Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

This Mom gets it – embracing the new normal

I’ve spoken to numerous parents over the last few weeks about how they are managing their newfound profession of homeschooling.

Some are sitting smack in the middle of a see-saw with work and one end and homeschooling hanging off the other side, others are diving in structuring their school day one subject at a time and too many have little access to resources. They all say they are doing the best they can.

Amid all of the emails and phone calls, one mom’s profound message left me hoping all parents are able to relate to their new cadence with sanity and grace.

Here’s what she said:

“For a boy that needs his structure, he’s done well with the transition to home-based learning. We keep to a pretty good schedule-school starts here at 10am every day, and we try to be done with the bulk of the bookwork by noon. The afternoon is reserved for art, legos, creative play, reorganizing closets and cleaning, etc.

I certainly wouldn’t want to do this full time, but I think I can handle it through the rest of the school year if I had to (and honestly, that’s where I think this is heading).”

She goes onto say she and her husband both work from home…

“But we’re a flexible family, we understand that this craziness is temporary and that everyone has been thrust into the unknown. We’ll make it through. To be 100% honest, this has been a good thing for us. We are a family that is constantly on the go between soccer practices, basketball in the off-season, martial arts…so this forced stoppage is good. We’ve had homecooked dinners together every night, our house is the cleanest it’s ever been, and there have been tons of movies and old soccer games watched while snuggling up on the couch.

Who knows if we’ll ever get this time

together again.”

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Reuse and recycle it all!

REDUCE

I grew up in a no-waste home. Bones were given to our dog Dusty, and our “compost” was a bucket filled with the wilted iceberg lettuce and corn cobs which we dumped into the lamb’s pen. Every stray branch was used as kindling for the fire. And newspapers with nearly completed crosswords were laid out and used for serving hot popcorn while we watched Jeopardy or Johnny Carson’s monologue.

RECYCLE

Water is priceless in New Mexico. In the summertime, water drips from the side of my childhood home where the swamp cooler runs. Alongside the brick, my mom has nestled a small McCoy planter in the gravel to catch the water. This oasis serves as a resting spot for what might be the most robust toad in New Mexico. When the planter is filled, mom shares the water with her tomato plants and returns the toad’s tiny home to its spot to refill.

REUSE

I’ve picked up a lot of these no-waste habits from my conscientious parents and yesterday found myself practicing another one of their tricks.

Here’s how it goes:

It may sound crazy, but I try to vacuum daily. We have two dogs. TWO. That’s one away from crazy. And, they are NOT the purebred, never shed, well-behaved type. They are the insanely lovable, loud, shed-like-crazy mutts that are so cute you can hardly stand it. So I vacuum and vacuum and then I do it one more time.

Yesterday I was about to go over the carpet and realize I had completely surpassed the mark on the vacuum bag that says DO NOT FILL OVER THIS LINE. The bag was so full, the vacuum itself felt significantly heavier. I glanced down at the carpet and saw mud from someone’s shoes they “forgot” to take off and spots where the dogs decided to roll so they could spread the dirt in the neglected areas.

Time to clean up the mess…

Unfortunately, I thought I was ahead of the game and gleefully opened the closet and saw every type of bag EXCEPT what I needed. Of course, I did the logical move and tried to force a Hoover bag into a Riccar vacuum. It didn’t work last time, but I had to try again.

In this case, one size did NOT fit all so I thought…what would mom and dad do?

Well, if they had not picked up extra Electrolux bags at Sears or the last yard sale they went to, it would be DIY time.

I reluctantly fished out the used vacuum bag I flippantly tossed in the trash barrel and knew what I HAD to do. With no time to go to the store or use Amazon, I pulled up my sleeves, stood over the trash bin and removed all the yuck (and one missing sock) from the bag. The garage looked like a scene from the Grapes of Wrath.

After emptying the bag (and dusting myself off), I finished my job and marveled at how well the vacuum worked with the “new” bag.

My parents continue to teach me so much about reusing, recycling, saving, and being a smart consumer. From watching This Old House with dad growing up or using YouTube now, I am convinced DIY jobs are worth a try and recycling is ALWAYS the right thing to do.

I know this vacuum hack produces a lot of dust, but I saved a few dollars, found a sock and saved one more bag from going into a landfill.

Do you have any clever recycling/reusing tips? Please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

BONUS INFO:

I later researched a clever way to empty and reuse vacuum bags.

Here’s what I found:

To empty a vacuum bag multiple times here is a suggestion from the  Do It Yourself Website.

  1. Get a strip of duct tape and tape it vertically along the back of the bag (the opposite side of where the bag opening is) that covers about 2/3 of the bag’s length. Cut a slit through the tape and through the bag, taking care not to cut all the way through to the other side of the bag. Leave about an inch or so at either end of the tape uncut. Empty out the bag.
  2. Cut another strip of duct tape long enough to cover the slit. Add another inch and fold over the end of the tape onto itself about ½ inch from the end. This will provide for a handy little non-sticking end that will make it easier to pull off. Affix this new strip of tape over the slit.
  3. Replace the bag in the vacuum. Next time you have to empty the bag, merely peel off the top strip (using the end that has that neat little handle) and empty out the contents.

Happy cleaning…

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Parenting and exercise – 5 ways to make it work without the guilt

IMG_0540LENTEN REFLECTION: #28

I ripped this page out of a 1990-something Runner’s World Magazine to remind me why I run and it’s hung on our refrigerator ever since. It’s the subtle reminder I need when the guilt of exercising overwhelms me. It screams, “Lace up and go! Now!”

Here’s how I learned to fit exercise in when my kids were younger…

I had everything timed. While my boys were napping, I would do an at-home workout. At 2:20 as the P-90X or Shaun T cool down concluded, I’d switch off the DVD or treadmill and quietly walk about 30 steps to meet my daughter at the elementary school bus stop. Most days I arrived dripping in sweat from a workout. I repeated this ritual for nine years.

Eventually, the kids got used to my semi-sweaty hello kisses and groaned less each time.  In a sense, I was training the kids to know exercise was part of the day. Kind of a Pavlov effect. Sweaty mom equals a happy mom.

I remember speaking to a friend at church about fitting in workouts. He said, “When my wife complains about my running, I have to remind her I really do it for her.” I nodded, saying, “I get it. I do it for my kids.”

It’s one of those conversations people may overhear and think we’re selfish and crazy…well, maybe.

Frequently, Catholic guilt lurks behind the corners of my decisions and since naptime was retired years ago, I naturally feel bad if I exercise while the kids are home now that they are older.

But now we understand each other and often times, they’ll encourage me and my husband to go run or go to the gym. We take them to practices for their respective sports and never once have they said, “I’m going to exercise really hard for 2 hours, but I feel really guilty about it.” It’s just part of our lifestyle.

Now for the last 27 days, I’ve felt that same remorse blogging. I write during stolen moments of guilt while our kids stare at their exhausted devices and labor over homework. But I can’t stop. Writer’s high is akin to the one of running and is highly addictive. There is joy in sharing my untidy life story and hope that a tiny bit of my parental insight might benefit another soul.

I’ve learned to let the guilt go. After all these years, my kids understand me and can even exercise with me or edit my blog posts. They appreciate that our family values lifelong fitness.

After all, I really do it for them.

Fine. Mostly me.

Here are my top 5 tips on how to fit exercise in and minimize the guilt:

  1. TAKE TURNS WITH YOUR PARTNER – Take turns exercising. One works out, the other helps with homework.
  2. ASK YOUR KIDS TO WORKOUT WITH YOU – Do a 10-minute workout with your kids. Depending on their age, you could run around the block together or they could ride a bike while you run alongside. If they are younger, do simple Yoga stretches like butterfly and cat/cow.
  3. ACCEPT A SHORT WORKOUT – realize even a short 20-minute run or workout will do. Some days I set a goal to do 100 burpees. I’ll break it up throughout the day, or knock it out in sets of 10 with a 45-second rest in between.
  4. HAVE A PLAYDATE WORKOUT – Meet a friend at a playground, play with your kids and mix in playground exercises like push-ups at the end of the slide, monkey bar hanging hold or chin-up hold and planks.
  5. FOCUS ON NUTRITION – Make a healthy meal with your family. Think about the 80/20 philosophy. When you hit 40 years of age, maintaining good health is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. Sad, but true.

Run on!

Spiritual Workout: Take a walk with your kids and just listen. Don’t try to fix, just listen.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

How to keep the power of storytelling alive…

Throwback Thursday…Originally posted on March 2, 2018

Always, ALWAYS tell your stories.

LENTEN REFLECTION #26

FAITH IN STORIES

Last week, our son was riding bikes, exploring the woods, and climbing trees with a friend. After a while, he came home from the trails and told us a tree fell on him. A little daunting, but luckily he was with a friend who was able to lift it off. Turned out it was an old, small pine tree he was climbing when it just snapped. Thankfully, he was wearing his bike helmet and ended up with only a scratched face, and legs. On Monday at school, he was questioned by friends about the mark on his face, and he shared his story. In the group of students, one boy pressed further, “Do you have a video of it?” “No video” was the reply. “Well then, it didn’t happen.” They debated back and forth, then finally, being a professional selective listener, our son confirmed, “it really did happen” and then moved on, ignoring further hassle.

At bedtime, he told me this story and we sat and picked it apart like old layers of paint peeling off the wall trying to find the original color. My inaugural feeling on the boy’s need for documentation to prove the truth was a feeling of exhaustion. Nowadays, technology negotiates our day much like a seeing eye dog, but with swipes, texts, and posts. We click pictures of our meals, and memories, shorten words and deliver messages as fast as our thumbs can go. Conversations dwindle with our busy lives, along with the age-old craft of storytelling – exactly what our son was doing.

As young children, there’s faith in stories. Maurice Sendak takes us to a wild rumpus and faithfully floats us home with Max as he arrives home to his warm dinner.

Faith in friendship is palpable when Charlotte sits in her web and says:

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
― E.B. WhiteCharlotte’s Web

Faith requires vulnerability. Stripping the need for that which is tangible. In “Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus” Francis Church interprets faith in his editorial in The New York Sun in 1897:

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.”

The historian Stephen Nissenbaum connects ”Yes, Virginia” with not only faith in Santa Claus, but faith in faith. In the late 19th century religious doubt ran rampant among middle-class Americans. According to Mr. Nissenbaum “…God must exist simply because people so badly needed Him to.” When Mr. Church referred to ”the skepticism of a skeptical age, he was speaking to grown-ups.”

Now that doubt cloaks children too.

We make an emotional investment with every story we tell. Some may believe if a tree falls on a boy in a forest it’s true, doubters will question and want video proof. The vital action is to tell the story, be the raconteur and propel your listeners with you on a journey of faith.

Dig Deep: Go on a Rosary Run! Yesterday I did and it took my mind off the pain. 🙂 Run on!

Lenten Challenge: Pray for the doubters and cynics in the world, truly that’s all of us at times. Keep story-telling alive!

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Hit the squirrel…

I didn’t hit the squirrel. Here’s what happened.

A few days ago I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode where George explains the unspoken agreement between drivers and pigeons.

Car (to the pigeons): Here I come.

Pigeon: Here comes a car, I’m going to move.

So if pigeons have an accord with drivers, surely the birds mentioned the deal to the squirrels.

Today’s blog is much like a Seinfeld episode – a blog about nothing. But what’s life without a lot of nothing mixed in with the stuff we take too seriously? Anyway, I love telling stories and you just might relate.

I was driving to pick up my daughter at swim practice and a squirrel darted into the road. I’m driving a RED car so you would think he would see it coming (no, I don’t know if they see color). Once in the middle, the squirrel decided to sit in a squirrel prayer position and have a snack! As I drove closer, I began reasoning with it, which then turned into yelling through the closed windows AT the squirrel. He was definitely not listening.

I came to a SEMI-screeching halt (I’m a pokey driver) and stopped immediately in front of him. Glancing in the rearview mirror, I was relieved I didn’t cause a mini-van pile up in my attempt to save a life. Still, in no hurry, the squirrel dusted himself off, packed up his leftovers and casually strolled away. Kind of like those deliberately sluggish pedestrians who, unlike most chickens, seem to have NO reason to get to the other side.

Anyway, I gave a brave squirrel one more life, when in fact…

I was supposed to hit the squirrel.

HERE’S WHY:

Earlier in the year, my daughter and I took a Defensive Driving Course where the students were taught to maneuver around cones, drive in rainy conditions (it conveniently rained the whole day) and really feel the Anti-lock brake system in our car. In the parking lot, she was a natural. I was a wreck.

One of the main lessons they instilled in the student drivers was when an animal runs in the road, never. ever. swerve. Always “HIT THE SQUIRREL”.

During class, a street scene was set up to give the students a stopping point as they were directed to “floor it” toward the barricade.

Cones were set up to represent squirrels and trashcans were people. Once the driver is close, they follow the cue of the instructor who swings his hands to one side or the other. The student is directed to lock the steering wheel in that direction, step COMPLETELY on the brake, and NOT HIT anything unless it’s the squirrel. They stressed, “Someone could rear-end you if you were only thinking of the squirrel.” As always, the instructor followed up with a heartbreaking story about a car that swerved to miss a puppy, hit another car and the puppy was the only survivor.” Geez.

About 20 virtual squirrels were killed that day. I missed mine (they had parents try too) only because I illegally used my brakes prior to the stop. The “you messed up and used your brakes” oversized red flag was waved noting my mistake.

Deep down I know it’s better to power through an animal when driving and unfortunately so does the soul of the raccoon who stared me down as I drove my parents 1998 Buick over it. We were returning from the Grand Canyon and I assured the kids I DID NOT hit it.

Then I went to confession.

For some reason, the squirrel needed another chance. Most days, we all do.

When I arrived at swim, Cora got in the car and I said, “I didn’t hit the squirrel”.

“YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HIT THE SQUIRREL!”

Once again, I was corrected by my 16-year-old. And once again, she was right. Darn it.

Spiritual journey: Say a prayer to St. Francis, the Patron Saint of Animals – pray for all animals. Pray, they realize the side of the street they are on is really the best choice.

Workout: When you walk or run today, watch for fast drivers. Not everyone stops for squirrels OR runners. Be safe.