First Day Unemployed

Get up at reasonable time then decide yoga (gentle) is excellent course of action for first day unemployed.

Look in mirror – face already breaking out with rash due to stress. Take 50 mg zinc plus regular vitamin. Realize family might have to live on 300 tablet bottle of vitamins if things get tough.

Eat waffle with syrup. Realize no more maple syrup and back to $1.89 bottle of generic Albertson’s brand from now on.

Push reluctant kids into car after arguing about how 7-year-old cannot take DS to school/camp.

Start car….hmmm…making funny sound. Car is vibrating and rumbling. Can’t be good. Brilliant idea…check oil. Check it…a little low. Add quart of oil. Looks good. Start car. Now “Check Engine” light is on. Bugger. Check manual for indicator light ‘meanings’. Irritated it is 8 AM and it is already 100 degrees. Wish manual had Google search! Find needed info in manual…light not blinking = ok to drive, just go slow.

We are off to school. Drop off kids uneventfully. Arrive at health club for yoga. Have wait time! Call car dealer – opening tomorrow 8:30 AM. Yeah, car will be fixed.

Yoga, very nice. Relaxing. Still thinking of list of things to do. Not dwelling on ‘why me’! Way to busy!

Stop at store to buy external drive for computer – $79 for 320 GB. Wow! Actually feeling high-tech now!

Start car…hmmm…”Check Engine” light is off. Car fixed self. Realized no time for car doctor visit.

Doorbell rings…..release papers to sign. Delay reading for a few minutes. Already know what it says.

Phone rings. Coworker (sorry, ex-coworker). Yes, e-mail still works. No one knows why e-mail still working. Forward needed info to ex-coworker. Why sending when no longer working? Want to be good friend. If was non-friend would not have answered phone! Glad had good friends at work!

Check Linked In. More good friends! Recommendations are rolling in. Amazed! Can’t believe overwhelming support!

Time for haircut! Darn, no time for lunch. Not hungry, plus way too busy. Beautiful color and professional coiffed hair! Who wouldn’t want to hire me now?

Rush off to pick up kids. Four-year-old wearing different dress than when dropped off in morning. “Got dress dirty” she says. Borrowed dress from friend because she didn’t have any extra clothes at school. Bad mommy. She has to leave in only skirt, no shirt. Glad she has skirt at least!

Get to parking lot. Phone ringing! Another ex-coworker. Yes, yes, can’t believe they let me go. What? You will write recommendation! Great!

Pick up 7-year-old. Where is he? No one seems to know. Suddenly see him. He is holding DS!! Hmmm…must have snuck it to school. Punishment: 1 week – no DS!

Arrive home. Add note to DS with date of when available. Place on refrigerator for safe keeping.

Paige takes cold macaroni from refrigerator. Eats directly from container then puts self to bed. Meanwhile make pasta with brocolli and salad – all leftovers! Amazing feat…also healthy meal! Husband says, “Great dinner. You must have gone shopping today.” If he only knew how busy I was – no time for shopping!

Can you believe it? I survived day 1 of unemployment. What will happen tomorrow?

Kids Fighting in the Car…ARGH!

Why is it that kids have to fight and get loud in the back seat of the car, just when you need it the quietest? I was driving through the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado with a 7-year-old and 4-year-old in the back seat. Although the view was beautiful, what was happening in the back seat of the car, was not. The kids were poking each other and giggling. The giggling was fine, but then water bottles and other objects were being hurled across the back seat until items eventually hit the front windshield and landed on the dashboard.

I realized that firm words and tones were not having the intended effect. All I got was more giggling and more mayhem in the back seat. Finally I pulled the car over to make my point and I screamed in the faces of the kids like a Marine Drill Sargent. I actually think the Drill Sargent would have been less scary and intimidating than I was at that particular moment. Surely I lost my mind for a minute, but don’t most parents have those embarrassing moments where the kids have driven you to complete insanity because they were not listening to a word you said? Then again, I have work colleagues and a spouse that act the same way and I don’t scream at them.

I don’t know exactly what to call what those kids were doing in the back seat. “Backseat Boogie” maybe? It was just annoying, frustrating and pure insanity. At least it drove ME to insanity. The reason it made me so crazy, was because I was driving on the edge of a windy mountain road with little margin for error. I was worried that if I drove a few inches off the road, the car would plummet down the mountain. We would probably take out some elk feeding on the hill as well during our free fall. At least that would have put me out of my misery of having to listen to the little monsters fighting in the back.

Why do I get so angry with the kids? Why can kids make you so angry? Is it anger with yourself because you have created your own hell? Is their behavior your own punishment for your past bad deeds (meaning what you did as a child?). Maybe it is just a stage the kids are in that makes them behave this way. I have to ask – will this stage last until they are 18? Maybe like any relationship there are days you are happy and days you are in not. Since then I have tried to be more relaxed and not get upset with the kids. One thing is for sure, the kids quieted down after my tirade, so I had some impact on their behavior. Something tells me that after enough miles, they will be back at the fighting. They are just kids after all.

Ladybugs…not just the solution for aphids

The kids found a ladybug in the yard today and spent the afternoon entertaining it. They let it walk up their arms, crawl from hand to hand and built a rock playground for it. I can’t imagine how the ladybug survived (entertainment-wise) before it met two kids to occupy it.

What is funny is that I was sitting here trying to think of things to do to entertain the kids today. Where could I take them? How was I going to keep them occupied for the afternoon? For some reason it seems like if we stay in (or around) the house too long the kids go crazy. They get cabin fever. They fight and fight and they can’t seem to get along. Usually my options (to keep them out of trouble) are to go outside (go for a walk, play at the playground) or to someplace inside (the library, bounce house, or a toy store).

Today I discovered a new solution to my child entertainment problem and it is called the ladybug. What was great was that the ladybug was free of cost and provided hours of fun. Even a 993 piece Lego set could not surpass the value I got from this ladybug. One challenge was that there was only one ladybug for two kids, and obviously they don’t want to share anything. My other fear was that the ladybug would die or it would get lost. Unfortunately, the poor ladybug did succumb to a tragic case of ‘too much attention’ or maybe it was suffocation in my 4-year-old’s daughter’s sweaty hand. Oddly she didn’t even notice, because she thought it was sleeping.

I decided that next time I go to the garden store I need to pick up some ladybugs (not just one, maybe hundreds). The ladybugs aren’t only good for my garden aphid problem, but will save me from having to cart the kids from place to place to prevent war from breaking out in my living room or in the back seat of my car. The kids will be able to each have their own ladybug to entertain so I can entertain myself with a glass of wine and a good book.

Your Brunch is Ready

Today was Mother’s Day and I was awoken by an aroma that wafted into the bedroom. The smell reminded me of my favorite breakfast restaurant. Next, there in my bedroom was Tucker declaring, “Your brunch is ready!”. ‘Daddy’ and Paige stood behind silently with huge grins across their faces. My eyes could barely open beyond slits, but I could see the enormous smiles. Apparently they were very proud of the brunch they were about to serve me.

I peeled myself out of bed and took a look in the mirror to make sure my hair didn’t look too scary. I followed the kids and ‘daddy’ into the kitchen to see a perfect place-setting just for me. A glass of juice with ice, a cup of coffee, a brunch menu, and a perfectly folded napkin. The napkin could only be the work of Tucker, ‘master place setter’. Surrounding my place setting were cards – mostly handmade from the kids. They were wonderful. The interpretations the kids had of how ‘mommy’ looked was amazing. I never knew my arms came out of my ears like that? Or that my lips were quite that red! At least it seemed as if they liked me (and my looks) enough to make me this nice breakfast and beautiful cards.

After perusing the cards, including one store-bought card from ‘daddy’, everyone got hugs and kisses from ‘mommy’. Maybe this had been their plan all along – bribe me put me in good mood so they could get extra hugs and kisses today. Either way, I think we all came out winners. Next what was placed in front of me was a beautiful egg and cheese omelet and toast with strawberry jam. It was delicious. I was wondering if it tasted so good because I didn’t have to cook it or because ‘daddy’ really was a better cook than me. It is nice to know your family cares about you, especially on Mother’s day. I can only hope the kids are this nice to me for the rest of the day. I can hope can’t I?

Are you joking?

“Someone hurt me at school today”, said my 4-year-old at the dinner table the other night. This seems to be a regular occurrence at school, so I didn’t think much of it. She is constantly telling me who IS and who ISN’T her friend. The status of Paige’s ‘friends’ can change as quickly as New England weather, so it is impossible to stay current. I can’t tell you how many times she has said to me,”You aren’t my friend anymore”, and then proceeded to frown as she shrugged her shoulders up toward her ears. If she does this to me, I can only imagine how she reacts to her playmates.

Finally, I decided I should ask her about the perpetrator of the ‘hurt’. “Who hurt you?”, I asked. At this point I was expecting to hear Paige describe what her friend (or now non-friends) had done to her during the day. Paige finally replied to my question very matter-of-factly, “I hurt myself. I tripped and fell.” Huh? Was that a joke? I don’t think she even knew it was a joke because she said it so seriously. I laughed because it sounded so funny. She thought I was laughing at her (which I guess I was in an odd sort of way). She was a bit sad that I was laughing at her, but I still laughed nonetheless. How could I not?

I anticipate that Paige will return to school on Monday declaring that, “My mommy laughed at me, she isn’t my friend any more.” Oh well, sometimes you just can’t be a perfect parent because I laughed at an unintended joke. I think sometimes the unintended jokes can be the funniest, even if Paige didn’t agree with me.

Toxic Aroma

The whole family was sitting together on the sofa looking at some old photos and movies clips of the kids when they were babies. Daddy (Chris) kept asking,”What is that smell?”, and, “Who farted?”. Apparently the odor that was passing by his nose was not good. Not good at all! I was on the other end of the sofa, so I couldn’t smell a thing. (I actually thought he was imagining things.) Finally Chris realized the origin of the odor, our 4-year-old daughter’s feet. “It is her feet!”, he exclaimed. It seemed that this stench was so terrible that it couldn’t even come from a men’s locker room, never mind our dainty daughter’s feet.

Unfortunately, I am the guilty party here regarding the smelly feet. It isn’t because I let Paige wear shoes without socks today, but instead because I have passed on to her the ‘stinky-feet’ gene. For years this gene has been a real problem for me. So many times I have found myself scrubbing my feet with anti-bacterial soap in an attempt to wash away the smell. If you can call it a smell. A smell can sound nice, like roses ‘smell’. “What a beautiful smell!”, someone might say as they walk by an aromatic rose-bush. What I ‘sensed’ through my nose now, was anything but beautiful.

Realizing that Chris is suffering from the odor of Paige’s feet caused by my faulty gene, I take Paige into the bathroom and scrub her feet clean. How sad is it that Paige already knows the routine for ‘cleaning her feet’? An overall bath, sure, but how many kids run a bath for their stinky feet?

I return to sit on the sofa with Paige and her feet (that now smell like flowers) and suddenly I am overcome (actually my nose is overcome) with another vile odor. It isn’t my feet (I don’t think?). Then I notice my son Tucker and his feet that are actually covered in socks. Too bad the socks didn’t cover the odor like they did with his feet. Now the harsh reality hits me that he also has the ‘stinky-feet’ gene. Chris promptly instructs Tucker to enter the bathroom for his feet fumigation. Tucker removes his socks and Chris says, “Your feet have a toxic aroma. Let’s take care of that.”

I never heard anyone say ‘toxic’ and ‘aroma’ in the same sentence. Aroma is what you experience when you enter someone’s house after they baked cookies or burned a vanilla candle. It is too bad the ‘aroma’ of my children’s feet wasn’t more like the baked cookies, but you just have to deal with the genes you are given. I am just thankful that I live in a time and place where water and soap are plentiful (along with scented bubble bath) and I don’t always have to suffer from breathing air with a toxic aroma.

Baby Cactus and Children…Hands Off!

I am sitting outside on the patio enjoying the warmth of the morning Arizona sun. For some reason the morning sun is warm vs. the afternoon sun which is scorching. I stare at the cactus sitting in front of me. It is so small and fragile. Just a tiny seedling found in the yard, now in its safe home in a miniature pot. I just watered it, although I wondered if that was even necessary. I mean it is a cactus? How much watering does it need?

The water absorbed into the soil, but I can see a few tiny water droplets clinging to the smooth surface of the cactus (not the spines!). The sun is shining on the cactus in such a way that it glistens. It makes me think of a child being nurtured and protected by a parent. The plant is glistening, shining and is so beautiful. I don’t want to do anything to interfere with its inherent beauty in its natural state.

Our children have that inherent beauty too, so why can’t we just let them be. See the beauty, enjoy the moment, and savor it, instead of stepping in and thinking we can fix them or make them better. What children (and plants) need sometimes is just to be admired for who or what they are. They really can be amazing and grow without us.

A new form of meditation: The Oreo cookie

As Paige was eating an Oreo cookie after dinner tonight, she closed her eyes as she savored the taste of the cookie. For a moment it looked like she was meditating. I wondered if it was possible for an Oreo to trigger a meditative state. Seeing her like that made me think about how I feel when I am hiking or even writing. If it was possible that she could meditate eating an Oreo cookie, how many other ways was it possible to meditate?

Yesterday was Sunday, my day to refresh and clear my mind. No, I didn’t go to church, but I do have a place for my own form of prayer as it were. On a Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon I love to head out with the family for a hike (assuming Tucker has not hidden at the neighbor’s house to avoid the hike). Also hiking is seasonal even in Arizona. For some reason I can’t get excited about heading out on a hike at 2 in the afternoon when it is 118 degrees. Maybe if it was only 102, just not 118. I had been waiting weeks for the opportunity to hike (when it wasn’t pouring down rain) and my body was feeling like it had been ‘missing out’ on something these last few weeks. Was it possible that meditation was what my body was missing?

There is something ritualistic about strapping on hiking boots with leather that has been scratched with wear and are so covered with dirt that it is impossible to see the original color of the boots. Boots should be well broken in, and mine certainly were – even for this relatively short hike. For those who know me as a bit of a tomboy, they would be surprised to know that I wear a skirt to hike in Arizona. REI really knows their stuff, so if they sell a quick-dry, brown skirt with numerous pockets, I feel obligated to hike in it. I realize I live in Arizona (and the heat doesn’t require it) but I still wear wool hiking socks. Either I am too cheap or too lazy to buy new ones, but I patiently wait for them to wear out so I can purchase new ones.

Hiking with two kids can be a challenge. The amount of water and snacks required to keep them happy on the journey seems to add up to the same weight as my college engineering books (combined). This is a lot more than I enjoy carrying; however, I have learned from experience that either I carry all the ‘stuff’ or listen to whining and complaining for the full length of the hike. Yesterday’s hike was planned to be over 3 miles, so 3 hours of whining? or a real ‘workout’ from carrying the extra weight? I chose the weight. I guess another option would be earplugs, but that would just defeat the purpose of relaxing to the sounds of nature.

On the hike yesterday I wandered along the narrow and winding path, with Paige shuffling along in front of me, and I felt like I was in another world. It was quiet. The ground was covered in a green carpet rarely seen in Arizona. The wildflowers were amazing. Poppies were a beautiful orange-yellow and everywhere you could find these teeny tiny flowers. I had escaped my busy life and my blackberry for a few hours and all I could focus on was the scenery (and of course keeping the kids moving along and nourished). For me, hiking is so much like meditating because the mind seems to be ‘free’ to finally relax and escape the over-stimulation of daily life. Writing actually has a similar effect on me. I am not sure why, but something happens during both of these activities that is so similar, yet so different.

Whether you go for a hike, sit on your patio to listen to the birds chirp, go to your local church for a sermon, or you have some other tradition you like to do on Sundays (or any other day for that matter) you should savor this meditation time. With the overflow of text messages, e-mails, and mental demands it is nice to escape that for a while. I am looking forward to trying a new form of meditation soon…over an Oreo cookie. I think Paige has something there.

The perfect shoes?

My 4-year-old daughter Paige spent 15 minutes this morning counting her shoes and figuring out which one was the ‘right pair’.  Why is it that she has to spend more time choosing shoes to wear than I do? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I work from home, so no one really sees me all day. Why put on fancy shoes? Flip flops will surely do. Won’t they? I guess if I have to leave the house I might put on a clog, a sneaker or a boot.  

What concerns me more than just her shoe fetish is Paige’s interest in clothes…dresses, jackets, and…jewelry? Yesterday as she was getting ready for school I asked her to put on her pants, but Paige informed me, “They are not pants mommy, they are leggings!”. Good grief, I was wearing leggings more than 20 years ago and I know what they are, however in my mind they are still pants! They cover your legs don’t they? I realized she is much more particular about her clothes than I am, even if she wears stripes and prints together.

Don’t get me started on the layering!  We live in Arizona, so why does she need so many layers? She puts on a long sleeve shirt, then she puts on a short sleeve dress over it. After that her precious leggings before she puts on a skort (you know, the skirt with the shorts included). The dress covers the skort, so I don’t know why she needs it but she definitely ‘needs it’ because she fights me if I say she doesn’t. Time to go to school now, so she must choose an appropriate jacket.”No not that one!, the Hello Kitty one!” she yells. As usual the Hello Kitty sweatshirt is stuck in the laundry so she has to settle for something else that doesn’t match either. Yes, although she is picky about the clothes, it is not clear she can see color very well. 

Paige loves color and not just pink and purple. Pick out the wildest patterned shirt and pants, then put them together. Isn’t that what everyone does?  The wild mixes are Paige’s ‘normal’ outfit and style. Every day I take her to school the teachers look at her and say, “Paige, what a ‘pretty’ outfit.” Outfit? If you didn’t know better, you would have sworn she was homeless based on her unmatched ensembles.

Well, at least she made it to school fully clothed and will certainly receive comments about her ‘outfit’ from the other moms as they drop off their kids. I like to think that if nothing else, Paige helps to provide a daily comic relief and something to look forward to. What will she wear today? Fortunately for today, she is already dressed. Tomorrow will be yet another opportunity for the creation of another bizarre outfit.