Musings from Home

Archive for March, 2012

Kick the Ball and Run

The second-to-last day of school last year, Emerald’s class played a game of kickball against another class. Because we don’t live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, Emerald did not grow up playing kickball with neighborhood pals, as I did. In fact, she had not been exposed to kickball anywhere. So, she didn’t know how to play.

The other kids yelled at her when she didn’t know what to do. Some of her friends tried to help her. Their instruction was, “Kick the ball and run!” While they were trying to be helpful, that didn’t exactly make Emerald feel like she knew the game at all. She could see that much.

She told her teacher she didn’t know how to play. Her teacher responded with, “You have played it in gym.” She told her that they hadn’t. Her teacher replied, “Oh well!” Let’s just say it wasn’t a good day.

Emerald came home upset, partly because of the game and partly because they were scheduled to play again the next day — the last day of school. She was anxious. She didn’t want to go. I completely understood her anxiety. I am one of the least athletic people in the entire world (trust me) and I had many, many similar experiences during athletic endeavors in school.

Jim and I were sad that she didn’t want to go to school on the very last day of the school year. But we thought we could help her.

We took both kids outside and put together a make-shift kickball diamond. Even though there were only four of us, we played kickball. The kids learned the basic rules of the game, and we all had a blast. Emerald was excited to give it a try at school the next day. We were excited (and a little anxious) to hear how it went. Unfortunately, they didn’t play kickball the next day and the summer began. We knew she’d have plenty of other opportunities to give her newfound knowledge of the game a try.

Fast forward to this week. Emerald came home on Tuesday and told us that the counselor was coming to their classroom the next day and they had to wear their tennis shoes. She said one kid had heard they were going to play kickball. Since she hadn’t had the chance to give it a try in a real game the previous year, and since we hadn’t played at all in months, the anxiety had crept back in.

Yesterday morning, she told me she was going to ask to sit out. I reminded her that she now knew the rules of kickball and that she had been excited to give it a try before. She replied with the standard, “I know, but . . .” I told her that kickball was a really fun game and that she ought to try it. She was still unconvinced and unwilling. I then told her that I doubted the counselor would let her sit out, but that I would bet the reason he was doing this activity was to teach sportsmanship. He was not going to let the kids yell at her.

So off to school she went, still intending to ask to sit out.

She got off the bus yesterday afternoon with a smile on her face and announced, “I played kickball!!”

“Isn’t it fun?” I asked.

She nodded, smiling even more.

At dinner, she told us that the counselor wouldn’t let her sit out, but because she had asked to, he came up to her and in a very funny and non-condescending way, gave her tips and encouragement.

And she kicked a home run (if that’s what you call it in kickball)!!! You go, Emerald!!!!!

I am so proud of her for giving it her all and overcoming her fear of trying the game. And I am so grateful to the counselor for supporting her, encouraging her, and reducing her anxiety.

She now loves kickball and even more than that, she now has the confidence to try new games, especially after she knows the rules, and with a little cheerful encouragement from a helpful adult.

All in all a good ending, even if it was 10 months after the very rough beginning.

[Picture credit:]


Up to Code

Today’s wardrobe dilemma: Does this really cute, springy top (Emerald’s new fave that she couldn’t wait to wear) meet dress code at school?

The rule is that a top must meet the 3 finger rule. That is, the child has to be able to fit 3 of her fingers on the strap of the top, in order for it to be appropriate for school. The very top of this strap on her shoulder does not quite meet the rule, but the overshirt covers most of her shoulder.

But it’s possible (likely) that the overshirt will slip off her shoulder at some point during the day.

Would this be OK? Would anyone comment? Would she get in trouble? More importantly, would she worry about it all day and constantly pull it back into place?


Now she can totally rock her new outfit!

Whew! I wish all dilemmas were so easily solved. 🙂

7 out of 10?

I am not a big radio listener anymore, but I do tend to have it on in the car when I’m driving around town. And on the rare occasion that I drive Emerald to school, we like to tune into a local station’s trivia contest. It’s fun for the three of us (Sapphire is usually in the car with us, too) to try to guess the answer. Sometimes (not very often) we even get it right.

Yesterday’s question really had us scratching our heads: On any given day, 7 out of 10 people do this at the dinner table? Our first thoughts were watch TV and say a blessing before eating. No and no. We continued to listen the entire way to school. More and more interesting guesses were called in: Talk about your day (we do this), chew with your mouth open (we try not to do this), text (forbidden in our household, but since Jim and I are the only ones with cell phones, not an issue). All of the guesses were incorrect.

After we dropped Emerald off at school, Sapphire and I continued to try to figure out the answer. Since no one was even coming close, the DJ gave a hint: It has to do with something you use. Sapphire and I were sure we had it: Put your napkin in your lap!! After the commercial break and a song or two, guessing resumed. The very next caller got it and I was shocked at the answer: Use paper plates.

WHAT??? We use paper plates for away-from-home picnics and sometimes for large birthday parties, but on any given day 7 out of 10 people use them?

I am naturally skeptical about statistics. According to whom? What’s the sample size? Who was polled (not names, but how widespread a group)? Etc. Etc. But assuming for a second that this is actually true, this is very disturbing to me. I don’t claim to be the biggest environmentalist or truly efficient in our use of resources, but I do try, and unnecessary waste bothers me a lot.

In fact, it bothered me all day yesterday and by this morning, I was still thinking about it. Is it true? Today, I did a little research. Many other radio stations across the country (which are probably on the same network as ours) ran the same question recently. One cited USA Today as the source and explained that 50% of Americans are trying to switch to paper plates. I did a quick search of the USA Today website and was unable to verify these statistics. I also searched the internet in general and was unable to find anything on the topic, so I still have no idea if it’s true or not.

My next step was to verify my belief that using paper plates uses up more resources than using reusable dinnerware. I read several reputable sites and found that while certain types of reusable dinnerware (like porcelain) take many more resources to produce than paper plates and they need to be washed, using more resources, the total still comes to far less than any plate you use once and throw away. And paper plates apparently cannot be recycled if they are considered “too soiled”.

So now I am on a mission to find out if this statistic is true and if it is, to urge people to reconsider. I know doing dishes is a pain, especially for those who do not have a dishwasher. And running a dishwasher seems to use up a lot of water (although in fact washing dishes by hand uses more). So some people may be switching to paper plates not just because of the convenience, but because they think they’re actually saving resources, but this is just not the case.

I am not much of a green crusader, but this is a very simple way to reduce our collective carbon footprint. Trying to reduce the number of dishes you use in a day to reduce the number of times you have to run your dishwasher (or the amount of time you have to run water to wash your dishes by hand) will help reduce your consumption of resources much more than switching to single-use plates. And you’ll have fewer dishes to wash. Win win.

Does anyone know whether or not this statistic is even close to being accurate? Have you switched to paper plates and if so, have I missed a rationale for doing so?

Defining Mean

Yesterday, a friend posted a link to a story in the Huffington Post, which was about the writer having judged parents she knew, before she herself had kids. Now that she has children, she realizes that all of her ideals, formed from lots of reading, just don’t happen all the time in the real lives of parents. She realizes that she doesn’t know what else is going on in the Mom’s day when she gives a seemingly harsh response to her child, or lets her young child watch t.v., or feeds her child chicken nuggets and fries. She is seeing a snapshot and was making judgements based on just that.

That got me thinking about how easy that is to do and how I have been on both sides of this. I sometimes judge others without knowing the full story and I have also felt judged by people around me, who didn’t know me or the events that were occurring at the time. This reminded me of the countless conversations I’ve had recently with my girls. During various experiences lately (movies, twirling events, walking around town, in restaurants, etc), we have observed the actions of others (either on the screen or in real life) and the girls have asked me if a particular person is mean. My answer is always very similar to the last time. What the person did seemed to be not very nice, but we do not know what else is going on with that person, how he/she normally is, or what he/she was feeling at the time of the action. Even nice people do not-so-nice things sometimes. So, we can’t really say whether the person is mean or not, unless we really know him/her.

With characters in shows or movies, it’s a little easier to discuss the motives of the action and to determine where the character’s response was coming from. It’s also often a little more clear-cut. Some movie/show characters are mean, because dramas have to have a villain of some sort. Others are just normal people responding to their situation, maybe not in the best way. Others make great decisions (but of course, my girls don’t ask if those people are mean; we do try to discuss those, too).

Watching shows and movies with my girls gives me the opportunity to not only spend quality time with them, but to discuss issues of behavior and good decisions with them at a time when it’s not their behavior in question. It gives us the chance to talk about options and better ways to handle things. It also gives us the chance to talk about how others feel. Gray areas are so hard to teach, but these discussions have been a good way for us to try to do just that.

Of course, there are some absolutes in behavior and we talk about that, too. There are no excuses for abusing anyone. Other behaviors also fall into this category. And there are times that one needs to intervene (at least by calling for help).

But we cannot determine whether or not a person is mean simply from the fact that she raised her voice when her child whined. This kid may have been screaming for the last three hours. This mom may have just had a fight with her husband. Her car may have broken down this morning. She may have just lost her job. We don’t know. We just know that her response seemed like it maybe wasn’t the best one. Haven’t we all been there?

It’s hard being a parent, with all the juggling we do and with all the things we have to teach our kids, by example and through discussion. Perhaps, teaching our kids not to pass judgement too quickly, harshly, or unfairly, but also to know when a behavior is unacceptable, is one of the hardest.

What If

This two-word phrase can be the start of big things. “What if humans could fly,” the Wright brothers may have wondered. “What if computers could be non-technical enough that everyone could use them,” may have crossed the minds of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, individually. Great inventions, great ideas start with these two little words.

Emerald, Sapphire, and I have spent many a moment playing games and telling stories that begin with these two simple words. “What if we could walk on the clouds?”, “What if you could touch the sun?”, “What if your skin were purple?”. . . Imaginations just seem to grow with the use of this phrase.

These two little words can also keep me up at night. “What if things don’t go as planned?”, “What if our house doesn’t sell as quickly as we need it to?”,  “What if . . .?” I have admitted before that I am a worrier. I either lie awake at night worrying or I worry in my dreams. Yesterday, I dosed off  for a few minutes in the afternoon and my sleeping brain mixed real worries with the plot from the book I had been reading moments before. Not only was I fretting over the usual things, but I was also being poisoned, as was the rest of my family. No, I don’t remember the details, but I certainly did not wake up well-rested.

But the silver lining for my worrying beginning with what if is that my brain doesn’t usually stop there. When I wake up in the wee hours of the morning from a “what if” worrying dream or during my morning shower after a night of sleepless “what if” fretting, my mind moves on to answer the question. It figures out for me what my next course of action should be if the “what if” occurs. I am always much calmer with a plan. So before the thing that I’m afraid will happen even happens, I have a response in mind. A well-thought out, non-reactionary response. So I can move on to other things, hopefully things actually in my day and not the product of my overactive worrying mechanisms. 🙂 And in reality, I often don’t even have to use the response my mind has generated, because often the event I’ve anticipated doesn’t happen at all. But it would have if I hadn’t been ready, right? 🙂

Right now, I’ve got a few “what if” scenarios going that have kept me up in recent nights, but my brain has slayed them. I’m going to take this moving thing one step at a time and I have back-up plans ready if things don’t move along the time-line I have mapped out. I can be laid back about this — now that my what iffing is done, for now.

Rolling Stones

You’ve heard the old saying, “A rolling stone gathers no moss”. Well, there is certainly no moss growing on our family these days. About 10 days ago, we were in our future city for Jim’s interview. We came back home, made our decision, and within a few days were heading to another city in our current state for a baton twirling competition.

The competition itself was very tiring (probably due more to our hectic schedules lately rather than the competition itself), but also a great experience for the kids. Emerald received some very encouraging feedback. In one event (one for first-time competitors and for twirlers who have never won first place), Emerald was the only twirler. While she was disappointed to not have anyone else in that event with her (she wanted to win a first place if she performed the best in the event, not because she was the only one in the event), that event wound up giving her the biggest confidence boost so far. After her routine, the judge called her up to his table to tell her that she is very talented and to keep it up. He also told her to tell her mom that she did a great job!

Emerald also got some unexpected coaching from a woman who turned out to be the grandmother of a champion twirler and the mother of two of the judges. She saw Emerald practicing and gave her a few pointers. At first, I wasn’t sure how Emerald would feel about being corrected by a total stranger minutes before she had to compete, but she genuinely appreciated the tips and made the appropriate tweaks (most of them were things she had been told by her own coach, but was forgetting to do). I was so proud of her! In the end, Emerald left with four medals (a 1st place, a 3rd place, a 4th place, and a 5th place) and Sapphire left with two (both first place — her events were smaller than most of Emerald’s, two girls).

After the competition, we headed home to get some sleep, unpack our overnight bags, and repack them for a very quick trip to N.C. We flew out early Sunday afternoon, without checking our local weather forecast (although it probably wouldn’t have mattered). Monday morning, we got instant alerts from Emerald’s school that school was delayed (and later changed to closed) due to “inclement weather”. Over the weekend, we had severe thunderstorms with tornado warnings nearby, so my first thought was more of the same. Jim did a quick online check of Virginia weather, and wouldn’t you know it, our long-awaited snow occurred unexpectedly while we were out-of-town? Five to six inches, as a matter of fact. Our poor kids missed their only snow day of the year so far (the only other snow we’ve had this year was over Presidents’ Day, so school was out anyway) and from what I can tell from friends’ Facebook posts, pictures, and blogs, we also missed some great sledding and snowman/woman-making opportunities. Sigh. Double-sigh. Our biggest concern at the time, however, was would we be able to get back in town safely Monday evening. Luckily for us at least in terms of travel, the snow melted quickly, especially on the roads, and there wasn’t much, if any, refreezing by the time we arrived back in town.

We headed home without incident, and hit our respective mattresses almost as soon as we walked in the door.

Today we’re going to try to gather a little moss. Sapphire has preschool this morning, but Emerald’s school is closed , not due to weather, but rather due to the fact that the boys’ basketball team at our local high school is playing in the state championship semi-finals today. [The school board wanted faculty, staff, and students to be able to attend the game and support their team, if they so desired.] Emerald is sleeping in. I am vegging out in front of the computer (and maybe in a few minutes, the t.v.) before tackling some mundane chores, and hopefully catching a movie this afternoon. Jim is on spring break this week, so hopefully, he’ll join me in vegging out prior to the movie.

How are you all spending your Tuesday? Does anyone else feel like a rolling stone?

One Month — Andrea Style: March

I have been trying to find ways to shine the best light on my progress with my February goals without making a ton of excuses. The reality is, I didn’t do all that well with either of my stated goals, at least not as stated.

My first goal was to reach the exercise goal of at least 20 minutes of scheduled exercise at least 20 days of the month. While I have done a ton of movement over the last month (crazy February, with a birthday, Jim’s job hunt and him being out-of-town quite a bit, and all that’s involved with the decision to move (not to mention trying to get started on all that has to happen before then), I haven’t actually maintained the schedule  of running/walking I started at the end of January. This is when wearing a pedometer, as a dear friend suggested, would help. February was more of a “mommy, wife, busy person” sort of month and my scheduled exercise stepped to the side for “running around like crazy”. So, the result is I got my heart rate up for extended periods of time on at least 20 days in February, just not in the manner my goal implied.

My second goal was to add a greater variety of veggies to my diet and to cut down on sweets. While I did a fairly good job on cutting down on sweets, I could still do better. As for expanding my veggie menu, not so much. Many of our meals in February were of the “grab ’em and go” variety, so I didn’t do much experimenting with new menus. I did eat a good number of salads and other easy-to-prepare vegetables, but I didn’t exactly expand my horizons or add nutrients I don’t usually get.

So, it was sort of a mixed bag in terms of my goals for last month. This month, since I am a bigtime planner, my goals are to figure out how/when I’m going to get everything done I have to do in the near future without losing my mind, to do so without diving into bags of unhealthy sweets, and to stay excited about the move and approach it one step at a time.

If I can keep the stress down by scheduling some “me time exercise”, all the better, but I’m not going to add to the stress by setting that as a goal. 🙂

How are your goals for the year (or month, if you’re setting shorter term goals) going?

[Photo credit:]

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