14 years ago today we welcomed our first child and it feels like 1000 years ago and yesterday all at once. Time is elusive and crafty, bending and warping depending on perspective and hindsight. In just 4 years, my tiny chubby-cheeked baby will be a legal adult. (Seriously?!) My brain sees the little baby, the toddler I taught to throw away his own diapers, the first days of preschool, and then kindergarten. The onslaught of contradictory evidence is shoved in my face daily, (so rude!) with shadowy hairs on his upper lip, a startling ever-deepening voice, and his height. The fact that he has shot up is one of great pride for him. He loves to remind me each week musing, “Hey, we should measure me…,” with a mischievous glint in his eye, waiting for my eye roll.

Advertising his sarcasm loud and proud!

I feel breathtakingly fortunate. Not that life with middle schoolers is a cake walk – because whoa. It’s rough out there, people! When talking with other parents (I’ve seen people do this when talking about their spouse, too), so often it devolves into a vent session about dumb stuff their kids have done, or what irritates them. It’s like a contest of whose spouse/kid is the worst. Feeling out of place in those conversations, I don’t contribute when chat goes in that direction. (Even if I did feel that way about them, why would I publicly complain about them?) I don’t get it. If I met them randomly, I would actually like them. For that, I am grateful.

Pictures of babes wrapped up in baby burritos are fun to look at once in a while, but I am not a person who yearns for early days of parenting. Those long monotonous days were hard, yo. Diapers, dishes, and deployments on repeat were long, not to mention the sleep deprivation. Love the memories, glad to have been present in them, but find like with most phases of the kids’ development, I revel in where they are right now. I dig their personalities, their sarcastic senses of humor, and hearing their perspectives on what’s going on in their lives.

While not pining for some mythical ‘good ole days’, I do find the phrase, “Slow down….just a bit,” whispered more frequently lately, as a prayer to Time that insists on marching forward.


Food Rant: The No Time Myth

Disclaimer: As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” Before I get contrary comments, I’m coming out right now and saying that in terms of health and nutrition, there are situational exceptions. Not everyone has had the opportunity to learn these things, factors involving poverty, homelessness, etc. that I am not addressing here. I’m talking to the majority of us who haven’t taken the time to really be conscious of what we are feeding ourselves and our families, were taught but got lazy, or are tired of feeling like crap from eating food out of packages day in and day out.

When it comes to food and meal preparation, it’s no mystery that ours is a culture that prizes convenience. In the documentary Fresh, the quote is that Americans fear nothing but being inconvenienced. In my own experience and observations it rings true. (Even when it comes to other matters, such as a slow internet connection, or traffic lights, we get disproportionately upset by delays and frustrations.)

Here’s my theory: When it comes to food, we’ve been fed the line that “we are so busy,” that we “deserve a break today,” and that cooking from scratch is really hard, labor intensive, and time consuming. We just don’t have time to cook. I call a big fat B.S. If people really thought about it, or were taught how to cook, it wouldn’t be such a daunting task, and more importantly, we would be less apt to buy into the idea that we are just too busy. We’d know better.

Here are a couple of real world examples:

Old Fashioned Oats vs. Instant Oatmeal in a packet (with fruit flavoring, usually)

First off, tearing off the packet, pouring water in a bowl and nuking it in the microwave, takes all of 1 minute, plus 1 more minute of standing/cooling. Old Fashioned oats? They take all of 5 minutes. You’re saving a whopping 3 minutes. Seriously? Boiling water or heating milk and adding some old fashioned oats is super easy, and tastes better. Top with fresh fruit instead of fruit-like flavors made of who knows what. If you need a little sweetness, add some honey, cinnamon, or even a bit of brown sugar. It’s tasty, it fills you up with lasting energy (with no crash later), and it takes 5 minutes. Don’t tell me you don’t have 5 minutes in the morning. Drop the drive through Starbucks coffee and you have more than 5 minutes.

And if that wasn’t enough, check out the ingredients in the apple cinnamon instant oatmeal packet:

Oatmeal Ingredients

First off, sugar is the second ingredient! (the higher up on the list an ingredient is, the more of it there is in the package). Creaming agent? What the heck? Gross! Partially hydrogenated anything – you don’t want! Partially hydrogenated=trans fats. And you’ll notice they put a little note at the bottom that says it adds “an insignificant amount of trans fats”. These man-made chemical nasties in any amount are not good. Peach flavor? I thought this was supposed to be apples and cinnamon. Bottom line: if they aren’t ingredients you wouldn’t cook with in your own kitchen, chances are they aren’t that great for you. Put ’em back and grab the old fashioned oats. They’re better for you, they’re customizable, and no nasty ingredients!

Macaroni and Cheese – the blue box vs. homemade

Boil water, cook the noodles, add orange powder, a bit of milk and some butter. Stir. Boiling water takes a few minutes. (If you’re really cool and have a high-tech stove, it can be as little as 90 seconds!) Start with hot tap water and it takes less time. But making homemade mac and cheese takes THE EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF TIME. You aren’t saving any time by buying the blue box. And in fact, based on these crap ingredients, are losing big time in terms of health:


That list is HUGE! What is interesting is that currently, Kraft uses dyes (yellow 5 and 6) that have been shown to cause behavior issues with kids. (What’s shocking is that our kids aren’t glowing after eating the stuff! It’s nearly neon!) This stuff is really bad news. The same stuff sold in the U.K., not so much. Why? Why don’t we care about what we eat? Want to know how to make homemade macaroni and cheese? It’s easy! Boil the water, add noodles (buy whatever shape you like!), cook and drain. To the warm pot, add 1-2 tbls of butter, 1/4-1/2 cup of milk, shredded cheddar cheese and the drained noodles. Stir! Yum! Easy! (If you want go for the gold, you can even pop it in the oven for 5 minutes on 400 or broil with a little shredded cheese on top and panko bread crumbs for crunch!) Add in some diced lean ham or turkey and some broccoli for a complete meal. It’s really just not that hard!

Many convenience foods are like this. You can make them yourself at home, for about the same amount of time, but more nutritious and without ingredient lists that read like a chemistry text book. This doesn’t just apply to stay at home parents. Growing up, I know I was fortunate to have parents who cooked at home nearly every night. But you know what? They both worked full time. (For many years, they both worked multiple jobs, but still managed to put a meal together.) Again, it’s not just for the stay at home parents. Eating real food can be done. Don’t buy the lie that we are all just too busy. If we are too busy to eat – we’re too dang busy! Feeding ourselves is a life skill. We have to eat to survive!

 In my research, I came across a yahoo question from what I can only assume was young person (early teens, I’m guessing) preparing a meal for a 6 year old sibling. The question was, “How do I make oatmeal?” I’m not sure what I was more shocked at, the fact that he or she was unable to read the directions (again, I’m assuming this was a teenager), or the fact that he or she hasn’t been taught how to cook. Even if I hadn’t been taught how to cook at home, which I was, I learned quite a bit in my home economics class in school as well. How are we not teaching people to feed themselves? Am I alone in thinking this is crazy?! Most of us eat everyday, how do we not know how to prepare it for ourselves? It starts with us as parents. We need to teach our kids how to cook. We do them no favors by doing everything for them, or buying it out of a box or a drive through window. 



Daily Prompt: For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?

Ah, if only this could be true. I find when I look at my kids I’m seeing a glimpse of just how fast time is going. Everyone says the trite “Enjoy your kids, because it goes so fast. Enjoy every moment.” Wistful yearnings for time to slow down just a bit, just to savor the people you love and the little people who grow much too fast into big ones.

Honestly, I don’t enjoy every moment. I don’t enjoy the meltdowns, the fighting, the gut wrenching doctor appointments. I definitely didn’t enjoy potty training, until they figured it out. Once they figured it out – it was great to celebrate it…but going through it – blegh. Definitely not enjoyable. I didn’t enjoy not sleeping. (And lest anyone mistakenly think my kids are blissful sleepers, think again. We still play musical beds many nights, but as long as we all get rest, I don’t really care about “rules” and rigidly making them stay in their bed. They aren’t going to want to snuggle with us in a few short years so I savor those snuggles while I can get them.) And that’s what coffee is for, right?!

If time could stand still today, I would do what I do most days – and just take a second to appreciate my kids. The moment fades and they do something to tick each other off and the spell is broken. I would love for that spell to last just a bit longer. To really take in who they are becoming as people. To revel in their personalities, laugh at their jokes, and just be silly with them without losing myself in my mind mentally checking off a to-do list or calculating just how much time we have left until we have to move on to the next thing.

Lately I’ve been feeling the frenetic pace of how we live…the go-go-go-ness. It’s wearing on me. After the kids went to bed the other night, my husband and I watched TV, but both of us had our phones nearby to fiddle with during commercials. It’s like we forgot how to do just one thing. It’s multitasking on crack. Getting into our fall/preschool/football officiating/writing/studying schedule has been a little bumpy. I could use some stillness. I think the kids could use some, too.


WonderFull Wednesday: Down Time

No, I didn’t say Downton. Although I am very thankful (and obsessed) with that too! If you haven’t caught Downton Abbey yet, you simply must! It’s such great brain candy!

What I am thankful for is down time. Every evening when the minions are tucked in bed, I get to just breathe.Photo on 2-26-13 at 11.14 PM #2

I sit with my cup of tea and just relax, think about the day, write, plan for tomorrow, read, or simply go to sleep. I love this time of day. It’s all mine to do with whatever I please. I savor this time. I relish it. And I get a bit cranky when I don’t get it!

Thank you down time for the quiet and the recharge in my day. I couldn’t do what I do without you!

What do you do with your “off time”?

Amputation Part III

Well, I did it…..I cut off the cable.

This decision has been something that has been brewing for a few years. In fact, some 5 or 6 years ago, Eric and I started discussing our television viewing habits. We started small by removing the television from our bedroom. It wasn’t like we felt we were “bad” or that we think that television is “evil” or whatever. This isn’t a judgement thing. Just an “our” thing.

We noticed that with the television in our bedroom, more often than not, one or both of us were falling asleep to a show or the news. We would watch our favorites, but then find ourselves not talking to each other. This is not to say that we were in a bad place in our marriage, or that we weren’t communicating. It just seemed like a bedroom should be a place to rest, have peace, and have the ability to lock the world out. The world will still be waiting when we walk out the door tomorrow. So we did.

And I think I can speak for the both of us when I say we really haven’t missed it. What we discovered is that those evening conversations (especially since having kids) are some of the best moments of our day as we relate funny things the kids have done, highlights from our days, and just some time to have a conversation without the kids – even if they are the topic! The other thing we discovered was that we slept much better. (Many studies actually support this.)

I have lived without cable before I was married and didn’t really miss it. We have had cable all 13 years we have been married. I do love television. I LOVE a great movie, a funny show – and for those of you that know me well, I can still quote lines (entire scenes) from the sitcom, “Friends”. I grew up with The Cosby’s. I remember when we got our first VCR and as a family watched All My Children FOR YEARS! As a teen, I had a television in my room – AND LOVED IT! I would watch In Living Color and Saturday Night Live each week. As a couple we have loved shows like CSI, Law and Order, and The Office. But after becoming parents, something shifted. It’s hard to watch some shows for various reasons when little eyes and ears are becoming more and more aware.

There is a part of me that will definitely miss it.  This may very well be a temporary amputation….my husband is on deployment. He has promised to “discuss” it when he returns. He has had ESPN forever and I think that is what has held him back from making this amputation sooner. There are also other options, like Netflix, Hulu, and others that may be good alternatives (which will most likely be much cheaper.)

My main reason for the final cut is time. While Eric is deployed, I find I’m spending my alone time in the evenings watching various shows that I’ve recorded. It’s enjoyable, and it passes the time. But really, do I need to watch 2-3 hours of television a day? Not really. Is it doing me any good? Not really. Are there other things I could be doing? Of course. And while I did attempt to quit Facebook (numerous times, don’t laugh – it sucks me back every. single. time.) and even attempted to amputate my iPhone! I feel like this little experiment is a step in that same direction (even though the iPhone experiment didn’t go as I’d planned – I was able to cut out a lot of the time I was wasting on it.)

In addition, with Eric gone, I find I am relying too much on the television for the kiddos. Yes, Jake likes cartoons. Hannah loves them also. But do they really need to watch so much of them? Of course not. I have a feeling there are going to be moments (hours, days, weeks) that I’m going to feel like this wasn’t such a great idea, but over the long haul, I think the kids and I both will be better off. Not to mention not watching all the ads. Jake has just recently become very aware of commercials directed toward kids…”I want that Mama!” “Oooh! Can we go buy that?!” Yeah, I don’t need any “help” in that area!

So I did it. Today I cut off the cable. I have a feeling that after a while I’m not going to miss it. And I’m probably going to get a lot more done!

Have you ever considered cutting out cable, Internet or cell phone use? Were you successful? Other thoughts?

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