Radioactive

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Last night was leftover night at Mom’s Table (i.e. my kitchen). Even better from my perspective, it was do-it-yourself leftover night. Basically, do-it-yourself leftover night entails the hungry participant going through the contents of the refrigerator, locating something to eat, and heating it up. Or settling for cereal–that is always an option. Leftover night always occurs when the fridge is full of the remnants of some pretty good meals.

Take last night, for instance. We had a nice selection of food to appeal to even the hungriest of teenagers: chicken drumsticks, Swedish meatballs, pasta, pizza….

W rifled through the fridge and made his selection: chicken drumsticks. “How long should I put these two chicken legs in the microwave for?” he asked me, and I gave him my best estimation. A later taste-test revealed that my estimation wasn’t long enough, so he put them back in the microwave to heat longer.

“Careful when you eat those,” I told him. “The bones heat up first.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “And that’s exactly why—if you are in a nuclear disaster and you are eating an animal—you should avoid the meat closest to the bone. It has the most radioactivity.”

Well now.

I stared at him, my face—no doubt—perplexed as I processed this statement. Finally, I said, “Good to know.” Because truly, I had no other words. And someday, I might be in a nuclear disaster and have to kill my own food to eat…?

How in the world this kid knows the things he knows is beyond me. But he is always able to spew out interesting information at exactly the right moment. If I ever find myself in a nuclear disaster (or any random survival situation, really), I hope that I have this kid nearby!

Growing Pains

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“Mom, I don’t have any pants that fit.” It was Sunday morning, and we were getting ready for church when W entered my room with this report.

Admittedly, my brain had not yet woken up. No pants that fit, I thought. If these kids don’t stop growing like weeds….

But then my mind started to wake up and deconstruct that thought. I thought back over the past few days. He had pants that fit yesterday. He had pants that fit the day before yesterday. No pants that fit? Hmm….

“What do you mean, you don’t have pants that fit?” I asked him.

“I don’t have any pants,” he responded. “Only pants that are too small.”

“There’s a basket of laundry in the living room,” I reminded him (because doesn’t every body keep a basket of laundry in their living room?). “Did you look there?”

“No,” he admitted without the slightest hesitation.

“Perhaps you should. I bet you’ll find some pants in there that fit.” He left the room without further comment. I imagine he knew that suggesting again that he had no pants would do him no good.

I heard no more. When I went downstairs, he was wearing pants, and they seemed to fit. Well enough, anyway. The length was debatable, but who was going to argue?

At 14, he really can grow out of his pants overnight. In fact, it has happened. In my bedroom, I have a large bin of clothes that are on hold, castoffs from his brother just waiting for him to grow so they can be claimed and worn again. However, I opened that bin over the weekend, and it was nearly empty. A few pair of jeans, some shorts, and a handful of t-shirts lingered in the bottom. His older brother’s growth is slowing down. And, of course, the size that W needs now is the size that C skipped. And so, I am doomed. We will have to go shopping and actually try on jeans and figure out which size, style, cut, etc. he wants. And then I’ll have to pay for them. Doomed, I tell you.

But W could consider himself lucky. He will have brand new pants. The era of wearing his brother’s hand-me-downs has passed. Hopefully, he won’t outgrow the new ones overnight.

Meanwhile, on Monday night, we left a meeting and were walking to the car to drive home. The light from the nearly full moon skipped across the ice dotting the pavement. “Hey Mom,” W said, through the darkness. “These shoes are too small.”

Sigh.

Milk

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This morning on the Internet, I saw an article that said, 24 Recipes to Finish a Gallon of Milk. Curious, I clicked on it. I started reading, “Instead of pouring money and nutrients down the drain….” Wait.

What?

People have leftover milk that they have to throw away? They aren’t always wondering how the milk is going to last until they can get to the grocery store to buy more? Meanwhile, here I am thinking it has got to be possible to buy milk in containers larger than a gallon….

So I started to flip through the recipes, just to see what people who don’t drink milk might use milk for. Mac and cheese, fettuccini alfredo… no brainers. Corn husk meringue and corn mousse… WHAT?? Any thoughts on where I might find a corn husk or two at this time of year in the frozen tundra of New England?

Apparently, if you have some leftover milk, you can make your own Ricotta cheese, perhaps some yogurt, or a toasted marshmallow milkshake. Or here’s an idea: you could drink the milk. In our house, that’s what we do. We drink it. We use it on cereal. Sometimes, we cook with it—like when we make popovers. But we use it. Lots of it.

For a bit of perspective…. The childcare center where I work is collecting empty gallon milk jugs to make an indoor igloo for the children to play in. It will take 450 empty jugs to complete this project, so they put out an APB to all staff. The first week, I brought over three empty jugs. Last week, I had a bag filled with six empties, and I was going to take a walk over to the center. Unfortunately, between the cold and the windy, and the busy-ness of my office, I didn’t have a chance to bring it over. When it became clear that I wouldn’t have time, I brought the bag to my co-worker, whose daughter attends the center preschool.

She looked in the bag. “What have you been doing in your house?” she asked, as if having six empty milk jugs was the equivalent of an empty keg or two.

“I have three teenagers,” I responded with a shrug. It was explanation enough, though in truth, the milk jugs were not all from my house.

“Well, just keep bringing them my way! With this bag of empties, today I get to be the hero of the childcare center!” she announced.

Given the alternatives, I think we will continue to drink our milk. In fact, I am glad I don’t have leftover milk. I’m not sure how I’d feel about making corn husk mousse.

Sanity

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I have been working with teenagers since I was barely out of my teens, myself, so when I had my children, I remember wondering what I was ever going to do with these tiny babies. I was pretty sure I would be fine once they reached their teens, but the baby stages… they puzzled me. Nonetheless, I made it all the way from the baby stage to now, layering years and parenting and experiences to get to this point. Now that they are teens, I am still pretty sure that these are the best years yet. Complicated, conflicted, confusing, confounding, but definitely, the best yet.

Every now and then, however, there is a moment that makes me question. You know all those things you’ve heard about teens being moody and unpredictable from one minute to the next? Some days, those things are not true at all. But other days, those things are incredibly spot on.

From one child to the next, it seems I have a pattern in which I “forget” some of the more challenging things. There are days I have to consciously remind myself that some battles just aren’t worth fighting. One morning this week, it was about a sweatshirt. Fact: child in question didn’t have one. He did have a jacket, so I suppose that was a step in the right direction.

“You’re going to be cold in school,” I informed him.

“No I’m not,” he retorted with complete certainty. No. Of course you’re not.

“I hope you don’t plan to wear your jacket around school all day,” his sister chimed in. “That’s just wrong.” And the next thing I knew, he was off moping in the other room. Because moping. As we’ve all heard, it’s what teenagers do.

His absence from the room gave me a brief moment of pause in which I considered what it was that drew me to my work with teens…. Perhaps I had been misleading myself all along. But the teens I work with are other people’s kids. They don’t usually treat me like I’m ignorant.

Moping child came back into the room just in time to pack his backpack and scoot out the door. “Don’t think that just because your jacket is zipped up all the way that you’re fooling me!” I called after him.

“Ugh!! Teenagers are so obnoxious!!” my daughter stated with an overly dramatic eye roll as she put on her jacket. And we laughed together before she slipped out into the darkness of the early morning. And I focus on this.

Some days, I wonder if I will make it through the teen years with my sanity intact. But each time this household spirals into the depths of teenage moodiness, there is someone to pull me through it with a joke or a smile or a sarcastic comment. There is always someone to add a layer of fun or silliness to the situation. And as my son is so quick to remind me, “Mom, you didn’t get into this with your sanity intact!”

The Road Ahead

On Friday after school, W had an orthodontist appointment. When it was over, he got in the car and put his feet on the dashboard. The soles of his shoes. “Get your feet off there! This is a brand new car.”

“It’s not brand new,” he informed me as he took his feet away. Two dusty shoe prints adorned the black surface above the glove compartment. He glanced at me sheepishly as he used his blue jeaned knee to awkwardly wipe at the prints. “It’s like… four months old.”

“And in my life with cars, that’s brand new. The van is ten years old. I plan to keep this one twenty… or maybe fifteen.”

“So four months is two percent of its life,” he informed me. He had me there; you can’t really say that a toddler is a brand new baby. “Anyway,” he continued. “By then, there should be some sort of legislation banning gasoline powered cars.”

“They can’t do that,” I stated emphatically. “That would be way too expensive! Everyone would have to trade in their cars, and you can’t expect everyone to buy an electric car.”

He pondered that for a minute. “Well, they should ban the production of gasoline powered cars. That would be a step in the right direction. Electricity is so much more efficient. If this were an electric car, you’d be able to accelerate much faster!” His eyes brightened at the thought.

I sighed. My car accelerates just fine, thank you very much. And the limited acceleration will keep his acceleration under marginal control once he starts driving… in another year and less-than-a-half. “I’m good,” I informed him. “I like this car.”

“I’m just saying that electricity is much better. It’s more efficient for everything.”

“Except for heat,” I told him. “Our house used to have electric heat. It was not so efficient and very expensive.”

“Electricity is good for heat,” he stated. “It’s better for most things.”

“Okay,” I conceded, eager to steer the conversation in another direction. My STEM skills are passable, but they are no match for W’s STEM skills, and if we continued this conversation, he would launch into a technical discourse that would rise above my comprehension in five seconds.

“You know Mom, I figured out what the unused switches in our circuit box are for.” They were used for the electric heat.” The words caught my gut and sent my heart into overdrive. I glanced at him then back to the road.

“Huh. How’d you figure that out?” I wondered aloud as I tried to keep my racing thoughts to myself. I shuddered at the thought of him poking through the large bundle of wires that ran from the circuit box up into the suspended ceiling, easily accessed if you just move a ceiling tile or two. I kept my right eye on him while my left eye did the driving. I saw him smirk. And squirm. He looked down then out at the road in front of us. With each of my children, the path I travel has a unique set of bumps.

“I just figured it out,” he said, offering nothing further. And somehow, I think that’s all I’ll ever know.

I sighed as I turned both eyes back to the road. The Long. Road. Ahead.

Theme Song

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Recently, I realized that every morning, as I’m making lunches, I am humming some sort of tune—a soundtrack for the day, if you will. Apparently, this is a habit that I have had for a long time, but I never really noticed it.

One day last month, I was humming a particularly melancholy melody which seemed to be on infinite repeat as I stacked cold cuts on cheese on bread and slathered on the mayonaise and mustard. After the umpteenth repeat, I became aware of the tone of what I was humming. And I realized that it was different from the usual morning medley. My usual morning soundtrack is upbeat and motivating. The tune that day was not.

Is my brain determining this melody? I wondered as I carefully considered my emotional state (which seemed okay, though maybe not as peppy as normal). Or is this some eerie foreshadowing of the day ahead? It was an interesting thought, one I pushed aside; I moved on with my morning activities, but the tune didn’t change.

Since that day last month, I had not focused on my morning humming. Until yesterday, that is. The tune yesterday was, again, different from the usual. It was a very determined, get-it-done type of melody. Not inspiring, exactly, but more of a dutiful tune that would follow me through the day.

It was not surprising then, when a couple hours into my work day, some not particularly positive news came my way. It was a situation that took determination to process to a marginally workable solution. But as the situation churned in my head, I went back to that theme song, the one that was different and somehow ‘out of sorts.’

Perhaps, just perhaps, my morning humming is my brain’s way of working through the events of the day that have not yet happened. Perhaps this really is a foreshadowing of the events to come since the melody is never a conscious one.

But now that I am starting to sense a pattern, the next time my theme song doesn’t seem quite right, I might just go back and bed to see if I can restart my day. Or maybe I’ll stay in bed until the next day!

Resolutions (2)

It is January first, and I am feeling unmotivated. I want to set some goals for the year and work on the things that need fixing—to write more, to clean and organize, to focus on health and fitness, and to find ways to give back.

But today, I am unmotivated.

I want to write a blog post every day, though based on my past performance, I might focus on writing one post per week. This drop in expectation is not because I am unmotivated, but because I am a single parent to three children, and like many single parents, I maintain two jobs to cover expenses. And well… priorities.

I may be unmotivated, but today, I am realistic.

This is the year that I will sort through my clutter, clean, and purge. I realized at the end of this past year that if I tackle one small area per day/week/whatever, I will get through the trouble spots (eventually) and deactivate the clutter magnets in my house. At the rate of one small area per day (or week), my house will not be clean and clutter-free as quickly I might like. But little by little, the house will become uncluttered. My hope is that by January 1, 2017, I can blog about my success and how amazing it is to live in a house with a manageable amount of stuff. In the meantime, I can blog about the fun (okay, interesting…) stuff I uncover while de-cluttering!

Being realistic means that I will acknowledge my limitations.

Then there is the “taking care of me” resolution. I have two health goals for the immediate future. The most important is to sleep/rest more. Five hours of sleep a night is tough on a healthy body, but such limited sleep on a not-so-healthy body makes it nearly impossible to maintain normalcy. My second goal is to get back to regular exercise—walking regularly will be a step in the right direction. And baby steps are better than no steps. There are a lot of years between me and my most fit self, and I don’t expect to regain that level of fitness in the foreseeable future. But I do know that taking better care of me will allow me to take care of others. And that is important.

Which leads me to my final resolution…

… to actively look for and act on opportunities to give back. It’s not always easy to see beyond the chaos that follows me like a cloud and obscures my view of my surroundings. Paying attention to the people and opportunities around me will keep me grounded and present and will foster a greater sense of community connection.

These changes, I think they are doable. They are memorable—meaning I won’t forget them halfway through the month of January—because they are important. Of course, I set goals knowing they could always be derailed by more pressing issues.

What are your goals for the New Year?