ground, instead it widens the gulfs that exist between people. It's just that easy.

Simply because one person does not share your spiritual perspective does not mean that they will burn in hell for eternity. Confusing children about salvation while advocating damnation for others simply doesn't make sense. Teaching a child that another is a second class citizen because they don't worship defies explanation. Faith should be a gift, but lack of faith shouldn't be a curse. It's just that easy.

And violent talk? When was a difficult issue resolved with a spank, punch, shot or other act of violence? Representing problem resolution with acts of violence rather than civil discourse simply exacerbates hostility. Leave the crosshairs at the shooting range. It's just that easy.

When your children disagree, you have to respect all arguements, not just the ones you are comfortable with. Some kids worry about their weight, others worry about their grades, some fuss over both and some are oblivious to either. But one truth holds true: Children who learn to tolerate and love fair much better in life than children who learn to hold others in contempt. It's just that easy.

When disagreeing in the home, set some ground rules. No name calling. No God-referencing. No lying, no exaggeration. And, please, no threats. If one child is annoyed by another child's thoughts, behavior, talents, moods, clothes, etc. encourge them to discuss it. But keep your kids on topic and you'll find that problem resolution is much easier.

I've made my share of mistakes, we all do. But if we keep our eyes on maintaining the other's self respect while offering your take on things, life for all of us will more peaceful.

It's just that easy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Last Will and Testament

Maggie writes:

Death is a fact of life. While I plan on spending eternity in Heaven, the people we leave behind will need to be taken care of. As a parent, it is my responsibility to try to take care of my children, even when I am no longer here. Which is where wills come into play.

No one will love your children the way you do. Picking a couple you know love your children and espouse your beliefs can be difficult. How do you go about choosing the "right" care takers? What if the people you choose aren't in your family? How do you broach the subject with your second choice, especially if your first choice isn't family and your second is?

I don't have all the answers, and would LOVE to hear what Mollie, Millie and May have to say on the subject! I do, however, have some suggestions.

Pray. Going about giving your most precious possessions all willy nilly is not a great idea--THAT much I know. Seeking God's guidance on all directions in life is important, and this is definitely not an exception.

Search. In an ideal situation, you'd find somebody in your family that loves your children nearly as much as you do AND would raise them in a similar fashion. Not all families are so fortunate, however. Many people would rather not have anything to do with their families, let alone leave their children to them! Ya can't choose family--but friends are an entirely different matter. Friends are the family you choose. Frankly, you can be closer to friends than family. And that's okay!

Prepare. Term life insurance is both practical and affordable. Making sure that your children (especially if you have more than most..) won't be a financial burden is important. You want to make things as easy as possible during this time of emotional upheaval. Throwing financial worries on top of everything is irresponsible and cruel.

And here's where I'm at a loss. How does one broach the subject to the second choice? You can't say "You're not my first choice, but if something should happen to them, can you take the kids?" How do you avoid hurt feelings and offense? Help!

Millie writes:

Maggie, I can't over-emphasize how important I think this is. Making out a Will when you're young and healthy (or not-so-young and beginning to creak) can make people feel like they're asking for trouble and I agree, it can be an emotional minefield. However, it's the only way to make sure that your kids land where you want them to land in the event of your death.

When Lance and I made our wills the situation was further complicated by step-relationships, ex-spouses and about a thousand relatives whose feelings we could potentially hurt by not leaving the kids "to them." One thing you can do in that case is to appoint your current spouse as the executor of your will and name them to manage your child's monetary inheritance until the child comes of age - in this way they will have a legal right to stay in the child's life, even if the Ex wants to edge them out. (Fortunately, this is not a problem we expect to have.)

We adopted a "team approach" insofar as the physical guardian goes. We asked a young, healthy, energetic couple who love our minor kids and have the same child-rearing philosophy as ours and who are already involved in our kids' everyday lives. Once they'd accepted, we talked to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends to tell them what we'd decided. We asked them, in the even of our deaths, to rally around and support our kids in their already-important roles as grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends - and to make a special effort to watch over them and help them with the things they'd need to know as they grew up. It's sort of a "godparent" arrangement.

One other thing you can do is to include letters along with your wills, telling your executors and your kids things that don't necessarily belong in the legal document. Give your ideas about milestones such as dating ages, family traditions and who you'd like to receive your pearl pin on their wedding day. This is also the place for you to write down as much as you know about your family's medical history.

Making these decisions isn't easy, but it's necessary. This is one of the biggest gifts you will ever give your children, even though you hope they will never need it.

Mollie adds: AMEN!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to Talk to Your Child About Tragedy

Millie writes:

Even if you were somehow able to raise your child in a protective bubble – a very tempting concept at times – tragedy would find you. Whether it's a natural disaster such as a flood or a societal disaster such as the recent shooting in Arizona, something worrisome is going to happen sooner or later; and it will be up to you to talk to your child about it.

First of all, do talk to him. You will have to edit specifics according to the child's age and development, of course, but it's a mistake to think that your kid doesn't know that something is up. Children are very sensitive to atmosphere and they hear everything that goes on. He may not know exactly what has happened but he will feel the tension around him – and odds are good that he will overhear part of the story at school, at church, or standing in line at the library.

You want him to hear it from you.

Your child will be scared and bewildered and curious. Establish physical contact, if you can; pull him into your lap, set next to him on the couch or hold his hand. Even a “cool and detached” teenager will feel better for a squeeze on the shoulder or a quick hug. Tell him what happened as succinctly as possible, without trying to put any sort of “spin” on it. For example, you could tell a six-year-old child about the Arizona shootings thus: “Honey, you might hear about this at school today, so I wanted to tell you something I heard on the news. Somebody got very confused and angry in Arizona, and he shot some people. Grown-ups are upset and a lot of people are talking about it, so I wanted you to know what happened.”

Then there will probably be questions. Curiously, they will be the same questions you have at times like this – only difference is, there's no one who can reassure you, is there? This is one of those parenting moments when you will need to pull on your Big Kid Underpants and reassure your child even when you're still scared half to death. Don't lie, but don't let them know that you're lost, too – under 21 is too young to understand that.

“Is it going to happen here?” You may think that a shooting in Arizona – if you live in Maine – or a flood in Haiti – if you live in Canada – would not seem like an imminent threat. A child sees the world with a much greater sense of urgency, however, and a much hazier sense of geography to boot. If the disaster is a natural one, you may be able to reassure your child that, no, there are no tsunamis in Montana.

Sometimes things are local, in which case you need to tell your child what you are doing to handle the situation. “Yes, the rain is making the river rise and some of the buildings by the river are flooding. Our house is a lot higher up than those houses, but we are keeping a close eye on things, and if the flood gets close to our street – which it probably won't – we are going to go to Grandma's.”

If it's a societal disaster, it's important to stress that the immediate threat is over (if it is). “Daddy got mugged last night, but he's home safe now and the police are looking for the people who stole his wallet” or “A lot of grown-ups stopped the man who was shooting people and now he's in jail. Doctors are helping the people who got hurt.” If the threat is local and imminent, tell your child what you're doing, as calmly as you can: “Some people are fighting with guns on our street, and to be safe we need to go in the house and lock the doors. I will call the police when we get inside.”

The more difficult questions (as if these aren't bad enough) will come later, when your child has had a chance to think. Try to be honest without giving gory details, and try to answer the question they may really be asking, too.

“Why did that man shoot a little girl?” Or: Could I get shot?

“Remember when you had that infected sliver, when you were 'sick' in your finger? That man was sick in his mind. The sickness – which is not catching, and you don't have – made him think things that weren't true, and do things that regular people don't do. His sick mind thought that shooting people would fix what was wrong with him. That little girl didn't do anything wrong, and the sick man wasn't mad at her. It was just bad luck that she was there when he was shooting.”

“What happens if you and Daddy get killed like those people on the airplane?” Or: Who will take care of me if something happens to you?

“That probably won't happen but if it does, we have made plans that you will go and live with Aunt Sue and Uncle John. You have a lot of people who love you, and there will be someone to take care of you until you are all grown up.” (Note: It's so important for parents to make out a will.)

“How could someone do those mean things to people?” Or: Is safety a lie? Is there no one I can trust? Is everyone I see a potential terrorist?

“Honey, I know you know a kid who is a real bully.” Get your kid to talk for a minute about a playground bully he knows. “Well, there are adult bullies, too; there are people who think they can take whatever they want, do whatever they want and hurt whoever they want just because they want it. There are two things you need to remember: One, that there are a lot more good people than there are bullies.” Talk for a bit about some of the heroism shown during the latest tragedy; for example, the congressional intern who ran into the firefight to give first aid to the people who got hurt. “The other is that you don't want to be a bully, so it's important to be fair and kind, and to help people who are not as lucky as you are.”

“How come no one helped those people?” Or: What if we need help some time?

“Sometimes people are scared, and sometimes they don't know how to help. Why don't we think of what we'd do in that situation, so we will be ready if it ever happens near us?” Then do something together that will help, however powerless you feel. Send blankets, send money to a scholarship fund, go over to your neighbor's house and help them pick up the pieces. Do something that will help you and your child to reclaim a feeling of control over your lives.

As adults we might suspect that security is an illusion, but we need that illusion – that sense that there is still a point to doing our best and raising our families with an eye to the future – to function at all.

Don't worry about trying to explain a tragedy so that it will make sense.

It's senseless. Even a child can see that.
Happy Birthday, Captain D.D. Burger!

Take your wings with you where ever you go!

Mom and Dad

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Who's yo daddy?

As Mollie said in an earlier post, I recently came to a surprising discovery: my husband is not a woman (thus he does not communicate like we do) and he is not my father, so I shouldn't compare the two.

Justin and I have been together for a little over seven years now. We know each other very well and I thought we communicated fairly clearly. Here lately though, it felt as though we weren't really in the same book, let alone the same page. I felt misunderstood and... well, I've got a feeling he was pretty oblivious to my suffering.

Being the mother of four children six and under has me playing the role of sheriff, judge, jury and (infrequently, as they have all more or less survived thus far) executioner far more often than I like. When I give a direction, I expect it to be obeyed. Simply put, if I don't keep a firm grasp on the situations that arise, the patients would be running this insane asylum. When my husband comes home, it can be surprisingly difficult to switch from being the sole authority in the house to sharing that responsibility with him. There are times when I know I parent him, instead of partner with him. And that's just not right.

Instead of trusting him to handle all those crazy situations, I step in and take care of it, and he lets me. It has come to the point where the kids will ask him something and he'll tell them to ask me instead, which frustrates me to no end because by the time he gets home I've had my fill of decision making for the day. I say I'm frustrated, but it was my own mistrust that did me in. I'm working on that now. I ask him to do something, and even if he doesn't do it exactly how I would, I try (oh, it can be hard!) to be cheery and thank him without criticising or offering "helpful tips". Even if the two year old comes back with her floral shirt on backwards paired with plaid pants. She's dressed and I didn't have to do it.

I know I'm rambling. Forgive me. Back to my two points: being a man, my husband doesn't communicate the same way I do. Have you ever heard of how women's brains are compared to spaghetti (everything is connected to SOMETHING) and men's brains are like waffles (or boxes, one subject per box and they only focus on that ONE thing at a time)? So I need to communicate my needs in a way he can understand. I need to be straightforward and not assume he knows how I'm feeling or why I'm upset. This, of course, drives me absolutely BATTY when it is something we've discussed before and surely-he-knows-this-by-NOW, right?? Keeping in mind that he has probably already put that one subject away in his mind-box and hasn't brought it out again until I brought it back up tends to help rein in the frustration. While women (in general) are all about relationships and body language and reading between the lines, men (it seems) are a bit more dense and need things spelled out clearly. Honestly, reading relationship articles like "How to talk to your man" one of the first things that popped into my mind were "Boy, men sure need things dumbed down for them!" Horrible, I know, but there are somethings that are just intuitive for women and ya can't blame a man for not being a woman.

Second point about realizing he is not my father. My father LOVES to work on projects around the house. I am my father's daughter, and love projects as well. So when we moved into a fixer upper, I was all sorts of excited about all these lovely PROJECTS to get to do with my husband! Yay! Right? Not so much. Nearly two years later, the house is still a construction zone and Justin has finally said we need to save up to pay someone else to do the work. Working on the house is just not his cup of tea. Before I came to accept this about him, I would get SO frustrated! "He has the know how!" I'd fume, "Just not the motivation. GRUMBLE." When I finally accepted that it's not that he doesn't have the motivation, he doesn't have the Love of Projects like I do, it was like a weight being lifted. It's like.. he COULD figure out how to fix everything on the van if he had a passion to learn that... but since he doesn't, we take the van to a mechanic who DOES. How is repairing the house any different? Much less frustration on my part, now that I don't expect him to behave like my father.

Mollie made the observation that perhaps our husbands married our fathers, and I think she's right. I'm much more like my father than Justin ever will be. And isn't that to be expected? After all, the man did raise me, not Justin. These little light bulb moments are beautiful, and I hope they happen with great frequency as we continue to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of married life.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Whidbey Whining

Mollie writes:

Living on an island has its ups and downs. I've mentioned it in the past - I like the slower pace, quieter lifestyle, low crime, the sighting of bald eagles over my pond and great blue heron in my pond. If I had to do it over again, I would in a heartbeat.

One of the things I'm on the fence about is the weather. We chose Whidbey Island because of the mild temperature and the fact that we are in a rain shadow provided by the Olympic Range. We still get rain, and if I use a greenhouse, I even get ripe tomatoes in August! Not too shabby. Some rain, but no flooding. Some sun, but no heat waves.

Except that since we moved here in 2005, the weather took a turn for the weird. I've learned to cope with it (mostly because I have no other choice!) and have taken steps to make things easier.

When we moved here, we'd heard that it occasionally snowed. In my book, that's once every three or four years. On Whidbey Island, it snows whenever it wants. There's no real rhyme or reason, some mornings we wake up with a few inches. In our case, it's ok - our kids are grown and we're retired. No worries. When we had kids and school schedules and car pools, not so easy!

But living on an island has its drawbacks. When the power goes out on an island, it goes out. And with a small population and little industry (there is Nichols Brothers Boatyard) we are not exactly on the high-priority list for major repairs. So we've acquired a generator and a few other conviences so that we aren't out of power completely when the lines gow down.

In addition to losing power, we don't have a lot of snow plows, de-icers, etc. It just isn't cost effective. And the usual person here doesn't have a lot of experience driving in snow zones. So the wise resident stays in until things improve which is good since our fir trees are shedding limbs and our hills are completely iced over.

So every year, come heck or high water (and we do have water here), we practice a little prudence. We trim our trees, stock our pantry, and double check that we have enough propane to keep our fireplace running if need be. We tie things down or up, depending on the wind and the grammar (did you tie down the yard furniture? Did you tie up the vines? Did you secure the greenhouse?). We charge our Kindle, I-pad, cell phones, flashlights, personal DVD players and other modern necessities. We even have candles!

And we just wait things out.

So, here's hoping that things are safe and tied down where you live. We are enjoying our feather bed, sipping cocoa and watching the pond freeze over. Those great blue herons will have to wait for a thaw before they can eat my goldfish again, and those eagles (???), well the bunnies will be back come spring.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Those Darn Kids!

Mollie writes:

I'm finding that having adult children comes with its own set of complications. Our oldest turns 29 in a few days, and I've been wracking my brain, trying to come up with a few ideas for presents for him.

Part of my problem is that it used to be so easy. Having a child with a birthday right after Christmas is a good thing for a parent. The after-Christmas sales are to die for, and you figure out what your kid really wanted by Christmas Day afternoon. Once your eyes are opened to what wasn't under the tree, a mom can race right out, and for 80% off, and buy the coveted object. Easy squeezy.

But these darn kids just grow up and everything changes. My oldest is now grown and can pretty much buy for himself the things he wants that are within our price range. So buying him a thingamajig is pretty much off the list, as he already has a thingamajig, and in three colors.

Also, he lives hundreds of miles away, so I just can't run over and figure out that he needs towels, kitchen utensils, etc. This works out well for the adult child, but is a real obstacle for a parent. How do we tell our kids that his linens are faded when we don't know what state they're in? How do we know our kid needs a new vacuum when we rarely see his condo, and when we do, it's spotless, not because he's a perfect housekeeper, but he had the sense to throw out all the empties before we came.

The dilemmas for us empty-nesters!

My husband and I came up with a reasonable solution. In the past, we've invited him to send us links to websites that have something he wants. We then buy it for him and have it sent directly to him. It takes all the stress out of whether or not he needs or wants it, but also handles the problems of shipping, etc. This year, we are sending him a new corkscrew and some gadgets for his computer. But it just doesn't seem like enough.

So we assembled a "Make Your Own Birthday Party" box and filled it with streamers, candles, horns, silly hats and decorations. Hopefully, when he opens it, he'll know that we are partying in spirit if not in person. Add a silly card, and we've got it made.

It's been almost 30 years since we had the little mite. It's hard not having him around for cake and silliness but this may be as close as it gets.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

After-School Snack: A Feast for the Soul

Millie writes:

I'm a lifelong Anglophile, and it's always saddened me a little bit that we Yankees have never caught the British habit of Taking Tea. Today I realized that those of us who are lucky enough to have children do have an identical ceremony, we just call it something else: The After-School Snack.

Many societies have a tradition of taking a small period of refreshment in mid-afternoon. The Japanese raised tea to an art form, with special buildings and dishes and ceremonies to make just the right background for their daily sip. Perhaps it is one of Mankind's earliest needs, right after Find Dry Cave and Avoid Being Eaten by Mammoth; the yearning to stop what we're doing at about 4 o'clock, sit and eat a bit of something tempting, have a refreshing drink and chat with our companions for a little while.

On the other hand, perhaps the introduction of Tea Time is what marked the evolution of Primitive Man to Civilized Man.

Whatever its origins, the after-school snack is sacred at our house. This ritual gives parents and children time to reconnect, a chance to “download” the highlights of the day so far before the homework/chores/dinner prep rush begins. I am of the firm belief that no one should ever enter our home without a warm greeting, just as no one should ever leave without a "goodbye," and a hug and kiss if appropriate. The reality of this is obvious when the kids come through the door: they drop their coats and heavy backpacks, perch on a kitchen stool and heave sighs of relief.

Don't get me wrong, my kitchen is not the scene of a 1950's sitcom every single weekday after school. Sometimes the kids have “activities,” and sometimes I do; sometimes a friend will come home with them or they might go visiting. More often than not, though, I'll be there waiting for them with something to drink and something to nibble. They know they can count on that.

What you serve doesn't really matter. I often make cookies (today it's coconut macaroons, which could not be easier or more delicious), but we also have fruit, or nuts, or popcorn, or veggies and dip. Usually on April Fool's Day I make some elaborate type of “hoax” food that looks like something else. We may drink milk, or cider, or juice, or hot chocolate or even (believe it or not!) tea.

If you're at work when your kids get home from school, leave a snack ready for them. Add a note, or make a point of calling at that time every day to check in. If the hour after school is a rush of soccer practice and violin lessons, put a box of raisins and a bottle of orange juice on your kid's car seat. If you'll be gone on business, leave a few brown bags behind you; slip a box of crackers, a package of cookies, or some dried fruit into each bag along with the appropriate number of juice boxes, staple each bag shut and number the bags – a snack for each day you'll be gone.

After-School Snack Time has changed subtly since Joy's first day of preschool. When the kids were little, it was a chance for them to have my undivided attention for a bit; a chance for them to tell me all their news before they burst. Now that Sassy and Jack are high school upperclassmen, these few minutes a day may be the only ones during which I get to have their undivided attention. It's a cherished moment in our hectic day, a dependable oasis of time to concentrate on each other.

As Henry James said, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Clever people, the English.

Who's Your Daddy?

Mollie writes:

I had to laugh out loud when I read a comment made by Maggie on Facebook this morning. She made the observation that, one, her husband was a guy, and, two, that guy wasn't her father!

I'm constantly apologizing to my hubby that HE didn't marry another man, he married a chick, and a very girly one at that. I think all spouses make that same mistake, even in same sex marriages. No matter WHO we marry, we are going to wake up one morning and not recognize who we've been sleeping with all these years. Case in point, John still doesn't get why I care so much about clothes and grooming. But it's a girl thing, and John doesn't speak girl.

While we chicks all know we didn't marry our fathers, it still comes as a complete shock to me when my husband manages to veer from the well chosen paths my father chose. My dad golfed with a passion, my husband doesn't know a nine iron from a wood. My dad had a people-oriented profession (sales), my husband is more object-oriented in engineering. None of this should surprise me, but I still react to my male relationships based on my first male relationship, my dad. So I thought I was walking on the wild side when I married a non-golfing engineer.

My dad made a point of golfing on Saturdays. John, when he wasn't serving in the Naval Reserves, did projects around the house, wrote his doctoral dissertation, hung out with his kids and occasionally delivered furniture for his dad who had a furniture store. My dad liked things tidy and nice, John pursues a more relaxed style. My dad bought new cars every year, my husband gets a new car when maintaining the old one is more expensive than buying a new one.

And the list goes on.

Things they had in common were their personal ethics, from honesty to work, and a sense of duty. I can't remember a time when my dad wasn't selling something, but I also can't remember a time when my husband wasn't serving in the military, delivering furniture for his dad, instructing at a university and all while working as an engineer for our regional power distributor. Neither man was ever idle, even my husband in his so-called retirement. Both men served in the Navy during war time, and both men put their children and spouses first.

And neither man lied. I can't remember once when my dad lied to me, and, although my husband is a dooms-day predictor, he will admit when things work out better than he expected.

So it is no surprise to me when I wake up in the morning and find that I'm married to someone who is just like my father AND nothing like my father. But that's not all.

It seems to me that although I didn't marry my father, my husband did. In many ways, I'm much more like my dad than my husband is. I'm more people oriented and couldn't build a mousetrap if my life depended on it. I'm obsessed with keeping things tidy and nice, and poor John has the callouses to prove it. I like a nice car more often than every ten years, although I'm happy with a new car every five years.

And so it goes. So maybe the question isn't if we married our fathers, it's did our husbands?

Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Leaf

Millie writes:

I'm a big believer in traditions, so it's no surprise to anyone that our family has a double-handful of customs for New Year's Eve. One of the kids' all-time favorites is the one involving fire.

The ancients believed that fire purified, and purification is just what this mama and her brood need after 365 days of bunglin' along. Before we begin discussing what we want to change in the new year, we go about putting the old year behind us for good.

We each take a piece of paper and write down every single thing we can think of that we regret about our behavior during the previous 12 months. Whining, selfishness, overeating, impatience, short temper, bad grades, dirty tricks, reading under the covers after lights-out – if we have spent any time mentally beating ourselves up for it, we write it down. (Or draw it, if our spelling's still shaky; or we may just make aggressive crayon marks, if we happen to be a baby wanting to do what everyone else is doing.)

We don't talk about what we're writing or show it to anyone. When we've gotten it all down, we look over the list one last time, then crumple the paper into a ball. When everyone's done, we go outside and we burn the lists.

While they're burning, we forgive ourselves for whatever was written on those pieces of paper. We come back inside feeling virtuous (and usually frozen), purged of all those sticky little petty things we're not too proud of, and ready to begin again with clean slates. The rule is this: Once you've owned it, written it and burned it, it's over. You are not allowed to torture yourself with it any more.

Through the years – and 6 teenage kids – this tradition has morphed into a semi-elaborate affair involving fire pits and flame throwers. (A flame thrower is an extremely cathartic tool, and I heartily recommend that each household have at least one. Don't store them with the Nerf guns, though.) No matter how much fun the kids have with the pyrotechnics, though, the solemn reason behind the bonfire is never lost on them. By forgiving ourselves for a year's worth of shortcomings, we can look into the coming year with hope – and the belief that we have what it takes to reach the goals we set for ourselves.

This teaches our kids – and us – to deal with disappointment and guilt. It encourages us to leave the past in the past and look towards the future. It's not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, nor is it absolution; rather, it's a chance to begin again with a clear conscience, to truly turn over a new leaf.

And so far – on Day 3 of the New Year – everyone's still cheerfully forging ahead.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Revolutions!

Mollie writes:

It's so hard to make resolutions for the New Year.  This year, I've resolved to not make any resolutions that are unreasonable.  I'm thinking that losing 15 pounds this year is a reasonable goal.  I'll always be "padded" but 15 pounds of padding won't be missed and won't be difficult.

When our kids were little, I'd make resolutions like "clean the boys' rooms" and "master the piano."  These were good resolutions because I was gonna clean those rooms anyway, and that darn piano . . . well it was time I learned to play by more than just ear.  But learning to read music was a real eye-opener.  I learned what a mathematical exercise music really is, but also how difficult it was to express my self on a keyboard (I seem to do better verbally than musically!).  But reality does slip in, and I found that just as soon as I cleaned the boys' rooms, they were filthy again (no kidding) and for me, mastering the piano meant practicing every day, and that was unreasonable.

One year, just after learning that I had MS, I resolved to deal with it quietly and not let it impact our kids' lives.  Silly me!  A couple of real exacerbations and I was at ground zero again, reevaluating what realistic resolutions really are.  Over time, I've learned that minimizing MS isn't going anywhere, so I might as well face it and get over it.  It's a lot easier to deal with MS when you aren't dealing with disappointment with yourself on a personal level.

This would be a good time to talk with your kids (maybe age 8 and over?) about New Year's Resolutions.  It would be nice to think that nirvana was just a resolution away, but it never is.  Raising kids with realistic expectations is a fine art.  We don't want our kids to stop dreaming, but we also want to have them have a firm grip on reality.

What's a Mollie to do?

Talk to your kids about their next twelve months.  Do they want to take part in extra-curricular activities, or is school enough?  How do they feel about their friendships, bedroom decor, clothes and hobbies? Would they like to coast, or surf the high waves.   And if surfing is their goal, how does a parent help a child achieve a reasonable set of expectations?  And if coasting is a viable option, maybe helping your child find inner satisfaction is a worthy endeavor.

So, here I am at age 58.  I'm experiencing lots of changes on the medical end of things; I'm using two new medications, ampyra to help with stamina and walking, and gilenya to reduce the number of exacerbations I experience with MS.  While I can't resolve to recover from MS, I can resolve to responsibly maintain myself within my limitations.

So, sit down with your young 'uns and discuss reasonable expectations for the next year.  You'll be surprised at what they want and don't want.  So go with the flow and keep it reasonable!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

May the coming year bring happiness, health and prosperity to you and yours!

Happy New Year from Millie, Mollie, Maggie and May.