Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What I Learned This Week #9

I'm late to the "What I Learned This Week" carnival over at Musings of a Housewife--but who am I kidding, I usually don't post until the sacred hour of Mr. Blue's naptime. This week, I learned a lot about my feeeeeelings.
  • I learned that PMS hormones make any situation worse. If things are good, PMS makes me find something to get upset about it. If things aren't great, here come the Feelings of Impending Doom: oh my God we're all gonna DIIIIEEEE...
  • I learned that for me, the best thing to do when I'm feeling like that is to go talk cry to God because my heavenly Father has all the time in the world to listen to me.
  • I learned that three-year-old boys don't notice when Mama cries. This is new to me since Miss Pink always has been very in tune with my emotions.
  • I learned that counting your blessings really does help.
  • I learned that hugs, kisses, and lots of snuggling from my kids makes me a happy woman.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good Timing

The last couple of days haven't been the easiest for me. The whole thing with my new car happened, but mostly I've been stressed because like almost everyone else, we're being affected by the dismal economy. Justin has work, thank goodness, but we've been waiting to get paid for several paychecks now, and it's been getting to me.

I spent some time in prayer before I went to get Miss Pink today. Basically, I said, "I'm sorry my faith isn't stronger. Please help me. I want to believe you are with me and that things will work out."

And when I got in the car, this song was just starting.

I REALLY needed to hear that. If you needed to hear that too, I'll pray for you (and please pray--or send good thoughts--for me, too).

On Monday, Miss Pink's class had an awards ceremony. Well, "ceremony" is a little too grand of a term, but every nine weeks the school has an assembly and passes out ribbons for no tardies and perfect attendance. Also, every teacher awards five rubber bracelets that correspond to the character traits the school promotes.

Miss Pink got a bracelet for the first two awards days, but there are 20 kids in her class and only 20 bracelets total given out for the year, so I was pretty sure she wouldn't be getting one this time because we all know elementary teachers try to give everyone a turn. I tried not to be discouraging, but when she kept saying she was hoping to win the Effort bracelet, I gently pointed out that it was possible she might not get a bracelet.

"But I MIGHT!" she told me confidently.

Yes, I agreed, she might. But it was okay if she didn't, too, because we know she is trying her hardest and doing a great job at school--her report card even said so. But it might be someone else's turn to win.

And then I wondered if I wasn't programming her to be a pessimist. Like telling your space-obsessed kid that it's very unlikely that she'll be an astronaut when she grows up. I mean, there's plenty of time for life to teach them about disappointment, right?

As it turned out, I was glad I had prepared her, because she didn't win one. And she was okay with it. One of her classmates was mad, she said. "I still am a little disappointed, though," my daughter told me.

I told her it was okay to be disappointed. Then I told her about one of my early experiences with awards.

I was six years old and had just finished the second grade. (I was almost seven, but still a year ahead because I skipped kindergarten.) Our private school had an Awards Banquet at the end of the year, and we got actual trophies (my lucky mom, figuring out where to store all those gold-painted plastic people on pillars). The year before, when I was in first grade, I had gotten a LOT of trophies. That's because the work was so easy for me--I finished a lot of work, and had a high average. But the next year, my best friend Leann (a frequent commenter here) was in first grade while I had gone on to second grade work, which was more challenging for me. She got all the trophies that year, and I fell apart. At one point, I was UNDER the banquet table, crying under the tablecloth because I wasn't the big winner.

My parents were very kind, considering they must have been mortified. I don't remember what they said to me afterward, but I have never forgotten that night. And I don't want Miss Pink to be a poor loser; but more importantly, I don't want her to judge her self-worth based on the awards, accolades, and plain old garden-variety praise that one can receive in school. I did that for a long time. To the point that I was afraid to take college honors classes in case they were too hard for me, and afraid to get a less-than-perfect grade because...well, I didn't know what would happen if I didn't get an A, but I didn't want to find out.

I was addicted to praise and approval--mostly from adults, but there was a grudging respect from my peers, too. As long as I was succeeding in school, I felt I had an identity, that I earned my place on this earth. The good grades did help me get jobs and go to graduate school, so I hope both of my children study hard and do their best. But I also hope they understand something I've learned in the years since I left school:

In real life, there are very few awards ceremonies.

Oh, you might get a raise or a gold watch when you retire. Nothing's wrong with that, but there are people who chase success at all costs, only to find themselves empty when the job plays out. And parenting--can you think of another job which requires you to do so much with so few obvious rewards?

Staying home with my first child was a major shift in self-perception for me. Who was I, now that I wasn't working full-time or going to school? I missed getting a grade or some verbal feedback to let me know how I was doing.

Of course, in the years since then, I have had plenty of days when I was grateful I wasn't being graded, because I would have gotten a big red F. I've learned that what matters is trying your best, even when your best isn't enough to keep you from falling flat on your face, then getting up again. That's what makes a winner, not collecting awards. You have to know inside that you're doing the right thing and that's always worth the effort.

And I hope I am helping Miss Pink to understand that, approximately 26 years earlier than I learned it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some Days It's Just Not Worth Gnawing Through the Leather Straps

That's a quote I remember from somewhere. I shouldn't have left the house today.

Because as I arrived at a park to meet our playgroup, I parked my NEW CAR beside this stone retaining wall--a little too close. The bottom right part of MY BRAND NEW CAR is scraped.

This is not the first time this has happened. Oh, no, not even close to being the first time. There was the time in college when I hit one brick mailbox head-on--then a few months later, backed into a different one. The time at Target, a couple of years ago, that I pulled forward into an empty parking space, forgetting about the concrete base of the light pole sticking out in my path. And there have been various encounters with the posts near gas pumps.

My husband even said as we signed the papers, "Maybe now that you're in a smaller car, you won't scrape any posts."

Well, it wasn't a POST. Sigh.

You'd think I could wait until the INK was DRY on the lease papers. Our down payment hasn't even gone through yet.

As one of my friends said (and she said it sympathetically, not in a just-get-over-it way), "That's when you have to remind yourself that earthly things will pass away."

It's just a car. We are going to see if touch-up paint will take care of it.

But still. I would give up 10 I.Q. points to guarantee that I would never do this again.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What I Learned This Week #8

This week, I learned that things can happen quickly.

On Saturday, Justin decided to go to the dealership where we leased the vehicle I drive. It's an Acura MDX--a silver SUV with the capability to seat seven people. Do you want to know how many times we have actually had seven people in it? Twice. The lease will be up in two months, and I had been telling Justin that we didn't have to have an SUV again because we don't carpool or haul entire soccer teams around. Whatever was the best deal: that's my motto. And I knew a car would be cheaper, no matter what.

So Justin decided to find out what kind of deal we could get if we turned in the old(er) vehicle and leased a new one. Leasing isn't a bad deal for us because I don't put too many miles on a car. If we couldn't find one in our price range, we'd buy a used car elsewhere.

Of course, in this economy, the salesman really wanted to "help" us get a car. Justin first looked at a sedan and brought it home for me to drive. But it was more than we wanted to pay, even after negotiating. Not much more--but I knew that we needed to stay within our current budget if for no other reason than we needed to be smart shoppers and not just agree to anything that came our way. I didn't want to give up the meal out or clothes I'd be able to buy, if we paid that money out every month. Justin agreed with me. We brought the car back and told the salesman that we wanted to explore our options.

Then Justin suggested that I look at a slightly smaller car--the TSX. It's still a four-door, five-seater, just a little smaller. We had the kids sit in it to determine if there would be room and it was fine. The payments are less than we're making now and it will never be out of warranty for the three years we will be leasing it. We feel really good about it and I am having fun zipping around in a smaller vehicle. We signed the papers that night and the decision I've been mulling over for six months was a done deal.

Here's what it looks like.

I was spoiled to the Acura I had, so I'm glad I get to enjoy the same amenities. (It's terrible how addicted I am to the heated seats during the winter.) Plus since 3 1/2 years have passed since I had a new car, I also now have a USB port I can plug my iPod into! AND it gets much better gas mileage--21 to 36 miles per gallon.

The kids like the new car. Miss Pink calls it "volcano red." On the way home from the dealer, we turned up "Hurts So Good" and rocked out. Today Mr. Blue requested that I open the sunroof and turn up "rock and roll" good and loud. I was happy to comply.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Missed Connection

For this week's question, boys and girls, I'm going to tell you a story!

(Here is where I imagine you saying "YAY!")

The question is: If you could have dated one person that you knew in your lifetime (but didn't) who would you select?*

*The original question said "If you could have seduced one person..." but I changed it because that's not how I roll. You can answer it however you want to!

I'm going to write about B., who was probably my closest Near Miss--we almost went out together but then didn't. I don’t remember how we met, exactly—we went to private schools over an hour apart, so we didn’t see each other often. Our schools sometimes played basketball against each other, and both of us attended the state and national competitions for the organization our schools belonged to. I think we met because his sister E. and my friend Kim became friends. B., E., and their three siblings were all good-looking, athletic, nice, and popular. You would envy them if you didn’t know that their parents had died violently (their father was murdered and their mother committed suicide) and that they were being raised by friends of the family. Still, the five of them seemed to be doing well.

A tall, lanky boy blessed with natural grace on the basketball court, B. was also a good student and a musician who played guitar and piano. He was the guy who could play the piano in the dorm while people clustered around to listen to him. I always did want to lean on the piano and know a guy was playing for me, but I didn't flatter myself in this case. Once when we were talking about our plans for the future, I asked him if he wanted to become a professional musician. “I don’t know what I’ll do for a living,” he said, “but I’ll always do music because it’s who I am.” At the time I felt the same way about writing, so it was nice to feel that someone understood. I still write (just not necessarily the way I thought I would) and now I wonder what path B. took with his music.

We were comfortable together. There wasn’t much sexual tension there, but looking back, I think there might have been a little bit just because we were a teenage guy and girl. We had never talked on the phone, but one day he called me and asked me if I wanted to come to a lock-in his youth group was having. I would know some of the people there, including his sisters, and Kim could come with me. I was excited, suddenly seeing B. as a real possibility. I was a big believer in the “Some Enchanted Evening” idea of romance, when all at once your eyes would meet the guy’s and you would know. So maybe if the stars aligned, this would be the night and he might be The One. I knew it wasn’t a date, exactly, but we would be up all night and who knew what would happen before the sun rose.

My mom took me shopping for a new outfit and I sprayed my Big Hair as high as I could get it. I felt super cute in my hot pink tee shirt with the sleeves rolled up, rayon walking shorts with tiny black stripes, and hot pink socks scrunched down with my black Keds. I probably had a hot pink scrunchie in my hair, too. B. paid me a compliment when he welcomed me: “You look really good,” he said. Since he’d never mentioned my appearance before, I was sure that he was interested in seeing if we could make a connection that night.

Except…it didn’t happen. He disappeared and I knew better than to go looking for him. Later, while Kim and I were going through the pizza buffet, B’s sisters came over and said they were so disgusted that B’s ex-girlfriend had showed up and was monopolizing him. They apologized to me (I told you they were nice) and I got the impression that the whole evening had been their idea. I could imagine them saying, “You need to go out with someone now that you’re broken up with your ex-girlfriend. What about Alison? Y’all seem to get along.” And that he’d agreed to call me, but apparently was still invested enough in this girl that he couldn’t—or wouldn’t—tell her to leave him alone. I never spoke to him for the rest of the evening. And once he graduated that spring, I never saw him again.

Amazingly, it didn’t crush my spirits. I say “amazingly” because usually when I liked a guy, I worked it up in my mind to be a Great Romance that Shakespeare would have written about, if he’d only been alive in my lifetime. Every time it didn’t work out (often because the object of my affection didn’t know I existed) I was sure my heart was permanently broken and there was no more joy to be had in life ever again. But with B., I didn’t have time to fantasize about being together, so maybe that was why I took the disappointment in stride with only a little regret.

I now believe that if two people are meant to be together, they will end up together. Love will find a way. (And sometimes lust finds a way too, meaning that people who aren’t meant to be together hook up anyway.) Obviously, B. and I weren’t meant to be, but when you have a near miss, you do sometimes wonder, “What would have been different if we had gotten together?”


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What I Made with Leftover Easter Eggs

As you saw from the pictures, we dyed eggs this year. Last year we didn't do it because Mr. Blue was too little, and the year before that, he was a newborn and I guess I just forgot. We did forget to hide the hard-boiled ones. But I was determined not to waste the eggs. While I love deviled eggs, I knew I'd be tempted to eat all of them if I made those. So instead I decided to make one of our favorite dishes. We always eat this for dinner but it would be good for breakfast too, obviously. It's easiest if two people do this together--one can peel and chop the eggs while the other makes the toast and the white sauce. However, if you make it by yourself just take it one step at a time so you don't burn the toast or overcook the sauce.

Eggs a la Goldenrod

This is how much I make for 8 pieces of toast. You can adjust the recipe as needed.
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. or so salt
  • Dash white pepper
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 8 pieces toast (I butter the bread and toast it under the broiler while I'm making the sauce)
Place the eggs in a pot with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover the eggs, and let them sit for 15-2o minutes. Pour off the hot water and add cool water to the pot. When eggs are cool, peel them and separate the whites and the yolks. Chop the whites and set aside. In another bowl, crumble the yolks.

Melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine for a minute. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the milk. Whisk until sauce bubbles and thickens. Taste and add salt if needed.

Place toast on plate and top with sauce. Sprinkle with egg whites and yolks. Mmmm!


Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Pictures

It's a miracle--I have pictures uploaded onto the computer the day after the holiday!

We have so many plastic eggs that I have decided we can't save all of them, and there is a LOT of candy left over. Yesterday we tested the limits of preschooler sugar consumption, and proved that there are none. Today Mr. Blue thought that was the new normal, and started asking for candy right after breakfast. "You can't have candy until after lunch," I said.

To which he immediately replied, "I want lunch!"

Is there any place higher than the top of the refrigerator where I can hide the candy? It would be best if I couldn't reach it, too.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

What's in a Name?

Poor little blog, I've neglected you this week. I was too busy at the beginning of the week, and for the past three days, I've felt too yucky. I don't think a post about my sinus pain is going to make interesting reading. But here I am with my Friday question.

If you could have chosen your own first name, other than your current one, what would it be?

I've always liked the name Kate. I don't know if it fits me or not, but I like it.

What about you?


Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I haven't been posting because I've been too busy. I haven't even been reading many blogs. We had a garage sale on Friday and Saturday--my first garage sale. And probably my last. Nothing against anyone who likes having garage sales, but I thought it was too much work. We did make almost $200, but only because we had some furniture and a jogging stroller. We took a lot of stuff to Goodwill, which is where I would have taken it in the first place!

Then today I went on a field trip to the zoo with all the kindergartners from Miss Pink's school. It was a beautiful day to go--70 degrees was the high--and so many parents came that we were allowed to go wherever we wanted with one or two kids. We went around with a group of girls from Miss P's class and their moms and had a good time. But I was so tired from walking for four hours that I fell asleep on the couch this afternoon.

Then tomorrow Mr. Blue was invited to story time at the library followed by a playgroup Easter egg hunt at the park.

I'll be back when I catch my breath!


Thursday, April 2, 2009

To Whom It May Concern (Because You Sure Don't Seem Concerned Now)

I love those open letters that bloggers post which contain what they wish they could say to strangers or organizations (sorry, I'm too lazy to dig around people's archives for some links). Up until now, I haven't had any letters that I wanted to write. Until this week. Interestingly, most of them have to do with cars and/or my local Mart of Walls.

Dear people who shopped at the Wal-Mart near my house on Saturday, March 28, between the hours of 2:30 and 4:oo,
Thanks for making me lose the last drop of the milk of human kindness in my black, withered little heart. I'm sure my husband and kids appreciated it!
Your neighbor,

Dear guy who I saw getting out of a car with a "Baby on Board" sign in the window (in the Wal-Mart parking lot!), with a cigarette dangling from your mouth,
Aren't those "Baby on Board" signs supposed to make other drivers remember to drive safely around your bundle of precious cargo? If you're concerned about your child's safety, might I suggest refraining from exposing him or her to secondhand smoke?
I'm just sayin'.
A concerned An annoyed citizen

Dear people who park in the pick-up line in front of my child's school,
First of all, if this is your first time coming to pick up a child, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt. You might think that you can park at the end of a line of cars, get out of your car, and walk up to the school to retrieve said child from the walk-up entrance, come back and drive away. But on the way back, you might want to notice how other cars have come up behind yours and are having to go around , all the while peering around your side mirrors to see if it's safe for them to get around your abandoned car. You might want to take note that in the line that goes past the school, all the other cars' drivers stay IN the car until they get to the place where they pick up their kids. The people who walk up park on side streets, not in the pick-up line. Got it? If not, you might try asking the person who enlisted you to pick this kid up about the RULES. Because if you don't get it on subsequent pickups, I might just have to go off on you. And hell hath no fury like a suburban mom without enough caffeine in her system. And possibly PMS.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Dear school that educates my daughter,
First of all, let me say that I love you. I really do. I love your creative teachers, supportive administrators, and excellent educational techniques that go far beyond worksheets and preparing for standardized tests. But dude. You are nickel and diming me to death. No, make that five- and ten-dollaring me to death.

Just in the past two weeks, I have received the paperwork about: two fundraisers for my kid to sell, practically guaranteeing that I have to buy the products; a trip to the zoo; money so that the room mom can buy materials for the teacher's end-of-the-year present; money for the kindergarten cap and gown; two charity events that require us to seek out donations including a day I must pay $2 for my kid to get to wear jeans and boots instead of the uniform.

I don't know how to end this letter except that man...I was SO wrong when I thought public school wasn't going to cost me anything.
A disillusioned mom,