Teachable moments

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This weekend’s not-so-fun activity involved a morning trip to the Laundromat. After his last camping trip, W announced that his winter sleeping bag was “developing a personality” and needed to be washed. I don’t know about you, but when a 15 year-old announces that his sleeping bag is “developing a personality,” I sit up and take notice. And since his next camping trip is coming up quickly—next weekend, in fact—it was pretty much this weekend or after the upcoming trip.

But a winter sleeping bag is one of those items that cannot be washed at our home in our normal-sized washing machine. It has to be washed in a large capacity, front-loading machine, hence the trip to the Laundromat. Since we were heading there anyway, I decided to bring the comforter from my bed—another item that I have to launder outside of the house.

Of course, there was the need for tennis balls. I have never used tennis balls in the dryer with my comforter because I typically go to the Laundromat on a very windy day and I dry my comforter at home, outside. However, January is not such a friendly time for drying a heavy comforter outside, wind or no. So a stop at Target was necessary.

We picked up two containers of yellow tennis balls and took them to the checkout, where a gaggle of teenage workers was congregating, socializing. As we stepped up to the checkout, one of the teens broke away from the group to take her place at the register and ring in our three-dollar purchase. She thanked us and went back to her “social” group. As W and I walked by the group to exit the store, one of the teens announced to her friends, “I think I’m going to get a different job.”

Well then. There were so many things I could have said in that moment, but I walked past as if I hadn’t heard.

We were not even out the door before I turned to W. “You know what you don’t do?” I posed.

“Talk about how much you don’t like your job while you’re at your job?” he responded without a split second delay. Ah! He, too, had heard the young woman as we walked by. “I noticed that,” he commented.

“That is so not a good idea,” I told him, though from his quick response, I was certain he knew better. “It’s fine to want a new job. Not so much to announce it while you’re at your current job. And while you are standing around doing nothing….”

“Yeah,” he said. “I get that.” Some things are best left for when you are in the privacy of your own home, and perhaps complaining about your job is one of them. Then again, if you complain in public, I may just use it as a teachable moment.

{image credit: Freeimages.com/Ben C}

To-do List…

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My brain is like a sieve. It is capable of trapping some things and holding on to them, but most things slip right out like sand through your fingers.

There are many things I need to do. Appointments need to be made. Thank you notes need to be written. Expressions of sympathy need to be acknowledged. Thoughts need to be conveyed. And these are all things that have to be done now rather than someday down the road. I have to work them in amongst the daily bustle of my already jam-packed life.

So… I made a to-do list. The other night while I was getting ready for bed, I took a Post-it note and stuck it on my bathroom counter. As I thought of things I needed to do, I wrote them down. I listed the appointments, the people who need thank you notes, all of the extra pieces that need to be addressed. And now, it would seem I’m organized, on top of things, and ready to get things done.

If I could only remember where I left that to-do list….

The Butter Monster

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When my children were little, I tried to make boring chores relatively entertaining for them. I felt that if I could bring a little fun to the mundane, it would help my children to develop a sense of adventure as they approached every day situations. I don’t believe I always succeeded, but we certainly had some fun along the way.

Years ago, as school was starting, the stores were pushing autumn baking, I was in the grocery store with two little ones taking care of our weekly shopping. Because I knew it was not their favorite time, we began to play a game. As we walked through the store, out of the blue, I told them that we had to be careful not to be seen by The Butter Monster.

Truth be told, I have no idea where that came from. Nor did I have any idea what we were running from. However, we made our way through the store, ducking behind displays and dodging other shoppers. We moved quickly up and down the aisles, grabbing the items we needed as we passed.

My two little children (I think they were maybe 4 and 6 at the time) were giggling and squealing like they were outside playing a game of tag. And then it happened….

We turned into the baking aisle and nearly bumped into a display of baking mixes, that was topped by a huge cardboard cut-out of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. “Ah!” I practically screamed, trying to maintain some composure while I still entertained my children. “It’s the Butter Monster!!” I whipped the grocery cart around and high-tailed it out of that aisle. We hid one aisle over while we caught our breath and tried to stifle our giggles. Somehow, we managed to finish our shopping.

On my next trip to the store, I asked the manager if it would be possible for us to have the cut out of Dough Boy when the store was done with the display. While they thought I was completely insane, they saved it for me. We brought the Butter Monster with us to Thanksgiving dinner that year and sat him at the table, spreading our fun to extended family.

Maybe grocery shopping isn’t such a “boring chore” after all. I realize that I might have made a hasty judgment. Just because I find a chore “boring” doesn’t mean my kids need to, as well. Perhaps, with memories such as these, my children can reframe the “boring chores” and look on tasks such as food shopping as an adventure!

{Image is a photo of the Butter Monster being placed at the Thanksgiving table years ago}

Alternate Reality

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I have gotten behind in my TV viewing. In fact, I have gotten VERY behind in my TV viewing.

First, let me clarify. By “TV viewing,” I mean the one show I once watched regularly, the very evening it aired: Grey’s Anatomy. It was a brief escape from reality, offering me one hour a week when I could be in an alternate reality. But as I mentioned, I am behind.

Today, I was folding laundry, a task I typically relegate to my children, but one was sick, one was out of the house at rehearsal, and one is away at college. So folding was my job today. And it was the perfect chance to watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

I became completely caught up in the show as I smoothed shirts and matched socks, stacking the clothes pants-shirts-underwear-socks by wearer. I was right back into the characters and the story line.

For the most part, I remembered to fast forward through the commercials (don’t you just love DVR technology?), but when a movie trailer came on, I watched it. It was for Joy, the movie with Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, about the woman who created the self-wringing mop. I saw the movie, and I have to say, it did not rank among my favorites.

And yet, here was an ad for the movie, and it seemed that they were planning to release it again. On Christmas Day. Did the movie really do well enough the first time for a re-release so soon?

But wait… After so long without watching TV, it didn’t take me long to cross the bridge and enter the television’s alternate reality. Remember I mentioned I am VERY behind on my TV viewing? Yep, I am watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy from LAST year!

Spiders

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I was in the shower when I spotted it, which means it must have been fairly big since I was wearing neither my glasses nor my contacts. As it moved across the ceiling at a brisk spider pace, an idea blossomed in my mind.

I finished my shower, shut off the water, and wrapped up in a towel. I grabbed my tablet and snapped a quick close-up picture of the spider. I sent the image to C, who was sitting innocently on the couch, one floor below me. “Can you come kill this for me?” I messaged, knowing the obvious answer.

“No. That’s scary,” he messaged back.

“Please?” I responded. I received no answer. I waited. By this time, the spider had moved to the far corner where it seemed to be setting up shop. I snapped another picture. In this one, the spider was far off, just a spot on the ceiling in the corner of the room. “See?” I said. “Not so scary.” Nothing. “I can’t reach it,” I lied. Still nothing. “Are you ignoring me?”

“No.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am more than capable of taking care of the spider myself. I have dealt with every spider in this house since we moved in over twelve years ago. But seeing as C is now an adult, I want to see how he will handle this. And it’s actually quite funny.

“Why aren’t you up here killing my spider?” I ask him. Since historically, it has been him asking me to kill the spiders, I am expecting him to jump at the chance to repay the favor. Not.

“I tried to send W, but he refused,” he admitted.

And there it is, friends. Passing the buck to see if someone, anyone, might take care of the spider for him.

In the end, I trapped the spider and carried it outside where it will live a much happier life than it would in my bathroom. However,  I am not sure what C is going to do when he is on his own. I just hope he knows how many babies one spider can produce. To kill the spider or not to kill the spider? Adulting can be complicated.

Veggies and Weeds #atozchallenge

Life Lessons from the Garden:

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I have spent the past several years as a gardener in my town’s Community Garden. At this time of year, I am typically planning my vegetable garden. I am acquiring seeds and making sure I have the proper fencing. I am hauling out tomato cages, and sorting through tools and row markers, loading up a bucket of supplies, and planning the layout of the garden I will grow. Not to mention fretting over how I am possibly going to fit everything into my small 10 x 20 garden plot (which is actually two plots in our community garden).

I have taken many lessons from the gardening experiences I have had throughout my life. I only hope that my children have learned one or two of these lessons as we have gardened together.

Planning: If you want to get the most out of your garden, you have to plan ahead. Vegetables are not planted haphazardly. Some require rows, some hills, and some—like tomatoes—are more individual in nature.

Patience: Once you plant the seeds, it will be a week or two before you even see the tiniest shoot of green emerge from the ground. And those shoots are just the beginning. It will be much longer before you can truly enjoy the fruits of your labor.

“Personal space” varies: Just like people, plants have different space requirements. Some plants only need to be separated from their friends by a couple of inches to grow to their potential, but others need their own little patch of space to grow up and spread out and produce the best vegetables.

Focus on the good: Nurture the plants you want in your garden. Remove the weeds, insects, and rodents that are not healthy or wanted and may even be harmful. These things can grow out of control, take over and ultimately, choke out the good stuff.

Persistence: As with any relationship, a gardener must constantly work at gardening. One day, you may spend hours in the garden weeding, and two days later, the weeds will have taken hold, once again, as the prominent greenery. Constant care and attention are required.

Things don’t always turn out the way you planned: There are so many variables that factor into a successful garden. Depending on the weather, the forces of nature, the local fauna, you may not reap what you think you have sown. One season might produce smaller than normal tomatoes. One season might produce a bumper crop of squash bugs—which means no squash/pumpkins/watermelon. But each season brings surprises. There maybe disappointments, but there will likely be pleasant surprises, as well.

Self-sufficiency: Growing a garden demands a great deal of attention, but it also demonstrates the amazing human potential to feed oneself using the resources of nature. And if your crop is big enough, you can preserve some of your harvest (by freezing or canning) for the coming winter.

Satisfaction: After a busy year of planting, watering, nurturing, weeding, and chasing vermin out of the garden, you can relish the satisfaction of having grown your own food. And there is nothing better than garden fresh veggies picked within the hour. Yes, vegetables taste just a bit better when you have grown them yourself.

This year, I will take a hiatus from my garden for a number of reasons. I will miss the daily reminders of these simple life lessons. But perhaps next year, I will choose to garden once again.

Turning the Tables #atozchallenge

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Spring has brought warm weather here in New England, and we are beginning to open windows and leave our doors ajar to let the breezes bring fresh air into the house. In our kitchen, we have a deep windowsill, and during the winter, when the windows aren’t open, things tend to collect there. Often, these items are placed there, then forgotten.

The other night, as we sat down to dinner at the table, it was warm in the kitchen despite the open front door. I surveyed the windowsill, which was cluttered with things that had not been put in their proper places.

“W, you’re going to have to clean off the windowsill so we can start opening that window,” I said, knowing that most of the time, the stuff that lands there belongs to him.

He turned and looked at the sill, most likely mentally calculating the amount of work required to complete the task. “That’s not all mine,” he determined. “J puts it there when she cleans off the table for dinner.”

“Well,” I thought for a minute. “What about those lifesavers?” I had watched him take a couple each morning on his way out the door to the bus. “What are the lifesavers doing on the windowsill?”

“Those?” he asked, pointing to the opened bag and the white candies scattered over the pile of magazines and mail. He looked me straight in the eye. “Those aren’t mine.”

I tipped my head in question. “Yes they are. You have been eating them.”

“Yeah, but they’re not mine. They’re C’s.”

With the mention of his name, C snapped to attention. “Those lifesavers are not mine!” he exclaimed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes they are,” W confirmed. “They’re the ones you took to Dad’s house.”

“Oh,” he suddenly appeared sheepish. “Is that where they went?” He looked more carefully at the windowsill.

“Those are the lifesavers you took to your father’s?” I asked.

“Yeah,” the two boys confirmed, simultaneously.

“I guess they’re mine then,” C shrugged.

“If those are the ones you took to your father’s, they’re mine,” I stated, deciding to claim them since the boys were still arguing over them. After all, I paid for them. Then again, by that standard, there wasn’t much in the house that didn’t belong to me.

“Okay, they’re yours then,” W said decisively. He paused for half a second, then turned to look at me, his eyes penetrating and his face comically stern. He took on my tone and inflection. “So Mom… what are the lifesavers doing on the windowsill?”

Wait… what?

Queen #atozchallenge

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I think it would be grand to be Queen for a day. It would be great to have someone to do my bidding: fetch my shoes, drive me around, make my meals? Oh, and do my grocery shopping! Yes, I would like to be queen for a day.

I would spend the day being waited on hand and foot, and I might even indulge in a massage. I would definitely delegate the tasks I least like to perform: laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning toilets. Yes, I would enjoy a day—just one—as queen.

Heck, I’d settle for a day on the couch, reading a non-work-related book. Did I say a day? I meant an hour!

Knives #atozchallenge

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“Hey Mom, I booby-trapped the sink!” C exclaimed as he shut the dishwasher and dried his hands. It had been his night to do the dishes.

I looked toward the sink, and saw he had placed several knives in the position in which (I will admit) I too frequently leave them. They were on the edge of the sink, half on the counter and half “in” the sink. The blades were in mid-air, pointing into the sink. I laughed.

C had commented on this habit of mine when he first started to work in the kitchen more often. “What is this, Mom?” he pointed to the knife of the moment, hovering over the  sink. I had used it to make a sandwich, and I wasn’t done with it. I still had more to do before I was ready to clean up the kitchen.

“Are you trying to kill someone? Look at this!” He pretended to slip, moving his hand too close to the knife. “I could cut off my finger just trying to wash my hands!” He was totally teasing, but logically, he was making a good point. Balancing a knife in that position, over a frequently used sink was probably not the best idea. Point taken.

But I still leave my knives on the edge of the sink. In the time it takes me to break the habit, the kids will have moved out.

Mistakes

Writing 101, Day 13: Play with word count….

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This evening, in an effort to get to bed earlier, I made the mistake of asking my children to start their own lunches for tomorrow. If they don’t have time to eat the lunches I make, they will definitely not have time to eat the lunches they made.

It was an experiment that became the mistake I am not likely to repeat….